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´╗┐Title: Mary Louise and Josie O'Gorman
Author: Sampson, Emma Speed
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Mary Louise and Josie O'Gorman" ***

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The Bluebird Books

MARY LOUISE AND JOSIE O'GORMAN


[Frontispiece]
Josie gets a job as a maid.--Chapter XII


MARY LOUISE AND JOSIE O'GORMAN

by

EDITH VAN DYNE

Author of
"Mary Louise", "Mary Louise in the Country",
"Mary Louise Solves a Mystery", "Mary Louise
and the Liberty Girls", "Mary Louise Adopts
a Soldier", "Mary Louise at Dorfield",
"Mary Louise Stands the Test"

Frontispiece by Harry W. Armstrong



The Reilly & Lee Co.
Chicago

Printed in the United States of America

Copyright, 1922
by
The Reilly & Britton Co.
All Rights Reserved



_Mary Louise and Josie O'Gorman_



CONTENTS

   I      MARY LOUISE MAKES AN INVESTMENT
   II     THE BOARD ELECTS NEW MEMBERS
   III    MARY LOUISE TELLS A STORY
   IV     JOSIE DONS A HENNA WIG
   V      BREAKFAST FOR TWO
   VI     A SUCCESSFUL DISGUISE
   VII    JOSIE GETS A JOB
   VIII   PETER REFUSES NEW PARENTS
   IX     JOSIE GETS HER BEARINGS
   X      AT MISS DENTON'S DINNER TABLE
   XI     JOSIE ENGAGES AN ASSISTANT
   XII    CHESTER HUNT'S NEW MAID
   XIII   A NEW BROOM SWEEPS CLEAN
   XIV    JOSIE JUMPS HER JOB
   XV     JOSIE VISITS INDIANA
   XVI    JOSIE GETS A RIDE
   XVII   HUSBAND AND WIFE
   XVIII  CHESTER HUNT CONFESSES
   XIX    A HAPPY REUNION



Mary Louise and Josie O'Gorman



CHAPTER I
MARY LOUISE MAKES AN INVESTMENT

Mary Louise had stood the test of being rich and beloved, and envied by
all the daughters of Dorfield; and then of being poor and bereft,
pitied by all who had formerly envied her. Soon after the death of her
grandfather, Colonel Hathaway, had come the news of her husband's
shipwreck. Hope of Danny Dexter's survival was finally abandoned by his
sorrowing little wife and his many friends. Colonel Hathaway's
comfortable fortune had mysteriously disappeared and Mary Louise faced
a future of poverty. With native pluck she arose to the occasion.
In spite of her sad heart she showed a cheerful spirit. Joining
forces with Josie O'Gorman and Elizabeth Wright in the quaint
Higgledy-Piggledy Shop, she opened a millinery department and was soon
swamped with orders for smart hats by the elite of Dorfield and
old-fashioned bonnets for the ancient ladies who refused to wear hats.
When Danny came back, not having gone to a watery grave after all, and
the lost fortune was found, Mary Louise again stood the test of being
rich and beloved.

"Nothing can spoil our Mary Louise," Josie O'Gorman declared, and Irene
Macfarlane smiled from her wheel chair.

"That is because she is pure gold, through and through," said the lame
girl as she deftly plied her needle in the cobwebby lace collar she was
mending.

"We certainly shall miss her here at the Higgledy-Piggledy," put in
Elizabeth Wright. "It doesn't seem like the same place with Mary Louise
gone. I wonder what the old ladies who still wear bonnets will do now.
There is no other milliner in Dorfield who can fashion an old-time
bonnet like our Mary Louise. She did them as though she loved them and
the old ladies for whom they were intended."

"Well, every old woman in town has had Mary Louise make her a bonnet
'exactly like Jane's and Susan's and Martha's and Matilda's'," laughed
Josie, "and they don't change their bonnets oftener than every seven
years, so we needn't worry about them just yet. Speaking of angels!
Here she is!"

Mary Louise literally danced into the shop. Ever since Danny returned
her feet seemed to have wings.

"I didn't know how miserable I had been until I had my present
happiness with which to compare my former sorrow," she had told Josie
O'Gorman shortly after Danny got back.

"You were too busy to be altogether unhappy," spake the wise Josie.
"Being poor enough to have to make one's living is not so bad as it is
cracked up to be. It was certainly a blessing in your case."

As we have said, Mary Louise danced into the shop. Then she breezed
over and kissed the three friends in turn.

"It's sad no longer to be a partner here," she said, "but it is nice to
be able to kiss all of you dear old girls. A business footing does not
permit of the familiarity of embraces between partners. I've just got
lots to tell all of you!"

"Fire away," commanded Josie, "but you must excuse me if I go on
ironing the fine linen of the wealthy."

Among the many industries the Higgledy-Piggledy Shop boasted was that
of laundering fine linen and laces. It was not known in Dorfield except
by a select few that Josie O'Gorman was a detective in high standing
with the chief, but everybody who had laces or linen too fine to trust
to the doubtful ministrations of an ordinary laundress knew that the
girl was a magician with suds and a flatiron. Josie declared washing
and ironing helped her to work out knotty problems and there was
nothing like having your arms in suds up to the elbows to give you an
insight into who did what and why.

The girls settled themselves to listen to Mary Louise's news, whatever
it was. Elizabeth Wright closed her typewriter on which she had been
copying some manuscript for a budding author; Irene Macfarlane stuck
her needle in the pin-cushion hanging from her tidy work-basket and
folded the lace collar. Only Josie went on with her work, testing her
electric iron with a professional sizzle.

"Well, you see it's this way," continued Mary Louise, settling herself
on an antique Windsor chair that the Higgledy-Piggledies were trying to
sell on commission. "Danny and I are going to have plenty of money to
live on, with what he earns. I know how Danny feels about my being an
heiress; not that he ever says a word about it, but he has a good job
and there is a chance of steady advancement and I have decided to do
something for somebody who needs it more than I do with all that gold
Grandpa Jim left me and the old house which is too huge for Danny and
me to live in, and too sad somehow for me just yet."

"I'm glad you feel that way about the house," put in Josie, shaking out
another damask napkin. "It's a bully old house but too big for a young
couple who don't need much room to be happy in."

"What is your plan, dear?" asked Irene, her sweet eyes misting a
little. The thought of Mary Louise quitting the old house which was
next to Uncle Peter Conant's, where Irene made her home, caused her to
be sad.

"Danny and I are going into an apartment for the time being and later
on will build a house more suitable to our needs. I am going to give
the old home to the Children's Home Society and make an endowment with
a part of my gold, so the society can begin operations at once in their
new quarters. They have a miserable place now, with not near enough
room."

"What a corking plan!" cried Josie. "I know of no charity that appeals
to one as this business of getting homes for poor little waifs. It
helps the poor little kiddies and it helps the childless persons who
want to adopt them. I'm with you, Mrs. Danny Dexter!"

"And I! And I!" came in a chorus from Elizabeth and Irene.

"The old house is more fitted for an institution than a private home.
The rooms are so huge, at least most of them are, and still it is
homelike. Only think how lovely it will be for the children to have the
pretty yard and old garden to play in. Dr. Weston, the dear old
gentleman who is in charge of the home now, says there is so little
room and so little money that they can't care for the children properly
and the people who come to see about adopting them are afraid to take
them sometimes because they don't look healthy enough."

"Poor little things!" murmured Irene.

"I'm wondering if your Uncle Peter and Aunt Hannah would mind having a
children's home next door to them," Mary Louise asked.

"I'm sure they wouldn't," said Irene. "I heard Uncle Peter say only
last night that he'd like to see the old place occupied again even if
it were by noisy boarders, and you know Aunt Hannah loves company and
she's so deaf that the noise the children make won't affect her in the
least."

"And you?" asked Mary Louise. "How will you like it?"

"I want what you want, dear. You must call on me to help in any way I
can."

"Indeed I will! We hope to make a very active society of this
Children's Home. I have talked to Dr. Weston, but have not told him
about making the endowment or giving the old house yet. I wanted to be
sure it would not be a nuisance to Uncle Peter Conant. He and Aunt
Hannah have been too good to me for me to go against their wishes."

"Set your mind at rest on that score," said Irene. "I can answer for
them."

"I'll do any typing you need when you begin on the thing," suggested
Elizabeth, "and I can look after the publicity end, too. The more
persons who get interested in an enterprise like this the better for
it."

"Indeed you are right. We will need more money than I can give, too.
Yearly subscriptions will have to be solicited and the more publicity
we get the better."

"I'll be chief detective for the society," laughed Josie, shaking out
another napkin. "You may think that is a joke, but I tell you there are
more shady mix-ups in a concern like that than in courts of law. I'll
bet I'll be called on to trace parentage and establish property rights
and relationships before the year is up."

"Nobody could do it better," smiled Mary Louise. "Now I am going to
stop in and have a little talk with Uncle Peter Conant at his office
and then I'm going around and tell dear old Dr. Weston that as far as I
am concerned he can move his Children's Home to the Hathaway house
tomorrow. That is, if Uncle Peter doesn't object." Josie offered to
meet her at the Children's Home and Mary Louise gladly accepted.

Uncle Peter didn't object. To the contrary he seemed vastly pleased
with the prospect of some young neighbors.

"'Twill do Hannah good and no doubt she will turn our house into a kind
of annex. Go ahead, my dear, and invest your money in something where
moth and rust will not corrupt and where thieves will not break through
and steal."

"Oh, Uncle Peter, I am so glad to hear you say that. I haven't any
blood kin to go to for advice and Danny always says for me to do
exactly what I want to do, which is bad for my character. It might make
me very conceited to have him always insist that I'm right just because
I want to do something."

"Well, well! The young rascal is right," laughed Mr. Conant.

"But do you think Grandpa Jim would approve of what I am doing?"

"Surely he would. I haven't a doubt if you had not been in existence he
would have done much the same sort of thing with his fortune. Jim
Hathaway was a powerful charitable man."

Mary Louise then went to see Dr. Weston at his office in the dingy
little building that housed the Children's Home Society. The old man
slept on a bumpy couch in the corner of his office. He had been
assigned a bedroom in the house, but the association had grown beyond
its quarters and the devoted doctor had long ago given up his room as
an overflow dormitory for the constantly increasing number of little
children who were sent to the home to be kept there until some kind
person saw fit to adopt them.

Dr. Weston's life had been dedicated to social work and now in his old
age the thing which interested him most and to which he gave all his
strength and time was the placing of unfortunate children in good
homes. It was through his labor and influence the Children's Home
Society had been established and struggled for existence. He was
hampered in his work by an unwieldy board of women managers, but he
realized the importance of having a large board, because the more
persons interested the more money it was possible to raise for his pet
charity. At the time of Mary Louise's call funds were very low, so low
that it seemed as though the society might have to close its hospitable
doors to the homeless waifs and the present inmates be parceled out to
the various orphan asylums. The board was to meet that very day. Dr.
Weston always dreaded a board meeting. There were some fine, noble
women on his board, but also some interfering busy-bodies, who were
always starting disagreeable discussions, such as how much sugar a
little child should be allowed and how important it was that vanity
should not be encouraged in the girls.

Business and finance were not Dr. Weston's strong points. His only idea
was to gather in the little children and give them a home in the
society until better homes could be found for them. He wanted to make
the place as little like an institution as possible, but several
members of the board were for unrelenting law and prison order.

The old man sat with his head in his hands worrying over the affairs of
the home. He was aware of the fact that funds were low and needs were
increasing. The home needed another nurse and a higher-priced cook, who
would prepare the food with more care than the present slatternly
incumbent. It needed several hospital wards, where children could be
isolated when attacked by contagious diseases. The doctor had known his
family, varying from thirty to fifty, all down at one time with bad
colds, or coryza, as named by the medical profession, when isolating
the first small cougher and sneezer might have saved all of the others.

"If only that young Mrs. Dexter, Jim Hathaway's granddaughter, would
make us a small donation," he groaned. "No doubt she could well afford
it, but young folks are mighty thoughtless. She seemed interested in
the children but I fancy that will be all--just a sentimental interest
and no more."

A tap on the door and Mary Louise entered as though in answer to his
thoughts.

"I have come to see if I might help, Dr. Weston," she said simply.



CHAPTER II
THE BOARD ELECTS NEW MEMBERS

As Mary Louise seated herself in Dr. Weston's shabby office Josie
entered and was introduced.

"Miss O'Gorman is an especial friend of mine, Dr. Weston, and I have
asked her to come here because she also is interested in your home."

"Fine! There can't be too many interested in my home," exclaimed the
old man, a light coming in his eyes. "I say _my_ home just because I am
so interested in it, but it is in reality under the control of the
board. You say you want to help some?" he asked with eagerness.

"Yes, sir! I have been thinking over the matter and have decided that
this undertaking of all others appeals to me most and I should like to
give my old home. You know the old Hathaway house, do you not?"

"Yes, yes!" There was excitement in Dr. Weston's tone.

"It is too big for me to live in and I think my grandfather would be
glad to know that many little children are finding a temporary home
there," said Mary Louise. "There is a great deal of furniture there,
too, much of which would be suitable, and a lovely great yard and
pretty garden where the kiddies can play."

"Oh, my dear, you make an old man very happy!"

"I want to make an endowment, too," Mary Louise continued, "enough with
the subscriptions you already control to take care of the children as
they should be taken care of."

The tears were rolling down Dr. Weston's cheeks, then he laughed. "What
a bomb I can throw in the camp when the board meets this morning! I
dreaded their coming but now--now--"

"Who is on your board?" asked Josie practically.

Dr. Weston began naming them over.

"Humph!" was all Josie said, but that "humph" was eloquent.

Many of the names were known to the girls. It was a varied list
composed of good, bad and indifferent personalities, from the viewpoint
of the social worker.

"Mrs. Opie is a fine open-hearted woman," said Josie, "and Mrs. McGraw
is good nature itself and most generous. Mrs. Wright is a great worker
and manager--" Josie shrugged her shoulders without finishing her
sentence.

"Yes!" breathed Dr. Weston with an eloquent sigh. "A good woman, a good
woman, but something of a--a--boss!"

"You mean Elizabeth's mother?" asked Mary Louise. "Grandpa Jim used to
call her Kaiser Wright, but that was before we went into the war. He
said she could be the head of an absolute monarchy and run all the
affairs of state and see to it that the kitchen maids washed out the
tea towels after every meal. She is on every charitable and club board
in town and at the same time is a most strenuous housekeeper and has a
hand in the making of the clothes of her entire family."

"A wonderful woman! A wonderful woman!" exclaimed Dr. Weston, but there
was that in his tone that gave Mary Louise and Josie to understand that
he was glad there were not many "wonderful women" on the board of the
Children's Home Society.

"The board meets in a few minutes," continued the old man. "It is now
beginning to assemble in the parlor. I hope you young ladies can remain
until I can inform the ladies of the generous gift in store for our
home. I am the sole and unworthy representative of my sex on the
board."

"Of course we can wait," declared Josie. "Who is the president of your
organization?"

"Mrs. Trescott is chairman but--"

"She doesn't stay in it?" laughed Josie.

"I won't say that," smiled the doctor. "Never tell tales out of the
board. Ill return in a few moments. I can't tell you the happiness I
feel in being able to inform these ladies of our good fortune."

The board was trying to get in session. The girls, waiting in the
office, could hear a steady hum of conversation with an occasional
sharp rap of the gavel when the president evidently had something to
say herself.

"Sounds more like an afternoon tea than the deliberations of an august
body," said Josie.

But at last the meeting was called to order, the minutes were read, the
treasurer's report made and the various committees called on for a
reckoning. All this was accomplished with much talk and many
interruptions. The treasurer's report brought forth a groan. There was
little money left in the treasury and much was needed in the way of
equipment.

"I see nothing for it but to give up," said one lugubrious member.
"Dorfield doesn't take enough interest to support the home and so
there's an end of it."

"That would come under new business," suggested the president. "We must
get through with what is on the carpet first," consulting a small book
on parliamentary law.

"Well, there is no use in staying here if we are going to have to give
up," spake the lugubrious one. "All of this talk is foolish if we are
going to disband."

"Disband, nothing!" broke in Mrs. Wright, whose hands were busily
employed knitting a sweater for one of her girls while her eyes were
glancing from person to person. Her foot tapped constantly while her
knitting needles flew. One felt that she was doing some kind of work
with that tapping foot.

"Disband, indeed!" she whispered sibilantly. "We'll have a tag day and
a rummage sale and I'll get up a dicker party and some theatricals.
Disband, indeed!"

At last Dr. Weston was allowed to speak.

"Ladies," he said, "I mean Madame President, I have to report to the
board--"

"Not another case of measles, I trust!" interrupted one.

"No, not a case of measles, but a case that I hope is going to prove
quite as contagious--"

"Mumps, I'll be bound!"

"No, madame! We have had a gift for the home--"

"More old faded carpets and carved walnut furniture, I wager!"

Finally Dr. Weston was able to divulge to the board of managers that
Mary Louise Burrows, Jim Hathaway's granddaughter, now Mrs. Danny
Dexter, intended to hand over to them her grandfather's old home.

Mary Louise and Josie in the next room with the door closed were able
to tell exactly the moment when the news was broken. Such a hubbub
ensued that the doctor's voice was quite drowned out.

"And now, ladies," continued Dr. Weston, "since we have several
vacancies on our board, I think we could not do better than to ask Mrs.
Dexter to fill one of those vacancies and her friend Miss Josie
O'Gorman one of the others."

There was much hemming and hawing at this proposition.

"Too young!" was the general verdict, but Dr. Weston declared that Mary
Louise was not too young to give her property to the home, and then he
hinted wisely of other things she might give. The astute old man was a
good judge of human nature, especially human nature as exemplified by a
board of women managers. He had held back the fact that Mary Louise
also intended to endow the home. He was determined to have her put on
the board first, and also her clever little friend, who had such a
quiet way of hitting the nail on the head.

With the air of conferring on Mary Louise and Josie a tremendous favor
they were finally elected to the board.

"But who is this Josie O'Gorman?" asked a smartly dressed woman, "and
why? Isn't she a kind of a washerwoman?"

"Hush!" admonished another. "Don't you know she is in the
Higgledy-Piggledy Shop with Elizabeth Wright?"

The secretary was requested to inform the two young women of the honor
conferred upon them.

"They are in my office," said Dr. Weston, "and I might just step in and
tell them myself."

"Oh, horrors!" cried one of the women. "Do you suppose they heard what
we said?"

"I never said anything but that they were too young. Nobody could
object to that."

"And I said board work might prove too arduous for them."

"And I said our board was too big as it was."

"I was for them all the time."

"And I!"

"And I!"



CHAPTER III
MARY LOUISE TELLS A STORY

The members of the board need not have concerned themselves in regard
to the waiting girls. Josie and Mary Louise had been fully occupied. At
the moment that the hubbub had arisen, marking the time when Dr. Weston
had made his announcement, there had been a sharp tap on the office
door. Josie had opened the door and there had entered a woman and two
children, a girl of eight and a boy of about six. The girl carried a
badly wrapped bundle of clothes.

Mary Louise and Josie felt a keen interest in all three. The woman was
young--under thirty. She was handsome, with raven black hair and
well-cut features. Her face was pale and her eyes gloomy. She carried
herself with a slow, lazy grace. The good lines of her tall figure
asserted themselves in spite of the cheap, ill-fitting serge suit.
Josie always noticed hands and feet, because she declared they were
more difficult to disguise than any other portion of one's anatomy. One
glance at the woman's ungloved hands made Josie wonder at the well-kept
nails and dimpled knuckles.

"No horny-handed daughter of toil, at least," was her mental note. She
then instinctively glanced at the woman's feet.

"Too well shod for the serge suit," was her verdict, "high arched
triple A with French heels, about a five, which is small for a person
of her height. She must be at least five feet, ten inches."

This inventory took Josie the fraction of a second, so quick was she to
see and pigeon-hole her observations in her well-ordered brain.

The children had evidently been crying. The girl's eyes and nose were
red and the boy at intervals gave a dry sob as though he had been
through a storm of weeping and could with difficulty stop. They clung
to each other as they would had they been drowning. The woman pushed
them into the room. The children's clothes were the worse for wear, and
untidy. Their faces were dirty and showed signs of grimy little
knuckles having been dug into streaming eyes. The eyes of both children
were blue, as blue as cornflowers, and their hair very light, the boy's
curling in tight rings but the girl's straight and bobbed.

"I want to see the manager," said the woman in a well-modulated voice.

"Dr. Weston will be here in a few minutes," said Mary Louise. "Won't
you sit down?"

The young woman sank into a chair. She paid no attention to the
children, but Josie found them a seat on a bench by the window. The
little girl lifted the boy to the bench and put her arm around his
shoulders, drawing him close to her sisterly bosom.

"Quite warm today," said Josie to the woman.

Mary Louise could with difficulty keep from giggling. It was so foreign
to Josie's character to discuss the weather.

"Think so?" answered the woman shortly.

"Not so warm as it was yesterday, but still a little unseasonable,"
persisted Josie. "I find a suit quite warm, but then, what is one to
wear?"

Mary Louise listened in amazement. Josie talking weather and clothes!
She had reduced the problem of dress to a science and having done so
dismissed the matter from her mind. As for the weather, she had
frequently declared that all weather was good if one just accepted it.

"Clothes are getting a little cheaper than they were last spring," she
chattered on, "almost pre-war prices at Temple & Sweet's this week.
Charming georgette blouses for a mere song and shoes at a great bargain
if one wears a narrow last."

The woman was plainly interested.

"Temple & Sweet's?" she murmured, and her glance instinctively fell on
her own well-turned arch and narrow toe.

Suddenly the little boy's sobs got the better of him and he wept
convulsively. His sister hugged him more closely and with the hem of
her skirt wiped his eyes. She shook her own tow head and her blue eyes
snapped dangerously as the woman said roughly: "Stop your bawling!"

"Peter, dear, please!" she whispered, but Peter could not stop. Mary
Louise went over and sat on the bench by the children.

"You mustn't cry, my boy," she said gently. "Whatever troubles you I am
sure will come out right. Look out of the window at that robin. Isn't
he busy? Do you know what he is doing? He is building his nest. There
is his wife. She is going to help him. What a good little wife she is!
She thinks it is better to help because her husband is always stopping
and singing. There he goes now! A cunning little teasing song the robin
sings. I love to hear him in the spring. He always sounds so gay and
cheery. Do you know what will happen when they get the nest built?"

"Wha-at?" sobbed the boy. The tears had ceased and the sobs were almost
under control.

"The little wife bird will lay four beautiful eggs. They will be a
greenish blue, the blue that people call robin's egg blue. And then she
will stay patiently on her nest for many days keeping those eggs nice
and warm, only leaving her nest for something to eat and a drink of
water and when she is off, her husband, if he can stop singing long
enough, will keep the eggs warm for her, and by and by the pretty blue
shells will crack and inside them will be the most ridiculous-looking
little creatures you ever saw, all mouth at first, with no feathers at
all, and those mouths will always be stretched wide open like this,"
and Mary Louise stretched her pretty mouth as wide as nature would
allow. The boy laughed and his sister smiled contentedly.

Mary Louise resumed, in her pleasant voice:

"Then such a business! Mother and Father Robin will be working every
minute of daylight to try and fill those hungry mouths. Poor little
worms will be afraid to show their noses or their tails because there
will be a robin ready to peck them up and carry them off to their
babies. Those little birds will eat so much that by and by they will
begin to grow feathers and they will be pretty and fluffy and two of
them will take after their father and have very red breasts and two of
them will take after their mother and have just a delicate shade of red
on their breasts. And after those little birds get all covered with
feathers and their wings begin to grow strong Father Robin will say to
Mother Robin, 'See here, my dear, it is time these young rascals
learned how to fly and to grub for themselves.' That will make Mother
Robin sad, because she hates for her babies to grow up and have to
leave her."

"O--h!" in a long-drawn sigh from the little girl. "Do you think she
feels that way? How wonderful?"

"Of course she does; at least she will," smiled Mary Louise.

"Go on!" commanded Peter. "Polly, don't interrupt! Will they leave
their nice house--I mean nest?"

Josie silently noted the speech of the children. "From the South!" was
her verdict. "Soft slurred r's and the way the boy says house would
give them away."

"Yes," continued Mary Louise, "some pleasant morning in June, perhaps,
they will awaken very early and their mother and father will get busy
catching the early worm for their breakfast. You see, nobody must ever
try to do anything very important, like learning to fly, on an empty
stomach."

"That's what I been a-tellin' Polly; but go on, please."

"Then, when they are all fed and full and happy, Mother Robin balances
herself on the side of the nest and spreads her wings and says 'Now,
children, watch me!' and she floats down to the ground."

"From away up in the tree tops?"

"No, not so high up, because you see robins build in high bushes and
hedges, but it will seem very far to the little birds, as high as the
top of trees and even church steeples would seem to you."

"But if my mother would say, 'Come on, Peter, and jump off the church
steeple, I'm a-gonter do it. I wouldn't feel 'fraid--not a mite, not if
my mo--" But he could not finish the word mother. A realization of
something came over him and again his lip trembled and he seemed on the
verge of more tears and sobs.

"And then the little birds," continued Mary Louise quickly, trying to
keep the tears from her own sweet eyes, "they will look over the edge
of the nest and see their mother hopping around on the soft green
grass, and maybe they will see her catch a nice fat wiggly worm and,
wonder of wonders! and horror of horrors! instead of flying back to the
nest to give it to one of her babies she will gobble it up her own
self. That won't be because she is a greedy mother, but just to let
them realize that if they get down on the grass they can find plenty of
delicious worms for themselves. Then Father Robin will tell them they
are all little cry-babies not to jump up and fly from the nest, and one
by one the little baby birds will make up their minds and before you
know it all four will be down in the grass by their mother. Then,
goodness gracious me! what a busy day they will have! The little birds
are very plump, because their mother and father have worked so hard to
keep them well fed and they have never taken any exercise before except
with their mouths, and their little wings seem so weak and their little
tummies are so fat and so full, but they try and try and by dusk they
have almost learned. At any rate they are able to flutter back into the
bush where their old nest is, not that they ever expect to get back in
their nest. They would no more try to do that than a great big grown-up
man would want to get back in the little cradle in which his mother had
rocked him when he was a baby."

The biography of the robins was finished just as Dr. Weston came in to
announce to Mary Louise and Josie that they had been elected to the
board of governors of the Children's Home Society.

"Oh, but--" faltered Mary Louise.

"No buts at all, Mary Louise," insisted Josie. "Of course you must
serve because you are interested and I'll serve too just to keep you in
countenance."

"I think this lady wishes to speak with you, Dr. Weston."

The old man had been so full of his news that he had for the moment
overlooked the other occupants of his office. He now turned courteously
to the woman who stood up as though she had about finished her business
and was ready to leave.

"If you are the manager then I can go," she asserted. "I want to leave
these two children with you."

"Not so fast, madam!" said Dr. Weston. "We don't take little children
offhand this way. We must find out who they are, why they are here, who
is placing them here, all about their parentage--many things, in fact.
I shall ask you to be seated, madam, for a few moments while I conduct
these young ladies to the board, which is now in session."

The woman resumed her seat, a sullen expression on her handsome face.
Dr. Weston drew the girls into the parlor, carefully closed the door
and then, with a graceful little speech, courtly and kindly, he
presented the new members.

"We think it is splendid that you will give the house to us," said one
to Mary Louise, who was smiling happily.

"When can we get in?" asked another.

"Immediately!"

"We can't afford to move," spake the treasurer.

"Well, we can't afford to stay here, either," snapped Mrs. Wright.
"We'll just raise the money by hook or crook."

"I--I--will give some money along with the house," faltered Mary
Louise. "It isn't very much, but if $50,000 would help any I can give
that much."

The board was not noted for its sense of humor, but even it realized
how absurd it was for this slip of a girl to be so modest with her
fifty thousand dollars, and was it enough? The board burst into
laughter. Dr. Weston looked as though he might burst with pride and
happiness.

"To whom must I make the check?" asked Mary Louise simply, as though
making checks for fifty thousand dollars was no more than paying one's
gas bill.

"To the treasurer," answered the president, with a gasp.

"No, no, not to me! I would be afraid to carry around such a check."
But the treasurer was overruled and Mary Louise proceeded to make out a
check there and then. Her fortune had been left to her in cash owing to
her grandfather's being unbalanced many months before his death and
having converted all of his securities into gold, which he had hid
away.

"I'll have the deeds to the house made over to the Children's Home
Society as soon as Mr. Conant, my lawyer, can manage it," said Mary
Louise.

There being no further business before the board it was joyfully and
noisily adjourned by the smiling but flustered president.

"Now I must go interview the woman with the two little children," Dr.
Weston said to Josie and Mary Louise.

"I must see the children again," declared Mary Louise. "Poor lambs!"
But when the door leading to the office was opened the room was found
empty. The woman and two children had disappeared.



CHAPTER IV
JOSIE DONS A HENNA WIG

"Believe me, there's something shady about that woman!" said Josie to
Mary Louise. "She was ready enough to leave the kids until Dr. Weston
told her she would have to produce some kind of information about them.
That is what scared her off."

"Dear little children," said Mary Louise sadly. "I wonder if she is
their mother."

"Of course not! There wasn't a trace of resemblance."

"I know she was a decided brunette and the children were blue-eyed and
tow-headed," Mary Louise remembered.

"Color isn't such a proof as line and certain tricks of pose and
motion. They had not one single thing in common with the woman and then
she was plainly indifferent to them and they were a little in awe of
her. That happens sometimes with a mother, but if she is indifferent to
her children she usually tries to hide it and makes a show of affection
with strangers. And children just have to love their mothers a little
bit and it was easy to see those poor kiddies actually hated her. I
watched the girl, Polly, and when the woman told the boy to stop
bawling Polly had a look in her blue eyes that suggested a desire to
bite and scratch and kick or even use a hatchet if one were handy. I
think I'll look those people up."

"But how, Josie?"

"There are ways," smiled Josie. "You see, I am kind of self-elected
detective for the Children's Home Society and my work has begun
already. It is not merely to look after the children in the home but
those who might, could, would or should be in the home."

"Well, I hope you can find out something. I'd like to know about my
poor little Peter. What a precious boy he is!"

That forenoon Josie happened, as if by chance, into the department
store of Temple & Sweet's. First she gave a cursory glance at the
bargain counters where georgette blouses were being tossed about by
eager shoppers like corks on the restless sea. She then looked in at
the shoe department. Seeing nothing there to interest her she made her
way to a lunch counter in the basement and satisfied her healthy
appetite with a club sandwich and a cup of chocolate. All the time she
kept her eye on the shoppers who passed back and forth. After her
luncheon she again visited the pile of rumpled blouses, much
diminished, and again made her way to the shoe department. Evidently
she saw something there that interested her keenly. She hurried to the
dressing room and in a moment emerged looking strangely unlike the
Josie her friends knew. Her sandy hair was completely covered by a
henna wig, bobbed and crimped. Her sedate sailor hat was cocked at a
rakish angle and draped with a much-ornamented veil, and mirabile
dictu! a lipstick had been freely and relentlessly applied to her
honest mouth and her cheeks were touched up with a paint of purplish
hue. Her sober Norfolk jacket was as much disguised as its wearer by a
silly lace frill pinned around the neck and down the front.

Back to the shoe department Josie hurried and flopped herself down by a
young woman who was busily engaged in trying on several styles of
bargain pumps. Her slender, high-arched foot was just the kind for the
shoes advertised as greatly reduced. It was the woman of the morning,
but she, too, was much changed--so much so that Josie herself might not
have recognized her had she not been looking for and expecting a
change. The dress she wore was no longer a cheap blue serge but a
handsome tricolette, richly trimmed according to the prevailing mode.
Her hat was plainly a Paris model in strong contrast to the battered,
flower-trimmed thing she had worn in the morning. She also had been
using a lip-stick and an extra touch of color was on her cheeks.

"Such sweet shoes!" ventured Josie in a mincing tone quite in keeping
with her henna wig and lace ruffle. "My, you have a pretty arch!"

The young woman smiled encouragement, while the admiring shoe clerk
tried on a smart brown suede pump.

"I have been trying to get my arch up," continued Josie, sticking out
her own well-shod little foot. Josie had very pretty feet and they were
one weakness. She always wore a sensible shoe, but it must be of the
best material and nobby cut.

"What do you advise?" she asked the clerk. "But maybe you can tell me,"
she said, addressing the young woman by her side. "Your foot is so
wonderful."

The woman was evidently pleased and flattered.

"Oh, thanks awfully," she drawled.

"I wonder if you dance much," continued Josie. "I bet you could do
barefoot dancing with such a foot as that. Now could you? Ain't her
foot a wonder?" to the clerk.

"I never saw a prettier," was his verdict.

"Well, I do dance," she confessed. "In fact, dancing is my profession.
I'm not working right now but expect to get back on the road
immediately."

"How thrilling!" cried Josie. Josie's intimates had often wondered at
her histrionic powers when she pretended to be stupid, which was her
usual way of disarming persons who might have been suspicious of her.
She had found out much about those archvillains Felix and Hortense
Markle by an assumption of supreme dullness. But no one of her
acquaintances had ever seen Josie assume the role of a skittish,
dressed-up miss, painted and brazen, talkative and impertinent.

"I'm just dying to go on the stage," she continued. "I get awful tired
of pounding out a living on the typewriter. I'd a sight rather make a
living with my toes than with my fingers."

The young woman bought the brown suede pumps and also a pair of black
ones similar to them. She had already selected several pairs of oxfords
and walking boots.

"You have to be mighty particular with your feet when you have to show
them," she said, Josie's expansiveness having had its influence on her
indifference. "I never can wear old shoes. They are simply ruination to
one's feet. As for cheap shoes--never! Of course, these are bargains
merely because they are a bit shop-worn."

"Shall I send these, lady?" asked the clerk.

"Ye-es--No! I had better take them with me. Wrap them up in as small a
package as possible."

Josie noticed a fat roll of greenbacks as the woman paid for her
purchases. Then, the large package under her arm, she walked off with a
slow, lazy, long-limbed grace. In spite of the conversation she had
held with Josie and the clerk she neglected any word of farewell.

"What can I show you, miss?" the clerk asked Josie.

"Nothing today, thank you! I reckon I'm due at my job. I'll be in
another day. Good-by!" and Josie was off on her quest. She followed the
woman from a safe distance up one street for several blocks and around
a corner. She went in the front door of a cheap boarding house not far
from the Higgledy-Piggledy Shop. From the fact that she did not ring
the bell, but merely walked in, Josie gathered that there she was
making her temporary home. The place was frankly third-class, with a
large sign stating that boarders were wanted by the day or week. On the
porch were young women coifed according to the latest and most extreme
bushiness and young men with their feet on the railing, socks and
toothpicks much in evidence.

Josie noted the address: 126 East Centre Street. She also noted the
odors that exuded from the basement dining room.

"A veritable Todgers'," she said to herself. Dickens was Josie's
favorite author and she could usually find a parallel from him to suit
every case. "All the greens that were ever cooked there were evergreens
and flourished in immortal strength," she quoted. "A funny hole for my
lady of the high arches to choose to live in. And those kiddies--who
and why are they? Anyhow, I'm going to keep my eye on the bunch of
them."

Josie reported what she had discovered to Mary Louise, who was duly
impressed by her friend's cleverness.

"Not a bit of it," said Josie, repudiating anything more than just an
ordinary amount of knowledge of human nature. "I saw from the woman's
shoes that she thought something of her feet and the way she walked and
those very feet made me feel somehow she was accustomed walking on the
stage. I told her about the sale at Temple & Sweet's, feeling almost
sure the lure of bargain shoes would prove strong. There she was to be
sure and she had a big wad of money, which makes me think she is doing
those little kids dirt, not to have them better dressed. They were not
even clean and so ragged it was pathetic. They are more folksy than she
is, too. Something about their accent made me feel it. She had a
well-modulated voice, but that is because she is evidently an actress as
well as dancer; but there is something in her mode of speech that made
me feel she was not exactly the same class as the children with her.
She is some 'beaut,' though. You should see her in her glad rags."

Mary Louise spent a busy afternoon with her lawyer, Mr. Peter Conant,
going over her affairs and having him look into the necessary deeds for
the transfer of her old house to the Children's Home Society.

"And what does your young husband say to all of this giving away of
good money and land?" asked Uncle Peter.

"Danny thinks it is exactly as it should be. He takes a kind of pride
in being able to support me himself and he didn't have any too soft and
easy a childhood, so he is anxious to help some little ones to
happiness."

"Well, he is a good lad, a good lad," said Uncle Peter, "and I wish Jim
Hathaway could have done something like this in his lifetime, but he
was too busy trying to lay up treasures for you, my dear."

"I think sometimes he knew I'd do it and he was so unselfish he wanted
me to have all the fun of it instead of having it himself. I am not
depriving myself of anything to speak of. We have plenty left to buy us
a nice little home and a large amount to spare besides, and Danny is
making a very good salary." And Mary Louise hurried off to be home in
time to see that the little new maid had everything in the way of food
exactly right for her beloved young husband.



CHAPTER V
BREAKFAST FOR TWO

The Higgledy-Piggledy Shop was fortunate in having so many partners or
near-partners, for Josie O'Gorman was destined to be very busy for many
days in looking into the mystery of Peter and Polly and the handsome
young woman of the arches. Elizabeth Wright, with the assistance of
Irene Macfarlane, was capable of managing the shop alone, with the
exception of the fine laundering, and that perforce must wait for
Josie's leisure.

On the day following the discovery of the whereabouts of the young
woman and the children, Josie was called to the telephone by Dr.
Weston. Mary Louise had informed the old man of Josie's real
profession, the Higgledy-Piggledy Shop being a mere by-product of the
business of being a trained detective, and of her willingness to serve
the Children's Home in the latter capacity whenever they needed her.

"Miss O'Gorman, if you are not too busy I am in great need of your
services," Dr. Weston said. "I have a feeling the matter is urgent."

"I'll be right over," was Josie's brisk reply.

"Thank goodness I haven't begun on those lace collars," she said to
Elizabeth. "Lace should be washed and ironed at one sitting. You can
expect me when you see me, dear. Irene will come in and help keep shop
and if you get up against it call on Mary Louise or one of the other
girls. So long!"

She found Dr. Weston somewhat perturbed.

"It is those same children who were here yesterday, Miss O'Gorman. They
came back this morning without the woman; just walked in announcing
they had come to stay and seemed to think we were expecting them. They
said the young woman, whom they call Cousin Dink, had sent them. I have
tried to question them, but their answers are confused and
contradictory. I felt that perhaps it was better to wait for you and
see what you could find out."

"You will keep them, will you not?"

"I don't know. We will if I can do as I want you know the board--"

"Yes, I know the board," said Josie with, a smile.

"Sometimes they are great on rules and regulations, and one of our
rules is that we must know where the children come from and who they
are so we can hand over a record to the persons who are desirous of
adopting them."

"I guess that is a pretty good rule, but it should work both ways. I
must say I think the ones who do the adopting should have better
recommendations than the poor kiddies. If they don't like the children
they can bring them back, but the poor babies have to stay put whether
they like the adopters or not. Where would these children go if you
can't keep them?"

"The poorhouse, I think! You see, the orphan asylums are run by
churches and usually take only the children whose parents were of their
religious convictions. These children are too old for a foundling's
home. But I do hope we may be allowed to keep them here."

Josie found the children in the parlor, huddled together on the sofa, a
forlorn pair. At their feet was the same bumpy bundle of clothes.

"We comed back," the boy said. "Where is the story-telling lady? The
reason we comed back was because I thought she'd be here, too. Cousin
Dink told us she'd be here."

"Well, so she will," said Josie. "Where is Cousin Dink?" she asked
Polly.

"I don't know and I don't care one bit," said Polly, without meaning to
be pert but simply declaring the truth.

"But did she not bring you here?"

"No ma'm! She yanked us out of bed this morning and made us dress just
as fast as we could and then she pulled us out in the street--"

"Did you have no breakfast?"

"I had a pickle and Peter had a cream puff she forgot to eat last
night. I was awful 'fraid it might give him the tummy ache because
cream puffs are mighty poor breakfast eatin's, 'specially when they are
left-overs, but Peter has powerful tough insides. I believe he can eat
almost anything."

"And how about you? Doesn't a pickle for breakfast make you feel kind
of queer?"

"Oh, my insides are even better than Peter's. The pickle was just the
thing because it kept me from wanting anything else."

"Well, I tell you what we are going to do: we are going around the
corner to a nice little place and have some breakfast. You can just
leave your bundle here," she said, as Polly stooped to pick up the
untidy parcel.

"It's right important, because it's all Peter an' me's got," said
Polly.

"Dr. Weston will take care of it for you. Now come along, because cream
puffs and pickles need something to keep them company." As they passed
through the office Josie told Dr. Weston where they were going.

"Bless my soul! I never thought of asking them if they were hungry.
Well, come back as soon as you finish and we will see what can be
done."

"If you don't mind my making a suggestion, I think the wisest thing to
do in this case would be to telephone Mary Louise and let her tackle
the board. They could hardly refuse her anything just now."

Such hungry children! First Josie ordered oatmeal and cream; then toast
and scrambled eggs; and topped it all off with pancakes and maple
syrup. She noticed that although the children were almost starving
their table manners were good.

"Gently reared!" she said to herself.

"My, but it's been a long time since--" began Polly, and then stopped
short.

"Since what?"

"Nothing! I was just--just--" The little girl faltered and was silent.

"All right, honey, don't you tell me a thing you don't want to tell
me," said Josie kindly, "but you must remember that I am your friend
and if you need me--"

"We do need you and I do want to tell you--but--but--"

"Now, Polly, you 'member what Cousin Dink said," broke in Peter, with
his mouth full of pancakes.

"Yes, and you remember what Mother said about talking with your mouth
full," admonished Polly.

"Yes, but she just said people would think we were po' whites if we had
bad manners and would blame her. An' you 'member Dink said if we talked
'bout things bad men would git us."

"Well, no bad men are going to get you while I am around, I can tell
you that," declared Josie stoutly.

"Not even p'licemen?"

"Not even policemen! They are my friends and they are your friends,
too. Their business is to look after little children."

Josie smiled her friendly smile.

"Well, Cousin Dink was skeered to death of p'licemen an' she was a
great deal bigger'n you."

"Was she really? What did she think policemen would do to her?" asked
Josie.

"Git her!"

"Your mother wasn't afraid of policemen, was she?"

"No'm, my mother was jes' 'fraid of mice an' snakes."

"Your mother isn't with you, is she?"

"No'm, she--I reckon she's dead--me'n Polly ain't quite sure. Sometimes
when we begs to go home Cousin Dink says she is dead an' th' ain't no
home to go to an' sometimes when Polly an' me can't stop cryin' Cousin
Dink says if we stop an' are real good some day she might take us back
to our mother."

"Cousin Dink is a born liar, so we don't know what to think," spoke
Polly coolly.

"Is she really?" questioned Josie cautiously. "I hope you and Peter
don't tell lies."

"We don't know how to very well because we were not born that way, but
Cousin Dink has taught us right smart. You get out of lots of trouble
if you can lie easy like Cousin Dink."

Josie felt satisfied now that she would be able by degrees to extract
their story from the children. "There is nothing like a pleasantly full
stomach to make one talk," she said to herself. "I had a feeling
pancakes would turn the trick. Dr. Weston was trying to get something
out of them when the poor little creatures were too hungry to expand."

"Who is Cousin Dink? Is she your mother's cousin?"

"She ain't 'zactly our cousin--that is, she told me so one time when
she got so mad with me 'cause I chopped off my hair. That was two or
three days ago. I couldn't get the tangles out and she wouldn't try,
but just pulled the comb through as though she liked to hurt me, so I
just up and cut it off with one slash. She said, 'God knows I'm glad
you are no blood relation to me, you abominable brat!' I was so glad to
near for sure that she wasn't a really truly cousin that I didn't mind
a bit being called an abominable brat. Cousin Dink is always talking
about God--not praying or loving him, but saying 'God knows!' and 'God
is my witness!' and sometimes even worse things, but Peter and I never
say the things she says because we know our mother wouldn't like it."

"Have you always known your Cousin Dink?"

"Oh, no indeed! We never saw her until the day she came and brought us
away."

"Away from your mother and father?"

"No, just away from home! You see, our father went to fight in the war.
That was a long time ago, so long ago that Peter can't remember him,
but he tries to. He can remember the porridge bowl with rabbits on it
that Father gave him. He gave me one, too, with chickens on it. And he
can 'most remember how Father used to tell us to eat up all the cream
out of the bottom so the poor rabbits and chickens could breathe. I was
not as old as Peter is now when he went away and Peter wasn't but two.
And after he was gone Mother used to cry a lot but she never did let
people see her, that is, no people but me, but she worked so hard
knitting and making bandages and things that she got sick. And after
she got sick she cried all the time and didn't mind who saw her."

"Where was your home?"

"Don't tell her! Don't tell her, Polly!" cried Peter. "Don't you
remember what she said 'bout our never telling that? She said a
p'liceman as big as the giant Jack killed would git us--an' he would
gouge out our eyes an' then he would go an' take Mother to jail an'
maybe he'd even hang her by the neck until she was dead."

"Has your mother done anything wicked that a policeman would do such a
thing to her?" asked Josie patiently and gently.

"Our mother do anything wicked!" exclaimed Polly. "Why she was the
goodest person in all the world."

"Don't you know policemen never do anything to good people. They don't
do anything to bad people either but arrest them and then the judge
decides what is to be done to them. The policemen are really good, kind
men, as a rule."

"I believe Cousin Dink was lying, anyhow," declared Polly stoutly. "How
could a policeman get our mother if our mother was already dead? I wish
I knew whether our mother was dead or not. I believe she must be or she
would not let us be traveling around with Cousin Dink, eating cream
puffs and pickles for breakfast. Mother was powerful particular about
what we ate for breakfast."

"I can find out whether or not your mother is dead if you will only
tell me what your name is and where you lived before you were taken off
by Cousin Dink," said Josie.

"You are sure they won't get me if I tell," whispered Polly. "Cousin
Dink told me I must tell everybody that my mother and father were dead
and that I loved her like a sister or aunt. She didn't want to be old
enough to be a mother. She said I must forget where I lived before she
carried us off. Sometimes I do almost forget it because it seems so
long ago."

"You got as far as the time your mother cried all the time," suggested
Josie. "What happened then?"

"Uncle Chester came back to Atlanta and said she must go to a hospital
and he wouldn't let any of her friends see her. He wouldn't let us see
her, either."

"And who is Uncle Chester? Is he your mother's brother or your
father's?" asked Josie, making a mental note of the little girl's slip
concerning Atlanta.

"Oh, he isn't either, at least, not a really and truly brother. He
always called our father Brother Stephen, but his name is Chester Hunt
and father's name was Stephen Waller."

"You say your father's name was Stephen Waller. Do you think he is
dead?"

"I think so sometimes and sometimes I don't. I don't know what to
think. If he is alive why didn't he come back to Mother and if he is
dead why didn't Mother know it for sure? When the war got over we
thought he was coming home and Mother stopped crying and soldiers kept
on coming back and Daddy wasn't with them. And she wrote letters to the
President and everybody and nobody seemed to be able to tell her much
of anything about Daddy. One time after a big fight he was missing and
still some of the men in his regiment say they saw him alive but they
don't seem to know just where. And it was all so mixed up and Mother
got awful sick and then Uncle Chester came."

"Didn't your mother have any brothers or sisters or any relations of
her own?"

"No, ma'm, she never did have any and her mother and father died when
she was little and she was brought up in France in a convent 'cept'n
she wasn't a Catholic."

"Did you live in a house in Atlanta or an apartment?"

"We had a great big house and three automobiles and a whole lot of
servants. Cousin Dink says I am lying when I say that because she wants
people to think we are poor little orphans that she had to support. I
know her tricks."

"What was your address in Atlanta?"

"Oh, gee! I've let out Atlanta and I reckon I might as well tell the
address."

Josie wrote it down. She could trust herself to remember any name, but
she was more careful with numbers.

"You don't know where they took your mother? To what sanitarium?"

"No, they never told me and when I asked Uncle Chester he pretended at
first he didn't hear and then when I kept on asking him he told me to
shut my mouth. Uncle Chester had always been nice to us but then he got
as sour as pickles."



CHAPTER VI
A SUCCESSFUL DISGUISE

When Josie and her little friends reached the Children's Home they
found Mary Louise waiting for them.

"It is all right," she whispered to Josie. "Dr. Weston and I have had
the whole board on the line one by one and we have talked them into
letting the poor kiddies stay. It is against the rules of the board to
take children who can give no credentials but all the same we have
worked it. Poor lambs, where else can they go? If Danny and I had not
moved into such a tiny flat we might have taken them, but as it is--"

"As it is you and Danny had better be by yourselves awhile," asserted
Josie. "You had better interest yourself in the institution and in
children in general and not particularize too much. Poor Danny has had
a hard enough time to deserve a little honeymooning period before he
adopts a lot of orphans."

Although she was so independent, Josie had a strong feeling of
sentiment and was essentially feminine in spite of her rather boyish
attire. She was a firm believer in what she called "old-fashioned love."
Danny Dexter had no better friend than the girl detective, and nobody
had understood better or sympathized more in the trials Danny had
endured the first few months of his married life than did Josie
O'Gorman.

Peter was delighted at again seeing the "story-telling lady." "I was
wondering about the robins all night," he said. "That was one reason I
stopped crying when Cousin Dink told us we must come here. You see,
Cousin Dink used to tell me if we didn't behave she would put us in a
'sylum and that folks in 'sylums didn't give you nothin' to eat but
calf neck an' sheep's tails an' sour bread an' scorched oatmeal.
Somehow, when we saw you yesterday an' you tol' me about the robins I
thought Cousin Dink might have been tellin' one of her whoppers."

By degrees Josie got from the little waifs as much of their story as
they could remember. Polly thought they had been with Cousin Dink for
about a year. She had taken them from place to place, sometimes
stopping in small villages, sometimes in great cities, but never for
more than a few weeks anywhere.

Cousin Dink semed to be a relation of Chester Hunt, and Chester Hunt,
as near as Josie could make out, was either a half-brother or
stepbrother to Stephen Waller, the father of the children. Stephen
Waller evidently was among those missing in one of the battles in the
Great War. The mother was perhaps crazed by grief and uncertainty. Why
the children should have been put in charge of such a person as Cousin
Dink remained a mystery that Josie O'Gorman was determined to solve.
Why she should have left them for the Children's Home Society to take
care of and where she had flitted in the meantime were other questions
Josie was determined to have answered. It was a case that appealed to
her detective instincts.

As was her habit, she took her story to Captain Charlie Lonsdale, chief
of police, and asked his advice. He listened carefully to all her
points.

"Sounds shady, very shady. Evidently this Dink is a bad 'un, but who is
employing you on this case?"

"Nobody. I'm just on my own, but I can't sit still and see two clever
little kids done out of home and mother and maybe a fortune just
because nobody makes it his business to dig out the evidence. I'd like
to travel a little, anyhow, so I'm going on a trip to Atlanta and see
for myself who these Wallers are and what this Chester Hunt is doing
and if the father is really dead. Sooner or later somebody is going to
want to know and your Aunt Josie is going to have that information when
it is called for."

Captain Lonsdale smiled. "The real spirit of a detective, my child, is
to be interested in every mystery whether it is your business or not. I
give you all honor because of it. But tell me, who is to defray
expenses? One can't live on curiosity."

"Almost!" laughed Josie. "But this time Mary Louise is to help me out.
I am going to take a holiday, I tell you, and go on a trip for my
health, so why shouldn't I pay for my own jaunt?"

"No reason at all. I wish I had a few like you on the force. My men are
afraid to take a taxi when it is of paramount importance to get to a
spot in a hurry. Afraid somebody won't reimburse them."

"That's not their fault," declared Josie. "I fancy they have families
to support and maybe the city is slow to recognize their expense
accounts. I have nobody to support but myself and I would pay out my
whole income just for the satisfaction of getting ahead of some crook.
This Cousin Dink is the limit for selfishness and impertinence. You
haven't advised me yet."

"Tell me first what your plans are?"

"Well, first I'm going to find out all I can here in Dorfield about
this woman. I'm thinking of staying a few days in that greasy Todgers
to get on to her all I can from the standpoint of her fellow boarders."

"Good! Then what?"

"Then I'll go on to Atlanta and see what I can see."

"Will you be traveling for your health ostensibly?"

"No indeed! I'm going to get a job as saleslady for some kind of
household novelty, house-to-house canvass."

"Good. What next?"

"When I find out all I want to know I'll come back and tell you about
it."

"Fine!"

"Any other advice to offer?" asked Josie, trying to hide a sly little
smile. One of her quiet jokes was that Captain Lonsdale always labored
under the impression that he gave her advice. Of course, his habit was
to applaud her decision, but the kindly police officer really thought
Josie's plans of campaign originated with him. She always came to him
and he always backed her up. She declared the moral support he gave her
was better than the good advice he thought he gave her.

"Nothing else," replied the kind chief. "But don't run any risks. A man
like this Chester Hunt and a woman like this Dink person are often
capable of any crime to attain their ends."

"I'll be careful," said Josie, "but I can't promise not to run risks. I
don't see what fun there is in the business without some few risks."

"Bless me, child, you are surely your father's own daughter! Pity you
weren't a son!"

"Pity nothing!" answered Josie hotly. "You have plenty of sons on your
police force. I should think you'd be glad of an occasional daughter.
Slater is a son of somebody and didn't he let the Markles get off?
Don't talk to me about sons!"

"All right, daughter, never again!" grinned the chief.

From the police station Josie went back to the Higgledy-Piggledy Shop.
She found Elizabeth Wright and Irene attending to business, which was
flourishing.

"We are missing you a lot, but I fancy we can manage," said Elizabeth.
"The laundry work is not urgent and if it does become so we shall have
to turn it down. I'd do it if I could but I'm the bummest ever."

"Just tell them I'm off on a trip for my health," suggested Josie. "You
can call it lungs or heart or just plain head if you'd rather, but I've
got to be away for many days." She then told the girls all the
complications concerning the children who had recently been gent to the
home. "Keep your eyes and ears open for me, but your mouths shut,
please. You two girls might pick up a lot to help me out. Now I must
transform the plain Josie into a giddy miss after a job selling
household and jewel novelties."

"Have you got the job?" laughed Irene.

"No, but I'm going to fix up so pretty and talk so silly I'll be sure
to get it. There is an ad in the morning paper for canvassers for
southern cities."

"Why do you go after that kind of job?" asked Elizabeth.

"Because nobody can pick up so much information concerning neighbors as
a canvasser."

Josie disappeared into her sleeping compartment, packed her suitcase,
and in half an hour emerged a changed being. The henna wig again served
its turn and her countenance was so made up that her best friends had
difficulty in recognizing her. Mary Louise, who came in at that moment,
almost had hysterics when the same old Josie spoke from behind that
painted mask.

"I wish I didn't have such a blob of a nose," she said ruefully. "There
is mighty little to be done with a nose like mine unless I have
paraffin injected under the skin right on top. Of course, I could make
it up for the stage from the outside, but not for close inspection. Are
my skirts too short for decency?"

Josie grimaced comically at her friends.

"No shorter than some we see, but to think of our Josie looking like
that!" gasped Irene. "Let's see you walk."

Josie minced off with a good deal of hip movement according to the
fashion of the day.

"I'd like to wear run-down heels, but I can't afford to ruin my feet. I
have a pair of fancy blue and gray shoes I got at a second-hand shop
and I'll put those on for dress occasions, but I'll have to wear my own
decently sensible shoes when I am at work. I am going to be in town for
a few days yet, but won't be staying here but at a swell third-class
boarding house on Centre Street. If I should come in here and you have
customers do you think you can keep straight faces?"

"We'll try!" giggled the partners.

"Here comes somebody now," cried Elizabeth. "You'd better hide!"

But there was no time to hide. The visitors turned out to be Mrs.
Wright and a Mrs. Hasbrook, a rich woman who had recently moved to
Dorfield, and according to Mrs. Wright's custom she had been among the
first to call on the newcomer and now had her in tow telling her where
to buy and what to buy. She had conducted her to the Higgledy-Piggledy
Shop as a place where her fine damask could be laundered well. Mrs.
Wright had recovered from her mortification over Elizabeth's engaging
in this strange occupation and now that the shop was proving so
successful and so fashionable she was not only reconciled but very
proud of her daughter's connection with it and she took every
opportunity to come to the shop and to bring others there.

"Where is Miss O'Gorman?" demanded Mrs. Wright. "I want Mrs. Hasbrook
to talk with her concerning this work."

"She is not in," faltered Elizabeth.

"Not in! I saw her come in not half an hour ago. Mrs. Hasbrook was
having a shampoo just across the street and I certainly saw Miss
O'Gorman enter the building and I have not seen her depart."

Elizabeth looked hopeless under this relentless questioning of her
determined parent. She turned to Josie for help. Josie arose to the
occasion with such spirit that Mary Louise and Irene were taken
completely off their guard and almost exploded with laughter. With a
lisping drawl and a voice none of her friends had ever heard before
Josie said:

"You were going to show me one of those vanity boxes. Miss O'Gorman
told me you had some for seven dollars. I met her at the corner about
five minutes ago."

"Oh, you did?" asked Mrs. Wright. "Well, I fancy I must have looked
another way for a moment." She glanced curiously at Josie, who returned
her stare with the utmost composure.

Elizabeth opened a drawer of vanity boxes and Josie crossed the room to
inspect them with an exaggerated walk which reminded Mary Louise of a
movie vamp. Again she was moved to laughter and had to pretend to
sneeze.

"I am afraid you have caught cold," said Mrs. Wright. "You must take
five grains of aspirin and go to bed. Follow it up with a dose of
aromatic spirits of ammonia and let your diet be light."

Mary Louise listened politely and Josie made her escape with her
suitcase without purchasing the vanity box.



CHAPTER VII
JOSIE GETS A JOB

When Josie left the Higgledy-Piggledy Shop, after having hoodwinked
Mrs. Wright, she made her way to a small hotel much favored by
traveling men. It was the address given by a man who wished to employ a
number of young women to travel in the South to introduce a line of
household articles as well as some jewel novelties.

"What experience have you had?" the man asked her.

"Plenty of it," Josie answered with assurance. "I tell you, mister, I
can sell anything from a baby's rattle to a tombstone. You can ask the
girls who run the Higgledy-Piggledy Shop here in Dorfield. Ever hear of
them?"

"Sure!"

"Well, I have a letter here from Miss Josie O'Gorman, who is chief cook
and bottle washer 'round there and she will tell you that I am a
winner. I tell you Mrs. Danny Dexter and Miss O'Gorman think old Sally
Blossom is a peacherino."

The man took the letter, which was written on Higgledy-Piggledy paper
and in Josie's best handwriting. In it the cleverness of Miss Sally
Blossom was lauded to the skies. Josie blushed through her paint as he
read it aloud.

"To think of my having the nerve to say all that about myself!" flashed
through her mind. "But I bet it lands me my job."

It did. Since she was the first to apply she was given her choice of a
field of operations and she chose Atlanta. She gave her address as 126
East Centre and made an engagement with the man to see him the next day
to receive instructions and literature concerning her wares. Samples
were to be sent to her at Atlanta.

"Now, having given my address as 126 East Centre, I must hurry over
there and apply for board," said Josie to herself as she left the
hotel.

The group gathered on the porch at 126 East Centre was the same as it
had been on the day that Josie had tracked the elusive Dink to her
lair. The young men were tilted back in their chairs at the same angle,
and the young women were equally taken up with their ear puffs and
frizzes. The clientele of 126 was an ever-changing one, but the class
characteristics were stationary.

Josie tripped up the steps, assuming a kind of nonchalance as she
calmly viewed the loafing boarders. They in turn gazed at her, some
with interest and some with open disdain. With the boarders at 126 one
must prove herself down to their standards before being accepted into
their social order.

"Stuck up!" declared one young woman--the one with the most extreme ear
puffs of all, the shortest skirt and the highest heels.

"Oh, I don't know," objected a man, removing the toothpick from his
mouth and his gaudily socked feet from the railing. "I think she's some
cutey."

A snicker of derision answered this sally.

"With them unstylish low heels? I guess you ain't got below her henna
bob," snapped the girl, arching her instep and poking out her near-silk
clad foot with its high-heeled, dirty, white kid pump.

Josie pulled the bell. It was the old-fashioned kind that must be
pulled not pushed. When it was in working order a pull would set a wire
in motion through the length of the house to the back entry and there a
bell attached to the wire would start such a jangling that someone
would come to the front door. This happened when the bell was in order,
which was seldom the case at 126. When Josie gave a tug, which was
vigorous and somewhat vicious from the embarrassment she could but feel
at the overheard remarks, the bell handle with a coil of broken wire
spring came limply away, and it was nothing but Josie's training that
kept her ever on the alert that saved her from falling backwards.

"April fool!" called a grinning youth from the porch.

Josie laughed good-naturedly at her prospective fellow-boarder.

"Anyhow I know how not to get in," she said.

"'Tain't any trouble to get in this joint," ventured a woman. "There's
more goin' than comin'. I'll never send a dog here."

"Oh, 'tain't so bad considering the H. C. of L.," put in a middle-aged
man in a very tight Shepherd's plaid suit. "Mrs. Pete feeds us the best
she can for the mon."

"Oh, you're sweet on Mrs. Pete," laugheed the youth who had called
"April fool" to Josie.

"Is Mrs. Pete at home?" asked Josie, glad to know the name of her
future landlady.

"Sure she's home! Just open the door and walk in. Follow your nose--
there's cabbage to-day so it's easy--right down the hall until you come
to some steps. Then fall down the steps to the dining room. If Mrs.
Pete ain't there she's in the kitchen next to it."

Josie thanked the youth and followed his advice. She found everything
as he had told her she would, even to Mrs. Pete in the kitchen. She was
hardly prepared for the knock-down odors which greeted her nostrils as
she fell down the steps, nor was she prepared for the appearance of
Mrs. Pete.

Josie's first thought was: "How does the woman ever get down those
narrow stairs?" but she realized afterwards that she was of the soft
type of fat that could be squeezed into any space. She was bursting
from a tight kimono, a garment usually the loosest of all apparel, but
Mrs. Pete's arms quite filled the flowing sleeves and although it was
drawn tightly around her huge hips the fronts refused to meet but took
on the slant of a cutaway coat. There was no expression to her face. It
was simply fat. Her eyes looked like raisins in a bun and her mouth had
almost disappeared. One tooth projected as though nature had decided
that would be the only way to save the mouth from being entirely
submerged. Her nose would have been lost had it not been for a wart.
She moved lightly and easily, reminding Josie of a balloon with not
enough gas in it to soar aloft. She wore a black wig at a rakish angle
and a string of huge pink beads were lost and found in the folds of fat
of her neck.

"Well?" she questioned Josie in a voice that sounded as though she were
speaking down an empty hogshead.

"I want a room and board," said Josie.

"How many in a room?"

"I'd like one to myself."

"Humph! You'll have to pay for it then."

Josie expressed her willingness and they soon came to terms.

"It's a room a professional lady has just left, her and two children. I
don't usually take children but she engaged the room without letting on
there were any kids. She didn't take her meals here regular so I never
saw them much. Lord knows what the little things ate because she never
brought them down to what few dinners she got here. I'm so fleshy like
I never get up on the top floor. Here, Betty, you Betty! Come show this
lady the room on the top floor, the one Miss Dingus just left," she
called to a slouchy colored girl who was washing dishes at the sink.

"Dinner at half past one," boomed the landlady to Josie's back as she
followed Betty up the narrow stairs.

"I ain't ter say cleaned up that there top floor room yit," confessed
the maid, "but I'll try ter git it in fust rate fix befo' come night
time."

"Oh, that's all right," said Josie. "You just give me some clean sheets
and a clean pillow case and I won't mind the rest at all."

The room was large, the third floor back, with windows overlooking
dingy back yards. Its disorder was astonishing.

"I didn't know it wa' quite so stirred up as this," exclaimed the girl.
"These here, folks ain't many er 'em got no raisin'. They ought ter git
bo'd an' lodgin' in a pig pen. I's kinder fussed ter be a showin' you
sich a spot. Well," she added philosophically: "What kin you expect
from a hog but a grunt?"

Josie laughed.

"Never mind, Betty," she said, giving the girl a quarter. "I can manage
very well. You go on and finish your dishes and I will make up the bed
myself if you get the bed linen."

Betty looked at Josie curiously.

"Say, miss, you belies yo' looks. You got the 'pearance er these here
folks but you ain't got they ways. I been wuckin' in this here bo'din
house fer three years an' I ain't never had a one of them give me mo'n
a dime at a time unless'n it wa' ter git me not to tell Mrs. Pete 'bout
some devilment or other they done got in."

Josie had not thought it necessary to be other than herself before the
colored maid but she took herself severely to task for lowering her
guard, even with anyone seemingly so unimportant as Betty.

"Father used to say that small things were the stumbling blocks of some
of the biggest detectives," she said to herself. "I'll try to do
better."

The grateful Betty returned immediately with clean sheets and pillow
slips and one small towel. She then departed to finish her dishwashing.

As soon as she was alone Josie, first taking the precaution of locking
the door, began a search in the dirty grate for any papers that might
prove of importance to the matter in hand.

The grate was piled high with old torn letters and some had been dumped
in without even being mutilated. A match had evidently been applied to
the mass of papers but had only charred the corners of the envelopes.

"Oh what a careless Cousin Dink! Now we will see what we can find,"
whispered Josie.

The girl worked quickly and methodically, sorting out the letters and
putting them in neat packets and snapping rubber bands around them. She
examined the seemingly worthless accumulation of advertisements and
circulars, saving the envelopes wherever the date and postoffice stamp
were legible. Every scrap of paper in the heaped fireplace was
carefully scrutinized. What she deemed worthless was finally put back,
care being taken to pull the mass apart so that the grate seemed to be
as full as before.

"That Betty is too noticing to be careless," Josie reflected.

She then sat down by the window and began piecing together the letters
Cousin Dink had taken the trouble to tear up.

"She had a reason for tearing up some and not bothering about others."

The ones that were mutilated were all in the same handwriting.
Fortunately for Josie's patience they were not torn in very small
pieces. Fitting them together was not a difficult task for one so alert
and quick fingered as our little detective. In several instances the
letter had been torn and the pieces all put back in the envelope. That
made plain sailing indeed for the puzzle worker.

These letters that so especially interested our Josie were signed in
various ways but always with the same flourish of the pen: "Yours
always, C. H." "Lovingly, Ches." "Hastily, C." Several were signed:
"Chester Hunt." The letters were a strange mixture of love and
business. They commenced sometimes "Dear Coz:" sometimes "My own Dink:"
or "My own dear girl:" Always, while they were more or less
affectionate, Josie could read between the lines that this Chester Hunt
could command Cousin Dink to do as he chose. Whether he controlled her
by affection or whether by some other force it was hard to say.
Sometimes his tone was frankly impatient but he usually ended up such
epistles with repeated assurances of affection. Through the
correspondence Josie traced much in regard to Peter and Polly. There
was one telegram in which this Chester Hunt had summoned the woman to
Atlanta. That was dated about a year before.

"Come--I need you--C. H." That was all.

"That must have been when she went and got the poor kids," Josie
decided. "But there is one thing that is worrying me: why should this
Dink have saved all these letters up to this time, and after having
saved them so carefully, why now should she have torn them up and
evidently attempted to destroy them?"

The letters had followed the woman to many places, now a small town in
Louisiana, now Dallas, Texas, then St. Paul, Minnesota and so on.
Sometimes they were addressed to Miss E. Dingus, sometimes Margery
Dubois; sometimes Hester Broughton. Sometimes they were sent to a
street number, but often to General Delivery. Mention was often made of
the children and usually in rather impatient terms. The following are
extracts from the letters:

"Don't let the brats worry you but you had better not let anything
happen to them."

"Get a doctor if the pests are sick, because we don't want
investigations."

"If they keep on insisting on going back to their mother just tell them
she is dead."

"Caution them not to tell anything about themselves and if need be
intimidate them. Polly can remember too much."

"Keep up and don't get too tired of your job. There will be an end of
it sometime and you will receive your reward."

"Of course I mean to marry you as soon as I can arrange our affairs. It
is important to go carefully for a while. Don't let the kids know there
is any possibility of our marrying. Be sure and burn all of my
letters."

"M. W. is safe behind bars. S. W.'s will has been probated, it being
certain now that he is dead. I am sole executor and guardian of the
children in case his wife should pass away without a will. She will I
am sure."

"The infamous wretch!" exclaimed Josie,

In many of the letters there was a response to a plea for money and
more money. "I send you all I can spare. Don't let the brats spend so
much. They have been spoiled by too much indulgence already."

"Humph! Pickle and cream puffs for breakfast!" stormed Josie. "Mr.
Chester Hunt I certainly hope to make you squirm. But I wish I could
find out why Dink gave up the kiddies and why she destroyed her
more-or-less love letters."

Every torn letter was pieced together and the contents mastered before
Josie heard the dinner bell. The other communications appeared to be of
little value--letters from theatrical persons from different parts of
the country and a few from some man who signed himself "Mike." The
letters from Mike, Josie put in a packet to themselves. "She may have
another man on the string," she mused. "Mike may be our trump card, the
joker."

All of Mike's letters were addressed to Margery Dubois. They were badly
spelled and written in a labored handwriting but Josie felt that Mike
was a worthy fellow. Reading character by means of chirography had been
one of Detective O'Gorman's hobbies and Josie had taken up the science
to some extent. As Josie perused these epistles she gathered that Mike
had been Margery Dubois's dancing partner. Evidently they had been on
the vaudeville stage together.

"Not love letters at all," Josie decided. "When he says he misses her
so much, can't get along without her, he means he wants her to act with
him again."

The last one was from Chicago. In it he made an urgent appeal to his
former partner to join him there. "A big thing if you can come in a day
or so. Plenty of tin and three-night stands in big towns. No
barnstorming bizness in this job." This letter was signed Mike Brady
and the Chicago address was given.

"That's where she has gone," decided Josie.

By the time the great gong in the basement clanged forth its summons to
dinner Josie had grasped the contents of most of the letters found in
the grate, had tied them in neat packages and had them carefully stowed
away in her suitcase, the suitcase locked and the key in her pocket.



CHAPTER VIII
PETER REFUSES NEW PARENTS

The Children's Home Society moved to the old Hathaway house as soon as
possible after Mary Louise signed the deed making over the property to
the society. The new quarters were well suited to the needs of the
Children's Home, large airy rooms with long porches and a delightful
yard and garden where the little tots could play.

"I don't want to leave Mr. and Mrs. Robin before they hatch out their
fambly," moaned Peter. "Looks like we can't never stay put, can we,
Polly?"

"But the big house is much nicer, Peter dear," comforted Polly. "It
kinder reminds me of where we lived one time with Mother and Daddy.
That had a yard to it and lots of sweet violets bordering the walks. I
wish you could remember the violets, Peter."

"I wish I could. Sometimes I 'most can--but don't you ever forget 'em,
Polly. You keep on talking about 'em and maybe sometime I can 'member
too the way I can the porridge bowls. I won't never forget our mother.
I'm sure glad you didn't never let Cousin Dink know we had her picture,
hers and Daddy's."

"Not me! That old Dink wouldn't have let me keep them. I haven't ever
showed them to anybody but that nice Miss Josie girl. She is safe I
believe and she wouldn't ever let Cousin Dink nor anybody know. She is
going to have them framed and let us hang them up in our room. I like
being here lots better than traveling 'round with old Cousin Dink,
don't you, Peter!"

"I should say so. I hope nobody won't want to 'dopt us. They say folks
is all time 'doptin' children from here. That's what the nurse told me
when she washed my face and hands. She says, 'If you don't be clean
nobody won't want to 'dopt you,' so I'm gonter be as dirty as ever I
can be."

"Oh, Peter, what would Mother say? It would be real nice to be 'dopted
if we could get 'dopted together."

"Oh, but they couldn't take me without you," and Peter began to weep.
"Let's both of us have dirty faces all the time so nobody won't want
us."

"No, let's both of us have clean faces all the time so somebody will
want both of us. I'm mighty sorry I cut my hair off so jiggly. When it
grows out I'm going to see if I can't save up some money and get a
permanent wave so's I'll look lovely and everybody that comes to the
home will say, 'Who is that charming child? I'll take her and her dear
little brother too and well be a happy family.' Now wouldn't that be
nice, Peter dear?"

"That 'pends on who it is. Supposin' it was a person like Cousin Dink
that comed along an' took us away an' then knocked us around an'
wouldn't let us stay put; I'm thinkin' about stayin' put for a while."

The two little waifs had many conversations similar to the foregoing.
They soon fitted themselves into the life of the home. Peter was a
general favorite because of his engaging manner and sweet confiding
nature, while Polly made herself so useful in helping to care for the
babies with which the home swarmed that the nurses declared they did
not know what they would do without her. She was a motherly child and,
having taken care of Peter so much during her mother's illness and
after the wanderings with Cousin Dink began, she was well able to nurse
the little ones.

"There's something about little babies that makes me happy all over and
makes me want to cry too," she said to one of the nurses, holding to
her bosom a little pink mummy-like bundle, a recent addition to the
home. "I hope some nice kind lady is going to want this little baby
child and she will grow up and never know she's 'dopted. Being 'dopted
isn't so bad if you don't ever know it. Peter don't want ever to be
'dopted because he thinks somebody like Cousin Dink might get him. I
hope they will just let me go on living here and by and by I can be a
real sure-enough nurse and wash all the little babies and Peter can
grow up and be a policeman or something. Peter used to be afraid of
policemen but ever since Miss Josie told him what nice men they were
and one time introduced him to a big cop on the corner and Peter shook
hands with him, he's been thinking policemen are the finest things
going and he wants to be one worse than anything. Peter could be a big
policeman and could bring all the little homeless babies here and I
could wash them clean and curl their hair and get them ready to be
'dopted."

One day shortly after they had moved to the Hathaway house a ringing of
the front door bell heralded the advent of callers. Since callers often
meant would-be adopters of infants it was natural for manager and
nurses to wish to make as good a showing as possible. A lady and a
gentleman were ushered into the parlor. Dr. Weston congratulated
himself that everything was in such good order and that he could
testify to the good health and disposition of so many of his charges.

"I am thinking of adopting a little boy," spoke the lady, an
exceedingly prim little person with a determined chin. "My husband
wants a boy, although I should really prefer a girl."

The husband, a sad-eyed man with a humorous twitch to his mouth, looked
a bit astonished at this statement. He had been laboring under the idea
that it was just the other way around--that he preferred a girl and his
wife a boy--but it made very little difference. She was going to have
what she wanted, even to the extent of making him pretend he wanted
what she wanted.

"An infant, I presume, madam?" said Dr. Weston.

"No, not at all! I'd prefer a little boy who has cut his teeth and can
talk. Of course I'd like him to have curls, and to come from a nice
family, and to be perfectly sound and healthy, and to have no bad
habits--such as eating plastering or having adenoids. I want a bright,
attractive child with a sweet disposition so that I can raise him up
for the ministry."

"Um-hum!" mused Dr. Weston. "I'll see what we have to offer in the way
of angels. There are some children playing in the yard now, madam.
Perhaps you and your husband would like to go have a look at them. The
infants are on the southern porch in their cribs but the little ones
who can toddle we keep out in the yard all we can."

The garden of the old Hathaway house again was the background for a
picturesque scene. In the same spot where Hortense Markle had so
cleverly staged Mary Louise's out door wedding not so many months
before, ten little children from two years up to six were playing
happily in a sand pile, recently donated to the home by Mrs. Peter
Conant with shovels and buckets enough to go around and a few to spare
for possible additions.

Peter Waller was evidently the chief engineer of the sand pile and the
other children looked to him for inspiration, whether it were turning
out whole spice cakes by packing down the sand in buckets and adroitly
inverting them or excavating marvelous tunnels that one could actually
see through.

"Now this is a tunnel," he said. "I know 'cause I've been through a
whole lot of tunnels. Haven't I Polly?" calling to his sister who was
patiently nursing a child with a bumped knee on a bench near by.

"Yes!" answered Polly, "but don't be too show-offy."

Peter disregarded this sisterly rebuke.

"Well, anyhow it is and I have. And this is a chu-chu track."

"Chu-chu track!" echoed his admirers who didn't at all mind his showing
off.

"And when the chu-chu train goes in the tunnel it is all dark, as dark
as dark, and the engine makes a rumblin' noise and the cars get all
full of smoke. But you mustn't git scairt--nobody mustn't git scairt
'cause God is there in that tunnel same as he is on dry land and God
loves you--"

"Dod loves us! Dod loves us!" cried a wee tot jumping up and down in
the sand in a kind of ecstasy of emotion and the other babies took up
the refrain and in a moment all of the sand diggers were shouting in
glee but with absolutely no conception of what it all meant: "Dod loves
us! Dod loves us!"

They were unconscious of the onlookers. Dr. Weston and the lady and
gentleman stood close by hearing Peter's lecture and witnessing the
sudden wave of emotion that took the children.

"Wonderful!" exclaimed the lady. "What a darling boy that is--the one
who preached the sermon. I want him! Oh, how I want him! I could raise
him to be a preacher, I am sure; and look at his curls!"

"He has only been with us a short time," said Dr. Weston, "so short a
time that we should prefer keeping him until we find out more about
him. He was left here with his sister under rather unusual
circumstances."

"I don't care what the circumstances were, I want him. I will have him
or none at all."

Dr. Weston glanced at the lady's determined chin and had a feeling she
was going to get what she wanted.

"We have thought it advisable not to separate the two children," he
continued in a soothing voice. "They have been through various
vicissitudes together and a separation would hardly be right. There is
his sister over there on the bench with the little child in her lap.
Polly is a nice child, helpful and motherly and extremely intelligent."

"But her hair doesn't curl," objected the lady. "I would never adopt a
girl whose hair doesn't curl. She would be a nuisance instead of a
pleasure."

"Ah really!" from Dr. Weston.

The children were still unconscious of their audience. Peter was
widening the tunnel at one end and at the other the eager babies were
crowding together, peering through at the youthful civil engineer.

"Ith He in there?" queried one.

"Cose He's in here," announced Peter. "He's everywhere in the world--
but He won't git you. He'll just be good to you an' love you an' maybe
give you candy, 'cept'n I'd rather have pancakes."

"He shall have them!" cried the eager lady. "He shall have all he
wants! Little boy," she asked, impulsively leaning over Peter, who had
seated himself in the sand the better to proceed with his excavating,
"dear little boy, wouldn't you like to come and live with me and be my
little boy?"

Peter looked up startled and distressed. Polly dropped the child with
the bumped knee and flew to Peter's side.

"I'll be so good to you and love you as though I were your own mother.
You can have a pony to ride and a bicycle and skates--"

"Gee whilikins!" exclaimed Peter.

"I will adopt you--"

"'Dopt me! No you won't! I didn't know you meant to 'dopt me. Me'n
Polly ain't ever gonter git 'dopted. We's gonter jes' live along here
till we gits growed up an' maybe our mother won't be dead an' will come
find us. Me'n Polly has to be together all the time," an expression of
agony on his face. "Don't we, Polly?"

"Yes, yes, Peter darling!"

"Well you would hardly stand in your brother's light," spoke the lady a
bit sharply. "It would certainly be to his advantage to come and live
with me and my husband. He would take our name and be brought up
exactly as though he were our own."

"But his own name is a good name," spoke Polly, holding her cropped
head proudly. "Peter Waller is a very fine name. I have heard my mother
say so often."

"Oh, you have! Well it is no better than Peter Thraves would be. My
name is Mrs. Thraves, child."

The little girl was not a bit impressed.

"And mine is Miss Mary Washington Waller, Polly for short," spoke
Polly, her head still up.

There was a look of breeding about the child and at the same time a
hint of battle in her blue eye and her firm little mouth. Dr. Weston
could not help smiling at Miss Mary Washington Waller.

"I am going to adopt your brother because I have taken such a fancy to
him. He is so sweet and pious and I am going to raise him to be a
preacher."

With that Peter set up such a yell as had never been heard before in
the Hathaway garden. He flung himself in Polly's arms and burst into a
storm of tears.

"I ain't gonter be no preacher! I--I am gonter be a p'liceman. I don't
want to be 'dopted. That's what I git for lettin' you wash my face,
Polly." He picked up a handful of dirt and smeared it over his face.
With the help of the tears it was very effective. "I'm jest as bad as
bad can be. I know a whole string of cuss words an' I can say them as
fast as now-I-lay-me. Doggone, devil, deuce, dam, da--"

"Oh, Peter!" gasped Polly, putting her hand over her brother's mouth.

"Don't you stop me, Polly," sputtered Peter. "I ain't near done."

Mrs. Thraves turned away in disgust.

"I fancy it would be more satisfactory if we adopted an infant," she
said to Dr. Weston, who was almost bursting with pent-up laughter.
"Perhaps a little girl would be less apt to turn out badly. Boys are so
deceptive. To think of that angel face! Such language!"

Mr. Thraves stood for a moment looking wistfully at Polly and Peter,
who still clung to each other. Polly was drying Peter's tears and
endeavoring to clean his dirty face, while she admonished him gently.

"Peter, you were so naughty. What will good Dr. Weston think of such a
bad boy?"

"He won't think a thing. He wouldn't like to be 'dopted hisself when
his mother might come alive any time an' he'd be gone off with his name
changed an' everything. Why don't she be a preacher herself if she
wants a preacher so bad? Why didn't she go marry a preacher an' have a
whole lot of preacher chilluns? Say, Polly, please don't be mad of me.
Did you know I was such a pretty cusser? I made up that cussin' all to
once. It was just as easy as anything. I kinder s'prised myself."

Mr. Thraves gave an involuntary chuckle. He glanced at his wife, who
was walking across the lawn, presenting a rather indignant and
consciously virtuous back to naughty Peter. Down in his pocket went his
hand and before Peter and Polly knew what had happened they found
themselves each with a silver dollar clasped in a grubby fist.



CHAPTER IX
JOSIE GETS HER BEARINGS

Josie's luck in finding the partially destroyed letters left by the
careless Cousin Dink, alias Margery Dubois, alias Hester Broughton,
sometimes D. Dingus, made it possible for her to pass up the doubtful
privilege of sleeping in the clean sheets provided for her by Betty.
That afternoon she went back to her employer, received all necessary
instructions concerning the campaign she was to wage in Atlanta in the
line of household novelties and jeweled specialties and, after paying
Mrs. Pete for the room she had decided not to occupy, she took the
night train for the South.

Before she left Dorfield Josie had time to run in on the
Higgledy-Piggledies for a few moments, long enough to say "howdy" to
her partners and to leave directions for having her mail forwarded.
She found Mary Louise having a chat with Elizabeth Wright.

"You are the very one I wanted to see, dear," she cried. "I want to ask
you to keep an eye on little Polly and Peter. Make friends with them
even more than you have and if they let drop anything else about their
past please wire it to me. Now I'm going to pack up some of my own
especial duds. I may have to redisguise myself as my real self before I
get through with this adventure. In that case I must have my own
clothes with which to do it."

"Before you go, you comet you, please tell us what has happened so
far," begged Mary Louise.

Josie smiled, her ever-cheery smile.

"Nothing much except I landed my job and will get all my expenses. I
mean to do good work for my boss. If I get pushed for time I'll get an
assistant and pay her well to do his work--all that I can't accomplish
myself. I am supposed to hire canvassers when I get to Atlanta and open
up a kind of office for the time being. The letter I wrote myself
puffing Miss Sally Blossom as a person little short of perfect got the
boss going. Now I'll have to make good. I am almost sorry I boosted
myself up so in his estimation. It's an awful strain sometimes to make
good."

"But you can do it I feel sure, you funny old Josie," cried Mary
Louise. "Now be sure to write us what you do and what you find out. If
I didn't think Danny would miss me too much I'd go with you just for
the experience."

"Heavens! You with your countenance so ingenuous that you'd give the
whole thing away the first dash out of the box. You are too honest to
engage in such a frame-up as this, Mary Louise."

"I'm no more honest than you are."

"Well, perhaps our fundamentals are about the same, but I have to
pretend to be a lot of things I am not, to work out my principles and I
am sure you couldn't pretend to be anything but just dear, sweet Mary
Louise Dexter if your life, or even your dear Danny's life, depended on
it. Could you paint your face and be a vulgar minx as I am being just
now?"

"I--I--don't know."

"I bet you could," put in Elizabeth. "You have never yet failed to do
what it was up to you to do and I believe you could even do that."

Mary Louise laughed. "I could but try if my doing it would help
anybody. Good luck to you, Josie dear!"

And the next moment Josie was gone on her great adventure.

Atlanta had on its smiling, spring face when Josie arrived. The air was
soft and balmy and everything smelt of violets. They were growing
everywhere, on the poor streets as well as the more pretentious ones. A
house was lowly indeed that did not boast a bit of yard with borders of
violets by fence and walk. Old colored women sat on the corners with
huge bunches of violets for sale. Pretty girls walked on the streets
with corsage bouquets of the fragrant flowers.

"Poor little Polly and Peter! No wonder they are homesick for Atlanta,"
was Josie's first thought.

She found lodgings in a quaint little old hotel called the Elberta Inn.
Everything in Atlanta seemed to Josie to have something to do with
peaches--Peachtree Street, West Peachtree Street, Peachtree Terrace,
Peachtree Gardens. Then hotels and inns bore the name where they could
and others named themselves after famous brands of peaches, such as
Elberta.

"What's in a name?" sighed Josie when, at her very first dinner in her
new quarters, dried apple pies were shamelessly served.

The landlady of the Elberta Inn was as thin as the landlady at 126 East
Centre was fat. Her name was Miss Oleander Denton. She was quick to let
each prospective guest know that she had seen better days.

"My grandfather would turn over in his grave if he knew that one of his
female descendants was at work and all," she whispered to Josie. "We
owned thousands of acres and hundreds of slaves and all."

Sometimes Miss Oleander was known to reverse this statement, having her
grandfather own hundreds of acres and thousands of slaves. Whatever it
was, poor Oleander was certainly hard at work now. Perhaps her proud
grandfather was saved from turning over in his grave by the fact that
his male descendants were not inclined to work. Old Mr. Denton--Major
he was called by the boarders--had never been known to do a day's work
in his life and Miss Oleander had a brother, Braxton, who was occupied
only during the races.

"I should think your grandfather would be proud that you are so
capable," suggested Josie.

"Oh, not at all," sighed Miss Oleander. "Efficient women were not
considered ladylike in my grandfather's time--that is not efficient
enough to make a living. They could be good housekeepers and all." Miss
Denton always ended every sentence with "and all." It could mean
anything and nothing.

Josie felt she had found exactly the right place. She was sure that
Miss Oleander could tell her about the Wallers and Chester Hunt, and
what she didn't know Major Denton would. Josie had modified her
appearance somewhat, lengthened her skirts, discarded the strings of
beads, left off the paint and powder except for a becoming dash and put
away her lip-stick until she might have use for it. She still clung to
the bobbed henna wig with its permanent wave. That in itself completely
changed the appearance of the usually demure Josie.

"First I must get my bearings," she mused, as she settled herself in
the shabby hall bedroom, that had the one advantage of overlooking the
great and only Peachtree Street.

On a shelf in her room she found an old telephone book. Stephen
Waller's name and address were given. The house proved to be only three
doors from the Elberta Inn, which had been a private residence in
former years. By the telephone in the hall near Josie's door hung a
new, down-to-date book. She looked for Stephen Waller's name in it. It
was not there. She then looked for Chester Hunt's name. It was given
and the address was the same as Stephen Waller's had been.

"So he is living in the old home!" A picture of the children arose in
Josie's mind, their forlorn condition, ragged, worn clothes and hungry
eyes. Then she thought of the room at Mrs. Pete's where they had lived
before they had gone to the Children's Home and her mouth tightened.
"I'll show him a thing or two before I get through," she muttered.

Before dinner that evening she went out for a walk. She turned to the
left from Elberta Inn and sauntered along as though she had no object
in life, and from the vacant expression on her face one might think she
had no more intelligence than object. Josie had the faculty of
appearing dull and stupid. A fishy look would come in her clever eyes
and she could assume the expression of a moron. She was apt to take on
this facial disguise whenever she was deeply interested in a case.

There was the Waller house on the corner, a handsome structure of pure
colonial architecture. The grounds around it were spacious for a city,
with box bushes whose size were indicative of their great age. The
walls of the house were almost covered with thick English ivy, but the
weathered pink of the old brick asserted itself in spots. The yard,
front and sides, had flower beds bordered with violets and the formal
walks were also indicated by rows of the fragrant flower. Magnolia
trees with glossy leaves and great white waxen blossoms shaded the
house and over the brick wall, that extended down the side street,
leaned fig trees.

Peachtree Street runs along the top of a ridge and the side streets
slope from it. This means that the houses must be built with basements
in the rear. Usually the kitchen and servants' quarters are in this
basement. Josie's walk led her down the side street. In the wall near
the end of the lot was a green door, no doubt the servants' and
tradesmen's entrance. Facing on the alley was a large garage, the door
of which was open. There was little sign of life about the place. Josie
noticed some belated clothes hanging on a line in the back yard. By
tiptoeing she could see over the wall. The wash was that of a man,
rather sporty striped shirts and socks of many colors.

"Mighty late to be having the wash still hanging out," said Josie to
herself. "Having trouble with servants, I wager. Hope so, anyhow."

As she started to cross the alley the honk of a horn warned her of the
approach of an automobile. She stepped back and a big touring car
turned into the alley. Josie looked up. A very handsome man of about
forty was alone in the car, which he drove with great skill. He
directed his car into the garage with noiseless shifting of gears.

Josie eyed him dully, which meant that not one detail of his
countenance or clothing escaped her. She even noted the make of the
car. The man glanced casually at Josie but she was nothing more than a
pedestrian crossing the alley to him, and a stupid-looking pedestrian
at that, who did not cross the alley even when she had a chance. Josie
stood for a moment after the car had passed the crossing.

"Could that be Chester Hunt?" she mused. "If so, he is not my idea of a
villian in appearance. He is too pleasant looking and his countenance
is entirely too open and engaging. Too good looking, in fact! I was
looking for a black-browed villain with selfishness and deviltry
written all over his face. If that is he then woe be to poor Dink and
Mrs. Waller! When evil has so much the appearance of good it is
difficult to combat."

She crossed the alley and continued her walk, not returning to the
Elberta Inn by way of the Waller house. She did not want the inmates of
that house, whoever they might be, by any chance to become familiar
with her face and form, disguised or natural.

It was too late in the evening to see about an office and the business
of making good as a saleswoman for household necessities and jeweled
novelties, but it was not too late to get a pretty good idea of the
city and a general notion of the kind of persons who made Atlanta their
home. Josie walked for an hour, noting and remembering the names of the
streets, the lines of trolleys, the principal hotels and clubs and many
other things that an ordinary tourist would have passed by or forgotten
in a moment. She stopped at a drug store and bought a map of the city.
Then when she got home she traced on the map the streets she had
traversed or followed in her walk.

"Now I am beginning to get my bearings," she declared as she freshened
up a bit for dinner. "I mustn't let myself slump into too great
respectability," she grinned at herself in the mirror.



CHAPTER X
AT MISS DENTON'S DINNER TABLE

Seven o'clock dinner at Elberta Inn was a function in spite of the
dried apple pies. Miss Oleander Denton always insisted upon making of
it a real dinner party. It seemed as though, for the hour, she
attempted to forget that her guests were paying ones. To her black silk
gown she gave a festive air by turning it in at the neck, thereby
exposing her too prominent clavicles, but the effect was softened by a
beautiful old lace collar and a large cameo breastpin of rare
workmanship, depicting a lady in hoop skirts by a grave, over which
leant a weeping willow tree. Major Denton wore a rusty dress suit and a
carnation in his buttonhole. The boarders dressed or not as they chose,
but as a rule they played up to Miss Oleander's role of hostess and
appeared at dinner in festive raiment.

The table was set with care and taste, but Josie found the food no
better than the one meal she had eaten at Mrs. Pete's in Dorfield. Mrs.
Pete's cabbage and the accompanying corned beef had been excellent,
although the table had been covered with a red cloth, the crockery of
the thickest, unbreakable variety and a large toothpick holder the only
ornament. Miss Denton always had flowers on the table and her china was
what remained in the family after the administration of the hundred
slaves. It did not match but it was all good, some thin porcelain with
a gold band, some Canton whose blue made Josie homesick for the
Higgledy-Piggledy Shop and the little breakfast set, a gift from Mary
Louise.

The great difference between 126 East Centre and the Elberta Inn lay in
the type of boarders. A wider gulf existed between the clientele of the
two places than that between a red table cloth and a fine damask one,
or Canton china and Mrs. Pete's heavy stone crockery, or a vase of
roses and a toothpick holder.

Most of the boarders were permanent ones and while it was a rule of the
house to resent transients, they were secretly welcome because of the
added zest they gave to the humdrum of everyday life. The permanent
guests of Elberta Inn knew only too well all about each other and it
was a relief to have outsiders to pick on in spite of the ignominy of
having to sit down to meals with persons whose antecedents might be
doubtful. Elberta Inn was of the old South. The inroad of Western and
Northern capital had not touched the Maison Denton. To be sure the
transients who occasionally bore down upon them were often northerners
or westerners but they did not represent much capital or they would
have put up at a first-class hotel. This the boarders who called
Elberta Inn home year in and year out well understood and so it was all
transients were more or less looked down upon. They were not rich or
they would not be there and they were hardly well born, since they were
not born in the South. Of course they sympathized with Miss Oleander in
wanting to rent her rooms and the fact that a much higher board was
charged transients than permanents made transients somewhat desirable
if too long intervals did not elapse between their goings and comings.

All of the foregoing Josie gathered at her first dinner. She was
introduced with great eclat by her hostess. The party was seated as she
came into the dining room and down one side of the table and up the
other Miss Oleander called the names, each time repeating Josie as
"Miss Blossom, Colonel Brent; Miss Blossom, Miss Kite-Smith; Miss
Blossom, Mrs. Bucknow; Miss Blossom, Major Dugan; Miss Blossom, Mrs.
Claiborne; Miss Blossom, Judge Tuttle; Miss Blossom, my father, Major
Denton," and so forth and so on down a line of twenty.

Josie felt she had never been among so many titles in all her life. She
recalled some lines from an opera of Gilbert and Sullivan's:

"With admirals the ocean teemed
And bishops in their shovel hats
Were cheap as any tabby cats,
In point of fact too many."

"The women have no titles but their names sound so aristocratic," she
thought. "Why, oh, why did I choose such a silly name as Blossom? There
were plenty of nice plain names that would have done me just as well
and I wouldn't feel such a fool when I am introduced. I thought Miss
Oleander would never get through calling out Blossom."

She was relieved to find that her henna wig was not so very much out of
place. Miss Hite-Smith was blondined in the back, with a transformation
in the front that did not quite match and all of the aristocratic dames
had resorted to cosmetics of one kind or another. Powder predominated
but an occasional dash of rouge gave color to the party.

Dinner was in courses, served by two colored maids whose social strata
must have been about that of Betty's at Mrs. Pete's. To be sure they
had on white caps and aprons, garnishings of which Betty boasted not,
but their motions were reminiscent of the cornfield, as though they
might still be walking over ploughed ground.

Josie could not help thinking that perhaps the grandfather, he of the
hundreds of slaves and thousands of acres, would have turned over in
his grave again if he could have seen the type of repast served on his
beautiful old china. There was course after course but each was merely
a sample, from soup to coffee. Josie remembered the heaping plate of
cabbage and corned beef with the hunk of corn bread at Mrs. Pete's with
regretful sentiment.

"Blossom, Blossom! Did I hear aright, young lady?" asked Judge Tuttle.
"Is your name Blossom?"

"Yes, sir," said Josie, respectfully, but wishing in her heart the old
gentleman would not insist on that absurd name, "Sally Blossom!"

"Ah, and from what part of the country do you come?"

"Washington," answered Josie, thankful that at one time she had lived
there--was living there in fact when her father, Detective O'Gorman,
died. "I have been in Dorfield lately, though, on business."

"My grandmother's maiden name was Blossom," continued the judge, "and
strange to say, it was also Sally, or Sarah by the time she got to be
my grandmother. But she was a Virginian, a Virginian of tide-water
fame. What Blossom are you?"

"Just Blossom, sir; a blooming Blossom! My father was English," she
said in desperation. "At least I think he was. He died before he was
born--I mean I was born."

"Ah, very sad!" ventured the Judge and Miss Hite-Smith thought so too.
Josie, for her part, thought he was much better dead--that fictitious
Blossom. This questioning was more than she had bargained for. People
usually let her do the questioning. She rather fancied it was the
bobbed wig and the artificial complexion that made persons like the
judge notice her.

"That is a beautiful old house on the corner near here," she ventured.

"You mean the Haskins?" spoke up Miss Denton. "Yes, it is very
handsome, no doubt, but too ornate and pie-crusty for my--taste." Then
a discussion ensued concerning architecture, old and new.

"I mean the house going East from this place," put in Josie, not at all
interested in the Haskins house. "The old home with the ivy and the
box-bushes in the yard."

"Oh, the Waller house!" said Major Denton. "That is perhaps the finest
specimen of the old South left in the city. It was saved from the
Yankee invasion by a piece of luck."

He then plunged into war reminiscences that lasted through three
courses, his table companions listening with bored politeness.

"Do the same people still live there?" asked Josie, after Major Denton
had fired the last shot for states' rights.

"Well, they do and they don't," began the Major.

"I can't see why you say they do," broke in Judge Tuttle. "Chester Hunt
hasn't an ounce of Waller blood in his veins."

"Indeed he has," declared Mrs. Claiborne. "Chester Hunt's mother's
great-grandmother was a niece of old Edmund Waller's, the English
founder of the Waller family. That is a well-known fact."

"Ah, yes, a niece but--ah, well--the presence of ladies would deter my
pressing my point," said Judge Tuttle, who then whispered sibilantly to
a pink-cheeked old man across the table.

"As I was saying," continued Major Denton, "they do and they don't. The
present occupant of the Waller mansion is a stepbrother of Stephen
Waller's. He, poor fellow, was killed during the war, the world war, I
mean, not the war between the states."

"Yes," breathed Josie, "and the stepbrother inherited his property?"

"Oh, no, there is a widow and two children. A very sad story, very sad!
The widow has been crazed by grief and I hear is hopelessly insane. The
two children have been placed in care of an excellent woman and are now
living near their mother, so if she should ever ask for them they can
be reached quickly. She has shown no sign as yet of wanting to see
them. A sad case!"

"Yes, and I wouldn't trust those sanitariums," spoke Miss Oleander.
"They are often very tricky."

"Neither would I," said a young woman across the table from Josie. Her
name was Miss Chisholm and she had the distinction of being in
business. The ladies at Miss Denton's were not the type to be in
business.

"But Chester Hunt has been to the place again and again and says his
step-sister-in-law is receiving every attention and is being watched
with the greatest care. She is raving, so he says, and he is very sad
over it. Chester Hunt is a fine young fellow in spite of the unkind
things some persons say about his great-great-grandmother," declared
Mrs. Claiborne, vindictively.

"I don't like him," asserted Miss Chisholm.

"Indeed!" and Mrs. Claiborne eyed Miss Chisholm through her lorgnette.
"He is very popular with young ladies." There was a slight accent on
the ladies.

"Popular enough with girls who see him in society but you ask
stenographers how they like him," flushed Miss Chisholm.

"I am hardly likely to converse with stenographers on the subject of
Mr. Hunt," was the insolent answer.

Josie determined to cultivate Miss Chisholm and to give Mrs. Claiborne
a wide berth.

"Where has the poor lady been put?" Josie asked Miss Oleander,

"Somewhere in New York, I think!"

"Not at all! The place is an excellent one near Washington," said Mrs.
Claiborne.

"Hunt told me himself it was in Indiana," said Judge Tuttle. "I had
some business to settle for him. You see he is the executor and
administrator of Stephen Waller's estate. Naturally he was appointed
guardian of the children by the court.

"I understand they are a very unruly pair," went on Mrs. Claiborne. "It
seems it was their selfishness and naughtiness that gave their poor
mother her final breakdown. I hate to think it of Stephen Waller's
children, but I hear it on all sides. Chester Hunt can hardly control
himself when the subject comes up. He has done everything for them but
they have behaved so very badly. Mother spoiled them, I reckon."

"Why, that's too bad," put in kind Miss Oleander. "I used to see them
playing in their yard and I was much attracted by them. I don't see how
such sweet-looking children could be so very naughty."

"Nonsense!" cried Miss Chisholm. "My cousin taught little Polly Waller
and she says she was the most tractable child she has ever had in her
class. The boy was too young for school, but I happened to hear his
kindergarten teacher discussing the family with my cousin and she said
Peter was a love of a boy and clever beyond anything. He is a born
leader, so she said."

"They are sneaky," asserted Mrs. Claiborne. "I have heard of many
sneaky underhand things they have done. Poor Chester Hunt, I don't envy
him the job of guardian."

"Neither do I," said Josie to herself.

"He has had a great deal of trouble with servants lately," said Miss
Hite-Smith. "I hear he is not trying to keep up the whole house but it
takes several servants to maintain any kind of cleanliness in such a
huge house. He is advertising for white maids, so I hear. It seems the
colored ones think the place is haunted."

"He is advertising for white maids!" Josie repeated to herself.



CHAPTER XI
JOSIE ENGAGES AN ASSISTANT

Josie regretted her job. Life was becoming complicated, what with
trying to organize a force of canvassers for household necessities and
jewel novelties when every moment of her waking hours must be spent
trying to find out the true inwardness of the affair concerning Peter
and Polly and their demented mother. Her boss was trusting her, so she
must make good. And had she not, as Josie O'Gorman, highly recommended
Miss Sally Blossom? It was doubly up to her to deliver the goods. So
she thought as she sat in her little hall bedroom and went over in her
mind all she had learned that day.

There was a tap on her door. It was Miss Chisholm coming to call.

"I thought you might be lonesome," she said. "The guests of this house
are not very friendly to 'outsiders,' as they designate everybody who
hasn't been living at Miss Denton's since the flood. I liked the way
you shut up Judge Tuttle about your family name. The folks here talk
all the time about who's who. Sometimes I try to switch them over to
what's what but I can't keep them long from their beloved genealogical
dope."

"I didn't mean to shut him up," laughed Josie. "I was rattled to beat
the band."

Josie looked keenly at her visitor. Honesty was written all over her
countenance--wide-open grey eyes, delicately tip-tilted nose and large,
frank mouth that laughed easily, and at the end of a laugh shut
decisively.

"I liked the way you spoke out concerning Chester Hunt and stood up for
the poor kiddies, too," said Josie earnestly.

"It got me in bad with old Lady Claiborne, but I am dead tired of these
people here blindly accepting that man just because he is so all-fired
handsome. I believe he is crooked, but he is mighty popular with the
general run of people. The stenographers all hate him and there are a
few business men who don't trust him but he seems to be able to
hoodwink the society set. He has beautiful manners and is gentle and
graceful until he forgets himself and then look out! I feel in my bones
he is double dealing and I can't think what the Wallers' friends are
thinking of to let him take their affairs in hand as he does without
ever investigating a thing."

"But he is executor of Mr. Waller's estate, is he not?"

"Oh, yes, he is all that and I reckon nobody has a right to say a word.
Now, he is guardian of the children. The idea of that old hag's saying
those children are so naughty they ran their mother crazy! It makes me
sick. They are precious kids."

"They certainly are," agreed Josie. Miss Chisholm looked at her in
astonishment.

"Do you know them?"

"Yes," said Josie, "I know them very well. Miss Chisholm, I'm going to
do a rather cheeky thing. I'm going to force my confidence on you and
make you party to a secret--that is, I am going to do it if you have no
objection. It won't implicate you in any way and won't involve any work
unless you choose to let it. I want your advice and I want your
outlook. I need hardly say that this is of a most confidential nature.
May I impose on you?"

"Yes, you may, but before you do, please tell me why you think I am
worthy," asked Miss Chisholm, her eyes shining with excitement.

"The way you shut your mouth and open your eyes," laughed Josie. "The
way you stood up for the kids and were not afraid to speak your mind
concerning a man who has in some way got the majority for him. Of
course I can't say I am never mistaken about people but I am pretty
safe to hit it right once in a while and I have a hunch I have hit it
right with you. I am rather meek just now concerning my powers of
reading character by countenance, because I am sure if I had not had a
preconceived idea of what Chester Hunt is I should have trusted him
because of his handsome face. He is one of the best-looking villains I
ever saw."

"Oh, you know him too, then?"

"No, I have only seen him. I haven't been in Atlanta long enough to
know him yet, but I saw him drive up in his car and enter the garage at
the Waller house."

"You knew all about who lived there all the time you were asking,
then," smiled Miss Chisholm.

"Not all about it but a little and I wanted to get the outlook of Miss
Denton's boarders."

"Heavens above! I believe you are a detective," cried Miss Chisholm.
Josie chuckled delightedly.

"Exactly! A detective but a very humble one. My father was a great
detective, one of the best the United States has had. O'Gorman was his
name."

"Of course I have heard of him. And you are his daughter and not Sally
Blossom. No wonder you had to cut Judge Tuttle off short. Oh me, oh my,
but I'm having a good time!"

"So am I, but I've bitten off more than I can chew. When I am at home I
go talk things over with the chief of police or one of my partners and
I seem mighty far off just now with a big thing on hand and no one to
go to. I'm not cry-babying, but just want to gas along on the subject
for a while. I have a kind of idea you can help me a lot."

"Well, cut loose," commanded Miss Chisholm. "By the way, my name is
Alice--Alice Chisholm."

"All right, Alice Chisholm. Mine is Josie O'Gorman, but I'd better be
Sally Blossom for a while yet."

Then Josie told her new friend all about the Children's Home Society of
Dorfield and her friend Mary Louise Dexter's donation to the Home and
how the little Polly and Peter had come to the office with the person
known as Cousin Dink. She told of finding the letters in the grate at
Mrs. Pete's, of all the children had let drop concerning their home
life and their sad wanderings with Cousin Dink.

"And now I am on the war path to see if there isn't something to be
done for those poor kiddies. If they stay at the Home they will have to
be adopted sooner or later--maybe separated and that would be a tragedy
indeed."

She showed the letters from Chester Hunt to the cousin.

"Whew! Wouldn't some of these society girls throw fits if they knew
about this Dink person?" laughed Alice. "But what is it you want me to
do? I am crazy about helping but how can I?"

Then Josie told of the job she had as a canvasser and her feeling that
the detective work was going to take all her time. "I thought I'd find
out things as a canvasser and never dreamed of how easy it was to get
boarders to talking and find out that way. Now I hear that Chester Hunt
is advertising for white servants and of course my stunt would be to
apply at once for the place of housemaid or even cook."

"How funny! Would you really do that?"

"Sure I I've done it before, and under my father's orders, but that is
another story. But I must make good with my boss on this canvassing. He
has trusted me and it is up to me to deliver the goods."

"Why don't you get an assistant?"

"That is what I mean to do, but where?"

"I'm open to inducements," declared Alice seriously. "You see I am a
free-lance in business. My job is doing publicity work for any and
every concern that feels like paying me. I have nothing on hand just
now, but am expecting a deal to come my way to-morrow. I don't have to
take it if they are in a hurry, but can turn it down and take up your
canvassing business. I have an office of my own--nothing but a tiny
hole in the wall but it will serve as headquarters. I can get in touch
with plenty of women to canvass for you in a little or no time. The
office next to mine is that of the Vocational Bureau for Women. They
fly higher than this kind of job usually but I reckon there are enough
unemployed females on their books who would jump at the chance to earn
a few dollars."

"Good! I am a fortunate person. My supplies will be along to-morrow. I
shall have them sent to your office and you can get busy as fast as you
can."

The girls then had a serious business talk. The question of
remuneration was satisfactorily settled.

"I wonder, now, if you could write me a reference for his nibs, Chester
Hunt. I want to apply for the job of housemaid this very night. It
isn't too late, do you think?"

"I'll do it immediately," laughed Alice. "What must I say?"

"That I am honest and willing and capable. I am all those things, I can
assure you. Perhaps you won't think so when you see me get back to
normalcy. I must change my make-up if I want a job as house servant. I
think I'll be a Swede. Josie Larson will be a good name. I must say I
feel better if I'm Josie. I'm always afraid I'll forget to answer as
Sally."

Alice Chisholm's eyes danced merrily as she watched Josie O'Gorman make
herself ready to apply for a housemaid's position. First the henna wig
was pulled off and Josie brushed out her neat sandy braids that had
been tightly coiled around her head. She parted her hair in the middle
and then pulled it tightly back in a hard knot, carefully disclosing
her ears, something no person of any breeding was supposed to do at
that time. The knot was placed at exactly the wrong angle, giving a
strangely comic look to her profile. The georgette dinner dress was
discarded for the tweed suit but the suit was so put on that all
semblance of natty cut was lost. The skirt was on slightly askew and
pulled up in front and down in the back. The belt to the Norfolk jacket
was drawn too tight and the effect was blousy from the rear and what
Alice called "a poor white folk's tuck" in the fore. Josie's sailor hat
she placed on the back of her head, carefully pulling it down so that
one ear was pushed down by the crown. The despised rouge was wiped from
her cheeks and artistically applied to her nose--not much, but just a
suspicion.

"Splendid! Splendid!" cried Alice. "I don't believe you will need a
reference. You would have to be honest to look like that."

The reference was written, however, and signed A. Chisholm. With it
tightly clasped in a hand upon which Josie had drawn a large white
cotton glove, a finishing touch to her costume, the would-be housemaid
silently crept from the Elberta Inn and, with an extra dull look in her
eyes, rang the front door bell at the Waller house.



CHAPTER XII
CHESTER HUNT'S NEW MAID

"Nobody home!" was Josie's disappointed verdict after she had waited a
few minutes and there was no response to her ring. She rang again, this
time with sharp decision. She heard the opening of a door upstairs and
then the lower hall was flooded with light and a sound of quick, light
footsteps on the stairs and the front door was jerked open somewhat
impatiently. Josie looked stolidly into the handsome countenance of
Chester Hunt.

"Well, what is it?" he asked brusquely, taking in with some amusement
the awkward little figure before him.

"I bane come to work for you."

"Oh! In answer to my ad?"

"Sure!"

"What can you do?"

"Anything with my hands but I bane not much good on head work."

"Can you clean a house and serve a meal?"

"Yah!"

"Perhaps you can cook too!"

"I can cuke some."

"What nationality are you?"

"I bane Luther."

"German?" smiling.

"Naw! I bane Swede," and Josie permitted an expression of disgust to
flit over her otherwise blank countenance.

"Well, when can you go to work?"

"How much you bane pay?"

"Of course! How stupid of me! What do you ask?"

"I ask twelve dollar a week for cuking and ten dollar a week for
claneuping but I bane get less than I ask. If I do cuking and
claneuping both together I ask fifteen dollar a week but I bane come to
you and see how you suit me for twelve. I bane a bum at telegraphing."

"You mean telephoning?"

"Yah, telephoning, but I bane willing to learn. Have you bane keeping
other help?"

"I try to but they have all left me lately. Would you work with colored
people?"

"You bane meaning blacks? I do not love them but if you try me you find
I do twice three time as much work as blacks."

"And your name?"

"Miss Josie Larson!"

"All right, Miss Josie Larson, suppose you come in the morning and go
to work."

"I bane come tomorrow night and cuke the dinner. I got other business
on hand for morning."

"Well, I'm sorry, but I fancy I can get along without you for twelve
hours longer. Now, mind you, come in time. I have dinner at seven."

"I bane coming at five. Do you to market go yourself?"

"I'll have provisions in the house ready for you. After tomorrow you
will have to do the housekeeping as well as cooking. If I have a friend
in to dinner could you serve two of us?"

"Sure! I bane smart enough to serve eight if you have knives and forks
to go round."

Josie made a stiff bow and backed awkwardly down the steps. When the
door was closed she turned quickly and literally ran back to the
Elberta Inn. She got safely to her room without being seen by any of
the aristocratic boarders.

Alice Chisholm was waiting for her.

"Well, how about it?"

"Got my job as chief cook and bottle washer with the handsome Chester
Hunt and will cook dinner for him tomorrow evening. In the meantime I
have some work ahead of me. What I would have done without you, Alice,
I do not see. I should have been forced to double-cross my boss, and
I'd have hated it. My father always preached being faithful in small
things."

The next day was a busy one for Josie as well as Alice Chisholm. Josie
must lay in a supply of maid's uniforms, aprons and caps. She must
write letters to Mary Louise and her partners of the Higgledy-Piggledy,
also a business epistle to her boss of the household necessities and
jeweled novelties. A cook book must be purchased of the latest and most
approved recipes, Josie having mastered only a few of the simpler
dishes, but she had always declared that the keynote to cookery was
gumption and with a good recipe and plenty of that ingredient she could
master even anything as intricate as angel's food.

"I can make biscuit and coffee and waffles and scrambled eggs and tea
and cinnamon toast, too. I know so many ways to please an
archvillain," she said to Alice.

"And I know how to make batter bread and jelly roll. I am certainly
coming to see you some time and show you my stunts," said Alice.

"Fine but you will have to be a Swede. I didn't ask my new employer
about company but I guess he won't object, just so I give him something
fit to eat and clean up his house."

Alice Chisholm took over the business of getting canvassers and
planning the work with such efficiency that Josie was delighted. "I
never could have done it so well. I know the boss will thank his stars
that I had to go cook for Chester Hunt and was forced to employ a
so-called assistant."

"I am quite crazy about it," said Alice. "I always loved organizing and
bossing and it so happens I am always the one to be organized and
directed. Now, my talents have full scope. I am going to canvass some
myself and I tell you I am going to show some of these women how to
work."

At five o'clock, sharp, Josie was installed in the kitchen of the old
Waller house.


"You will find the raw materials in the refrigerator. I am to have a
gentleman to dine with me. Dinner at seven." Chester Hunt's tone was
one of command and his manner not an agreeable one. Josie could well
understand that the girls in the business world did not find him so
agreeable as the society girls.

"All right, sir! I bane on time. Must I cuke everything I find in the
refrigerator?"

"Heavens, no! Just get up a good dinner. If you don't know how you
better say so and get out before you start."

"I bane asking, but if you don't want me to ask I bane smart enough to
yump in."

"All right then 'yump in,'" he said, laughing in spite of being in a
decidedly bad temper.

Josie "yumped in" with a will. By the process of selection from what
she found in the pantry and refrigerator she concocted a good dinner
and had it on the table at seven o'clock. This was something of a feat,
because every cooking utensil had to be scoured before she could use it
and even the china and silver was not fit to put on the table without a
thorough washing.

"My, I wish I had Elizabeth Wright's mother here!" Josie said to
herself. "Wouldn't she have the time of her life getting this place
cleaned up?"

The drop-leaf mahogany table in the beautiful old dining room looked
very inviting when Josie informed the master:

"Dinner bane served up, sir!"

A low bowl of violets and early hyacinths that the new maid had found
blooming in the back yard were reflected in the polished surface of the
mahogany. The table must perforce be bare as all the tablecloths in the
house were soiled. She had found some lacy mats which she had washed
and ironed hurriedly. The silver and glass were polished to the nth
degree. The master looked his approval and actually smiled at the
clever maid but Josie's eyes were dull and fishy and on her face
nothing was expressed but dense stupidity. She proceeded to serve the
dinner with meticulous care, thankful for the training she had had at
the Higgledy-Piggledy tea room. Not one false move did she make in her
service, but not once did she allow a gleam of intelligence to flicker
across her countenance.

"Where did you make your find?" asked the guest, who turned out to be
Braxton Denton, Miss Oleander's horse-racing brother, a middle-aged man
with a flashy cravat and a crooked mouth.

"She found me. She seems to be a good enough servant considering she is
so marvelously stupid."

Josie overheard the conversation as she removed the soup plates. In the
pantry she permitted herself the luxury of a grin and after she slid
the broiled pompano from the grill to the fish plates she let off more
steam by a pirouette that a premiere danseuse might have envied.

Silently and efficiently she served the whole meal, managing to efface
herself so utterly that the two men talked as freely as though they had
been alone in the dining room.

"Gloomy old house!" said Braxton Denton. "I wonder you hang on here."

"It has been my home ever since I was a boy and I am more comfortable
here than I would be at a hotel. I am very fond of this place. The
property would run down terribly, too, if I let it stand vacant. It is
only gloomy because I can't get anyone to keep it in order. The
servants have all left and I don't seem to be able to get any more--not
until this girl came last night. How long she will stick I can't tell."

"Until I find out what I want to know," muttered Josie to the empty
fish plates as she bore them off.

"How is your sister-in-law getting?"

"No better," with a heavy sadness in his tone. "I am afraid the case is
a hopeless one. I get daily reports from the sanitarium and they are
most discouraging."

"And the children?"

"Oh, they are in excellent hands, both of them well. They never ask for
their mother, however, nor does she ask for them. It is a strange
case--one almost of antagonism. They have shown the strangest lack of
feeling in regard to their mother and she seems really to hate them. I
can hardly blame her because while they are only little children their
callousness is positively diabolical."

Josie permitted herself the slight revenge of sprinkling a little extra
pepper on her master's English mutton chop.

"Very imprudent of me, but I hope he will sneeze his handsome nose
off," she said, giving the pepper box another shake.

She had her wish. His handsome nose didn't exactly come off but it was
not for lack of sneezing.

"Kerchoo! Kerchoo!" he gasped for breath, choking and sneezing at the
same time.

"Heavens, girl!" he finally sputtered. "How much pepper do you usually
put on chops?"

"Mine is fine," ventured his guest.

"Excuse, please," and Josie gave a stiff curtsy. "My foot slipped and I
bane put more pepper than I meant."

His feelings were soothed by a caramel pie. After dinner he came to the
pantry door and called the new maid to him.

"You have done very well, all but over seasoning the chops."

"The chop!" corrected Josie.

"I think you will be able to do the work. I want breakfast at eight.
You must look after my mail carefully. Most of my mail comes to my
residence. I shall expect you to do the marketing and not bother me
with details of housekeeping. Do you need any assistance with the
cleaning? I fancy everything is pretty dirty."

"Filthy!" ejaculated Josie, "but I bane strong."

"All right! You understand about looking after my mail carefully, do
you not?"

"Yah! I yoost put it on the desk. I bane take care."

How much care she did not think it advisable to tell him, but his mail
was one of the things to which Josie was determined to give much
attention.



CHAPTER XIII
A NEW BROOM SWEEPS CLEAN

Being an innately honest person it went sorely against the grain with
Josie to pry into anybody's private mail, even though he be an
arch-villain who was doing his best to keep two poor little children
out of their heritage.

"He is so handsome I don't see how he can be really wicked," she mused
as she endeavored to get order out of the chaos that reigned in the
kitchen. Josie had determined to clean up in the kitchen and pantry
first and then proceed to the other corners of the house. The
succession of incompetent servants that had been employed by the
present master of the old Waller house had left layers of dirt and
grease, each according to to her lights. Josie was bent upon getting to
the bottom of dirt as well as the mystery of what Chester Hunt was up
to.

"The better I do my work the more he will trust me. I do so hate to
steam open his mail," she wailed as there came a sharp ring and a thud
of falling letters through the slot in the front door.

If Chester Hunt could have peeped in on the new servant and had seen
her deftly sorting his mail, putting aside the advertisements and
invitations, carefully pocketing an official-looking envelope
postmarked from somewhere in Indiana and another sloppily written
envelope from Chicago, perhaps he would have changed his mind about her
lack of brains. The scouring of the kitchen must wait for a few moments
while the new maid-of-all-work held these two letters over the steaming
kettle just long enough to loosen the flaps, which she rolled back
neatly and carefully.

The official-looking letter was from a sanitarium in Indiana. This
Josie devoured greedily. It was merely a report from the physician in
charge concerning one of his patients. That patient was Mrs. Waller.

The letter stated that the lady was quite normal except for the fact
that she refused to believe her husband was dead. She spent much time
writing to her children and trying to devise means of getting the
letters mailed to them. She was evidently a far from meek patient and
was giving the attendants a good deal of trouble. The owner of the
sanitarium was willing to keep the lady longer if Chester Hunt, the
person in authority, decided she must stay. The rate would be
increased, however, as it was much more trouble to look after a normal
person than one more or less demented.

The letter was a cold, businesslike one. There was something in it,
read between the lines, that made Josie shudder. She no longer had any
qualms about having steamed open Chester Hunt's mail. She made a quick
copy of the letter in the cryptic characters taught her by her father,
carefully noting the address and date. She then sealed the letter
neatly and turned to the communication from Chicago.

As she had divined, it was from the faithless Dink. It was full of
reproaches to her darling Ches for not writing oftener and of demands
for funds. "These tiresome children are so extravagant," she wrote.
"And now Polly has been ill with a throat that looked as though it
might be diphtheria and I have had to have a doctor in. We have been in
Chicago for the last week and I think I may just stay here. We have
board in an excellent place, but of course it is expensive. Don't be
such a tight wad, Ches. You know I am looking after these brats
entirely on your account. If it wasn't for you I'd lose them fast
enough. What do you expect me to do next? Whatever you want me to do,
give me time to do it in." She ended with assurances of truest
affection.

"So," mused Josie, "lying to each other, too! Chester Hunt thinks the
kids are with Dink. He doesn't know how cheaply she has boarded them
either. Not even honor among thieves! The plot thickens! Wheels within
wheels! As father used to say:

"'Oh, what a tangled web we weave
When once we practice to deceive.'"

One thing that always amused Josie's friends was that she constantly
quoted old saws and attributed them to her beloved father. According to
Josie, Detective O'Gorman was the originator of half of "Poor Richard's
Almanac" and the "Wisdom of Solomon" and many terse sayings of
Shakespeare.

After Josie had copied the contents of the two important communications
she sealed them neatly and placed them with the rest of the mail on the
master's desk, carefully mixing the letters so that the two which had
been tampered with did not lie together. After that she redoubled her
efforts towards cleaning the kitchen. Into every crack and corner went
Josie's broom and scrubbing brush. She rescued the clothes from the
line in the back yard, and then ironed them and, folding them in a
highly professional manner, placed them on the foot of Chester Hunt's
bed,

"It is bad enough to have to spy on a man but at least I intend to earn
my twelve a week or whatever it was I told him I asked."

Her cleaning mania then led her to the dining room, where such another
upheaval occurred as seldom takes place in a mistressless home.

"Poor man! He has certainly lived in extreme discomfort." She found
herself pitying Chester Hunt, but just then in the raid she was making
on the shelves of the Sheraton sideboard she found two porridge bowls,
one decorated with chickens and one with rabbits, which brought Polly
and Peter back so vividly that her incipient pity was turned to rage.
After that she wielded her brush and broom with pitiless fury. She
rubbed the mahogany with the expression of one who might have been
rubbing salt into the wounds of a bitter enemy.

"Thank goodness he doesn't expect to come home to luncheon today," she
said to herself. "Those porridge bowls get my goat to that extent that
my foot might slip again and I'd drop something worse than pepper on
his food."

Josie had reckoned without her host, as the saying goes. Chester Hunt
did come home to luncheon. She had just put the finishing touch on the
sideboard, having rubbed the massive old silver and scrubbed the
beautiful Wedgwood pitchers so that the former shone with some of its
pristine glory and the latter's little fat cupids and heavy garlands of
roses stood out from their lavender background as they had not done for
a year or more. She had taken down the dusty lace curtains and washed
the dingy windows. The room was no longer dark and gloomy. The sun did
not have to find its way through grime but came joyfully through the
shiny windows and glinted on silver and polished mahogany.

"Now that's something like!" Josie exclaimed, stepping back to view her
handiwork.

"So it is."

Josie prided herself on being steeled against surprise of any sort but
this voice breaking in on her monologue was almost too much for her.
Her heart lost a beat, but her habit of self-control was uppermost and
she was able to turn on Chester Hunt her imperturbable countenance
unlit by intelligence, her eyes dull and unseeing.

"You bane having dirty blacks for help," she ventured. "Is it lunch you
bane come for?"

"I'm ill, Miss Josie Larson," he said with a whimsical look on his
face, that Josie now noticed was drawn and white. "It's that devilish
lumbago that has got me. I hope I did not startle you."

"Yah! I bane hearin ghosts all morning," Josie declared stoutly. "When
I was scroobing the sideboard shelves and picked up two little porridge
bowls, one with rabbits and one with chickens, I thought I heard the
chickens crowing and the rabbits didn't make a sound but I thought I
saw their mouths wiggling."

"Oh!" said the man, his expression changing, "strange ghosts to be
fearing!"

"I don't bane afraid. I don't bane afraid of anything."

"Well, that's good! Any mail? I'll have to get to bed and I'll ask you
to bring me tip a tray of food. Something quite simple, tea and toast
or anything you can think of. This lumbago hits me every now and then."

"Where do you have lumbago?" asked Josie. "Is it in your face or your
stomach?"

"Back, f----! Back!"

Josie realized her master had almost called her a fool and felt the
compliment highly. "The bigger fool he thinks I am the better I am
attending to my business," she thought.

"I bane sorry. Don't you want me to iron your back, sir? In my country
we iron backs. I can iron very well, sir. You will see your laundry on
your bed. I have ironed it so well I feel sure you could trust your
back to me. I did not put your wash away, fearing you might think I
bane meddlin."

"Oh, that's all right, my girl. I fancy what meddling you do will make
no difference to me. Just don't get my papers mixed up."

"Sure, I bane careful with all such things. Your letters are on your
desk."

"Well, bring them up to me when you bring my tea and toast. They will
keep until then. I must get to bed." He walked with his back bent.
Evidently every movement was painful.

"I'll feel sorry for him again if I don't look out," muttered Josie. "I
think I'll keep these porridge bowls where I can look at them to keep
myself from weakening. Polly, you stay there," she said, putting the
rabbits behind a big silver pitcher. "And Peter, you can hide behind
this fruit bowl. Don't crow too loud, little chickens, but just loud
enough to keep me from being too sorry for that handsome wretch
upstairs, with his noble brow and the lumbago in his back."

Josie arranged a tray for the sick man deftly and neatly. To the toast
and tea she added a fluffy omelette and, with the letters carefully
tucked in by the teapot, she tripped up to the master's room. He had
piled the beautifully ironed shirts on a chair and was in bed, groaning
from the extra exertion of undressing.

"Try to eat, sir," she said gently. "I bane cuked you something nice."

He did eat and felt refreshed. Josie noticed he looked over his mail
and evidently took especial interest in the two letters that had also
claimed her attention. He put them aside and told her she could remove
the others, he would look at them later on. Slipping back into the room
for the tray, Josie caught the master with his mask off, as it were. He
held in his hand the two opened letters. On his countenance was an
expression of mingled cunning and cold calculation.

"I'll trouble you to hand me my fountain pen," he said to the girl.
"There is a portfolio of stationery on the table over there. In about
an hour you may come up and get some letters I want you to mail for me.
Do you know where the postoffice is?"

"Yah, I bane there for my mail which come to a window."

"Well, take my letters all the way to the post-office. You understand."

"Yah, I ain't bane no fool."

"Oh, excuse me," he said cynically. "Anyhow, you bane a very good cook
and from my shirts I judge you are a very fine laundress, so when you
get my letters safely deposited in the postoffice I will ask you to
come up and try your hand on my back."

"All right, sir, I bane willing."

Josie permitted herself another grin and a gay pirouette in the lower
hall.

"I only wish I knew some Swedish talk besides 'bane'," she said to
herself. "I am not at all sure scroobing isn't Irish and cuke for cook
might be any old language. The poor man has got an awful backache,
Josie O'Gorman, and you ought to feel sorry for him."



CHAPTER XIV
JOSIE JUMPS HER JOB

In less than an hour Josie was summoned to her master's bedside. "The
letters are written, and a hard job it was, too, with this infernal
lumbago getting me if I so much as lift a finger. Get them in the
postoffice as soon as you can, my good girl. Don't stop for a thing."

"I bane have to stop to dress myself," said Josie. "Girls in service
don't like to go by the street in uniform."

"Well, if you must you must, but don't stop to doll up," he commanded,
"and be quick about it."

"Sure!" Josie smiled to think how quick she would be.

Again the tea kettle must play its part. First she opened the letter
addressed to Miss D. Dingus. There was a check for a good sum enclosed.
The letter was evidently written by a man with lumbago. The tone was
impatient and critical, although he seemed to remember his manners
before he finished and dropped a few endearing terms such as "darling
Dink," "My own girl," "I am thinking of you constantly," etc. He begged
her to be patient and put up with the annoyance of the children for a
while longer, when everything would come all right. "You will be
rewarded a thousand fold," was his promise.

"I don't believe a word of it," was Josie's decision, as she put the
letter back in its envelope after taking a careful copy of it in her
own especial brand of shorthand. "Dink is too common for such a fine
gentleman as Chester Hunt. He could never introduce her to the elite of
the Southland."

The other letter was addressed to the doctor at the sanitarium. In it
he begged the physician to keep Mrs. Waller for a while longer. "I will
make it worth your while. Don't let any of her letters get by. I will
come to see her as soon as I recover from an attack of lumbago that has
laid me low. I don't mind confiding in you that I am hoping to make
Mrs. Waller my wife. We would have been married before if it had not
been for this nervous condition that has made it necessary for her to
be placed in confinement for the time being."

"Wretch! Miserable wretch!" stormed Josie.

"She, perhaps," the letter continued, "will not remember that she had
consented to marry me after a reasonable time should have elapsed since
the death of her husband. Part of her dementia was that she had never
cared for me, when the truth of the matter was nothing but her wifely
loyalty kept her from running away with me, even before Stephen Waller
went overseas."

"Just a pack of lies! And so he is going to see her just as soon as the
lumbago lets him up out of bed. Well, Josie O'Gorman, it looks as
though you would have to change jobs again."

From the postoffice Josie went to a ticket office. After consulting a
time table she bought a ticket, engaged a berth for that night, ran in
to see Alice Chisholm and tell her that she must leave town
immediately, giving her directions where to forward mail and repeat
telegrams.

"Ask Miss Denton to keep my room for me indefinitely. I'll pay whatever
it is. I may need it soon. Just tell her urgent business keeps me from
the city.

"Tell me, Alice--you seem to know the ins and outs of Atlanta people--
was there ever an affair between Mrs. Waller and Chester Hunt?"

"He was supposed to have courted her before she married Stephen Waller,
but it was a well-known fact that she did not like him. It was
astonishing to some of their acquaintances that Stephen Waller should
have made his stepbrother his executor because of Mrs. Waller's evident
dislike of him. Mr. Waller was devoted to him, however, and perhaps his
wife never let him know how she felt about Chester Hunt."

Josie went back to her place of service. Armed with a hot iron she
reported to the master.

"I bane come to press your back, sir."

"Can I trust you not to burn me?" the suffering man queried.

Josie wondered whether he could or not. "I'd like to make such a big
blister on him he could not put on a shirt for weeks to come," she
thought, but she put on an especially stupid expression and said dully,
"I never have burnt anything yet, sir."

Gently she pressed the aching back with an iron just hot enough.

"Gee, that's fine! Do you know, Miss Josie Larson, there are some
things better than beauty and better than brains at times?"

"Yah! Being a good laundress," declared Josie, "but that bane take more
sense than you think, sir."

"Well, perhaps. Anyhow, you are a good girl. I'd like to do something
nice for you--give you something for being so kind to me. What would
you like,"

"I'd like to have the bowls with the rabbits and the chickuns on them."

"Take them! Take them, girl! Take them and welcome," he laughed,
"ghosts and all!"

When Josie packed her suitcase she carefully put in the two bowls. From
a drawer in the library table she purloined a photograph that she had
discovered there when she had dusted the room in the morning, trying to
make it a bit more presentable before the master came down to
breakfast. It was a picture of a handsome, soldierly looking man in an
officer's uniform, with two children snuggling up to him. The children
were Polly and Peter--some years younger but the little Wallers without
doubt. The officer must be their father.

"Stealing is not my forte," Josie said to herself, "but I fancy this
photograph will never be missed by the present occupant of this house.
I may need this in my business."

Josie arranged an attractive supper tray for the sick man.

"You'd better eat a plenty," she warned him. "It bane a long time
before your breakfast." Then she took herself to task for cracking the
quiet joke on him. It surely would be a long time--much longer than he
had any idea of.

Chester Hunt slept in a fool's paradise that night. Soothed by the
ironing of his aching back and comforted by the tray of nourishing and
appetizing food, he had dropped into a doze early in the evening from
which he had only awakened to congratulate himself on the treasure of a
Swedish maid he had at last found.

"She is almost a half-wit," he had said to himself, "but she can cook
and clean and seems to have the kindest heart in the world. She
wouldn't be bad looking if only she did not look so all-fired foolish."
Even Josie's atrocious make-up couldn't blot out entirely her good
looks.

At that very moment the so-called half-wit was boarding a train for the
village in Indiana where a certain sanitarium was situated. Faithful in
small things, according to her father's teaching, Josie had left her
employer's abode in much better order than she had found it, in spite
of having worked for the man only about thirty hours. The kitchen and
dining room were spotless, silver and glass polished and china presses
in order. She left a note on the hall table, which the infuriated
Chester Hunt was to find after a morning spent in frantic pushing of
the bell in his bedroom and vain bellowings over the bannisters for
Josie Larson. It was only after supreme effort that he could get out of
bed, but once he got on his feet it was not so difficult to walk.

"Josie! Josie!" he yelled. "Where are you? What do you think I am to do
with no breakfast? This is a fine way to treat a sick man." His voice
echoed down the hall. Hearing a noise on the street that he thought
proceeded from the kitchen he called again, "Hurry up, you fool. I have
been calling you for hours!"

There was no answer to this command. He leaned over the bannisters and
spied the note on the hall table. Painfully and slowly, his dressing
gown wrapped around him and his slippers flapping dolefully on the
steps, he made his way to the lower hall. Josie had enjoyed greatly
writing that note. It was difficult to do and for that reason great
fun.

Note to self: This is done in letter style. For some reason, it is only
justified, instead of smaller margins. Slightly smaller font, too.

Respected Mr. Hunt:

I bane sad to leave you without more formal leave-taking, but you were
snoring so happy when I went up stairs I bane had no heart to awoken
you. I bear you no grudge for almost letting me know I bane a fool and
am not leaving your service because of that, although it is not happy
to know I can not hide what a fool I bane no matter how hard I work. I
take the two bowls with rabbits and chickuns, the same you gave to me.
I go from your service because in part the son of my aunt's father is
dead. Because of my so sudden leaving I do not charge you for the work
I have given you. It bane a pleasure to work for you. I more profit got
from it than you I gave.

Yours devoted,
Miss JOSIE LARSON.

"The son of her aunt's father," repeated Chester Hunt. "What relation
would that be? What a fool the girl is anyhow! Why didn't she say her
uncle? It might even have been her father," he laughed grimly. "Well,
fool or no fool, Miss Josie Larson, you are the best servant I have
had."



CHAPTER XV
JOSIE VISITS INDIANA

When Josie arrived at her destination she went to the one small hotel
the village boasted and, engaging the only room in the house with a
private bath, she made herself comfortable for the time being. She
needed sleep before she could engage in the adventure she was planning.
A hotel or boarding house is a good place in which to pick up
information and Josie wanted to pick up a little information before she
proceeded.

The proprietor of the hotel was a sieve for gossip and in less than
twelve hours Josie had not only had a good night's rest but she had
learned several things she considered of importance. The host was a man
of generous proportions and a loud emphatic utterance, with which he
gave voice to a perpetual grievance he had concerning the high cost of
food and the low price of board.

"Nothing in it! Nothing in it! I have been keeping this here hotel for
thirty years and if it wasn't for the war I'd be in the poor house this
minute. The war did whoop things up for me a bit. A camp within six
miles meant I kept my house full to running over with wives and mothers
and what-not."

"Did it leave off, this prosperity, when the war was over," asked
Josie.

"Well, the hospital still hands me a bit of business."

"You mean the sanitarium?"

The hotel man snorted in disgust.

"Not on your life! That old skinflint, Dr. Harper, who is running the
sanitarium, has a place he calls his Guest House, and when folks come
to see their nutty relations he sees to it that they stop there. There
is never a nickel that gets by that old gouger. I mean Uncle Sam's
hospital that is yonder just over the hill. It's a place for nuts, too,
the men that got done up during the war. Poor fellows! They make me
feel right bad, but I am glad they have built the hospital near me,
s'long as they have to have one."

"That is sad--as sad as anything in the world," sighed Josie. "Do the
inmates of that hospital have to be confined?"

"Not all of them. Some of them have merely lost memory. There was a
fellow in here yesterday. He is a real gentleman, but somehow in the
shuffle of war he got dropped on the floor. He can't remember his name
and nobody can trace his connections in the army. He was a prisoner in
Germany for a long time--was ill there and had typhoid fever on top of
shell shock and his captors didn't take the trouble to keep his
identification tag and here the poor fellow is walking around in a kind
of daze. He seems to be healthy and sane but just can't remember who he
is or where he came from. He has a kind of job at the hospital because
he is so trustworthy. They send him to the station to meet people who
are arriving and they tell me he reads to the patients a lot. There's
nothing like eddication. It will stick to you when everything else is
gone. He has the saddest face you ever saw. That man gives me the
willies."

"How about the sanitarium run by this Dr. Harper?" asked Josie. "Does
it have a good reputation?".

"About as good as Judas Iscariot!" exclaimed the hotel keeper with
violence. "I'd just as soon put any of my nutty kin in the penitentiary
and sooner. I betcher that Harper is going to get in trouble some of
these days. There's a lot going on there that won't bear the light. Old
skinflint! Never a customer has he sent me. He can't keep any help,
either, just because he is such a one to squeeze a dollar until the
eagle shrieks. He's always advertising for nurses and servants. I saw
an ad only yesterday in a Chicago paper."

"Is that so? Are the nurses trained nurses?"

"Trained nothing! He doesn't give them as much wages as I give old
Black Annie who scrubs the halls and porches at my hotel. He just picks
up any woman or man who is willing to work for him and puts them in to
nurse. He calls himself running a training school for nurses. Don't
talk to me about that old Harper!"

As Josie was not talking to him but encouraging him to talk to her she
could but smile and continue her questions. She had registered as J.
O'Gorman, Dorfield, and had engaged her room for a week.


"I may have to be away from town on business through the county, but I
want to retain my room and get you to look after any mail or telegrams
that may come for me," said Josie. She had telegraphed the
Higgledy-Piggledies her whereabouts as soon as she was established,
and written a long special delivery letter to Mary Louise, telling her
as much as was pertinent about her adventures in Atlanta.

"It is a comfort to be registered as my own self and to be wearing my
own clothes and hair," she confided to Mary Louise, "but the morrow, I
hope, will find me assuming another character."

The morrow did. She applied to the sanitarium for a job as nurse and
was taken on, without the formality of asking what experience she had
had or even for the credentials which she had been at great pains to
get up for herself.

The grounds around the sanitarium were well laid out and quite
imposing, with large trees and well-grouped shrubs. The buildings were
handsome but gloomy-looking. Dr. Harper was a benevolent-looking old
man, with a long white beard and a voice, as Josie afterwards described
it, like hot fudge. He always addressed everyone with some endearment
such as, "My dear child," "My son," "My dear girl," or "Little one."
Josie could hardly believe he was the same one who had written the
letter to Chester Hunt, a copy of which she had in her note hook.

"What a lot a long white heard can hide," was her thought after her
interview with the seemingly benevolent old gentleman.

Her job was secured. She was to look after those patients who were not
so very ill but were to be watched and whose every attempt to leave the
grounds must be frustrated.

"You are small, my child," Dr. Harper had said. "Are you strong enough
in case of--er--emergency to take a hand in controlling a patient?"

"I think so."

"Well, we can but try," purred the doctor. "Be gentle with them, my
dear child. Gentleness does more than violence. Many of them are not
difficult at all. Just be patient."

"Yes, sir." Josie then received instructions from a head nurse, who was
in reality a kind of matron. She was a hard-faced woman with a voice as
unrelenting as Dr. Harper's was soft. "I'd trust her sooner than I
would him," thought Josie.

"There is one patient here whose mind is cured, if there ever was
anything the matter with it," the nurse said. "She is trying to get
out, but her folks don't want her to yet. I guess they know their
business, but I'm not one to leave all to the folks unless I know them
mighty well."

"Which one is she?" asked Josie, her heart jumping with excitement.

"That delicate-looking lady over yonder, walking under the trees. She
walks all the time, back and forth, no matter how cold it is. We can
hardly keep her in the house. Her husband was killed during the war.
She is a nice lady and tries to buck up for her children's sake, she
says. Old Harper has it in for her because she uses her wits, but old
Harper is a terrible old person to boss."

Josie noticed that nobody had any respect for the head of the
institution. He was always spoken of as "Old Harper," or "The Old One,"
and one attendant who was a reader of Shakespeare always called him
"Grey Beard Loon." The morale of the place was low in consequence of
the lack of respect the employees felt for the head. Only the lowest
and most brutal types of nurses and servants were willing to remain for
any length of time at the sanitarium. The head nurse, from whom Josie
had received her instructions, was an exception. She had a hard face
and a harder voice hut somewhere, deep down in her heart, there was a
soft spot and never was she cruel or unreasonable. Josie grew to feel
that she stayed on at the place to keep Dr. Harper from doing more harm
than he was doing. He evidently respected her and relied on her, in
spite of the fact that she made no attempt to hide her dislike and
contempt for him.

The delicate looking lady, who spent her time pacing up and down the
gravel paths under the great trees, was none other than Mrs. Waller.
Josie would have recognized her anywhere, not only from the photograph
that little Polly had managed to keep with her through all of her
wanderings but from the strong likeness Peter bore to her--the same
great trusting eyes and sensitive mouth and the same set to the head,
which was carried well up through any and all misfortunes.

It was an easy matter to approach this woman who had been in a manner
put in her care. One look in her eyes assured Josie that she was
perfectly sane. The mouth was sensitive but firm and Josie was sure
that a person with that mouth could control her emotions unless under
great stress, as she had perhaps been when the nervous breakdown had
come upon her after the long anxiety concerning the soldier husband.

"Mrs. Waller," Josie said gently, "I have been sent to look after you."

"I am in need of nothing," was the dignified answer. Mrs. Waller
continued to walk. Evidently she had no desire to engage in
conversation with an attendant at the sanitarium. They were all alike,
either coarse and brutal or stupid beyond belief.

Josie joined her, walking by her side.

"Mrs. Waller, I have news for you but you must be careful and not show
any emotion while I talk with you." Josie's voice was quiet and firm.
"I am your friend and am here at this sanitarium to see you. I have
been engaged as a nurse by Dr. Harper, but am really here to give you
news of--"

"My husband!" gasped the poor lady, trying to be as calm as Josie.

"No, dear lady, of your children."

"They are well?"

"Yes, well and loving you all the time and talking about you
constantly. They are in good hands now."

"Ah--my Polly and Peter!"

Then Josie told the poor woman all that she knew of the two children.
Her eyes flashed at the mention of the so-called Cousin Dink, but on
the whole she controlled herself remarkably well during the recital--so
well that Josie felt it was safe to go into detail concerning her visit
to Atlanta, even to the ironing of Chester Hunt's back.

"Why, why didn't you burn him?" she laughed, "but thank you for the
pepper you put on his chop." That laugh reassured Josie as to the
sanity of Mrs. Waller.

"They have told me that my children have forgotten me and never asked
for me. Chester Hunt has done his best to make me think that they are
depraved beyond belief, always pretending to love me and condole with
me because of their lack of feeling. My poor babies! Never have I
doubted them--never for an instant!"

Josie then told her of the letter Chester Hunt had written Dr. Harper
and of his intention to marry her willy nilly.

"Marry me! But I am married! Ah, I see you think I am demented because
I say that, but my husband is alive. I know it as well as I know that I
am here in this awful prison-like place and that you have come from
outside to help me. I know it as I know that you are an honest, kind
girl with more sense in your little finger than Chester Hunt and that
wretched Dink have in their whole make-up. I know he is alive because
if he had died I'd have felt it. We were so close, so in sympathy, that
nothing could happen to one without the other divining it. There was
and is a bond between us that is in a way supernatural. I know and feel
at all times that he is unhappy, miserable and in trouble, but he is
not dead.

"If he were dead this load would be lifted from my heart. I'd be glad
again knowing that he was at peace and his troubles were over. If I
could get out of this place I could find him. I know I could. Sometimes
I think he is quite near me--not near like a spirit but in flesh. Once
I ran through the grounds calling to him. I could not help it.
Something urged me on, and then it was they put me in close
confinement, declaring I was raving crazy.

"We often used to talk of that sympathy that existed between us. It was
like second sight, only it seemed natural and normal. I was so
dependent on him and he on me. Neither of us had any relations. This
stepbrother of his was the only tie he had and of course that is not a
blood tie. Chester Hunt was the only shadow that ever came between us.
I always hated the man but Stephen loved him and I tried to conceal my
feelings in regard to him. I wish I had been more open and honest about
it now, because then my dear husband would not have put me so in the
power of this wicked person by making him executor of his will."

"Well, now you know your children are safe and well and no matter what
Mr. Hunt tries to make you believe concerning them, you will know he is
lying," said Josie. "He is going to try to work on your feelings about
them to make you marry him. Why have you not tried to get help through
your friends, Mrs. Waller?"

"I have written and written but never an answer from a soul and now I
realize the letters were always seized by this man Harper. When no
answers came I felt I had been deserted by God and man and was to be
left forever in this place--never to see my children or husband again.
Now you have come, my dear, everything will be all right. To think I
don't even know your name! I never can thank you enough."

"I don't need any thanks if I can just unravel the mystery--not that it
is a real mystery--just a tangle. I was willing to do anything for
Polly and Peter from the minute I saw them and now I am willing to do
just that much more for their mother. Besides I shall be rather glad to
get even with Chester Hunt for calling me so many kinds of fool."



CHAPTER XVI
JOSIE GETS A RIDE

Josie made herself so useful to Mrs. Stark, the head nurse, that in a
few days time she was high in that person's favor. Poor Mrs. Waller was
so cheered by the news brought to her that she became much more
tractable and less trouble to Dr. Harper and he, too, was grateful to
Josie for this change that had been wrought in one of the patients.

"The girl has a cheerful way with her that makes all the poor souls
less miserable," Mrs. Stark told the doctor. "She is trustworthy too. I
do hope we can keep her. She is not at all above doing maid's work. In
fact, she asked to be allowed to take care of some of the rooms when
she found we were short of servants. She is quick and orderly."

Of course Josie saw to it that Mrs. Waller's room was one to be cleaned
by her. It gave her opportunity to talk to the poor lady in private and
many times must she tell everything she could recall concerning Polly
and Peter. Josie produced the photograph of Stephen Waller and the
children and it proved a great comfort to the wife and mother. She had
not been allowed to bring from home a single thing to remind her of her
loved ones.

Josie had an afternoon off. She was anxious to inquire for mail at the
hotel. Also to get some things from the suitcase she had left in her
room. She had heard from Mary Louise, who reported all well at Dorfield
and the Children's Home Society as flourishing. Polly and Peter were
more and more beloved by all. There was a growing demand to adopt them
but dear old Dr. Weston had refused to give them up, hoping for better
things for them. The Higgledy-Piggledy Shop was flourishing in spite of
the absence of a valued partner.

The sanitarium was situated about half a mile from the village. It was
a pleasant walk in good weather, but on Josie's afternoon off it had
set in for a cold spring drizzle, disagreeable enough to dampen the
ardor of anybody but Josie O'Gorman, who scorned the excuse of dreary
weather for the doleful dumps. Well protected with rubbers and
raincoat, the girl paddled along the muddy road, busily going over in
her mind a plan of action. She realized she must get from Mrs. Waller
letters to her friends in Atlanta and they must be fully informed of
the injustice that was being done her and take legal action for her
release from this durance vile to which she had been subjected. Those
friends, of course, had been told by Chester Hunt that she was crazy.
They had taken his honesty for granted and had been hoodwinked by his
seeming distress over the condition of his brother's wife. The question
was, how soon must she leave the sanitarium and how proceed?

Josie's instinct was to go to Dorfield and there get help from Mr.
Peter Conant and Chief Charlie Lonsdale. On the other hand, she did not
want to leave the sanitarium until after Chester Hunt's promised visit
to that institution. She found several letters awaiting her at the
hotel. The host welcomed her cordially. Of course it was not a very
regular thing to have an unattached, mysterious young woman engage the
best room in the house, the one known as the bridal chamber, and then
not occupy it but go cavorting over the county on some kind of unknown
business, blowing in to the hotel occasionally for mail and inquiring
eagerly for telegrams, but business was business and it was profitable
to rent the best room with bath and then not have it occupied--no wear
and tear on it at all, no change of linen or cry for soap and towels.

Josie realized it was an extravagance but she had a feeling she might
need that room soon and need it badly and this was no time to be small
about money. She took from the suitcase the two porridge bowls,
determined to pretend to Mrs. Stark that she had bought them as a
present for Mrs. Waller, feeling that they might be a comfort to the
mother.

As she tramped back to the sanitarium, rather enjoying paddling through
the puddles and feeling the cold rain on her face, she heard the sound
of a motor. She stepped aside to let the army truck pass, but it slowed
up and stopped beside her. There was nobody but the chauffeur in the
car. He leaned from his seat and spoke to her in a gentle voice, with
an accent unmistakably southern with a soft slurring of the final g and
an almost imperceptible r--too subtle to be pronounced a dialect but
still decided enough to place the man below the Mason and Dixon line.

"I believe I am going your way and I shall be very glad to take you to
your destination," he said, saluting her. "It is a bad day to be
walking."

Josie was sorry to have her walk cut short but the man's courtesy was
not to be gainsaid. She climbed up on the seat by him, thanking him
frankly. She had seen him before, where, she could not remember.

"Are you in the army?" she asked.

"I suppose so," he answered whimsically.

"They tell me I am, but I can't remember ever getting in it. I can't
remember anything, in fact. I remember how to read and how to speak
French and some German and whenever I get hold of a book I have read
before the plot comes back to me if it happens to be a novel, but my
past life is a blank. If I could get some inkling of it I believe it
would come back like the plot of the novels. I am as well as can be
physically and the alienists say I am as sane as anyone, but I might
have been born yesterday, for all I know of my life before I became
conscious in a vile German prison camp.

"But I wonder why I tell you all this! It seems hardly fair to pick up
a young lady on the road and take advantage of her helplessness to pour
in her ear my own troubles."

"Oh, please, tell me! I am very much interested. Do you never have any
remembrance of your former existence? Do not odors or sounds or sights
bring some vague impression of yesterday?"

"Why--yes! Violets seem to mean more to me than other flowers. Why, I
don't know--but I have a feeling that someone I must have loved and who
loved me is in trouble. I can't get rid of the feeling. But if it is
so--if anyone does love me why doesn't he or she find me? I'm here--not
really lost. If I only could get some clue--a name--an address--
something, anything on which to build."

He turned and looked at Josie. She met his gaze with a long wondering
look.

"Stop the car, please, for a moment," she asked. He obeyed immediately.

"Mr. Waller," she said gently, "Don't you remember these little
porridge bowls?"

She tore the wrappings from the bowls, disclosing the rabbits and the
chickens. The man took them in his hands reverently. His lips pressed
together to form the letter P.

"Yes," said Josie, "Polly and Peter! You lived in Atlanta on Peachtree
Street. Your wife is Mary and your name is Stephen. You enlisted in the
United States Army at the first call to arms. Your wife is well and so
are your children."

"Mary! Mary!" he cried, and clasping the porridge bowls to his heart he
wept--great sobs shaking his frame.

When he could control himself he begged Josie to tell him more.
"Everything is coming back to me in leaps and bounds. It is just like
the plots of the novels that I have read before. Now we must go and
report to the Colonel. The funny thing is I remember now that I am a
captain. At least I was. Perhaps I am dead in the eyes of the army. I
reckon I was reported missing in action."

"Your wife believes you are alive." Then Josie must tell the poor man
of all the trials his wife had undergone and of the perfidy of Chester
Hunt. She did it in as few words as possible. He was deeply moved at
the story of her sufferings.

"To think of her being so close to me all the time! Once I thought I
heard someone calling me. I couldn't catch the name but there was a
tone of voice that rang in my ears for days and days. It was while I
was driving the truck, and bless me if it wasn't going along that road
that leads near that sanitarium. I must report to the Colonel first and
then I can go get my wife."

"Dr Harper may make some trouble, as his rule is not to let a patient
out until the person who is responsible for her being there comes to
remove her."

"We'll see about that," and his jaws snapped together much to Josie's
admiration. She had great respect for a firm jaw.

"I am leaving my job now, as there is no use in my staying longer in
the employ of the oily Dr. Harper. Perhaps I can help you. It is a pity
for dear Mrs. Waller to spend another moment in this place where she
has been so miserable. It would take some time for Mr. Hunt to reach
here from Atlanta. When he comes he may make trouble about identifying
you. He is so determined that you are dead, but I shall let your wife
go into details concerning what that man hopes to gain by your death."

The Colonel was accessible and as delighted at the restoration of
Stephen Waller's memory as Josie herself. Indefinite leave was given
him and the Colonel advanced enough money from his own private funds to
enable him to travel comfortably with his wife.



CHAPTER XVII
HUSBAND AND WIFE

"I have come for my wife. I am Stephen Waller."

Those words were simple enough but Dr. Harper seemed to find them most
confusing. He wagged his venerable beard like an angry goat and said
nothing at first, but like a goat he looked as though he might be
gathering his forces for a mighty butting.

"I don't know what you mean. I know nothing of your wife."

"Nothing of a Mrs. Waller who has been in your sanitarium for a year or
more?"

"Nothing!"

"See here! I am not going to stand any foolishness. Do you mean to say
you have not a patient named Mrs. Waller?"

"I do not! I have such a patient but she is a widow and I am sure she
knows nothing of you. How am I to know who you are?" asked Harper.

"You can get out of here faster than you got in. I have plenty of men
here who can put you out and none too gently. Mrs. Waller was put in my
care by a Mr. Chester and he, and he alone, has the authority to remove
her from my sanitarium."

Josie had slipped up to Mrs. Waller's room when she left Captain Waller
at the door and there, as gently and with as much composure as she
could command, she told her of her husband.

"I knew it, I knew it all the time. I must go to him." Lightly she ran
down the stairs and into the office, past the wagging beard of the
angry Harper and into the arms of the shabby soldier.

"Stephen!"

"Mary!"

Even the incredulous Dr. Harper could but be convinced that they really
were husband and wife.

"Well, she can't leave until her board is paid," he blustered. "It is
months in arrears and I have no idea of losing it."

Dr. Harper had not noticed that Josie had come in the office behind
Mrs. Waller. Josie had a way of being able to efface herself almost
entirely--she stood so still and was so silent.

At Dr. Harper's words she made herself seen and heard, however. From
her pocket she produced a small note book filled with cryptic
characters and from it she read solemnly like a recording angel. First
was the letter to Chester Hunt from Dr. Harper. Date and all she gave
with businesslike precision. Then she read Chester Hunt's answer to
that letter, with a copy of the check which was enclosed with it.

"You can't deny then," Josie said severely, "that Mrs. Waller's board
has been paid and paid in advance and also that you have been conniving
with this Chester Hunt in unlawfully detaining this lady in your
institution after she has been entirely cured of any nervous malady she
may have had."

Dr. Harper was speechless for a moment. He had tried to interrupt her
but with a warning finger Josie had held him spellbound. At last he
sputtered:

"You--you--why you are nothing more than a servant in my establishment.
Get out of my office!"


"I have been a servant in your establishment to further my own ends.
Now I am through with my job. I'll ask you, sir, to pay me off, as I am
leaving. I have served you well in the capacity of servant and the
laborer is worthy of his hire."

"Who are you, anyhow?" he exploded wrathfully.

"I am Josie O'Gorman. Perhaps you remember my father, Detective
O'Gorman. He had certain dealings with you and had not he been cut off
at the height of his career, his reckoning with you would have come,
much to your undoing. As it is, he only scared you a bit. I am merely
carrying on his work. I have scared you a bit more. Now I fancy you
will let Captain Waller take his wife away unmolested. No doubt Mr.
Chester Hunt will soon be here to settle with you. You owe me $17.35. I
prefer cash."

The angry old man counted out the money, his hand shaking and his beard
wagging. He was loath to have them go without giving them his heartfelt
curses, but he was speechless.

"Now I feel justified in having retained the room and bath at the
hotel," Josie said to herself. "Captain and Mrs. Waller can be
comfortable in it and no doubt my host can put me up in a smaller way."

The last train that might connect with the line going to Dorfield had
gone and there was nothing to do but wait until morning.

"The children are safe and not unhappy," smiled Mrs. Waller, "so we
must content ourselves for a few hours in realizing that."

"I am going to telegraph my friend Mrs. Danny Dexter--Mary Louise--and
tell her to prepare the children for the great happiness in store for
them. Or would you rather surprise them?"

"It is hardly fair to keep them in ignorance of their dear father's
being alive just for the pleasure we might get in surprising them,"
said the mother.

"That is so like you, Mary. I can't see how I ever could for one
instant have forgotten all your goodness," and Stephen Waller held his
wife closer, in spite of Josie's presence.

They had a merry little dinner that evening in the hotel, having the
dining room to themselves. The host was all smiles and good cheer. He
felt in a measure responsible for reuniting this interesting couple.
Had he not received with hospitality this young detective person who
was, to say the least, mysterious? Had he not told her first of the
poor soldier who had mislaid his memory? Had he not made her wise as to
the general unworthiness of Dr. Harper and his skinflint methods of
never throwing business to the hands of the local hotel keeper? Had he
not cheerfully reserved the best room in the house for days and days
for this strange little person?

And so Captain and Mrs. Waller and Josie were perfectly willing to
include him in the general festivities. Josie felt that the reunited
pair should have a tete a tete dinner but they would not hear of her
leaving them.

"Stephen must hear all you have to tell of the children," said Mrs.
Waller. "To think of the little things telling you of their porridge
and of those bowls being instrumental in restoring their father to us.
It sounds like the most romantic novel."

"Not at all," insisted Josie. "There has been too much coincidence in
this reality for it to go down as fiction. All the teachers of story
writing would tell you that. They might allow one bit of coincidence
but not so much as has occurred in this realistic plot. It wouldn't
even go down as a detective tale. I have had too much lost motion in my
plans for even that. I needn't have taken the job of canvasser in the
first place. That was plain foolishness and if I hadn't have run
against that peach of a girl, Alice Chisholm, I'd have been a total
loss to my boss, the man introducing household necessities and jeweled
novelties. I am wasting money even now in retailing that room at Mrs.
Denton's. A good detective wastes neither time nor money."

"Well, thank goodness we are real people and not characters in a
novel," laughed Captain Waller. "We are together and a dear girl
brought us together by her intelligence and diligence. If she is not
the type out of which a good detective tale can be manufactured then so
much the worse for the detective tales. Give me a live girl every time
and never mind the plot.

"The only thing I can't reconcile to reality is Chester Hunt. Why, he
has been like my own brother--at least I have felt that way about him,
ever since my mother married his father when I was nothing but a little
shaver. My stepfather only lived two years and then my mother had the
raising of Chester. He was five years older than I was and I always
looked up to him. He is so handsome and so clever."

"Handsome is as handsome does," said Josie "and if he had been a little
cleverer he would not have trusted that fake Swedish maid who had no
word to express her nationality but bane for been.

"Listen! Mrs. Waller, you must not get excited, but I think I hear Mr.
Chester Hunt's voice."



CHAPTER XVIII
CHESTER HUNT CONFESSES

The dining room of the little hotel opened directly into the lobby and
the proprietor's desk could be plainly seen from where our friends were
seated at dinner. It was Chester Hunt leaning over the desk and
demanding from the proprietor the best room and bath.

"I have been ill, man, and I must be comfortable."

"But the room with the bath is occupied," the landlord objected.

"Well, get them out of it. I telegraphed for reservations. You surely
got my wire."

"I did not, but it was occupied whether you wired or not," bristled the
proprietor.

Finally Chester Hunt must content himself with another room, without
the bath.

"Dinner?"

"Naturally."

Captain and Mrs. Waller's faces were as though they had been carved of
stone as Hunt, all unconscious of their presence, entered the dining
room with something of the superiority in his manner that Josie had
felt he assumed for the benefit of those he did not consider his
equals. His face showed he had been ill. He paid no attention to the
other occupants of the dining room, but seated himself at a table to
one side. He was facing Josie. Mrs. Waller's back was towards him and
Captain Waller's profile was in his direct line of vision. Mrs. Waller
raised her eyes to her husband's face. No graven image could have been
more immovable. Josie gave her attention to Chester Hunt's countenance,
determined not to miss his expression when first he became aware of
Stephen Waller's presence. She felt reasonably certain of his not
recognizing in her his one-time jewel of a general house-worker.

Having given his order for dinner Chester Hunt finally deigned to
notice that there were other occupants of the hotel dining room. He
gave a cursory glance in the direction of the three persons at the
table near him. A spasm of terror crossed his face. There was a sound
of grating on the tesselated floor, as he pushed his chair back. His
mouth opened in an involuntary gasp. Josie noted his agitation but she
could but admire his quick command of himself. In a moment his face had
assumed its normal suavity. It was evident that he had decided that he
had been startled with nothing but a resemblance. This man in the hotel
dining room could not be his stepbrother. Stephen was dead.

Hunt's eyes traveled uneasily to the lady whose back was towards him.
Those lines were unmistakable! That poise of the small head, the way
the hair grew at the nape of the neck--it was Mary Waller, his
brother's wife! Wildly he looked at the third person at the table.
Where had he seen her before? He couldn't for his life remember, but
that countenance was familiar.

There were certain things about Chester Hunt that Josie could not help
admiring, archvillain though she knew him to be. His good looks of
course she must approve of, his debonair grace and easy bearing; but
what she respected about him was his quick grasp of a situation. She
saw the moment he recognized the fact that he was in the same room with
his long lost stepbrother and his wife he became convinced the game was
up and he must make the best of it and begin salvaging what he could
from the wreck he had made of his affairs through his inordinate
ambition and brotherly affection was his cue. He immediately jumped
from his seat and hurried across the room, his hands out and his face
beaming with a joy that he assumed with the ease of a consummate actor.

"Stephen! My brother! I am overcome with joy! My boy, we thought you
were dead--Mary and I. I am here now to take Mary from the sanitarium
where they have effected a most marvelous cure on the poor girl. My
dear brother! My dear sister!"

Funny Stephen did not respond. What could they know? He looked again at
the little person seated at the table with his brother and his wife.
Where on earth had he seen her before? What connection had she with
this affair? He hardly expected much warmth from Mary. She had been
queer of late, but Stephen had always been devoted to him.

"Tell me where you have been, dear boy. Don't be so--so mysterious. I
have been looking after your affairs to the best of my ability."

"Yes?" was all Captain Waller would say.

"You might know I would. Stephen, you are unappreciative. Where have
you been hiding? Why am I, your own brother, the last person to hear
that you are alive and, I hope, well and returned to the bosom of your
family?"

Captain Waller's face lost its frozen expression. His cheeks, which had
been deadly pale from the moment he heard the voice of Chester Hunt,
now flushed painfully. He sprang from his chair and stood facing the
other man.

"Where are my children?" was all he said.

"Oh, they are all right--in good hands. If that is what is eating you,
old fellow, you can drop your heroics and embrace your brother."

"What good hands?"

"When Mary got sick--of course you must know how very ill she has
been--I hardly knew what to do with the kids. They had got a bit
unruly  because of their mother's being in such a bad way and naturally
my first care was for her and I felt it wiser to have them away from
her for the time being--"

"So you got some of our good friends at home to look after them? That
was natural and right."

"No-o, I did not. The fact was Polly and Peter were pretty difficult
and nobody really wanted them--that is nobody whom I might have
trusted--so I sent for a cousin of mine, a very worthy, high-principled
young woman, Miss Dingus. You have heard me speak of her. I saw a good
deal of her after I left Atlanta. She is a cousin of my father's.
Cousin Dink, we call her. I was sure she would take good care of the
children and give them the proper surroundings and education until
their mother could resume charge of them. I get weekly reports from her
and she says they are thriving--"

"And where does this Cousin Dink live?"

"She is in Chicago. She writes me she is devoted to the kids and gives
them the greatest care. Polly has had a little trouble with her throat
lately but the doctor assured Cousin Dink it was not infectious."

"How long is it since you have seen them?"

"Eh--eh--some time, now!"

Captain Waller looked at Chester Hunt sadly. Josie saw pity mingled
with indignation in his expression. Mrs. Waller said nothing and never
once took her eyes from her husband's face. Nevertheless she was
listening to every word that passed between the two men.

"I'll telegraph Cousin Dink immediately to prepare the children for the
great surprise," Hunt continued.

"You need not trouble to do that," said Captain Waller. "I reckon they
know we are on the way to get them by this time. Eh, Miss O'Gorman?"

When Josie was included in the conversation Chester Hunt turned and
looked at her curiously. In a spirit of mischief Josie assumed the dull
expression she had used as the Swedish servant girl and looked at her
one-time master with dull and fishy eyes.

"By heavens, Miss Josie Larson!" he exclaimed. "What are you doing
here?"

"I bane dining with Captain and Mrs. Waller, sir." Josie then resumed
her normal expression, which was one of keen intelligence, and with a
glance at her tiny wrist watch, she answered the question concerning
the children: "Yes, Captain Waller, I am sure that by this time the
message is on the way to Polly and Peter and even now Mary Louise may
be reading it to them. The telegraph delivery in Dorfield is very
prompt."

"Dorfield? Polly and Peter in Dorfield? And how did you get in this?"
Chester Hunt's manner was rude and overbearing as he addressed Josie.

"I am not such a fool as I look, Mr. Hunt. Next time you had better ask
for references when you hire a Swedish maid and don't give her bowls
with chickens and rabbits on them so she can go off and identify
husbands and fathers who have lost their memory in the war. Don't let
the fools sort your mail either. They might find out things that might
make it uncomfortable for the gracious master."

"Then you are a spy!"

"Not at all! A detective!" Josie turned over the lapel of her packet,
disclosing a small badge.

"Well, all I can say is a mighty good cook was ruined when you went
into business."

"And a mighty fine detective would be lost to the world if our little
friend here turned cook in dead earnest," said Captain Waller. "But see
here, Chester, there is no use in our beating around the bush with one
another. We must come to an understanding and it might just as well be
here, this moment, unless you are too hungry."

"No, I am afraid my appetite for dinner is gone. It is like you,
Stephen, though, to think of it. I thank you. I have been a beastly cad
and I'm ready to fess up. It was the thought of having a fortune and
owning the old house on Peachtree Street. I always loved it and it
seemed hard for you to have everything. I loved Mary before you did--"

"Never mind that part," said Captain Waller sternly. "It so happens we
know what you intended to do in regard to my wife, but the mystery to
me is what was your idea about my children? Why should you have sent
them traveling about the country with this impossible Dink, who is
nothing but a dancer in vaudeville with no manners and few morals? She
has abused the children and half starved them and finally left them
ragged and hungry in an orphan asylum or some similar institution."

"What? You have been misinformed. That is nonsense. I know for certain
she has the children with her in Chicago. I heard from her only last
week. Here is the letter," he declared, slapping his pocket. "As for
starving and ill treating the children, Dink has had a generous check
from me every week. They have had money enough to live on the fat of
the land."

"Well, then, this Dink must have feathered her own nest with it. Would
you mind, Miss O'Gorman, telling Mr. Hunt what you know of my
children?"

And then Josie told in as few words as possible all she knew of Polly
and Peter and of the whereabouts of Dink.

"There is no use in my telling you how I know these things," she said,
"but it is enough to tell you I do know them, and I also know that the
children made their last breakfast with Miss Dingus, alias Hester
Broughton, alias Margery Dubois, on a pickle and a stale cream puff.
Miss Dubois is now doing a dance turn in Chicago with one Mike Brady.
She fondly imagines when you want to see the children she can come to
Dorfield and get them away from the Children's Home as easily as she
put them there. The fact is, Miss Dingus has more sense in her heels
than her head, and her heart was left out entirely when she was made.
She hopes, however, that she will finally become Mrs. Chester Hunt,
because otherwise she would not have kept these children with her at
all. She has fooled you and you have fooled her. In both cases I am
reminded of the old story in the fairy book called 'The Biter Bit.'"

Chester Hunt bowed his head. "You are right, Miss Josie Larson, alias
Miss O'Gorman, alias Miss Sherlock Holmes. I am bit and stung alike. I
thought at least I could depend on Cousin Dink. That honor among
thieves I was sure she had. But I see she is as bad as I am. I am going
now.

"Good-bye, Stephen. I won't even ask you to shake hands with me. As for
you, Mary, I won't even ask you to speak to me or look at me. I know
you hate me as you do a snake. Miss Josie Larson, I take off my hat to
you, as being wise in your generation. Tell me something, though, if
you don't think it is too frivolous. Did you put too much pepper on my
chop on purpose?"

Josie grinned. "Yes, and if I had not bane such a good Lutheran I would
have burnt your back when I ironed it. It was hard to keep my foot from
slipping again, but I have taken a pride in my laundry work and hated
to begin scorching anything--even your back."

Chester Hunt bowed his proud head again and was gone. His dinner was
left untasted, much to the astonishment of the hotel proprietor.

"He must be a nut from Dr. Harper's," grumbled that individual.



CHAPTER XIX
A HAPPY REUNION

Josie's telegram to Mary Louise, announcing the wonderful news that
Captain and Mrs. Stephen Waller were found, united and on the eve of
departing for Dorfield, was delivered at the Dexter's apartment,
received by the little new maid and carefully deposited with the other
mail. The mistress had gone on a short journey to a neighboring town
with her young husband and expected to be away from home about
twenty-four hours. The joyful tidings lay hidden in the yellow envelope
of the telegraph company, and Polly and Peter serenely followed the
routine of the Children's Home Society in ignorance of the happiness
in store for them.

They were happy in this institution, happier than they had been since
their dear mother had begun the ceaseless and uncontrollable weeping
that had made it impossible to tear her children from her and
incarcerate her in Dr. Harper's sanitarium. Was not everyone kind to
them? Was not the food regular and wholesome with frequent delightful
treats from the beautiful Mrs. Dexter, who seemed to feel that the
Waller children were her especial orphans? Did not Polly have all the
babies to nurse and fondle that her motherly soul craved, and did not
Peter have huge piles of sand in which he might dig to his heart's
content? The only thing that marred their happiness was that some
kind-hearted person might insist upon adopting them and they would be
separated.

"There isn't much chance of anybody wantin' me," said Polly, "cause of
my hair bein' so straight. It's your curls that are the maindes'
trouble, Peter."

"Yes, I know," said Peter sadly. "I don't see what the angel that fits
the wigs on babies was a thinkin' 'bout when he did us so dirt. If we'd
a been twinses I wouldn't er blamed him for getting' kinder mixed up
an' bornin' me curly an' you straight, 'cause I reckon twinses are
right confusin', but th'ain't no 'souse when there was plenty of time
with nobody hurryin' 'em a bit. I don't see what anybody wants their
hair all kinked up like water spaniels for. I wisht mine was as
straight, as straight. I wouldn't mind a bit bein' bald headed. I tell
you what, Polly, s'pose I shave my head and nobody won't know about my
old curls!"

"Oh, no, no!" cried Polly. "You mustn't, Peter dear. It would o' been
all right if you had done it while Cousin Dink had us, 'cause it would
o' made her so mad, but we mustn't do anything to make Dr. Weston and
dear Mrs. Dexter feel sad, 'cause they're so nice an' good to us.
Another thing--s'posin' you shaved your head an' all of a sudden Mother
came. How would you feel then, mister?"

"I reckon I'd feel pretty bald headed," said Peter. "But Mother ain't
ever comin', Polly. What makes you say that?"

"I keep on a dreamin' 'bout her," answered Polly, wiping away a little
tear that gathered in the corner of her eye. "Last night I dreamed and
dreamed. She was laughing and happy and wasn't cryin' any more."

"Oh! Maybe she knows ol' Cousin Dink is gone off an' lef' us. I reckon
that would make her smile," suggested Peter. "I wisht I could dream
'bout her an' Daddy. One time I did dream 'bout him before we come here
to live but I thought that time he was a p'liceman an' was gonter git
us."

"I reckon poor Daddy is a angel in heaven by now. He'd be a soldier
angel in khaki," mused Polly. "He'd be a awful big handsome angel. If
you could only remember him, Peter! It would be so comfortin' somehow
if you could remember him the way I can,"

"Yes, him an' the vi'lets!"

The children were sitting on a bench under the old box bushes that were
clustered in the corner of the Hathaway garden. Spring had come to
Dorfield. The trees were budding, jonquils and tulips were blooming.
The foolish peaches were sticking out their pink noses forgetful of the
fact that the year before an untimely frost had nipped them in the bud.
But there was no frost in the air on that evening when, after an early,
wholesome tea the Waller children had sought the sweet seclusion of the
box bushes there to talk on the old days.

"I wonder where ol' Cousin Dink is anyhow," ventured Polly.

"I ain't knowin' or carin'. She's a mean ol' bulwhinger wherever she
is." Peter had a funny way of making up names to suit occasions. What a
bulwhinger was Polly did not know but it was a pretty good name for
Dink. "I just hope I ain't ever gonter see her again. I ain't scairt of
her anymore though. Are you, Polly?"

"I ain't 'zactly but I hope she's gone for good--" The word froze on
Polly's lips. She threw her arm around Peter as though to protect him.
Coming along the garden path was none other than the dreaded Dink.

"Get a move on you, you kids," was her greeting. "I have come for you.
I haven't got all day to wait, either. Never mind your hats. I'll buy
you some new ones. Now don't set up a bawl. God knows it ain't any
treat to me to have you tagging along after me. Mind me! Come along."

Polly and Peter clung to one another and refused to move.

"I'm not going with you and neither is Peter," declared Polly. "You are
a bad, wicked woman who tells lies."

"Oh ho! So you are not coming with me. Well, we'll see about that. I
don't want to raise a row but I fancy you will come when I tell you
your mother has sent me to get you. Eh?"

"No, we won't come then because bur mother would never send you to get
us. If she was living she would come herself if she could and if she
couldn't she'd get somebody better'n you to come."

Polly's eyes were flashing and her nostrils swelling. She must protect
Peter at all cost to herself, even though the hated Dink would kill her
for telling her such unpleasant truths. She stood up in front of the
scornful, handsome, hard-eyed woman and defied her.

"Run, Peter! Go tell Dr. Weston!" she cried to her little brother.

Peter was up and away in a flash. Dink made a dive for him but Polly
grabbed her skirt and the moment's delay gave Peter a good start. Dink
turned, gave Polly a wicked slap on her cheek, jerked her skirt from
her grasp and flew down the walk after Peter. Peter's legs were short
and Dink's extremely long. Long legs were gaining on short legs.

"She's gonter git me! She's gonter git me!" Peter told himself, but in
spite of his despair he ran the faster.

The vicious slap on Polly's soft cheek had for a moment staggered the
little girl, but Polly was the stuff that heroines are made of. Down
the walk she ran after Dink. Whatever got Peter would have to get her
as well. Dink was gaining on Peter; Polly was gaining on Dink. In
imagination Peter felt long, strong, slim fingers grabbing him by the
collar of his little jacket. Dink had caught him in that manner in days
gone by and shaken him and slapped him--even pinched him with those
long, strong fingers. She would do it again. She would surely get him.
Good-bye to the sand pile and three meals a day! Good-bye to dear Mrs.
Dexter and her wonderful stories and frequent treats! Better to be
adopted than to have Dink get him.

Just as Peter gave up hope, knowing full well that the hated Dink was
close enough to put out her hand and catch him, he ran plump into the
arms of a khaki clad man who caught him to his breast with a dry sob.

"Son, little son!" Peter heard him whisper.

"Now I'm gone dead," Peter decided. "Polly said Daddy would be a
soldier angel and now I'm in heaven with him. Ol' Dink scairt me to
death." He closed his eyes contentedly.

"Mother! Mother!" cried Polly. In a moment she too was in heaven
without having to die to get there. Her mother held her so tight it
seemed as though she would never let her from her arms again.

"My darling! My darling!" was all Mrs. Waller could say.

Dink, too, was in an embrace, but not such a loving one. She had no
idea who these persons were who had come upon the scene of action at
such an untimely moment. She only knew that a small sandy haired girl
had her by the wrists and it was useless to struggle.

"Let me go!" she said shrilly. "Who are you anyhow and what do you
folks mean by interfering with me and my children?"

"To be sure, we have the advantage of you, Miss E. Dingus, alias Hester
Broughton, alias Margery Dubois," said Josie cheerily. "Allow me to
introduce you to Mrs. Stephen Waller and Captain Stephen Waller. I
fancy you had come to the Children's Home Society for your charges. Of
course you left them here so informally I imagine you thought any
formality in removing them would be unnecessary. It seems we arrived in
the nick of time. The garden bench, where you have just had the
conversation with Polly and Peter is in earshot as well as in sight of
the street. I thought I might as well tell you this to save you trouble
in the tale you are no doubt concocting. I am sure Captain Waller will
want me to let you go and not have you arrested. He has his children
and I fancy he can do very well without avenging himself. Is not that
right, Captain Waller?"

A nod from the khaki angel assured Josie she was. She loosened her hold
on the furious if crestfallen Dink.

"I'll walk a little way with you, however, Miss Dingus. I want to give
you a little advice. You needn't bother to answer me but you must
listen. I know I irritate you beyond endurance but you have caused me a
great deal of trouble and expense and taken much of my valuable time
and now it is up to you to give me a few moments of yours."

Miss Dingus looked at the small, sandy haired girl with astonishment.
"Well, can you beat it?" was all she said. Without a word of farewell
to the children she had but a moment before announced as her own, she
turned on her French heels and walked out of the Hathaway garden. Josie
caught step with her and continued her conversation. When Josie
O'Gorman had something to say she usually said it.

"No doubt you wonder how I got in on this. I'll tell you, Miss Dingus.
I got in from the moment you entered the Children's Home Society,
disguised more or less in a cheap serge suit, with two poor little
kiddies with dirty faces and eyes full of tears. I saw by your shoes
that your dress was not the kind you usually wore and you had put it on
to pretend you could not care for the children--were too poor. I saw
how indifferent you were to Polly and Peter and how interested you were
in yourself. You don't remember me, of course. You were too taken up
with yourself--always are in fact--to notice other persons. I am the
unimportant person who put you on to a shoe sale. I knew you would take
advantage of it. I am also the person who sat by you when you were
purchasing the shoes and flattered you about your feet. They are pretty
but they have led you out of the straight and narrow path. I am going
to give you some advice now. You won't follow it because, Miss Dingus,
when all is told you have very little sense."

"Can you beat it?" Dink repeated.

"Mighty little sense and no heart, but you are a woman and my
sympathies are with you, so I'll go ahead with my advice. In the first
place, when you want to destroy letters stay with them until they are
burned to ashes. A grate in a boarding house is a poor place in which
to leave letters you don't want seen."

"Oh!" gasped Dink.

"In the next place, don't trust handsome, distant cousins, who get you
to do the dirty work."

"You mean Chester Hunt?"

"Yes, Chester Hunt! He is on to you, Miss Dingus, and since I put him
wise to your disloyalty I feel it but fair to put you on to his. Don't
trust him an inch. He is even worse than you are, because he has some
sense and there is no excuse for him. In the first place he has no more
idea of marrying you than he has of marrying me--in fact not quite so
much," declared Josie with a twinkle in her eye. "He thinks I am such a
good cook he might even consider me, but he looks down upon you as
beneath him socially in spite of the fact that your are distant
cousins. He has merely played with you and used you to gain his ends. I
can tell you on my word of honor that he intended to marry his
step-brother's widow, Mrs. Stephen Waller, and nothing but the timely
coming alive of Captain Waller prevented his trying to carry out his
plans. Of course, I was Johnny-on-the-spot and would have saved the dear
lady from such a terrible fate. There is no use in your swelling your
nostrils at me and pretending you scorn me and my news. I have proof
positive of it all. I have lived in Chester Hunt's home in Atlanta as a
domestic and there I discovered many things."

"Who are you anyhow?" stormed Dink.

Josie turned back the lapel of her coat and one glance at what it
disclosed was enough for the scornful Dink.

"You made the poor little kiddies afraid of policemen because you were
afraid of them yourself, eh? Well, you can beat it now. Anyhow, when
Chester Hunt looks you up, which he is sure to do, and begins to
reproach you for having been false to the trust he imposed in you, you
can just meet fire with fire and you can also tell him that Josie
Larson sends her regards. I fancy you have come for the children
because he has written he might come to see you any day."

Dink nodded miserably.

"He may be on his way to Chicago now, but I rather fancy he will stop
awhile and rest up. He has been ill with lumbago and on top of that the
shock of finding his much loved brother, Stephen Waller, to be alive
and well has been too much for him. When he is able to travel again he
will travel directly towards you and if you are any wiser now than you
were ten minutes ago you will make it convenient to change your
address. It would be the better part of valor not to meet Chester Hunt
until he has cooled down a bit."

"Thanks!" cried Miss Dingus in ludicrous haste. "I believe you. I'll be
going now." With a nonchalant nod she turned the corner walking as fast
as her long legs could carry her in the direction of the railroad
station.

On returning to the Hathaway house Josie found that Mary Louise and her
husband, having finally received the telegram, had hastened to inform
Polly and Peter of the good news contained therein. Already they were
fast friends with the Wallers. Dr. Weston had joined them and came in
for his share of thanks from the grateful parents.

The children looked very happy. Peter acknowledged that he was glad he
wasn't dead and his father was not an angel after all.

"I'd ruther a' been dead than go back with ol' Dink, though," said
Peter snuggling in his mother's arms.

The children changed laps every now and then, as though to make sure
that both parents were really alive and well and belonged to them,
Polly and Peter.





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