Inevitably this must have followed, had not Janet visited her late in the evening of the fourth day. Two days before, she had written saying that she would come if Traill were not likely to be there.
Her note finished abruptly, characteristic of all her letters.
“If I don’t hear from you to the contrary,” it concluded, “I shall arrive.”
She heard nothing to the contrary. The letter had lain, since its arrival, in the box downstairs. Sally had not moved out of her room. The possibility of a letter from Traill might have drawn her forth; but she knew that such a possibility did not exist. The woman who attended to their rooms she had sent away.
“I shall be able to look after these two rooms myself,” she had thought vaguely. Then she had locked herself into her bedroom, taken up a duster to begin the morning’s work and, after five minutes, idly lifting each thing in her hand, she had seated herself by the side of the bed, allowing the duster to fall limply from her fingers. Then, throwing herself on to the pillows, had given way with tearless eye to her despair.
When Janet’s knock fell, she was lying in bed, eyes gaping at the ceiling above her in a gaze that scarcely wandered or moved from the spot upon which they were fixed. At the unexpected sound, she sat up. Intelligence struggled for the mastery in her mind. There, in her eyes, you could see it fight for victory.
“Who’s that?” she called out querulously in a thin voice.
“Janet! Do you mean to say you’re not up yet?”
“Well, come and unlock the door. I can’t get in.”
Sally drove the energy into her limbs with an effort and tumbled from the bed. As her feet touched the floor, she lurched forward with weakness. She clutched at the clothes and held herself erect; but her knees trembled, knocking together like wooden clubs that are shaken by reckless vibration.
With a little moan of weakness she stumbled to the door, holding to the end of the bed, the back of a chair, the handle of the door in her uncertain progress.
As soon as she heard the key turned, Janet entered and found Sally in her night-dress, a white ghost of what she was, swinging unsteadily before her—so a dead body, swung from a gallows, eddies in a lifting wind.
“Sally!” she exclaimed.
Sally stared at her. Her dry lips half-parted to make Janet’s name. Her eyes, burnt out in the deep black hollows, flickered with a light of thankful recognition. Then she swung forward, a dead weight on to Janet’s shoulder.
For a moment, Janet held her there, looking over the shoulders that crumbled against her thin breast, at the disordered room before her. She saw the crusts of bread, she saw the bed-clothes hanging to the floor. She gazed down at the unkempt head of hair that dragged lifelessly on her shoulder, and her eyes were wide in bewildered amazement.