The entire adventure seemed so incredible, here, in this twentieth century—but yet delusion, that feeble word, did not occur once in the comments my mind suggested though did not utter. I remembered that forbidding Shadow too; my sister’s watercolors; the vanished personality of our hostess; the inexplicable, thundering Noise, and the figure of Mrs. Marsh in her midnight ritual that was so childish yet so horrible. I shivered in spite of my own “emancipated” cast of mind.
“There is no Mabel,” were the words with which my sister sent another shower of ice down my spine. “He has killed her in his lake of fire and brimstone.”
I stared at her blankly, as in a nightmare where nothing true or possible ever happened.
“He killed her in his lake of fire and brimstone,” she repeated more faintly.
A desperate effort was in me to say the strong, sensible thing which should destroy the oppressive horror that grew so stiflingly about us both, but again the mirror drew the attempted smile into the merest grin, betraying the distortion that was everywhere in the place.
“You mean,” I stammered beneath my breath, “that her faith has gone, but that the terror has remained?” I asked it, dully groping. I moved out of the line of the reflection in the glass.
She bowed her head as though beneath a weight; her skin was the pallor of grey ashes.
“You mean,” I said louder, “that she has lost her—mind?”
“She is terror incarnate,” was the whispered answer. “Mabel has lost her soul. Her soul is—there!” She pointed horribly below. “She is seeking it ...?”
The word “soul” stung me into something of my normal self again.
“But her terror, poor thing, is not—cannot be—transferable to us!” I exclaimed more vehemently. “It certainly is not convertible into feelings, sights and—even sounds!”
She interrupted me quickly, almost impatiently, speaking with that conviction by which she conquered me so easily that night.
“It is her terror that revived ‘the Others.’ It has brought her into touch with them. They are loose and driving after her. Her efforts at resistance have given them also hope—that escape, after all, is possible. Day and night they strive.
“Escape! Others!” The anger fast rising in me dropped of its own accord at the moment of birth. It shrank into a shuddering beyond my control. In that moment, I think, I would have believed in the possibility of anything and everything she might tell me. To argue or contradict seemed equally futile.
“His strong belief, as also the beliefs of others who have preceded him,” she replied, so sure of herself that I actually turned to look over my shoulder, “have left their shadow like a thick deposit over the house and grounds. To them, poor souls imprisoned by thought, it was hopeless as granite walls—until her resistance, her effort to dissipate it—let in light. Now, in their thousands, they are flocking to this little light, seeking escape. Her own escape, don’t you see, may release them all!”