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A Strange Banquet
by [?]

“Thaddeus,” said Bessie to her husband as they sat at breakfast one morning, shortly after the royal banquet over which “Grimmins” had presided, “did you hear anything strange in the house last night? Something like a footstep in the hall?”

“No,” said Thaddeus. “I slept like a top last night. I didn’t hear anything. Did you?”

“I thought so,” said Bessie. “About two o’clock I waked up with a start, and while it may have been a sort of waking dream, I was almost certain I heard a rustling sound out in the hall, and immediately after a creaking on the stairs, as though there was somebody there.”

“Well, why on earth didn’t you wake me, Bess?” returned Thaddeus. “I could easily have decided the matter by getting up and investigating.”

“That was why I didn’t wake you, Teddy. I’d a great deal rather lose the silver or anything else in the house a burglar might want than have you hit on the head with a sand-club,” said Bessie. “You men are too brave.”

“Thank you,” said Thaddeus, with a smile, as he thought of a certain discussion he had had not long before at the club, in which he and several other brave men had reached the unanimous conclusion that the best thing to do at dead of night, with burglars in the house, was to crawl down under the bedclothes and snore as loudly as possible. “Nevertheless, my dear, you should have told me.”

“I will next time,” said Bessie.

“Was anything in the house disturbed?” Thaddeus asked.

“No,” said Bessie. “Not a thing, as far as I can find out. Mary says that everything was all right when she came down, and the cook apparently found things straight, because she hasn’t said anything.”

So Thaddeus and Bessie made up their minds that the latter had been dreaming, and that nothing was wrong. Two or three days later, however, they changed their minds on the subject. There was something decidedly wrong, but what it was they could not discover. They were both awakened by a rustling sound in the hallway, outside of their room, and this time there was a creak on the stairs that was unmistakable.

“Don’t move, Thaddeus,” said Bessie, in a terrified whisper, as Thaddeus made a brave effort to get up and personally investigate. “I wouldn’t have you hurt for all the world, and there isn’t a thing down-stairs they can take that we can’t afford to lose.”

Thaddeus felt very much as Bessie did, and it would have pleased him much better to lie quietly where he was than run the risk of an encounter with thieves. He had been brave enough in the company of men to advocate cowardice in an emergency of just this sort, but now that this same course was advocated by his wife, he saw it in a different light. Prudence was possible, cowardice was not. He must get up, and get up he did; but before going out of his room he secured his revolver, which had lain untouched and unloaded in his bureau-drawer for two years, and then advanced cautiously to the head of the stairs and listened–Bessie meanwhile having buried her face in her pillow as a possible means of assuaging her fears. It is singular what a soothing effect a soft feather pillow sometimes has upon the agitated nerves if the nose of the agitated person is thrust far enough into its yielding surface.

“Who is there?” cried Thaddeus, standing at the head of the stairs, his knees all of a shake, but whether from fear or from cold, as an admirer of Thaddeus I prefer not to state.

Apparently the stage-whisper in which this challenge to a possible burglar was uttered rendered it unavailing, for there was no reply; but that there was some one below who could reply Thaddeus was now convinced, for there were sounds in the library–sounds, however, suggestive of undue attention to domestic duties rather than of that which fate has mapped out for house-breakers. The library floor was apparently being swept.