Cool and level-headed though Meg was, she felt the blood in her veins beginning to run
cold, the skin tightening across her skull, ice forming in her cheeks and her hands begin to
tremble. For one or two terrible moments she imagined that she had been rooted to the spot, for
she wished to get to her feet, yet her limbs would not obey the commands of her will.
The sounds of someone breathing heavily near to her were so loud and close that she
thought for a brief second that she could feel the rush of air on the nape of her neck. Momentarily
she was on the verge of panic, from which reason saved her as she realized that what she was
hearing was the sound of her own breathing.
'Silly girl' she told herself aloud, with a shamefaced laugh. 'Pull yourself together, do!'
Taking a deep breath to quiet the pounding of her heart, she began to get up from her
knees. As she did so, the heel of her shoe caught in the hem of her dress, and to save herself from
stumbling headlong into the fire she put out a hand to the side of the chimney-piece, and steadied
herself. But while her hand still pressed the brickwork, the knockings began again, and she felt
distinctly the bricks under her hand tremble.
She drew back her hand as if she had been burned, and now all her fear returned, she
stooped to pick up her pail and began to hurry from the room. Before she was half-way to the
door, a man's voice called to her from the fire-place, 'Let me out! Let me out!'
It was too much! With a cry, she dropped the pail and fire-irons and ran from the room,
pulling the door shut with a bang, which only served to heightened her fear. Though normally she
would have taken the back-stairs, the main staircase was nearer, and throwing obedience to her
mistress's orders to the wind, she scurried down the carpeted stairs.
The noise of the falling pail and irons, and her shriek, had been heard throughout the
house, and as she came to the last leg of the staircase she saw that all the guests were crowding
from the drawing-room into the hall, and that some of the other servants had joined them from
The sight of the anxious faces, and the sound of Mr. Lefroy's voice calling up to her,
asking what was amiss, restored her courage a little. But as she steadied herself by the bannister,
suddenly she seemed to be pushed aside roughly, and as she began to stumble down the remaining
stairs, she heard a voice saying, 'Oh my God! Oh my God!'
By the time that James Lefroy, one of the sons of the house, who had hurried forward to
help her, caught her in his arms, she was in a dead faint. As he picked her up and began to carry
her towards the drawing-room, the heavy front door blew open. An icy blast of night air swept in,
and as the startled guests turned to see what had happened the door swung to with a loud bang, as
quickly as it had opened.
A silence had fallen on the still company, and everyone there afterwards declared that they
had heard a carriage moving off down the drive. Certainly Mr. Lefroy heard it and he jumped
towards the door to see who it could be. But when he tried to pull open the door he found that it
had jammed, and that all his strength could not move it.
He rushed from the door to the drawing-room, and pulled back the curtains at one of the
windows from which the whole length of the drive could be seen. Outside, under the bright
moonlight, not a twig or bush or tree stirred, and the drive was completely empty.
Bewildered he returned to the hall, where Jevons, the butler, had gone to the door and was
trying to open it.
'It will need tools,' Mr. Lefroy told him. 'It's jammed fast.'
'Yes, sir,' Jevons agreed quietly. 'May I have a private word with you, sir?'
As he went towards the servants' quarters, Mr. Lefroy followed him, even more puzzled.
When they reached the butler's pantry, Jevons closed the door behind him.
'What is it, Jevons?' Mr. Lefroy asked, impressed by his butler's solemnity.
'I thought it best not to say so before the guests, sir,' Jevons replied. 'They are perturbed
enough already. But the door is not jammed, sir. The key is turned in the lock.'
'Are you sure, Jevons?'
'But how could that be? Did any of the others go near the door after I went into the
'But I did not turn the lock, Jevons, I swear.'
'No, sir. You couldn't, the key is still hanging on its hook to the right of the door, sir,
where I keep it during the day.'
'Are you quite sure you are not mistaken, Jevons?'
'I am quite certain, sir.' He opened a drawer and took out a large key. 'Here is the spare
key, sir. I suggest that I take tools and feign unjamming the door, and under the cover of my
activities, sir, do you put this key in the lock and turn it. You will see that I am right.'
And so he proved to be.