Page:Hopkinson Smith--armchair at the inn.djvu/286

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“I walked to the open window, pushed aside the cotton curtain, and looked out on the sloping shed and overhanging tree, and the garden below, all clear and distinct in the light of the moon. I could see now that the tree had either prematurely lost its leaves or was stone dead. The branches, too, were bent as if in pain.

“The correct drawing of trees, especially of their limbs and twig ends, has always been a fad of mine, and the twistings of this old scrag were so unusual, and the tree itself so gnarled and ugly, that I let my imagination loose, wondering whether, like the villagers, it was suffering from some unconfessed sin, and whether fear of the future and the final bonfire, which overtakes most of us sooner or later, was not the cause of its writhings. With this I blew out the candle and crawled into bed, where I lay thinking over the events of the evening and laughing at myself for being such a first-class ass until I fell asleep.

“How long I slept I do not know, but when I woke it was with a start, all my faculties about me. What I heard was the sound of steps on the shed outside my window—creaking, stealthy steps as of a man’s weight bending the supports of the flimsy shed. I raised myself