'Look'ee here, sir! The very Maypole--the old dumb Maypole--stares in at the winder, as if it said, "John Willet, John Willet, let's go and pitch ourselves in the nighest pool of water as is deep enough to hold us; for our day is over!"'
'Don't, Johnny, don't,' cried his friend: no less affected with this mournful effort of Mr Willet's imagination, than by the sepulchral tone in which he had spoken of the Maypole. 'Please don't, Johnny!'
'Your loss is great, and your misfortune a heavy one,' said Mr Haredale, looking restlessly towards the door: 'and this is not a time to comfort you. If it were, I am in no condition to do so. Before I leave you, tell me one thing, and try to tell me plainly, I implore you. Have you seen, or heard of Emma?'
'No!' said Mr Willet.
'Nor any one but these bloodhounds?'
'They rode away, I trust in Heaven, before these dreadful scenes began,' said Mr Haredale, who, between his agitation, his eagerness to mount his horse again, and the dexterity with which the cords were tied, had scarcely yet undone one knot. 'A knife, Daisy!'
'You didn't,' said John, looking about, as though he had lost his pocket-handkerchief, or some such slight article--'either of you gentlemen--see a--a coffin anywheres, did you?'
'Willet!' cried Mr Haredale. Solomon dropped the knife, and instantly becoming limp from head to foot, exclaimed 'Good gracious!'
'--Because,' said John, not at all regarding them, 'a dead man called a little time ago, on his way yonder. I could have told you what name was on the plate, if he had brought his coffin with him, and left it behind. If he didn't, it don't signify.'
His landlord, who had listened to these words with breathless attention, started that moment to his feet; and, without a word, drew Solomon Daisy to the door, mounted his horse, took him up behind again, and flew rather than galloped towards the pile of ruins, which that day's sun had shone upon, a stately house. Mr Willet stared after them, listened, looked down upon himself to make quite sure that he was still unbound, and, without any manifestation of impatience, disappointment, or surprise, gently relapsed into the condition from which he had so imperfectly recovered.
Mr Haredale tied his horse to the trunk of a tree, and grasping his companion's arm, stole softly along the footpath, and into what had been the garden of his house. He stopped for an instant to look upon its smoking walls, and at the stars that shone through roof and floor upon the heap of crumbling ashes. Solomon glanced timidly in his face, but his lips were tightly pressed together, a resolute and stern expression sat upon his brow, and not a tear, a look, or gesture indicating grief, escaped him.
He drew his sword; felt for a moment in his breast, as though he carried other arms about him; then grasping Solomon by the wrist again, went with a cautious step all round the house. He looked into every doorway and gap in the wall; retraced his steps at every rustling of the air among the leaves; and searched in every shadowed nook with outstretched hands. Thus they made the circuit of the building: but they returned to the spot from which they had set out, without encountering any human being, or finding the least trace of any concealed straggler.
After a short pause, Mr Haredale shouted twice or thrice. Then cried aloud, 'Is there any one in hiding here, who knows my voice! There is nothing to fear now. If any of my people are near, I entreat them to answer!' He called them all by name; his voice was echoed in many mournful tones; then all was silent as before.
They were standing near the foot of the turret, where the alarm- bell hung. The fire had raged there, and the floors had been sawn, and hewn, and beaten down, besides. It was open to the night; but a part of the staircase still remained, winding upward from a great mound of dust and cinders. Fragments of the jagged and broken steps offered an insecure and giddy footing here and there, and then were lost again, behind protruding angles of the wall, or in the deep shadows cast upon it by other portions of the ruin; for by this time the moon had risen, and shone brightly.