The Empty Huse
Went by Cascadia
Sundry huses, like sundry leeds, can sumhu bode at onse hir eard for evil. For the latter, no sundry mark need bewray hem; hy may hold an open ansen and a winning smirk; and yet a littel of hir neighwist leaves the unwendenly wissness that there is sumthing wildly amiss with hir being: that hy are evil. Willy nilly, hy are seen to make known a whith of dern and wicked thoughts which makes those in hir neighborhood shrink from hem as from a coathed thing.
And, maybe, with huses the ilk thing is at work, and it is the stench of evil deeds done under a sundry roof, long after the doers hemselves have forthfared, that makes the gooseflesh cum and the hair rise. Sumthing of the form ellen of the evildoer, and of the brow felt by his tiver, infares the clean heart of the wacher, and he is all at onse aware of tingelling thews, creeping hide, and a chilling of the blood. He is browstricken withute a wiss spring.
There was suttelly nothing in this sundry huses uter ansen to bear ute the tales of the brow that was said to rix within. It was neither lonely nor unkempt. It stood, cruded into a hirn of the plach, and looked right as the huses on either side. It had the ilk eyedoors as its neighbors; the ilk overlook abuve the leighton; the ilk white steps leading up to the heavy black door; and, in the back, there was the ilk narrow rand of green, with neat box edges, running up to the wall that shedded it from the backs of the neighboring huses. Wisly, too, the flewpots on the roof were the ilk; the breadth and whem of the eaves; and even the heighth of the filthy edders.
And yet this huse in the plach, that looked right as its fifty unsightly neighbors, was in sooth wholly sundry—eyfully sundry.
Wherein lay this marked, unseenly shed is unmightly to say. It cannot be put wholly to the mind, forthat folks who had spent sum time in the huse, knowing nothing of what had befallen there, had boded strongly that sundry rooms were so unkindly that hy wud rather swelt than infare hem ayen, and that the whith of the whole huse beyat in hem tokens of a trew fear; while the long line of cleanhearted wonners who had fanded to live in it and been made to forsake it as soon as mightly, was indeed littel less than a shand in the tune.
When Shorthuse lended to neese his Moddry Julia for the weekend in her littel huse on the seashore at the other end of the tune, he fund her filled to the brim with rune and firwit. He had only yetten her wirespell that morning, and he had cum foreseeing boredom; but the brightom he rined her hand and kissed her appelhide wrinkelled cheek, he felt the first wave of her highstrung hoad. The feeling deepened when he learned that there were to be no other yests, and that he had been wired for with a sundry mark in mind.
Sumthing was in the wind, and the “sumthing” wud tweeless bear ovets; for this elderly spinster moddry, with such ellen for seeching ute goasts, had brains as well as will, and by hook or by crook she most times brought abute her ends. The wraying was made soon after tea, when she sidelled nigh up to him as hy walked slowly along the seashore in the dusk.
“I have the keys,” she boded in a winfast, yet half eysum steven. “Have hem hent Monday!”
“The keys of the bathingwain, or—?” he asked lightly, looking from the sea to the tune. Nothing brought her so cwickly to the ord as lichetting witlessness.
“Neither,” she whispered. “I have the keys to the goasthuse in the plach—and I’m going there tonight.”
Shorthuse was aware of the smallest mightly cwiver dune his back. He dropt this teasing way. Sumthing in her steven and ansen thrilled him. She was in earnest.
“But thu canst not go alone—” he began.
“That’s why I wired for thee,” she said boldly.
He went to look at her. The careworn, lined, runy anlet was alive with firwit. There was the glow of trew giddiness umb it like an angels ring. The eyes shone. He felt another wave of her hoad, and another cwiver, more marked than the first, came with it.
“Thanks, Moddry Julia,” he said coothly; “thanks eyfully.”
“I shud not dare to go alone,” she went on, heighthening her steven; “but with thee I shud like it rather much. Thu’rt afraid of nothing, I know.”
“Thanks so much,” he said ayen. “Er—is anything likely to befall us?”
“A great deal has befallen,” she whispered, “thaugh it’s been most cleverly hushed up. Three wonners have cum and gone in the last few months, and the huse is said to be empty for good nu.”
Withute thinking Shorthuse became gript. His moddry was so much in earnest.
“The huse is mighty old indeed,” she went on, “and the tale—an unkindly one—goes a long way back. It has to do with a murther done by a yellow horseman who had sum bisiness with a thern in the huse. One night he hid himself in the earthhuse, and when everybody was asleep, he crept upstairs to the thew rooms, weathed the maid dune to the next landing, and before anybody cud cum to near her threw her bodily over the posts into the hall beneath.”
“And the horseman—?”
Was fanged, I beleeve, and hanged for murther; but it all befell a hundred years ago, and I’ve not yetten anything else of the tale.”
Shorthuse nu felt his firwit thoroughly whetted; but, thaugh he was not all that worried for himself, he dithered a littel for his moddrys sake.
“Only one thing,” he said at length.
“Nothing will stop my going,” she said fastly; “but I may as well hear it.”
“That thu trewse thy strong will if anything trewly eyful befalls us. I mean—that thu art sicker thu won’t yet too frightened.”
“Jim,” she said with hooker, “I’m not yung, I know, nor are my thews; but with thee I shud be afraid of nothing in the world!”
This, soothly, settelled it, for Shorthuse had no lichettings abute being anything other than an everyday yung man, and a chying to his idelship was unwitherenly. He thweared to go.
Withute thinking, by a kind of unaware yaring, he kept himself and his moods well in hand the whole evening, drawing forth a great stock of will by that nameless inward thing of stepwise putting all the feelings away and wending the key on hem—a thing hard to rech, but wunderfully mighty, as all weres who have lived thrugh stark hardships of the inner were well understand. Later, it stood him in good stead.
But it was not hent half after ten, when hy stood in the hall, well in the blase of frendly lightvats and still beclipt by the cweem hand of man, that he had to chy for the first time on this stock of gathered strength. For, onse the door was closed, and he saw the still, forsaken street streching away white in the moonlight before hem, it came to him suttelly that the trew fand that night wud be in dealing with two fears instead of one. He wud have to bear his moddrys fear as well as his own. And, as he looked dune at her sfinxlike ansen and underyat that it might nim no kindly look in a rush of trew fear, he was cweemed with only one thing in the whole rosing—that he had beeld in his own will and might to stand ayenst any shock that might cum.
Slowly hy walked along the empty streets of the tune; a bright fall moon silvered the rooves, throwing deep shadows; there was no breath of wind; and the trees in the lonk leightons by the seashore wached hem in stillness as hy went along. To his moddrys small cweathings Shorthuse made no answer, seeing that she was but beclipping herself with mindwalls—saying everyday things to stop herself thinking of things selcooth. Few eyedoors shew lights, and from hardly a lone flew came smoke or sparks. Shorthuse had already begun to see everything, even the smallest marks. Nu hy stopt at the street hirn and looked up at the name on the huses side full in the moonlight, and as one, but withute speech, went into the plach and over to the side that lay in shadow.
“The huses rime is thirteen,” whispered a steven at his side; and neither of hem said what was suttel, but went thwares the broad sheet of moonlight and began to step up the sidewalk in stillness.
It was abute halfway up the plach that Shorthuse felt an arm slipt lightly yet weightily into his own, and knew then that hir rosing had begun in earnest, and that his sither was already yeelding ever so littel to the thrakes ayenst hem. She needed filst.
A short time later hy stopt before a tall, narrow huse that rose before hem into the night, unsightly in shape and meted an offwhite. Shutterless eyedoors, withute blinds, stared dune on hem, shining here and there in the moonlight. There were weather streaks in the wall and cracks in the hew, and the overlook swole ute from the first floor a littel unkindly. But, beyond this overall forlorn ansen of an empty huse, there was nothing at first sight to mark this sundry abode for the evil eard it had wisly yetten.
Looking shortly over hir sholders to sicker hy had not been followed, hy went boldly up the steps and stood ayenst the great black door that met hem forbiddingly. But the first wave of angness was nu over hem, and Shorthuse fumbelled with the key before he cud fit it into the lock at all. For a brightom, if trewth were told, hy bo hoped it wud not open, for hy were a hunth to sundry unkindly moods as hy stood there on the threshold of hir gastly rosing. Shorthuse, hamfisted with the key and bund by the steady weight on his arm, wisly felt the heaviness of the brightom. It was as if the whole world—for all that was seen to him at that eyeblink gathered in his own mind—were listening to the sharp lude of that key. A lone puff of wind wandering dune the empty street woke a soft rustelling in the trees behind hem, but otherwise this rattelling of the key was the only hearenly lude; and at last it went in the lock and the heavy door swung open and wrayed a yawning bight of darkness beyond.
With a last look at the moonlit plach, hy went cwickly in, and the door slammed behind hem with a roar that shook greatly thrugh empty halls and ways. But, at onse, with that lude, another made itself heard, and Moddry Julia leaned so heavily and so swiftly on him that he had to step backwards to keep from falling.
A man had coughed nigh behind hem—so nigh that it looked that hy must have been right by his side in the darkness.
With the cummenliness of ribs in his mind, Shorthuse at onse swung his heavy stick in the way of the lude; but it met nothing faster than lift. He heard his moddy yeafe a littel breath beside him.
“There’s sumbody here,” she whispered; “I heard him.”
“Be still!” he said sternly. “It was nothing but the door.”
“O! yet a light—cwick!” she eked, as her neeve, fumbelling with a wickbox, opened it upside dune and let hem all fall with a rattel onto the stone floor.
The lude, huever, came not ayen; and there was no suttelling of leaving footsteps. In another minnit hy had a candel burning, noting an empty end of a smokebox as a holder; and when the first bright leem had abated he held the makeshift lightvat alift and howed what was abute hem. And it was dreary enugh in all minds, for there is nothing more lorn in all mens abodes than a huse withute idish dimly lit, still, and forsaken, and yet indwelt by hearsay with the mins of evil and heast tales.
Hy were standing in a wide hallway; on hir left was the open door of a roomy eatingroom, and in its fore the hall ran, ever narrowing, into a long, dark way that led to the top of the kichen stairs. The broad wooden stairwell rose in a sweep before hem, everywhere hung in shadows, but for a lone spot abute halfway up where the moonlight came in thrugh the eyedoor and fell on a bright deal of the boards. This lightshaft shed a dim brightness abuve and beneath it, lending to the things within its reach a misty uteline that was ever more inkelling and goastly than full darkness. Wrought moonlight is always seen to mete anlets of the beclipping gloom, and as Shorthuse looked up into the dark well and thought of the many empty rooms and halls in the upper deal of the old huse, he fund himself longing ayen for the sickerhood of the moonlit plach, or the cweem, bright drawingroom hy had left a stund before. Then underyetting that these thoughts were pleeful, he shuved hem away ayen and drew all his might for the nu.
“Moddry Julia,” he said alude, sternly, “we must nu go thrugh the huse from top to bottom and make a thorough seeching.”
The ludes of his steven swelted away slowly over the bilding, and in the stark stillness that followed he went to look at her. In the candellight he saw that her anlet was already gastly wan, but she dropt his arm for a brightom and said in a whisper, stepping nigh in fore of him—
“I thwear. We must be wiss there’s nobody hiding. That’s the first thing.”
She spoke with suttel work, and he looked at her with love.
“Feelest thu alright? It’s not too late—”
“I think so,” she whispered, her eyes shifting angly toward the shadows behind. “Yes, only one thing—”
“Thu must never leave me alone for an eyeblink.”
“As long as thu understandest that any lude or ansen must be smeyed at onse, for to dither means to andet fear. That is deadly.”
“Yes,” she said, a littel shakily, after a brightoms dithering. “I’ll fand—”
Arm in arm, Shorthuse holding the dripping candel and the stick, while his moddry bore the hackel over her sholders, utter laughingstocks to all but hemselves, hy began a thorough seeching.
Stealthily, walking on tiptoe and shading the candel lest it shud bewray hem thrugh the shutterless eyedoors, hy went first into the great eatingroom. There was not a stick of idish to be seen. Bare walls, atel shelves and empty hearths stared at hem. Everything, hy felt, hated hir cumming, waching hem, as it were, with wimpelled eyes; whispers followed hem; shadows flitted stilly to right and left; sumthing felt ever at hir back, waching, biding for a bire to harm. There was the unatwindenly feeling that the things which went on when the room was empty had been stalled hent hy were well ute of the way ayen. The whole dark inside of the old bilding felt as an evil Goast that rose up, warning hem to leave and mind hir own bisiness; every brightom the weight on the anyets grew.
Ute of the gloomy eatingroom hy went thrugh great folding doors into a kind of bookroom or smokingroom, wrapt evenly in stillness, darkness, and dust; and from this hy saw ayen the hall near the top of the back stairs.
Here a pich black undergang opened before hem into the nether deals, and—it must be andetted—hy dithered. But only for a short while. With the worst of the night still to cum it was needful to wharve from nothing. Moddry Julia stumbeled at the top step of the dark dunegang, arm lit by the flickering candel, and even Shorthuse felt at least half the strength go ute of his shanks.
“Cum on!” he said starkly, and his steven ran on and lost itself in the dark, empty rooms beneath.
“I’m cumming,” she stumbelled, fanging his arm with unneedful heast.
Hy went a littel unsteadily dune the stone steps, a cold, wet lift meeting hem, thick and fule smelling. The kichen, into which the stairs led along a narrow hall, was great, with a high first. Many doors opened ute of it—sum into cupboards with empty crocks still standing on the shelves, and others into eyful littel goastly backrooms, each cooler and less welcumming than the last. Black beetels ran over the floor, and onse, when hy knockt ayesnt a dealbeed standing in a hirn, sumthing abute the great of a cat leapt dune with a rush and fled, flying thwares the stone floor into the darkness. Everywhere there was a whith of latter abode, a feeling of sadness and gloom.
Leaving the main kichen, hy next went towards the dishroom. The door was standing achar, and as hy thrang it open to its full breadth Moddry Julia let ute a sharp shree, which she at onse fanded to deaden by putting her hand over her muthe. For a brightom Shorthuse stood stockstill, holding his breath. He felt as if his ridgebone had been hollowed ute and filled with motes of ise.
Meeting hem, streight in hir way between the doorposts, stood the ansen of a wife. She had unkempt hair and wildly staring eyes, and her anlet was breed and white as death.
She stood still there for but one long brightom. Then the candel flickered and she was gone—gone utterly—and the door framed nothing but empty darkness.
“Only the eyful leaping candellight,” he said cwickly, in a steven that sweyed like sumbody elses and was only half in his grasp. “Cum on, moddry. There’s nothing there.”
He drew her forward. With a clattering of feet and a great grime of boldness hy went on, but over his body the hide shrothe as if crawling ants overspread it, and he knew by the weight on his arm that he was yeaving the strength to shrithe for two. The dishroom was cold, bare, and empty; more like a wide clusing in a cwartern than anything else. Hy went umb it, fanded the door into the yard, and the eyedoors, but fund hem all fastened well. His moddry walked beside him as if in a sweven. Her eyes were shut fast, and she was seen but to follow the rine of his arm. Her beeld filled him with amase. At the ilk time he saw that a ferly wend had cum over her anlet, a wend which sumhu he was unfit to understand.
“There’s nothing here, moddry,” he said ayen cwickly. “Let’s go upstairs and see the lave of the huse. Then we’ll choose a room to bide in.”
She followed him hearsumly, keeping nigh to his side, and hy lockt the kichen door behind hem. It was a liss to yet up ayen. In the hall there was more light than before, for the moon had fared a littel further dune the stairs. Warily hy began to go up into the dark wholf of the upper huse, the boards creaking under hir weight.
On the first floor hy fund the great twin drawingrooms, a seeching of which wrayed nothing. Here also was not a token of idish or latter abode; nothing but dust and forletting and shadows. Hy opened the great folding doors between fore and back drawingrooms and then came ute ayen to the landing and went on upstairs.
Hy had not gone up more than twelve steps when hy bo stopt to listen, looking into each others eyes with a new misyeaving over the flickering candel leem. From the room hy had left hardly ten brightoms before came the deadened lude of doors closing. It was beyond fraining, hy heard the booming lude that cums with the shutting of heavy doors, followed by the sharp fanging of the lach.
“We must go back and see,” said Shorthuse shortly, in a soft pich, and wharving to go dunestairs ayen.
Sumhu she kept after him, her feet fanging in her weed, her anlet bloat.
When hy infared the fore drawingroom it was suttel that the folding doors had been closed—a short while before. Withute dithering Shorthuse opened hem. He almost weened he wud see sumbody wither him in the back room; but only darkness and cold lift met him. Hy went thrugh bo rooms, finding nothing ferly. Hy fanded in every way to make the doors close of hemselves, but there was not wind enugh even to set the candel leem flickering. The doors wud not shrithe withute strong thruching. All was still as the grave. Unwithsayenly the rooms were utterly empty, and the huse utterly still.
“It’s beginning,” whispered a steven at his elbow which he hardly underyat as his moddrys.
He nodded yeeldingly, bringing ute his wach to mark the time. It was fifteen minnits before midnight; he wrote dune right what had befallen in his book, setting the candel in its box on the floor to do so. He nam a brightom or two to lean it sickerly ayenst the wall.
Moddry Julia always boded that at this brightom she was not in sooth waching him, but had went her head towards the inner room, where she fathomed she heard sumthing shrithing; but, anyhu, bo trewly thweared that there came a lude of rushing feet, heavy and mighty swift—and the next eyeblink the candel was ute!
But to Shorthuse himself had cum more than this, and he has always thanked his seelly stars that it came to him alone and not to his moddry too. For, as he rose from the nether standing of leaning the candel, and before it was put ute, an anlet threw itself forward so nigh to his own that he cud almost have rined it with his lips. It was an anlet working with heavy feeling; a weres anlet, dark, with thick marks, and wroth, reeth eyes. It belonged to a mean were, and it was evil in its everyday ansen, tweeless, but as he saw it, alive with sharp, heast feeling, it was a baneful and eyful likeness of man.
There was no shrithing of the lift; nothing but the lude of rushing feet—stockinged or otherwise deadened; the atewing of an anlet; and at almost the ilk time the putting ute of the candel.
Unthinkingly, Shorthuse let ute a littel roop, nearly losing his standing as his moddry clung to him with her whole weight in one brightom of trew, unrixenly fear. She made no lude, but only gript him bodily. Seely, huever, she had seen nothing, but only heard the rushing feet, for she came back to herself almost at onse, and he cud unbraid himself and strike a wick.
The shadows ran away on all sides before the leem, and his moddry bent dune and groped for the smokebox with the dear candel. Then hy fund that the candel had not been blown ute at all; it had been stamped ute. The wick was thruched dune into the wax, which was evened as if by sum smooth, heavy tool.
Hu his sither so cwickly overcame her fear, Shorthuse never fully understood; but his love for her will grew tenfold, and at the ilk time made to feed his own swelting leem—for which he was unwithsayenly thankful. Evenly unrechenly to him was the rinenly might hy had witnessed. He at onse thruched dune the mun of tales he had heard of “rinenly middels” and hir pleeful befallings; for if these were trew, and either his moddry or himself was unwittingly a rinenly middel, it meant that hy were but helping to bring together the thrakes of a goasthuse already filled to the brim. It was like walking with open lightvats among unshruded stocks of gundust.
So, with as littel thinking as mightly, he only edlit the candel and went up to the next floor. The arm in his shook, it is trew, and his own tread was often unwiss, but hy went on with thoroughness, and after a seeching wraying nothing hy clumb the last flight of stairs to the top floor of all.
Here hy fund a fulframed nest of small thews rooms, with broken idish, filthy reedbottomed selds, chests of drawers, crackt glasses, and forsaken bedsteads. The rooms had nether sloping firsts already hung here and there with cobwebs, small eyedoors, and badly cleamed walls—a saddening and lorn stead which hy were glad to leave behind.
It was on the stroke of midnight when hy infared a small room on the third floor, near the top of the stairs, and made to make hemselves cweem for the lave of hir rosing. It was wholly bare, and was said to be the room—then noted as a clothesroom—into which the wroth were had weathed his tiver and fanged her at last. Uteside, thwares the narrow landing, began the stairs leading up to the floor abuve, and the thews rooms where hy had seeched.
The nights chilliness notwithstanding there was sumthing in this rooms lift that rooped for an open eyedoor. But there was more than this. Shorthuse cud only rech it by saying that he felt less his own master here than in any other deal of the huse. There was sumthing that worked streight on the thews, tiring the mind, woakening the will. He was aware of this rine before he had been in the room five minnits, and it was in the short time hy bode there that he tholed the heapmeal lessening of his lifes might, which was, for himself, the main brow of the whole befalling.
Hy put the candel on the floor of the cupboard, leaving the door a few inches achar, so that there was no leem to mase the eyes, and no shadow to shift abute on walls and first. Then hy spread the hackel on the floor and sat dune to bide, with hir backs ayenst the wall.
Shorthuse was within two feet of the door to the landing; his stead held good sight of the main stairwell leading dune into the darkness, and also the beginning of the thews stairs going to the floor abuve; the heavy stick lay beside him within eath reach.
The moon was nu high abuve the huse. Thrugh the open eyedoor hy cud see the frevering stars like frendly eyes waching in the heaven. One by one the tunes clocks struck midnight, and when the ludes swelted the deep stillness of a windless night fell ayen over everything. Only the boom of the sea, far away and mornful, filled the lift with hollow whoasters.
Inside the huse the stillness became eyful; eyful, he thought, forthat any minnit nu it might be broken by ludes foreboding brow. The weight of biding told more and more heavily on the thews; hy talked in whispers when hy talked at all; for her stevens alude felt ferly and unkindly. A chilliness, not altogether from the night lift, steeped the room, and made hem cold. The thrakes ayenst hem, whatever these might be, were slowly reaving hem of hir will, and the might of swift deeds; hir strengths were on the wane, and the cummenliness of trew fear held a new and eyful meaning. He began to cwiver for the elderly wife by his side, whose pluck cud hardly near her beyond a sundry threshhold.
He heard the blood singing in his edders. It sumtimes felt so lude that he fathomed it stopping his hearing fully other ludes that were beginning o so lightly to make hemselves hearenly in the depths of the huse. Every time he fastened his heed on these ludes, hy stopt at onse. Hy wisly came no nearer. Yet he cud not rid himself of the thought that sumthing was going on sumwhere in the huses nether deals. The drawingroom floor, where the doors had been so ferly closed, felt too near; the ludes were further off than that. He thought of the great kichen, with the running black beetels, and of the lorn littel dishroom; but, sumhu or other, hy felt not to cum from there either. Wisly hy were not uteside the huse!
Then, all at onse, the trewth flew into his mind, and for the span of a minnit he felt as if his blood had stopt flowing and went to ise.
The ludes were not dunestairs at all; hy were upstairs—upstairs, sumwhere among those atel littel thews rooms with hir bits of broken idish, nether firsts, and narrow eyedoors—upstairs where the tiver had first been woken and stalked to her death.
And the brightom he knew where the ludes were, he began to hear hem more suttelly. It was the lude of feet, stepping stealthily along the hall overhead, in and ute among the room, and by the idish.
He went cwickly to steal a look at the still ansen beside him, to mark whether she had shared his finding. The wan candellight cumming thrugh the crack in the cupboard door, stamped her strongly marked anlet starkly ayenst the white of the wall. But it was sumthing else that made him stop his breath and stare ayen. A ferly sumthing had cum into her anlet and looked to spread over her marks like a grime; it smoothed ute the deep lines and drew the hide everywhere a littel faster so that the wrinkels swinded; it brought into the anlet—but for the old eyes—a likeness of yewth and almost of childhood.
He stared in speechless amase—amase that was pleefully near to brow. It was his moddrys anlet indeed, but it was her anlet of forty years ago, the empty cleanhearted anlet of a maid. He had heard tales of that ferly rine of brow which cud wipe a mans anlet clean of other feelings, berying all former moods; but he had never known that it cud be fully trew, or cud mean anything so wisly eyful as what he nu saw. For the dreadful hallmark of overmastering fear was written suttelly in that utter emptiness of the maidlike anlet beside him; and when, feeling his stark stare, she went to look at him, he thoughtlessly closed his eyes fast to shut ute the sight.
Yet, when he went a minnit later, his feelings well in hand, he saw to his great liss another look; his moddry was smirking, and thaugh the anlet was deathly white, the eyful wimpel had lifted and the mean look was eftcumming.
“Anything wugh?” was all he cud think of to say at the brightom. And the answer was well spoken, cumming from such a wife.
“It’s upstairs, I know,” she whispered, with a ferly half laugh; “but there’s no way I can go up.”
But Shorthuse thought otherwise, knowing that in doing lay hir best hope for will.
He brought ute the brandy flask and yote ute a glass of neat fire, stiff enugh to help anybody yet over anything. She swallowed it with a littel shiver. His only thought nu was to yet ute of the huse before her breakdune became unatwindenly; but this cud not sundly be done by wending hir backs and running from the foe. Idelness was no longer mightly; every minnit he was growing less his own master, and reckless, swift deeds were needed withute further dithering. Moreover, the deed must be done towards the foe, not away from it; the peak, if needed and unatwindenly, wud have to be met boldly. He cud do it nu; but in ten minnits he might not have the strength left to do for himself, much less for her as well!
Upstairs, the ludes were meanwhile becumming luder and nearer, cumming with sumtime creaking of the boards. Sumbody was walking stealthily abute, stumbelling nu and then unweeldily ayenst the idish.
Biding a few brightoms to let the great deal of brandy bring its filst, and knowing this wud last but a short time under the umbstandness, Shorthuse then softly yat to his feet, saying in a bold steven—
“Nu, Moddry Julia, we’ll go upstairs and find ute what all this din is abute. Thu must cum too. It’s what we thweared on.”
He pickt up his stick and went to the cupboard for the candel. A woak shape rose shakily beside him breathing hard, and he heard a steven say mighty softly sumthing abute being “ready to cum.” The wifes beeld amased him; it was so much greater than his own; and, as hy went on, holding alift the dripping candel, sum small thrake breathed ute from this cwivering, wan old wife at his side that was the trew spring of his own beeld. It held sumthing soothly great that shamed him and yafe him the filst withute which he wud have been far less up to the deed.
Hy walked the dark landing, keeping hir eyes away from the deep black nothing over the posts. Then hy began to climb the narrow stairwell to meet the ludes which, minnit by minnit, grew luder and nearer. Abute halfway up the stairs Moddry Julia stumbelled and Shorthuse went to fang her by the arm, and right at that brightom there came an ettinish stun in the thews hall overhead. It was followed at onse by a shrill, treyed shree that was a roop of fear and a roop for help melted into one.
Before hy cud step aside, or go dune a lone step, sumbody came rushing along the hallway overhead, stumbelling eyfully, reasing madly, at full speed, three steps at a time, dune the stairwell where hy hemselves stood. The steps were light and unwiss; but nigh behind hem luded the heavier tread of another leed, and the stairwell felt as if it were shaking.
Shorthuse and his sither had only but time to throw hemselves ayenst the wall when the wildness was on hem, and two leeds, with the smallest mightly span between hem, reased by at full speed. It was a fulframed ist of din breaking in on the midnight stillness of the empty bilding.
The two runners, weather and weathed, had gone clean thrugh hem where hy stood, and already with a thud the boards beneath had felt first one, then the other. Yet hy had seen nothing at all—not a hand, or arm, or anlet, or even a shred of flying clothing.
There came a brightoms stall. Then the first, the lighter of the two, suttelly the weathed one, ran with unwiss footsteps into the littel room which Shorthuse and his moddry had but only left. The heavier followed. There was a lude of shraping, heaving, and smothered shreeing; and then ute onto the landing came the step—of a lone leed treading weightily.
A dead stillness followed for the span of half a minnit, and then was heard a rushing lude thrugh the lift. It was followed by a dull thud in the depths of the huse beneath—on the halls stone floor.
Utter stillness rixt after. Nothing shrothe. The candels leem was steady. It had been steady the whole time, and the lift had not been unstilled by anything whatsoever. Frosen with brow, Moddry Julia, withute biding for her sither, began fumbelling her way dunestairs; she was weeping softly to herself, and when Shorthuse put his arm umb her and half bore her he felt that she was shaking like a leaf. He went into the littel room and pickt up the hackel from the floor, and, arm in arm, walking mighty slowly, withute speaking a word or looking onse behind hem, hy stepped dune the three flights into the hall.
In the hall hy saw nothing, but the whole way dune the stairs hy were aware that sumbody followed hem; step by step; when hy went faster IT was left behind, and when hy went more slow IT came nearer. But never onse looked hy behind to see; and at each wending of the stairwell hy nethered hir eyes for fear of the following goast hy might see on the stairs abuve.
With shaking hands Shorthuse opened the foredoor, and hy walked ute into the moonlight and drew a deep breath of the cool night lift blowing in from the sea.