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´╗┐Title: Mary Louise in the Country
Author: Baum, L. Frank (Lyman Frank), 1856-1919
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Mary Louise in the Country" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



MARY LOUISE
IN THE COUNTRY

By
Edith Van Dyne
Author of
"Aunt Jane's Nieces Series"


Frontispiece by
J. Allen St. John
The Reilly & Lee Co.
Chicago


Copyright, 1916
by
The Reilly & Britton Co.



_Mary Louise in the Country_



CONTENTS

I      THE ARRIVAL
II     THE KENTON PLACE
III    THE FOLKS ACROSS THE RIVER
IV     GETTING ACQUAINTED
V      MARY LOUISE BECOMS A PEACEMAKER
VI     THE AFTERNOON TEA
VII    MARY LOUISE CALLS FOR HELP
VIII   THE RED-HEADED GIRL
IX     JOSIE INVESTIGATES
X      INGUA IS CONFIDENTIAL
XI     THE FATE OF NED JOSELYN
XII    THEORIES ARE DANGEROUS
XIII   BLUFF AND REBUFF
XIV    MIDNIGHT VIGILS
XV     "OLD SHADOWTAIL"
XVI    INGUA'S NEW DRESS
XVII   A CLEW AT LAST
XVIII  DOUBTS AND SUSPICIONS
XIX    GOOD MONEY FOR BAD
XX     AN UNEXPECTED APPEARANCE
XXI    A CASE OF NERVES
XXII   INGUA'S MOTHER
XXIII  PECULIAR PEOPLE
XXIV   FACING DANGER
XXV    FATHER AND DAUGHTER
XXVI   THE PLOT
XXVII  NAN'S TRIUMPH
XXVIII PLANNING THE FUTURE



Mary Louise in the Country



CHAPTER I
THE ARRIVAL

"Is this the station, Gran'pa Jim?" inquired a young girl, as the train
began to slow up.

"I think so, Mary Louise," replied the handsome old gentleman
addressed.

"It does look very promising, does it?" she continued, glancing eagerly
out of the window.

"The station? No, my dear; but the station isn't Cragg's Crossing, you
know; it is merely the nearest railway point to our new home."

The conductor opened their drawing-room door.

"The next stop is Chargrove, Colonel," he said.

"Thank you."

The porter came for their hand baggage and a moment later the long
train stopped and the vestibule steps were let down.

If you will refer to the time-table of the D. R. & G. Railway you will
find that the station of Chargrove is marked with a character dagger
([Picture: Character dagger]), meaning that trains stop there only to
let off passengers or, when properly signaled, to let them on. Mary
Louise, during the journey, had noted this fact with misgivings that
were by no means relieved when she stepped from the sumptuous train and
found before her merely a shed-like structure, open on all sides, that
served as station-house.

Colonel Hathaway and his granddaughter stood silently upon the platform
of this shed, their luggage beside them, and watched their trunks
tumbled out of the baggage car ahead and the train start, gather speed,
and go rumbling on its way. Then the girl looked around her to discover
that the primitive station was really the only barren spot in the
landscape.

For this was no Western prairie country, but one of the oldest settled
and most prosperous sections of a great state that had been one of the
original thirteen to be represented by a star on our national banner.
Chargrove might not be much of a railway station, as it was only eleven
miles from a big city, but the country around it was exceedingly
beautiful. Great oaks and maples stood here and there, some in groups
and some in stately solitude; the land was well fenced and carefully
cultivated; roads--smooth or rutty--led in every direction; flocks and
herds were abundant; half hidden by hills or splendid groves peeped the
roofs of comfortable farmhouses that evidenced the general prosperity
of the community.

"Uncle Eben is late, isn't he, Gran'pa Jim?" asked the girl, as her
eyes wandered over the pretty, peaceful scene.

Colonel Hathaway consulted his watch.

"Our train was exactly on time," he remarked, "which is more than can
be said for old Eben. But I think, Mary Louise, I now see an automobile
coming along the road. If I am right, we have not long to wait."

He proved to be right, for presently a small touring car came bumping
across the tracks and halted at the end of the platform on which they
stood. It was driven by an old colored man whose hair was snow white
but who sprang from his seat with the agility of a boy when Mary Louise
rushed forward with words of greeting.

"My, Uncle Ebe, but it's good to see you again!" she exclaimed, taking
both his dusky hands in her own and shaking them cordially. "How is
Aunt Polly, and how is your 'rheum'tics'?"

"Rheum'tics done gone foh good, Ma'y Weeze," he said, his round face
all smiles. "Dis shuah am one prosterous country foh health. Nobuddy
sick but de invahlids, an' dey jus' 'magines dey's sick, dat's all."

"Glad to see you, Uncle," said the Colonel. "A little late, eh?--as
usual. But perhaps you had a tire change."

"No, seh, Kun'l, no tire change. I was jus' tryin' to hurry 'long dat
lazy Joe Brennan, who's done comin' foh de trunks. Niggehs is slow,
Kun'l, dey ain't no argyment 'bout dat, but when a white man's a
reg'leh loaf eh, seh, dey ain' no niggeh kin keep behind him."

"Joe Brennan is coming, then?"

"Dat's right, Kun'l; he's comin'. Done start befoh daylight, in de
lumbeh-wagin. But when I done ketch up wi' dat Joe--a mile 'n' a half
away--he won't lis'n to no reason. So I dodged on ahead to tell you-uns
dat Joe's on de way."

"How far is it from here to Cragg's Crossing, then?" inquired Mary
Louise.

"They call it ten miles," replied her grandfather, "but I imagine it's
nearer twelve."

"And this is the nearest railway station?"

"Yes, the nearest. But usually the Crossing folks who own motor cars
drive to the city to take the trains. We alighted here because in our
own case it was more convenient and pleasant than running into the city
and out again, and it will save us time."

"We be home in half'n hour, mos' likely," added Uncle Eben, as he
placed the suit cases and satchels in the car. Colonel Hathaway and
Mary Louise followed and took their seats.

"Is it safe to leave our trunks here?" asked the girl.

"Undoubtedly," replied her grandfather. "Joe Brennan will doubtless
arrive before long and, really, there is no person around to steal
them."

"I've an idea I shall like this part of the country," said Mary Louise
musingly, as they drove away.

"I am confident you will, my dear."

"Is Cragg's Crossing as beautiful as this?"

"I think it more beautiful."

"And how did you happen to find it, Gran'pa Jim? It seems as isolated
as can be."

"A friend and I were taking a motor trip and lost our way. A farmer
told us that if we went to Cragg's Crossing we would find a good road
to our destination. We went there, following the man's directions, and
encountered beastly roads but found a perfect gem of a tiny, antiquated
town which seems to have been forgotten or overlooked by map-makers,
automobile guides and tourists. My friend had difficulty in getting me
away from the town, I was so charmed with it. Before I left I had
discovered, by dint of patient inquiry, a furnished house to let, and
you know, of course, that I promptly secured the place for the summer.
That's the whole story, Mary Louise."

"It is interesting," she remarked. "As a result of your famous
discovery you sent down Uncle Eben and Aunt Polly, with our car and a
lot of truck you thought we might need, and now--when all is ready--you
and I have come to take possession."

"Rather neatly arranged, I think," declared the Colonel, with
satisfaction.

"Do you know anything about the history of the place, Gran'pa, or of
the people who live in your tiny, forgotten town?"

"Nothing whatever. I imagine there are folks Cragg's Crossing who have
never been a dozen miles away from it since they were born. The village
boasts a 'hotel'--the funniest little inn you can imagine--where we had
an excellent home-cooked meal; and there is one store and a
blacksmith's shop, one church and one schoolhouse. These, with half a
dozen ancient and curiously assorted residences, constitute the shy and
retiring town of Cragg's Crossing. Ah, think we have found Joe
Brennan."

Uncle Eben drew up beside a rickety wagon drawn by two sorry nags who
just now were engaged in cropping grass from the roadside. On the seat
half reclined a young man who was industriously eating an apple. He
wore a blue checked shirt open at the throat, overalls, suspenders and
a straw hat that had weathered many seasons of sunshine and rain. His
feet were encased in heavy boots and his bronzed face betokened an
out-of-door life. There are a million countrymen in the United States
just like Joe Brennan in outward appearance.

Joe did not stop munching; he merely stared as the automobile stopped
beside him.

"Say, you Joe!" shouted Uncle Eben indignatly, "wha' foh yo' done
sett'n' heah?"

"Rest'n'," said Joe Brennan, taking another bite from his apple.

"Ain't yo' gwine git dem trunks home to-day?" demanded the old darkey.

Joe seemed to consider this question carefully before he ventured to
commit himself. Then he looked at Colonel Hathaway and said:

"What I want t' know, Boss, is whether I'm hired by the hour, er by the
day?"

"Didn't Uncle Eben tell you?"

"Naw, he didn't. He jes' said t' go git the trunks an' he'd gimme a
dollar fer the trip."

"Well, that seems to settle the question, doesn't it!"

"Not quite, Boss. I be'n thinkin' it over, on the way, an' a dollar's
too pesky cheap fer this trip. Sometimes I gits twenty-five cents a
hour fer haulin' things, an' this looks to me like a day's work."

"If you made good time," said Colonel Hathaway, "you might do it easily
in four hours."

Joe shook his head.

"Not me, sir," he replied. "I hain't got the constitution fer it. An'
them hosses won't trot 'less I lick 'em, an' ef I lick 'em I'm guilty
o' cru'lty ter animals--includin' myself. No, Boss, the job's too
cheap, so I guess I'll give it up an' go home."

"But you're nearly at the station now," protested the Colonel.

"I know; but it's half a mile fu'ther an' the hosses is tired. I guess
I'll go home."

"Oh, Gran'pa!" whispered Mary Louise, "it'll never do to leave our
trunks lying there by the railroad tracks."

The Colonel eyed Joe thoughtfully.

"If you were hired by the day," said he, "I suppose you would do a
day's work?"

"I'd hev to," admitted Joe. "That's why I 'asked ye how about it. Jes'
now it looks to me like I ain't hired at all. The black man said he'd
gimme a dollar fer the trunks, that's all."

"How much do you charge a day?" asked the Colonel.

"Dollar 'n' a quarter's my reg'lar price, an' I won't take no less,"
asserted Joe.

Mary Louise nearly laughed outright, but the Colonel frowned and said:

"Joe Brennan, you've got me at your mercy. I'm going to hire you by the
day, at a dollar and a quarter, and as your time now belongs to me I
request you to go at once for those trunks. You will find them just
beyond the station."

The man's face brightened. He tossed away the core of his apple and
jerked the reins to make the horses hold up their heads.

"A bargain's a bargain, Boss," he remarked cheerfully, "so I'll get
them air trunks to yer house if it takes till midnight."

"Very good," said the Colonel. "Drive on, Uncle."

The old servant started the motor.

"Dat's what I calls downright robbery, Kun'l," he exclaimed, highly
incensed. "Didn't I ask de stoahkeepeh what to pay Joe Brennen foh
bringin' oveh dem trunks, an' didn't he say a dolleh is big pay foh
such-like a trip? If we's gwine live in dis town, where day don'
un'stand city prices an' de high cost o' livin' yit, we gotta hol' 'em
down an' keep 'em from speckilatin' with us, or else we'll spile 'em
fer de time when we's gone away."

"Very true, Uncle. Has Joe a competitor?"

Uncle Eben reflected.

"Ef he has, Kun'l, I ain't seen it," he presently replied; "but I guess
all he's got is dat lumbeh-wagin."

Mary Louise had enjoyed the controversy immensely and was relieved by
the promise of the trunks by midnight. For the first time in her life
the young orphaned girl was to play housekeeper for her grandfather and
surely one of her duties was to see that the baggage was safely
deposited in their new home.

This unknown home in an unknown town had an intense fascination for her
just now. Her grandfather had been rather reticent in his description
of the house he had rented at Cragg's Crossing, merely asserting it was
a "pretty place" and ought to make them a comfortable home for the
summer. Nor had the girl questioned him very closely, for she loved to
"discover things" and be surprised--whether pleasurably or not did not
greatly interfere with the thrill.

The motor took them speedily along a winding way to Cragg's Crossing, a
toy town that caused Mary Louise to draw a long breath of delight at
first sight. The "crossing" of two country roads had probably resulted,
at some far-back period, in farmers' building their residences on the
four corners, so as to be neighborly. Farm hands or others built little
dwellings adjoining--not many of them, though--and some unambitious or
misdirected merchant erected a big frame "store" and sold groceries,
dry goods and other necessities of life not only to the community at
the Crossing but to neighboring farmers. Then someone started the
little "hotel," mainly to feed the farmers who came to the store to
trade or the "drummers" who visited it to sell goods. A church and a
schoolhouse naturally followed, in course of time, and then, as if its
destiny were fulfilled, the sleepy little town--ten miles from the
nearest railway--gradually settled into the comatose state in which
Colonel Hathaway and his granddaughter now found it.



CHAPTER II
THE KENTON PLACE

The tiny town, however, was not all that belonged to the Cragg's
Crossing settlement. Barely a quarter of a mile away from the village a
stream with beautifully wooded banks ran diagonally through the
countryside. It was called a "river" by the natives, but it was more of
a creek; halfway between a small rivulet and a brook, perhaps. But its
banks afforded desirable places for summer residences, several of which
had been built by well-to-do families, either retired farmers or city
people who wished for a cool and quiet place in which to pass the
summer months.

These residences, all having ample grounds and facing the creek on
either side, were sufficiently scattered to be secluded, and it was to
one of the most imposing of these that Uncle Eben guided the
automobile. He crossed the creek on a primitive but substantial bridge,
turned to the right, and the first driveway led to the house that was
to be Mary Louise's temporary home.

"This is lovely!" exclaimed the girl, as they rolled up a winding drive
edged by trees and shrubbery, and finally drew up before the entrance
of a low and rambling but quite modern house. There was Aunt Polly, her
round black face all smiles, standing on the veranda to greet them, and
Mary Louise sprang from the car first to hug the old servant--Uncle
Eben's spouse--and then to run in to investigate the establishment,
which seemed much finer than she had dared to imagine it.

The main building was of two stories, but the wings, several of which
jutted out in various directions, were one story in height, somewhat on
the bungalow plan. There was a good-sized stable in connection--now
used as a garage--and down among the oaks toward the river an open
pavilion had been built. All the open spaces were filled with flowers
and ferns, in beds and borders, and graveled paths led here and there
in a very enticing way. But the house was now the chief fascination and
the other details Mary Louise gleaned by sundry glances from open
windows as she rambled from room to room.

At luncheon, which Aunt Polly served as soon as her young mistress
could be coaxed from her tour of inspection, the girl said:

"Gran'pa Jim, who owns this place?"

"A Mrs. Joselyn," he replied.

"A young woman?"

"I believe so. It was built by her mother, a Mrs. Kenton, some fifteen
years ago, and is still called 'the Kenton Place.' Mrs. Kenton died and
her daughter, who married a city man named Joselyn, has used it as a
summer home until this year. I think Mrs. Joselyn is a woman of
considerable means."

"The furnishings prove that," said Mary Louise. "They're not all in the
best of taste, but they are plentiful and meant to be luxurious. Why
doesn't Mrs. Joselyn occupy her home this summer? And why, if she is
wealthy, does she rent the place?"

"Those are problems I am unable to solve, my dear," replied the Colonel
with a smile. "When old man Cragg, who is the nearest approach to a
real estate agent in the village, told me the place was for rent, I
inquired the price and contracted to lease it for the summer. That
satisfied me, Mary Louise, but if you wish to inquire into the history
and antecedents of the Kenton and Joselyn families, I have no doubt
there are plenty of village gossips who can fill your ears full of it."

"Dar's one thing I foun' out, seh," remarked Uncle Eben, who always
served at table and was not too diffident to join in the conversation
of his betters, at times; "dis Joselyn man done dis'pear--er run away--
er dig out, somehow--an' he missus is mos' plumb crazy 'bout it."

"When did that happen?" asked Mary Louise.

"'Bout Chris'mas time, de stoahkeepah say. Nobody don't like him down
heah, 'cause he put on a 'strord'nary 'mount o' airs an' didn't mix wid
de town people, nohow. De stoahkeepeh t'inks Marse Joselyn am
crooked-like an' done squandeh a lot o' he wife's money befoh he went."

"Perhaps," said Mary Louise musingly, "that is why the poor woman is
glad to rent this house. I wish, however, we had gotten it for a more
pleasant reason."

"Don't pay attention to Eben's chatter, my dear," advised her
grandfather. "His authority seems to be the ancient storekeeper, whom I
saw but once and didn't fancy. He looks like an old owl, in those big,
horn-rimmed spectacles."

"Dat stoahkeepeh ain' no owl, Kun'l," asserted Uncle Eben earnestly.
"He done know all dey is to know 'roun' dese diggin's, an' a lot moah,
too. An' a owl is a mighty wise bird, Kun'l, ef I do say it, an' no
disrespec'; so what dat stoahkeepeh say I's boun' to take notice of."

Mary Louise spent the afternoon in examining her new possession and
"getting settled." For--wonder of wonders!--Joe Brennan arrived with
the trunks at three o'clock, some nine hours before the limit of
midnight. The Colonel, as he paid the man, congratulated him on making
such good time.

"Ya-as," drawled Joe; "I done pretty well, considerin'. But if I hadn't
hired out by the day I'd sure be'n a loser. I've be'n a good ten hours
goin' fer them trunks, fer I started at five this mornin'; so, if I'd
tooken a doller fer the job, I'd only made ten cents a hour, my price
bein' twenty-five. But, as it is," he added with pride, "I git my
reg'lar rate of a dollar 'n' a quarter a day."

"Proving that it pays to drive a bargain," commented the Colonel.

Mary Louise unpacked Gran'pa Jim's trunk first and put his room in
"apple-pie order," as Aunt Polly admiringly asserted. Then she settled
her own pretty room, held a conference with her servants about the
meals and supplies, and found it was then time to dress for dinner. She
was not yet old enough to find household duties a bore, so the
afternoon had been delightfully spent.

Early after breakfast the next morning, however, Mary Louise started
out to explore the grounds of her domain. The day was full of sunshine
and the air laden with fragrance of flowers--a typical May morning.
Gran'pa Jim would, of course, read for an hour or two and smoke his
pipe; he drew a chair upon the broad veranda for this very purpose; but
the girl had the true pioneer spirit of discovery and wanted to know
exactly what her five acres contained.

The water was doubtless the prime attraction in such a neighborhood.
Mary Louise made straight for the river bank and found the shallow
stream--here scarce fifty feet in width--rippling along over its stony
bed, which was a full fifty feet wider than the volume of water then
required. When the spring freshets were on perhaps the stream reached
its banks, but in the summer months it was usually subdued as now. The
banks were four feet or more above the rabble of stones below, and
close to the bank, facing the river on her side, Mrs. Kenton had built
a pretty pavilion with ample seats and room for half a dozen wicker
chairs and a table, where one could sit and overlook the water. Mary
Louise fervently blessed the old lady for this idea and at once seated
herself in the pavilion while she examined at leisure the scene spread
out before her.

Trees hid all the neighboring residences but one. Just across the river
and not far from its bank stood a small, weather-beaten cottage that
was in sharp contrast with the rather imposing Kenton residence
opposite. It was not well kept, nor even picturesque. The grounds were
unattractive. A woodpile stood in the front yard; the steps leading to
the little porch had rotted away and had been replaced by a plank--
rather unsafe unless one climbed it carefully, Mary Louise thought.
There were time-worn shades to the windows, but no curtains. A pane of
glass had been broken in the dormer window and replaced by a folded
newspaper tacked over it. Beside the porch door stood a washtub on
edge; a few scraggly looking chickens wandered through the yard; if not
an abode of poverty it was surely a place where careless indifference
to either beauty or the comfort of orderly living prevailed.

So much Mary Louise had observed, wondering why Mrs. Kenton had not
bought the cottage and torn it down, since it was a blot on the
surrounding landscape, when she saw the door open and a man come out.
She gave a little gasp of astonishment as her eyes followed this man,
who slowly took the path to the bridge, from whence the road led into
the village.



CHAPTER III
THE FOLKS ACROSS THE RIVER

Her first glance told the girl that here was a distinctly unusual
personage. His very appearance was quaint enough to excite comment from
a stranger. It must have been away back in the revolutionary days when
men daily wore coats cut in this fashion, straight across the
waist-line in front and with two long tails flapping behind. Modern
"dress coats" were much like it, to be sure, but this was of a faded
blue-bottle color and had brass buttons and a frayed velvet collar on it.
His trousers were tight-fitting below the knee and he wore gaiters and
a wide-brimmed silk hat that rivaled his own age and had doubtless seen
happier days.

Mary Louise couldn't see all these details from her seat in the
pavilion across the river, but she was near enough to observe the
general effect of the old man's antiquated costume and it amazed her.

Yes, he was old, nearly as ancient as his apparel, the girl decided;
but although he moved with slow deliberation his gait was not feeble,
by any means. With hands clasped behind him and head slightly bowed, as
if in meditation, he paced the length of the well-worn path, reached
the bridge and disappeared down the road toward the village.

"That," said a voice beside her, "is the Pooh-Bah of Cragg's Crossing.
It is old Cragg himself."

Gran'pa Jim was leaning against the outer breast of the pavilion, book
in hand.

"You startled me," she said, "but no more than that queer old man did.
Was the village named after him, Gran'pa?"

"I suppose so; or after his father, perhaps, for the place seems even
older than old Cragg. He has an 'office' in a bare little room over the
store, and I rented this place from him. Whatever his former fortunes
may have been--and I imagine the Craggs once owned all the land about
here--old Hezekiah seems reduced to a bare existence."

"Perhaps," suggested Mary Louise, "he inherited those clothes with the
land, from his father. Isn't it an absurd costume, Gran'pa Jim? And in
these days of advanced civilization, too! Of course old Hezekiah Cragg
is not strong mentally or he would refuse to make a laughingstock of
himself in that way."

Colonel Hathaway stared across the river for a time without answering.
Then he said:

"I do not think the natives here laugh at him, although I remember they
called him 'Old Swallowtail' when I was directed to him as the only
resident real estate agent. I found the old man quite shrewd in driving
a bargain and thoroughly posted on all the affairs of the community.
However, he is not a gossip, but inclined to be taciturn. There is a
fathomless look in his eyes and he is cold and unresponsive. Country
life breeds strange characteristics in some people. The whimsical dress
and mannerisms of old Mr. Cragg would not be tolerated in the cities,
while here they seem regarded with unconcern because they have become
familiar. I was rather, pleased with his personality because he is the
Cragg of Cragg's Crossing. How much of the original plot of land he
still owns I don't know."

"Why, he lives in that hovel!" said the girl.

"So it seems, although he may have been merely calling there."

"He fits the place," she declared. "It's old and worn and neglected,
just as he and his clothes are. I'd be sorry, indeed, to discover that
Mr. Cragg lives anywhere else."

The Colonel, his finger between the leaves of the book he held, to mark
the place where he was reading, nodded somewhat absently and started to
turn away. Then he paused to ask anxiously:

"Does this place please you, my dear?"

"Ever so much, Gran'pa Jim!" she replied with enthusiasm, leaning from
her seat inside the pavilion to press a kiss upon his bare gray head.
"I've a sense of separation from all the world, yet it seems good to be
hidden away in this forgotten nook. Perhaps I wouldn't like it for
always, you know, but for a summer it is simply delightful. We can
rest--and rest--and rest!--and be as cozy as can be."

Again the old gentleman nodded, smiling at the girl this time. They
were good chums, these two, and what pleased one usually pleased the
other.

Colonel Hathaway had endured a sad experience recently and his handsome
old face still bore the marks of past mental suffering. His only
daughter, Beatrice Burrows, who was the mother of Mary Louise, had been
indirectly responsible for the Colonel's troubles, but her death had
lifted the burden; her little orphaned girl, to whom no blame could be
attached, was very dear to "Gran'pa Jim's" heart. Indeed, she was all
he now had to love and care for and he continually planned to promote
her happiness and to educate her to become a noble woman. Fortunately
he had saved considerable money from the remains of an immense estate
he had once possessed and so was able to do anything for his grandchild
that he desired. In New York and elsewhere Colonel James Hathaway had a
host of influential friends, but he was shy of meeting them since his
late unpleasant experiences.

Mary Louise, for her part, was devotedly attached to her grandfather
and preferred his society to that of any other person. As the erect
form of the old gentleman sauntered away through the trees she looked
after him affectionately and wagged her little head with hearty
approval.

"This is just the place for Gran'pa Jim," she mused. "There's no one to
bother him with questions or sympathy and he can live as quietly as he
likes and read those stuffy old books--the very name 'classics' makes
me shudder--to his heart's content. He'll grow stronger and happier
here, I'm sure."

Then she turned anew to revel in the constantly shifting view of river
and woodland that extended panoramically from her seat in the pavilion.
As her eyes fell on the old cottage opposite she was surprised to see a
dishpan sail through the open window, to fall with a clatter of broken
dishes on the hard ground of the yard. A couple of dish-towels
followed, and then a broom and a scrubbing-brush--all tossed out in an
angry, energetic way that scattered them in every direction. Then on
the porch appeared the form of a small girl, poorly dressed in a shabby
gingham gown, who danced up and down for a moment as if mad with rage
and then, observing the washtub, gave it a kick which sent it rolling
off the porch to join the other utensils on the ground.

Next, the small girl looked around her as if seeking more inanimate
things upon which to vent her anger, but finding none she dashed into
the cottage and soon reappeared with a much-worn straw hat which she
jammed on her flaxen head and then, with a determined air, walked down
the plank and marched up the path toward the bridge--the same direction
that old Cragg had taken a short time before.

Mary Louise gave a gasp of amazement. The scene had been dramatic and
exciting while it lasted and it needed no explanation whatever. The
child had plainly rebelled at enforced drudgery and was going--where?

Mary Louise sprang lightly from her seat and ran through the grounds to
their entrance. When she got to the road she sped along until she came
to the bridge, reaching one end of it just as the other girl started to
cross from the opposite end. Then she stopped and in a moment the two
met.

"Where are you going?" asked Mary Louise, laying a hand on the child's
arm as she attempted to pass her.

"None o' yer business," was the curt reply.

"Oh, it is, indeed," said Mary Louise, panting a little from her run.
"I saw you throw things, a minute ago, so I guess you mean to run
away."

The girl turned and stared at her.

"I don't know ye," said she. "Never saw ye before. Where'd ye come from
anyway?"

"Why, my grandfather and I have taken the Kenton house for the summer,
so we're to be your neighbors. Of course, you know, we must get
acquainted."

"Ye kin be neighbors to my Gran'dad, if ye like, but not to me. Not by
a ginger cookie! I've done wi' this place fer good an' all, I hev, and
if ye ever see me here ag'in my name ain't Ingua Scammel!"

"Here; let's sit down on the bridge and talk it over," proposed Mary
Louise. "There's plenty of time for you to run away, if you think you'd
better. Is Mr. Cragg your grandfather, then?"

"Yes, Ol' Swallertail is. 'Ol' Humbug' is what _I_ calls him."

"Not to his face, do you?"

"I ain't so foolish. He's got a grip on him like a lobster, an' when
he's mad at me he grips my arm an' twists it till I holler. When
Gran'dad's aroun' you bet I hev to knuckle down, er I gits the worst of
it."

"So he's cruel, is he?"

"Uh-huh. Thet is, he's cruel when I riles him, as I got a habit o'
doin'. When things runs smooth, Gran'dad ain't so bad; but I ain't
goin' to stand that slave life no longer, I ain't. I've quit fer good."

"Wherever you go," said Mary Louise gently, "you will have to work for
someone. Someone, perhaps, who treats you worse than your grandfather
does. No one else is obliged to care for you in any way, so perhaps
you're not making a wise change."

"I ain't, eh?"

"Perhaps not. Have you any other relatives to go to?"

"No."

"Or any money?"

"Not a red cent."

"Then you'll have to hire out as a servant. You're not big enough or
strong enough to do much, so you'll search a long time before you find
work, and that means being hungry and without shelter. I know more of
the world than you do, Ingua--what an odd name you have!--and I
honestly think you are making a mistake to run away from your own
grandfather."

The girl stared into the water in sullen silence for a time. Mary
Louise got a good look at her now and saw that her freckled face might
be pretty if it were not so thin and drawn. The hands lying on her lap
were red and calloused with housework and the child's whole appearance
indicated neglect, from the broken-down shoes to the soiled and
tattered dress. She seemed to be reflecting, for after a while she gave
a short, bitter laugh at the recollection of her late exhibition of
temper and said:

"It's too late to back, down now. I've busted the dishes an' smashed
things gen'rally."

"That _is_ bad," said Mary Louise; "but it might be worse. Mr. Cragg
can buy more dishes."

"Oh, he can, can he? Where's the money comin' from?"

"Is he poor?"

"He ain't got no money, if that's what ye mean. That's what he says,
anyhow. Says it were a godsend you folks rented that house of him,
'cause it'll keep us in corn bread an' pork for six months, ef we're
keerful. Bein' keerful means that he'll eat the pork an' I gits a chunk
o' corn bread now an' then."

"Dear me!" exclaimed Mary Louise in a distressed voice. "Don't you get
enough to eat?"

"Oh, I manages it somehow," declared Ingua, with indifference. "I be'n
swipin' one egg a day fer weeks an' weeks. Gran'dad says he'll trim me
good an' plenty if he catches me eatin' eggs, 'cause all that our
chickens lays he takes down to the store an' sells. But he ain't home
daytimes, to count what eggs is laid, an' so I watches out an' grabs
one a day. He's mighty cute, I tell ye, Gran'dad is; but he ain't cute
enough to catch me at the egg-swipin'."

Mary Louise was greatly shocked. Really, she decided, something must be
done for this poor child. Looking at the matter from Ingua's report,
the smashing of the dishes might prove serious. So she said:

"Come, dear, let's go together to your house and see if we can't
restore the damage."

But the girl shook her head.

"Noth'n' can't mend them busted dishes," she said, "an' when Gran'dad
sees 'em he'll hev a fit. That's why I did it; I wanted to show him I'd
had revenge afore I quit him cold. He won't be home till night, but I
gotta be a long way off, afore then, so's he can't ketch me."

"Give it up," suggested Mary Louise. "I've come here to live all
summer, Ingua, and now that we're friends I'm going to help you to get
along more comfortably. We will have some splendid times together, you
and I, and you will be a good deal better off than wandering among
strangers who don't care for you."

The girl turned and looked into Mary Louise's face long and earnestly.
Her eyes wandered to her neatly arranged hair, to the white collar at
her throat, then down to her blue serge dress and her dainty shoes. But
mostly she looked straight into the eyes of her new friend and found
there sincerity and evident good will. So she sighed deeply, cast a
glance at her own bedraggled attire, and said:

"We ain't much alike, us two, but I guess we kin be friends. Other
girls has come here, to the rich people's houses, but they all stuck up
their noses at me. You're the first that's ever give me a word."

"All girls are not alike, you know," responded Mary Louise cheerfully.
"So now, let's go to your house and see what damage has been done."



CHAPTER IV
GETTING ACQUAINTED

The two girls had been sitting on the edge of the bridge, but Mary
Louise now rose and took Ingua's arm in her own, leading the reluctant
child gently toward the path. It wasn't far to the old cottage and when
they reached the yard Ingua laughed again at the scene of disorder.

"It's a'most a pity Gran'dad can't see it," she chuckled. "He'd be so
crazy he'd hev them claws o' his'n 'round my throat in a jiffy."

Mary Louise drew back, startled.

"Did he ever do that?" she asked.

"Only once; but that time near ended me. It were a long time ago, an'
he was sorry, I guess, 'cause he bought me a new dress nex' day--an'
new shoes! I ain't had any since," she added disconsolately, "so the
other day I asked him wasn't it about time he choked me ag'in."

"What did he say to that?"

"Jes' growled at me. Gran'dad's got a awful temper when he's good an'
riled, but usual' he's still as a mouse. Don't say a word to me fer
days together, sometimes. Once I saw him--"

She suddenly checked herself and cast an uneasy, sidelong glance at her
companion. Mary Louise was rolling the washtub back to the stoop.

"The only thing that will bother us, Ingua," she said, "is those
dishes. Let us try to count the broken ones. Do you know how many there
were?"

"Sure I do," answered the girl, removing the battered dishpan from the
heap of crockery. "Two plates, two cups-'n'-saucers, a oatmeal dish, a
bread plate an' the pork platter. Gee! what a smash. One cup's whole--
an' the oatmeal dish. The rest is gone-up."

"I'm going to dig a hole and bury the broken pieces," said Mary Louise.
"Have you a spade?"

"There's an ol' shovel. But it won't do no good to bury of 'em.
Gran'dad he counts ev'ry piece ev'ry day. He counts ev'ry thing, from
the grains of salt to the chickens. Say, once I tried to play a trick
on him. I'd got so hungry fer meat I jes' couldn't stand it, so one day
I killed a chick'n, thinkin' he wouldn't miss it. My--my! Wha' d'ye
s'pose? Say, ye never told me yer name yit."

"I am Mary Louise Burrows."

"Highflyin' name, ain't it? Well, I killed thet chick'n, an' cut it up
an' fried it, an' et jes' a leg an' a wing, an' hid the rest under my
bed in the peak up there, where Ol' Swallertail never goes. All the
feathers an' the head I buried, an' I cleaned up the hatchet an' the
fry-in'-pan so's there wasn't a smitch of anything left to prove I'd
murdered one o' them chicks. I was feelin' kinder chirky when Gran'dad
come home, 'cause I thought he'd never find out. But what did the ol'
vill'n do but begin to sniff aroun'; an' he sniffed an' he sniffed till
he says: 'Ingua, what chick'n did ye kill, an' why did ye kill it?'

"'Yer crazy,' says I. 'What're ye talkin' 'bout?'

"Then he gives me one sour look an' marches out to count the chick'ns,
an' when he comes back he says: 'It's the brown pullet with white on
the wings. It were worth forty cents, an' forty cents'll buy ten pounds
o' oatmeal. Where's the chick'n, girl?' 'Et up,' says I. 'Yer lyin','
says he. 'Go git it! Hustle!'

"Well, I saw his claws beginnin' to work an' it scared me stiff. So I
goes to my room an' brings down the chick'n, an' he eyes it quiet-like
fer a long time an' then eats some fer his supper. The rest he locks up
in the cupboard that he allus carries the key to. Say, Mary Louise, I
never got another taste o' that chick'n as long as it lasted! Ol'
Swallertail et it all himself, an' took a week to do it."

During this recital the broom and mop and scrubbing-brush had been
picked up and restored to their proper places. Then the two girls got
out the old shovel and buried the broken dishes in a far corner of the
yard, among high weeds. Mary Louise tried to get the dents out of the
old dishpan, but succeeded only indifferently. It was so battered
through long use, however, that Ingua thought the "jams" would not be
noticed.

"Next," said Mary Louise, "we must replace the broken pieces. I suppose
they sell dishes at the village store, do they not?"

"That's where these come from--long ago," replied Ingua; "but dishes
cost money."

"I've a little money in my purse; enough for that, I'm sure. Will you
go to town with me?"

Ingua stared at her as if bewildered. The proposition was wholly beyond
her understanding. But she replied to her new friend's question, saying
slowly:

"No; I won't go. Ol' Swallertail'd skin me alive if he caught me in the
village."

"Then I'll go alone; and I'll soon be back, though I must run over to
my own house first, to get my purse and my hat. Let me have one of the
cups for a sample, Ingua."

She left the child sitting on the plank runway and looking rather
solemn and thoughtful. Mary Louise was somewhat fearful that she might
run away in her absence, so she hurried home and from there walked into
the village, a tramp easily accomplished in ten minutes.

The store was the biggest building in town, but not very big at that.
It was "clapboarded" and two stories in height, the upper floor being
used by Sol Jerrems, the storekeeper, as a residence, except for two
little front rooms which he rented, one to Miss Huckins, the dressmaker
and milliner, who slept and ate in her shop, and the other to Mr.
Cragg. A high platform had been built in front of the store, for the
convenience of farmer customers in muddy weather, and there were steps
at either end of the platform for the use of pedestrians.

When Mary Louise entered the store, which was cluttered with all sorts
of goods, not arranged in very orderly manner, there were several
farmers present. But old Sol had his eye on her in an instant and
shuffled forward to wait upon her.

"I want some crockery, please," she said.

He looked at the sample cup and led her to a corner of the room where a
jumble of dishes crowded a single shelf.

"I take it you're one o' them new folks at the Kenton Place," he
remarked.

"Yes," said she.

"Thought ther' was plenty o' dishes in that place," continued Mr.
Jerrems, in a friendly tone. "But p'r'aps ye don't want the black folks
t' eat off'n the same things ye do yerselves."

Mary Louise ignored this speech and selected the dishes she wanted. She
had measured the broken platter and found another of the same size. Old
Sol wouldn't sell a saucer without a cup, explaining that the two
always went together: "the cup to hold the stuff an' the saucer to
drink it out'n." Without argument, however, the girl purchased what she
wanted. It was heavy, cheap ware of the commonest kind, but she dared
not substitute anything better for it.

Then she went to the grocery counter and after considering what Ingua
might safely hide and eat in secret she bought a tin of cooked corned
beef, another of chipped beef, one of deviled ham and three tins of
sardines. Also she bought a basket to carry her purchases in and
although old Sol constantly sought to "pump" her concerning her past
life, present history and future prospects, she managed to evade
successfully his thirst for information. No doubt the fellow was a
great gossip, as old Eben had declared, but Mary Louise knew better
than to cater to this dangerous talent.

The proprietor accompanied her to the door and she drew back,
hesitating, as she observed an old man in a bottle-blue swallowtail
coat pace in deliberate, dignified manner along the opposite side of
the street.

"Who is that?" she asked, as an excuse for not going out until Ingua's
grandfather had passed from sight.

"That? Why, that's Ol' Swallertail, otherwise Hezekiah Cragg, one o'
our most interestin' citizens," replied Sol, glad of the chance to
talk.

"Does he own Cragg's Crossing?" asked Mary Louise.

"Mercy, no! He owned a lot of it once, though, but that were afore my
time. Sold it out an' squandered the money, I guess, for he lives like
a rat in a hole. Mebbe, though, he's got some hid away; that's what
some o' the folks here whispers--folks that's likely to know. But, if
that's a fact, he's got a streak o' miser in him, for he don't spend
more'n the law allows."

"He may have lost the money in speculations," suggested the girl.

"Say, ye've hit the nail square on the head!" he exclaimed admiringly.
"Them's my own opinions to a T. I've told the boys so a hunderd times,
but they can't git it. Wasn't Ol' Swal-lertail hand-in-glove wi' that
slick Mister Joselyn, who they say has run away an' left his pore wife
in the lurch? That's how you got a chance to rent the Kenton house.
Joselyn were slick as butter, an' high-strung. Wouldn't hobnob with any
o' us but Ol' Swallertail, an' that's why I think Cragg was investin'
money with him. Joselyn he came down here three year ago, havin'
married Annabel Kenton in the winter, an' the way he swelled aroun'
were a caution to snakes. But the pore devil run his rope an' lit out.
Where he skipped to, I dunno. Nobuddy seems to know, not even his wife.
But they say she didn't hev enough money left to count, an' by the glum
looks o' Ol' Swallertail I'm guessin' he got nipped too."

"How long ago was that?" asked Mary Louise.

"Some time 'bout last Christmas, they say. Anyhow, that's when his wife
missed him an' set up a hunt that didn't do no good. She came down here
with red eyes an' tramped 'round in the deep snow askin' questions.
But, sakes, Ned Joselyn wouldn't 'a' come to an out-o'-the-way place
like this; we didn't never suit his style, ye see; so poor Ann Kenton--
whose misfortun' made her Mrs. Ned Joselyn--cried an' wailed fer a day
er two an' then crep' back to the city like a whipped dog. Funny how
women'll care fer a wuthless, ne'er-do-well chap that happens to be
good-lookin', ain't it?"

Mary Louise nodded rather absently. However distorted the story might
be, it was curious what had become of Mr. Joselyn. But her thoughts
reverted to another theme and she asked:

"Hasn't Mr. Cragg a granddaughter?"

"Oh, ye've seen little Ingua Scammel, hev ye? Or mebbe just heard tell
of her. She's the cussedest little coal o' fire in seven counties!
Keeps Ol' Swallertail guessin' all the time, they say, jes' like her
mom, Nan Cragg, did afore her. Gosh, what a woman her mom were! She
didn't stay 'round here much, but whenever she run out o' cash an'
didn't hev a square meal comin' to her, she camped on Ol' Swallertail
an' made him board her. Las' time she come she left her young-un--
that's Ingua, ye know--an' the kid's been here ever since; sort of a
thorn in the side of ol' Hezekiah, we folks think, though he don't
never complain. She ain't more'n twelve or thirteen year old, thet
Ingua, but she keeps house fer her gran'dad--what they is to keep,
which ain't much. I won't let the kid 'round my store, nohow, 'cause
she swipes ev'rything, from dried apples to peanuts, thet she kin lay
her hands on."

"Perhaps she is hungry," said Mary Louise, defending her new friend.

"Like enough. But I ain't feedin' starvin' kids, 'Tain't my business.
If Ol' Swallertail don't feed her enough, thet's _his_ lookout. I've
warned him if she sets foot in this store I'll charge him ten cents,
jes' fer safety, so he keeps her out. He's slick, Ol' Swallertail is,
an' silent-like an' secret in all he does an' says; but he's got to git
up earlier in the mornin' to git the best o' Sol Jerrems, he er his
kid, either one."

As Mr. Cragg had now vanished from sight up the street, Mary Louise
ventured out and after a brisk walk deposited her basket on the stoop
of the Cragg cottage, where Ingua still sat, swinging her feet
pensively, as if she had not stirred since Mary Louise had left her.



CHAPTER V
MARY LOUISE BECOMES A PEACEMAKER

"Here are the dishes, exactly like the broken ones," reported Mary
Louise in a jubilant tone as she set down her heavy basket. "Let us go
in and wash them, Ingua, and put them away where they belong."

The child followed her into the house. All her former pent-up energy
seemed to have evaporated. She moved in a dull sort of way that
betokened grim resignation.

"I've be'n plannin' fer months to make a run fer it," she remarked as
she washed the new dishes and Mary Louise wiped them dry, "an' just
when I'd mustered up courage to do the trick, along comes _you_ an'
queered the whole game."

"You'll thank me for that, some day, Ingua. Aren't you glad, even now,
that you have a home and shelter?"

"I ain't tickled to death about it. Home!" with a scornful glance
around the room, barren of all comforts. "A graveyard's a more cheerful
place, to my notion."

"We must try to make it pleasanter, dear. I'm going to get acquainted
with Mr. Cragg and coax him to brighten things up some, and buy you
some new clothes, and take better care of you."

Ingua fell back on a stool, fairly choking twixt amazement and
derision.

"You! Coax Ol' Swallertail? Make him spend money on _me!_ Say, if ye
wasn't a stranger here, Mary Louise, I'd jes' laugh; but bein' as how
yer a poor innercent, I'll only say ther' ain't no power on earth kin
coax Gran'dad to do anything better than to scowl an' box my ears. You
don't know him, but _I_ do."

"Meantime," said Mary Louise, refusing to argue the point, "here are
some little things for you to hide away, and to eat whenever you
please," and she took from the basket the canned goods she had bought
and set them in an enticing row upon the table.

Ingua stared at the groceries and then stared at Mary Louise. Her wan
face flushed and then grew hard.

"Ye bought them fer _me?_" she asked.

"Yes; so you won't have to steal eggs to satisfy your natural hunger."

"Well, ye kin take the truck away ag'in. An' you'd better go with it,"
said the girl indignantly. "We may be poor, but we ain't no beggars,
an' we don't take charity from nobody."

"But your grandfather--"

"We'll pay our own bills an' buy our own fodder. The Craggs is jus' as
good as yer folks, an' I'm a Cragg to the backbone," she cried, her
eyes glinting angrily. "If we want to starve, it's none o' yer
business, ner nobody else's," and springing up she seized the tins one
by one and sent them flying through the window, as she had sent the
dishpan and dishes earlier in the morning. "Now, then, foller yer
charity an' make yerself scarce!" and she stamped her foot defiantly at
Mary Louise, who was dumb with astonishment.

It was hard to understand this queer girl. She had made no objection to
replacing the broken dishes, yet a present of food aroused her to
violent anger. Her temper was positively something terrible in so small
a person and remembering her story of how Old Swallowtail had clenched
his talon-like fingers and twisted Ingua's arm till she screamed with
pain, Mary Louise could well believe the statement that the child was
"a Cragg to the backbone."

But Mary Louise, although only a few years older than Ingua, had had a
good deal more experience and was, moreover, a born diplomat.
Astonished though she was, she quickly comprehended the peculiar pride
exhibited in a refusal to accept food from a stranger and knew she must
soothe the girl's outraged spirit of independence if they were to
remain friends.

"I guess I'll have to beg your pardon, Ingua," she said quietly. "I was
grieved that you are so often hungry, while I have so much more than I
need, and the money which I spent was all my own, to do what I liked
with. If I were in your place, and you in mine, and we were good chums,
as I know we're going to be, I'd be glad to have you help me in any
little way you could. True friends, Ingua, share and share alike and
don't let any foolish pride come between them."

She spoke earnestly, with a ring of sincerity in her voice that
impressed the other girl. Ingua's anger had melted as quickly as it had
roused and with sudden impulsiveness she seized Mary Louise's hands in
her own and began to cry.

"I'm as wicked as they make 'em!" she wailed. "I know I am! But I can't
help it, Mary Louise; it's borned in me. I want to be friends with ye,
but I won't take your charity if I starve. Not now, anyhow. Here; I'll
go git the stuff an' put it back in yer basket, an' then ye kin lug it
home an' do what ye please with it."

They picked up the cans together, Ingua growing more calm and cheerful
each moment. She even laughed at Mary Louise's disappointed expression
and said:

"I don't always hev tantrums. This is my bad day; but the devils'll
work out o' me by termorrer and I'll be sweet as sugar. I'm sorry; but
it's the Cragg blood that sets me crazy, at times."

"Won't you run over and see me?" asked Mary Louise, preparing to go
home.

"When?"

"This afternoon."

Ingua shook her head.

"I dastn't," she said. "I gotta hold myself in, the rest o' the day,
so's I won't fight with Ol' Swallertail when he comes home. Anyhow, I
ain't fit t' show up aroun' yer swell place. That black coon o' yers'd
turn me out, if he saw me comin', thinkin' I was a tramp."

Mary Louise had a bright idea.

"I'm going to have tea to-morrow afternoon in that summer-house across
the creek," said she. "I will be all alone and if you will come over
and join me we'll have a nice visit together. Will you, Ingua?"

"I guess so," was the careless answer. "When ye're ready, jes' wave yer
han'ker'cher an if the devils ain't squeezin' my gizzard, like they is
to-day, I'll be there in a jiffy."



CHAPTER VI
AFTERNOON TEA

Mary Louise, who possessed a strong sense of humor, that evening at
dinner told Gran'pa Jim of her encounter with old Mr. Cragg's
granddaughter and related their interview in so whimsical a manner that
Colonel Hathaway laughed aloud more than once. But he also looked
serious, at times, and when the recital was ended he gravely considered
the situation and said:

"I believe, my dear, you have discovered a mine of human interest here
that will keep you occupied all summer. It was most fortunate for the
poor child that you interpreted her intent to run away from home and
foiled it so cleverly. From the little girl's report, that grim and
dignified grandsire of hers has another and less admirable side to his
character and, unless she grossly exaggerates, has a temper so violent
that he may do her a mischief some day."

"I'm afraid of that, too," declared Mary Louise, "especially as the
child is so provoking. Yet I'm sure Ingua has a sweeter side to her
nature, if it can be developed, and perhaps old Cragg has, too. Do you
think, Gran'pa Jim, it would be advisable for me to plead with him to
treat his orphaned grandchild more considerately?"

"Not at present, my dear. I'll make some inquiries concerning Cragg and
when we know more about him we can better judge how best to help Ingua.
Are you sure that is her name?"

"Yes; isn't it an odd name?"

"Somewhere," said the Colonel, musingly, "I have heard it before, but
just now I cannot recollect where. It seems to me, however, that it was
a man's name. Do you think the child's mother is dead?"

"I gathered from what Ingua and the storekeeper said that she has
simply disappeared."

"An erratic sort of creature, from the vague reports you have heard,"
commented Gran'pa Jim. "But, whatever her antecedents may have been,
there is no reason why Ingua may not be rescued from her dreadful
environments and be made to become a quite proper young lady, if not a
model one. But that can only result from changing the existing
character of her environment, rather than taking her out of them."

"That will be a big task, Gran'pa Jim, and it may prove beyond me, but
I'll do the best I can."

He smiled.

"These little attempts to help our fellows," said the Colonel, "not
only afford us pleasure but render us stronger and braver in facing our
own tribulations, which none, however securely placed, seem able to
evade."

Mary Louise gave him a quick, sympathetic glance. He had surely been
brave and strong during his own period of tribulation and the girl felt
she could rely on his aid in whatever sensible philanthropy she might
undertake. She was glad, indeed, to have discovered poor Ingua, for she
was too active and of too nervous a temperament to be content simply to
"rest" all summer. Rest was good for Gran'pa Jim, just now, but rest
pure and simple, with no compensating interest, would soon drive Mary
Louise frantic.

She conferred with Aunt Polly the next day and told the faithful black
servant something of her plans. So, when the old cook lugged a huge
basket to the pavilion for her in the afternoon, and set a small table
with snowy linen and bright silver, with an alcohol arrangement for
making tea, she said with an air of mystery:

"Don' yo' go open dat bastik, Ma'y 'Weeze, till de time comes fer
eatin'. I jes' wants to s'prise yo'--yo' an' dat li'l' pooah girl what
gits hungry so much."

So, when Aunt Polly had gone back to the house, Mary Louise arranged
her table and then stood up and waved a handkerchief to signal that all
was ready.

Soon Ingua appeared in her doorway, hesitated a moment, and then ran
down the plank and advanced to the river bank instead of following the
path to the bridge. Almost opposite the pavilion Mary Louise noticed
that several stones protruded from the surface of the water. They were
not in a line, but placed irregularly. However, Ingua knew their lie
perfectly and was able to step from one to another until she had
quickly passed the water. Then she ran up the dry bed of the river to
the bank, where steps led to the top.

"Why, this is fine!" exclaimed Mary Louise, meeting her little friend
at the steps. "I'd no idea one could cross the river in that way."

"Oh, we've known 'bout that always," was the reply. "Ned Joselyn used
to come to our house ever so many times by the river stones, to talk
with Ol' Swallertail, an' Gran'dad used to come over here, to this same
summer-house, an' talk with Joselyn."

Mary Louise noticed that the old gingham dress had been washed, ironed
and mended--all in a clumsy manner. Ingua's blond hair had also been
trained in awkward imitation of the way Mary Louise dressed her own
brown locks. The child, observing her critical gaze, exclaimed with a
laugh:

"Yes, I've slicked up some. No one'll see me but you, will they?" she
added suspiciously.

"No, indeed; we're to be all alone. How do you feel to-day, Ingua?"

"The devils are gone. Gran'dad didn't 'spicion anything las' night an'
never said a word. He had one o' his dreamy fits an' writ letters till
long after I went to bed. This mornin' he said as ol' Sol Jerrems has
raised the price o' flour two cents, so I'll hev to be keerful; but
that was all. No rumpus ner anything."

"That's nice," said Mary Louise, leading her, arm in arm, to the
pavilion. "Aren't you glad you didn't run away?"

Ingua did not reply. Her eyes, big and round, were taking in every
detail of the table. Then they wandered to the big basket and Mary
Louise smiled and said:

"The table is set, as you see, but I don't know what we're to have to
eat. I asked Aunt Polly to put something in the basket, as I was going
to have company, and I'm certain there'll be _enough_ for two, whatever
it's like. You see, this is a sort of surprise party, for we won't know
what we've got until we unpack the basket."

Ingua nodded, much interested.

"Ye said 'tea,'" she remarked, "an' I hain't tasted tea sence Marm left
us. But I s'pose somethin' goes with tea?"

"Always. Tea means a lunch, you know, and I'm very hungry because I
didn't eat much luncheon at noon. I hope you are hungry, too, Ingua,"
she added, opening the basket and beginning to place its contents upon
the table.

Ingua may have considered a reply unnecessary, for she made none. Her
eyes were growing bigger every moment, for here were dainty sandwiches,
cakes, jelly, a pot of marmalade, an assortment of cold meats, olives,
Saratoga chips, and last of all a chicken pie still warm from the
oven--one of those chicken pies that Aunt Polly could make as no one
else ever made them.

Even Mary Louise was surprised at the array of eatables. It was a
veritable feast. But without comment she made the tea, the water being
already boiling, and seating Ingua opposite her at the table she served
the child as liberally as she dared, bearing in mind her sensitiveness
to "charity."

But Ingua considered this a "party," where as a guest she was entitled
to all the good things, and she ate with a ravenous haste that was
pitiful, trying the while not to show how hungry she was or how good
everything tasted to her.

Mary Louise didn't burden her with conversation during the meal, which
she prolonged until the child positively could eat no more. Then she
drew their chairs to a place where they had the best view of the river
and woodland--with the old Cragg cottage marring the foreground--and
said:

"Now we will have a good, long talk together."

Ingua sighed deeply.

"Don't we hev to do the dishes?" she asked.

"No; Aunt Polly will come for them, by and by. All we have to do now is
to enjoy your visit, which I hope you will repeat many times while I am
living here."

Again the child sighed contentedly.

"I wish ye was goin' ter stay always," she remarked. "You folks is a
sight nicer'n that Joselyn tribe. They kep' us stirred up a good deal
till Ned--"

She stopped abruptly.

"What were the Joselyns like?" inquired Mary Louise, in a casual tone
that was meant to mask her curiosity.

"Well, that's hard to say," answered Ingua thoughtfully. "Ol' Mis'
Kenton were a good lady, an' ev'rybody liked her; but after she died
Ann Kenton come down here with a new husban', who were Ned Joselyn, an'
then things began to happen. Ned was slick as a ban'box an' wouldn't
hobnob with nobody, at first; but one day he got acquainted with Ol'
Swallertail an' they made up somethin' wonderful. I guess other folks
didn't know 'bout their bein' so close, fer they was sly 'bout it,
gen'rally. They'd meet in this summer-house, or they'd meet at our
house, crossin' the river on the steppin'-stones; but when Ned came
over to us Gran'dad allus sent me away an' said he'd skin me if I
listened. But one day--No, I mus'n't tell that," she said, checking
herself quickly, as a hard look came over her face.

"Why not?" softly asked Mary Louise.

"'Cause if I do I'll git killed, that's why," answered the child, in a
tone of conviction.

Something in her manner startled her hearer.

"Who would kill you, Ingua?" she asked.

"Gran'dad would."

"Oh, I'm sure he wouldn't do that, whatever you said."

"Ye don't know Gran'dad, Mary Louise. He'd as lief kill me as look at
me, if I give him cause to."

"And he has asked you not to talk about Mr. Joselyn?"

"He tol' me ter keep my mouth shet or he'd murder me an' stick my body
in a hole in the yard. An' he'd do it in a minute, ye kin bank on
that."

"Then," said Mary Louise, looking troubled, "I advise you not to say
anything he has forbidden you to. And, if anything ever happens to you
while I'm here, I shall tell Gran'pa Jim to have Mr. Cragg arrested and
put in prison."

"Will ye? Will ye--honest?" asked the girl eagerly. "Say! that'll help
a lot. If I'm killed, I'll know I'll be revenged."

So tragic was her manner that Mary Louise could have laughed outright
had she not felt there was a really serious foundation for Ingua's
fears. There was something about the silent, cold-featured, mysterious
old man that led her to believe he might be guilty of any crime. But,
after all, she reflected, she knew Mr. Cragg's character only from
Ingua's description of it, and the child feared and hated him.

"What does your grandfather do in his office all day?" she inquired
after a long pause.

"Writes letters an' reads the ones he gits, I guess. He don't let me go
to his office."

"Does he get many letters, then?"

"Heaps an' heaps of 'em. You ask Jim Bennett, who brings the mail bag
over from the station ev'ry day."

"Is Jim Bennett the postman?"

"His wife is. Jim lugs the mail 'tween the station an' his own house--
that's the little white house next the church--where his wife, who's
deef-'n'-dumb, runs the postoffice. I know Jim. He says there's 'bout
six letters a year for the farmers 'round here, an' 'bout one a week
for Sol Jerrems--which is mostly bills--an' all the rest belongs to Ol'
Swallertail."

Mary Louise was puzzled.

"Has he a business, then?" she asked.

"Not as anybody knows of."

"But why does he receive and answer so many letters?"

"Ye'll hev to guess. I've guessed, myself; but what's the use? If he
was as stingy of postage stamps as he is of pork an' oatmeal, he
wouldn't send a letter a year."

Mary Louise scented a mystery. Mysteries are delightful things to
discover, and fascinating to solve. But who would have thought this
quiet, retired village harbored a mystery?

"Does your grandfather ever go away from here? Does he travel much?"
was her next question.

"He ain't never been out of Cragg's Crossing sence I've knowed him."

"Really," said Mary Louise, "it is perplexing."

Ingua nodded. She was feeling quite happy after her lunch and already
counted Mary Louise a warm friend. She had never had a friend before,
yet here was a girl of nearly her own age who was interested in her and
her history and sweetly sympathetic concerning her woes and worries. To
such a friend Ingua might confide anything, almost; and, while she was
not fully aware of that fact just now, she said impulsively:

"Without tellin' what'd cost me my life, or lettin' anybody know what's
become of Ned Joselyn, I'll say they was money--lots o' money!--passed
atween him an' ol' Swallertail. Sometimes the heap went to one, an'
sometimes to the other; I seen it with my own eyes, when Gran'dad
didn't know I was spyin'. But it didn't stick to either one, for Ned
was--" She stopped short, then continued more slowly: "When Ned
dis'peared, he'd spent all his own an' his wife's money, an' Ol'
Swallertail ain't got enough t' live decent."

"Are you sure of that, Ingua?"

"N-o, I ain't sure o' noth'n. But he don't spend no money, does he?"

"For stamps," Mary Louise reminded her.

Then the child grew silent and thoughtful again. Mary Louise, watching
the changing expressions on her face, was convinced she knew more of
the mystery than she dared confide to her new friend. There was no use
trying to force her confidence, however; in her childish way she was
both shrewd and stubborn and any such attempt would be doomed to
failure. But after quite a period of silence Mary Louise asked gently:

"Did you like Mr. Joselyn, Ingua?"

"Sometimes. Only when--" Another self-interruption. She seemed often on
the point of saying something her better judgment warned her not to.
"Sometimes Ned were mighty good to me. Sometimes he brought me candy,
when things was goin' good with him. Once, Mary Louise, he kissed me,
an' never wiped off his mouth afterwards! Y-e-s, I liked Ned, 'ceptin'
when--" Another break. "I thought Ned was a pretty decent gink."

"Where did you learn all your slang, dear?"

"What's slang?"

"Calling a man a 'gink,' and words like that."
"Oh. Marm was full o' them words," she replied with an air of pride.
"They seem to suit things better than common words; don't you think so,
Mary Louise?"

"Sometimes," with an indulgent smile. "But ladies do not use them,
Ingua, because they soil the purity of our language."

"Well," said the girl, "it'll be a long time, yit, afore I'm a lady, so
I guess I'll talk like Marm did. Marm weren't a _real_ lady, to my
mind, though she claimed she'd show anybody that said she wasn't. Real
ladies don't leave the'r kids in the clutches of Ol' Swallertails."

Mary Louise did not think it wise to criticize the unknown Mrs. Scammel
or to allow the woman's small daughter to do so. So she changed the
subject to more pleasant and interesting topics and the afternoon wore
speedily away.

Finally Ingua jumped up and said:

"I gotta go. If Gran'dad don't find supper ready there'll be another
rumpus, an' I've been so happy to-day that I want to keep things
pleasant-like."

"Won't you take the rest of these cakes with you?" urged Mary Louise.

"Nope. I'll eat one more, on my way home, but I ain't one o' them
tramps that wants food pushed at 'em in a bundle.  We ain't got much
to home, but what we got's ours."

A queer sort of mistaken pride, Mary Louise reflected, as she watched
the girl spring lightly over the stepping-stones and run up the
opposite bank. Evidently Ingua considered old Mr. Cragg her natural
guardian and would accept nothing from others that he failed to provide
her with. Yet, to judge from her speech, she detested her grandfather
and regarded him with unspeakable aversion.



CHAPTER VII
MARY LOUISE CALLS FOR HELP

All the queer hints dropped by the girl that afternoon, concerning the
relations between Mr. Joselyn and Mr. Cragg, were confided by Mary
Louise to her Gran'pa Jim that evening, while the old Colonel listened
with grave interest.

"I'm sure there is some mystery here," declared Mary Louise, "and maybe
we are going to discover some dreadful crime."

"And, on the contrary," returned Colonel Hathaway, "the two men may
have been interested together in some business venture that resulted
disastrously and led Mr. Joselyn to run away to escape his wife's
reproaches. I consider that a more logical solution of your mystery, my
dear."

"In that case," was her quick reply, "why is Mr. Cragg still writing
scores of letters and getting bags full of replies? I don't believe
that business deal--whatever it was--is ended, by any means. I think
that Ned Joselyn and Old Swallowtail are still carrying it on, one in
hiding and the other here--and to be here is to be in hiding, also. And
it isn't an honest business, Gran'pa Jim, or they wouldn't be so secret
about it."

The Colonel regarded his young granddaughter with surprise.

"You seem quite logical in your reasoning, my dear," he confessed,
"and, should your conjectures prove correct, these men are using the
mails for illegal purposes, for which crime the law imposes a severe
penalty. But consider, Mary Louise, is it our duty to trail criminals
and through our investigations bring them to punishment?"

Mary Louise took time to consider this question, as she had been
advised to do. When she replied she had settled the matter firmly in
her mind.

"We are part of the Government, Gran'pa Jim," she asserted. "If we
believe the Government is being wronged--which means the whole people
is being wronged--I think we ought to uphold the law and bring the
wrong-doer to justice."

"Allowing that," said her grandfather, "let us next consider what
grounds you have for your belief that wrong is being committed. Are
they not confined to mere suspicions? Suspicions aroused by the chatter
of a wild, ungoverned child? Often the amateur detective gets into
trouble through accusing the innocent. Law-abiding citizens should not
attempt to uncover all the wrongs that exist, or to right them. The
United States Government employs special officers for such duties."

Mary Louise was a bit nettled, failing to find at the moment any
argument to refute this statement. She was still convinced, however,
that the mystery was of grave importance and she believed it would be
intensely exciting to try to solve it. Gran'pa Jim was not acquainted
with Ingua Scammel and had not listened to the girl's unconscious
exposures; so, naturally, he couldn't feel just as Mary Louise did
about this matter. She tried to read, as her grandfather, considering
the conversation closed, was now doing. They sat together by the
lamplight in the cozy sitting room. But her thoughts constantly
reverted to "Old Swallowtail" and to Ingua. At length she laid down her
book and said:

"Gran'pa, would you mind if I invited Josie O'Gorman to come here and
make me a visit?"

He gave her a curious look, which, soon melted into an amused smile.

"Not at all, my dear. I like Josie. But I can see by your desire to
introduce a female detective on the scene that you cannot abandon your
suspicion of Mr. Cragg."

"I want to save Ingua, if I can," replied the girl earnestly. "The poor
little thing can't go on leading such a life without its ruining all
her future, even if her grandfather's brutal threats are mere bluff.
And Josie isn't a female detective, as yet; she is only training to be
one, because her father has won fame in that profession."

"Josie O'Gorman," said the Colonel, meditatively, "is a wonderfully
clever girl. I believe she is better, even now, than a score of average
male sleuths. Perhaps it will be a desirable thing for her to come
here, for she will be shrewd enough to decide, in a short time, whether
or not your suspicions are justified. In the latter case, you will be
relieved of your worries. Will you abide by Josie's decision?"

"Will you, Gran'pa Jim?"

"I have considerable confidence in the girl's judgment."

"Then I will write to her at once."

She went to her desk and wrote the following note:

Dear Josie:
We are at the dropping-off-place of the world, a stagnant little
village of a dozen houses set in an oasis that is surrounded by the
desert of civilization. And here, where life scarcely throbs, I've
scented a mystery that has powerfully impressed me and surely needs
untangling. It will be good practice for you, Josie, and so I want you
to pack up at once and come to us on a good long visit. We're
delightfully situated and, even if the mystery dissolves into thin air
under the sunshine of your eyes, I know you will enjoy the change and
our dreamy, happy existence in the wilds of nowhere. Gran'pa Jim wants
you, too, as he thinks your coming will do me good, and his judgment is
never at fault. So drop me a postal to say when you will arrive and I
will meet you at Chargrove Station with our car.
Affectionately your friend,
Mary Louise Burrows.

Gran'pa Jim read this note and approved it, so next morning Mary Louise
walked to the village and deposited it in the postoffice, which located
in the front room of Jim Bennett's little residence and was
delightfully primitive. Jim was "jus' makin' up the mail bag," he said,
so her letter was in time to catch the daily train and would be in
Washington, where Josie lived, in the quickest possible time.

Josie O'Gorman was about the same age as Mary Louise and she was the
only child of John O'Gorman, famed as one of the cleverest detectives
in the Secret Service. Josie was supposed to have inherited some of her
father's talent; at least her fond parent imagined so. After carefully
training the child almost from babyhood, O'Gorman had tested Josie's
ability on just one occasion, when she had amply justified her father's
faith in her. This test had thrown the girl into association with Mary
Louise and with Colonel Hathaway, both of whom greatly admired her
cleverness, her clear head and shrewd judgment. Mary Louise,
especially, had developed a friendship for the embryo girl detective
and had longed to know her more intimately. So she congratulated
herself on the happy thought of inviting Josie to Cragg's Crossing and
was delighted that the vague mystery surrounding the Cragg family
offered an adequate excuse to urge the girl to come to her. There
seemed nothing in the way of such a visit, for Officer O'Gorman,
however pleased he might be at his daughter's success in her first
detective case, declared Josie yet too young to enter active service
and insisted that she acquire further age and experience before he
would allow her to enter her chosen profession in earnest. "One
swallow," he said, "doesn't make a summer, and the next bird you fly
might prove a buzzard, my dear. Take your time, let your wits mature,
and you'll be the better for it in the end."

So Mary Louise waited impatiently for Josie's reply, meantime seeing as
much of Ingua as she could and trying to cement the growing friendship
between them. Ingua responded eagerly to her advances and as old Mr.
Cragg was away from home the greater part of the day there was much
crossing of the stepping-stones by both girls and more than one
"afternoon tea" in the pavilion.

"Do you know," said Ingua one day, in confidential mood, "I haven't had
the devils since that time I started to run away and you stopped me?
P'r'aps it's because I'm not as hungry as I used to be; but, anyhow,
I'm glad I stayed. Gran'dad's been good, too, 'though he's got the
'wakes' ag'in."

"What are the 'wakes'?" asked Mary Louise.

"Can't sleep nights. Goes t' bed on time, ye know, but gits up ag'in
an' dresses himself an' walks."

"In the house?"

"No, walks out o' doors. Sometimes he'll come in at jes' daylight;
sometimes not till break-fas' is ready."

"And doesn't that make him cross, Ingua?"

"Not a bit. It seems to chirk him up. Yist'day mornin', when he come
in, he was feelin' so chipper he give me a cent, an' told me to buy
somethin' useful. I guess that's the first cent he ever give me. I've
_took_ money o' his'n, but he never _give_ me none afore."

"Oh, Ingua! I hope you haven't stolen money?"

"Nope. Jes' took it. It ain't easy, 'cause he knows ev'ry cent he's
got, an' it ain't often he leaves it where I kin git it. P'r'aps he
knows it's me, but when I lie out of it he can't do noth'n' but growl--
an' growlin' don't hurt any."

Mary Louise was greatly distressed. This reckless disregard of property
rights was of course the direct result of the child's environment, but
must be corrected. Ingua resented direct chiding and it was necessary
to point out to her the wickedness of stealing in the gentlest possible
manner.

"How much money have you taken from your grandfather?" she asked.

"Oh, not much. A nickel, now an' then. He wouldn't stan' for losin' any
more, ye see. P'r'aps, altogether, I've swiped twenty-five cents. But
once Ned Joselyn give me a dollar, an' Ol' Swallertail knowed it, an'
made me give it to him to save for me. That were the last I ever saw o'
that dollar, Mary Louise, so I ain't even with Gran'dad yet."

"Do you think," remarked Mary Louise, "there is ever any excuse for
stealing?"

The girl stared at her, coloring slightly.

"Do ye mean Gran'dad, er _me?_"

"I mean you. He didn't steal your dollar, dear; he merely took it so
you wouldn't spend it foolishly."

"An' I merely took them nickels so's I could, spend 'em foolish.
There's no fun in spendin' money, seems to me, unless you squander it
reckless. That's what I done with them nickels. Candy an' chewin' gum
tastes better when you know it's swiped."

Mary Louise sighed. It was so hard to show little Ingua the error of
her ways.

"As fer stealin'--out an' out _stealin',"_ continued the girl, with a
proud toss of her head, "we Craggs ain't never took noth'n' that don't
belong to us from nobody. What a Cragg takes from a Cragg is a Cragg's
business, an' when we takes someth'n' from somebody else I'll ask ye to
tell me 'bout it."

"Where are you going, Ingua?"

"Home."

"You're not offended, I hope."

"No, but I got work to do. I ain't done my breakfas' dishes yet."

Mary Louise musingly watched the girl cross the river. On the opposite
bank she turned to wave her hand and then ran into the cottage. Ingua's
code of honor was a peculiar one. Her pride in the Craggs seemed
unaccountable, considering she and her grandfather were the only two of
the family in existence--except that wandering mother of hers.

But the recent conversation had uncovered a new phase of the mystery.
Old Swallowtail was nervous over something; he could not sleep at
night, but roamed the roads while others with clear consciences
slumbered. There must be some powerful reason to account for the old
man's deserting his bed in this manner. What could it be?

When she walked over to the postoffice the girl found the
long-looked-for letter from Josie O'Gorman. It said:

Dear Mary Louise:
How good you are! I positively need a change of scene and a rest, so
I'm coming. To-morrow--by the train to Chargrove. The mystery you hint
at will help me to rest. Dad doesn't want me to grow rusty and he has
some odd theories I'd like to work out. I haven't an idea what your
"mystery" is, of course, but if it enables me to test any one of the
O'Gorman theories (a theory is merely a stepping-stone to positive
information) I shall bless you forever. And that reminds me: I'm coming
as a sewing girl, to help you fix over some summer gowns. You're
anxious to give me the work, because I need it, but as we're rather
chummy I'm half servant and half companion. (I hate sewing and make the
longest stitches you ever saw!) Moreover, I'm Josie Jessup. I'm never
an O'Gorman while I'm working on a mystery; it wouldn't do at all.
Explain this to dear old Gran'pa Jim.

Between the receipt of this script and to-morrow's train jot down in
regular order everything you know concerning the aforesaid mystery.
Make it brief; no speculations or suspicions, just facts. Then I won't
waste any time getting busy.

Can you hear the rumble of my train? While you're reading this I'm on
my way!

Josie

"Good!" murmured Mary Louise, as she folded the letter. "I feel better
already. Whatever the mystery of Old Swallowtail may be, Josie is sure
to solve it."



CHAPTER VIII
THE RED-HEADED GIRL

Sol Jerrems the storekeeper, coming in from the back room where he had
been drawing molasses for Farmer Higgins, found perched on top the
sugar-barrel a chunky, red-haired, freckle-faced young girl whom he had
never seen before. She seemed perfectly at home in his store and sat
with her knees drawn up to her chin and her arms encircling her legs,
eyeing soberly the two or three farmers who had come to the Crossing to
"trade."

"If the head o' thet bar'l busts in, you'll be a fine mess," remarked
Sol.

The girl nodded but did not move from her position. Sol waited on his
customers, at times eyeing the strange girl curiously. When the farmers
had gone with their purchases he approached the barrel and examined his
visitor with speculative care.

"Want anything?"

"Spool o' red cotton, number thirty."

"Ain't got no red."

"Green'll do."

"Ain't got green. Only black an' white."

"All right."

"Want black or white?"

"No."

Sol leaned against the counter. He wasn't busy; the girl seemed in no
hurry; it was a good time to gossip and find out all about the strange
creature perched on his sugar-barrel.

"Where'd ye come from?" he inquired.

"City," tossing her head toward the north.

"What for?"

"To do sewing for the Hathaways folks. Mary Louise, you know."

Sol pricked up his ears. The Hathaways were newcomers, about whom
little was known. He wanted to know more, and here was a girl who could
give him inside information.

"Knowed the Hathaways in the city?"

"Kind o'. Sewed on Mary Louise's spring dresses. How long you been
here?"

"Me? Why, I come here more'n twenty years ago. What does the Colonel do
in the city?"

"Never asked him. Why do they call this place Cragg's Crossing?"

"I didn't name it. S'pose 'cause ol' Cragg used to own all the land,
an' the roads crossed in the middle o' his farm."

"What Cragg was that?"

"Eh? Why, father to Ol' Swallertail. Ever seen Ol' Swallertail?"

"No."

"Wal, he's a sight fer sore eyes. First time anybody sees him they
either laughs er chokes. The movin'-pictur' folks would go crazy over
him. Ever seen a movin'-pictur'?"

"Yes."

"I did, too, when I was in the city las' year. Ol' Swallertail 'minds
me of 'em. Goes 'round dressed up like George Washington when he
crossed the Delaware."

"Crazy?"

"That way, yes; other ways, not a bit. Pretty foxy gent, is Ol'
Swallertail."

"Why?"

Sol hesitated, reflecting. These questions were natural, in a stranger,
but to explain old Hezekiah Cragg's character was not a particularly
easy task.

"In the fust place, he drives a hard bargain. Don't spend money, but
allus has it. Keeps busy, but keeps his business to himself."

"What is his business?"

"Didn't I say he kep' it to himself?"

"But he owns all the land around here."

"Not now. He owns jest a half-acre, so far's anybody knows, with a
little ol' hut on it thet a respect'ble pig wouldn't live in. It's jes'
acrost the river from the place where you're workin'."

"Then what has become of his land?"

"It's stayed jes' where it allus was, I guess," with a chuckle at his
own wit, "but Ol' Swaller-tail sold it, long ago. Ol' Nick Cragg, his
father afore him, sold a lot of it, they say, and when he died he left
half his ready money an' all his land to Hezekiah--thet's Ol'
Swallertail--an' the other half o' his money to his second son, Peter."

"Where is Peter?" asked the girl quickly.

"Went back to Ireland, years ago, and never's be'n heard of since. The
Craggs was Irish afore they got to be Americans, but it seems Pete
hankered fer th' Ol' Sod an' quit this country cold."

"So the Craggs are Irish, eh?" mused the girl in a casual tone. And
then she yawned, as if not greatly interested. But Sol was interested,
so long as he was encouraged to talk.

"I be'n told, by some o' the ol' settlers," he went on, "thet ol' Nick
Cragg were born in Ireland, was a policeman in New York--where he made
his first money--an' then come here an' bought land an' settled down.
They ain't much difference 'tween a policeman an' a farmer, I guess. If
the story's true, it proves Ol' Swallertail has Irish blood in him yit,
though fer that matter he's lived here long enough to be jes' American,
like the rest of us. After he come inter the property he gradual-like
sold off all the land, piece by piece, till he ain't got noth'n left
but thet half-acre. Sold most of it afore I come here, an' I be'n at
the Crossing more'n twenty year."

"If the land brought a fair price, Old Swallowtail ought to be rich,"
remarked the girl.

"Then he ain't what he orter be. Folks says he specilated, years ago,
an' got stung. I know him pretty well--as well as anybody knows him--
an' my opinion is he ain't got more'n enough to bury him decent."

"Thought you said he drives a hard bargain?"

"Young woman," said Sol earnestly, "the man don't live as kin make
money specilatin'. The game's ag'in him, fust an' last, an' the more
brains he's got the harder he'll git stung."

"But I thought you said Mr. Cragg has a business."

"An' I said nobody knows what it is. When Ned Joselyn used to come here
the two was thick, an' Ned were a specilater through an' through. Some
thinks it was him as got Cragg's wad, an' some says he lost it all, an'
his wife's money, too. Anyhow, Joselyn lit out fer good an' when he
were gone Ann Kenton cried like a baby an' ol' Swallertail 's been dumb
as a clam ever since."

"What makes you think Cragg has a business?" persisted the girl.

"He keeps an office, over the store here, an' he has a sign on the door
thet says 'Real Estate.' But he ain't got no real estate, so that ain't
why he shuts himself in the office day after day--an' even Sundays.
He's got some other business. Ev'ry night, afore he goes home, he takes
a bunch o' letters to Mrs. Bennett's postoffice, an' ev'ry mornin' he
goes there an' gits another bunch o' letters that's come to him in the
mail. If that don't mean some sort o' business, I don't know what'n
thunder it _does_ mean."

"Nor I," said the girl, yawning again. "What about Ned Joselyn? Was he
nice?"

"Dressed like a dandy, looked like a fool, acted like the Emp'ror o'
Rooshy an' pleased ev'rybody by runnin' away. That is, ev'rybody but
his wife an' Ol' Swallertail."

"I see. Who else lives over your store?"

"I live there myself; me an' my fambly, in the back part. One o' the
front rooms I rents to Ol' Swallertail, an' he pays the rent reg'lar.
The other front room Miss Huckins, the dressmaker, lives in."

"Oh. I'm a dressmaker, too. Guess I'll go up and see her. Is she in?"

"When she's out, she leaves the key with me, an' the key ain't here.
Say, girl, what's yer name?"

"Josie."

"Josie what?"

"Jessup. Pa was a drayman. Ever hear of him?"

"No. But about the Hathaways; what has--"

"And you've got no red thread? Or green?"

"Only black an' white. Does the Colonel--"

"Can't use black or white," said the girl, deliberately getting off the
barrel. "Guess I'll go up and ask Miss Huckins if she has any red."

Out she walked, and old Sol rubbed his wrinkled forehead with a
bewildered look and muttered:

"Drat the gal! She's pumped me dry an' didn't tell me a word about them
Hathaway folks. She worse'n ol' Eben, the nigger help. Seems like
nobody wants t' talk about the Hathaways, an' that means there's
somethin' queer about 'em. But this red-headed sewin'-girl is a perfec'
innercent an' I'll git her talkin' yet, if she stays here long."

Meantime Josie mounted the stairs, which were boarded in at one end of
the building, being built on the outside to economize space, and
entered the narrow upper hallway. A chatter of children's voices in the
rear proclaimed that portion to be the quarters of the Jerrems family.
Toward the front was a door on which, in dim letters, was the legend:
"H. Cragg. Real Estate."

Here the girl paused to listen. No sound came from the interior of H.
Cragg's apartment. Farther along she found a similar door on which was
a card reading: "Miss Huckins, Dressmaker and Milliner." Listening
again, she heard the sound of a flatiron thumping an ironing board.

She knocked, and the door was opened by a little middle-aged woman who
held a hot flatiron in one hand. She was thin; she was bright-eyed; her
hair was elaborately dressed with little ringlets across the forehead
and around the ears, so Josie at once decided it was a wig.

Seeing a stranger before her, Miss Huckins looked her over carefully
from head to foot, while Josie smiled a vacuous, inconsequent smile and
said in a perfunctory way:

"Good morning."

"Come in," returned Miss Huckins, with affable civility. "I don't think
I know you."

"I'm Josie Jessup, from the city. I'm in your line, Miss Huckins--in a
way, that is. I've come here to do some sewing for Mary Louise Burrows,
who is the granddaughter of Colonel Hathaway, who has rented the Kenton
Place. Nice weather, isn't it?"

Miss Huckins was not enthusiastic. Her face fell. She had encouraged
sundry hopes that the rich little girl would employ her to do whatever
sewing she might need. So she resumed the pressing of a new dress that
was spread over her ironing-board and said rather shortly:

"Anything I can do for you?"

"I want to use some red thread and the storekeeper doesn't keep it in
stock. Queer old man, that storekeeper, isn't he?"

"I don't call him queer. He's honest as the day is long and makes a
good landlord. Country stores don't usually keep red thread, for it is
seldom used."

"He has been talking to me about old Mr. Cragg, who has an office next
door to you. I'm sure you'll admit that Mr. Cragg is queer, if the
storekeeper isn't."

"A man like Mr. Cragg has the right to be queer," snapped the
dressmaker, who did not relish this criticism of the natives by a
perfect stranger. "He is very quiet and respectable and makes a very
satisfactory neighbor."

Josie, seated in a straight, wood-bottomed chair, seemed not at all
chagrined by her reception. She watched the pressing for a time
silently.

"That's a mighty pretty gown," she presently remarked, in a tone of
admiration. "I don't suppose I shall ever be able to make anything as
nice as that. I--I'm not good at planning, you know," with modest
self-deprecation. "I only do plain sewing and mending."

The stern features of Miss Huckins relaxed a bit. She glanced at the
girl, then at her work, and said more pleasantly than she had before
spoken:

"This dress is for Mary Donovan, who lives two miles north of here.
She's to be married next Saturday--if they get the haying over with by
that time--and this is part of her trousseau. I've made her two other
dresses and trimmed two hats for her--a straw shape and a felt
Gainsboro. The Donovans are pretty well-to-do."

Josie nodded with appreciation.

"It's nice she can get such elegant things so near home, isn't it? Why,
she couldn't do as well in the city--not _half_ as well!"

Miss Huckins held up the gown and gazed at it with unmistakable pride.
"It's the best Henrietta," said she, "and I'm to get six dollars for
the making. I wanted seven, at first, and Mary only wanted to pay five,
so we split the difference. With all the other things, I didn't do so
badly on this trousseau."

"You're in luck," declared Josie, "and so is Mary Donovan. Doesn't Mr.
Cragg do any business except real estate?"

"I think he must," replied the dressmaker, hanging up the gown and then
seating herself opposite her visitor. "All the real estate business
he's done in the last two years was to rent the Kenton Place to Colonel
Hathaway and make a sale of Higgins' cow pasture to Sam Marvin. But
he's so quiet, all day, in the next room, that I can't figure out what
he's up to. No one goes near him, so I can't overhear any talk. One
time, of course, Mr. Joselyn used to go there, and then they always
whispered, as if they were up to some deviltry. But after the quarrel
Joselyn never came here again."

"Oh, did they quarrel?" asked Josie, with languid interest. She knew
her praise of the dress had won the dressmaker's heart and also she was
delighted to find Miss Huckins a more confirmed and eager gossip than
even Sol Jerrems.

"I should say they did quarrel!" was the emphatic reply, although she
sank her voice to a whisper and glanced warningly at the thin
partition. "At one time I thought there'd be murder done, for Joselyn
yelled: 'Take that away--take it away!' and Old Swallowtail--that's the
name we call Mr. Cragg, you know--roared out: 'You deserve to die for
this cowardly act.' Well, you'd better believe my hair stood on end for
a minute," Josie smiled as she thought of the wig standing on end, "but
nothing happened. There was deep silence. Then the door opened and Mr.
Joselyn walked out. I never interfere with other people's business, but
attend strictly to my own, yet that day I was so flustered that I
peeked through a crack of my door at Mr. Joselyn and he seemed cool as
a cucumber. Then Mr. Cragg slammed the door of his room--which is z
very unusual thing for him to do--and that was all."

"When did this happen?" asked Josie.

"Last fall, just before Mrs. Joselyn and her husband went back to their
city home. Some time in the winter Mr. Joselyn ran away from her, they
say, but I guess old Cragg had nothing do with that. Around here,
Joselyn wasn't liked. He put on too many airs of superiority to
please the country folks. Sol Jerrems thinks he made away with Mr.
Cragg's money, in unwise speculations, but I don't believe Cragg had
any money to lose. He seems as poor as I am."

"What do you suppose drew those two men together, Miss Huckins?"
inquired the girl.

"I can't say. I've tried to figure it out, but the truth is that old
Cragg don't confide in anyone--not even in me, and we're close
neighbors. You couldn't find two men in all America more different than
Joselyn and Cragg, and yet they had dealings of some sort together and
were friendly, for a time."

Josie sighed regretfully.

"I like to hear about these mysterious things," said she. "It's almost
as good as reading a story. Only, in this case, we will never know how
the story ends."

"Well, perhaps not," admitted the dressmaker. "Joselyn is gone and no
one'll ever get the truth out of Cragg. But--I'd like to know, myself,
not only how the story ends but what it was all about. Just now all we
know is that there _was_ a story, of some sort or other, and perhaps is
yet."

A period of silence, while both mused.

"I don't suppose you could find a bit of red thread?" said Josie.

"No, I haven't used it for ages. Is it to mend with?"

"Yes."

"If it's a red dress, use black thread. It won't show, if you're
careful; and it won't fade away and leave a white streak, like red
sometimes does."

"Thank you, Miss Huckins." She rose to go. "I'd like to drop in again,
sometime, for a little visit."

"Come as often as you like," was the cordial reply.

"Cragg's Crossing people are rather interesting; they're so different
from city folks," said Josie.

"Yes, they really are, and I know most of them pretty well. Come in
again, Josie."

"Thank you; I will."



CHAPTER IX
JOSIE INVESTIGATES

"Well, what luck?" asked Mary Louise, as she came into Josie's room
while her friend was dressing for dinner.

"Not much," was the reply. "I'm not at all sure, Mary Louise, that this
chase will amount to anything. But it will afford me practice in
judging human nature, if nothing else comes of it, so I'm not at all
sorry you put me on the trail. When are we to see Ingua again?"

"To-morrow afternoon. She's coming to tea in the pavilion."

"That's good. Let me see all of her you can. She's an original, that
child, and I'm going to like her. Our natures are a good deal alike."

"Oh, Josie!"

"That's a fact. We're both proud, resentful, reckless and affectionate.
We hate our enemies and love our friends. We're rebellious, at times,
and not afraid to defy the world."

"I'm sure you are not like that, dear," protested Mary Louise.

"I am. Ingua and I are both children of nature. The only difference is
that I am older and have been taught diplomacy and self-control, which
she still lacks. I mask my feelings, while Ingua frankly displays hers.
That's why I am attracted to her."

Mary Louise did not know how to combat this mood. She remained silent
until Josie was dressed and the two went down to dinner. Their visitor
was no longer the type of a half ignorant, half shrewd sewing-girl,
such as she had appeared to be while in the village. Her auburn hair
was now tastefully arranged and her attire modest and neat. She talked
entertainingly during dinner, enlivening her companions thereby, and
afterward played a game of dominoes with the Colonel in the
living-room, permitting him to beat her at this, his favorite
diversion.

Both the old gentleman and his granddaughter enjoyed their evenings
with Josie O'Gorman, for she proved delightful company. In the
mornings, however, she would don her cheap gingham, rumple her hair,
and pose throughout the day as Josie Jessup the sewing-girl.

Ingua, at first shy of the visitor, soon developed a strong liking for
Josie and would talk with her more freely than with Mary Louise. Josie
would skip across the stepping-stones and help Ingua wash the breakfast
dishes and sweep the bare little rooms of the cottage and then together
they would feed the chickens, gather the eggs and attend to such daily
tasks as Ingua was obliged to fulfill. With Josie's help this was soon
accomplished and then the child was free for the day and could run
across to join Mary Louise, while Josie sallied to the village to
interview the natives.

When the girl detective had been at Cragg's Crossing for a week she was
a familiar figure to the villagers--every one of whom was an
acquaintance--and had gleaned all the information it was possible to
secure from them, which was small in amount and unsatisfactory in
quality. Two or three times she had passed Old Swallowtail on the
street, but he had not seemed to notice her. Always the old man stared
straight ahead, walking stiffly and with a certain repellent dignity
that forbade his neighbors to address him. He seemed to see no one. He
lived in a world known only to himself and neither demanded nor desired
association with his fellows.

"An eccentric; bigoted, sullen and conceited," reflected Josie, in
considering his character. "Capable of any cruelty or crime, but too
cautious to render himself liable to legal punishment. The chances are
that such a man would never do any great wrong, from cowardly motives.
He might starve and threaten a child, indeed, but would refrain from
injuring one able to resent the act. Nevertheless, he quarreled with
Joselyn--and Joselyn disappeared. There was some reason for that
quarrel; some reason for that disappearance; some reason why a man like
Edward Joselyn made Old Swallowtail his confidential friend. A business
connection, perhaps. Before daring a conjecture I must discover what
business Cragg is engaged in."

She soon discovered that Ingua was as ignorant of her grandfather's
business life as were all others. One day, as the two girls were
crossing the stepping-stones to reach the pavilion, after "doing" the
morning housework, Josie remarked:

"In winter one could cross here on the ice."

"Oh, no," replied Ingua, "the water don't freeze. It runs too fast. But
sometimes it gits over the top o' the stones, an' then you has to step
keerful to keep from fallin' in."

"Did you ever try to cross at such a time?"
"Once I did, an' I was skeered, you kin bet. But I says to myself: 'If
Ol' Swallertail kin make the crossin', I kin--dark or no dark--an' by
cracky I tackled it brave as a lion."

"You tried to cross in the dark, on a winter's night? What for, Ingua?"

Ingua, walking beside her up the bank, paused with a startled
expression and grew red. Her eyes, narrowed and shrewd, fixed
themselves suspiciously on Josie's face. But the other returned the
look with a bland smile that surely ought to disarm one more
sophisticated than this simple child.

"I mustn't talk 'bout that," said Ingua in a low voice. "Jes' fergit as
I said it, Josie."

"Why?"

"Do ye want me choked, or killed?"

"Who would do that?"

"Gran'dad would, if I blabbed."

"Shucks!"

"Ye don't know Gran'dad--not when he's got the temper on him. If ye'd
seen what I seen, ye'd know that he'd keep his word--'to, kill me if I
talk too much."

Josie sat down on top the bank.

"What did you see, Ingua?"

"Ye'll hev to guess it."

"It looks that way," said Josie calmly; "but you needn't be afraid of
_me,_ Ingua. You and I could know a lot of things, together, and keep
'em to ourselves. Don't you think I'm a good enough friend not to get
you choked or killed by telling any secrets you confided to me? And--
look here, Ingua--this secret is worrying you a good deal."

"Who says so?"

"I do. You'd feel a heap better if you told me about it, for then we
could talk it over together when we're alone."

Ingua sat down beside her, gazing thoughtfully at the river.

"You'd tell Mary Louise."

"You know better than that. A secret's a secret, isn't it? I guess I
can keep my mouth shut when I want to, Ingua."

Josie had a way of imitating Ingua's mode of speech when they were
together. It rendered their intercourse more free and friendly. But the
girl did not reply at once. She sat dreamily reflecting upon the
proposition and its possible consequences. Finally she said in a
hesitating way:

"I wisht I knew what ter do. I sometimes think I orter tell somebody
that knows more'n I do, Josie, if I ever blab at all."

"Try me, Ingua. I'm pretty smart, 'cause I've seen more of the big
world than you have, and know what goes on in the big, busy cities,
Where life is different from what it is in this little place. I've
lived in more than one city, too, and that means a lot of experience
for a girl of my age. I'm sure I could help you, dear. Perhaps, when
I've heard your story, I will tell you never to say anything about it
to anyone else; and then, on the other hand, I might think differently.
Anyhow, I'd never tell, myself, any secret of yours, whatever I might
think, because I'd cut off my right hand rather than get you into
trouble."

This dramatic speech was intended to appeal to the child's imagination
and win her full confidence. In a way, it succeeded. Ingua sidled
closer to Josie and finally said in a trembling whisper:

"Ye wouldn't git Gran'dad inter trouble either, would ye?"

"Do you like him, Ingua?"

"I hate him! But he's a Cragg, an' I'm a Cragg, an' the Craggs kin
stand up an' spit at the world, if they wants to."

"That's right," agreed Josie, emphatically. "We've got to stick up for
our own families and fight for our good name when it's necessary. Do
you think I'd let anybody get the best of a Jessup? Never in a thousand
years!"

Ingua nodded her head as if pleased.

"That's the way I look at it, Josie. Ev'rybody's down on Ol'
Swallertail, an' I'm down on him myself, fer that matter; but I'll dare
anybody to say anything ag'in him when I'm aroun'. An' yet, Josie--an'
yet--I ain't sure but he's--but he's a _murderer!"_

She had dropped her voice until she scarcely breathed the last words
and her little body trembled through and through with tense
nervousness. Josie took her hand.

"Never mind, dear," she said gently. "Perhaps he didn't kill Ned
Joselyn, after all."

Ingua sprang up with a hoarse scream and glared at Josie in absolute
terror.

"How'd ye know? How'd ye know it were Ned Joselyn?" she demanded,
trembling more and more.

Josie's reply was a smile. Josie's smile was essentially winning and
sweet. It was reassuring, trustful, friendly.

"This isn't a very big place, Ingua," she quietly remarked. "I can
count the people of Cragg's Crossing on my fingers and toes, and the
only one who has ever disappeared is Ned Joselyn. Why, you've told me
so yourself. Your grandfather and Joselyn were friends. Then they
quarreled. Afterward Joselyn disappeared."

"Who said they quarreled?"

"Miss Huckins told me. It was in the office, next door to where she
lives and works."

"Oh," with a sigh of relief. "But Ned Joselyn run away. Ev'rybody knows
that."

"Everybody but you, dear. Sit down. Why do you get so nervous? Really,
Ingua, after you've told me the whole story you'll feel better. It's
too big a secret for one small body to hold, isn't it? And just between
ourselves we will talk it all over--many times--and then it won't seem
so dreadful to you. And, after all, you're not positive your
grandfather killed Ned Joselyn. Perhaps he didn't. But you're afraid he
did, and that keeps you unstrung and unhappy. Who knows but I may be
able to help you discover the truth? Sit down, Ingua, and let's talk it
all over."



CHAPTER X
INGUA IS CONFIDENTIAL

Ingua slowly resumed her seat on the bank beside her friend. It was
hard to resist Josie's appeals.

"The whole thing looks pretty black ag'in Gran'dad," she said. "I
s'pose ye can't understand what I mean till I tell ye the whole story,
from the beginning 'cause ye didn't live here at the time. If ye lived
here," she added, "I wouldn't tell ye anything, but by-'n'-by yer goin'
away. An' ye've promised to keep yer mouth shut."

"Unless you give me permission to speak."

"I ain't likely to do that. I'm tellin' ye this, Josie, so's we kin
talk it over, at times. It has got hold o' my mind, somethin' terrible.
Once I was goin' to tell Mary Louise, but--she couldn't understand it
like you kin. She's--diff'rent. And if Gran'dad ever hears that I
blabbed I'm as good as dead, an' I know it!"

"He won't hear it from me," promised Josie.

"Well, Gran'dad was allus sly. I 'member Marm tellin' him to his face
he were cold as ice an' sly as sin. Mann had a way o' sayin' what she
thought o' him, an' he'd jes' look at her steady an' say nuth'n back.
She was allus tryin' to git money out o' him, Marm was, an' when he
said he didn't hev no money she tol' him she knew he did. She ransacked
the whole house--an' even tore up the floor-boards--tryin' to find
where he'd hid it. Her idee was that if he'd sold his land for a lot o'
money, an' hadn't spent a cent, he must hev it yit. But I guess Marm
didn't find no money, an' so she lit out. The day she lit out she said
to him that he was too slick for her, but she could take care o'
herself. All she wanted was for him to take care o' me. Gran'dad said
he would; an' so he did. He didn't take any too much care o' me, an'
I'd ruther he wouldn't. If I had more to eat, I wouldn't kick, but
since Mary Louise come here an' invited me to tea so often I hain't
be'n hungry a bit."

"Mary Louise likes company," said Josie. "Go on, dear."

"Well, after Ann Kenton got married, her new husban' come here, which
was Ned Joselyn. I never took a fancy to Ann. She wasn't 'specially
uppish, but she wasn't noth'n else, either. Ned made me laugh when I
first seen him. He had one spectacle in one eye, with a string to ketch
it if it fell off. He had striped clothes an' shiny shoes an' he walked
as keerful as if he was afraid the groun' would git the bottoms o' them
nice shoes dirty. He used to set in that summer-house an' smoke
cigarettes an' read books. One day he noticed Ol' Swallertail, an'
looked so hard at him that his one-eyed spectacle fell off a dozen
times.

"That night he sent a letter to Gran'dad an' Gran'dad read it an' tore
it up an' told the man that brung it there was no answer. That's all I
knew till one night they come walkin' home together, chummy as a team
o' mules. When they come to the bridge they shook hands an' Ol'
Swallertail come to the house with a grin on his face--the first an'
last grin I ever seen him have."

"Doesn't he ever laugh?" asked Josie.

"If he does, he laughs when no one is lookin'. But after that day I
seen Ned Joselyn with Gran'dad a good deal. Sometimes he'd come to our
house an' wait fer Ol' Swallertail to come home, an' they'd send me
away an' tell me not to come back till I was called. That made me
mighty curious to see what they was up to, so one day I crep' up behind
the house an' peeked in the winder. They wasn't in the kitchen, so I
went aroun' an' peeked through the winder o' Gran'dad's room, an' there
they both sot, an' Gran'dad was countin' out money on the table. It
must 'a' be'n gold money, 'cause it was yaller an' bigger ner cents er
nickels. Ned put it all in his pocket, an' writ somethin' on a paper
that Gran'dad put inter his big pocketbook. Then they both got up an' I
made a run fer it an' hid behind the barn."

"When did that happen?" asked Josie.

"The first summer Ann was married. That was three summers ago, countin'
this one. I was only a kid, then," said Ingua, as if realizing she was
now two years older.

"And after that?" said Josie.

"Las' summer it was jes' the same. The two was thicker'n gumdrops, only
Ned didn't go to the office no more. He allus came to our house instid.
One day, when he was waitin' fer Ol' Swallertail, he says to me:
'Ingua, how'd ye like to be rollin' in money, an' Jive in a big city,
an' hev yer own automobile to ride in, an' dress like a queen?'

"'I'd like it,' says I.

"'Well,' says he,' it's boun' to happen, if Ol' Swallertail sticks to
me an' does what I say. He's got the capital,' says Ned, 'an' I got the
brains; an' atween the two of us, Ingua,' says Ned, 'we'll corral half
the money there is in America.'

"'Will he stick?' says I.

"'I dunno,' says Ned. 'He's got queer ideas 'bout duty an' honesty that
ain't pop'lar these days in business. But I'm gitt'n so now thet I kin
lead him by the nose, an' I'll force him to waller in money afore I've
done with him.'

"'I don't see how that'll make me rollin' in money, anyhow,' I told
him.

"'The ol' man'll die, pretty soon,' says Ned, 'an' then you'll git the
money I make for him. By the time yer growed up, if not afore,' says
he, 'you may be the riches' girl in the world. It all depends on how I
kin bend that ol' stick of a gran'dad o' yourn.'

"That was the day he gimme the dollar, an' Gran'dad come in in time to
see it, an' took it away from me. It didn't set me up any, that talk o'
Ned's, 'cause I didn't believe in them brains he bragged on, or his
bein' able to lead Ol' Swallertail by the nose. Gran'dad begun gittin'
kind o' harsh with Ned, afore the summer was over, which showed he
wasn't bendin' much, and at the last--just afore Ned went away--the big
quarrel come off. It wasn't the quarrel Miss Huckins knows about, but
it happened right here. They'd sent me away from the house, like they
always did, and I were layin' in the clover in the back yard, when
there was a crash an' a yell. I jumped up an' run to the door, an' the
table was tipped over an' a lot o' papers an' money scattered on the
floor, an' behind the table stood Ol' Swallertail, white an' still, an'
Ned point'n' a gun at him."

"What sort of a gun?" questioned Josie.

"One o' them hip-pocket sort. Same as Jim Bennett the mailman carries.
Only Jim's ain't never loaded, 'cause he's afraid of it. I ain't sure
Ned's was loaded, either, for when he seen me in the doorway he jes'
slipped it in his pocket.

"' Very well,' says Gran'dad, 'I knows now what sort o' a man you are,
Ned Joselyn.' An' Ned he answers back: 'An' I know what sort o' a man
_you_ are, ol' Cragg. Yer a hypercrit through an' through; ye preach
squareness while yer as crooked as a snake, an' as p'isonous an'
deadly, an' ye'd ruin yer bes' friend jes' to git a copper cent the
best o' him.'

"Gran'dad leaned over an' set the table on its legs ag'in. An' then he
says slow an' cold: 'But I hain't offered to murder you; _not yet,_ Ned
Joselyn!'

"Ned looked at him an' kinder shivered. An' Gran'dad said: 'Pick up
them papers an' things, Ingua.'

"So I picked 'em up an' put 'em on the table an' they sent me away
ag'in. I laid in the clover a whole hour, feelin' pretty nervous an'
rocky, fer I didn't know what was goin' to happen. Noth'n' did happen,
though, 'cept that Ned crossed the river on the steppin'-stones an'
halfway over he turned an' laughed an' waved his hand at Gran'dad, who
stood in the door an' watched him go. But Gran'dad didn't laugh. He
says to me when I come in:

"'Ingua, if ever I'm found dead, you go to Dud Berkey, the constable,
an' tell him to arrest Ned Joselyn for murder. D'ye understan'?'

"'I sure do,' says I. 'Guess he'd 'a' shot ye, Gran'dad, if I hadn't
come in just when I did.'

"'An' see here,' he went on, 'unless I'm foun' dead, you keep mum 'bout
what ye seen to-day. If ye blab a word to anyone, ye'll git me in
trouble, an' I'll crush ye as willin' as I'd swat a fly. Me an' Ned is
friends ag'in,' says he, 'but I don't trust him.'

"'Does he trust you?' I asked him; an' at first he jus' looked at me
an' scowled; but after a minute he answered: 'I don't know how wise the
man is. P'r'aps he isn't a fool; but even wise men is foolish
sometimes.'

"Well, Josie, that was all, just then. Ned went with his wife Ann to
the city, nex' day, an' things here went on as usual. Only, Gran'dad
begun to git wakeful nights, an' couldn't sleep. He'd git up an' dress
an' go outdoors an' walk aroun' till mornin'. He didn't say noth'n' to
_me_ about it, but I watched him, an' one mornin' when he come in I
says: 'Why don't ye git some medicine o' Doc Jenkins to make ye sleep?'
Then he busts out an' grabs me by the throat an' near choked the life
out or me.

"'Ye spy--ye dirty little spy!' says he, 'ye keep yer eyes shut an' yer
mouth shut, or I'll skin-ye alive!' says he.

"The way he looked at me, I was skeered stiff, an' I never said noth'n'
more 'bout his sleepin' nights. I guess what made him mad was my sayin'
he orter hev a doctor, 'cause doctors cost money an' Gran'dad's so poor
he hates t' spend money unnecessary."

"Did he ever again try to choke you?"

"He tried once more, but I was too spry for him. It was a winter night,
when it was cold in his room an' he come inter the kitchen, where there
was a fire, to write. I sot behind the stove, tryin' to keep warm, an'
after a time I seen him look up an' glare at the bare wall a long time.
By-'n'-by he says in a low voice: 'Fer the Cause!' an' starts writin'
ag'in. 'What cause are ye talkin' about, Gran'dad?' says I.

"I guess he'd fergot I was there, but now he gives a yell an' jumps up
an' comes for me with his fingers twistin' and workin' like I'd seen
'em afore. I didn't wait fer him to git near me, you kin bet; I made a
dive out the back door an' stood aroun' in the cold tryin' to keep warm
while I give him time to cool off where the fire was. When he was
writin' ag'in I sneaked in an' he didn't notice me. When Marm was here
she used to josh him about the 'Cause,' an' once I heard her tell him
she guessed the Cause was hoardin' his money so's to starve his family.
Marm wasn't afraid of him, but I am, so I never whisper the word
'Cause' while he's around."

Josie sat in silent reflection for a time. Then she asked softly:

"Does he still walk at night, Ingua?"

"Sometimes. Not so much as he once did, though. He seems to take
streaks o' bein' wakeful," explained the girl.

"Have you ever seen him come out, or go in?"

"Lots o' times. When it's moonlight I kin see him through my window,
an' he can't see me 'cause my room is dark."

"And does he carry anything with him?"

"Not a thing. He jes' goes out like he does daytimes, an' comes back
the same way."

Josie nodded her tousled red head, as if the answers pleased her.

"He's a very clever man, your grandfather," she remarked. "He can fool
not only his neighbors, but his own family. But you've more to tell me,
Ingua."

"How d'ye know, Josie?"

"Because all this is just the beginning. It is something else that has
been worrying you, dear."



CHAPTER XI
THE FATE OF NED JOSELYN

The child stared dreamily at the rushing water for several minutes.
Then she looked earnestly into Josie's face. Finally, with a sigh, she
said:

"I may as well go on an' finish it, I s'pose."

"To be sure," said Josie. "You haven't told me anything very important
yet."

"The important part's comin'," asserted Ingua, her tone gradually
assuming its former animation. "'Twas last winter on the Thursday
between Christmas an' New Year's. It was cold an' snowin' hard, an' it
gits dark early them days. Gran'dad an' me was eat'n' supper by
lamplight when there come a knock at the door. I jumped up an' opened
it an' there stood Ned Joselyn, in a big heavy coat that was loaded
with snow, an' kid gloves on, an' his one-eyed spectacle on his face.
He come in an' stood while I shut the door, an' Gran'dad glared at him
like he does when the devils gits him, and said: 'What--more?'

"'Sure thing,' says Ned. 'Noth'n' lasts forever.'

"'That's true,' says Gran'dad, holdin' himself in. Then he looks at me,
an' back to Ned, an' says: 'I can't see ye here. Where ye stoppin'? At
the Kenton house?'

"'Jes' fer to-night,' says Ned. 'It's more private than a hotel.'

"'Go home, then,' says Gran'dad. 'I'll come over, by-'n'-by.'

"Ned opened the door an' went out, sayin' noth'n' more. Gran'dad
finished his supper an' then sot by the stove an' smoked his pipe while
I washed the dishes. I wondered why he didn't go over an' see Ned, but
he sot there an' smoked till I went upstairs to bed. That was queer,
for I never knew him to smoke more'n one pipe o' tobacco at a time,
before, an' then mostly on Sundays. And I'd never seen his face so hard
an' cruel-lookin' as it were that night, and his eyes, seemed like they
were made of glass. I didn't undress, fer I knowed there'd be trouble
if he went over to Ned's house, and I made up my mind to keep watch o'
things.

"So I set still in my room in the attic, an' Gran'dad set still in the
room downstairs, an' it must 'a' be'n pretty late when I heard him get
up an' go out. I slipped down right after him, meanin' to foller him,
an' let myself out the back door so's he wouldn't see me. It had
stopped snowin' by then, but it was so cold that the air cut like a
knife and the only jacket I had wasn't any too warm fer such weather.

"When I got 'round the house Ol' Swallertail was standin' on the bank,
lookin' at the river. I never knew nobody to try the steppin'-stones in
winter, an' I s'posed o' course Gran'dad would take the path to the
bridge; but he went down the bank, wadin' through the snow, an' started
to cross over. The moon an' the snow made it light enough to see easy,
after you'd be'n out a few minutes. I watched him cross over an' climb
the bank an' make for the house, an' then I run down to the river
myself.

"The water covered all the stones, but I knew where they were as well
as Gran'dad did. I didn't like my job a bit, but I knew if I waited to
go roun' by the bridge that I'd be too late to see anything that
happened. So I screwed up courage an' started over. My legs ain't as
long as a grown-up's and at the third step I missed the stone an'
soused one leg in the water up to my knee. Gee! that was a cold one.
But I wouldn't give up, an' kep' on until jus' in the middle, where the
water were roarin' the worst, I slipped with both legs and went in to
my waist. That settled it for me. I thought I'd drown, for a minute,
but I went crazy with fear an' the next thing I knew I was standin' on
the bank where I'd come from an' the cold wind was freezin' a sheet of
ice on my legs an' body.

"There wasn't no time to lose. Whatever was happenin' over to the big
house didn't mean as much to me as death did, an' death was on my track
if I didn't get back home afore I froze stiff. I started to run. It
ain't far--look there, Josie, ye could almost make it in three jumps--
but I remember fallin' down half a dozen times in the snow, an' at the
last I crawled to the door on my hands an' knees an' had jus' strength
enough to rise up an' lift the latch.

"Gran'dad's awful stingy about burnin' wood, but I threw the chunks
into the stove till the old thing roared like a furnace an' when I'd
thawed out some I got off my shoes an' stockin's an' my wet dress an'
put another skirt on. Then I lay in Gran'dad's chair afore the fire an'
shivered an' cried like a baby whenever I thought o' that icy river.

"I guess I must 'a' went to sleep, afterwards, fer when I woke up the
fire was gett'n' low an' Ol' Swallertail opened the door on a sudden
an' walked in. Josie, ye orter seen him! His legs was wet an' icy, too,
so he must 'a' slipped on the stones himself; an' he was shakin' all
over as if he'd got the ague. His face was a dirty white an' his eyes
burnt like two coals. He threw on more wood, reckless-like, an' jerked
off his shoes an' socks an' set down t'other side the stove. Neither of
us said noth'n' fer awhile an' then he looks at me sort o' curious an'
asks:

"'Did ye git across, Ingua?'

"'No,' says I. 'I near got drowned, tryin' it.'

"Then he set silent ag'in, lookin' at the fire. By-'n'-by says he:
'Ingua, yer old enough to hev sense, an' I want ye to think keerful on
what I'm goin' ter say. Folks aroun' here don't like you an' me very
much, an' if they got a chance--or even thought they had a chance--
they'd crush us under heel like they would scorpions. That's 'cause
we're Craggs, for Craggs ain't never be'n poplar in this neighborhood,
for some reason. Now lis'n. I've done with Ned Joselyn. It ain't nay
fault as I've cast him off; it's his'n. He's got a bad heart an' he's
robbed me right an' left. I could fergive him fer that, because--well,
ye don't need to know why I clung to the feller when I knew he was a
scoundrel. But he robbed a cause dearer to my heart than myself, an'
for that I couldn't fergive him. Nobody knows Ned were here to-night,
Ingua, so if anybody asks ye questions ye didn't see him at all. Fix
that firm in yer mind. Ye don't know noth'n' 'bout Ned sence he went
away las' October. Ye hain't seen him. Stick to that, girl, an' yer all
right; but if ye blab--if ye ever tell a soul as Ned were here--I'll
hev to kill yer myself, to stop yer mouth. Fix that in yer mind, too.'

"I was so skeered that I jes' looked at him. Then I says in a whisper:
'What did ye do to Ned, Gran'dad?'

"He turned his eyes on me so fierce that I dropped my head.

"'I didn't kill him, if that's what ye mean,' says he. 'I orter
strangled him, but I didn't want to swing fer no common thief like Ned
Joselyn. Besides, he's--but that's none o' yer business. So I
threatened him, an' that was jus' as good as killin'. He won't show up
ag'in here, never; an' he ain't likely to show up anywheres else that
he's known. P'raps he'll be hunted for, but he'll keep out a' the way.
You an' I ain't got noth'n' to worry about, Ingua--unless you blab.'

"I didn't believe a word he said, Josie. They was jus' words, an' it
was nat'ral he'd lie about that night's work. When I went to bed it was
near mornin', but Ol' Swallertail was still sett'n' by the fire.

"Nex' day he went on jus' as usual, an' from then till now he's never
spoke to me of that night. In a couple o' weeks we heard as Ned Joselyn
had run away. His wife come down here askin' fer him, but nobody'd seen
hide ner hair of him. That's all, Josie; that's the whole story, an'
I'm glad you know it now as well as I do. Wha' d'ye think? Did Ol'
Swallertail kill Ned Joselyn?"

Josie woke from her meditation with a start.

"I--I'm going to think it over," she said evasively. "It's a queer
story, Ingua--mighty queer--and it's going to take a lot of thought
before I make up my mind about it."



CHAPTER XII
THEORIES ARE DANGEROUS

"What were you and Ingua talking about for so long?" asked Mary Louise,
when she and Josie were alone.

"She was telling me her story," was the reply.

"All of it?"

"Every bit of it, I think."

"Oh, what was it all about?" questioned Mary Louise eagerly.

"I've promised not to tell."

"Not even me, Josie?"

"Not even you. Ingua insisted; and, really, dear, it's better you
should know nothing just at present."

"Am I to be left out of all this thrilling mystery?" demanded Mary
Louise with an aggrieved air.

"There won't be a thrill in it, until the end, and perhaps not then.
But you shall come in at the finish, if not before; I'll promise that."

"Won't this enforced promise to Ingua tie your hands?" queried the
other girl, thoughtfully.

"No. I didn't promise not to act, but only to keep the child's secret.
For Ingua's sake, as well as to satisfy your curiosity--and my own--I'm
going to delve to the bottom of Ned Joselyn's disappearance. That will
involve the attempt to discover all about Old Swallowtail, who is a
mystery all by himself. I shall call on you to help me, at times, Mary
Louise, but you're not to be told what is weighing so heavily on poor
Ingua's mind."

"Well," said Mary Louise, "if I may help, that will serve to relieve my
disappointment to an extent. But I'm surprised at Ingua. I thought she
loved and trusted me."

"So she does," asserted Josie. "Since I've heard the story, I'm not
surprised at Ingua at all. If you knew all, my dear, you would realize
why she believes that one confidant is enough. Indeed, I'm rather
surprised that Ingua ventured to confide in me."

"Is it so serious, then?"

"If her fears are justified," replied Josie gravely, "it is _very_
serious."

"But _are_ they justified?" urged Mary Louise.

"Ingua is a child, and very sensitive to impressions. But she is a
shrewd child and, living a lonely life, has had ample time to consider
the problems that confront her. Whether she is right or wrong in her
conjectures, time will determine. But don't question me further,
please, or you will embarrass me. To-morrow I want to go to the city,
which is the county seat. Will you go with me? And can we get Uncle
Eben to drive us over in the car?"

"I'll ask Gran'pa Jim."

Colonel Hathaway was rather amused at the efforts of the two girls to
fathom the mystery of Old Swallowtail, but he was willing to assist in
any practical way. So Uncle Eben drove them to the county seat next day
and Josie spent several hours in the county clerk's office and paid a
visit to the chief of police, who knew her father, John O'Gorman, by
reputation. Mary Louise shopped leisurely while her friend was busy
with her investigations and at last they started for home, where they
arrived in time for dinner. On the way, Mary Louise inquired if Josie
had secured any information of importance.

"A little," said the girl detective. "For one thing, old Hezekiah Cragg
pays taxes on just one bit of land besides that little homestead of
his. It is a five-acre tract, but the assessment puts it at an
astonishingly low valuation--scarcely ten per cent of the value of all
surrounding property. That strikes me as queer. I've got the plat of it
and to-morrow we will look it up."

They found it was not easy to locate that five acres, even with a map,
when the two girls made the attempt the next forenoon. But finally, at
the end of a lonely lane about a mile and a half from the village, they
came upon a stony tract hemmed in by low hills, which seemed to fit the
location described. The place was one mass of tumbled rocks. Little
herbiage of any sort grew there and its low assessment value was easily
explained. The surrounding farms, all highly cultivated, backed up to
the little waste valley, which was fenced out--or rather in--by the
owners of the fertile lands. One faintly trodden path led from the bars
of the lane the girls were in toward Mr. Cragg's five acres of stones,
but amid the jumble of rocks it would be difficult to walk at all.

"This is an odd freak of nature," remarked Josie, gazing at the waste
with a puzzled expression. "It is easy to understand why Mr. Cragg
hasn't sold this lot, as he did all his other land. No one would buy
it."

"Haven't the stones a value, for building or something?" asked Mary
Louise.

"Not in this location, so far from a railway. In my judgment the tract
is absolutely worthless. I wonder that so economical a man as Mr. Cragg
pays taxes on it."

They went no farther than the edge of the rock-strewn field, for there
was nothing more to see. Up the slope of the hill, on the far side from
where they stood, were jumbled masses of huge slabs and boulders that
might be picturesque but were not especially interesting. The girls
turned and retraced their steps to the neglected lane and from thence
reached the main road again.

"I have now satisfied myself on two counts," was Josie's comment.
"First, that Mr. Cragg owns no property but this stone-yard and his
little home, and second, that within the last forty years he has at
different times disposed of seventy thousand dollars worth of land left
him by his father. The county records prove that. The last sale was
made about four years ago, so he has consistently turned all his real
estate into ready money."

"What can he have done with so much money?" exclaimed Mary Louise.

"Ah, that is part of the mystery, my dear. If he still has it, then the
man is a miser. If he has lost it, he is a gambler, which is just about
as bad. Either way, Hezekiah Cragg is not entitled to our admiration,
to say the least. Let us admit that in a big city a man might lose
seventy thousand dollars in business ventures without exciting adverse
criticism except for a lack of judgment; but Old Swallowtail has never
left Cragg's Crossing, according to all reports, and I'm sure there is
no way for him to squander a fortune here."

"I think he must be a miser," said Mary Louise with conviction. "Ingua
once told me of seeing lots of money pass between him and Mr. Joselyn.
And--tell me, Josie--what is all his voluminous correspondence about?"

"I'm going to investigate that presently," replied her friend. "It
isn't quite in line yet but will come pretty soon. To-morrow I shall
call upon Old Swallowtail at his office."

"Shall you, really? And may I go with, you, Josie?"

"Not this time. You'd spoil my excuse, you see, for you are going to
discharge your sewing-girl, and your sewing-girl is going to apply to
Hezekiah Cragg for work. His granddaughter needs some sewing done, by
the looks of her wardrobe."

"Oh. Very well. But you will tell me what happens?"

"Of course."

"Once," said Mary Louise, "I proposed going myself to Mr. Cragg, to
intercede for Ingua, but the girl thought I would do more harm than
good. So I abandoned the idea."

"I think that was wise. I don't expect to get much out of the man
except an interview, with a chance to study him at close range. Also
I'm anxious to see what that mysterious office looks like."

Mary Louise regarded her friend admiringly.

"You're very brave, Josie," she said.

"Pooh! There's no danger. One of the first things father taught me
about the detective business was that all men belong to one tribe, and
the criminal is inevitably a coward at heart. Old Swallowtail may be
afraid of _me,_ before I'm through with this case, but whether he
proves guilty or innocent I shall never fear him a particle."

"Have you any theory, as yet, Josie?"

"No. Theories are dangerous things and never should be indulged in
until backed by facts."

"But do not theories often lead to facts? And how about those 'O'Gorman
theories' you mentioned, which you were eager to test?"

"Those are mere theories of investigation--methods to be pursued in
certain situations. I believe I shall be able to test some of them in
this case. My plan is to find out all I can about everyone and
everything, and then marshal my facts against the question involved. If
there is no answer, I've got to learn more. If I can't learn more, then
the whole thing becomes mere guesswork--in other words, theory--more
likely to be wrong than right."

Mary Louise seldom argued with Josie's decisions. When, the next
morning, her friend started for the village to call upon Old
Swallowtail, she pressed her hand and wished her good luck. Josie
departed in her plain gingham dress, shoes run over at the heels, hair
untidy and uncovered by hat or hood--a general aspect of slovenly
servitude.

Mr. Cragg was never an early riser. He breakfasted at eight o'clock and
at half past eight stalked with stiff dignity to town and entered his
office without deigning to recognize any villagers he might meet. Josie
was aware of this habit. She timed her visit for half-past ten.

Unnoticed she passed through the village street and crept up the stairs
at the end of the store building. Before the door marked "H. Cragg,
Real Estate" she paused to listen. No sound came from within, but
farther along the passage she heard the dull rumble of Miss Huckins'
sewing machine.

For once Josie hesitated, but realizing that hesitation meant weakness
on such an errand she boldly thrust out a hand and attempted to turn
the doorknob.



CHAPTER XIII
BLUFF AND REBUFF

The door was locked. Immediately Josie pounded upon it with her
knuckles and a voice demanded:

"Who is there?"

Instead of replying, Josie knocked again, and suddenly the door was
opened and Old Swallowtail stood before her.

"I--I beg your pardon," said she diffidently; "are you the real estate
man?"

"Yes," he replied, standing quietly in the doorway.

"Then you're the man I want to see," she asserted and took a step
forward. But he did not move an inch from his position and his eyes
were fixed steadfastly on her face.

"I have nothing to sell, at present," he remarked.

"But I want to give you something to sell," she retorted impatiently,
summoning her wits to meet the occasion. "Let me in, please. Or do you
transact all your business in the hallway?"

Somewhat to her surprise he stepped back and held the door for her to
enter. Josie promptly walked in and sat down near a round table, one
comprehensive glance fixing in her mind the entire contents of the
small room.

There was one window, dim and unwashed, facing the street. It had a
thick shade, now raised. Originally the room had been square, and
rather crudely plastered and wallpapered, but a wooden partition had
afterward been erected to cut the room into two, so that the portion
she had entered was long and narrow. Its sole furniture consisted of
the round table, quite bare, two or three wooden-bottomed chairs, and
against one wall a rack filled with books. During the interview she
noted that these books were mostly directories of the inhabitants of
various prominent cities in the United States, and such a collection
astonished her and aroused her curiosity.

Just at present, however, the partition proved the most interesting
thing she observed, for beyond it must be another room which was
doubtless the particular sanctum of Old Swallowtail and to which she
scarcely expected to gain admittance. The door was closed. It was stout
and solid and was fitted with both an ordinary door-lock and a hasp and
padlock, the latter now hanging on a nail beside the door.

This much Josie's sharp eyes saw in her first glance, but immediately
her attention was demanded by Mr. Cragg, who took a seat opposite her
and said in a quiet, well modulated voice: "Now, my girl, state your
business." She had planned to tell him how she had come to town to sew
for Mary Louise Burrows, how she had now finished her work but was so
charmed with Cragg's Crossing that she did not care to leave it during
the hot weather to return to the stuffy city. Therefore, she intended
to add, if he would let her make some new dresses for Ingua, she would
work for half her regular wages. Her dress as a sewing-girl would carry
out this deception and the bait of small wages ought to interest the
old man. But this clever plan had suddenly gone glimmering, for in
order to gain admittance to the office and secure an interview with Old
Swallowtail she had inadvertently stated that she had some real estate
to dispose of. So sudden a change of base required the girl to think
quickly in order to formulate a new argument that would hold his
attention.

To gain time she said, slowly:

"My name is Josie Jessup. I'm a sewing-girl by profession."

"Yes, I know," he replied.

"I've been here ten days or so, working for Miss Burrows."

"I have seen you here," said Mr. Cragg.

She wondered how he knew so much, as he had never seemed to favor her
with even a glance when by chance they met in the street. But perhaps
Ingua had told him.

"I like Cragg's Crossing," continued Josie, assuming a confidential
tone, "and I've made up my mind I'd like to live here. There ought to
be plenty of work sewing for the farmers' wives, outside of what Miss
Huckins does, and it don't cost much to live in a small town. In the
city I own a little house and lot left to me by my uncle on my mother's
side, and I've decided to trade it for some place here. Don't you know,
sir, of someone who'd like to move to the city, and will be glad to
make the exchange?"

"I know of no such person," he replied coldly.

"But you will make inquiries?"

"It would be useless. I am very busy to-day, so if you will excuse
me--"

He rose and bowed.

Josie was disappointed. She decided to revert to her first proposition.

"Doesn't your granddaughter need some sewing done, sir?" she asked,
with a frank look from her innocent blue eyes.

He stood still, silently studying her face. With one hand he rubbed his
chin gently, as if in thought. Then he said:

"We cannot afford to hire our sewing done, but I thank you for the
offer. Good morning, Miss--Jessup."

Walking to the door he held it open and bowed gravely as she walked
out. Next moment she heard the key click as it turned in the lock.

Josie, feeling a sense of failure, slowly went down the stairs, entered
the store and perched herself upon the sugar-barrel. Old Sol was
waiting on a farmer's wife and only gave the girl a glance.

Josie reflected on her interview with Mr. Cragg while it was fresh in
her mind. He was no crude, uneducated country bumpkin, despite his odd
ways and peculiar dress. Indeed, the man had astonished her by his
courtesy, his correct method of speech, his perfect self-assurance. Her
visit was calculated to annoy him and to arouse his impatience. After
Ingua's report of him she expected he would become scornful or
sarcastic or even exhibit violent anger; yet there had been nothing
objectionable in his manner or words. Still, he had dismissed her as
abruptly as possible and was not eager to grasp an opportunity to
exchange real estate.

"That isn't his business at all," she told herself. "It's merely a
blind, although he actually did rent the Kenton Place to Colonel
Hathaway...I wonder what he does in that office all day. In the inner
room, of course. That is his real workshop...He's quite gentlemanly. He
has a certain amount of breeding, which Ingua wholly lacks....He must
realize what a crude and uncultured little thing his granddaughter is.
Then why hasn't he tried to train her differently?...Really, he quite
awed me with his stately, composed manner. No one would expect that
sort of man to be a murderer. But--there! haven't I been warned that
the educated gentleman is the worst type of criminal, and the most
difficult to detect?"

Sol's customer went away and the old man approached the barrel.

"Well," he said, "wanter buy anything to-day?"

"No," said Josie pleasantly, "this is only a social call. I've just
come from Old Swallow-tail's office and thought a word with you would
cheer me up."

"You! You be'n to Ol' Swallertail's office! Sakes alive, gal, I
wouldn't dare do that myself."

"Why not?"

"He goes crazy when he gits mad."

"Are you sure of that?"

"Ev'rybody here knows it, from the three-year-olds up. What did ye go
to him for?"

"A little matter of business."

"An' he slammed the door in yer face?"

"No, indeed."

"That's funny," said old Sol, rubbing his forehead in a perplexed way.

"He was very decent to me," continued Josie. "Acted like a gentleman.
Talked as if he'd been to school, you know."

"School? Well, I should say he had!" exclaimed the storekeeper. "Ol'
Swallertail's the most eddicated man in these 'ere parts, I guess. Ol'
Nick Cragg, his daddy, wanted for him to be a preacher--or a priest,
most likely--an' when he was a boy his ol' man paid good money to hev
him eddicated at a the--at a theo--at a collidge. But Hezekiah wa'n't
over-religious, an' 'lowed he didn't hev no call to preach; so that's
all the good the eddication ever done him."

"_You've_ never felt the need of an education, have you?" asked the
girl, artlessly.

"Me? Well, I ain't sayin' as I got no eddication, though I don't class
myself in book-l'arnin' with Ol' Swallertail. Three winters I went to
school, an' once I helped whip the school-teacher. Tain't ev'ry one has
got _that_ record. But eddication means more'n books; it means keepin'
yer eyes open an' gitt'n' onter the tricks o' yer trade. Ev'ry time I
git swindled, I've l'arned somethin', an' if I'd started this store in
New York instid o' Cragg's Crossin', they might be runnin' me fer
president by this time."

"But what could Cragg's Crossing have done without you?" inquired
Josie. "It seems to me you're needed here."

"Well, that's worth thinkin' on," admitted the storekeeper. "And as for
Old Swallowtail, he may have learned some tricks of his trade too. But
I don't know what his trade is."

"Nobody knows that. I don't b'lieve that business o' his'n is a trade
at all; I'll bet it's a steal, whatever its other name happens to be."

"But he doesn't prosper."

"No; he ain't got much t' show fer all these years. Folks used to think
he'd got money saved from the sale of his land, till Ned Joselyn come
here an' dallied with Ol' Swallertail's savin's an' then took to the
woods. It's gener'ly b'lieved that what Cragg had once Ned's got now;
but it don't matter much. Cragg hain't got long ter live an' his feed
don't cost him an' his little gal much more'n it costs to feed my cat."

There was no further information to be gleaned from Sol Jerrems, so
Josie walked home.



CHAPTER XIV
MIDNIGHT VIGILS

"Well, how is our girl detective progressing in her discovery of crime
and criminals?" asked Colonel Hathaway that evening, as they sat in the
living-room after dinner.

"Don't call me a girl detective, please," pleaded Josie O'Gorman. "I'm
only an apprentice at the trade, Colonel, and I have never realized
more than I do at this moment the fact that I've considerable to learn
before I may claim membership with the profession."

"Then you're finding your present trail a difficult one to follow?"

"I believe my stupidity is making it difficult," admitted Josie, with a
sigh. "Father would scold me soundly if he knew how foolishly I behaved
to-day. There was every opportunity of my forcing a clew by calling
unexpectedly on Mr. Cragg at his office, but he defeated my purpose so
easily that now I'm wondering if he suspects who I am, and why I'm
here. He couldn't have been more cautious."

"He could scarcely suspect that," said the Colonel, musingly. "But I've
noticed that these simple country people are chary of confiding in
strangers."

"Ah, if Mr. Cragg were only that--a simple, unlettered countryman, as I
thought him--I should know how to win his confidence. But, do you know,
sir, he is well educated and intelligent. Once he studied for the
priesthood or ministry, attending a theological college."

"Indeed!"

"My informant, the village authority--who is Sol Jerrems the
storekeeper--says he objected to becoming a priest at the last because
he had no leaning that way. My own opinion is that he feared his
ungovernable temper would lead to his undoing. I am positive that his
hysterical fury, when aroused, has gotten him into trouble many times,
even in this patient community."

"That's it," said Mary Louise with conviction; "his temper has often
made him cruel to poor Ingua, and perhaps his temper caused unfortunate
Ned Joselyn to disappear."

"Have you discovered anything more than you have told me?" she asked.

"Not a thing," replied Mary Louise. "I'm waiting for _you_ to make
discoveries, Josie."

"A puzzle that is readily solved," remarked the Colonel, picking up his
book, "is of little interest. The obstacles you are meeting, Josie,
incline me to believe you girls have unearthed a real mystery. It is
not a mystery of the moment, however, so take your time to fathom it.
The summer is young yet."

Josie went to her room early, saying she was tired, but as soon as she
was alone and free she slipped on a jacket and stealthily left the
house. Down the driveway she crept like a shadow, out through the
gates, over the bridge, and then she turned down the pathway leading to
Old Swallowtail's cottage.

"The stepping-stones are a nearer route," she reflected, "but I don't
care to tackle them in the dark."

The cottage contained but three rooms. The larger one downstairs was a
combination kitchen and dining room. A small wing, built upon one side,
was used by Mr. Cragg for his private apartment, but its only outlet
was through the main room. At the back was a lean-to shed, in which was
built a narrow flight of stairs leading to a little room in the attic,
where Ingua slept. Josie knew the plan of the house perfectly, having
often visited Ingua during the day when her grandfather was absent and
helped her sweep and make the beds and wash the dishes.

To-night Josie moved noiselessly around the building, satisfied herself
that Ingua was asleep and that Mr. Cragg was still awake, and then
strove to peer through the shuttered window to discover what the old
man was doing.

She found this impossible. Although the weather was warm the window was
tightly shut and a thick curtain was drawn across it.

Josie slipped over to the river bank and in the shadow of a tree sat
herself down to watch and wait with such patience as she could muster.
It was half past nine o'clock, and Ingua had told her that when her
grandfather was wakeful, and indulged in his long walks, he usually
left the house between ten o'clock and midnight--seldom earlier and
never later. He would go to bed, the child said, and finding he could
not sleep, would again dress and go out into the night, only to return
at early morning.

Josie doubted that he ever undressed on such occasions, knowing, as he
no doubt did, perfectly well what his program for the night would be.
She had decided that the nocturnal excursions were not due to insomnia
but were carefully planned to avoid possible observation. When all the
countryside was wrapped in slumber the old gentleman stole from his
cottage and went--where? Doubtless to some secret place that had an
important bearing on his life and occupation. It would be worth while,
Josie believed, to discover the object of these midnight excursions.
Ingua claimed that her grandfather's periods of wakeful walking were
irregular; sometimes he would be gone night after night, and then for
weeks he would remain at home and sleep like other folks.

So Josie was not surprised when old Swallowtail's light was
extinguished shortly after ten o'clock and from then until midnight he
had not left the house. Evidently this was not one of his "wakeful"
periods. The girl's eyes, during this time, never left the door of the
cottage. The path to the bridge passed her scarcely five yards distant.
Therefore, as Hezekiah Cragg had not appeared, he was doubtless
sleeping the sleep of the just--or the unjust, for all sorts and
conditions of men indulge in sleep.

Josie waited until nearly one o'clock. Then she went home, let herself
in by a side door to which she had taken the key, and in a few minutes
was as sound asleep as Old Swallowtail ought to be.

For three nights in succession the girl maintained this vigil, with no
result whatever. It was wearisome work and she began to tire of it. On
the fourth day, as she was "visiting" with Ingua, she asked:

"Has your grandfather had any sleepless nights lately?"

"I don't know," was the reply. "But he ain't walked any, as he
sometimes does, for I hain't heard him go out."

"Do you always hear him?"

"P'r'aps not always, but most times."

"And does he walk more than one night?" inquired Josie.

"When he takes them fits, they lasts for a week or more," asserted
Ingua. "Then, for a long time, he sleeps quiet."

"Will you let me know, the next time he takes to walking?"

"Why?" asked the child, suspiciously.

"It's a curious habit," Josie explained, "and I'd like to know what he
does during all those hours of the night."

"He walks," declared Ingua; "and, if he does anything else, it's his
own business."

"I've wondered," said Josie impressively, "if he doesn't visit some
hidden grave during those midnight rambles."

Ingua shuddered.

"I wish ye wouldn't talk like that," she whispered. "It gives me the
creeps."

"Wouldn't you like to know the truth of all this mystery, Ingua?"

"Sometimes I would, an' sometimes I wouldn't. If the truth leaked out,
mebbe Gran'dad would git inter a lot o' trouble. I don't want that,
Josie. I ain't no cause to love Gran'dad, but he's a Cragg an' I'm a
Cragg, an' no Cragg ever went back on the fambly."

It seemed unwise to urge the child further to betray her grandfather,
yet for Ingua's sake, if for no other reason, Josie was determined to
uncover the hidden life of Hezekiah Cragg.

The following night she watched again at her station by the river bank,
and again the midnight hour struck and the old man had not left his
cottage. His light was extinguished at eleven o'clock. At twelve-thirty
Josie rose from the shadow of the tree and slowly walked to the bridge.
There, instead of going home, she turned in the direction of the town.

In the sky were a few stars and the slim crescent of a new moon,
affording sufficient light to guide her steps. Crickets chirped and
frogs in the marshes sang their hoarse love songs, but otherwise an
intense stillness pervaded the countryside. You must not consider Josie
O'Gorman an especially brave girl, for she had no thought of fear in
such solitary wanderings. Although but seventeen years of age, she had
been reared from early childhood in an atmosphere of intrigue and
mystery, for her detective father had been accustomed to argue his
cases and their perplexities with his only child and for hours at a
time he would instruct her in all the details of his profession. It was
O'Gorman's ambition that his daughter might become a highly proficient
female detective.

"There are so many cases where a woman is better than a man," he would
say, "and there is such a lack of competent women in this important and
fascinating profession, that I am promoting the interests of both my
daughter and the public safety by training Josie to become a good
detective."

And the girl, having been her father's confidant since she was able to
walk and talk, became saturated with detective lore and only needed
practical experience and more mature judgment fully to justify
O'Gorman's ambition for her.

However, the shrewd old secret service officer well knew that the girl
was not yet ready to be launched into active service. The experience
she needed was only to be gained in just such odd private cases as the
one on which she was now engaged, so he was glad to let her come to
Cragg's Crossing, and Josie was glad to be there. She was only content
when "working," and however the Cragg mystery developed or resulted,
her efforts to solve it were sure to sharpen her wits and add to her
practical knowledge of her future craft.

When she reached the town she found it absolutely deserted. Not a light
shone anywhere; no watchman was employed; the denizens of Cragg's
Crossing were all in bed and reveling in dreamland.

Josie sat on the bottom stair of the flight leading to the store and
removed her shoes. Upstairs the family of Sol Jerrems and Miss Huckins
the dressmaker were sleeping and must not be disturbed. The girl made
no sound as she mounted the stairs and softly stole to the door of H.
Cragg's real estate office. Here it was dark as could be, but Josie
drew some skeleton keys from her pocket and slid them, one by one, into
the lock. The fourth key fitted; she opened the door silently and
having entered the room drew the door shut behind her.

The thick shade was drawn over the window. It was as black here as it
was in the hallway. Josie flashed a small searchlight on the door of
the connecting room and saw that it was not only locked in the ordinary
manner but that the padlock she had noted on her former visit to the
room was now inserted in the hasp and formed an additional security
against intrusion.

While her electric spotlight played upon this padlock she bent over and
examined it swiftly but with care.

"A Yale lock," she muttered. "It can't be picked, but it will delay me
for only a few minutes."

Then from her pocket she brought out a small steel hack-saw, and as she
could not work the saw and hold the flashlight at the same time she
went to the window and removed the heavy shade. The light that now came
into the room was dim, but sufficient for her purpose. Returning to the
door of the mysterious inner room, the contents of which she had
determined to investigate, she seized the padlock firmly with one hand
while with the other she began to saw through the steel loop that
passed through the hasp.

The sound made by the saw was so slight that it did not worry her, but
another sound, of an entirely different character and coming from the
hallway, caused her to pause and glance over her shoulder.

Slowly the outer door opened and a form appeared in the doorway. It was
a mere shadow, at first, but it deliberately advanced to the table,
struck a match and lighted a small kerosene lamp.

She was face to face with Old Swallowtail.



CHAPTER XV
"OLD SWALLOWTAIL"

Josie was so astonished that she still bent over the lock, motionless,
saw in hand. In the instant she made a mental review of her proceedings
and satisfied herself that she had been guilty of no professional
blunder. The inopportune appearance of Mr. Cragg must be attributed to
a blind chance--to fate. So the first wave of humiliation that swept
over her receded as she gathered her wits to combat this unexpected
situation.

Mr. Cragg stood by the table looking at her. He was very calm. The
discovery of the girl had not aroused that violence of temper for which
the old man was noted. Josie straightened up, slipped the saw in her
pocket and faced him unflinchingly.

"Won't you sit down?" he said, pointing to a chair beside her. "I would
like to know why you have undertaken to rob me."

Josie sat down, her heart bounding with joy. If he mistook her for a
thief all was not lost and she would not have to write "finis" as yet
to this important case. But she made no answer to his remark; she
merely stared at him in a dull, emotionless way that was cleverly
assumed.

"I suppose," he continued, "you have been told I am rich--a miser--and
perhaps you imagine I keep my wealth in that little room, because I
have taken pains to secure it from intrusion by prying meddlers. I
suspected you, my girl, when you came to see me the other day. Your
errand was palpably invented. You wanted to get the lay of the room, in
preparation for this night's work. But who told you I was worthy of
being robbed? Was it Ingua?"

"No," came a surly reply. "She won't mention you to me."

"Very good. But the neighbors--the busy-bodies around here? Perhaps old
Sol Jerrems has gossiped of my supposed hoard. Is it not so?"

Josie dropped her eyes as if confused but remained silent. The old man
seemed to regard her as a curiosity, for his cold gray eyes examined
her person with the same expression with which he might have regarded a
caged monkey.

"Then you do not wish to confess?"

"What's the use?" she demanded with a burst of impatience. "Haven't you
caught me at the job?"

He continued to eye her, reflectively.

"The cities breed felons," he remarked. "It is a pity so young a girl
should have chosen so dangerous and disastrous a career. It is
inevitably disastrous. How did it happen that Colonel Hathaway allowed
you to impose on him?"

"I do sewing," she said doggedly.

"In order to gain entrance to a household, I suppose. But Hathaway is
wealthy. Why did you not undertake to rob him, instead of me?"

"One at a time," said Josie, with a short laugh.

"Oh, I understand. You expected to make the small pick-ups and then
land the grand coup. The answer is simple, after all. But," he added,
his voice growing stern and menacing for the first time, "I do not
intend to be robbed, my girl. Fleece Hathaway if you can; it is none of
my business; but you must not pry into my personal affairs or rifle my
poor rooms. Do you understand me?"

"I--I think so, sir."

"Avoid me, hereafter. Keep out of my path. The least interference from
you, in any way, will oblige me to turn you over to the police."

"You'll let me go, now?"

He glanced at her, frowning.

"I am too much occupied to prosecute you--unless you annoy me further.
Perhaps you have this night learned a lesson that will induce you to
abandon such desperate, criminal ventures."

Josie stood up.

"I wish I knew how you managed to catch me," she said, with a sigh.

"You were watching my house to-night, waiting until I was safely in bed
before coming here. I happened to leave my room for a little air, and
going out my back door I passed around the house and stood at the
corner, in deep shade. My eyes were good enough to distinguish a form
lurking under the tree by the river bank. I went in, put out my light,
and returned to my former position. You watched the house and I watched
you. You are not very clever, for all your slyness. You will never be
clever enough to become a good thief--meaning a successful thief. After
a half hour I saw you rise and take the path to the village. I followed
you. Do you understand now? God has protected the just and humbled the
wicked."

That final sentence surprised the girl. Coming from his lips, it
shocked her. In his former speech he had not denounced her crime, but
only her indiscretion and the folly of her attempt. Suddenly he
referred to God as his protector, asserting his personal uprightness as
warrant for Divine protection; and, singularly enough, his tone was
sincere.

Josie hesitated whether to go or not, for Old Swallowtail seemed in a
talkative mood and she had already discovered a new angle to his
character. By way of diversion she began to cry.

"I--I know I'm wicked," she sobbed; "it's wrong to steal; I know it is.
But I--I--need the money, and you've got lots of it; and--and--I
thought you must be just as wicked as I am!"

His expression changed to one of grim irony.

"Yes," said he, "by common report I am guilty of every sin in the
calendar. Do you know why?"

"No; of course I don't!" she answered, softening her sobs to hear more
clearly.

"Years ago, when I was a young man, I stabbed a fellow-student in the
neck--a dreadful wound--because he taunted me about my mode of dress. I
was wearing the only clothes my eccentric father would provide me with.
I am wearing the same style of costume yet, as penance for that
dastardly act--caused by an ungovernable temper with which I have been
cursed from my birth. I would have entered the service of God had it
not been for that temper. I am unable to control it, except by avoiding
undue contact with my fellow men. That is why. I am living here, a
recluse, when I should be taking an active part in the world's work."

He spoke musingly, as if to himself more than to the girl who hung on
each word with eager interest. No one had ever told her as much of Old
Swallowtail as he was now telling her of himself. She wondered why he
was so confidential. Was it because she seemed dull and stupid? Because
she was a stranger who was likely to decamp instantly when he let her
go? Or was the retrospective mood due to the hour and the unwonted
situation? She waited, scarce breathing lest she lose a word.

"The poor fellow whom I stabbed lived miserably for twenty years
afterward," he went on, "and I supported him and his family during that
time, for his life had been ruined by my act. Later in life and here at
the Crossing, people saw me kill a balky horse in a wild rage, and they
have been afraid of me ever since. Even more recently I--"

He suddenly paused, remembering where he was and to whom he was
speaking. The girl's face was perfectly blank when he shot a shrewd
glance at it. Her look seemed to relieve his embarrassment.

"However," said he in a different tone, "I am not so black as I'm
painted."

"I don't think you treat poor Ingua quite right," remarked Josie.

"Eh? Why not?"

"You neglect her; you don't give her enough to eat; she hasn't a dress
fit for a ragamuffin to wear. And she's your granddaughter."

He drew in a long breath, staring hard.

"Has she been complaining?"

"Not to me," said Josie; "but she doesn't need to. Haven't I eyes?
Doesn't everyone say it's a shame to treat the poor child the way you
do? My personal opinion is that you're a poor excuse for a
grandfather," she added, with more spirit than she had yet exhibited.

He sat silent a long time, looking at the lamp. His face was hard; his
long, slim fingers twitched as if longing to throttle someone; but he
positively ignored Josie's presence. She believed he was struggling to
subdue what Ingua called "the devils," and would not have been
surprised had-he broken all bounds and tried to do her an injury.

"Go!" he said at last, still without looking at her. "Go, and remember
that I will not forgive twice."

She thought it best to obey. Very softly she left the room, and as she
passed out he was still staring at the flame of the lamp and
alternately clenching and unclenching his talon-like fingers.



CHAPTER XVI
INGUA'S NEW DRESS

"Well," said Mary Louise, when Josie had related to her friend the
story next morning, "what do you think of Old Swallowtail now?"

"About the same as before. I'm gradually accumulating facts to account
for the old man's strange actions, but I'm not ready to submit them for
criticism just yet. The plot is still a bit ragged and I want to mend
the holes before I spread it out before you."

"Do you think he suspects who you are?"

"No; he thinks I'm a waif from the city with a penchant for burglary.
He expects me to rob you, presently, and then run away. I'm so unlikely
to cross his path again that he talked with unusual frankness to me--or
_at_ me, if you prefer to put it that way. All I gained last night was
the knowledge that he's afraid of himself, that his temper cost him a
career in the world and obliged him to live in seclusion and that he
has a secret which he doesn't intend any red-headed girl to stumble on
accidentally."

"And you think he was angry when you accused him of neglecting Ingua?"

"I'm sure he was. It made him more furious than my attempt to saw his
padlock. Come, let's run over and see Ingua now. I want to ask how her
grandfather treated her this morning."

They walked through the grounds, crossed the river on the
stepping-stones and found Ingua just finishing her morning's work. The
child greeted them eagerly.

"I'm glad you come," she said, "for I was meanin' to run over to your
place pretty soon. What d'ye think hes happened? Las' night, in the
middle o' the night--or p'r'aps nearer mornin'--Gran'dad begun to slam
things aroun'. The smashin' of tables an' chairs woke me up, but I
didn't dare go down to see what was the matter. He tumbled ev'rything
'round in the kitchen an' then went inter his own room an' made the fur
fly there. I knew he were in one o' his tantrums an' that he'd be sorry
if he broke things, but it wasn't no time to interfere. When the rumpus
stopped I went to sleep ag'in, but I got up early an' had his breakfas'
all ready when he come from his room. I'd picked up all the stuff he'd
scattered an' mended a broken chair, an' things didn't look so bad.

"Well, Ol' Swallertail jes' looked aroun' the room an' then at me an'
sot down to eat. 'Ingua,' he says pretty soon,' you need a new dress.'
Say, girls, I near fell over backwards! 'Go down to Sol Jerrems,' says
he, 'an' pick out the goods, an' I'll pay for it. I'll stop in this
mornin' an' tell Sol to let ye have it. An',' says he, lookin' at me
ruther queer, 'ye might ask that redheaded sewin'-girl that's stay in'
at the Hathaways' to make it up fer ye. I don't think she'll ask ye a
cent fer the work.'

"'Gran'dad,' says I, 'would ye hev a Cragg accep' charity, even to the
makin' of a dress?'

"' No,' says he; 'the girl owes me somethin' an' I guess she'll be glad
to square the account.'

"Then he goes away to town an' I've be'n nervous an' flustered ever
since. I can't make it out, I can't. Do you owe him anything, Josie?"

"Yes," said Josie with a laugh, "I believe I do. You shall have the
dress, Ingua--all made up--and I'll go down with you and help pick out
the goods."

"So will I!" exclaimed Mary Louise, highly delighted.

"And we will have Miss Huckins cut and fit it," continued Josie. "I'm
not much good at that thing, Ingua, so we will have a real dressmaker
and I'll pay her and charge it up to what I owe your grandfather."

The little girl seemed puzzled.

"How'd ye happen to owe him anything, Josie?" she asked.

"Didn't he tell you?"

"Not a word."

"Then he expects it to remain a secret, and you mustn't urge me to
tell. I'm pretty good at keeping secrets, Ingua. Aren't you glad of
that?"

They trooped away to town, presently, all in high spirits, and
purchased the dress and trimmings at the store. Old Sol was so
astonished at this transaction that he assailed the three girls with a
thousand questions, to none of which did he receive a satisfactory
reply.

"He didn't put no limit on the deal," said the storekeeper. "He jus'
said: 'Whatever the gal picks out, charge it to me an' I'll pay the
bill.' Looks like Ol' Swallertail hed gone plumb crazy, don't it?"

Then they went upstairs to Miss Huckins, who was likewise thrilled with
excitement at the startling event of Ingua's having a new dress. Mary
Louise and Josie helped plan the dress, which was to be a simple and
practical affair, after all, and the dressmaker measured the child
carefully and promised her a fitting the very next day.

"I don't quite understan'," remarked Ingua, as they walked home after
this impressive ceremony, "why you don't make the dress yourself,
Josie, an' save yer money. You're a dressmaker, ye say."

"I'm a sewing-girl," replied Josie calmly, "but I've promised Mary
Louise to sew for no one but her while I'm here, and I'm too lazy to
sew much, anyway. I'm having a sort of vacation, you know."

"Josie is my friend," explained Mary Louise, "and I won't let her sew
at all, if I can help it. I want her to be just my companion and have a
nice visit before she goes back to the city."

But when the two girls were alone Josie said to Mary Louise:

"Old Cragg isn't so stony-hearted, after all. Just my suggestion last
night that Ingua was being neglected has resulted in the new dress."

"He threw things, though, before he made up his mind to be generous,"
observed Mary Louise. "But this proves that the old man isn't so very
poor. He must have a little money, Josie."

Josie nodded her head absently. She was trying hard to understand Mr.
Cragg's character, and so far it baffled her. He had frankly admitted
his ungovernable temper and had deplored it. Also he had refrained from
having Josie arrested for burglary because he was "too occupied to
prosecute her." Occupied? Occupied with what? Surely not the real
estate business. She believed the true reason for her escape was that
he dreaded prominence. Old Swallowtail did not wish to become mixed up
with police courts any more than he could help. This very occurrence
made her doubt him more than ever.



CHAPTER XVII
A CLEW AT LAST

That night Josie resumed her watch of Cragg's cottage. She did not
trust to the shadow of the tree to conceal her but hid herself under
the bank of the river, among the dry stones, allowing only her head to
project above the embankment and selecting a place where she could peer
through some low bushes.

She suspected that the excitement of the previous night might render
the old man nervous and wakeful and send him out on one of his midnight
prowls. This suspicion seemed justified when, at eleven-thirty, his
light went out and a few minutes later he turned the corner of the
house and appeared in the path.

He did not seem nervous, however. With hands clasped behind his back
and head bowed, he leisurely paced the path to the bridge, without
hesitation crossed the river and proceeded along the road in a
direction opposite to the village.

Josie was following, keeping herself concealed with utmost care. She
remembered that his eyes were sharp in penetrating shadows.

He kept along the main country road for a time and then turned to the
right and followed an intersecting road. Half a mile in this direction
brought him to a lane running between two farm tracts but which was so
little used that grass and weeds had nearly obliterated all traces of
wagon-wheels.

By this time Josie's eyes were so accustomed to the dim moonlight that
she could see distinctly some distance ahead of her. The sky was clear;
there was just enough wind to rustle the leaves of the trees. Now and
then in some farmyard a cock would crow or a dog bark, but no other
sounds broke the stillness of the night.

The girl knew now where Old Swallowtail was bound. At the end of this
lane lay his five acres of stones, and he was about to visit it. The
fact gave her a queer little thrill of the heart, for a dozen strange
fancies crossed her mind in rapid succession. If he had really killed
Ned Joselyn, it was probable he had buried the man in this neglected
place, amongst the rubble of stones. Josie had inspected every foot of
ground on the Kenton Place and satisfied herself no grave had been dug
there. Indeed, at the time of Joselyn's "disappearance" the ground had
been frozen so hard that the old man could not have dug a grave.
Perhaps after a night or two he had dragged the corpse here and covered
it with stones. It would be a safe hiding-place.

And now regret for his act drove the murderer here night after night to
watch over the secret grave.

Or, granting that the supposed crime had not been committed, might not
Mr. Cragg have discovered some sort of mineral wealth in his
stone-yard, which would account for his paying taxes on the place and
visiting it so often? Or did he simply love the solitude of the dreary
waste where, safe from prying eyes, he could sit among the rocky
boulders and commune with himself beneath the moonlit sky?

Such conjectures as these occupied the girl's mind while she stealthily
"shadowed" the old man along the lane. Never once did he look behind
him, although she was prepared to dissolve from view instantly, had he
done so. And at last the end of the lane was reached and he climbed the
rail fence which separated it from the valley of stones.

Josie saw him suddenly pause, motionless, as he clung to the rails. She
guessed from his attitude that he was staring straight ahead of him at
something that had surprised him. A full minute he remained thus before
he let himself down on the other side and disappeared from view.

The girl ran lightly forward and, crouching low, peered through the
bars of the fence. Half a dozen paces distant the old man stood among
the stones in a silent paroxysm of rage. He waved his long arms in the
air, anon clenching his fists and shaking them at some object beyond
him. His frail old body fluttered back and forth, right and left, as if
he were doing a weird dance among the rocks. The violence of his
emotion was something terrible to witness and fairly startled the girl.
Had he screamed, or sobbed, or shrieked, or moaned, the scene would
have been more bearable, but such excess of silent, intense rage, made
her afraid for the first time in her life.

She wanted to run away. At one time she actually turned to fly; but
then common sense came to her rescue and she resolved to stay and
discover what had affected Old Swallowtail so strongly. From her
present position she could see nothing more than a vista of tumbled
stones, but rising until her head projected above the topmost rail she
presently saw, far across the valley, an automobile, standing
silhouetted against the gray background.

The machine was at present vacant. It had been driven in from the other
side of the valley, where doubtless there were other lanes
corresponding with the one she was in. However, there was no fence on
that side to separate the lane from the waste tract, so the machine had
been driven as close as possible to the edge of the stones.

Although the automobile was deserted, that was evidently the object
which had aroused old Cragg's fury, the object at which he was even yet
shaking his clenched fists. Josie wondered and watched. Gradually the
paroxysm of wrath diminished. Presently the old man stood as motionless
as the stones about him. Five minutes, perhaps, he remained thus,
controlling himself by a mighty effort, regaining his capacity to think
and reason. Then, to the girl's amazement, he tottered toward a large,
shelf-like slab of stone and kneeling down, as before an altar, he
bared his head, raised his arms on high and began to pray.

There was no mistaking this attitude. Old Swallowtail was calling on
God to support him in this hour of trial. Josie felt something
clutching at her heart. Nothing could be more impressive than this
scene--this silent but earnest appeal to the Most High by the man whom
she suspected of murder--of crimes even more terrible. She could see
his eyes, pleading and sincere, turned upward; could see his gray hair
flutter in the breeze; could see his lips move, though they uttered no
sound. And after he had poured out his heart to his Maker he extended
his arms upon the slab, rested his head upon them and again became
motionless.

The girl waited. She was sorely troubled, surprised, even humiliated at
being the witness of this extraordinary and varied display of emotion.
She felt a sense of intrusion that was almost unjustifiable, even in a
detective. What right had anyone to spy upon a communion between God
and man?

He rose, at length, rose and walked uncertainly forward, stumbling
among the ragged rocks. He made for the far hillside that was cluttered
with huge fragments of stone, some weighing many tons and all tumbled
helter-skelter as if aimlessly tossed there by some giant hand. And
when he reached the place he threaded his way between several great
boulders and suddenly disappeared.

Josie hesitated a moment what to do, yet instinct urged her to follow.
She had a feeling that she was on the verge of an important discovery,
that events were about to happen which had been wholly unforeseen even
by old Cragg himself.

She was taking a serious risk by venturing on the stony ground, for
under the moonlight her dark form would show distinctly against the
dull gray of the stones. Yet she climbed the fence and with her eye
fixed on the cluster of rocks where Old Swallowtail had disappeared she
made her way as best she could toward the place. Should the old man
reappear or the owner of the strange automobile emerge from the rocks
Josie was sure to be discovered, and there was no telling what penalty
she might be obliged to pay for spying. It was a dreary, deserted
place; more than one grave might be made there without much chance of
detection.

In a few minutes she had reached the hillside and was among the great
boulders. She passed between the same ones where Mr. Cragg had
disappeared but found so many set here and there that to follow his
trail was impossible unless chance led her aright.

There were no paths, for a rubble of small stones covered the ground
everywhere. Between some of the huge rocks the passage was so narrow
she could scarcely squeeze through; between others there was ample
space for two people to walk abreast. The girl paused frequently to
listen, taking care the while to make no sound herself, but an intense
silence pervaded the place.

After wandering here and there for a time without result she had
started to return to the entrance of this labyrinth when her ears for
the first time caught a sound--a peculiar grinding, thumping sound that
came from beneath her feet seemingly, and was of so unusual a character
that she was puzzled to explain its cause.

The shadows cast by the towering rocks rendered this place quite dark,
so Josie crouched in the deepest shade she could find and listened
carefully to the strange sound, trying to determine its origin. It was
surely under ground--a little to the right of her--perhaps beneath the
hillside, which slanted abruptly from this spot. She decided there must
be some secret passage that led to a cave under the hill. Such a cave
might be either natural or artificial; in either case she was sure old
Cragg used it as a rendezvous or workshop and visited it stealthily on
his "wakeful" nights.

Having located the place to the best of her ability Josie began to
consider what caused that regular, thumping noise, which still
continued without intermission.

"I think it must be some sort of an engine," she reflected; "a stamp
for ore, or something of that sort. Still, it isn't likely there is any
steam or electrical power to operate the motor of so big a machine. It
might be a die stamp, though, operated by foot power, or--this is most
likely--a foot-power printing-press. Well, if a die stamp or a printing
press, I believe the mystery of Old Swallowtail's 'business' is readily
explained."

She sat still there, crouching between the rocks, for more than two
hours before the sound of the machine finally ceased. Another hour
passed in absolute silence. She ventured to flash her pocket
searchlight upon the dial of her watch and found it was nearly four
o'clock. Dawn would come, presently, and then her situation would be
more precarious than ever.

While she thus reflected the sound of footsteps reached her ears--very
near to her, indeed--and a voice muttered:

"Come this way. Have you forgotten?"

"Forgotten? I found the place, didn't I?" was the surly reply.

Then there passed her, so closely that she could have touched them,
three dim forms. She watched them go and promptly followed, taking the
chance of discovery if they looked behind. They were wholly unconscious
of her presence, however, and soon made their way out into the open.
There they paused, and Josie, hiding behind a high rock, could both see
and hear them plainly.

One was old Cragg; another a tall, thin man with a monocle in his left
eye; the third, she found to her surprise, was none other than Jim
Bennett the postman. The tall man held in his arms a heavy bundle,
securely wrapped.

"You'll surely get them off to-morrow?" said Cragg to him,

"Of course," was the answer. "You may be certain I'll not have them on
my hands longer than is necessary."

"Do you mean to play square, this time?"

"Don't be a fool," said the tall man impatiently. "Your infernal
suspicions have caused trouble enough, during the past year. Hidden
like a crab in your shell, you think everything on the outside is going
wrong. Can't you realize, Cragg, that I _must_ be loyal to C. I. L.?
There's no question of my playing square; I've got to."

"That's right, sir," broke in Jim Bennett. "Seems to me he's explained
everything in a satisfactory manner--as far as anyone _could_ explain."

"Then good night," said Cragg, gruffly, "and--good luck."

"Good night," growled the tall man in return and made off in the
direction of the automobile, carrying the package with him. The other
two stood silently watching him until he reached the car, took his seat
and started the motor. Presently the machine passed out of sight and
then Bennett said in a tone of deepest respect:

"Good night, Chief. This meeting was a great thing for C. I. L. It
brings us all nearer to final success."

"I wish I could trust him," replied Cragg, doubtfully. "Good night,
Jim."

The postman made off in another direction and the old man waited until
he had fully disappeared before he walked away over the stones himself.
Josie let him go. She did not care to follow him home. Weary though she
was from her long vigil she determined to examine the rocks by daylight
before she left the place.

The sun was just showing its rim over the hills when she quitted
Hezekiah Cragg's five acres of stones and took the lane to the highway.
But her step was elastic, her eyes bright, her face smiling.

"I've found the entrance, though I couldn't break in," she proudly
murmured. "But a little dynamite--or perhaps a few blows of an axe--
will soon remove the barrier. This affair, however, is now too big and
too serious for me to handle alone. I must have help. I think it will
amaze dear old Dad to know what I've stumbled on this night!"



CHAPTER XVIII
DOUBTS AND SUSPICIONS

Mary Louise entered her friend's room at seven o'clock and exclaimed:
"Not up yet?"

Josie raised her head drowsily from the pillow.

"Let me sleep till noon," she pleaded. "I've been out all night."

"And did you learn anything?" was the eager question.

"Please let me sleep!"

"Shall I send you up some breakfast, Josie?"

"Breakfast? Bah!"

She rolled over, drawing the clothes about her, and Mary Louise softly
left the darkened room and went down to breakfast.

"Gran'pa Jim," said she, thoughtfully buttering her toast, "do you
think it's right for Josie to be wandering around in the dead of
night?"

He gave her an odd look and smiled.

"If I remember aright, it was one Miss Mary Louise Burrows who thrust
Josie into this vortex of mystery."

"You didn't answer my question, Gran'pa Jim."

"I can imagine no harm, to girl or man, in being abroad in this
peaceful country at night, if one has the nerve to undertake it. You
and I, dear, prefer our beds. Josie is wrapped up in the science of
criminal investigation and has the enthusiasm of youth to egg her on.
Moreover, she is sensible enough to know what is best for her. I do not
think we need worry over her nightly wanderings, which doubtless have
an object. Has she made any important discovery as yet?"

"I believe not," said Mary Louise. "She has learned enough to be
positive that old Mr. Cragg is engaged in some secret occupation of an
illegal character, but so far she is unable to determine what it is.
He's a very queer old man, it seems, but shrewd and clever enough to
keep his secret to himself."

"And how about the disappearance of Mr. Joselyn?"

"We're divided in opinion about that," said the girl. "Ingua and I both
believe Mr. Cragg murdered him, but Josie isn't sure of it. If he did,
however, Josie thinks we will find the poor man's grave somewhere under
the stones of the river bed. There was no grave dug on our grounds,
that is certain."

Colonel Hathaway regarded her seriously.

"I am sorry, Mary Louise," he remarked, "that we ever decided to mix in
this affair. I did not realize, when first you proposed having Josie
here, that the thing might become so tragic."

"It has developed under investigation, you see," she replied. "But I am
not very sure of Josie's ability, because she is not very sure of it
herself. She dare not, even yet, advance a positive opinion. Unless she
learned something last night she is still groping in the dark."

"We must give her time," said the Colonel.

"We have accomplished some good, however," continued the girl. "Ingua
is much happier and more content. She is improving in her speech and
manners and is growing ambitious to become a respectable and refined
young lady. She doesn't often give way to temper, as she used to do on
every occasion, and I am sure if she could be removed from her
grandfather's evil influence she would soon develop in a way to
surprise us all."

"Does her grandfather's influence seem to be evil, then?" asked the
Colonel.

"He has surrounded her with privations, if not with actual want," said
she. "Only the night before last he was in such a violent rage that he
tried to smash everything in the house. That is surely an evil example
to set before the child, who has a temper of her own, perhaps inherited
from him. He has, however, bought her a new dress--the first one she
has had in more than a year--so perhaps the old man at times relents
toward his granddaughter and tries to atone for his shortcomings."

Gran'pa Jim was thoughtful for a time.

"Perhaps," he presently remarked, "Mr. Cragg has but little money to
buy dresses with. I do not imagine that a man so well educated as you
report him to be would prefer to live in a hovel, if he could afford
anything better."

"If he is now poor, what has he done with all his money?" demanded Mary
Louise.

"That is a part of the mystery, isn't it? Do you know, my dear, I can't
help having a kindly thought for this poor man; perhaps because he is a
grandfather and has a granddaughter--just as I have."

"He doesn't treat her in the same way, Gran'pa Jim," said she, with a
loving look toward the handsome old Colonel.

"And there is a perceptible difference between Ingua and Mary Louise,"
he added with a smile.

They were to have Ingua's dress fitted by Miss Huckins that morning,
and as Josie was fast asleep Mary Louise went across to the cottage to
go with the girl on her errand. To her surprise she found old Mr. Cragg
sitting upon his little front porch, quite motionless and with his arms
folded across his chest. He stared straight ahead and was evidently in
deep thought. This was odd, because he was usually at his office an
hour or more before this time.

Mary Louise hesitated whether to advance or retreat. She had never as
yet come into personal contact with Ingua's grandfather and, suspecting
him of many crimes, she shrank from meeting him now. But she was
herself in plain sight before she discovered his presence and it would
be fully as embarrassing to run away as to face him boldly. Moreover,
through the open doorway she could see Ingua passing back and forth in
the kitchen, engaged in her customary housework. So on she came.

Mr. Cragg had not seemed to observe her, at first, but as she now
approached the porch he rose from his chair and bowed with a courtly
grace that astonished her. In many ways his dignified manners seemed to
fit his colonial costume.

"You will find Ingua inside, I believe," he said.

"I--I am Mary Louise Burrows."

Again he bowed.

"I am glad to meet you, Miss Burrows. And I am glad that you and Ingua
are getting acquainted," he rejoined, in even, well modulated tones.
"She has not many friends and her association with you will be sure to
benefit her."

Mary Louise was so amazed that she fairly gasped.

"I--I like Ingua," she said. "We're going into town to have her new
dress tried on this morning."

He nodded and resumed his chair. His unexpected politeness gave her
courage.

"It's going to be a pretty dress," she continued, "and, if only she had
a new hat to go with it, Ingua would have a nice outfit. She needs new
shoes, though," as an afterthought, "and perhaps a few other little
things--like stockings and underwear."

He was silent, wholly unresponsive to her suggestion.

"I--I'd like to buy them for her myself," went on the girl, in a
wistful tone, "only Ingua is so proud that she won't accept gifts from
me."

Still he remained silent.

"I wonder," she said, with obvious hesitation, "if you would allow me
to give _you_ the things, sir, and then you give them to Ingua, as if
they came from yourself."

"No!" It was a veritable explosion, so fierce that she started back in
terror. Then he rose from his chair, abruptly quitted the porch and
walked down the path toward the bridge in his accustomed deliberate,
dignified manner.

Ingua, overhearing his ejaculation, came to the open window to see what
had caused it.

"Oh, it's you, Mary Louise, is it?" she exclaimed. "Thank goodness,
you've drove Gran'dad off to the office. I thought he'd planted himself
in that chair for the whole day."

"Are you ready to go to Miss Huckins'?" asked Mary Louise.

"I will be, in a few minutes. Gran'dad was late gett'n' up this mornin'
and that put things back. He had the 'wakes' ag'in last night."

"Oh; did he walk out, then?"

"Got back at about daylight and went to bed. That's why he slep' so
late."

Mary Louise reflected that in such a case Josie ought to have some news
to tell her. She answered Ingua's inquiries after Josie by saying she
was engaged this morning and would not go to town with them, so
presently the two girls set off together. Mary Louise was much better
qualified to direct the making of the new dress than was Josie, and she
gave Miss Huckins some hints on modern attire that somewhat astonished
the country dressmaker but were gratefully received. There was no
question but that Mary Louise was stylishly, if simply, dressed on all
occasions, and so Miss Huckins was glad to follow the young girl's
advice.

They were in the dressmaker's shop a long time, fitting and planning,
and when at length they came down the stairs they saw Sol Jerrems
standing in his door and closely scrutinizing through his big horn
spectacles something he held in his hand. As Mary Louise wished to make
a slight purchase at the store she approached the proprietor, who said
in a puzzled tone of voice:

"I dunno what t' say to you folks, 'cause I'm up in the air. This money
may be genooine, but it looks to me like a counterfeit," and he held up
a new ten-dollar bill.

"I want a roll of tape, please," said Mary Louise. "I hope your money
is good, Mr. Jerrems, but its value cannot interest us."

"I dunno 'bout that," he replied, looking hard at Ingua, "Ol'
Swallertail gimme this bill, not ten minutes ago, an' said as his
gran'darter was to buy whatever she liked, as fur as the money would
go. That order was so queer that it made me suspicious. See here: a few
days ago ol' Cragg bought Ingua a dress--an' paid for it, by gum!--an'
now he wants her t' git ten dollars' wuth o' shoes an' things! Don't
that look mighty strange?"

"Why?" asked Mary Louise.

"'Cause it's the first money he's spent on the kid since I kin
remember, an' he's allus talkin' poverty an' says how he'll die in the
poorhouse if prices keep goin' up, as they hev durin' the furrin war
that's now hummin' acrost the water. If he's _that_ poor, an' on a
sudden springs a ten-dollar bill on me for fixin's fer his kid, there's
sure somethin' wrong somewhere. I got stuck on a bill jus' like this a
year ago, an' I ain't goin' to let any goods go till I find out for
sure whether it's real money or not."

"When can you find out?" inquired Mary Louise.

"To-morrer there's a drummer due here f'm the city--a feller keen as a
razor--who'll know in a minute if the bill is a counterfeit. If he says
it's good, then Ingua kin trade it out, but I ain't goin' to take no
chances."

Ingua came close to the storekeeper, her face dark with passion.

"Come," said Mary Louise, taking the child's arm, "let us go home. I am
sure Mr. Jerrems is over particular and that the money is all right.
But we can wait until to-morrow, easily. Come, Ingua."

The child went reluctantly, much preferring to vent her indignation on
old Sol. Mary Louise tried to get her mind off the insult.

"We'll have the things, all right, Ingua," she said. "Wasn't it
splendid in your grandfather to be so generous, when he has so little
money to spend? And the ten dollars will fit you up famously. I wish,
though," she added, "there was another or a better store at the
Crossing at which to trade."

"Well, there ain't," observed Ingua, "so we hev to put up with that Sol
Jerrems. When I tell Gran'dad about this business I bet he'll punch Sol
Jerrems' nose."

"Don't tell him," advised Mary Louise.

"Why not?"

"I think he gave this money to Mr. Jerrems on a sudden impulse.
Perhaps, if there is any question about its being genuine, he will take
it back, and you will lose the value of it. Better wait until
to-morrow, when of course the drummer will pronounce it all right. My
opinion is that Mr. Jerrems is so unused to new ten dollar bills that
having one makes him unjustly suspicious."

"I guess yer right," said Ingua more cheerfully. "It's amazin' that
Gran'dad loosened up at all. An' he might repent, like you say, an'
take the money back. So I'll be like ol' Sol--I'll take no chances."



CHAPTER XIX
GOOD MONEY FOR BAD

At luncheon Josie appeared at the table, fresh as ever, and Mary Louise
began to relate to her and to her grandfather the occurrences of the
morning. When she came to tell how Sol Jerrems had declared the money
counterfeit, Josie suddenly sprang up and swung her napkin around her
head, shouting gleefully:

"Glory hallelujah! I've got him. I've trapped Old Swallowtail at last."

They looked at her in amazement.

"What do you mean?" asked Mary Louise.

Josie sobered instantly.

"Forgive me," she said; "I'm ashamed of myself. Go on with the story.
What became of that counterfeit bill?"

"Mr. Jerrems has it yet. He is keeping it to show to a commercial
traveler, who is to visit his store to-morrow. If the man declares the
money is good, then Ingua may buy her things."

"We won't bother the commercial traveler," said Josie, in a tone of
relief. "I'm going straight down to the store to redeem that bill. I
want it in my possession."

Colonel Hathaway regarded her gravely.

"I think our female detective, having said so much and having exhibited
such remarkable elation, must now explain her discoveries to us more
fully," said he.

"I'd rather not, just yet," protested Josie. "But what have I said in
my madness, and what did my words imply?"

"From the little I know of this case," replied the Colonel, "I must
judge that you believe Mr. Cragg to be a counterfeiter, and that his
mysterious business is--to counterfeit. In this out-of-the-way place,"
he continued, thoughtfully, "such a venture might be carried on for a
long time without detection. Yet there is one thing that to me forbids
this theory."

"What is that, sir?"

"A counterfeiter must of necessity have confederates, and Mr. Cragg
seems quite alone in the conduct of his mysterious business."

Josie smiled quite contentedly. Confederates? Last night's discoveries
had proved that Old Swallowtail had two of these, at least.

"Please don't lisp a word of this suspicion at present," she warned her
friends. "If I am right--and I have no doubt of that--we are about to
uncover a far-reaching conspiracy to defraud the Government. But the
slightest hint of danger would enable them to escape and I want the
credit of putting this gang of desperadoes behind the bars. Really, I'd
no idea, when I began the investigation, that it would lead to anything
so important. I thought, at first, it might be a simple murder case;
simple, because the commonest people commit murder, and to the
detective the deed is more revolting than exciting. But we may dismiss
the murder suspicion entirely."

"Oh, indeed! What about Ned Joselyn's mysterious disappearance?" asked
Mary Louise.

"Joselyn? He disappeared for a purpose," answered Josie. "I saw him
last night--monocle and all--acting as old Cragg's confederate. Ned
Joselyn is one of those I hope to land in prison."

Her hearers seemed quite bewildered by this positive statement.

"Where were you last night?" inquired Mary Louise.

"At that five acres of stones we once visited, which is Mr. Cragg's
private property. Hidden somewhere in the hillside is a cavern, and in
that cavern the counterfeit money is made. I have heard the
printing-press turning it out in quantity; I saw Ned Joselyn come away
with a package of the manufactured bills and heard Old Swallowtail
implore him  to 'play square' with the proceeds. There was another of
the gang present, also; a man whom I had considered quite an innocent
citizen of Cragg's Crossing until I discovered him with the others. I
think it was he who operated the press. It has been a very pretty plot,
a cleverly conducted plot; and it has been in successful operation for
years. But the gang is in the toils, just now, and little redheaded
Josie O'Gorman is going to score a victory that will please her
detective daddy mightily." Josie was surely elated when she ventured
to boast in this manner. The others were duly impressed.

"You don't mean to arrest those men alone, do you, Josie?" asked the
Colonel somewhat anxiously.

"No, indeed. I'm not yet quite ready to spring my trap," she replied.
"When the time comes, I must have assistance, but I want to get all my
evidence shipshape before I call on the Secret Service to make the
capture. I can't afford to bungle so important a thing, you know, and
this ten dollar bill, so carelessly given the storekeeper, is going to
put one powerful bit of evidence in my hands. That was a bad slip on
old Cragg's part, for he has been very cautious in covering his tracks,
until now. But I surmise that Mary Louise's pleading for Ingua, this
morning, touched his pride, and having no real money at hand he
ventured to give the storekeeper a counterfeit. And old Sol, having
been caught by a counterfeit once before--I wonder if Old Swallowtail
gave him that one, too?--became suspicious of the newness of the bill
and so played directly into our hands. So now, if you'll excuse me,
I'll run to town without further delay. I won't rest easy until that
bill is in my possession."

"I'll go with you," said Mary Louise eagerly.

Half an hour later the two girls entered the store and found the
proprietor alone. Mary Louise made a slight purchase, as an excuse, and
then Josie laid ten silver dollars on the counter and said carelessly:

"Will you give me a ten dollar bill for this silver, Mr. Jerrems? I
want to send it away in a letter."

"Sure; I'd ruther hev the change than the bill," he answered, taking
out his wallet. "But I wouldn't send so much money in a letter, if I
was you. Better buy a post-office order."

"I know my business," she pertly replied, watching him unroll the
leather wallet. "No; don't give me that old bill. I'd rather have the
new one on top."

"That new one," said he, "I don't b'lieve is good. Looks like a
counterfeit, to me."

"Let's see it," proposed Josie, taking the bill in her hand and
scrutinizing it. "I can tell a counterfeit a mile away. No; this is all
right; I'll take it," she decided.

"Yer like to git stung, if ye do," he warned her.

"I'll take my chances," said Josie, folding the bill and putting it in
her purse. "You've got good money for it, anyhow, so you've no kick
coming, that I can see."

"Why, that must be the bill Mr. Cragg gave you," Mary Louise said to
the storekeeper, as if she had just recognized it.

"It is," admitted Sol.

"Then Ingua can now buy her outfit?"

"Any time she likes," he said. "But I want it reg'lar understood that
the sewin'-girl can't bring the money back to me, if she finds it bad.
I ain't sure it's bad, ye know, but I've warned her, an' now it's her
look-out."

"Of course it is," agreed Josie. "But don't worry. The bill is good as
gold. I wish I had a hundred like it."

On their way home Josie stopped to call on Ingua, while Mary Louise, at
her friend's request, went on.

"I've two important things to tell you," Josie announced to the child.
"One is that you needn't worry any more about Ned Joselyn's being dead.
A girl whom I know well has lately seen him alive and in good health,
so whatever your grandfather's crimes may have been he is not a
murderer."

Ingua was astounded. After a moment she gasped out:

"How d'ye know? Who was the girl? Are ye sure it were Ned Joselyn?"

"Quite sure. He has probably been in hiding, for some reason. But you
mustn't tell a soul about this, Ingua; especially your grandfather. It
is part of the secret between us, and that's the reason I have told
you."

Ingua still stared as if bewildered.

"Who was the girl?" she whispered.

"I can't tell you her name, but you may depend upon the truth of her
statement, just the same."

"And she's _sure_ it were Ned Joselyn she saw?"

"Isn't he tall and thin, with a light moustache and curly hair, and
doesn't he wear a glass in one eye?"

"With a string to it; yes! That's him, sure enough. Where'd she see
him?"

"Don't ask me questions. It's a part of the girl's secret, you know.
She let me tell you this much, so that you wouldn't worry any longer
over the horror of that winter night when your grandfather went to the
Kenton house and Joselyn disappeared. I think, Ingua, that the man is
crooked, and mixed up with a lot of scoundrels who ought to be in
jail."

Ingua nodded her head.

"Gran'dad told him he was crooked," she affirmed. "I don't say as
Gran'dad is a saint, Josie, but he ain't crooked, like Ned--ye kin bank
on that--'cause he's a Cragg, an' the Craggs is square-toes even when
they're chill'ins."

Josie smiled at this quaint speech. She was sorry for poor Ingua, whose
stalwart belief in the Cragg honesty was doomed to utter annihilation
when her grandsire was proved to have defrauded the Government by
making counterfeit money. But this was no time to undeceive the child,
so she said:

"The other bit of news is that Sol Jerrems has traded the bill which he
thought was bad for good money, so you can buy your things any time you
please."

"Then it wasn't counterfeit?"

"I saw it myself. I've lived in the city so long that no one can fool
me with counterfeit money. I can tell it in two looks, Ingua. So I'd
rather have a nice new bill than ten clumsy silver dollars and I made
the trade myself."

"Where'd ye get so much money, Josie?"

"My wages. I don't do much work, but I get paid regularly once a week."

She didn't explain that her father made her a weekly allowance, but
Ingua was satisfied.

"What do you think I orter buy with that money, Josie? I need so many
things that it's hard to tell where to begin and where to leave off."

"Let's make a list, then, and figure it out."

This occupied them some time and proved a very fascinating occupation
to the poor girl, who had never before had so much money to spend at
one time.

"I owe it all to Mary Louise," she said gratefully, as Josie rose to
depart. "It seems like no one can refuse Mary Louise anything. When she
asked me to be more careful in my speech didn't I do better? I slips,
now an' then, but I'ms always tryin'. And she tackled Gran'dad. If you
or me--or I--had asked Gran'dad for that money, Josie, we'd never 'a'
got it in a thousan' years. Why do you s'pose Mary Louise gits into
people the way she does?"

"It's personality, I suppose," answered Josie, thoughtfully. And then,
realizing that Ingua might not understand that remark, she added:
"There's no sham about Mary Louise; she's so simple and sweet that she
wins hearts without any effort. You and I have natures so positive, on
the contrary, that we seem always on the aggressive, and that makes
folks hold aloof from us, or even oppose us."

"I wish I was like Mary Louise," said Ingua with a sigh.

"I don't," declared Josie. "We can't all be alike, you know, and I'd
rather push ahead, and get a few knocks on the way, then have a clear
path and no opposition."



CHAPTER XX
AN UNEXPECTED APPEARANCE

For a week it was very quiet at Cragg's Crossing. The only ripple of
excitement was caused by the purchase of Ingua's new outfit. In this
the child was ably assisted by Mary Louise and Josie; indeed, finding
the younger girl so ignorant of prices, and even of her own needs, the
two elder ones entered into a conspiracy with old Sol and slyly added
another ten dollars to Ingua's credit. The result was that she carried
home not only shoes and a new hat--trimmed by Miss Huckins without
cost, the material being furnished from the fund--but a liberal supply
of underwear, ribbons, collars and hosiery, and even a pair of silk
gloves, which delighted the child's heart more than anything else.

Miss Huckins' new dress proved very pretty and becoming, and with all
her wealth of apparel Ingua was persuaded to dine with Mary Louise at
the Kenton house on Saturday evening. The hour was set for seven
o'clock, in order to allow the girl to prepare her grandfather's supper
before going out, and the first intimation Old Swallowtail had of the
arrangement was when he entered the house Saturday evening and found
Ingua arrayed in all her finery.

He made no remark at first, but looked at her more than once--whether
approvingly or not his stolid expression did not betray. When the girl
did not sit down to the table and he observed she had set no place for
herself, he suddenly said:

"Well?"

"I'm goin' to eat with the Hathaways to-night," she replied. "Their
dinner ain't ready till seven o'clock, so if ye hurry a little I kin
wash the dishes afore I go."

He offered no objection. Indeed, he said nothing at all until he had
finished his simple meal. Then, as she cleared the table, he said:

"It might be well, while you are in the society of Mary Louise and
Colonel Hathaway, to notice their method of speech and try to imitate
it."

"What's wrong with my talk?" she demanded. She was annoyed at the
suggestion, because she had been earnestly trying to imitate Mary
Louise's speech.

"I will leave you to make the discovery yourself," he said dryly.

She tossed her dishes into the hot water rather recklessly.

"If I orter talk diff'rent," said she, "it's your fault. Ye hain't give
me no schooling ner noth'n'. Ye don't even say six words a week to me.
I'm just your slave, to make yer bed an' cook yer meals an' wash yer
dishes. Gee! how'd ye s'pose I'd talk? Like a lady?"

"I think," he quietly responded, "you picked up your slang from your
mother, who, however, had some education. The education ruined her for
the quiet life here and she plunged into the world to get the
excitement she craved. Hasn't she been sorry for it many times, Ingua?"

"I don't know much 'bout Marm, an' I don't care whether she's sorry or
not. But I do know I need an eddication. If Mary Louise hadn't had no
eddication she'd 'a' been just like me: a bit o' junk on a scrap-heap,
that ain't no good to itself ner anybody else."

He mused silently for a while, getting up finally and walking over to
the door.

"Your peculiarities of expression," he then remarked, as if more to
himself than to the child, "are those we notice in Sol Jerrems and Joe
Brennan and Mary Ann Hopper. They are characteristic, of the rural
population, which, having no spur to improve its vocabulary, naturally
grows degenerate in speech."

She glanced at him half defiantly, not sure whether he was "pokin' fun
at her" or not.

"If you mean I talks country talk," said she, "you're right. Why
shouldn't I, with no one to tell me better?"

Again he mused. His mood was gentle this evening.

"I realize I have neglected you," he presently said. "You were thrust
upon me like a stray kitten, which one does not want but cannot well
reject. Your mother has not supplied me with money for your education,
although she has regularly paid for your keep."

"She has?" cried Ingua, astounded. "Then you've swindled her an' me
both, for I pays for more'n my keep in hard work. My keep? For the love
o' Mike, what does my keep amount to? A cent a year?"

He winced a little at her sarcasm but soon collected himself. Strangely
enough, he did not appear to be angry with her.

"I've neglected you," he repeated, "but it has been an oversight. I
have had so much on my mind that I scarcely realized you were here. I
forgot you are Nan's child and that you--you needed attention."

Ingua put on her new hat, looking into a cracked mirror.

"Ye might 'a' remembered I'm a Cragg, anyhow," said she, mollified by
his tone of self reproach. "An' ye might 'a' remembered as _you're_ a
Cragg. The Craggs orter help each other, 'cause all the world's ag'in
'em."

He gave her an odd look, in which pride, perplexity and astonishment
mingled.

"And you are going into the enemy's camp to-night?"

"Oh, Mary Louise is all right. She ain't like them other snippy girls
that sometimes comes here to the big houses. _She_ don't care if I _am_
a Cragg, or if I talks country. I like Mary Louise."

When she had gone the old man sat in deep thought for a long time. The
summer evening cast shadows; twilight fell; darkness gradually shrouded
the bare little room. Still he sat in his chair, staring straight ahead
into the gloom and thinking.

Then the door opened. Shifting his eyes he discovered a dim shadow in
the opening. Whoever it was stood motionless until a low, clear voice
asked sharply:

"Anybody home?"

He got up, then, and shuffled to a shelf, where he felt for a kerosene
lamp and lighted it.

"Come in, Nan," he said without turning around, as he stooped over the
lamp and adjusted the wick.

The yellow light showed a young woman standing in the doorway, a woman
of perhaps thirty-five. She was tall, erect, her features well formed,
her eyes bright and searching. Her walking-suit was neat and modish and
fitted well her graceful, rounded form. On her arm was a huge basket,
which she placed upon a chair as she advanced into the room and closed
the door behind her.

"So you've come back," remarked Old Swallowtail, standing before her
and regarding her critically.

"A self-evident fact, Dad," she answered lightly, removing her hat.
"Where's Ingua?"

"At a dinner party across the river."

"That's good. Is she well?"

"What do you care, Nan, whether she is well or not?"

"If she's at a dinner party I needn't worry. Forgive the foolish
question, Dad. Brennan promised to bring my suit case over in the
morning. I lugged the basket myself."

"What's in the basket?"

"Food. Unless you've changed your mode of living the cupboard's pretty
bare, and this is Saturday night. I can sleep on that heartbreaking
husk mattress with Ingua, but I'll be skinned if I eat your salt junk
and corn pone. Forewarned is forearmed; I brought my own grub."

As she spoke she hung her hat and coat on some pegs, turned the lamp a
little higher and then, pausing with hands on hips, she looked
inquisitively at her father.

"You seem pretty husky, for your age," she continued, with a hard
little laugh.

"You've been prospering, Nan."

"Yes," sitting in a chair and crossing her legs, "I've found my forte
at last. For three years, nearly, I've been employed by the Secret
Service Department at Washington."

"Ah."

"I've made good. My record as a woman sleuth is excellent. I make more
money in a week--when I'm working--than you do in a year. Unless--" She
paused abruptly and gave him a queer look.

"Unless it's true that you're coining money in a way that's not legal."

He stood motionless before her, reading her face. She returned his
scrutiny with interest. Neither resumed the conversation for a time.
Finally the old man sank back into his chair.

"A female detective," said he, a little bitterly, "is still--a female."

"And likewise a detective. I know more about you, Dad, than you think,"
she asserted, in an easy, composed tone that it seemed impossible to
disturb. "You need looking after, just at this juncture, and as I've
been granted a vacation I ran up here to look after you."

"In what way, Nan?"

"We'll talk that over later. There isn't much love lost between us,
more's the pity. You've always thought more of your infernal 'Cause'
than of your daughter. But we're Craggs, both of us, and it's the Cragg
custom to stand by the family."

It struck him as curious that Ingua had repeated almost those very
words earlier that same evening. He had never taught them the Cragg
motto, "Stand Fast," that he could remember, yet both Nan and her child
were loyal to the code. Was _he_ loyal, too? Had he stood by Nan in the
past, and Ingua in the present, as a Cragg should do?

His face was a bit haggard as he sat in his chair and faced his
frank-spoken daughter, whose clear eyes did not waver before his
questioning gaze.

"I know what you're thinking," said she; "that I've never been much of
a daughter to you. Well, neither have you been much of a father to me.
Ever since I was born and my unknown mother--lucky soul!--died, you've
been obsessed by an idea which, lofty and altruistic as you may have
considered it, has rendered you self-centered, cold and inconsiderate
of your own flesh and blood. Then there's that devilish temper of yours
to contend with. I couldn't stand the life here. I wandered away and
goodness knows how I managed to live year after year in a struggle with
the world, rather than endure your society and the hardships you thrust
upon me. You've always had money, yet not a cent would you devote to
your family. You lived like a dog and wanted me to do the same, and I
wouldn't. Finally I met a good man and married him. He wasn't rich but
he was generous. When he died I was thrown on my own resources again,
with a child of my own to look after. Circumstances forced me to leave
Ingua with you while I hunted for work. I found it. I'm a detective,
well-known and respected in my profession."

"I'm glad to know you are prosperous," he said gently, as she paused.
He made no excuses. He did not contradict her accusations. He waited to
hear her out.

"So," said Nan, in a careless, offhand tone, "I've come here to save
you. You're in trouble."

"I am not aware of it."

"Very true. If you were, the danger would be less. I've always had to
guess at most of your secret life. I knew you were sly and secretive. I
didn't know until now that you've been crooked."

He frowned a little but made no retort.

"It doesn't surprise me, however," she continued. "A good many folks
are crooked, at times, and the only wonder is that a clever man like
you has tripped and allowed himself to fall under suspicion. Suspicion
leads to investigation--when it's followed up--and investigation, in
such cases, leads to--jail."

He gave a low growl that sounded like the cry of an enraged beast, and
gripped the arms of his chair fiercely. Then he rose and paced the room
with frantic energy. Nan watched him with a half smile on her face.
When he had finally mastered his wrath and became more quiet she said:

"Don't worry, Dad. I said I have come to save you. It will be fun,
after working for the Government so long, to work against it. There's a
certain red-headed imp in this neighborhood who is the daughter of our
assistant chief, John O'Gorman. Her name is Josie O'Gorman and she's in
training for the same profession of which I'm an ornament. I won't
sneer at her, for she's clever, in a way, but I'd like to show O'Gorman
that Nan Shelley--that's my name in Washington--is a little more clever
than his pet. This Josie O'Gorman is staying with the Hathaway family.
She's been probing your secret life and business enterprises and has
unearthed an important clew in which the department is bound to be
interested. So she sent a code telegram to O'Gorman, who left it on his
desk long enough for me to decipher and read it. I don't know what the
assistant chief will do about it, for I left Washington an hour later
and came straight to you. What I do know is that I'm in time to spike
Miss Josie's guns, which will give me a great deal of pleasure. She
doesn't know I'm your daughter, any more than O'Gorman does, so if the
girl sees me here she'll imagine I'm on Government business. But I want
to keep out of her way for a time. Do you know the girl, Dad?"

"Yes," he said.

"She's rather clever."

"Yes."

"I think she'd have nabbed you, presently, if I hadn't taken hold of
the case so promptly myself. With our start, and the exercise of a
grain of intelligence, we can baffle any opposition the girl can bring
to bear. Do you wish to run away?"

"No," he growled.

"I'm glad of that. I like the excitement of facing danger boldly. But
there's ample time to talk over details. I see you've had your supper,
so I'll just fry myself a beefsteak."

She opened her basket and began to prepare a meal. Old Swallowtail sat
and watched her. Presently he smiled grimly and Nan never noticed the
expression. Perhaps, had she done so, she would have demanded an
explanation. He rarely smiled, and certainly his daughter's disclosures
were not calculated to excite mirth, or even to amuse.



CHAPTER XXI
A CASE OF NERVES

The "hotel" at the Crossing was not an imposing affair. Indeed, had
there not been an "office" in the front room, with a wooden desk in one
corner, six chairs and two boxes of sawdust to serve as cuspidors, the
building might easily have been mistaken for a private residence. But
it stood on the corner opposite the store and had a worn and scarcely
legible sign over the front door, calling it a hotel in capital
letters.

The Hoppers, who operated the establishment, did an excellent business.
On week days the farmers who came to town to trade made it a point to
eat one of Silas Hopper's twenty-five cent dinners, famous for at least
five miles around for profusion and good cookery. On Sundays--and
sometimes on other days--an automobile party, touring the country,
would stop at the hotel for a meal, and Mrs. Hopper was accustomed to
have a chicken dinner prepared every Sunday in the hope of attracting a
stray tourist. There were two guest rooms upstairs that were
religiously reserved in case some patron wished to stay overnight, but
these instances were rare unless a drummer missed his train and
couldn't get away from the Crossing until the next day.

The Sunday following the arrival of Ingua's mother in town proved a
dull day with the Hoppers, who had been compelled to eat their chicken
dinner themselves in default of customers. The dishes had been washed
and Mary Ann, the daughter of the house, was sitting on the front porch
in her Sunday gown and a rocking-chair, when an automobile drove up to
the door and a dapper little man alighted. He was very elaborately
dressed, with silk hat, patent-leather shoes and a cane setting off his
Prince Albert coat and lavender striped trousers. Across his white
waistcoat was a heavy gold watch-guard with an enormous locket dangling
from it; he had a sparkling pin in his checkered neck-scarf that might
be set with diamonds but perhaps wasn't; on his fingers gleamed two or
three elaborate rings. He had curly blond hair and a blond moustache
and he wore gold-rimmed eyeglasses. Altogether the little man was quite
a dandy and radiated prosperity. So, when the driver of the automobile
handed out two heavy suit cases and received from the stranger a crisp
bill for his services, Mary Ann Hopper realized with exultation that
the hotel was to have a guest.

As the car which had brought him rolled away the little man turned,
observed Mary Ann, and removing his silt hat bowed low.

"I presume," said he in precise accents, "that this town is that of
Cragg's Crossing, and that this building is the hotel. Am I correct in
the surmise?"

"I'll call Pa," said Mary Ann, somewhat embarrassed. Drummers she could
greet with unconcern, but this important individual was a man of a
different sort. His brilliant personality dazzled her.

Mr. Hopper came out in his shirtsleeves, gave one look at his customer
and put on his coat.

"Goin' to stay, sir?" he asked.

"For a time, if I like the accommodations," was the reply. "I am in
need of perfect quiet. My doctor says I must court tranquility to avoid
a nervous breakdown. I do not know your town; I do not know your hotel;
I hired a man in the city to drive me until I came to a quiet place. He
assured me, on the way, that this is a quiet place."

"I dunno him," said Hopper, "but he didn't put up no bluff. If ye can
find a quieter place ner this, outside a graveyard, I'll board ye fer
noth'n'."

"I thank you for your assurance, sir. Can you show me to the best room
you can place at my disposal?"

"Had dinner?"

"I thank you, yes. I am weary from the long ride. I will lie down for
an hour. Then I will take my usual walk. When I return I would like an
omelet with mushrooms--I suppose you have no truffles?--for my evening
meal."

The landlord grinned and picked up the suit cases.

"We're jest out o' truffles an' we're out o' mushrooms," he said, "but
we're long on eggs an' ye can have 'em omeletted or fried or b'iled, as
it suits yer fancy. Sophie's best hold is cookin' eggs. Sophie's my
wife, ye know, an' there ain't no better cook in seven counties, so the
drummers say."

As he spoke he entered the house and led the way up the stairs.

"Thank you; thank you," said the stranger. "I am glad your good wife is
an experienced cook. Kindly ask her to spare no expense in preparing my
meals. I am willing to pay liberally for what I receive."

"This room, with board," remarked Hopper, setting down the suit cases
in the front corner bedchamber, "will cost you a dollar a day, or five
dollars a week--if you eat our reg'lar meals. If ye keep callin' fer
extrys, I'll hev to charge ye extry."

"Very reasonable; very reasonable, indeed," declared the stranger,
taking a roll of bills from his pocket. "As I am at present unknown to
you, I beg you to accept this five-dollar bill in advance. And now, if
you will bring me a pitcher of ice-water, I will take my needed siesta.
My nerves, as you may have observed, are at somewhat of a tension
to-day."

"We're out o' ice," remarked the landlord, pocketing the money, "but
ye'll find plenty of good cold water at the pump in the back yard.
Anything else, sir?"

"I thank you, no. I am not thirsty. Ice-water is not necessary to my
happiness. You will pardon me if I ask to be left alone--with my
nerves."

Hopper went away chuckling. His wife and Mary Ann were both at the foot
of the stairs, lying in wait to question him.

"That feller's as good as a circus," he asserted, taking off his coat
again and lighting his corncob pipe. "He's got nerves an' money, an'
he's come here to git rid of 'em both."

"Who is he?" demanded Mrs. Hopper.

"By gum, I fergot to ask him. I got thanked fer ev'rything I did an'
ev'rything I couldn't do, an' I've got five dollars o' his money in my
jeans as a evidence o' good faith. The whole performance sort o'
knocked me out."

"No wonder," asserted, his wife sympathetically.

"I'll bet he's some punkins, though," declared Mary Ann, "an' he'll be
a godsend to us after a dull week. Only, remember this, if he kicks on
the feed he don't git no satisfaction out o' me."

"I don't think he'll kick on anything," said her father. "He wants eggs
for his supper, in a omelet."

"He couldn't want anything that's cheaper to make," said Mrs. Hopper.
"The hens are layin' fine jus' now."

"When he comes down, make him register," suggested Mary Ann. "If ye
don't, we won't know what ter call him."

"I'll call him an easy mark, whatever his name is," said the landlord,
grinning at his own attempt at wit.

The stranger kept his room until five o'clock. Then he came down, spick
and span, his cane under his arm, upon his hands a pair of bright
yellow kid gloves.

"I will now indulge in my walk," said he, addressing the family group
in the office. "My nerves are better, but still vibrant. I shall be
further restored on my return."

"Jest sign the register," proposed Hopper, pointing to a worn and
soiled book spread upon the counter. "Hate to trouble ye, but it's one
o' the rules o' my hotel."

"No trouble, thank you; no trouble at all," responded the stranger, and
drawing a fountain-pen from his pocket he approached the register and
wrote upon the blank page. "I hope there is, nothing to see in your
town," he remarked, turning away. "I don't wish to see anything. I
merely desire to walk."

"Yer wish'll come true, I guess," said Hopper. "I've lived here over
twenty year an' I hain't seen noth'n' yet. But the walkin' is as good
as it is anywhere."

"Thank you. I shall return at six o'clock--for the omelet," and he
walked away with short, mincing steps that seemed to them all very
comical.

Three heads at once bent over the register, on which the stranger had I
written in clear, delicate characters: "Lysander Antonius Sinclair, B.
N., Boston, Mass."

"I wonder what the 'B. N.' stands for," said Mary Ann Hopper,
curiously.

"Bum Nerves, o' course," replied the landlord. "He's got 'em, sure
enough."



CHAPTER XXII
INGUA'S MOTHER

"And how do you like your grandfather? Is he good to you?" asked Mrs.
Scammel on Sunday forenoon, as she sat on the porch beside her small
daughter. Old Swallowtail did not usually go to his office on Sundays,
but kept his room at the cottage and wrote letters. To-day, however, he
had wandered down the path and disappeared, and Nan and Ingua were both
glad to see him go.

"No," answered the child to both questions.

"You don't like him?"

"How can I, when he jes' sets an' glares at me ev'ry time he comes into
the house--'cept when he complains I ain't doin' my work proper? It
were a sort o' mean trick o' yours, Marm, leavin' me here to slave fer
that ol' man while you was off in the cities, havin' a good time."

"Yes," said Nan, "I was frolicking with starvation until I got a job,
and it was the sort of job that wouldn't allow having a child around.
But since I've been making money I've sent Dad five dollars every week,
for your clothes and board."

"You have?"

"Every week."

"Ten cents a week would pay for all the grub he gives me, an' there
ain't a beggar in the county that sports the rags an' tatters I does.
That new dress I had on las' night was the first thing in clothes he's
bought me for a year, and I guess I wouldn't have had that if Mary
Louise hadn't told him he orter dress me more decent."

Nan's brow grew dark.

"I'll have it out with him for that," she promised. "What does he do
with his money, Ingua?"

"Salts it, I guess. I never see him have any. It's one o' the
mysteries, Marm. Mysteries is thick aroun' Gran'dad, an' folks
suspicion 'most anything about him. All I know is that he ain't no
spendthrift. Once, when Ned Joselyn used to come here, there was lots
of money passed between 'em. I saw it myself. I helped pick it up,
once, when they quarreled an' upset the table an' spilled things. But
since Ned run ayray. Gran'dad's be'n more savin' than ever."

"Ingua," said Nan, thoughtfully, "I want you to tell me all you know
about Ned Joselyn, from the time he first came here."

Ingua regarded her mother with serious eyes.

"All?" she inquired.

"Everything, little or big, that you can recollect."

"You'll stick to Gran'dad, won't ye?"

"That's what I'm here for. There are enemies on his trail and I mean to
save him."

"What's he done?"

"I've got to find that out. When I was here before, I knew he had some
secret interest to which he was devoted, but I was too indifferent to
find out what it was. Now I want to know. If I'm going to save him from
the penalties of his crime I must know what the crime is. I think this
man Joselyn is mixed up with it in some way, so go ahead and tell me
all you know about him."

Ingua obeyed. For more than an hour she earnestly related the story of
Ned Joselyn, only pausing to answer an occasional question from her
mother. When she came to that final meeting at Christmas week and
Joselyn's mysterious disappearance, Nan asked:

"Do you think he killed him?"

"I was pretty sure of it till yest'day, when Josie told me a friend of
hers had seen him alive an' well."

"Josie O'Gorman?"

"No, Josie Jessup. She's the sewin'-girl over to Mary Louise's."

"I know; but that girl has more names than one. Do you know her very
well, Ingua?"

"She's my best chum," declared the child. "Josie's a dandy girl, an' I
like her."

"Have you told her anything about your gran'dad?"

"A little," Ingua admitted, hesitating.

"See here," said Nan, scowling, "I'll put you wise. This red-headed
Josie O'Gorman is a detective. She's the daughter of the man I work for
in Washington--the assistant chief of the Department--and she is here
to try to land your gran'dad in jail. What's more, Ingua, she's likely
to do it, unless you and I find a way to head her off."

Ingua's face depicted astonishment, grief, disappointment. Finally she
said:

"Gran'dad didn't murder Ned, for Josie herself told me so; so I can't
see what he's done to go to jail for."

"He has counterfeited money," said Nan in a low voice.

"Gran'dad has?"

"So they say, and I believe it may be true. Josie has wired her father
that she's got the goods on Old Swallowtail and has asked that somebody
be sent to arrest him. I saw the telegram and made up my mind I'd get
the start of the O'Gormans. Dad won't run away. I've warned him they
are on his trail and he didn't make any reply. But I wouldn't be
surprised if he's gone, this very day, to cover up his traces. He's
bright enough to know that if he destroys all evidence they can't prove
anything against him."

She spoke musingly, more to herself than the child beside her, but
Ingua drew a deep sigh and remarked:

"Then it's all right. Gran'dad is slick. They'll hev to get up early in
the mornin' to beat him at his own game. But I wonder what he does with
the counterfeit money, or the real money he trades it for."

"I think I know," said her mother. "He's chucked a fortune into one
crazy idea, in which his life has been bound up ever since I can
remember, and I suppose he tried counterfeiting to get more money to
chuck away in the same foolish manner."

"What crazy idea is that?" inquired Ingua.

"I'll tell you, sometime. Just now I see your friend Josie coming, and
that's a bit of good luck. I'm anxious to meet her, but if she sees me
first she won't come on." As she spoke she rose swiftly and disappeared
into the house. "Stay where you are, Ingua," she called from within in
a low voice; "I don't want her to escape."

Josie was even now making her way across the stepping-stones. Presently
she ran up the bank, smiling, and plumped down beside Ingua.

"Top o' the morning to you," said she. "How did you enjoy your first
evening in society?"

"They were all very good to me," replied Ingua slowly, looking at her
friend with troubled eyes. "I had a nice time, but--"

"You were a little shy," said Josie, "but that was only natural. When
you get better acquainted with Mary Louise and the dear old Colonel,
you'll--"

She stopped abruptly, for looking up she saw standing in the doorway
Nan Shelley--by which name she knew her--who was calmly regarding her.
The shock of surprise, for shock it surely was, seemed brief, for
almost instantly Josie completed her broken speech:

"When you know them better you'll feel quite at home in their society.
Hello, Nan."

"What! Josie O'Gorman? You here?" with well-affected surprise.

"You know it. But how came _you_ here, Nan? Has Daddy sent you to help
me?"

"Help you! In what way?"

"Help me enjoy country life," said Josie, coloring at her slip.

"Why, I'm on a vacation. You don't seem to understand. I'm--Ingua's
mother."

Josie's self-control wasn't proof against this second shock. Her blue
eyes stared amazed. With a low exclamation she stood up and faced the
woman.

"Ingua's mother! You, Nan?"

"Just so," with a quiet smile.

"Then you ought to be ashamed of yourself," declared Josie with
righteous indignation. "You're one of the best paid women in the
Department, and you've left your poor child here to starve and slave
for a wretched old--," she paused.

"Well, what is he?" asked Nan with tantalizing gentleness.

"An old skinflint, at the least. Shame on you, Nan! Ingua is a dear
little girl, and you--you're an unnatural mother. Why, I never
suspected you were even married."

"I'm a widow, Josie."

"And Old Swallowtail is your father? How strange. But--why did you come
here just now?" with sudden suspicion.

"I've just finished the Hillyard case and they gave me a vacation. So I
came here to see my little girl. I didn't know she was being neglected,
Josie. I shall take better care of her after this. My visit to Cragg's
Crossing is perfectly natural, for I was born here. But you? What are
you up to, Josie?"

"I'm visiting Mary Louise Burrows."

"With what object?"

A detective must be quick-witted. Josie's brain was working with
lightning-like rapidity. In a few brief seconds she comprehended that
if Nan was Old Swallowtail's daughter, home on a vacation, she must not
be allowed to know that Josie was conducting a case against her father.
Otherwise she might interfere and spoil everything. She knew Nan of old
and respected her keen intelligence. Once, when they had been pitted
against each other, Josie had won; but she was not sure she could
defeat Nan a second time. Therefore it was imperative that old Cragg's
daughter remain in ignorance of the fact that Josie was awaiting
reinforcements from Washington in order to arrest Nan's father as a
counterfeiter. Also Josie realized instantly that Ingua was likely to
tell her mother all she knew about Joselyn, including the story she had
told Josie; so, without hesitation she answered Nan's question with
apparent frankness:

"Really, Nan, I came here on a wild-goose chase. A man named Ned
Joselyn had mysteriously disappeared and his wife feared he had met
with foul play. I traced him to this place and as Colonel Hathaway and
Mary Louise were living here--in Mrs. Joselyn's own house, by the way--
I had myself invited as their guest. Well, the long and short of it is
that Joselyn isn't murdered, after all. He simply skipped, and since I
came here to worry my poor brain over the fellow he has been
discovered, still in hiding but very much alive."

"You suspected my father of killing him?"

"I did; and so did others; but it seems he didn't. But, even with that
precious bubble burst, Mary Louise insists on my staying for a visit;
so here I am, and your little girl has become my friend."

Ingua knew this story to be quite correct, as far as it regarded her
grandfather and Ned Joselyn. Its straightforward relation renewed her
confidence in Josie. But Nan knew more than Josie thought she did,
having intercepted the girl's telegram to her father; so she said with
a slight sneer which she took no pains to conceal:

"You're a clever girl, Josie O'Gorman; a mighty clever girl. You're so
clever that I wouldn't be surprised if it tripped you, some day, and
landed you on your pug nose."

Which proved that Nan was _not_ clever, for Josie's indulgent smile
masked the thought: "She knows all and is here to defend her father. I
must look out for Nan, for she has a notion I'm still on the track of
Hezekiah Cragg."



CHAPTER XXIII
PECULIAR PEOPLE

Old Swallowtail came home at about four o'clock in the afternoon. The
day was hot, yet the old man seemed neither heated nor wearied. Without
a word to his daughter or Ingua he drew a chair to the little shady
porch and sat down in their company. Nan was mending her child's old
frock; Ingua sat thinking.

For half an hour, perhaps, silence was maintained by all. Then Nan
turned and asked:

"Have you covered your tracks?"

He turned his glassy, expressionless eyes toward her.

"My tracks, as you call them," said he, "have been laid for forty years
or more. They are now ruts. I cannot obliterate them in a day."

The woman studied his face thoughtfully.

"You are not worrying over your probable arrest?"

"No."

"Then it's all right," said she, relieved. "You're a foxy old rascal,
Dad, and you've held your own for a good many years. I guess you don't
need more than a word of warning."

He made no reply, his eyes wandering along the path to the bridge. Mary
Louise was coming their way, walking briskly. Her steps slowed a bit as
she drew nearer, but she said in an eager voice:

"Oh, Mrs. Scammel, Josie has told me you are here and who you are.
Isn't it queer how lives get tangled up? But I remember you with
gratitude and kindliest thoughts, because you were so considerate of my
dear Gran'pa Jim. And to think that you are really Ingua's mother!"

Nan rose and took the girl's hands in her own.

"I fear I've been a bad mother to my kid," she replied, "but I thought
she was all right with her grandfather and happy here. I shall look
after her better in the future."

Mary Louise bowed to Mr. Cragg, who nodded his head in acknowledgment.
Then she sat down beside Ingua.

"Are you plannin' to take me away from here, Mama?" asked the child.

"Wouldn't you rather be with me than with your grandfather?" returned
Nan with a smile.

"I dunno," said Ingua seriously. "You're a detective, an' I don't like
detections. You ain't much like a mother to me, neither, ner I don't
know much about you. I dunno yet whether I'm goin' to like you or not."

A wave of color swept over Nan's face; Mary Louise was shocked; the old
man turned his inscrutable gaze down the path once more.

"I like it here," continued the child, musingly: "Gran'dad makes me
work, but he don't bother me none 'cept when the devils get, hold o'
him. I 'member that you git the devils, too, once in awhile, Marm, an'
they're about as fierce as Gran'dad's is. An' I gets 'em 'cause I'm a
Cragg like the rest o' you, an' devils seem to be in the Cragg blood.
I've a notion it's easier to stand the devils in the country here, than
in the city where you live."

Nan didn't know whether to be amused or angry.

"Yet you tried to run away once," she reminded Ingua, "and it was Mary
Louise who stopped you. You told me of this only an hour ago.

"Didn't I say the devils pick on _me_ sometimes?" demanded the girl.
"An' Mary Louise was right. She fought the devils for me, and I'm glad
she did, 'cause I've had a good time with her ever since," and she
pressed Mary Louise's hand gratefully.

Her child's frankness was indeed humiliating to Nan Scammel, who was by
no means a bad woman at heart and longed to win the love and respect of
her little girl. Ingua's frank speech had also disturbed Mary Louise,
and made her sorry for both the child and her mother. Old Swallowtail's
eyes lingered a moment on Ingua's ingenuous countenance but he
exhibited no emotion whatever.

"You're a simple little innocent," remarked Nan to Ingua, after a
strained pause. "You know so little of the world that your judgment is
wholly unformed. I've a notion to take you to Washington and buy you a
nice outfit of clothes--like those of Mary Louise, you know--and put
you into a first-class girls' boarding-school. Then you'll get
civilized, and perhaps amount to something."

"I'd like that," said Ingua, with a first display of enthusiasm; "but
who'd look after Gran'dad?"

"Why, we must provide for Dad in some way, of course," admitted Nan
after another pause. "I can afford to hire a woman to keep house for
him, if I hold my present job. I suppose he has a hoard of money hidden
somewhere, but that's no reason he wouldn't neglect himself and starve
if left alone. And, if he's really poor, I'm the one to help him. How
does that arrangement strike you, Ingua?"

"It sounds fine," replied the girl, "but any woman that'd come _here_
to work, an' would stan' Gran'dad's devils, wouldn't amount to much,
nohow. If we're goin' to move to the city," she added with a sigh,
"let's take Gran'dad with us."

This conversation was becoming too personal for Mary Louise to endure
longer. They talked of Mr. Cragg just as if he were not present,
ignoring him as he ignored them. With an embarrassed air Mary Louise
rose.

"I must go now," said she. "I just ran over to welcome you, Mrs.
Scammel, and to ask you and Ingua to dine with us to-morrow night. Will
you come? Josie O'Gorman is with us, you know, and I believe you are
old friends."

Nan hesitated a moment.

"Thank you," she replied, "we'll be glad to come. You've been mighty
good to my little girl and I am grateful. Please give my regards to
Colonel Hathaway."

When Mary Louise had gone the three lapsed into silence again. Ingua
was considering, in her childish but practical way, the proposed
changes in her life. The mother was trying to conquer her annoyance at
the child's lack of filial affection, tacitly admitting that the blame
was not Ingua's. The old man stared at the path. Whatever his thoughts
might be he displayed no hint of their nature.

Presently there appeared at the head of the path, by the bridge, the
form of a stranger, a little man who came on with nervous, mincing
steps. He was dressed in dandified fashion, with tall silk hat, a
gold-headed cane and yellow kid gloves. Almost had he reached the
porch when suddenly he stopped short, looked around in surprise and
ejaculated:

"Bless me--bless me! I--I've made a mistake. This is a private path to
your house. No thoroughfare. Dear me, what an error; an unpardonable
error. I hope you will excuse me--I--I hope so!"

"To be sure we will," replied Nan with a laugh, curiously eyeing the
dapper little man. "The only way out, sir, is back by the bridge."

"Thank you. Thank you very much," he said earnestly. "I--I am indulging
in a stroll and--and my mind wandered, as did my feet. I--I am an
invalid in search of rest. Thank you. Good afternoon."

He turned around and with the same mincing, regular steps retreated
along the path. At the bridge he halted as if undecided, but finally
continued along the country road past the Kenton Place.

Ingua laughed delightedly at the queer man. Nan smiled. Old Swallowtail
had altered neither his position nor his blank expression.

"He's a queer fish, ain't he?" remarked the girl. "He's pretty lively
for an invalid what's lookin' for rest. I wonder when he landed, an'
where he's stoppin'."

Something in the child's remark made Nan thoughtful. Presently she laid
down her work and said:

"I believe I'll take a little walk, myself, before dark. Want to go
along, Ingua?"

Ingua was ready. She had on her new dress and hoped they might meet
someone whom she knew. They wandered toward the town, where most of the
inhabitants were sitting outf of doors--a Sunday afternoon custom. Jim
Bennett, in his shirtsleeves, was reading a newspaper in front of the
postoffice; Sol Jerrems and his entire family occupied the platform
before the store, which was of course locked; Nance Milliker was
playing the organ in the brown house around the corner, and in front of
the hotel sat Mary Ann Hopper in her rocking-chair.

Nan strolled the length of the street, startling those natives who had
formerly known her, Ingua nodded and smiled at everyone. Mary Ann
Hopper called, as they passed her: "Hullo, Ingua. Where'd ye git the
new duds?"

"Miss Huckins made 'em," answered Ingua proudly.

"I guess I'll go and shake hands with Mrs. Hopper," said Nan. "Don't
you remember me, Mary Ann? I'm Nan Cragg."

"Gee! so y'are," exclaimed Mary Ann wonderingly. "We all 'spicioned you
was dead, long ago."

"I'm home for a visit. You folks seem prosperous. How's business?"

"Pretty good. We got a new boarder to-day, a feller with bum nerves who
come from the city. Gee! but he's togged out t' kill. Got money, too,
an' ain't afraid to spend it. He paid Dad in advance."

"That's nice," said Nan. "What's his name?"

"It's a funny name, but I can't remember it. Ye kin see it on the
register."

Nan went inside, leaving Ingua with Mary Ann, and studied the name on
the register long and closely.

"No," she finally decided, "Lysander isn't calculated to arouse
suspicion. He wears a wig, I know, but that is doubtless due to vanity
and not a disguise. I at first imagined it was someone O'Gorman had
sent down here to help Josie, but none of our boys would undertake such
a spectacular personation, bound to attract attention. This fellow will
become the laughing-stock of the whole town and every move he makes
will be observed. I'm quite sure there is nothing dangerous in the
appearance here of Mr. Lysander Antonius Sinclair."

She chatted a few minutes with Mrs. Hopper, whom she found in the
kitchen, and then she rejoined Ingua and started homeward. Scarcely
were mother and child out of sight when Mr. Sinclair came mincing along
from an opposite direction and entered the hotel. He went to his room
but soon came down and in a querulous voice demanded his omelet,
thanking the landlady again and again for promising it in ten minutes.

He amused them all very much, stating that an omelet for an evening
meal was "an effective corrective of tired nerves" and would enable him
to sleep soundly all night.

"I sleep a great deal," he announced after he had finished his supper
and joined Mr. Hopper on the porch. "When I have smoked a cigar--in
which luxury I hope you will join me, sir--I shall retire to my couch
and rest in the arms of Morpheus until the brilliant sun of another day
floods the countryside."

"P'r'aps it'll rain," suggested the landlord.

"Then Nature's tears will render us sweetly sympathetic."

He offered his cigar case to Mr. Hopper, who recognized a high priced
cigar and helped himself.

"Didn't see anything to make ye nervous, durin' yer walk, did ye?" he
inquired, lighting the weed.

"Very little. It seems a nice, quiet place. Only once was I annoyed. I
stumbled into a private path, just before I reached the river, and--and
had to apologize."

"Must 'a' struck Ol' Swallertail's place," remarked the landlord.

"Old Swallowtail? Old Swallowtail? And who is he?" queried the
stranger.

Hopper was a born gossip, and if there was any one person he loved to
talk of and criticize and "pick to pieces" it was Old Swallowtail. So
he rambled on for a half hour, relating the Cragg history in all its
details, including the story of Ingua and Ingua's mother, Nan Cragg,
who had married some unknown chap named Scammel, who did not long
survive the ceremony.

Mr. Sinclair listened quietly, seeming to enjoy his cigar more than he
did the Cragg gossip. He asked no questions, letting the landlord
ramble on as he would, and finally, when Hopper had exhausted his fund
of fact and fiction, which were about evenly mixed, his guest bade him
good night and retired to his private room.

"It ain't eight o'clock, yet," said the landlord to his wife, "but a
feller with nerves is best asleep. An' when he's asleep he won't waste
our kerosene."

No, Mr. Sinclair didn't waste the Hopper kerosene. He had a little
pocket arrangement which supplied him with light when, an hour before
midnight, he silently rose, dressed himself and prepared to leave the
hotel. He was not attired in what Mary Ann called his "glad rags" now,
but in a dark gray suit of homespun that was nearly the color of the
night. The blond wig was carefully locked in a suit case, a small black
cap was drawn over his eyes, and thus--completely transformed--Mr.
Hopper's guest had no difficulty in gaining the street without a
particle of noise betraying him to the family of his host.

He went to the postoffice, pried open a window, unlocked the mail bag
that was ready for Jim Bennett to carry to the morning train at
Chargrove and from it abstracted a number of letters which he unsealed
and read with great care. They had all been written and posted by
Hezekiah Cragg. The man spent a couple of hours here, resealing the
envelopes neatly and restoring them to the mail bag, after which, he
attached the padlock and replaced the bag in exactly its former
position. When he had left the little front room which was devoted by
the Bennetts to the mail service, the only evidence of his visit was a
bruised depression beside the window-sash which was quite likely to
escape detection.

After this the stranger crept through the town and set off at a brisk
pace toward the west, taking the road over the bridge and following it
to the connecting branch and thence to the lane. A half hour later he
was standing in old Cragg's stone lot and another hour was consumed
among the huge stones by the hillside--the place where Josie had
discovered the entrance to the underground cave. Mr. Sinclair did not
discover the entrance, however, so finally he returned to town and
mounted the stairs beside Sol Jerrem's store building to the upper
hallway.

In five minutes he was inside of Cragg's outer office; in another five
minutes he had entered the inner office. There he remained until the
unmistakable herald of dawn warned him to be going. However, when he
left the building there was no visible evidence of his visit. He was in
his own room and in bed long before Mrs. Hopper gave a final snore and
wakened to light the kitchen fire and prepare for the duties of the
day.



CHAPTER XXIV
FACING DANGER

Nan's presence at Cragg's Crossing rendered Josie O'Gorman uneasy. She
had the Cragg case so well in hand, now, and the evidence in her
possession was so positively incriminating, in her judgment, that she
did not like to be balked by a clever female detective from her
father's own office. She had little doubt but Nan would do all in her
power to save old Hezekiah Cragg from the penalty of his misdeeds, and
her greatest fear was that he might utterly disappear before O'Gorman
sent her assistance.

With this fear growing in her mind, on Monday she determined to send
another telegram to her father, urging haste, so she obtained
permission from the Colonel to have Uncle Eben drive her and Mary
Louise to the city, there being no telegraph office at Chargrove
Station. But she timed the trip when no trains would stop at Chargrove
during her absence and at the telegraph office she sent an imperative
message to John O'Gorman at Washington demanding instant help. Since
all counterfeiting cases belonged distinctly to the Secret Service
Department she had little doubt her father would respond as soon as the
affairs at the office would permit him to do so. But the delay was
exasperating, nevertheless. Indeed, Josie was so sure that the crisis
of her case was imminent that she determined to watch old Cragg's house
every night until his arrest could be made. If he attempted to escape
she would arrest him herself, with the aid of the little revolver she
carried in her dress pocket.

On their return journey they overtook Mr. Sinclair at about a mile from
the Crossing. They had never seen the man before, but when he signaled
them. Uncle Eben slowed up the machine and stopped beside him.

"I beg a thousand pardons," said the dapper little stranger, removing
his silk hat and bowing profoundly to the two girls, "but would you
mind taking me to the town? I--I--fear I have turned my ankle; not
seriously, you know, but it is uncomfortable; so if I may sit beside
your chauffeur the favor will be greatly appreciated."

"To be sure," said Mary Louise with ready. "Can you get in unaided, or
do you wish Uncle Eben to assist you?"

"Thank you; thank you a thousand times, young lady," said he, climbing
into the front seat. "I'm stopping at the hotel," he explained, as the
car again started, "for rest and quiet, because of my nervous
condition. My doctor said I would suffer a nervous breakdown if I did
not seek rest and quiet in the seclusion of some country village. So I
came here, and--it's secluded; it really is."

"I hope your ankle is not seriously injured, sir," said Mary Louise.
"Take the gentleman to the hotel, Uncle Eben."

"Thank you," said the little man, and fussily removing a card-case from
an inner pocket he added: "My card, please," and handed it to Mary
Louise.

Josie glanced at the card, too. She had been regarding the stranger
thoughtfully, with the same suspicions of him that Nan had formerly
entertained. The card was not printed; it was engraved: one point in
the man's favor. His blond hair was a wig; she had a good view of the
back of it and was not to be deceived. But perhaps the moustache, which
matched the hair, was genuine. Carefully considering the matter, she
did not think anyone would come to Cragg's Crossing in disguise unless
he were a confederate of Hezekiah Cragg, helping to circulate the
counterfeit money. This odd Mr. Sinclair might be such a person and
working under the direction of Ned Joselyn. Joselyn was in hiding, for
some unexplained reason; Sinclair could appear openly. There might be
nothing in this supposition but Josie determined to keep an eye on the
nervous stranger.

He was profuse in his thanks when they let him out at Hopper's Hotel
and Uncle Eben chuckled all the way home.

"Dat man am shuah some mighty 'stravagant punkins, in he's own mind,"
he remarked. "He oughteh git he's pictur' took in dat outfit, Ma'y
Weeze, jes' to show how 'dic'lous a white man can look. He'll have all
de kids in town a-chasin' of him, if he gits loose on de streets. All
he needs is a brass ban' to be a circus parade."

Nan and Ingua came over to dinner that evening and Josie was very
cordial to Ingua's mother, who treated her chief's daughter with the
utmost friendliness. Both Ingua and Mary Louise were surprised by their
politeness and comradeship, but neither of the principals was deceived
by such a display. Each was on her guard, but realized it was wise to
appear friendly.

Monday night Josie lurked in the shadows of the river bank until
daybreak, never relaxing her espionage of the Cragg house for a moment.
All was quiet, however.

Tuesday passed without event. Tuesday night Josie was at her post
again, her eyes fixed on the dim light that shone from Mr. Cragg's
room. Had she been able to see through the walls of the cottage she
would have found the old man seated in his private apartment opposite
his daughter. Could she have heard their conversation--the low,
continuous hum of Old Swallowtail's voice, broken only by an occasional
question from Nan--she would surely have been astonished. Nan was not
much astonished, save at the fact that her father had at last
voluntarily confided to her the strange story of his life, a life
hitherto unknown to her. She was not easily surprised, but she was
greatly impressed, and when he finally rose from his chair and went out
into the night Nan sat in meditation for some time before she followed
him. Ingua had long been asleep.

Josie, lurking outside, had not expected Old Swallowtail to leave the
premises unless he planned to run away. His delivery of counterfeit
money to Ned Joselyn had been of too recent a date to render it
necessary that he revisit his stone-yard for some time to come, she
argued; yet to-night, at a little after eleven o'clock, she saw his
shadow pass from the house and take the path to the bridge.

Josie followed. At the bridge Mr. Cragg turned westward and at once she
surmised he was bound for his rocky five acres. The old man walked
deliberately, never thinking to look behind him. He might not have
observed anything suspicious had he turned, but a hundred feet behind
him came Josie O'Gorman, deftly dodging from tree to bush to keep in
the dark places by the wayside. And behind Josie silently moved a
little man in gray homespun, whose form it would be difficult to
distinguish even while he stood in the open. Josie, like the prey she
stalked, was too occupied to look behind.

Old Swallowtail reached the stone-yard and climbed the fence. While he
paused there Josie crept close and noticed a light which suddenly
flashed from the hillside. It was a momentary flash and not very
brilliant, but she knew it was a signal because the old man at once
started forward. She let him lead on until he disappeared among the
rocks and then she boldly followed. She knew now where the secret
entrance to the cavern was located.

Threading her way cautiously through the maze of rocks the girl finally
reached a slanting shelf beneath which she crept on hands and knees. At
its farthest edge was a square door of solid oak, rather crudely
constructed but thick and substantial. This door stood ajar.

Josie, crouching beside the secret entrance, wondered what she ought to
do. The regular thumping, as of machinery, which she had heard once
before, now began and continued without interruption. Here was an
opportunity to catch the counterfeiters redhanded, but she was one
small girl as opposed to a gang of desperate criminals.

"Oh, dear!" she whispered, half aloud, "I wish father had paid some
attention to my telegram."

"He did," responded a soft voice beside her.



CHAPTER XXV
FATHER AND DAUGHTER

The girl would have screamed had not a hand been swiftly laid across
her lips to stifle the sound. She tried to rise, but the shelf of rock
beneath which she crouched prevented her. However, she struggled until
an arm was passed firmly around her waist and a stern voice said
warningly:

"Josie! Control yourself."

Instantly her form relaxed and became inert. She breathed hard and her
heart still raced, but she was no longer afraid.

"Kiss me, Daddy!" she whispered, and the man obeyed with a chuckle of
delight.

There was silence for a time, while she collected herself. Then she
asked in a businesslike tone:

"When did you get here?"

"Sunday," said he.

"Good gracious! You must have caught the first train after getting my
wire."

"I did. A certain gang of unknown counterfeiters has been puzzling me a
good deal lately, and I fancied you had located the rascals."

"I have," said Josie exultantly.

"Where?" he asked.

"The rascals are down below us this very minute, Daddy. They are at our
mercy."

"Old Cragg and Jim Bennett?"

"Yes; and perhaps others."

"M-m-m," mumbled O'Gorman, "you've a lot to learn yet, Josie. You're
quick; you're persevering; you're courageous. But you lack judgment."

"Do you mean that you doubt my evidence?" she asked indignantly.

"I do."

"I've the counterfeit bill here in my pocket, which Cragg tried to pass
on the storekeeper," she said.

"Let me see it."

Josie searched and found the bill. O'Gorman flashed a circle of light
on it and studied it attentively.

"Here," he said, passing it back to her. "Don't lose it, Josie. It's
worth ten dollars."

"Isn't it counterfeit?" she asked, trying to swallow a big lump that
rose in her throat.

"It is one of the recent issues, good as gold."

She sat silent, rigid with disappointment. Never had she been as
miserable as at this moment. She felt like crying, and a sob really did
become audible in spite of her effort to suppress it. Again O'Gorman
passed his arm affectionately around her waist and held her close while
she tried to think what it all meant.

"Was that bill your only basis of suspicion, dear?" he presently
inquired.

"No, indeed. Do you hear that noise? What are they doing down there?"

"I imagine they are running a printing press," he replied.

"Exactly!" she said triumphantly. "And why do these men operate a
printing press in a secret cavern, unless they are printing counterfeit
money?"

"Ah, there you have allowed your imagination to jump," returned her
father. "Haven't I warned you against the danger of imagination? It
leads to theory, and theory leads--nine times in ten--to failure."

"Circumstantial evidence is often valuable," declared Josie.

"It often convicts," he admitted, "but I am never sure of its justice.
Whenever facts are obtainable, I prefer facts."

"Can you explain," she said somewhat coldly, for she felt she was
suffering a professional rebuke, "what those men below us are printing,
if not counterfeit money?"

"I can," said he.

"And you have been down there, investigating?"

"Not yet," he answered coolly.

"Then _you_ must be theorizing, Daddy."

"Not at all. If you know you have two marbles in one pocket and two
more in another pocket, you may be positive there are four altogether,
whether you bother to count them individually or not."

She pondered this, trying to understand what he meant.

"You don't know old Cragg as well as I do," she asserted.

"Let us argue that point," he said quickly. "What do you know about
him?"

"I know him to be an eccentric old man, educated and shrewd, with a
cruel and murderous temper; I know that he has secluded himself in this
half-forgotten town for many years, engaged in some secret occupation
which he fears to have discovered. I am sure that he is capable of any
crime and therefore--even if that bill is good--I am none the less
positive that counterfeiting is his business. No other supposition fits
the facts in the case."

"Is that all you know about old Cragg?" asked O'Gorman.

"Isn't it enough to warrant his arrest?" she retorted.

"Not quite. You've forgotten to mention one thing among his
characteristics, Josie."

"What is that?"

"Cragg is an Irishman--just as I am."

"What has that to do with it?"

"Only this: his sympathies have always been interested in behalf of his
downtrodden countrymen. I won't admit that they _are_ downtrodden,
Josie, even to you; but Cragg thinks they are. His father was an
emigrant and Hezekiah was himself born in Dublin and came to this
country while an infant. He imagines he is Irish yet. Perhaps he is."

There was a note of bewilderment in the girl's voice as she asked:

"What has his sympathy for the Irish to do with this case?"

"Hezekiah Cragg," explained O'Gorman, speaking slowly, "is at the head
of an organization known as the 'Champions of Irish Liberty.' For many
years this C. I. L. fraternity has been growing in numbers and power,
fed by money largely supplied by Cragg himself. I have proof, indeed,
that he has devoted his entire fortune to this cause, as well as all
returns from his business enterprises. He lives in comparative poverty
that the Champions of Irish Liberty may finally perfect their plans to
free Ireland and allow the Irish to establish a self-governing
republic."

"But--why all this secrecy, Daddy?" she asked wonderingly.

"His work here is a violation of neutrality; it is contrary to the
treaty between our country and England. According to our laws Hezekiah
Cragg and his followers, in seeking to deprive England of her Irish
possession, are guilty of treason."

"Could he be prosecuted for sympathizing with his own race?"

"No; for sending them arms and ammunition to fight with, yes. And that
is what they have been doing."

"Then you can arrest him for this act?"

"I can," said O'Gorman, "but I'll be hanged if I will, Josie. Cragg is
an idealist; the cause to which he has devoted his life and fortune
with a steadfast loyalty that is worthy of respect, is doomed to
failure. The man's every thought is concentrated on his futile scheme
and to oppose him at this juncture would drive him mad. He isn't doing
any real harm to our country and even England won't suffer much through
his conspiracy. But, allowing for the folly of his attempt to make his
people free and independent, we must admire his lofty philanthropy, his
self-sacrifice, his dogged perseverence in promoting the cause so near
and dear to his heart. Let some other federal officer arrest him, if he
dares; it's no work for an O'Gorman."

Josie had encountered many surprises during her brief career as an
embryo detective, but this revelation was the crowning astonishment of
her life. All her carefully prepared theories concerning Hezekiah Cragg
had been shattered by her father's terse disclosure and instead of
hating Old Swallowtail she suddenly found sympathy for his ideals
welling in her heart. Josie O 'Gorman was Irish, too.

She pondered deeply the skilled detective's assertions and tried to fit
them to her knowledge of old Cragg's character. The story seemed to
account for much, but not all. After a time she said:

"But this mysterious business of his, which causes him to write so many
letters and to receive so many answers to them--what connection can it
have with the Champions of Irish Liberty?"

"Very little," said her father, "except that it enables Cragg to earn
more money to feed into the ever-hungry maw of the Cause. Cragg's
'business' is one of the most unique things of the sort that I have
ever encountered. And, while it is quite legitimate, he is obliged to
keep it secret so as not to involve his many customers in adverse
criticism."

"What on earth can it be?"

"It pertains to heaven, not earth, my dear," said O'Gorman dryly.
"Cragg was educated for the ministry or the priesthood--I can't
discover whether he was Catholic or Protestant--but it seems he wasn't
fitted for the church. Perhaps he already had in mind the idea of
devoting his life to the land that gave him birth. Anyhow, he was a
well versed theologian, and exceptionally brilliant in theses, so when
his money gave out he began writing sermons for others to preach, doing
a mail-order business and selling his products to those preachers who
are too busy or too lazy to write their own sermons. He has a sort of
syndicate established and his books, which I have examined with
admiration and wonder, prove he supplies sermons to preachers of all
denominations throughout the United States. This involves a lot of
correspondence. Every week he writes a new sermon, prints a large
number of copies and sends one to each of his clients. Of course he
furnishes but one man in a town or city with his products, but there
are a good many towns and cities to supply."

"Is he printing sermons now?" asked Josie.

"Perhaps so; or it may be he is printing some circular to be
distributed to the members of the C. I. L. Jim Bennett, the husband of
the postmistress here, was once a practical printer, and he is a
staunch member of the Irish fraternity. Cragg has known of this
underground cavern for years, and at one time it was a regular
meeting-place for his order of Champions. So he bought a printing
press and, to avoid the prying eyes of his neighbors, established it
here. That is the whole story of Cragg's 'crime,' Josie, and it is
very simple when once fully explained."

"Do you mean to say you've discovered all this in the two days since
you've been here?" asked the girl, in amazement.

"Every bit of it. I came prepared to arrest a gang of counterfeiters,
and stumbled on this very interesting but quite harmless plot."

"Where have you been hiding since Sunday?" she inquired.

"Why, I didn't hide at all," he asserted. "Don't you remember giving me
a ride yesterday in the Hathaway automobile?"

Josie sat silent. She was glad it was so dark under that shelf of rock,
for she would rather her father did not read her humiliation and
self-reproach.

"Daddy," she said, with a despairing accent, "I'm going to study to be
a cook or a stenographer. I'll never make a decent detective--like Nan,
for instance."

O'Gorman laughed.

"Poor Nan!" he exclaimed. "She's been more befuddled than you over this
mysterious case. And Cragg is her own father, too. Come, Josie, it's
getting late; let's go home."



CHAPTER XXVI
THE PLOT

When they were over the stones and in the lane again, walking arm in
arm toward the village, Josie's logical mind turned from her own
failure to a consideration of the story her father had just told her.

"I can't understand," she remarked, "how Joselyn came into this affair,
what happened to him, or why he is once more the secret associate of
old Cragg."

"Joselyn," said the old detective, "is a clever grafter--in other
words, an unmitigated scoundrel. Now do you understand?"

"Not quite," confessed Josie.

"He's Irish."

"Isn't his name Scotch?"

"Yes, but Joselyn isn't his name. If you're inclined to pick up his
record and follow it through, you'll probably find him pursuing his
various adventures under many aliases. He doesn't belong in this
country, you know, has only been here a few years, so his adventures
would probably cover two continents. The fellow always manages to keep
just within our laws, although sometimes he gets dangerously near the
edge. The world is full of men like Joselyn. They don't interest me."

"Then he belongs to the band of Champions?" asked Josie.

"Yes. In going over Cragg's books and papers in his private office the
other night, I found sufficient references to Ned Joselyn to figure out
his story with a fair degree of accuracy," said O'Gorman. "He was born
in Ireland, got into trouble over there with the authorities, and fled
to America, where he met Annabel Kenton and married her. Getting in
touch with Old Swallowtail, he joined the Champions and attended to the
outside business for Mr. Cragg, purchasing supplies and forwarding
them, with money, to the patriots in Ireland. I suppose he made a fair
rake-off in all these dealings, but that did not satisfy him. He
induced Cragg to invest in some wild-cat schemes, promising him
tremendous earnings which could be applied to the Cause. Whether he
really invested the money turned over to him, or kept it for himself,
is a subject for doubt, but it seems that the old man soon suspected
him of double-dealing and they had so many quarrels that Cragg finally
threatened to turn him over to the authorities for extradition. That
was when our precious Ned thought it wise to disappear, but afterward
another peace was patched up, owing largely to the fact that Joselyn
knew so much of the workings of the secret order that it was safer to
have him for a friend than an enemy."

"I'm thinking of his poor wife," said Josie. "Does she know now where
her husband is?"

"I think not. At first, in order to win the confidence of old Cragg,
Ned applied considerable of his wife's money to the Cause, and while
she would probably forgive his defalcations he thinks it wiser to keep
aloof from her. She foolishly trusted him to 'settle' her mother's
estate, and I'm sure he managed to settle most of it on himself. His
value to Cragg lay in his ability to visit the different branches of
the Champions, which are pretty well scattered throughout the United
States, and keep them in touch one with the other. Also he purchased
arms and ammunition to be forwarded secretly to Ireland. So you see it
was quite impossible for the old man to break with him wholly, rascal
though he knows him to be."

"I see," said Josie. "Joselyn has him in his power."

"Entirely so. A hint from him to the authorities would result in an
embargo on any further shipments to the rebels in Ireland and so
completely ruin the usefulness of the order of Champions. The fellow
seems to be a thorn deeply embedded in the side of Old Swallowtail, who
will suffer anything to promote the cause of Irish liberty."

"Ingua thinks her grandfather tried to kill Ned, at one time," remarked
the girl.

"It's a wonder, with his rabid temper, that he didn't do so," said
O'Gorman. "But perhaps he realized that if he was hanged for Joselyn's
murder his beloved Order would be without a head and in sorry straits.
Thousands of Irishmen are feeding the funds of the Champions, aside
from what Cragg himself dumps into the pot. So the old fellow is in a
responsible position and mustn't commit murder, however much he may
long to, because it would jeopardize the fortunes of his associates.
However, the end is not yet, and unless Joselyn acts square in his
future dealings he may yet meet with a tragic fate."

"I wonder what was in that package he took away with him the other
night?" mused Josie. "I was sure, at the time, it was counterfeit
money."

"It probably contained the monthly printed circular to the various
branches of the order. Jim Bennett prints them in that underground
cavern and Ned Joselyn sees they are distributed."

"Well," said Josie with a sigh, "you've pricked my bubble, Daddy, and
made me ashamed. With all my professed scorn of theories, and my
endeavors to avoid them, I walked straight into the theoretic mire and
stuck there."

O'Gorman pressed her arm affectionately.

"Never you mind, my dear," in a consoling tone; "you have learned a
lesson that will be of great value to you in your future work. I dare
not blame you, indeed, for I myself, on the evidence you sent me, came
rushing here on a wild-goose chase. One never knows what is on the
other side of a page till he turns it, and if we detectives didn't have
to turn so many pages, only to find them blank, we'd soon rid the
country of its malefactors. But here we are at the Kenton gateway. Go
to bed, Josie dear, and pleasant dreams to you."

"Will I see you again?" she asked.

"No; I'm off by the early train. But you must stay here and have your
visit out with Mary Louise. It won't hurt you to have a free mind for
awhile."

He kissed her tenderly and she went in.



CHAPTER XXVII
NAN'S TRIUMPH

The night's events were not yet ended. An automobile left the edge of
the stone-yard, followed a lane and turned into the main highway, where
it encountered a woman standing in the middle of the road and waving
her arms. She was distinctly visible in the moonlight.

The man with the monocle slowed the car and came to a sudden stop,
rather than run her down.

"What's the matter?" he demanded impatiently.

"Wait a minute; I want to talk to you."

"Can't stop," he replied in a querulous tone. "I've got fifty miles to
make before daylight. Out of my way, woman."

With a dexterous motion she opened the door and sprang into the seat
beside him.

"Here! Get out of this," he cried.

"Drive on," she said calmly. "It'll save time, since you're in a
hurry."

"Get out!"

"I'm going to ride with you. Why bother to argue?"

He turned nervously in his seat to get a look at her, then shifted the
clutch and slowly started the car. The woman sat quiet. While bumping
over the uneven road at a reckless speed the driver turned at times to
cast stealthy glances at the person beside him. Finally he asked in
exasperation:

"Do you know where I'm going?"

"You haven't told me."

"Do you know who I am?"

"How should I?"

"Oh, very well," with a sigh of relief. "But isn't this rather--er--
irregular?"

"Very."

Again he drove for a time in silence. In the direction they were
following they whirled by a village every three or four miles, but the
country roads were deserted and the nearest city of any size lay a good
fifty miles on.

"I don't know who you are," observed the woman presently, "but I can
hazard a guess. You call yourself Joselyn--Ned Joselyn--but that isn't
your name. It's the name you married Annabel Kenton under, but it
doesn't belong to you."

He gave a roar of anger and started to slow down the car.

"Go ahead!" she said imperatively.

"I won't. You're going to get out of here, and lively, too, or I'll
throw you out."

"Do you feel anything against your side?" she asked coolly.

"Yes," with a sudden start.

"It's the muzzle of a revolver. I think it's about opposite your heart
and my finger is on the trigger. Go ahead!"

He turned the throttle and the car resumed its former speed.

"Who the deuce are you?" he demanded, in a voice that trembled
slightly.

"Like yourself, I have many names," she said. "In Washington they call
me Nan Shelley; at Cragg's Crossing I'm Mrs. Scammel, formerly Nan
Cragg."

"Oh--ho!" with a low whistle of astonishment. "Nan Cragg, eh! So you've
returned from your wanderings, have you?" with a derisive sneer.

"For a time. But in wandering around I've found my place in the world
and I'm now a lady detective, not an especially high-class occupation
but satisfactory as a bread-winner. I find I'm quite talented; I'm said
to be a pretty fair detective."

She could feel him tremble beside her. He moved away from her as far as
he could but the pressure against his side followed his movements.
After a time he asked defiantly:

"Well, being a detective, what's your business with me? I hope you're
not fool enough to think I'm a criminal."

"I don't think it; I know it. You're an unusual sort of a criminal,
too," she replied. "You're mixed up in a somewhat lawless international
plot, but it isn't my present business to bring you to book for that."

"What _is_ your present business?"

"To discover what you've done with my father's money."

He laughed, as if relieved.

"Spent it for the cause of Ireland."

"Part of it, perhaps. But the bulk of the money you've taken from the
Champions of Irish Liberty, most of which came out of my father's own
pocket, and practically all the money he gave you to invest for him,
you have withheld for your own use."

"You're crazy!"

"I know the bank it's deposited in."

Again he growled, like a beast at bay.

"Whatever I have on deposit is to be applied to the Cause," said he.
"It's reserved for future promotion."

"Have you seen to-day's papers?" she inquired.

"No."

"The revolution in Ireland has already broken out."

"Great Scott!" There was sincere anxiety in his voice now.

"It is premature, and will result in the annihilation of all your
plans."

"Perhaps not."

"You know better," said she. "Anyhow, your actions are now blocked
until we see how the rebellion fares. The Irish will have no further
use for American money, I'm positive, so I insist that my father
receive back the funds he has advanced you, and especially his own
money which he gave you to invest and you never invested."

"Bah! If I offered him the money he wouldn't take it.

"Then I'll take it for him," she asserted. "You'll give up that money
because you know I can have you arrested for--well, let us say a breach
of American neutrality. You are not a citizen of the United States. You
were born in Ireland and have never been naturalized here."

"You seem well posted," he sneered.

"I belong to the Government Secret Service, and the Bureau knows
considerable," she replied dryly.

He remained silent for a time, his eyes fixed upon the road ahead. Then
he said:

"The Government didn't send you to get Cragg's money away from me. Nor
did Cragg send you."

"No, my father is afraid of you. He has been forced to trust you even
when he knew you were a treacherous defaulter, because of your threats
to betray the Cause. But you've been playing a dangerous game and I
believe my father would have killed you, long ago, if--"

"Well, if what?"

"If you hadn't been his own nephew."

He turned upon her with sudden fierceness.

"Look out!" she called. "I've not the same objection to killing my
cousin."

"Your cousin!"

"To be sure. You are the son of Peter Cragg, my father's brother, who
returned to Ireland many years ago, when he was a young man. Ned
Joselyn is an assumed name; you are Ned Cragg, condemned by the British
government for high treason. You are known to be in America, but only I
knew where to find you."

"Oh, you knew, did you?"

"Yes; all your various hiding-places are well known to me."

"Confound you!"

"Exactly. You'd like to murder me, Cousin Ned, to stop my mouth, but
I'll not give you the chance. And, really, we ought not to kill one
another, for the Cragg motto is 'a Cragg for a Cragg.' That has
probably influenced my poor father more than anything else in his
dealings with you. He knew you are a Cragg."

"Well, if I'm a Cragg, and you're a Cragg, why don't you let me alone?"

"Because the family motto was first ignored by yourself."

For a long time he drove on without another word. Evidently he was in
deep thought and the constant pressure of the revolver against his side
gave him ample food for reflection. Nan was thinking, too, quietly
exulting, the while. As a matter of fact she had hazarded guess after
guess, during the interview, only to find she had hit the mark. She
knew that Ned Cragg had been condemned by the British government and
was supposed to have escaped to America, but not until now was she sure
of his identity with Ned Joselyn. Her father had told her much, but not
this. Her native shrewdness was alone responsible for the discovery.

"We're almost there, aren't we?" asked Nan at last.

"Where?"

"At the house where you're at present hiding. We've entered the city, I
see, and it's almost daybreak."

"Well?"

"I know the Chief of Police here. Am I to have that, money, Cousin Ned,
or--"

"Of course," he said hastily.



CHAPTER XXVIII
PLANNING THE FUTURE

It was nearly a month later when Mary Louise, walking down to the river
on an afternoon, discovered Ingua sitting on the opposite bank and
listlessly throwing pebbles into the stream. She ran across the
stepping-stones and joined her little friend.

"How is your grandfather this morning?" she asked.

"I guess he's better," said Ingua. "He don't mumble so much about the
Lost Cause or the poor men who died for it in Ireland, but Ma says his
broken heart will never mend. He's awful changed, Mary Louise. To-day,
when I set beside him, he put out his hand an' stroked my hair an'
said: 'poor child--poor child, you've been neglected. After all,' says
he, 'one's duties begin at home.' He hasn't had any fits of the devils
lately, either. Seems like he's all broke up, you know."

"Can he walk yet?" inquired Mary Louise.

"Yes, he's gett'n' stronger ev'ry day. This mornin' he walked to the
bridge an' back, but he was ruther wobbly on his legs. Ma said she
wouldn't have left him, just now, if she wasn't sure he'd pick up."

"Oh. Has your mother gone away, then?"

"Left last night," said Ingua, "for Washington."

"Is her vacation over?"

"It isn't that," replied the child. "Ma isn't going to work any more,
just now. Says she's goin' to take care o' Gran'dad. She went to
Washington because she got a telegram saying that Senator Ingua is
dead."

"Senator Ingua?"

"Yes; he was my godfather, you see. I didn't know it myself till Ma
told me last night. He was an uncle of Will Scammel, my father that
died, but he wasn't very friendly to him an' didn't give him any money
while he lived. Ma named me after the Senator, though, 'cause she knew
which side her bread was buttered on, an' now he's left me ten thousand
dollars in his will."

"Ten thousand!" exclaimed Mary Louise, delightedly, "why, you Craggs
are going to be rich, Ingua. What with all the money your mother got
back from Ned Joselyn and this legacy, you will never suffer poverty
again."

"That's what Ma says," returned the child, simply. "But I dunno whether
I'll like all the changes Ma's planned, or not. When she gets back from
Washington she's goin' to take me an' Gran'dad away somewheres for the
winter, an' I'm to go to a girls' school."

"Oh, that will be nice."

"Will it, Mary Louise? I ain't sure. And while we're gone they're goin'
to tear down the old shack an' build a fine new house in its place, an'
fix up the grounds so's they're just as good as the Kenton Place."

"Then your mother intends to live here always?"

"Yes. She says a Cragg's place is at Cragg's Crossing, and the fambly's
goin' to hold up its head ag'in, an' we're to be some punkins around
here. But--I sorter hate to see the old place go, Mary Louise," turning
a regretful glance at the ancient cottage from over her shoulder.

"I can understand that, dear," said the other girl, thoughtfully; "but
I am sure the change will be for the best. Do you know what has, become
of Ned Joselyn?"

"Yes; he an' Annabel Kenton--that's his wife--have gone away somewheres
together; somewheres out West, Ma says. He didn't squander Ann's money,
it seems; not all of it, anyhow; didn't hev time, I s'pose, he was so
busy robbin' Gran'dad. Ned run away from Ann, that time he disappeared,
'cause English spies was on his tracks an' he didn't want to be took
pris'ner. That was why he kep' in hidin' an' didn't let Ann know where
he was. He was afraid she'd git rattled an' blab."

"Oh; I think I understand. But he will have to keep in hiding always,
won't he?"

"I s'pose so. Ma says that'll suit _her,_ all right. Am I talkin' more
decent than I used to, Mary Louise?"

"You're improving every day, Ingua."

"I'm tryin' to be like you, you know. Ma says I've been a little Arab,
but she means to make a lady of me. I hope she will. And then--"

"Well, Ingua?"

"You'll come to visit me, some time, in our new house; won't you?"

"I sure will, dear," promised Mary Louise.





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