The Room Of The Evil Thought
THEY called it the room of the Evil
Thought. It was really the pleas-
antest room in the house, and
when the place had been used as
the rectory, was the minister's study. It
looked out on a mournful clump of larches,
such as may often be seen in the old-fash-
ioned yards in Michigan, and these threw a
tender gloom over the apartment.
There was a wide fireplace in t
and it had been the young minister's habit
to sit there hours and hours, staring ahead of
him at the fire, and smoking moodily. The
replenishing of the fire and of his pipe, it
was said, would afford him occupation all
the day long, and that was how it came about
that his parochial duties were neglected so
that, little by little, the people became dis-
satisfied with him, though he was an eloquent
young man, who could send his congregation
away drunk on his influence. However, the
calmer pulsed among his parish began to
whisper that it was indeed the influence of
the young minister and not that of the Holy
Ghost which they felt, and it was finally
decided that neither animal magnetism nor
hypnotism were good substitutes for religion.
And so they let him go.
The new rector moved into a smart brick
house on the other side of the church, and
gave receptions and dinner parties, and was
punctilious about making his calls. The
people therefore liked him very much -- so
much that they raised the debt on the church
and bought a chime of bells, in their enthu-
siasm. Every one was lighter of heart than
under the ministration of the previous rector.
A burden appeared to be lifted from the com-
munity. True, there were a few who con-
fessed the new man did not give them the
food for thought which the old one had done,
but, then, the former rector had made them
uncomfortable! He had not only made them
conscious of the sins of which they were
already guilty, but also of those for which
they had the latent capacity. A strange and
fatal man, whom women loved to their sor-
row, and whom simple men could not under-
stand! It was generally agreed that the parish
was well rid of him.
"He was a genius," said the people in
commiseration. The word was an uncom-
plimentary epithet with them.
When the Hanscoms moved in the house
which had been the old rectory, they gave
Grandma Hanscom the room with the fire-
place. Grandma was well pleased. The
roaring fire warmed her heart as well as her
chill old body, and she wept with weak joy
when she looked at the larches, because they
reminded her of the house she had lived in
when she was first married. All the forenoon
of the first day she was busy putting things
away in bureau drawers and closets, but by
afternoon she was ready to sit down in her
high-backed rocker and enjoy the comforts of
She nodded a bit before the fire, as she
usually did after luncheon, and then she
awoke with an awful start and sat staring
before her with such a look in her gentle,
filmy old eyes as had never been there before.
She did not move, except to rock slightly,
and the Thought grew and grew till her face
was disguised as by some hideous mask of
By and by the children came pounding at
"Oh, grandma, let us in, please. We
want to see your new room, and mamma
gave us some ginger cookies on a plate, and
we want to give some to you."
The door gave way under their assaults, and
the three little ones stood peeping in, wait-
ing for permission to enter. But it did not
seem to be their grandma -- their own dear
grandma -- who arose and tottered toward
them in fierce haste, crying:
"Away, away! Out of my sight! Out of
my sight before I do the thing I want to do!
Such a terrible thing! Send some one to me
quick, children, children! Send some one
They fled with feet shod with fear, and
their mother came, and Grandma Hanscom
sank down and clung about her skirts and
"Tie me, Miranda. Make me fast to the
bed or the wall. Get some one to watch me.
For I want to do an awful thing!"
They put the trembling old creature in bed,
and she raved there all the night long and
cried out to be held, and to be kept from
doing the fearful thing, whatever it was -- for
she never said what it was.
The next morning some one suggested tak-
ing her in the sitting-room where she would
be with the family. So they laid her on the
sofa, hemmed around with cushions, and
before long she was her quiet self again,
though exhausted, naturally, with the tumult
of the previous night. Now and then, as the
children played about her, a shadow crept
over her face -- a shadow as of cold remem-
brance -- and then the perplexed tears
When she seemed as well as ever they put
her back in her room. But though the fire
glowed and the lamp burned, as soon as ever
she was alone they heard her shrill cries ring-
ing to them that the Evil Thought had come
again. So Hal, who was home from col-
lege, carried her up to his room, which
she seemed to like very well. Then he went
down to have a smoke before grandma's
The next morning he was absent from break-
fast. They thought he might have gone for
an early walk, and waited for him a few min-
utes. Then his sister went to the room that
looked upon the larches, and found him
dressed and pacing the floor with a face set
and stern. He had not been in bed at all,
as she saw at once. His eyes were bloodshot,
his face stricken as if with old age or sin or
-- but she could not make it out. When he
saw her he sank in a chair and covered his
face with his hands, and between the trembling
fingers she could see drops of perspiration on
"Hal!" she cried, "Hal, what is it?"
But for answer he threw his arms about the
little table and clung to it, and looked at her
with tortured eyes, in which she fancied she
saw a gleam of hate. She ran, screaming,
from the room, and her father came and went
up to him and laid his hands on the boy's
shoulders. And then a fearful thing hap-
pened. All the family saw it. There could
be no mistake. Hal's hands found their way
with frantic eagerness toward his father's
throat as if they would choke him, and the
look in his eyes was so like a madman's that
his father raised his fist and felled him as he
used to fell men years before in the college
fights, and then dragged him into the sitting-
room and wept over him.
By evening, however, Hal was all right, and
the family said it must have been a fever, --
perhaps from overstudy, -- at which Hal cov-
ertly smiled. But his father was still too
anxious about him to let him out of his sight,
so he put him on a cot in his room, and thus
it chanced that the mother and Grace con-
cluded to sleep together downstairs.
The two women made a sort of festival of
it, and drank little cups of chocolate before
the fire, and undid and brushed their brown
braids, and smiled at each other, understand-
ingly, with that sweet intuitive sympathy
which women have, and Grace told her
mother a number of things which she had
been waiting for just such an auspicious oc-
casion to confide.
But the larches were noisy and cried out
with wild voices, and the flame of the fire
grew blue and swirled about in the draught
sinuously, so that a chill crept upon the two.
Something cold appeared to envelop them --
such a chill as pleasure voyagers feel when
a berg steals beyond Newfoundland and
glows blue and threatening upon their ocean
Then came something else which was not
cold, but hot as the flames of hell -- and they
saw red, and stared at each other with mad-
dened eyes, and then ran together from the
room and clasped in close embrace safe
beyond the fatal place, and thanked God
they had not done the thing that they dared
not speak of -- the thing which suddenly came
to them to do.
So they called it the room of the Evil
Thought. They could not account for it.
They avoided the thought of it, being healthy
and happy folk. But none entered it more.
The door was locked.
One day, Hal, reading the paper, came
across a paragraph concerning the young min-
ister who had once lived there, and who had
thought and written there and so influenced
the lives of those about him that they remem-
bered him even while they disapproved.
"He cut a man's throat on board ship for
Australia," said he, "and then he cut his own,
without fatal effect -- and jumped overboard,
and so ended it. What a strange thing!"
Then they all looked at one another with
subtle looks, and a shadow fell upon them
and stayed the blood at their hearts.
The next week the room of the Evil Thought
was pulled down to make way for a pansy bed,
which is quite gay and innocent, and blooms
all the better because the larches, with their
eternal murmuring, have been laid low and
carted away to the sawmill.