Mrs. Rusk came along the gallery in a minute or so after, and stopping at my door, began to open it gently. I was startled, and challenged my visitor with—
‘It’s only Rusk, Miss. Dearie me! and are you awake still?’
‘Is papa ill?’
’Ill! not a bit ill, thank God. Only there’s a little black book as I took for your prayer-book, and brought in here; ay, here it is, sure enough, and he wants it. And then I must go down to the study, and look out this one, “C, 15;” but I can’t read the name, noways; and I was afraid to ask him again; if you be so kind to read it, Miss—I suspeck my eyes is a-going.’
I read the name; and Mrs. Rusk was tolerably expert at finding out books, as she had often been employed in that way before. So she departed.
I suppose that this particular volume was hard to find, for she must have been a long time away, and I had actually fallen into a doze when I was roused in an instant by a dreadful crash and a piercing scream from Mrs. Rusk. Scream followed scream, wilder and more terror-stricken. I shrieked to Mary Quince, who was sleeping in the room with me:—’Mary, do you hear? what is it? It is something dreadful.’
The crash was so tremendous that the solid flooring even of my room trembled under it, and to me it seemed as if some heavy man had burst through the top of the window, and shook the whole house with his descent. I found myself standing at my own door, crying, ’Help, help! murder! murder!’ and Mary Quince, frightened half out of her wits, by my side.
I could not think what was going on. It was plainly something most horrible, for Mrs. Rusk’s screams pealed one after the other unabated, though with a muffled sound, as if the door was shut upon her; and by this time the bells of my father’s room were ringing madly.
‘They are trying to murder him!’ I cried, and I ran along the gallery to his door, followed by Mary Quince, whose white face I shall never forget, though her entreaties only sounded like unmeaning noises in my ears.
‘Here! help, help, help!’ I cried, trying to force open the door.
‘Shove it, shove it, for God’s sake! he’s across it,’ cried Mrs. Rusk’s voice from within; ‘drive it in. I can’t move him.’
I strained all I could at the door, but ineffectually. We heard steps approaching. The men were running to the spot, and shouting as they did so—
‘Never mind; hold on a bit; here we are; all right;’ and the like.
We drew back, as they came up. We were in no condition to be seen. We listened, however, at my open door.
Then came the straining and bumping at the door. Mrs. Rusk’s voice subsided to a sort of wailing; the men were talking all together, and I suppose the door opened, for I heard some of the voices, on a sudden, as if in the room; and then came a strange lull, and talking in very low tones, and not much even of that.