“Now, then, Charlie, let me hear how all this came about. I know that all you said about what took place at the window is perfectly true; but, even had you not said so, I should have felt there was something else. What was it brought you to that window? Your story was straight-forward enough, but it was certainly singular your happening to be there, and I fancy some of our friends thought that you had gone round to listen, yourself. One hinted as much; but I said that was absurd, for you were completely in my confidence, and that, whatever peril and danger there might be in the enterprise, you would share them with me.”
“It is not pleasant that they should have thought so, father, but that is better than that the truth should be known. This is how it happened;” and he repeated what Ciceley had told him in the garden.
“So the worthy Master John Dormay has set a spy upon me,” Sir Marmaduke said, bitterly. “I knew the man was a knave—that is public property—but I did not think that he was capable of this. Well, I am glad that, at any rate, no suspicion can fall upon Ciceley in the matter; but it is serious, lad, very serious. We do not know how long this fellow has been prying and listening, or how much he may have learnt. I don’t think it can be much. We talked it over, and my friends all agreed with me that they do not remember those curtains having been drawn before. To begin with, the evenings are shortening fast, and, at our meeting last week, we finished our supper by daylight; and, had the curtains been drawn, it would have been noticed, for we had need of light before we finished. Two of the gentlemen, who were sitting facing the window, declared that they remembered distinctly that it was open. Mr. Jervoise says that he thought to himself that, if it was his place, he would have the trees cut away there, for they shut out the light.
“Therefore, although it is uncomfortable to think that there has been a spy in the house, for some months, we have every reason to hope that our councils have not been overheard. Were it otherwise, I should lose no time in making for the coast, and taking ship to France, to wait quietly there until the king comes over.”
“You have no documents, father, that the man could have found?”
“None, Charlie. We have doubtless made lists of those who could be relied upon, and of the number of men they could bring with them, but these have always been burned before we separated. Such letters as I have had from France, I have always destroyed as soon as I have read them. Perilous stuff of that sort should never be left about. No; they may ransack the place from top to bottom, and nothing will be found that could not be read aloud, without harm, in the marketplace of Lancaster.
“So now, to bed, Charlie. It is long past your usual hour.”