The Shadows on the Wall (I)

BY MARY E. WILKINS FREEMAN

From _The Wind in the Rose-bush_, by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman. Copyright by Harper and Brothers. By permission of the publishers and Mary E. Wilkins Freeman.

“Henry had words with Edward in the study the night before Edward died,” said Caroline Glynn.

She spoke not with acrimony, but with grave severity. Rebecca Ann Glynn gasped by way of assent. She sat in a wide flounce of black silk in the corner of the sofa, and rolled terrified eyes from her sister Caroline to her sister Mrs. Stephen Brigham, who had been Emma Glynn, the one beauty of the family. The latter was beautiful still, with a large, splendid, full-blown beauty, she filled a great rocking-chair with her superb bulk of femininity, and swayed gently back and forth, her black silks whispering and her black frills fluttering. Even the shock of death–for her brother Edward lay dead in the house–could not disturb her outward serenity of demeanor.

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But even her expression of masterly placidity changed before her sister Caroline’s announcement and her sister Rebecca Ann’s gasp of terror and distress in response.

“I think Henry might have controlled his temper, when poor Edward was so near his end,” she said with an asperity which disturbed slightly the roseate curves of her beautiful mouth.

“Of course he did not _know_,” murmured Rebecca Ann in a faint tone.

“Of course he did not know it,” said Caroline quickly. She turned on her sister with a strange, sharp look of suspicion. Then she shrank as if from the other’s possible answer.

Rebecca gasped again. The married sister, Mrs. Emma Brigham, was now sitting up straight in her chair; she had ceased rocking, and was eyeing them both intently with a sudden accentuation of family likeness in her face.

“What do you mean?” said she impartially to them both. Then she, too, seemed to shrink before a possible answer. She even laughed an evasive sort of laugh.

“Nobody means anything,” said Caroline firmly. She rose and crossed the room toward the door with grim decisiveness.

“Where are you going?” asked Mrs. Brigham.

“I have something to see to,” replied Caroline, and the others at once knew by her tone that she had some solemn and sad duty to perform in the chamber of death.

“Oh,” said Mrs. Brigham.

After the door had closed behind Caroline, she turned to Rebecca.

“Did Henry have many words with him?” she asked.

“They were talking very loud,” replied Rebecca evasively.

Mrs. Brigham looked at her. She had not resumed rocking. She still sat up straight, with a slight knitting of intensity on her fair forehead, between the pretty rippling curves of her auburn hair.

“Did you–ever hear anything?” she asked in a low voice with a glance toward the door.

“I was just across the hall in the south parlor, and that door was open and this door ajar,” replied Rebecca with a slight flush.

“Then you must have—-“

“I couldn’t help it.”

“Everything?”

“Most of it.”

“What was it?”

“The old story.”

“I suppose Henry was mad, as he always was, because Edward was living on here for nothing, when he had wasted all the money father left him.”

Rebecca nodded, with a fearful glance at the door.

When Emma spoke again her voice was still more hushed. “I know how he felt,” said she. “It must have looked to him as if Edward was living at his expense, but he wasn’t.”

“No, he wasn’t.”

“And Edward had a right here according to the terms of father’s will, and Henry ought to have remembered it.”

“Yes, he ought.”

“Did he say hard things?”

“Pretty hard, from what I heard.”

“What?”

“I heard him tell Edward that he had no business here at all, and he thought he had better go away.”….

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