One after another, men came trooping to the door. Then Sir Daniel arrived himself, and there was a sudden cessation of the noise.
"Dick," cried the knight, "be not an ass. The Seven Sleepers had been awake ere now. We know she is within there. Open, then, the door, man."
Dick was again silent.
"Down with it," said Sir Daniel. And immediately his followers fell savagely upon the door with foot and fist. Solid as it was, and strongly bolted, it would soon have given way; but once more fortune interfered. Over the thunderstorm of blows the cry of a sentinel was heard; it was followed by another; shouts ran along the battlements, shouts answered out of the wood. In the first moment of alarm it sounded as if the foresters were carrying the Moat House by assault. And Sir Daniel and his men, desisting instantly from their attack upon Dick's chamber, hurried to defend the walls.
"Now," cried Dick, "we are saved."
He seized the great old bedstead with both hands, and bent himself in vain to move it.
"Help me, Jack. For your life's sake, help me stoutly!" he cried.
Between them, with a huge effort, they dragged the big frame of oak across the room, and thrust it endwise to the chamber door.
"Ye do but make things worse," said Joanna, sadly. "He will then enter by the trap."
"Not so," replied Dick. "He durst not tell his secret to so many. It is by the trap that we shall flee. Hark! The attack is over. Nay, it was none!"
It had, indeed, been no attack; it was the arrival of another party of stragglers from the defeat of Risingham that had disturbed Sir Daniel. They had run the gauntlet under cover of the darkness; they had been admitted by the great gate; and now, with a great stamping of hoofs and jingle of accoutrements and arms, they were dismounting in the court.
"He will return anon," said Dick. "To the trap!"
He lighted a lamp, and they went together into the corner of the room. The open chink through which some light still glittered was easily discovered, and, taking a stout sword from his small armoury, Dick thrust it deep into the seam, and weighed strenuously on the hilt. The trap moved, gaped a little, and at length came widely open. Seizing it with their hands, the two young folk threw it back. It disclosed a few steps descending, and at the foot of them, where the would-be murderer had left it, a burning lamp.
"Now," said Dick, "go first and take the lamp. I will follow to close the trap."
So they descended one after the other, and as Dick lowered the trap, the blows began once again to thunder on the panels of the door.
CHAPTER IV--THE PASSAGE
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 lightest tread.
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 late arrivals.