In the desperate anxiety for his fate, she forgot herself and seemed no longer to feel fatigue or exhaustion from all she herself had suffered. She stood long by his bedside, hoping that he might recognise her and yet fearing the moment when he should recover his senses. Then she noticed that the morning sun was pouring in through the window and she drew a curtain across, to shade his eyes from the glare. Whether the sudden changing of the light affected Goddard, as it does sometimes affect persons in the delirium of a brain fever, or whether it was only a natural turn in his condition, she never knew. His expression changed and acquired that same look of strange intelligence which John Short had noticed in the night; the flush sank from his forehead and gave place to a luminous, transparent colour, his eyelids once more moved naturally, and he looked at his wife as she stood beside him, and recognised her. He was weaker now than when he had spoken with John Short six hours earlier, but he was more fully in possession of his faculties for a brief moment. Mary Goddard trembled and felt her hands turn cold with excitement.
“Walter, do you know me now?” she asked very softly.
“Yes,” he said faintly, and closed his eyes. She laid her hand upon his forehead; the coldness of it seemed pleasant to him, for a slight smile flickered over his face.
“You are better, I think,” she said again, gazing intently at him.
“Mary—it is Mary?” he murmured, slowly opening his eyes and looking up to her. “Yes—I know you—I have been dreaming a long time. I’m so tired—”
“You must not talk,” said she. “It will tire you more.” Then she gave him some drink. “Try and sleep,” she said in a soothing tone.
“I cannot—oh, Mary, I am very ill.”
“But you will get well again—”
Goddard started suddenly, and laid his hand upon her arm with more force than she suspected he possessed.
“Where am I?” he asked, staring about the room. “Is this your house, Mary? What became of Juxon?”
“He is not hurt. He brought you home in his arms, Walter, to his own house, and is taking care of you.”
“Good heavens! He will give me up. No, no, don’t hold me—I must be off”
He made a sudden effort to rise, but he was very weak. He fell back exhausted upon his pillow; his fingers gripped the sheet convulsively, and his face grew paler.
“Caught—like a rat!” he muttered. Mary Goddard sighed.
Was she to give him hope of escape? Or should she try to calm him now, and when he was better, break the truth to him? Was she to make him believe that he was safe for the present, and hold out a prospect of escape when he should be better, or should she tell him now, once for all, while he was in his senses, that he was lost? It was a terrible position. Love she had none left for him, but there was infinite pity still in her heart and there would be while he breathed. She hesitated one moment only, and it may be that she decided for the wrong; but it was her pity that moved her, and not any remnant of love.