And here you will understand the situation of things better, if I say that the habitable part of Hathercleugh was a long way from the old part to which I had come. The entire mass of building, old and new, was of vast extent, and the old was separated from the new by a broken and utterly ruinous wing, long since covered over with ivy. As for the old itself, there was a great square tower at one corner of it, with walls extending from its two angles; it was along one of these walls that I was now creeping. And presently—the sound of the gentle throbbing growing slightly louder as I made my way along—I came to the tower, and to the deep-set gateway in it, and I knew at once that in that gateway there was an automobile drawn up, all ready for being driven out and away.
Feeling quietly for the corner of the gateway, I looked round, cautiously, lest a headlight on the car should betray my presence. But there was no headlight, and there was no sound beyond the steady throb of the steam and the ceaseless pouring of the rain behind me. And then, as I looked, came a third flash of lightning, and the entire scene was lighted up for me—the deep-set gateway with its groined and arched roof, the grim walls at each side, the dark massive masonry beyond it, and there, within the shelter, a small, brand-new car, evidently of fine and powerful make, which even my inexperienced eyes knew to be ready for departure from that place at any moment. And I saw something more during that flash—a half-open door in the wall to the left of the car, and the first steps of a winding stair.
As the darkness fell again, blacker than ever, and the thunder crashed out above the old tower, I stole along the wall to that door, intending to listen if aught were stirring within, or on the stairs, or in the rooms above. And I had just got my fingers on the rounded pillar of the doorway, and the thunder was just dying to a grumble, when a hand seized the back of my neck as in a vice, and something hard, and round, and cold pressed itself insistingly into my right temple. It was all done in the half of a second; but I knew, just as clearly as if I could see it, that a man of no ordinary strength had gripped me by the neck with one hand, and was holding a revolver to my head with the other.
It may be that when one is placed in such a predicament as that in which I then found myself, one’s wits are suddenly sharpened, and a new sense is given to one. Whether that is so or not, I was as certain as if I actually saw him that my assailant was the butler, Hollins. And I should have been infinitely surprised if any other voice than his had spoken—as he did speak when the last grumble of the thunder died out in a sulky, reluctant murmur.
“In at that door, and straight up the stairs, Moneylaws!” he commanded. “And quick, if you don’t want your brains scattering. Lively, now!”