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The Door of the Trap
by [?]

Winifred Walker understood some things clearly enough. She understood that when a man is put behind iron bars he is in prison. Marriage was marriage to her.

It was that to her husband Hugh Walker, too, as he found out. Still he didn’t understand. It might have been better had he understood, then he might at least have found himself. He didn’t. After his marriage five or six years passed like shadows of wind blown trees playing on a wall. He was in a drugged, silent state. In the morning and evening every day he saw his wife. Occasionally something happened within him and he kissed her. Three children were born. He taught mathematics in the little college at Union Valley, Illinois, and waited.

For what? He began to ask himself that question. It came to him at first faintly like an echo. Then it became an insistent question.”I want answering,” the question seemed to say.”Stop fooling along. Give your attention to me.”

Hugh walked through the streets of the Illinois town.”Well, I’m married. I have children,” he muttered.

He went home to his own house. He did not have to live within his income from the little college, and so the house was rather large and comfortably furnished. There was a negro woman who took care of the children and another who cooked and did the housework. One of the women was in the habit of crooning low soft negro songs. Sometimes Hugh stopped at the house door and listened. He could see through the glass in the door into the room where his family was gathered. Two children played with blocks on the floor. His wife sat sewing. The old negress sat in a rocking chair with his youngest child, a baby, in her arms. The whole room seemed under the spell of the crooning voice. Hugh fell under the spell. He waited in silence. The voice carried him far away somewhere, into forests, along the edges of swamps. There was nothing very definite about his thinking. He would have given a good deal to be able to be definite.

He went inside the house.”Well, here I am,” his mind seemed to say, “here I am. This is my house, these are my children.”

He looked at his wife Winifred. She had grown a little plump since their marriage.”Perhaps it is the mother in her coming out, she has had three children,” he thought.

The crooning old negro woman went away, taking the youngest child with her. He and Winifred held a fragmentary conversation.”Have you been well to-day, dear?” she asked.”Yes,” he answered.

If the two older children were intent on their play his chain of thought was not broken. His wife never broke it as the children did when they came running to pull and tear at him. Throughout the early evening, after the children went to bed, the surface of the shell of him was not broken at all. A brother college professor and his wife came in or he and Winifred went to a neighbor’s house. There was talk. Even when he and Winifred were alone together in the house there was talk.”The shutters are becoming loose,” she said. The house was an old one and had green shutters. They were continually coming loose and at night blew back and forth on their hinges making a loud banging noise.

Hugh made some remark. He said he would see a carpenter about the shutters. Then his mind began playing away, out of his wife’s presence, out of the house, in another sphere.”I am a house and my shutters are loose,” his mind said. He thought of himself as a living thing inside a shell, trying to break out. To avoid distracting conversation he got a book and pretended to read. When his wife had also begun to read he watched her closely, intently. Her nose was so and so and her eyes so and so. She had a little habit with her hands. When she became lost in the pages of a book the hand crept up to her cheek, touched it and then was put down again. Her hair was not in very good order. Since her marriage and the coming of the children she had not taken good care of her body. When she read her body slumped down in the chair. It became bag-like. She was one whose race had been run.