Fairliegh Fansides sought the wilds, but he found them not. He therefore returned by the waters. Swollen and brown were they with many rains. The bubbling foam flew from their heaving sides, aud whitened the grassy bank on which he stood. “Ah,” he exclaimed, with a sudden jerk, “what do I behold?” And what did he behold? He beheld a mantle-muffled figure approach the river’s brink with crouching cat-like steps. It suddenly raised its arms with a mighty jerk in the air, and flung a something forward, which fell with a heavy splash in the tide. Moodily the muffled figure gazed upon the waters closing o’er it, and watched them until the last bubble melted away. Horror froze the soul and the tongue of our hero through all the eventful incidents of that mysterious scene. As that dull-like splash thrilled upon his ears, his heart gave one mighty thump, the muscles of his tongue relaxed, and his pent up feelings found vent in a bellow that would have done credit to the vocal powers of a seahorse.
“Fiend!” he shrieked, “what hast thou done!” The moaning rush of the waters and the echoes of his own voice returning in a triumphant and demoniac shriek was the only reply. The very marrow in his bones grew cold with terror at the babel of sounds his own voice had created. He closed his eyes to shut out the hubbub from his ears. And when he opened them again, lo, the river disturber had vanished away.
Fairleigh Fansides from that hour henceforth and for ever was and altered man. A mysterious secret hung heavy on his soul. His face grew pale and thin and the tip of his nose grew blue. His once dull eyes grew bright with the fever of care, and seemed anxious to slink away into the recesses of his head afar from the sight of man. They peeped from under his overhanging eyebrows like a couple of stars from out of a broken cloud. Asleep or awake, that scene enacted on the river’s bank loomed eternally before his mind. Life became a burden grievous to be borne, and the companionship of his friends a bore. The question of “to be or not to be” had been debated pro and con within his mind often and over again, until the spirit of philosophy (oh, ‘tis a grand thing to be a philosopher!) came to his aid, lifting the load of despair from his shoulders. “What!” he cried, “Shall I perish for another mortal’s sins? No. The world shall know the secret yon river contains.” And the world—at least the villagers of Stepstone, in lieu of the world—heard the tale, and wondered thereat exceedingly.
The village drummer had been amongst them beating out the news and a notice together, “inviting all the inhabitants to meet on the village green” at 3 P.M. on the 11th instant, to Fairleigh Fansides to that direful spot where the murderous deed was done. Continue reading “‘Fairliegh Fansides: “An ‘Orrible Tail!”‘ by James Ferguson (23 September, 1865)”