All looked and echoed that horror-struck cry. They were literally dripping blood!
The baronet lifted his hands to the light, and gazed at their crimson hue with wild, dilated eyes and ghastly face.
“Blood!” he said, in an awful whisper—“blood—Good God, it is hers! She is murdered!”
The three listeners recoiled still further, paralyzed at the sight, at the words, at the awful thought that a murderer, red-handed, stood before them.
“A horrible deed has been done this night!” he cried, in a voice that rang down the long hall like a bugle blast. “A murder has been committed! Rouse the house, fetch lights, and follow me!”
Edwards rose up, trembling in every limb.
“Quick!” his master thundered. “Is this a time to stand agape? Sybilla, sound the alarm! Let all rise and join in the search.”
In a moment all was confusion. Claudine, of a highly excitable temperament, no sooner recovered from her stupor of dismay, then, with a piercing shriek, she fainted and tumbled over in a heap.
But no one heeded her. Bells rang, lights flashed, servants, white and wild, rushed to and fro, and over all the voice of the master rang, giving his orders.
“Lights, lights!” he shouted. “Men, why do you linger and stare? Lights! and follow me to the stone terrace.”
He led the way. There was a general rush from the house. The men bore lanterns; the women clung to the men, terror and curiosity struggling, but curiosity getting the better of it. In dead silence all made their way to the stone terrace—all but one.
Sybilla Silver saw them depart, stood a moment, irresolute, then turned and sped away to Sir Everard’s dressing-room. She drew the compact bundle of clothes from their corner, removed the dagger, tied up the bundle again with the weight inside, and hurriedly left the house.
“These blood-stained garments are not needed to fix the guilt upon him,” she said to herself: “that is done already. The appearance of these would only create confusion and perplexity—perhaps help his cause. I’ll destroy these and fling away the dagger in the wood. They’ll he sure to find it in a day or two. They will make such a search that if a needle were lost it would be found.”
There was an old sunken well, half filled with slimy, green water, mud, and filth, in a remote end of the plantation. Thither, unobserved, Sybilla made her way in the ghostly moonlight and flung her blood-stained bundle into its vile, poisonous depths.
“Lie there!” she muttered. “You have done your work, and I fling you away, as I fling away all my tools at my pleasure. There, in the green muck and slimy filth, you will tell no tales.”
She hurried away and struck into a path leading to the stone terrace. She could see the lanterns flashing like firefly sparks; she could hear the clear voice of Sir Everard Kingsland commanding. All at once the lights were still, there was a deep exclamation in the baronet’s voice, a wild chorus of feminine screams, then blank silence.