Part 2 out of 3
"'Is Aunt Abby sick?' says Luella, as if she was sort of aggrieved
"'Yes,' says I, 'she's sick, and she's goin' to die, and then
you'll be left alone, and you'll have to do for yourself and wait
on yourself, or do without things.' I don't know but I was sort of
hard, but it was the truth, and if I was any harder than Luella
Miller had been I'll give up. I ain't never been sorry that I said
it. Well, Luella, she up and had hysterics again at that, and I
jest let her have 'em. All I did was to bundle her into the room
on the other side of the entry where Aunt Abby couldn't hear her,
if she wa'n't past it--I don't know but she was--and set her down
hard in a chair and told her not to come back into the other room,
and she minded. She had her hysterics in there till she got tired.
When she found out that nobody was comin' to coddle her and do for
her she stopped. At least I suppose she did. I had all I could do
with poor Aunt Abby tryin' to keep the breath of life in her. The
doctor had told me that she was dreadful low, and give me some very
strong medicine to give to her in drops real often, and told me
real particular about the nourishment. Well, I did as he told me
real faithful till she wa'n't able to swaller any longer. Then I
had her daughter sent for. I had begun to realize that she
wouldn't last any time at all. I hadn't realized it before, though
I spoke to Luella the way I did. The doctor he came, and Mrs. Sam
Abbot, but when she got there it was too late; her mother was dead.
Aunt Abby's daughter just give one look at her mother layin' there,
then she turned sort of sharp and sudden and looked at me.
"'Where is she?' says she, and I knew she meant Luella.
"'She's out in the kitchen,' says I. 'She's too nervous to see
folks die. She's afraid it will make her sick.'
"The Doctor he speaks up then. He was a young man. Old Doctor
Park had died the year before, and this was a young fellow just out
of college. 'Mrs. Miller is not strong,' says he, kind of severe,
'and she is quite right in not agitating herself.'
"'You are another, young man; she's got her pretty claw on you,'
thinks I, but I didn't say anythin' to him. I just said over to
Mrs. Sam Abbot that Luella was in the kitchen, and Mrs. Sam Abbot
she went out there, and I went, too, and I never heard anythin'
like the way she talked to Luella Miller. I felt pretty hard to
Luella myself, but this was more than I ever would have dared to
say. Luella she was too scared to go into hysterics. She jest
flopped. She seemed to jest shrink away to nothin' in that kitchen
chair, with Mrs. Sam Abbot standin' over her and talkin' and
tellin' her the truth. I guess the truth was most too much for her
and no mistake, because Luella presently actually did faint away,
and there wa'n't any sham about it, the way I always suspected
there was about them hysterics. She fainted dead away and we had
to lay her flat on the floor, and the Doctor he came runnin' out
and he said somethin' about a weak heart dreadful fierce to Mrs.
Sam Abbot, but she wa'n't a mite scared. She faced him jest as
white as even Luella was layin' there lookin' like death and the
Doctor feelin' of her pulse.
"'Weak heart,' says she, 'weak heart; weak fiddlesticks! There
ain't nothin' weak about that woman. She's got strength enough to
hang onto other folks till she kills 'em. Weak? It was my poor
mother that was weak: this woman killed her as sure as if she had
taken a knife to her.'
"But the Doctor he didn't pay much attention. He was bendin' over
Luella layin' there with her yellow hair all streamin' and her
pretty pink-and-white face all pale, and her blue eyes like stars
gone out, and he was holdin' onto her hand and smoothin' her
forehead, and tellin' me to get the brandy in Aunt Abby's room, and
I was sure as I wanted to be that Luella had got somebody else to
hang onto, now Aunt Abby was gone, and I thought of poor Erastus
Miller, and I sort of pitied the poor young Doctor, led away by a
pretty face, and I made up my mind I'd see what I could do.
"I waited till Aunt Abby had been dead and buried about a month,
and the Doctor was goin' to see Luella steady and folks were
beginnin' to talk; then one evenin', when I knew the Doctor had
been called out of town and wouldn't be round, I went over to
Luella's. I found her all dressed up in a blue muslin with white
polka dots on it, and her hair curled jest as pretty, and there
wa'n't a young girl in the place could compare with her. There was
somethin' about Luella Miller seemed to draw the heart right out of
you, but she didn't draw it out of ME. She was settin' rocking in
the chair by her sittin'-room window, and Maria Brown had gone
home. Maria Brown had been in to help her, or rather to do the
work, for Luella wa'n't helped when she didn't do anythin'. Maria
Brown was real capable and she didn't have any ties; she wa'n't
married, and lived alone, so she'd offered. I couldn't see why she
should do the work any more than Luella; she wa'n't any too strong;
but she seemed to think she could and Luella seemed to think so,
too, so she went over and did all the work--washed, and ironed, and
baked, while Luella sat and rocked. Maria didn't live long
afterward. She began to fade away just the same fashion the others
had. Well, she was warned, but she acted real mad when folks said
anythin': said Luella was a poor, abused woman, too delicate to
help herself, and they'd ought to be ashamed, and if she died
helpin' them that couldn't help themselves she would--and she did.
"'I s'pose Maria has gone home,' says I to Luella, when I had gone
in and sat down opposite her.
"'Yes, Maria went half an hour ago, after she had got supper and
washed the dishes,' says Luella, in her pretty way.
"'I suppose she has got a lot of work to do in her own house to-
night,' says I, kind of bitter, but that was all thrown away on
Luella Miller. It seemed to her right that other folks that wa'n't
any better able than she was herself should wait on her, and she
couldn't get it through her head that anybody should think it
"'Yes,' says Luella, real sweet and pretty, 'yes, she said she had
to do her washin' to-night. She has let it go for a fortnight
along of comin' over here.'
"'Why don't she stay home and do her washin' instead of comin'
over here and doin' YOUR work, when you are just as well able, and
enough sight more so, than she is to do it?' says I.
"Then Luella she looked at me like a baby who has a rattle shook at
it. She sort of laughed as innocent as you please. 'Oh, I can't
do the work myself, Miss Anderson,' says she. 'I never did. Maria
HAS to do it.'
"Then I spoke out: 'Has to do it I' says I. 'Has to do it!' She
don't have to do it, either. Maria Brown has her own home and
enough to live on. She ain't beholden to you to come over here and
slave for you and kill herself.'
"Luella she jest set and stared at me for all the world like a
doll-baby that was so abused that it was comin' to life.
"'Yes,' says I, 'she's killin' herself. She's goin' to die just
the way Erastus did, and Lily, and your Aunt Abby. You're killin'
her jest as you did them. I don't know what there is about you,
but you seem to bring a curse,' says I. 'You kill everybody that
is fool enough to care anythin' about you and do for you.'
"She stared at me and she was pretty pale.
"'And Maria ain't the only one you're goin' to kill,' says I.
'You're goin' to kill Doctor Malcom before you're done with him.'
"Then a red colour came flamin' all over her face. 'I ain't goin'
to kill him, either,' says she, and she begun to cry.
"'Yes, you BE!' says I. Then I spoke as I had never spoke before.
You see, I felt it on account of Erastus. I told her that she
hadn't any business to think of another man after she'd been
married to one that had died for her: that she was a dreadful
woman; and she was, that's true enough, but sometimes I have
wondered lately if she knew it--if she wa'n't like a baby with
scissors in its hand cuttin' everybody without knowin' what it was
"Luella she kept gettin' paler and paler, and she never took her
eyes off my face. There was somethin' awful about the way she
looked at me and never spoke one word. After awhile I quit talkin'
and I went home. I watched that night, but her lamp went out
before nine o'clock, and when Doctor Malcom came drivin' past and
sort of slowed up he see there wa'n't any light and he drove along.
I saw her sort of shy out of meetin' the next Sunday, too, so he
shouldn't go home with her, and I begun to think mebbe she did have
some conscience after all. It was only a week after that that
Maria Brown died--sort of sudden at the last, though everybody had
seen it was comin'. Well, then there was a good deal of feelin'
and pretty dark whispers. Folks said the days of witchcraft had
come again, and they were pretty shy of Luella. She acted sort of
offish to the Doctor and he didn't go there, and there wa'n't
anybody to do anythin' for her. I don't know how she DID get
along. I wouldn't go in there and offer to help her--not because I
was afraid of dyin' like the rest, but I thought she was just as
well able to do her own work as I was to do it for her, and I
thought it was about time that she did it and stopped killin' other
folks. But it wa'n't very long before folks began to say that
Luella herself was goin' into a decline jest the way her husband,
and Lily, and Aunt Abby and the others had, and I saw myself that
she looked pretty bad. I used to see her goin' past from the store
with a bundle as if she could hardly crawl, but I remembered how
Erastus used to wait and 'tend when he couldn't hardly put one foot
before the other, and I didn't go out to help her.
"But at last one afternoon I saw the Doctor come drivin' up like
mad with his medicine chest, and Mrs. Babbit came in after supper
and said that Luella was real sick.
"'I'd offer to go in and nurse her,' says she, 'but I've got my
children to consider, and mebbe it ain't true what they say, but
it's queer how many folks that have done for her have died.'
"I didn't say anythin', but I considered how she had been Erastus's
wife and how he had set his eyes by her, and I made up my mind to
go in the next mornin', unless she was better, and see what I could
do; but the next mornin' I see her at the window, and pretty soon
she came steppin' out as spry as you please, and a little while
afterward Mrs. Babbit came in and told me that the Doctor had got a
girl from out of town, a Sarah Jones, to come there, and she said
she was pretty sure that the Doctor was goin' to marry Luella.
"I saw him kiss her in the door that night myself, and I knew it
was true. The woman came that afternoon, and the way she flew
around was a caution. I don't believe Luella had swept since Maria
died. She swept and dusted, and washed and ironed; wet clothes and
dusters and carpets were flyin' over there all day, and every time
Luella set her foot out when the Doctor wa'n't there there was that
Sarah Jones helpin' of her up and down the steps, as if she hadn't
learned to walk.
"Well, everybody knew that Luella and the Doctor were goin' to be
married, but it wa'n't long before they began to talk about his
lookin' so poorly, jest as they had about the others; and they
talked about Sarah Jones, too.
"Well, the Doctor did die, and he wanted to be married first, so as
to leave what little he had to Luella, but he died before the
minister could get there, and Sarah Jones died a week afterward.
"Well, that wound up everything for Luella Miller. Not another
soul in the whole town would lift a finger for her. There got to
be a sort of panic. Then she began to droop in good earnest. She
used to have to go to the store herself, for Mrs. Babbit was afraid
to let Tommy go for her, and I've seen her goin' past and stoppin'
every two or three steps to rest. Well, I stood it as long as I
could, but one day I see her comin' with her arms full and stoppin'
to lean against the Babbit fence, and I run out and took her
bundles and carried them to her house. Then I went home and never
spoke one word to her though she called after me dreadful kind of
pitiful. Well, that night I was taken sick with a chill, and I was
sick as I wanted to be for two weeks. Mrs. Babbit had seen me run
out to help Luella and she came in and told me I was goin' to die
on account of it. I didn't know whether I was or not, but I
considered I had done right by Erastus's wife.
"That last two weeks Luella she had a dreadful hard time, I guess.
She was pretty sick, and as near as I could make out nobody dared
go near her. I don't know as she was really needin' anythin' very
much, for there was enough to eat in her house and it was warm
weather, and she made out to cook a little flour gruel every day, I
know, but I guess she had a hard time, she that had been so petted
and done for all her life.
"When I got so I could go out, I went over there one morning. Mrs.
Babbit had just come in to say she hadn't seen any smoke and she
didn't know but it was somebody's duty to go in, but she couldn't
help thinkin' of her children, and I got right up, though I hadn't
been out of the house for two weeks, and I went in there, and
Luella she was layin' on the bed, and she was dyin'.
"She lasted all that day and into the night. But I sat there after
the new doctor had gone away. Nobody else dared to go there. It
was about midnight that I left her for a minute to run home and get
some medicine I had been takin', for I begun to feel rather bad.
"It was a full moon that night, and just as I started out of my
door to cross the street back to Luella's, I stopped short, for I
Lydia Anderson at this juncture always said with a certain defiance
that she did not expect to be believed, and then proceeded in a
"I saw what I saw, and I know I saw it, and I will swear on my
death bed that I saw it. I saw Luella Miller and Erastus Miller,
and Lily, and Aunt Abby, and Maria, and the Doctor, and Sarah, all
goin' out of her door, and all but Luella shone white in the
moonlight, and they were all helpin' her along till she seemed to
fairly fly in the midst of them. Then it all disappeared. I stood
a minute with my heart poundin', then I went over there. I thought
of goin' for Mrs. Babbit, but I thought she'd be afraid. So I went
alone, though I knew what had happened. Luella was layin' real
peaceful, dead on her bed."
This was the story that the old woman, Lydia Anderson, told, but
the sequel was told by the people who survived her, and this is the
tale which has become folklore in the village.
Lydia Anderson died when she was eighty-seven. She had continued
wonderfully hale and hearty for one of her years until about two
weeks before her death.
One bright moonlight evening she was sitting beside a window in her
parlour when she made a sudden exclamation, and was out of the
house and across the street before the neighbour who was taking
care of her could stop her. She followed as fast as possible and
found Lydia Anderson stretched on the ground before the door of
Luella Miller's deserted house, and she was quite dead.
The next night there was a red gleam of fire athwart the moonlight
and the old house of Luella Miller was burned to the ground.
Nothing is now left of it except a few old cellar stones and a
lilac bush, and in summer a helpless trail of morning glories among
the weeds, which might be considered emblematic of Luella herself.
THE SOUTHWEST CHAMBER
"That school-teacher from Acton is coming to-day," said the elder
Miss Gill, Sophia.
"So she is," assented the younger Miss Gill, Amanda.
"I have decided to put her in the southwest chamber," said Sophia.
Amanda looked at her sister with an expression of mingled doubt and
terror. "You don't suppose she would--" she began hesitatingly.
"Would what?" demanded Sophia, sharply. She was more incisive than
her sister. Both were below the medium height, and stout, but
Sophia was firm where Amanda was flabby. Amanda wore a baggy old
muslin (it was a hot day), and Sophia was uncompromisingly hooked
up in a starched and boned cambric over her high shelving figure.
"I didn't know but she would object to sleeping in that room, as
long as Aunt Harriet died there such a little time ago," faltered
"Well!" said Sophia, "of all the silly notions! If you are going
to pick out rooms in this house where nobody has died, for the
boarders, you'll have your hands full. Grandfather Ackley had
seven children; four of them died here to my certain knowledge,
besides grandfather and grandmother. I think Great-grandmother
Ackley, grandfather's mother, died here, too; she must have; and
Great-grandfather Ackley, and grandfather's unmarried sister,
Great-aunt Fanny Ackley. I don't believe there's a room nor a bed
in this house that somebody hasn't passed away in."
"Well, I suppose I am silly to think of it, and she had better go
in there," said Amanda.
"I know she had. The northeast room is small and hot, and she's
stout and likely to feel the heat, and she's saved money and is
able to board out summers, and maybe she'll come here another year
if she's well accommodated," said Sophia. "Now I guess you'd
better go in there and see if any dust has settled on anything
since it was cleaned, and open the west windows and let the sun in,
while I see to that cake."
Amanda went to her task in the southwest chamber while her sister
stepped heavily down the back stairs on her way to the kitchen.
"It seems to me you had better open the bed while you air and dust,
then make it up again," she called back.
"Yes, sister," Amanda answered, shudderingly.
Nobody knew how this elderly woman with the untrammeled imagination
of a child dreaded to enter the southwest chamber, and yet she
could not have told why she had the dread. She had entered and
occupied rooms which had been once tenanted by persons now dead.
The room which had been hers in the little house in which she and
her sister had lived before coming here had been her dead mother's.
She had never reflected upon the fact with anything but loving awe
and reverence. There had never been any fear. But this was
different. She entered and her heart beat thickly in her ears.
Her hands were cold. The room was a very large one. The four
windows, two facing south, two west, were closed, the blinds also.
The room was in a film of green gloom. The furniture loomed out
vaguely. The gilt frame of a blurred old engraving on the wall
caught a little light. The white counterpane on the bed showed
like a blank page.
Amanda crossed the room, opened with a straining motion of her thin
back and shoulders one of the west windows, and threw back the
blind. Then the room revealed itself an apartment full of an aged
and worn but no less valid state. Pieces of old mahogany swelled
forth; a peacock-patterned chintz draped the bedstead. This chintz
also covered a great easy chair which had been the favourite seat
of the former occupant of the room. The closet door stood ajar.
Amanda noticed that with wonder. There was a glimpse of purple
drapery floating from a peg inside the closet. Amanda went across
and took down the garment hanging there. She wondered how her
sister had happened to leave it when she cleaned the room. It was
an old loose gown which had belonged to her aunt. She took it
down, shuddering, and closed the closet door after a fearful glance
into its dark depths. It was a long closet with a strong odour of
lovage. The Aunt Harriet had had a habit of eating lovage and had
carried it constantly in her pocket. There was very likely some of
the pleasant root in the pocket of the musty purple gown which
Amanda threw over the easy chair.
Amanda perceived the odour with a start as if before an actual
presence. Odour seems in a sense a vital part of a personality.
It can survive the flesh to which it has clung like a persistent
shadow, seeming to have in itself something of the substance of
that to which it pertained. Amanda was always conscious of this
fragrance of lovage as she tidied the room. She dusted the heavy
mahogany pieces punctiliously after she had opened the bed as her
sister had directed. She spread fresh towels over the wash-stand
and the bureau; she made the bed. Then she thought to take the
purple gown from the easy chair and carry it to the garret and put
it in the trunk with the other articles of the dead woman's
wardrobe which had been packed away there; BUT THE PURPLE GOWN WAS
NOT ON THE CHAIR!
Amanda Gill was not a woman of strong convictions even as to her
own actions. She directly thought that possibly she had been
mistaken and had not removed it from the closet. She glanced at
the closet door and saw with surprise that it was open, and she had
thought she had closed it, but she instantly was not sure of that.
So she entered the closet and looked for the purple gown. IT WAS
Amanda Gill went feebly out of the closet and looked at the easy
chair again. The purple gown was not there! She looked wildly
around the room. She went down on her trembling knees and peered
under the bed, she opened the bureau drawers, she looked again in
the closet. Then she stood in the middle of the floor and fairly
wrung her hands.
"What does it mean?" she said in a shocked whisper.
She had certainly seen that loose purple gown of her dead Aunt
There is a limit at which self-refutation must stop in any sane
person. Amanda Gill had reached it. She knew that she had seen
that purple gown in that closet; she knew that she had removed it
and put it on the easy chair. She also knew that she had not taken
it out of the room. She felt a curious sense of being inverted
mentally. It was as if all her traditions and laws of life were on
their heads. Never in her simple record had any garment not
remained where she had placed it unless removed by some palpable
Then the thought occurred to her that possibly her sister Sophia
might have entered the room unobserved while her back was turned
and removed the dress. A sensation of relief came over her. Her
blood seemed to flow back into its usual channels; the tension of
her nerves relaxed.
"How silly I am," she said aloud.
She hurried out and downstairs into the kitchen where Sophia was
making cake, stirring with splendid circular sweeps of a wooden
spoon a creamy yellow mass. She looked up as her sister entered.
"Have you got it done?" said she.
"Yes," replied Amanda. Then she hesitated. A sudden terror
overcame her. It did not seem as if it were at all probable that
Sophia had left that foamy cake mixture a second to go to Aunt
Harriet's chamber and remove that purple gown.
"Well," said Sophia, "if you have got that done I wish you would
take hold and string those beans. The first thing we know there
won't be time to boil them for dinner.
Amanda moved toward the pan of beans on the table, then she looked
at her sister.
"Did you come up in Aunt Harriet's room while I was there?" she
She knew while she asked what the answer would be.
"Up in Aunt Harriet's room? Of course I didn't. I couldn't leave
this cake without having it fall. You know that well enough.
"Nothing," replied Amanda.
Suddenly she realized that she could not tell her sister what had
happened, for before the utter absurdity of the whole thing her
belief in her own reason quailed. She knew what Sophia would say
if she told her. She could hear her.
"Amanda Gill, have you gone stark staring mad?"
She resolved that she would never tell Sophia. She dropped into a
chair and begun shelling the beans with nerveless fingers. Sophia
looked at her curiously.
"Amanda Gill, what on earth ails you?" she asked.
"Nothing," replied Amanda. She bent her head very low over the
"Yes, there is, too! You are as white as a sheet, and your hands
are shaking so you can hardly string those beans. I did think you
had more sense, Amanda Gill."
"I don't know what you mean, Sophia."
"Yes, you do know what I mean, too; you needn't pretend you don't.
Why did you ask me if I had been in that room, and why do you act
Amanda hesitated. She had been trained to truth. Then she lied.
"I wondered if you'd noticed how it had leaked in on the paper over
by the bureau, that last rain," said she.
"What makes you look so pale then?"
"I don't know. I guess the heat sort of overcame me."
"I shouldn't think it could have been very hot in that room when it
had been shut up so long," said Sophia.
She was evidently not satisfied, but then the grocer came to the
door and the matter dropped.
For the next hour the two women were very busy. They kept no
servant. When they had come into possession of this fine old place
by the death of their aunt it had seemed a doubtful blessing.
There was not a cent with which to pay for repairs and taxes and
insurance, except the twelve hundred dollars which they had
obtained from the sale of the little house in which they had been
born and lived all their lives. There had been a division in the
old Ackley family years before. One of the daughters had married
against her mother's wish and had been disinherited. She had
married a poor man by the name of Gill, and shared his humble lot
in sight of her former home and her sister and mother living in
prosperity, until she had borne three daughters; then she died,
worn out with overwork and worry.
The mother and the elder sister had been pitiless to the last.
Neither had ever spoken to her since she left her home the night of
her marriage. They were hard women.
The three daughters of the disinherited sister had lived quiet and
poor, but not actually needy lives. Jane, the middle daughter, had
married, and died in less than a year. Amanda and Sophia had taken
the girl baby she left when the father married again. Sophia had
taught a primary school for many years; she had saved enough to buy
the little house in which they lived. Amanda had crocheted lace,
and embroidered flannel, and made tidies and pincushions, and had
earned enough for her clothes and the child's, little Flora Scott.
Their father, William Gill, had died before they were thirty, and
now in their late middle life had come the death of the aunt to
whom they had never spoken, although they had often seen her, who
had lived in solitary state in the old Ackley mansion until she was
more than eighty. There had been no will, and they were the only
heirs with the exception of young Flora Scott, the daughter of the
Sophia and Amanda thought directly of Flora when they knew of the
"It will be a splendid thing for her; she will have enough to live
on when we are gone," Sophia said.
She had promptly decided what was to be done. The small house was
to be sold, and they were to move into the old Ackley house and
take boarders to pay for its keeping. She scouted the idea of
selling it. She had an enormous family pride. She had always held
her head high when she had walked past that fine old mansion, the
cradle of her race, which she was forbidden to enter. She was
unmoved when the lawyer who was advising her disclosed to her the
fact that Harriet Ackley had used every cent of the Ackley money.
"I realize that we have to work," said she, "but my sister and I
have determined to keep the place."
That was the end of the discussion. Sophia and Amanda Gill had
been living in the old Ackley house a fortnight, and they had three
boarders: an elderly widow with a comfortable income, a young
congregationalist clergyman, and the middle-aged single woman who
had charge of the village library. Now the school-teacher from
Acton, Miss Louisa Stark, was expected for the summer, and would
Sophia considered that they were comfortably provided for. Her
wants and her sister's were very few, and even the niece, although
a young girl, had small expenses, since her wardrobe was supplied
for years to come from that of the deceased aunt. There were
stored away in the garret of the Ackley house enough voluminous
black silks and satins and bombazines to keep her clad in somber
richness for years to come.
Flora was a very gentle girl, with large, serious blue eyes, a
seldom-smiling, pretty mouth, and smooth flaxen hair. She was
delicate and very young--sixteen on her next birthday.
She came home soon now with her parcels of sugar and tea from the
grocer's. She entered the kitchen gravely and deposited them on
the table by which her Aunt Amanda was seated stringing beans.
Flora wore an obsolete turban-shaped hat of black straw which had
belonged to the dead aunt; it set high like a crown, revealing her
forehead. Her dress was an ancient purple-and-white print, too
long and too large except over the chest, where it held her like a
"You had better take off your hat, Flora," said Sophia. She turned
suddenly to Amanda. "Did you fill the water-pitcher in that
chamber for the schoolteacher?" she asked severely. She was quite
sure that Amanda had not filled the water-pitcher.
Amanda blushed and started guiltily. "I declare, I don't believe I
did," said she.
"I didn't think you had," said her sister with sarcastic emphasis.
"Flora, you go up to the room that was your Great-aunt Harriet's,
and take the water-pitcher off the wash-stand and fill it with
water. Be real careful, and don't break the pitcher, and don't
spill the water."
"In THAT chamber?" asked Flora. She spoke very quietly, but her
face changed a little.
"Yes, in that chamber," returned her Aunt Sophia sharply. "Go
Flora went, and her light footstep was heard on the stairs. Very
soon she returned with the blue-and-white water-pitcher and filled
it carefully at the kitchen sink.
"Now be careful and not spill it," said Sophia as she went out of
the room carrying it gingerly.
Amanda gave a timidly curious glance at her; she wondered if she
had seen the purple gown.
Then she started, for the village stagecoach was seen driving
around to the front of the house. The house stood on a corner.
"Here, Amanda, you look better than I do; you go and meet her,"
said Sophia. "I'll just put the cake in the pan and get it in the
oven and I'll come. Show her right up to her room."
Amanda removed her apron hastily and obeyed. Sophia hurried with
her cake, pouring it into the baking-tins. She had just put it in
the oven, when the door opened and Flora entered carrying the blue
"What are you bringing down that pitcher again for?" asked Sophia.
"She wants some water, and Aunt Amanda sent me," replied Flora.
Her pretty pale face had a bewildered expression.
"For the land sake, she hasn't used all that great pitcherful of
water so quick?"
"There wasn't any water in it," replied Flora.
Her high, childish forehead was contracted slightly with a puzzled
frown as she looked at her aunt.
"Wasn't any water in it?"
"Didn't I see you filling the pitcher with water not ten minutes
ago, I want to know?"
"What did you do with that water?"
"Did you carry that pitcherful of water up to that room and set it
on the washstand?"
"Didn't you spill it?"
"Now, Flora Scott, I want the truth! Did you fill that pitcher
with water and carry it up there, and wasn't there any there when
she came to use it?"
"Let me see that pitcher." Sophia examined the pitcher. It was
not only perfectly dry from top to bottom, but even a little dusty.
She turned severely on the young girl. "That shows," said she,
"you did not fill the pitcher at all. You let the water run at the
side because you didn't want to carry it upstairs. I am ashamed of
you. It's bad enough to be so lazy, but when it comes to not
telling the truth--"
The young girl's face broke up suddenly into piteous confusion, and
her blue eyes became filmy with tears.
"I did fill the pitcher, honest," she faltered, "I did, Aunt
Sophia. You ask Aunt Amanda."
"I'll ask nobody. This pitcher is proof enough. Water don't go
off and leave the pitcher dusty on the inside if it was put in ten
minutes ago. Now you fill that pitcher full quick, and you carry
it upstairs, and if you spill a drop there'll be something besides
Flora filled the pitcher, with the tears falling over her cheeks.
She sniveled softly as she went out, balancing it carefully against
her slender hip. Sophia followed her.
"Stop crying," said she sharply; "you ought to be ashamed of
yourself. What do you suppose Miss Louisa Stark will think. No
water in her pitcher in the first place, and then you come back
crying as if you didn't want to get it."
In spite of herself, Sophia's voice was soothing. She was very
fond of the girl. She followed her up the stairs to the chamber
where Miss Louisa Stark was waiting for the water to remove the
soil of travel. She had removed her bonnet, and its tuft of red
geraniums lightened the obscurity of the mahogany dresser. She had
placed her little beaded cape carefully on the bed. She was
replying to a tremulous remark of Amanda's, who was nearly fainting
from the new mystery of the water-pitcher, that it was warm and she
suffered a good deal in warm weather.
Louisa Stark was stout and solidly built. She was much larger than
either of the Gill sisters. She was a masterly woman inured to
command from years of school-teaching. She carried her swelling
bulk with majesty; even her face, moist and red with the heat, lost
nothing of its dignity of expression.
She was standing in the middle of the floor with an air which gave
the effect of her standing upon an elevation. She turned when
Sophia and Flora, carrying the water-pitcher, entered.
"This is my sister Sophia," said Amanda tremulously.
Sophia advanced, shook hands with Miss Louisa Stark and bade her
welcome and hoped she would like her room. Then she moved toward
the closet. "There is a nice large closet in this room--the best
closet in the house. You might have your trunk--" she said, then
she stopped short.
The closet door was ajar, and a purple garment seemed suddenly to
swing into view as if impelled by some wind.
"Why, here is something left in this closet," Sophia said in a
mortified tone. "I thought all those things had been taken away."
She pulled down the garment with a jerk, and as she did so Amanda
passed her in a weak rush for the door.
"I am afraid your sister is not well," said the school-teacher from
Acton. "She looked very pale when you took that dress down. I
noticed it at once. Hadn't you better go and see what the matter
is? She may be going to faint."
"She is not subject to fainting spells," replied Sophia, but she
She found her in the room which they occupied together, lying on
the bed, very pale and gasping. She leaned over her.
"Amanda, what is the matter; don't you feel well?" she asked.
"I feel a little faint."
Sophia got a camphor bottle and began rubbing her sister's
"Do you feel better?" she said.
"I guess it was that green apple pie you ate this noon," said
Sophia. "I declare, what did I do with that dress of Aunt
Harriet's? I guess if you feel better I'll just run and get it and
take it up garret. I'll stop in here again when I come down.
You'd better lay still. Flora can bring you up a cup of tea. I
wouldn't try to eat any supper."
Sophia's tone as she left the room was full of loving concern.
Presently she returned; she looked disturbed, but angrily so.
There was not the slightest hint of any fear in her expression.
"I want to know," said she, looking sharply and quickly around, "if
I brought that purple dress in here, after all?"
"I didn't see you," replied Amanda.
"I must have. It isn't in that chamber, nor the closet. You
aren't lying on it, are you?"
"I lay down before you came in," replied Amanda.
"So you did. Well, I'll go and look again."
Presently Amanda heard her sister's heavy step on the garret
stairs. Then she returned with a queer defiant expression on her
"I carried it up garret, after all, and put it in the trunk," said,
she. "I declare, I forgot it. I suppose your being faint sort of
put it out of my head. There it was, folded up just as nice, right
where I put it."
Sophia's mouth was set; her eyes upon her sister's scared, agitated
face were full of hard challenge.
"Yes," murmured Amanda.
"I must go right down and see to that cake," said Sophia, going out
of the room. "If you don't feel well, you pound on the floor with
Amanda looked after her. She knew that Sophia had not put that
purple dress of her dead Aunt Harriet in the trunk in the garret.
Meantime Miss Louisa Stark was settling herself in the southwest
chamber. She unpacked her trunk and hung her dresses carefully in
the closet. She filled the bureau drawers' with nicely folded
linen and small articles of dress. She was a very punctilious
woman. She put on a black India silk dress with purple flowers.
She combed her grayish-blond hair in smooth ridges back from her
broad forehead. She pinned her lace at her throat with a brooch,
very handsome, although somewhat obsolete--a bunch of pearl grapes
on black onyx, set in gold filagree. She had purchased it several
years ago with a considerable portion of the stipend from her
spring term of school-teaching.
As she surveyed herself in the little swing mirror surmounting the
old-fashioned mahogany bureau she suddenly bent forward and looked
closely at the brooch. It seemed to her that something was wrong
with it. As she looked she became sure. Instead of the familiar
bunch of pearl grapes on the black onyx, she saw a knot of blonde
and black hair under glass surrounded by a border of twisted gold.
She felt a thrill of horror, though she could not tell why. She
unpinned the brooch, and it was her own familiar one, the pearl
grapes and the onyx. "How very foolish I am," she thought. She
thrust the pin in the laces at her throat and again looked at
herself in the glass, and there it was again--the knot of blond and
black hair and the twisted gold.
Louisa Stark looked at her own large, firm face above the brooch
and it was full of terror and dismay which were new to it. She
straightway began to wonder if there could be anything wrong with
her mind. She remembered that an aunt of her mother's had been
insane. A sort of fury with herself possessed her. She stared at
the brooch in the glass with eyes at once angry and terrified.
Then she removed it again and there was her own old brooch.
Finally she thrust the gold pin through the lace again, fastened it
and turning a defiant back on the glass, went down to supper.
At the supper table she met the other boarders--the elderly widow,
the young clergyman and the middle-aged librarian. She viewed the
elderly widow with reserve, the clergyman with respect, the middle-
aged librarian with suspicion. The latter wore a very youthful
shirt-waist, and her hair in a girlish fashion which the school-
teacher, who twisted hers severely from the straining roots at the
nape of her neck to the small, smooth coil at the top, condemned as
straining after effects no longer hers by right.
The librarian, who had a quick acridness of manner, addressed her,
asking what room she had, and asked the second time in spite of the
school-teacher's evident reluctance to hear her. She even, since
she sat next to her, nudged her familiarly in her rigid black silk
"What room are you in, Miss Stark?" said she.
"I am at a loss how to designate the room," replied Miss Stark
"Is it the big southwest room?"
"It evidently faces in that direction," said Miss Stark.
The librarian, whose name was Eliza Lippincott, turned abruptly to
Miss Amanda Gill, over whose delicate face a curious colour
compounded of flush and pallour was stealing.
"What room did your aunt die in, Miss Amanda?" asked she abruptly.
Amanda cast a terrified glance at her sister, who was serving a
second plate of pudding for the minister.
"That room," she replied feebly.
"That's what I thought," said the librarian with a certain triumph.
"I calculated that must be the room she died in, for it's the best
room in the house, and you haven't put anybody in it before.
Somehow the room that anybody has died in lately is generally the
last room that anybody is put in. I suppose YOU are so strong-
minded you don't object to sleeping in a room where anybody died a
few weeks ago?" she inquired of Louisa Stark with sharp eyes on her
"No, I do not," replied Miss stark with emphasis.
"Nor in the same bed?" persisted Eliza Lippincott with a kittenish
The young minister looked up from his pudding. He was very
spiritual, but he had had poor pickings in his previous boarding
place, and he could not help a certain abstract enjoyment over Miss
"You would certainly not be afraid, Miss Lippincott?" he remarked,
with his gentle, almost caressing inflection of tone. "You do not
for a minute believe that a higher power would allow any
manifestation on the part of a disembodied spirit--who we trust is
in her heavenly home--to harm one of His servants?"
"Oh, Mr. Dunn, of course not," replied Eliza Lippincott with a
blush. "Of course not. I never meant to imply--"
"I could not believe you did," said the minister gently. He was
very young, but he already had a wrinkle of permanent anxiety
between his eyes and a smile of permanent ingratiation on his lips.
The lines of the smile were as deeply marked as the wrinkle.
"Of course dear Miss Harriet Gill was a professing Christian,"
remarked the widow, "and I don't suppose a professing Christian
would come back and scare folks if she could. I wouldn't be a mite
afraid to sleep in that room; I'd rather have it than the one I've
got. If I was afraid to sleep in a room where a good woman died, I
wouldn't tell of it. If I saw things or heard things I'd think the
fault must be with my own guilty conscience." Then she turned to
Miss Stark. "Any time you feel timid in that room I'm ready and
willing to change with you," said she.
"Thank you; I have no desire to change. I am perfectly satisfied
with my room," replied Miss Stark with freezing dignity, which was
thrown away upon the widow.
"Well," said she, "any time, if you should feel timid, you know
what to do. I've got a real nice room; it faces east and gets the
morning sun, but it isn't so nice as yours, according to my way of
thinking. I'd rather take my chances any day in a room anybody had
died in than in one that was hot in summer. I'm more afraid of a
sunstroke than of spooks, for my part."
Miss Sophia Gill, who had not spoken one word, but whose mouth had
become more and more rigidly compressed, suddenly rose from the
table, forcing the minister to leave a little pudding, at which he
Miss Louisa Stark did not sit down in the parlour with the other
boarders. She went straight to her room. She felt tired after her
journey, and meditated a loose wrapper and writing a few letters
quietly before she went to bed. Then, too, she was conscious of a
feeling that if she delayed, the going there at all might assume
more terrifying proportions. She was full of defiance against
herself and her own lurking weakness.
So she went resolutely and entered the southwest chamber. There
was through the room a soft twilight. She could dimly discern
everything, the white satin scroll-work on the wall paper and the
white counterpane on the bed being most evident. Consequently both
arrested her attention first. She saw against the wall-paper
directly facing the door the waist of her best black satin dress
hung over a picture.
"That is very strange," she said to herself, and again a thrill of
vague horror came over her.
She knew, or thought she knew, that she had put that black satin
dress waist away nicely folded between towels in her trunk. She
was very choice of her black satin dress.
She took down the black waist and laid it on the bed preparatory to
folding it, but when she attempted to do so she discovered that the
two sleeves were firmly sewed together. Louisa Stark stared at the
sewed sleeves. "What does this mean?" she asked herself. She
examined the sewing carefully; the stitches were small, and even,
and firm, of black silk.
She looked around the room. On the stand beside the bed was
something which she had not noticed before: a little old-fashioned
work-box with a picture of a little boy in a pinafore on the top.
Beside this work-box lay, as if just laid down by the user, a spool
of black silk, a pair of scissors, and a large steel thimble with a
hole in the top, after an old style. Louisa stared at these, then
at the sleeves of her dress. She moved toward the door. For a
moment she thought that this was something legitimate about which
she might demand information; then she became doubtful. Suppose
that work-box had been there all the time; suppose she had
forgotten; suppose she herself had done this absurd thing, or
suppose that she had not, what was to hinder the others from
thinking so; what was to hinder a doubt being cast upon her own
memory and reasoning powers?
Louisa Stark had been on the verge of a nervous breakdown in spite
of her iron constitution and her great will power. No woman can
teach school for forty years with absolute impunity. She was more
credulous as to her own possible failings than she had ever been in
her whole life. She was cold with horror and terror, and yet not
so much horror and terror of the supernatural as of her own self.
The weakness of belief in the supernatural was nearly impossible
for this strong nature. She could more easily believe in her own
"I don't know but I'm going to be like Aunt Marcia," she said to
herself, and her fat face took on a long rigidity of fear.
She started toward the mirror to unfasten her dress, then she
remembered the strange circumstance of the brooch and stopped
short. Then she straightened herself defiantly and marched up to
the bureau and looked in the glass. She saw reflected therein,
fastening the lace at her throat, the old-fashioned thing of a
large oval, a knot of fair and black hair under glass, set in a rim
of twisted gold. She unfastened it with trembling fingers and
looked at it. It was her own brooch, the cluster of pearl grapes
on black onyx. Louisa Stark placed the trinket in its little box
on the nest of pink cotton and put it away in the bureau drawer.
Only death could disturb her habit of order.
Her fingers were so cold they felt fairly numb as she unfastened
her dress; she staggered when she slipped it over her head. She
went to the closet to hang it up and recoiled. A strong smell of
lovage came in her nostrils; a purple gown near the door swung
softly against her face as if impelled by some wind from within.
All the pegs were filled with garments not her own, mostly of
somber black, but there were some strange-patterned silk things and
Suddenly Louisa Stark recovered her nerve. This, she told herself,
was something distinctly tangible. Somebody had been taking
liberties with her wardrobe. Somebody had been hanging some one
else's clothes in her closet. She hastily slipped on her dress
again and marched straight down to the parlour. The people were
seated there; the widow and the minister were playing backgammon.
The librarian was watching them. Miss Amanda Gill was mending
beside the large lamp on the centre table. They all looked up with
amazement as Louisa Stark entered. There was something strange in
her expression. She noticed none of them except Amanda.
"Where is your sister?" she asked peremptorily of her.
"She's in the kitchen mixing up bread," Amanda quavered; "is there
anything--" But the school-teacher was gone.
She found Sophia Gill standing by the kitchen table kneading dough
with dignity. The young girl Flora was bringing some flour from
the pantry. She stopped and stared at Miss Stark, and her pretty,
delicate young face took on an expression of alarm.
Miss Stark opened at once upon the subject in her mind.
"Miss Gill," said she, with her utmost school-teacher manner, "I
wish to inquire why you have had my own clothes removed from the
closet in my room and others substituted?"
Sophia Gill stood with her hands fast in the dough, regarding her.
Her own face paled slowly and reluctantly, her mouth stiffened.
"What? I don't quite understand what you mean, Miss Stark," said
"My clothes are not in the closet in my room and it is full of
things which do not belong to me," said Louisa Stark.
"Bring me that flour," said Sophia sharply to the young girl, who
obeyed, casting timid, startled glances at Miss Stark as she passed
her. Sophia Gill began rubbing her hands clear of the dough. "I
am sure I know nothing about it," she said with a certain tempered
asperity. "Do you know anything about it, Flora?"
"Oh, no, I don't know anything about it, Aunt Sophia," answered the
young girl, fluttering.
Then Sophia turned to Miss Stark. "I'll go upstairs with you, Miss
Stark," said she, "and see what the trouble is. There must be some
mistake." She spoke stiffly with constrained civility.
"Very well," said Miss Stark with dignity. Then she and Miss
Sophia went upstairs. Flora stood staring after them.
Sophia and Louisa Stark went up to the southwest chamber. The
closet door was shut. Sophia threw it open, then she looked at
Miss Stark. On the pegs hung the schoolteacher's own garments in
"I can't see that there is anything wrong," remarked Sophia grimly.
Miss Stark strove to speak but she could not. She sank down on the
nearest chair. She did not even attempt to defend herself. She
saw her own clothes in the closet. She knew there had been no time
for any human being to remove those which she thought she had seen
and put hers in their places. She knew it was impossible. Again
the awful horror of herself overwhelmed her.
"You must have been mistaken," she heard Sophia say.
She muttered something, she scarcely knew what. Sophia then went
out of the room. Presently she undressed and went to bed. In the
morning she did not go down to breakfast, and when Sophia came to
inquire, requested that the stage be ordered for the noon train.
She said that she was sorry, but was ill, and feared lest she might
be worse, and she felt that she must return home at once. She
looked ill, and could not take even the toast and tea which Sophia
had prepared for her. Sophia felt a certain pity for her, but it
was largely mixed with indignation. She felt that she knew the
true reason for the school-teacher's illness and sudden departure,
and it incensed her.
"If folks are going to act like fools we shall never be able to
keep this house," she said to Amanda after Miss Stark had gone; and
Amanda knew what she meant.
Directly the widow, Mrs. Elvira Simmons, knew that the school-
teacher had gone and the southwest room was vacant, she begged to
have it in exchange for her own. Sophia hesitated a moment; she
eyed the widow sharply. There was something about the large,
roseate face worn in firm lines of humour and decision which
"I have no objection, Mrs. Simmons," said she, "if--"
"If what?" asked the widow.
"If you have common sense enough not to keep fussing because the
room happens to be the one my aunt died in," said Sophia bluntly.
"Fiddlesticks!" said the widow, Mrs. Elvira Simmons.
That very afternoon she moved into the southwest chamber. The
young girl Flora assisted her, though much against her will.
"Now I want you to carry Mrs. Simmons' dresses into the closet in
that room and hang them up nicely, and see that she has everything
she wants," said Sophia Gill. "And you can change the bed and put
on fresh sheets. What are you looking at me that way for?"
"Oh, Aunt Sophia, can't I do something else?"
"What do you want to do something else for?"
"I am afraid."
"Afraid of what? I should think you'd hang your head. No; you go
right in there and do what I tell you."
Pretty soon Flora came running into the sitting-room where Sophia
was, as pale as death, and in her hand she held a queer, old-
fashioned frilled nightcap.
"What's that?" demanded Sophia.
"I found it under the pillow."
"In the southwest room."
Sophia took it and looked at it sternly.
"It's Great-aunt Harriet's," said Flora faintly.
"You run down street and do that errand at the grocer's for me and
I'll see that room," said Sophia with dignity. She carried the
nightcap away and put it in the trunk in the garret where she had
supposed it stored with the rest of the dead woman's belongings.
Then she went into the southwest chamber and made the bed and
assisted Mrs. Simmons to move, and there was no further incident.
The widow was openly triumphant over her new room. She talked a
deal about it at the dinner-table.
"It is the best room in the house, and I expect you all to be
envious of me," said she.
"And you are sure you don't feel afraid of ghosts?" said the
"Ghosts!" repeated the widow with scorn. "If a ghost comes I'll
send her over to you. You are just across the hall from the
"You needn't," returned Eliza Lippincott with a shudder. "I
wouldn't sleep in that room, after--" she checked herself with an
eye on the minister.
"After what?" asked the widow.
"Nothing," replied Eliza Lippincott in an embarrassed fashion.
"I trust Miss Lippincott has too good sense and too great faith to
believe in anything of that sort," said the minister.
"I trust so, too," replied Eliza hurriedly.
"You did see or hear something--now what was it, I want to know?"
said the widow that evening when they were alone in the parlour.
The minister had gone to make a call.
"What was it?" insisted the widow.
"Well," said Eliza hesitatingly, "if you'll promise not to tell."
"Yes, I promise; what was it?"
"Well, one day last week, just before the school-teacher came, I
went in that room to see if there were any clouds. I wanted to
wear my gray dress, and I was afraid it was going to rain, so I
wanted to look at the sky at all points, so I went in there, and--"
"Well, you know that chintz over the bed, and the valance, and the
easy chair; what pattern should you say it was?"
"Why, peacocks on a blue ground. Good land, I shouldn't think any
one who had ever seen that would forget it."
"Peacocks on a blue ground, you are sure?"
"Of course I am. Why?"
"Only when I went in there that afternoon it was not peacocks on a
blue ground; it was great red roses on a yellow ground."
"Why, what do you mean?"
"What I say."
"Did Miss Sophia have it changed?"
"No. I went in there again an hour later and the peacocks were
"You didn't see straight the first time."
"I expected you would say that."
"The peacocks are there now; I saw them just now."
"Yes, I suppose so; I suppose they flew back."
"But they couldn't."
"Looks as if they did."
"Why, how could such a thing be? It couldn't be."
"Well, all I know is those peacocks were gone for an hour that
afternoon and the red roses on the yellow ground were there
The widow stared at her a moment, then she began to laugh rather
"Well," said she, "I guess I sha'n't give up my nice room for any
such tomfoolery as that. I guess I would just as soon have red
roses on a yellow ground as peacocks on a blue; but there's no use
talking, you couldn't have seen straight. How could such a thing
"I don't know," said Eliza Lippincott; "but I know I wouldn't sleep
in that room if you'd give me a thousand dollars."
"Well, I would," said the widow, "and I'm going to."
When Mrs. Simmons went to the southwest chamber that night she cast
a glance at the bed-hanging and the easy chair. There were the
peacocks on the blue ground. She gave a contemptuous thought to
"I don't believe but she's getting nervous," she thought. "I
wonder if any of her family have been out at all."
But just before Mrs. Simmons was ready to get into bed she looked
again at the hangings and the easy chair, and there were the red
roses on the yellow ground instead of the peacocks on the blue.
She looked long and sharply. Then she shut her eyes, and then
opened them and looked. She still saw the red roses. Then she
crossed the room, turned her back to the bed, and looked out at the
night from the south window. It was clear and the full moon was
shining. She watched it a moment sailing over the dark blue in its
nimbus of gold. Then she looked around at the bed hangings. She
still saw the red roses on the yellow ground.
Mrs. Simmons was struck in her most venerable point. This apparent
contradiction of the reasonable as manifested in such a commonplace
thing as chintz of a bed-hanging affected this ordinarily
unimaginative woman as no ghostly appearance could have done.
Those red roses on the yellow ground were to her much more ghostly
than any strange figure clad in the white robes of the grave
entering the room.
She took a step toward the door, then she turned with a resolute
air. "As for going downstairs and owning up I'm scared and having
that Lippincott girl crowing over me, I won't for any red roses
instead of peacocks. I guess they can't hurt me, and as long as
we've both of us seen 'em I guess we can't both be getting loony,"
Mrs. Elvira Simmons blew out her light and got into bed and lay
staring out between the chintz hangings at the moonlit room. She
said her prayers in bed always as being more comfortable, and
presumably just as acceptable in the case of a faithful servant
with a stout habit of body. Then after a little she fell asleep;
she was of too practical a nature to be kept long awake by anything
which had no power of actual bodily effect upon her. No stress of
the spirit had ever disturbed her slumbers. So she slumbered
between the red roses, or the peacocks, she did not know which.
But she was awakened about midnight by a strange sensation in her
throat. She had dreamed that some one with long white fingers was
strangling her, and she saw bending over her the face of an old
woman in a white cap. When she waked there was no old woman, the
room was almost as light as day in the full moonlight, and looked
very peaceful; but the strangling sensation at her throat
continued, and besides that, her face and ears felt muffled. She
put up her hand and felt that her head was covered with a ruffled
nightcap tied under her chin so tightly that it was exceedingly
uncomfortable. A great qualm of horror shot over her. She tore
the thing off frantically and flung it from her with a convulsive
effort as if it had been a spider. She gave, as she did so, a
quick, short scream of terror. She sprang out of bed and was going
toward the door, when she stopped.
It had suddenly occurred to her that Eliza Lippincott might have
entered the room and tied on the cap while she was asleep. She had
not locked her door. She looked in the closet, under the bed;
there was no one there. Then she tried to open the door, but to
her astonishment found that it was locked--bolted on the inside.
"I must have locked it, after all," she reflected with wonder, for
she never locked her door. Then she could scarcely conceal from
herself that there was something out of the usual about it all.
Certainly no one could have entered the room and departed locking
the door on the inside. She could not control the long shiver of
horror that crept over her, but she was still resolute. She
resolved that she would throw the cap out of the window. "I'll see
if I have tricks like that played on me, I don't care who does it,"
said she quite aloud. She was still unable to believe wholly in
the supernatural. The idea of some human agency was still in her
mind, filling her with anger.
She went toward the spot where she had thrown the cap--she had
stepped over it on her way to the door--but it was not there. She
searched the whole room, lighting her lamp, but she could not find
the cap. Finally she gave it up. She extinguished her lamp and
went back to bed. She fell asleep again, to be again awakened in
the same fashion. That time she tore off the cap as before, but
she did not fling it on the floor as before. Instead she held to
it with a fierce grip. Her blood was up.
Holding fast to the white flimsy thing, she sprang out of bed, ran
to the window which was open, slipped the screen, and flung it out;
but a sudden gust of wind, though the night was calm, arose and it
floated back in her face. She brushed it aside like a cobweb and
she clutched at it. She was actually furious. It eluded her
clutching fingers. Then she did not see it at all. She examined
the floor, she lighted her lamp again and searched, but there was
no sign of it.
Mrs. Simmons was then in such a rage that all terror had
disappeared for the time. She did not know with what she was
angry, but she had a sense of some mocking presence which was
silently proving too strong against her weakness, and she was
aroused to the utmost power of resistance. To be baffled like this
and resisted by something which was as nothing to her straining
senses filled her with intensest resentment.
Finally she got back into bed again; she did not go to sleep. She
felt strangely drowsy, but she fought against it. She was wide
awake, staring at the moonlight, when she suddenly felt the soft
white strings of the thing tighten around her throat and realized
that her enemy was again upon her. She seized the strings, untied
them, twitched off the cap, ran with it to the table where her
scissors lay and furiously cut it into small bits. She cut and
tore, feeling an insane fury of gratification.
"There!" said she quite aloud. "I guess I sha'n't have any more
trouble with this old cap."
She tossed the bits of muslin into a basket and went back to bed.
Almost immediately she felt the soft strings tighten around her
throat. Then at last she yielded, vanquished. This new refutal of
all laws of reason by which she had learned, as it were, to spell
her theory of life, was too much for her equilibrium. She pulled
off the clinging strings feebly, drew the thing from her head, slid
weakly out of bed, caught up her wrapper and hastened out of the
room. She went noiselessly along the hall to her own old room: she
entered, got into her familiar bed, and lay there the rest of the
night shuddering and listening, and if she dozed, waking with a
start at the feeling of the pressure upon her throat to find that
it was not there, yet still to be unable to shake off entirely the
When daylight came she crept back to the southwest chamber and
hurriedly got some clothes in which to dress herself. It took all
her resolution to enter the room, but nothing unusual happened
while she was there. She hastened back to her old chamber, dressed
herself and went down to breakfast with an imperturbable face. Her
colour had not faded. When asked by Eliza Lippincott how she had
slept, she replied with an appearance of calmness which was
bewildering that she had not slept very well. She never did sleep
very well in a new bed, and she thought she would go back to her
Eliza Lippincott was not deceived, however, neither were the Gill
sisters, nor the young girl, Flora. Eliza Lippineott spoke out
"You needn't talk to me about sleeping well," said she. "I know
something queer happened in that room last night by the way you
They all looked at Mrs. Simmons, inquiringly--the librarian with
malicious curiosity and triumph, the minister with sad incredulity,
Sophia Gill with fear and indignation, Amanda and the young girl
with unmixed terror. The widow bore herself with dignity.
"I saw nothing nor heard nothing which I trust could not have been
accounted for in some rational manner," said she.
"What was it?" persisted Eliza Lippincott.
"I do not wish to discuss the matter any further," replied Mrs.
Simmons shortly. Then she passed her plate for more creamed
potato. She felt that she would die before she confessed to the
ghastly absurdity of that nightcap, or to having been disturbed by
the flight of peacocks off a blue field of chintz after she had
scoffed at the possibility of such a thing. She left the whole
matter so vague that in a fashion she came off the mistress of the
situation. She at all events impressed everybody by her coolness
in the face of no one knew what nightly terror.
After breakfast, with the assistance of Amanda and Flora, she moved
back into her old room. Scarcely a word was spoken during the
process of moving, but they all worked with trembling haste and
looked guilty when they met one another's eyes, as if conscious of
betraying a common fear.
That afternoon the young minister, John Dunn, went to Sophia Gill
and requested permission to occupy the southwest chamber that
"I don't ask to have my effects moved there," said he, "for I could
scarcely afford a room so much superior to the one I now occupy,
but I would like, if you please, to sleep there to-night for the
purpose of refuting in my own person any unfortunate superstition
which may have obtained root here."
Sophia Gill thanked the minister gratefully and eagerly accepted
"How anybody with common sense can believe for a minute in any such
nonsense passes my comprehension," said she.
"It certainly passes mine how anybody with Christian faith can
believe in ghosts," said the minister gently, and Sophia Gill felt
a certain feminine contentment in hearing him. The minister was a
child to her; she regarded him with no tincture of sentiment, and
yet she loved to hear two other women covertly condemned by him and
she herself thereby exalted.
That night about twelve o'clock the Reverend John Dunn essayed to
go to his nightly slumber in the southwest chamber. He had been
sitting up until that hour preparing his sermon.
He traversed the hall with a little night-lamp in his hand, opened
the door of the southwest chamber, and essayed to enter. He might
as well have essayed to enter the solid side of a house. He could
not believe his senses. The door was certainly open; he could look
into the room full of soft lights and shadows under the moonlight
which streamed into the windows. He could see the bed in which he
had expected to pass the night, but he could not enter. Whenever
he strove to do so he had a curious sensation as if he were trying
to press against an invisible person who met him with a force of
opposition impossible to overcome. The minister was not an
athletic man, yet he had considerable strength. He squared his
elbows, set his mouth hard, and strove to push his way through into
the room. The opposition which he met was as sternly and mutely
terrible as the rocky fastness of a mountain in his way.
For a half hour John Dunn, doubting, raging, overwhelmed with
spiritual agony as to the state of his own soul rather than fear,
strove to enter that southwest chamber. He was simply powerless
against this uncanny obstacle. Finally a great horror as of evil
itself came over him. He was a nervous man and very young. He
fairly fled to his own chamber and locked himself in like a terror-
The next morning he went to Miss Gill and told her frankly what had
happened, and begged her to say nothing about it lest he should
have injured the cause by the betrayal of such weakness, for he
actually had come to believe that there was something wrong with
"What it is I know not, Miss Sophia," said he, "but I firmly
believe, against my will, that there is in that room some accursed
evil power at work, of which modern faith and modern science know
Miss Sophia Gill listened with grimly lowering face. She had an
inborn respect for the clergy, but she was bound to hold that
southwest chamber in the dearly beloved old house of her fathers
free of blame.
"I think I will sleep in that room myself to-night," she said, when
the minister had finished.
He looked at her in doubt and dismay.
"I have great admiration for your faith and courage, Miss Sophia,"
he said, "but are you wise?"
"I am fully resolved to sleep in that room to-night," said she
conclusively. There were occasions when Miss Sophia Gill could put
on a manner of majesty, and she did now.
It was ten o'clock that night when Sophia Gill entered the
southwest chamber. She had told her sister what she intended doing
and had been proof against her tearful entreaties. Amanda was
charged not to tell the young girl, Flora.
"There is no use in frightening that child over nothing," said
Sophia, when she entered the southwest chamber, set the lamp which
she carried on the bureau, and began moving about the rooms pulling
down the curtains, taking off the nice white counterpane of the
bed, and preparing generally for the night.
As she did so, moving with great coolness and deliberation, she
became conscious that she was thinking some thoughts that were
foreign to her. She began remembering what she could not have
remembered, since she was not then born: the trouble over her
mother's marriage, the bitter opposition, the shutting the door
upon her, the ostracizing her from heart and home. She became
aware of a most singular sensation as of bitter resentment herself,
and not against the mother and sister who had so treated her own
mother, but against her own mother, and then she became aware of a
like bitterness extended to her own self. She felt malignant
toward her mother as a young girl whom she remembered, though she
could not have remembered, and she felt malignant toward her own
self, and her sister Amanda, and Flora. Evil suggestions surged in
her brain--suggestions which turned her heart to stone and which
still fascinated her. And all the time by a sort of double
consciousness she knew that what she thought was strange and not
due to her own volition. She knew that she was thinking the
thoughts of some other person, and she knew who. She felt herself
But there was tremendous strength in the woman's nature. She had
inherited strength for good and righteous self-assertion, from the
evil strength of her ancestors. They had turned their own weapons
against themselves. She made an effort which seemed almost mortal,
but was conscious that the hideous thing was gone from her. She
thought her own thoughts. Then she scouted to herself the idea of
anything supernatural about the terrific experience. "I am
imagining everything," she told herself. She went on with her
preparations; she went to the bureau to take down her hair. She
looked in the glass and saw, instead of her softly parted waves of
hair, harsh lines of iron-gray under the black borders of an old-
fashioned head-dress. She saw instead of her smooth, broad
forehead, a high one wrinkled with the intensest concentration of
selfish reflections of a long life; she saw instead of her steady
blue eyes, black ones with depths of malignant reserve, behind a
broad meaning of ill will; she saw instead of her firm, benevolent
mouth one with a hard, thin line, a network of melancholic
wrinkles. She saw instead of her own face, middle-aged and good to
see, the expression of a life of honesty and good will to others
and patience under trials, the face of a very old woman scowling
forever with unceasing hatred and misery at herself and all others,
at life, and death, at that which had been and that which was to
come. She saw instead of her own face in the glass, the face of
her dead Aunt Harriet, topping her own shoulders in her own well-
Sophia Gill left the room. She went into the one which she shared
with her sister Amanda. Amanda looked up and saw her standing
there. She had set the lamp on a table, and she stood holding a
handkerchief over her face. Amanda looked at her with terror.
"What is it? What is it, Sophia?" she gasped.
Sophia still stood with the handkerchief pressed to her face.
"Oh, Sophia, let me call somebody. Is your face hurt? Sophia,
what is the matter with your face?" fairly shrieked Amanda.
Suddenly Sophia took the handkerchief from her face.
"Look at me, Amanda Gill," she said in an awful voice.
Amanda looked, shrinking.
"What is it? Oh, what is it? You don't look hurt. What is it,
"What do you see?"
"Why, I see you."
"Yes, you. What did you think I would see?"
Sophia Gill looked at her sister. "Never as long as I live will I
tell you what I thought you would see, and you must never ask me,"
"Well, I never will, Sophia," replied Amanda, half weeping with
"You won't try to sleep in that room again, Sophia?"
"No," said Sophia; "and I am going to sell this house."
THE VACANT LOT
When it became generally known in Townsend Centre that the
Townsends were going to move to the city, there was great
excitement and dismay. For the Townsends to move was about
equivalent to the town's moving. The Townsend ancestors had
founded the village a hundred years ago. The first Townsend had
kept a wayside hostelry for man and beast, known as the "Sign of
the Leopard." The sign-board, on which the leopard was painted a
bright blue, was still extant, and prominently so, being nailed
over the present Townsend's front door. This Townsend, by name
David, kept the village store. There had been no tavern since the
railroad was built through Townsend Centre in his father's day.
Therefore the family, being ousted by the march of progress from
their chosen employment, took up with a general country store as
being the next thing to a country tavern, the principal difference
consisting in the fact that all the guests were transients, never
requiring bedchambers, securing their rest on the tops of sugar and
flour barrels and codfish boxes, and their refreshment from stray
nibblings at the stock in trade, to the profitless deplenishment of
raisins and loaf sugar and crackers and cheese.
The flitting of the Townsends from the home of their ancestors was
due to a sudden access of wealth from the death of a relative and
the desire of Mrs. Townsend to secure better advantages for her son
George, sixteen years old, in the way of education, and for her
daughter Adrianna, ten years older, better matrimonial
opportunities. However, this last inducement for leaving Townsend
Centre was not openly stated, only ingeniously surmised by the
"Sarah Townsend don't think there's anybody in Townsend Centre fit
for her Adrianna to marry, and so she's goin' to take her to Boston
to see if she can't pick up somebody there," they said. Then they
wondered what Abel Lyons would do. He had been a humble suitor for
Adrianna for years, but her mother had not approved, and Adrianna,
who was dutiful, had repulsed him delicately and rather sadly. He
was the only lover whom she had ever had, and she felt sorry and
grateful; she was a plain, awkward girl, and had a patient
recognition of the fact.
But her mother was ambitious, more so than her father, who was
rather pugnaciously satisfied with what he had, and not easily
disposed to change. However, he yielded to his wife and consented
to sell out his business and purchase a house in Boston and move
David Townsend was curiously unlike the line of ancestors from whom
he had come. He had either retrograded or advanced, as one might
look at it. His moral character was certainly better, but he had
not the fiery spirit and eager grasp at advantage which had
distinguished them. Indeed, the old Townsends, though prominent
and respected as men of property and influence, had reputations not
above suspicions. There was more than one dark whisper regarding
them handed down from mother to son in the village, and especially
was this true of the first Townsend, he who built the tavern
bearing the Sign of the Blue Leopard. His portrait, a hideous
effort of contemporary art, hung in the garret of David Townsend's
home. There was many a tale of wild roistering, if no worse, in
that old roadhouse, and high stakes, and quarreling in cups, and
blows, and money gotten in evil fashion, and the matter hushed up
with a high hand for inquirers by the imperious Townsends who
terrorized everybody. David Townsend terrorized nobody. He had
gotten his little competence from his store by honest methods--the
exchanging of sterling goods and true weights for country produce
and country shillings. He was sober and reliable, with intense
self-respect and a decided talent for the management of money. It
was principally for this reason that he took great delight in his
sudden wealth by legacy. He had thereby greater opportunities for
the exercise of his native shrewdness in a bargain. This he
evinced in his purchase of a house in Boston.
One day in spring the old Townsend house was shut up, the Blue
Leopard was taken carefully down from his lair over the front door,
the family chattels were loaded on the train, and the Townsends
departed. It was a sad and eventful day for Townsend Centre. A
man from Barre had rented the store--David had decided at the last
not to sell--and the old familiars congregated in melancholy
fashion and talked over the situation. An enormous pride over
their departed townsman became evident. They paraded him,
flaunting him like a banner in the eyes of the new man. "David is
awful smart," they said; "there won't nobody get the better of him
in the city if he has lived in Townsend Centre all his life. He's
got his eyes open. Know what he paid for his house in Boston?
Well, sir, that house cost twenty-five thousand dollars, and David
he bought it for five. Yes, sir, he did."
"Must have been some out about it," remarked the new man, scowling
over his counter. He was beginning to feel his disparaging
"Not an out, sir. David he made sure on't. Catch him gettin' bit.
Everythin' was in apple-pie order, hot an' cold water and all, and
in one of the best locations of the city--real high-up street.
David he said the rent in that street was never under a thousand.
Yes, sir, David he got a bargain--five thousand dollars for a
"Some out about it!" growled the new man over the counter.
However, as his fellow townsmen and allies stated, there seemed to
be no doubt about the desirableness of the city house which David
Townsend had purchased and the fact that he had secured it for an
absurdly low price. The whole family were at first suspicious. It
was ascertained that the house had cost a round sum only a few
years ago; it was in perfect repair; nothing whatever was amiss
with plumbing, furnace, anything. There was not even a soap
factory within smelling distance, as Mrs. Townsend had vaguely
surmised. She was sure that she had heard of houses being
undesirable for such reasons, but there was no soap factory. They
all sniffed and peeked; when the first rainfall came they looked at
the ceiling, confidently expecting to see dark spots where the
leaks had commenced, but there were none. They were forced to
confess that their suspicions were allayed, that the house was
perfect, even overshadowed with the mystery of a lower price than
it was worth. That, however, was an additional perfection in the
opinion of the Townsends, who had their share of New England
thrift. They had lived just one month in their new house, and were
happy, although at times somewhat lonely from missing the society
of Townsend Centre, when the trouble began. The Townsends,
although they lived in a fine house in a genteel, almost
fashionable, part of the city, were true to their antecedents and
kept, as they had been accustomed, only one maid. She was the
daughter of a farmer on the outskirts of their native village, was
middle-aged, and had lived with them for the last ten years. One
pleasant Monday morning she rose early and did the family washing
before breakfast, which had been prepared by Mrs. Townsend and
Adrianna, as was their habit on washing-days. The family were
seated at the breakfast table in their basement dining-room, and
this maid, whose name was Cordelia, was hanging out the clothes in
the vacant lot. This vacant lot seemed a valuable one, being on a
corner. It was rather singular that it had not been built upon.
The Townsends had wondered at it and agreed that they would have
preferred their own house to be there. They had, however, utilized
it as far as possible with their innocent, rural disregard of
property rights in unoccupied land.
"We might just as well hang out our washing in that vacant lot,"
Mrs. Townsend had told Cordelia the first Monday of their stay in
the house. "Our little yard ain't half big enough for all our
clothes, and it is sunnier there, too."
So Cordelia had hung out the wash there for four Mondays, and this
was the fifth. The breakfast was about half finished--they had
reached the buckwheat cakes--when this maid came rushing into the
dining-room and stood regarding them, speechless, with a
countenance indicative of the utmost horror. She was deadly pale.
Her hands, sodden with soapsuds, hung twitching at her sides in the
folds of her calico gown; her very hair, which was light and
sparse, seemed to bristle with fear. All the Townsends turned and
looked at her. David and George rose with a half-defined idea of
"Cordelia Battles, what is the matter?" cried Mrs. Townsend.
Adrianna gasped for breath and turned as white as the maid. "What
is the matter?" repeated Mrs. Townsend, but the maid was unable to
speak. Mrs. Townsend, who could be peremptory, sprang up, ran to
the frightened woman and shook her violently. "Cordelia Battles,
you speak," said she, "and not stand there staring that way, as if
you were struck dumb! What is the matter with you?"
Then Cordelia spoke in a fainting voice.
"There's--somebody else--hanging out clothes--in the vacant lot,"
she gasped, and clutched at a chair for support.
"Who?" cried Mrs. Townsend, rousing to indignation, for already she
had assumed a proprietorship in the vacant lot. "Is it the folks
in the next house? I'd like to know what right they have! We are
next to that vacant lot."
"I--dunno--who it is," gasped Cordelia. "Why, we've seen that girl
next door go to mass every morning," said Mrs. Townsend. "She's
got a fiery red head. Seems as if you might know her by this time,
"It ain't that girl," gasped Cordelia. Then she added in a horror-
stricken voice, "I couldn't see who 'twas."
They all stared.
"Why couldn't you see?" demanded her mistress. "Are you struck
"Then why couldn't you see?"
"All I could see was--" Cordelia hesitated, with an expression of
the utmost horror.
"Go on," said Mrs. Townsend, impatiently.
"All I could see was the shadow of somebody, very slim, hanging out
the clothes, and--"
"I could see the shadows of the things flappin' on their line."
"You couldn't see the clothes?"
"Only the shadow on the ground."
"What kind of clothes were they?"
"Queer," replied Cordelia, with a shudder.
"If I didn't know you so well, I should think you had been
drinking," said Mrs. Townsend. "Now, Cordelia Battles, I'm going
out in that vacant lot and see myself what you're talking about."
"I can't go," gasped the woman.
With that Mrs. Townsend and all the others, except Adrianna, who
remained to tremble with the maid, sallied forth into the vacant
lot. They had to go out the area gate into the street to reach it.
It was nothing unusual in the way of vacant lots. One large poplar
tree, the relic of the old forest which had once flourished there,
twinkled in one corner; for the rest, it was overgrown with coarse
weeds and a few dusty flowers. The Townsends stood just inside the
rude board fence which divided the lot from the street and stared
with wonder and horror, for Cordelia had told the truth. They all
saw what she had described--the shadow of an exceedingly slim woman
moving along the ground with up-stretched arms, the shadows of
strange, nondescript garments flapping from a shadowy line, but
when they looked up for the substance of the shadows nothing was to
be seen except the clear, blue October air.
"My goodness!" gasped Mrs. Townsend. Her face assumed a strange
gathering of wrath in the midst of her terror. Suddenly she made a
determined move forward, although her husband strove to hold her
"You let me be," said she. She moved forward. Then she recoiled
and gave a loud shriek. "The wet sheet flapped in my face," she
cried. "Take me away, take me away!" Then she fainted. Between
them they got her back to the house. "It was awful," she moaned
when she came to herself, with the family all around her where she
lay on the dining-room floor. "Oh, David, what do you suppose it
"Nothing at all," replied David Townsend stoutly. He was
remarkable for courage and staunch belief in actualities. He was
now denying to himself that he had seen anything unusual.
"Oh, there was," moaned his wife.
"I saw something," said George, in a sullen, boyish bass.
The maid sobbed convulsively and so did Adrianna for sympathy.
"We won't talk any about it," said David. "Here, Jane, you drink
this hot tea--it will do you good; and Cordelia, you hang out the
clothes in our own yard. George, you go and put up the line for
"The line is out there," said George, with a jerk of his shoulder.
"Are you afraid?"
"No, I ain't," replied the boy resentfully, and went out with a
After that Cordelia hung the Townsend wash in the yard of their own
house, standing always with her back to the vacant lot. As for
David Townsend, he spent a good deal of his time in the lot
watching the shadows, but he came to no explanation, although he
strove to satisfy himself with many.
"I guess the shadows come from the smoke from our chimneys, or else
the poplar tree," he said.
"Why do the shadows come on Monday mornings, and no other?"
demanded his wife.
David was silent.
Very soon new mysteries arose. One day Cordelia rang the dinner-
bell at their usual dinner hour, the same as in Townsend Centre,
high noon, and the family assembled. With amazement Adrianna
looked at the dishes on the table.
"Why, that's queer!" she said.
"What's queer?" asked her mother.
Cordelia stopped short as she was about setting a tumbler of water
beside a plate, and the water slopped over.
"Why," said Adrianna, her face paling, "I--thought there was boiled
dinner. I--smelt cabbage cooking."
"I knew there would something else come up," gasped Cordelia,
leaning hard on the back of Adrianna's chair.
"What do you mean?" asked Mrs. Townsend sharply, but her own face
began to assume the shocked pallour which it was so easy nowadays
for all their faces to assume at the merest suggestion of anything
out of the common.
"I smelt cabbage cooking all the morning up in my room," Adrianna
said faintly, "and here's codfish and potatoes for dinner."
The Townsends all looked at one another. David rose with an
exclamation and rushed out of the room. The others waited
tremblingly. When he came back his face was lowering.
"What did you--" Mrs. Townsend asked hesitatingly.
"There's some smell of cabbage out there," he admitted reluctantly.
Then he looked at her with a challenge. "It comes from the next
house," he said. "Blows over our house."
"Our house is higher."
"I don't care; you can never account for such things."
"Cordelia," said Mrs. Townsend, "you go over to the next house and
you ask if they've got cabbage for dinner."
Cordelia switched out of the room, her mouth set hard. She came
"Says they never have cabbage," she announced with gloomy triumph
and a conclusive glance at Mr. Townsend. "Their girl was real
"Oh, father, let's move away; let's sell the house," cried Adrianna
in a panic-stricken tone.
"If you think I'm going to sell a house that I got as cheap as this
one because we smell cabbage in a vacant lot, you're mistaken,"
replied David firmly.
"It isn't the cabbage alone," said Mrs. Townsend.
"And a few shadows," added David. "I am tired of such nonsense. I
thought you had more sense, Jane."
"One of the boys at school asked me if we lived in the house next
to the vacant lot on Wells Street and whistled when I said 'Yes,'"
"Let him whistle," said Mr. Townsend.
After a few hours the family, stimulated by Mr. Townsend's calm,
common sense, agreed that it was exceedingly foolish to be
disturbed by a mysterious odour of cabbage. They even laughed at
"I suppose we have got so nervous over those shadows hanging out
clothes that we notice every little thing," conceded Mrs. Townsend.
"You will find out some day that that is no more to be regarded
than the cabbage," said her husband.
"You can't account for that wet sheet hitting my face," said Mrs.
"You imagined it."
"I FELT it."
That afternoon things went on as usual in the household until
nearly four o'clock. Adrianna went downtown to do some shopping.
Mrs. Townsend sat sewing beside the bay window in her room, which
was a front one in the third story. George had not got home. Mr.
Townsend was writing a letter in the library. Cordelia was busy in
the basement; the twilight, which was coming earlier and earlier
every night, was beginning to gather, when suddenly there was a
loud crash which shook the house from its foundations. Even the
dishes on the sideboard rattled, and the glasses rang like bells.
The pictures on the walls of Mrs. Townsend's room swung out from
the walls. But that was not all: every looking-glass in the house
cracked simultaneously--as nearly as they could judge--from top to
bottom, then shivered into fragments over the floors. Mrs.
Townsend was too frightened to scream. She sat huddled in her
chair, gasping for breath, her eyes, rolling from side to side in
incredulous terror, turned toward the street. She saw a great
black group of people crossing it just in front of the vacant lot.
There was something inexpressibly strange and gloomy about this
moving group; there was an effect of sweeping, wavings and foldings
of sable draperies and gleams of deadly white faces; then they
passed. She twisted her head to see, and they disappeared in the
vacant lot. Mr. Townsend came hurrying into the room; he was pale,
and looked at once angry and alarmed.
"Did you fall?" he asked inconsequently, as if his wife, who was
small, could have produced such a manifestation by a fall.
"Oh, David, what is it?" whispered Mrs. Townsend.
"Darned if I know!" said David.
"Don't swear. It's too awful. Oh, see the looking-glass, David!"
"I see it. The one over the library mantel is broken, too."