I now stood in the empty hall; before me was the breakfast-room door, and
I stopped, intimidated and trembling. What a miserable little poltroon
had fear, engendered of unjust punishment, made of me in those days! I
feared to return to the nursery, and feared to go forward to the parlour;
ten minutes I stood in agitated hesitation; the vehement ringing of the
breakfast-room bell decided me; I must enter.
"Who could want me?" I asked inwardly, as with both hands I turned the
stiff door-handle, which, for a second or two, resisted my efforts. "What
should I see besides Aunt Reed in the apartment?--a man or a woman?" The
handle turned, the door unclosed, and passing through and curtseying low,
I looked up at--a black pillar!--such, at least, appeared to me, at first
sight, the straight, narrow, sable-clad shape standing erect on the rug:
the grim face at the top was like a carved mask, placed above the shaft
by way of capital.