Mr. Beverley Qualifies for the Stage
Bill had come back, and had reported, rather breathless, that Cayley was still at the pond.
“But I don’t think they’re getting up much except mud,” he said. “I ran most of the way back so as to give us as much time as possible.”
“Well, come along, then,” he said. “The sooner, the quicker.”
They stood in front of the row of sermons. Antony took down the Reverend Theodore Ussher’s famous volume, and felt for the spring. Bill pulled. The shelves swung open towards them.
“By Jove!” said Bill, “it is a narrow way.”
There was an opening about a yard square in front of them, which had something the look of a brick fireplace, a fireplace raised about two feet from the ground. But, save for one row of bricks in front, the floor of it was emptiness. Antony took a torch from his pocket and flashed it down into the blackness.
“Look,” he whispered to the eager Bill. “The steps begin down there. Six feet down.”
He flashed his torch up again. There was a handhold of iron, a sort of large iron staple, in the bricks in front of them.
“You swing off from there,” said Bill. “At least, I suppose you do. I wonder how Ruth Norris liked doing it.”
“Cayley helped her, I should think .... It’s funny.”
“Shall I go first?” asked Bill, obviously longing to do so. Antony shook his head with a smile.
“I think I will, if you don’t mind very much, Bill. Just in case.”
“In case of what?”
“Well in case.”
Bill, had to be content with that, but he was too much excited to wonder what Antony meant.
“Righto,” he said. “Go on.”
“Well, we’ll just make sure we can get back again, first. It really wouldn’t be fair on the Inspector if we got stuck down here for the rest of our lives. He’s got enough to do trying to find Mark, but if he has to find you and me as well—”
“We can always get out at the other end.”
“Well, we’re not certain yet. I think I’d better just go down and back. I promise faithfully not to explore.”
“Right you are.”
Antony sat down on the ledge of bricks, swung his feet over, and sat there for a moment, his legs dangling. He flashed his torch into the darkness again, so as to make sure where the steps began; then returned it to his pocket, seized the staple in front of him and swung himself down. His feet touched the steps beneath him, and he let go.
“Is it all right?” said Bill anxiously.
“All right. I’ll just go down to the bottom of the steps and back. Stay there.”
The light shone down by his feet. His head began to disappear. For a little while Bill, craning down the opening, could still see faint splashes of light, and could hear slow uncertain footsteps; for a little longer he could fancy that he saw and heard them; then he was alone ....