THE MASTER THIEF
' What on earth do you want here ? ' said one of them to the old woman.
' Oh dear ! oh dear! How cold it is !' she said, sobbing, and shivering with cold. 'Oil dear ! oh dear ! it's cold enough to freeze a poor old body to death ! ' and she shivered and shook again, and said, ' For heaven's sake give me leave to stay here and sit just inside the stable door.'
' You will get nothing of the kind ! Be off this moment! If the Governor were to catch sight of you here, he would lead us a pretty dance,' said one.
' Oh ! what a poor helpless old creature !' said another, who felt sorry for her. ' That poor old woman can do no harm to anyone. She may sit there and welcome.'
The rest of them thought that she ought not to stay, but while they were disputing about this and looking after the horses, she crept farther and farther into the stable, and at last sat down behind the door, and when once she was inside no one took any more notice of her.
As the night wore on the stable boys found it rather cold work to sit still on horseback.
' Hutetu ! But it is fearfully cold !' said one, and began to beat his arms backwards and forwards across his breast.
' Yes, I am so cold that my teeth are chattering,' said another. ' If one had but a little tobacco,' said a third.
"Well, one of them had a little, so they shared it among them, though there was very little for each man, but they chewed it. This was some help to them, but very soon they were just as cold as before.
' Hutetu ! ' said one of them, shivering again.
' Hutetu ! ' said the old woman, gnashing her teeth together till they chattered inside her mouth ; and then she got out the flask which contained nothing but brandy, and her hands trembled so that she shook the bottle about, and when she drank it made a great gulp in her throat.
' What is that you have in your flask, old woman f ' asked one of the stable boys.
' Oh, it's only a little drop of brandy, your honour,' she said.
'Brandy! What! Let me have a drop ! Let me have a drop ! ' screamed all the twelve at once.
' Oh, but what I have is so little,' whimpered the old woman. ' It wrill not even wet your mouths.'
But they were determined to have it, and there was nothing to