had been lying off that day, he recalled, and the signal lights had been meant for the cutter, which must have crept in at dusk, and for aught he knew the King's men might be landing, in answer to the signals, to catch the fishermen and smugglers in the very act of landing a cargo.
Right or wrong, Lance paused to think no more. It was a time to act and try and warn his old friends. How could Alf be such a sneak?
Quickly and silently he stepped out and back to his own room, put on his boots, opened the window and lowered himself down the heavy trellis, reached the lawn, and ran to get to the zigzag and reach Old Poltree's cottage on the ledge.
"I'll tell Hezz," he said to himself—"just say the King's men are out, and then get back."
It is easier to make plans than to carry them out.
When Lance reached the long whitewashed cottage, meaning to knock till Hezz came to his window, he was caught by a strong hand, wrenched round, and a hoarse voice said in a whisper——
"I—Lance, Mother Poltree. I came to tell you I'm afraid the King's men are coming to-night."
"Whish!" she said, as she clapped another great hand over his mouth. "Who told tales—you?"
"No, no, I wouldn't."
"Whish! they're coming," she cried, as she stood listening. "They came after you."
"I—I didn't know," whispered Lance, as he made out steps descending the zigzag, showing that he was only just in time, for whoever it was had been close behind.
"This way," said the old woman sternly, and all thought of retreat was cut off, for she held the boy's arm firmly and hurried him to the end of the cottage and across the patch of garden.