Page:Hopkinson Smith--armchair at the inn.djvu/203

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ming in the drowsy vapor was an evil eye from which there was no escape—searching the souls of men—mine among them—I, who had been spared death and in return had defied all the laws of decency. The cries of the forest rang in my ears, loud and insistent. The howl of a pariah dog, the hoot of an owl, became so many questions—all directed toward me—all demanding an answer for my sins. Even the hum of myriads of insects seemed concerned with me, disputing in low tones and deciding on my punishment.

“Gradually these sounds grew less insistent, and soft as a breath of air—hardly perceptible at first—there rose from the valley below, like a curl of smoke mounting into the stillness, a strain of low, sweet music, and as suddenly ceased. I bent my head, wondering whether I was dreaming. I had heard that same music, when I was a boy at home, wafted toward me from the open window of the village church. How came it here? Why sing it? Why torture me with it—who would never see home again?

“I struggled to my feet, steadied myself against a cotton-tree, and fixed my eyes on the valley below; my ears strained to catch the