When he had eaten, Mr. Lecky lay down on his cot, though he did not expect to sleep. The four lanterns continued to shed their thin floods of light. Against the dark, this illumination set the varied, ill-matched shapes of his assembled defenses. Studying the odd wall, in spirit unquiet, Mr. Lecky was reminded of his childhood - not in any detail of actual reminiscence, but more deeply, less coherently. He seemed to recall himself, unreally small and young, in concealment under a table. A table had been fort enough, for his enemies were imaginary. He never imagined them winning.Even at that early period, furniture would only be useful against foes which he had invented to play with. Tables could not have protected him from bears or wolves. Perhaps he had been taught, by his amused elders, a conventional fear of bears. Unassisted, he had picked up a private fear of wolves. Bears were no more than vague monsters coming at night, never distinct or well defined. But of wolves his unruly imagination could produce whole lifelike packs such as those which he had somehow been led to believe pursued any sleigh venturing out, three frantic horses abreast, in perpetually snow-sunk Russia.At a brief later stage he had entertained, fruit of the new-found ability to read, some concern about ghosts. His spectres were, however, practically people, if hideous, gaunt and pale ones. It was doubtful if he ever actually believed in them, in the sense of fearing that he might meet one. His eyesight had always been good, so it played him none of the terrifying tricks necessary to confirm a belief in the supernatural. Indeed, he could not be long in discovering that people beyond a suspicion of unbalance, or not obviously coveting the moment's arrest of attention gained them by their statements, never had experience with or knowledge of the restless dead. Slowly accepting this as evidence that no such things existed, Mr. Lecky found terrors deeper and to him more plausible, to fill that unoccupied place - the simple sense of himself alone and, not unassociated with it, the conception of a homicidal maniac quietly pursuing him.
James Gould Cozzens