Page:Court Royal.djvu/115

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lesson not to do so again, at least while she was there to protect it.

Joanna was unprovided with firearms. Lazarus had a revolver in his room, always loaded; but he took time to rouse, being a heavy sleeper. Against the wall ranged in the passage were the bottles of Ems water. Above, on nails hung a large locked saw. She took it down, and removed the wooden cover to the teeth. Then she crouched on the ground, waiting, watching like a terrier at a rat-hole. Her eyes were on the back kitchen door.

Presently she saw the faint light of the closed lantern in the front kitchen, and heard the fall of bare feet on the floor. She raised her arm with deliberation, with eyes riveted on her object, and flung a bottle of Ems water, not under hand, as a girl casts, but as a boy hurls. A gasp, a crash, and a smothered cry! The lantern fell on the kitchen floor. At once Joanna glided forward, secured the lantern, and retired whence she had crept, and covered the light with her coat. The kitchen was dark as pitch. She heard a spluttering and grumbling, then a whispered query from the second burglar—what was the matter? where was the light? Suddenly she sent a ray across the space; it fell on a face with staring eyes, a coarse ragged beard, and a great cut across the brow from which blood was running. That was all. With a click the lantern was closed, the light cut off, and with level directness another bottle struck the same mark.

Then came a scuffle, a cry, and curses. She listened, holding the light under the flap of her greatcoat, and did not stir till she was sure that the burglars, hurt, frightened, bewildered, were scrambling back through the outer kitchen, one falling over or clinging to the other. Then, once again, she sent a beam of light upon them. She let it travel from one to the other. She marked both faces. One man had his hand to his head, and hand and face were smeared with blood. Again she flung a bottle, and the man went down. Then she retired to the shop and put on her shoes. She drew on her shoes because the floor of the kitchen was strewn with broken bottles, and she did not choose to cut her feet. Then she took the saw and pursued the burglars. One was already through the window over the sink, the other was making his way through. With that generosity which is found even among criminals, the uninjured burglar had helped his wounded com-