The man, with an oath, placed his hand tightly over her mouth. They were going at a frightful pace, and already the city, with its lights and passengers, was left far behind. They were flying over a dark, wet road, and the wind roared through distant trees, and the rain fell down like a second deluge.
“Let me go—let me go!” Mollie strove madly to cry, but the tightening grasp of that large hand suffocated her.
The carriage seemed suddenly to reel, a thousand lights flashed before her eyes, a roar like the roar of many waters surged in her ears, a deathly sickness and coldness crept over her, and with a gasping sob she slipped back, fainting away for the first time in her life.
THE MAN IN THE MASK.
Dizzily Mollie opened her eyes. Confused, bewildered, she strove to sit up and catch her breath in broken gasps.
“So sorry, Mollie,” said an odious voice in her ear. “Quite shocked, I am sure, to have you faint; but you’ve not been insensible half an hour. It wasn’t my fault, you know. You would scream, you would struggle, you would exhaust yourself! And what is the consequence of all this excitement? Why, you pop over in a dead swoon.”
Mollie raised herself up, still dazed and confused. She put her hand to her forehead and strove to recall her drifting senses.
They were still bowling along at a sharp pace over a muddy country road; still fell the rain; still howled the wind; still pitch darkness wrapped all without. Were they going on forever? Was it a reality or a horrible nightmare?
“We are almost at our journey’s end,” said the man, soothingly. “Come, cheer up, Cricket. I love you, and I won’t hurt a hair of your head.”
“Where are we?” Mollie faintly asked.
“Rattling over a beastly country road,” answered her companion, “under a sky as black as Erebus, and in a down-pour that threatens a second flood. There’s the sea. We’re down by the sad sea waves now, Mollie.”
Mollie listened. Above the roar of the elemental strife she could hear the deep and mighty bass of the roaring sea.
“We will be there in ten minutes more,” said the man, briskly.
“Where is there?” inquired Mollie, in the same faint accent.
“Home, my pretty wife—our cottage by the sea, and all that, you know. Don’t droop, my charming Cricket. We’ll be as happy together as the days are long. I love you with all my soul—I swear it by all that’s good and gracious; and I’ll make you the best husband ever bright-eyed little girl had. Trust me, Mollie, and cheer up. Yoicks! Here we are.”
The carriage stopped with a jerk that precipitated Mollie into her captor’s arms; but, with an angry push, she was free again directly.
The man opened the door and sprung out. Wind howling, rain tailing, trees surging, sea roaring, and a big dog barking, made the black night hideous.