If Baxter wondered at this purchase, he said nothing, only he bent his gaze thoughtfully upon the black leather bag that he held upon his knee.
On they sped between fragrant hedges, under whispering trees, past lonely cottages and farm-houses, past gate, and field, and wood, until the sun grew low.
At last, Bellew stopped the automobile at a place where a narrow lane, or cart track, branched off from the high road, and wound away between great trees.
“I leave you here,” said he as he sprang from the car, “this is Dapplemere,—the farmhouse lies over the up-land, yonder, though you can’t see it because of the trees.”
“Is it far, Master George?”
“About half a mile.”
“Here is the bag, sir; but—do you think it is—quite safe—?”
“Under the circumstances, Master George, I think it would be advisable to—to take this with you.” And he held out a small revolver. Bellew laughed, and shook his head.
“Such things aren’t necessary—here in Arcadia, John,—besides, I have my stick. So good-bye, for the present, you’ll stay at the ’King’s Head,’—remember.”
“Good-night, Master George, sir, goodnight! and good fortune go with you.”
“Thank you!” said Bellew, and reached out his hand, “I think we’ll shake on that, John!”
So they clasped hands, and Bellew turned, and set off along the grassy lane. And, presently, as he went, he heard the hum of the car grow rapidly fainter and fainter until it was lost in the quiet of the evening.
The shadows were creeping down, and evening was approaching, as Bellew took his way along that winding lane that led to the House of Dapplemere.
Had there been anyone to see, (which there was not), they might have noticed something almost furtive in his manner of approach, for he walked always under the trees where the shadows lay thickest, and paused, once or twice, to look about him warily. Being come within sight of the house, he turned aside, and forcing his way through a gap in the hedge, came by a roundabout course to the farm-yard. Here, after some search, he discovered a spade, the which, (having discarded his stick), he took upon his shoulder, and with the black leather bag tucked under his arm, crossed the paddock with the same degree of caution, and so, at last, reached the orchard. On he went, always in the shadow until, at length, he paused beneath the mighty, knotted branches of “King Arthur.” Never did conspirator glance about him with sharper eyes, or hearken with keener ears, than did George Bellew,—or Conspirator No. One, where he now stood beneath the protecting shadow of “King Arthur,”—or Conspirator No. Two, as, having unfolded the potato sack, he opened the black leather bag.
The moon was rising broad, and yellow, but it was low as yet, and “King Arthur” stood in impenetrable gloom,—as any other thorough-going, self-respecting conspirator should; and now, all at once, from this particular patch of shadow, there came a sudden sound,—a rushing sound,—a chinking, clinking, metallic sound, and, thereafter, a crisp rustling that was not the rustling of ordinary paper.