Goddard’s face was pale but not deathlike, and his breathing seemed regular and gentle; but his eyes were almost closed and he seemed not aware that any one had entered. Mrs. Ambrose was struck by his appearance which was greatly changed since she had left him half an hour earlier, his face purple and his harsh moaning continuing unceasingly. She said to herself that he was probably better. There was all the more reason for warning Mary Goddard of the new danger that awaited him. She shut the door and locked it and withdrew the key. At the sound Mary looked up—then rose to her feet with a sad look of reproach, as though not wishing to be disturbed. But Mrs. Ambrose came quickly to her side, and glancing once at Goddard, to see whether he was unconscious, she led her away from the bed.
“My dear,” she said very kindly, but in a voice trembling with excitement, “I had to come. There are detectives in the house, clamouring to take him away—but I will protect you—they shall not do it.”
Mary Goddard started and her eyes stared wildly at her friend. But presently the look of resigned sadness returned, and a faint and mournful smile flickered on her lips.
“I think it is all over,” she said. “He is still alive—but he will not live till they come.”
Then she bit her lip tightly, and all the features of her face trembled a little. The tears would rise spasmodically, though they were only tears of pity, not of love. Mrs. Ambrose, the severe, the stern, the eternally vigilant Mrs. Ambrose, sat down by the window; she put her arm about Mary Goddard’s waist and took her upon her knee as though she had been a little child and laid her head upon her breast, comforting her as best she could. And their tears flowed down and mingled together, for many minutes.
But once more the sick man’s voice was heard; both women started to their feet and went to his side.
“Mary Goddard! Mary Goddard! Let me in!” he moaned faintly.
“It is I—here I am, Walter, dear Walter—I am with you,” answered Mary, raising him and putting her arm about his neck, while Mrs. Ambrose arranged the pillows behind him. He opened his eyes as though with a great effort.
Some one knocked softly at the door. Mrs. Ambrose left the bedside quickly and put the key in the lock.
“Who is there?” she asked, before she opened.
“I—John. Please let me in.”
Mrs. Ambrose opened and John entered, very pale; she locked the door again after him. He stood still looking with astonishment at Mrs. Goddard who still propped the sick man in her arms and hardly noticed him.
“Why—?” he ejaculated and then checked himself, or rather was checked by Mrs. Ambrose’s look. Then he spoke to her in a whisper.
“There is an awful row going on between the doctor and the detective,” he said hurriedly under his breath. “They are coming upstairs and the vicar and Mr. Juxon are trying to part them—I don’t know what they are not saying to each other—”