“Alas! alas!” cried the doctor, “I much fear that, by his going, I have lost all that I expected to be able to do for you, Henry. It’s of not the least use now telling you or troubling you about it. You may now sell or let Bannerworth Hall to whomever you please, for I am afraid it is really worthless.”
“What on earth do you mean?” said Henry. “Why, doctor, will you keep up this mystery among us? If you have anything to say, why not say it at once?”
“Because, I tell you it’s of no use now. The game is up, Sir Francis Varney has escaped; but still I don’t know that I need exactly hesitate.”
“There can be no reason for your hesitating about making a communication to us,” said Henry. “It is unfriendly not to do so.”
“My dear boy, you will excuse me for saying that you don’t know what you are talking about.”
“Can you give any reason?”
“Yes; respect for the living. I should have to relate something of the dead which would be hurtful to their feelings.”
Henry was silent for a few moments, and then he said,—
“What dead? And who are the living?”
“Another time,” whispered the doctor to him; “another time, Henry. Do not press me now. But you shall know all another time.”
“I must be content. But now let us remember that another man yet lingers in Bannerworth Hall. I will endure suspense on his account no longer. He is an intruder there; so I go at once to dislodge him.”
No one made any opposition to this move, not even the doctor; so Henry preceded them all to the house. They passed through the open window into the long hall, and from thence into every apartment of the mansion, without finding the object of their search. But from one of the windows up to which there grew great masses of ivy, there hung a rope, by which any one might easily have let himself down; and no doubt, therefore, existed in all their minds that the hangman had sufficiently profited by the confusion incidental to the supposed shooting of the doctor, to make good his escape from the place.
“And so, after all,” said Henry, “we are completely foiled?”
“We may be,” said Dr. Chillingworth; “but it is, perhaps, going too far to say that we actually are. One thing, however, is quite clear; and that is, no good can be done here.”
“Then let us go home,” said the admiral. “I did not think from the first that any good would be done here.”
They all left the garden together now; so that almost for the first time, Bannerworth Hall was left to itself, unguarded and unwatched by any one whatever. It was with an evident and a marked melancholy that the doctor proceeded with the party to the cottage-house of the Bannerworths; but, as after what he had said, Henry forbore to question him further upon those subjects which he admitted he was keeping secret; and as none of the party were much in a cue for general conversation, the whole of them walked on with more silence than usually characterised them.