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The Phantoms Of The Foot-Bridge 1895   By: (1850-1922)

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By Charles Egbert Craddock


Across the narrow gorge the little foot bridge stretched a brace of logs, the upper surface hewn, and a slight hand rail formed of a cedar pole. A flimsy structure, one might think, looking down at the dark and rocky depths beneath, through which flowed the mountain stream, swift and strong, but it was doubtless substantial enough for all ordinary usage, and certainly sufficient for the imponderable and elusive travellers who by common report frequented it.

"We ain't likely ter meet nobody. Few folks kem this way nowadays, 'thout it air jes' ter ford the creek down along hyar a piece, sence harnts an' sech onlikely critters hev been viewed a crossin' the foot bredge. An' it hev got the name o' bein' toler'ble onlucky, too," said Roxby.

His interlocutor drew back slightly. He had his own reasons to recoil from the subject of death. For him it was invested with a more immediate terror than is usual to many of the living, with that flattering persuasion of immortality in every strong pulsation repudiating all possibility of cessation. Then, lifting his gloomy, long lashed eyes to the bridge far up the stream, he asked, "Whose 'harms?"

His voice had a low, repressed cadence, as of one who speaks seldom, grave, even melancholy, and little indicative of the averse interest that had kindled in his sombre eyes. In comparison the drawl of the mountaineer, who had found him heavy company by the way, seemed imbued with an abnormal vivacity, and keyed a tone or two higher than was its wont.

"Thar ain't a few," he replied, with a sudden glow of the pride of the cicerone. "Thar's a graveyard t'other side o' the gorge, an' not more than a haffen mile off, an' a cornsider'ble passel o' folks hev been buried thar off an' on, an' the foot bredge ain't in nowise ill convenient ter them."

Thus demonstrating the spectral resources of the locality, he rode his horse well into the stream as he spoke, and dropped the reins that the animal's impatient lips might reach the water. He sat fac , ing the foot bridge, flecked with the alternate shifting of the sunshine and the shadows of the tremulous firs that grew on either side of the high banks on the ever ascending slope, thus arching both above and below the haunted bridge. His companion had joined him in the centre of the stream; but while the horses drank, the stranger's eyes were persistently bent on the concentric circles of the water that the movement of the animals had set astir in the current, as if he feared that too close or curious a gaze might discern some pilgrim, whom he cared not to see, traversing that shadowy quivering foot bridge. He was mounted on a strong, handsome chestnut, as marked a contrast to his guide's lank and trace galled sorrel as were the two riders. A slender gloved hand had fallen with the reins to the pommel of the saddle. His soft felt hat, like a sombrero, shadowed his clear cut face. He was carefully shaven, save for a long drooping dark mustache and imperial. His suit of dark cloth was much concealed by a black cloak, one end of which thrown back across his shoulder showed a bright blue lining, the color giving a sudden heightening touch to his attire, as if he were "in costume." It was a fleeting fashion of the day, but it added a certain picturesqueness to a horseman, and seemed far enough from the times that produced the square tailed frock coat which the mountaineer wore, constructed of brown jeans, the skirts of which stood stiffly out on each side of the saddle, and gave him, with his broad brimmed hat, a certain Quakerish aspect.

"I dun'no' why folks be so 'feared of 'em," Rox by remarked, speculatively. "The dead ain't so oncommon, nohow. Them ez hev been in the war, like you an' me done, oughter be in an' 'bout used ter corpses though I never seen none o' 'em afoot agin. Lookin' at a smit field o' battle, arter the rage is jes' passed, oughter gin a body a realizin' sense how easy the sperit kin flee, an' what pore vessels fur holdin' the spark o' life human clay be... Continue reading book >>

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