Before Henry could answer, the appearance of two strangers coming along the roadway confirmed my statement. They paused opposite the boy, and he advanced to them. Too far off to hear precisely what passed, we were near enough to be sure that the dialogue was in the main the same as that in which we had taken part. The men were cloaked, too, as were we, and presently they went in, as we had gone in. All, in fact, happened as it had happened to us, and after the necessary interval we saw and heard the shutter closed.
"Well," the King said, "what do you make of that?"
"The shutter is the catch-word, sire."
"Ay, but what is going on up there?" he asked. And he rubbed his hands.
I had no explanation to give, however, and shook my head; and we stood awhile, watching silently. At the end of five minutes the two men came out again and walked off the way they had come, but more briskly. Henry moreover, whose observation was all his life most acute, remarked that whatever they had been doing they carried away lighter hearts than they had brought. And I thought the same.
Indeed, I was beginning to take my full share of interest in the adventure; and in place of wondering, as before, at Henry's persistence, found it more natural to admire the keenness which he had displayed in scenting a mystery. I was not surprised, therefore, when he gripped my arm to gain my attention, and, a the window fell slowly open again, drew me quickly into the street, and hurried me across it and through the doorway of the house.
"Up!" he muttered in my ear. "Quickly and quietly, man! If there are to be other visitors, we will play the spy. But softly, softly; here is the boy!"
We stood aside against the wall, scarcely daring to breathe; and the child, guiding himself by the handrail, passed us in the dark without suspicion, and pattered on down the staircase. We remained as we were until we heard him cross the threshold, and then we crept up; not to the uppermost landing, where the light, when the door was opened, must betray us, but to that immediately below it. There we took our stand in the angle of the stairs and waited, the King, between amusement at the absurdity of our position and anxiety lest we should betray ourselves, going off now and again into stifled laughter, from which he vainly strove to restrain himself by pinching me.
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