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Chapter 2 The pavilion on the links

  • ### 1\. TELLS HOW I CAMPED IN GRADEN SEA-WOOD, AND BEHELD A LIGHT IN TH_AVILION
  • I was a great solitary when I was young. I made it my pride to keep aloof an_uffice for my own entertainment; and I may say that I had neither friends no_cquaintances until I met that friend who became my wife and the mother of m_hildren. With one man only was I on private terms; this was R. Northmour,
  • Esquire, of Graden Easter, in Scotland. We had met at college; and thoug_here was not much liking between us, nor even much intimacy, we were s_early of a humour that we could associate with ease to both. Misanthropes, w_elieved ourselves to be; but I have thought since that we were only sulk_ellows. It was scarcely a companionship, but a coexistence in unsociability.
  • Northmour's exceptional violence of temper made it no easy affair for him t_eep the peace with any one but me; and as he respected my silent ways, an_et me come and go as I pleased, I could tolerate his presence withou_oncern. I think we called each other friends.
  • When Northmour took his degree and I decided to leave the university withou_ne, he invited me on a long visit to Graden Easter; and it was thus that _irst became acquainted with the scene of my adventures. The mansion-house o_raden stood in a bleak stretch of country some three miles from the shore o_he German Ocean. It was as large as a barrack; and as it had been built of _oft stone, liable to consume in the eager air of the seaside, it was damp an_raughty within and half ruinous without. It was impossible for two young me_o lodge with comfort in such a dwelling. But there stood in the northern par_f the estate, in a wilderness of links and blowing sand-hills, and between _lantation and the sea, a small Pavilion or Belvidere, of modern design, whic_as exactly suited to our wants; and in this hermitage, speaking little,
  • reading much, and rarely associating except at meals, Northmour and I spen_our tempestuous winter months. I might have stayed longer; but one Marc_ight there sprang up between us a dispute, which rendered my departur_ecessary. Northmour spoke hotly, I remember, and I suppose I must have mad_ome tart rejoinder. He leaped from his chair and grappled me; I had to fight,
  • without exaggeration, for my life; and it was only with a great effort that _astered him, for he was near as strong in body as myself, and seemed fille_ith the devil. The next morning, we met on our usual terms; but I judged i_ore delicate to withdraw; nor did he attempt to dissuade me.
  • It was nine years before I revisited the neighbourhood. I travelled at tha_ime with a tilt cart, a tent, and a cooking- stove, tramping all day besid_he waggon, and at night, whenever it was possible, gipsying in a cove of th_ills, or by the side of a wood. I believe I visited in this manner most o_he wild and desolate regions both in England and Scotland; and, as I ha_either friends nor relations, I was troubled with no correspondence, and ha_othing in the nature of headquarters, unless it was the office of m_olicitors, from whom I drew my income twice a year. It was a life in which _elighted; and I fully thought to have grown old upon the march, and at las_ied in a ditch.
  • It was my whole business to find desolate corners, where I could camp withou_he fear of interruption; and hence, being in another part of the same shire,
  • I bethought me suddenly of the Pavilion on the Links. No thoroughfare passe_ithin three miles of it. The nearest town, and that was but a fisher village,
  • was at a distance of six or seven. For ten miles of length, and from a dept_arying from three miles to half a mile, this belt of barren country lay alon_he sea. The beach, which was the natural approach, was full of quicksands.
  • Indeed I may say there is hardly a better place of concealment in the Unite_ingdom. I determined to pass a week in the Sea-Wood of Graden Easter, an_aking a long stage, reached it about sundown on a wild September day.
  • The country, I have said, was mixed sand-hill and links; LINKS being _cottish name for sand which has ceased drifting and become more or les_olidly covered with turf. The Pavilion stood on an even space; a littl_ehind it, the wood began in a hedge of elders huddled together by the wind;
  • in front, a few tumbled sand-hills stood between it and the sea. A_utcropping of rock had formed a bastion for the sand, so that there was her_ promontory in the coast-line between two shallow bays; and just beyond th_ides, the rock again cropped out and formed an islet of small dimensions bu_trikingly designed. The quicksands were of great extent at low water, and ha_n infamous reputation in the country. Close in shore, between the islet an_he promontory, it was said they would swallow a man in four minutes and _alf; but there may have been little ground for this precision. The distric_as alive with rabbits, and haunted by gulls which made a continual pipin_bout the pavilion. On summer days the outlook was bright and even gladsome;
  • but at sundown in September, with a high wind, and a heavy surf rolling i_lose along the links, the place told of nothing but dead mariners and se_isaster. A ship beating to windward on the horizon, and a huge truncheon o_reck half buried in the sands at my feet, completed the innuendo of th_cene.
  • The pavilion - it had been built by the last proprietor, Northmour's uncle, _illy and prodigal virtuoso - presented little signs of age. It was tw_toreys in height, Italian in design, surrounded by a patch of garden in whic_othing had prospered but a few coarse flowers; and looked, with its shuttere_indows, not like a house that had been deserted, but like one that had neve_een tenanted by man. Northmour was plainly from home; whether, as usual,
  • sulking in the cabin of his yacht, or in one of his fitful and extravagan_ppearances in the world of society, I had, of course, no means of guessing.
  • The place had an air of solitude that daunted even a solitary like myself; th_ind cried in the chimneys with a strange and wailing note; and it was with _ense of escape, as if I were going indoors, that I turned away and, drivin_y cart before me, entered the skirts of the wood.
  • The Sea-Wood of Graden had been planted to shelter the cultivated field_ehind, and check the encroachments of the blowing sand. As you advanced int_t from coastward, elders were succeeded by other hardy shrubs; but the timbe_as all stunted and bushy; it led a life of conflict; the trees wer_ccustomed to swing there all night long in fierce winter tempests; and eve_n early spring, the leaves were already flying, and autumn was beginning, i_his exposed plantation. Inland the ground rose into a little hill, which,
  • along with the islet, served as a sailing mark for seamen. When the hill wa_pen of the islet to the north, vessels must bear well to the eastward t_lear Graden Ness and the Graden Bullers. In the lower ground, a streamlet ra_mong the trees, and, being dammed with dead leaves and clay of its ow_arrying, spread out every here and there, and lay in stagnant pools. One o_wo ruined cottages were dotted about the wood; and, according to Northmour,
  • these were ecclesiastical foundations, and in their time had sheltered piou_ermits.
  • I found a den, or small hollow, where there was a spring of pure water; an_here, clearing away the brambles, I pitched the tent, and made a fire to coo_y supper. My horse I picketed farther in the wood where there was a patch o_ward. The banks of the den not only concealed the light of my fire, bu_heltered me from the wind, which was cold as well as high.
  • The life I was leading made me both hardy and frugal. I never drank but water,
  • and rarely ate anything more costly than oatmeal; and I required so littl_leep, that, although I rose with the peep of day, I would often lie lon_wake in the dark or starry watches of the night. Thus in Graden Sea-Wood,
  • although I fell thankfully asleep by eight in the evening I was awake agai_efore eleven with a full possession of my faculties, and no sense o_rowsiness or fatigue. I rose and sat by the fire, watching the trees an_louds tumultuously tossing and fleeing overhead, and hearkening to the win_nd the rollers along the shore; till at length, growing weary of inaction, _uitted the den, and strolled towards the borders of the wood. A young moon,
  • buried in mist, gave a faint illumination to my steps; and the light gre_righter as I walked forth into the links. At the same moment, the wind,
  • smelling salt of the open ocean and carrying particles of sand, struck me wit_ts full force, so that I had to bow my head.
  • When I raised it again to look about me, I was aware of a light in th_avilion. It was not stationary; but passed from one window to another, a_hough some one were reviewing the different apartments with a lamp or candle.
  • I watched it for some seconds in great surprise. When I had arrived in th_fternoon the house had been plainly deserted; now it was as plainly occupied.
  • It was my first idea that a gang of thieves might have broken in and be no_ansacking Northmour's cupboards, which were many and not ill supplied. Bu_hat should bring thieves to Graden Easter? And, again, all the shutters ha_een thrown open, and it would have been more in the character of such gentr_o close them. I dismissed the notion, and fell back upon another. Northmou_imself must have arrived, and was now airing and inspecting the pavilion.
  • I have said that there was no real affection between this man and me; but, ha_ loved him like a brother, I was then so much more in love with solitude tha_ should none the less have shunned his company. As it was, I turned and ra_or it; and it was with genuine satisfaction that I found myself safely bac_eside the fire. I had escaped an acquaintance; I should have one more nigh_n comfort. In the morning, I might either slip away before Northmour wa_broad, or pay him as short a visit as I chose.
  • But when morning came, I thought the situation so diverting that I forgot m_hyness. Northmour was at my mercy; I arranged a good practical jest, though _new well that my neighbour was not the man to jest with in security; and,
  • chuckling beforehand over its success, took my place among the elders at th_dge of the wood, whence I could command the door of the pavilion. Th_hutters were all once more closed, which I remember thinking odd; and th_ouse, with its white walls and green venetians, looked spruce and habitabl_n the morning light. Hour after hour passed, and still no sign of Northmour.
  • I knew him for a sluggard in the morning; but, as it drew on towards noon, _ost my patience. To say the truth, I had promised myself to break my fast i_he pavilion, and hunger began to prick me sharply. It was a pity to let th_pportunity go by without some cause for mirth; but the grosser appetit_revailed, and I relinquished my jest with regret, and sallied from the wood.
  • The appearance of the house affected me, as I drew near, with disquietude. I_eemed unchanged since last evening; and I had expected it, I scarce knew why,
  • to wear some external signs of habitation. But no: the windows were al_losely shuttered, the chimneys breathed no smoke, and the front door itsel_as closely padlocked. Northmour, therefore, had entered by the back; this wa_he natural and, indeed, the necessary conclusion; and you may judge of m_urprise when, on turning the house, I found the back door similarly secured.
  • My mind at once reverted to the original theory of thieves; and I blame_yself sharply for my last night's inaction. I examined all the windows on th_ower storey, but none of them had been tampered with; I tried the padlocks,
  • but they were both secure. It thus became a problem how the thieves, i_hieves they were, had managed to enter the house. They must have got, _easoned, upon the roof of the outhouse where Northmour used to keep hi_hotographic battery; and from thence, either by the window of the study o_hat of my old bedroom, completed their burglarious entry.
  • I followed what I supposed was their example; and, getting on the roof, trie_he shutters of each room. Both were secure; but I was not to be beaten; and,
  • with a little force, one of them flew open, grazing, as it did so, the back o_y hand. I remember, I put the wound to my mouth, and stood for perhaps half _inute licking it like a dog, and mechanically gazing behind me over the wast_inks and the sea; and, in that space of time, my eye made note of a larg_chooner yacht some miles to the north-east. Then I threw up the window an_limbed in.
  • I went over the house, and nothing can express my mystification. There was n_ign of disorder, but, on the contrary, the rooms were unusually clean an_leasant. I found fires laid, ready for lighting; three bedrooms prepared wit_ luxury quite foreign to Northmour's habits, and with water in the ewers an_he beds turned down; a table set for three in the dining-room; and an ampl_upply of cold meats, game, and vegetables on the pantry shelves. There wer_uests expected, that was plain; but why guests, when Northmour hated society?
  • And, above all, why was the house thus stealthily prepared at dead of night?
  • and why were the shutters closed and the doors padlocked?
  • I effaced all traces of my visit, and came forth from the window feelin_obered and concerned.
  • The schooner yacht was still in the same place; and it flashed for a momen_hrough my mind that this might be the RED EARL bringing the owner of th_avilion and his guests. But the vessel's head was set the other way.