Page:Weird Tales volume 36 number 01.djvu/65

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
 
91
THE HALF-HAUNTED

rotted floor boards were strewn with rubbish, like plaster fallen away from ancient laths. Wind—there was surely wind here, in the very center of Scrope's snug home. Yes, wind, blowing through the cracks in this big wrecked place to which they had somehow been wafted....

"Judge," breathed Scrope, "I know. This is the old mill—it looked like this before they tore it down—"

"Quiet," bade Pursuivant. He moved in the direction where he remembered the front bedroom's door to be. It was before him now—he felt its knob under his hand though he could not see it. Hinges creaked. They could walk farther into the room that had been part of the razed mill.

Again things were changed to their eyes.

A sort of blue-green light, such as filters down to the bottom of deep water, showed them spacious floor, high ceiling, great windows—but no more in ruins. The room was suddenly fresh, solidly built, a room for living. Painted plaster, broad white sills and jambs, some furry pelts spread like rugs—and furniture. Even in the weird soft glimmer, Pursuivant knew valuable antiques when he saw them. Yonder table was such—dark, stout, gleaming. The chairs, too. The table was spread with white linen, set with silver and china. And somebody—something—was seated there, as if to eat.

The Hessian—of course. Or what bad been the Hessian.

It faced them across the table. Now Pursuivant knew where the watery glow come from.

That semi-shape exuded it, like touchwood. He could dimly make out a clarification of outline and detail—a dress coat of ancient British style, powdered hair, elegance strangely out of place upon such a brute body. The most light came from around the head, which still did not have a face.

Pursuivant began to recite once more:

"All ye evil spirits, I forbid you this man's bed, his couch—"

The blue light dimmed. The shape rose and came toward them.

"Scrope," muttered Pursuivant, between phrases of his formula. "Lights—turn them on—"

He put himself where the approaching shape would find him. "I forbid you, in heaven's name—" he continued.

Strong hands seized him, hands as cold as marsh ice. He had a sense of filth and ferocity being hurled at him. He fought back.

Judge Keith Pursuivant was big, strong and cunning, but here was his match. It worked those cold hands to his throat, striving to shut off his breath and the words he spoke. He heard it panting and snarling, like the unknown animals of which one dreams. His own fists struck for that featureless face, battering it backward upon its cloudy shoulders, but the thing wrestled closer and closer, trying to throttle him.

"The lights—won't work!" Scrope was screaming. He struck a match, set it to a scrap of paper he whisked out of his pocket. This little torch he held aloft.

The rosy light dominated the blue, and Scrope saw plainly the thing that Pursuivant grappled. He screamed louder, and dropped the blazing paper. It floated side-wise, into some sort of a wall hanging. A stronger flame leaped up. Pursuivant caught the hard, chill wrists of his enemy and tore himself free.

"—unto you and yours, in the name of Trinity!" he finished.

Then he wheeled abruptly, seized and lifted Scrope, and hurried him away. They found themselves in the parlor, the room they had known before. Behind them flames gushed and roared, like a blast furnace.

Scrope, set on his feet again, seemed