THE TALE OF THE LOST LAND
CHAPTER 30: THE TRAGEDY OF THE MANOR-HOUSE
At midnight all was over, and we sat in the presence of four
corpses. We covered them with such rags as we could find, and
started away, fastening the door behind us. Their home must be
these people's grave, for they could not have Christian burial,
or be admitted to consecrated ground. They were as dogs, wild
beasts, lepers, and no soul that valued its hope of eternal life
would throw it away by meddling in any sort with these rebuked and
We had not moved four steps when I caught a sound as of footsteps
upon gravel. My heart flew to my throat. We must not be seen
coming from that house. I plucked at the king's robe and we drew
back and took shelter behind the corner of the cabin.
"Now we are safe," I said, "but it was a close call--so to speak.
If the night had been lighter he might have seen us, no doubt,
he seemed to be so near."
"Mayhap it is but a beast and not a man at all."
"True. But man or beast, it will be wise to stay here a minute
and let it get by and out of the way."
"Hark! It cometh hither."
True again. The step was coming toward us--straight toward the hut.
It must be a beast, then, and we might as well have saved our
trepidation. I was going to step out, but the king laid his hand
upon my arm. There was a moment of silence, then we heard a soft
knock on the cabin door. It made me shiver. Presently the knock
was repeated, and then we heard these words in a guarded voice:
"Mother! Father! Open--we have got free, and we bring news to
pale your cheeks but glad your hearts; and we may not tarry, but
must fly! And--but they answer not. Mother! father!--"
I drew the king toward the other end of the hut and whispered:
"Come--now we can get to the road."