THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF 'TOM' 149
One seemed no more marvellous than the other, the hail was bigger and more dangerous, that was all. Full of this idea he looked at his barometer, which stood at ' Rain. Very stormy.' At that moment a clap of thunder was heard, and a vivid flash of lightning lit up the room.
The ground-floor tenant felt that not a moment must be lost. More bears might fall, and he must protect himself against all emergencies. So he at once despatched his valet for the Commissioner of Police, and his cook for a corporal and nine men, so as to place himself under the protection of both the civil and military authorities.
The passers-by, seeing the valet and cook run off in haste, began to gather round the hall door, and to suggest all sorts of improbable reasons for this excitement. They questioned the hall porter, but he knew no more than they did. The only apparent fact was that the alarm came from that part of the house which lay between the courtyard and the garden.
At this moment the ground-floor tenant appeared at the front door, pale, trembling, and calling for help. Tom had spied him through the glass doors, and, accustomed to the society of men, had trotted up to make acquaintance. But the ground-floor tenant, mistaking his intentions, looked on these friendly overtures as a declaration of war, and hurriedly beat a retreat. As he reached the front door he heard the panes of the garden door crack.
Eetreat became flight, and he appeared, as I have already said, before the idle crowd, with every sign of distress, and calling for help at the top of his voice.
As usual on such occasions, the crowd, instead of coming to the rescue, dispersed hurriedly, but a municipal guard who was standing near held firm, and approaching the ground-floor tenant asked how he could help him.
The poor man had neither voice nor words under control, but pointed, speechless, to the door he had just opened and the steps he had come down.