As soon as supper was over in the housekeeper’s room, Dorothy sped to the keep, where she found Caspar at work.
‘My lord is not yet from supper, mistress,’ he said. ’Will it please you wait while he comes?’
Had it been till midnight, so long as there was a chance of his appearing, Dorothy would have waited. Caspar did his best to amuse her, and succeeded,—showing her one curious thing after another,—amongst the rest a watch that seemed to want no winding after being once set agoing, but was in fact wound up a little by every opening of the case to see the dial. All the while the fire-engine was at work on its mysterious task, with but now and then a moment’s attention from Caspar, a billet of wood or a shovelful of sea-coal on the fire, a pull at a cord, or a hint from the hooked rod. The time went rapidly.
Twilight was over, Caspar had lighted his lamp, and the moon had risen, before lord Herbert came.
’I am glad to find you have patience as well as punctuality in the catalogue of your virtues, mistress Dorothy,’ he said as he entered. ’I too am punctual, and am therefore sorry to have failed now, but it is not my fault: I had to attend my father. For his sake pardon me.’
’It were but a small matter, my lord, even had it been uncompelled, to keep an idle girl waiting.’
‘I think not so,’ returned lord Herbert. ’But come now, I will explain to you my wonderful fire-engine.’
As he spoke, he took her by the hand, and led her towards it. The creature blazed, groaned, and puffed, but there was no motion to be seen about it save that of the flames through the cracks in the door of the furnace, neither was there any clanking noise of metal. A great rushing sound somewhere in the distance, that seemed to belong to it, yet appeared too far off to have any connection with it.
‘It is a noisy thing,’ he said, as they stood before it, ’but when I make another, it shall do its work that thou wouldst not hear it outside the door. Now listen to me for a moment, cousin. Should it come to a siege and I not at Raglan—the wise man will always provide for the worst—Caspar will be wanted everywhere. Now this engine is essential to the health and comfort, if not to the absolute life of the castle, and there is no one at present capable of managing it save us two. A very little instruction, however, would enable any one to do so: will you undertake it, cousin, in case of need?’
‘Make me assured that I can, and I will, my lord,’ answered Dorothy.
‘A good and sufficing answer,’ returned his lordship, with a smile of satisfaction. ‘First then,’ he went on, ’I will show you wherein lies its necessity to the good of the castle. Come with me, cousin Dorothy.’