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first time since he entered the room.
"I am a light sleeper," smiled the countess.
"I am very sorry, papa, that I aroused the house in this manner," said Claudia, with real regret in her tone.
"It was not like you to do so, for a dream, my dear," replied the judge gravely.
"It was no dream, papa! it was no dream, as the result will prove."
"What was it then, my dear?"
"It was the Viscount Vincent!"
"The Viscount Vincent!" exclaimed the judge, in astonishment.
"Yes, papa; he has contrived to escape and to enter this house and this very room. It was his sudden appearance that frightened me into the screaming fit that alarmed the household; and for which I am very sorry."
"The Viscount Vincent here! But how on earth could he have escaped from prison?"
"I do not know, papa. I only know by the evidence of my own senses that he has done so."
"My dearest Claudia, believe me, you have been dreaming. Judge Merlin, if you knew the great strength and security of our prisons, you would also know how impossible it would be for any prisoner to escape," said Lady Hurstmonceux, addressing in turn the father and the daughter.
"Berenice, that I have not been dreaming to-morrow will show. For to-morrow you and all concerned will know that Lord Vincent has escaped from prison. But my dear Berenice, and you, my dearest father, promise to me one thing; promise me not to give Lord Vincent up to justice; but to suffer him to get away from the country, if he can do so. That is doubtless all that he proposes to himself to do. And such exile will be punishment enough in itself for him, especially as it will involve the resignation of his rank, title, and inheritance. So let him get away if he can. He can work no further woe for me. Frisbie's dying confession has killed off all his calumnies against me. He is harmless henceforth. So leave him to God," pleaded Claudia.
"I am willing to do, or leave undone, whatever you please, my dear; but--do you really think that you actually did see the viscount, and that you did not only dream of seeing him?" inquired the judge, unable to get over his amazement.
"Yes, papa; I saw him; and to-morrow will prove that I did so," said Claudia emphatically.
Lady Hurstmonceux smiled incredulously, for she did not reflect that there were more ways than one of breaking out of prison.
"But supposing it to have been the viscount; and supposing that he had succeeded in bursting locks and bars and eluding guards and sentinels; why should he have come here, of all places in the world? What could have been his motive in so risking a recapture?" inquired the judge, who seemed inclined to investigate the affair then and there.
"I do not know, papa. I have not had time to think. I was so astonished and even frightened at his mere appearance that I never asked myself the reason of it," answered Claudia.
"Did you not ask him?"
"No, papa. I only screamed."
"Did he not speak to you?"
"What did he say?"
"Papa, I had better tell you just how it happened," answered Claudia, giving the judge a detailed account of the dream, vision, or ghost, as the reader chooses to call it; but which she persisted in declaring to be the viscount himself in the flesh.
"It is most extraordinary! How did he get out? Lady Hurstmonceux, had we not better have the house searched for him?" inquired the judge.
"It shall be done if you please, judge; though I think it unnecessary."
"Papa, no! he went as he came. Let him go. I hope he will be clear of the country before to-morrow morning."
At this moment the clock struck five, although it was still pitch- dark and far from the dawn of day.
"There! I declare it is to-morrow morning already, as the Irish would say. Lady Hurstmonceux, do not let me keep you up any longer. I know your usual hour for rising at this season of the year is eight o'clock. You will have three good hours' sleep before you yet. Papa, dear, go to bed or you will make yourself ill."
"Are you sure you will not have anything before I go, Claudia?" inquired the countess.
"Nothing whatever, dear; I think I shall sleep."
Lady Hurstmonceux stooped and kissed her friend, and then, with a smile and a bow to the judge, she retired from the room.
"Do you think now that you will rest, Claudia?" inquired the judge.
"Yes, papa, yes. Go to rest yourself."
He also stooped and kissed her, and then left the chamber.
"Go to bed, Katie and Sally," said Claudia to her women.
"'Deed 'fore de Lord aint I gwine to no bed to leabe you here by yourse'f. I don't want you to see no more sperrits," replied Katie. And she left the room for a few minutes and returned dragging in her mattress, which she spread upon the floor, and upon which she threw herself to sleep for the remainder of the dark hours.
Lady Vincent submitted to this intrusion, because she knew it would be utterly useless to expostulate. But Sally began to whimper.
"Now, den, what de matter long o' you? You seen a sperrit too?" demanded Katie.
"I's feared to sleep by myse'f, for fear I should see somethin'," wept Sally.
"Den you lay down here by me," ordered Katie.
And thus it was that Lady Vincent's two women shared her sleeping room the remainder of that disturbed night--to be disturbed no longer; for, whether it was owing to the presence of the negroes or not, Claudia slept untroubled by dream, vision, or apparition, until the daylight streaming through one window, that had been left unclosed, awakened her.
It was ten o'clock, however, before the family assembled at the breakfast table, where they were engaged in discussing the affair of the previous night, and in each maintaining his or her own opinion as to its character; Claudia persisting that it was the Viscount Vincent in person that she had seen; Berenice contending that it was a dream; and the judge hesitating between two opinions; Ishmael silent.
"A very few hours will now decide the question," said Claudia, abandoning the discussion and beginning to chip her egg. At this moment came a sound of wheels on the drive before the house, followed by a loud knock at the door.
"There! I should not in the least wonder if that is a detachment of police coming to tell us that Lord Vincent has broken prison, and bringing a warrant to search this house for him," said Claudia, half rising to listen.
A servant entered the room and said:
"Sergeant McRae is out in the hall, asking to see his honor the judge."
"I thought so," said Claudia briskly.
The judge went out to see the sergeant of police.
Claudia and Berenice suspended their breakfast, and waited in intense anxiety the result of the interview.
Some little time elapsed, perhaps fifteen or twenty minutes, though the impatience of the ladies made it seem an hour in length; and then the door slowly opened and the judge gravely re-entered the breakfast room.
"It is as I said. The Viscount Vincent has broken jail and they have come here with a search warrant to look for him!" exclaimed Claudia, glancing up at her father as he approached; but when she saw the expression of profound melancholy in his countenance, she started, turned pale, and cried:
"Good Heaven, papa, what--what has happened?"
"Partly what you have anticipated, Claudia. The Viscount Vincent has broken out of prison, but not in the manner you supposed," solemnly replied the judge, taking his daughter's arm and leading her to a sofa and seating her upon it.
Lady Hurstmonceux, startled, anxious, and alarmed, followed and stood by her and held her hand. And both ladies gazed inquiringly into the disturbed face of the old man.
"There is something--something behind! What is it, papa? The viscount has broken jail, you say! Has he--has he--killed one of the guards in making his escape?" inquired Claudia, in a low, awe- stricken voice.
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