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The Money Moon(Chapter25)

2006-08-28 23:18

  Chapter XXV. The Conspirators

  The shadows were creeping down, and evening was approaching, as Bellew took his way along that winding lane that led to the House of Dapplemere.

  Had there been anyone to see, (which there was not), they might have noticed something almost furtive in his manner of approach, for he walked always under the trees where the shadows lay thickest, and paused, once or twice, to look about him warily. Being come within sight of the house, he turned aside, and forcing his way through a gap in the hedge, came by a roundabout course to the farm-yard. Here, after some search, he discovered a spade, the which, (having discarded his stick), he took upon his shoulder, and with the black leather bag tucked under his arm, crossed the paddock with the same degree of caution, and so, at last, reached the orchard. On he went, always in the shadow until, at length, he paused beneath the mighty, knotted branches of "King Arthur." Never did conspirator glance about him with sharper eyes, or hearken with keener ears, than did George Bellew,——or Conspirator No. One, where he now stood beneath the protecting shadow of "King Arthur,"——or Conspirator No. Two, as, having unfolded the potato sack, he opened the black leather bag.

  The moon was rising broad, and yellow, but it was low as yet, and "King Arthur" stood in impenetrable gloom,——as any other thorough-going, self-respecting conspirator should; and now, all at once, from this particular patch of shadow, there came a sudden sound,——a rushing sound,——a chinking, clinking, metallic sound, and, thereafter, a crisp rustling that was not the rustling of ordinary paper.

  And now Conspirator No. One rises, and ties the mouth of the sack with string he had brought with him for the purpose, and setting down the sack, bulky now and heavy, by Conspirator No. Two, takes up the spade and begins to dig. And, in a while, having made an excavation not very deep to be sure, but sufficient to his purpose, he deposits the sack within, covers it with soil, treads it down, and replacing the torn sod, carefully pats it down with the flat of his spade. Which thing accomplished, Conspirator No. One wipes his brow, and stepping forth of the shadow, consults his watch with anxious eye, and, thereupon, smiles,——surely a singularly pleasing smile for the lips of an arch-conspirator to wear. Thereafter he takes up the black bag, empty now, shoulders the spade, and sets off, keeping once more in the shadows, leaving Conspirator No. Two to guard their guilty secret.

  Now, as Conspirator No. One goes his shady way, he keeps his look directed towards the rising moon, and thus he almost runs into one who also stands amid the shadows and whose gaze is likewise fixed upon the moon.

  "Ah?——Mr. Bellew!" exclaims a drawling voice, and Squire Cassilis turns to regard him with his usual supercilious smile. Indeed Squire Cassilis seems to be even more self-satisfied, and smiling than ordinary, to-night,——or at least Bellew imagines so.

  "You are still agriculturally inclined, I see," said Mr. Cassilis, nodding towards the spade, "though it's rather a queer time to choose for digging, isn't it?"

  "Not at all, sir——not at all," returned Bellew solemnly, "the moon is very nearly at the full, you will perceive."

  "Well, sir,——and what of that?"

  "When the moon is at the full, or nearly so, I generally dig, sir,——that is to say, circumstances permitting."

  "Really," said Mr. Cassilis beginning to caress his moustache, "it seems to me that you have very——ah——peculiar tastes, Mr. Bellew."

  "That is because you have probably never experienced the fierce joys of moon-light digging, sir."

  "No, Mr. Bellew,——digging——as a recreation, has never appealed to me at any time."

  "Then sir," said Bellew, shaking his head, "permit me to tell you that you have missed a great deal. Had I the time, I should be delighted to explain to you exactly how much, as it is——allow me to wish you a very good evening."

  Mr. Cassilis smiled, and his teeth seemed to gleam whiter, and sharper than ever in the moon-light:

  "Wouldn't it be rather more apropos if you said——'Good-bye' Mr. Bellew?" he enquired. "You are leaving Dapplemere, shortly, I understand,——aren't you?"

  "Why sir," returned Bellew, grave, and imperturbable as ever,——"it all depends."

  "Depends!——upon what, may I ask?"

  "The moon, sir."

  "The moon?"

  "Precisely!"

  "And pray——what can the moon have to do with your departure?"

  "A great deal more than you'd think——sir. Had I the time, I should be delighted to explain to you exactly how much, as it is,——permit me to wish you a very——good evening!"

  Saying which, Bellew nodded affably, and, shouldering his spade, went upon his way. And still he walked in the shadows, and still he gazed upon the moon, but now, his thick brows were gathered in a frown, and he was wondering just why Cassilis should chance to be here, to-night, and what his confident air, and the general assurance of his manner might portend; above all, he was wondering how Mr. Cassilis came to be aware of his own impending departure. And so, at last, he came to the rick-yard,——full of increasing doubt and misgivings.

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