Stories of the Supernatural
4. The Southwest Chamber
"That school-teacher from Acton is coming to-day," said the elder Miss Gill,
"So she is," assented the younger Miss Gill, Amanda.
"I have decided to put her in the southwest chamber," said Sophia.
Amanda looked at her sister with an expression of mingled doubt and terror. "You
don't suppose she would--" she began hesitatingly.
"Would what?" demanded Sophia, sharply. She was more incisive than her
sister. Both were below the medium height, and stout, but Sophia was firm where
Amanda was flabby. Amanda wore a baggy old muslin (it was a hot day), and
Sophia was uncompromisingly hooked up in a starched and boned cambric over
her high shelving figure.
"I didn't know but she would object to sleeping in that room, as long as Aunt
Harriet died there such a little time ago," faltered Amanda.
"Well!" said Sophia, "of all the silly notions! If you are going to pick out rooms in
this house where nobody has died, for the boarders, you'll have your hands full.
Grandfather Ackley had seven children; four of them died here to my certain
knowledge, besides grandfather and grandmother. I think Great-grandmother
Ackley, grandfather's mother, died here, too; she must have; and Great-
grandfather Ackley, and grandfather's unmarried sister, Great-aunt Fanny Ackley.
I don't believe there's a room nor a bed in this house that somebody hasn't
passed away in."
"Well, I suppose I am silly to think of it, and she had better go in there," said
"I know she had. The northeast room is small and hot, and she's stout and likely
to feel the heat, and she's saved money and is able to board out summers, and
maybe she'll come here another year if she's well accommodated," said Sophia.
"Now I guess you'd better go in there and see if any dust has settled on anything
since it was cleaned, and open the west windows and let the sun in, while I see
to that cake."
Amanda went to her task in the southwest chamber while her sister stepped
heavily down the back stairs on her way to the kitchen.
"It seems to me you had better open the bed while you air and dust, then make it
up again," she called back.
"Yes, sister," Amanda answered, shudderingly.
Nobody knew how this elderly woman with the untrammeled imagination of a
child dreaded to enter the southwest chamber, and yet she could not have told
why she had the dread. She had entered and occupied rooms which had been
once tenanted by persons now dead. The room which had been hers in the little
house in which she and her sister had lived before coming here had been her
dead mother's. She had never reflected upon the fact with anything but loving
awe and reverence. There had never been any fear. But this was different. She
entered and her heart beat thickly in her ears. Her hands were cold. The room
was a very large one. The four windows, two facing south, two west, were