Marco watched the boys, wondering more and more what they could be doing. They kept stooping down to the ground, and moving about a little, as if they were planting seeds. But as it was entirely the wrong season for any such work, Marco concluded that they must be hiding something in the ground. “Perhaps,” said he to himself, “they have been stealing some money, and are burying it. I wish I could go and see.”
If there had been a door leading directly from the study into the yard, Marco would have left his studies and have gone out at once; but as it was, he could not get out without going through the office where his uncle was sitting. At last the thought struck him that he might jump out the window. He felt some hesitation at taking this step, but finally he concluded that he would do it, and just go near enough to see what the boys were hiding, and exactly where they were putting it, so that he could go afterward and find it without fail. He determined to return then immediately.
“I shall not be out longer than five minutes,” said he to himself, “and I will let it go for my recess.”
So he took his cap from the nail where he was accustomed to hang it, while he was at his studies, and then climbing out the window, feet foremost, he let himself down gently to the ground. He then crept slyly along through the yards and gardens, until he got pretty near the place where the boys were at work. The mystery, however, was rather increased than diminished by the near view. He could make nothing of the operations which they were engaged in; and while he was hesitating whether to go nearer, one of the boys happened to look up and spied him. Marco had intended to keep himself concealed by a tree, behind which he had taken his station, but the boy having looked up suddenly, at a moment when he happened to be off his guard, saw him before he had time to draw back under the cover he had chosen.
“Holloa, Marco,” said the boy, “come here.”
Marco was astonished at this frank and open invitation. He had expected that the boys, when they saw him, would have dropped at once behind the fence to conceal themselves, or that they would have caught up what he supposed they were burying, and have run away. Their accosting him in this fearless manner deranged his ideas about their probable object, and increased his curiosity to know what they were doing. So he came forth from his concealment and went toward them. When he reached the spot, the mystery was suddenly dispelled by his finding out that they were digging worms for bait, to go a-fishing.
Marco’s curiosity was now changed to eager desire. The boys told him that they were going down to the river to fish for eels, and Marco’s soul was all on fire to accompany them. He had never fished for eels. He knew the boys very well, and they offered to lend him a hook and line. But Marco thought that on the whole it would not do. He tried to persuade them to wait until the afternoon, but they would not consent to such a postponement of their pleasure. So Marco wished them good luck, and began to mount the fence again, with the intention of returning to his studies.