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Stories of the Supernatural

3. Luella Miller
Close to the village street stood the one-story house in which Luella Miller, who
had an evil name in the village, had dwelt. She had been dead for years, yet
there were those in the village who, in spite of the clearer light which comes on a
vantage-point from a long-past danger, half believed in the tale which they had
heard from their childhood. In their hearts, although they scarcely would have
owned it, was a survival of the wild horror and frenzied fear of their ancestors
who had dwelt in the same age with Luella Miller. Young people even would
stare with a shudder at the old house as they passed, and children never played
around it as was their wont around an untenanted building. Not a window in the
old Miller house was broken: the panes reflected the morning sunlight in patches
of emerald and blue, and the latch of the sagging front door was never lifted,
although no bolt secured it. Since Luella Miller had been carried out of it, the
house had had no tenant except one friendless old soul who had no choice
between that and the far-off shelter of the open sky. This old woman, who had
survived her kindred and friends, lived in the house one week, then one morning
no smoke came out of the chimney, and a body of neighbours, a score strong,
entered and found her dead in her bed. There were dark whispers as to the
cause of her death, and there were those who testified to an expression of fear
so exalted that it showed forth the state of the departing soul upon the dead face.
The old woman had been hale and hearty when she entered the house, and in
seven days she was dead; it seemed that she had fallen a victim to some
uncanny power. The minister talked in the pulpit with covert severity against the
sin of superstition; still the belief prevailed. Not a soul in the village but would
have chosen the almshouse rather than that dwelling. No vagrant, if he heard the
tale, would seek shelter beneath that old roof, unhallowed by nearly half a
century of superstitious fear.
There was only one person in the village who had actually known Luella Miller.
That person was a woman well over eighty, but a marvel of vitality and unextinct
youth. Straight as an arrow, with the spring of one recently let loose from the bow
of life, she moved about the streets, and she always went to church, rain or
shine. She had never married, and had lived alone for years in a house across
the road from Luella Miller's.
This woman had none of the garrulousness of age, but never in all her life had
she ever held her tongue for any will save her own, and she never spared the
truth when she essayed to present it. She it was who bore testimony to the life,
evil, though possibly wittingly or designedly so, of Luella Miller, and to her
personal appearance. When this old woman spoke--and she had the gift of
description, although her thoughts were clothed in the rude vernacular of her
native village--one could seem to see Luella Miller as she had really looked.
According to this woman, Lydia Anderson by name, Luella Miller had been a
beauty of a type rather unusual in New England. She had been a slight, pliant
sort of creature, as ready with a strong yielding to fate and as unbreakable as a
willow. She had glimmering lengths of straight, fair hair, which she wore softly
 
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