But while she sang, something fell on my hand that caused me to sit up and insist on examining her eyes. She laughed; rather a strange, broken little laugh, I thought, and said it was nothing, and told me to lie still and go to sleep. So I wriggled down again and shut my eyes tight, but I could not understand what had made her cry.
Poor little mother, she had a notion, founded evidently upon inborn belief rather than upon observation, that all children were angels, and that, in consequence, an altogether exceptional demand existed for them in a certain other place, where there are more openings for angels, rendering their retention in this world difficult and undependable. My talk about ghosts must have made that foolishly fond heart ache with a vague dread that night, and for many a night onward, I fear.
For some time after this I would often look up to find my mother's eyes fixed upon me. Especially closely did she watch me at feeding times, and on these occasions, as the meal progressed, her face would acquire an expression of satisfaction and relief.
Once, during dinner, I heard her whisper to my father (for children are not quite so deaf as their elders think), "He seems to eat all right."
"Eat!" replied my father in the same penetrating undertone; "if he dies of anything, it will be of eating."
So my little mother grew less troubled, and, as the days went by, saw reason to think that my brother angels might consent to do without me for yet a while longer; and I, putting away the child with his ghostly fancies, became, in course of time, a grown-up person, and ceased to believe in ghosts, together with many other things that, perhaps, it were better for a man if he did believe in.
But the memory of that dingy graveyard, and of the shadows that dwelt therein, came back to me very vividly the other day, for it seemed to me as though I were a ghost myself, gliding through the silent streets where once I had passed swiftly, full of life.
Diving into a long unopened drawer, I had, by chance, drawn forth a dusty volume of manuscript, labelled upon its torn brown paper cover, NOVEL NOTES. The scent of dead days clung to its dogs'-eared pages; and, as it lay open before me, my memory wandered back to the summer evenings--not so very long ago, perhaps, if one but adds up the years, but a long, long while ago if one measures Time by feeling--when four friends had sat together making it, who would never sit together any more. With each crumpled leaf I turned, the uncomfortable conviction that I was only a ghost, grew stronger. The handwriting was my own, but the words were the words of a stranger, so that as I read I wondered to myself, saying: did I ever think this? did I really hope that? did I plan to do this? did I resolve to be such? does life, then, look so to the eyes of a young man? not knowing whether to smile or sigh.