I knew the road now and I told myself as I set out that I would make as quick a

I knew the road now and i told myself as i set out

This preview shows page 64 - 66 out of 73 pages.

and leave word for a possible patient, that I should return before noon. I knew the road now, and I told myself, as I set out, that I would make as quick a trip as I could. For two nights I had been haunted by the memory of that man in the armchair, plaiting and unplaiting the fringe of the plaid shawl. And his father had done that, the woman had told me, for twenty years!It was a brown autumn morning, raw, windless, with an overcast sky and a peculiar illusion of nearness about the distance. A high wind had blown all night, but at dawn it had dropped suddenly, and now there was not so much as a ripple in the broomsedge. Over the fields, when we came out ofthe woods, the thin trails of blue smoke were as motionless as cobwebs. The lawn surrounding the house looked smaller than it had appeared to me in the twilight, as if the barren fields had drawn closer since my last visit. Under the trees, where the few sheep were browsing, the piles of leaves layin the wind-rifs along the sunken walk and against the wings of the house.When I knocked the door was opened immediately by one of the old women, who held a streamer of black cloth or rusty crepe in her hands.‘You may go straight upstairs,’ she croaked; and, without waiting for an explanation, I entered the hall quickly, and ran up the stairs.The door of the room was closed, and I opened it noiselessly, and stepped over the threshold. My first sensation, when I entered, was one of cold. Then I saw that the windows were wide open, and that the room seemed to be full of people, though, as I made out presently, there was no one there except Alan Jordan’s wife, her little son, the two old aunts, and an aged crone of a negress. On the bed there was something under a yellowed sheet of fine linen (what the negroes call ‘a burial sheet’, I suppose), which had been handed down from some more affluent generation.When I went over, afer a minute, and turned down one corner of the covering, I saw that my patient of the other evening was dead. Not a line of pain marred his features, not a thread of gray dimmed the wheaten gold of his hair. So he must have looked, I thought, when she first loved him. He had gone from life, not old, enfeebled, and repulsive, but enveloped still in the romantic illusion of their passion.As I entered, the two old women, who had been fussing about the bed, drew back to make way for me, but the witch of a negress did not pause in the weird chant, an incantation of some sort, which she was mumbling. From the rag carpet in front of the fireplace, the boy, with his father’s hair and his mother’s eyes, gazed at me silently, 64
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broodingly, as if I were trespassing; and by the open window, with her eyes on the ashen November day, the young wife stood as motionless as a statue. While I looked at her a redbird flew out of the boughs of a cedar, and she followed it with her eyes.‘You sent for me?’ I said to her.She did not turn. She was beyond the reach of my voice, of any voice, I imagine; but one of the palsied old women answered my question.‘He was like this when we found him this morning,’ she said. ‘He had a bad night, and Judith and
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  • Fall '10
  • ASDFDS
  • Gothic fiction, blue beard

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