Desmond heard a smothered exclamation break from the fellow, but he could pay no further attention to him, for, as he rose from stooping over the ladder, he was set upon by a burly form. He dodged behind the ladder. The man sprang after him, blindly, clumsily, and tripped over the box. But he was up in a moment, and, reckless of the consequences of raising an alarm, was fumbling for a pistol, when there fell upon his ears a shout, the tramp of hurrying feet, and the sound of another window being thrown open.
With a muffled curse he swung on his heel, and made to cross the gravel path and plunge into the shrubbery. But Desmond was too quick for him. Springing upon his back, he caught his arms, thus preventing him from using his pistol. He was a powerful man, and Desmond alone would have been no match for him; but before he could wriggle himself entirely free, three half-clad men servants came up with a rush, and in a trice he was secured.
In the excitement of these close-packed moments Desmond had forgotten the other man, whom he had last seen with his leg dangling over the windowsill. He looked up now; the window was still open; the ladder lay exactly where he had jerked it; evidently the robber had not descended.
“Quick!” cried Desmond. “Round to the door! The other fellow will escape!”
He himself sprinted round the front of the house to the door by which the servants had issued, and met the squire hobbling along on his stick, pistol in hand.
“We have got one, sir!” cried Desmond. “Have you seen the other?”
“What—why—how many villains are there?” replied the squire, who, between amazement and wrath, was scarcely able to appreciate the situation.
“There was a man in the library; he did not come down the ladder; he may be still in the house.”
“The deuce he is! Desmond, take the pistol, and shoot the knave like a dog if you meet him.”
“I’ll guard the door, Sir Willoughby. They are bringing the other man round. Then we’ll go into the house and search. He can’t get out without being seen if the other doors are locked.”
“Locked and barred. I did it myself an hour ago. I’ll hang the villain.”
In a few moments the servants came up with their captive and the box, old Dickon following. Only their figures could be seen: it was too dark to distinguish features.
“You scoundrel!” cried the squire, brandishing his stick. “You’ll hang for this.
“Take him into the house. In with you all.
“An’ you please, Sir Willoughby, ’tis—” began one of the servants.
“In with you, I say,” roared the squire. “I’ll know how to deal with the villain.”
The culprit was hustled into the house, and the group followed, Sir Willoughby bringing up the rear. Inside he barred and locked the door, and bade the men carry their prisoner to the library. The corridors and staircase were dark, but by the time the squire had mounted on his gouty legs, candles had been lighted, and the face of the housebreaker was for the first time visible. Two servants held the man; the others, with Desmond and Dickon, looked on in amazement.