Page:Court Royal.djvu/114

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with his stick and batter her. No—she did not hear it. She put foot after foot before her most cautiously, listening and peering about her in the dark. Then—she heard a sound, an unusual sound, which made her heart stand still; she stood with poised foot and uplifted hand to her ear.

The sound came from the back kitchen, and simultaneously she heard the choking snort of Mr. Lazarus in his bedroom.

She crept so noiselessly down the last steps that she would not have scared a mouse, and craned her neck to see who or what was in the back kitchen. In that back kitchen was a low, square window over the sink. Her eyes were sufficiently accustomed to the dark for her to see that the window was obscured by a dark body. She made out that the sash had been thrown up, and that a man was crawling in at the narrow opening. She saw also, by a feeble glimmer, that a second man stood in the outer kitchen, holding a dark lantern, waiting for his fellow to enter as he had come in.

Joanna did not scream. Her lungs were more powerful than when, as a child, her mother had commended her powers of screaming. She knew that if she set up an alarm the first impulse of the burglar would be to stop her voice, and that he would have no scruples as to the manner in which he attained his object. Joanna had matches within reach, but she did not strike a light. She was too wise to expose herself to observation. She preferred observing unseen. She considered what she had better do, and, having rapidly determined, proceeded to take her course with celerity, circumspection, and silence. She stepped, unobserved, from the stair into the passage leading to the chamber of her master and to the shop. She was sure that the burglars would not ascend to the storerooms, to burden themselves with sets of bedroom crockery or chests of drawers. They would look for what was most valuable in the smallest portable form, money and jewels and plate; and all these were in the bedroom of Lazarus. This was the point of attack that must be defended.

Now the thought crossed the mind of Joanna that she might slip into the shop, close the door between and open the shop door, run into the street and give the alarm; but her blood was up. She was a brave girl, she was also a girl quickly roused to anger, and she was now, not afraid, but furious. If men had dared to break into her master’s house, she was determined they should not leave it without a lasting