Page:Yule Logs.djvu/166

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150
THE BADGE OF THE FOURTH FOOT

he stood still, with his hat under his arm and holding the light in front of him so that its rays shot along the slimy floor. Wondering, Sir Donald and his grandson bent forward, searching into the gloom. Colin drew back as his eyes rested for a moment on something white. But he advanced again and timidly looked once more. His trembling finger pointed down upon the floor at the gaunt, fleshless face and the tall form of a man that was partly hidden under mouldy folds of a Highland plaid and kilt. At the left shoulder there was a tarnished silver brooch, set in the centre with a dim yellow stone. The man lay flat on his back. His sword was in its scabbard at his side; the blanched bones of his right hand still held the remains of one of the canvas money-bags. The gold guineas lay in a little pile beneath the long fingers.

"He was carrying that bag of gold to give to the Prince's messenger," cried the boy Colin, aghast. "It is Neil—Neil Leslie!"

"Yes," nodded Colonel Ossington. "And he must have been met just here by his murderer."

"Neil?" echoed Sir Donald, reeling back; "my brother Neil? Then he did not escape to France? And he has been dead all this time!" The old man shuddered. "Murdered, did you say? But who could have murdered him down here? Perhaps he died naturally. Perhaps he could not find his way out up those stairs and through the stone trap-door!"

"The trap-door could certainly be opened only from the outside," remarked the colonel. "This place was evidently built as a dungeon—a prison from which it was not meant that any one should escape. But," he added solemnly, "Neil Leslie was not a prisoner. He probably left the door open, not expecting to be interrupted by the villain who drove that dagger into his honest heart. Do you see the dagger, Donald Leslie?" He pointed to the dead man's breast, and brought the lantern nearer until