“So be it. And now,” said Mrs. Sharpe, drawing her shawl around her, “I must go. I came to walk off a bad headache; I find it is gone, so I had better return.”
“Good-bye, and God speed you!” said Hugh Ingelow.
Mrs. Sharpe walked back to the house. Old Peter admitted her, and all three were solicitous about her headache.
“Much better,” Mrs. Sharpe said, quietly. “I knew that walk would cure it.”
All the rest of the afternoon she helped old Sally to manufacture pies. Tea-time came, and, ever willing, she volunteered to make the tea.
“Do so,” said old Sally. “I can’t abear to take my hands out o’ dough when they’re into it.”
The tea was made, the supper-table set, and then Mrs. Sharpe begged permission to make herself a cup of coffee.
“I find it better for my head than tea. It will cure me quite, I know.”
Mrs. Oleander assented, and the coffee was made. The quartet sat down to supper, and Susan Sharpe felt an inward quaking as she watched them drink the tea. Mrs. Oleander complained that it was weak; Sally said it must have boiled, it had such a nasty taste; but they drank it for all that.
Supper over, Mrs. Sharpe brought up her patient’s. But she carried her coffee, and left the doctored tea behind.
“We are to escape to-night,” she said to Mollie. “Be ready. We will start at ten. Don’t ask me to explain now. I feel nervous and am going down.”
Before an hour had elapsed the drug began its work. Mrs. Oleander nodded over her knitting; Sally was drowsy over her dishes; Peter yawned audibly before the fire.
“I don’t know what makes me so sleepy this evening,” Mrs. Oleander said, gaping. “The weak tea, I suppose. Peter, close up early to-night; I think I’ll go to bed.”
“I’ll let the dogs loose now,” said Peter. “I’m blamed sleepy myself.”
The old man departed. Very soon the hoarse barking of the dogs was heard as they scampered out of their kennel. Peter returned to find the two old women nodding in company.
“You had better go to bed,” suggested Mrs. Sharpe. “I’m going myself. Good-night.”
She quitted the kitchen. Mrs. Oleander, scarcely able to keep her eyes open, rose up also.
“I will go. I never felt so sleepy in my life. Good-night; Sally.”
“Good-night,” said Sally, drowsily. “I’ll go after you.”
Before the kitchen clock struck nine, sleep had sealed the eyelids of Mrs. Oleander and her servants more tightly than they were ever sealed before. And out in the yard, stiff and stark, lay Nero and Tiger. They had eaten the poisoned beef, and, like faithful sentinels, were dead at their posts.
A MOONLIGHT FLITTING.
The big Dutch clock on the kitchen mantel struck nine. The silence of the grave reigned within the house. With the first clear chime Mrs. Susan Sharpe rose from the bed on which she had thrown herself, dressed and prepared for action.