“Murderess!” spoke a deep and awful voice—“murderess! murderess!”
With a shriek of wordless affright, Sybilla Silver leaped back, and stood cowering against the wall. For the dead had risen and stood before her. The phantom slowly advanced.
“Murderess, confess your guilt!”
“Mercy, mercy! mercy!” shrieked Sybilla Silver. “Spare me! Touch me not! Oh, God! what is this?”
“I confess—I murdered you—I stabbed you! Sir Everard is innocent! Keep off! Mercy! mercy!”
With an unearthly scream, the horrified woman threw up both arms to keep off the awful vision, and fell forward in strong convulsions.
“Very well done,” said Mr. Bryson, entering briskly. “I don’t think we need any further proof of this lady’s guilt. You have played ghost to some purpose, my dear Lady Kingsland. Come in, gentlemen. We’ll have no trouble carrying off our prize.”
He paused, and stepped back with a blanched face, for Lady Kingsland lay writhing in the last agony.
With a wild cry, Mildred threw herself on her knees by her mother’s side.
“Mamma—dear mamma—don’t look like that! Harriet is not dead. She is here alive. It was that dreadful woman who tried to kill her. Everard is innocent, as we knew he was. He will be here with us in a day or two.”
The dying woman was conscious. Her eyes turned and fixed on Harriet. The white disguise had been thrown off. She came over to the bedside, pale and beautiful.
“Mother,” she said, sweetly, “it is indeed I. Dear mother, bless me once.”
“May God bless you and forgive me! Tell Everard—” She never finished the sentence. With the name of the son she idolized upon her lips, Lady Kingsland was dead.
Harriet’s presence of mind did not forsake her. Reverently she kissed the dead face, closed the eyes, and rose.
“The dead are free from suffering. Our first duty is to the living. Take me to my husband!”
The constable lifted Sybilla unceremoniously.
The servants gathered outside the door gave way, and he placed her in the carriage which had conveyed them to the house.
Mr. Parmalee went with him, and Lady Kingsland and the lawyer took possession of the fly that stood waiting for Miss Silver.
A minute later and they were flying, swift as lash and shout could urge them, toward Worrel Jail.
“AFTER STORM, THE SUNSHINE.”
Earlier in the evening, when Harriet had told her story to Mr. Bryson, that gentleman had proceeded at once to the prison to inform the prisoner and the officials that the murdered lady was alive.
There he found the warden of the prison and the clergyman, listening with very perplexed faces to a story the prisoner was narrating.