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Chapter 3 The Room over the Chapel

  • From the battlements nothing further was observed. The sun journeyed westward, and at last went down; but, to the eyes of all these eager sentinels, n_iving thing appeared in the neighbourhood of Tunstall House.
  • When the night was at length fairly come, Throgmorton was led to a roo_verlooking an angle of the moat. Thence he was lowered with every precaution; the ripple of his swimming was audible for a brief period; then a black figur_as observed to land by the branches of a willow and crawl away among th_rass. For some half hour Sir Daniel and Hatch stood eagerly giving ear; bu_ll remained quiet. The messenger had got away in safety.
  • Sir Daniel’s brow grew clearer. He turned to Hatch.
  • “Bennet,” he said, “this John Amend-All is no more than a man, ye see. H_leepeth. We will make a good end of him, go to!”
  • All the afternoon and evening, Dick had been ordered hither and thither, on_ommand following another, till he was bewildered with the number and th_urry of commissions. All that time he had seen no more of Sir Oliver, an_othing of Matcham; and yet both the priest and the young lad ran continuall_n his mind. It was now his chief purpose to escape from Tunstall Moat Hous_s speedily as might be; and yet, before he went, he desired a word with bot_f these.
  • At length, with a lamp in one hand, he mounted to his new apartment. It wa_arge, low, and somewhat dark. The window looked upon the moat, and althoug_t was so high up, it was heavily barred. The bed was luxurious, with on_illow of down and one of lavender, and a red coverlet worked in a pattern o_oses. All about the walls were cupboards, locked and padlocked, and conceale_rom view by hangings of dark-coloured arras. Dick made the round, lifting th_rras, sounding the panels, seeking vainly to open the cupboards. He assure_imself that the door was strong and the bolt solid; then he set down his lam_pon a bracket, and once more looked all around.
  • For what reason had he been given this chamber? It was larger and finer tha_is own. Could it conceal a snare? Was there a secret entrance? Was it, indeed, haunted? His blood ran a little chilly in his veins.
  • Immediately over him the heavy foot of a sentry trod the leads. Below him, h_new, was the arched roof of the chapel; and next to the chapel was the hall.
  • Certainly there was a secret passage in the hall; the eye that had watched hi_rom the arras gave him proof of that. Was it not more than probable that th_assage extended to the chapel, and, if so, that it had an opening in hi_oom?
  • To sleep in such a place, he felt, would be foolhardy. He made his weapon_eady, and took his position in a corner of the room behind the door. If il_as intended, he would sell his life dear.
  • The sound of many feet, the challenge, and the password, sounded overhea_long the battlements; the watch was being changed.
  • And just then there came a scratching at the door of the chamber; it grew _ittle louder; then a whisper:
  • “Dick, Dick, it is I!”
  • Dick ran to the door, drew the bolt, and admitted Matcham. He was very pale, and carried a lamp in one hand and a drawn dagger in the other.
  • “Shut me the door,” he whispered. “Swift, Dick! This house is full of spies; _ear their feet follow me in the corridors; I hear them breathe behind th_rras.”
  • “Well, content you,” returned Dick, “it is closed. We are safe for this while, if there be safety anywhere within these walls. But my heart is glad to se_ou. By the mass, lad, I thought ye were sped! Where hid ye?”
  • “It matters not,” returned Matcham. “Since we be met, it matters not. But, Dick, are your eyes open? Have they told you of to-morrow’s doings?”
  • “Not they,” replied Dick. “What make they to-morrow?”
  • “To-morrow, or to-night, I know not,” said the other, “but one time or other, Dick, they do intend upon your life. I had the proof of it; I have heard the_hisper; nay, they as good as told me.”
  • “Ay,” returned Dick, “is it so? I had thought as much.”
  • And he told him the day’s occurrences at length.
  • When it was done, Matcham arose and began, in turn, to examine the apartment.
  • “No,” he said, “there is no entrance visible. Yet ’tis a pure certainty ther_s one. Dick, I will stay by you. An y’ are to die, I will die with you. And _an help - look! I have stolen a dagger \- I will do my best! And meanwhile, an ye know of any issue, any sally-port we could get opened, or any windo_hat we might descend by, I will most joyfully face any jeopardy to flee wit_ou.”
  • “Jack,” said Dick, “by the mass, Jack, y’ are the best soul, and the truest, and the bravest in all England! Give me your hand, Jack.”
  • And he grasped the other’s hand in silence.
  • “I will tell you,” he resumed. “There is a window, out of which the messenge_escended; the rope should still be in the chamber. ’Tis a hope.”
  • “Hist!” said Matcham.
  • Both gave ear. There was a sound below the floor; then it paused, and the_egan again.
  • “Some one walketh in the room below,” whispered Matcham.
  • “Nay,” returned Dick, “there is no room below; we are above the chapel. It i_y murderer in the secret passage. Well, let him come; it shall go hard wit_im;” and he ground his teeth.
  • “Blow me the lights out,” said the other. “Perchance he will betray himself.”
  • They blew out both the lamps and lay still as death. The footfalls underneat_ere very soft, but they were clearly audible. Several times they came an_ent; and then there was a loud jar of a key turning in a lock, followed by _onsiderable silence.
  • Presently the steps began again, and then, all of a sudden, a chink of ligh_ppeared in the planking of the room in a far corner. It widened; a trap-doo_as being opened, letting in a gush of light. They could see the strong han_ushing it up; and Dick raised his cross-bow, waiting for the head to follow.
  • But now there came an interruption. From a distant corner of the Moat Hous_houts began to be heard, and first one voice, and then several, crying alou_pon a name. This noise had plainly disconcerted the murderer, for the trap- door was silently lowered to its place, and the steps hurriedly returned, passed once more close below the lads, and died away in the distance.
  • Here was a moment’s respite. Dick breathed deep, and then, and not till then, he gave ear to the disturbance which had interrupted the attack, and which wa_ow rather increasing than diminishing. All about the Moat House feet wer_unning, doors were opening and slamming, and still the voice of Sir Danie_owered above all this bustle, shouting for “Joanna.”
  • “Joanna!” repeated Dick. “Why, who the murrain should this be? Here is n_oanna, nor ever hath been. What meaneth it?”
  • Matcham was silent. He seemed to have drawn further away. But only a littl_aint starlight entered by the window, and at the far end of the apartment, where the pair were, the darkness was complete.
  • “Jack,” said Dick, “I wot not where ye were all day. Saw ye this Joanna?”
  • “Nay,” returned Matcham, “I saw her not.”
  • “Nor heard tell of her?” he pursued.
  • The steps drew nearer. Sir Daniel was still roaring the name of Joanna fro_he courtyard.
  • “Did ye hear of her?” repeated Dick.
  • “I heard of her,” said Matcham.
  • “How your voice twitters! What aileth you?” said Dick. “’Tis a most excellen_ood fortune, this Joanna; it will take their minds from us.”
  • “Dick,” cried Matcham, “I am lost; we are both lost. Let us flee if there b_et time. They will not rest till they have found me. Or, see! let me g_orth; when they have found me, ye may flee. Let me forth, Dick - good Dick, let me away!”
  • She was groping for the bolt, when Dick at last comprehended.
  • “By the mass!” he cried, “y’ are no Jack; y’ are Joanna Sedley; y’ are th_aid that would not marry me!”
  • The girl paused, and stood silent and motionless. Dick, too, was silent for _ittle; then he spoke again.
  • “Joanna,” he said, “y’ ’ave saved my life, and I have saved yours; and we hav_een blood flow, and been friends and enemies - ay, and I took my belt t_hrash you; and all that time I thought ye were a boy. But now death has me, and my time’s out, and before I die I must say this: Y’ are the best maid an_he bravest under heaven, and, if only I could live, I would marry yo_lithely; and, live or die, I love you.”
  • She answered nothing.
  • “Come,” he said, “speak up, Jack. Come, be a good maid, and say ye love me!”
  • “Why, Dick,” she cried, “would I be here?”
  • “Well, see ye here,” continued Dick, “an we but escape whole we’ll marry; an_n we’re to die, we die, and there’s an end on’t. But now that I think, ho_ound ye my chamber?”
  • “I asked it of Dame Hatch,” she answered.
  • “Well, the dame’s staunch,” he answered; “she’ll not tell upon you. We hav_ime before us.”
  • And just then, as if to contradict his words, feet came down the corridor, an_ fist beat roughly on the door.
  • “Here!” cried a voice. “Open, Master Dick; open!” Dick neither moved no_nswered.
  • “It is all over,” said the girl; and she put her arms about Dick’s neck.
  • One after another, men came trooping to the door. Then Sir Daniel arrive_imself, and there was a sudden cessation of the noise.
  • “Dick,” cried the knight, “be not an ass. The Seven Sleepers had been awak_re now. We know she is within there. Open, then, the door, man.”
  • Dick was again silent.
  • “Down with it,” said Sir Daniel. And immediately his followers fell savagel_pon the door with foot and fist. Solid as it was, and strongly bolted, i_ould soon have given way; but once more fortune interfered. Over th_hunderstorm of blows the cry of a sentinel was heard; it was followed b_nother; shouts ran along the battlements, shouts answered out of the wood. I_he first moment of alarm it sounded as if the foresters were carrying th_oat House by assault. And Sir Daniel and his men, desisting instantly fro_heir attack upon Dick’s chamber, hurried to defend the walls.
  • “Now,” cried Dick, “we are saved.”
  • He seized the great old bedstead with both hands, and bent himself in vain t_ove it.
  • “Help me, Jack. For your life’s sake, help me stoutly!” he cried.
  • Between them, with a huge effort, they dragged the big frame of oak across th_oom, and thrust it endwise to the chamber door.
  • “Ye do but make things worse,” said Joanna, sadly. “He will then enter by th_rap.”
  • “Not so,” replied Dick. “He durst not tell his secret to so many. It is by th_rap that we shall flee. Hark! The attack is over. Nay, it was none!”
  • It had, indeed, been no attack; it was the arrival of another party o_tragglers from the defeat of Risingham that had disturbed Sir Daniel. The_ad run the gauntlet under cover of the darkness; they had been admitted b_he great gate; and now, with a great stamping of hoofs and jingle o_ccoutrements and arms, they were dismounting in the court.
  • “He will return anon,” said Dick. “To the trap!”
  • He lighted a lamp, and they went together into the corner of the room. Th_pen chink through which some light still glittered was easily discovered, and, taking a stout sword from his small armoury, Dick thrust it deep into th_eam, and weighed strenuously on the hilt. The trap moved, gaped a little, an_t length came widely open. Seizing it with their hands, the two young fol_hrew it back. It disclosed a few steps descending, and at the foot of them, where the would-be murderer had left it, a burning lamp.
  • “Now,” said Dick, “go first and take the lamp. I will follow to close th_rap.”
  • So they descended one after the other, and as Dick lowered the trap, the blow_egan once again to thunder on the panels of the door.