It turned readily in the lock and with a smothered exclamation of delight they rushed in and glanced eagerly about.
At first they saw nothing in any way remarkable—the familiar furniture, the sewing machine, the work-table and baskets of their mothers, a few shreds of white cotton and linen, a scrap here and there of red braid littering the carpet near the machine, and the low rocking-chair used by Mrs. Conly.
“Pooh! nothing here to be so secret about,” cried Walter, but Dick, nodding his head wisely said, “Let’s look a little further. What’s in that closet?”
They ran to it, opened the door, and started back in sudden momentary affright.
“’Taint alive,” said Dick, the bolder of the two, quickly recovering himself; “horrid thing! I reckon I know what ’tis,” and he whispered a few words in his companion’s ear.
Walter gave a nod of acquiescence of the opinion.
“Here’s another ’most finished,” pursued Dick, dragging out and examining a bundle he found lying on the closet floor. (The one which had so startled them hung on the wall.) “We’ll have some fun out of ’em one of these times when it’s ready, eh, Wal?”
“Yes, but let’s put ’em back, and hurry off now, for fear somebody should come and catch us. I’m afraid those folks in the drawing-room may go, and our mothers come up to their work again.”
“So they might, to be sure,” said Dick, rolling up the bundle and bestowing it in its former resting place. “We must be on the watch, Wal, or we’ll miss our chance; they’ll be sending them out o’ this about as soon as they’re finished.”
“Yes. Who do you think they’re for?”
(The boys scorned the rules of English grammar, and refused to be fettered by them. Was not theirs a land of free speech—for the aristocratic class to which they undoubtedly belonged?)
“Cal and Art, of course.”
“Don’t you believe it, Art cares for nothing but his books and Silverheels. Wasn’t that a jolly birthday present, Dick? I wish Travilla and Cousin Elsie would remember ours the same way.”
“Reckon I do. There, everything’s just as we found it. Now let’s skedaddle.”
“A horrid spectre rises to my sight,
Close by my side, and plain, and palpable
In all good seeming and close circumstance
As man meets man.”
It was a sultry summer night, silent and still, not a leaf stirring, hardly so much as the chirp of an insect to be heard. The moon looked down from a cloudless sky upon green lawns and meadows, fields and forests clothed in richest verdure; gardens, where bloomed lovely flowers in the greatest variety and profusion, filling the air in their immediate vicinity with an almost overpowering sweetness; a river flowing silently to the sea; cabins where the laborer rested from his toil, and lordlier dwellings where, perchance, the rich man tossed restlessly on his more luxurious couch.