Dead Men Tell No Tales
In The Garden
It so happened that I met nobody at all; but I must confess that my luck was
better than my management. As I came upon the beck, a new sound reached me
with the swirl. It was the jingle of bit and bridle; the beat of hoofs came after; and
I had barely time to fling myself flat, when two horsemen emerged from the
plantation, riding straight towards me in the moonlight. If they continued on that
course they could not fail to see me as they passed along the opposite bank.
However, to my unspeakable relief, they were scarce clear of the trees when
they turned their horses' heads, rode them through the water a good seventy
yards from where I lay, and so away at a canter across country towards the road.
On my hands and knees I had a good look at them as they bobbed up and down
under the moon; and my fears subsided in astonished curiosity. For I have
already boasted of my eyesight, and I could have sworn that neither Rattray nor
any one of his guests was of the horsemen; yet the back and shoulders of one of
these seemed somehow familiar to me. Not that I wasted many moments over
the coincidence, for I had other things to think about as I ran on to the hall.
I found the rear of the building in darkness unrelieved from within; on the other
hand, the climbing moon beat so full upon the garden wall, it was as though a
lantern pinned me as I crept beneath it. In passing I thought I might as well try
the gate; but Eva was right; it was locked; and that made me half inclined to
distrust my eyes in the matter of the two horsemen, for whence could they have
come, if not from the hall? In any case I was well rid of them. I now followed the
wall some little distance, and then, to see over it, walked backwards until I was all
but in the beck; and there, sure enough, shone my darling's candle, close as
close against the diamond panes of her narrow, lofty window! It brought those
ready tears back to my foolish, fevered eyes. But for sentiment there was no
time, and every other emotion was either futile or premature. So I mastered my
full heart, I steeled, my wretched nerves, and braced my limp muscles for the
task that lay before them.
I had a garden wall to scale, nearly twice my own height, and without notch or
cranny in the ancient, solid masonry. I stood against it on my toes, and I touched
it with my finger-tips as high up as possible. Some four feet severed them from
the coping that left only half a sky above my upturned eyes.
I do not know whether I have made it plain that the house was not surrounded by
four walls, but merely filled a breach in one of the four, which nipped it (as it
were) at either end. The back entrance was approachable enough, but barred or
watched, I might be very sure. It is ever the vulnerable points which are most
securely guarded, and it was my one comfort that the difficult way must also be
the safe way, if only the difficulty could be overcome. How to overcome it was the
problem. I followed the wall right round to the point at which it abutted on the
tower that immured my love; the height never varied; nor could my hands or eyes
discover a single foot-hole, ledge, or other means of mounting to the top.
Yet my hot head was full of ideas; and I wasted some minutes in trying to lift from
its hinges a solid, six-barred, outlying gate, that my weak arms could hardly stir.