At the end of half an hour, both Caroline and her husband heard the sound of feet approaching them on both sides; and though it seemed that the people who were coming from the direction of Plessis’s house walked lightly and with caution, yet there were evidently many of them, and Caroline became alarmed for her husband.
“The people are coming from the house, Sherbrooke,” she cried—“they must not, oh, they must not find you here!”
“Why not?” he demanded, sharply.
“Oh, because they are a dangerous and a desperate set,” she said—“bent, I am sure, from what I have heard, upon bloody and terrible schemes. Me they will let pass, but I fear for you—the very name of your father would be sufficient to destroy you, with them. We must part, indeed we must part!”
“And can you, Caroline,” he demanded, still lingering, but speaking in a bitter and irritated tone, angry alike with himself, and her, and with the interruption—“can you hold to your cold and cruel resolution, now?”
“I can, I must, Sherbrooke,” she replied,—“nothing shall shake me.”
“Well, then, be it so!” he answered sharply; and turning away, walked rapidly up the lane.
Caroline stood, for a single instant, on the spot where he left her; but then all the feelings with which she had struggled during the whole of that painful conversation with her husband, seemed to break loose upon her at once, and over-power her. Her head grew giddy, a weary faintness seemed to come over her heart, and she sank, unconscious, on the ground.
The next moment six or seven men came quickly up.
“Here’s a woman murdered!” cried one—“and the fellow that did it is off up the lane.”
A few hasty exclamations of surprise and pity followed, and then another man exclaimed, in a hasty and impatient tone, “Take her up in your arms, Jim, and bring her along. Perhaps we may find this Messenger the boy talked of, and the murderer together; but let us make haste, or we shall lose both.”
“Mind,” said another, speaking almost at the same time, “don’t knock the Messenger’s brains out. We will just take and plant him in the marsh, tie his arms, and put him up to the arm-pits. The boys will find him there, when they come to drive back the cattle.—The lady don’t seem quite dead, I think.”
“Bring her along! bring her along!” cried another voice—“we shall miss all, if you are so slow;” and thus speaking, the leader of the party quickened his pace, while the others, having raised the lady from the ground, bore her onward towards the end of the lane.
We have said that Wilton Brown paused and gazed through the mist at the figure of a man advancing towards him, and to the reader it need not be told who the person was that thus came forward. To Wilton, however, the conviction was brought more slowly; for though he had heard the sound of a familiar voice, yet it seemed so improbable that voice should be the voice of Lord Sherbrooke, that the idea never struck him, till the figure became so distinct as not to leave a doubt.