For nearly five minutes after the woman went out, he sat by the untasted food, his head bent toward the door, listening. Then he got up quietly, climbed upon the window-sill and pulled the nail out. Dropping back upon the floor noiselessly, he pushed his hands upward against the sash, and it rose easily. Like an animal held in unwilling confinement, he did not stop to think of any danger that might lie in the way of escape when opportunity for escape offered. The fear behind was worse than any imagined fear that could lie beyond. Pushing up the sash, Andy, without looking down from the window, threw himself across the sill and dropped his body over, supporting himself with his hands on the snow-encrusted ledge for a moment, and then letting himself fall to the ground, a distance of nearly ten feet. He felt his breath go as he swept through the air, and lost his senses for an instant or two.
Stunned by the fall, he did not rise for several minutes. Then he got up with a slow, heavy motion and looked about him anxiously. He was in a yard from which there was no egress except by way of the house. It was bitter cold, and he had on nothing but the clothing worn in the room from which he had just escaped. His head was bare.
The dread of being found here by Mother Peter soon lifted him above physical impediment or suffering. Through a hole in the fence he saw an alley-way; and by the aid of an old barrel that stood in the yard, he climbed to the top of the fence and let himself down on the other side, falling a few feet. A sharp pain was felt in one of his ankles as his feet touched the ground. He had sprained it in his leap from the window, and now felt the first pangs attendant on the injury.
Limping along, he followed the narrow alley-way, and in a little while came out upon a street some distance from the one in which Mother Peter lived. There were very few people abroad, and no one noticed or spoke to him as he went creeping along, every step sending a pain from the hurt ankle to his heart. Faint with suffering and chilled to numbness, Andy stumbled and fell as he tried, in crossing a street, to escape from a sleigh that turned a corner suddenly. It was too late for the driver to rein up his horse. One foot struck the child, throwing him out of the track of the sleigh. He was insensible when taken up, bleeding and apparently dead. A few people came out of the small houses in the neighborhood, attracted by the accident, but no one knew the child or offered to take him in.
There were two ladies in the sleigh, and both were greatly pained and troubled. After a hurried consultation, one of them reached out her hands for the child, and as she received and covered him with the buffalo-robe said something to the driver, who turned his horse’s head and drove off at a rapid speed.