“There may yet be time! He breathes—his heart beats! Who will help me to carry him out of this dungeon?”
He shudders as he glances round him.
“I will,” replies Florence calmly.
These words of hope have steadied her and braced her nerves. Ethel and Mrs. Talbot, carrying the lamps, go on before, while Ringwood and Florence, having lifted the senseless body of Adrian, now indeed sufficiently light to be an easy burden, follow them.
Reaching the corridor, they cross it hurriedly, and carrying Adrian up a back staircase that leads to Captain Ringwood’s room by a circuitous route, they gain it without encountering a single soul, and lay him gently down on Ringwood’s bed, almost at the very moment that midnight chimes from the old tower, and only a few minutes before Arthur Dynecourt steals from his chamber to make that last visit to his supposed victim.
Slowly and with difficulty they coax Sir Adrian back to life. Ringwood had insisted upon telling the old housekeeper at the castle, who had been in the family for years, the whole story of her master’s rescue, and she, with tears dropping down her withered cheeks, had helped Ringwood to remove his clothes and make him comfortable. She had also sat beside him while the captain, stealing out of the house like a thief, had galloped down to the village for the doctor, whom he had smuggled into the house without awaking any of the servants.
This caution and secrecy had been decided upon for one powerful reason. If Arthur Dynecourt should prove guilty of being the author of his cousin’s incarceration, they were quite determined he should not escape whatever punishment the law allowed. But the mystery could not be quite cleared up until Sir Adrian’s return to consciousness, when they hoped to have some light thrown upon the matter from his own lips.
In the meantime, should Arthur hear of his cousin’s rescue, and know himself to be guilty of this dastardly attempt to murder, would he not take steps to escape before the law should lay its iron grasp upon him? All four conspirators are too ignorant of the power of the law to know whether it would be justifiable in the present circumstances to place him under arrest, or decide on waiting until Sir Adrian himself shall be able to pronounce either his doom or his exculpation.
The doctor stays all night, and administers to the exhausted man, as often as he dares, the nourishment and good things provided by the old housekeeper.
When the morning is far advanced, Adrian, waking from a short but refreshing slumber, looks anxiously around him. Florence, seeing this, steps aside, as though to make way for Dora to go closer to him. But Mrs. Talbot, covering her face with her hands, turns aside and sinks into a chair.
Florence, much bewildered by this strange conduct, stands irresolute beside the bed, hardly knowing what to do. Again she glances at the prostrate man, and sees his eyes resting upon her with an expression in them that makes her heart beat rapidly with sweet but sad recollections.