I looked in at the window, saw nothing, and said so. There was the great empty drawing-room, across which one could see the opposite window, and through this the eastern piazza and the garden beyond. Nothing more was there. With some persuasion, Severance was induced to look in. He admitted that he saw nothing peculiar; but he refused all explanation, and we went home.
"Never let me go to that house again," he said abruptly, as we entered our own door.
I pointed out to him the absurdity of thus yielding to a nervous delusion, which was already in part conquered, and he finally promised to revisit the scene with me the next day. To clear all possible misgivings from my own mind, I got the key of the house from Paul, explored it thoroughly, and was satisfied that no improper visitor had recently entered the drawing-room at least, as the windows were strongly bolted on the inside, and a large cobweb, heavy with dust, hung across the doorway. This did no great credit to Paul's stewardship, but was, perhaps, a slight relief to me. Nor could I see a trace of anything uncanny outside the house. When Severance went with me, next day, the coast was equally clear, and I was glad to have cured him so easily.
Unfortunately, it did not last. A few days after, there was a brilliant sunset, after a storm, with gorgeous yellow light slanting everywhere, and the sun looking at us between bars of dark purple cloud, edged with gold where they touched the pale blue sky; all this fading at last into a great whirl of gray to the northward, with a cold purple ground. At the height of the show, I climbed the wall to my favorite piazza, and was surprised to find Severance already there.
He sat facing the sunset, but with his head sunk between his hands. At my approach, he looked up, and rose to his feet. "Do not deceive me any more," he said, almost savagely, and pointed to the window.
I looked in, and must confess that, for a moment, I too was startled. There was a perceptible moment of time during which it seemed as if no possible philosophy could explain what appeared in sight. Not that any object showed itself within the great drawing-room, but I distinctly saw--across the apartment, and through the opposite window--the dark figure of a man about my own size, who leaned against the long window, and gazed intently on me. Above him spread the yellow sunset light, around him the birch-boughs hung and the ivy-tendrils swayed, while behind him there appeared a glimmering water-surface, across which slowly drifted the tall masts of a schooner. It looked strangely like a view I had seen of some foreign harbor,--Amalfi, perhaps,--with a vine-clad balcony and a single human figure in the foreground. So real and startling was the sight that at first it was not easy to resolve the whole scene into its component parts. Yet it was simply such a confused mixture of real and reflected images as one often sees from the window of a railway carriage, where the mirrored interior seems to glide beside the train, with the natural landscape for a background. In this case, also, the frame and foliage of the picture were real, and all else was reflected; the sunlit bay behind us was reproduced as in a camera, and the dark figure was but the full-length image of myself.
It was easy to explain all this to Severance, but he shook his head. "So cool a philosopher as yourself," he said, "should remember that this image is not always visible. At our last visit, we looked for it in vain. When we first saw it, it appeared and disappeared within ten minutes. On your mechanical theory it should be other-wise."
This staggered me for a moment. Then the ready solution occurred, that the reflection depended on the strength and direction of the light; and I proved to him that, in our case, it had appeared and disappeared with the sunshine. He was silenced, but evidently not convinced; yet time and common-sense, it seemed, would take care of that.
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