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then the car topped the hill, shot into high, and with

time: 2023-12-04 02:23:27laiyuan:toutiaovits: 292

When we were not on the water, we both liked to mouse about the queer streets and quaint old houses of that region, and to chat with the fishermen and their grandmothers. There was one house, however, which was very attractive to me,--perhaps because nobody lived in it, and which, for that or some other reason, he never would approach. It was a great square building of rough gray stone, looking like those sombre houses which everyone remembers in Montreal, but which are rare in "the States." It had been built many years before by some millionnaire from New Orleans, and was left unfinished, nobody knew why, till the garden was a wilderness of bloom, and the windows of ivy. Oldport is the only place in New England where either ivy or traditions will grow; there were, to be sure, no legends about this house that I could hear of, for the ghosts in those parts were feeble-minded and retrospective by reason of age, and perhaps scorned a mansion where nobody had ever lived; but the ivy clustered round the projecting windows as densely as if it had the sins of a dozen generations to hide.

then the car topped the hill, shot into high, and with

The house stood just above what were commonly called (from their slaty color) the Blue Rocks; it seemed the topmost pebble left by some tide that had receded,--which perhaps it was. Nurses and children thronged daily to these rocks, during the visitors' season, and the fishermen found there a favorite lounging-place; but nobody scaled the wall of the house save myself, and I went there very often. The gate was sometimes opened by Paul, the silent Bavarian gardener, who was master of the keys; and there were also certain great cats that were always sunning themselves on the steps, and seemed to have grown old and gray in waiting for mice that had never come. They looked as if they knew the past and the future. If the owl is the bird of Minerva, the cat should be her beast; they have the same sleepy air of unfathomable wisdom. There was such a quiet and potent spell about the place that one could almost fancy these constant animals to be the transformed bodies of human visitors who had stayed too long. Who knew what tales might be told by these tall, slender birches, clustering so closely by the sombre walls?--birches which were but whispering shrubs when the first gray stones were laid, and which now reared above the eaves their white stems and dark boughs, still whispering and waiting till a few more years should show them, across the roof, the topmost blossoms of other birches on the other side.

then the car topped the hill, shot into high, and with

Before the great western doorway spread the outer harbor, whither the coasting vessels came to drop anchor at any approach of storm. These silent visitors, which arrived at dusk and went at dawn, and from which no boat landed, seemed fitting guests before the portals of the silent house. I was never tired of watching them from the piazza; but Severance always stayed outside the wall. It was a whim of his, he said; and once only I got out of him something about the resemblance of the house to some Portuguese mansion,--at Madeira, perhaps, or at Rio Janeiro, but he did not say,--with which he had no pleasant associations. Yet he afterwards seemed to wish to deny this remark, or to confuse my impressions of it, which naturally fixed it the better in my mind.

then the car topped the hill, shot into high, and with

I remember well the morning when he was at last coaxed into approaching the house. It was late in September, and a day of perfect calm. As we looked from the broad piazza, there was a glassy smoothness over all the bay, and the hills were coated with a film, or rather a mere varnish, inconceivably thin, of haze more delicate than any other climate in America can show. Over the water there were white gulls flying, lazy and low; schools of young mackerel displayed their white sides above the surface; and it seemed as if even a butterfly might be seen for miles over that calm expanse. The bay was covered with mackerel-boats, and one man sculled indolently across the foreground a scarlet skiff. It was so still that every white sail-boat rested where its sail was first spread; and though the tide was at half-ebb, the anchored boats swung idly different ways from their moorings. Yet there was a continuous ripple in the broad sail of some almost motionless schooner, and there was a constant melodious plash along the shore. From the mouth of the bay came up slowly the premonitory line of bluer water, and we knew that a breeze was near.

Severance seemed to rise in spirits as we approached the house, and I noticed no sign of shrinking, except an occasional lowering of the voice. Seeing this, I ventured to joke him a little on his previous reluctance, and he replied in the same strain. I seated myself at the corner, and began sketching old Fort Louis, while he strolled along the piazza, looking in at the large, vacant windows. As he approached the farther end, I suddenly heard him give a little cry of amazement or dismay, and, looking up, saw him leaning against the wall, with pale face and hands clenched.

A minute sometimes appears a long while; and though I sprang to him instantly, yet I remember that it seemed as if, during that instant, the whole face of things had changed. The breeze had come, the bay was rippled, the sail-boats careened to the wind, fishes and birds were gone, and a dark gray cloud had come between us and the sun. Such sudden changes are not, however, uncommon after an interval of calm; and my only conscious thought at the time was of wonder at the strange aspect of my companion.

"What was that?" asked Severance in a bewildered tone. I looked about me, equally puzzled. "Not there," he said. "In the window."

I looked in at the window, saw nothing, and said so. There was the great empty drawing-room, across which one could see the opposite window, and through this the eastern piazza and the garden beyond. Nothing more was there. With some persuasion, Severance was induced to look in. He admitted that he saw nothing peculiar; but he refused all explanation, and we went home.

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