He paused at the door and looked in.
All was entirely as usual. In spite of the unpleasant expectancy roused, in spite of himself and his godliness, by the words of his wife and her awful head-nodding, the room gave back to him no echo or lingering scent of horror. The little bed stood there, white and innocent in the candlelight, the drawer still gaped, showing its pathetic contents; the furniture, pictures, texts, and all the rest remained in their places, harmless and undefiled as when Amy herself had set them there.
He looked carefully round before entering; then, stepping forward, he took the candle, closed the drawer, not without difficulty, glanced round once more, and went out, locking the door behind him.
“A pack of nonsense!” he said, as he tossed the key on to the table before his wife.
The theological discussion waxed late that night, and by ten o’clock Mrs. Nugent, under the influence of an excellent supper and a touch of stimulant, had begun to condemn her own terrors, or rather to cease to protest when her husband condemned them for her. A number of solutions had been proposed for the startling little incident, to none of which did she give an unqualified denial. It was the stooping that had done it; there had been a rush of blood to the head that had emptied the heart and caused the sinking feeling. It was the watercress eaten in such abundance on the previous afternoon. It was the fact that she had passed an unoccupied morning, owing to the closing of the shop. It was one of those things, or all of them, or some other like one of them. Even the little maid was reassured, when she came to take away the supper things, by the cheerful conversation of the couple, though she registered a private vow that for no consideration under heaven would she enter the bedroom on the right at the top of the stairs.
About half-past ten Mrs. Nugent said that she would step up to bed; and in that direction she went, accompanied by her husband, whose program it was presently to step round to the “Wheatsheaf” for an hour with the landlord after the bar was shut up.
At the door on the right hand he hesitated, but his wife passed on sternly; and as she passed into their own bedroom a piece of news came to his mind.
“That was Mr. Laurie you heard, Mary,” said he. “Jim told me he saw him go past just after dark.... Well, I’ll take the house-key with me.”
“When is he coming?” asked Mrs. Baxter with a touch of peevishness, as she sat propped up in her tall chair before the bedroom fire.
“He will be here about six,” said Maggie. “Are you sure you have finished?”
The old lady turned away her head from the rice pudding in a kind of gesture of repulsion. She was in the fractious period of influenza, and Maggie had had a hard time with her.