‘Stephen Fern,’ he answered, with his lips close to the keyhole, and speaking in his lowest tones.
‘What is the matter, Stephen?’ she asked. ’I cannot open the door, for my uncle always takes the keys with him into his own room.’
‘Please to take the light into the pantry for one minute,’ he whispered cautiously, with a fervent hope that Miss Anne would do so without requiring any further explanations; for he was lost if Black Thompson or Davies were lying in wait near at hand. Very thankfully he heard Miss Anne’s step across the quarried floor, and in a moment afterwards the light shone through a low window close by. It was unglazed, with a screen of open lattice-work over it so as to allow of free ventilation. It had one thick stone upright in the middle, leaving such a narrow space as only a boy could creep through. He examined the opening quickly and carefully while the light remained, and when Miss Anne returned to the door he whispered again through the keyhole, ’Don’t be afraid. It’s me—Stephen; I’m coming in through the pantry window.’
He knew his danger. He knew if any of the robbers came up they must hear him removing the wooden lattice which was laid over the opening; and unless they supposed it to be one of their accomplices at work, he would be at once in their power, exposed to their ill-treatment, or perhaps suffer death at their hands. And would Miss Anne within trust to him instead of alarming the master? If he came down and opened the door, all the designs of the evil men would be hastened and finished before Martha could return from Longville. But Stephen did not listen, nor did his fingers tremble over their work, though there was a rush of thoughts and fears through his brain. He tore away the lattice as quickly and quietly as he could, and, with one keen glance round at the dark night, he thrust his head through the narrow frame. He found it was just possible to crush through; and, after a minute’s struggle, his feet rested upon the pantry floor.