Gracious Heaven! Did she hear aright? She had submitted to blood-letting once to gratify an old family physician, who insisted upon the remedy; and she felt almost brave enough to endure the operation again, if it would only kill time and satisfy her tormentor. But to cut into her brain! Merciful God! What should she do? She could not escape, for he watched her with cat-like vigilance. Scream she dare not, for so did the other frightened victim. She must try to gain time.
With a rapt expression he continued: “Since the days of Esculapius there has been no such transcendent theory as this which is to make me famous. All my weary nights of thought and days of study are to be rewarded at last. Come child, are you ready? It will not hurt you. Only a little pin-prick, and no pain. I would not pain you my dear.”
What if he should let her bleed to death! Oh sister, oh lover, come, or she would die of horror, if not the knife! And Katie—why didn’t she come! At this moment the sound of the train whistle in the distance broke on the stillness of the night. How could she gain ten minutes more? The man had not noticed the sound.
“What do you wish?” she asked sweetly, “What shall I get for you?”
“Only a handkerchief and a basin,” he replied coolly, still fingering a sharp lancet. “You are not afraid? Good girl; now for my crowning victory!”
As a sleep-walker she procured the articles and bared her arm. Tenderly he was binding it above the blue veins, when she said in winning tones:
“Let me tell you how I think would be the best way to do this—may I?” and she fixed her large eyes upon him in entreaty. He paused, and she continued:
“Now let me tie your arm in the same way. You open your own vein with the lancet, then open mine, and quickly after mix the two while the blood is warm. Do you see? You can’t fail if you do it that way.”
He looked at her. She did not flinch.
“Perhaps you are right; very well.”
She arose as deliberately as she dared and went to her dresser for another handkerchief. At the moment she opened the linen case her ears, strained to the utmost, caught a murmur from below stairs. Turning quickly to see if the man also had heard, the door was pushed open and Katie’s neat cap filled the aperture.
* * * * *
“Get on as fast as you can, driver,” said George Randolph, as he and Mabel took seats in the village stage. Then turning to his companion, he said in reassuring tones: “Don’t be frightened, dear; she is all right.”
“I know it is foolish,” said Mabel, half crying; “but those wretched placards made me nervous, and all that talk about escaped murderers and lunatics. I am fairly beside myself; do hurry!”
As the wide portals of Crestdale appeared, Mabel cried, in sudden terror:
“Something is wrong, George; see how dim the lights are! She would never welcome us like this. Don’t wait to ring; open the doors!”