Was there another thing I dreaded even more? I cannot say. I only know that the first baize doors had swung to behind me, and the second ones were close at hand, when the great dim thunder caught me, pouring up with prodigious volume so that it, seemed to roll out from another world. It shook the very bowels of the building. I was closer to it than that other time, when it had followed me from the goblin garden. There was strength and hardness in it, as of metal reverberation. Some touch of numbness, almost of paralysis, must surely have been upon me that I felt no actual terror, for I remember even turning and standing still to hear it better. “That is the Noise,” my thought ran stupidly, and I think I whispered it aloud; “the Doors are closing.” The wind outside against the windows was audible, so it cannot have been really loud, yet to me it was the biggest, deepest sound I have ever heard, but so far away, with such awful remoteness in it, that I had to doubt my own ears at the same time. It seemed underground—the rumbling of earthquake gates that shut remorselessly within the rocky Earth—stupendous ultimate thunder. They were shut off from help again. The doors had closed.
I felt a storm of pity, an agony of bitter, futile hate sweep through me. My memory of the figure changed then. The Woman with the glass of cooling water had stepped down from Heaven; but the Man—or was it Men? —who smeared this terrible layer of belief and Thought upon the world!...
I crossed the dining room—it was fancy, of course, that held my eyes from glancing at the portrait for fear I should see it smiling approval —and so finally reached the hall, where the light from the floor above seemed now quite bright in comparison. All the doors I dosed carefully behind me; but first I had to open them. The woman had closed every one. Up the stairs, then, I actually ran, two steps at a time. My sister was standing outside Mabel’s door. By her face I knew that she had also heard. There was no need to ask. I quickly made my mind up.
“There’s nothing,” I said, and detailed briefly my tour of search. “All is quiet and undisturbed downstairs.” May God forgive me!
She beckoned to me, closing the door softly behind her. My heart beat violently a moment, then stood still.
“Mabel,” she said aloud.
It was like the sentence of a judge, that one short word.
I tried to push past her and go in, but she stopped me with her arm. She was wholly mistress of herself, I saw.
“Hush!” she said in a lower voice. “I’ve got her round again with brandy. She’s sleeping quietly now. We won’t disturb her.”
She drew me farther out into the landing, and as she did so, the clock in the hall below struck half-past three. I had stood, then, thirty minutes in the corridor below. “You’ve been such a long time.” she said simply. “I feared for you,” and she took my hand in her own that was cold and clammy.