Page:Post - Uncle Abner (Appleton, 1918).djvu/234

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The Riddle

"No, it is not there now. The gold is in that portmanteau."

He arose, opened the bag, and fumbled in it. Then he came to us with some pieces in his hand.

Abner took the gold and examined it carefully by the firelight. They were old pieces, and he rubbed them between his fingers and scraped something from their faces with his thumb-nail. Then he handed them back, and Storm cast them into the portmanteau and buckled it together. Then he sat down and drew the stone jug over beside him.

"Now, Abner," he said, "there is this evil about a treasure. It fills one full of fear. You must stand guard over it, and the thing gets on your nerves. The wind in the chimney is a voice, and every noise a footstep. At first one goes about with the weapon in his hand, and then, when he can bear it no more, he shoots at every sound."

Abner did not move, and I listened to the man as to a tale of Bagdad. Every mystery was now cleared up—his presence in this house, his fear, the bullet holes, and why he was glad to see us, and yet disturbed that we had come. And I saw what he had been turning in his mind—whether he should trust us with the truth or leave us to our own conclusions. I understood and verified in myself every detail of this story. I should have acted as he did at every step, and I could realize this fear, and how, as the thing possessed him, one might come at last to shoot