They had no difficulty in arranging with the landlord for a horse, which was to be left in a stable he named in town. They gave him a deposit, for which he handed them a note, by which the money was to be returned to them by the stable keeper, on their handing over the horse in good condition.
After the meal they sallied out again, and walked to the tavern, which was a small place standing apart from other houses. There was a light in the taproom, but they guessed that here, as at the other stopping place, the man they wanted would be in a private apartment. Passing the house, they saw a light in a side window, and, noiselessly opening a little wicket gate, they stole into the garden. Going a short distance back from the window, so that the light should not show their faces, they looked in, and saw the man they sought sitting by the fire, with a table on which stood a bottle and two glasses beside him, and another man facing him.
“Stay where you are, Harry. I will steal up to the window, and find out whether I can hear what they are saying.”
Stooping close under the window, he could hear the murmur of voices, but could distinguish no words. He rejoined his companion.
“I am going to make a trial to overhear them, Harry, and it is better that only one of us should be here. You go back to the inn, and wait for me there.”
“What are you going to do, Charlie?”
“I am going to throw a stone through the lower part of the window. Then I shall hide. They will rush out, and when they can find no one, they will conclude that the stone was thrown by some mischievous boy going along the road. When all is quiet again I will creep up to the window, and it will be hard if I don’t manage to learn something of what they are saying.”
The plan was carried out, and Charlie, getting close up to the window, threw a stone through one of the lowest of the little diamond-shaped panes. He heard a loud exclamation of anger inside, and then sprang away and hid himself at the other end of the garden. A moment later he heard loud talking in the road, and a man with a lantern came round to the window; but in a few minutes all was quiet again, and Charlie cautiously made his way back to the window, and crouched beneath it. He could hear plainly enough, now, the talk going on within.
“What was I saying when that confounded stone interrupted us?”
“You were saying, captain, that you intended to have a week in London, and then to stop the North coach.”
“Yes, I have done well lately, and can afford a week’s pleasure. Besides, Jerry Skinlow got a bullet in his shoulder, last week, in trying to stop a carriage on his own account, and Jack Mercer’s mare is laid up lame, and it wants four to stop a coach neatly. Jack Ponsford is in town. I shall bring him out with me.”
“I heard that you were out of luck a short time ago.”