“Wal, mister,” said he, “you ready t’ go t’ bed?”
“I am,” said Trove, and followed him to the cold hospitality of the spare room, a place of peril but beautifully clean. There was a neat rag carpet on the floor, immaculate tidies on the bureau and wash table, and a spotless quilt of patchwork on the bed. But, like the dungeon of mediaeval times, it was a place for sighs and reflection, not for rest. Half an inch of frost on every window-pane glistened in the dim light of the candle.
“As soon as they unlock my door, I’ll come an’ let ye out in the mornin’,” Tunk whispered.
“Are they going to lock me in?”
“Wouldn’t wonder,” said Tunk, soberly.
“What can ye ‘spect from a couple o’ dummed ol’ maids like them?”
There was a note of long suffering in his half-whispered tone,
“Good night, mister,” said he, with a look of dejection. “Orter have a nightcap, er ye’ll git hoar-frost on yer hair.”
Trove was all a-shiver in the time it took him to undress, and his breath came out of him in spreading shafts of steam. Sheets of flannel and not less than half a dozen quilts and comfortables made a cover, under which the heat of his own blood warmed his body. He became uncomfortably aware of the presence of his head and face, however. He could hear stealthy movements beyond the door, and knew they were barricading it with furniture. Long before daylight a hurried removal of the barricade awoke him. Then he heard a rap at the door, and the excited voice of Tunk.
“Say, mister! come here quick,” it called.
Sidney Trove leaped out of bed and into his trousers. He hurried through the dark parlour, feeling his way around a clump of chairs and stumbling over a sofa. The two old maids were at the kitchen door, both dressed, one holding a lighted candle. Tunk Hosely stood by the door, buttoning suspenders with one hand and holding a musket in the other. They were shivering and pale. The room was now cold.
“Hear that!” Tunk whispered, turning to the teacher.
They all listened, hearing a low, weird cry outside the door.
“Soun’s t’ me like a raccoon,” Miss S’mantha whispered thoughtfully.
“Or a lamb,” said Miss Letitia.
“Er a painter,” Tunk ventured, his ear turning to catch the sound.
“Let’s open the door,” said Sidney Trove, advancing.
“Not me,” said Tunk, firmly, raising his gun.
Trove had not time to act before they heard a cry for help on the doorstep. It was the voice of a young girl. He opened the door, and there stood Mary Leblanc—a scholar of Linley School and the daughter of a poor Frenchman. She came in lugging a baby wrapped in a big shawl, and both crying.
“Oh, Miss Tower,” said she; “pa has come out o’ the woods drunk an’ has threatened to kill the baby. Ma wants to know if you’ll keep it here to-night.”