### 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.