Powers of Darknessby Fred M White
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As the girl drew back from the window, the soft silk curtains fell from her hand. A thick, white fog rose from the valley, blotting out the landscape; here and there a great elm stood out of it, like a ship becalmed on a moonlit sea. The warmth of the atmosphere chilled suddenly, and the girl in her thin evening dress shuddered. Probably there was a fire in the drawing-room; at any rate, she hoped so. An hour earlier she had been sitting in the garden amidst the full glow of summer roses. But it was often like thus on Dartdale.
How gloomy and depressing it had become all at once, and yet how characteristic of the atmosphere of the place! Time had been when Rawmouth Park was a house of love and sunshine, but that was before the death of Mrs. Martin Faber and her husband, who had followed her into the Silent Land less than six months afterwards. And now the girl was here as the ward and guest of Raymond Draycott, who had succeeded to the property.
From the bottom of her heart Alice Kearns hated Raymond Draycott. It counted for nothing that he was more or less kind to her, that he insisted upon giving her a home until she came into her property some time hence. She was in his hands, for under Martin Faber's will Draycott became her legal guardian. It was absurd that a stranger should have such power over her future; but the fact remained.
Up to a year ago she had never heard of the man except through Mr. Faber's casual references. Draycott had been his great chum in the old days before the former set out for the Argentine to make a fortune, and after Faber had been found cut to pieces on the railway it appeared that he had left everything—Alice included—to Raymond. There was very little, so it seemed, beyond the lovely old house and the grounds round it, but it was discovered that Faber had been insured for a large amount, so that Draycott found himself master of nearly a hundred thousand pounds.
He offered a home at Rawmouth to Alice, expressing a desire to have her near him. He would not hear of any other arrangement. From the first she was afraid of him. He was dark, so dark as to suggest Spanish blood in his veins, his hair and moustache were black, though his eyes were blue. This latter fact was only apparent when he removed his glasses. He disliked any allusion to the subject.
There was something mysterious about him. He was furtive and watchful, and apparently found it always necessary to keep a guard upon his tongue. Yet, reserved as he was, he had an extraordinary knowledge of things and places in the locality. Episodes that had happened years ago were perfectly familiar to him. He was a rigid teetotaller, moreover, though he spoke learnedly in unguarded moments on the subject of wine. Deep down in her heart in a blind, unreasoning way, Alice detested him; loathed him more than anything else in the world—with the sole exception of Carl Moler.
On the whole, this clever, silent, watchful German doctor was the worse man of the two. Alice knew by instinct that Draycott hated him more than she did. That being so, what was he doing at Rawmouth? Draycott was boisterously friendly, outwardly pleased with Moler's society; but there were times when, unthinkingly he regarded him with a glance absolutely murderous. He was like a cat waiting to spring and yet pausing to pounce. Moler had come at first on a chance visit, protesting he had found Draycott quite by accident. Now he was settled at Rawmouth as if the place belonged to him.
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