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Secret Of My Footstool

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My brother gave his work a final polish and then viewed the valuable article3 approvingly before placing them in their softly-padded case. "Think they look well, little woman?" "I think they do, indeed," Ianswered, in unqualilïed admiration. for Ted was a capital workman, and had mended the pretty trinkets very skillfully. "I am sure Mr. Bailey will be pleased. The owner herself would be puzzled to détect where ehe damaged them." Ted smiled; then, as he did not intend to take them back to the shop until the return of hisemployer, which would not be till the morrow, he deposited both the jeweled bracelets in his customary "non-burglar-proof safe," as he jokingly called a small, strong, square box which hehad fitted with lock and key, padded mside and out, and covered withchintzto match our sofa. He made use of this as a footstool, saying that evil-disposed persons would be the less likely to examine it; and many a jest he had about his placing gems under my feet, and about me beinga small person with a high mind, for I set my foot upon gold, and the like nonsense. Dear old Ted! He was so clever at his trade, and 80 trustworthy, that he had always more work than he could get through. He was very fond of me- his poor little crippled sister - would never allow me to sit too long at my needie, and shared with me in every possible way the little duties ' sitated by our humble ménage; eo he aDd I joggedalong verypeaceably. We j lodged in two rooms in a quiet street on the outskirts of Bridgepool. Our landlady was a kindly ofd body who had known our parents long before i either Ted or I foundourselves on this world's stage. Having put away the brace'.ets safely, my brother next packed up three or four watches he had been busy setting to rights, and prepared to go to the shop in Bridgepool which usually employed him. Iwatehedhimputting on his overcoat, for the day was very cold; but he seemed slow in his movements, and I thought he was reluctant to leave me alone, for, though I was generally active enough, considering my infirmity, one of my bad spel 1 3 wás now on me, when, as he knew, I found moving about a pain and a difficulty for some days. It happened, too, that Mrs. Brown - our landlady - had gone out for the day - a very rare occurrence. "Can I do anything else tor you before I go?" he asked. "No, Ted, dear, thank yon." "Make sure; look round and see íf I everything is put handy for you," i said iny brother, placing my cmtch a litt le nearer. "Everything," 1 replied, cheerfully. "And I' ve such a lot of work to get through, I shall find the ofternoon. J short." "I don't half like your being left alone so long, for I may not be back before five," said Ted, eyeing me dubipusly. CousinMilly would come round if I asked her." "Yes, and brins her baby, who would hinder my worksadly. Í don't like babie.s when lam busy. Go away, Ted, you dear oldfellow! Don't bother about me - I shall be all right." "Well, by-by, little woman, he said, stooping to kiss me; 'Til be home as soon as I can. "And, Bessie," he added, pausing in the doorway, "be sure you don't touch the window today. The sash line snapped this morriing. I must send a carpenter to see to it. You wil! remember?" I promised that I would, and my brotliur departed. I heard him go down stairs and shut the streot door. At first the unusual cjuiet of tbs house was rather depressin,g; but I soon becarne too mu en engvossed in sewing to pay atteution to that and stitched away busily at some things I wascompletiní for a lady who was kind enough to praise my needlework, preierring it, as many did, to machmestitched articles. Presently I thought I heard a slight noise down stairs, like the opening of a window, but as all remained quiet afterward, I put it uown to my imagination, and went on tranquilly with my work. After some tim I was startled to hear a step, stealthy, but distinctly audible on tbe landing outside, while under the door appeared the shadow of some one moving. "Perhaps Mrs. Brown has returned," was the thought in my mind as I sat gazine at the door; but then I turned cold with fear, ior the handle turned softly, and a strange man looked in- ayoungman, withapallid, greasy, leering face, ornamented by a thievish looking twist of hair on each eide, while a limp cap of semi-military eut wa9 stuok rakishly on the side of his head. I noticed theso details mechanically as I sat petrified with surprise and fright, and I also noticed that his long dirty neck was without a tie or a collar, a shabby frock coat beingbuttoned up to his chin, and that his dirtier handa sported more than one ring. This individual, after dartingaswift glance around the room, shpped ín and locked the door, saying: "Slickl Popsy-wopsy, don't be frightenedl I'm not going to hurt you - not a bit of it! But, you see . Stop that!" hegrowled; for. as he approached me, 1 rerovered myself a little, and gave a good loud scream. Quick as thought he had hia hand over my mouth, holding my chin and nose in such a manner that I was nearly suHocated, then he gave me a shake, saying: "If you do that again, 111 pay you out, you little fooll There - she is going to be uice and quiet now, ain't L . ,she? A picterof goodbehavior, Icalls her!" Talking thus, hegagtzeó1 ma dexterously with some oí tny work - whioh, ho wever, waspleasuriterthan his hand - ugh, that ugly grim y hand! - on my mout li, and then producingsome cord trom bis pocket-, and in a minute or two I was- pooi' feeble tbing - bound hand and ioot in my chair. lic grinned at me as he remarked: "Now, you know, ducky, I wouldn't have ser ved you so f you'd have the sense to keep quiet. I never could bear to be rough to the ladies - never! But time is short, and you might liave been hard to persuade; so perhaps it is the best way, aftor all. While spoaking thus, the fiippant rascal kept running his eyes around our neat littla room. I read disdain in his glance, and at that moment a suspicion darted into my mind that he had come with the object of stealing some of Ned's work - perhaps the jeweled bracelets which then were under my feet. With this thought there ciune to me a firm resolve to save my brother such a loss, iflpossibly could; ay, even though I had to endure tortures, I would not speak. I set my teeth hard and watched the man. His wandeling glances soon reverted to me. "Look here, dear, if I looson this cloth a bit, and you take breath, will you speak to me nicely? Only don't scream again. It makes me quite nervous to hear you scream, and can't do no good." How well I knew that, in a back room in a quiet street! "There, ain't it much more comfortable?" - loosening thecloth. "Teil me now, popsy, your brother's got some valuables here, ain't he?" I shook my head. "Oh, but he has, so you needn't jog your noodle like that. teil me wherehe's put them. It will save lots of time, and be more pleasant for you." But I only shook my head the more. "Did you everseesichstubborness?" muttered the fellow, tyinz up my mouth again. "I am afeerd I shall have to make you speak directly. But I never like to be unkind to the ladies, unless they drive metoit - oh, never!" Saying this hebegananexamination of the apartment, proceeding in what, as I suppose, would be described by a "professional" as the "best style;" any way, his movements were characterized by extroardinary celerity. Within a few minutes he had gone to the bottom of every drawer and box in the room, and also turned out the sofa-bödstead here Xed slept at night. A pretty litter he made of it all! But he had not yet discovered the secret of my footstool. Can any one imagine what Iendured as I sat ther,helpless as a poor little Chinese "joss," the cold perspiration of fear on my forehead, while Ia3kedmyself: "What will the fellow do next?" He turned round while proceeding with the search and, lookmg at me, said: "Hallo, Poppet, how pale you are! Ain't going to faint, are you? Oh! don't faint, for I shall want you to talk to me a bit. 111 open the window and give you a rnouthíul of fresh air. This room is precious close." He went to thewmdow- the window which dear Ted had e&utioned me not to touch that morning- unfastened the catch and would have let down the upper part; but he was saved the trouble, for, the cord being broken, down, quick as a shot, came the window, and, as luck would have it.caught his eight fingeis tight between the upper and middle frames. The pain and the shock must have been dreadful, the window-frame being a wide and very heavy one. He uttered a howl, then kicked frantically; but all was in vain. There heetood, with hands held aloft, cauaht in as nice a trap as could have beendevised foran evil-door. Then he glanced at me, and, the sibt of me, "picterof good behavior" that I was, must have filled his soul with remorse, since through his own act I was rendered powerless to assist him. He whined, however. "Can't. you help me?" As it was impossible for me willingly to look on while a fellow-creature suffered such anguish as I knew he must be enduring, I used every effort to get free, but vainly. He had tied me too firmly for that. He took to kicking again, and began to swear horribly. May I never again hear such language as I was forced to listen to that afternoon. Hifi, hands soon swelled, and I saw some drops of blood trickle slowly down the panes, the rings he wore on kin dirty fingers having been forced mto his tiesh. The piercing air, which rushed in freely through tho wi3e apartment, must have greatly aggravated his suffering. I know I was naarly frozen. And all tbis time the American clock on the mantelpiece kept ticking off the moments tranquilly, as though to assure me that time could not be hurriedintoaquicker pace by any cönsideration of human distress. Imagine what two hours in such a situation meant för both of us'. 1 think the poor wretch at the window fainted; but the horrible dragging of his body on his poor maimed hands roused him directly. Trembling with cold and commiseration, I sat watching him, the tears rolling down my cheeks. Oh-, why had I refused Ted's kind proposal to send Cousin Milly to me? Why had I been so captious about her dear little baby? Better a room full of babies, all doing their worst, than But here I swooned, and feil, chair and all, on the rug before the cold grate, the fire having died out long since. Just on the bour of three I became conscious of a dull thud below, which I knew to be a knock at the street door. I lay listening, but rather lay wondering vaguely what would happen next than taking any interest in things of this life, from whigh I seemed in a manner to have floated away. After a moment I heard steps pldding up stairs, andaloudcheery voice, which I recognized as that of our old friend, Mr. Joy, the caj-penter, called out: "Hilloa! Anybody at home!" Coming to our room door, heknocked, and turned the handje, but of course found it locked. Being unable to speak, I yet tried to groan, and ■ ntadesome inarticulate noises, but I could hardly hope the old man heard them, as he was somewhat deaf. As for my companion in misfortune, one would suppose he would gladly havo hailed a prison as an escape from such a plight ashe wasin, and so, no doubt, he woulu, only he had no cholee at that moment, haviug gone off again in a heavy swoon. 1 heard thecarpentergodownstairs, and hopea oí rulief died away in my breast. Oh, Joy, Joy, why did yon come to mock me thus? Two mort hours probably before Ted will be home! Shall 1 be alive by then? My bound and aching limbs were on the rack of pain; I lay and sobbed miserably. But hark! A shont from the back garden! "What the diokens is all tliis?" Again I heard the voice of Joy. It appsared that the carpenter, ou trying our room door and fhiding it fastened, concluded we were all out, but went around to the back of tho house "to have a look at the winder'" which my brother hiid sent him to mend- of cotirse not expecting to find it converted into a man-trap. He had noticed while knocking at th; door, that the parlor wiodow was fasteneil, and, thinking it was unsafe especially as ilrs. Brown was out, he had usocl his privilege as ouroldfriend and her to get through and lasten it before coming up stairs. No doubt thethieLhad enteied the houso by that way. It was not lon betore help canic, and the door was broken open, when our misery was ended. I dare say, since prisons wero first built, there never was a culprit who walked into iail more meekly thandid theone who had in-t ended to rob my brother. They say the poor fellow's hands will nevor be right agaln; amputation may be necessary, as ery si pelas is setting in. Well, all I can say is, I Ereely forgive hitn for the sufïering, mental and bodily, he causea me. I was in bed for a fortnight, but eventually iot all riaht azain. Dcar Ted says I a:n a brick, but that may be h9 partialíty. Anyhow, my footstool proved to be a very effective safe. To this hour no one knows about it but you, Ted and myself.


Old News
Ann Arbor Democrat