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- In the Closed Room - 7/7 -


Jane Foster's eyes filled with good-natured ready tears of sympathy.

"Won't you come up-stairs, ma'am?" she said. "Wouldn't you like to set in your own room perhaps?"

"No! No!" was the answer. "She was always there! She used to come into my bed in the morning. She used to watch me dress to go out. No! No!"

"I'll open the shutters in the library," said Jane.

"Oh! No! No! No! She would be sitting on the big sofa with her fairy story-book. She's everywhere--everywhere! How could I come! Why did I! But I couldn't keep away! I tried to stay in the mountains. But I couldn't. Something dragged me day and night. Nobody knows I am here!" She got up and looked about her again. "I have never been in here since I went out with HER," she said. "They would not let me come back. They said it would kill me. And now I have come--and everything is here--all the things we lived with--and SHE is millions and millions--and millions of miles away!"

"Who--who--was it?" Jane asked timidly in a low voice.

"It was my little girl," the poor young beauty said. "It was my little Andrea. Her portrait is in the library."

Jane began to tremble somewhat herself. "That--?" she began--and ended: "She is DEAD?"

Mrs. Haldon had dragged herself almost as if unconsciously to the stairs. She leaned against the newel post and her face dropped upon her hand.

"Oh! I don't KNOW!" she cried. "I cannot believe it. How COULD it be? She was playing in her nursery--laughing and playing--and she ran into the next room to show me a flower--and as she looked up at me--laughing, I tell you--laughing--she sank slowly down on her knees--and the flower fell out of her hand quietly--and everything went out of her face--everything was gone away from her, and there was never anything more--never!"

Jane Foster's hand had crept up to her throat. She did not know what made her cold.

"My little girl--" she began, "her name is Judith--"

"Where is she?" said Mrs. Haldon in a breathless way.

"She is up-stairs," Jane answered slowly. "She goes--into that back room--on the fourth floor--"

Mrs. Haldon turned upon her with wide eyes.

"It is locked!" she said. "They put everything away. I have the key."

"The door opens for her," said Jane. "She goes to play with a little girl--who comes to her. I think she comes over the roof from the next house."

"There is no child there!" Mrs. Haldon shuddered. But it was not with horror. There was actually a wild dawning bliss in her face. "What is she like?"

"She is like the picture." Jane scarcely knew her own monotonous voice. The world of real things was being withdrawn from her and she was standing without its pale--alone with this woman and her wild eyes. She began to shiver because her warm blood was growing cold. "She is a child with red hair--and there is a deep dimple near her mouth. Judith told me. You must not touch her."

She heard a wild gasp--a flash of something at once anguish and rapture blazed across the haggard, young face--and with a swerving as if her slight body had been swept round by a sudden great wind, Mrs. Haldon turned and fled up the stairs.

Jane Foster followed. The great wind swept her upward too. She remembered no single intake or outlet of breath until she was upon the fourth floor.

The door of the Closed Room stood wide open and Mrs. Haldon was swept within.

Jane Foster saw her stand in the middle of the room a second, a tall, swaying figure. She whirled to look about her and flung up her arms with an unearthly rapturous, whispered cry:

"It is all as she left it when she ran to me and fell. She has been here--to show me it is not so far!"

She sank slowly upon her knees, wild happiness in her face--wild tears pouring down it.

"She has seen her!" And she stretched forth yearning arms towards the little figure of Judith, who lay quiet upon the sofa in the corner. "Your little girl has seen her--and I dare not waken her. She is asleep."

Jane stood by the sofa--looking down. When she bent and touched the child the stillness of the room seemed to have got into her blood.

"No," she said, quivering, but with a strange simplicity. "No! not asleep! It was this way with her Aunt Hester."

THE END


In the Closed Room - 7/7

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