“I am looking for Mr. Russell, my lady,” was his reply.
“He resides in Southampton; but where have you come from, and who is it that wishes to see him?”
“Sir Ralph Coleman, my lady, has met with an accident about two miles from Fallowfield, and is not expected to live long. He has sent for his agent, and I have been to Southampton, but was told that I should find him here.”
The widow started and turned deadly pale. “He has the will with him,” she thought.
“I beg pardon, my lady, for being so abrupt,—perhaps you are Lady Coleman,” for he noticed her start and change color.
“Pray go on, my good fellow, and tell me all about that accident, where the baronet is, and who is with him, and all you know concerning this sad affair.”
The man related all he knew, and something that he had heard. “The gentleman that sent me for Mr. Russell they called Captain Carlton.” At this name she again started, and, in spite of herself, trembled perceptibly, but the man went on—
“There was something said about a stolen will, which Sir Ralph wanted to enquire about, or something of that sort, and I am in great haste.”
“Stay one moment. Did you say Sir Ralph was not expected to live?”
“The doctors said he could not last more than a few hours.”
By this time she had recovered her presence of mind. “Mr. Russell,” she said, “was here this morning, but has returned to Southampton; you must have passed him on your way here; return my good fellow as quickly as you can, and let him know all that you have told me.” She gave him a sovereign and said, “I will be there almost as soon as yourself.”
The man took the coin with a bow, and started for the railway station, and Mrs. Fraudhurst returned to the house, where she well knew Mr. Russell then was settling home matters with the steward. She went directly to her own apartment to form plans of immediate action. “Arthur is in England, Sir Ralph dying, the will found in his possession; he has made a confession of the whole, implicating me; he must have done so, or how could that messenger have heard of the stolen will. Idiot that I was, to trust it out of my own keeping. My only safety is in instant flight. I must place the wide waste of waters between me and the consequences that must inevitably await me should I remain here after the disclosure becomes known throughout the country.” She then commenced to pack up her wardrobe and valuables. Her plan was soon arranged. She then descended to the drawing room and rang for old Reynolds, who answered the summons. “Has Mr. Russell left the house?” she enquired, and on receiving an answer in the negative, desired that he might be informed that she wished to speak to him, “and return yourself, Reynolds, for I have something of importance to communicate to both of you.”