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The Mayor's Wife

4. Lights--Sounds
I am by nature a thoroughly practical woman. If I had not been, the many
misfortunes of my life would have made me so. Yet, when the library door closed
behind the mayor and I found myself again alone in a spot where I had not felt
comfortable from the first, I experienced an odd sensation not unlike fear. It left
me almost immediately and my full reasoning powers reasserted themselves; but
the experience had been mine and I could not smile it away.
The result was a conviction, which even reason could not dispel, that whatever
secret tragedy or wrong had signalized this house, its perpetration had taken
place in this very room. It was a fancy, but it held, and under its compelling if
irrational influence, I made a second and still more minute survey of the room to
which this conviction had imparted so definite an interest.
I found it just as ordinary and unsuggestive as before; an old-fashioned, square
apartment renovated and redecorated to suit modern tastes. Its furnishings I
have already described; they were such as may be seen in any comfortable
abode. I did not linger over them a moment; besides, they were the property of
the present tenant, and wholly disconnected with the past I was insensibly
considering. Only the four walls and what they held, doors, windows and mantel-
piece, remained to speak of those old days. Of the doors there were two, one
opening into the main hall under the stairs, the other into a cross corridor
separating the library from the dining-room. It was through the dining-room door
Nixon had come when he so startled me by speaking unexpectedly over my
shoulder! The two windows faced the main door, as did the ancient, heavily
carved mantel. I could easily imagine the old-fashioned shutters hidden behind
the modern curtains, and, being anxious to test the truth of my imaginings, rose
and pulled aside one of these curtains only to see, just as I expected, the blank
surface of a series of unslatted shutters, tightly fitting one to another with old-time
exactitude. A flat hook and staple fastened them. Gently raising the window, and
lifting one, I pulled the shutter open and looked out. The prospect was just what I
had been led to expect from the location of the room--the long, bare wall of the
neighboring house. I was curious about that house, more curious at this moment
than ever before; for though it stood a good ten feet away from the one I was
now in, great pains had been taken by its occupants to close every opening
which might invite the glances of a prying eye. A door which had once opened on
the alley running between the two houses had been removed and its place
boarded up. So with a window higher up; the half-circle window near the roof, I
could not see from my present point of view.
Drawing back, I reclosed the shutter, lowered the window and started for my own
room. As I passed the first stair-head, I heard a baby's laugh, followed by a merry
shout, which, ringing through the house, seemed to dispel all its shadows.