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, no living thing appeared in the
neighbourhood of Tunstall House.
When the night was at length fairly come, Throgmorton was led to a
room overlooking 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 figure was observed to land by the
branches of a willow and crawl away among the grass. For some half
hour Sir Daniel and Hatch stood eagerly giving ear; but all
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. He sleepeth. We will make a good end of him, go to!"
All the afternoon and evening, Dick had been ordered hither and
thither, one command following another, till he was bewildered with
the number and the hurry of commissions. All that time he had seen
no more of Sir Oliver, and nothing of Matcham; and yet both the
priest and the young lad ran continually in his mind. It was now
his chief purpose to escape from Tunstall Moat House as speedily as
might be; and yet, before he went, he desired a word with both of
At length, with a lamp in one hand, he mounted to his new
apartment. It was large, low, and somewhat dark. The window
looked upon the moat, and although it was so high up, it was
heavily barred. The bed was luxurious, with one pillow of down and
one of lavender, and a red coverlet worked in a pattern of roses.
All about the walls were cupboards, locked and padlocked, and
concealed from view by hangings of dark-coloured arras. Dick made
the round, lifting the arras, sounding the panels, seeking vainly
to open the cupboards. He assured himself that the door was strong
and the bolt solid; then he set down his lamp upon a bracket, and
once more looked all around.
For what reason had he been given this chamber? It was larger and
finer than his 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, he knew, 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 him from the arras gave him
proof of that. Was it not more than probable that the passage
extended to the chapel, and, if so, that it had an opening in his
To sleep in such a place, he felt, would be foolhardy. He made his
weapons ready, and took his position in a corner of the room behind
the door. If ill was intended, he would sell his life dear.
The sound of many feet, the challenge, and the password, sounded
overhead along the battlements; the watch was being changed.
And just then there came a scratching at the door of the chamber;
it grew a little 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
"Shut me the door," he whispered. "Swift, Dick! This house is
full of spies; I hear their feet follow me in the corridors; I hear
them breathe behind the arras."
"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 see you. 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-
"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 them whisper; 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
"No," he said, "there is no entrance visible. Yet 'tis a pure
certainty there is one. Dick, I will stay by you. An y' are to
die, I will die with you. And I can 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 window that we
might descend by, I will most joyfully face any jeopardy to flee
"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,
And he grasped the other's hand in silence.
"I will tell you," he resumed. "There is a window, out of which
the messenger descended; 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 then began again.
"Some one walketh in the room below," whispered Matcham.
"Nay," returned Dick, "there is no room below; we are above the
chapel. It is my murderer in the secret passage. Well, let him
come; it shall go hard with him;" and he ground his teeth.
"Blow me the lights out," said the other. "Perchance he will
They blew out both the lamps and lay still as death. The footfalls
underneath were very soft, but they were clearly audible. Several
times they came and went; and then there was a loud jar of a key
turning in a lock, followed by a considerable silence.
Presently the steps began again, and then, all of a sudden, a chink
of light appeared in the planking of the room in a far corner. It
widened; a trap-door was being opened, letting in a gush of light.
They could see the strong hand pushing 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 House shouts began to be heard, and first one voice, and then
several, crying aloud upon 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 was now rather increasing than diminishing. All
about the Moat House feet were running, doors were opening and
slamming, and still the voice of Sir Daniel towered above all this
bustle, shouting for "Joanna."
"Joanna!" repeated Dick. "Why, who the murrain should this be?
Here is no Joanna, nor ever hath been. What meaneth it?"
Matcham was silent. He seemed to have drawn further away. But
only a little faint starlight entered by the window, and at the far
end of the apartment, where the pair were, the darkness was
"Jack," said Dick, "I wot not where ye were all day. Saw ye this
"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 from the 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 excellent good fortune, this Joanna; it will take their minds
"Dick," cried Matcham, "I am lost; we are both lost. Let us flee
if there be yet time. They will not rest till they have found me.
Or, see! let me go forth; 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 the maid that would not marry me!"
The girl paused, and stood silent and motionless. Dick, too, was
silent for a little; then he spoke again.
"Joanna," he said, "y' 'ave saved my life, and I have saved yours;
and we have seen blood flow, and been friends and enemies - ay, and
I took my belt to thrash 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 and the bravest under heaven,
and, if only I could live, I would marry you blithely; and, live or
die, I love you."
She answered nothing.
"Come," he said, "speak up, Jack. Come, be a good maid, and say ye
"Why, Dick," she cried, "would I be here?"
"Well, see ye here," continued Dick, "an we but escape whole we'll
marry; and an we're to die, we die, and there's an end on't. But
now that I think, how found 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 have time before us."
And just then, as if to contradict his words, feet came down the
corridor, and a fist beat roughly on the door.
"Here!" cried a voice. "Open, Master Dick; open!" Dick neither
moved nor answered.
"It is all over," said the girl; and she put her arms about Dick's
One after another, men came trooping to the door. Then Sir Daniel
arrived himself, and there was a sudden cessation of the noise.
"Dick," cried the knight, "be not an ass. The Seven Sleepers had
been awake ere now. We know she is within there. Open, then, the
Dick was again silent.
"Down with it," said Sir Daniel. And immediately his followers
fell savagely upon the door with foot and fist. Solid as it was,
and strongly bolted, it would soon have given way; but once more
fortune interfered. Over the thunderstorm of blows the cry of a
sentinel was heard; it was followed by another; shouts ran along
the battlements, shouts answered out of the wood. In the first
moment of alarm it sounded as if the foresters were carrying the
Moat House by assault. And Sir Daniel and his men, desisting
instantly from their attack upon Dick's chamber, hurried to defend
"Now," cried Dick, "we are saved."
He seized the great old bedstead with both hands, and bent himself
in vain to move 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 the room, and thrust it endwise to the chamber door.
"Ye do but make things worse," said Joanna, sadly. "He will then
enter by the trap."
"Not so," replied Dick. "He durst not tell his secret to so many.
It is by the trap 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
of stragglers from the defeat of Risingham that had disturbed Sir
Daniel. They had run the gauntlet under cover of the darkness;
they had been admitted by the great gate; and now, with a great
stamping of hoofs and jingle of accoutrements 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. The open chink through which some light still glittered was
easily discovered, and, taking a stout sword from his small
armoury, Dick thrust it deep into the seam, and weighed strenuously
on the hilt. The trap moved, gaped a little, and at length came
widely open. Seizing it with their hands, the two young folk threw
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 the trap."
So they descended one after the other, and as Dick lowered the
trap, the blows began once again to thunder on the panels of the
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