Gwen, who was to close the house on the morrow, was going from room to room collecting such little things as she wished to take with her. The servants had been dismissed and she was entirely alone in the house. She had gathered the things she had collected in a little heap upon the sitting-room table, preparatory to doing them up. She could think of but one thing more which she must take—a cabinet photograph of her father. This was upon the top of the piano in the room where he had met his death. She knew its exact location and could have put her hand right upon it had it been perfectly dark, which it was not. She arose, therefore, and, without taking a light with her, went into the parlour. A faint afterglow illumined the windows and suffused the room with an uncertain, dim, ghostly light which lent to all its objects that vague flatness from which the imagination carves what shapes it lists. As Gwen reached for the picture, a sudden conviction possessed her that her father stood just behind her in the exact spot where he had met his death, —that if she turned she would see him again with his hand clutching his throat and his eyes starting from their sockets with that never-to-be-forgotten look of frenzied helplessness.
It would be difficult to find a woman upon whom superstition has so slight a hold as it has upon Gwen Darrow, yet, for all that, it required an effort for her to turn and gaze toward the centre of the room. A dim, ill-defined stain of light fell momentarily upon the chair in which the dead man had sat, and then flickered unsteadily across the room and, as it seemed to her, out through its western side, the while a faint, rustling sound caught her ear. She was plainly conscious, too, of a something swishing by her, as if a strong draught had just fallen upon her. She was not naturally superstitious, as I have said before, yet there was something in the gloom, the deserted house, and this fatal room with its untold story of death which, added to her weird perceptions and that indescribable conviction of an unseen presence, caused even Gwen to press her hand convulsively upon her throbbing heart. For the first time in her life the awful possibilities of darkness were fully borne in upon her and she knew just how her father had felt.
In a moment, however, she had recovered from her first shock and had begun to reason. Might not the sound she had heard, and the movement she had felt, both be explained by an open window? She knew she had closed and locked all the windows of the room when she had finished airing it after the funeral, and she was not aware that anyone had been there since, yet she said to herself that perhaps one of the servants had come in and opened a window without her knowledge. She turned and looked. The lower sash of the eastern window—the one through which she felt sure death had approached her father—was raised to its utmost.
“How fortunate,” she murmured, “that I discovered this before leaving.”