“That’s as it turns out, Dickon. But what is it with you, old man? Is aught amiss?”
“Not wi’ me, sir, not wi’ me, thank the Lord above. But I seed ya, Measter Desmond, t’other day, in speech win that—that Diggle as he do call hisself, and—and I tell ya true, sir, I dunna like the looks on him; no, he binna a right man; an’ I were afeard as he med ha’ bin fillin’ yer head wi’ fine tales about the wonders o’ the world an’ all.”
“Is that all, Dickon? You fear my head may be turned, eh? Don’t worry about me.”
“Why, sir, ya may think me bold, but I do say this. If so be ya gets notions in yer head—notions o’ goin’ out along an’ seein’ the world an’ all, go up an’ axe squire about it. Squire he done have a wise head; he’ll advise ya for the best; an’ sure I bin he’d warn ya not to have no dealin’s win that Diggle, as he do call hissen.”
“Why, does the squire know him, then?”
“‘Tis my belief squire do know everything an’ everybody. Diggle he med not know, to be sure, but if so be ya say ‘tis a lean man, wi’ sharp nose, an’ black eyes like live coals, an’ a smilin’ mouth—why, squire knows them sort, he done, and wouldna trust him not a ell. But maybe ya’d better go on, sir: my old shanks be slow fur one so young an’ nimble.”
“No hurry, Dickon. Lucky the squire was used to London hours in his youth, or we’d find him abed. See, there’s a light in the Hall; ’tis in the strong room next to the library; Sir Willoughby is reckoning up his rents maybe, though ’tis late for that.”
“Ay, ya knows the Hall, true. Theer be a terrible deal o gowd an’ silver up in that room, fur sure, more ’n a aged man like me could tell in a week.”
“The light is moving; it seems Sir Willoughby is finishing up for the night. I hope we shall not be too late.”
But at this moment a winding of the path brought another face of the Hall into view.
“Why, Dickon,” exclaimed Desmond, “there’s another light; ’tis the squire’s own room. He cannot be in two places at once; ’tis odd at this time of night. Come, stir your stumps, old man.”
They hurried along, scrambling through the hedge that bounded the field, Desmond leaping, Dickon wading the brook that ran alongside the road. Turning to the left, they came to the front entrance to the Hall, and passed through the wicket gate into the grounds. They could see the squire’s shadow on the blind of the parlor; but the lighted window of the strong room was now hidden from them.
Stepping in that direction, to satisfy a strange curiosity he felt, Desmond halted in amazement as he saw, faintly silhouetted against the sky, a ladder placed against the wall, resting on the sill of the strong room. His surprise at seeing lights in two rooms, in different wings of the house, so late at night, changed to misgiving and suspicion. He hastened back to Dickon.
“I fear some mischief is afoot,” he said. Drawing the old man into the shade of the shrubbery, he added: “Remain here; do not stir until I come for you, or unless you hear me call.”