"Methinks I can climb to yon place," said he.
"Thou'lt break thy neck an thou tryest," said Gascoyne, hastily.
"Nay," quoth Myles, "I trust not; but break or make, we get not there without trying. So here goeth for the venture."
"Thou art a hare-brained knave as ever drew breath of life," quoth Gascoyne, "and will cause me to come to grief some of these fine days. Ne'theless, an thou be Jack Fool and lead the way, go, and I will be Tom Fool and follow anon. If thy neck is worth so little, mine is worth no more."
It was indeed a perilous climb, but that special providence which guards reckless lads befriended them, as it has thousands of their kind before and since. So, by climbing from one knotted, clinging stem to another, they were presently seated snugly in the ivied niche in the window. It was barred from within by a crumbling shutter, the rusty fastening of which, after some little effort upon the part of the two, gave way, and entering the narrow opening, they found themselves in a small triangular passage-way, from which a steep flight of stone steps led down through a hollow in the massive wall to the room below.
At the bottom of the steps was a heavy oaken door, which stood ajar, hanging upon a single rusty hinge, and from the room within a dull, gray light glimmered faintly. Myles pushed the door farther open; it creaked and grated horribly on its rusty hinge, and, as in instant answer to the discordant shriek, came a faint piping squeaking, a rustling and a pattering of soft footsteps.
"The ghosts!" cried Gascoyne, in a quavering whisper, and for a moment Myles felt the chill of goose-flesh creep up and down his spine. But the next moment he laughed.
"Nay," said he, "they be rats. Look at yon fellow, Francis! Be'st as big as Mother Joan's kitten. Give me that stone." He flung it at the rat, and it flew clattering across the floor. There was another pattering rustle of hundreds of feet, and then a breathless silence.