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 lightening 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.
She wouldn't ring for Lizzie to come and sit with her, she simply wouldn't. But she was
very glad, nevertheless, when Lizzie appeared at the door.
"Yes, Lizzie?" Miss Cornelia's voice was composed but her heart felt a throb of relief.