‘But will she tell me—she is such a rum un, Miss?’ suggested Mary.
’Tell her exactly what I have said to you, and when she learns that you already know as much as I do, she may—unless, indeed, she wishes to torture me. If she won’t, perhaps at least you can persuade her to come to me for a moment. Try, dear Mary; we can but fail.’
‘Will you be very lonely, Miss, while I am away?’ asked Mary, uneasily, as she lighted her candle.
’I can’t help it, Mary. Go. I think if I heard we were going, I could almost get up and dance and sing. I can’t bear this dreadful uncertainty any longer.’
’If old Wyat is outside, I’ll come back and wait here a bit, till she’s out o’ the way,’ said Mary; ’and, anyhow, I’ll make all the haste I can. The drops and the sal-volatile is here, Miss, by your hand.’
And with an anxious look at me, she made her exit, softly, and did not immediately return, by which I concluded that she had found the way clear, and had gained the upper story without interruption.
This little anxiety ended, its subsidence was followed by a sense of loneliness, and with it, of vague insecurity, which increased at last to such a pitch, that I wondered at my own madness in sending my companion away; and at last my terrors so grew, that I drew back into the farthest corner of the bed, with my shoulders to the wall, and my bed-clothes huddled about me, with only a point open to peep at.
At last the door opened gently.
‘Who’s there?’ I cried, in extremity of horror, expecting I knew not whom.
‘Me, Miss,’ whispered Mary Quince, to my unutterable relief; and with her candle flared, and a wild and pallid face, Mary Quince glided into the room, locking the door as she entered.
I do not know how it was, but I found myself holding Mary fast with both my hands as we stood side by side on the floor.
‘Mary, you are terrified; for God’s sake, what is the matter?’ I cried.
‘No, Miss,’ said Mary, faintly, ‘not much.’
‘I see it in your face. What is it?’
’Let me sit down, Miss. I’ll tell you what I saw; only I’m just a bit queerish.’
Mary sat down by my bed.
’Get in, Miss; you’ll take cold. Get into bed, and I’ll tell you. It is not much.’
I did get into bed, and gazing on Mary’s frightened face, I felt a corresponding horror.
‘For mercy’s sake, Mary, say what it is?’
So again assuring me ‘it was not much,’ she gave me in a somewhat diffuse and tangled narrative the following facts:—
On closing my door, she raised her candle above her head and surveyed the lobby, and seeing no one there she ascended the stairs swiftly. She passed along the great gallery to the left, and paused a moment at the cross gallery, and then recollected my directions clearly, and followed the passage to the right.
There are doors at each side, and she had forgotten to ask me at which Madame’s was. She opened several. In one room she was frightened by a bat, which had very nearly put her candle out. She went on a little, paused, and began to lose heart in the dismal solitude, when on a sudden, a few doors farther on, she thought she heard Madame’s voice.