“Ah! of course you are right, Heigham, quite right,” ejaculated his host, faintly, wiping the cold sweat from his brow; “it is nothing but the moonlight. How ridiculous of me! I suppose I am a little out of sorts—liver wrong. Give me some whisky, there’s a good fellow, and I’ll drink damnation to all the shadows and the trees that throw them. Ha, ha, ha!”
There was something so uncanny about his host’s manner, and his evident conviction of the origin of the wavering figures on the wall (which had now disappeared), that Arthur felt, had it not been for Angela, he would not be sorry to get clear of him and his shadows as soon as possible, for superstition, he knew, is as contagious as small-pox. When at length he reached his great bare bed-chamber, not, by the way, a comfortable sort of place to sleep in after such an experience, it was only after some hours, in the excited state of his imagination, that, tired though he was, he could get the rest he needed.
Next morning, when they met at their eight o’clock breakfast, Arthur noticed that Angela was distressed about something.
“There is bad news,” she said, almost before he greeted her; “my cousin George is very ill with typhus fever.”
“Indeed!” remarked Arthur, rather coolly.
“Well, I must say it does not appear to distress you very much.”
“No, I can’t say it does. To be honest, I detest your cousin, and I don’t care if he is ill or not; there.”
As she appeared to have no reply ready, the subject then dropped.
After breakfast Angela proposed that they should walk—for the day was again fine—to the top of a hill about a mile away, whence a view of the surrounding country could be obtained. He consented, and on the way told her of his curious experiences with her father on the previous night. She listened attentively, and, when he had finished, shook her head.
“There is,” she said, “something about my father that separates him from everybody else. His life never comes out into the sunlight of the passing day, it always gropes along in the shadow of some gloomy past. What the mystery is that envelops him I neither know nor care to inquire; but I am sure that there is one.”
“How do you explain the shadows?”
“I believe your explanation is right; they are, under certain conditions of light, thrown by a tree that grows some distance off. I have seen something that looks like figures on that wall myself in full daylight. That he should interpret such a simple thing as he does shows a curious state of mind.”
“You do not think, then,” said Arthur, in order to draw her out, “that it is possible, after all, he was right, and that they were something from another place? The reality of his terror was almost enough to make one believe in them, I can tell you.”