I crossed the piazza at once, looked in at the farthest window, and saw there my own image, though far more faintly than in the sunlight. Severance then joined me, and his reflected shape stood by mine. Something of the first ghostly impression was renewed, I must confess, by this meeting of the two shadows; there was something rather awful in the way the bodiless things nodded and gesticulated at each other in silence. Still, there was nothing more than this, as Severance was compelled to own; and I was trying to turn the whole affair into ridicule, when suddenly, without sound or warning, I saw--as distinctly as I perceive the words I now write--yet another figure stand at the window, gaze steadfastly at us for a moment, and then disappear. It was, as I fancied, that of a woman, but was totally enveloped in a very full cloak, reaching to the ground, with a peculiarly cut hood, that stood erect and seemed half as long as the body of the garment. I had a vague recollection of having seen some such costume in a picture.
Of course, I dashed round the corner of the house, threaded the birch-trees, and stood on the eastern piazza. No one was there. Without losing an instant, I ran to the garden wall and climbed it, as Severance had done, to look into Paul's cottage. That worthy was just getting into bed, in a state of complicated deshabille, his blackbearded head wrapped in an old scarlet handkerchief that made him look like a retired pirate in reduced circumstances. He being accounted for, I vainly traversed the shrubberies, returned to the western piazza, watched awhile uselessly, and went home with Severance, a good deal puzzled.
By daylight the whole thing seemed different. That I had seen the figure there was no doubt. It was not a reflected image, for we had no companion. It was, then, human. After all, thought I, it is a commonplace thing enough, this masquerading in a cloak and hood. Someone has observed Severance's nocturnal visits, and is amusing himself at his expense. The peculiarity was, that the thing was so well done, and the figure had such an air of dignity, that somehow it was not so easy to make light of it in talking with him.
I went into his room, next day. His sick-headache, or whatever it was, had come on again, and he was lying on his bed. Rutherford's strange old book on the Second Sight lay open before him. "Look there," he said; and I read the motto of a chapter:-- "In sunlight one, In shadow none, In moonlight two, In thunder two, Then comes Death."
I threw the book indignantly from me, and began to invent doggerel, parodying this precious incantation. But Severance did not seem to enjoy the joke, and it grows tiresome to enact one's own farce and do one's own applauding.
For several days after he was laid up in earnest; but instead of getting any mental rest from this, he lay poring over that preposterous book, and it really seemed as if his brain were a little disturbed. Meanwhile I watched the great house, day and night, sought for footsteps, and, by some odd fancy, took frequent observations on the gardener and his wife. Failing to get any clew, I waited one day for Paul's absence, and made a call upon the wife, under pretence of hunting up a missing handkerchief,--for she had been my laundress. I found the handsome, swarthy creature, with her six bronzed children around her, training up the Madeira vine that made a bower of the whole side of her little, black, gambrel-roofed cottage. On learning my errand, she became full of sympathy, and was soon emptying her bureau-drawers in pursuit of the lost handkerchief. As she opened the lowest drawer, I saw within it something which sent all the blood to my face for a moment. It was a black cloth cloak, with a stiff hood two feet long, of precisely the pattern worn by the unaccountable visitant at the window. I turned almost fiercely upon her; but she looked so innocent as she stood there, caressing and dusting with her fingers what was evidently a pet garment, that it was really impossible to denounce her.
"Is that a Bavarian cloak?" said I, trying to be cool and judicial.
Here broke in the eldest boy, named John, aged ten, a native American, and a sailor already, whom I had twice fished up from a capsized punt. "Mother ain't a Bavarian," quoth the young salt. "Father's a Bavarian; mother's a Portegee. Portegees wear them hoods."
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