Returning to one’s summer house after it has been closed for the season is always an experience. How still lies the village which in summer was so full of pleasant sounds! From the chimneys of the farmhouses, a little blue wood-smoke floats into the cold, bright air; large crows walk about in the stubble of the cornfields, and, startled at an unusual presence, fly to the bare, purplish wood on vast, melancholy wings; in the deserted garden gusty breezes shake the gaunt stalks of withered flowers.
There is a brooding look about the house, and a dullness in its windows. One opens a door, which invariably sticks a little, and gropes into the cold, dark loneliness of the abandoned hall. Sometimes a forlorn overcoat, not quite good enough to be taken home, topped by a hat in the same sad case, hangs there in appallingly straight creases, like a dreadful ghost. The muffled furniture broods in suspended animation. Never could one possibly sit in that cold leather chair in the gloomy corner. A faint deserted odor — a blend of old chill air, the smell of woodwork, and the vague persuasiveness of moth-camphor—lies motionless.
One is sure to look for something forgotten, or to find something that, should n’t have been forgotten. One thinks, Shall I take it home? Shall I hear, ‘Oh, I’m so glad you brought that, back; I meant to speak to you about it before you went’? Or will it be the ungrateful, ‘What on earth did you ever bring that thing back for?’
Yet sometimes there are treasures in the house. One may find in an old coat, worn on the day the ice-man’s bill was paid, the cold, dull silver coins, tarnished pennies, and raglike bills which form the forgotten but everwelcome residue of that transaction. Sometimes the treasure is a half-finished book, a fountain pen, or a leaf of two-cent stamps.
Conscientious as a watchman in a bank, the visitor makes the tour of the ghostly rooms. The skeleton-like furniture reveals its secrets: the bed in the blue room must have a new spring; the rocker needs repairing. Diningroom, chambers, bathroom, kitchen, all well: no moth nor rust doth corrupt, nor do thieves break through and steal. A little sigh of relief. One slams the front door; it’s the only way it can be made to shut.
Yet in the spring, when the windows are opened to the warm sunny day, and a villager with a pail and mop begins her annual purification, the house will burst of a sudden into life.