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Title: Polly's Business Venture
Author: Roy, Lillian Elizabeth, 1868-1932
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 "Polly's Business Venture" ***

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POLLY'S BUSINESS VENTURE

by

LILLIAN ELIZABETH ROY

Author of
Polly of Pebbly Pit, Polly and Eleanor,
Polly in New York, Polly and
Her Friends Abroad

Illustrated by H. S. Barbour



[Illustration: THE TWO CARS COLLIDED.
Polly's Business Venture. Frontispiece--(Page 99)]



New York
Grosset & Dunlap
Publishers

Made in the United States of America

Copyright, 1922, by
Grosset & Dunlap



CONTENTS

   CHAPTER                                      PAGE
         I  POLLY RETURNS TO AMERICA               1
        II  A DISAPPOINTING EVENING               18
       III  THE ACCIDENT                          34
        IV  A REUNION AND A VISITOR               47
         V  THE RAID ON CHOKO'S FIND MINE         58
        VI  POLLY AND ELEANOR BEGIN COLLECTING    74
       VII  A REVOLUTIONARY RELIC HUNT            94
      VIII  ANOTHER ATTEMPT AT COLLECTING        109
        IX  POLLY'S HUNT IN 'JERSEY              127
         X  UNEXPECTED NEWS FROM PEBBLY PIT      151
        XI  POLLY'S FIRST CONTRACT               167
       XII  THE PARSIPPANY VENDUE                182
      XIII  TOM MEANS BUSINESS                   199
       XIV  NECESSARY EXPLANATIONS               213
        XV  MUTUAL CONSOLATION                   231
       XVI  BEAUX OR BUSINESS                    250
      XVII  BUSINESS                             269



POLLY'S BUSINESS VENTURE

CHAPTER I

POLLY RETURNS TO AMERICA


Five girls were promenading the deck of one of our great Atlantic liners,
on the last day of the trip. The report had gone out that they might
expect to reach quarantine before five o'clock, but it would be too late
to dock that night, therefore the captain had planned an evening's
entertainment for all on board.

"Miss Brewster! Miss Polly Brewster! Polly Brewster!" came a call from
one of the young boys of the crew who was acting as messenger for the
wireless operator.

"Polly, he is calling you! I wonder what it is?" cried Eleanor Maynard,
Polly's dearest friend.

"Here, boy! I am Polly Brewster," called Polly, waving her hand to call
his attention to herself.

"Miss Polly Brewster?" asked the uniformed attendant politely, lifting
his cap.

"Yes."

He handed her an envelope such as the wireless messages are delivered in,
and bowed to take his leave of the group of girls. Polly gazed at the
outside of the envelope but did not open it. Her friends laughed and
Nancy Fabian, the oldest girl of the five, said teasingly:

"Isn't it delicious to worry one's self over who could have sent us a
welcome, when we _might_ know for certain, if we would but act
prosaically and open the seal."

The girls laughed, and Eleanor remarked, knowingly: "Oh, _Polly_ knows
who it is from! She just wants to enjoy a few extra thrills before she
reads the message."

"Nolla, I do _not_ know, and you know it! You always make 'a mountain
from a mole-hill.' I declare, you are actually growing to be childish in
your old age!" retorted Polly, sarcastically.

Her latter remark drew forth a peal of laughter from the girls, Eleanor
included. But Polly failed to join in the laugh. She cast a withering
glance at Eleanor, and walked aside to open the envelope. The four
interested girls watched her eagerly as she read the short message.

Polly would have given half of her mine on Grizzly Slide, to have
controlled her expression. But the very knowledge that the four friends
were critically eyeing her, made her flush uncomfortably as she folded up
the paper again, and slipped it in her pocket.

"Ha! What did I tell you! It is from HIM!" declared Eleanor, laughingly.

Dorothy Alexander was duly impressed, for she had firmly believed,
hitherto, that Polly was a man-hater. The manner in which she had scorned
Jimmy Osgood on that tour of England would have led anyone to believe
that such was the case. Now the tell-tale blush and Eleanor's innuendo,
caused Dorothy to reconsider her earlier judgment.

Polly curled her full red lip at Eleanor's remark, and was about to speak
of something of general interest, when Dorothy unexpectedly asked a (to
her) pertinent question.

"Polly, has anyone ever proposed to you?"

Eleanor laughed softly to herself, and Polly sent poor Dodo a pitying
glance. "Is that little head of yours entirely void of memory, Dodo?"
said she.

Then, without waiting for a reply, Polly continued: "Did not Jimmy
propose to me, as well as to every one of you girls?"

"Oh, but I didn't mean that sort of an affair," explained Dorothy. "I
mean--were you ever in love with anyone who thought he loved _you_?"

"Oh, isn't this a delightful conversation? I wouldn't have missed it for
anything in the world!" laughed Eleanor.

"Nolla," rebuked Polly, seriously, "your head has been so turned since
all those poor fortune-hunters in Europe flattered you, that I fear you
will never succeed in business with me. I shall have to find someone else
who will prove trustworthy and work."

Polly's threat did not appear to disturb Eleanor very much, for she
laughed merrily and retorted: "Dodo, if I answer your question for Polly,
what will you do for me, some day?"

"Nolla, you mind your own affairs!" exclaimed Polly, flushing again.
"Dodo is such a tactless child that she never stops to consider whether
her questions are too personal, or not. But _you_--well, you know better,
and I forbid you to discuss me any further."

"Come, come, girls! This little joke is really going too far, if Polly
feels hurt about it. Let us drop the subject and talk about the dance the
Captain is going to give us tonight," suggested Nancy.

"I'm going to wear the new gown mother got in Paris," announced Dorothy.
"Ma says we can save duty on it if I wear it before it reaches shore."

The other girls laughed, and Eleanor added: "That's a good plan, Dodo. I
guess I will follow your example. I've got so many dutiable things in my
trunks, that I really ought to economise on something."

"Well, I won't wear one of my new dresses tonight for just that reason.
If I want them badly enough, to bring them all the way from Paris where
we get them so much cheaper than on this side, then I'm willing to pay
Uncle Sam his revenue on them," said Polly, loftily.

"Ho! I don't believe it is duty you are saving, as much as indulging in
perverseness by not donning one of your most fetching gowns," declared
Eleanor.

"Maybe it is," said Polly, smiling tantalizingly at her chum. "Perhaps I
want to keep the freshness of them for someone in New York, eh?"

"Certainly! _He_ will be there to meet you, sure thing!" laughed Eleanor.

At that, Dorothy drew Eleanor aside and, when Polly was not looking,
whispered eagerly: "Do tell me who he is?"

But Eleanor laughingly shook her head and whispered back: "I dare not!
That is Polly's secret!"

But she did not add for Dorothy's edification, that try as she would, she
(Eleanor) had never been able to make Polly confess whether she preferred
one swain to another. As Eleanor considered this a weakness in her own
powers of persuasion, she never allowed anyone to question her that far.

Had anyone of the four girls dreamed of who the sender of the wireless
was, what a buzzing there would have been! Eleanor Maynard would have
been so pleased at the possibility of a romance, that she would have
acted even more tantalizing, in Polly's opinion, than she had been of
late months.

Perhaps you are not as well acquainted with Polly and her friends,
however, as I am, and it would be unkind to continue their experiences
for your entertainment, until after you are duly informed of how Polly
happened to leave her home in Oak Creek and also what had passed during
the Summer in Europe.

Polly Brewster was born and reared on a Rocky Mountain ranch, in
Colorado, and had until her fourteenth year, never been farther from her
home than Oak Creek, which was the railroad station and post office of
the many ranchers of that section.

Eleanor Maynard, the younger daughter of Mr. Maynard who was a prosperous
banker of Chicago, accompanied her sister Barbara and Anne Stewart, the
teacher, when they spent a summer on the ranch. Their thrilling
adventures during the first half of that summer are told in the book
called "Polly of Pebbly Pit," the first volume of this series.

After the discovery of the gold mine on Grizzly Slide, and the subsequent
troubles with the claim-jumpers, Polly and her friends sent for John
Brewster who was engaged to Anne Stewart, and Tom Latimer, John's best
friend, to leave their engineering work on some mines, for the time
being, and hasten to Pebbly Pit to advise about the gold mine, and to
take action to protect the girls. These experiences are told in the
second volume of this series.

Success being assured in the mining plans of the gold vein on Grizzly
Slide, and the valuable lava cliffs located on Pebbly Pit ranch also
finding a market as brilliant gems for use in jewelry, Polly and Eleanor
decided to accompany Anne Stewart to New York, where she was going to
teach in an exclusive school for young ladies.

In the third book, Polly and Eleanor's adventures in New York are told.
Their school experiences; the amateur theatricals at which Polly saved a
girl from the fire, and thus found some splendid friends; and the new
acquaintance, Ruth Ashby, who was the only child of the Ashbys. They also
met Mr. Fabian in a most unusual manner, and through him, they became
interested in Interior Decorating, to study it as a profession. When the
school-year ended, all these friends invited the two girls to join their
party that was planned to tour Europe and visit noted places where
antiques are exhibited.

The following fourth book describes the amusing incidents of the three
girls on board the steamer, after they meet the Alexanders. Mrs.
Alexander, the gorgeously-plumed ranch-woman; Dorothy, always known as
"Dodo," the restive girl of Polly's own age; and little Ebeneezer
Alexander, too meek and self-effacing to deny his spouse anything, but
always providing the funds for her caprices. This present caprice, of
rushing to Europe to find a "title" for Dodo to marry, was the latest and
hardest of all for him to agree to.

Because of Mrs. Alexander's whim, the ludicrous experiences that came
upon the innocent heads of Polly and her friends, in the tour of England
in two motor cars, decided them to escape from that lady, and run away to
Paris. Before they could sigh in relief at their freedom, however, the
Alexanders loomed again on their horizon.

Plan as they would, the badgered tourists found that Mrs. Alexander had
annexed herself permanently to them. They resigned themselves to the
inevitable. But that carried with it more ridiculous affairs, when Mrs.
Alexander plotted for the titles found dangling before her, in various
places on the Continent.

One good result came from this association with the Alexanders: Dodo
found how fascinating the work of collecting really was, and decided to
study decorating as an art. Hence she spurned her mother's ambitions for
her, and announced her plan of remaining in New York with the girls, upon
their return to America, to follow in their line of study.

Mrs. Alexander felt quite satisfied to live in New York for a season, as
she fancied it an easy matter to forge a way into good society there. But
her spouse detested large cities and longed for his mining life once
more, but agreed to it because Dodo was delighted with the opportunity
opened before her, in the profession of decorator.

Polly's party on board the steamer consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Ashby and
Ruth; Mr. and Mrs. Fabian and Nancy; Mr. and Mrs. Alexander and Dodo; and
lastly, Polly Brewster and Eleanor Maynard.

Just a word about the last two girls: Polly knew that Eleanor was fond of
Paul Stewart since she met him a few years before. And Eleanor wondered
if Polly preferred Tom Latimer to any other young man she knew; but Polly
always declared that she was married to her profession and had no time to
spare for beaus. Hence Tom Latimer sighed and hoped that she might change
her mind some day.

Meantime, Tom lost no good opportunity to show how he appreciated Polly
and, whenever possible, he managed to perform the little deeds that mean
so much to a woman--especially if that woman is young and impressionable.
Thus he actually made better headway in his silent campaign for Polly, by
never broaching the subject of love--from which she would have fled
instantly and then barred the doors of her heart.

The wireless received by Polly was from Tom who had been anxiously
awaiting the time when he could communicate with the vessel. The contents
of the message could have been read to all the world without exciting
comment--it was so brotherly. But Polly felt that it was a private
welcome to her and so it was not to be shared with others.

The wireless said that Tom and Polly's dear friends who were in New York,
had been invited on board Mr. Dalken's yacht, to visit the quarantined
steamer that evening. That they would arrive about eight o'clock, having
secured passes from the Inspector at Quarantine.

Although this explanation about Polly and her associates took time for
_us_, it did not interrupt the lively banter between the five girls.
Dorothy was now certain that Polly had a real beau, somewhere, and being
so very candid and talkative herself, she admired the reticence displayed
by Polly in keeping the affairs of her heart to herself.

Dodo whispered back to Eleanor: "Dear me! I hope he is worthy of her. She
ought to have the finest husband in the world."

Eleanor laughed. "Don't worry, Dodo. She will. If he was not meant for
Polly, I'd try and get him for myself--that is how much I admire him."

"Oh my! Won't you tell me something about him, Nolla?" asked Dorothy,
eagerly.

"I really don't dare, Dodo," returned Eleanor, assuming a wise
expression. "Polly would drop me forever, if she thought I confided in
anyone about her love-affairs. Besides, you can find out everything for
yourself, now that you are going to remain with us, this winter. Still, I
would love to know just who that wireless came from." Eleanor added the
latter remark after a moment's deep consideration.

"I'll tell you what we can do," ventured Dorothy, in a whisper. "We have
often visited the wireless room; let's you and I go there again, and
start a friendly chat with the operator. Maybe he will speak of the
message."

Without stopping to think whether this method would be principled or not,
Eleanor eagerly agreed to Dorothy's plan. While Polly and Nancy were
discussing the beautiful hazy picture made by New York's sky-line as seen
from the Harbor at Quarantine, Dorothy and Eleanor hurried to the
wireless room.

The young man had often been entertained by the girls during the trip
from Europe, so this visit was not suspected of having a secret motive
back of it. He chatted pleasantly with his callers and, after a time,
spoke of the very topic they wished to hear about.

"I suppose you girls will all be on the _qui vive_ this evening?"

"Yes, it is awfully nice of the captain, isn't it?" said Eleanor,
referring to the dance and thinking that the operator also meant that
event.

"Oh, I do not think the captain had as much to do with the invitation as
had the Inspector General of the Quarantine. Of course we have a clean
bill for the ship or no one would have been allowed to step on board
tonight; but at the same time your friends must have had a good hard time
to get the invitation from the authorities. Only a New Yorker who
understands the ropes, could have managed the matter so quickly."

Dorothy was about to ask what he was talking about, when Eleanor pinched
her arm for silence. Then the latter spoke: "Oh yes! He is a wonder--we
think!"

Dorothy gasped at Eleanor, and the smiling girl winked secretly at her.
The operator had not seen the pinch nor the wink, but he continued
guilelessly: "Well, from what I've seen of Miss Polly, only a 'wonder'
would cause her to notice him at all!"

He laughed at his own words and Eleanor joined him, even though she
failed to see a joke. Then she said: "Polly could have so _many_
admirers, but she never looks at a man. Perhaps that is why all you males
sigh so broken-heartedly at her heels."

The young man laughed softly to himself. "Maybe! But this 'Tom' seems to
feel assured of a 'look' from her."

Now it was Dorothy's turn to pinch Eleanor, and she did so with great
gusto. Eleanor winced but dared not express herself in any other manner,
just then. She was too keen on the trail of learning what she could, to
signify any sense of having felt that pinch.

"Oh--Tom! He is an old family friend, you know. He was Polly's brother's
college-chum for four years while both boys studied at the University of
Chicago. I am from Chicago, and I knew those boys when they used to come
to my home with my brother, who also attended the engineering classes.
There was a fourth boy--Paul Stewart, who was from Denver. Anne Stewart
was his sister and she married John Brewster, this Spring. So you see, we
are all old friends together. I suppose the whole family crowd will come
out on the yacht, tonight."

Dorothy listened in sheer amazement, as Eleanor spoke with all the
assurance possible. But Dorothy was not aware of Eleanor's lifelong
training in the home of a social leader of Chicago's exclusive set. That
such a home-training made a girl precocious and subtle, was not strange,
and Eleanor had had fourteen years of such a life before she went to
Pebbly Pit and met Polly. Habits so well-engrounded are not easily
broken, or forgotten.

"Then the sender ought to have sent his message to one of the adults of
the party. Even _I_ misjudged the matter, because I thought this 'Tom'
must be a faithful admirer of Miss Polly's to get through to visit the
steamer tonight," explained the operator.

"But he isn't coming alone--didn't you stop to consider that?" asked
Eleanor, eagerly. "Seeing that most of the friends are Polly's personal
ones, the wire was sent to her, you know."

"I see."

"The only thing that hurt me, was that no one sent me a message. Tom is
as dear to me as to Polly, and I wonder he did not wire me."

"Perhaps this Tom thought you would have scores of eager messages the
moment your beaus knew you were near enough to get them," laughed the
young officer.

"Well, they didn't! But I want you to do something for me--will you?"
asked Eleanor, quite unexpectedly.

"I will if I can," agreed the officer.

"Write off a fake message for me and sign some make-believe name to it,
so I can hold my head up with Polly. She will never let me rest if she
thinks she got a line, and I didn't!"

"Oh, that is easy to do. As long as we know it will never come out, and
that I wrote a line to you, it will be a good joke."

"All right!" laughed Eleanor, delightedly. "Now write:----" She stopped
suddenly, then thought for a moment before she said: "Why not copy the
exact words sent to Polly, but sign another name?"

"I'll write one, as much like the original as possible without actually
duplicating that information," chuckled the officer.

Then he took up a slip of paper and wrote: "Miss Eleanor Maynard. We will
join you this evening, on steamer. Yacht will arrive about eight." He
looked up laughingly and asked: "Now what name shall we sign to this?"

"Oh--let me see! Sign 'Paul.' I know he is in New York, now, so I am not
taking chances of making a mistake," laughed Eleanor.

The name "Paul" was added to the message and the paper placed in an
envelope. This was addressed to Eleanor Maynard and her stateroom number
written down upon it. Then it was handed to the gratified girl.

The young man was thanked with unwarranted warmth, and the two girls
hastened away.



CHAPTER II

A DISAPPOINTING EVENING


Eleanor and Dorothy did not join their friends at once, after leaving the
wireless room. Eleanor explained wisely: "We must promenade along the
deck and let them see us reading and talking over the message, you know,
to make them believe we just got it from the boy."

So this little act was carried out, and when the two girls felt sure that
Polly and her companions had noticed them reading the wireless message,
Eleanor whispered: "Now we can stroll over and join them. Leave it to
me."

Just before she joined her friends, Eleanor thrust the paper into her
sweater pocket, and seemed not to remember it. But Nancy spoke of it,
immediately.

"I see you received a _billet-doux_, too. Is there any reason why I
should not say to you exactly what you said to Polly, when she got hers?"
laughed the young lady.

"Oh, not at all! I am not so bashful about my affair," retorted Eleanor,
taking the paper from her pocket and handing it to Nancy. "You may read
it aloud, if you choose."

So Nancy read, and the fact that the words conveyed the same information
as Polly's had done, but the sender had signed himself "Paul," made Polly
feel relieved. Then she said:

"It is evident that someone secured a yacht to carry our friends out to
see us this evening. My message said about the same thing, so now, you
see, it was ridiculous in Eleanor to tease about it being a love-note.
Had she been sensible I would have read it aloud to all, but because of
her silliness, I made up my mind to keep her guessing."

Nancy and Ruth laughed, but Eleanor and Dorothy exchanged glances with
each other. Then Nancy said anxiously: "We ought to start and dress most
fetchingly for tonight, if everyone you know is coming out."

Before anyone could reply to this suggestion, Mr. Fabian was seen
hurrying across the deck to join them. "Girls, our old friend Dalken has
a yacht, I hear, and he has invited everyone we know to come out here
this evening to welcome us home. We are to be ready to return with him,
as he has secured the necessary bill-of-health for us. Now get down to
your rooms quickly and pack."

"Oh--aren't we going to remain to the dance?" asked Eleanor, with
disappointment in her tones.

"You can do as you please about that, but we will go back on the yacht
when she returns to the city."

In the bustle of packing the stateroom trunks, and then dressing for the
evening, the girls forgot about the wireless messages. Then during the
dinner that was like a party affair because of the passengers' exuberant
spirits at being so near home again, Mr. Fabian smiled approvingly at the
five young girls in his charge. They looked so charming in their Paris
gowns, and their youthful forms and faces expressed such joy and pleasure
in living, that he felt gratified to think the old friends would see them
as _he_ did that evening.

Shortly after leaving the dining-salon, the attention of the Fabian party
was drawn to a graceful white yacht that sailed swiftly down the Bay and
soon came alongside the steamer. The spotless looking sailors instantly
lowered the boat and a party of young people got in. The Fabian group
leaned over the rail of the steamer and watched breathlessly as the boat
was rowed across the intervening space and, finally, was made fast to the
steamer.

"Poll, did you recognize your future Fate?" giggled Eleanor, nudging her
companion, knowingly.

"I saw _yours_!" retorted Polly. "And now I comprehend why you can speak
of nothing else than beaus and Fate! You are so obsessed by your own
dreams that you think everyone you know must be dreaming the same stuff!"

Polly turned quickly and hurried to the spot where the visitors were
being greeted by Mr. Fabian, and the other girls, laughing at the
repartee, followed. In the first group to arrive were Tom Latimer and his
younger brother Jim; Kenneth Evans, Jim's chum; Paul Stewart; and John
Brewster with Anne, his bride.

Happy welcomes were exchanged between everyone, but Polly purposely
avoided any extra favor being shown Tom Latimer, although he looked as if
he deserved it more than Jim and his friend Kenneth. Eleanor quite openly
showed her preference for Paul, when they separated from the others for
the evening.

"Where is Mr. Dalken and the others?" asked Polly, gazing around at the
small group that had arrived on board.

"The boat is going back for the second installment," explained Anne,
keeping an arm about Polly's waist. "We-all were too impatient to see you
to accept the suggestion of waiting for the second trip, so the older
ones sent us off first."

To Polly's surprise and joy, the second boat-load brought her father and
mother, Mrs. Stewart, the Latimers, the Evans, and Mr. Dalken, the owner
of the yacht. When the family circle was complete, on board the steamer,
they proved to be a happy party, and many of the passengers wished they
were included in that merry group.

The steamer rolled gently with the swells from the ocean, while the full
moon shone mistily through a fog that veiled its brightness enough to add
romance to the meeting of the various young people on deck. Eleanor and
Paul had been genuinely delighted to see each other again, and neither
cared _who_ knew just how much they liked each other.

Polly watched them for a time, then smiled as they walked away to
discover a cozy retreat behind one of the giant smoke-stacks, where they
could enjoy a tête-à-tête without interruption. When she turned to
hear what her brother John was saying, she found Tom Latimer just at her
elbow.

"Suppose we find a nice sheltered spot where you can tell me all about
your trip abroad?" suggested Tom, his eyes speaking too plainly how
anxious he was to get Polly away from the others.

"Oh, I'd far rather be with the crowd and hear all that is being said,"
said Polly, nervously.

"Very well, then," said Tom, moodily. "I only thought you'd like to hear
all about Grizzly Slide and how it's been cutting up this summer. The
gold mine has had several adventurers trying to jump the claim, too; and
Rainbow Cliffs has had an injunction served on it so that we are tied up
by law, this year."

"So mother wrote to me. But I don't want to hear about troubles and
business tonight. I just want to enjoy myself after coming home to all
the dear folks," said Polly.

Tom was too unsophisticated with girls, although he was so popular with
men, to make allowance for the contrary spirit that often sways a girl
when she wishes to make a good impression; so he sulked and followed at
Polly's heels when she hurried after her friends.

Mr. Dalken turned just now, and saw the girl running as if to get away
from Tom, and he understood, fairly well, just how matters were. So he
endeavored to calm Polly's perturbed spirit and encourage Tom's "faint
heart" at the same time.

"Well, Polly dear," said he, placing an arm about her shoulders, "now
that you have seen many of the wonder-spots of Europe, and know more
about antiques and art than any of us, I suppose you are quite decided
that business is not your forte, eh? The next thing I'll hear from you,
you'll have dropped your ambitions and be sailing down a love-stream to a
snug harbor."

"Indeed not! You ought to know me better than that, Mr. Dalken," declared
Polly, vehemently, causing her companions to laugh. "I am more determined
than ever, since seeing such wonderful things in Europe, to devote my
life to my chosen profession. Why, the marvellous objects I saw in
Europe, used in interior decorating in centuries past, enthuse me anew. I
wonder that anyone can keep from studying this fascinating art where
there is such a broad field of work and interest."

Polly's mother and father listened to their daughter, with adoration
plainly expressed on their faces, and Tom had to grit his teeth to keep
from swearing, because of what he considered their influence over Polly
in this, her foolish infatuation for a business when she ought to be in
love with him.

When Mr. Dalken saw that he had launched a dangerous subject for Polly
and Tom, he had a bright idea. So he acted upon it instantly. He excused
himself from his friends' circle, and sought the Captain. In a short time
thereafter, the passengers heard the band playing dance music, and
immediately, most of the younger set hurried to the Grand Salon.

It was second nature with Polly to dance, and she did so with as much
grace as she rode her father's thoroughbred horses on the ranch; or hiked
the Rockies, over boulders and down-timber like a fawn. Kenneth Evans,
the youngest man in the party from the city, was by far the handsomest
one in the group; and when he guided Polly through the maze of dancers,
they both attracted much attention.

Tom stood and sulked while he watched Polly dance, but he refused to
dance himself, although he was considered a most desirable partner by any
one who had ever danced with him. Eleanor was having such a thoroughly
good time while dancing with Paul, that she forgot about the romances and
lovers' quarrels of others.

The moment Kenneth escorted Polly to a chair and stood fanning her, Tom
pushed a way over to them and said, quite assuredly: "The next dance is
mine, Polly."

"Why, I never told you so, at all!" exclaimed Polly, annoyed at Tom's
tone and manner. "How do you know there will be another one?"

Tom flushed and sent Kenneth an angry glance, although poor Ken was
innocent of any guile in this case.

"If you do not care to dance with me, Polly, say so, and I'll go to the
smoking-room and enjoy the companionship of men who appreciate me,"
retorted Tom, impatiently.

The imp of resistance took instant possession of Polly, and she said:
"Tom, there's where you belong--with men who want to talk about work and
money. You are too old to enjoy youthful follies as I do."

Tom had been dreaming of this meeting with Polly again, for so long, that
now everything seemed shattered for him. He felt so injured at her
mention of his age in comparison with her own, that he said nothing more,
but turned on his heel and marched away without a backward glance. His
very foot-falls spoke of his feelings.

Polly turned to Kenneth and resumed her laughing banter, and he thought
she was glad to rid herself of Tom's company. He felt puzzled, too,
because Tom Latimer, in _his_ estimation, was everything noble and manly.
But Kenneth was inexperienced with girls' subtleties. Had Eleanor been
present she would have understood perfectly how matters were.

After this incident, Polly danced every dance with a gayety of manner
that she did not truly feel. Some of the joy of that party was lacking,
but she would not question the cause of it.

Tom went directly to the smoking-room where he sat down to brood over his
misery. He never filled his pipe, but sat lost in thought until a
friendly voice at his elbow said: "Well, old pard! Anne says you are to
come with me. She has a word to say. She is a wizard, too, so you'd best
obey without question."

Tom looked up and saw John. "Can Anne help me in the planning of the
legal defence of those lava-cliffs at Pebbly Pit?" Tom demanded of his
friend.

John smiled knowingly. "I'll admit you're not smoking, even though you
rushed to a sanctum protected from girls' invasion; and you are not
thinking of lava or injunctions, just now. You're pitying yourself for
what you consider shabby treatment, while all the time Anne can see that
your evening's disappointment is your own fault."

Tom weakened. "For goodness' sake, tell Anne to advise me what to do, if
she knows every cure."

"Come on and have a talk with her. She is just outside, waiting for us,"
coaxed John, placing his arm in that of his friend's, and gently forcing
him out of the room.

When Tom met Anne's sympathetic eyes, he confessed. "Anne, what's the
matter with Polly? She doesn't seem to know I am on earth. Did you watch
her enjoy that dance with a kid like Ken, and then snub _me_ outright
when I asked her to dance the next one with me?"

"I don't know what she did, Tom, but let me give you a bit of sensible
advice about Polly. John thinks I am right in this, too, don't you,
dear?" Wise Anne Brewster turned anxiously to John for his opinion.

"Yes, Tom, Anne is a wonder in such things. You listen to her, old man,"
agreed John.

Tom sighed heavily and signified his willingness to listen to anything
that would end his heartache. Both his companions smiled as if they
deemed this case an everyday matter.

"Tom, you are morbid from over-work at the mines," began Anne. "Remember
this, Polly has been on the go in Europe all summer, seeing first one
interesting thing after another, and not giving a single thought to you,
or anyone, on this side the water. She sneered at anyone who tried to
flatter her, or pretended to make love to her, while in Europe, and only
cared for art during that tour which meant so much to her.

"You ought to be thankful that she took this attitude, and returned home
heart-whole. What would you have done, had she fallen in love with an
attractive young man with a title? But she was too sensible for that. She
returns home with her mind still filled with the wonderful things she saw
abroad, and eager to tell everyone she knows all about her trip.
Naturally, she never gives a thought to a lover, or a future husband. She
is too young for that sort of thing, anyway, and her family would
discourage anyone who suggested such ideas to her. We want her to
continue her studies and find joy and satisfaction in her work, until she
is twenty-one, at least, and then she can consider matrimony.

"You know, Tom, that we all favor you immensely, as a future husband for
Polly, but we certainly would discountenance any advances you might make
right now, to turn Polly's thoughts from sensible work and endeavor, to a
state of discontent caused by the dreams of young love. If you are not
willing to be a good friend to the girl, now, and wait until she is
older, before you show your intentions, then I will certainly do my
utmost to keep Polly out of your way. But if, on the other hand, you
promise to guard your expression and behavior, and only treat Polly as a
good brother might, then we will do everything in our power to protect
Polly from any other admirers and to further your interests as best we
can. Do you understand, now?"

Tom had listened thoughtfully, and when Anne concluded, he said: "If I
thought I had a chance in the end, I would gladly wait a thousand years
for Polly!"

"Well, you won't have to do that," laughed Anne. "In a few years, at the
most, Polly will want to get out of business, and settle down like other
girls--to a slave of a husband and a lovely home of her own that she can
decorate and enjoy to her heart's content."

Tom brightened up visibly at such alluring pictures, and promised to do
exactly as Anne advised him to.

"If Polly pays no attention to you now, remember it is because she is
different from most girls you have known. She was brought up at Pebbly
Pit ranch without any young companions, until _we_ went there that
summer. She had a yearning for the beautiful in art and other things, but
never had the slightest opportunity in the Rocky Mountains, to further
her ideals. The only education she had had in the great and beautiful,
was when she was riding the peaks and could study Nature in her grandest
works.

"Can you blame her, then, because she revels in her studies and has no
other desire, at present, than that of reaching a plane where she can
indulge her talent and ideals? Can't you see that a youthful marriage to
Polly, now seems like a sacrifice of all she considers worth while in
life?"

Tom nodded understandingly as he listened to Anne. And John added: "I
told you Anne had the right idea of this affair! Polly's absolutely safe,
for a few years, from all love-tangles. And when she begins to weary of
hard work and disappointments in business, then is your chance to show
her a different life."

"But, Tom," quickly added Anne, "do not give Polly the opportunity,
again, to suspect you of lover-like intentions. Be a first-class brother
to her, and let _her_ wonder if she has any further interest in you.
Never show your trump card to a girl."

Both men laughed at this sage advice, and John nodded smilingly: "Anne
ought to know, Tom. That was the way she got me."

Anne was about to answer teasingly, when Mr. Dalken came up and said:
"I've been hunting you three everywhere. Hurry and get your wraps, as the
yacht is waiting to return to the City."

The trio then learned that passes had been granted the members in Mr.
Fabian's party, to leave the steamer that night and go back with their
friends, on the yacht. So the cabin baggage had been brought up to the
gang-way, and when Mr. Dalken summoned John and his companions to come
and help the girls get away, the boats were already on their way to the
yacht with the luggage.

Many of their fellow-passengers crowded about the party when they were
ready to go. Good-bys were exchanged and the happy bevy of young folks
left. Then the boat returned for the older members in the party, and soon
the yacht was ready to fly back to her dock, up the River, near 72nd
street. But the thick haze that had made the moon look so romantic,
developed into an impenetrable fog. And anyone who has ever experienced
such a fog hanging over New York Harbor, knows what it is to try to go
through it.

So the vessel had not traveled past the Statue of Liberty, before the
heavy pall of fog suddenly dropped silently over the Bay, and anything
farther than a few feet away from the radius of the electric lights on
the boat, was completely hidden.

The Captain bawled forth orders to the crew and instantly the uniformed
men were running back and forth to carry out the instructions. Before all
impetus to the yacht was closed down, however, the engines had driven her
into the route generally used by the pilots of the boats running to
Staten Island.

Captain Johnson anxiously studied his chart but could not gauge his
position exactly, because of the dense fog and the lack of signals. In a
few minutes more, every fog-horn in the Bay and all the great reflectors
from guiding lights from bell-buoys would be in full operation. But at
the time, there was nothing to tell him that he was in a dangerous zone.



CHAPTER III

THE ACCIDENT


When the party reached the yacht, Mr. Dalken said that chairs had been
placed on the forward deck where they could sit and watch the scenes at
night, as they sailed up to the City. So all but Tom and Polly went
forward and found comfortable seats. Tom had asked Polly to stroll about
with him, and she, feeling guilty of neglecting such an old friend when
on the steamer, consented.

Thus it happened that Tom led her to the side of the craft where they had
climbed the ladder to the deck, as this side was in shadow and farthest
from the group of friends who were seated on the forward deck.

But they had not promenaded up and down many times, before the Captain
gave anxious commands to his crew. Every man jumped to obey, instantly,
while Tom and Polly halted in their walk just at the gap in the rail,
where the adjustable ladder had been lowered to the boat when the
passengers arrived from the steamer. The steps had been hauled in but the
sailor had forgotten to replace the sliding rail. In the dense fog this
neglect had been overlooked.

Immediately following the Captain's shouts, a great hulk loomed up right
beside the yacht, and a fearful blow to the rear end of the pleasure
craft sent her flying diagonally out of her path, across the water. The
collision made her nose dip down dangerously while the stern rose up
clear of the waves.

The group seated forwards slid together, and some were thrown from their
chairs, but managed to catch hold of the ropes and rail to prevent being
thrown overboard.

Polly and Tom, standing, unaware, so near the open gap in the rail, still
arm in arm as they had been walking, were thrown violently side-ways and
there being nothing at hand to hold to, or to prevent their going over
the side, they fell into the dark sea.

Feeling as if the earth had dropped from under her, Polly screamed in
terror before her voice was choked with water. Tom instinctively held on
to her arm, as he had been doing when the impact of a larger vessel came
upon the yacht, and he maintained this grip as they both sank.

Polly had always dreaded water, because it seemed so unfamiliar to her.
After living in the mountains with only narrow roaring streams, or the
glacial lakes found in the Rockies, she had never tried to swim in the
ocean, but preferred swimming in a pool. Consequently, this sudden dive
into the awesome black abyss so frightened her, that she fainted before
she could fight or struggle.

But Tom Latimer was an expert swimmer, having won several medals while at
College for his continued swimming under water. At one time during his
first college days, he had saved the lives of some young folks when their
canoe capsized a long distance from shore. In this supreme test of
ability and presence of mind, with the girl he loved in his arms to save,
Tom was as self-possessed as if on deck with Polly.

In less time than it takes to tell, both victims of the collision sank
until the natural fight between the weight of the water and the force of
the air in their lungs, sent them up again to the surface. In that short
time, Tom used every muscle and physical power to swim far enough _under_
the water to clear away from the boats which might do them more harm than
the water.

Fortunately he found the surface free when he rose for breath, and
finding no resistance from the unconscious form he held, he managed to
change his grip from her arm to a firm hold under the shoulders. In this
position he could manage to keep Polly's head above water, and at the
same time, could swim backwards, by using his feet as propellers.

The only handicap he now had, was his clothing and shoes; these
interfered with his free action in swimming so he managed to kick off his
dancing pumps. The greatest danger he feared, was the sudden coming of
some craft that would compel him to dive again, or might even run them
down, unseen in the dark.

But the very fog that had caused this accident, also befriended them now,
as no wary seaman would recklessly go on his way in such a bewildering
mist, and the majority preferred waiting for a temporary lifting of the
blanket, before continuing their journeys.

Tom felt no concern over the fact that Polly had fainted or had been in
the water for a time, for he knew she was so healthy that no ill would
occur to her from such causes. All he feared now, was his power of
endurance to keep floating until some craft might pick them up, or he
could reach a temporary rest.

Suddenly he felt a sweeping current whirl him about and in another
moment, he was swimming rapidly _with_ instead of _against_ the tide in
the Bay. He realized that in that short time the tide had turned, either
about some point of land, or in the River. He began to tread water while
he tried to lift his head and gaze across the waves. Then a broad shaft
of dazzling light shot across the Bay from a nearby reflector. At the
same time Tom heard the tolling of a bell-buoy, not very far distant.

He changed his course that the outgoing tide would assist him in reaching
this light that might be coming from a ship, or maybe, from an island in
the Bay. As his powerful strokes carried him along, the sound of the
bell-buoy seemed to come so plainly that he felt sure it was not far
away. If he could but hang on to it for a time, in order to gain second
wind!

Suddenly there was a momentary lift of the heavy fog, and he discovered
he was quite near Bedloe's Island. The powerful search light had
reflected from the arc held aloft in the hand of the Goddess of Liberty;
and the light that danced upon the waves all about him came from the
smaller arcs which were placed along the sea-wall of the Island.

The current now carried him helplessly past the pier where the boats from
the Battery land, but just as he tried to lift his head once more and
yell for help, a motor boat was heard chugging through the fog. His cry
was heard by those in the boat, and in a few moments the flash-light in
its prow was blinding Tom because of its proximity.

A chorus of amazed voices now mingled with the noise of the water dashing
against the wall and the ringing of the buoy, and Tom began to feel faint
and dazed. But almost before he knew what was happening, a powerful grip
caught him on his thick hair, and he was dragged partly out of the water.

A commanding voice shouted: "Help grab the girl--we'll take care of the
man!"

Then Tom heard no more, nor indeed, knew more until he indistinctly heard
a far-off call of "Guard! Guard!" Then he opened his eyes to find he was
on the solid earth, once more. Polly was stretched out on the sand. The
Guards tumbled out of the barracks and rushed for the spot where the
officer stood calling.

While a few of the boys lifted and half carried Tom to the general
assembly room, others ran to assist the boatman with the girl. She was
carefully conveyed to the barracks and the doctor sent for. Meantime the
men applied the Schaefer Method to both the strangers; Tom instantly
recovered himself fully but Polly's faint lasted longer.

When the doctor hurried in, his kindly wife followed. Tom was able to sit
up and tell the story of how the accident happened; then he begged
someone to notify the Wharf Police to keep a lookout in the Harbor as
there might be a yacht in distress after that collision. Also, if inquiry
was made at Police Headquarters, the news was to be given that both Polly
and he were safe on Liberty Island.

A Corporal of the Guard was sent to attend to these messages, and Tom was
taken to a cot in the ward of the Barracks. His wet clothing was removed
and he was rolled in a hot blanket and given hot lemonade. In a few
moments he was sound asleep.

Polly was taken to the doctor's cottage where his wife attended the
patient as well as any trained nurse could have done. The girl also was
rolled in warm blankets with hot-water bottles placed about her cold
body. Slowly she began to show more animation, and when she could speak,
she asked if Tom was saved.

[Illustration: TOM AND POLLY ARE RESCUED.
Polly's Business Venture. Page 39]

"Yes, dear; you both are safe now," replied Mrs. Hall.

"And can we get word----" began she.

"We have taken care of that, too, dear. Now try to drink this nice hot
lemonade and then go to sleep."

Polly obediently drank the hot drink and sighed in relief. Then she sank
back and, almost instantly, Nature claimed her rights to make up for the
unwonted interference with her customary routine.

Mrs. Hall sat beside the cot for some time after Polly was asleep, but
she finally succumbed to weariness, and finding her patient fully
recovered and warm, she threw herself upon a nearby cot.

Both young people slept late in the morning, and when Tom finally opened
his eyes, feeling a bit stiff in his joints, he had to collect his
thoughts to remember where he was. Like a flash, everything came back,
and he jumped up to dress and find out how Polly was.

His suit had been dried and pressed and hung over a chair beside the cot.
His dress-coat seemed ridiculously out of order after that swim and, now,
for the morning's work. But he smiled as he donned the clothes, and
started for the door of the long room.

Just as Tom reached the door one of the men entered and greeted him
warmly. "I see you're all right again!"

"Yes, thank you. I hope the little girl is feeling as well," ventured
Tom, anxiously.

"Doctor Hall just left her and says she is right as a fiddle. I'm the
young fellow that telephoned the Police for you. I got back word, early
this morning, that your folks finally got home, without any harm to
anyone. And say! Maybe there wasn't some joy when they heard you two were
safe with us!"

Tom felt a strange gripping at his throat, and his voice quavered as he
replied: "I _know_ there was!"

The young man glanced at the evening dress and then said, "I'm going to
loan you one of my long coats to cover those togs."

Tom responded gratefully, and said: "If I can only do as much for you
boys some time!"

"Say," laughed the soldier, "don't wish such an experience on any of us!"

Then both laughed. As they reached the house where Polly had spent the
night, the doctor opened the door and smiled. When he saw that Tom was
feeling as good as ever, he said: "I just hung up the 'phone. A gentleman
called 'Dalken' told me that they were all coming over to take you away.
But I warned him that the entire party would be arrested if they landed
on Government Ground without a permit.

"Then I remembered that he might secure a permit, so I said: 'Anyway,
before you people can get here, my patients will be on their way to the
Battery.' I said that, because the young lady ought to be kept perfectly
quiet all morning, after such a fearful experience, you know."

"Yes, I know," admitted Tom. "And I am glad you said what you did."

"Now we had her dress dried and pressed, and the little miss will be up
and ready to thank you for your courageous deed, in an hour or so,"
explained the doctor, significantly.

"Thank you, ever so much!" said Tom, grasping his hand.

"Let Ted, here, show you about the place and entertain you until it's
time to call again," suggested the doctor.

So Tom went away with his companion, not to explore the Island, but to go
to the telephone and have a long talk with his friends in the city, who
were anxious to hear about the accident.

Just before noon, an orderly came to Tom to say that Mrs. Hall said, "Mr.
Latimer could call, if he liked." Tom laughed at the message--"if he
liked."

As he entered the little sitting-room of the doctor's house, Tom tiptoed
as if he felt he had to tread softly. But Polly sat in an arm-chair by
the window and saw him coming. She jumped up and ran to the door to greet
him, and Mrs. Hall went out of the room by the kitchen-door.

Tom was unable to speak a word when he finally came into Polly's
presence. She caught hold of his hands and shook them gladly, as she
cried: "Oh, Tom! What do I not owe you after last night!"

Tom wanted to demand payment, but he knew that would ruin his chances
forever, so he held a tight leash on his feelings and smiled wanly. Then
he said in an unnatural tone: "Lucky for us both that I knew how to swim,
eh, Polly?"

Polly was relieved to hear him speak in such a way, but her next act was
the outgrowth of spontaneous gratitude. She flung both arms about his
neck and being too short to reach his cheek, kissed him on the chin as
she would have done had he been John. Tom trembled, but realized at the
same time, that Polly's kiss meant nothing. Still he was humbly grateful
for even that token of gratitude from the reserved girl.

"Now tell me, Tom dear, what did the folks say about our sudden
elopement?" Polly laughed as she used the term.

"Oh, Polly! I'd swim from here to China for you if only it could be an
elopement!"

The girl instantly took alarm, and looked about for Mrs. Hall. But Tom
forced a laugh and tried to make her believe he was joking. "Do you think
that any man would do _that_ for a girl?" he added.

Then he hurried on to say that no one on the yacht had been injured by
the collision, but they were hours in reaching their dock. He said that
they (Polly and Tom) were not missed at first, and not until conditions
had calmed down somewhat, did Eleanor call for Polly. Then it was found
that neither Tom nor Polly were to be found.

"It was Eleanor who remembered seeing us promenade along the side where
the rail was detachable, and it was Eleanor who said we must have been
thrown out where the steps came up. So the captain was taken to task for
having such a careless man on board, and both the man and the captain
were discharged."

"Poor man--it wasn't his fault!" sighed Polly.

"Well, if you hadn't recovered, I'd have sent him to jail for life,
because it was criminal negligence to leave that rail open as it was!"
was Tom's threatening reply.

"I'm glad there is no cause for such harsh treatment," responded Polly.

Tom gazed, with his soul in his eyes, as he breathed fervently: "You're
not half as glad as I am, darling!"

Polly sprang away at that, and ran to the window, saying: "Don't you
think we might start for the City? Mrs. Hall went to fetch a hat and wrap
for me and she ought to be back by this time."



CHAPTER IV

A REUNION AND A VISITOR


Never was maiden welcomed so enthusiastically and so fervently, as Polly
Brewster, that morning when she stepped from the launch to the sea-wall
at Battery Park. Her father and mother vied with each other in embracing
and kissing her, while the tears of happiness streamed from their eyes;
John and Anne hovered beside them, watching every dear feature of Polly's
face. Eleanor stood holding fast to her best friend's skirt, as if that
could keep her forever near her.

The members in the "Delegation of Welcome," acted as if they had been
imbibing some intoxicating stimulant. Such happy laughter, and vehement
demonstrations of joy and love because Polly was with them again, spoke
louder than words that they had all thought she was drowned. Tom found
that little fuss was made over him in the first exuberant greetings, but
he came in for his share after the doctor had concluded his story about
the valiant young rescuer.

"Now, Mr. Brewster, you pay attention to me," remarked the physician,
when he was ready to depart on the launch: "You take your daughter home,
at once, and put her to bed for the rest of the day, to spare her any
nervous reaction. Then, if she is all right tomorrow, you may allow her
to receive a caller, or two--no more for the time being, or you will have
her break down."

Mr. Brewster promised to obey the orders faithfully, and soon afterwards,
Polly's friends followed her and her parents to the automobiles which
were waiting near the curb of the Park. Tom was surrounded, on both sides
and fore and aft, by his family and John and Mr. Dalken, all of whom
wished to hear the thrilling story of the rescue again.

"I'd rather hear how you folks kept afloat after that boat rammed the
yacht," said he, shunning a subject that still made him shudder.

Mr. Dalken insisted that Tom with his father and mother get into his
luxurious limousine and let him drive them home. On the way uptown, Mr.
Dalken told the story of their narrow escape from being lost in the Bay
after the collision.

"Immediately after the yacht was rammed and we could collect our senses
to comprehend what had happened, and what to do, the old tub of a
ferry-boat kept on her course. But there were some worried citizens on
board, for they shouted and, finally, the captain stopped his engines and
blew the whistles to see if we needed help.

"Fortunately for us, a river tug was quite close at hand when the
accident occurred, and its captain called through a megaphone to say that
he would assist us in any way we commanded.

"Our Captain then ascertained that part of our gear had been shaken out
of place, and it would be dangerous for him to try to run the vessel
under her own power, and trust our steering gear. So the good old man on
the tug took us in tow and landed us, towards dawn, at our dock.

"The moment we were on land, I rushed to the telephone at the Yacht Club
house, and notified Police Headquarters. Ken Evans was an eye-witness to
the dive that we feared had cost Polly and you your lives; so we told the
Sergeant at the Station just about where you went down.

"The Bureau at Battery Park was 'phoned but they said the tide was
running out at that time, so you both would be carried past Bedloe's
Island; if you both were good swimmers there was a slight hope of your
being rescued.

"I tell you, Tom, we were almost frantic with joy and relief when word
came from Liberty Island that you both were safe in bed, there, without
injury or other hurt, excepting the shock. Polly's mother swooned and we
thought she was gone because it was so long before we could revive her."

Tom's mother sat holding her boy's hand within her own, and his father
smiled at him so often that Tom began to feel fussed. But Mr. Dalken
laughed at his apparent self-consciousness.

"Tom, my boy, grin and bear this ordeal for the time, as you may never in
your life, have another experience like it. It shows you what we all
think of you, to sit and idolize you in this fashion."

They laughed at the banter, but Tom felt more at ease after Mr. Dalken's
little speech.

Having arrived at his home, Tom rebelled against being kept quiet that
day. "Goodness' sakes, mother! any one would think I was an invalid. Why,
I feel better than I have in months!" and his happy gayety attested to
his spirits. But no one knew that he was joyous because Polly had kissed
him that morning. And he was sure that that _something_ he had detected
in her eyes, was the awakening of love, instead of the fervent gratitude
it really was.

Tom could not settle down to do anything that day, but he called John up
on the 'phone several times to ask about Polly. John patiently replied
each time, that Polly was fast asleep and would probably remain so, for
several hours more, because she required it. When Tom asked if he had
better come down that evening and call, John was most emphatic in his
refusal.

But the following day, Tom kept telephoning the Brewsters every little
while and Anne finally capitulated and invited him to call that evening.

Polly was fully recovered again, with no signs of the shock or soaking
she had received; so, when Tom was announced by the telephone girl in the
hotel office, she felt no undue nervousness.

"Anne, you are going to help entertain Tom, aren't you?" said she,
casually patting her hair down neatly.

Anne looked at her sister-in-law with an amused smile. "If you think you
will need a chaperone when such an old friend calls. Tom always seems
more like a brother than a young man who might turn out to be a beau,
some day."

Polly pondered this sentence for a time, then said: "Well, there's no
telling what he may think after that ducking, you know, so it will be
more comfortable to have you about."

Tom fully expected a warm welcome from Polly, and perhaps, another flash
of something akin to love that he thought he had detected in her deep
blue eyes, when he met her in the hospital. So he was more than chagrined
to find Polly smile friendily upon him as she took his hand in the same
manner that she would have taken Mr. Dalken's.

"I just thought I would bring in a little glow with me, Polly," remarked
Tom, when he recovered self-possession again. "A few roses, such as I
know you like."

He handed a long box to Polly and watched eagerly as she cut the string
and opened the lid of the box.

"Oh, Tom! American Beauties again! How lovely!" and she buried her face
in the fragrant red petals that filled the one end of the box.

Anne held out her hand for the box when Polly went to place it on a
chair. "I'll hand them to mother, Polly, for her to arrange in a jar. The
others that came yesterday, can be placed in another glass."

"Oh, did Polly receive other roses?" asked Tom, trying to appear
unconcerned, but flushing as he spoke.

"Why, didn't you send them to me? There was no card in the box, but you
always send American Beauties, Tom," exclaimed Polly, in surprise.

Tom laughed sheepishly. "Well, I did send them, Polly, but I thought I
would make you guess who it could have been. I never dreamed you would
give me credit for the roses."

"Why shouldn't I? It would have seemed queer if you hadn't sent flowers,
when everyone within a thousand miles, sent boxes and bouquets to me, all
yesterday and all day today."

"They did! What for?" asked Tom, wonderingly.

"What for? Why, goodness me! Don't you suppose my friends were _glad_
that I wasn't drowned," retorted Polly, in amazement. "Everyone that ever
knew me, sent love and flowers, so I never thought it strange that you
sent me some, too."

This was a hard slap for Tom, and he winced under the words which denoted
that Polly considered him only as one of many friends. Even the roses
presented that night, with a little heart-shaped card tied in the center
of the group of stems, now seemed useless in his eyes.

But Polly had not removed the roses from the box so she failed to find
the heart-shaped card that Tom had spent the whole afternoon in inditing.
Anne gave the box to Mrs. Brewster, and when that sensible mother took
the roses out, one by one, and found the card, she put it away with the
cards that had come with other flowers. She also forgot to mention the
card to Polly, so the girl never knew that Tom had written her of his
undying love. As Anne replied, for Polly, to all the cards, Tom received
the same sort of polite little note as others did, with Polly's name and
a "per A.B." signed to it.

Finding Polly so self-possessed that evening, Tom pulled himself together
with an effort, and tried to converse on various topics of general
interest. Anne eagerly assisted in the conversation, so Polly listened
without having much to say.

Tom tried to make Polly talk, too, but without success, so he became
silent and left most of the entertaining for Anne to do. But even she
found the task of finding subjects to interest two dumb people rather
irksome, and she decided on a _coup_.

"Excuse me for a moment, please, while I see if John has returned with
his father." So saying, Anne ran from the room.

Polly sat up and watched her go as if her protector had turned traitor.
She glanced at Tom in a half doubtful manner as if to ask what he would
do now with the chaperone out of the way?

But Anne's absence gave Tom's morbid senses an inspiration that he acted
upon without second thought. It was the best thing he could have done
with Polly in this baffling mood.

"I'm returning to Pebbly Pit, in a few days, Polly. I am actually
homesick for a sight of the dear old mountains."

Polly gasped. "Oh, no one told me you were leaving us. Jim told me that
he thought you might remain here for several months."

"Jim? What does that kid know about my affairs?" said Tom, impatiently.
"Besides, when did you see Jim?"

"Oh, Jim just dropped in for a minute this afternoon."

Tom felt the pangs of jealousy because his younger brother had been able
to see Polly before she would allow him to call. Then he remembered his
rôle to act the part of a platonic brother and friend.

Polly continued: "I think Jim is a dear boy. He is so fond and proud of
you, too. Why, when he was here he sat and talked of nothing else but you
and your loyalty to family, friends, and your work."

As Polly spoke, Tom felt ashamed of his momentary jealousy of his
brother. When she had finished speaking, he laughed and said: "What a
pity Jim sees me through such fine magnifying glasses. The undesirable
qualities in my character he never detects."

"I think it is great to have your family think you are all that is
wonderful! I think my family regard me as a saint, and I like it, too,"
declared Polly.

"That's because you are one, Polly dear," retorted Tom, and the fervor he
expressed in his eyes and voice, caused his companion to gasp.

Before Tom could follow up his sudden declaration and make Polly
understand his sentiments for her, she broached another subject of
conversation.

"Tom, what has been accomplished at the mine and at Rainbow Cliffs while
I was in Europe?"

Tom frowned, but he realized that Polly was more sensible than he. He
remembered, once more, what Anne had advised, so he choked the despondent
sigh and replied instead, with seeming interest:

"Oh, John and I had another queer bout with some thieves. They were not
after the land this time, but they planned to get at the ore and carry
off as much of the gold as they could lay hands on. Our old friend,
Rattlesnake Mike, caught them red-handed, and now they are serving a term
in prison at hard labor."

"Oh, Tom! I never heard a word of this!" cried Polly, eagerly. "Do tell
me about it."



CHAPTER V

THE RAID ON CHOKO'S FIND MINE


"You remember when we all came East last June to attend John's wedding
and see you off for Europe?" asked Tom.

Polly nodded eagerly but said nothing to interrupt him.

"Well, we remained longer than we had planned when we left Pebbly Pit.
The friends in New York were so eager to entertain us before we went back
home, that the days passed swiftly before we realized we had stayed on
ten days longer than we should have done at that time.

"Now to go back to the time when those two rascals tried to jump your
claim, the time your father and Mike guided the party when you-all
climbed the Indian Trail to Grizzly Slide.

"It seems that crafty clerk who had copied the rough map of the claim you
staked on Flat Top and filed in Oak Creek, never gave up hope of some day
getting his hands on enough of that gold to help him get away and live
comfortably, ever after, on the proceeds.

"When he learned that everyone of the family at Pebbly Pit, would be East
for a few weeks, and the mine would be left in charge of Mike and the
other employees, he immediately called a few cut-throats together and
laid his plans accordingly.

"After the discovery of his perfidy in copying the claim papers and then
trying to jump the staked claim, he had been discharged from the office
in Oak Creek and, thereafter, no one respectable would employ him. So he
hung about the saloon and spent his time in gambling with the miners from
Up-Crest, back of Oak Creek station. He found willing confederates in
this group of Slavs who hailed the invitation to steal enough gold to
enable them to go back to Europe and pose as rich men.

"The whole plot had been kept unusually secret for that species of
foreigner, so no one at Oak Creek knew of the proposed raid. But Mike
rode into Oak Creek the morning before the night these rascals planned to
act, and with his unusual gift of intuition, he felt that something was
working quietly in the minds of the evil-looking men he found whispering
over a small table in one corner of the saloon.

"Mike hung around for several hours to try and learn if any plot was
hatching against Rainbow Cliffs while the owners were absent; or perhaps
these men planned a rush on the mine while he and but few men were on
guard. But nothing could be discovered. Feeling assured because of the
sly and malicious expressions of the men at the table when they glanced
at Mike, as he sat in another corner and pretended to doze, that Hank had
some move under way to trouble him and his assistants, made the Indian
use splendid judgment and action that day.

"He borrowed the Sheriff's thoroughbred bloodhound, and asked for a few
extra men to accompany him to the cave and stay there until the owners
returned, promising them better wages than they could earn at any work in
Oak Creek, or on the ranches nearby. To allay suspicion he rode out of
town, alone, but he had agreed to wait at Pine Tree Blaze for the extra
men.

"The men rode away from town each at a different time, to avoid talk or
notice by the loungers at the saloon, and all met at the rendezvous that
afternoon. Mike then led the way up the steep trail, and by dark they
were in camp.

"This was the second day after we left Pebbly Pit. Mike had warned Jeb of
his suspicions, too, and that wary little man had instantly taken steps
to protect the Cliffs, by ordering all hands working there to keep away
from Oak Creek until the Boss got home. He said that unusual care must be
used for a time, to watch during the nights, and keep trespassers out
during the day, for fear of raiders.

"The first night in camp on the mountains, Mike never rested a minute,
but moved silently from one place to another, with senses keyed for some
sign of the rascals. However, that first night passed quietly away. His
extra men spent the evening in smoking and playing cards, then they
rolled up in their blankets and snored peacefully the night through.

"The next day Mike smiled to himself when the men laughed at his
suspicions. They were so far from any settlement and the mountains were
so great and silent, that it gave them confidence in the peace and good
will with all men.

"The second night the men were again playing cards near the camp-fire.
Mike sat on the ledge in front of the cave with the hound stretched out
on a slab of rock at his feet. The giant wooden flume could be faintly
discerned, through the smoke of the fire and from the pipes of the men,
not twenty feet away from the engines that worked it.

"Suddenly the hound lifted his head and pointed his ears. Mike leaned
forward with face turned towards the flume, listening. Then he laid his
pipe down on the rock and crawled away upon his hands and knees, followed
closely by the hound.

"Do you remember the giant flume we planned to carry off the water of the
river that flowed underground; the one into which Nolla and you dropped
the torch the day you found the cave?"

Polly silently signified that she remembered, and Tom continued: "Well,
we used that flume during the work of mining and washing trash from the
ore, but at night, when there was no need for the water to pour through
it, we turned the current down the other way on the opposite side of the
mountain.

"Mike crept silently across the ledge and peered far down into the black
chasm below, to ascertain if the suspicious sounds came from that pit.
But the dog crawled noiselessly across the ledge to the flume and there
he stood with tense nerves. His ears were erect and his tail was standing
out straight behind him, as he stood and glared at the wooden flume.

"As the dog was so well-trained, Mike did not doubt his instinct, but
crept over to his side and there waited and listened.

"Had he not been absolutely quiet, the faint sound of something moving
inside that flume would have been lost on the outside. But Mike was as
keen a hunter as his dog, and they both sensed that something very
foreign to water was passing through that flume.

"Accompanying the strange muffled sound inside the flume every few
moments, there came a different sound, as if something sharp was being
driven into the wood for a hold. Mike figured out that the inside of the
flume had been worn so slippery with the flood of waters and sand or
pebbles passing through it in torrents, that it was necessary to use
steel-pointed staffs and creepers to help anyone in the dangerous ascent.

"As soon as Mike felt convinced that someone was trying a new trick to
gain possession of the mine, he crept back to the camp-fire and told the
men of the sounds inside the flume. They laughed immoderately at Mike,
and declared that he was going mad because of his prohibition since his
employers left him in charge.

"But Mike ordered a few of his most trustworthy miners to guard the cave
in front, while the others were sent over the top of the range to keep
watch at the opposite entrance to the mine. You'll remember, Polly, that
that was the side where the pit cut the cave in half. We bridged that
chasm, you know, and used the short-cut entrance quite often, although
the ore was brought out through Choko's Find.

"Mike then selected several of his brawniest fighters and very quietly
led the way to the opening of the flume where the water-gate was located.
As they could travel faster on the ground than the men creeping up inside
the slippery wooden tube, Mike and his companions reached the water-gate
before they heard the suspicious sounds from within the flume.

"He signalled his men to keep absolutely quiet, and then crept out on the
lintel of the gate and got a firm purchase on the lever. No one dreamed
of his purpose at the moment, and he suddenly seemed to reconsider his
plan, for he crept back again and had just reached the trio of curious
men, when a sigh of relief was distinctly heard from inside the flume.

"Then a whispering was heard, but not understood. In a few moments a
grating sound as if some sharp tool was being used. Mike surmised that
they were trying to break a way through the wooden door by which to get
out.

"Without further delay, then, Mike threw open the lid in the top of the
flume and commanded the trespassers to come forth.

"There was no reply from within, and not a sound was heard after Mike
opened the lid. So he called again: 'Ef yoh no come us wash riber fru dis
pipe.'

"Still no reply or sound was heard, so Mike winked at his companions, and
gave a fictitious order: 'Frow water gate open!'

"'Stop! Wait a minute!' shouted a frightened voice from the flume.

"Another voice cursed in the most dreadful way, but soon after Mike's
order to turn in the water, four men managed to emerge from the tube and
sit astride it.

"Seeing but four opponents there to fight, the leader of the gang gave a
sign, and the daring raiders tried to over-power Mike and his three men.
But they had not seen the wolf-hound in the shadows. As they dropped upon
the men to fight them, the dog sprang out and drove his fangs deep into
one rascal's throat. He will carry those marks to his last day. It was a
wonder he was not killed outright.

"That released Mike and he turned his attention to help his companions
free themselves. The dog fought mightily, and after a short but fierce
battle, the trespassers were bound and laid on the ground for the night.

"'What'cha goin' to do wid'dem, Mike?' asked one of his men.

"'Ship 'em down th' flume, Mike, th' way they come up,' laughed another
of his men.

"'So me say, but Mike go jail fer kill man,' replied the Indian.

"The other men strongly approved of that course of justice, however, and
Mike had all he could do to keep them from following their inclination to
wash the guilty men down the flume and out into Bear Forks River at the
foot of the mountain.

"The next day Mike and his men drove the raiders down the steep trail and
left them in the hands of the constable of Oak Creek, to await trial in
the County Court. But the captured rascals had boon companions in Oak
Creek, and when they learned that four of their group were in prison they
started a regular riot.

"They tarred and feathered poor little Jeb the next time he drove in to
Oak Creek for mail and supplies, and a few days before we got back home,
they made a well-planned raid on the lava mines at Rainbow Cliffs. Not a
piece of machinery was left intact, and the great bags of jewels we had
waiting for shipment were scattered far and wide by the vandals.

"But the sheriff heard of the proposed visit to Pebbly Pit, and took a
possé of men to follow the drunken miners to the Cliffs. Such a battle
as ensued, beggars my weak description. The sheriff told us about it when
we got home, but his language is not very graphic, nor is it thrilling,
so we only heard the bare facts of the fight.

"But, Polly, you must supply with your own vivid imagination, the details
that may be missing from my account. When I tell you that the vandals
were slowly backed away from the Cliffs and were, eventually, driven to
the gully back of the Devil's Causeway where those two men were engulfed
in the slide, the day they came to cajole your father into signing papers
for the Cliffs, you can picture their horror when the edge of the great
cliff began to crumble in. They could not turn to right or left, as they
were hemmed in by the pursuers, and they dared not remain where they were
for fear of being swallowed in the quicksand that was already sliding
downwards. So they gave up to the sheriff and surrendered their guns.

"That was a bad case, as one of the sheriff's men had been dangerously
wounded and it was feared he would die. All our valuable machinery was
ruined and all orders for the delivery of the lava jewels had to be
cancelled, or postponed for a year. So the culprits each got twenty years
and Oak Creek is quieter, by far, because more than a score of its worst
citizens are safely housed in jail."

As Tom ended his story, Polly unclasped her hands which she had nervously
clenched during the recital of the raids on her precious property.

"Oh, Tom! I never dreamed of all the trouble everyone would have because
of those precious mines, the day Nolla and I filed our papers at Oak
Creek," gasped Polly.

"No one does dream of these things--they only see the future in rosy
hues," retorted Tom.

"And to think of the work and worry John and you have had in establishing
this great undertaking, while I was in Europe taking life easy, and
spending money without a thought of how it was being produced at home!"
sighed Polly.

"That is as it should be, Polly. You were not squandering the money, but
using it in ways to profit yourself for the future. John and I knew, when
we started in on this mining venture, that the line would not lay in
flower-strewn paths, but that it might force us over all sorts of snags,
before we reached success."

"Well, it is fine of you to talk like this, Tom," admitted Polly,
gratefully. "If it were not for you boys taking an interest in the work,
I might as well say 'good-by' to the gold."

Tom laughed. "Polly, this is so insignificant a work to do for you--just
taking an interest in your mine. Some day I hope to prove in some greater
way, just what I want to, and can, do for you."

Tom's manner and looks again alarmed Polly and she changed the subject
adroitly. "Tom, do you like the home in Pebbly Pit? Isn't it different
from living in the city, in these apartments?"

Tom smiled, for he understood. "Yes, it is fine, Polly. It is a real
home--with your blessed mother at the ranch-house. I have lived in adobe
huts in Arizona, and out on sand wastes in New Mexico, you know, so that
Pebbly Pit is great, in comparison."

"Mother told me how good it was to have Anne and you with her all summer,
while I was abroad," said Polly, after a short interval of silence. "I
feel that it was not so heartless of me to enjoy myself in Europe as I
did, so long as mother and father were not lonely and homesick for me."

"But your mother often said to me, that were it not for Anne's being with
her, she would have cabled you to come home. She had looked forward so
anxiously to your spending this vacation at Pebbly Pit," remarked Tom.

"My! Then I was more fortunate than I dreamed of," laughed Polly. "I
should have hated to leave Eleanor in Europe, with such a wonderful tour
before us, and come back home without having done the whole trip."

Tom had no desire to hear more about that enjoyable tour and the probable
acquaintance the girls had made with eligible young men with fascinating
titles. So he spoke of his imminent departure for the West.

"I had a talk with Dad and Mr. Dalken today, and they think it best for
me to get back at the mines without further delay. The mountain storms
will soon be sweeping over the peaks, and winter protection must be
completed at the Cave and Flume before then; so I think I shall be
leaving in a day, or so."

Polly murmured some friendly regret at his going so soon.

"But the need of my being at the mines to prepare for winter is not the
main cause of my leaving New York, so soon," began Tom, moodily. "I came
East with a definite hope in mind, but so many unforeseen events have
happened since I met you, that I haven't furthered my interests since I
left Pebbly Pit." Tom waited for encouragement from Polly.

Polly did not pursue the subject, however, but she said: "Well, this
winter, I have planned to actually _work_!"

"I thought you said you have been working ever since you came to New
York," laughed Tom.

"Yes, at school and in other ways; but now, I propose going to work in
Mr. Ashby's shop. You know, he has a wonderful place on Fifth Avenue
where they have every kind of article one needs in the way of ornament or
decorating. There is where Eleanor and I managed to get such splendid
experience in textiles and other objects familiar to interior decorators.

"Now I propose going to work for him at a stated salary, and giving every
morning to the work, this year. In the afternoons I will be free to visit
Exhibitions, Museums, hunt up antiques, or just play. Four evenings every
week we will attend school and lectures, you know, so there will not be
very much time left in which to write letters."

"You never did work hard at writing letters," said Tom, smilingly.

"No, and this winter there will be even less time for them. My friends will
have to be satisfied with picture post-cards or telegrams," laughed Polly,
hoping that would answer all expected requests for a correspondence.

"Well," said Tom, "I only write to people I really want to hear from. And
I never ask anyone to write to me unless I take a great deal of pleasure
in reading their letters. I never asked you to correspond with me, have
I?"

"No-o, I think not," replied Polly, disconcerted at this announcement.
She had felt sure he was going to beg her to write as often as possible,
and now this was so different!

"I thought not! You see our likes and pursuits are so different. The very
difference in our ways of living now--you with luxurious art in New York,
me in the rugged life of a miner in the Rockies, creates a gulf between
our ideals. Mine is getting at gold that is the basis of most worldly
success, and yours is an ideal and aspiration in art that transcends my
common work and business. So we would not know what to say to each other
in letters, would we? You would not wish to speak of gold and mining, and
I haven't any idea of art or its ideals."

What it must have cost Tom to say all this, no one knows, but he was
piqued, at last, and so acted his part admirably; and he had the
satisfaction of seeing that Polly felt sorry at his words.

"Tom, I always felt sure you were an idealist at soul. It makes me feel a
deep regret to learn that you have no such ideals left."

Tom bid Polly good-by without an outward sign of regret, and so she sat
and pondered over that unusual fact, long after he had gone.



CHAPTER VI

POLLY AND ELEANOR BEGIN COLLECTING


Within a week after the westerners had gone back home, matters with Polly
and her friends in New York settled down in a smooth current. The Fabians
found a commodious house in a refined environment quite near the Ashby's
home, and the two girls, Polly and Eleanor, lived with them.

Mr. Fabian temporarily resumed his lectureship at the Art School of
Cooper Union, and his two promising pupils, with Dodo Alexander as a new
beginner, accompanied him every night that the classes met.

The Alexanders had leased an expensive suite at an apartment hotel near
the Fabians, and much to little Mr. Alexander's joy, although much to
Mrs. Alexander's disgust, they settled down to a hum-drum life that
winter. She sighed as she referred to her life.

"Dear sakes! Here I am with all this money to spend on a fine time, and I
have to waste my days sitting around hearing Dodo rave about Corunthian
Columns, Ionack Piers, and such foolish stuff. As for Ebeneezer! He is
just impossible to get along with, since he found what quiet friends he
had in the Fabians and the Ashbys!"

The result of such complaints from Mrs. Alexander were soon evidenced by
her spending her evenings at theatres, dances at various clubs and places
she had forced an entrance to, and in daily shopping trips about the
city.

The motley collection of antiques the girls had secured while abroad and
had shipped home, arrived in due season and the cases were sent to Mr.
Ashby's Shop. The girls were told that the goods had been delivered, and
the next day they hastened to the establishment to admire their
purchases.

The articles were arranged in one small room, and when the three girls
followed Mr. Ashby to the place, they were amazed at the insignificance
of their exhibition.

"Why! I thought I had a lot of stuff," declared Eleanor.

"You see all that you bought. There is your list," laughed Mr. Ashby,
sympathizing in her disillusionment.

"And I thought that chest so much more elaborate--when I chose it in
France," ventured Polly, puckering her forehead.

"I'll tell you why," said Mr. Ashby. "When we see these pieces on the
other side, the glamour of the places and the stories connected with
them, actually charm us more than the objects themselves. After we secure
our desires and find we own them, we ship them home and do not see them
again until they reach prosaic and business-like New York.

"Meantime, we enhance the beauty and romance of the objects we purchased,
by thinking of them in connection with the romance of their past; thus
idealizing them in mental pictures, they appear far finer and more
alluring than in truth they are.

"When we really view them again, just as you are now doing, the shock of
finding them just simple antiques, and so inferior to what we dreamed
them, reverses our sentiments about them.

"Now beware, girls! Don't let this reversal affect you, in the least.
These objects are just as valuable and desirable, here, as ever they were
over there. It is only your personal view-point that has changed,
somewhat. You have not been visiting old collections, or museums abroad,
for some weeks now; and the radical change from touring ancient Europe,
to rushing about in New York in quests of homes, school, and clothes for
the season, has made a corresponding change in your minds.

"In a short time, you will be back in harness and feel the same keen
delight in these old possessions as aforetime."

Polly appreciated the sense of Mr. Ashby's little lecture, but Eleanor
still felt disappointed with her purchases. And Dodo laughed outright at
the old pewter she had gone wild over in England, and now scorned in
America.

That evening Mr. Fabian explained, carefully, about the times and customs
of the purchases that represented certain people. He wove a tale of
romance about each piece of furniture the girls had delighted in, and
enhanced their interest in the dishes and other small objects they had
collected that summer, until the three disappointed owners felt a renewed
attraction in the articles.

Mr. Ashby was present, but he said nothing until Mr. Fabian had ended.
Then he added in a suggestive manner: "Fabian, what do you say to the
girls taking short trips to the country, each week, to hunt up such
antiques as can be found in out-of-the-way nooks all through New
England?"

The girls perked up their ears at this, and waited to hear Mr. Fabian's
reply.

"If they had a car and someone to accompany them on such excursions, I
think they would thoroughly enjoy it."

"Dalken has three cars--two limousines, you know; and he told me that he
wished he could prevail upon the girls to make use of one, instead of his
leaving it in a garage to eat up its value in rent. I thought of this way
to give the girls many interesting quests, and make use of the car at the
same time, so I mentioned it to him. He was delighted and wants the girls
to try the plan," explained Mr. Ashby.

"And I will offer myself as chaperone," hastily added Mrs. Fabian.

"If I could only be included in these outings I should love it," laughed
Nancy Fabian.

"You are! Any one who belongs to us, must consider themselves as
invited," said Polly, laughingly.

So an outing for Saturday was planned, that night, and Mrs. Fabian and
Nancy were to manage the details for the girls.

"We will choose a likely country-side for our first trial," remarked Mrs.
Fabian, looking at her husband for advice.

"That's hard sense," laughed he. "But where is such a spot?"

"Somewhere in New England," ventured Nancy.

"That's as ambiguous as 'Somewhere in France,'" retorted Polly.

"Not when you consider that New England begins just the other side of the
city-line of Portchester," said Mr. Fabian.

"But there are no antiques to be found in Rye, Portchester or Greenwich,
in these days of amateur collectors hunting over those sections,"
remarked Mrs. Fabian.

"You are not limited to those nearby towns; but you can travel fifty
miles in the inland sections in a short time, and stop at simple little
farm-houses to inquire, as we did this summer while touring England. I
wager you'll come home with enough trophies of war to start you off
again, in a day or two," explained Mr. Fabian.

On Saturday morning, Mrs. Fabian packed an auto-kit with delectable
sandwiches, cakes and other dainties, and the party of amateur collectors
started out on their quest. The chauffeur smiled at their eagerness to
arrive at some place on the Boston Post Road that might suggest that it
led to their Mecca. He kept on, however, until after passing through
Stamford, then he turned to the left and followed a road that seemed to
leave all suburban life behind, in a very short time.

"Where are you taking us, Carl?" asked Polly, curiously.

"On a road that Mr. Ashby told me about. He has never stopped at these
places, but he thinks you will find something, along here."

After several more miles had been reeled off, the eager and watchful
passengers in the car glimpsed a low one-story farm-house, with plenty of
acreage around it. The two-story box-like addition built at the rear and
hooked up to the tiny dwelling that almost squatted on the road itself,
seemed to apologise for the insignificance of its mother-house.

"Slow up, Carl. Let's look this place over," called Mrs. Fabian.

The automobile came to a stop and the ladies leaned out to inspect the
possibilities in such an old place. A girl of ten came around the corner
of the box-house and stood gazing at the people in the car.

Carl seemed to be no novice in this sort of outing, and he called to the
girl: "Hey! Is your mudder home?"

The girl nodded without saying a word.

"All right! Tell her to come out, a minute."

Mrs. Fabian hastily interpolated with: "Oh, we'd better go in and ask for
a drink, Carl."

Carl laughed. "Just as you say, Missus. But dese farmer people don't
stand on fussin'. You'se can ask her right out if she wants to sell any
old thing she's got in the attic or cellar."

"How do you know?" asked Polly, smilingly.

"'Cause Mr. Dalken got the fever of collectin' after you folks went to
Urope. And many a time I've sat and laughed at his way of getting
things."

"Oh! That's why you knew where to drive us, eh?" said Eleanor.

"No, 'cause he never come this road, yet. He mapped it out, once, and
said he would try it some day. That's why he told me which road to foller
today."

The girl had disappeared but was coming back by this time. She climbed
upon the picket gate and hung over it, as she called out: "My ma's
kneadin' bread an' can't get out, this minit. She says if you want
somethun, fer you to come in and see _her_!"

This invitation sufficed for all five to instantly get out of the car and
lift the latch on the gate. The girl never budged from her perch, but
permitted the visitors to swing her back as the gate was opened.

"Go right to the side door," advised she, holding on to the pickets.

As invited, the collectors went to the side door and Mrs. Fabian knocked
timidly. "Come in!" said a shrill voice from within.

The lady of the house had plump arms elbow-deep in dough. She glanced up
and nodded in a business-like manner. "Did yer come fer fresh aigs?"
asked she, punching the dough positively.

"If you have any for sale, I should like to take a dozen," returned Mrs.
Fabian, politely. Polly and Dodo stared in surprise at their chaperone,
but Eleanor and Nancy comprehended at once, why this reply was made.

"Wait a minute, will yuh, and I'll get this job off my hands afore I go
fer the aigs."

Eleanor laughed humorously as she remarked: "It looks like dough on your
hands."

The woman laughed appreciatively, while the others smiled. "That's right!
It's dough, all right. I s'pose you folks are from nearby, eh?"

"Not very far away," returned Mrs. Fabian. "We are out on a pleasure
jaunt this morning, but I saw your farm and so we decided to ask your
little girl if you were in."

"That's right! I tole my man to put a sign out on the letter-box fer
passers-by to see how I had aigs to sell; but he is that
procrastinatin'--he puts off anythun' 'til it's too late."

The woman was scraping the bits of dough from her hands as she spoke, and
this done, she sprinkled flour over the top of the soft lump in the pan
and covered it with a piece of old linen cloth. As she took it to a warm
corner behind the stove, she added: "Do you'se know! Abe was late fer our
weddin'. But I knew him for procrastinatin', even in them days, so I made
everyone wait. He come in an 'nour behind time, sayin' he had to walk
from his place 'cause his horse was too lame to ride. That's Abe all
over, in everythun."

The house-keeper finished her task and turned to her callers. "Now then!
Do yuh like white er brown aigs?"

"White ones, please," returned Mrs. Fabian.

The woman went to the large storeroom off the kitchen and counted out a
dozen eggs in a box. When she came back she held them in one hand while
waiting for payment, with outstretched other hand.

"That's a fine sofa you've got in the next room," remarked Mrs. Fabian,
pretending not to notice the open palm.

"Yeh, d'ye know, I paid fifteen dollars jus' fer that red plush alone?"
declared she, going to the door and turning to invite her visitors to
come in. The box of eggs was forgotten for the time.

The girls followed Mrs. Fabian to the best room that opened from the
large kitchen, and to their horror they saw that the sofa referred to was
a hideous Victorian affair of walnut frame upholstered in awful red
mohair plush.

But Mrs. Fabian made the most of her optics the moment she got inside the
room. Thus it happened that she spied a few little ornaments on the old
mantel-shelf.

"What old-fashioned glass candle-sticks," said she, going over to look at
the white-glass holders with pewter sockets.

"Ain't they awful! I've told Abe, many a time, that I'd throw them out,
some day, and get a real nice bankit lamp fer the center table," returned
the hostess.

"And won't he throw them away?" asked Mrs. Fabian, guilelessly.

"He says, why should we waste 'em, when they comes in so handy, in
winter, to carry down cellar fer apples. He likes 'em cuz he onny paid a
quarter fer 'em an' a glass pitcher, at an auction, some miles up the
road. But that wuz so long ago we've got our money's wuth outen them. Now
I wants a brass lamp an' he says I'm gettin' scandalous in my old
age--awastin' money on flim-flams fer the settin' room. He says lamps is
fer parlor use."

Her repressed aspirations in furnishings made the woman pity herself, but
Mrs. Fabian took advantage of the situation.

"I've needed a pair of candle-sticks for some time, and I'll exchange a
lamp for your auction bargain which you say has paid for itself, by this
time."

"What! Don't you want your lamp?" exclaimed the lady, aghast at such a
statement.

"Well, I have no further use for one, and it would look lovely on your
marble-top table," returned Mrs. Fabian.

"Well, well! How long will it take you to get it from home?" asked the
woman, anxiously.

"If you really wish to get rid of the candle-sticks and jug, I'll leave
the quarter you paid originally for them and go for the lamp at once.
Maybe I can be back in an hour's time. I'll pay for the eggs, too, and
leave them until I come back," explained Mrs. Fabian, graciously.

Without wasting an extra word or any precious time, the owner of the rare
old candle-sticks wrapped them in a bit of newspaper and went for the
glass pitcher. Mrs. Fabian had no idea of the extra item being worth
anything, but she included it, more for fun, than anything else. But once
they saw the tiny glass jug with Sheffield grape-design on its sides,
they all realized that here was a wonderful "find."

Mrs. Fabian seemed uneasy until she had the paper package in her hand and
had paid the twenty-five cents for the three pieces of glassware. Then
Eleanor made a suggestion.

"Why couldn't we wait here, Mrs. Fabian, and look at some of the old
china the lady has in this cupboard, while you go for the lamp. There's
no sense in all of us going with you."

"That's a good plan, if Mrs.----" Nancy waited for the lady to mention
her name.

"I'm Mrs. Tomlinson," said she, politely.

"If Mrs. Tomlinson is not too busy to show us her dear old house," added
Nancy.

"All right, girls. Is that satisfactory?" asked Mrs. Fabian. "How does it
appeal to you, Mrs. Tomlinson?"

"Oh, now that that bread is risin', I've got time to burn," declared the
lady, independently.

"All right. We'll visit here while you get the lamp," agreed the girls,
deeply concerned to know where their chaperone would find a lamp such as
Mrs. Tomlinson craved.

Mrs. Fabian left, and invited the child swinging on the gate to drive
with her as far as Stamford. The little girl, pleased at the opportunity,
ran for her bonnet and told her ma of the wonderful invitation.

Mrs. Tomlinson signified her consent to Sarah's going, and then gave her
full attention to showing her company the house. "You musn't look at the
dirt everywhere, ladies," began she, waving a hand at the immaculate
corners and primly-ordered furniture.

"Now come and see my parlor, girls. I'm proud of that room, but we onny
use it Sundays, when Sarah plays the melodian and we sings hymns. Now an'
then some neighbors come in evenin's, fer a quiltin'-bee in winter; and I
uses it fer a minister's call, but there ain't no way to het the room an'
it's all-fired cold fer visitin'."

Polly thought of the ranch-house at Pebbly Pit as Mrs. Tomlinson
described the cold winter evenings, and she smiled at the remembrance of
how she used to undress in the kitchen beside the roaring range-fire, and
then rush breathlessly into her cold little room to jump between the
blankets and roll up in them to sleep.

Eleanor laughed outright at the picture of a visiting dominie sitting on
the edge of a chair with his toes slowly freezing, while his parishioners
tried in quaking tones and with teeth chattering to entertain him.

But Mrs. Tomlinson paid no heed to their laughter, for she was in her
glory. "Ain't this some room?" demanded she, pulling the shades up to
give enough light to admire the place.

A stained cherry parlor suite of five pieces upholstered in cheap satin
damask, with a what-not in one corner, and an easel holding a crayon
portrait of Abe and his bride at the time of their wedding, in the other
corner, graced this best room. A few cheap chromos flared against the
gorgeous-patterned wall-paper, and a mantel-shelf was crowded with all
sorts of nick-nacks and ornaments. Polly seemed drawn to this shelf, the
first thing, while the other girls glanced around the parlor and felt
like laughing.

"Won't you sit down, a minute?" invited the hostess, but her tone
suggested fear lest they soil the damask with their dust-coats.

Polly had made a discovery in that moment she had to look over the motley
collection on the shelf.

"This is a nice tray you have standing against the wall," said she, using
Mrs. Fabian's tactics to interest the hostess.

"Yes, that's another auction bargain. When Abe fust got it, the day I
went fer that oak side-board, I got mad. But I've used it a lot sence
then, fer lemonade and cookies, when comp'ny comes to visit all
afternoon. And I feels made up, _I kin_ tell you, when I brings that tray
in like all society does." Mrs. Tomlinson chuckled to herself.

Polly examined the tray and believed it a rare one. It was oval in shape,
and had a stencilled rim in a conventional design. The coloring was
exquisite, and the central design was a wonderful basket over-flowing
with gorgeous fruit. The touches of gold on the decorations was the
beauty-point of the unusual object.

"I've always wanted just such a tray, too. I wonder if you know anyone
who has one and will sell it to me. I'd drive a long ways to go to an
auction such as you say you attended, when you bought this tray," said
Polly, trying to act indifferent.

"Laws-ee, Miss! I see'd trays sold at mos' every country auction I goes
to. I'd jes' as soon sell that one to you, if you like it, but maybe
you'd think I was askin' too much if I was to tack on the cost of time I
lost that day. I never got a chanst to bid on the oak side-board, 'cause
a city man felt so mad at Abe fer buyin' the tray, that he run up the
side-board out of spite, when he found we wanted it. Ef he'd onny a said
he wanted the old tray he'd cud have had it an' welcome. But he never
told us. The neighbor who finally got the side-board laffed an' told Abe
why the man did the trick. The man told him he'd double-crossed us that
way."

Polly would have offered the woman the full value of the fine stencilled
tray, but Eleanor hurriedly spoke for her.

"How much was the tray with the cost of time tacked on?"

"Well, it won't be fair to charge _all_ afternoon, 'cuz I had a good time
with my neighbors what met at that vendue. But Abe lost three hours' work
on the corn that day and that is wuth sixty cents an 'nour, anyway. Tack
that on to thirty-five cents fer the tray, an' you've got it."

Mrs. Tomlinson started counting laboriously on her fingers and ultimately
reached the same total as the girls had found five minutes before. So
Polly paid over the munificent sum to the lady's delight, and took
possession of the tray.

"Ef I onny had some other old things you'd like to get, I would almost
have enough money to buy a swell glass lemonade set I saw down to
Stamford one day. It had a glass tray under it and a dozen painted
glasses and a fine glass pitcher--all fer two ninety-eight."

Almost before the lady had ended her words of her secret ambition, the
four girls had pounced upon various things found on the shelf. Eleanor
had an old glass toddy-mug with a lid, which was used for a match-holder
in the parlor.

Nancy selected a small oil lamp with a brass base and stem, and a
lovely-shaped glass shade. Mrs. Tomlinson informed her it was another
auction bargain that cost fifty cents. Being so expensive they put it on
the parlor mantel instead of using it.

Dodo yearned to possess an old afghan she saw on the settee of the suite
of furniture, but she feared to say so. Finally she summoned courage
enough to offer the lady a price for it that caused Mrs. Tomlinson a
failure about the heart.

"My goodness' sakes alive! That's ten times more'n the wool ever cost
when the thing was _new_. Take it! Take it, quick, ef you really mean
it!"

The girls laughed wildly, for Dodo took it quickly and paid the price
offered to the consternation of the sales-woman. "Well," gasped she, at
last, "you must have some family-past what has to do with knitted covers,
is all I can say to explain you!"

By the time the inspection of the house was over, Mrs. Fabian returned
with just such a brass pedestal banquet lamp as Mrs. Tomlinson had
secretly envied and long hoped for. Such joy and pleasure as she took in
selecting a clean crocheted mat to spread on the cold marble slab of the
center table, and then place thereon her vision come true, was worth all
the trouble Mrs. Fabian had had in finding the lamp at a second-hand shop
at Stamford; but later when that wise collector examined her old
candle-sticks and pitcher, she felt a hundred times repaid for the
lamp--as she truly was.

The merry collectors started home that afternoon, after enjoying the
picnic luncheon beside a brook in the woods back of Stamford, with their
hopes pitched high for future successes in collecting.

Mr. Dalken heard from Carl about the successful quest that day, and
telephoned to the Fabians, that evening. The Ashbys had hurried over when
they heard of the pieces secured at the farm-house, and were present when
Mr. Dalken questioned the girls all about their "find."

"Now we're dying to start again, Mr. Dalken, and hunt up other trophies,"
said Polly, in conclusion.



CHAPTER VII

A REVOLUTIONARY RELIC HUNT


So delighted were the amateur collectors with the result of their first
search for antiques, that they planned another trip a few days later.
Carl could not drive the car for them, as Mr. Dalken had invited a number
of business friends who were in New York for a few days to go out on Long
Island with him, for the day. He took the seven-passenger car and Carl
for the drive, so the girls had to be contented with the smaller car. But
neither Mr. Dalken nor Carl knew that the girls proposed going alone.
They believed Mr. Fabian or Mr. Ashby's chauffeur would drive the car.

Eleanor bragged about her ability to drive an automobile and the girls
knew from experience how well Dodo could drive, so the outing was planned
without any grown-up being consulted about the driving or chaperoning.

"Did not Carl have a road-map in the side-pocket of the car, the day he
drove us to Stamford?" asked Polly.

"Yes, but the car is in the garage, and the map with it," returned
Eleanor.

"Daddy has a road-map. I'll get his," remarked Ruth Ashby, who had been
invited to be one of the party this trip.

"Then bring it around tonight, Ruth, when you come to plan about the
route we ought to choose for this outing," said Polly.

Ruth hurried home and immediately after dinner, that evening, she found
the map in the library desk-drawer and tucked it in her pocket. As she
ran through the front hall she called to her mother:

"I'm going over to the Fabians for a little talk, Mummy."

"But, Ruth, you just came from there a few moments before dinner," came
from Mrs. Ashby.

"Oh, I didn't visit that time! I only stopped in with the girls to wait
and see if Nancy had a map they all need. Now I'm going to visit,"
explained Ruth.

Mrs. Ashby laughed at a girl's interpretations of a call and Ruth ran
out.

Their pretty heads were closely bending over the map, when Mr. Fabian
passed the living-room door and stopped a moment to consider the picture
they made under the soft-shaded light. He went on to his private den
without saying a word to distract their attention from (as he thought)
their books of learning.

"Now listen here, girls!" exclaimed Nancy, tracing a line on the map.
"Polly doesn't know much about this end of the United States, and Eleanor
doesn't know much more than Polly does but I am supposed to be well
informed about Westchester County, having lived there when I was a little
girl. So I can tell you something about this road I've traced."

The four girls lifted their heads and listened eagerly.

"You know Dobb's Ferry and its vicinity was there in the days of the
Revolution, and Washington camped at that town. Even the Headquarters he
occupied is to be seen as it was at that time. This road, running
easterly from Dobb's Ferry, is the old turnpike road used by the army as
it marched towards the Hudson.

"Now this is what I say! Why shouldn't there be lots of old houses along
that road, or in that locality, that were there during Washington's time?
And if standing still, why shouldn't there be old furniture, or odd bits,
to be found in them?"

Eleanor instantly caught Nancy up on one of her phrases. "Naturally the
houses would be standing still--you wouldn't want them to be dancing a
tango, would you?"

"Oh, pshaw, Nolla!" scorned Nancy, in disgust at such a poor attempt to
joke, "you know, well enough, what I mean."

The other girls laughed at Nancy, and Polly added: "Well, what is your
plan?"

"I say, let's drive along the River Road as far as Dobb's Ferry, and then
turn off to this road and venture on any country road we find, that has
old-fashioned houses which look as if they were built in 1776."

"That sounds thrilling!" laughed Eleanor.

Her companions refused to smile this time, so she sat grinning at Nancy,
as if waiting to attack her again.

"I think that plan will answer as well as anything Nolla has proposed,
don't you?" asked Nancy.

"Yes, we'll try your scheme out, Nan. But you'll have to be the guide
through the country, as we haven't the least idea of the lay of the
land," said Dodo.

"We'll succeed splendidly, as long as we have this map," promised Nancy.

The girls pictured many rare treasures added to their collection after
this proposed trip, and when it was time for Ruth to go home, each girl
had chosen rare and wonderful objects to be found in these imaginary
Colonial home-steads they expected to visit on the morrow.

Classes had to be attended to before excursions could be enjoyed and then
it was lunch-time; but after that they finally started on this trip.

Mrs. Fabian was out with Mrs. Ashby, so the girls met no one who would
question them, when they were ready to leave. Ruth and Dodo called at the
Fabians and they all went to the large garage where Mr. Dalken kept his
automobiles; and the man, having had instructions to give the car to
these young friends of the owner, whenever they wanted it, said nothing
but backed the car out to the street for them.

The five girls drove away in high spirits, for they were eager to harvest
all the marvelous antiques they had ever read or heard of, that might be
scattered throughout the country-sides wherever General Washington had
made a camp for his army.

Dodo was an excellent driver but she had no New York license, and the
girls had forgotten all about that necessity. So the car was speeding
along the boulevarde at about twenty-five miles an hour, when a traffic
policeman in Yonkers held up his hand to stop the northward-bound
travelers.

Dodo had just turned her head momentarily to send a quizzical look at
Polly who sat in the back seat, and so failed to see the raised hand. The
car therefore ran across the street and at the same time, a low-built
racer shot along the right of way and the two noses rammed each other,
although both drivers used the emergency brakes.

The girls screamed with fright at the unexpected shock and the dreadful
jolt they received when the cars collided. And two young college students
cursed politely and scowled fearfully at the "crazy girl-drivers" who
never knew which way they were going. But the poor cars suffered the most
from this conflict. Headlights were smashed, fenders and mud guards were
so dented in as to look pitiful, while the front wheels of both cars were
interlocked in such a way that they could not be separated.

This cause held up all traffic on both streets and annoyed the officer so
that he threatened a wholesale arrest. He asked the names of both
drivers. The young man gave his as "John Baxter, New York." His license
number was taken, and he was asked for his permit. He showed it without
hesitation, and the girls gazed at each other in dismay. They had
forgotten about such a need!

The officer came over to Dodo's side.

"What's your name?"

"Dodo Alexander," stammered she, forgetting her full name.

"Humph! Baptized that name?"

"Yes--no, oh NO. I never was baptized, I reckon."

"Humph--a heathen, I see!" snarled the policeman. "Well, where do you
live, or where'd you hail from?"

Eleanor had been grinning at the officer's reply, and now she could not
withstand the temptation to answer: "From the Cannibal Isles."

The crowd standing about the two cars, laughed--all but the policeman. He
scowled at Eleanor and said: "Be careful, young lady, or I'll take you
along for contempt of court."

"But you are not arresting _me_, and this is not Court," argued Eleanor.

"Oh, goodness me! Is he going to arrest me?" cried Dodo.

"If you don't answer my questions promptly, I'll arrest you," returned
the officer, severely.

"Well, I am from Denver, Colorado, where folks don't fuss like you do in
the East, just because you cross a street to get to the other side!"
declared Dodo, in self-justification.

"From Denver! Got a New York license to drive?" said he.

"No, I haven't, but I've driven all over England and the Continent this
Summer--as these girls will tell you. They were in the party."

"It's nothing to me whether you drove up the Matterhorn and down the
other side; as long as you can't show me a plain old American license,
you'll have to pay the costs."

"How much is it?" quickly asked Dodo, taking her purse out to settle the
bill.

"I don't know. You'd better follow me to the police station and we'll
see."

Dodo was handed a little paper which she read aloud to her horrified
companions, and thus, finding themselves arrested, they meekly tried to
follow the blue-jacket. But the cars had not been disentangled, although
both boys from the racer were doing their utmost to clear the way.

As the storm raised in the hearts of the two students by the carelessness
of Dodo abated, both boys realized how pretty and helpless the five girls
were, so they began to feel sorry for them. Besides this, the front
wheels were now divorced and the two cars backed away from each other to
give room for the congested traffic to pass.

"Dear me," wailed Dodo, "what will Mr. Dalken say when he hears about his
car! I don't mind going to jail or being made to pay a hundred dollars
fine, but to break up his automobile the first time I drove it, and get
his license tag into trouble--that is terrible!"

Polly laughed. "Not Dalken's license tag, but his name--in the papers.
That's what comes of being so well-known in New York."

"And the newspaper men will be sure to say that a party of joy-riders
stole his car to have a little jaunt in the country, I suppose," added
Eleanor, teasingly.

One of the good-looking young students now came over to the girls and
lifted his cap. "Did I understand you to say this is Mr. Dalken's car?"

Five girls glowered at him. Polly snapped out: "Are you a reporter from a
city paper?"

John Baxter laughed. "No, I am his protegé. Mr. Dalken is the executor
of my father's estate and I was just on my way to the city, to visit him,
this evening."

"Oh how nice! We know Mr. Dalken very well, too. He is one of our best
friends," returned Polly, eagerly.

Nancy Fabian would have been more reticent had she been spokeswoman for
the girls; but both boys were so pleasant, now, that they were
introducing themselves to the girls, hence she said nothing.

"We'll go with you to the station house and see that the sergeant behaves
himself," suggested John.

The girls felt very grateful to this needed friend, and the boys started
their car after the policeman, the girls following in their damaged car
that bumped and jolted on one side.

When the inspector learned that not one of the five girls had a license
to drive a car in New York State, and that the car belonged to someone
else, he fined Dodo and gave her a good scolding to boot.

"This time I'll let you off easy, as you are green in the East. But don't
let it happen again, or you'll be sorry. Apply for a permit to drive, as
soon as you get home, young lady, and then get a book of rules on
traffic, and learn it by heart."

Dodo meekly paid the fine, and the young people left the room with
lighter hearts than they had entered it. Both cars had to be taken to a
garage and put into running shape again. Meantime there would be two
hours of waiting on their hands, and seven young folks with impatient
blood in their veins to kill that time.

"I'm sorry you ladies have been deprived of your pleasure drive, but I
might suggest a little consolation if you ever deign to go to the
Movies," said John Baxter, politely.

"There's a good show up the street in that large Picture Theatre," added
his friend Andrews.

"We love movies--when they are good," ventured Eleanor.

"What do you think, Nan? Shall we go?" asked Polly.

"Oh yes! it will be awful--waiting about this place with nowhere to go
other than the Movies, as you say," returned Nancy.

So the two young men escorted the five girls to the show where they
forgot their recent troubles in watching Harold Lloyd do his best to
break his neck.

Dodo paid the bill at the garage for both cars, even though the boys
insisted that they pay for their own damages. But she replied: "No, the
insurance company will have to settle eventually."

The good-natured way in which Dodo accepted the situation more than
convinced the boys that these girls were "bricks" all right! It was now
past five, and the cars were ready to go again, but the "collectors"
found they had to go back to the city for that time, without having seen
as much as a shadow of an antique.

"What will you girls do about getting home?" asked Andrews.

"Why, drive, of course!" returned Dodo.

"But you can't--you haven't a license. Neither has any one of the other
girls," explained Jack.

"Oh, we never thought of that!" exclaimed Polly, perplexed.

"I have one," suggested Andrews. "I can get in your car, and one of you
girls can drive with Baxter, if you will. That will solve the problem."

"All right," assented Dodo, getting out of her seat to allow Andrews to
get in.

"Which one wants to drive with Jack?" asked Andrews.

Neither girl answered, and not as much as by a tremor of the eye-lid did
either show how delighted she would have been to sit beside the handsome
young man and skim along the road to New York.

Baxter laughed heartily, and Andrews added: "I never dreamed that _no_
one would care to drive with him. I'm sorry, Jack, but you'll have to go
alone."

"Not if I know it!" retorted Baxter, quickly. "I can't choose when all
are so desirable, but we can cast lots to see who will be my companion."

The girls thought this most exciting, and when Andrews had shown the slip
of paper that would be the lucky draw, and then had folded and shaken the
slips well in his cap, the girls drew. As each girl opened her scrap of
paper to find it was blank, and then watched the others try, there was
great laughter and anxious waiting. Finally Polly opened her slip and
found she had drawn the lucky one.

"Ha! Isn't Jack Baxter lucky, though!" laughed Eleanor. "Not only gets
the cleverest girl in the crowd, but the prettiest one, too!"

"Stop your nonsense, Nolla! How many times do I have to tell you to allow
me to live in peace, without so much of your chaffing!" exclaimed Polly,
impatiently.

Everyone laughed merrily at Polly's retort, and Baxter looked admiringly
at the flushed cheeks and sparkling eyes. He was most gallant in
assisting Polly into the "boat" as he called it, and then he jumped in
beside her.

Eleanor sat beside Andrews in the other car, and entertained him with a
highly colored story of Polly and her home in Pebbly Pit. Before they
reached the Fabian home in New York, young Andrews pictured the enormous
wealth of "Choko's Find" gold mine, and the marvellous beauty of the lava
jewels found in Rainbow Cliffs on the ranch. To think that one girl
should be lucky enough to own both such money-producers!

Shortly after dinner that evening, Mr. Dalken telephoned the girls and
told them to come over to his apartment for a party. He explained that he
had two nice little boys visiting him, and he was at a loss to know how
to entertain them so that they would care to come again, another day.
Remembering how well Polly and her friends managed other boys, he felt
sure that they could help him now.

Polly laughed in reply, and said: "Oh yes! If one of those boys now
visiting you, is anything like Jack Baxter who drove me home, this
afternoon, we won't have any trouble in amusing them."

But Polly never told Mr. Dalken that Jack declared himself so deeply in
love with her, before she had been in his car ten minutes, that she had
all she could do to keep him at the wheel instead of placing an arm about
her, and thus stalling the engine in the ditch alongside the main road to
the city.

That evening, after the girls returned from Mr. Dalken's party, Eleanor
remarked: "My goodness! Polly has another scalp to hang to her belt of
trophies. If she keeps on piercing hearts, as she has done this past
year, she'll have to discard some of her old scalps and loan them to us,
to make room for her new ones."

But Polly sniffed loftily at such foolishness, and made no reply.



CHAPTER VIII

ANOTHER ATTEMPT AT COLLECTING


Although the trip planned for the Dobb's Ferry territory had ended so
disastrously, the girls were not discouraged. Dodo secured a license
without any difficulty, and was equipped to drive Mr. Dalken's car
without being fined a second time. But the wise owner of the car
considered it wiser to send Carl out on these excursions, instead of
trusting to Fate to bring the girls back home again without broken bones
or a damage suit.

Mr. Fabian had had a brilliant idea, too, after he heard his wife's story
of the country auction where the old antiques had been secured by Mrs.
Tomlinson. He suggested that they subscribe to several country papers,
both daily and weekly, and in that way they would learn of any vendue
advertised in its columns.

Eagerly following his advice, the four girls--Nancy was not interested in
antiques but was willing to go around with her friends when they hunted
for them--subscribed for the Yonkers papers, the White Plains papers,
several weeklies in New Jersey, and others, in order to learn of any
country auctions advertised for the following week.

Through this medium, they read of a country sale advertised for the
following Thursday, to take place at an old farm home-stead way back in
the hills of Westchester. The items mentioned included a mahogany
four-poster bed, and other old bits.

Polly and Eleanor had not attended an auction since the days in Paris,
and neither of them had ever heard of, or witnessed a back-farm country
auction, so they were not prepared for what they really experienced.

Carl was detailed to drive them, that day, and Mrs. Fabian escorted them,
in the seven-passenger car. They took the turnpike road as far as White
Plains and then turned to the left to follow a country road that would
lead past the farm.

The sale was advertised for eleven o'clock, but the girls did not arrive
on the premises until twelve. Still no auctioneer was to be seen or
heard. Groups of farmers stood around, gossiping about their crops that
season, and their wives sat indoors exchanging notes on canning, new
neighbors, or babies.

Polly gazed curiously at the types assembled for that sale, and whispered
to Eleanor: "Wouldn't you say these farmers had been picked up from Oak
Creek ranches and dropped down here in this front door-yard?"

Eleanor smiled and nodded. Then she said in a low voice: "They don't look
as if they were here to buy. We seem to be the only folks here with a
pocket-book."

A young farmer who had been leaning against the old well now came forward
to welcome the strangers who stood looking about.

"I be the clerk fer the auctionair, but he hain't come, yit. His baby
swallered a shet safety-pin an' they had an orful time wid ippycak tryin'
to git it that way. Now the doctor's thar sayin' that stuff is all wrong.
He'll git the pin, all right, 'cause I swallered a quarter, onct, and he
got it, but it costed me a hull dollar extra to pay him fer his
docterin'. Ye's kin go in and peer aroun' to see ef you wants anything."

Mrs. Fabian expressed her sympathy for the parents of the baby and said
she knew just how frightened the mother must be.

"Not much!" was the clerk's astonishing reply. "She's young Kit Morehouse
what ain't got a grain of sense in her bean. This baby's mother died when
it was a week old, and Lem had to have someone look affer it. Thar warn't
no sensible woman about what would hev him, 'cause he don't make salt fer
a red herrin', seein' his professhun is auctionin' an' folks ain't
sellin' out like-as-much as they ust to be, years ago. But this crazy Kit
was onny nineteen, with no fam'ly, er no payin' job, so she hired out to
take keer of the kid. Don't it allus end like this? The gal marries the
father an' gets mad cause another woman's kid is cryin' around!"

The girls were intensely interested in this bit of local gossip, but Mrs.
Fabian thought they had heard enough about "Kit," so she bid the clerk
good-by and started for the low one-story-and-a-half house.

The interior presented a different appearance from the home of Mrs.
Tomlinson's. Every conceivable object ever used in the house was brought
out and placed in the front rooms. Women and children sat about on
various sorts of seats, waiting for the sale to begin. As most of the
assembly were neighbors and acquainted with each other, the entrance of
Mrs. Fabian and her girls caused quite a surprise.

Audible whispers of "Who air they?" and "Where did they come from?" or
"What d'ye s'pose they come to bid on?" were heard on all sides as the
strangers passed through the "settin' room."

The moment Mrs. Fabian's party left the clerk, outside, he hurried over
to the automobile where Carl sat enjoying a quiet smoke.

"Howde," began Abner Clark, the clerk.

Carl removed his pipe and nodded nonchalantly.

"Do you-all hail from about these parts?" asked Abner.

"I should say _not_!" declared Carl, emphatically.

"From whar abouts are you?" continued the clerk.

"New York City--and that's some town, let me tell you."

"Yeh--so I've heran say. How did yeh get to come here to this vendue?"
persisted Abner.

"_I_ don't know--I'm only the chauffeur. Why don't you ask the ladies if
you are so anxious to know?" Carl was growing angry.

"All right--no harm meant," replied Abner, soothingly, as he turned away.

Carl resumed his pipe, and Abner strolled over to the group of men
sitting on wheel-barrows, ploughs, chicken-coops, etc. With a furtive
look over his shoulder, to make sure the city driver was not listening,
Abner began to explain to his interested friends who the strangers were.

But he had not quite ended his tale before an old buggy drove up and the
auctioneer got out. He glanced over the assembled farmers with an
appraising eye, and then carefully hitched the old nag to a tree. This
done, he broke off a great chunk of tobacco from a cake kept in a blue
paper, and popped it into his mouth.

Abner walked over to the white-washed fence to greet his superior. "How's
the kid?" were his first words.

"All right, now. He diden' swaller the pin, after all. The doctor found
it down inside his shirt, an' it cost me a dollar besides all that good
mustard and eppicac, fer nuthin'!"

"Well, well!" sympathized Abner, not knowing what would be best to say in
such a delicate case.

"Did yuh keep all the folks about when I sent word over?" continued the
auctioneer.

"Shure! An' we've got some swell city buyers, this time."

"City! You don't mean anyone from the city'd want to buy old Morrisey's
trash?" exclaimed Lemuel, in disbelief.

"I dunno what they want, but thar's their man what steers the
autermobile," and Abner directed a thumb over his left shoulder.

"Wall, wall! Come along; we'll hurry up to get some of their coin afore
they git tired awaitin'!" declared the wise man, as he made haste to
reach the house.

Mrs. Fabian and the girls had made a cursory visit to the rooms on the
ground floor, and while they stood in the small kitchen examining various
old dishes and glassware in the cupboard, Polly spied a very narrow
staircase leading to the attic.

"I'm going up to see if there's anything up there," said she. So without
another word, she ran up the creaky steps.

The girls heard her walking overhead, and then heard her pull a heavy
object across the floor. In another minute she came racing down the steps
at a break-neck speed, her face all streaked with dirt and her dress
covered with cob-webs and the dust of ages.

"Oh, folks! Do come up and see what I found in an old box under the
eaves!"

They needed no second invitation, and soon all were up beside the box.
There were many other empty boxes standing about and in some way this
particular box had escaped the attention of Abner, who had taken the
inventory of the contents of the house and barns.

Polly had removed the first object on top of the box which was an old
woven coverlet in rare colorings of blue and white. In one corner was the
name of the weaver and the date it was completed. Polly was not aware
that old woven coverlets were considered very desirable by collectors,
but she had read the date which showed the spread was more than a hundred
years old, so she judged it was worth bidding on at the coming sale.

Directly under this woven coverlet was a white spread. It was very old
and torn at the corners, but the rest of it was in good condition. Mrs.
Fabian saw at once that it was a spread of the finest candle-wicking
style she had ever seen. It must have dated back to the early part of the
eighteenth century.

Under this white bed-spread were small bundles of hand-spun linen towels,
yellow with age but in perfect condition as to wear. But the greatest
find of all, in this box, were the old brasses in the bottom.

Wrapped in papers to keep them clean, Polly found a long-handled
warming-pan; a set of fire-irons--the tongs, shovel, and andirons of the
famous "acorn-top" design; and a funny old foot-warmer. A pair of ancient
bellows was the last article found in the box, but the leather was so dry
and old that pieces fell out when Polly tried to make the bellows work.

"I must go right down and tell that clerk about these wonderful things.
They must have overlooked them when they listed all the other articles in
the house," said Mrs. Fabian.

Eleanor held her back and said: "You'd better not tell him the news in
that excited manner. He'll understand at once, that these things are
desirable, and then we'll have to pay well for them."

"You're right, Nolla!" laughed Nancy, and her mother admitted as much.

"Why couldn't we just take them down to the kitchen and pile them on the
table. No one will know that we want them, and should anyone ask what we
were doing up here and by what right we carried them down from the attic,
we can honestly say that Abner said we could go over the house and see if
there was anything we liked to buy," said Polly, with a collector's
instinct for not paying extortionate prices for what she wanted.

The girls laughed, but each one caught up some object, and having
gathered all safely in their arms, they started down. The kitchen, being
the least desirable room to visit in the farmer's wife's judgment, no one
was there when Mrs. Fabian and the girls returned to it. Their
discoveries were piled on the old drop-leaf table, and they grouped
themselves at the doorways to keep guard over the prizes.

A loud voice was shouting at the open front door, saying: "This are the
terms of the sale: Everything bid on 's got to be paid fer the same day
and removed from the premises in twenty-four hours--all but th'
barn-stock. You'se kin take forty-eight hours fer them. I expecks
everyone to pay cash fer anything they buy, 'cause I got enough trouble
at that last sale at Hubbells' when a lot of you folks bid on stuff an'
then went home an' left it on my hands. Hubbell's son had to give 'em
away at last, and I lost all that commission. So, none of that, at this
vendue!"

Some of the assembled people looked guilty, and the auctioneer rode
rough-shod over their feelings. "Anudder thing: Don't haggle on a cent!
When I call out a decent bid on a thing, raise it a nickel, at least, if
you wants it. This cent business--and at Hubbell's vendue, some of you'se
even bid half a cent at a time--makes me tired! If a thing ain't wuth a
cent more to yeh, then let it go to the other feller what wants it!"

The girls laughed at this frank statement of _sense_, and Lemuel turned
to see who had appreciated his speech. When he saw the city people Abner
had mentioned, he felt warmed all through, for he felt sure he would earn
some commissions that day.

"Our first number is in th' kitchen. Ab, kin we get in thar, er had we
better hold the stuff out here?" asked Lemuel.

"I can't hold up the kitchen stove, kin I?" asked Abner, in an injured
tone.

The people laughed heartily, Mrs. Fabian's party joining more
appreciatively than anyone.

"All right," answered the auctioneer, in a matter-of-fact voice. "We'll
try to crowd in. But don't anyone what don't want to bid on kitchen
stuff, come and use the room from others!"

It seemed that his very warning acted contrariwise for, to the girls, it
looked as if everyone on the premises tried to crowd into that small
room. Being first on the ground, they fared best for place. Mrs. Fabian
mounted the steps leading to the attic and advised the girls to get up on
the table, chairs, or other solid objects, to be able to look over the
heads of the crowd.

"Now, Ab, what you got first?" asked the auctioneer.

Abner had his little book of items, and finding the table the first
number inventoried, he called out: "Deal table and contents!"

Now Polly stood on the table, and all the covers had been thrown upon it,
also, so when Abner shouted out "table and contents" Lemuel laughed
loudly.

"Say, one of them contents is a mighty pooty gal, I kin tell yuh! I'll
begin bidding myself, on such a bargain!"

The country-folks laughed wildly at such a fine joke, and Polly, eager to
own the other valuable contents, smiled with them and nodded her head at
the salesman. He was not aware that she meant she would bid, for his
customers always shouted forth their bids. Then a man asked: "What sort
of contents is thar?"

Abner pushed his way through the crowd to open the drawer in the table
and enumerate the small ware mentioned as "contents," when he saw, to his
surprise, that there was a heap of covers on the table.

He picked them up and stared at them in dumbfounded amazement, then said:
"Say, Lem, here's them old bed-quilts we had sech a job huntin' up. Whar
the heck'd they come from, I'm sure I dunno!"

"You got 'em, eh? Well, they ain't listed, so sell 'em fust. I'll mark
them an 'A' lot. Who wants to bid on a ole bed-spread?" called Lemuel.

Had the women-folk known of bedding to be sold in the kitchen, there
would have been a mad rush for it. But most of them were waiting for the
blankets and comfortables found in the two small bed-rooms annexed to the
parlor. So but few were in the kitchen when the old candle-wicking spread
was bid on by Polly, and knocked down to her for a dollar-ninety.

Eleanor got the blue and white woven coverlet for a dollar and a half,
and Mrs. Fabian bought the linen towels "in a lot" for two dollars. The
old brasses that were also listed as an "A" lot were knocked down as
follows: Polly bought the ancient foot-warmer for sixty cents; Eleanor
secured the warming-pan for a dollar, and Dodo, the set of fire-irons
with acorn tops, for three dollars. These undreamed-of bargains elated
the girls so that they lost all discretion for a time.

"Now that we've cleared them things out of our way, we'll sell the
table," said Lemuel, and forthwith he gave the table to a farmer for
fifty cents.

"What 'che got next, Ab?" asked he.

"Some kitchen dishes," replied Abner, as he opened the cupboard and
displayed several samples of blue ware.

Eleanor saw the familiar pattern of the pagodas and willows that are
found on old willow-ware, and instantly decided that these must be rare
antiques because they were found in the same house as the ancient objects
just acquired by her and her friends. So she raised the first bid of ten
cents for eight odd pieces, to a dollar.

The auctioneer gasped. He gazed at Eleanor and said faintly: "Did you bid
a dollar?"

"Of course!"

"All right, Miss, you kin have them, but pay me now fer them, and don't
come back naggin' me to say I stuck you wid cracked plates, and nicked
saucers. You saw'd them afore you bid!"

Eleanor laughed, and handed over a dollar bill, but Mrs. Fabian tried to
catch her eye to warn her not to bid recklessly on other things. Polly
stood up on the table wondering why Eleanor got the old kitchen dishes.

The moment Lemuel had the dollar safely in his pocket, he remarked: "Gee!
I'm goin' out of this second-hand sellin' and lay in a stock of ten-cent
blue dishes to sell!"

One of the farmers haw-hawed and said: "That's how Coolworth made so much
money! Gettin' so much cheap stuff and findin' a pack of silly women to
buy 'em."

Eleanor tossed her head, but had she kept quiet she would not have been
the object of pity she found herself, afterward. In self-justification of
her purchase, she called out: "You people don't know genuine old
Wedgewood when you see it. I've got a big bargain in those eight plates!"

At that statement, a quiet young fellow, who had been standing about
watching progress and noting the bids on a paper, laughed. "I don't want
anyone to say they was taken in at my folk's sale; but I got'ta tell that
young lady that I bought them blue dishes _myself_, last year, at the
tea-store in White Plains fer ten cents each."

Even Polly had to join in the laugh at Eleanor's expense now, and poor
Nolla felt like selling herself for a nickel. But the auctioneer had
scant time for jokes or reckless buyers as he was there for business. So
he finished the kitchen and called them into the parlor. Here Polly
secured a china dog such as were common sixty to eighty years ago;
Eleanor got a real bargain, this time, in buying two century old
flower-vases for fifty cents. Mrs. Fabian saw an old engraving of
"Washington Crossing the Delaware," as it was taken from the wall behind
the door, and offered for a quarter. On the spur of the moment she raised
the bid five cents and got the picture which later proved to be one of
the rare old originals, worth several hundred dollars.

Dodo ran up a pair of girandoles that stood on the narrow mantel-shelf in
the front room, and finally got them for three dollars. Such an
unheard-of price made the buyers look at her in pity, and Lemuel
remarked:

"Well, some folks has more money than sense!"

Dodo's friends laughed heartily at this criticism, but she cared little
for them all, because she knew what she had obtained for her money.

The two bed-rooms were so small that few people could get in, so the
auctioneer ordered Abner to carry the articles for sale, out on the lawn
where everyone could see them. Had it not been for this sensible advice,
Polly would never have seen or secured the fine old set of Staffordshire
toilet-ware that was knocked down to her for four dollars.

It consisted of ewer in quaint shape, basin deep enough to be a huge
punch-bowl, a soap-plate, a mug, and a commode. The rich deep coloring of
the design on the china was lovely, and every piece was in good order.

The young man who had told the truth about the eight dishes from the
tea-store, congratulated Polly and said: "That set has been in our family
for more'n a hundred years. My grandmother used to keep it fer show, er
when we had fine comp'ny comin' to see us. That's how it kept so good."

"Oh, don't you want to keep it, then?" asked Polly, regretfully.

"Nah, I'm goin' west on the money I git outen this sale, an' I'd ruther
see someone what likes it own it, than any old clod-hopper about these
parts!"

Polly felt sure the owner had not been lovingly treated by the people he
glanced at as he spoke. But she learned, just before leaving the place
that afternoon, that he felt so antagonistic against his neighbors
because of their frank criticism of his habit of spending his
inheritance.

Because of this unwise recklessness, he had had to mortgage the old farm,
and when the proceeds of that had been spent, he had to sell out.
"Perhaps his going west, where he would have to work hard for his living,
would be his salvation, after this," thought Polly.

Mrs. Fabian allowed the girls to watch the sale until the contents of the
house were sold out and then she suggested that they start back home. The
bargains were carefully placed between the coverlets purchased, and then
the buyers got in the car.

The country-people were all crowding to the barns to bid on stock and
farm-utensils when Carl started the engine. With a last look at the
little house where they had found their interesting antiques, the
collectors left.



CHAPTER IX

POLLY'S HUNT IN 'JERSEY


The collectors took several long trips, after the vendue in Westchester
County, but found nothing of value at any place.

Still they lived in hopes, and towards the last of October, Polly
suggested that they try New Jersey for a change. A girl who attended Art
Classes told Polly of several very old places within the vicinity of
Springfield and Morristown--both old Revolutionary towns of historic
fame.

So Carl drove up to the Fabian home early one Saturday morning, and Mrs.
Fabian with her party, hurried out with luncheon and wraps, and were soon
speeding away for the ferry-boat that would take them across the North
River.

The girls had never been in New Jersey, and found much to admire in the
picturesque, rolling land of the Jersey Hills. They left Newark behind,
and drove along the Union Turnpike road until they reached the Forks.
Here they turned to the left and in a short time, were going through the
ancient town of Springfield.

They were already past it, before Mrs. Fabian found what place it was.
Then they laughed, and turned back again to visit a shop on the main
street. Mrs. Fabian got out of the car and went in to question the
proprietor.

"Do you know of any old houses, near here, where one can secure old bits
of furniture, or antique objects?"

The man chuckled. "Say, Madam, if I have one person ask me that same
question, I have dozens stop to question me. I tells them all, the same
as I tells you now--the only antique I can send them to anywhere about
Springfield, is that old church on the corner, where you can see the hole
blown in the side by a cannon ball, when the British were here. And over
yonder, you will find a burial ground where many old Indians are buried,
with their stone arrow-heads and other trophies with them. The crumbling
grey-stone slabs and the ancient tombs found there, will give you the
dates. Some go as far back as two hundred, or two hundred and fifty
years."

Mrs. Fabian thanked him and returned to the girls to repeat the
conversation she had had with the shop-keeper. They all declared for a
visit to the old church, and then to the cemetery, so Carl drove back and
they visited both places.

In the ancient burial ground, they read many queer epitaphs on the head
stones, and some of these the girls copied down. Then they got back in
the automobile and Carl was told to drive on to Morristown.

This place was found to be so dreadfully modern, that no hope of
discovering antiques was left alive in their hearts. But it was noon and
they were hungry, so they discussed the advisability of going to a
lunch-room, or driving into the country and having the picnic lunch.

"As long as we brought such a nice luncheon with us, why stop at a hotel
or restaurant to eat?" asked Polly.

"There really isn't any sense in doing that, but there certainly isn't
any picnic place in this town," declared Eleanor.

"Well, then let's start out and find one away from here," suggested
Polly.

"I'll make another proposition, girls," said Mrs. Fabian. "Why not stop
at that Public Library we just passed, and find out if there are any
notable spots in the vicinity of this town, where we might find old
houses or old objects?"

"Well, the idea is good, but really, Mrs. Fabian, this town impresses me
most emphatically with this fact: that the residents have as much desire
for antiques as we have; and most likely, they started in years before we
ever were born, to rake over the country-side, which must have been rich
with old furniture and other things from Washington's days here, so as to
collect all those things for themselves," was Dodo's sensible remark.

The others smiled at her practical words, and Mrs. Fabian agreed with
her. "But it will do no harm to stop just a moment to ask the attendant
at the Library if she knows of any place in New Jersey where we might
indulge our craze of collecting."

Carl then turned around and they were soon back at the Library. The girls
remained in the car while Mrs. Fabian went indoors to ask questions of
the agreeable lady at the desk.

"I'm sure you will find a few old bits, here and there, about the
country-side," said the lady, in reply to Mrs. Fabian's questions. "In
fact, my friend furnished her old-fashioned house that she recently
bought of an old 1776 family, by driving about through the Mendham
country, down through New Vernon and Baskingridge--all famous
Revolutionary places, you know--and by visiting places as far away as
Bound Brook, Plainfield, and the country about Trenton. I was amazed at
the number of old things she managed to secure."

Being given a pencil sketch of what roads to follow to reach Mendham, or
Baskingridge, Mrs. Fabian thanked her informer most graciously. Suddenly
the lady said:

"Now that you are in town, why not drive down to a little auction room
I've heard of, just off Washington Street, and see if you can find
anything in that Paradise for old stuff?"

"We will! Where is it, and how do we get there?"

"The man's name is Van Styne, and he used to be a magnet for attracting
the oldest pieces to his store-rooms! People used to commission him when
they wanted anything in particular, and in some super-natural manner, he
used to have it for them in a few days' time. It would have taken
ordinary individuals years, with plenty of money and energy, to
accomplish the same result."

Again Mrs. Fabian thanked her interested informer, and left the library.
The girls were told of the conversation and they all voted to go to Van
Styne's old auction rooms first, and then try to locate an old farm-house
along the road to Mendham, or in the opposite direction, towards
Baskingridge.

The building where "Van Styne--Auctioneer and Appraiser" had his sign
displayed, for the public's guidance, was a long low place that had been
used as the carriage house of "Liberty Stable" years before. The tiny
windows, high up in a row along the front, were stall-marks that told
what it had been in the past. Now it was an "Emporium" for all who needed
second-hand furniture at a bargain; or for those who sought antiques of
any kind, to add to their amateur collections.

Mr. Van Styne was a white-haired, long-whiskered, thin man who sat tilted
back in a broken-through rush-bottom chair that had never had a bid at
his weekly auctions, hence it was put to some use in his office to pay
for storage. His feet were resting on the flat-table-desk in front of
him, and he was sweetly snoring when the girls opened the door of the
room.

Such an unheard of thing as customers in the early part of the afternoon,
caused him to jump up and remove his aged straw hat that had been tilted
over his eyes to keep out the sun-light.

"We came to see if we could find anything in your salesroom," began Mrs.
Fabian, noting the dust that lay thick on everything, and the heaped up
motley collection of family possessions displayed in the long adjoining
stable-room.

"What kind of furniture do you need?" asked he, stifling a yawn.

"Why, anything old enough to be interesting. We heard that you were a
wizard in finding antiques for people."

The proprietor disclaimed such power, and said with a grin that displayed
several gaps in his yellowed teeth, "You can mosey about, out there, to
your heart's content. If you find anything likely, call me an' I'll tell
you what it's wuth."

He waved his arm to the long stacked-up storeroom, and then sat down
again. In another moment his feet were up on the desk and his hat tipped
down over his eyes. His hands were calmly folded over his waist-coat and
he settled down to snooze, once more.

The girls giggled aloud and hurried after Mrs. Fabian to keep from
laughing outright at the ambitious salesman. They prowled about and
pulled out lots of things and examined many other old articles, soiling
their gloves and dresses, without finding a thing that was of any value.

Finally Polly dragged out an old walnut chest of drawers to see what was
stored back of it, that kept it so far away from the wall. She discovered
a group of large, framed pictures standing against the wall, evidently
forgotten by the auctioneer, as they were covered with a thick coating of
dust.

"Come and help me lift these out, will you, Nolla?" called Polly, as
Eleanor stood waiting for something new to look at.

In another moment, both girls were hauling out the mass of pictures,
whose wires and screw-eyes were so entangled that to get at one, you had
to drag all out at the same time.

"My goodness! Just look at our hands!" exclaimed Eleanor, holding up such
dirty hands that Polly laughed.

"The result of digging!" said she, managing to separate one smaller frame
from the others.

As she turned it over to study the picture, she was greatly disappointed
to find it had an old, cheap, stained frame. The picture seemed
nondescript to her. It was a scene of an old bridge with fine old trees
on both banks of the river. Quaintly costumed people strolled along both
sides of the stream, and a funny tower rose at the further end of the
bridge. The colors were crude and primary--no fine shading or artistic
handling to be seen. A title under the picture, and several inscriptions
in French at the left side of the bottom, were so stained and blurred as
to be totally unreadable with the naked eye.

Meantime, Eleanor had managed to free the next frame, which was a huge
affair of old mahogany. The glass was so dreadfully dusty that not a bit
of the picture underneath could be seen. She looked about for something
to use as a duster, and saw an old end of chenille curtain on the walnut
dresser. This she used and wiped away as much of the dirt as would come
off with hard work--the rest must have hot water and soap.

"Well, I declare! Look at this old engraving!" called she to the others.
Polly was at hand, and saw that Eleanor had actually found a treasure.

Mrs. Fabian hurried across the room and took her magnifying glass from
her handbag being always prepared with it in case of need to study
signatures and other nearly effaced trade-marks.

The large engraving represented the Independence Hall at Philadelphia,
and under that was the famous Declaration of Independence, with all the
original signatures following. The picture of the Hall was engraved on a
smaller bit of paper and had been mounted at the top of the printed
matter. The engraving was signed by the engraver, and dated. Affidavits
at the bottom of the parchment paper stated that this was one of the
original documents made by Order of Congress for use in the Government
Buildings so that the first original paper and signatures could be
preserved as a relic, by the United States.

"Why, this wonderful old paper is more than a hundred and thirty years
old!" exclaimed Mrs. Fabian amazed.

"My goodness me! How much do you suppose I shall have to pay to get it?"
gasped Eleanor.

"I don't know, but you really ought to shake that dirty rag thoroughly
over the glass again, to hide what is under it," advised Dodo, with
astuteness.

The others laughed. But Polly had another suggestion to make. "Let's see
what else we can find in this stack of pictures. We will choose a number
of them and then make an offer on the lot, as much as to say we need
bargain-frames for other uses. This rare find of Nolla's will be hidden
in with the rest."

"Polly's idea is best. Because the old man will know that we wouldn't buy
a picture with all the dust covering the glass," said Nancy Fabian.

[Illustration: A CRY FROM POLLY CAUGHT THEIR FULLEST ATTENTION.
Polly's Business Venture. Page 139]

"What's the little old one you've got in your hands, Polly?" now asked
Mrs. Fabian.

"Oh, nothing much. It looks like an ugly little chromo printed before
people knew how to use colors on printing-presses."

Mrs. Fabian leaned over Polly's shoulder to take a look, and puckered her
forehead when she saw the yellowed paper and old stained edges of the
picture.

"Polly, I verily believe that here you have something that Mr. Fabian has
lectured on several times. Let me examine it."

While the girls crowded about her, Mrs. Fabian placed the picture, face
downwards, on the table near by and tried to draw out the old headless
tacks driven in to hold the backboard snugly in its place.

"Well, whoever framed this picture did it for all time!" exclaimed she,
breaking several fingernails and tearing the skin on her hands in the
attempt to loosen the fine steel nails.

"Here! I've found an old pair of broken scissors in this desk--let's use
them to clinch the nails and force them out," said Nancy, handing her
mother the shears.

With this assistance, Mrs. Fabian soon had the nails out and then
carefully removed the old sections of thin boards. Under the boards was a
yellowed newspaper, folded neatly, and so wedged in at the edges of the
frame that no dust could work a way through to the picture. Without a
thought of the paper, Mrs. Fabian took it out and expected to see the
back of the picture. Instead, she found a yellow-stained letter written
to Paul Revere Esq. and signed by one of the famous men of the
Revolution. It was a personal letter of that time, and had been used to
paste over a crack in the back of the picture.

"Why--why! How very wonderful!" breathed Mrs. Fabian, as she stared at
the old letter.

"What is it--anything valuable?" asked the girls.

"A genuine letter written to Paul Revere! Now that I think of it, girls,
Paul Revere lived in Morristown and his home is still intact on De Hart
Street, I believe. This old picture must have come from his house; or in
some way, this letter found its way into someone else's hands and was
used at that time for scrap paper to mend this picture. Now let's see
what the picture is."

But a cry from Polly, who had picked up the old newspaper and now had
opened it wide, caught their fullest attention.

"Oh, oh! Isn't this too funny for anything! Listen and I will read it."
Then Polly read aloud an advertisement in the tiny old newspaper, of a
Squire at Baskingridge who wished to sell a healthy, young negro wench of
unquestionable pedigree. Price and particulars would be given any
interested buyer.

"Polly!" chorused her audience, in surprise. "That paper must be as old
as the letter!"

"And see, girls!" added Mrs. Fabian. "It has great heavy black borders on
the outside. What for, Polly?"

Polly turned over the sheet with utmost care, as it was so dry and
brittle, and to the speechless astonishment of them all, it showed that
the mourning bands were used for the death of George Washington. The
entire front page was devoted to the news of his demise which had
occurred the day before going to press. His fame, and value to the United
States, were spoken of, and other features of his life were touched upon.
His picture, printed from an old wood-cut, headed the page. All the
spelling was such as was common at that time with the letter "e" tacked
on when possible and the old English "f's" were used for "s's" and
long-stemmed "p's," and high-browed "a's" and "i's," were formed to show
readers that the writer and editor was a well-educated man.

"Oh my! Must we fold it up and put it back of that board again?" sighed
Polly, finally.

"If you want a bargain, that is what you'd better do," returned Mrs.
Fabian.

"Maybe the picture is as old as the paper," ventured Polly.

The thought of the picture had completely vanished from the mind of Mrs.
Fabian when she saw the rare old newspaper; but now she quickly picked up
the article and turned it over. The magnifying glass was once more
brought to bear upon the subject, and after several minutes of
inspection,--minutes of impatient hesitation on the part of the
girls,--she looked up bewildered with her discovery.

"Polly, this is really the missing picture that will complete the set
that is on exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum, in New York. It is one
of the famous color-prints made in France about the sixteenth century,
and the subject is the famous Bridge at Avignon. This is worth thousands
of dollars, dear, and I hesitate to tell you what to offer for it."

Polly would have taken the rare picture out to the still sleeping man and
offered him a sum that would have made him sit up and investigate the
matter for himself. But clever Dodo advised another method.

"If you offer more than the old frame is actually worth, when you say you
will pay so much for the frames--he will see right off that there's a
'nigger in the woodpile.' Let's tangle up a few of these old black-walnut
frames with the two valuable pictures, and I'll bargain for you."

"Better let Mrs. Fabian bargain--you know how she got the candle-sticks
in exchange for a two-dollar 'bankit' lamp," Eleanor reminded them.

"I'll do it, while you girls keep on poking about as if to find other
things," declared Mrs. Fabian. "Here, Polly, let us fix this frame up
exactly as it was before, and I'll take four out of the pile and place
them, one on top of the other, upon this dresser, and then call the man
out to quote me a price on the lot."

This was carefully done, dust being shaken out of the old curtain so that
the glass was again coated, and then dust was shaken over the back where
the board had been removed and cleaned.

A dreadful lithograph showing a string of fish, framed in a wide gilt
affair, was one that was chosen for the group. An oval frame with a
woman's photograph in it, was another selected. Then the four were
arranged: The large engraving at the bottom, the fish next, then the
little old relic, and on top, the oval frame. All four appeared dirty and
insignificant as they lay on the top of the dresser; and to finish the
work, Polly used the chenille rag to gather up as much dust as possible
from the filthy floor, and shook it vigorously over all the frames. Such
a choking and coughing as ensued made them separate in haste, for fear
the noise would make the auctioneer come out to enquire.

But he was too deeply concerned with some pleasant dream to awake to
business, before his usual time for the afternoon siesta had ended, so
Mrs. Fabian went out to rouse him.

"Eh, what did you say?" exclaimed he, jumping up.

"I want you to tell me how much are a few picture-frames which we found
in a corner."

"Oh, anything you like. How much do you think they are wuth?" was his
reply.

Mrs. Fabian smiled pleasantly. "That is not what I said. You are the
salesman and I the buyer. You should state a price."

"Um--ah!" yawned Mr. Van Styne at this, and stretched his arms out over
his head. "I s'pose that ends my nap, eh?"

He shuffled out of the office after Mrs. Fabian and went into the
store-house. When he saw the girls poking about amongst the old chairs,
bureaus, and motley collection of furniture, he laughed, and said:
"That's right! Find all the old bargains you can. I'm your man to sell
them cheap to you."

Had he but known what he was about to do!

Mrs. Fabian led him down to the corner where the pile of four pictures
were waiting on the dresser, and said: "These are the four I want a price
on. The frames are all in good order and the glasses are not cracked at
all."

Mr. Van Styne took a pair of old steel-rimmed specs from the vest-pocket
over his heart, and pushed them upon his thin nose. He picked up the top
oval frame, blew off the dust and laughed at the homely face that stared
out at him. He turned to Mrs. Fabian with a twinkle in his eyes and said,
jokingly:

"Now, if that gal was your relation and you wanted her ugly photograph
that bad, I'd say the hull thing was wuth a dollar to you. But seein'
it's fifty year old, and you ain't near that, yet, I will sell her fer a
quarter. The glass is wuth that, I reckon."

He placed it face down beside the other three pictures. "Now this one,"
taking up the rare old print with the newspaper packed in the back,
"Ain't wuth a darn, so why do you pick it out?"

"But the glass is the right size and will cost me more to order, than I
can get it for of you," remarked Mrs. Fabian, anxiously, while the girls
held their breath.

The old auctioneer heard the note of anxiety in her tone and peered over
his specs to study her guileless expression. She instantly guarded
herself, when she saw his look, and so he saw only a nice lady who was
now picking up the fish-picture.

"And this dining-room picture; how much will you take for _it_. Why not
give me a job-lot price and I'll see. I may as well pack four as two in
the automobile."

But Mr. Van Styne had not known there was an automobile; and he was
wondering now, why people with a car should come in and pick out a few
picture glasses to save money. He glanced over the last picture which was
the large engraving, and then turned it over to look at its back.

"That's a mighty big sheet of glass in that one. That glass alone, cost
about a dollar-forty. Then the frame's a good hard-wood frame, too. I'll
look up my books and see who sent them pictures in for sale. Then I can
see if they put a figger on them."

He made notes of the chalk numbers marked on the backs of the
picture-boards and then started for his office. Mrs. Fabian, with sinking
heart, followed at his heels.

"If he looks up his records and finds they came from the old house of
Paul Revere and his descendants, he will never sell them at a decent
price," thought she, impatiently.

She sat opposite the old man while he fumbled the pages of his book and
slowly glanced down the entries, his bent fore-finger pointing to each
item carefully as he read.

"Um! Here it is: Number 329, came from Sarah Dolan, who moved to a
smaller flat last Spring. From this entry I see that all them seven
pictures came from her. Do you happen to know her?"

Mr. Van Styne glanced up at his companion.

She shook her head, and he said, closing the book, "Why, Sally Dolan was
cook fer the Revere boys, and when they broke up, she started a bordin'
house down on Morris Street. Then she took rheumatiz and was that
crippled, she couldn't get about the kitchen no more, so she gave up. Her
boys manage to keep her now, and she takes things easy. But she sure was
a good cook!"

Much as Mrs. Fabian would have liked to question the old man about the
Revere boys she feared he might remember that the cook was given a lot of
old pictures when the boys "broke up", so she turned the subject
adroitly.

"Well, I'll go and see what the girls have found out there, I guess. But
I wish you'd fix a price on those four frames."

"Lem'me see, now. Sal Dolan didn't set no price, and if I say five
dollars for the four, would you take 'em?"

"Dear me!" objected Mrs. Fabian, craftily. "The large one you said was
worth about a dollar-thirty, and the fish-picture a dollar. That leaves
two dollars and seventy cents for the other two. Isn't that pretty high
for them?"

"But that fish picture makes a fine dinin' room piece, especially if you
could get the mate what is a brace of quails."

"Oh well, rather than jew you down, I'll take them, if you will take the
trouble to make me out a receipt for the four."

"Ain't this a cash sale?" queried the man, wonderingly.

"Of course, but two of them are for friends. I only intend keeping the
other two. I want them, to have the bill to show, you see."

Thereupon Mr. Van Styne wrote out the bill on a scrap of paper and
receipted it, and then counted the five one dollar bills Mrs. Fabian had
paid him. "Ten per cent fer me and the rest for Sally," he added as he
rolled fifty cents inside four one dollar bills and pocketed the other
fifty cents.

Mrs. Fabian was about to go for the pictures, when Polly came out. "I
want to ask the auctioneer how much this little box and mirror are?" and
she showed a lovely little Empire dressing-mirror to him. It was
scratched and had been varnished, but its former beauty could be quickly
restored, for the form and material were good as ever.

"I'm told that is a real antique. That piece come from the old Revere
place, too. Mrs. Dolan says she heard it was used by the boy's
grandmother. But I don't know what to charge."

"I'll give you ten dollars for it," eagerly said Polly.

"Ten dollars!" gasped the man, sinking back in his desk-chair.

Mrs. Fabian tried to signal Polly, but the girl was too intent on
securing the gem. Then Mrs. Fabian said to the man:

"Dear me! The child has more money than brains, eh?" and laughed
heartily.

"I ain't so sure about that. She certainly knows a good thing," returned
Mr. Van Styne. Then he said to Polly: "Will you carry it right along with
you, if I sell it for ten?"

"Of course!" declared she, and the sale was made.

"I guess we'd better be going, Polly," suggested Mrs. Fabian, now. This
told the girl that the deal over the pictures had been consummated, but
she did not ask questions then.

Mrs. Fabian went back to gather up her four precious pictures, and had
the other girls help her carry them away. Then they bid the good old man
good-by and started off.

"Come again, when you have more time to poke around," said he, as he
stood on the doorstep watching them walk towards the car which was
waiting a short distance down the street.

"We certainly will, and if you get anything really antique in the place
at any time, drop me word, or telephone to the address I left on your
desk, just now," said Mrs. Fabian.

Once the hunters were safely on the way to New York, the girls importuned
Mrs. Fabian to tell them the story of the pictures, but she laughingly
remarked:

"Do you know, we forgot all about our luncheon! Poor Carl must be
famished!"

"Not much," retorted Carl. "I went to that quick lunch-room across from
the old junk-shop, and got the best dinner for forty cents that I ever
tasted. But we will stop for a picnic, when we reach the country, if you
say so."

"No, indeed! We'll eat as we drive along, Carl," said Mrs. Fabian, then
turning to the girls, she told the tale[A] of the old pictures and what
she paid for them.

"Why!" gasped the wondering girls. "It can't be possible!"

At that, Mrs. Fabian produced the bill of sale and said: "I got this in
case there ever should be any dispute over the legality of this
negotiation. The two awful pictures we can give to some family along the
road, but the two precious ones we will cherish as if they were the
Koh-i-noor Diamond."

When the Ashbys and Mr. Fabian heard the story, and saw the validity of
the two pictures, they sat astounded. Mr. Fabian then said:

"Polly really ought to immortalize her name by presenting this missing
scroll to the Metropolitan Museum, but she can keep the letter and
newspaper. That ought to be worth the price she paid for the 'glass'."

"That's just what I'll do, Mr. Fabian. I would never feel happy if I
_kept_ a thing that is considered so rare, and has been sought for by the
Museum's collectors."

So Polly Brewster's name is to be found ticketed as the donor of the
twelfth valuable picture in that set.

-----
[Footnote A: True incident in author's experience.]



CHAPTER X

UNEXPECTED NEWS FROM PEBBLY PIT


The young collectors experienced the usual "red-tape" in offering the
rare picture to the Museum, and after the customary delays, it was
accepted with letters of thanks. Individual letters from several
officials were written to Polly and her friends, voicing the appreciation
of the men at being able to complete the series.

Shortly after this pleasing incident, the girls went out on another
excursion just across the Hudson, in New Jersey. They took the ferry at
One Hundred and Thirtieth Street, and after reaching Edgewater, drove
through the small towns nestling on the Hackensack, until they came to
the village of Hasbrouck Heights. All about this section are old, old
houses, and if you hunt keenly enough, you will find delightful odd bits
from Revolutionary days.

That evening, upon their return, the girls were eager to compare their
trophies of the day, but the maid came in with a day letter for Polly.
The others waited for her to read it, and as she read, her expression
changed perceptibly.

"Oh, oh! It's happened again!" cried she fearfully, as she finished the
letter.

"What! What has happened?" anxiously asked her companions, crowding about
her.

"Another slide on Grizzly. This time it has destroyed _everything_ so
that mining the gold is out of the question," and Polly gave the message
to Mrs. Fabian to read aloud.

"Bad land-slide on Grizzly. Demolished all machinery and wiped out the
entire surface of mountain-top. No lives lost, but cave and vein of ore
lost. Topography completely changed. Wait for summer to start new search
and locate gold. Letter sent to Latimer and Dalken. Ask them for
particulars. John Brewster."

"Oh, Polly! That means that our gold mine has vanished, and all our
income from it will be stopped!" cried Eleanor.

"We haven't had any income to stop," replied Polly, cynically. "About all
the good we've ever had from Choko's Find Mine has been violent physical
exercise, expenses and the dreams that buoy hope."

Her friends laughed in spite of the seriousness of the matter, and
Eleanor added: "It also means that Daddy, and all of our New York
investors, have lost the money they invested in the project."

"Well, when Tom Latimer called on me the evening after our ducking in the
Bay, he said he was not in favor of working on the mine so late in the
season. He thought John was taking dreadful risks to keep the plant open
when snowstorms and slides were imminent.

"But John told him that plenty of snow was just what was needed on the
peaks, to cement the chasms and crevices together that had been opened by
the summer's heat and continued drought all Fall. In case no snow came,
he said he would agree to abandon work when the cold weather became too
severe to remain at that altitude."

"This unexpected accident and loss of the mine does not prevent the
output of the lava jewels, Polly, so there'll be no noticeable difference
in your income, will there?" asked Mrs. Fabian.

"Well, Tom explained it all to me. He said that mine affairs were so
involved with the jewel works at Rainbow Cliffs, that one disaster
affected the other interest. Rainbow Cliffs is part of Pebbly Pit Ranch,
so the Cliffs were incorporated when work began on the mining of the
lava. Then when trouble at Choko's Find Mine started, the mines at
Rainbow Cliffs were mortgaged to secure financial aid for the gold mine
on the mountains. So that everything is mixed up now in this calamity,"
explained Polly, tearfully.

Soon after this, the telephone rang. Mr. Latimer said he was coming to
call, that evening, and Mr. Dalken wished to come in at the same time.
Would the girls be home?

Polly assured him they would, and also that he would be welcomed as she
wished to hear about the important matters that he could fully explain to
her.

Soon after eight o'clock, therefore, Mr. Latimer and Mr. Dalken were
announced. Polly and Eleanor--the latter had realized that maybe her
future, because of this disaster to the mine would not be as luxurious as
she had dreamed of--anxiously welcomed the two men. Polly lost no time in
polite nothings, but asked, at once, about the conditions at the mines.

"I see you have heard about the trouble?" ventured Mr. Latimer.

"Yes, I received a long night letter from home, this afternoon. But they
do not say whether there is anything left to pay my way in New York, or
whether I ought to start for home," said Polly.

Eleanor was shocked at her words. "Why, Polly, surely you have no dread
of such being the case, just because our old gold mine is choked again?"

"Don't you understand, Nolla, that starting work on the mine, and all the
machinery for it, costs so much that not only is the lava mine involved,
but the very ranch is risked. Maybe father will have to sell out his
beloved farm and go away," explained Polly, with quivering lips.

"Oh no, Polly," hastily came from Mr. Latimer. "We are all stock-holders
in this venture, you know, and one man alone does not bear the costs of
the mine and its losses. That is why Mr. Dalken and I came over, tonight,
when we got word that John had written you. We feared you might not
understand matters."

"But I understand father, well enough, Mr. Latimer. He will never permit
anyone to lose a penny because of him or his interests."

"Maybe he won't, Polly, but this mining venture was as much our interest
as yours, or your father's, remember. It seems gone, this time, but we
must take our loss as courageously as we would our profits. Tom wired me
to come and see you and explain that you need make no change in any of
your plans, as everything would go on as usual at the ranch. He and John
will devote all of their time to the Cliffs now, instead of dividing
their attention between the two mines, as they have been doing,
heretofore," explained Mr. Latimer.

"But your mother wrote me, Polly," now said Mr. Dalken, "that finances
would be rather strained for the next year, because of this tremendous
outlay on the mines and no income; and the terrible drought that killed
off so many head of cattle on the ranch this year, makes things look
rather unpromising. I know how practical you are, and I thought it best
to let you hear how matters stand. Your folks asked me not to mention it,
because they wanted you to finish your studies here, and there are ample
funds to pay for that. But I took it upon myself to warn you about going
deeply into any antique purchases, in your auction fever."

"I'm so glad you did, Mr. Dalken. As you say, I am not a silly child, and
now that I know exactly how matters are at home, I will see if I cannot
do something while studying in New York, to pay my own way," responded
Polly, anxiously.

"Oh, it isn't as bad as that, Child!" laughed Mr. Latimer; "but it is
best for you not to buy in Fifth Avenue shops, or give away rare old
bargains from the country."

Polly smiled. "Mr. Latimer, this is what I propose doing to earn my
expenses in New York. Instead of buying old objects for fun, I shall
secure them to sell again and make money."

"Poll is right! And I propose going with her as the partner in her first
business venture!" declared Eleanor.

"Where will you two girls find customers?" asked Mr. Dalken, admiring the
way they accepted the news that their gold mine seemed wiped out for all
time.

"Oh, Polly'll find a way, never fear!" declared Eleanor with fervent
faith in her friend's ability to accomplish things.

"Yes, I'll get Mr. Ashby, first of all, to permit us to exhibit our goods
in his 'odd room' and we'll pay him a commission for sales, just as other
folks do who wish to exchange, or sell, their antiques," explained Polly.

"Well, if you girls manage to find such valuable things as that famous
missing picture that the Museum made such a time over, I should say you
had found a big gold mine in New York instead of losing a little one in
the Rockies," said Mr. Dalken.

So, shortly after the girls learned that they had to economise on
expenses that year, Polly carried her old coverlets to Mr. Ashby's shop
and left them with him to sell. The fine little mirror had been restored
and was perfectly beautiful. This was placed on exhibition in the Empire
Room of the Ashby Shop, but scarcely had it had time to be friendly with
other rare objects in that room, before it was purchased at a high price.
Thus Polly cleared several hundred dollars on the first sale, and felt
encouraged to invest that money in new purchases.

Mr. Dalken gladly sent Carl with the car, to drive the girls whenever
they heard of a place to visit, but Ruth and Nancy seldom accompanied
them these days. Ruth had school to attend daily, and Nancy was painting
a portrait for a famous stage beauty who had offered her an attractive
price for the work.

The girls, with Mrs. Fabian, had gone again to New Jersey, after their
great investment that day in Van Styne's place; but they drove on to
Baskingridge that day, and stopped at several ancient farm-houses to
ferret for old things. At one of the places, they secured some very old
glassware, also odd pieces of Staffordshire, and a well-nigh complete set
of old Wedgewood dishes.

At another house they got a set of old brass fire-irons and a crane with
all the hangers and pots complete, just as it had been removed from the
brick fire-place and thrown up in the attic.

At the third house, Polly became enamored of a wonderful sampler, and
several very old silhouettes--the latter, very different from the kind we
are familiar with. As these old relics were in the attic and were
considered valueless, she got them for a very small sum.

While Polly was bargaining for these trifles, Eleanor was in the
grandmother's room looking at several marvelous patch-work quilts. The
old dame told Eleanor the story connected with each quilt; and one, the
unusual one of silk pieces, as well as worsteds, patched in with calico,
velvet and other odd materials, was said to be made of a collection of
famous bits from gowns worn by the ladies of Revolutionary Days.

How the old grand-dame ever came into possession of such a valuable
quilt, was beyond Eleanor's comprehension. Then Polly and the house-wife
joined her, and Polly was shown the quilt.

"How very interesting," remarked she.

"Yes, and I'll tell you how it came about," explained Mrs. Johnson.
"We've always lived on this place, and when the Army passed this way, our
folks helped out in all sorts of ways.

"During the winter that General Washington and his Lady were stationed at
Morristown, there was lots of doings all about the county. You'll read in
the history of Lady Washington, how she was entertained by the first
families about here--the Fords, the Footes, and others.

"Our great-grandmother was a fine needlewoman and went about to the
houses making gowns and cloaks for the ladies. She always saved the
scraps of silk and stuff that was wasted, and of these she patched
several quilts. On the back of each bit of these materials, she pasted
little book-muslin tickets that had the name and date printed on it, of
the lady and the occasion she wore the gown. So on the back of each of
these pieces is still to be found the printing of that ancestress of
mine."

"Oh, isn't this interesting!" exclaimed Polly, eagerly.

And Eleanor asked: "Where are the other quilts?"

"We don't exactly know what happened to the others she made; but this one
came right down from grandmother's mother to her, then to my mother, and
now to me."

"Would any price tempt you to sell it?" asked Polly.

"Nothin' on earth, whiles I live. But I haven't any children, and
goodness only knows what will become of the dear old heirloom. Why did
you ask?"

"How I would love to own it! Not for its value in money but really to
hold it as a precious patriotic reminder of those days when the ladies,
even though they dressed fine and had good times, performed such heroic
and almost super-human deeds for the Army," explained Polly.

Mrs. Johnson gazed keenly at the girl's face for a few moments, then
said: "Tell me your name and address: I am going to write it out now,
that this quilt is to be yours any time I die; and you must be as careful
of it as we have been. Always keep tar-paper, or tobacco in it, during
summer when moths fly about."

Polly thanked the lady very seriously and promised to be most careful of
it in every way, but she said she hoped Mrs. Johnson would live a long
time to enjoy the quilt as her own family relic.

On the drive back through Morristown that day, Mrs. Fabian had Carl stop
at Mr. Van Styne's auction rooms, but the old man was not in, and the
door was locked. A sheet of paper tacked inside the sash of the door,
announced that the owner was at Parsippany numbering household goods for
an auction to be held in two weeks' time.

Mrs. Fabian made a note of the name and location of the house where the
sale was to be held, and came back to the automobile. She showed the
paper to the girls, and said:

"We'll try to get out here for that sale. But I'll write Mr. Van Styne
first, and ask him what sort of things the people have."

"Yes, it would be silly to come so far and find the house contained
nothing but horrid old modern stuff," said Eleanor.

Arriving home, late that afternoon, Mrs. Fabian was given a letter sent
from the old auctioneer at Morristown. He had kept his word and notified
the young collectors of the sale about to be held at Parsippany: the sale
they had heard about that day.

"He says, in this letter," explained Mrs. Fabian after reading it, "the
old farm-house where the vendue will take place, is filled with real old
furniture; the family that owned the farm have held it for five
generations. Mr. Van Styne admits that he is not enough of a connoisseur
to judge the actual value of the antiques, but there are some mahogany
pieces, and loads of queer old things that _his_ wife would have kept in
the attic, or split up for kindlings. As he thinks this is what is now
called 'Period Furniture,' he would suggest that we run out and have a
look at it before the day of the sale."

"The letter sounds exactly like him, doesn't it?" laughed Polly.

"Yes, but it is very nice of him to be so honest about it. Most
auctioneers would tell us the furniture was wonderful," returned Mrs.
Fabian.

"When do you think we can run out there, Mrs. Fabian?" asked Eleanor,
eagerly.

"We'll find out what day Carl can best arrange for the trip. We mustn't
'drive a willing horse to death,' you know."

Later in the evening, the telephone bell rang and Polly was called to the
'phone. The maid who answered the ring said it was a man's voice but she
had not been able to understand the name.

Eleanor heard her chum say: "Oh, really! We've been wondering what became
of you. It was so surprising to find you were an old friend of our Mr.
Dalken's and then never hear from you again, or have anyone know where
you had gone."

Mrs. Fabian glanced questioningly at Eleanor, but the girl shook her head
in token of her ignorance of who the caller could be. Then they heard
Polly say: "Why, I reckon so. If you'll hold the wire a moment, I'll run
and ask Mrs. Fabian."

A few moments later, Polly rushed into the room and said eagerly: "Jack
Baxter is on the 'phone and wants to know if he may come in, tomorrow
evening, Mrs. Fabian. He says he has a little furniture commission for
Nolla and me to take care of."

Mrs. Fabian immediately replied that the young man would be welcomed the
following evening, and Polly hurried back to deliver the invitation.
Eleanor waited until she heard the conversation over the telephone
resumed between the two, then she said to Mrs. Fabian:

"I bet anything, that Jack Baxter is really in love with Polly! I watched
him all that time, after he was formally introduced by Mr. Dalken, and he
just hung on her every word and act."

Mrs. Fabian smiled. "That is the usual experience the young men have with
Polly. I think the very fact that she is unmindful of her attractions,
coupled with her indifference to the attentions of the male sex, acts as
a spur to them; each tries to see if she will not capitulate to his
individual charms."

Eleanor laughed. "You speak as if you believed the young men to be
egotistical enough to _think_ they were charming."

"They do, Nolla!" retorted Mrs. Fabian. "Every Adam's son firmly believes
he is more alluring and attractive to a girl, than his friends. That is
why they all follow tamely after a girl who has no time for them: they
cannot believe it _possible_ that she is not overcome with their
fascinations."

Eleanor smiled as she listened, then she remarked: "I guess I'll try
Polly's strategy and see if the beaus line up for me."

"You have no need to experiment with any new tricks," replied Mrs.
Fabian, warningly. "There are enough sighing young men already, waiting
to break their hearts and necks, for a mere glance from those impish eyes
of yours."

Eleanor laughed merrily at her chaperone's words, but Polly's return to
the room interrupted their little talk.

"What do you think?" demanded Polly, as soon as she was in the room.

Not giving them time to answer, she said: "Jack Baxter is going to
furnish a bachelor apartment in the city, and says he is going to give
Nolla and me the contract for doing it. It will be our very first work as
interior decorators!"

"Oh," gasped Eleanor, "how can we do it?"

Polly looked amazed at such a question, and retorted: "Why, with money
and brains, to be sure!"

"Is that why he's coming tomorrow evening?" asked Eleanor.

"Yes; he is now staying at Mr. Dalken's apartment, and both of them are
coming over tomorrow. He says he has been West since we last saw him, and
he stopped at Pebbly Pit to see the folks, on his way back from the
Coast. That is why he has not been heard from--he was called away so
suddenly, and just got back today."

"I wonder why he took all the trouble to go to Pebbly Pit?" said Eleanor.
"He didn't know a soul there!"

"That's what I asked him, and he says he will tell us all about it
tomorrow night," explained Polly.



CHAPTER XI

POLLY'S FIRST CONTRACT


Promptly at eight, Jack Baxter and Mr. Dalken were announced to Polly and
Eleanor. The Fabians had gone to the Opera and Mr. Dalken was supposed to
act as chaperone for the evening.

"This is a new experience for me," laughed he, "but not one that I
dislike. In fact, I will be glad to offer my services in the same
capacity, at any time, for you girls."

"Better beware how you offer yourself on such an altar," teased Polly,
trying to appear calm and composed, whereas she was keyed up to hear
about the proposed work young Baxter wished them to do for his new
apartment.

Eleanor deemed it wise to mention another subject first, so she asked:
"How long were you at Pebbly Pit, Mr. Baxter?"

"That's one of the reasons we came over to see you," interpolated Mr.
Dalken. "Jack has a lot to tell you about the troubles there."

"What troubles?" wondered Polly. "You don't mean the land-slide, do you?"

"We know about that," added Eleanor.

"You only heard the first news of it. But you never knew what followed
that first event," returned Mr. Dalken. "I've known how things stood for
a short time, but I talked it over with the Latimers, and we decided to
let Jack go West with Mr. Alexander, and investigate matters for
themselves."

"Dodo's father! What has he to do with it?" asked both girls in surprise.

"More than we can ever appreciate. Because he is such an experienced old
miner, having spent years in the Klondike, and later, down in the
Colorado mining districts, his going to Pebbly Pit was the best thing
that ever happened to our company. Jack had just decided to invest a
great deal of his capital in the joint companies, so he decided to
accompany Alexander and see for himself how the land lay."

"And what was Mr. Alexander's verdict?" asked Polly.

"Listen to Jack's story of what happened on the mountain, that early
morning. It is as thrilling as anything I ever heard," said Mr. Dalken.

"I'd have given anything to have been on the spot when that old peak
divided her earthly substance," laughed Jack. "But even the telling of it
by Tom Latimer and John Brewster, was so exciting that I tried every way
possible to reach the mountain where the awful avalanche took place.

"Tom had felt a tremor run along the side of the peak the night before,
and had warned John that old Grizzly was ripping mad again. So the two of
them rode along the Crest where those claim-jumpers were buried the time
that other avalanche occurred, and they saw that Grizzly Slide had broken
up great masses of ice-field, and on the far side where it drops suddenly
to the valley, thousands of feet below, a great block of ice and rock had
fallen from the top-side and had rolled down, destroying everything in
its terrific plunge.

"Both boys were satisfied that it was only a matter of time before the
gaping crevices showing on the side towards the gold mine, would widen
and the top-mass begin to move. It was impossible to say whether a slide
would happen on the cave-side or roll down one of the gulleys on either
side of the mine. But the two of them made up their minds that everyone
must move from the camp without delay, and seek safety.

"Orders were given to strike camp at once, and the men worked all night,
packing away outfits and tools, and such machinery as could be moved
inside the cave. Then the mouth was closed against winter storms, and
they started, on their horses, to ride along Top Notch Trail, on the down
trip.

"It was almost noon when they left the mine, and by two o'clock they
halted on one of the crests to cook dinner. The horses were hobbled where
a patch of Buffalo grass provided good pastureage, and Rattlesnake Mike
started a fire to cook the meal. Tom and John got out their tackle to
catch a few trout, when a fearful roll of thunder sounded along the
crest.

"'She come down, pooty queeck!' exclaimed Mike, startled out of his usual
calmness.

"'Do you mean Old Grizzly?' Tom asked him.

"But before he could reply, there was such a crash and roar, and the
whole ground shook under their feet as if an earthquake had caused it.
Everyone stood aghast looking at what had been snow-capped Grizzly but a
moment before. So astonished were the men that they couldn't speak.

"The roar and tumult continued so seemingly close at hand, that the men
ran for their horses, and would have ridden down the trail had not Mike
laughed and applied a match to the kindling, just as if nothing was
happening above them on Grizzly Slide. It instantly quieted the fears of
the others, and they turned again to wait for further events.

"Tom Latimer says, that what caused such a panicky feeling in them all,
was the fact that one moment they had seen the glistening cap of Old
Grizzly, and the next, it was gone, and a great cloud of flying white
particles hid the scene for a time.

"The terrific detonation they heard immediately after the peak's snow-cap
rolled down the mountain-side, was caused by the mass of rock, ice, snow
and general débris, striking the ground below. How far it fell before
striking, they could not say, but Mike claims it must have been hurtled,
from the peak of Grizzly, to the great gulch that runs along its lower
side, about five thousand feet below--all that distance before landing
and filling the ravines about that section.

"All the way down, from Grizzly Gulches to the bottoms that run along
Bear Forks branches, the avalanche tore up trees, boulders, moraine, and
other heavy matter, that generally forms a dam for smaller slides than
this one was. But this time, entire forests were shoved along, still
standing, just like a great cake of icing with fancy frosting of colored
sugar on top of it, is pushed off from a slice of birthday cake, when the
knife loosens it. The moment any part of this avalanche came up against a
cliff, or rolled over into vast ravines, that much of the sliding forest
tumbled up against itself, or fell into the gulch to instantly fill up
the cleft and cause the remaining slide to roll over it.

"The end of that avalanche did not come until it reached the valley of
Bear Forks, just below Pebbly Pit ranch. If your home had not been snugly
located up in that crater, but had been down in the valley by the river,
it would have been completely covered with the tons of trash that still
remained after having rolled for miles, and finally worn itself out on
the banks of the stream.

"All the branches of Bear Forks that start up on the side of the
mountain, are choked, and the waters rushed in every direction, starting
smaller slides by up-rooting trees and loose stones and shale.

"The miners followed Mike's example, and ate a hearty dinner, although
they were all crazy to ride back and ascertain the extent of the damage
caused. Mike was for their going quietly on home, but not one of the
others would agree to this. So they turned back and rode as far as the
trail was passable. But they could not climb over the great mass of
débris that was piled up, shortly after leaving Four Blaze Tree. And the
queer sensation of not seeing the old familiar top on Grizzly Peak,
unnerved them for further adventure that day.

"They got home past midnight, to hear the account of what happened as
witnessed by Anne, and Mr. and Mrs. Brewster.

"At the first rolling of the slide, Anne ran out of the ranch-house and
watched anxiously, as she knew the men were up at the mine. She saw such
a strange sight that she rubbed her eyes to make sure she was not
dreaming. She says, she saw the top of Old Grizzly break right off as if
someone had cleft it at a given point down from the peak. And this
gigantic mass of ice, still glittering in the sun-rays, toppled down
until she heard the crash and roar and felt the earth shake under her
feet even at that great distance from the Peak that the ranch was.

"The ranch-house and the out-buildings shook as in a quake, and caused
everyone to run toward the terrace that runs along the edge of the
crater. There they stood watching clouds of snow float up over the
forests that, one moment were to be seen, and the next were moving
swiftly down the mountain sides.

"The folks feared the men at the mine had been killed, as the avalanche
was the greatest they had ever heard of in that vicinity, so Mr. Brewster
rode madly to Oak Creek to get some men to go with him to see if any
signs of his boys could be found.

"They met them at Lone Pine Blaze, and Tom said that John's father sat
still and sobbed like a child, with relief at finding everyone in his
mining-party safe.

"So, Miss Polly, the gold mine is closed by Nature, for untold repairs.
Whether this generation will ever locate the ore and dig out the tools
and machinery buried in the cave, remains to be seen. But I was so
infatuated with life in the Rockies during the short visit I had there,
that I determined to put in all the cramming at college that was
possible, and finish my education so I could go out there to join Tom
Latimer and John Brewster in their exciting engineering work."

When Jack had concluded his story, the girls seemed rather downcast at
the knowledge that their little mine was gone, but Mr. Dalken said to
young Baxter:

"You may as well tell them about the Cliffs, and have all the mourning
over at one time."

Polly glanced anxiously from Mr. Dalken to Jack, and then at Eleanor, but
the young man explained without waiting longer: "All the miners working
at Rainbow Cliffs went on a big strike shortly after the calamity on
Grizzly Slide, and so unreasonable were their demands that Mr. Brewster
refused to grant them. That stopped work on the lava jewels, too, and
everything is closed down until next year. Of course, while there is no
work going on, there are no wages to pay, but there is also no income
from the vast amount of money invested in machinery."

"Dear me, then really, I am a pauper for the time being," exclaimed
Polly, but not in a distressed tone as one would expect after such dire
news.

"Your mother told me most emphatically, that that was _not_ the case.
Everyone at Pebbly Pit seems to want you to continue with your studies
until you have finished; and your father said there was a tidy fortune in
a Denver bank for you, so that no matter what happened to others, you
were amply provided for. With your business that you wish to take up, you
will not have to worry over the future," explained Jack Baxter.

Eleanor remembered that Mr. Dalken had invested heavily in these two
Pebbly Pit ventures, and now she turned to him.

"Will everyone connected with those two mines lose a great deal of
money?"

"Your father, the Latimers, the Evans', myself and John Brewster hold
equal shares of stock, but Polly's father holds twice as much as anyone
else, for he holds Polly's stock as her guardian as well as his own. The
Montresor Estate, representing the heirs of Kenneth's uncle who first
discovered the mine on Grizzly, and then willed it to Polly who later
re-discovered the same vein of ore in the cave, hold the same number of
shares in the stock-company as either of us, although they did not
furnish any cash for their stock.

"Now Ebeneezer Alexander told Jack to tell us, that he simply could not
stand city-life another day. And, after enjoying the freedom and open
life of the Rockies again, he was determined to stay at Pebbly Pit and
see the tangle worked out. His experience will be most valuable to Tom
and John, who are only young engineers, after all. And Mr. Brewster is a
stock-grower with no knowledge of mining. So we think it is a good plan
to let Mr. Alexander take up some of our shares, and sell him an interest
in the future of these mines.

"If anyone can pull Choko's Find Mine out of the grave it is buried in,
old Ebeneezer can do it. He has such energy and perseverance that nothing
daunts him--excepting big cities."

"And titles!" added Eleanor, making her friends laugh.

"Oh, I'm glad to hear he will stay there to help. I like him so much!"
declared Polly.

"Well, now that most of our evening was given to the story about the
land-slide on Grizzly, how much time am I to be given for the furnishing
of my apartment?" asked Jack Baxter.

"Just talking about it won't furnish it," retorted Polly, smilingly.

"No, but we can get at first principles, can't we?"

"Yes; if both sides know on what basis each wishes to start!" said
Eleanor.

"I know my side of it, and I really think you girls know yours. This is
my basis: I have two large rooms and bath near Fifth Avenue, that I want
a decorator to do in keeping with the style of the rooms. I don't care
where or how you get the items for furnishing, but I'd like some of the
fun of going about with you when you visit odd corners of the country to
dig up the antiques."

"If you waste your time that way, how do you expect to finish a hurried
education in engineering?" asked Polly.

"Oh, furnishing won't last long, and studying will."

"If Mr. Dalken is a conscientious executor of your estate I should think
he'd forbid your wasting any time hunting up furniture and hiring
decorators to do it for you, at the same time," teased Eleanor.

Mr. Dalken laughed and said: "I always said 'All work and no play makes
Jack a dull boy.'"

"Well, Jack can work for two whole weeks before he gets any play, as far
as going to a sale is concerned. There will be no sale, that we know of,
until the old house at Parsippany is sold in two weeks," explained Polly.

"I won't have to wait as long as that, I hope, for my apartment. I'm
paying rent on it already, and am stopping with Mr. Dalken as his guest,
until I get a bed and a chair."

"But I thought you wanted to furnish by going to the sales of antiques,"
ventured Polly.

"I did, but I want to go to one tomorrow. Can't you girls contract to
escort me to places in the city where we can get things without waiting?"

"As far as that is concerned, we can take you right over to the Ashby
Shop and find everything on earth you can use, right in his collections,"
said Polly.

"I wanted to feel that you two girls were getting this contract and the
profits, and not a famous establishment," demurred Jack.

"We'll have the contract, all right, but we will only buy what we need
from Mr. Ashby, at regular discount, you know," explained Eleanor in a
business-like manner.

Mr. Dalken smiled indulgently on his two young friends who had developed
such marvelous aptitude for business since their trip abroad that summer.
And young Baxter concluded with: "All right; tomorrow, you girls get Mrs.
Fabian, and come over to my rooms to get your 'atmosphere.' Then we'll
start in and shop."

So the next ten days were filled with a great many visits to the
apartment to determine certain colors and styles of things, and with a
great deal of important conferring between the client and the decorators.
But eventually, the apartment was almost ready for its occupant, and
three young people declared that the decorating was a work of art--simply
perfect! And it did not cost so _very_ much, either! Mr. Dalken reserved
his opinion on costs, however, and laughed in his sleeve at Baxter, for
the latter had no more need of an apartment than a cat has for two tails.
It was a whim of his to give the girls a contract, and Jack could afford
whims, so his guardian said nothing about the bills.

"Well, I must say," said Polly the day after Jack held a "house-warming"
in his newly furnished domain, "I never saw ten days go by as fast as
these did. Here we are almost on top of that sale in the country, and it
seems like yesterday that we got the announcement."

"It shows how much we really love our profession," said Eleanor, "when we
get so much pleasure out of work."

But Dodo was present at some of the conferences the two amateur
decorators held with Jack and she now remarked: "Work! did you two think
that going about in Jack's sporty car and lunching at swell dining-rooms,
or holding up a strip of gold-gauze to watch the sheen on your hand, was
hard work?"

Mrs. Fabian laughed to herself at the conversation. But Polly answered
with an experienced air: "When you have had years of study in decorating,
like Nolla and I have had, you will find that work is not altogether a
physical effort. At present, in your apprenticeship, you do more than you
saw us do in furnishing, but you'll learn, some day!"

Dodo tossed her head confidently, and remarked: "I have nothing more to
learn--if your knowledge is the acme of the understanding of your trade."

As no reply was given this statement, Mrs. Fabian hurried from the room
to laugh quietly to herself at the egotism of youth. Later when Mr. Ashby
was told the story, he said:

"When they have been at the profession for thirty years, and have
acquired all the knowledge that I have in that time, they will begin to
learn that we all know very little of harmony and perfect ideals in
decorating."



CHAPTER XII

THE PARSIPPANY VENDUE


It was a lovely late Fall day when Carl brought Mr. Dalken's car around
to the Fabian's residence to drive the girls to the Parsippany sale. Jack
Baxter was seated beside Carl and announced to the girls as they came out
with Mrs. Fabian: "I'm invited to go with you."

"Who asked you?" was the rejoinder from both girls.

"Carl did. He gets tired of chauffing for hours without rest. So I
offered to help him out."

Of course, Carl's uncomfortable flush showed that Jack was joking, but he
was a welcome addition to the small party, so they started off, a merry
quartette.

As there had been no time to drive out, so far, to inspect the household
goods for sale, it had been postponed until the day of the sale. Mrs.
Fabian said that should there be nothing desirable at the old house, they
could go on and have another hunt about the country.

But the sale promised to be an interesting one, for the moment the girls
found out that the house they were looking for was an old Colonial
two-story farm-house, with wings at each side, they felt sure of its
contents being worth-while.

They parked the car out in a large carriage-house and walked over to the
front door. It was a true type, with sunburst window over the door, and a
wonderful old knocker on the front panel of the door. A narrow high
window at each side had diamond panes in them. There was a dear little
hood over the doorway that someone called a "rain-shed." And on each side
of the "stoop" which was reached by three steps, was a high-backed wooden
seat, with funny low arms at the outer ends.

The windows of the entire house were filled with small-paned sash, the
glass being green and wavy in some panes, and as cloudy as mist in
others. Then again other panes were of really clear white glass. The city
visitors found later, that these old panes were the original old glass
set in by the first owner.

But they did not come to admire the outside, so they all went indoors to
look about. They entered upon a tiny entry.

The front parlor was a small band-box-like room with a chimney piece at
one side, and a stove-pipe hole in it for winter use. Alongside the
chimney was a narrow cupboard that was meant to hold books, or other
things, to keep the parlor from being "cluttered up."

Directly opposite the chimney was a long, high-backed settee, with
haircloth covering. The frame was old mahogany and the shape hinted at
Chippendale, with its six feet having beautiful lines, and the side arms
curving graciously out to invite one to be seated.

In this best room were, also, several rush-bottomed stencilled chairs,
and a Boston Rocker. An inlaid Hepplewhite table stood against the wall
between the two front windows, with its drop-leaf raised against the
wall. A number of old pieces of brass and pewter stood on the table. Over
it hung an early Georgian mirror but the reflection one got when gazing
into it was terrifying.

From the parlor, the collectors went to the long living-room that
occupied one wing of the house. Here was a great open fire-place with
crane, and everything used in olden times for keeping a fire in good
order. Over the mantel hung a wonderful old mirror with a colored picture
of Washington crossing the Delaware in its upper panel.

A rare Empire table with both leaves up, stood in the middle of the room,
and Polly instantly made up her mind to own that table, if nothing more
that day.

As they went about admiring the antiques, Jack said: "Gee! But I'm sorry
we furnished the apartment so soon. What a lot of fine things we might
have had at this sale."

And Eleanor laughingly remarked: "Sell your flat out like so many New
Yorkers do, and start in again on another."

In the low-ceiled, wide dining-room, they found the typical round
mahogany table with twelve chairs--two arm and ten side chairs. The seats
were covered with rep, but must have had haircloth on them at one time.
The backs were very low and curved away from the small of the back in a
frightened manner. There was but one cross-piece in the back and that was
curved also.

The side-board was nearly eight feet long, with six claw feet, and a high
top. On it stood a tea-caddy of mahogany, a knife-box, and several silver
boxes. All of them must have been over a hundred years old. Very old
china and glassware stood on the large table, ready to be sold. The
collectors saw many desirable pieces there, but they were too anxious to
visit the upstairs to stop, then, and examine the plates and other
pieces.

There were four large square rooms on the second floor and in each one,
stood a wonderful four-poster bed--two with canopy-tops and two without.
Empire work-tables were in two rooms, and besides the high chests of
mahogany drawers, and low dressing-tables with tiny front drawers to hold
the comb and brush, there were also ottomans, foot-stools, and ornamental
pieces. Mirrors hung over each mantel, and old-fashioned prints and
paintings were on the walls.

By the time Mrs. Fabian and the girls went downstairs again, they were
dumbfounded to find that a farm-house so near to Morristown and railroad
stations, should have preserved such a wonderful lot of old mahogany
furniture without having been discovered by collectors. But being
strangers to the other people now gathering for the sale, they did not
speak of their wonderment.

Mr. Van Styne was late, and as soon as he arrived he began in the
kitchen, without any greeting to his followers. There seemed to be a far
different type of buyer at this sale, than the girls had found at any of
the little sales in Westchester; and once the auctioneer began on the
antique pieces, the prices ran up alarmingly.

"That man standing over there just paid a hundred and sixty dollars for
that Colonial secretary," whispered Polly, annoyance expressed in her
tone for she had been bidding on the same piece.

"He doesn't look as if he had sixty cents in his purse," said Eleanor,
scornfully.

A lady standing beside her, looked at the buyer and smiled. "That man is
one of the buyers of one of the largest antique collectors in New York."

"He is!" gasped Eleanor.

"Who is the collector?" asked Polly, but the woman saw a little Toby put
up for sale, just then, and she wanted to bid on it, so Polly never
heard.

Anything that could boast of being a hundred years old, or more, brought
fabulous prices, and the girls were amazed to hear names that they had
read of in the columns of the New York papers, called out by the cashier,
but never dreamed they would come face to face with the owners thereof.

Jack Baxter spied a woman he knew, and finally brought her over to meet
Mrs. Fabian and the girls. This lady was a social leader in the City, and
furnished much interesting information to her new acquaintances, about
others present who were buying.

That sale taught Polly that it was not always the farm-houses that
furnished the rarest bargains at a sale, especially when that farm was in
proximity to a well-known residential suburb. But she also found that not
everyone who attends a public sale, and bids anxiously, knows the value
of what they are bidding on.

Thus it transpired, that she secured several of the finest antiques in
the house, because others knew nothing of their true records or had
overlooked the objects because of their unattractive finish or form.

Jack furnished much amusement to his friends by bidding on everything the
girls did not want. And the most amusing part of it was, he seldom
secured a thing he bid on. He finally grew so desperate in his bidding,
because Polly laughed at his luck, that the people frowned upon him as
being a "professional capper."

Mr. Van Styne overheard that remark and was furious.

"I want you all to know that I am an honest auctioneer! I never had a
booster in my life, and I've sold for nigh onto fifty years. That
nice-looking young man you call a 'capper' is a friend of some friends of
mine from New York, out here to buy antiques. To prove it to you-all,
that young lady there, next the young man, is the one who gave the
'Metropolitan' the rare print she found in my shop. So there! I reckon
that will hold you, for a time!"

The surprise felt by the buyers at this news about Polly, was instantly
followed by a general laugh at the auctioneer's final remark to them.
Baxter laughed at the interruption, but Polly felt very uncomfortable
with so many eyes turned her way. Mr. Van Styne, never dreaming of having
made personal remarks, now continued his sale.

The antique furniture in the upstairs chambers brought higher prices than
Polly had seen similar pieces on sale at the antique shops in New York,
and she wondered still more that a country auction should bring forth
buyers who were willing to pay such high prices.

Finally, feeling sure that there were no more bargains for them that day,
Polly led the way downstairs. Young Baxter tried to persuade her to
remain and try for a high-boy she had admired, but she refused to give
the high bids demanded. So Jack stayed when the others left the room.

Down on the side-porch, while waiting for Carl to come from the carriage
sheds, a well-dressed lady accosted Polly.

"I heard the auctioneer say you presented a rare print to the Museum in
New York City. I should be pleased to hear about it."

She handed Polly a card. Upon reading the name of one of the best known
amateur collectors in New York, Polly forgot to reply. Mrs. Fabian smiled
and spoke for her, to give her time to recover from her surprise. After
introducing the girls, Mrs. Fabian mentioned the fact that Polly and
Eleanor took advantage of every sale in or about the City, in order to
familiarize themselves with such articles as they would need in their
profession.

"Oh, are you studying this line of work?" asked the lady, deeply
interested at once.

"Yes, we have given several years to the study, already, and last Summer
we went abroad to visit the best known places where antiques and
collections were to be seen," replied Polly.

"Well then, my dears, this is my lucky day. I want someone to do this
sort of work for me, but I want only such interested individuals who love
the collecting for itself, and not alone for wages. Also, I want someone
who can tell a Sheraton piece from Empire. If you girls will accept a
proposition from me, I will be glad to talk it over, some morning, with
you."

Polly smiled and said: "If your orders do not interfere with our studies
and other work, we will gladly accept the work."

So, by the time Jack Baxter hurried down the stairs, Polly and Eleanor
had made a new connection with one of New York's social leaders. Jack
looked about for his friends, for a moment, and then smiled in surprise
as he rushed forward.

"Why, Mrs. Courtney! I am delighted to see you here. Did you just
arrive?"

"Well, if it isn't Jack Baxter! No, my boy, I came out this morning
thinking this was a _bona fide_ antique sale. To my disgust, I found it
was 'fixed' by a clever dealer from the city, who chooses just such
suburban towns as are famous for its millionaire residents, then he plans
a campaign. He was wise enough, this time, to engage Mr. Van Styne to do
the selling for him, as the old man is so popular with the people of his
town, and he is a splendid auctioneer, at the same time."

Polly was dumbfounded. "Do you mean to say that anyone would take the
trouble to ship out all these antiques, so far from the city, just to
catch a lot of buyers?"

Mrs. Courtney laughed. "Of course, my dear. People will take any amount
of trouble to make a few extra dollars. This dealer owns his own trucks,
and why not let them put in a day's work carting a load of furniture
here, if he can get twice as much for his goods as in New York? All he
has to do, is to find the right type of old house conveniently near the
city for motoring and large enough to show off his wares to the best
advantage. This man is clever enough, too, to select only such places as
are rich with Revolutionary lore, and near enough to the estates of the
rich to be an attraction to owners to come. Then he mails announcements
to his city clientele, also. That is how I heard of the sale."

Jack frowned angrily. "I suppose that darned old high-boy I just bought
for a top-notch figure, could have been purchased at this man's city shop
for half the price! Now I have to pay to have it crated and shipped back
to New York."

"Oh, this 'fixer' will move it back in his trucks for a neat sum," said
Eleanor.

Her companions laughed. Polly then reminded him: "I said _not_ to bid on
it! I knew it would go too high for us to bother with."

Carl now drove up to the house, and Mrs. Courtney bid them good-day,
having reminded Polly that she and Eleanor were to telephone her at their
first opportunity.

Polly could not help speaking of the "fixed" sale of antiques, and
Eleanor said: "That is why everything brought such awfully high prices.
The articles must have had a set price on them to begin with, and when
Mr. Van Styne offered a thing, the dealer was there to run it to a figure
beyond the given price on the books. I am surprised that the old
auctioneer would do such a thing."

"I don't believe he knew the sale was what we call 'padded'; for he seems
too conscientious a man to lend himself to such a deception," remarked
Mrs. Fabian.

"If he was just hired to sell the stuff, regardless of how it got out to
Parsippany, and told to follow book-orders, he had no choice, had he?"
asked Polly.

"He looks such an honest old fellow, I don't believe he even knew the
goods came from a New York dealer. Just because he _is_ so honest, is one
reason why people who knew him will listen to his advice and for the same
reason a clever New York dealer would hire him. I wouldn't be surprised,
if you girls hear from him, some day, to the effect that he is shocked to
learn that this sale was not on the level as far as the yarn went," said
Jack.

"Well, I'd feel better if he did. I really feel hurt, now, to think he
might be as tricky as that other dealer," said Polly.

"But it would not be called 'tricky,' Polly, in clever business circles,"
said Mrs. Fabian.

"Maybe not, but to me it looks a lot like selling goods under false
representations. I'd rather not sell anything than have to sell that
way."

"When you come right down to 'brass tacks' and study out the whole scheme
of things, Polly, we might be accused of tricky works, too," remarked
Eleanor.

"What do you mean?" demanded Polly, astonished.

"Well, when you think of how we got that pair of old candle-sticks in
exchange for a brass lamp! We had no lamp to exchange, but Mrs. Fabian
rushed off to a store and got one. Then there were those old pictures at
Van Styne's. We were afraid he'd suspect them of being valuable, so we
dusted them well again, as they had been originally, and placed them with
two others to make a 'job lot' of them, to hide the facts about them."

"But," remonstrated Polly, "the lady who had no use for the candle-sticks
_did_ want a brass lamp the worst way. And Sally Dolan, who never
appreciated the pictures when she had them, _did_ appreciate the money we
paid for them--while we appreciated the old things other folks failed to
value."

"Polly is right, there, Nolla," added Mrs. Fabian. "I do not see a trick
in giving a person exactly what they ask for a thing--whether they realize
the true value of it, or not. That is their affair. In Law, the Judge says
there is no excuse or cause, for mitigating a sentence because the
prisoner claims he was ignorant of consequences of a deed. So it is in
other lines: Ignorance can never claim excuse from consequences--whether
it be a sale of a candle-stick or a piece of old land that turns out to
have gold on it."

"Then I should say, ignorance on the part of the buyers at this vendue,
exonerates the dealer from all blame," said Eleanor.

"Legally it does, but we were thinking of the moral," explained Mrs.
Fabian.

When the collectors reached the Fabian house, Jack seemed loath to go on,
so Mrs. Fabian invited him in to have a bite with them at an informal
dinner.

It had been plainly evident for some time, that the only interest Jack
Baxter had taken in furnishing his apartment, or in going about to hunt
out old antiques, was because it gave him plenty of opportunities to be
with Polly. And as is often the case, when one is completely absorbed in
a pursuit, Polly was the last one to suspect the truth of this.

But he forgot discretion that evening, at dinner, and permitted too much
of his attention to be directed Polly's way. Even this might have been
overlooked had not an interruption occurred while at the table.

The telephone bell was heard, and shortly afterward, the maid came around
to Polly's side and said:

"A Mr. Latimer on the wire, Miss Polly."

Eleanor was all interest at once: "Can it be Jim, or Tom, I wonder?"

Polly was excusing herself at the moment, but turned to add: "You know
very well that Tom has his hands full at the mines."

Eleanor flushed, for she had almost given away a secret that Paul had
told her in his last letter. Thus far she had kept quiet about the
confidence.

Polly ran from the room, and Jack Baxter scowled at his plate. Mr. Fabian
smiled at his face and tried to engage him in conversation. But Polly's
continued absence annoyed the youth, so that he lost his appetite, and,
in fact, all interest in any subject started.

Polly skipped back after a time, her face wreathed in smiles. "You will
never guess who I was talking to?"

Everyone but Jack pretended not to know, but he blurted out: "When I was
out at the ranch, that Tom Latimer said something about coming East for
the Winter months--as long as Alexander proposed to stay out there and
take a hand in the work."

"Why, this is the first word you've said about it," said Polly, amazed.

"Had I known you were so deeply interested in the plans of young Latimer,
I would have told you immediately," said Jack, with sarcasm born of
jealousy in his voice.

Polly refused to answer him, and immediately asked Mrs. Fabian to excuse
her from dinner as she wished to dress for the evening.

The rest of the family finished the meal with the uncomfortable sense of
Jack's having lost caste in Polly's estimation. He felt it himself, and
it certainly did not tend to make him more agreeable that evening.

As soon after dinner as could be politely managed, Jack spoke of a
theatre engagement and excused himself. His hostesses felt easier when
the door slammed upon him, for they dreaded having Tom announced while
his rival was there, and then have the whole evening spoiled by both
young men glowering at each other.

While Eleanor and Nancy ran upstairs to dress for the evening, the former
whispered: "If Tom remains in New York all this winter, I bet he'll _get_
Polly before he goes back to the mines, or else he'll 'cook his goose'
for all time!"

Nancy laughed merrily, and said: "No goose will be cooked if Polly knows
it! But I'll wager you a box of candy, Nolla, that Tom will _not_ get his
girl before he goes back to the mines."

"All right, Nanc! That's a wager; a five-pound box of the best _bon
bons_, that Tom and Polly will be engaged before the end of this winter
season!"



CHAPTER XIII

TOM MEANS BUSINESS


Polly's friends had not completed their dressing when Tom was announced,
but she was waiting in the cozy library; so Tom crossed the long formal
parlor in a few strides, when he caught sight of her in the softly shaded
light of the floor-lamp.

"Polly! Oh, but I'm glad to see you again!" breathed he as he caught both
hands and devoured her smiles with his eyes.

"I should hope you would be glad! Isn't everyone I know glad to see me
after they have been absent a long time?" laughed Polly, in a
matter-of-fact tone.

But Tom glanced hastily about the room. Then he quite unexpectedly leaned
forward and caught her face between his palms. "Polly Brewster, I'm going
to salute you with a brotherly kiss!" whispered Tom, and immediately, he
pressed a kiss upon her red lips--but Polly felt sure it was _not_ like
John's kisses.

She tried to free her head from his powerful hands, but he laughed
masterfully and held her under the light while he gazed into her eyes.
Finally Polly felt herself growing warm and flushed, and to stop his look
she closed her eyes and began kicking at his shins.

With a happy laugh, Tom freed her face and picked her up in his arms. In
three long strides he was over at the divan where he placed her, sitting
upright. Then he sat down beside her.

"Why--Tom Latimer!" gasped Polly, angrily, trying to rearrange her hair
which had become tumbled in the fray.

"Why--Tom Latimer!" laughed he, mimicking Polly very cleverly. "You don't
know _this_ Tom, do you, girl! But this is the Tom that you'll know
hereafter. I'm through acting like a woolly lamb just because Anne says
that's the only way to get a girl! You're a Rocky Mountain girl and the
only way to make you notice, is to use ranch methods to lasso you. That's
why I'm here in New York. Catch me letting a rich society darling like
that Baxter spend the winter months making love to you, when I'm wasting
my heart away at Pebbly Pit, hoping against hope for a nice long letter
from you!"

[Illustration: TOM PICKED POLLY UP IN HIS ARMS.
Polly's Business Venture. Page 200]

Tom's frown and the tone in which he declared himself, made Polly want to
laugh albeit she shrunk away, somewhat, for fear of a plot in his mind.

Tom had, in his fervor, lost control once, but he was too wise to indulge
himself again, in such a manner. Tom had spent a great deal of time in
studying, during the past year, the psychology of love, and now he was
going to test his knowledge. He told John, just before he left the ranch,
that once a girl liked a fellow, it was easy to make her love him, by
judicious treatment. In explanation, he said:

"When Jeb wants to coax one of the burros to the barn, he doesn't give
him the measure of oats to eat out on the range--no, he leads the burro
to the barn by holding the box of feed ahead of his nose!"

The Brewsters laughed at Tom's idea, but he declared that that was the
way he was going to get Polly. And all their arguments about giving Polly
a chance to finish her studies and try out her beloved work, fell on dull
ears. Tom started East!

"Polly, let's all go to a good show, shall we?" was Tom's unexpected
invitation, just as his companion began to worry because he sat so close
beside her.

"Oh! Yes--I think that will be lovely!" said Polly.

"All right! Run up and tell the others to get their caps and jackets on.
I'll telephone an agent and see what's good."

Polly ran out of the room, glad to have the problem of the evening's
entertainment solved for her, but still she felt a little disappointed
because Tom could so eagerly suggest taking the family out when she
wanted to have a tête-à-tête with him to ask about the mines. Tom's
plan about holding the temptation before a burro instead of surfeiting
him with goodies, was evidently beginning to work.

The play was one of the most popular ones, and seats were in great
demand. But money does anything in New York, so Tom secured splendid
orchestra seats, and they reached the theatre just as the curtain went up
on the first scene. The interior was darkened when they entered, and
Polly could not tell who sat in front of her, until the first act ended
and the lights were turned on.

Tom sat beside her, and began whispering in his free western voice, when
a young man seated directly in front, turned deliberately around and
stared at him. Polly gasped, and Eleanor nudged her in the side. It was
Jack Baxter!

Without taking his eyes from Tom, Jack reached under the chair and got
his hat. Then he dragged his coat over his arm, and got up. He bowed
stiffly to the girls in Tom's party, and went out. Tom waited until he
was gone, then he looked down at Polly.

"Um! It was high time I came East, I see!"

"Why?" was Polly's smiling rejoinder.

"By next Spring it might have been Tom who sat alone and felt like the
fifth wheel in a wagon instead of Baxter. My, but I'm glad I came!"

Polly frowned, and Eleanor did her best to hear what was said between
these two _apparently_ phlegmatic companions. But Tom meant his words for
Polly's ears only.

Once during the evening, when the light was so low that the theatre was
almost dark, Tom changed his position in such a way that his arm rested
over the back of Polly's chair. In his interest in the scene on the
stage, his hand dropped carelessly upon her shoulder. And Polly was too
engaged with the play to remove it, or even change her position to allow
it to fall back again.

Then Tom moved, so that his arms touched hers, and his hand that rested
upon one knee, could cover Polly's hand while the audience was enthralled
by the burglar's escape, and no one but Eleanor had the slightest idea of
what was going on in these two orchestra chairs. But Polly grew restive
and tried to free her hand.

Then the lights went up again, and Tom moved away and said apologetically:
"These seats are so cramped for such a great fellow as I am!"

And Polly replied tartly: "Yes, they really ought to allow more room for
people's hands and arms."

Eleanor smiled wisely, and sent Tom a teasing look.

John Baxter did not come back to claim his seat that evening, and the
play ended without Polly having given him another thought. Poor Jack!

After Tom reached New York, there seemed very little time for Polly in
which to hunt up antiques in the country, or to attend sales that were
advertised at various places. Then Winter weather set in, and that gave
her the necessary excuse that the automobile could not travel in snow or
mud.

All but Tom and Polly thought that Tom's plot to win Polly from her
chosen profession seemed to be succeeding. But Tom felt that he had not
had much encouragement as yet; and Polly was having a very nice time with
an old friend she liked better than other young men, without feeling
unduly indebted for the pleasure.

Although the Latimers lived uptown in New York, they saw little of Tom
during the first weeks of his return to the City. He stopped at a hotel
not far from the Fabian's place, and made duty-calls on his father and
mother at regular intervals, but they understood what he came East for,
and they wished him all success.

Time passed quickly, with a new pastime planned by Tom, for each day. And
most of these pleasures included the other girls, as well as Polly. So
the enjoyment was general, and Polly could not say that Tom tried to get
her company for himself, by leaving her friends out of any fun.

December came in, and the Christmas season advanced, with Tom still
leading a gay life and escorting the girls to every pleasure or
entertainment they heard of; and Polly was still the kind little "sister"
to him in every way, but nothing more.

Tom had selected his Christmas gift for Polly, but no one had been told
about it. This he had kept absolutely secret. The Christmas Holidays came
and all schools closed, so that the girls had no studies to attend to,
and no art work to prepare. Jim Latimer and his chum Kenneth came home
from Yale for the two weeks' vacation, and they immediately called on
Polly and Eleanor.

Tom saw how gladly Polly welcomed Jim and Kenneth, and he began to wonder
if she really preferred a young boy's society to his. Polly and Jim were
about the same age--not quite eighteen, while he--Tom, was almost
twenty-four. Such a decrepit old age!

The evening Jim planned to visit Polly and take Kenneth along for
Eleanor, Tom, to the surprise of his parents, spent the entire evening
with them; but he was not very attentive to what his mother said, nor did
he seem over-pleased with being at home.

Jim and Kenneth were noisy, active young college boys, and they furnished
lots of fun that evening, of the energetic, "center-rush" kind. But Polly
was relieved when they had said good-night and were gone.

Eleanor laughed at the way Jim "rough-housed" both girls when he tried to
kiss them good-night, and Polly indignantly told him he would never be
invited there again! Jim laughed and caught hold of Polly to shake her
for such a threat, but he smacked her loudly on the lips, instead.

As the two girls went upstairs to retire, Polly said: "I'm sure Jim
wouldn't have acted so silly if his big brother had been here!"

Eleanor then added: "We have such lovely evenings with Tom, that this
sort of horse-play gets on my nerves!" Then she slyly watched her
friend's expression to try and read her mind.

"I wonder why Tom never came in tonight?" said Polly.

"Jack Baxter met me this afternoon, and he says Tom goes uptown
regularly, to see a girl. Jack shadowed him and knows exactly where the
girl lives. But he didn't say I must not tell you," said Eleanor,
confidentially. Neither did she add that she had heard the address of
this "girl" and knew it to be Tom's home and mother.

Polly flushed, but said nonchalantly: "Poor Tom! He feels awfully bored
with us girls, at times!"

"I should think so! especially if he came home for a visit with the idea
of finding a nice girl to propose to. Now Jack thinks that Tom, with his
good looks, his wonderful intelligence, and his family-tree, to say
nothing of the Latimer fortune, ought to be able to take his pick of any
New York girl that is looking for an ideal husband," remarked Eleanor,
guilelessly.

Polly flashed her a look. "Since when has Jack Baxter dropped his
maligning of Tom Latimer, and started to admire him?"

Eleanor bit her lips to prevent a smile, but she replied, innocently:
"Why, Jack always did admire Tom, even when he met him at Pebbly Pit. But
he is jealous of him, for all the admiration he has for him. But I'll
tell you, Polly: I wouldn't trust Jack in a case of 'love or war.' He'd
as soon make Tom believe you were in love with another man, as anything
else, if he could win a point by it."

But Eleanor over-stepped her ambition this time. Polly quickly replied:
"Then Jack must be trying to 'win a point' when he got you to tell me
that Tom was calling on another girl, uptown."

Eleanor realized her error and had common sense enough not to endeavor to
explain it away. She merely said: "Oh well, Tom is too handsome a fellow
to be wandering about New York these nights without a guardian. Some wide
awake girl is going to snap him up the first chance!"

"Seems to me, Nolla, that Tom has been wandering about since he arrived
in the City, with a whole bevy of guardians to keep him from snares and
pitfalls. With all of us girls surrounding him, a fine chance any other
girl could have found to snap him."

Eleanor was evidently getting worsted in her well-meant plan to further
Tom's case, so she wisely decided to keep still.

Nothing was heard from Tom the next day, although Polly was sure he would
call, or telephone, before evening. Then the telephone did ring, but it
was Mr. Dalken, inviting the entire family over to his apartment for a
party that evening.

"Just an impromptu affair, you know, with some of our old friends coming
in to spend the evening."

Mrs. Fabian accepted for herself and husband, and said she would see if
the girls had any engagement. She came back to the living-room where they
were waiting for dinner to be announced.

"Are you girls going out this evening, or have you any engagement at
home?" asked she.

Nancy shook her head, and Eleanor replied: "For a great wonder, we
haven't a blessed thing on for tonight! First evening free in months!"

"Mr. Dalken wants us to come over and join some old friends, just for a
nice visit," ventured Mrs. Fabian, looking from one girl to the other.

"Fine! Anything but sitting here staring at Polly's concerned face,"
retorted Eleanor.

Mrs. Fabian smiled and went to answer Mr. Dalken, but Polly sat up and
asked Eleanor what she meant by that.

"Oh, ask yourself, Polly, you've been mooning around all day looking like
'Gottschalk's Last Hope.' One speaks to you, and you never hear what's
said. The very house could burn down but you'd never know it. You'd roast
without feeling any sensation in it!" declared Eleanor, impatiently.
Nancy laughed at both girls.

After dinner, while the girls were dressing to go to Mr. Dalken's,
Eleanor went to Polly's room to be hooked up. When she saw Polly arrayed
in one of her most fetching Paris dresses she stood and stared.

"Why! we're not going to the Opera!" said she.

"We're going to Mr. Dalken's, aren't we?" asked Polly.

"Yes, but Jack won't be there--nor Tom, either," was Eleanor's smooth
reply.

"I hadn't thought of who might be there, I dressed for my old friend, Mr.
Dalken. He is so correct in these matters, so I want to do justice to his
friendship," Polly scored this time.

Eleanor did not wait to be hooked up but rushed back to her own room, and
when Polly met her again, down in the hall, she had changed her gown,
also, and looked very attractive, indeed.

Because of the delay occasioned by Eleanor, the Fabian party was late in
reaching Mr. Dalken's. The other guests were already there, and to
Polly's intense gratification, not only was Jack assisting the host for
the evening, but Tom sat in one corner of the large living room, looking
at a book of snap-shots taken by Mr. Dalken while out in the Rockies. So
engrossed was Tom in the pictures, that he did not lift his head when
new-comers were welcomed.

Polly glanced over at the corner and finding Tom so interested in
mountain charms, while female charms abounded so near him, she felt
peeved and smiled radiantly on Jack. Eleanor saw, and determined that she
would not permit matters to go astray again, as she had taken such
trouble to get Mr. Dalken to plan this impromptu gathering just to give
Polly the opportunity to see both suitors together--to the advancement of
one or the other's interest. Eleanor had no doubt that it would be Tom's
advancement.

So she flirted outrageously with Jack, to the amusement of Mr. Dalken who
understood how matters were with all the young people. Thus Eleanor was
cozily cornered with Jack in the den, doing her utmost to make him forget
Polly for the time being, when the Jap came to the living-room door and
announced a new caller.



CHAPTER XIV

NECESSARY EXPLANATIONS


Eleanor was not to be seen when a young man came in the room and was
joyously welcomed by everyone present. Tom Latimer had disappeared also,
a short time before this, and Polly was sitting in the wide seat built in
the window, staring out over the roofs of the buildings without seeing a
thing.

The delighted exclamations from those in the room, however, drew her
attention, and she was rejoiced to see Paul Stewart shaking hands with
those crowding about him. So Polly left her shadowy retreat and ran over
to welcome him, too.

Paul was saying: "Isn't it too jolly of John to send me East for the
Holidays, by making me power-of-attorney for the Stock-holders meeting
the first of January. That was the only way I could have come--by having
my fare paid!" Paul laughed because they all knew of his financial
problems, and how he was striving to win success that he might propose to
Eleanor.

Polly felt annoyed because she was sure Eleanor had led Tom to the den
that she might advise him further in his love-affairs. And it was this
interference by Eleanor, that roused much of Polly's indifference or
impatience towards Tom. Now she felt she had been given a good
opportunity to square accounts with her chum.

Paul and she were standing alone for a moment, when she saw him looking
about for someone. She gave the desired cue: "You'll find Nolla with Tom,
enjoying a tête-à-tête in Mr. Dalken's little den across the hallway,
Paul."

As she watched Paul hurriedly excuse himself, she experienced a new
sensation--that of gratified revenge on a friend. She walked about the
room, apparently looking at the pictures, but really to reach the hall
without attracting attention. Once she got out of the room, she made a
dash for a shadowy corner made by an old ormolu secretaire between the
two doors. She could see into the den and watch Paul's next action.

Two huge Turkish chairs were drawn up before the fire-place but the
electric lights were out and only the candles on the tables near the door
were lighted. The leaping flames of the logs burning in the fire-place
threw dancing shadows over the two occupants of the chairs, but anyone
standing near the door could not see who these occupants were.

Paul crept stealthily over to the chairs, planning to surprise his two
old friends--believing Tom to be one, and Eleanor the other. He lifted
his hands with the intention of clapping them over Eleanor's eyes to make
her guess who was there, when he heard words that rooted him to the spot.
Polly saw but could not hear, so she lost the best part of her
retaliation on Eleanor.

Just as Paul was about to bring down his palms over Eleanor's eyes, a
strange voice murmured intensely: "You know how I feel about it, Nolla.
This love is so absorbing that I cannot give my attention to studies, or
to any other important matter. If I am treated to second place, now that
another lover is at hand, I will clear out of New York and never be heard
from again. In fact, I am going to purposely throw myself in the way of
danger and end it all!"

Paul realized that another man had found his treasure and had been
encouraged, or why should he be saying "given second-place now that
another lover is at hand?" And it was evident that someone knew of his,
Paul's, proposed visit, as _this_ young man knew of his coming to see
Eleanor.

Such is the mortal's egotism! One never thinks of others in connection
with a selfish hope or idea, but believes that anything seen or heard
must appertain to that one thing. So Paul thought Eleanor was the love
this young man referred to, and that she had given him second-place
because of Paul's coming.

These thoughts flitted through his mind as young Baxter concluded, and
Eleanor waited a moment before answering. Then she said with a sigh:
"Dear Jack, a mild little flirtation never hurt any real case of love,
and I've told you many times, that a game of love like this would improve
or become fatal, because of such a flirtation. Like anti-toxin--it
_kills_ the germs or makes them wild so that no further doubt remains
about the patient. Let's use the hypodermic courageously and watch
results. If the love-germ dies, then go and throw yourself on the
railroad track and end your troubles. But should the opposite effect
result, you can always think of me as the specialist who advised the
heroic treatment!"

Paul was shocked to hear his "angel-girl" talk of her love in such a
dreadfully frank way, but the suitor's next sentence left no doubt in
Paul's mind that Eleanor was a horrid flirt.

"Well, Nolla, you must know best. Paul has been in love with you for a
long time, now, and you've had many young admirers since you came to New
York; so you understand and appreciate my present position and my right
to demand one thing or the other--either _I_ am the accepted one, or the
other man. Both of us cannot be kept dangling about, nor take turns in
loving when the other is absent from New York."

Paul was distressed at hearing this--that Eleanor could accept the
attentions of other men when he, Paul, was so hard at work out West,
trying to succeed in his profession that he might offer her a suitable
home! Now she was flirting with others, and this young man was
heart-broken over her short-comings, even as he, Paul, was.

Polly saw Paul wheel and rush from the room, and immediately after that,
Eleanor and Jack jumped up from the chairs and gazed at the door where
the intruder had disappeared. When Polly saw who Eleanor's companion was,
she gasped in astonishment, for she believed it was Tom sitting before
the fire.

Had Polly hurried after Paul, to explain matters to him, all would have
ended well that evening, but she went to the room where her wraps had
been left and sat down to think out the problem. Meantime, Paul found Mr.
Dalken and drew him aside to say:

"Don't ask questions, and don't try to stop me, but I am going away as
quick as I can. I'm through with girls for all time. They're not to be
trusted when a man's absent. I'm going to live for my mother, hereafter,
and make her life happy."

Mr. Dalken was taken by surprise, because he had no key to this new
puzzle, but he said: "Do wait, my boy, and have some refreshments with
us. I have so much to ask you about the mine."

"No--no! I can't stay. The mine isn't my affair anyway, and I was a fool
to coax John to give me power-of-attorney to come East for him. Now I'm
rushing back and he can send Tom Latimer the affidavit necessary for the
meeting in January."

"Now, now, Paul! You are a hot-headed young fellow and I feel sure
matters can be explained quickly, if you will but wait!"

Paul scowled and stiffened his spine as he replied: "Mr. Dalken, I heard
with my own ears, that Nolla is infatuated with another young man. She
said, _and I_ heard her say it: 'She was not certain which one of us she
preferred but the test would show if she used a good dose of anti-toxin
to help the germ! But I'm no 'second fiddle' even if that other fellow
is! If a girl can't tell whether she loves me without using hypodermics
to help her find out, then she's no wife for me! Maybe I'm a wild and
woolly westerner from Denver, but believe me! we westerners never stand
around waiting for a bit to be forced between our teeth."

Mr. Dalken could hardly restrain his sudden desire to laugh, but he
averted his head for a moment and covered his face with a handkerchief
until he composed his risibles, then he said: "Still, I am sure I can
mediate in this case, Paul. Only stay and let me inquire."

"I guess not! No one can mediate between me and a flirt! I am through, I
say, and I'm going home!"

So saying Paul thrust out his hand and Mr. Dalken had to take it.
"Good-by, and say good-by to the others for me. This much I want you to
do, as I will not see them again!"

Mr. Dalken went to the door with his excited guest and saw him go down on
the elevator, then he rushed madly back to the telephone and ordered the
man to detain the departing guest. Back to the den where he had seen
Eleanor standing with Jack, was his next act, and dragging both out of
the apartment and along the hall to the elevator, he pushed the button
furiously.

While the wondering attendant was coming up, Mr. Dalken said: "What in
the name of conscience did you two crazy creatures do or say to Paul
Stewart, to drive him frantic?"

Jack stared in ignorance of what his guardian meant, but Eleanor gazed as
if she thought Mr. Dalken had suddenly gone mad. The elevator stopped at
their floor, and the man opened the gate. Mr. Dalken pulled his two
companions on, and the man started down again.

All this time, Eleanor was speechless with doubt of Mr. Dalken's sanity
but the elevator man turned to him and said: "The young man I just took
down, refused to remain. He said he would arrest anyone who tried to
detain him against his will."

Mr. Dalken ran his hands through his hair and rolled his eyes upward.
Turning to Eleanor he hissed: "What _did_ you say to Paul to make him act
like a man in torment?"

"Paul! Are you crazy, Mr. Dalken?" asked Eleanor, fearfully.

"No, but _you_ must be to throw over such a sweetheart. You'll wait a
long time before you get another like him, even though I do like Jack
immensely, and will further his case when he meets the right girl. I'm
sure you are not the right one, and you ought to know it, from what you
told me yourself, yesterday. Can't you see that Jack thinks he loves
Polly, just because she won't have him?"

"Of course I understand!" retorted Eleanor, but annoyed that her plot to
bring Polly and Tom together again was exposed.

"Then why in the name of heavens did you send Paul away believing it was
_you_ that Jack wanted?"

Before an answer could be given, the elevator reached the ground floor
and the man quickly opened the doors. Out in the vestibule the
telephone-operator was button-holing a young man and using every
persuasion to detain him.

Jack Baxter had never seen Paul so he did not recognize him now. But
Eleanor did, and she stood stock-still in such surprise that Mr. Dalken
ran ahead without her.

"Paul, Paul! I knew you had made a mistake. Eleanor is here to explain
everything," said he, taking the place of the amazed servant.

"What can she explain that will change my opinion of her?" scorned Paul,
sending a cold look at poor Eleanor.

"Nolla, come here, Paul wants you to explain," begged Mr. Dalken, beside
himself.

Her first surprise at finding Paul Stewart in New York _and in the
house_, passed over and Eleanor forgot Jack and everything else, as she
rushed forward to welcome her old sweetheart.

"Paul--Oh Paul! When did _you_ come?" cried she.

But Paul's haughty stare stopped her when she was not ten inches from
him. He turned to Mr. Dalken and said: "Now that you've broken your word
with me, you had best explain."

"_I_ broken my word! I never gave my word to anything that is broken.
Remember, Paul, you may be a hot-headed impulsive youth, but you cannot
make such sweeping accusations without grounds for them. I am so sorry
for you in your disappointment that I will excuse you this time, however,
and explain for your benefit, that I caught hold of Jack and Nolla after
you left and dragged them down here without 'breaking my word' as you
claim, or any other unhonorable deed. Unless you consider getting at the
truth is unprincipled." Mr. Dalken was stern and dignified in his
self-justification, and Paul had the grace to flush uncomfortably.

Eleanor was standing, uncertain of what was best to do in this strange
meeting. She had felt over-joyed a moment before, to find Paul there, but
now she wondered why he was so angry, and why he had not waited to greet
her, as long as he had been up in the apartment. Baxter, not feeling at
home in this group, turned and asked the man to take him up again.

Mr. Dalken had not seen Jack leave again, so he turned to call him, but
found he had disappeared.

"Nolla, what did you say to Paul when he met you?" demanded the older
man.

"I? Why, Mr. Dalken, I never knew Paul was here. The first hint I had of
something unusual was when you rushed in to drag us downstairs."

Mr. Dalken was puzzled so he turned to Paul. "Then why did you say Nolla
was a flirt and had made a fool of you? I thought she met you and began
to tease, as she does everyone."

"There was no need of her saying anything to me, as I heard her tell,
when she was not aware of my standing behind her chair, that the young
man she was with might prove to be the accepted love after all." Then
Paul repeated the substance of the talk he had overheard between Jack and
Eleanor.

As he concluded, Eleanor laughed hysterically and held out her hands to
Mr. Dalken beseechingly. "Oh, dear Dalky! Can't you see how Paul
misunderstood everything! I was speaking of Jack's case with Polly, and
advising him in regard to Tom. I know Jack is not seriously in love with
Polly, but he fancies himself so, because Polly is so attractive and
indifferent to him. As Jack has always been flattered and made love to by
society girls, this unexpected attitude of Polly's piqued the boy. I did
my best tonight, to show all three of these silly young things where they
stood in this serious matter. And _to think_, I got myself in hot water
for trying to help my friends!" Eleanor unexpectedly broke out in sobs
and leaned her head against Mr. Dalken's shoulder.

Paul began to accuse himself for being a brute, and Mr. Dalken patted
Eleanor's head and said comfortingly: "Never mind, Nolla dear. You'll
learn by bitter experience that the more one interferes in these love
tangles for the sake of helping friends out of their troubles, the more
our friends detest us and we end in falling into snares ourselves."

"Um--don't I know it now!" wept Eleanor, in a muffled voice, because her
mouth was hard against her comforter's coat.

Paul stood uncertain of what to say or do. He shifted his weight from one
foot to the other, and glanced around, but always brought his wandering
eyes back to Eleanor's shaking form.

An interruption, in shape of the entrance of some merry tenants of
another apartment, suddenly caused Mr. Dalken to lift Eleanor's head and
hurry her, with Paul, into the reception room at one end of the main
hall. Here they sat down to have an understanding.

When the facts were fully revealed, Paul was as grateful to Mr. Dalken
for restraining him in his plans to run away, as Eleanor was for his
hasty removal of her from upstairs, to the hall downstairs. And poor Mr.
Dalken was _most_ grateful to find he had made peace between two
disturbed young hearts. He got up and said: "Let's hope you won't curse
me in the future, for this reconciliation. And for goodness' sake! Let me
get upstairs to my guests, and help Taki serve refreshments, or the
oysters will be ruined with stewing, while the wonderful French patties I
got from Del's, will be cold and clammy."

Eleanor laughed, and beckoned Paul to come up again. So the grinning
elevator man carried them up and very considerately accepted the tip Paul
slipped into his palm as he stepped from the lift.

The Japanese butler had not waited for Mr. Dalken, however, and was
passing the famous patties and sandwiches when the three absent members
of the party entered again, and tried to act as if nothing unusual had
happened.

Polly had witnessed Paul's flying departure, and thereafter saw Jack and
Eleanor astounded in the darkened library. When Mr. Dalken rushed in and
dragged them both away, Polly stood open-mouthed and stared after them.
The Jap wisely hurried forward and carefully closed the front door, then
went back to his duties without showing that he had seen the queer
performances of his master, or found Polly standing there, the single
witness of the scene.

Polly still stood in the hall deeply perplexed, when Tom sauntered from
Mr. Dalken's bedroom where he had been smoking a cigarette to steady his
nerves. Now he joined Polly and began a conventional phrase, but was
suddenly interrupted by her.

"What does all this silly behavior mean?" demanded she.

"Do you refer to my behavior?" asked Tom, blandly.

Polly's eyes snapped. "Of course not! Must you always think yourself
first and foremost?"

As this was an unexpected and undeserved slap for Tom, he was still
groping for a clue, when Polly's angry impatience with herself for having
made such a blunder in her calculations about Eleanor and the others,
made her exclaim:

"Well, I can plainly see that Nolla will never make any sort of a
business partner for me! Her foolish head is so turned by beaus, that she
will never settle down until Paul has either spurned her love, or she is
married and divorced again. _Then_ there may be hopes of her attending to
our work."

As Tom was not aware of Paul's sudden appearance and hasty departure, he
still pondered what was best to say to Polly, in her unusual pettish
mood. But she paid no heed to his silence and continued, like most women
will when they have been mistaken, and fear the consequences of an
ill-advised step.

"I declare! if Paul does come back and makes up with Nolla, I shall move
heaven and earth to see that they are safely engaged this time! And that
Jack Baxter, well, I'll make Dalky ship him off to some distant college
so there'll be no further wasting of valuable time with him!"

This last declaration so over-joyed Tom that he found courage to offer a
suggestion. But he was too unwise this time. "You're absolutely right,
Polly dear. That Baxter has nothing better to do than kill time. He never
did a stroke of work in his life, nor did his father before him. Those
young 'lady's men' who live on their ancestor's rewards of labor, never
amount to a row of beans."

Polly stared freezingly at Tom, but he was completely mesmerized with the
romantic picture he was presenting, and so he continued oblivious of his
companion's expression.

"We'll send Baxter flying, after this, and help poor Paul to hold his
place with Nolla. I'll wire Paul to fix it so he can come East for
Christmas, and surprise Nolla. Then we'll all announce a double
engagement, eh?" Tom turned to watch Polly's face as she surely must
second his plan, but he changed his mind when he saw her frown. "As
usual, Tom, you're much too late in your brilliant ideas. Others are
ahead of you. Paul has been here tonight and gone again, and Nolla will
never have any engagement to announce--if she waits for Paul's
declaration.

"As for _me_! My announcements are being engraved now."

Tom caught his breath in consternation at this news. "Your announcements,
Polly! _Oh_, and you jilted me, after all!"

Polly enjoyed turning the knife in the wound, because she felt so
wretched herself for having ruined Eleanor's happiness.

"I could not jilt anyone who never proposed, could I? I have maintained
for a long time, and everyone who knows me is aware of it, too--that I am
engaged to my profession and I have ordered my announcements to that
effect. I propose sending out my business cards the first week of
January!"

The relief to Tom was so great that he sighed aloud: "Oh, thank heavens
for that!"

"I knew you would be glad, Tom; so you see you are sensible after all,
and can thank heaven that you had no cause to be jilted!" laughed Polly,
maliciously, but she felt no satisfaction in this outcome of her
understanding with Tom.



CHAPTER XV

MUTUAL CONSOLATION


It was at this point in Polly's independent speech that the door opened
and Mr. Dalken came in with his two repentant lovers. Tom saw that the
clouds had been dispersed and now there seemed to be a clear sky for
Paul. But he was curious to hear what had happened during the short time
he had been smoking that cigarette.

Polly also saw Paul return with Nolla, and when she saw the happy smiles
on both faces, she groaned, and turned to go to the library where, so
little time before, the tragic lover had escaped with a determination to
never look at another girl as long as he lived--excepting his mother.

Tom followed Mr. Dalken to the dining-room to learn the particulars about
the two individuals who had meekly followed the host back to the
apartment; while Polly sank down in one of the Turkish arm-chairs
recently occupied by the two plotting match-makers.

Mr. Dalken rolled his eyes ceiling-ward and complained: "I can't
understand why I should be chosen by Providence to act as peace-maker
between jealous lovers, or quarrelsome husbands and wives. It is one of
the most thankless jobs a man can have."

Tom laughed in spite of his eagerness to be told the details. "Maybe it
is because you have so much _feeling_ for heartsick mortals," said he.

Mr. Dalken looked serious. "Yes, Tom my boy, you spoke the truth there.
If anyone knows the misery caused by fools and faithlessness, I'm that
one. Perhaps that is the reason I can mediate for my friends."

"I was going to ask you to mediate for me, with Polly, but I haven't the
heart to ask you, now," ventured Tom.

"Why, you big ninny, I've done nothing else but try to mediate between
you two for the past two years. If matters haven't reached a crisis by
this time, I'd better give up the case and let you get a specialist,"
exclaimed Mr. Dalken.

"Tell me exactly where I stand now, and I'll excuse you from further
annoyance on my part."

"Great Scott, Man! Can't you tell where you stand? How can _I_ judge. You
surely don't want me to propose for you, do you?"

Tom couldn't afford to feel indignant, as he had to ask his friend what
had happened to Paul and Eleanor, during his temporary absence from the
others. So Mr. Dalken told as much of the story as he had been able to
understand, concluding with the admonition: "Now that Jack can't wile
away time with Nolla, he will, doubtless, turn his full attention to
Polly."

That was the only malicious remark the poor man permitted himself to
indulge in. But Tom took it seriously and said: "Thanks awfully, for the
hint. I'll keep after Polly myself, until Baxter gives up the chase." And
with that he hurried away to find Polly.

He found Paul and Eleanor sitting in the deep window-seat where Polly had
been the early part of the evening, and as he wandered about for a
glimpse of his "Heart's Desire," the Jap came over with a tray and said:

"Mis'r Tom look fer supper? Taki keep nice patty for him."

Jack Baxter was near enough to hear Taki, and he laughed jeeringly as he
said: "Oh, what a fine man you are, Taki! You know exactly what your
master's guests are wanting--patties or Pollies!"

Taki grinned but failed to grasp the young man's meaning. Tom did,
however, and leaving the oyster patty on the tray, he stalked across to
Jack and said, threateningly:

"How dare you speak like that? Mentioning Miss Brewster's name in the
same breath as an oyster patty or a poll-parrot."

But the truth of the matter was, Jack had never meant to convey the
meaning, when he said "Pollies," that he spoke of parrots. So he
instantly took the stand of the offended one.

"How dare you even hint at such an insult to a friend of mine? I consider
Miss Brewster too far above either you or me to discuss her with you,
about such matters."

Wise Taki had disappeared quickly and in another moment the harassed host
came hurrying from the serving board. He glowered upon Tom and Jack, and
grasping each one by the arm, he hustled them out into the main hall of
the building and then spoke.

"You two bullies go down in the street and fight it out. I'll do you the
favor to ring up the police station and call a cop to come around and
take you both in custody--that's where you belong, until you come to your
senses. If _I_ were a girl I'd never look at either of you again."

But this advice cooled their anger, and the moment Mr. Dalken turned to
go back to his apartment both men laughed at the situation. Tom offered
his hand and Baxter shook it. Then each apologised to the other, and in a
few minutes they started for the door of the apartment.

But the door was locked, and, in front of it on the mat, were two small
heaps: one was composed of Tom's coat and hat, with a patty and sandwich
on a wooden plate, on top of it. The other small heap was Jack's
dress-cape, with his silk hat topping it, and in the hat, were his gloves
and the plate with refreshments. His cane hung on the door-knob.

All the bell-ringing Tom indulged in, thereafter, failed to bring any
answer. So the two young men, highly amused by their host's farewell act,
ate the scanty refreshments handed out, and then left the two wooden
plates in front of the door, with a note on each. The pencilled scrawls
said: "Two hungry beggars thank the rich man who threw them the crumbs
from his table."

After they had gone down to the ground floor, Jack said: "I'll try to get
Dalken on the telephone and ask him to send us down enough company to
keep us from going to sleep in the reception room."

Tom laughed and stood eagerly waiting to hear the reply. But the operator
smiled and reported: "Mr. Dalken called down a few minutes ago, and said
that he was not at home to anyone--not even to friends--until tomorrow
morning."

So the two chagrined young men left, and whatever they did during the
next few hours, no one ever knew, but from that evening both forgot their
rivalry and became fast friends. Jack suddenly decided to go West and
finish his engineering studies in the mountains about Pebbly Pit. And Tom
decided to make one last stand for Polly, and should she still refuse him
on the basis that she must finish a business experience first, then he
would knuckle down to hard work and forget all about her, forever.

It was easier for Jack to carry out his purpose than for Tom to leave New
York and forget Polly. But Jack managed to do as he had outlined, and
before Christmas Day he had said good-by and was on his way to Denver.

Tom spent so much time and preparation before the mirror in his room,
perfecting himself in the art of proposing to Polly, in such a way that
she would be impressed, that he became quite self-conscious of his pose
and words. On Christmas Day, he planned to coax her away by herself, and
then fall upon his knees and tell his story. He had a magnificent
solitaire in his pocket, waiting to be displayed at the right moment.

No one saw Tom all that Christmas morning, although his friends called on
the telephone, both at his home and at the hotel. He did not reply to any
calls. But late in the afternoon he sauntered forth from his room,
looking more like a silly dandy than a big sensible young man who was one
of the best engineers in the West.

He got in a taxi and gave directions. In front of Mr. Fabian's house, he
paid the driver and went up the steps. After he had rung the bell, he
felt in his pocket to make sure the ring-box was there. This was about
the twentieth time he had assured himself.

The maid opened the door, and looked sorry for him.

"Miss Polly? Are the ladies in?" stammered Tom.

"No'm--no-sir, I mean," returned the maid, confused at his certainty of
finding them at home. "They went out an hour ago, after tryin' to get you
on the 'phone. They says they won't be back till after midnight, sir."

"Did they say where they were going?" asked Tom.

"No'm--No-sir! But I hear'n Miss Polly talk to someone on the 'phone and
she says: 'Oh how lovely! We'll all go with you. And we'll meet you there
for dinner,'" repeated the maid. "You see, I was openin' th' door to take
more presents for the young ladies, so I hear'n that much of the talk
from the table 'phone in the back hall."

Tom thanked her with a sinking heart, and turned away. Once more his
fingers mechanically felt for the ring box but he experienced no thrill
this time, when he found it was safe.

He walked slowly cross-town and recklessly passed over Broadway with its
traffic in full swing, looking neither to the right nor to the left. The
officer shouted to rouse him from his apathy, but it failed to work.

He reached the park and found a bench. There he sat down without looking
at the seat. A frantic boy ran over and yelled: "Get up, mister! Get
up--you'se sittin' on my Chrismus candy!"

Tom got up as mechanically as an automaton, but a few of the gummy
candies clung to his coat-tails, while the boy fearful of losing such
treasure ran after the man to pick off the sticky sweets.

When he found another bench that was clear, and no boys nearby to worry
his soul, Tom sat down and sulked. Having practised so faithfully all
that day, in adding the finishing touches of grace to his lesson of
proposing, it was a bitter dose to find all his work was wasted. Polly
had joyfully accepted someone else's invitation to go away and have a
good time, leaving him alone and heart-broken.

Sleet and drizzle began falling, and Tom was soon soaked through, but he
was heedless of clinging clothes and wet shoes.

After an hour of self-pity, he got up and started down the drive. By this
time he was almost frozen, but he congratulated himself on the fact that
he might have pneumonia and die. Then Polly might feel sorry for her
coldness!

Following the suggestion this idea presented, Tom wilfully waded through
the slush in the gutters, and thoroughly drenched his patent-leather
shoes in crossing the streets, until his feet were not only wet but
freezing inside the shoes.

He found a cheap restaurant where the show-windows displayed baskets of
artificial fruit; and as a center-piece of this decoration, there was a
great block of ice holding up a dressed goose, with red holly twined
about it.

Tom detested quick-lunch places where the steam satisfied a man's hunger,
the moment he came in contact with its heavy odors, but he reveled in
this evening's opportunity to be a martyr, so he sat down and ordered
corn-beef and cabbage because he loathed it.

Although he could not eat much of the delectable dish he had ordered, he
was determined to finish his day accordingly. So he ordered Neapolitan
ice-cream and coffee. The ice-cream was served with the tissue paper
still wrapped about the cake--to prove that no hands had been in contact
with the dessert before serving it. But the highly colored stripes of the
soapy cream that refused to melt, even when he dropped a spoonful into
his oily coffee, cured him of further martyrdom to the cause of love.

He hastily got up from the table, paid his ticket and ran out. By this
time, he felt so sick and chilled that he gloated in the assurance that
soon he would be in a raging fever. He pictured Polly's regrets when she
should return home at midnight and hear that he had been taken to a
hospital, with a fatal case of double pneumonia. He had decided on having
it double, after he left the restaurant, as that would kill him sooner.
In this state of mind he had to dodge a taxi and slipped to fall into a
mud puddle.

But Tom could not resist the desire to see his mother once more, before
he died; and after fighting off this inclination for another hour or two,
he was feeling so perfectly awful, that he knew his last call had come
for him.

He had been sneezing every few minutes for the past hour, and his eyes
were running like twin rivers. His nose was so stuffy that he could
hardly enunciate the words, when he told a cabby to "Ta-ge me to sig
siggy-sig West End Avenoo."

During the short time he was in the cab, he could not breathe, and he had
to keep his mouth open to be able to inhale any air at all. He paid off
the taxi, and went to his mother's apartment. Before he could change his
mind about calling, he had pushed the bell-button.

He heard someone coming down the hall, and at the same time a door in
front opened and the laughter and noise of many merry voices reached him
as he stood waiting on the doormat.

"Good evening, Mr. Tom--a merry Christmas," said the maid, smilingly.

"Goo' ebeneeg, Kadrina," mumbled Tom, scowling as he looked towards the
front room whence came the merry-making.

"Don' dell anyone I'm here, but dell Modder I'm sig and wand do see her
ride away," explained Tom, snuffingly.

"You got a bad cold in your nose, ain't chew?" said Katrina,
sympathetically.

"No!" shouted Tom, furiously. "I god'da case ob double pneumonia!"

Katrina jumped at the unexpected shout, and hurried to the front room to
call her mistress. Instead of remembering to keep Tom's presence a
secret, she whispered loud enough for Polly to hear:

"Mr. Tom jus' come in an' his nose is red as a beet. His eyes is runnin',
too, an' he needs a atmosizer to blow in his head, to clear out the
snuffles so's he kin open his lungs, widdout keepin' his mouth open all
th' time."

Instead of fainting with horror as Tom had pictured she might, Polly
laughed at Katrina's description, and Mrs. Latimer smiled and turned to
her guests to excuse herself, by saying:

"Tom just came in, poor boy, with a stuffy cold in his head. I'll put his
feet in mustard and see that he drinks a hot glass of doctored lemonade,
then I'll be back."

So Tom, instead of bidding his mother an eternal farewell and dying alone
and abandoned, as he had planned, in a hospital ward, was soon made to
scald his feet in hot mustard water, while his mother's flannel kimono
replaced his bedraggled clothing, and a heavy blanket was wrapped about
him, and he was offered a nasty drink of lemonade, but what else was in
it other than lemon only his mother knew!

By this time he felt so wretched that he cared nothing for solitaires or
fiancées; all he wanted was to get one good long breath through his nose
once more before he choked to death.

His mother had returned to the merry-making in the parlors, and Tom sat
huddled in his unbecoming bedding in his mother's dressing-room. Every
few minutes he had to use Katrina's "atmosizer" for his nose, or gasp for
breath.

Just as the perspiration began to pour out of every pore, and his feet
felt like scalded lobsters, and the vaseline his mother had smeared in
his eyes and over his nose, to void any chaffing, had been trickled all
over his face, Polly tiptoed into the room that opened to the
dressing-room where he sat.

He held his breath, fearing lest she hear him gasp and find him in this
awful predicament. He could not see her after she closed the hall-door,
but he wondered what she was doing. At this moment, a tickling in his
nose began and he knew it portended a sneeze! He must prevent it, or
Polly would track him down. If she ever saw him in this condition, after
all his hard study to propose gracefully, he would take poison!

But the sneeze was imperative, and it burst forth in such an explosion,
that Polly screamed faintly from just behind the door of the little room.

"Go'way! I won'd see anyone," commanded Tom.

"But you'll let me come and see how you are, won't you, Tom dear?" coaxed
Polly, appearing at the open door.

"No! You above everyone. I'm goin' to a hozpidal as zoon ads the
ambulance gomes, and I never wand to zee any ob my frien'z again. I'll
leave word no one ids to gome to my funeral, eider."

"Tom, dearest, don't talk like that! Where have you been today, to catch
such an awful cold in your head?" said Polly.

"Id'z my lungz, I dell you! Double pneumonia. Leabe me to my fade, and
forged me, Polly!" tears rose in his eyes at this pitiful picture of his
lonely demise.

But Polly was practical, and stubborn to a degree. She refused to go, and
when Mrs. Latimer came back, she told her that Tom ought to be in bed and
given a great big dose of quinine--then he'd be all right in the morning.

"That's exactly what we planned to do, Polly," said Mrs. Latimer. "I sent
Katrina to the drugstore for the pills, just now. But you run back and
enjoy yourself, dear, as you can do nothing for Tom. He's like all
men--as grouchy as a bear with a sore head, the minute anything ails
them."

His mother laughed, and Polly stood smiling. Tom fumed. "Was this all the
sympathy he was to win for his self-appointed martyrdom?"

Just as he had lost the last vestige of hope in life, Polly said to his
mother: "I haven't seen Tom before, today, to wish him a merry Christmas
and to give him my present."

"Oh!" ejaculated Mrs. Latimer, wisely, and slipped from the room, closing
the hall door very quietly after her.

Tom opened one eye and began to wonder if it was worth while--this living
business? When Polly smiled so angelically upon him, in spite of his
ludicrous pose and appearance, he thought he might make one more trial of
temporal existence.

Then Polly said, "I am sorry I could not reach you by telephone today,
Tom. I had a little surprise for you, that I'm sure you will like. Shall
I show you now?"

"Maybe it ids egsadtly wha'd I wads plannig to ags you?" said Tom,
sitting up with interest, and forgetting the tub of hot water with his
feet slowly par-boiling in it.

"Here it is. Isn't it neat and business-like?" said Polly, as she handed
him a small paste-board card.

Tom read:

                            "POLLY BREWSTER
                               DECORATOR
                             NEW YORK CITY
           _Representing Ashby Shops, New York and London_."

Tom's shocked surprise at the unexpected announcement, so different from
what he had expected, rendered him speechless for a full minute. During
this pause, Polly patted his damp hair just as she might have patted her
brother John's head, or a faithful Newfoundland's shaggy dome. This
latter was Tom's thought.

The gentle touch, combined with his resentful feelings about the business
announcement, made him lose all self-control. He was so furious that he
could not find his voice, and if he had, his words would have been
unintelligible because of the head-cold. He sprang up from the chair,
forgetful of his blanket swaddlings, and the large basin in which his
feet were still immersed.

He lifted his hand above his head in a melodramatic way of denunciation,
but the tragic effect was completely ruined when the porcelain basin
began slipping across the hard-wood floor. He wildly threw out both hands
to clutch at something for support, but the low chair he had occupied was
not near the dressing table nor any other article of furniture in the
room.

Polly tried to save him from a fall, but he threw off her rescuing hands;
and thus he was falling to his ungraceful finish, when he managed to free
one foot and planted it on the rug as a balance. But the basin with its
wet porcelain bottom kept sliding ever farther away, and Tom still rolled
in the swaddling robes suddenly sat down unceremoniously upon the floor.

Polly faintly screamed when the basin overturned and the mustard water
ran in numerous streamlets across the waxed wood and center rug. Just at
this critical moment, Mrs. Latimer came back to give her son the dose of
quinine.

"Why, Tom! Why are you sitting on the floor?" asked she, in amazement.

That was the last straw. Polly had to smother a laugh but Tom flared out
and the thick denunciations of all the female sex, particularly western
girls, would have driven such a girl mad with anger. But Polly understood
her friend too well to believe a word he said.

Even while he still hurled every expletive he could remember and try to
enunciate, Polly sprang over to help Mrs. Latimer raise the beswaddled
young man back into the chair. He fought off her assistance, but she
stubbornly held on to his arms until he was seated in a proper position
once more.

Then she said: "Tom dear, I'm so sorry you have had such a wretched
Christmas Day. Had we but known you had such a cold we would have called
and taken you home with us. But now that Christmas is over, and I haven't
had time to say a word to you, I'll just whisper that, as a sort of late
greeting: 'If I don't find anyone I like better than you, during the next
two years, I'll make a partnership proposition to you.'"

"Oh, Bolly! Whad do you mean?" gasped Tom, expectation high once more.

"I like you better than any other friend I ever had, Tom, but I am
determined to try business first. Then, in two years' time if you are
still of the same mind as now, I will consider what you have so often
planned. But not before then. Until that time we will be the best of good
pals."

"Oh, Bolly! Whad a Gridsmad's gifd you habe giben me!" exclaimed Tom, his
face shining radiantly with love and vaseline.



CHAPTER XVI

BEAUX OR BUSINESS


It was very late when the Fabian party reached home that Christmas night;
thus there were no confidences given or taken between the girls until the
following morning. To Eleanor's keen sight Polly appeared ill at ease;
and in the morning, after breakfast, the cloud seemed heavier than
before. Then Eleanor decided to find out what unpleasant experience had
occurred while at Latimers.

"I had a glorious time, last night--didn't you, Poll?" began Eleanor,
guilelessly.

"Oh, yes! Until poor Tom came in with that nasty cold in his head. His
condition was enough to ruin any one's enjoyment, once you saw or heard
him," replied Polly, absentmindedly.

"A mere cold in the head is nothing to worry about. He will probably be
here, today, as fresh as ever. That is, if the quinine he took last night
permits him to see straight." Eleanor laughed in order to show her friend
how unconcerned she was about anything which might have happened at the
Latimers.

"Had you seen him, with his feet in boiling water and mustard, his face
coated with vaseline, his eyes like Bear Forks, and his temper like a
sore hyena's, you wouldn't sit there and say he'd be fresh as ever
today," Polly retorted with a reminiscent smile.

"It's a wonder to me that he permitted you to visit him after he had been
doctored by his mother as you say he was," returned Eleanor, musingly.

"He never would have, Nolla, had I not marched right into the room
without his being aware of my presence. I never even knocked, because his
mother told me he was in her dressing-room, off the large room. I waited
in the large room until I heard him speak, then I pretended to be
surprised and pleased to find him there."

Eleanor laughed. "Yes, I can see you pretend anything, Poll. I just know
your face was as serious as crêpe, and your pretence a thing any child
could see through."

"Now, Nolla, you are all wrong! I can prove it. But the great trouble is,
how shall I get out of what Tom believes to be true? I pretended so well
that I almost fooled myself into believing that I was doing right. This
morning I know it is not true," said Polly, impatiently.

Eleanor now felt her curiosity rising for she realized she was on the
verge of hearing what had caused Polly's concern. But she knew she must
be circumspect in her replies, or her friend would take alarm and not say
a word.

"Polly, there speaks the born actress. When on the stage, acting in a
play, the artiste is carried away by her own depth of feeling and faith
in the truth of what she is saying or doing. Now, you see, you did the
same and that proves you should study stage-craft instead of interior
decorating." Eleanor spoke in a jocular tone.

Polly smiled at her friend, but she was too preoccupied with her problem
to pay attention to Eleanor--whether she was in earnest or whether she
was speaking in fun.

Suddenly Polly asked: "Nolla, are you engaged to Paul?"

Eleanor was taken off her feet. She never dreamed of having Polly ask her
bluntly about her private interests in any one.

"W-h-y, n-o-o--not ex-actly!" stammered she in reply.

Polly sat and stared at her companion as if to search out the truth. Then
she said: "Have you any idea of being engaged within the next year or
two?"

"Well, now, Poll," returned Eleanor, finding her depth once more, and
treading water to get her breath, "you know how I admire Paul, and you
also know that Paul says he loves me. That was most obvious at Dalky's
party, the night Paul arrived so unexpectedly. But when you speak of
engagements, I must remind you of the law you laid down for me--not to
tie myself to any such entanglement until after we had had our fill of
business. Am I right?"

"Exactly!" sighed Polly. "But that does not go to say that you obeyed my
law. There may be a secret understanding between you and Paul, and that
is what I want to hear about."

"It may be the same sort of a secret understanding as now exists between
you and Tom Latimer," retorted Eleanor, taking a wild chance that such
was the fact.

"Then I pity poor Paul from the bottom of my heart," was Polly's
unexpected reply.

"Paul doesn't seem to think he is in need of any pity," smiled Eleanor,
as she thought of his joy the preceding evening as he escorted her from
the Latimer's apartment to the automobile.

"Well, then it is not the same sort of secret understanding. Now come out
with it, Nolla, and tell me just how far you have complicated yourself
with Paul in love, and with me in our business venture?"

"Not at all, Poll. That is what I wish to impress upon you--that I am no
deeper in the love tangle than you are with Tom."

"All right, then, Nolla. Now I'll confess, if you promise me to do
likewise. Is it a bargain?"

"If you wish. But let me say beforehand, I have no more to confess than
you know of already."

"It's a pact! Shake, Nolla," exclaimed Polly, holding out her hand.

Of course Eleanor was more than amazed at such a to-do over what she
considered a natural outcome of human attraction for Polly, and she shook
the hand extended to seal the compact.

"There now! I'll confess first. Last night, when I found poor Tom in such
dire condition and wanting to die at once, I told his mother I would
comfort him, somewhat, by wishing him a merry Christmas and showing him
my business card. You know, the ones we just got back from the engravers
late Christmas Eve.

"Well, I found him in such a pitiable way that I was sorry the moment I
handed him my card. He took it so differently from what I had expected.
When he raved about dying and nothing to live for, I was at my wit's end.
Finally, just after the basin in which he was boiling his feet slipped
from under him, and sat him down unkindly upon the floor, I was moved to
encourage him if he would but cheer up and think of living a little
longer.

"Nolla, he took advantage of my weakness and wormed a promise from me to
consider myself engaged to him, unless I found some one I liked much
better within the next two years. Now tell me, Nolla, because you are
educated in affairs like this--where do I stand?"

Polly's anxiety was so amusing to Eleanor and the whole situation so like
a farce to her maturer love-affair, that she laughed merrily. But Polly
was too concerned to take offence at the merriment.

"Oh, Polly! What a little lamb you are, to be sure! How lucky for you
that I am always at hand to keep you from being led to the slaughter--not
altar!" Eleanor laughed again at her clever play on the hackneyed phrase.

"That doesn't answer my question, Nolla. I am most serious in this matter
and I do not wish to hear more ridicule from you."

"I'm not ridiculing you or the awful mess you have made of your life,"
retorted Eleanor with a sly grin, "but I cannot help giving vent to my
risibles when you take it all so seriously. I wonder how you would take
the measles, Poll."

"Oh pshaw, Nolla! What has measles to do with me, right now!" was Polly's
impatient rejoinder.

"I don't know, I'm sure. I was only wondering why you take everything so
dreadfully in earnest. Now as far as your love tangle appears to be, I
should prognosticate--hear that word, Polly? I am trying to act the wise
magistrate for you--that there will be no suit for breach of promise,
although there may be a case made out against you for alienating Tom's
affections from Choko's Find Mine. On the other hand, you can serve a
counter suit on Tom for alienating your affections from your first
love--your business venture."

While Eleanor had been explaining the law to her friend, the latter grew
more and more impatient, and when the self-appointed magistrate concluded
her version of law, Polly sprang up angrily.

"I declare, Nolla, you will never be serious even at death! I'm disgusted
with you, so there!" and Polly made for the door.

Eleanor made after her, saying as she ran: "I'm sure I'll never want to
take death seriously, Polly, for that is the time of all times when we
need to be cheerful and prove to our dear ones that they have nothing to
weep over--because I am of the firm belief that no one goes into
oblivion. It is simply progression, you know."

The sudden change from laughter to seriousness halted Polly's exit at the
door, and she turned to look at her friend with a strange expression in
her eyes.

"Nolla, you should have been born in April--with the most changeable
weather of the year. One moment you are too silly for words and the next
you discourse on the most serious of all subjects."

Again Eleanor laughed, teasingly: "Perhaps I should not have been born at
all. Then, my family and friends would have been saved many trials. But I
am here, you see, and they have to make the best of me."

"That is exactly what we want to accomplish, don't you see? We want to
make the best of you, but you just won't let us do it. You prefer to act
like a big ninny instead of the cleverest girl in the world."

"Always excepting you, dear!" and Eleanor bowed low.

"There you go again! Now I _am_ mad!" and Polly tried to get through the
open doorway, but her friend clung to her arm and refused to let her go.

"Wait a moment! I'll let you go as soon as I have a word with you. This
is going to be a real serious word, too," promised Eleanor.

Polly turned back. Eleanor stood pondering for a moment, then said,
"About Tom's affair, I would advise this: treat him brotherly--that is be
sisterly to him; if you are not madly in love with him, so madly that you
will jump into the Hudson or throw yourself upon the subway track unless
you know he loves you the same way, then let Cupid manage the whole
affair. Believe me, child, Cupid can do it far better than you or I!

"Concerning Paul and myself: I told the darling that I had a contract
with you which had to be fulfilled before I could sign up with another
one--even though that other one _seemed_ to be offering me easier work
and better wages. So I'm in for the business venture for all it is worth
for the next two, perhaps more, years. I refused to place any time limit
on a promise to sign up with Paul. Satisfied?"

"Most assuredly! That is the first practical speech I've ever heard you
make, Nolla!" was Polly's emphatic reply.

"I trust you have sense enough to make the same speech to Tom Latimer.
Then he will follow Paul's example: be filled with ambition to go back to
Pebbly Pit and straighten out that caved-in mine."

But both the girls were to learn that it is much easier to talk how
events should follow in sequence, than it is to compel fate to do as she
is expected to with such events.

That evening, despite his parents' advice to remain in bed, Tom drove up
in a taxi and stopped before the Fabians' house. He paid the driver,
rushed up the steps and pulled at the doorbell.

Polly had just finished dinner and was slowly walking out of the
dining-room when the maid opened the door. Tom fairly leaped in when he
saw Polly stopping suddenly under the hall-light.

"Oh, my little--" he began, but Polly held up a warning hand and frowned
him to silence; then she hurried him to the library across the hall from
the dining-room.

"What's the matter? Didn't you tell them we were engaged?" asked Tom,
impetuously.

"I didn't know we were what one calls engaged, Tom. You are
misunderstanding me. Of course, I did not tell them about what never
happened." Polly was annoyed.

"But," began Tom, arguing for himself, "I felt sure you meant it the way
I said: that you would wear my ring and consider I had a prior right to
your love or affections."

"You're all wrong! Because that is exactly what I wish to retain for
myself--prior right to follow my own life-line. I did say that I liked
you more than any other friend I know, and that I might consider you as
my future fiancé if, in two years' time, I came to the conclusion that I
would give up a business career. That's all; and that holds no ground for
your giving me an engagement ring, nor for me to take one and wear it. I
simply refuse to be bound in any way. Better understand this, once for
all, Tom!"

The other members of the family now came in and welcomed Tom and also
insisted upon having him tell them how much better he felt. The ring-box
which Tom had so eagerly pulled from his vest pocket as he sat upon the
divan with Polly, he now managed to slip back again without having been
discovered in the act. Even Eleanor failed to see the action.

Before Tom had had time to conclude his polite answers as to the state of
his health, the bell rang a second time and the maid admitted Paul
Stewart. Nor did the evening advance far before Jim and Ken dropped in,
then came Dodo and Mr. Dalken, and last but not least the Ashbys stopped
in to inquire how everyone was. Such "stoppings" usually ended, as on
this evening, by their remaining until midnight.

Mr. Ashby had news for his two new assistants in business. "Late in the
afternoon before Christmas, I had a 'phone call from Mrs. Courtney,
girls. She asked me to make an appointment with you to meet her at my
shop, tomorrow morning at eleven. I promised to let you know."

"Oh, that's the lady we met at the Parsippany sale," exclaimed Eleanor.
"I wondered what had become of her since then."

"Maybe she wants us to find her a few antiques," suggested Polly,
eagerly.

"I believe she plans to redecorate her boudoir, and wants you two
beginners to take the commission. She seems to place a great deal of
confidence in your ability to please her," said Mr. Ashby.

Eleanor smiled at her superior in business. "Feeling any jealousy at our
popularity?"

"Not a whit!" laughed Mr. Ashby. "It only adds more glory to my brilliant
fame, because I was astute enough to secure such talent!"

Mrs. Courtney's appointment to meet the two young decorators in a
business conference came at just the time when both Eleanor and Polly
were half-persuaded to give up their art and turn aside to marriage,
although neither girl really wanted to take the husband instead of the
career, at that time. When Paul and Tom would be out of sight once more,
and their magnetic presences removed so that calm business atmosphere
might control again, both girls would see they had been wise in deferring
their engagements for the present. Hence the visit of Mrs. Courtney came
at just the critical time.

Polly and Eleanor were at the Ashby Shops a full hour before the lady
could be expected. But they put in the hour in going over the latest
samples of boudoir textiles, new ideas in furniture, and fascinating
designs of cushions, draperies and other accessories for a boudoir.

Mrs. Courtney was very frank and pleasant in her cordial greeting. For
all her fame as a social leader in New York and the fabulous wealth
accredited to her, she seemed very plain and friendly. Eleanor could not
help contrasting her with her mother and Barbara.

"Well, girls, how many millions of dollars have you made in your
profession since I saw you at that farce of a sale in New Jersey," said
she smilingly after they had seated themselves in the small reception
room.

"That _was_ too bad, wasn't it?" said Eleanor.

"We mean, it was too bad for that nice old auctioneer to be used by the
city man as he certainly was. We met old Mr. Van Styne before that sale,
you know, and he was so honest!" said Polly.

"So I learned. But I was annoyed at the city man's methods of getting his
regular customers so far from the city in order to make money out of
them; I went down to his office and told him very plainly what I thought
of such trickery as he had played on me. He apologised in every way when
he learned that I would never buy another thing of him; but I knew his
apologies were the result of his fear of losing a good customer. I told
him frankly that I would not accept his regrets. I have heard from him
several times since then, but I have paid no attention to his requests to
allow him to explain the circumstance which ended in that sale in the
country.

"I did take time to write to this Mr. Van Styne, however, and ask for the
truth, as I did not want to condemn the city man if there might be
extenuating reasons for the sale. The old man in Morristown answered that
he had been used as an instrument in the padded sale. He had known
nothing of the manner in which the antiques had been brought from the
City and placed in the house, until afterward. He had sent letters to his
clientele who favored him with confidence, and many were at that sale,
much to his discomfiture when he learned the truth.

"Mr. Van Styne added that he had taken the trouble to find out from a few
of his trusting customers that the articles they had purchased at that
sale, and which were claimed in the catalogues to be genuine antiques,
were clever imitations. In fact, a refectory table said to be of genuine
Jacobean period, was manufactured in the man's factory on the East Side.
Even the worm-holes had been drilled in the wood and the worn slab of
wood of the top was done by the plane. To keep himself out of Court, the
clever fellow had to give back the buyer's money and send up to
Morristown and get the articles of 'newly-made antique' furniture."

"I'm glad of that!" exclaimed Polly.

"But those buyers should have prosecuted the cheat!" declared Eleanor,
impatiently.

"That's exactly what I said, but one of them wrote me she was going away
for the winter; she could not postpone her trip to try the case at Court.
Thus she took the easiest way out." Mrs. Courtney's determined expression
showed what she would have done had she been the dupe of such a clever
dealer.

The subject was abruptly changed when Mrs. Courtney added: "Now we must
talk business, young ladies. I am sure you cannot spare your valuable
time in gossip."

Polly and Eleanor glanced at each other and smiled at the idea of their
"valuable time," but Mrs. Courtney launched at once into the cause of her
call that morning.

"I never felt at peace with the atrocious decorations in my boudoir,
although one of the highest-priced firms in New York did the room for me.
I know it was a case of making me take the costliest materials without
regard to harmony or temperament. Now I wish to have you girls see what
_you_ would do with the suite. While I am here, I thought you might show
me several suites exhibited on the floor and tell me which you would
prefer for a woman of my age."

Polly immediately signified that she was ready to escort Mrs. Courtney to
the elevator, thence to the exhibition rooms where every conceivable
period and price of boudoir furnishings were to be seen and examined.

The three stepped from the elevator, and Polly was leading the way to the
boudoir suites; Mrs. Courtney watched with deep interest as she spoke in
a low voice, to Eleanor.

"Jack Baxter called on me, one evening before he went West; he told me
that your remarkable young friend had everything in life to make a young
girl want to have a good time, yet she chose a profession for herself in
place of gayety and beaux."

Eleanor smiled and nodded affirmatively but said nothing.

"That is one of the reasons I wanted to meet you young ladies again. It
is so gratifying to find any young girl, these days, who takes life in
earnest. Of all the flippant, mothlike creatures I find flapping about at
receptions or teas, I have yet to find one in every thousand who really
thinks of anything other than cigarettes, matinees, and dress. It is
positively revolting to me to have my rooms clouded with cigarette smoke,
yet what can a hostess do? The women have gone mad over the habit. The
danger lies in their not being able to break the influence as readily as
they form it."

Polly overheard the latter part of this speech and smiled admiringly at
her client. Then they came to the boudoir exhibit.

A very pleasant hour passed while Polly and Eleanor told Mrs. Courtney of
their visits to galleries in Europe, and in hearing Mrs. Courtney speak
of her amusing excursions in quest of the antique. Finally the lady
remembered an appointment, and in amazement found her wrist-watch told
her it was twelve.

"Oh, oh! I had an imperative engagement at the dentist's at twelve-fifteen.
How could this hour have passed so rapidly?" said she, hurrying to the
elevator in advance of the girls.

While waiting for the man to come for them, the two young salesladies
wondered if their customer would leave without an order, or word of
encouragement regarding the future of her boudoir.

On the elevator going down, Mrs. Courtney said: "When you have time to
come to my address and look at the suite, just let me know by telephone
and I will make it a point to be at home to meet you, to go into the work
in earnest. I am confident you can give the right atmosphere to my
boudoir." Just as the elevator reached the ground floor, Mrs. Courtney
handed Polly and Eleanor each a card upon which she wrote her private
telephone number.

"Now, good-morning, my friends. Remember what I said to you about having
chosen the right pathway, for the present. You will make all the better
wives and mothers for having had a genuine business experience. How
superior is your ideal to those of empty-headed society misses who live
but to dance or drink or waste their true substance."

With such praise of their endeavors, the lady left Polly and Eleanor; and
they stood where she left them, holding her cards in their hands, but
still gazing at the revolving doors through which she had passed and then
disappeared.



CHAPTER XVII

BUSINESS


Ruth and Dodo had been sadly neglected during the Christmas Season, but
after Paul returned to Denver and Tom accepted his verdict that Polly
would give no valuable thought to lovers for the next two years, the two
young decorators took time to encourage their younger partners in the
work they had chosen.

Ruth and Dodo were not as deeply in earnest as Polly and Eleanor had been
in applying themselves to the studies given at Cooper Union; they
considered themselves martyrs to the cause of womanly work. Mr. Fabian
often sighed in despair over Dodo's ideals in ancient architecture, or
Ruth's recitations of applied designs. Polly and Eleanor laughed at these
trials of teacher and student and kept urging both sides not to lose
faith but to keep on until they won the prize.

Meanwhile, the two advanced students visited every exhibit or lecture
given on their beloved work, and thus acquired more of the idealistic
experiences in art. For business application of their understanding of
decorating, Mrs. Courtney supplied one channel of such testing; and Mr.
Dalken offered another outlet for their wisdom, for he had decided to
erect a magnificent office building on upper Fifth Avenue, and keep the
entire top floor as a private apartment for himself.

The girls had many interesting mornings in Mrs. Courtney's home,
listening to her accounts of trips to every country in quest of curios
and antiques. Her residence was filled with the results of her travels,
and her memory teemed with thrilling stories of adventure for the rare
and beautiful trophies she secured.

"There is still one interesting spot on this globe which I am keen to
visit, but I have never had the opportunity to go as I wish to go," said
Mrs. Courtney, one day, after she had been showing the two girls the
collection of Filipino curios she got during a six months' stay at the
Philippines.

"I should have said there was no spot where you have not been," laughed
Eleanor.

"But there is, and that is the South Sea Isles. I have----"

"Where?" gasped both the girls, unconsciously interrupting the speaker.

Mrs. Courtney laughed. "Yes, the South Sea Isles. Do not think them so
cannibalistic as report has it, my dears. I know an American who has
lived there more than twenty years and he says that for climate and
interesting life, give him the South Sea Islands. He almost persuaded me
to take the trip when he was here last."

"Is he an old friend?" asked Polly.

"No; he is a man I used to commission to find certain curios for me. He
tells me that textiles woven and colored by the natives of those islands
are the most beautiful things ever seen. The carvings and hammered
brasses are more gorgeous than those of Benares or of the East. He has
made quite a fortune out of exporting selected articles from the Isles to
the United States, but the great difficulty in such trade is the
uncertain transportation methods. His goods may reach their destination
and again they may not. It depends on the character of the owner or
captain of the vessel. He all but persuaded me to buy or lease a
sea-going yacht and make the trip for a year's outing. He promised me
that all costs would quickly be defrayed by the valuable cargo which
could be stored away in very small space on board the yacht."

"If you were so keen about visiting that place why did you renounce it?"
queried Eleanor, wonderingly.

"Because I could not induce any of my friends to accept my invitation to
join my party for such an outing." Mrs Courtney laughed as she remembered
the expressions on the faces of her friends when they heard of the
proposed voyage.

"Actually, girls, some of my invited guests asked me to go to Monte
Carlo, or to the Orient, instead. So that broke up the plan."

"Goodness!" sighed Polly, "I only wish I had been invited!"

"Would you have gone willingly?" asked Mrs. Courtney, eagerly.

"Would I? Say, Nolla, would you have gone with me?" was Polly's instant
retort.

"Try me now and see?" laughed Eleanor to Mrs. Courtney.

"Really, girls, do not joke! I am seriously inclined to take that trip,
providing I can induce the right group of friends to accompany me. The
cost of a yacht would be no small matter in these days of high costs, but
I would have a year's intense satisfaction out of such a trip, and Mr.
Needham said he felt sure the costs would be met by the cargo I could
carry out and another I could bring back on the round trip."

"If our gold mine gets to working again, or should the lava cliffs open
soon, both Polly and I would love to enlist for just such an adventure.
But there would be no opportunity to add to our knowledge of decorating,
would there?" suggested Eleanor.

"Not unless you took your lessons with you, and found clients out there
who wanted you to decorate their grass huts in the good approved American
way," suggested Mrs. Courtney.

"Nolla, we ought not to dream of such a trip, because we are tied to a
two-year agreement with each other, you know. Then we've got to give a
definite answer to those life-partners, you know," was Polly's lugubrious
reply.

"I don't know, Polly! In such an unexpected matter as our going to the
South Seas, a mere beau will have to bide his time. We may find a Fiji
Islander more interesting to us than one of our Yankee beaus," laughed
Eleanor.

Mrs. Courtney heard and pondered what had just been said; her next words
did not hint of her having heard the discussion, however.

"If I do take such a trip, it shall not be in the approved line of Cook's
Tours. I want to adventure in absolute freedom, with no tagging tourists
or other obstacles to a perfect adventure. I would carefully select a
party of fifteen or twenty harmonious souls and charter or buy a private
yacht. Then start and stop as we pleased. No hurry, no lagging, unless we
chose. It seems to me that such a wonderful outing would bring peace, at
last, to my restless spirit." Mrs. Courtney sighed.

The girls laughed because they thought she was joking. But Mrs. Courtney
was in earnest, as they were to find out. However, the topic now being
discussed was the South Sea Isle trip so she was determined to conclude
that before she launched another.

"If I invited you two girls to accompany me as private assistants during
the trip, and should we find a score of kindred spirits willing to take a
trip such as I plan, why could you not steal six months or a year from
your profession, in order to see the world? Surely it would do you no
harm, and you are still young enough to go on with your work when you
return to New York?"

Polly and Eleanor seemed to have exactly the same idea. But Eleanor spoke
impetuously of it, while Polly pondered seriously. "Dear me! If only Mr.
Dalken could spare the time to take _his_ yacht and invite us to
accompany him on just such a voyage--what a wonderful trip it would be!"

Mrs. Courtney glanced at the girls, then said: "I've heard so much of
your great Mr. Dalken but I've never seen him. How old a man is he, and
what does he look like?"

"Oh, Dalky is not as old as he looks, because he has had such an unhappy
life, you know; that is how we came to love him so! We felt keenly for
him," exclaimed Eleanor, regardless of the sharp nudge Polly gave her as
a warning to hold her tongue.

"Yes, I know his silly wife, poor man!" murmured Mrs. Courtney. She
seemed to be lost in a sad strain of thought for a short time, and the
girls hesitated to speak, just then.

Soon, however, she heaved a deep sigh and looked up to smile at the
serious faces opposite her. "Well, perhaps there is a great happiness in
store for your good friend, to repay him for all he has silently endured
these past years."

"We sincerely hope so!" affirmed Polly, earnestly. "If anyone deserves
peace and joy, dear Dalky does."

"How little the world really knows of the sorrows of those who bear their
cross in silence!" sighed Mrs. Courtney. "Now, I have heard said that Mr.
Dalken is a very gay personage who knows how to make the most of his
money and time. But that report came from his wife, so I took it with a
grain of salt. I know from my own experience just how the sinner tries to
smear the saint with his own crimes although I do not mean by that that I
am a saint."

"Surely you had no unhappy experience in your life, Mrs. Courtney!"
exclaimed Eleanor, not from curiosity but from the desire to hear her
esteemed friend declare that she had had only joy in her days. Mrs.
Courtney understood the motive that urged the question.

"My dear children, my married experience was much like that of your
beloved friend. The difference being that my gay husband used my position
and wealth to boost himself to the place where he found more agreeable
companions than I proved to be. Out of sheer self-respect I was forced to
divorce him. Then I began my wanderings over the globe, and finally
settled in this city where I was practically unknown. You see, my pride
could not brook the pity of my friends although they approved the only
course open for me when my husband eloped with another man's wife."

"Oh, dear Mrs. Courtney!" sighed Eleanor, ready tears springing to her
eyes. But Polly crept over and placed a sympathetic hand upon that of her
hostess.

"It seems ages ago, my children," added Mrs. Courtney. "I was only
eighteen when I married and I was twenty-one when I divorced my husband.
I never had a child, and I have always felt as though I had been given a
very wretched deal in life, for I love children. Because of my
experience, I can advise other young girls--not to marry too young, nor
to accept a man for his looks or manners. A girl needs to be experienced
from business, or travel and association with men, before she is capable
of judging wisely and selecting the proper mate for life."

The bond created that morning between the mature woman and the two young
girls, proved to be of such quality as would last. And such a friend as
Mrs. Courtney would be for two young girls, was one of the benefits both
Polly and Eleanor received by visiting country auctions of a higher
class. Not that the particular sale at Parsippany was "higher class,"
because it was proved to have been a fake sale, but the type of buyers it
attracted were of an advanced type of mentality.

"But, children, you have told me nothing more about your good friend
Dalken! Tell me more of him. I just heard of his wife's latest project,
and I wish to be informed first hand."

"What do you mean, Mrs. Courtney? His wife's latest project?" asked
Polly, fearfully.

"Oh, perhaps you were not aware that she is in Reno? She found an
affinity, it seems, during her visit abroad, last summer, and it became
necessary for her to sever her legal ties if she wished to marry this
other man. I heard of the scandal but not being interested in the woman,
and not knowing the man, I paid no attention to the suit. Divorce cases
are so common in these degenerate days." Mrs. Courtney sighed again, and
showed her disapproval of the modern style of marriages.

"Poor Dalky! I wonder if he knows of this?" cried Polly.

"He would have to, dear, because she would have to serve him with papers,
you see," explained Mrs. Courtney.

"And he never said a word to any one nor did he let us see he was
disturbed in any way," added Eleanor.

"Maybe the poor man is relieved to have it so. At least, he will be
exempt from paying her such an outrageous income, you know. I take for
granted that he will put in his defence, thus absolving himself from
alimony," explained Mrs. Courtney.

"It would be exactly like him to keep quiet and let that horrid woman get
all she can. He is so magnanimous, you know, that he would think to
himself 'She was the mother of my children, and as such I must not
deprive her of what she may need'." Polly's voice had a dual tone as she
spoke: one of sympathy for Mr. Dalken, one of scorn for Mrs. Dalken.

Mrs. Courtney laughed softly. "I am getting my impressions of your friend
in piece-meal. You have not yet told me about him."

"That is because you've told us such astonishing news. But now I'll tell
you all about good old Dalky," said Eleanor. "He is a handsome man of
about forty-two or four, I think. Isn't he, Polly?"

"Yes, about that age," agreed Polly.

"Well, besides his being handsome and middle-aged, he is loving, awfully
rich, both in money and good friends, and one of the most intelligent
mortals I ever met!"

Eleanor's description made Mrs. Courtney smile. "One would be led to
think you had met all kinds and conditions of mortals in your long, long
life, child," remarked she.

"Sometimes I think I am very much older in life than _seems_ to be,"
mused Eleanor. "I feel somehow, that I have lived many centuries before
this queer modern experience."

"You must have been reading theosophical books, my dear," remarked Mrs.
Courtney, eyeing Eleanor closely.

"No, I never have. I'm not interested in any such form of research--not
yet," she laughed.

"Nolla, we ought to be going--really! Every time we come here to talk
boudoir decorating we switch off into some byway of personal interest,
and that makes us come again to get down to work," said Polly, rising and
adjusting her hat, preparatory to saying good-by.

"But what about our round-trip to the South Sea Isles?" was Mrs.
Courtney's query.

"It isn't coming off, at once, is it? You've got to find a group who are
companionable, and you've got to get the yacht," said Eleanor.

"It may not take me more than a week to do both. When I make up my mind
to a thing, I generally do it," returned Mrs. Courtney.

"We'd have to gain the consent of our parents before we could even
_think_ of taking such a marvellous voyage," declared Polly.

"But the main point is this: would you really care to go, or would you
prefer staying in New York to continue your profession?" asked Mrs.
Courtney.

"We'd love to go with you, but I'm not sure I'd want to remain away from
my work for a whole year," was Polly's thoughtful answer.

"If we entertained any ideas of taking the voyage, the best time for us
to start would be next Fall. Then we could spend our entire winter in the
tropics and escape the heat in the equator in the summer, or rainy
season, by sailing home again."

"Oh, it sounds great! It remains to see who would go," said Eleanor. Then
the girls said good-by, and started away, full of the unusual invitation
they had heard that afternoon.

"I'm sure mother and father would not wish me to go," said Polly, after
the subject had been exhausted.

"Of course, you couldn't offer the excuse that you were going for
advancement in your profession--as we did when we wanted to tour Europe,
you know."

"Leaving the thrilling trip out of our minds for a time, I want to ask
you if you suspected anything troubling Dalky, lately?" said Polly,
seriously.

"Not a thing. He has seemed just the same as ever."

"That's what I should have said. Then he may not know about his wife's
perfidy, and I think we ought to prepare him for such news, Nolla."

"Polly, we tried to force an adopted son on him, once, and since that
time I have been wary of trying to interfere in any other of his personal
affairs."

"Then let us talk it over with Prof. and ask what he thinks about telling
Mr. Ashby," suggested Polly.

"That's more like sense. We'll tell Mr. Ashby ourselves, when we get back
to the Shops."

Thus Mr. Ashby was told the story as told by Mrs. Courtney but he seemed
not surprised as the girls expected him to be. He merely shook his head
sympathetically and said nothing.

"Did you know it?" asked Polly, amazed.

"We all knew of it a few weeks ago. Poor Dalky refused all our advice to
fight the divorce and exempt himself from paying alimony--as he will have
to do for not putting in a defence. He smiled tolerantly and explained:
'If she wants any of my money she is welcome to it. I have more than I
can use, you know'."

"There! That is exactly what I said he would do!" declared Polly,
vehemently.

"Oh, why does he let her have it? There are so many ways he could make
poor people happy, instead of throwing his wealth away on such a
mercenary creature!" wailed Eleanor.

"We have no right to question his motives, Nolla," said Mr. Ashby,
seriously. "I do not wish to speak of this again, unless he himself
mentions the subject to you girls. He has seemed anxious to keep the news
from you, for some reason. But I firmly believe the poor man still has a
shred of love for his wife alive in his bosom, and that is why he will
not oppose her in any way she wishes to secure happiness."

That night when Polly and Eleanor sat together doing some home-work on
decorating, Polly suddenly looked up and said: "Nolla, if only our dear
Dalky could meet our dear Mrs. Courtney--wouldn't they make a fine
couple?"

"Oh, Poll! There you go again! I have tried to keep from thinking that
very thing, ever since I heard Mrs. Courtney tell us of that horrid
woman's being in Reno. Our Dalky will be free, and what so great as to
have him fall in love with a really appreciative woman." Eleanor clasped
her hands and expressed ecstatic joy at the very idea of such bliss.

"But the whole plan would be ruined if it turned out that Dalky was still
in love with his first wife, you know," argued Polly.

"It wouldn't take long to get him out of it," retorted Eleanor. "With
such a lovely woman as Mrs. Courtney to be had for the loving and asking,
I'd like to wager all I have that Dalky would walk into the snare."

"What snare? Who'd set it for his faltering steps?" laughed Polly,
enjoying this romancing to the utmost.

"Why, we would, to be sure. Now look at it in a practical way, Poll.
There is Mrs. Courtney: very good-looking, rich, refined, lonely, about
thirty-five or thirty-eight, at most. Here is our Dalky, also handsome,
rich, refined, lonely (but for us) about forty years old, and just the
man to have a wonderful wife to make him happy. Is that not an ideal
match?" Eleanor tossed her head wisely.

"That's what _we_ think! But we are not going to marry Dalky nor Mrs.
Courtney. They may not agree with us, you know."

"Polly, nothing like trying out a thing to see how it works. Now we must
scheme to bring those two together and let them find out how desirable
each is for the other," suggested Eleanor.

"I think that is a good plan--bring them together and see how they seem
to get along," said Polly, musingly.

"All right, then. How shall we do it?"

"Could we not invite Mrs. Courtney to inspect some of the materials we
are going to order for Dalky's apartment? We could so plan that Dalky
would be there at the same time. Then they would meet and hear that each
one is the great and only friend the other has heard so much about from
us?"

"Yes, that's a fine way to get them together," said Polly. "Now when
shall it be?"

"The sooner, the better," retorted Eleanor.

"We are going to get that book of new imported samples of damask, this
week, Nolla. Why not ask Mrs. Courtney to look at them. As they are
ordered for Dalky's apartment, what more natural than he should drop in
to look them over?"

Eleanor clapped Polly on the back with approval, and both girls then put
their heads together and romanced about the great match they would bring
about.

A few days after this conversation, the much-desired package came by
European post. It was the book of imported samples which had been ordered
for Mr. Dalken's inspection before he would place an order for the
materials. The work at Mrs. Courtney's residence had been delayed because
the youthful decorators said they wished to look over the magnificent
materials from Paris. When they were sure of Mr. Dalken's visit to the
Shops that morning, they also insisted upon Mrs. Courtney coming in to
look over the materials.

The two plotters could hardly keep from hugging each other when they knew
that both friends were coming, and the opportunity of having them meet
and fall in love with each other was given at last.

But they did not allow for Fate.

There happened to be a socialistic parade of demonstration against work,
or some such complaint, that noon; and just as the parade reached that
section of Fifth Avenue where the Ashby Shops were located, the police
held up all vehicular traffic. All cars were diverted from the Avenue to
side streets, but those unfortunate cars caught just at the point of
crossing the street, had to back and wait until those behind had backed
out of the congestion, before they could slowly make their way out.

Mrs. Courtney's chauffeur had just attempted to cross the Avenue in order
to turn in front of the Ashby Shops, when the signal came and all
traffic, up or down or cross-town, was held up until the parade should
have passed. Mrs. Courtney was furious.

"Back out and we'll go around a side street to get to my destination,"
spoke she to the chauffeur.

The man glanced in the mirror to see if the way behind was open, and
finding no car directly in his pathway, he began to quickly back out. In
the moment he took his eye from the reflector, another car shot up close
to Mrs. Courtney's automobile; thus her driver backed suddenly into the
newly arrived car behind.

There was a smash of lamps, a grinding of fenders and the interlocking of
back and front bumpers. The passengers were rudely thrown from the
luxurious cushioned seats, and Mrs. Courtney had her new imported hat
crushed out of shape.

The two chauffeurs jumped down and began to blame each other for the
accident; Mr. Dalken managed to pick himself up from the floor of his
limousine and step stiffly out to learn who was to blame. Mrs. Courtney
was sure she was in the right; and when the handsome gentleman came up to
her car to tell her she had a stupid chauffeur, for he should have looked
well before backing so recklessly into the congested tangle of cars
behind him, she resented his charge.

While Mr. Dalken stood beside Mrs. Courtney's car trying to convince her
she was in the wrong, the two chauffeurs began to use their fists upon
each other. Then, in a few minutes' time, the officer stationed at the
corner to maintain order for the paraders, rushed up and arrested both
combatants. Naturally, this caused their employers to see that justice
was done, and thus it happened that all contestants accompanied the
officer to the police-station.

Meantime Polly and Eleanor waited and waited, but no one came to inspect
their sample book. They telephoned Mrs. Courtney's house and were told
she had left, in her car, fully an hour before. Then they telephoned Mr.
Dalken's office and heard that he had driven away in his car fully an
hour before.

"The old parade must have held them up," suggested Polly.

"But that's over, now, and they surely could have been here if they were
detained at one of the nearby cross-streets," said Eleanor.

Another half hour passed and then two cars drove up and stopped before
the Ashby Shops. Two people stepped from their individual cars and two
angry people stood and stared at each other. Then Mr. Dalken, recovering
first, bowed stiffly and walked across the pavement to enter the Shop
door. Mrs. Courtney had started to cross the sidewalk before she realized
that her unknown opponent was entering the same Shop she was bound for.
She passed through the door he held open, and sent him a careless glance
of thanks, then looked around for the girls whom she had expected to meet
there.

Neither girl was in sight, and the lady now asked one of the salesmen,
"Where shall I find Miss Brewster or Miss Maynard?"

"Just step this way, Madam. I'll take you to their private office," was
the polite reply.

Mrs. Courtney glanced in a large mirror to assure herself that her hat
was presentable, then followed her escort. As she reached the partly
closed door of the office used by the young decorators, she heard a man's
voice. The same voice which had been accusing her chauffeur of bad
judgment and ignorance of city laws. Before she could change her mind
about entering the room, however, the escort had knocked and Polly flung
the door open. She welcomed the new visitor.

Both girls were tickled to pieces to find how their plot was coming on
apace: both dear friends were now together at the same time, and all that
was needed was for them to be introduced.

"Oh, isn't this just lovely!" cried Eleanor, acting her part very well.
"To find both our friends here at the same time!"

"Dear Mrs. Courtney, this is our dear Mr. Dalken," said Polly, politely.

"And _this_ is the dear friend we have told you of so often, Dalky!"
added Eleanor, effusively.

The lady and gentleman bowed distantly but never smiled; the girls
wondered at their strange behavior. Then Mr. Dalken said sarcastically:

"We have met before. In fact, the lady is obliged to me for having spared
her chauffeur a fine."

"What do you mean?" gasped Polly, all at sea.

"He means, my dears, that he took us to the police station a short time
ago, just because his stupid chauffeur wouldn't back out of the
congestion. Naturally, when my man tried to back out the car grazed the
one behind, and that started the fight," explained Mrs. Courtney.

"I beg pardon, Madam. _I_ did not take you to the station house. You took
yourself in order to save your chauffeur. And I went to see that my poor
man had simple justice in the case," said Mr. Dalken, bowing low in mock
humility.

"Oh, oh! Isn't this dreadful after all we hoped for!" cried Polly,
throwing herself in a chair and burying her face in her arms.

"What is so awful, Polly dear?" asked Mrs. Courtney, springing over to
the troubled girl and placing an arm about her.

"Oh, oh! I am so heart-broken over this misfortune!" cried Polly.

"What misfortune, Polly dear?" now asked Mr. Dalken, coming close to the
girl.

"Oh, oh, oh! I can't speak of it!" sobbed Polly.

"Perhaps I can comfort her, Madam, if you will allow me," suggested Mr.
Dalken, anxious to take Mrs. Courtney's place as comforter.

She sent him a glance that said as plain as could be: "I can comfort her
myself--you need not mind!"

Meanwhile Eleanor stood and rapidly pondered the situation. She felt like
laughing outrageously at the prank Cupid had played on them, but she
dared not utter a sound of mirth because that might spoil everything. And
there might be a possible chance of saving the day, after all.

Suddenly, without any previous notice, Eleanor fell upon the other chair
by the table and dropped her head upon her folded arms. Her body shook
nervously, and Mr. Dalken believed her to be crying, too. He hastened to
assure her that there was really nothing to cry about, but his assurance
only caused the girl to quake the more.

Eleanor was not crying, but had felt that she must laugh or leave the
room. As she had no desire to leave, she tried to hide her laughing in
her arms upon the table. But when Mr. Dalken began to comfort her, she
lost all control of herself and had an attack of hysterical laughter.

The two distraught adults were not able to cope with the situation, and
they looked at each other in mute appeal. Mr. Dalken was the first to
speak.

"We'd better bury the hatchet and do something for the children," said
he, anxiously. "Do you know what to do?"

"Had I better get a doctor, or something?" added he.

"Better get _some_thing," replied Mrs. Courtney, without thinking how
silly it must sound.

This sent Eleanor off into another wild spell of laughter, but Polly
began to quiet now that she heard her friend making such a disturbance.
The ungoverned laughter attracted Mr. Ashby who had just entered the
Shops.

"Well, well! What has happened?" was the natural thing for him to say,
the moment he entered the room.

Mr. Dalken tried to explain that a slight shock had occasioned the
hysteria, and then Mr. Ashby ran for the jug of icewater on the small
stand by the door. Eleanor was liberally soaked with water before she
could control her nerves, but once she could gasp again, she cried, "Oh,
Mr. Ashby! make our two dear friends patch up their quarrel! I shall have
another fit unless they shake hands right before my face and promise
never again to act like children!"

As the logic of this accusation seemed apparent to all present, Mr.
Dalken smiled graciously upon Mrs. Courtney and she held out her hand
without further animosity. Then Mr. Ashby had to hear the story of the
accident.

As it was concluded he laughed heartily and said, "When I came in, just
now, I saw two chauffeurs sitting on the running board of Dalky's car,
smoking cigarettes and laughing together as if they were twin brothers.
No sign of disagreement _there_."

"Oh the wretches! And in the station house they called each other all
sorts of bad names and swore to do away with each other the moment they
found an opportunity," complained Mrs. Courtney.

The others laughed at her pathetic voice, and Mr. Dalken said, "When they
discovered they were both Swedes they decided they had best combine their
forces against the common enemy-employer."

Now that reconciliation had been brought about between these two good
friends, Eleanor wondered what next to do to further the match she had
determined to bring about. She looked at Polly for inspiration, but Polly
seemed to lack any initiative.

"Well, girls! Now that you have agreed to remain yet a little longer on
this earth with us, I shall have to be saying good-by," declared Mr.
Dalken, bowing before Mrs. Courtney in his most dignified manner.

"Oh, no, Dalky! Wait just a minute!" cried Eleanor. Then turning to Polly
for help, she added, "We want Mrs. Courtney and you to come and dine with
us, some evening, this week. Not at Mr. Fabian's, you know, but at a nice
quaint little place we know of."

This was news to Polly, but she waited to hear more before she spoke. Mr.
Dalken laughed and waited for Mrs. Courtney to speak.

"What is this? Do you need a chaperone for an evening?" said she, trying
to fathom Eleanor's thoughts.

"No, no! But you see, Mr. Ashby always takes his important clients to a
famous restaurant for dinner, so we have to do the same. You two are our
first big customers, and I want to do the business up as it should be
done." Every one laughed at Eleanor.

"Under the circumstances, I think I should be the host and you three
ladies my guests," suggested Mr. Dalken.

"Well--anyway you say, Dalky, just so long as we get together for an
evening," sighed Eleanor, as if relieved at the change of plans. This
called forth another, heartier, laugh at her expense.

One evening, therefore, the four, now good friends, met at one of the new
unique cabarets, and having enjoyed dinner and the dancing, they spoke of
Mrs. Courtney's idea of taking a trip to the South Sea Isles. Mr. Dalken
laughed immoderately at the mention of the place selected for a pleasure
trip.

"Now I am truly sorry you have set your hearts on going to the South
Seas, for I had been secretly planning a little jaunt on my own account.
One reason I bought that sea-going yacht was to have my best friends take
short voyages with me, whenever we could get away from business.

"I find that I must try to break away from New York in early Spring, and
the doctor says a sea-voyage is the best vacation I can possibly take.
Hence I wanted to have my two girls with me. If you are planning to go to
the South Seas I suppose it will be out of the question for you to go to
the Orient, on _my_ planned trip?"

As Mr. Dalken paused to watch the effect of this speech, both the girls
"Oh'ed and Ah'ed" and glanced at Mrs. Courtney. She said nothing and her
face was a blank so no one could read her mind.

"I had jotted down a list of names of sociable spirits, such as the
Fabians, the Ashbys, the Alexanders, the Brewsters, the Maynards, the
Latimers, the Evans, the Stewarts, and Mrs. Courtney with Jack Baxter to
look after her in lieu of other escort. It may be impossible for all
members in the families I mention to continue with us on the voyage, but
they can accompany us part way and then come back home. I planned to go
via the Panama Canal, and thus on to Hawaii, touching there for a short
visit to the Islands, and those of our party who must return to the
States, can get back by steamer to California and thence to their
respective homes. We will sail on to the land of cherry blossoms and
pigtails. But you girls with one short sentence blast all these cherished
dreams."

"Oh, no, Dalky! We wouldn't change your plans for the world!" exclaimed
Polly, anxiously. "You see, the South Sea Isles will wait until we can
get there, but you and your plans are apt to change--as the railroad
guides read--without notice at any time!"

A laugh followed Polly's remark, and Mr. Dalken added, "Well just mull
over this project for a time and give me your individual opinions about
it. Of course, we would be crowded if everyone in the families mentioned
were to accept my invitation and take the round trip; but I feel quite
safe in inviting all because I am sure I can bank on certain ones
refusing to go."

"I don't believe you could tear father or mother away from Pebbly Pit,"
remarked Polly, wistfully.

"And I know for certain that mother and Bob wouldn't give up their summer
season at a fashionable resort, just to join a party of old-fashioned
sea-farers," laughed Eleanor.

"Do you think you could persuade your father to join us?" asked Mr.
Dalken.

"I bet he would go as far as Honolulu, anyway!" said Eleanor.

"That's one for certain to start with!" laughed Mr. Dalken.

"Then there is Polly and myself and Mrs. Courtney, for certain--and that
makes four; with yourself, we are five!" exulted Eleanor, drawing forth
another laugh.

"Then it is settled, eh? We sail for the Orient without more ado, just as
soon as your extensive business deals are done and you will need a long
rest in order to recuperate for next year's work," chuckled Mr. Dalken.

"If our two clients would postpone their decorating for a year, we might
be able to start tomorrow," remarked Polly, smilingly.

"But the clients are obdurate, especially when the decorators need
payment and prestige to succeed in their profession. Besides, the owner
of the yacht is not keen on sailing the seas in the middle of winter and
then land in China in the wet season."

"Yes, he is right," admitted Polly.

"If we should really take such a trip, Dalky, what is the best time of
the year to start?" asked Eleanor.

"Well, we could leave New York in May or June, dawdle along the route
until we reach Southern California. Those who cannot take time to go to
Hawaii, can railroad themselves back home, and we can sail leisurely
across the Pacific to visit the Hawaiian Islands. There again, those who
cannot go on to the Orient with the decorators who need to study customs
and periods in the Far East, may say good-by to us and watch us go west,
while they go east back to business.

"If we take our time, stopping at the Philippines on the way, we ought to
do Japan and China and even the principal parts of India, in a few
months. We can bid the East good-by about March and escape the unpleasant
season there. By taking a direct route home we might reach New York in
June. It all depends."

"Oh, wouldn't it be wonderful! And all our dearest friends with us!"
cried Polly, clasping her hands in ecstasy.

"Dear, dear! If only Tom will let you go, Polly!" sighed Eleanor,
mischievously.

"Tom! What has Tom got to do with it?" demanded Polly.

"Well, you know, he says you ought to consider his wishes more, since he
is sure you are his soul-mate," teased Eleanor.

"The sooner he finds out that I propose keeping my own soul in custody
the better it will be for Tom!" declared Polly.

"There, now! That doesn't sound much as if our Polly was deeply in love,
does it, Dalky?" laughed Eleanor, clapping her hands.

"I never thought she was! She was moved by compassion for Tom, to partly
agree to consider his proposal. I knew she would not forfeit her
profession for the doubtful result of conjugal bliss," remarked Mr.
Dalken.

"Hem--she's right!" asserted Mrs. Courtney. "When two people, as you and
I are, are on hand to prevent our young friends from precipitating
themselves into double harness before they have thoroughly studied their
own minds and desires, we ought to succeed in the work because we speak
from experience."

"Yes," agreed Mr. Dalken, reminiscently; "I would never marry the finest
woman on earth, after my first venture."

"Nor would I accept a man, even though he presented himself to me in
guise of a saint! Even saints have their bad days," laughed Mrs.
Courtney.

Polly and Eleanor exchanged troubled glances for it was evident that
their match-making was hopeless. But the voyage to the Orient might
develop many interesting things which were not revealed to the actors
then. Thus we leave Polly and Eleanor for the time, and return to our own
affairs until it is time to go on board Mr. Dalken's yacht for the long
trip half-way around the world.


                                THE END


      *      *      *      *      *      *

                        AMY BELL MARLOWE'S BOOKS
                               FOR GIRLS
                  Charming, Fresh and Original Stories
Illustrated. Wrappers printed in colors with individual design for each
story

Miss Marlowe's books for girls are somewhat of the type of Miss Alcott
and also Mrs. Meade; but all are thoroughly up-to-date and wholly
American in scene and action. Good, clean absorbing tales that all girls
thoroughly enjoy.

THE OLDEST OF FOUR;
  Or, Natalie's Way Out.
  A sweet story of the struggles of a live girl to keep a family from want.

THE GIRLS AT HILLCREST FARM;
  Or, The Secret of the Rocks.
  Relating the trials of two girls who take boarders on an old farm.

A LITTLE MISS NOBODY;
  Or, With the Girls of Pinewood Hall.
  Tells of a school girl who was literally a nobody until she solved
  the mystery of her identity.

THE GIRL FROM SUNSET RANCH;
  Or, Alone in a Great City.
  A ranch girl comes to New York to meet relatives she has never seen.
  Her adventures make unusually good reading.

WYN'S CAMPING DAYS;
  Or, The Outing of the GO-AHEAD CLUB.
  A tale of happy days on the water and under canvas, with a touch of
  mystery and considerable excitement.

FRANCES OF THE RANGES:
  Or, The Old Ranchman's Treasure.
  A vivid picture of life on the great cattle ranges of the West.

THE GIRLS OF RIVERCLIFF SCHOOL;
  Or, Beth Baldwin's Resolve.
  This is one of the most entertaining stories centering about a
  girl's school that has ever been written.

WHEN ORIOLE CAME TO HARBOR LIGHT.
  The story of a young girl, cast up by the sea, and rescued by an old
  lighthouse keeper.

WHEN ORIOLE TRAVELED WESTWARD.
  Oriole visits the family of a rich ranchman and enjoys herself immensely.

                   Grosset & Dunlap, Publishers, New York


      *      *      *      *      *      *


                       THE POLLY BREWSTER SERIES
                        By LILLIAN ELIZABETH ROY

             Durably Bound. Illustrated. Colored Wrappers.
                    Every Volume Complete in Itself.

A delightful series for girls in which they will follow Polly and Eleanor
through many interesting adventures and enjoyable trips.

Polly of Pebbly Pit
  Tells about a Rocky Mountain ranch girl and her many adventures.

Polly and Eleanor
  Eleanor Maynard visits Polly at the Ranch and they have lively times.

Polly in New York
  Polly and Eleanor visit New York and have a number of very
  interesting experiences.

Polly and Her Friends Abroad
  The girls go abroad and spend most of their time with other American
  travelers.

Polly's Business Venture
  Polly and Eleanor take up interior decorating. They attend sales of
  antiques and incidentally fall in love.

Polly's Southern Cruise
  A hurricane and cloud-burst threatens to swamp the vessel in which
  Polly and her friends take this trip.

Polly in South America
  Polly and her friends land at many funny old towns and have several
  exciting adventures not altogether pleasant.

                  Grosset & Dunlap, Publishers, New York


      *      *      *      *      *      *

                          CAROLYN WELLS BOOKS
  May be had wherever books are sold. Ask for Grosset & Dunlap's list.
                           THE MARJORIE BOOKS
                      Happy Books For Happy Girls

Marjorie is a happy little girl of twelve, up to mischief, but full of
goodness and sincerity. In her and her friends every girl reader will see
much of her own love of fun, play and adventure.

This series is the American Girl's very own. Each book is attractively
bound in cloth, and wrapped in a charming colored individual wrapper.

                         Marjorie's Vacation
                         Marjorie's New Friend
                         Marjorie's Maytime
                         Marjorie's Busy Day
                         Marjorie in Command
                         Marjorie at Seacote

                      THE TWO LITTLE WOMEN SERIES

Miss Carolyn Wells here introduces Dorinda Fayre--a pretty blonde, sweet,
serious, timid and a little slow, and Dorothy Rose--a sparkling brunette,
quick, elf-like, high tempered, full of mischief and always getting into
scrapes.

                  Two Little Women
                  Two Little Women on a Holiday
                  Two Little Women and Treasure House

                        THE DICK AND DOLLY BOOKS

Dick and Dolly are brother and sister, and their games, their pranks,
their joys and sorrows, are told in a manner which makes the stories
"really true" to young readers.

                      Dick and Dolly
                      Dick and Dolly's Adventures

                 GROSSET & DUNLAP, PUBLISHERS, NEW YORK

      *      *      *      *      *      *

                        THE BOBBSEY TWINS BOOKS
                        For Little Men and Women

                           By LAURA LEE HOPE
                Author of "The Bunny Brown Series," Etc.

         Durably Bound. Illustrated. Uniform Style of Binding.
                    Every Volume Complete in Itself.

These books for boys and girls between the ages of three and ten stands
among children and their parents of this generation where the books of
Louisa May Alcott stood in former days. The haps and mishaps of this
inimitable pair of twins, their many adventures and experiences are a
source of keen delight to imaginative children everywhere.

                 THE BOBBSEY TWINS
                 THE BOBBSEY TWINS IN THE COUNTRY
                 THE BOBBSEY TWINS AT THE SEASHORE
                 THE BOBBSEY TWINS AT SCHOOL
                 THE BOBBSEY TWINS AT SNOW LODGE
                 THE BOBBSEY TWINS ON A HOUSEBOAT
                 THE BOBBSEY TWINS AT MEADOW BROOK
                 THE BOBBSEY TWINS AT HOME
                 THE BOBBSEY TWINS IN A GREAT CITY
                 THE BOBBSEY TWINS ON BLUEBERRY ISLAND
                 THE BOBBSEY TWINS ON THE DEEP BLUE SEA
                 THE BOBBSEY TWINS IN THE GREAT WEST
                 THE BOBBSEY TWINS AT CEDAR CAMP
                 THE BOBBSEY TWINS AT THE COUNTY FAIR
                 THE BOBBSEY TWINS CAMPING OUT
                 THE BOBBSEY TWINS AND BABY MAY

                 GROSSET & DUNLAP, PUBLISHERS, NEW YORK

      *      *      *      *      *      *

                         THE BUNNY BROWN SERIES
                           By LAURA LEE HOPE

           Author of the Popular "Bobbsey Twins" Books, Etc.

         Durably Bound. Illustrated. Uniform Style of Binding.
                    Every Volume Complete in Itself.

These stories by the author of the "Bobbsey Twins" Books are eagerly
welcomed by the little folks from about five to ten years of age. Their
eyes fairly dance with delight at the lively doings of inquisitive little
Bunny Brown and his cunning, trustful sister Sue.

         BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE
         BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE ON GRANDPA'S FARM
         BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE PLAYING CIRCUS
         BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE AT CAMP REST-A-WHILE
         BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE AT AUNT LU'S CITY HOME
         BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE IN THE BIG WOODS
         BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE ON AN AUTO TOUR
         BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE AND THEIR SHETLAND PONY
         BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE GIVING A SHOW
         BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE AT CHRISTMAS TREE COVE
         BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE IN THE SUNNY SOUTH
         BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE KEEPING STORE
         BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE AND THEIR TRICK DOG
         BUNNY BROWN AND HIS SISTER SUE AT A SUGAR CAMP

                 GROSSET & DUNLAP, PUBLISHERS, NEW YORK

      *      *      *      *      *      *

                       SIX LITTLE BUNKERS SERIES
                           By LAURA LEE HOPE

              Author of The Bobbsey Twins Books, The Bunny
              Brown Series, The Make-Believe Series, Etc.

         Durably Bound. Illustrated. Uniform Style of Binding.
                    Every Volume Complete in Itself.

Delightful stories for little boys and girls which sprung into immediate
popularity. To know the six little Bunkers is to take them at once to
your heart, they are so intensely human, so full of fun and cute sayings.
Each story has a little plot of its own--one that can be easily
followed--and all are written in Miss Hope's most entertaining manner.
Clean, wholesome volumes which ought to be on the bookshelf of every
child in the land.

                  SIX LITTLE BUNKERS AT GRANDMA BELL'S
                  SIX LITTLE BUNKERS AT AUNT JO'S
                  SIX LITTLE BUNKERS AT COUSIN TOM'S
                  SIX LITTLE BUNKERS AT GRANDPA FORD'S
                  SIX LITTLE BUNKERS AT UNCLE FRED'S
                  SIX LITTLE BUNKERS AT CAPTAIN BEN'S
                  SIX LITTLE BUNKERS AT COWBOY JACK'S
                  SIX LITTLE BUNKERS AT MAMMY JUNE'S
                  SIX LITTLE BUNKERS AT FARMER JOEL'S
                  SIX LITTLE BUNKERS AT MILLER NED'S

                 GROSSET & DUNLAP, PUBLISHERS, NEW YORK





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