The storm had descended swiftly, sweeping in suddenly from the sea, driving across the downs to the hills at high speed, blotting out the faint rays of a crescent moon and hiding the country-side beneath a pall of blackness, which was forked at intervals by flashes of lightning. The darkness was so impenetrable, and the fury of the storm so fierce, that Harry Marsland pulled his hat well over his eyes and bent over his horse's neck to shield his face from the driving rain, trusting to the animal's sagacity and sure-footedness to take him safely down the cliff road in the darkness, where a slip might plunge them into the breakers which he could hear roaring at the foot of the cliffs.Hardly had Marsland done so when his horse swerved violently right across the road—fortunately to the side opposite the edge of the cliffs—slipped and almost fell, but recovered itself and then stood still, snorting and trembling with fear.He patted and spoke to the horse, wondering what had frightened it. He had seen or heard nothing, but the darkness of the night and the roar of the gale would have prevented him, even if his face had not been almost buried in his horse's neck. However, the rain, beating with sharp persistence on his face and through his clothes, reminded him that he was some miles from shelter on a lonely country road, with only a vague idea of his whereabouts. So, with a few more soothing words, he urged his horse onward again. The animal responded willingly enough, but as soon as it moved Marsland discovered to his dismay that it was lame in the off hind leg. The rider was quick to realize that it must have sprained itself in swerving.He slipped out of his saddle and endeavoured to feel the extent of the horse's injury, but the animal had not entirely recovered from its fright, and snorted as his master touched it. Marsland desisted, and gently pulled at the bridle...
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