The convict’s quick ear had caught the sound. Instantly he knelt and then lay down at full length upon the ground below the window. It was a fine night and the conscientious Mr. Gall was walking his beat. The steady tramp of his heavy shoes had something ominous in it which struck terror into the heart of the wretched fugitive. With measured tread he came from the direction of the village. Reaching the cottage he paused and dimly in the starlight Mrs. Goddard could distinguish his glazed hat—the provincial constabulary still wore hats in those days. Mr. Gall stood not fifteen yards from the cottage, failed to observe that a window was open on the lower floor, nodded to himself as though satisfied with his inspection and walked on. Little by little the sound of his steps grew fainter in the distance. Walter slowly raised himself again from the ground, and put his head in at the window.
“You see it would not be hard to have you caught,” whispered his wife, still breathless with the passing excitement. “That was the policeman. If I had called him, it would have been all over with you. I tell you if you try to come again I will give you up.”
“Oh, that’s the way you treat me, is it?” said the convict with another oath. “Then you had better look out for your dear Mr. Juxon, that’s all.”
Without another word, Goddard glided away from the window, let himself out by the wicket gate and disappeared across the road.
Mary Goddard was in that moment less horrified by her husband’s threat than by his base ingratitude to herself and by the accusation he seemed to make against her. Worn out with the emotions of fear and anxiety, she had barely the strength to close and fasten the window. Then she sank into the first chair she could find in the dark and stared into the blackness around her. It seemed indeed more than she could bear. She was placed in the terrible position of being obliged to betray her fugitive husband, or of living in constant fear lest he should murder the best friend she had in the world.
On the morning after the events last described Mr. Ambrose sat at breakfast opposite his wife. The early post had just arrived, bringing the usual newspaper and two letters.
“Any news, my dear?” inquired Mrs. Ambrose with great suavity, as she rinsed her teacup in the bowl preparatory to repeating the dose. “Is not it time that we should hear from John?”
“There is a letter from him, strange to say. Wait a minute—my dear, the Tripos is over and he wants to know if he may stop here—”
“The Tripos over already! How has he done? Do tell me, Augustin!”
“He does not know,” returned the vicar, quickly looking over the contents of the letter. “The lists are not out—he thinks he has done very well—he has had a hint that he is high up—wants to know whether he may stop on his way to London—he is going to see his father—”