The Shadows on the Wall (V)

“What is that?” he demanded in a strange voice. “It must be due to something in the room,” Mrs. Brigham said faintly. Henry Glynn stood and stared a moment longer. His face showed a gamut of emotions. Horror, conviction, then furious incredulity. Suddenly he began hastening hither and thither about the room. He moved the furniture with fierce jerks, turning ever to see the effect upon the shadow on the wall. Not a line of its terrible outlines wavered. “It must be something in the room!” he declared in a voice which seemed to snap like a lash. His face changed, the inmost secrecy of his nature seemed evident upon his face, until one almost lost sight of his lineaments. Rebecca stood close to her sofa, regarding him with woeful, fascinated eyes. Mrs. Brigham clutched Caroline’s hand. They both stood in a corner out of his way. For a few moments he raged about the room like a caged wild animal. He moved every piece of furniture; when the moving of a piece did not affect the shadow he flung it to the floor.  photo naaaaa_zpsbdf90994.gif Then suddenly he desisted. He laughed. “What an absurdity,” he said easily. “Such a to-do about a shadow.” “That’s so,” assented Mrs. Brigham, in a scared voice which she tried to make natural. As she spoke she lifted a chair near her. “I think you have broken the chair that Edward was fond of,” said Caroline. Terror and wrath were struggling for expression on her face. Her mouth was set, her eyes shrinking. Henry lifted the chair with a show of anxiety. “Just as good as ever,” he said pleasantly. He laughed again, looking at his sisters. “Did I scare you?” he said. “I should think you might be used to me by this time. You know my way of wanting to leap to the bottom of a mystery, and that shadow does look–queer, like–and I thought if there was any way of accounting for it I would like to without any delay.” “You don’t seem to have succeeded,” remarked Caroline dryly, with a slight glance at the wall. Henry’s eyes followed hers and he quivered perceptibly. “Oh, there is no accounting for shadows,” he said, and he laughed again. “A man is a fool to try to account for shadows.” Then the supper bell rang, and they all left the room, but Henry kept his back to the wall–as did, indeed, the others. Henry led the way with an alert motion like a boy; Rebecca brought up the rear. She could scarcely walk, her knees trembled so. “I can’t sit in that room again this evening,” she whispered to Caroline after supper. “Very well; we will sit in the south room,” replied Caroline. “I think we will sit in the south parlor,” she said aloud; “it isn’t as damp as the study, and I have a cold.” So they all sat in the south room with their sewing. Henry read the newspaper, his chair drawn close to the lamp on the table. About nine o’clock he rose abruptly and crossed the hall to the study. The three sisters looked at one another. Mrs. Brigham rose, folded her rustling skirts compactly round her, and began tiptoeing toward the door. “What are you going to do?” inquired Rebecca agitatedly. “I am going to see what he is about,” replied Mrs. Brigham cautiously. As she spoke she pointed to the study door across the hall; it was ajar. Henry had striven to pull it together behind him, but it had somehow swollen beyond the limit with curious speed. It was still ajar and a streak of light showed from top to bottom. Mrs. Brigham folded her skirts so tightly that her bulk with its swelling curves was revealed in a black silk sheath, and she went with a slow toddle across the hall to the study door. She stood there, her eye at the crack…
BY MARY E. WILKINS FREEMAN

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