The passage in which Dick and Joanna
now found themselves was narrow, dirty, and short.
At the other end of it, a door stood partly open;
the same door, without doubt, that they had heard
the man unlocking. Heavy cobwebs hung from the
roof; and the paved flooring echoed hollow under the
Beyond the door there were two branches,
at right angles. Dick chose one of them at random,
and the pair hurried, with echoing footsteps, along
the hollow of the chapel roof. The top of the
arched ceiling rose like a whale’s back in the
dim glimmer of the lamp. Here and there were
spyholes, concealed, on the other side, by the carving
of the cornice; and looking down through one of these,
Dick saw the paved floor of the chapel the
altar, with its burning tapers and stretched
before it on the steps, the figure of Sir Oliver praying
with uplifted hands.
At the other end, they descended a
few steps. The passage grew narrower; the wall
upon one hand was now of wood; the noise of people
talking, and a faint flickering of lights, came through
the interstices; and presently they came to a round
hole about the size of a man’s eye, and Dick,
looking down through it, beheld the interior of the
hall, and some half a dozen men sitting, in their
jacks, about the table, drinking deep and demolishing
a venison pie. These were certainly some of the
“Here is no help,” said Dick. “Let
us try back.”
“Nay,” said Joanna; “maybe the passage
And she pushed on. But a few
yards farther the passage ended at the top of a short
flight of steps; and it became plain that, as long
as the soldiers occupied the hall, escape was impossible
upon that side.
They retraced their steps with all
imaginable speed, and set forward to explore the other
branch. It was exceedingly narrow, scarce wide
enough for a large man; and it led them continually
up and down by little break-neck stairs, until even
Dick had lost all notion of his whereabouts.
At length it grew both narrower and
lower; the stairs continued to descend; the walls
on either hand became damp and slimy to the touch;
and far in front of them they heard the squeaking
and scuttling of the rats.
“We must be in the dungeons,” Dick remarked.
“And still there is no outlet,” added
“Nay, but an outlet there must
be!” Dick answered. Presently, sure enough,
they came to a sharp angle, and then the passage ended
in a flight of steps. On the top of that there
was a solid flag of stone by way of trap, and to this
they both set their backs. It was immovable.
“Some one holdeth it,” suggested Joanna.
“Not so,” said Dick; “for
were a man strong as ten, he must still yield a little.
But this resisteth like dead rock. There is
a weight upon the trap. Here is no issue; and,
by my sooth, good Jack, we are here as fairly prisoners
as though the gyves were on our ankle bones.
Sit ye then down, and let us talk. After a while
we shall return, when perchance they shall be less
carefully upon their guard; and, who knoweth? we may
break out and stand a chance. But, in my poor
opinion, we are as good as shent.”
“Dick!” she cried, “alas
the day that ever ye should have seen me! For
like a most unhappy and unthankful maid, it is I have
led you hither.”
“What cheer!” returned
Dick. “It was all written, and that which
is written, willy nilly, cometh still to pass.
But tell me a little what manner of a maid ye are,
and how ye came into Sir Daniel’s hands; that
will do better than to bemoan yourself, whether for
your sake or mine.”
“I am an orphan, like yourself,
of father and mother,” said Joanna; “and
for my great misfortune, Dick, and hitherto for yours,
I am a rich marriage. My Lord Foxham had me
to ward; yet it appears Sir Daniel bought the marriage
of me from the king, and a right dear price he paid
for it. So here was I, poor babe, with two great
and rich men fighting which should marry me, and I
still at nurse! Well, then the world changed,
and there was a new chancellor, and Sir Daniel bought
the warding of me over the Lord Foxham’s head.
And then the world changed again, and Lord Foxham
bought my marriage over Sir Daniel’s; and from
then to now it went on ill betwixt the two of them.
But still Lord Foxham kept me in his hands, and was
a good lord to me. And at last I was to be married or
sold, if ye like it better. Five hundred pounds
Lord Foxham was to get for me. Hamley was the
groom’s name, and to-morrow, Dick, of all days
in the year, was I to be betrothed. Had it not
come to Sir Daniel, I had been wedded, sure and
never seen thee, Dick dear Dick!”
And here she took his hand, and kissed
it, with the prettiest grace; and Dick drew her hand
to him and did the like.
“Well,” she went on, “Sir
Daniel took me unawares in the garden, and made me
dress in these men’s clothes, which is a deadly
sin for a woman; and, besides, they fit me not.
He rode with me to Kettley, as ye saw, telling me
I was to marry you; but I, in my heart, made sure I
would marry Hamley in his teeth.”
“Ay!” cried Dick, “and so ye loved
“Nay,” replied Joanna,
“not I. I did but hate Sir Daniel. And
then, Dick, ye helped me, and ye were right kind,
and very bold, and my heart turned towards you in
mine own despite; and now, if we can in any way compass
it, I would marry you with right goodwill. And
if, by cruel destiny, it may not be, still ye’ll
be dear to me. While my heart beats, it’ll
be true to you.”
“And I,” said Dick, “that
never cared a straw for any manner of woman until
now, I took to you when I thought ye were a boy.
I had a pity to you, and knew not why. When
I would have belted you, the hand failed me.
But when ye owned ye were a maid, Jack for
still I will call you Jack I made sure
ye were the maid for me. Hark!” he said,
breaking off “one cometh.”
And indeed a heavy tread was now audible
in the echoing passage, and the rats again fled in
Dick reconnoitred his position.
The sudden turn gave him a post of vantage.
He could thus shoot in safety from the cover of the
wall. But it was plain the light was too near
him, and, running some way forward, he set down the
lamp in the middle of the passage, and then returned
Presently, at the far end of the passage,
Bennet hove in sight. He seemed to be alone,
and he carried in his hand a burning torch, which
made him the better mark.
“Stand, Bennet!” cried
Dick. “Another step, and y’ are dead.”
“So here ye are,” returned
Hatch, peering forward into the darkness. “I
see you not. Aha! y’ ‘ave done
wisely, Dick; y’ ’ave put your lamp
before you. By my sooth, but, though it was done
to shoot my own knave body, I do rejoice to see ye
profit of my lessons! And now, what make ye?
what seek ye here? Why would ye shoot upon an
old, kind friend? And have ye the young gentlewoman
“Nay, Bennet, it is I should
question and you answer,” replied Dick.
“Why am I in this jeopardy of my life?
Why do men come privily to slay me in my bed?
Why am I now fleeing in mine own guardian’s
strong house, and from the friends that I have lived
among and never injured?”
“Master Dick, Master Dick,”
said Bennet, “what told I you? Y’
are brave, but the most uncrafty lad that I can think
“Well,” returned Dick,
“I see ye know all, and that I am doomed indeed.
It is well. Here, where I am, I stay. Let
Sir Daniel get me out if he be able!”
Hatch was silent for a space.
“Hark ye,” he began, “return
to Sir Daniel, to tell him where ye are, and how posted;
for, in truth, it was to that end he sent me.
But you, if ye are no fool, had best be gone ere
“Begone!” repeated Dick.
“I would be gone already, an’ I wist how.
I cannot move the trap.”
“Put me your hand into the corner,
and see what ye find there,” replied Bennet.
“Throgmorton’s rope is still in the brown
chamber. Fare ye well.”
And Hatch, turning upon his heel,
disappeared again into the windings of the passage.
Dick instantly returned for his lamp,
and proceeded to act upon the hint. At one corner
of the trap there was a deep cavity in the wall.
Pushing his arm into the aperture, Dick found an
iron bar, which he thrust vigorously upwards.
There followed a snapping noise, and the slab of
stone instantly started in its bed.
They were free of the passage.
A little exercise of strength easily raised the trap;
and they came forth into a vaulted chamber, opening
on one hand upon the court, where one or two fellows,
with bare arms, were rubbing down the horses of the
last arrivals. A torch or two, each stuck in
an iron ring against the wall, changefully lit up the