IN WHICH A GHOST TRESPASSES
The impulse which drove Penelope out for the second time that night may he readily appreciated. Its foundation was fear; its subordinate emotions were shame, self-pity and consciousness of her real feeling toward the man of the house. The true spirit of womanhood revolted with its usual waywardness.
She was flying down the stony road, some distance from the cottage, in the very face of the coming tornado, her heart beating like a trip-hammer, her eyes bent on the little light up the mountain-side, before it occurred to her that this last flight was not only senseless but perilous. She even laughed at herself for a fool as she recalled the tell-tale handbag on the porch and the damning presence of a Bazelhurst lantern in the hallway.
The storm which had been raging farther down the valley was at last whirling up to the hill-tops, long delayed as if in gleeful anticipation of catching her alone and unprotected. The little electric saddle-lamp that she carried gave out a feeble glow, scarce opening the way in the darkness more than ten feet ahead. Rough and irksome was the road, most stubborn the wall of wind. The second threat of the storm was more terrifying than the first; at any instant it was likely to break forth in all its slashing fury—and she knew not whither she went.
Even as she lost heart and was ready to turn wildly back in an effort to reach Shaw’s home before the deluge, the lightning flashes revealed to her the presence of a dwelling just off the road not two hundred feet ahead. She stumbled forward, crying like a frightened child. There were no lights. The house looked dark, bleak, unfriendly. Farther up the hillside still gleamed the little light that was meant to keep Renwood’s ghost from disturbing the slumbers of old man Grimes and his wife. She could not reach that light, that much she knew. Her feet were like hundredweights, her limbs almost devoid of power; Grimes’ hut appeared to be a couple of miles away. With a last, breathless effort, she turned off the road and floundered through weeds and brush until she came to what proved to be the rear of the darkened house. Long, low, rangy it reached off into the shadows, chilling in its loneliness. There was no time left for her to climb the flight of steps and pound on the back door. The rain was swishing in the trees with a hiss that forbade delay.
She threw herself, panting and terror-stricken, into the cave-like opening under the porch, her knees giving way after the supreme effort. The great storm broke as she crouched far back against the wall; her hands over her ears, her eyes tightly closed. She was safe from wind and rain, but not from the sounds of that awful conflict. The lantern lay at her feet, sending its ray out into the storm with the senseless fidelity of a beacon light.