“What am I staying here for in this awful house by myself?” she suddenly thought. When that idea came to her, the idea of escape, the action of her mind became involuntary. There was only one to whom she could run for aid. She remembered so vividly that the experience seemed to repeat itself, her terror of the tramp in the woods, and how she had seen Anderson. She sprang up. It became sure to her that she must get away from that house, that she must not remain. The imaginative girl, whom anxiety and want of food had weakened, as well as fear, was fairly at the point of madness, or that hysteria which is the border-land of it. She distinctly heard herself laugh as she ran out of the room and out of the house. Her head was bare, but she did not think of that. She had on her coat which she had worn because of the coldness of the house. She fled across the lawn to the street. Once on the road, she was saner, she felt only the natural impulse of flight of any hunted thing. She fled down the road past the quiet village houses, in which the people slept in their beds. The electric lights were out, the moon was low. It was quite dark. Nobody except herself was abroad in the night. A great pity for herself, a pity that she might have felt for a little lonely child out by herself at night, when everybody else was safe in their homes, came over her. She sobbed as she ran; she even sobbed quite loudly. She did not feel so afraid, as wild for somebody to take her in and comfort her. She ran down the main street and turned up the one on which the Andersons lived. When she reached the house it was quite dark, except for a very faint glimmer in one of the upper front rooms. It was from the little night-lamp which Mrs. Anderson always kept burning. The sight of that light seemed to give Charlotte strength to get up the steps. She had run so weakly that all the way she had a thought of the terraces of steps leading to the Anderson house, if she could climb them. She went up the steps, and then she pressed hard the electric button on the door; she also raised the superfluous old brass knocker which Mrs. Anderson cherished because it was a relic from her husband’s time; then she clanged that. Then she sank down on the step in front of the door.
Almost at once a light flashed from an upper window in response to Charlotte’s knock and ring. Anderson himself had been in New York that night with Henry Edgecomb to the theatre. A celebrated play was on, in which a celebrated actress figured, and the two had taken one of their rather infrequent excursions. Consequently, Anderson had not been in the house more than an hour, and during that hour had been writing some letters which he wished to get off in the early mail. His room was at the back of the house, a long room extending nearly the whole width, consequently his own brightly shining light had not been visible to Charlotte coming up the street.