So saying she rang the bell for Lady Haworth’s maid. Having comforted her sister, and made her take the nervous specific she recommended, she went with her to her room; and taking possession of the arm-chair by the fire, she told her that she would keep her company until she was asleep, and remain long enough to be sure that the sleep was not likely to be interrupted. Lady Haworth had not been ten minutes in her bed, when she raised herself with a start to her elbow, listening with parted lips and wild eyes, her trembling fingers behind her ears. With an exclamation of horror, she cried,
“There it is again, upbraiding us! I can’t stay longer.”
She sprang from the bed, and rang the bell violently.
“Maud,” she cried in an ecstasy of horror, “nothing shall keep me here, whether you go or not. I will set out the moment the horses are put to. If you refuse to come, Maud, mind the responsibility is yours—listen!” and with white face and starting eyes she pointed to the wall. “Have you ears; don’t you hear?”
The sight of a person in extremity of terror so mysterious, might have unnerved a ruder system than Lady Walsingham’s. She was pale as she replied; for under certain circumstances those terrors which deal with the supernatural are more contagious than any others. Lady Walsingham still, in terms, held to her opinion; but although she tried to smile, her face showed that the panic had touched her.
“Well, dear Mary,” she said, “as you will have it so, I see no good in resisting you longer. Here, it is plain, your nerves will not suffer you to rest. Let us go then, in heaven’s name; and when you get to Mardykes Hall you will be relieved.”
All this time Lady Haworth was getting on her things, with the careless hurry of a person about to fly for her life; and Lady Walsingham issued her orders for horses, and the general preparations for resuming the journey.
It was now between ten and eleven; but the servant who rode armed with them, according to the not unnecessary usage of the times, thought that with a little judicious bribing of postboys they might easily reach Mardykes Hall before three o’clock in the morning.
When the party set forward again, Lady Haworth was comparatively tranquil. She no longer heard the unearthly mimickry of her sister’s voice; there remained only the fear and suspense which that illusion or visitation had produced.
Her sister, Lady Walsingham, after a brief effort to induce something like conversation, became silent. A thin sheet of snow had covered the darkened landscape, and some light flakes were still dropping. Lady Walsingham struck her repeater often in the dark, and inquired the distances frequently. She was anxious to get over the ground, though by no means fatigued. Something of the anxiety that lay heavy at her sister’s heart had touched her own.