“Who was that old man that touched his hat to you just now?” said Dyson, as they came to the bend of the lane near the house.
“Oh, that was old Trevor. He looks very broken, poor old fellow.”
“Who is Trevor?”
“Don’t you remember? I told you the story that afternoon I came to your rooms — about a girl named Annie Trevor, who disappeared in the most inexplicable manner about five weeks ago. That was her father.”
“Yes, yes, I recollect now. To tell the truth I had forgotten all about it. And nothing has been heard of the girl?”
“Nothing whatever. The police are quite at fault.”
“I am afraid I did not pay very much attention to the details you gave me. Which way did the girl go?”
“Her path would take her right across those wild hills above the house: the nearest point in the track must be about two miles from here.”
“Is it near that little hamlet I saw yesterday?”
“You mean Croesyceiliog, where the children came from? No; it goes more to the north.”
“Ah, I have never been that way.”
They went into the house, and Dyson shut himself up in his room, sunk deep in doubtful thought, but yet with the shadow of a suspicion growing within him that for a while haunted his brain, all vague and fantastic, refusing to take definite form. He was sitting by the open window and looking out on the valley and saw, as if in a picture, the intricate winding of the brook, the grey bridge, and the vast hills rising beyond; all still and without a breath of wind to stir the mystic hanging woods, and the evening sunshine glowed warm on the bracken, and down below a faint mist, pure white, began to rise from the stream. Dyson sat by the window as the day darkened and the huge bastioned hills loomed vast and vague, and the woods became dim and more shadowy: and the fancy that had seized him no longer appeared altogether impossible. He passed the rest of the evening in a reverie, hardly hearing what Vaughan said; and when he took his candle in the hall, he paused a moment before bidding his friend good-night.
“I want a good rest,” he said. “I have got some work to do to-morrow.”
“Some writing, you mean?”
“No. I am going to look for the Bowl.”
“The Bowl! If you mean my punch-bowl, that is safe in the chest.”
“I don’t mean the punch-bowl. You may take my word for it that your plate has never been threatened. No; I will not bother you with any suppositions. We shall in all probability have something much stronger than suppositions before long. Good-night, Vaughan.”
The next morning Dyson set off after breakfast. He took the path by the garden wall, and noted that there were now eight of the weird almond eyes dimly outlined on the brick.
“Six days more,” he said to himself, but as he thought over the theory he had formed, he shrank, in spite of strong conviction, from such a wildly incredible fancy. He struck up through the dense shadows of the wood, and at length came out on the bare hillside, and climbed higher and higher over the slippery turf, keeping well to the north, and following the indications given him by Vaughan. As he went on, he seemed to mount ever higher above the world of human life and customary things; to his right he looked at a fringe of orchard and saw a faint blue smoke rising like a pillar; there was the hamlet from which the children came to school, and there the only sign of life, for the woods embowered and concealed Vaughan’s old grey house. As he reached what seemed the summit of the hill, he realized for the first time the desolate loneliness and strangeness of the land; there was nothing but grey sky and grey hill, a high, vast plain that seemed to stretch on for ever and ever, and a faint glimpse of a blue-peaked mountain far away and to the north. At length he came to the path, a slight track scarcely noticeable, and from its position and by what Vaughan had told him he knew that it was the way the lost girl, Annie Trevor, must have taken. He followed the path on the bare hill-top, noticing the great limestone rocks that cropped out of the turf, grim and hideous, and of an aspect as forbidding as an idol of the South Seas; and suddenly he halted, astonished, although he had found what he searched for.
Almost without warning the ground shelved suddenly away on all sides, and Dyson looked down into a circular depression, which might well have been a Roman amphitheatre, and the ugly crags of limestone rimmed it round as if with a broken wall. Dyson walked round the hollow, and noted the position of the stones, and then turned on his way home.
“This,” he thought to himself, “is more than curious. The Bowl is discovered, but where is the Pyramid?”
“My dear Vaughan,” he said, when he got back, “I may tell you that I have found the Bowl, and that that is all I shall tell you for the present. We have six days of absolute inaction before us; there is really nothing to be done.”
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:53