But there was another individual in Wrychester who knew just as much of the geography of Paradise as Pemberton Bryce knew. Dick Bewery and Betty Campany had of late progressed out of the schoolboy and schoolgirl hail-fellow-well-met stage to the first dawnings of love, and in spite of their frequent meetings had begun a romantic correspondence between each other, the joy and mystery of which was increased a hundredfold by a secret method of exchange of these missives. Just within the wicket-gate entrance of Paradise there was an old monument wherein was a convenient cavity—Dick Bewery’s ready wits transformed this into love’s post-office. In it he regularly placed letters for Betty: Betty stuffed into it letters for him. And on this particular evening Dick had gone to Paradise to collect a possible mail, and as Bryce walked leisurely up the narrow path, enclosed by trees and old masonry which led from Friary Lane to the ancient enclosure, Dick turned a corner and ran full into him. In the light of the single lamp which illumined the path, the two recovered themselves and looked at each other.
“Hullo!” said Bryce. “What’s your hurry, young Bewery?”
Dick, who was panting for breath, more from excitement than haste, drew back and looked at Bryce. Up to then he knew nothing much against Bryce, whom he had rather liked in the fashion in which boys sometimes like their seniors, and he was not indisposed to confide in him.
“Hullo!” he replied. “I say! Where are you off to?”
“Nowhere!—strolling round,” answered Bryce. “No particular purpose, why?”
“You weren’t going in—there?” asked Dick, jerking a thumb towards Paradise.
“In—there!” exclaimed Bryce. “Good Lord, no!—dreary enough in the daytime! What should I be going in there for?”
Dick seized Bryce’s coat-sleeve and dragged him aside.
“I say!” he whispered. “There’s something up in there—a search of some sort!”
Bryce started in spite of an effort to keep unconcerned.
“A search? In there?” he said. “What do you mean?”
Dick pointed amongst the trees, and Bryce saw the faint glimmer of a light.
“I was in there—just now,” said Dick. “And some men—three or four—came along. They’re in there, close up by the nave, just where you found that chap Collishaw. They’re—digging —or something of that sort!”
“Digging!” muttered Bryce. “Digging?"’
“Something like it, anyhow,” replied Dick. “Listen.”
Bryce heard the ring of metal on stone. And an unpleasant conviction stole over him that he was being forestalled, that somebody was beforehand with him, and he cursed himself for not having done the previous night what he had left undone till this night.
“Who are they?” he asked. “Did you see them—their faces?”
“Not their faces,” answered Dick. “Only their figures in the gloom. But I heard Mitchington’s voice.”