The Man HTML version

5. The Crypt
It was some weeks before Stephen got the chance she wanted. She knew it would be
difficult to evade Harold's observation, for the big boy's acuteness as to facts had
impressed itself on her. It was strange that out of her very trust in Harold came a form of
distrust in others. In the little matter of evading him she inclined to any one in whom
there was his opposite, in whose reliability she instinctively mistrusted. 'There is nothing
bad or good but thinking makes it so!' To enter that crypt, which had seemed so small a
matter at first, had now in process of thinking and wishing and scheming become a thing
to be much desired. Harold saw, or rather felt, that something was in the girl's mind, and
took for granted that it had something to do with the crypt. But he thought it better not to
say anything lest he should keep awake a desire which he hoped would die naturally.
One day it was arranged that Harold should go over to Carstone to see the solicitor who
had wound up his father's business. He was to stay the night and ride back next day.
Stephen, on hearing of the arrangement, so contrived matters that Master Everard, the son
of a banker who had recently purchased an estate in the neighbourhood, was asked to
come to play with her on the day when Harold left. It was holiday time at Eton, and he
was at home. Stephen did not mention to Harold the fact of his coming; it was only from
a chance allusion of Mrs. Jarrold before he went that he inferred it. He did not think the
matter of sufficient importance to wonder why Stephen, who generally told him
everything, had not mentioned this.
During their play, Stephen, after pledging him to secrecy, told Leonard of her intention of
visiting the crypt, and asked him to help her in it. This was an adventure, and as such
commended itself to the schoolboy heart. He entered at once into the scheme con amore;
and the two discussed ways and means. Leonard's only regret was that he was associated
with a little girl in such a project. It was something of a blow to his personal vanity,
which was a large item in his moral equipment, that such a project should have been
initiated by the girl and not by himself. He was to get possession of the key and in the
forenoon of the next day he was to be waiting in the churchyard, when Stephen would
join him as soon as she could evade her nurse. She was now more than eleven, and had
less need of being watched than in her earlier years. It was possible, with strategy, to get
away undiscovered for an hour.
At Carstone Harold got though what he had to do that same afternoon and arranged to
start early in the morning for Normanstand. After an early breakfast he set out on his
thirty-mile journey at eight o'clock. Littlejohn, his horse, was in excellent form,
notwithstanding his long journey of the day before, and with his nose pointed for home,
put his best foot foremost. Harold felt in great spirits. The long ride the day before had
braced him physically, though there were on his journey times of great sadness when the
thought of his father came back to him and the sense of loss was renewed with each
thought of his old home. But youth is naturally buoyant. His visit to the church, the first
thing on his arrival at Carstone, and his kneeling before the stone made sacred to his
father's memory, though it entailed a silent gush of tears, did him good, and even seemed