He paused in sheer astonishment, looking at her, and he observed she trembled—trembled all over with the meek courage it cost her to thus exhibit herself; for she appeared to have opened the door for no other purpose than to let him see her. She said nothing, and he—most men are cowards with regard to women—he had a vague sense that it was his duty to ask her why she wore that dress, but he did not do it. He had no reason to suppose her mad; she had a perfect right to array herself in full dress at night if she chose; she was a great deal older than he, a woman worthy of all respect. This was the tenor of his thought—of his self-excusing, it might be. He bade her good-night again, somewhat timidly. Surely, he thought, it was her place to make remark, if remark were needful; but she stood there silent till he had gone back into the room. Then she shut the kitchen door.
In a little while, however, as stillness reigned in the house, some presentiment of evil made him think it would be as well to go and see if Mrs. Martha had finished trying on her finery and gone to bed as usual. He found the kitchen dark and empty. He went to the foot of her stairs. There was no chink of light showing from her room. The stillness of the place entered into his mind as the thin edge of a wedge of alarm. “Mrs. Martha!” he called in sonorous voice. “Mrs. Martha!” But no one answered. He opened the back-door, and swept the dark garden with the light of his lamp, but she was not there. Lamp in hand, he went upstairs, and passed rapidly through the different rooms. As he entered the less frequented ones, he began to fear almost as much to see the gaily-attired figure as he would have done to see a ghost. He did not know why this feeling crept over him, but, whether he feared or hoped to see her, he did not. The house was empty, save for himself. The night blast beat upon it. The darkness outside was rife with storm, but into it the old woman must have gone in her festal array.
Trenholme went out on the verandah. At first, in the night, he saw nothing but the shadowy forms of the college building and of the trees upon the road. It was not raining at the moment, but the wind made it hard to catch any sound continuously. He thought he heard talking of more than one voice, he could not tell where. Then he heard wheels begin to move on the road. Presently he saw something passing the trees—some vehicle, and it was going at a good pace out from the village. Shod though he was only in slippers, he shut his door behind him, and ran across the college grounds to the road; but the vehicle was already out of sight, and on the soft mud he could hear no further sound.
Trenholme stood hardly knowing what to think. He wore no hat; the damp, cool air was grateful to his head, but he gave no thought to it. Just then, from the other way of the road, he heard a light, elastic step and saw a figure that, even in the darkness, he could not fail to know.