He sat on the last round of the ladder, and tightened the strap of his wooden leg.
At my left was a door-case open, but no door. I entered; it was a short passage about six feet long, leading perhaps to a backstair, but the door at the end was locked.
I was forced to stand in this recess, then, which afforded no shelter, while Pegtop stumped by with his lantern in his hand. I fancy he had some idea of listening to his master unperceived, for he stopped close to my hiding-place, blew out the candle, and pinched the long snuff with his horny finger and thumb.
Having listened for a few seconds, he stumped stealthily along the gallery which I had just traversed, and turned the corner in the direction of the chamber where the crime had just been committed, and the discovery was impending. I could see him against the broad window which in the daytime lighted this long passage, and the moment he had passed the corner I resumed my flight.
I descended a stair corresponding with that backstair, as I am told, up which Madame had led me only the night before. I tried the outer door. To my wild surprise it was open. In a moment I was upon the step, in the free air, and as instantaneously was seized by the arm in the gripe of a man.
It was Tom Brice, who had already betrayed me, and who was now, in surtout and hat, waiting to drive the carriage with the guilty father and son from the scene of their abhorred outrage.
IN THE OAK PARLOUR
So it was vain: I was trapped, and all was over.
I stood before him on the step, the white moon shining on my face. I was trembling so that I wonder I could stand, my helpless hands raised towards him, and I looked up in his face. A long shuddering moan—’Oh—oh—oh!’ was all I uttered.
The man, still holding my arm, looked, I thought frightened, into my white dumb face.
Suddenly he said, in a wild, fierce whisper—
‘Never say another word’ (I had not uttered one). ’They shan’t hurt ye, Miss; git ye in; I don’t care a damn!’
It was an uncouth speech. To me it was the voice of an angel. With a burst of gratitude that sounded in my own ears like a laugh, I thanked God for those blessed words.
In a moment more he had placed me in the carriage, and almost instantly we were in motion—very cautiously while crossing the court, until he had got the wheels upon the grass, and then at a rapid pace, improving his speed as the distance increased. He drove along the side of the back-approach to the house, keeping on the grass; so that our progress, though swaying like that of a ship in a swell, was very nearly as noiseless.