The Shadows on the Wall (II)

“What did Edward say?”

“That he would stay here as long as he lived and afterward, too, if he was a mind to, and he would like to see Henry get him out; and then—-“

“What?”

“Then he laughed.”

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“What did Henry say?”

“I didn’t hear him say anything, but—-“

“But what?”

“I saw him when he came out of this room.”

“He looked mad?”

“You’ve seen him when he looked so.”

Emma nodded. The expression of horror on her face had deepened.

“Do you remember that time he killed the cat because she had scratched him?”

“Yes. Don’t!”

Then Caroline reentered the room; she went up to the stove, in which a wood fire was burning–it was a cold, gloomy day of fall–and she warmed her hands, which were reddened from recent washing in cold water.

Mrs. Brigham looked at her and hesitated. She glanced at the door, which was still ajar; it did not easily shut, being still swollen with the damp weather of the summer. She rose and pushed it together with a sharp thud, which jarred the house. Rebecca started painfully with a half-exclamation. Caroline looked at her disapprovingly.

“It is time you controlled your nerves, Rebecca,” she said.

Mrs. Brigham, returning from the closed door, said imperiously that it ought to be fixed, it shut so hard.

“It will shrink enough after we have had the fire a few days,” replied Caroline.

“I think Henry ought to be ashamed of himself for talking as he did to Edward,” said Mrs. Brigham abruptly, but in an almost inaudible voice.

“Hush,” said Caroline, with a glance of actual fear at the closed door.

“Nobody can hear with the door shut. I say again I think Henry ought to be ashamed of himself. I shouldn’t think he’d ever get over it, having words with poor Edward the very night before he died. Edward was enough sight better disposition than Henry, with all his faults.”

“I never heard him speak a cross word, unless he spoke cross to Henry that last night. I don’t know but he did from what Rebecca overheard.”

“Not so much cross, as sort of soft, and sweet, and aggravating,” sniffed Rebecca.

“What do you really think ailed Edward?” asked Emma in hardly more than a whisper. She did not look at her sister.

“I know you said that he had terrible pains in his stomach, and had spasms, but what do you think made him have them?”

“Henry called it gastric trouble. You know Edward has always had dyspepsia.”

Mrs. Brigham hesitated a moment. “Was there any talk of an–examination?” said she.

Then Caroline turned on her fiercely.

“No,” said she in a terrible voice. “No.”

The three sisters’ souls seemed to meet on one common ground of terrified understanding through their eyes.

The old-fashioned latch of the door was heard to rattle, and a push from without made the door shake ineffectually. “It’s Henry,” Rebecca sighed rather than whispered. Mrs. Brigham settled herself, after a noiseless rush across the floor, into her rocking-chair again, and was swaying back and forth with her head comfortably leaning back, when the door at last yielded and Henry Glynn entered. He cast a covertly sharp, comprehensive glance at Mrs. Brigham with her elaborate calm; at Rebecca quietly huddled in the corner of the sofa with her handkerchief to her face and only one small uncovered reddened ear as attentive as a dog’s, and at Caroline sitting with a strained composure in her armchair by the stove. She met his eyes quite firmly with a look of inscrutable fear, and defiance of the fear and of him.

Henry Glynn looked more like this sister than the others. Both had the same hard delicacy of form and aquilinity of feature. They confronted each other with the pitiless immovability of two statues in whose marble lineaments emotions were fixed for all eternity…

BY MARY E. WILKINS FREEMAN

 

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