THE ZABELS VISITED
Let us follow the party now winding up the hillside.
In a deeply wooded spot on a side road stood the little house to which John and James Zabel had removed when their business on the docks had terminated. There was no other dwelling of greater or lesser pretension on the road, which may account for the fact that none of the persons now approaching it had been in that neighbourhood for years, though it was by no means a long walk from the village in which they all led such busy lives.
The heavy shadows cast by the woods through which the road meandered were not without their effect upon the spirits of the four men passing through them, so that long before they reached the opening in which the Zabel cottage stood, silence had fallen upon the whole party. Dr. Talbot especially looked as if he little relished this late visit to his old friends, and not till they caught a glimpse of the long sloping roof and heavy chimney of the Zabel cottage did he shake off the gloom incident to the nature of his errand.
“Gentlemen,” said he, coming to a sudden halt, “let us understand each other. We are about to make a call on two of our oldest and most respectable townsfolk. If in the course of that call I choose to make mention of the twenty-dollar bill left with Loton, well and good, but if not, you are to take my reticence as proof of my own belief that they had nothing to do with it.”
Two of the party bowed; Knapp, only, made no sign.
“There is no light in the window,” observed Abel. “What if we find them gone to bed?”
“We will wake them,” said the constable. “I cannot go back without being myself assured that no more money like that given to Loton remains in the house.”
“Very well,” remarked Knapp, and going up to the door before him, he struck a resounding knock sufficiently startling in that place of silence.
But loud as the summons was it brought no answer. Not only the moon-lighted door, but the little windows on each side of it remained shut, and there was no evidence that the knock had been heard.
“Zabel! John Zabel!” shouted the constable, stepping around the side of the house. “Get up, my good friends, and let an old crony in. James! John! Late as it is, we have business with you. Open the door; don’t stop to dress.”
But this appeal received no more recognition than the first, and after rapping on the window against which he had flung the words, he came back and looked up and down the front of the house.