“Go in, my child, go in, and try to get some rest. But go in, for we must finish as fast as we can. The moon is down; it will soon be daylight. What a blessing there are no rooms on one side of the house. Go, Nelly.” And she went; straining herself up to move noiselessly, with eyes averted, through the room which she shuddered at as the place of hasty and unhallowed death.
Once in her own room she bolted the door on the inside, and then stole to the window, as if some fascination impelled her to watch all the proceedings to the end. But her aching eyes could hardly penetrate through the thick darkness, which, at the time of the year of which I am speaking, so closely precedes the dawn. She could discern the tops of the trees against the sky, and could single out the well-known one, at a little distance from the stem of which the grave was made, in the very piece of turf over which so lately she and Ralph had had their merry little tea-making; and where her father, as she now remembered, had shuddered and shivered, as if the ground on which his seat had then been placed was fateful and ominous to him.
Those below moved softly and quietly in all they did; but every sound had a significant and terrible interpretation to Ellinor’s ears. Before they had ended, the little birds had begun to pipe out their gay reveillee to the dawn. Then doors closed, and all was profoundly still.
Ellinor threw herself, in her clothes, on the bed; and was thankful for the intense weary physical pain which took off something of the anguish of thought—anguish that she fancied from time to time was leading to insanity.
By-and-by the morning cold made her instinctively creep between the blankets; and, once there, she fell into a dead heavy sleep.
Ellinor was awakened by a rapping at her door: it was her maid.
She was fully aroused in a moment, for she had fallen asleep with one clearly defined plan in her mind, only one, for all thoughts and cares having no relation to the terrible event were as though they had never been. All her purpose was to shield her father from suspicion. And to do this she must control herself—heart, mind, and body must be ruled to this one end.
So she said to Mason:
“Let me lie half an hour longer; and beg Miss Monro not to wait breakfast for me; but in half an hour bring me up a cup of strong tea, for I have a bad headache.”
Mason went away. Ellinor sprang up; rapidly undressed herself, and got into bed again, so that when her maid returned with her breakfast, there was no appearance of the night having been passed in any unusual manner.
“How ill you do look, miss!” said Mason. “I am sure you had better not get up yet.”