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• ' (i Continued ' rzaWK>, - r, ‘ After the J ‘first 2 mile, B ‘’’fa f G& m chkngedno words and die muffled beat of thb horses’ hoofs on the snow and tbemsh of the ftnpetuous stream only jsouhds to be heard.' 'I rode ; qn’ t ‘ like bnh in a dream, seeing ndtliitig 1 but 1 the .picture of the deserted. bpdj } room, which seemed to have photographed itself on my brain. WHafhad a happened there since I left it f ' Wh’kt “ J might »be happening at »-ibisejw«eQ6r»» moment ? . £.s. we,, ’ hear ' despairing scream-rftope towards uf on the night breeze ; oAceOllf|hfcifetl) I? did lieaf it, and so strong vas the liUiHi : sion that I involuntarily drew rein: .and listened, but, except for the . rush of lyatec > the b&tf 'df thi J 8 .. hoofs, all ’silenj: befor^.' 1 length,we came in sight of tfte hpuse/^— >Jv , a picture of rustic tranqpdlxty,.! with, its i snowfeovered ; • roof . and 1 picturesque H >■: gables.-- ;; The “ best room ” ■ dn/t’he • 1 ” side feeing us as -wh J Approached. With f breathless anxiety I strained my eyes in search of th'e light. >My I hfekrt? gavi b a wild throb, and , then sank-Lthe window .was dark ! ~, ,j .<?< n - ‘ XWlate!’ I. gasped, pointing, to it ■ * hjo, ho,’ : said ybung' : Eafdly; * thd ; 1 light is still burning. Loqk.agaiq.’.. Lookingfmbte dioskly) I haw .tbit hev.L was MgKt:J^there.-w^,A:.fe^lp ; gUra!Hjer <: i • a dim uncertain ray, which ;shovyqd me that the wjndpw. was jftill, : ppen. f Bpt r ; even ai’XlQqkeftjijt fficjtpred,--fmleOr - ;an 4 vanished. .mb! - By Mr . .-lEardlyV .dfrectioife't "#«.■««• slackened' sour pace 1 I'd A” walk a& ! 'We T approached, iff order iibt to f and, alighting at the gate of the ydfd, I ''" two of us —young Eardly and the watch’-" man—Wen* round to guard 1 the iffdhV " / door, while Mr Eardly* the-’constable, J and myself entered the yard. ■ I Knew there: was a ladder ipr ! the stable, and had suggested that we .should enter the house, through the windowf by,.Which I had X£ft’;, taken .by; , surprise, the .men .would, have ,no .time , fbr resistance, and die Only 1 exit being guarded, no chance 6f escape. ; “ The Judder was brought ouf and placed against the walk I; ascended first, Mr Eardly and the.chief constable following—all three armed. . , ‘ We’ll take’em alive, if we can, sir, if ‘ its all the same to you,’ the latter’ whispered to me as.we ascended, as if ' 1 he were speaking of some dangerouk - J wild beasts.'“l’d give give,fifty, pounds-, to see the vilhans “swing To get in at the window was a'sdmewhat more difficult matter than to get out of if; I accomplished it, however, 1: f * safely and quietly, and motioneft to the ( others to keep hack for a, moment.'X'he ;;, room was silent, chilly, and profoundly dark. The candle’had-only just ex-: < - pired.; the wick still smouldered. I

stood for a minute was

not the faintest sound without or withitu ' the house 3 and then a strange instinct - for which I have never Seen able tq* 3 account led me straight to the bed. What I expected to tjouch, when I . put ray hand out in the darkness,,. J. do not know; what I did touch was a woman’s dress and an icy-cold band.‘A light! Show, a light, here -for ■ heaven’s sake ! 1 .1 exclaimed, in a I!i hoarse whisper. ' , ' ; ■ • Mr .Eardly, who carried a ■ dark . , lantern,, dreyr- back the slide, and turned; ’ j.., the brilliant circle of light full on to . the: f bed—full on to.the face and figUre'of* Joyce, who lay there as I had sefenher in imagination, silen%' ahd ! MdtioiiWssV with closed eyes and white parted lips, ' arid ho, life ip r 4 colorless features than- in those of a f statue h;>| ; , p i . « .rr,. .. ,'v The pillows were undisturbed ; there- i were ; no «igns of a . recent struggle.* , ; What did' it- toean ? ’ In were,; I ..It meanf’that/'’’ 1 after j I left hehouse]vfh«t Her master chamber,., she ,had crept back, ,tq , this ~ room} and had deliberately laid*herself ' down* upon thf /r Jjed. i tq Ji fromjwhich she Had rescued me. ‘ She is alive; ’.she ha® only faihtedJ’P T whispered Mr Eardly, putting his hand ME het* : heart* < broke "V ■ - He hastily cbikpa|9d and wejstened,wW ot a sound of stealthy footsteps ascen«Sg.TO~i!

Ihe stairs. They came along ill.. ... d ing, paused an instant at the door, rml the next moment we heard t’ em ci. er the lumber-room. ‘They are there; they h.ive mule sure that the light is out. In another moment they will open the door. We’ll give’em a warm reception,’ whispered the chief constable, grimly, in my ear. ‘ Lift the girl off the bed, sir, out of the way.’ I raised her in my arms, and laid her gently on the floor at the far end of the room, and then returned and took up close to the bed’s head, Mr. Eajijty.aM the constable standing on the othier<side. '-There was a momentary silence ; then-we heard the faint click of the Concealed spring—a sound so low that fr would have been inaudible to and intent than ours—and we felt rather than saw that the secret door was being slowly opened from . the, other side, leaving a void where the,bed’s head, had been. Mr Eardly waited long enough to allow it to tie unclosed to its full width, and theh, drawing back the slide of the lantern, flashed the light full on to the facfepf the two .murderers, set like an Uglyrpicture in the frame of the door. Within an; indescribable cry of mingled astonishment, rage, and terror they drew back into the, other room and attempted to shut the door; buf, before they could, effect, it, we scrambled pellmell through the opening, and threw upon them. Then followed a scene of confusion, during ■ which we .all seemed to be struggling together —oaths, cries of rage ana pain, the noise of blows, the; scuffling; of feet, all /mingled in a horrible medley of sounds which ' I can never forget. A r blow’from Mr Eardly’s life-preserver felled t Reuben Blacklock to the floor, whejifi ihei lay stunned snd motionless. Thte Constable and I were struggling with .ffleTather,'who fought like a mad’‘He' bad a pistol in his hand — was trying desperately to disengage his right arm from oiir grasp. *'4&k c pht, sir—-look out ! Take cbpstable cried, as, by a sudden Wrench, J the man freed his arm anthiTpointed the pistol full in my face. Bbfdre tie could pull the trigger I struck 1 the 1 weapon ,- up : there was a shaip rcpprt—a heayy fall. The bullet he Jiad ; intended for me had gone thrboglriiis ’own brain; SSfflfe* hightßeuben Blacklock in .Beckley lock-up, to be thence transferred in due course to the ■ ' Joyce, who had recovered from her 3w<Jsn only to fall into another still removed, at Mr Eafdly’s suggestiph, ; to his own house, an4J|l^^ v care of hisYkiqdrhearted wife. It was long befeceuher mind recovered from the shocfcjiit had sustained ort that night ; by slow however, and thanks to dhremittmg 'care arid tenderness, she . 1 though no other remained,, it was found that her memory was so far impaired that the events of the past appeared to her like a confused and troubled dream —a dream which it was painful for ’her to recilL’Y''. was not in a,condition to give concerning the murders, that hatibsOn already committed, Reuben Blacklock. was convicted only of the attempt on my own life, and was sentenced to a long term of transportation. ’ ~. !

Polly and: I took few more journeys together, for , an unexpected legacy wtucl|>foU to roe shortly .afterwards enabled me to set up in business for myand ? Joyce! . fifty year's she has beefiT^y !i wife-—as, true and tender a wife ever aman bad—and as I look back through the long past to the night when first we met, I bless the chance brought us together at the lonely imv:P!*riffle /moor* where. I so narrowly escaped hiking my last sleep in that Sthaßob IBed: ; '■ - '

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Bibliographic details

A STRANGE BED., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 357, 30 May 1881

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A STRANGE BED. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 357, 30 May 1881

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