THERE was no hope for him this time: it was the third stroke. Night after night I had
passed the house (it was vacation time) and studied the lighted square of window: and
night after night I had found it lighted in the same way, faintly and evenly. If he was
dead, I thought, I would see the reflection of candles on the darkened blind for I knew
that two candles must be set at the head of a corpse. He had often said to me: "I am not
long for this world," and I had thought his words idle. Now I knew they were true. Every
night as I gazed up at the window I said softly to myself the word paralysis. It had
always sounded strangely in my ears, like the word gnomon in the Euclid and the word
simony in the Catechism. But now it sounded to me like the name of some maleficent
and sinful being. It filled me with fear, and yet I longed to be nearer to it and to look
upon its deadly work.
Old Cotter was sitting at the fire, smoking, when I came downstairs to supper. While my
aunt was ladling out my stirabout he said, as if returning to some former remark of his:
"No, I wouldn't say he was exactly... but there was something queer... there was
something uncanny about him. I'll tell you my opinion...."
He began to puff at his pipe, no doubt arranging his opinion in his mind. Tiresome old
fool! When we knew him first he used to be rather interesting, talking of faints and
worms; but I soon grew tired of him and his endless stories about the distillery.
"I have my own theory about it," he said. "I think it was one of those ... peculiar cases ....
But it's hard to say...."
He began to puff again at his pipe without giving us his theory. My uncle saw me staring
and said to me:
"Well, so your old friend is gone, you'll be sorry to hear."
"Who?" said I.
"Is he dead?"
"Mr. Cotter here has just told us. He was passing by the house."
I knew that I was under observation so I continued eating as if the news had not
interested me. My uncle explained to old Cotter.