It made her very uncomfortable.
In a few minutes more, however, with a team of fresh horses, they were again rapidly passing the distance between them and Mardykes Hall.
About two miles on, their drivers pulled-up, and they heard a voice talking with them from the roadside. A servant from the Hall had been sent with a note for Lady Walsingham, and had been ordered, if necessary, to ride the whole way to the Three Nuns to deliver it. The note was already in Lady Walsingham’s hand; her sister sat beside her, and with the corner of the open note in her fingers, she read it breathlessly at the same time by the light of a carriage-lamp which the man held to the window. It said:
My dearest love—my darling sister—dear sisters both!—in God’s name, lose not a moment. I am so overpowered and terrified. I cannot explain; I can only implore of you to come with all the haste you can make. Waste no time, darlings. I hardly understand what I write. Only this, dear sisters; I feel that my reason will desert me, unless you come soon. You will not fail me now. Your poor distracted
The sisters exchanged a pale glance, and Lady Haworth grasped her sister’s hand.
“Where is the messenger?” asked Lady Walsingham.
A mounted servant came to the window.
“Is any one ill at home?” she asked.
“No, all were well—my lady, and Sir Bale—no one sick.”
“But the Doctor was sent for; what was that for?”
“I can’t say, my lady.”
“You are quite certain that no one—think—no one is ill?”
“There is no one ill at the Hall, my lady, that I have heard of.”
“Is Lady Mardykes, my sister, still up?”
“Yes, my lady; and her maid is with her.”
“And Sir Bale, are you certain he is quite well?”
“Sir Bale is quite well, my lady; he has been busy settling papers to-night, and was as well as usual.”
“That will do, thanks,” said the perplexed lady; and to her own servant she added, “On to Mardykes Hall with all the speed they can make. I’ll pay them well, tell them.”
And in another minute they were gliding along the road at a pace which the muffled beating of the horses’ hoofs on the thin sheet of snow that covered the road showed to have broken out of the conventional trot, and to resemble something more like a gallop.
And now they were under the huge trees, that looked black as hearse-plumes in contrast with the snow. The cold gleam of the lake in the moon which had begun to shine out now met their gaze; and the familiar outline of Snakes Island, its solemn timber bleak and leafless, standing in a group, seemed to watch Mardykes Hall with a dismal observation across the water. Through the gate and between the huge files of trees the carriage seemed to fly; and at last the steaming horses stood panting, nodding and snorting, before the steps in the courtyard.