The Shadows on the Wall (III)

Then Henry Glynn smiled and the smile transformed his face. He looked suddenly years younger, and an almost boyish recklessness appeared in his face. He flung himself into a chair with a gesture which was bewildering from its incongruity with his general appearance. He leaned his head back, flung one leg over the other, and looked laughingly at Mrs. Brigham.

“I declare, Emma, you grow younger every year,” he said.

She flushed a little, and her placid mouth widened at the corners. She was susceptible to praise.

“Our thoughts to-day ought to belong to the one of us who will _never_ grow older,” said Caroline in a hard voice.

Henry looked at her, still smiling. “Of course, we none of us forget that,” said he, in a deep, gentle voice; “but we have to speak to the living, Caroline, and I have not seen Emma for a long time, and the living are as dear as the dead.”

“Not to me,” said Caroline.

She rose and went abruptly out of the room again. Rebecca also rose and hurried after her, sobbing loudly.

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Henry looked slowly after them.

“Caroline is completely unstrung,” said he.

Mrs. Brigham rocked. A confidence in him inspired by his manner was stealing over her. Out of that confidence she spoke quite easily and naturally.

“His death was very sudden,” said she.

Henry’s eyelids quivered slightly but his gaze was unswerving.

“Yes,” said he, “it was very sudden. He was sick only a few hours.”

“What did you call it?”

“Gastric.”

“You did not think of an examination?”

“There was no need. I am perfectly certain as to the cause of his death.”

Suddenly Mrs. Brigham felt a creep as of some live horror over her very soul. Her flesh prickled with cold, before an inflection of his voice. She rose, tottering on weak knees.

“Where are you going?” asked Henry in a strange, breathless voice.

Mrs. Brigham said something incoherent about some sewing which she had to do–some black for the funeral–and was out of the room. She went up to the front chamber which she occupied. Caroline was there. She went close to her and took her hands, and the two sisters looked at each other.

“Don’t speak, don’t, I won’t have it!” said Caroline finally in an awful whisper.

“I won’t,” replied Emma.

That afternoon the three sisters were in the study.

Mrs. Brigham was hemming some black material. At last she laid her work on her lap.

“It’s no use, I cannot see to sew another stitch until we have a light,” said she.

Caroline, who was writing some letters at the table, turned to Rebecca, in her usual place on the sofa.

“Rebecca, you had better get a lamp,” she said.

Rebecca started up; even in the dusk her face showed her agitation.

“It doesn’t seem to me that we need a lamp quite yet,” she said in a piteous, pleading voice like a child’s.

“Yes, we do,” returned Mrs. Brigham peremptorily. “I can’t see to sew another stitch.”

Rebecca rose and left the room. Presently she entered with a lamp. She set it on the table, an old-fashioned card-table which was placed against the opposite wall from the window. That opposite wall was taken up with three doors; the one small space was occupied by the table.

“What have you put that lamp over there for?” asked Mrs. Brigham, with more of impatience than her voice usually revealed. “Why didn’t you set it in the hall, and have done with it? Neither Caroline nor I can see if it is on that table.”

“I thought perhaps you would move,” replied Rebecca hoarsely.

“If I do move, we can’t both sit at that table. Caroline has her paper all spread around. Why don’t you set the lamp on the study table in the middle of the room, then we can both see?”…

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