2. Bela The Redoubtable
A dread word to the ignorant.
Imperceptibly the crowd dwindled; the most discreet among them quite content to
leave the house; others, with their curiosity inflamed anew, to poke about and
peer into corners and curtained recesses while the opportunity remained theirs
and the man of whom they stood in fear sat lapsed in helpless unconsciousness.
A few, and these the most thoughtful, devoted all their energies to a serious
quest for the woman and child whom they continued to believe to be in hiding
somewhere inside the walls she had so audaciously entered.
Among these was Miss Weeks whose importance none felt more than herself,
and it was at her insistence and under her advice (for she only, of all who
remained, had ever had a previous acquaintance with the house) that the small
party decided to start their search by a hasty inspection of the front hall. As this
could not be reached from the room where its owner's motionless figure sat at its
grim watch, they were sidling hastily out, with eyes still turned back in awful
fascination upon those other eyes which seemed to follow all their movements
and yet gave no token of life, when a shout and scramble in the passages
beyond cut short their intent and held them panting and eager, each to his place.
"They've seen her! They've found her!" ran in quick, whispered suggestion from
lip to lip, and some were for rushing to see.
But Miss Weeks' trim and precise figure blocked the doorway, and she did not
"Hark!" she murmured in quick admonishment; "what is that other sound?
Something is happening--something dreadful. What is it? It does not seem to be
near here yet, but it is coming--coming."
Frightened in spite of themselves, both by her manner and tone, they drew their
gaze from the rigid figure in the chair, and, with bated breaths and rapidly paling
cheeks, listened to the distant murmur on the far-off road, plainly to be heard
pulsing through the nearer sounds of rushing feet and chattering voices in the
What was it? They could not guess, and it was with unbounded relief they
pressed forward to greet the shadowy form of a young girl hurrying towards them
from the rear, with news in her face. She spoke quickly and before Miss Weeks
could frame her question.
"The woman is gone. Harry Doane saw her sliding out behind us just after we
came in. She was hiding in some of the corners here, and slipped out by the
kitchen-way when we were not looking. He has gone to see--"
But interesting as this was, the wonder of the now rapidly increasing hubbub was
more so. A mob was at the gates! Men, women and children shouting, panting
and making loud calls.
Breathlessly Miss Weeks cut the girl's story short; breathlessly she rushed to the
nearest window, and, helped by willing hands, succeeded in forcing it up and