But in moments of great agitation timid people, or people who are thought timid, not uncommonly do brave things. Mrs. Goddard unclasped Nellie’s hold and forced the terror-struck child into a deep chair.
“Stay there, darling,” she said with unnatural calmness. “Do not be afraid. I will go and open the door.”
Nellie was now too much frightened to resist. Mrs. Goddard went out into the little passage which was dimly lighted by a hanging lamp, and closed the door of the drawing-room behind her. She could hear Nellie’s occasional convulsive sobs distinctly. For one moment she paused, her right hand on the lock of the front door, her left hand pressed to her side, leaning against the wall of the passage. Then she turned the key and the handle and drew the door in towards her. A violent gust of wind, full of cold and drenching rain, whirled into the passage and almost blinded her. The lamp flickered in the lantern overhead. But she looked boldly out, facing the wind and weather.
“Come in!” she called in a low voice.
Immediately there was a sound as of footsteps coming from the direction of the drawing-room window, across the wet slate flags which surrounded the cottage, and a moment afterwards, peering through the darkness, Mrs. Goddard saw a man with a ghastly face standing before her in the rain.
Mrs. Goddard’s heart stood still as she looked at the wretched man, and tried to discover her husband’s face, even a resemblance to him, in the haggard features she saw close before her. But he gave her small time for reflection; so soon as he had recognised her he sprang past her into the passage and pulling her after him closed the door.
“Mary—don’t you know me?” he said, in low tones. “You must save me—they are after me—” He stood close beside her in the narrow way, beneath the small lamp; he tried to put his arm around her and he bent down and brought his ghastly face close to hers. But she drew back as from a contamination. She was horrified, and it was a natural movement. She knew his voice even better than his features, now that he spoke. He pressed nearer to her and she thrust him back with her hands. Then suddenly a thought struck her; she took him by the sleeve and led him into the dining-room. There was no light there; she pushed him in.
“Stay there one minute—”
“No—no, you won’t call—”
“I will save you—there is—there is somebody in the drawing-room.” Before he could answer her she was gone, leaving him alone in the dark. He listened intently, not venturing to leave the spot where she had placed him; he thought he heard voices and footsteps, but no one came out into the passage. It seemed an eternity to wait. At last she came, bearing a lighted candle in her hand. She carefully shut the door of the dining-room behind her and put the light upon the table. She moved like a person in a dream.