The moon must have been nearly at the full, but I could not guess its position behind the even murk of cloud that muffled the whole face of the sky. Yet, it was not very dark. The broad masses of the garden through which Jervaise led me, were visible as a greater blackness superimposed on a fainter background. I believed that we were passing through some kind of formal pleasance. I could smell the pseudo-aromatic, slightly dirty odour of box, and made out here and there the clipped artificialities of a yew hedge. There were standard roses, too. One rose started up suddenly before my face, touching me as I passed with a limp, cool caress, like the careless, indifferent encouragement of a preoccupied courtesan.
At the end of the pleasance we came to a high wall, and as Jervaise fumbled with the fastening of a, to me, invisible door, I was expecting that now we should come out into the open, into a paddock, perhaps, or a grass road through the Park. But beyond the wall was a kitchen garden. It was lighter there, and I could see dimly that we were passing down an aisle of old espaliers that stretched sturdy, rigid arms, locked finger to finger with each other in their solemn grotesque guardianship of the enciente they enclosed. No doubt in front of them was some kind of herbaceous border. I caught sight of the occasional spire of a hollyhock, and smelt the acid insurgence of marigolds.
None of this was at all the mischievous, taunting fairyland that I had anticipated, but rather the gaunt, intimidating home of ogres, rank and more than a trifle forbidding. It had an air of age that was not immortal, but stiffly declining into a stubborn resistance against the slow rigidity of death. These espaliers made me think of rheumatic veterans, obstinately faithful to ancient duties—veterans with knobbly arthritic joints.
At the end of the aisle we came to a high-arched opening in the ten-foot wall, barred by a pair of heavy iron gates.
“Hold on a minute, I’ve got the key,” Jervaise said. This was the first time he had spoken since we left the house. His tone seemed to suggest that he was afraid I should attempt to scale the wall or force my way through the bars of the gates.
He had the key but he could not in that darkness fit it into the padlock; and he asked me if I had any matches. I had a little silver box of wax vestas in my pocket, and struck one to help him in his search for the keyhole which he found to have been covered by the escutcheon. Before I threw the match away I held it up and glanced back across the garden. The shadows leaped and stiffened to attention, and I flung the match away, but it did not go out. It lay there on the path throwing out its tiny challenge to the darkness. It was still burning when I looked back after passing through the iron gates.
As we came out of the park, Jervaise took my arm.