“But this isn’t studying.” He pulled down his sleeve, and his head went over the book again.
Outside, a bright blue eye applied to the keyhole, gave place to a bright brown one, till such time as the persons to whom the eyes belonged, were satisfied as to the condition of the interior they were surveying.
“What do you suppose he’s doing?” whispered the taller figure, putting his face concealed under a black mask, closely to the ear of the other person, whose countenance was similarly adorned.
“Don’t know,” whispered the second black mask. “He acts dreadfully queer, but I suppose he’s got a novel. So you see it’s our duty to break it up,” he added virtuously.
The taller figure shook his head, but as it was very dark on their side of Joel’s door, the movement was unobserved.
“Well, come on,” whispered the second black mask. “Are you ready?”
“O, dear, dear!” grunted Joel, “I’d rather chop wood as I used to, years ago, to help the little brown house out,” swinging his arms up over his head. “Why”—
And he was left in darkness, his arms failing nervously to his side, while a cautious step across the room made his black eyes stand out in fright.
“A burglar—a burglar!” flashed through his mind. He held his breath hard and his knees knocked together. But Mamsie’s eyes seemed to look with scorn on him again. Joel straightened up, clenched his fist, and every minute expecting to be knocked on the head, he crept like a cat to the further corner, even in this extremity, grumbling inwardly because Mr. King would not allow firearms. “If I only had them now!” he thought. “Well, I must get my club.”
But there was no time to get it. Joel creeping along, feeling his way cautiously, soon knew that there were two burglars instead of one in the room, and his mind was made up.
“They’ll be after Grandpapa’s money, sure,” he thought. “I have got to get out, and warn him.”
But how? that was the question.
Getting down on all-fours, holding his breath, yet with never a thought of danger to himself, he crept along toward the door leading into the hall, then stopped and rested under cover of the heavy window drapery. But as quick as a flash, two dark figures, that now, his eyes becoming more accustomed to the darkness, he could dimly distinguish, reached there before him, and the key clicking in the lock, Joel knew that all hope from escape by that quarter was gone.
Like a cat, he sprang to his feet, swung the drapery out suddenly toward the figures, and in the next second hurled himself over the window-sill, hanging to the edge, grasping the blind, crawling to the next window, and so on and over, and down, down, by any friendly thing he could grasp, to the ground.
Two black masks hung over the deserted window-edge.
“Joe—Joe! it’s only we boys—Percy and Van. Joe—Joe!”