فصل 05

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فصل 05

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CHAPTER FIVE

The Robbery at the Vicarage

The robbery at the Vicarage happened in the early hours of Whit Monday, the day when Iping held its spring fair. Mrs Bunting, it seems, woke up suddenly in the stillness that comes before the sunrise, with a strong feeling that the door of their bedroom had opened and closed. She did not wake her husband at first, but sat up in bed listening. She then clearly heard the sound of bare feet coming out of the next room and walking along the passage towards the stairs. As soon as she felt sure of this, she woke her husband as quietly as she could. He did not light the lamp, but put on his glasses and a pair of soft shoes, and went out of the bedroom to listen. He heard quite clearly someone moving in the study downstairs, and then the sound of a violent sneeze.

At that he returned to his bedroom, armed himself with the poker, and went downstairs as silently as he could. Mrs Bunting stood at the top of the stairs.

It was about four o’clock, and the last darkness of the night had passed. There was a faint light in the passage; the study door stood half open. Everything was quiet and still, except the sound of the stairs under Mr Buntings feet, and the slight movements in the study. He heard a drawer being opened, and a sound of papers. Then came some swearing, and a match was struck, and the study was full of yellow light. Mr Bunting was now in the hall, and through the half-open door he could see the desk, an open drawer, and a lamp burning on the desk. But he could not see the thief. He stood there considering what to do, and Mrs Bunting, her face white with fear, walked slowly downstairs after him.

They heard the noise of coins, and knew that the thief had found the housekeeping money - two pounds and ten shillings in gold and silver. That sound made Mr Bunting very angry. Holding the poker firmly, he ran into the room, closely followed by Mrs Bunting.

‘Come on, my dear,’ and then Mr Bunting stopped. The room was perfectly empty.

But they knew that they had heard someone moving in the room. They stood still for half a minute. Then Mrs Bunting went across the room and looked behind the curtain, while Mr Bunting looked under the desk and up the chimney, and pushed the poker up into the darkness. Then they stood still looking at each other questioningly.

‘I was quite sure -‘ said Mrs Bunting.

‘The lamp!’ said Mr Bunting. ‘Who lit the lamp?’

‘The drawer!’ said Mrs Bunting. ‘And the money’s gone!’

She went quickly to the doorway.

‘Who in the world -‘

There was a loud sneeze in the passage. They rushed out, and as they did so the kitchen door closed!

‘Bring the lamp!’ said Mr Bunting, and led the way.

As he opened the kitchen door, he saw the back door opening. The garden beyond was lit by the first, faint light of sunrise. He was certain that nothing went out of the door. It stood open for a moment, and then closed with a loud bang. They searched outside for a minute or more before they came back into the kitchen.

The place was empty. They locked the back door and examined the kitchen and all the rooms thoroughly. There was no one to be found in the house, though they searched upstairs and down.

When daylight came, the vicar and his wife were still searching by the unnecessary light of the dying lamp.

‘Of all the surprising events, this is -‘ began the vicar for the twentieth time.

‘My dear,’ said Mrs Bunting, ‘there’s the servant coming down. Just wait here until she has gone into the kitchen, and then go upstairs.’

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