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A Busy Year at the Old Squire's by C. A. Stephens

Addison slipped softly out of bed


Jim

did not come home to demand his book, however; in fact, he did not come back at all. Shame perhaps restrained him. When on the third day the old Squire drove down to the village to get him, he found that Jim had gone to Bangor with two disreputable cronies.

A week or two passed, and then came a somewhat curt letter from Jim, asking grandmother to send his bank book to him at Oldtown, Maine. The letter put grandmother in a great state of mind, and she declared indignantly that she would not send it. In truth, we were all certain that now Jim would squander his savings in the worst possible way; but when another letter came, again demanding the book, the old Squire decided that we must send it.

"The poor fellow needs a guardian," he said. "But he hasn't one; he is his own man and has a right to his property."

With hot tears of resentment grandmother, accompanied by Theodora, went to the wagon-house cellar to get the book. After some minutes they returned, exclaiming that they could not find it!

No little stir ensued; what had become of it? For the moment Addison and I actually suspected that grandmother and Theodora had hidden the book again, in order to avoid sending it; but a few words with Theodora, aside, convinced us that the book had really disappeared from the cellar.

The old Squire was greatly disturbed.

"Ruth," he said to grandmother, "are you sure you have not put it somewhere else?"

Grandmother declared that she had not. None the less, they searched in all the previous hiding places of the book and continued looking for it until after ten o'clock that night. We were in a very uncomfortable position.

Long after we had gone to bed Addison and I lay awake, talking of it in low tones; we tried to recollect everything that had gone on at home since the book was last seen. I dropped asleep at last, and probably slept for two hours or more, when Addison shook me gently.

"Sh!" he whispered. "Don't speak. Some one is going downstairs."

Listening, I heard a stair creak, as if under a stealthy tread. Addison slipped softly out of bed, and I followed him. Hastily donning some clothes, we went into the hall on tiptoe and descended the stairs. The door from the hall to the sitting-room was open, and also the door to the kitchen. It was not a dark night; and without striking a light we went out through the wood-house to the wagon-house, for we felt sure that some one was astir out there. Just then we heard the outer door of the wagon-house move very slowly and, stealing forward, discovered that it was open about a foot. Still on tiptoe we drew near and were just in time to see a person go out of sight down the lane that led to the road.

"Now who can that be?" Addison whispered. "Looks like a woman, bareheaded."

We followed cautiously, and at the gate caught another glimpse of the mysterious pedestrian some distance down the road. We were quite sure now that it was a woman. We kept her in sight as far as the schoolhouse; there she opened the door--the schoolhouse was rarely locked by night or day--and disappeared inside.

Opposite the schoolhouse was a little copse of chokecherry bushes, and we stepped in among them to watch. Some moments passed. Twice we heard slight sounds inside. Then the dim figure in long clothes came slowly out and returned up the road toward the old Squire's.


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