When night comes on I undertake to enter the park of Healthful House, and then the pavilion garden without being seen by anybody."
"By the entrance gate?"
"No, on this side."
"Yes, but on this side there is the wall, and if you succeed in climbing it, how are you going to get over it again with Thomas Roch? What if the madman cries out--what if he should resist--what if his keeper gives the alarm?"
"Don't worry yourself in the least about that. We have only got to go in and come out by this door."
Captain Spade pointed to a narrow door let into the wall a few paces distant, and which was doubtless used by the staff of the establishment when they had occasion to go out by the river.
"That is the way I propose to go in. It's much easier than scaling the wall with a ladder."
"But the door is closed."
"It will open."
"Has it no bolts?"
"Yes, but I shot them back while we were strolling about, and the director didn't notice what I had done."
"How are you going to open it?" queried the Count, going to the door.
"Here is the key," replied Spade, producing it.
He had withdrawn it from the lock, where it happened to be, when he had unbolted the door.
"Capital!" exclaimed the Count. "It couldn't be better. The business will be easier than I expected. Let us get back to the schooner. At eight o'clock one of the boats will put you ashore with five men."
"Yes, five men will do," said Captain Spade. "There will be enough of them to effect our object even if the keeper is aroused and it becomes necessary to put him out of the way."
"Put him out of the way--well, if it becomes absolutely necessary of course you must, but it would be better to seize him too and bring him aboard the _Ebba_ Who knows but what he has already learned a part of Roch's secret?"
"Besides, Thomas Roch is used to him, and I don't propose to make him change his habitudes in any way."
This observation was accompanied by such a significant smile that Captain Spade could entertain no doubt as to the role reserved for the warder of Healthful House.
The plan to kidnap them both was thus settled, and appeared to have every chance of being successful; unless during the couple of hours of daylight that yet remained it was noticed that the key of the door had been stolen and the bolts drawn back, Captain Spade and his men could at least count upon being able to enter the park, and the rest, the captain affirmed, would be easy enough.
Thomas Roch was the only patient in the establishment isolated and kept under special surveillance. All the other invalids lived in the main building, or occupied pavilions in the front of the park. The plan was to try and seize Roch and Gaydon separately and bind and gag them before they could cry out.
The Count d'Artigas and his companion wended their way to a creek where one of the _Ebba's_ boats awaited them. The schooner was anchored two cable lengths from the shore, her sails neatly rolled upon her yards, which were squared as neatly as those of a pleasure yacht or of a man-of-war. At the peak of the mainmast a narrow red pennant was gently swayed by the wind, which came in fitful puffs from the east.
The Count and the captain jumped into the boat and a few strokes of the four oars brought them alongside of the schooner. They climbed on deck and going forward to the jib-boom, leaned over the starboard bulwark and gazed at an object that floated on the water a few strokes ahead of the vessel. It was a small buoy that was rocked by the ripple of the ebbing tide.
Twilight gradually set in, and the outline of New-Berne on the left bank of the sinuous Neuse became more and more indistinct until it disappeared in the deepening shades of night. A mist set in from the sea, but though it obscured the moon it brought no sign of rain. The lights gleamed out one by one in the houses of the town. The fishing smacks came slowly up the river to their anchorage, impelled by the oars of their crews which struck the water with sharp, rhythmical strokes, and with their sails distended on the chance of catching an occasional puff of the dropping wind to help them along.