“I will tell you that afterwards, father. Don’t ask me now.”
For, at this moment, some of the others were coming up. Several of them had torches, and, as they approached, Sir Marmaduke saw something lying on the ground under the window. He picked it up.
“Here is the fellow’s cap,” he said. “You must have hit him a shrewd blow, Charlie, for here is a clean cut through the cloth, and a patch of fresh blood on the white lining. How did he get you down, lad?”
“He fell so suddenly, when I hit him, that I thought I had either killed or stunned him; but of course I had not, for it was but a moment after, when I was speaking to you, that I felt my ankles seized, and I went down with a crash. I heard him make off through the bushes; but I was, for the moment, almost dazed, and could do nothing to stop him.”
“Was the window open when he came?”
“Yes, sir, two or three inches.”
“Then it was evidently a planned thing.
“Well, gentlemen, we may as well go indoors. The fellow is well out of our reach now, and we may be pretty sure he will never again show his face here. Fortunately he heard nothing, for the serving men had but just left the room, and we had not yet begun to talk.”
“That is true enough, Sir Marmaduke,” one of the others said. “The question is: how long has this been going on?”
Sir Marmaduke looked at Charlie.
“I know nothing about it, sir. Till now, I have not had the slightest suspicion of this man. It occurred to me, this afternoon, that it might be possible for anyone to hear what was said inside the room, by listening at the windows; and that this shrubbery would form a very good shelter for an eavesdropper. So I thought, this evening I would take up my place here, to assure myself that there was no traitor in the household. I had been here but five minutes when the fellow stole quietly up, and placed his ear at the opening of the casement, and you may be sure that I gave him no time to listen to what was being said.”
“Well, we had better go in,” Sir Marmaduke said. “There is no fear of our being overheard this evening.
“Charlie, do you take old Banks aside, and tell him what has happened, and then go with him to the room where that fellow slept, and make a thorough search of any clothes he may have left behind, and of the room itself. Should you find any papers or documents, you will, of course, bring them down to me.”
But the closest search, by Charlie and the old butler, produced no results. Not a scrap of paper of any kind was found, and Banks said that he knew the man could neither read nor write.
The party below soon broke up, considerable uneasiness being felt, by all, at the incident of the evening. When the last of them had left, Charlie was sent for.