The woman looked at them sharply, to see if they had yet discovered the robbery, but each seemed unconcerned.
“They don’t know it yet,” she said to herself.
“Madam, can you give us some breakfast?” asked Ben politely.
“I’ll give you such as I have,” said Mrs. Carter, feeling a little remorse for her husband’s theft, and pity for what she supposed their penniless condition.
“That will be perfectly satisfactory, and we shall be much obliged to you.”
The breakfast was nearly ready in anticipation of their needs, and they partook of it heartily.
Now came the critical moment.
Ben thrust his hand into his pocket, appearing to search for his money, and, after a brief space, withdrew it in apparent dismay.
“I can’t find my money,” he said.
Mrs. Carter’s face flushed, but she said nothing. She anticipated their suspicion, and was ashamed.
“Bradley,” said Ben, “have you your money?”
Jake Bradley repeated the search, and he, too, expressed surprise.
“I had it when I went to bed,” he added.
“What is it?” asked the woman slowly, turning to them a troubled face. “Have you lost anything?”
“I don’t seem to find my money, ma’am,” answered Bradley.
“Nor I mine,” said Ben. “It’s curious.”
Mrs. Carter could not tell by their manner whether they suspected anything, but she had her story ready. It was an invention, but life with Jack Carter had left her few compunctions about such a simple matter as telling a lie.
“I missed something myself,” she said. “We don’t lock our door of nights, and I reckon some tramp got in last night, when we were asleep, and robbed us all. Have you lost much, you two?”
“Not much, ma’am. There wasn’t much to take.”
“It’s a pity. I am sorry it happened under my roof. But we slept very sound last night, Jack and me, and that’s the way it must have come.”
She looked at them critically, to detect, if she could, whether they suspected her husband or herself, but both the travelers were on their guard.
“Did you have much taken, ma’am?” asked Bradley.
“No,” she answered hurriedly, rather ashamed of the imposture. “We ain’t rich, Jack nor I.”
“What I am most sorry for,” said Ben, “is that we have nothing to pay for our accommodations.”
“You’re welcome to your lodging and what you’ve ate,” said the woman sincerely. “And, if you like, I’ll put up some luncheon for you to eat by and by.”
“Thank you, ma’am, it will be very acceptable,” answered Bradley.
“She’s better than her husband,” thought Ben.
“After all, we haven’t lost much, for we shall get nearly the worth of our lost money.”
The woman remarked, with some surprise, that they did not take their loss much to heart.
“How do you expect to get along without money?” she could not help asking.