And while he talked with Robinson in the library Bobby caught at times the crunching of Paredes’s feet in the court.
“Why does that court draw him?” Robinson asked. “Why does he keep repeating that it is full of ghosts? He can’t be trying to scare us with that now.”
But Bobby didn’t answer.
“I’ve come to tell you the truth,” he burst out, “everything I know. You may lock me up. Even that would be better than this uncertainty. I must have an answer, if it condemns me; and how could I have had anything to do with what has happened to-night?”
He withheld nothing. Robinson listened with an intent interest. At the end he said not unkindly:
“If the evidence and Howells’s report hadn’t disappeared I’d have arrested you and considered the case closed before this miracle was thrown at me. You’ve involved yourself so frankly that I don’t believe you’re lying about what went on in the old room when you entered to steal those exhibits. Can’t say I blame you for trying that, either. You were in a pretty bad position—an unheard-of position. You still are, for that matter. But the case is put on such an extraordinary basis by what has happened to-night that I’d be a fool to lock you up on such a confession. I believe there’s a good deal more in what has gone on in that room and in the return of your grandfather than you can account for.”
“Thanks,” Bobby said. “I hoped you’d take it this way, for, if you will let me help, I have a plan.”
He turned restlessly to the door of the private staircase. In his memory Howells’s bold figure was outlined there, but now the face with its slow smile seemed sympathetic rather than challenging.
“What’s your plan?” Robinson asked.
Bobby forced himself to speak deliberately, steadily:
“To go for the night alone to the old room as Howells did.”
“Didn’t believe you had that much nerve. Two men have tried that. What good would it do?”
“If the answer’s anywhere,” Bobby said, “it must be hidden in that room. Howells felt it. I was sure of it when I was prevented from taking the evidence. You’ve believed it, I think.”
“There is something strange and unhealthy about the room,” Robinson agreed. “Certainly the secret of the locked doors lies there. But we’ve had sufficient warning. I’m not ashamed to say I wouldn’t take such a chance. I don’t know that I ought to let you.”
“I’ve been enough of a coward,” he said, “and, Robinson, I’ve got to know. I shan’t go near the bed. I’ll watch the bed from a corner. If the danger’s at the bed, as we suspect, it probably won’t be able to reach me, but just the same it may expose itself. And Rawlins or you can be outside the broken door in the corridor, waiting to enter at the first alarm.”
“Howells had no chance to give an alarm,” Robinson muttered. “We’ll see later.”