I’ll be glad when that gardener comes, she thought to herself. He’ll make a man in the house at any rate.
When Lizzie at last came in with the lemonade she found her mistress shaking her head.
“Cornelia, Cornelia,” she was murmuring to herself, “you should have taken to pistol practice when you were younger; it just shows how children waste their opportunities.”
THE STORM GATHERS
The long summer afternoon wore away, sunset came, red and angry, a sunset presaging storm. A chill crept into the air with the twilight. When night fell, it was not a night of silver patterns enskied, but a dark and cloudy cloak where a few stars glittered fitfully. Miss Cornelia, at dinner, saw a bat swoop past the window of the dining room in its scurrying flight, and narrowly escaped oversetting her glass of water with a nervous start. The tension of waiting—waiting—for some vague menace which might not materialize after all—had begun to prey on her nerves. She saw Dale off to the country club with relief—the girl looked a little better after her nap but she was still not her normal self. When Dale was gone, she wandered restlessly for some time between living-room and library, now giving an unnecessary dusting to a piece of bric-a-brac with her handkerchief, now taking a book from one of the shelves in the library only to throw it down before she read a page.
This house was queer. She would not have admitted it to Lizzie, for her soul’s salvation—but, for the first time in her sensible life, she listened for creakings of woodwork, rustling of leaves, stealthy steps outside, beyond the safe, bright squares of the windows—for anything that was actual, tangible, not merely formless fear.
“There’s too much room in the country for things to happen to you!” she confided to herself with a shiver. “Even the night—whenever I look out, it seems to me as if the night were ten times bigger and blacker than it ever is in New York!”
To comfort herself she mentally rehearsed her telephone conversation of the morning, the conversation she had not mentioned to her household. At the time it had seemed to her most reassuring—the plans she had based upon it adequate and sensible in the normal light of day. But now the light of day had been blotted out and with it her security. Her plans seemed weapons of paper against the sinister might of the darkness beyond her windows. A little wind wailed somewhere in that darkness like a beaten child—beyond the hills thunder rumbled, drawing near, and with it lightning and the storm.
She made herself sit down in the chair beside her favorite lamp on the center table and take up her knitting with stiff fingers. Knit two—purl two—Her hands fell into the accustomed rhythm mechanically—a spy, peering in through the French windows, would have deemed her the picture of calm. But she had never felt less calm in all the long years of her life.