The wind which turned my umbrella inside out was a zephyr compared to that which is now thundering round us. Sometimes, for one, for two false moments, it lulls (the lulls are almost awfuller than the whirlwind that follows them), then with gathered might it comes tearing, howling, whooping down on us again, gnashing its angry teeth; bellowing with a voice like ten million lost devils. And on its pinions what rain it brings; what stinging, lacerating, bitter rain! And now, to add to our misfortunes, to pile Pelion on Ossa, we lose our way. Mr. Parker cannot be persuaded to abandon the idea of the short-cut. The natural result follows.
If we were hopelessly bewildered—utterly at sea among the maze of lonely roads into which he has again betrayed us at high noon—what must we be now in the angry dark of the evening? This time we have to go into a field to turn, a field full of tussocks, which in the dark we are unable to see, and over which the horses flounder and stumble. However, now at length—now that we have wasted three-quarters of an hour, and that it is quite pitch dark—(I need hardly say that we have no lamps)— we have at length regained the blessed breadth of the high-road, and I think that not even our coachman, to whose faith most things seem possible, will attempt to leave it a second time. I give a sigh of relief.
“It is all plain sailing now!” Musgrave says, reassuringly.
“There is one bad turn,” reply I, gloomily—“very bad, at the bottom of the village by the bridge.”
We relapse into silence, and into our unnatural battle with the elements. I have to grasp my hat firmly with one hand, and the side of the coach with the other, to prevent being blown off. If my companion were any one else, I should grasp him.
We are only a mile and a half from our haven now; the turn I dread is nearing.
“Are you frightened?” asks Musgrave, in a pause of the storm.
“Horribly!” I answer.
I have forgotten Brindley Wood—have forgotten all the mischief he has done. I recollect only that he is human, and that we are sharing what seems to me a great and common peril.
“Do not be frightened!” he says, in an eager whisper—“you need not. I will take care of you!”
Even through all the preoccupation of my alarm something in his tone jars upon and angers me.
“You take care of me!” I cry, scornfully. “How could you? I wish you would not talk nonsense.”
We have reached the turn now! Shall we do it? One moment of breathless anxiety. I set my teeth and breathe hard. No, we shall not! We turn too sharp, and do not take a wide-enough sweep. The coach gives a horrible lurch. One side of us is up on the hedge-bank!—we are going over! I give a little agonized yell, and make a snatch at Frank, while my fingers clutch his nearest hand with the tenacity of a devil-fish. If it