The Damned eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 118 pages of information about The Damned.
never called it “home”; and had emphasized unnecessarily, for a well-bred woman, our “great kindness” in coming down to stay so long with her.  Another time, in answer to my futile compliment about the “stately rooms,” she said quietly, “It is an enormous house for so small a party; but I stay here very little, and only till I get it straight again.”  The three of us were going up the great staircase to bed as this was said, and, not knowing quite her meaning, I dropped the subject.  It edged delicate ground, I felt.  Frances added no word of her own.  It now occurred to me abruptly that “stay” was the word made use of, when “live” would have been more natural.  How insignificant to recall!  Yet why did they suggest themselves just at this moment ...?

And, on going to Frances’s room to make sure she was not nervous or lonely, I realized abruptly, that Mrs. Franklyn, of course, had talked with her in a confidential sense that I, as a mere visiting brother, could not share.  Frances had told me nothing.  I might easily have wormed it out of her, had I not felt that for us to discuss further our hostess and her house merely because we were under the roof together, was not quite nice or loyal.

“I’ll call you, Bill, if I’m scared,” she had laughed as we parted, my room being just across the big corridor from her own.  I had fallen asleep, thinking what in the world was meant by “getting it straight again.”

And now in my antechamber to the library, on the second morning, sitting among piles of foolscap and sheets of spotless blotting-paper, all useless to me, these slight hints came back and helped to frame the big, vague Shadow I have mentioned.  Up to the neck in this Shadow, almost drowned, yet just treading water, stood the figure of my hostess in her walking costume.  Frances and I seemed swimming to her aid.  The Shadow was large enough to include both house and grounds, but farther than that I could not see....  Dismissing it, I fell to reading my purloined book again.  Before I turned another page, however, another startling detail leaped out at me:  the figure of Mrs. Franklyn in the Shadow was not living.  It floated helplessly, like a doll or puppet that has no life in it.  It was both pathetic and dreadful.

Any one who sits in reverie thus, of course, may see similar ridiculous pictures when the will no longer guides construction.  The incongruities of dreams are thus explained.  I merely record the picture as it came.  That it remained by me for several days, just as vivid dreams do, is neither here nor there.  I did not allow myself to dwell upon it.  The curious thing, perhaps, is that from this moment I date my inclination, though not yet my desire, to leave.  I purposely say “to leave.”

I cannot quite remember when the word changed to that aggressive, frantic thing which is escape.

Chapter V

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The Damned from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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