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look," said the woman; “ follow me quietly, both of you ;” and blowing out the lamp, she opened the anti-room door.
Charles came immediately after, and looking down the stairs, he could see the moonlight, which he supposed to come from the window of the room below, shi. ning brightly upon the last three steps. Mary hung upon him, breathless with agitation, and the robber's sister, with a calm, still step, led the way down, pausing every moment, for fear her as it was, should have awakened the attention of any of her brother's companions. But all was silent and peaceful, and they had got nearly to the bottom of the staircase, when one of the steps gave a loud ereak under Charles's heavy foot. The woman started, and caught him tight by the wrist, with a look of horror that plainly spoke what would be the consequence of discovery; then holding up her finger, she listened for a moment with a. look of intense attention. There was but
one sound, however, to be heard, and that satisfied her: it was the loud and heavy breathing of some one in profound slumber. As she heard it, the expression of anxious alarm which her countenance had betrayed changed to a kind of triumphant sneer.--"Hog!" whispered she to Charles, “ do you hear how he snores? They doubted me, and put that pig below to keep watch;" and she again led the way forward.
Three steps more brought them into the apartment where Charles had spoken to the chief of the robbers, and he now perceived that it was the door which was open upon the mountain that admitted the moonlight, which, pouring clear into the apartment, illuminated almost the whole of the interior. Close by the foot of the staircase was a table, such as com. monly used in an Italian osteria, and still covered with various wooden plates and flasks, which might have been supposed to have borne the innocent meal of some
of the neighbouring peasantry, but that a carbine mingled with the more peaceful implements, and a man lay sleeping on the floor, with his head buried in his arms, whose tattered, but once military habiliments, spoke him one of those that the change of governments had driven to desperation. Mary shuddered as she passed him, thinking how slight a thing was between them and destruction, while the robber's sister cast upon him a look of contempt, inuttering to herself._" Hog !" as she went on towards the door.
The 'moon was nearly at the full, and so brightly did she shine, that the stars looked faint and far away, beside her near and undiminished lustre; and her rays spreading on all sides, seemed gradually blended into the deep blue of the night, sky, forming a woof of silver beams, and floating on the transparent air like a veil of thin and delicate light, while the broad, dark masses of the mountains cut distinct and heavy upon the luminous
sky, only relieved by occasional gleams, that caught upon the more prominent parts of the hills, or fell, with a kind of misty beam, into the more distant vallies. But the light that shone upon the open prospect to Mary and Charles was free: dom, and their hearts beat highly as they approached the portal that was to give them liberty.
The robber's sister pointed towards the moon, who had somewhat declined from her meridian.-" There is a path,” said she, pointing forward, “ that lies nearly in the track of the moon; follow that, and it will lead you safe from the mountains. But make all the speed you can, for you may be followed.”
The robbers, in their first joy at the idea of receiving fifteen hundred sequins, had not only left Charles his pistols, according to the conditions he had made, but bad forbore to take any of the property that was about his person, which was not indeed very valuable, as he had
only calculated on remaining at Florence for a few days; but as a mark of his gratitude, and in some degree perhaps to strengthen her motives for concealing their flight, Charles put his purse into the hands of the robber's sister. Habit seemed to have blunted her feelings, and she took it without ceremony, and bidding them farewell, she closed the door after them, leay. ing them the paramount blessing of liberty.