He forced his glance from the shadows which seemed more active along the walls. He raised his candle and stared at the dead man. The cast was undoubtedly there. The coat, stretched tightly across the breast, outlined it. He stood at the side of the bed. He had only to bend and place his hand in the pocket which the cast filled awkwardly. The wind alone, he saw, wasn’t responsible for the shaking of the candle. His hand shook as the shadows shook, as the thing on the bed shook. The sense of loneliness grew upon him until it became complete, appalling. For the first time he understood that loneliness can possess a ponderable quality. It was, he felt, potent and active in the room—a thing he couldn’t understand, or challenge, or overcome.
His hand tightened. He thought of Katherine guarding the corridor; of Paredes and Doctor Groom, held downstairs by Graham; of the county authorities hurrying to seize this evidence that would convict him; and he realized that his duty and his excuse were clear. He understood that just now he had been captured by a force undefinable in terms of the world he knew. For a moment he eluded the stealthy fleshless hands of its impalpable skirmishers. He reached impulsively out to the dead man. He was about to place his fingers in the pocket, which, after all was said and done, held his life.
In the light of the candle the face seemed alive and more menacing than it had ever done in life. About the straight smile was a wider, more triumphant quality.
The candle flickered sharply. It expired. The conquering blackness took his breath.
He told himself it was the draft from the window which was strong, but the companionship of the night was closer and more numerous. The darkness wreathed itself into mocking and tortuous bodies whose faces were hidden.
In an agony of revolt against these incorporeal, these fanciful horrors, he reached in the pocket.
He sprang back with a choked, inaudible cry, for the dead thing beneath his hand was stirring. The dead, cold thing with a languid and impossible rebuke, moved beneath his touch. And the pocket he had felt was empty. The coat, a moment ago bulging and awkward, was flat. There sprang to his mind the mad thought that the detective, malevolent in life, had long after death snatched from his hand the evidence, carefully gathered, on which everything for him depended.
THE CRYING THROUGH THE WOODS
Bobby’s inability to cry out alone prevented his alarming the others and announcing to Paredes and Doctor Groom his unlawful presence in the room. During the moment that the shock held him, silent, motionless, bent in the darkness above the bed, he understood there could have been no ambiguity about his ghastly and loathsome experience. The dead detective had altered his position as Silas Blackburn