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The Interruption
by [?]


The last of the funeral guests had gone and Spencer Goddard, in decent black, sat alone in his small, well-furnished study. There was a queer sense of freedom in the house since the coffin had left it; the coffin which was now hidden in its solitary grave beneath the yellow earth. The air, which for the last three days had seemed stale and contaminated, now smelt fresh and clean. He went to the open window and, looking into the fading light of the autumn day, took a deep breath.

He closed the window and, stooping down, put a match to the fire, and, dropping into his easy chair, sat listening to the cheery crackle of the wood. At the age of thirty-eight he had turned over a fresh page. Life, free and unencumbered, was before him. His dead wife’s money was at last his, to spend as he pleased, instead of being doled out in reluctant driblets.

He turned at a step at the door and his face assumed the appearance of gravity and sadness it had worn for the last four days. The cook, with the same air of decorous grief, entered the room quietly and, crossing to the mantelpiece, placed upon it a photograph.

“I thought you’d like to have it, sir,” she said, in a low voice, “to remind you.”

Goddard thanked her, and, rising, took it in his hand and stood regarding it. He noticed with satisfaction that his hand was absolutely steady.

“It is a very good likeness till she was taken ill,” continued the woman. “I never saw anybody change so sudden.”

“The nature of her disease, Hannah,” said her master.

The woman nodded, and, dabbing at her eyes with her handkerchief, stood regarding him.

“Is there anything you want?” he inquired, after a time.

She shook her head. “I can’t believe she’s gone,” she said, in a low voice. “Every now and then I have a queer feeling that she’s still here—”

“It’s your nerves,” said her master sharply.

“—and wanting to tell me something.”

By a great effort Goddard refrained from looking at her.

“Nerves,” he said again. “Perhaps you ought to have a little holiday. It has been a great strain upon you.”

“You, too, sir,” said the woman respectfully. “Waiting on her hand and foot as you have done, I can’t think how you stood it. If you’d only had a nurse—”

“I preferred to do it myself, Hannah,” said her master.

“If I had had a nurse it would have alarmed her.”

The woman assented. “And they are always peeking and prying into what doesn’t concern them,” she added. “Always think they know more than the doctors do.”

Goddard turned a slow look upon her. The tall, angular figure was standing in an attitude of respectful attention; the cold slaty-brown eyes were cast down, the sullen face expressionless.

“She couldn’t have had a better doctor,” he said, looking at the fire again. “No man could have done more for her.”

“And nobody could have done more for her than you did, sir,” was the reply. “There’s few husbands that would have done what you did.”

Goddard stiffened in his chair. “That will do, Hannah,” he said curtly.

“Or done it so well,” said the woman, with measured slowness.

With a strange, sinking sensation, her master paused to regain his control. Then he turned and eyed her steadily. “Thank you,” he said slowly; “you mean well, but at present I cannot discuss it.”

For some time after the door had closed behind her he sat in deep thought. The feeling of well- being of a few minutes before had vanished, leaving in its place an apprehension which he refused to consider, but which would not be allayed. He thought over his actions of the last few weeks, carefully, and could remember no flaw. His wife’s illness, the doctor’s diagnosis, his own solicitous care, were all in keeping with the ordinary. He tried to remember the woman’s exact words—her manner. Something had shown him Fear. What?

He could have laughed at his fears next morning. The dining-room was full of sunshine and the fragrance of coffee and bacon was in the air. Better still, a worried and commonplace Hannah. Worried over two eggs with false birth certificates, over the vendor of which she became almost lyrical.