Their obstreperous summons at the door was speedily answered, and the two cavaliers stood in the hall.
Well, all's right, I suppose? inquired Blarden, tossing his gloves and hat upon the table.
Yes, sir, replied the servant, all but the lady's maid; Mr. Chancey's been calling for her these five minutes and more, and we can't find her.
How's thisall the doors locked? inquired Blarden vehemently.
Ay, sir, every one of them, replied the man.
Who has the keys? asked Blarden.
Mr. Chancey, sir, replied the servant.
Did he allow them out of his keepingdid he? urged Blarden.
No, sirnot a momentfor he was saying this very minute, answered the domestic, he had them in his pocket, and the key of Miss Mary's room along with them; he took it from Flora Guy, the maid, scarce a quarter of an hour ago. Then all is right, said Blarden, while the momentary blackness of suspicion passed from his face, the girl's in some hole or corner of this lumbering old barrack, but here comes Chancey himself, what's all the fuss aboutwho's in the upper roomthethe boudoir, eh? he continued, addressing the barrister, who was sneaking downstairs with a candle in his hand, and looking unusually sallow.
The Reverend Ebenezer and one of the ladsthey're sitting there, answered Chancey, but we can't find that little girl, Flora Guy, anywhere.
Have you the keys? asked Blarden.
Ay, dear me, to be sure I have, except the one that I gave to little Bat there, to let you in this minute. I have the three other keys; dear medear mewhat could ail me? And so saying, Chancey slapped the skirt of his coat slightly so as to make them jingle in his pocket.
The windows are all fast and safe as the wall itselfscrewed down, observed Blarden, let's see the keysshow them here.
Chancey accordingly drew them from his pocket, and laid them on the table.
There's the three of them, observed he, calmly.
Have you no more? inquired Blarden, looking rather aghast.
No, indeed, the devil a one, replied Chancey, thrusting his arm to the elbow in his coat pocket.
Dn me, but I think this is the key of the cellar, ejaculated Blarden, in a tone which energized even the apathetic lawyer, come here, Ashwoode, what key's this?
It is the cellar key, said Ashwoode, in a faltering voice and turning very pale.
Try your pockets for another, and find it, or The aposiopesis was alarming, and Blarden's direction was obeyed instantaneously.
I declare to God, said Chancey, much alarmed, I have but the three, and that in the door makes four.
You dd oaf, said Blarden, between his set teeth, if you have botched this business, I'll let you know for what. Ashwoode, which of the keys is missing?
After a moment's hesitation, Ashwoode led the way through the passage which Mary and her companion had so lately traversed.
That's the door, said he, pointing to that through which the escape had been effected.
And what's this? cried Blarden, shouldering past Sir Henry, and raising something from the ground, just by the door-post, a handkerchief, and marked, tooit's the young lady's owngive me the key of the lady's chamber, continued he, in a low changed voice, which had, in the ears of the barrister, something more unpleasant still than his loudest and harshest tones give me the key, and follow me.
He clutched it, and followed by the terror-stricken barrister, and by Sir Henry Ashwoode, he retraced his steps, and scaled the stairs with hurried and lengthy strides. Without stopping to glance at the form of the still slumbering drunkard, or to question the servant who sat opposite, on the chair recently occupied by Chancey, he strode directly to the door of Mary Ashwoode's sleeping apartment, opened it, and stood in an untenanted chamber.
For a moment he paused, aghast and motionless; he ran to the bedstill warm with the recent pressure of his intended victimthe room was, indeed, deserted. He turned round, absolutely black and speechless with rage. As he advanced, the wretched barristerthe tool of his worst schemescowered back in terror. Without speaking one word, Blarden clutched him by the throat, and hurled him with his whole power backward. With tremendous force he descended with his head upon the bar of the grate, and thence to the hearthstone; there, breathless, powerless, and to all outward seeming a livid corpse, lay the devil's cast-off servant, the red blood trickling fast from ears, nose, and mouth. Not waiting to see whether Chancey was alive or dead, Mr. Blarden seized the brandy flask and dashed it in the face of the stupid drunkardwho, disturbed by the fearful hubbub, was just beginning to open his eyesand leaving that reverend personage drenched in blood and brandy, to take care of his boon companion as best he might, Blarden strode down the stairs, followed by Ashwoode and the servants.
Get horseshorses all, shouted he, to the stablesby Jove, it was they we met on the roadthe two girlsquick to the stableswhoever catches them shall have his hat full of crowns.
Led by Blarden, they all hurried to the stables, where they found the horses unsaddled.
On with the saddlesfor your life be quick, cried Blarden, four horsesfresh ones.
While uttering his furious mandates, with many a blasphemous imprecation, he aided the preparations himself, and with hands that trembled with eagerness and rage, he drew the
p.302girths, and buckled the bridles, and in almost less than a minute, the four horses were led out upon the broken pavement of the stable-yard.
Mind, boys, cried Blarden, they are two mad-womenescaped mad-womenride for your lives. Ashwoode, do you take the right, and I'll take the left when we come on the roaddo you follow me, Tonyand Dick, do you go with Sir Henryand, now, devil take the hindmost. With these words he plunged the spurs into his horse's flanks, and with the speed of a thunder blast, they all rode helter-skelter, in pursuit of their human prey.