Nebraska Center for Writers

by Mignon Eberhart

There was, she realized, nothing to hear.
The whole great house was silent. Had there been any sound, particularly any stealthy, unaccustomed sound, she would have heard it at once. The room in which she was sitting was the very hub and center of the house. Into it opened the wide front entrance with only an open vestibule intervening, and from it on the opposite side opened the door leading out upon a strip of lawn ending in a white railing, broken where beach steps went downward out of sight, and then gray lake and gray sky.
And from that room branched like a tree all the other sections of the house, the main stem of which was the wide carpeted walnut stairway which turned over a small coatroom on its somber way to the two upper floors.
Charlotte sat with her narrow back stiffly erect in one of the shiny black wicker chairs which, with the array of ferns which lined the windows, did not look gay and frivolous as they were intended to look, but, instead, faintly funereal. On sunny days the wide windows brought the dancing blue of the lake and sky almost into the room, but on dark days, like that day, there was nothing gay in the room. The windows let you see, through spikes of green ferns, a strip of wet, brownish lawn and at its end a railing and then just gray space as if the world had dropped away there beyond the railing.
It was, thought Charlotte with irritation, a typical February fog that was creeping inexorably up from the lake. Presently it would sift through tightly closed windows and doors and would crawl silently through the house and would tickle her long, sensitive throat, and she would cough and Mina, upstairs, would grow nervous.
Across the room was a small writing desk with a mirror above it. On the desk, and directly under the pale circle of light cast by a small Lowestoft lamp, was a calendar, and Charlotte’s eyes darted toward it although she already knew that it was Tuesday, the twenty-second of February.
Four more days until the twenty-sixth. Her thin, wiry hand went to her throat and pulled a little at the black band of ribbon she always wore to conceal and hold up sagging muscles. It was not, however, the pressure of the ribbon that gave her that curious choking sensation. It was the necessity to subdue a strange rising excitement which was dreadful and yet oddly exhilarating and during the past few days had been growing more and more difficult to repress.
Then her hand stiffened as she listened.

Reprinted with permission
from Death in the Fog
Copyright © 1996
by Mignon Eberhart
U of Nebraska P

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