“Gad! it’s Hamilton’s man!” cried Barton.
“Mr. Nayland Smith, sir,” continued the groom brokenly—and all my fears were realized. “He’s been attacked, sir, on the road from the station, and Dr. Hamilton, to whose house he was carried——”
“Kennedy!” shouted Sir Lionel, “get the Rolls-Royce out! Put your horse up here, my man, and come with us!”
He turned abruptly ... as the groom, grasping at the wall, fell heavily to the floor.
“Good God!” I cried—“What’s the matter with him?”
I bent over the prostrate man, making a rapid examination.
“His head! A nasty blow. Give me a hand, Sir Lionel; we must get him on to a couch.”
The unconscious man was laid upon a Chesterfield, and, ably assisted by the explorer, who was used to coping with such hurts as this, I attended to him as best I could. One of the men-servants had been aroused, and, just as he appeared in the doorway, I had the satisfaction of seeing Dr. Hamilton’s groom open his eyes, and look about him, dazedly.
“Quick,” I said. “Tell me—what hurt you?”
The man raised his hand to his head and groaned feebly.
“Something came whizzing, sir,” he answered. “There was no report, and I saw nothing. I don’t know what it can have been——”
“Where did this attack take place?”
“Between here and the village, sir; just by the coppice at the cross-roads on top of Raddon Hill.”
“You had better remain here for the present,” I said, and gave a few words of instruction to the man whom we had aroused.
“This way,” cried Barton, who had rushed out of the room, his huge frame reappearing in the door-way; “the car is ready.”
My mind filled with dreadful apprehensions, I passed out on to the carriage sweep. Sir Lionel was already at the wheel.
“Jump in, Kennedy,” he said, when I had taken a seat beside him; and the man sprang into the car.
Away we shot, up the narrow lane, lurched hard on the bend—and were off at ever growing speed toward the hills, where a long climb awaited the car.
The head-light picked out the straight road before us, and Barton increased the pace, regardless of regulations, until the growing slope made itself felt and the speed grew gradually less; above the throbbing of the motor, I could hear, now, the rain in the overhanging trees.
I peered through the darkness, up the road, wondering if we were near to the spot where the mysterious attack had been made upon Dr. Hamilton’s groom. I decided that we were just passing the place, and to confirm my opinion, at that moment Sir Lionel swung the car around suddenly, and plunged headlong into the black mouth of a narrow lane.
Hitherto, the roads had been fair, but now the jolting and swaying became very pronounced.
“Beastly road!” shouted Barton—“and stiff gradient!”