“Unless I read wrongly what we saw, back yonder in the clearing,” he said, cryptically, “your brother is in sore need of every friend he can muster. I had only a glimpse of our subterranean half-man. But there was a gash across his eyebrow, and a mass of bruises on his throat. If I’m not mistaken, I put them there. That was the man who tried to knife Standish last evening. And, unless I’ve misread the riddle of that tunnel, we’ll be lucky to get there in time. There’s trouble ahead. All sorts of trouble.”
“Trouble?” repeated Claire, questioningly. “You mean—?”
“I mean I’ve pieced it out, partly from reports and partly from my own deductions and from the sight of that man, back there,” said Brice. “I may be wrong in all or in part of it. But I don’t think I am. I figure that that chap we saw half under ground, is one of a clique or gang that is after something which Standish and Hade have—or that these fellows think Hade and Standish have. I figure they think your brother has wronged them in some way and that they are even more keen after him than after Hade. That, or else they think if they could put him out of the way, they could get the thing they are after. That or both reasons.”
“I learned that Standish has hired special police to patrol the main road, after dark, under plea that he’s afraid tramps might trespass on his groves. But he didn’t dare hire them to patrol his grounds for fear of what they might chance to stumble on. And, naturally, he couldn’t have them or any one patrol the hidden path. That’s the reason he armed you and told you to look out for any one coming that way. That’s why you held me up, when I came through here, yesterday. These must be people you know by sight. For you told me you took me for some one else. This chap, back yonder, knows the hidden path. And now it seems he knows the tunnel, too. If I’m right in thinking that tunnel leads to the secret orchard enclosure, back of your house, then I fancy Standish may be visited during the next half hour. And, unless I’m mistaken, I heard more than one set of bare feet scurrying down that tunnel just now. Our friend with the bashed-in face was apparently the last of several men to slip into the tunnel, and we happened along as he was doing it. If he recognized you and saw you had a man as an escort, he must know we’re bound for your house. And he and the rest are likely to hurry to get there ahead of us. That’s why I’ve been walking you off your feet, in spite of the darkness, ever since we left him.”
“I—I only saw him for the tiniest part of a second,” said Claire, glancing nervously through the darkness behind her. “And yet I’m almost sure he was a Caesar. He—”
“A Caesar?” queried Gavin, in real perplexity.