The sergeant was so occupied by the mystery of the man and the mystery of the house that they had passed the first gate (which the judge had unlocked without much difficulty) before he realised that there still remained something of interest for him to see and to talk about later. The two dark openings on either side, raised questions which the most unimaginative mind would feel glad to hear explained. Ere the second gate swung open and he found himself again in the street, he had built up more than one theory in explanation of this freak of parallel fences with the strip of gloom between.
Would he have felt the suggestion of the spot still more deeply, had it been given him to see the anxious and hesitating figure which, immediately upon his departure entered this dark maze, and with feeling hands and cautious step, wound its way from corner to corner—now stopping abruptly to listen, now shrinking from some imaginary presence—a shadow among shadows—till it stood again between the gates from which it had started.
Possibly; even the hardiest of men respond to the unusual, and prove themselves not ungifted with imagination when brought face to face with that for which their experience furnishes no precedent.
ACROSS THE BRIDGE
It was ten o’clock, not later, when the judge reentered his front door. He was alone,—absolutely alone, as he had never been since that night of long ago, when with the inner fence completed and the gates all locked, he turned to the great negro at his side and quietly said:
“We are done with the world, Bela. Are you satisfied to share this solitude with me?” And Bela had replied: “Night and day, your honour. And when you are not here,—when you are at court, to bear it alone.”
And now this faithful friend was dead, and it was he who must bear it alone,—alone! How could he face it! He sought for no answer, nor did he allow himself to dwell for one minute on the thought. There was something else he must do first,—do this very night, if possible.
Taking down his hat from the rack he turned and went out again, this time carefully locking the door behind him, also the first gate. But he stopped to listen before lifting his hand to the second one.
A sound of steady breathing, accompanied by a few impatient movements, came from the other side. A man was posted there within a foot of the gate. Noiselessly the judge recoiled, and made his way around to the other set of gates. Here all was quiet enough, and sliding quickly out, he cast a hasty glance up and down the lane, and seeing nothing more alarming than the back of a second officer lounging at the corner, pulled the gate quietly to, and locked it.
He was well down the road towards the ravine, before the officer turned.