“I—Colonel Quaritch. Come down. I want to speak to you.”
The head was withdrawn and a couple of minutes afterwards Harold saw the front door begin to open slowly. He waited till there was space enough, and then slipped in, and together they forced it to.
“Stop a bit, sir,” said George; “I’ll light the lamp;” and he did.
Next minute he stepped back in amazement.
“Why, what on arth hev you bin after, Colonel?” he said, contemplating Harold’s filth-begrimed face, and hands, and clothes. “Is anything wrong up at the Castle, or is the cottage blown down?”
“No, no,” said Harold; “listen. You’ve heard tell of the treasure that old Sir James de la Molle buried in the time of the Roundheads?”
“Yes, yes. I’ve heard tell of that. Hev the gale blown it up?”
“No, but by heaven I believe that I am in a fair way to find it.”
George took another step back, remembering the tales that Mrs. Jobson had told, and not being by any means sure but that the Colonel was in a dangerous condition of lunacy.
“Give me a glass of something to drink, water or milk, and I’ll tell you. I’ve been digging all night, and my throat’s like a limeskin.”
“Digging, why where?”
“Where? In Dead Man’s Mount!”
“In Dead Man’s Mount?” said George. “Well, blow me, if that ain’t a funny place to dig at on a night like this,” and, too amazed to say anything more, he went off to get the milk.
Harold drank three glasses of milk, and then sat down to tell as much of his moving tale as he thought desirable.
HOW THE NIGHT WENT
George sat opposite to him, his hands on his knees, the red nightcap on his head, and a comical expression of astonishment upon his melancholy countenance.
“Well,” he said, when Harold had done, “blow me if that ain’t a master one. And yet there’s folks who say that there ain’t no such thing as Providence—not that there’s anything prowided yet—p’raps there ain’t nawthing there after all.”
“I don’t know if there is or not, but I’m going back to see, and I want you to come with me.”
“Now?” said George rather uneasily. “Why, Colonel, that bain’t a very nice spot to go digging about in on a night like this. I niver heard no good of that there place—not as I holds by sich talk myself,” he added apologetically.
“Well,” said the Colonel, “you can do as you like, but I’m going back at once, and going down the hole, too; the gas must be out of it by now. There are reasons,” he added, “why, if this money is to be found at all, it should be found this morning. To-day is Christmas Day, you know.”