“On hearing this I lost my caution, and hallooed back—
“’If so, ere to-morrow’s nightfall you shall keep him company, every one of you, black against the evening sky, except those who go to be quartered at Tower Hill and Tyburn.’ Then I ran and they shot at me, hitting once or twice, but, though old, the mail was good, and here am I, unhurt except for bruises.”
A while later Cicely, Jacob Smith, Thomas Bolle, Jeffrey Stokes, and Emlyn Stower sat together taking counsel—very earnest counsel, for the case was desperate. Plan after plan was brought forward and set aside for this reason or for that, till at length they stared at each other emptily.
“Emlyn,” exclaimed Cicely at last, “in past days you were wont to be full of comfortable words; have you never a one in this extreme?” for all the while Emlyn had sat silent.
“Thomas,” said Emlyn, looking up, “do you remember when we were children where we used to catch the big carp in the Abbey moat?”
“Aye, woman,” he answered; “but what time is this for fishing stories of many years ago? As I was saying, of that tunnel underground there is no hope. Beyond the grove it is utterly caved in and blocked—I’ve tried it. If we had a week, perhaps——”
“Let her be,” broke in Jacob; “she has something to tell us.”
“And do you remember,” went on Emlyn, “that you told me that there the carp were so big and fat because just at this place ’neath the drawbridge the Abbey sewer—the big Abbey sewer down which all foul things are poured—empties itself into the moat, and that therefore I would eat none of those fish, even in Lent?”
“Aye, I remember. What of it?”
“Thomas, did I hear you say that the powder you sent for had come?”
“Yes, an hour ago; six kegs, by the carrier’s van, of a hundredweight each. Not so much as we hoped for, but something, though, as the cannon has not come—for the King’s folk had none—it is of no use.”
“A dark night, a ladder with a plank on it, a brick arched drain, two hundredweight, or better still, four of powder set beneath the gate, a slow-match and a brave man to fire it—taken together with God’s blessing, these things might do much,” mused Emlyn, as though to herself.
Now at length they took her point.
“They’d be listening like a cat for a mouse,” said Bolle.
“I think the wind rises,” she answered; “I hear it in the trees. I think presently it will blow a gale. Also, lanterns might be shown at the back where the breach is, and men might shout there, as though preparing to attack. That would draw them off. Meanwhile Jeffrey Stokes and I would try our luck with the ladder and the kegs of powder—he to roll and I to fire when the time came, for being, as you have heard, a witch, I understand how to humour brimstone.”