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A STRANGE BED.

{Continued.) ■ Mf. M rst movement was to put the whole width of the room) between myself and the horrible bed, and then leaning against the dressing-table, I raised my hands to my forfehead and tried to thihlc 1 .,, I say ‘ tried,’ '.because at first I ; could hot divert-, my disordered thoughts from the scene which had just passed;; Joyce’s pale face was still close to mine, painted on the air before me—her, voice still echoed in the silent#, uttering her forlorn ‘ Goodbye.’ r Gradually, however, some degree of calm.Qcss retumed to me, and with it returned that hope of safety for us both which'had i flashed across me a few minutes before. ■‘'While thd light still burns they will ‘ me.’ How long would it bi|p ? ' I looked at it—a long attenuated!! tallow, candle; about half remained. A glance at my watch told me that it had been burning rather mhrh than art hour; it would last anhad suggested, rode to Beckley, and resumed with assistance? Should r have; time before the candle; was burnt our? -I made a rapid calculationtwenty minutes to go, twenty to obtain mounted Reinforcement, twenty to it could‘, be done 1 But couldr l-rdare I , leave Joyce .mean-, while at the mercy of these miscreants ? Suppose I was ! delayed by some unforeseen accident; suppose the candle did not'last so long as 1 anticipated; oCrSUppft&jihey opened the door before it was burnt out ? It was an awful risk.

I glanced round the room in quest of something that would serve me as a weapon, supposing I resolved to stay and defend myself and her ap best I cduld j ttyere wias nothing, - not even a cliair-7-for the cumbrous armed one was. pot portable. If it came to a struggle, I should have nothing but myii own physical strength to depend upon j and l knew well that I /was no niatch'for my antagonists singly, much less together. ,1 gave up the thought arid turned to the window. The snow had-;,BOW) ceased,- the / clouds were breaking, and, though mcon and stars were /.pot visible, there Was a pale diffused light in riiq sky which served ■ to'TOo# , -imePtte4f' joufcli. road. into thebleak- distance, stream. be?ide, it rushing between its deep,;rocky; hanks.. I p ' on ‘ I Py 'boots, which Jovcq , iupistairs,. and, placing *tne precious candle, on which a life depended, in-a sheltered corner ouloftHri drsuight, opehed the casement to its widest, scrambled through , on tojkH£led|4 tiring by 8 til}hinds for an instant, and then let rhyself drop gently 4 m S^Ls«»wged^to y saddlc Polly in ttykdark.l do it to hW/lpterisfe 5 disgust, r t ti^h‘^t.^H^Orit a y ic t > biade her with infyute caution Qutiof the yard WPrfl'l *1 :- 'fr ' ■ ,

and a little way down the road, I flung myself into the saddle and rode away. At first the mare was sulky and restive, and gave me not a little trouble, but, when I got her well in hand, and showed her I was not to be trifled with, she changed her tactics, and set cff at a headlong gallop. On we rushed, and the deep and rapid stream rushed with us, making a hollow murmui between its rocky banks.

I saw nothing of'the road we traversed ; my thoughts were on before me at my goal, or behind me in the dark and silent house I had just left, Where a helpless girl was shut up alone with two murderers. The picture of rny deserted bed-robm rose up before hie with a strange vividness. I saw the open window, and the candle flickering in the draught—suppose a chance puff should extingush it! Every breath of wind in my face made me shudder. I saw too the Green Bed with its treacherous, inviting look; but; having pictured so much, my imagination played a strange freak, find painted Joyce lying on the bed, ,with an awful stillness in her face and form. Try as I would, I could not effiace that figure from the picture; when I saw the bed, I saw Joyce upon it. It was but a fancy, but it thrilled my heart with a new and shapeless fear.

At length I heard the rush and thunder of Beckley Fall, and presently came in sight of it. At this point the little river takes a sudden reckless leap over the rocks which bar its progress, and, alighting in a cloud of spray nine or ten feet below its former level, rushes onwards, foaming and turbulent, over the boulders.

There was the Fall, but' where was the bridge ? I drew rein, and sat looking blankly at the stream. The bridge was gone. The upright timbers which had supported it were still standing, but ofthe bridge itself only a few loose planks remained; the rest had lieen loosened and swept away by the swollen stream. The first moments of stupefaction past, I soon recovered myself. There was no time to hesitate ; on the loss of a second might depend a life. I gauged the stream with my eye—it was about twenty feet wide, as well as I could judge at a hasty glace. The opposite bank was a foot or two lower than this one, which was an advantage. I backed the mare across the road, so that its whole width lay between her and the river, and, bringing my whip sharply down on her flank, put her at the leap. She started forward, crossed the road at two bounds, and on the very brink of the stream swerved suddenly, so as nearly to unseat me, and turned aside. I tried again, with the same result. Then I grew desperate. I lashed her savagely, urging ,her on with wild cries that sounded strangely in the silence, and at length, like a mad thing, she rushed at the leap, cleared it at a bound, alighting safe and sound on the opposite bank, and tore onwards down the road without a moment’s pause. Five... minutes later she clattered through Beckley High street, and I drew rein before a large old-fashioned red-brick house standing back from the street, with a line of posts and chains before it, and on the door a brass plate bearing the name of “ Septimus Eardly.” Mr Eardly was the Mayor of Beckley, and a magistrate to boot; a few years before, when in business himself, he had had dealings with Marriott Brothers, and I knew him to be not only a kind-hearted man, but a clearheaded and quick-witted one —invaluable qualities in an emergency. The family had all retired for the night, except Mr Eardly himself, who, in dressing-gown and slippers, opened the door to me, and to whom in a few hurried words I explained the situation. He “ rose to the occasion ” at once, as I had expected he would. .‘ln twenty minutes the men and horses shall be at the door,’ he said promptly. ‘We can cross the stream at another point higher up, where it is narrower;’ and, ushering me into a room on the ground-flour, he left me. I spent the interval in pacing about room in a fever of impatience and suspence that increased with every moment, listening to the comings and goings in the house, and straining my ears for the sound of horses’ hcofs without At last I heard them, and, hurrying out, found Mr Eardly and his . son—a stalwart young Yorkshireman of four or five and twenty—on horseback at the back door, accompanied by the chief constable—one of the principal tradesmen of the town —and a watchman, both mounted. , In a second I too was in the saddle, and we were clattering through the silent town, waking all its sleeping echoes, and bringing more than one night-capped head to the windows as we passed. I headed the cavalcade, and on* we went, down the lonely road beyond the town, never slackening speed for a moment, crossing the brook at about a quarter of a mile below the Fall, and keeping on along the road I had already traversed. (To be continutd.)

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Permanent link to this item

http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/AG18810527.2.15

Bibliographic details

A STRANGE BED., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 355, 27 May 1881

Word Count
1,343

A STRANGE BED. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 355, 27 May 1881

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