almost pleasant at this distance
He rose and with a laborious pretense of dawdling sauntered to the door, out and around the house to where the tulip tree stood. As if idly, he leaned against the trunk and studied the sprawl of its roots. Some of them were thicker than a young tree. They writhed and contorted the ground. Standing still like pythons petrified, they yet seemed to move with a speed the more dreadful for its persistence. Glaciers were not more leisurely, nor more resistless.
The roots dived into the earth, some of them bent upon reading the foundation walls. They had but one instinct, the hunt for water, and nothing could check them but death.
Down the outside stairway of the cellar went RoBards and stumbing in the dark found the wall nearest the tree and passed his hands along it like a blind man.
His anxious fingers encountered tendrils pleached against the rough masonry. He made a light and found that the tulip tree was already within the walls. The roots were like worms covered with mould. On the cellar floor was a dust of old mortar, and bits of it slowly shoved out from between the chinks. Some of the dislodged mortar was no older than the night when he had lifted out stones and buried Jud Lasher somewhere inside there and smeared fresh mortar in the crevices.
Terrified by the peril of this secret inquiry of the far-delving roots, he went back to the outer air.
Either he must be surrendered to exposure or the tree must be executed. The life of such a triee if let alone was far beyond the human span. The strength of it was uncanny.
He stood a while, as motionless as the roots, charmed by their snaky spell. Then an idea came to his rescue. He called to Albeson, who was puttering about the yard in his Sunday-go-to-meetin’s with his collar off for comfort.
“See those roots,” said RoBards. “They’re going to tip the house over if we don’t kill them. Get your saw and ax and we’ll cut them off now.”
ex Within These Walls, by Rupert Hughes (1923) : 273
University of Illinois copy : link (missing title page, typewritten instead)
same, via hathitrust : link, but
LoC copy : link (missing frontispiece, but other illustrations present; and names Arthur Ignatius Keller as illustrator)
remarkable, beautifully written, engineering-nuanced final chapter, about flooding a valley (behind a dam) to provide water to New York. The water rises, to cover Tuliptree Farm, the scene of a crime. This is chapter 55, entire —
A strip of land two hundred feet wide and ninety-two miles long must be secured by condemation and purchase, from Esopus Creek to New York across thousands of farms, and a siphon must be driven a thousand feet under the Hudson River between Storm King and Breakneck.
The work involved the submersion or removal of sixty-four miles of highways, and eleven miles of railroad, nine villages and thirty-two cemeteries of nearly three thousand graves, some of them more than two centuries old.
And Tuliptree Farm with its graves was only one of this multitude. Keith and Immy fought the city in vain. Nothing they could do could halt the invading army of fifteen hundred workmen that established itself at Valhalla and began to dam the Bronx abouve White Plains.
The dam was of cyclopean concrete, eighteen hundred feet across, and it was made to hold thirty-eight billion gallons of water. Which was only a fifty-day supply for New York.
The new lake with its forty miles of shore line would obliterate no villages and few burial places. But one of those few was the Robards’ plot and Keith trembled to think that when the house came down and the cellar walls were removed piecemeal, the bones of Jud Lasher would be disclosed.
p 355-359 : link
...One little coffin was found there which Keith could not account for.
That was Immy’s secret and she kept it, though it ached in her old heart, remembering the wild romance of her youth. A blush slipped through her wrinkles and the shame was almost pleasant at this distance.
p 360 : link
Arthur Ignatius Keller (1867-1924), wikipedia : link