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Two or three days after this one of the
ducks was missing. The last time that the
five had been seen together was when Moss
was showing them to his visitor. The morning
after Moss "finally gave up hope, the glass of
Allan's hotbed was found broken, and in the
midst of the bed itself was a deep foot- track,
crushing the cucumber plants, and, with them,
Allan's hopes of a cucumber prize at the
Horticultural Exhibition in the summer. On
more examination, more mischief was
discovered, some cabbages had been stolen, and
another duck was missing. In the midst of
the general concern, Woodruffe burst out
a-laughing. It struck him that the chief
of the scarecrows had changed his hat; and
so he had. The old straw hat which used to
flap in the wind so serviceably was gone, and
in its stead appeared a helmet,—a saucepan
full of holes, battered and split, but still fit to
be a helmet to a scarecrow.

"I could swear to the old hat," observed
Woodruffe, " if I should have the luck to see
it on anybody's head."

"And so could I," said Becky, "for I mended
it, —bound it with black behind, and green
before, because I had not green ribbon enough.
But nobody would wear it before our eyes."

"That is why I suspect there are strangers
hovering about. We must watch."

Now Moss, for the first time, bethought
himself of the boy he had brought in from
the meadow; and now, for the first time, he
told his family of that encounter.

"I never saw such a simpleton," his father
declared. " There, go along and work! Now,
don't cry, but hold up like a man and work."

Moss did cry; he could not help it; but he
worked too. He would fain have been one of
the watchers, moreover; but his father said he
was too young. For two nights he was ordered
to bed, when Allan took his dark lantern, and
went down to the pent-house; the first night
accompanied by his father, and the next by
Harry Hardiman, who had come on the first
summons. By the third evening, Moss was
so miserable that his sisters interceded for
him, and he was allowed to go down with his
old friend Harry.

It was a starlight night, without a moon.
The low country lay dim, but unobscured by
mist. After a single remark on the fineness
of the night, Harry was silent. Silence was
their first business. They stole round the
fence as if they had been thieves themselves,
listened for some time before they let
themselves in at the gate, passed quickly in, and
locked the gate (the lock of which had been
well oiled), went behind every screen, and
along every path, to be sure that no one was
there, and finally, perceiving that the
remaining ducks were safe, settled themselves
in the darkness of the pent-house.

There they sat, hour after hour, listening.
If there had been no sound, perhaps they
could not have borne the effort: but the sense
was relieved by the bark of a dog at a distance;
and then by the hoot of the owl that was
known to have done them good service in
mousing, many a time; and once, by the
passage of a train on the railway above.
When these were all over, poor Moss had
much ado to keep awake, and at last his head
sank on Harry's shoulder, and he forgot where
he was, and everything else in the world.
He was awakened by Harry's moving, and
then whispering quite into his ear:—

"Sit you still. I hear somebody yonder. No
sit you still. I won't go farnot out of call:
but I must get between them and the gate."

With his lantern under his coat, Harry
stole forth, and Moss stood up, all alone in
the darkness and stillness. He could hear
his heart beat, but nothing else, till footsteps
on the path came nearer and nearer. They
came quite up; they came in, actually into
the arbour; and then the ducks were certainly
fluttering. In an instant more, there was a
gleam of light upon the white plumage of the
ducks, and then light enough to show that
this was the gipsy boy, with a dark lantern
hung round his neck, and, at the same
moment, to show the gipsy boy that Moss was
there. The two boys stood, face to face,
motionless from utter amazement, and the
ducks had scuttled and waddled away before
they recovered themselves. Then, Moss flew
at him in a glorious passion, at once of rage
and fear.

"Leave him to me, Moss," cried Harry,
casting light upon the scene from his lantern,
while he collared the thief with the other
hand. " Let go, I say, Moss. There, now we 'll
go round and be sure whether there is any
one else in the garden, and then we 'll lodge
this young rogue where he will be safe."

Nobody was there, and they went home in
the dawn, locked up the thief in the shed,
and slept through what remained of the night.

It was about Mr. Nelson's usual time for
coming down the line; and it was observed
that he now always stopped at this station till
the next train passed,—probably because it
was a pleasure to him to look upon the
improvement of the place. It was no surprise
therefore to Woodruffe to see him standing on
the embankment after breakfast; and it was
natural that Mr. Nelson should be immediately
told that the gipsies were here again,
and how one of them was caught thieving.

"Thieving! So you found some of your
property upon him, did you!"

"Why, no. I thought myself that it was
a pity that Moss did not let him alone till he
had laid hold of a duck or something."

"Pho! pho! don 't tell me you can punish
the boy for theft, when you can't prove that
he stole anything. Give him a whipping, and
let him go."

"With all my heart. It will save me much
trouble to finish off the matter so."

Mr. Nelson seemed to have some curiosity
about the business; for he accompanied
Woodruffe to the shed. The boy seemed to

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