'It's snug enough, an't it?'
'Snug!' said John indignantly. 'You have a comfortable idea of snugness, you have, sir. Do you know what was done in that room, you ruffian?'
'Why, what is it the worse for that!' cried Hugh, looking into John's fat face. 'Does it keep out the rain, and snow, and wind, the less for that? Is it less warm or dry, because a man was killed there? Ha, ha, ha! Never believe it, master. One man's no such matter as that comes to.'
Mr Willet fixed his dull eyes on his follower, and began--by a species of inspiration--to think it just barely possible that he was something of a dangerous character, and that it might be advisable to get rid of him one of these days. He was too prudent to say anything, with the journey home before him; and therefore turned to the iron gate before which this brief dialogue had passed, and pulled the handle of the bell that hung beside it. The turret in which the light appeared being at one corner of the building, and only divided from the path by one of the garden- walks, upon which this gate opened, Mr Haredale threw up the window directly, and demanded who was there.
'Begging pardon, sir,' said John, 'I knew you sat up late, and made bold to come round, having a word to say to you.'
'Willet--is it not?'
'Of the Maypole--at your service, sir.'
Mr Haredale closed the window, and withdrew. He presently appeared at a door in the bottom of the turret, and coming across the garden-walk, unlocked the gate and let them in.
'You are a late visitor, Willet. What is the matter?'
'Nothing to speak of, sir,' said John; 'an idle tale, I thought you ought to know of; nothing more.'
'Let your man go forward with the lantern, and give me your hand. The stairs are crooked and narrow. Gently with your light, friend. You swing it like a censer.'
Hugh, who had already reached the turret, held it more steadily, and ascended first, turning round from time to time to shed his light downward on the steps. Mr Haredale following next, eyed his lowering face with no great favour; and Hugh, looking down on him, returned his glances with interest, as they climbed the winding stairs.
It terminated in a little ante-room adjoining that from which they had seen the light. Mr Haredale entered first, and led the way through it into the latter chamber, where he seated himself at a writing-table from which he had risen when they had rung the bell.
'Come in,' he said, beckoning to old John, who remained bowing at the door. 'Not you, friend,' he added hastily to Hugh, who entered also. 'Willet, why do you bring that fellow here?'
'Why, sir,' returned John, elevating his eyebrows, and lowering his voice to the tone in which the question had been asked him, 'he's a good guard, you see.'
'Don't be too sure of that,' said Mr Haredale, looking towards him as he spoke. 'I doubt it. He has an evil eye.'
'There's no imagination in his eye,' returned Mr Willet, glancing over his shoulder at the organ in question, 'certainly.'
'There is no good there, be assured,' said Mr Haredale. 'Wait in that little room, friend, and close the door between us.'
Hugh shrugged his shoulders, and with a disdainful look, which showed, either that he had overheard, or that he guessed the purport of their whispering, did as he was told. When he was shut out, Mr Haredale turned to John, and bade him go on with what he had to say, but not to speak too loud, for there were quick ears yonder.
Thus cautioned, Mr Willet, in an oily whisper, recited all that he had heard and said that night; laying particular stress upon his own sagacity, upon his great regard for the family, and upon his solicitude for their peace of mind and happiness. The story moved his auditor much more than he had expected. Mr Haredale often changed his attitude, rose and paced the room, returned again, desired him to repeat, as nearly as he could, the very words that Solomon had used, and gave so many other signs of being disturbed and ill at ease, that even Mr Willet was surprised.