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HOME > Short Stories > The Children's Pilgrimage > CHAPTER XIII. A MIDNIGHT SEARCH.
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 Anton had to wait a long time, until he felt both cross and impatient, and when at last Cecile and Maurice returned to the funny little attic in the Cite, Joe almost immediately followed them.  
Joe told the children that he had made very exact inquiries, and that he believed they might start for the south the next day. He spoke, of course, in English, and, never supposing that Anton knew a word of that tongue was at no pains to refrain from discussing their plans in his presence.
Anton, apparently engaged in puffing a pipe in a corner of the room with his eyes half shut, looking stupid and half asleep, of course took in every word.
"They would start early the next morning. Oh, yes! they were more than welcome; they might go to the south, the farther from him the better, always provided that he secured the purse first."
As he smoked, he laid his plans. He was quite sure that one of the children had the purse. He suspected the one to be Joe. But to make sure, he determined to search all three.
He must search the children that night. How should he accomplish his search?
He thought. Bad ideas came to him. He went out.
He went straight to a chemist's, and bought a small quantity of a certain powder. This powder, harmless in its after-effects, would cause very sound slumber. He brought in, and contrived, unseen by anyone, to mix it in the soup which the old grandmother was preparing for the evening meal. All—Pericard, Toby—all should partake of this soup. Then all would sleep soundly, and the field would be open for him; for he, Anton, would be careful not to touch any.
He had made arrangements before with the old grandmother to have a shake-down for the night in one of her rooms; from there it would be perfectly easy to step into the little attic occupied by the children, and secure the precious purse.
His plans were all laid to perfection, and when he saw six hungry people and a dog partaking eagerly of good Mme. Pericard's really nourishing soup, he became quite jocund in his glee.
An hour afterward the drugged food had taken effect. There was not a sound in the attics. Anton waited yet another hour, then, stepping softly in his stockinged feet, he entered the little room, where he felt sure the hidden treasure awaited him.
He examined Joe first. The lad was so tired, and the effect of the drug so potent, that Anton could even turn him over without disturbing his slumbers. But, alas! feel as he would, there was no purse about Joe—neither concealed about his person, nor hidden under his pillow, was any trace of what Anton hoped and longed to find. Half a franc he took, indeed, out of the lad's pocket—half a franc and a couple of centimes; but that was all.
Anton had to own to himself that whoever had the purse, Joe had it not.
He went over to the next bed, and examined little Maurice. He even turned Toby about.
Last of all, he approached where Cecile lay. Cecile, secure in her perfect trust in the heavenly Guide, sure of the righteousness of her great quest, was sleeping as such little ones sleep. Blessed dreams were filling her peaceful slumbers, and there is no doubt that angels were guarding her.
The purity of the white face on which the moon shone filled the bad man who approached her with a kind of awe. He did not call the feeling that possessed him by that name; nevertheless, he handled the child reverently.
He felt under the pillow, he felt in the little frock. Ah! good and clever Miss Smith! so thoroughly, so well had she done her work, that no touch of hard metal came to Anton's fingers, no suspicion of the money so close to him entered his head.
Having heard at Warren's Grove of a purse, it never occurred to him to expect money in any other way. No trace of that Russia-leather purse was to be found about Cecile. After nearly an hour spent in prowling about, he had to leave the children's room discomfited; discomfit............
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