The last two words, notwithstanding her self-command, rose to a scream. And she came from the fire towards Jane, who stood trembling near the door, with such an expression on her countenance that absolute fear drove her from the room before she knew what she was about. The locking of the door behind her let her know that she had abandoned her young mistress to the madness of her mother’s evil temper and disposition. But it was too late. She lingered by the door and listened, but beyond an occasional hoarse tone of suppressed energy, she heard nothing. At length the lock—as suddenly turned, and she was surprised by Mrs Oldcastle, if not in a listening attitude, at least where she had no right to be after the dismissal she had received.
Opposite Miss Oldcastle’s bedroom was another, seldom used, the door of which was now standing open. Instead of speaking to Jane, Mrs Oldcastle gave her a violent push, which drove her into this room. Thereupon she shut the door and locked it. Jane spent the whole of the night in that room, in no small degree of trepidation as to what might happen next. But she heard no noise all the rest of the night, part of which, however, was spent in sound sleep, for Jane’s conscience was in no ways disturbed as to any part she had played in the current events.
It was not till the morning that she examined the door, to see if she could not manage to get out and escape from the house, for she shared with the rest of the family an indescribable fear of Mrs Oldcastle and her confidante, the White Wolf. But she found it was of no use: the lock was at least as strong as the door. Being a sensible girl and self-possessed, as her parents’ child ought to be, she made no noise, but waited patiently for what might come. At length, hearing a step in the passage, she tapped gently at the door and called, “Who’s there?” The cook’s voice answered.
“Let me out,” said Jane. “The door’s locked.” The cook tried, but found there was no key. Jane told her how she came there, and the cook promised to get her out as soon as she could. Meantime all she could do for her was to hand her a loaf of bread on a stick from the next window. It had been long dark before some one unlocked the door, and left her at liberty to go where she pleased, of which she did not fail to make immediate use.
Unable to find her young mistress, she packed her box, and, leaving it behind her, escaped to her father. As soon as she had told him the story, he came straight to me.
The next thing.
As I sat in my study, in the twilight of that same day, the door was hurriedly opened, and Judy entered. She looked about the room with a quick glance to see that we were alone, then caught my hand in both of hers, and burst out crying.
“Why, Judy!” I said, “what is the matter?” But the sobs would not allow her to answer. I was too frightened to put any more questions, and so stood silent—my chest feeling like an empty tomb that waited for death to fill it. At length with a strong effort she checked the succession of her sobs, and spoke.