But she paused an instant yet. She stood before one of the full-length mirrors, looking at her spectral face, so hollow, so haggard, out of which all the youth and beauty seemed gone.
“And this is what one short month ago he called bright and beautiful—this wasted, sunken-eyed vision. Youth and beauty, love and trust and happiness, home and husband, all lost. Oh, my father, what have you done?”
She gave one dry, tearless sob. The clock struck the quarter past. The sound aroused her.
“My mother,” she said—“let me think I go to meet my mother. Sinful, degraded, an outcast, but still my mother. Let me think of that, and be brave.”
She opened her door; the stillness of death reigned. She glided down the corridor, down the sweeping stair-way, the soft carpeting muffling every tread—the dim night-lamps lighting her on her way.
No human sound startled her. All in the house were peacefully asleep—all save that flying figure, and one other wicked watcher. She gained the door in safety. It yielded to her touch. She opened it, and was out alone in the black, gusty night.
Harriet Kingsland’s brave heart quailed only for a moment; then she plunged resolutely forward into the gloom. Slipping, stumbling, falling, rising again, the wind beating in her face, the branches catching like angry hands at her garments—still she hurried on. It was a long, long, tortuous path, but it came to an end. The roar of the sea sounded awfully loud as it rose in sullen majesty, the flags of the stone terrace rang under her feet. Panting, breathless, cold as death, she leaned against the iron railing, her hands pressed hard over her tumultuous heart.
It was light here. A fitful midnight moon, pale and feeble, was breaking through a rift in the clouds, and shedding its sickly glimmer over the black earth and raging sea. To her eyes, accustomed to the dense darkness, every object was plainly visible. She strained her gaze over the waves to catch the coming boat she knew was to bear those she had come to meet; she listened breathlessly to every sound. But for a weary while she listened, and watched, and waited in vain. What was that? A footstep crashing through the under-wood near at hand. She turned with a wordless cry of terror. A tall, dark figure emerged from the trees and strode straight toward her. An awful voice spoke:
“I swore by the Lord who made me I would murder you if you ever came again to meet that man. False wife, accursed traitoress, meet your doom!”
She uttered a long, low cry. She recognized the voice—it was the voice of her husband; she recognized the form—her husband’s—towering over her, with a long, gleaming dagger in his hand.
ON THE STONE TERRACE.
When Sybilla Silver parted from Lady Kingsland outside the chamber door, she went straight to her own room, and began her preparations for that night’s work.