Hearts and Masks (Chapter 5, page 1 of 8)

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Chapter 5

There was a clicking sound, and the glare of a dark-lantern struck my
blinking eyes.

"Pick up the candle, sir," said the tranquil voice from behind the

I obeyed readily enough. Fate was downright cruel to us. Not a dozen
feet away was liberty; and now we were back at the beginning again,
with the end nowhere in sight.

"Shall I light it, sir?" I asked, not to be outdone in the matter of
formal politeness.

"Yes, sir, doubtless you will need it."

I struck a match and touched the candle-wick.

"Burglar?" said I. (For all my apparent coolness, my heart-beats were
away up in the eighties!) The girl snuggled close to my side. I could feel her heart beating
even faster than mine.

"Burglar?" I repeated.

"Indeed, no, sir,"--reproachfully. "Mine is a political job."

"A political job?"--thunderstruck.

"Yes, sir; I am an inspector of cellars,"--grimly. "I couldn't get
around to this here cellar earlier in the day, sir, and a fellow's work
must be done."

Here was a burglar with the sense of humor.

"What can I do for you?" I asked blandly.

"Firstly, as they say, you might tell me what you and this lady are
doing in this lonesome cellar."

"Say 'sir,' when you address me."

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