Mr Greene precipitately pulled a pair of trousers and a fresh shirt on, stuck his night cap under the pillow and went down to reassure Mrs Inglis and give her some instructions about the rose garden in case he did not return until morning. In the parlour, he unhooked his coat, carefully adjusted his hat and picked up his carved rosewood and silver walking cane from the umbrella stand. Old James was pacing impatiently in the front yard when Mr Greene finally came out.
“We can’t be late, Sir. The Golden Knot is far and it is imperative that we reach it tonight.”
Mr Greene nodded with a sigh. The Golden Knot was owned by Robert, the only decent tailor and dress-maker that could be found in the region. Robert had turned the place into a neat atelier and shop.
Mr Greene threw a long last look at the sturdy Early Victorian style house of his ancestors. Its elegant, unique turret which sheltered his herbarium rose dreamily into the night sky. The crescent of a silver half moon lay tilted towards the turret and seemed to keep it company. Mr Greene could see the thin dark silhouette of Mrs Inglis standing at the oblong sash window of the parlour.
Mr Greene kept no horse or carriage for he had never felt the need to leave the house. Therefore, old James and Mr Greene left on foot. Mr Greene’s house was situated a mile and a half from the nearest village and he could not help thinking that for James, the distance must have been quite a stretch. To reach their destination, both men had to walk the road commonly known as The Traverse. When the house disappeared in the distance, our two travellers turned north and followed the narrow dust path that joined The Traverse to the south of H—. By daylight, it was a cool, shadowy place. At night, it was as ominous as Hell itself. The ground was covered in greenery and mossy boulders whose disturbed shadows crept up and down beneath the trees.
On its winding way to the small town of H—, The Traverse passed through the Dark Forest of H— and Mr Greene wondered how the superstitious James could have survived the walk on his own. The villagers from the region believed that a malevolent being had taken possession of the forest. When back from town with their herds, the shepherds would tell the strangest stories. One had stopped to rest for a while when thick veils of grey smoke had covered the ground and a group of beautiful golden-haired women, all dressed in white, had crossed the clearing as if floating several inches above the ground. Another had witnessed the apparition of a seven-headed monster which had seemed to rise from the white mist that had gathered above the moist grass. All disagreed on what the malevolent being was but all agreed on one point – there was something in the Dark Forest of H— and that something was not something good.
With all this in mind, a new idea slipped into Mr Greene’s mind. He could not help thinking that the Something that had bled on his writing desk must have had a great deal to do with the being of Dark Forest of H—. After all, the house was quite close to the forest. The fact that nothing and nobody was found after a thorough search of the house, spoke for itself. It must have hid in the forest. With these thoughts on his mind, Mr Greene followed his old acquaintance and hoped that Mr Mandeville’s findings at The Golden Knot were part of the mystery.
“Sir, hurry up, Sir!” Old James trotted hurriedly ahead while Mr Greene tried to keep up with the pace.