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Title: Witch Winnie's Mystery, or The Old Oak Cabinet - The Story of a King's Daughter
Author: Champney, Elizabeth W. (Elizabeth Williams), 1850-1922
Language: English
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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.

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                    WITCH WINNIE'S MYSTERY



                        [Illustration]



                    WITCH WINNIE'S MYSTERY


                     THE OLD OAK CABINET

               _THE STORY OF A KING'S DAUGHTER_


                              BY

                    ELIZABETH W. CHAMPNEY

    AUTHOR OF "WITCH WINNIE," "VASSAR GIRLS ABROAD," ETC.


            WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY C. D. GIBSON AND
                      J. WELLS CHAMPNEY.


                           NEW YORK
                    DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY
                          PUBLISHERS



                       COPYRIGHT, 1891,
                              BY
                    DODD, MEAD & COMPANY.

                    _All rights reserved._



CONTENTS.


  CHAPTER                                    PAGE

         INTRODUCTION,                          7

     I.  THE FIRST ESCAPADE OF THE SEASON,     15

    II.  THE CABINET,                          25

   III.  THE ROBBERY,                          41

    IV.  TROUBLE IN THE AMEN CORNER,           61

     V.  L. MUDGE, DETECTIVE,                  76

    VI.  HALLOWEEN TRICKS,                     96

   VII.  A STATE OF "DREADFULNESS,"           111

  VIII.  IN THE MESHES OF A GOLDEN NET,       138

    IX.  "POLO,"                              161

     X.  THE CATACOMB PARTY                   183

    XI.  A FALSE SCENT,                       210

   XII.  THE INTER-SCHOLASTIC GAMES,          229

  XIII.  POLO IS SHADOWED,                    265

   XIV.  THE CLOUDS PART,                     304

    XV.  THE OLD CABINET TELLS ITS STORY,     330

   XVI.  THE MYSTERY DISCLOSED,               354



INTRODUCTION.


For those who have not read the first volume of this series, "Witch
Winnie, the Story of a King's Daughter."

We four girls,

      Adelaide Armstrong,
      Milly Roseveldt,
      Emma Jane Anton,
      Nellie Smith,

had been chums at boarding school.

(Let it here be explained that although my name is Nellie, I am never
called anything but Tib by my friends.)

We occupied a little suite of apartments in the tower, consisting of a
small study parlor from which opened two double bedrooms and one single
one. Our family was called the Amen Corner, because our initials,
arranged as an acrostic, spelled the word Amen, and because we were a
set of little Pharisees, prigs, and "digs," not particularly admired by
the rest of the school, but exceedingly virtuous and preternaturally
perfect in our own estimation.

This was our status at the beginning of our first school year
together, and the change that came over us, owing to the introduction
into our circle of Witch Winnie, the greatest scape-grace in the most
mischief-making set of the school, the "Queen of the Hornets," has
already been told. A quieting, earnest influence acted upon Winnie, and
a natural, merry-hearted love of fun reacted on us, and we were all the
better for the companionship.

The greatest practical result outside the change in our own characters
was the formation, by the uniting of the "Amen Corner" and the
"Hornets," of a Ten of King's Daughters, who founded the Home of the
Elder Brother, for little children. This institution was adopted by our
parents, who formed themselves into a board of managers, but left much
of the working of the enterprise in our hands.[1] The Home prospered
during the first year of its existence in a truly wonderful manner. It
was undenominational and unendowed. No rich church or wealthy man stood
behind it. It was entirely dependent on the efforts of a few young
girls, and on the voluntary subscriptions of benevolent people. But it
grew day by day. Little ripples of influence widened out from our circle
to others. During the vacation our ten separated, and at each of their
homes they formed other tens, who worked for the same object. Every one
who visited the Home was interested in its plan of work, which was to
help the poor without pauperizing them; to aid struggling women whose
husbands had died, or were in hospitals or prisons, and who could have
no homes of their own, by providing them with a substitute for the baby
farming, so extensively carried on in the tenement districts, by
offering them, on the same low terms, a sweet and wholesome shelter
for their little ones. Some wondered why we charged these poor women
anything; why the _half_ charity was not made a free gift. But wiser
philanthropists saw the superior kindness of this demand. The women whom
we wished to aid were not beggars, but that worthy, struggling class
who, overburdened, but still desperately striving, must sink in the
conflict unless helped, but who still wished to do all in their power
for their children, and brought the small sum asked for their board
with a proud and happy self-respect.

  [1] This Home is a truthful picture of one really founded by a
  band of little girls--the Messiah Home, at 4 Rutherford Place,
  Stuyvesant Square, New York, which is aided in its good work by
  different circles of King's Daughters.

One of our own members, Emma Jane Anton, on graduating at Madame's,
became matron of the Home, assisted by dear Miss Prillwitz, formerly our
teacher of botany, from whose heart this beautiful thought had
blossomed.

The Home was just across the park from the school building and we
frequently visited it; but though we were all deeply interested in this
sweet charity, it did not interfere with our studies or with a great
deal of girlish, innocent fun. Since Winnie had become my room-mate we
had lost much of the prestige which was formerly the boast of the Amen
Corner, and after Emma Jane left the little single room, Madame, feeling
that our influence had done much for Winnie, sent another of the
"Hornets" into our midst.

We had accepted and adopted Winnie with all our hearts, for her many
lovable qualities, and above all for her genuine good fellowship and
affectionate nature, but Cynthia Vaughn was a very different character.
There was nothing but enjoyable fun in any of Winnie's tricks; Cynthia's
were mean and malicious. We never liked her, and she openly showed her
scorn of Winnie and of me, while she fawned in a hypocritical manner,
striving to ingratiate herself with aristocratic Adelaide and with
gentle Milly, who was the wealthiest girl at Madame's.

We were no longer the best behaved set in school, and an acrostic formed
from our initials could not now be made to spell anything; but the name
"Amen Corner" clung to the little apartment, and Madame still looked
upon us with favor. She knew that Adelaide and Milly, Winnie and I, were
all, beneath our mischief, true-hearted, earnest girls, and she
charitably hoped for great improvement in Cynthia.

There was one person who did not believe in us--Miss Noakes, our
corridor teacher. She believed that Winnie was filled with all iniquity
and that Adelaide was far too attractive to be allowed the confidence
which Madame reposed in her. It was Miss Noakes's great grievance
that she could never discover the least approach to a flirtation in
Adelaide's conduct. I believe that she fairly gloated with anticipated
triumph when Madame engaged a handsome young artist to take charge of
our art department, and that from this time she watched and peeped and
listened with an industry which would have done credit to a better
cause. She seemed to argue that as no lover of the beautiful could fail
to appreciate Adelaide's beauty, therefore our artist must admire
Adelaide, and in this deduction she was not far from the truth, but she
ought not to have taken it for granted that Adelaide must be equally
pleased with her admirer. How her espionage tracked us through several
innocent tricks and capers, and was finally foiled by our beloved
Winnie; how the great mystery of the robbery for a time brought doubt
and suspicion between four dear friends who would, and did, go through
fire and water for one another; and how, in spite of doubt and jealousy
and trouble, our love and devotion for one another: burned brightly
and steadily on to the end of the school year, and into the life
beyond--this little book will tell.

That the events which I am about to relate may be better understood, I
subjoin a plan of the "Amen Corner."

[Illustration: PLAN OF THE =AMEN CORNER=]



WITCH WINNIE'S MYSTERY.



CHAPTER I.

THE FIRST ESCAPADE OF THE SEASON.


[Illustration]

"Girls!" Winnie exclaimed excitedly as we entered our study parlor after
recitation, "I am wild with curiosity to know what they are doing in the
hospital. All the morning, while I have been trying to study, there has
been the greatest thumping and bumping going on in there. I wonder
whether they are chaining down an insane patient, or if the ghostly
nurses are having a war dance."

"Why didn't you look and see?" Cynthia Vaughn asked, pointing to the
transom over a locked door, which formerly opened from our parlor into
the hospital ward.

Madame had made abundant provision for sickness in the original
arrangement of the school building. A large sky-lighted room had been
set apart as an infirmary, and a little suite of rooms in the great
tower adjoining as the physician's quarters. But it was rare indeed
that any one was ill at Madame's, and when a pupil was taken sick, her
parents usually took her home at once. So the doctor, having nothing to
do but to hear the recitations in physiology, preferred not to reside in
the school building, and the pretty suite of rooms, consisting of a
parlor and three bedrooms, was assigned to us, and the hospital proper
was used as a trunk room. Winnie always maintained that ghosts of
medical students experimented there in the night watches on imaginary
cases of vivisection, that corpses were embalmed, and shrieks and howls
were to be heard, in the wee small hours, while phantom lights fumed
blue on the other side of the transom, and sickly odors of ether and
other drugs penetrated through the keyhole. We all laughed at Winnie's
phantasms, but there were none of us so brave as to care to visit that
room after nightfall. The trunks looked too much like coffins, and there
were dresses of Madame's sewed up in bags made of sheets, and suspended
from the roof, which had the uncanny look of corpses of people who had
hanged themselves.

It was broad daylight now, and we were not at all nervous, and Cynthia
remarked scornfully, "Winnie has told us so many of her bug-a-boo
stories that she has come to actually believe in them herself. She dare
not for her life look through that transom to see what occasions the
noise in the hospital."

"You dare me to do it?" Winnie asked, confronting Cynthia with flashing
eyes.

"Don't, Winnie," I pled. "We have no right to peep."

Winnie hesitated.

"I told you so," Cynthia said provokingly. "She dares not look. It is
only a lumber room. The noise was probably made by some cat chasing a
rat around."

"It would take a whole army of cats to make the noises I have heard,"
Winnie replied hotly, at the same time rolling Adelaide's great
Saratoga trunk in front of the door.

"There it goes again!" and as a loud hammering re-echoed through the
adjoining room, she sprang upon the trunk. The transom was still too
high for her to reach. "Quick, girls, something else," she exclaimed,
and Milly dragged the "Commissary Department" from its retirement under
my bed.

The "commissary" was a small, old-fashioned trunk, which had belonged
to my great-grandmother. It was covered with cow-skin, the hair only
partially worn off, and studded with brass-headed nails which formed the
initials of my ancestors. It was lined with newspapers bearing the date
1790, and was altogether a very quaint and curious relic. Its chief
interest to us, however, lay in the fact that it had come to us from
my home filled with all the good things that a farm can produce and a
mistakenly soft-hearted mother send. There were mince pies and pickles,
a great wedge of cheese, a box of honey, pounds of maple-sugar, tiny
sausages, a great fruitcake, jars of pickled peaches, ginger snaps,
walnuts and chestnuts, pop-corn and molasses candy, and what Milly
called the _interstixes_ were filled in with delicious doughnuts. It was
a treasure house of richness upon which we revelled in the night after
the gas was turned out and we all met in our nightgowns, and formed a
semicircle sitting on the floor around the register, while Winnie told
the most deliciously frightful ghost and robber stories.

Then, it was that the "commissary" yielded up its contraband stores and
we ate, and shivered, partly with cold and partly with delightful terror
inspired by the rehearsal of legends for which Winnie ransacked, during
the day, the pages of the detective Vidocq and Poe's prose tales.

Then if a mouse did but squeak in the deserted hospital ward, or the
shuffle of Miss Noakes's slippers was heard in the corridor outside, we
all scuttled incontinently to our beds, and Winnie snored loudly, while
Milly buried her head beneath the blankets. Miss Noakes occupied a large
room opposite the hospital. She was a disagreeable, prowling teacher and
we had nicknamed her _Snooks_.

The "commissary" being now carefully poised upon the curved top of
Adelaide's trunk, Winnie mounted upon it, and found that it was exactly
what was needed, as it brought her face just on a level with the
transom.

"O girls!" she exclaimed, "the trunks are all gone, and they are making
the room over into a studio. And that handsome man that sat at Madame's
table yesterday at dinner is in there hanging pictures. I wonder if he
is an artist and is going to teach us. My! he is looking this way,"
and Winnie crouched suddenly. The movement was a careless one, and
the commissary slid down the sloping cover of the trunk upon which it
rested, striking the door with its end like a battering-ram, and with
such force that the rusted lock yielded, and the commissary, with Winnie
seated upon it, swept forward, like a toboggan, far into the center of
the hospital.

It was strange that Winnie was not hurt, but she was not; and before the
astonished artist could quite comprehend what had happened, she had
picked herself up, scampered back into our room, and we had closed the
door behind her, and were fastening it to the best of our ability by
tying the knob to Adelaide's trunk by means of a piece of clothes-line
which had formerly served to cord the commissary.

At first we laughed long and merrily over the adventure, but by degrees
its serious aspects were appreciated.

In the first place, Milly suggested dolorously that the commissary had
fallen into the hands of the enemy, while Cynthia Vaughn drew attention
to the fact of the broken lock.

"However you girls will explain that to Madame is more than I know," she
remarked maliciously.

"_You_ girls!" Winnie repeated indignantly, "as if you were not as much
concerned in it as any of us."

"Indeed," Cynthia exclaimed scornfully, "if I remember rightly, it was
Milly who brought the commissary from its retirement, Tib who balanced
it so judiciously, and Winnie who dawned so unceremoniously on that
strange man in the other room. I had absolutely nothing to do with the
affair."

"You were the instigator of it all," I retorted hotly. "If you had not
dared Winnie to do it she would never have tried to look in."

"That is like you, Tib," Cynthia replied icily, "to get into a scrape
and then lay the blame on some one else."

"I take all the blame," Winnie exclaimed loftily. "If inquisition is
ever made into this affair, I and I alone am responsible," and then she
uttered a little shriek and scampered into her own bedroom, for some
one was knocking at the door, which we had just attempted to fasten.

"Who is there?" I asked, with as much boldness as I could muster; "and
what do you want?"

"I am Carrington Waite, the new Professor of Art, and I would like to
return property which has been most unexpectedly introduced into my
studio, unless it is possible that the articles to which I refer were
intended as a donation."

We all laughed at this sally, and made haste to unfasten the door,
whereupon Professor Waite handed in the commissary. He had a pleasant
face, and there was a merry twinkle in his eye as he said: "I tried to
bundle everything in, but the trunk collided with my box of colors, and
you may find rose madder in your jam, while the pickle jar actually
seemed to explode, and showered pickles all over the studio. I have no
doubt I shall find them along the cornice when I hang the pictures on
that side of the room. The doughnuts, too, flew in every direction. Some
rolled under the cabinets, and a mince pie applied itself like a plaster
to the back of my neck. A bottle of tomato catsup was emptied on one of
my canvases, and made a fine impressionistic study of a sunset. I am
afraid I stepped on the cheese, but I believe everything else is all
right."

He looked about him with interest, and asked, "Where is the heroine who
performed this astonishing acrobatic feat? I trust she was not hurt. It
must have been a thrilling experience. Is it a customary form of
exercise with you young ladies?"

We did not deign to reply to these questions, but I opened the
commissary and offered the artist some of our choicest dainties. He
accepted our largess, and retired with polite invitations for us to be
"neighborly" and "to call again."

"Not in just that way," I replied, and I entreated him, if possible, to
repair the broken lock. He examined it carefully.

"I am afraid," he said, "that it will require a locksmith to do it
thoroughly, but I can make it look all right, and you can screw a little
bolt on your side which will fasten the door securely."

We thanked him and he was about to close the door, when Adelaide,
who was the only one of our circle who had not had a part in the
escapade, entered the room hastily from the corridor. "O girls," she
exclaimed--but stopped suddenly as she caught sight of the open door
and the young artist. At first her face showed only blank surprise,
then, as she told herself that this must be a joke of Winnie's, who
was fond of masquerading in costume, she remarked with dignity.

"Really, this is quite too childish; where did you ever get that absurd
costume? You look too ridiculous for anything----"

Cynthia Vaughn shrieked with laughter.

The artist bowed, but colored to the roots of his hair and closed the
door, while Milly threw her arms around Adelaide, laughing hysterically,
Winnie appeared from behind her door also laughing, and I vainly
attempted to explain matters.

"What a mortifying situation," Adelaide remarked, when she finally
understood the case. "I must apologize for my rudeness, and I am sure I
would rather put my hand in boiling water than speak to that man."

"I am sure I only wish that I may never see him again," said Winnie.
"Nothing in this world could induce me to join the painting class, and
if there is one thing that I am profoundly grateful for, it is that I
have no talent for art."



CHAPTER II.

THE CABINET.


[Illustration]

Winnie's queer toboggan ride was innocent enough in itself but it
brought in its train many unforeseen circumstances, chief among which
was the affair of the old oak cabinet.

This cabinet stood in our study parlor, in the corner diagonally
opposite the door leading into the new studio, and was used as a
depository of the funds of all the occupants of the Amen Corner.

The cabinet was always left locked and there was but one key to it,
which was kept in the match-box, well covered with matches. Only we
five knew its hiding place, or the fact that the cabinet was used as
a bank. We had agreed that it was best to keep this a secret among
ourselves--and it was so kept until the day after the robbery, weeks
after Winnie's escapade. We intended to follow Professor Waite's advice
and buy a bolt for the door, but what was everybody's business was
nobody's business, and whenever we went shopping there were so many
errands that we forgot it, or some other girl, or one of the teachers
was with us, and it would have been embarrassing to explain why the
bolt was needed.

The door, as has been explained, opened outward from our parlor into the
studio. Professor Waite had placed a heavy carved chest against it on
his side, so that there was no danger of its flying open, and we had
uncorded the knob and rolled Adelaide's trunk back to her bedroom. No
one occupied the studio at night, and, though I spent several hours
there during the day, I always entered the room by its corridor door,
and we never thought when we locked our own corridor door at night how
easily any one so minded could push aside the chest and enter our
apartment from the studio.

That the contents of the old oak cabinet on the night of the robbery may
be understood, an explanation of the finances of the different occupants
of the Amen Corner is possibly now in order.

Adelaide's father and mother had gone West for the winter. Mr. Armstrong
was an able financier, and he wished to make Adelaide a thorough
business woman. She was eighteen years old and she might be a great
heiress some day, if his wealth continued to accumulate, and he wished
to accustom her to the management of money.

He had given her the year before a model tenement house, built after the
most approved principles, on the site of Richetts' Court, previously
occupied by one of the worst tenement houses in the city. The new
building contained accommodations for ten families; the sanitation was
perfect; there were no dark rooms, but bath rooms, fire escapes, and
provision for every necessity. A good janitor, Stephen Trimble, occupied
the lower apartment and looked after the order and comfort of the
building, and every month Adelaide, attended by one of the teachers,
went down and personally collected her rents, and listened to the
complaints and requests of her tenants. There were few of either, and as
a general rule the pay was prompt, for the rent was low, and Adelaide
did all she could to oblige her tenants, having a small drying room
built for the laundress, Mrs. McCarthy, who had contracted rheumatic
fever from hanging out her wash on the roof and so exposing herself to
the icy winds, when over-heated from the steaming tubs. Adelaide had no
stringent rules against pets. She caused kennels to be built in the
court for several pet dogs, and added some blossoming plants to Mrs.
Blumenthal's small conservatory in the sunny south window. Noticing that
the Morettis were fond of art, and had pasted cigarette pictures on
their walls and driven nails to suspend some gaudy prints of the virgin
and saints, she had a narrow moulding with picture hooks placed just
under the ceiling in every sitting-room. She patronized all their small
industries as far as it was in her power, and interested her friends in
them; having her boots made by the little shoemaker on the top floor,
who was really a good workman, but had been turned away from a prominent
firm, as they had cut down their list of employees. Her underclothing
was made by the little seamstress on the third floor back. She gave each
of her tenants a Thanksgiving dinner and a substantial present on
Christmas Day, and only allowed those to be evicted whose flagrant
misbehaviour showed that nothing could be done for them.

From the income of this building her father had insisted that Adelaide
must pay all her expenses. As Madame's boarding school was a fashionable
one, the margin left, after the payment of tuition, to be divided
between dress and charity, was not very large.

Mr. Armstrong knew that Adelaide's weakness was a love for beautiful
clothing; that she delighted in sumptuous velvets, in the sheen of
satin, and the shimmer of gauze. Her regal beauty would not have been
over-powered by a queen's toilette, but she adorned the simplest
costume, and set the fashion in hats for the school season.

Mr. Armstrong also knew that Adelaide was very tender of heart, and that
if left entirely to herself she would gladly have opened the doors of
her tenement house freely to unscrupulous and undeserving people; that
she would have easily credited every woeful story, and have remitted
rents when it would have been no real kindness to do so. He therefore
pitted these two weaknesses against each other. "We will see what comes
of it at the close of the year," he said. "She may become a grinding,
close-fisted proprietress, screwing the last possible dollar out of the
poor to lavish it on her own personal adornment, but I hope better
things of Adelaide than that. It would be more like her, I think, to go
to the opposite extreme--dress like an Ursuline nun and take nothing
from her tenants; but let us hope that she may be able to strike the
golden mean."

It was a hard thing to do, and Adelaide went without a new winter cloak
until nearly Christmas time, waiting for the Morettis to pay up an
arrearage; and only consented to the turning out of a shiftless family
who occupied the best apartment, and were three months behind hand,
because the tuition for the first term at Madame's would be due in a
few days, and a respectable wood engraver offered to pay two months in
advance. It was hard, because she did not wish to spend all the money on
herself. She was as interested as any of us in the Home of the Elder
Brother, and longed to contribute more generously to it; but since these
poor people were her tenants, they were in some sense her own family,
and she felt that charity began at home. Often I know that Adelaide
denied herself as really, in not being more lenient, as her tenants did
to scrape together their monthly rental. She was a generous girl to her
friends, and before her father had made this arrangement she deluged
us all with her presents. Milly, who had unlimited credit at several
stores, kept up this pernicious custom of lavishly giving presents of
flowers and candies. It was hard for Winnie and me, who were in moderate
circumstances, not to return them, but doubly so for Adelaide--who
entreated her to desist, as we all did, but without avail. Milly was
incorrigible. "You don't seem to understand," Winnie said to her at
Christmas time, "that the receipt of a gift which one cannot return in
kind is a bitter pill to a sensitive nature."

"No," replied Milly, "I don't understand anything of the sort. Adelaide
always translates my Cæsar for me. You help me with my algebra, and Tib
as good as writes my compositions. I couldn't return any of those favors
'_in kind_,' and they are pills that are not the least bit bitter to
me----"

"It's of no use, Adelaide," laughed Winnie, "we must let Milly have her
own way. It is such a pleasure to Milly to give that we will sacrifice
our own feelings and bear the infliction."

Mr. Armstrong had given Adelaide an old oak cabinet, beautifully carved
in the style of the Italian Renaissance of the fifteenth century, with
architectural columns, caryatides, scroll work, and arabesques. The
upper cupboard of this cabinet was used as a strong box to hold the
funds of our little circle. The interior was divided into pigeon holes
and shelves, and the door was provided with a curious key with a
delicate wrought-iron handle.

Adelaide had given each of us a compartment in this little safe, but
when its entire contents were counted there was rarely much money kept
here, for Adelaide had a bank account, and after collecting her rents
usually deposited them at the bank before returning to school, paying
all her debts by cheque. Milly, as before explained, had her running
accounts charged to her father,--a book at Arnold's, at the florist's,
the confectioner's, the dressmaker's, stationer's, etc.,--but her supply
of ready cash was never equal to demand, and though she could telephone
for a messenger and order a coupé at any time, she was always in debt to
the other girls, and I have frequently lent her postage stamps and paid
her car fare.

Mr. Roseveldt had a horror of entrusting funds to young girls with no
limitation of the way in which they were to be spent; he felt that in
looking over the shop-keeper's accounts he knew exactly how much Milly
expended, and for what the money went. But his plan was a mistaken one;
and the perfect freedom which Adelaide enjoyed was training her in a
sense of responsibility, while Milly was becoming unscrupulous as to
waste, where waste was encouraged, and frequently ordered a coupé when
the street car would have done just as well, or rang for a messenger to
save a postage stamp.

Winnie and I, the two poorer girls, were the ones who usually had money
in the safe. Winnie received a moderate allowance from her father
outside of her tuition, which he sent directly to Madame. As soon as
the cheque arrived, she cashed it and placed the new, crisp bills in
separate envelopes labelled, "Personal expenses," "Charity." She was
very generous, but she had a horror of debt, and she never expended the
funds in the latter envelope until she had received another remittance.
As Winnie abhorred sweets, and would rather any day have gone to the
dentist's than the dressmaker's, and as she had a supreme contempt for
display of any kind, the charity envelope was always full, and she had
usually a comfortable margin in personal expenditure to lend or bestow
on others. Winnie had always been generous, but this quality of
foresight had only come to her during the past year in her work as a
member of the finance committee of the Home of the Elder Brother.

My own case was different from that of the others. My father was a
Long Island farmer, and my allowance, though meagre as related to my
necessities, was liberal when compared with his own income. Miss
Sartoris, Madame's former drawing teacher, had boarded with us one
summer, during which I had sketched with her, and she had persuaded
father that I possessed a talent for art and had taken me back with
her to Madame's. So far I had easily led all the art students, and my
studies, although abounding in faults, presumptuous and immature, were
considered by the school as something quite remarkable. During the past
summer a young man of engaging address, and otherwise irreproachable
honesty, had stolen our beloved teacher, and Miss Sartoris, now Mrs.
Stillman, was known to Madame's no more. When the school reorganized
in the fall, Madame engaged me to take charge of the art department,
temporarily, until she could provide herself with a more competent
instructor. We had a small, crowded studio, with a poor light, but the
class was large. I did the best I could, but we sorely needed ampler
accommodations, and a head whose ability in his profession should be
unquestioned. Both were now provided. Carrington Waite was a young
artist fresh from the _École des Beaux Arts_ at Paris, and he brought to
us the training traditions of the schools, and the latest European ideas
in art.

There were very few girls in the school sufficiently advanced to
understand his instruction, but they flocked into the studio and
listened with undisguised admiration to words that might as well have
been uttered in an unknown tongue. Poor little Milly gazed at him in a
rapt, adoring way, without ever comprehending what he said. The tears
came to her eyes and rolled swiftly down her cheeks when he told her
that it was manifestly absurd to draw a full face seen from the front
with its nose in profile, but she smiled a brave little quiver of a
smile while he reviled her work, and thanked him as though he had
uttered the most fulsome compliments.

Even Winnie had felt the wave of influence and joined the class in spite
of her assertion that she had no taste for art and never wished to see
Professor Waite again. Only Adelaide held firmly out and would none of
him. Winnie was not at all afraid of the Professor, and seemed to devote
herself especially to making his life miserable. When he informed her
that she must join the "preparatory antique" section and draw in
charcoal, she calmly explained that she "perfectly loathed" casts, and
she had purchased an outfit of oil paints and intended to devote herself
at once to color. Strange to say, Professor Waite humored her and gave
her some of his landscape studies to copy. She was never contented with
reproducing these faithfully, but always "improved" upon them, as she
audaciously expressed it.

It was a common thing for Professor Waite to remark, when he sat down
before Winnie's easel, "Well, this is about the worst atrocity you have
yet committed."

Winnie, standing behind him, would make eyes at the rest of the girls,
and remark penitently, "I am very sorry."

"You look sorry," Professor Waite replied, on one occasion.

"I don't see how you can tell how I look," Winnie answered, "when you
are sitting with your back to me."

I do not know whether Milly's denseness or Winnie's impudence was the
more irritating to Professor Waite. Winnie resented his severity to
Milly and was always more provoking whenever he had grieved her pet and
left her sobbing in a mire of charcoal and tears.

"You give me more trouble than a three-week's-old baby," Professor Waite
had remarked to poor Milly, and Winnie had retorted spitefully, "I wish
you had to take care of one--I guess you would find a difference."

Winnie's sauciness and Milly's dulness, combined with that of many of
his other pupils, drove the Professor to despair after a week's trial.
He told Madame, as I learned later, that he must give up the position,
as her pupils were all "too hopelessly elementary."

Madame was disappointed. Her art department had always been an
attractive feature, and since the name of Professor Carrington Waite,
late of the _Académie des Beaux Arts_, had appeared in her circulars,
many had joined the school purely for the sake of the studio
instruction. Madame explained this to the young artist.

He ran his fingers through his hair in despair. "Of what manner of use
is it for me to remain?" he asked. "There is only one pupil sufficiently
advanced to gain anything from my instruction, and that is Miss Smith.
The others made as much advance, perhaps more, under her teaching as
they have under mine."

A happy thought came to Madame. "If I engage Miss Smith as your
assistant, Professor Waite, perhaps she can translate your ideas into
terms which will be intelligible by the students of lower intelligence
or advancement, and possibly she can so enlighten some of them that they
can profit later by your personal teaching."

This plan struck Professor Waite as practicable. He now only visited the
studio for an hour each morning, during which time he criticised the
work which had been done under my supervision during the previous day.
The new arrangement was an excellent one for me, for I profited by all
his remarks, listening to them with the keenest attention, and thus
received thirty lessons during the hour instead of one. As I had
but three other studies, and these were in the senior class, it was
possible for me to give the necessary time by preparing all of my
lessons in the evening. It was unremitting, incessant work, but my
health was excellent, and art was my supreme delight. Moreover, Madame
had offered me a salary of three hundred dollars beyond my school
expenses, and it was perfect joy to be able to relieve father of this
burden. I had a high ambition to go abroad some day and study art in
Paris, and I wished to save as much as possible of my salary toward this
purpose. I had the lower compartment in the safe, and here I laid away
every dollar that I could spare, limiting myself in everything but my
subscription to the Home of the Elder Brother; but for this outlet I
would have grown niggardly and avaricious. The same charity which made
Winnie prudently retrench her propensity to lavish expenditure, and take
thought carefully for the morrow, kept me from utter selfishness and
penuriousness by keeping one channel of generous giving open and pulsing
freely toward others.

Cynthia Vaughn's affairs were kept closely to herself. We sometimes
fancied that she pretended to greater wealth and consequence than she
really possessed. Certainly, if the sums of which she frequently spoke
of receiving were at her disposal she was a veritable miser; for her
subscription to the Home was the smallest of any girl in the King's
Daughters' Ten; the presents which she ostentatiously bestowed upon
Adelaide and Milly were cheap though showy, as was her own clothing.

The treasures which she committed to the cabinet safe were carefully
locked in a small japanned tin box, the key of which she kept in her
pocket-book, and she was the only one of us whose belongings within the
safe were so protected. We had perfect confidence in one another, and
our funds lay open to the observation or handling of any one possessing
the pass key in the match box. It is needless to say that up to the
night of the robbery our security had been inviolate.



CHAPTER III.

THE ROBBERY.


[Illustration]

Adelaide led the school in more respects than in the style of hats, and
in the Amen Corner she reigned as absolute queen.

It may seem strange that this was so, for Winnie was the genius of our
coterie. She was perhaps too active and restless. She seemed born to be
a leader, but the leader of a revolt, while Adelaide had the calm
assurance of a princess who had no need to assert her rights, but to
whom allegiance came as a matter of course. Even Winnie was her loyal
subject and delighted in being her prime minister.

I have spoken of Winnie's fondness for reading and telling detective
stories. It really seemed as if in so doing she was preparing us for the
events which followed, and the time when every one of us felt that she
was a special detective charged with the mission of finding a clue to a
great and sorrowful mystery.

It all came about through the robbery.

On the eve of my birthday it so happened that there was an unusual
amount of money in the little safe. Adelaide had returned from
collecting her rents too late to deposit her funds in the bank. She
looked very much relieved as she slipped a roll of bills, amounting to
nearly one hundred dollars, into her pigeon-hole, and turning the key,
deposited it in the match safe.

Winnie had that morning cashed a check just received from her father,
and had brought back from the bank some crisp, new notes, with which she
filled her envelopes for the coming month. Cynthia had ostentatiously
and yet mysteriously dropped some silver dollars into her cash box, and
even Milly had laid aside an unwonted sum, for her father had called at
the school and contrary to his usual custom had given her five bright
ten-dollar gold pieces. Milly seemed very happy as she slipped them into
her snakeskin and tucked it into her own particular corner of the safe.

"Unlimited pocket money this month, eh! Milly?" I asked.

Milly laughed and shook her head.

"Don't know that I am obliged to account to you for everything," she
said, saucily, but the sting was taken out of the speech by the kiss
with which it was immediately followed, and I more than half suspected
that Milly intended one of those gold pieces as a birthday present for
me.

Late in the evening I counted over my own hoard. We were all in the
study parlor, with the exception of Winnie, and as I counted I looked up
and saw that Adelaide and Milly were regarding me with interest, though
their glances instantly fell to the books which they had apparently been
studying.

"How much have you, Tib?" Adelaide asked; "enough yet to buy the steamer
ticket for the ocean passage?"

"No," I replied, "only forty-seven dollars as yet, but I hope to make it
before the close of school."

"Of course you will," Milly replied reassuringly.

Cynthia laughed raspingly. "You have almost enough now, if you go in the
steerage," she sneered.

Adelaide suddenly threw a bit of drawn linen work belonging to Cynthia
over the money, which I had spread out in the chair before me.

"What are you doing with my embroidery?" Cynthia snapped. "Did you
mistake it for a dust rag?"

"Natural mistake," Milly giggled.

Adelaide lifted her finger warningly. "Hush!" she said, "I saw a face at
the transom; some one was looking in from the studio."

Milly turned pale and clutched my hand, and we all looked at the transom
with straining eyes. It was almost dark in the studio and for a few
moments we saw nothing but some one was moving about, for we heard
cautious steps, and a creaking sound just the other side of the door.
Presently a hat cautiously lifted itself into view through the transom.
It was a broad-brimmed, soft felt hat of the Rembrandt style, which
Professor Waite sometimes wore. It moved about silently from one side of
the transom to the other, descended, and appeared again.

"I never thought that Professor Waite would peep or listen," Cynthia
whispered.

"He would not," I replied aloud. "He must be at work there hanging
pictures or doing something else of the sort."

"Then he would make more noise," Cynthia suggested, as the hat continued
its stealthy movements.

"It may be some one else who has put on the Professor's hat as a
disguise," Milly gasped.

"That was the reason I covered up the money," Adelaide replied, in a low
voice. "You had better put it away, Tib."

I hastily bundled my money into the safe and locked the door, and we sat
for some moments quietly watching the transom, but the spectre did not
come again. Winnie entered a few moments later and seemed greatly
interested by our accounts of the incident.

"Do you suppose that it could have been one of that band of Italian
bravos who has climbed up on the fire-escape and who intends to murder
us?" she asked with an assumption of terror.

"Hush," I whispered, pulling her dress, and pointing to Milly whose eyes
were staring with fright.

"Ha! ha! ha!" laughed Winnie; "can't you tell when I'm joking? It was
Professor Waite. Of course it was Professor Waite. He has been in love
with Adelaide ever since she complimented him on his appearance at their
first meeting. He is dying for a glimpse at her fair face, and as she
won't join his painting class he relieves his yearning heart by gazing
over the transom."

There was more joking, and Milly's fears were as quickly quieted as they
had been raised. Professor Waite had undoubtedly been at work in the
studio, I insisted, and I knocked on the door and called his name.

No answer, and I tried to open the door, but the chest held it firmly in
place. "Shall I look over the transom?" I asked.

"For pity's sake do not repeat Winnie's experience," Adelaide begged.

"Then I will look in by the corridor door," I said resolutely, and I
stepped down the hall and into the studio. The door was open, so was
Miss Noakes's door just opposite, and that watchful lady sat rocking and
reading beside her little centre table. She was not too much absorbed,
however, to give me a keen questioning glance--but she said nothing,
for as assistant teacher in art I had a perfect right to frequent the
studio.

The moon was shining in clearly through the great window, and every
object was distinctly visible, but there was no one in the room. I
opened the door leading to the turret staircase and listened; all was
silent, and I screwed up my courage and descended, finding the door at
the foot safely locked. The great Rembrandt hat lay on the chest in
front of our door, and the Professor's mahl-stick, or long support on
which he rested his arm when painting, leaned beside it. I could not see
any change in the disposition of the pictures on the wall, or other
indications of what the Professor had been doing, if indeed it was the
Professor, and I did not know of his ever before visiting the studio at
that hour. As I came out I noticed that Miss Noakes was still rocking
before her open door, her slits of eyes glancing sharply up.

"Have you seen any one go into the studio lately?" I asked.

"No one has passed through the corridor since the beginning of study
hour, with the exception of Miss Winifred De Witt."

"Then this door must have been open all the time, and you have seen no
one in the studio?"

"I have observed no one. Why do you ask?"

"We thought we saw the shadow of a man on the transom."

"Nonsense--it is silly to be frightened at nothing. It was probably
Professor Waite. If you young ladies would interest yourselves less in
the movements of that young man it would be much more becoming in you."

I turned away quickly, not relishing her tone, and looked at the
corridor window, which opened on the balcony of the fire escape. It was
securely fastened. I was puzzled, but did not wish to alarm Milly, and I
now reported only what seemed to me the favorable aspects of the case.

No one there, all quiet and in order; lower turret door opening on the
street, and the corridor window opening on the balcony, both locked,
showing that no one could have come up the stairs or the fire escape.
Miss Noakes, on guard, had seen no one enter the studio.

Of course it must have been Professor Waite.

"Of course," Winnie echoed. "Tib knows him too well to be mistaken even
when she only sees him through a glass darkly. But think what that
devotion must be, which leads a man to keep guard before his lady's door
at night," and Winnie shouldered an umbrella and paced back and forward,
singing in a deep bass voice, "Thy Sentinel am I."

Winnie was irresistible and we all laughed merrily at her pranks. But
for all that I locked the cabinet with unusual care that night and
Adelaide tried the door afterward to see that it was securely fastened.
While doing so, she noticed something which we had not hitherto
discovered--a little steel ornament like a nail head at the foot of one
of the columns. Touching this, a small shelf shot forward. It had
evidently been intended for a writing table, for it was ink-stained.
Adelaide pushed it easily back into its place and its edge formed one of
the three moldings which formed the base of the upper division of the
cabinet.

"That is a very convenient little arrangement," Adelaide said. "I wonder
that I have never noticed it before."

I soon fell asleep, and slept long and dreamlessly. I awoke at last with
an uneasy feeling of cold. It was quite dark, and putting out my hand I
found that Winnie's place at my side was vacant. I started up alarmed,
and called her name. There was a little pause, during which I stumbled
out of bed and groped vainly for a candle, which usually stood on a
stand at the head of the bed. Not finding it, I noticed a beam of light
streaming from beneath the closed door leading into the study-parlor,
and I remembered vividly that when I went to bed I had left that door
open, as I always did, for more perfect ventilation. I stood hesitating,
vaguely alarmed, when the door was opened from the parlor side and
Winnie stood before me holding a lighted candle--her face white as that
of a spirit.

"How you frightened me!" I exclaimed. "What is the matter?"

"Nothing, I merely went out to see whether the door into the corridor
was locked. I was lying awake, and I could not remember seeing any one
lock it."

She spoke mechanically, and her voice sounded strange and hollow.

"Why, you did it yourself!" I exclaimed.

"Did I? Strange I should forget."

"You found everything all right, didn't you?"

"The door was not only locked but bolted," Winnie replied; but her
manner was constrained, and her hand, which I happened to touch, was
cold as ice.

"Come right to bed," I exclaimed, "you have taken cold."

Winnie did not reply, but her teeth were chattering. She curled up in
bed and buried her face in her pillow. I was sleepy and soon dozed
off, but I was vaguely conscious in my slumbers that I had an uneasy
bedfellow; that Winnie tossed and tumbled and even groaned. When I awoke
she was sitting, dressed, on the window sill. It may have been the early
light but her face looked gray, and there was a drawn, set expression
about the mouth which I had never seen there before.

"What is the matter?" I asked again.

She replied, in that cold, unnatural voice, "Nothing."

Just then there was a hard knocking at my door. Milly shouted joyfully,
"Many happy returns of the day," and swooping down upon me buried
me with kisses. Adelaide followed, and in a more dignified manner
congratulated me on my birthday. "No flowers, Tib," Milly explained,
"because you set your face against that sort of thing, and I was
determined to let you have your own way on your birthday. Winnie, what
makes you sit over there like a sphinx, with your nose touched with
sunrise? Come here and help us give Tib her seventeen slaps and one to
grow on."

"Tib will find my present on the stand at the head of the bed," Winnie
replied, and turning, I discovered an envelope labelled, "For the
European tour." It contained a crisp new bill of twenty dollars.

Adelaide and Milly looked at each other significantly, and Milly
exclaimed:

"You dear, generous thing! Why didn't you tell us that you meant to do
anything so lovely? Adelaide and I would have helped."

Winnie did not reply to Milly, but answered my thanks with a close hug.

"Come," said Milly, "and put your money in the safe, and see how much
you have now toward the fund."

"Oh! That's easy to calculate," I replied, as I slipped on my clothing,
"twenty and forty-seven--sixty-seven dollars exactly."

Adelaide coughed significantly. "Tib seems to be very confident that two
and two makes four," she remarked. A suspicion that both Adelaide and
Milly intended to help me suggested itself to my mind, and I hastened my
dressing and unlocked the safe. As I did so Cynthia opened her door.
"Oh! it's you," she exclaimed; "whenever I hear any one at the safe I
always look to see who it is."

She did not retreat into her room, but stood in the door watching us
with a singular expression on her disagreeable face. Adelaide and Milly
were looking over my shoulder. Milly apparently vainly endeavoring to
conceal a little flutter of excitement. We were all there but Winnie,
who had not left her seat at the window, when I threw open the door of
the safe and disclosed--nothing!

The space on the floor where I usually kept my money, where the night
before I had placed a long blue envelope containing forty-seven
dollars--was empty. The envelope and its contents gone.

Milly uttered a little shriek. Adelaide stepped forward and examined the
space, passing her hand far in, and feeling carefully in every corner.
Then she took out her own roll of bills from her little pigeon-hole. I
counted them with her, just fifty-dollars less than the sum which I saw
her place there. She handed me a five dollar bill, saying, "Tib, my
dear, my only disappointment is that I cannot give you as large a
birthday present as I had planned."

Milly threw her arms around me, "And I can't give you anything, you
darling old Tib. I am so sorry."

"How do you know you can't?" Cynthia asked. "You haven't looked to see
whether you have lost anything."

Milly flushed. "If Tib has lost her money, of course I have mine."

"Why, of course? The thief has obligingly left Adelaide a part of her
money; perhaps yours is all there."

Milly opened her purse. It was quite empty. She closed it with a snap.

"I don't see how you knew it," Cynthia remarked unpleasantly. "Now I am
really too curious to see whether I have been as unfortunate as the rest
of you." In spite of this profession of eagerness she had seemed to me
remarkably indifferent, and she unlocked her strong box with great
deliberation, manifesting no surprise or pleasure as she reported "three
dollars and fifty-three cents, precisely what I left there. This shows
the wisdom of my double-lock; the thief evidently had no key which would
fit my strong-box."

"Winnie," I called, "we have had a burglary; come right here and see
whether you have lost anything."

Winnie entered the room slowly, almost unwillingly, quite in contrast
with her usual impulsive action, and opened her envelopes before us. "No
one has touched my money," she said; "here is exactly what I placed in
the envelopes last night."

"Did you go to the safe in the night to get that twenty dollar bill
which you gave me this morning?" I asked.

Cynthia Vaughn turned and looked at Winnie eagerly.

"I kept it out last night," Winnie replied, "when I put the rest away.
You will remember that I sealed the envelopes then, and I find them now
unopened."

An expression of malice and triumph, such as I have never seen on the
face of any human being, rested on Cynthia's countenance.

"There is something very mysterious about this," she remarked, in an
eager way. "The thief has entirely spared Winnie and me, and has been
obliging enough to take only half of Adelaide's money. Tib and Milly
lose all of theirs, but Tib's was money for which she had no immediate
use. So that she will not feel its loss as much as Winnie or I would
have done, and Milly has no real need of money at all--I wonder whether
the thief was acquainted with our circumstances; if so he or she was
very considerate."

"I don't know what you mean about Tib's not feeling the loss," Winnie
began indignantly, her glance resting not on Cynthia but on Milly. "It
will be a cruel disappointment to her if she cannot go to Europe to
study, after all."

"Oh! that's not to be thought of," Milly replied, feeling herself
addressed. "Of course Tib will go. Something will turn up. The money
will be discovered. Perhaps the thief will return it."

A light flamed up in Winnie's face. It was the first pleasant look that
I had seen there this morning. "It must be so," she exclaimed eagerly,
but very gravely; "let us hope that the person who took that money was
actuated by dire necessity; that it was simply borrowed, and that it
will be returned."

"Nonsense," exclaimed Cynthia impatiently. "I have no such excuses to
make for a thief, and I am going right now to report the entire affair
to Madame, who will of course put it in the hands of the police----"

"The police!" Winnie cried, in a tone of dismay. "Oh! no, no!"

"Wait," said Adelaide commandingly; "that is not the way we do things in
the Amen Corner. This is something in which we are all interested, and
the majority shall rule. Now Winnie, will you please tell us why the
police should not take this matter in charge? My explanation is that
some thief entered this room last night through the studio door.
Probably it was the very individual who was watching us last night
through the transom."

"Oh! Not Professor Waite," Milly exclaimed, and Winnie started as though
about to speak, but restrained the impulse.

"No, not Professor Waite, certainly," Adelaide continued, "but some one
disguised in his hat. This thief waited until we were all asleep, and
then began to help himself to the contents of our safe, but was probably
interrupted or frightened by some sound, after securing Milly's and
Tib's money, and hurried away without taking as much as he wished. That
is the simplest, most likely solution, and it seems to me that the
police are the proper authorities to take the affair in hand."

She paused for several moments. We all chattered together as fast and as
loudly as we could. Then Adelaide rapped on the table with a nutcracker
and said:

"I shall now put the question. Those in favor of reporting this matter
at once to Madame, please say 'Ay;' those opposed, the contrary
sign--but first, any remarks?"

Winnie hesitated. "I do not agree with you that it is a matter in which
we are all equally interested," she said slowly. "Tib is the principal
loser. Tib should decide what she wishes to do. Adelaide's theory looks
plausible, but it may be wrong. Some member of this school may have
entered through that door, and taken the money. Whatever is handed over
to the police, goes into the papers. We do not want to bring on the
school scandal and disgrace, which would follow the publishing of the
fact that one of its pupils is a thief."

"Winnie seems to be very certain that the thief is a pupil," Cynthia
remarked sneeringly. "If so, we can trust that Madame will ferret her
out without outside assistance."

"My chief reason, however," continued Winnie, "for waiting a day or two
before reporting this thing, is the hope that conscience will lead the
unhappy person who has committed the crime to make restitution. Tib, you
certainly look at the matter as I do. You are not vindictive; give the
wrong-doer a chance."

"Certainly," I said.

"The question," called Cynthia. "Adelaide, put the question."

"Those in favor of reporting at once to Madame?" said Adelaide.

"Aye," from Cynthia, loud enough for two.

"Aye," more faintly, from Milly.

"Those opposed?"

"No," from Winnie and from me.

"A tie," announced Adelaide. "Then the chair gives the casting vote. I
am in favor of reporting to Madame, and I think we had better make the
report in a body. There is just time to see her before breakfast."

"I do not see the necessity of our going _en masse_," Winnie objected.
"Tib, of course, as the individual who has suffered most, and who
discovered the loss; Cynthia, who seems to enjoy telling unpleasant
things; and Adelaide, who is strictly just, and the oldest and most
dignified member of the Amen Corner. But I do not see why you should
drag Milly along; the child has had enough excitement already. Let her
lie down and rest her little head until the breakfast bell rings. As for
me, I'm not going until I'm sent for. Not even a burglary shall make me
miss my morning constitutional," and Winnie quickly equipped herself for
a walk in the grounds.

"Milly shall do as she pleases," Adelaide said; "there is really no
necessity, as you say, for her to go with us."

"I think I would rather go," Milly said hesitatingly.

An expression of keen disappointment swept across Winnie's face.

"Come, Winnie," I said, "you had better be with us; it looks better."

"What do you mean?" she asked hotly.

"Only that the Amen Corner always yields to the wish of the majority,
and we are in the habit of standing by one another, even when we do not
quite agree."

"Winnie need not trouble herself," Cynthia remarked; "we can get on very
well without her. Of course she knows no more about the affair than the
rest of us."

The words were innocent enough, but there was something very sarcastic
in the way in which they were uttered.

"Evidently you would rather I would not go," Winnie said, as though
thinking aloud. "I am sorry to be disobliging, but if that is the case I
believe I will."



CHAPTER IV.

TROUBLE IN THE AMEN CORNER.

                       Doubt,
    A soul-mist through whose rifts familiar stars
    Beholding, we misname.
                                 --_Jean Ingelow_


[Illustration]

Milly had been unhappy for days.

And now a great trouble fell upon all of us. It was as though a dense
fog of doubt and suspicion had drifted in upon the Amen Corner,
separating dear friends, so that we could not recognize each other's
faces through its dense folds, and our voices sounded false and far away
as we called and groped for one another.

Our interview with Madame was very brief. I simply stated the fact of
the disappearance of the money, which the other girls corroborated.

Cynthia began to enlarge on the statement, but Madame stopped her.

"I have not time now to investigate this unhappy affair," she said.
"Indeed, it is something which will probably require the assistance of a
detective. Do not look so alarmed," she added to Milly; "I happen to be
acquainted with a gentleman--in fact, he is my lawyer--who has all the
qualifications of a very clever detective. I will write, asking him to
call, and to take charge of the case. He will keep it all very quiet. I
am glad that you have come to me first of all, and I particularly
request that you mention the fact of the robbery to no one."

With this she dismissed us, and we went to breakfast a little late,
feeling very important in the possession of a mystery. Winnie was the
only one whom this mystery did not seem to elate. Cynthia, who sat
beside me at table, was overflowing with glee.

"It is better than the most exciting story which Winnie ever told us,"
she whispered to me. "Won't it be fun to follow the unravelling of the
crime. Of course the detective will be led off by false clues, and all
that sort of thing, and the real thief will suffer all the torture of
alternate fear of detection and hope of escape; but the toils will
close gradually about the doomed individual. I shall not disclose my
suspicions till toward the last. Oh! what fun it will be to watch the
development of the drama. I should think, Tib, that you would write it
up."

"Your suspicions?" I repeated. "Do you really suspect any one?"

"Why, yes; don't you?"

"No indeed!"

"Then all I've got to say is that you are a lamb. You think every one as
innocent as yourself. Because you have the innocence of a lamb, you have
a corresponding muttony intelligence."

I was very indignant, but I did not show it. "Whom do you suspect?" I
asked.

"That's telling," she replied, "and I said that I would not tell at this
stage of the game."

Later in the day, as I left the studio to return to our study-parlor, I
met Winnie coming out. She had on her hat and cloak and carried my own.
"Come and walk with me," she said, "I feel all mugged up, and I need
a good tramp. Milly is in there trying to take a nap. Adelaide and
Cynthia are at recitation, and if you will come with me the poor child
can get a little rest."

As we marched around the school building together, I told her of my
conversation with Cynthia. Winnie started.

"I don't believe she really knows anything more than we do," I said.
"Cynthia loves to be important and aggravating. If she really knew
anything she couldn't keep it in."

"Find out whom she suspects," Winnie replied. "Cynthia is a real snake
in the grass, and can do a lot of mischief by fastening the crime on an
innocent person. I do not mean that she would do this wilfully, unless
she had a strong motive for revenge, but she is unscrupulous as to the
results of her actions, and loves to imagine evil and set forth facts in
their most damaging light. Find out, by all means, whether she really
knows anything likely to implicate any one."

"Cynthia is a hard orange to squeeze," I replied. "If she thinks I want
to know, she will delight in tantalizing me."

Winnie was silent for a moment. "Find out whether Cynthia slept soundly
all night, or whether she heard or saw any one in the parlor. She might
have heard me, you know, when I went out to look at the door."

"Sure enough," I replied. "If that is all I will get it out of her right
away."

We returned to our rooms. There was no one in the parlor. Winnie looked
into the bedrooms. Only Milly sleeping peacefully, and Winnie stepped to
the match box, took the key, and opened the safe. I do not know what she
expected to find, but she looked disappointed.

"Did you think the thief would help himself again in broad daylight?" I
asked.

"No," Winnie replied shortly.

At that instant Cynthia entered, flushed, and as it seemed to me
triumphant. "Mr. Mudge wants to see you, Winnie, in Madame's private
library," she announced importantly.

"Who is Mr. Mudge?" Winnie asked.

"He is Madame's lawyer. The keenest, shrewdest man you ever saw, with
little gimletty eyes that bore the truth right out of you; and such a
cross-questioner! If you have a secret, he knows it the minute he looks
at you, and makes you tell it, in spite of yourself, the first time that
you open your mouth. You need not try to keep your suspicions to
yourself, they will be out before you can say Jack Robinson."

Winnie gave a little sigh. "And you say he wants to see me?" she asked,
rising with a palpable effort.

"Yes, he wants to question us each separately, to see if our testimony
agrees, I suppose. He asked Madame, as I went in, if she had kept us
apart since the robbery to guard against any--collision--I think that
was the word!"

"Collusion," I corrected.

"No matter; he meant that we might have hatched up a story between us,
but Madame assured him that we were all honorable girls and incapable of
such a thing."

"Of course," he replied, "unless they happen to know or suspect the
culprit, and wish to shield her. In such cases, I have known the most
religious young persons to lie like a jockey."

Winnie left the room, throwing me a look of piteous appeal as she did
so, which I understood to beg me to find out all I could from Cynthia. I
rocked silently for a few moments, to disclaim all eagerness, and then
said casually: "I don't believe you would ever lie to save a friend."
This in a propitiating tone, adding to myself, "you would be much more
likely to tell a lie to get one into trouble."

Cynthia could not hear the thought, and she stretched herself
luxuriously on the divan.

"No," she replied, "I don't make any pretense of being good; but I
wouldn't do that. Whenever the Hornets got into scrapes, I always told.
Madame could depend on me for that. It is sneaky not to be willing to
take the consequences. Besides, you get off a great deal easier if you
own up; and others will be sure to throw the blame on you if you are not
smart enough to get ahead of them."

How I despised her. "I wonder if she thinks she is in danger of being
called in question for this crime," I thought, "and has made haste to
accuse some one else."

"You said you meant to keep your testimony until the end, so I suppose
you did not tell Mr. Mudge your suspicions," I remarked.

"Didn't I just say that I did tell him?"

"Well, as they are only suspicions I presume he paid no attention to
them. Lawyers generally tell witnesses to confine their testimony to
facts."

"But I had facts, suspicious facts; not ideas of my own, but important
circumstantial evidence."

"_In_deed!" I purposely threw as much incredulity as I could into the
way in which I uttered the word.

Cynthia sprang from the lounge, her eyes flashing with anger. "Yes,
_indeed_; very awkward facts for your precious friend Winnie to explain
away."

"Winnie!" I exclaimed, and then laughed outright.

Cynthia was furious. "What do you say to this Tib Smith? I saw Winnie,
with my own eyes, come into this room in her nightgown, with a lighted
candle in her hand, carefully close all the doors, and----"

"Pooh! that's nothing," I replied cheerfully. "I was awake; I saw her,
too. She merely crossed the room to see whether the corridor-door was
locked."

"Yes, and after that?"

"Came back to bed again."

"There you are telling a fib to save your friend. She did not go back
immediately. I was awakened by her softly closing my door, I got up and
peeked through the keyhole, and I saw her open the safe and rummage
around in it for quite a while, undoubtedly possessing herself of the
money. Then she locked it and hurried back to her room looking as
frightened as the criminal she was."

"It is not so! It is a wicked, cruel falsehood!" Milly cried, springing
into the room. I had forgotten her presence in the bedroom and Cynthia
of course did not know of it.

Cynthia was taken aback for a moment. "I will tell you why I know it was
so," she said at length. "After Winnie went back to the room, and before
any one else could have entered the parlor, I examined the safe and the
money was gone."

"That proves nothing," I said; "it was probably taken before Winnie
opened the safe."

"Then she knew of the robbery in the morning before the rest of you, and
never told."

"You knew and never told either," said Milly.

"I was waiting for the proper time," replied Cynthia. "If Winnie did not
take that money then she suspects who did. If she does not tell Mr.
Mudge her suspicions, she is trying to shield the guilty person, and
the--the shielder is as bad as the thief."

"There is no proverb that says so," I replied; "beside, you have proved
nothing. If all that you say is true--and I don't mind telling you,
Cynthia Vaughn, that I am not entirely sure of that--if what you say
_is_ true, you are as deep in the mud as Winnie is in the mire."

"You think Winnie a saint!" Cynthia sneered. "You don't half know her.
Before she came to room in the Amen Corner, and we were both in the
Hornets Nest up under the eaves, she was the Queen Hornet of all. There
was nothing which she would not dare to do, from letting down bouquets
in her scrap-basket to the cadet band when they serenaded us, to bribing
the janitor to let her slip out at night and buy goodies at the corner
grocery for our spreads. She was a regular case, and her pet name all
over the school was:

    'The malicious, seditious, insubordinate,
    Disreputable, sceptical Queen of the Hornets.'"

"We know all that," I replied, "but there are some things which Winnie
_could_ not do. She could not tell a lie, and she could not steal."

"I don't know about that," Cynthia continued coldly. "She comes from an
uncertain sort of Bohemian ancestry. You know her mother was an actress
and her father a playwright."

Cynthia told this with great triumph, evidently thinking that we had
never heard it.

"Madame told us," I replied, "that Mrs. De Witt was a very lovely
woman, who only acted in her husband's plays; that she made it her life
purpose to realize and explain her husband's ideals: and that he wrote
the part of the heroine especially to suit her, so that their creations
were among the most charming that have ever been presented on the
stage. They were devoted to one another, and when she died his heart
was broken. He does not write plays any more, but articles for
encyclopædias, which is an extremely respectable profession."

"And you dared prejudice this Mr. Mudge against our own precious
Winnie," Milly continued. "You are just the meanest girl, Cynthia
Vaughn, that ever lived! But you never can make any one believe anything
against her. If, as Tib says, it lies between you two, we all know who
is the more likely to have done it."

Cynthia turned green. "Do you dare to accuse me?" she hissed.

"No, Milly; don't do that," I cried warningly, and the overwrought girl
burst into a flood of tears and threw herself into my arms. "We accuse
no one," I said to Cynthia. "I trust that you have been equally cautious
with Mr. Mudge."

"What I may have said or may not have said is no business of yours,"
Cynthia replied. "You have both of you insulted me beyond endurance, and
from this time forth I shall never speak to any of you. I except
Adelaide," she added, after a moment's consideration. "Adelaide is the
only member of the Amen Corner who has treated me like a lady."

"I think it would be pleasanter for you and for us if you would ask
Madame to let you room somewhere else," Milly suggested.

"I shall not go simply because you wish it," Cynthia replied. "I shall
stay to watch developments."

"And, meantime, I believe you said we were to be deprived of the
pleasure of any conversation with you," I remarked, rather flippantly.

Cynthia turned her back upon me and from that time kept her word,
maintaining a sullen silence with every one but Adelaide.

The bell rang for luncheon. The forenoon had seemed very long, and the
afternoon was simply interminable. Milly left the room with me. Cynthia
did not stir.

"Do you think she took it?" Milly asked, nodding back at the parlor.

"No," I replied, "she is altogether too gay. She evidently enjoys the
investigation. If she were the culprit she would be constrained,
nervous, averse to having the affair examined." I stopped suddenly,
realizing how exactly this description fitted Winnie.

"Adelaide believes," Milly said slowly, "that it was some sneak thief
from outside the house. Have you looked about in the studio for any
suspicious circumstances?"

I replied that I would do so after dinner, and then, as we passed into
the dining-room together, the subject was dropped.

Winnie came to the table late and passed me a note, which I read beneath
my napkin.

"Mr. Mudge wants to question you next. You are to meet him in Madame's
parlor immediately after luncheon. Hurry and finish, so that I can have
a minute with you before you see him."

I bolted my dinner, and Winnie sat silently staring before her, eating
nothing. We left the dining-room five minutes before the conclusion of
the meal, bowing as we passed Madame's table, as was our custom when we
wished to be excused before the others. Madame's attention was absorbed
by the teacher with whom she was conversing, and we passed out
unhindered.

"What did you find out from Cynthia?" Winnie asked, as we walked toward
the Amen Corner. "Does she suspect any one?"

"Yes," I replied. "She is perfectly absurd. It is just as you said; she
insists on fastening the crime on a perfectly innocent person."

Winnie drew in her breath. "One of us, I presume?"

"Yes, Winnie dear. But," I hastened to add, for she grew suddenly deadly
pale, "she can do no harm; her suspicions are too manifestly impossible."

"I don't know," Winnie chattered; "the reputation of many an innocent
person has been blasted by mere circumstantial evidence. What does
Cynthia know? What has she told?"

"That she saw you go to the safe in the night."

"Me? Then I am the one whom she suspects, and not--you are sure she saw
no one else?" Winnie laughed a long, joyous laugh. "I can stand it,
Tib," she said, "I can stand it. It's too good a joke."

"Of course," I said, "no one can prove anything against you. But did you
go to the safe? I didn't see you do so."

Winnie's face clouded. "Yes, I looked in to see if everything was
right. Mr. Mudge asked me if I had opened the safe during the night.
He said that some one of us had been seen to do it, but he led me
to suppose that he suspected some one else. I knew that he had his
information from Cynthia, and I was afraid she had seen some one else.
I mean--" and here Winnie corrected herself with some confusion--"I was
afraid that she might have taken me for some other person, and I was
very glad to acknowledge that I was the one who had opened the safe. I
don't think that Mr. Mudge believes that I am the culprit, for he smiled
at me in a very friendly way."

"How could he believe such a thing?" I asked. "It is perfectly
nonsensical."

"But if he does not suspect me, his suspicions will probably fasten on
some one else. On you, for instance, or Adelaide,--and I would rather be
the scapegoat than have any annoyance come to the rest of you."

We had reached the Amen Corner, and had just opened the study-parlor
door. Winnie gave a little cry of surprise. The door into the studio was
open and a strange man stood looking at the broken lock.



CHAPTER V.

L. MUDGE, DETECTIVE.

    "The look o' the thing, the chance of mistake,
    All were against me. That I knew the first;
    But knowing also what my duty was, I did it."


[Illustration]

"Why, Mr. Mudge!" Winnie exclaimed, recovering herself, "excuse me for
crying out, but really I did not expect to see you here."

"I presume not," the gentleman replied dryly. "Under other circumstances
such intrusion would be unwarrantable, but I presume you understand
that in a case like this we must question not only human witnesses but
the place itself, and often our most valuable testimony is of a
circumstantial character. This broken lock, for instance, would seem to
prove that the thief entered through the studio."

"Oh! that," I cried, "proves nothing; it has been broken this long
while--since the very beginning of the term."

Winnie clasped my hand tightly, and I understood that she did not wish
her escapade with the sliding trunk explained.

"Are you sure of that?" Mr. Mudge asked, looking slightly disappointed.
"Even if the lock was not broken on the night of the robbery, the fact
still remains that an entrance was practicable here at that time."

"Why, of course!" I exclaimed. "It must have been the man who looked in
at the transom."

"What man?" asked Mr. Mudge; and I told the story of the appearance the
night before. Winnie came forward impulsively, as though she wished to
interrupt me, then seemed to change her mind and walked to the window,
standing with her back to us.

"And why is it," asked Mr. Mudge, "that neither Miss Cynthia nor Miss
Winnie have mentioned this very suspicious circumstance?"

"I was not in the room when it happened, I did not see the man," Winnie
replied, without turning her head.

"This thief may have made an earlier attempt which was foiled," Mr.
Mudge continued. "It seems to me a little careless that you did not
report the fact of the broken lock when you first discovered it, and
have the fastening mended."

Winnie's eyes shone with suppressed amusement. "You think, then, Mr.
Mudge, that some one from the outside committed the burglary? I am very
glad that you have renounced the idea that any member of this school
could have been guilty of such a thing."

"My dear young lady," replied Mr. Mudge, "I never indulge in
preconceived ideas, but I give every possibility a hearing. I have
nearly completed my examination of the _locale_, but must ask one
trifling favor. Will you kindly lend me all your keys?"

"You don't mean to say that you are going through all our things?" I
exclaimed, aghast at the thought that the secret of the commissary must
now be disclosed.

"A mere matter of form," he murmured, extending his hand with persuasive
authority. Winnie delivered her one key promptly, saying, "I will go and
tell the other girls."

"Quite unnecessary," Mr. Mudge replied. "I have a pass key which opened
Miss Adelaide's capacious trunk. I have shaken out all her furbelows
and tried to fold them again as well as I could, but I fear that the
gowns with trains were a little too difficult for me. Miss Milly's
bureau drawers were in a wild state of mix: ribbons, laces, gloves,
hair crimpers, dried-up cake, perfumery, jewelry, chewing-gum, love
letters (innocent ones from other young ladies), a manicure set, a
bonnet pulled to pieces, a box of Huyler's, fancy work, dressmaker's
and other bills (which I have taken the liberty to borrow for a day
or two), dancing slippers and German favors, a tin box containing
marshmallows and a bottle of French dressing, menthol pencil, pepsum
lozenges for indigestion, box of salted almonds, bangles, sachet,
photograph of Harvard foot-ball team, notes to lectures on evidences of
Christianity, silver bonbonnière containing candied violets, programmes
of symphony rehearsals, caramels and embroidery silks gummed together,
a handsome book of etchings converted into a herbarium or pressing
book for botany class, and strapped together by buckling elastic
garters around it; fine Geneva watch, out of order; match box containing
specimens of live beetles, which I fear I released; pair of embroidered
silk stockings, in need of mending; a diary, disappointing since it
contains but two entries; packet of letters from home, tied with corset
lacing (these I have borrowed), packet of ditto from a certain
'Devotedly yours, Stacey, F. S.' tied with blue ribbon--these are of no
interest to me and I will not violate their secrets; badge of the Kings'
Daughters, button of West Point cadet, a fan bearing some autographs, a
mouldy lemon, a dream book, etc., etc. The more I tried to examine her
affairs the more confused I became, and I finally dumped them all out on
the floor and then shoveled them back again. I don't believe she will
ever suspect that they have been touched."

I laughed, but Winnie looked uneasy. "I think, sir," she said, "that it
is hardly honorable to carry away Milly's private letters."

"Any objection to having me read yours?" he asked sharply.

"None at all," Winnie replied, at the same time handing him her little
writing desk, "but with Milly the case is different. I do not think Mr.
Roseveldt will like it."

"Mr. Roseveldt will understand the necessity of the case," Mr. Mudge
replied.

"Have you looked through Cynthia's things?" I asked.

"Yes, first of all. Everything in admirable order. She sets you other
young ladies an example in point of neatness. And now, Miss Smith, I
will thank you to give me the key to that small, old-fashioned trunk
under your bed. It is the only one which my pass key will not fit; the
lock has gone out of date."

"Any one but a detective could have opened it without a key," I replied,
somewhat snappishly, "if they had had the penetration to discover that
the hinges are broken. You simply swing the lid around this way."

"Dear, dear, and so we keep a restaurant, do we? I believe I now
understand the slight trepidation which you manifested on being
requested to deliver up your keys. Reassure yourself. I am retained to
unravel but one mystery; any others which may tumble into my possession
during the search will be as safe as though buried in the grave. I
believe this is all, as far as the rooms are concerned. If Miss Smith
will accompany me now to the library, I will take her personal
deposition."

Mr. Mudge was in the main kind. He did not alarm me in the least, and
asked but few questions.

"Have you reason to suspect any one?"

"No."

"Very good. Did you see any one in the parlor the night of the robbery?"

"Yes, Winnie."

"But you did not suspect her when you discovered that the money was
gone?"

"No, Winnie was honest and open as the day; it was impossible that she
could take it."

"Hum, your parlor-mate, Miss Vaughn, does not share your opinion of your
friend. Do you know of any reason for the coolness which apparently
exists between them?"

"Yes, Winnie has frankly given Cynthia her opinion of certain
underhanded performances of hers."

"Such as----"

"I am not a tale-bearer."

"In this examination, Miss Smith, you will please answer all questions
put to you--and abstain from flippancy. Believe me, I ask nothing from
idle curiosity; nothing which does not have its bearings on this case."

"Cynthia is continually doing things that exasperate Winnie. She put her
muff between the sheets at the foot of Milly's bed. When Milly slipped
her foot down and felt the fur she thought that it was a rat or some
wild animal, and she nearly shrieked herself into convulsions. Cynthia
laughed till she almost cried, but Winnie was raging with indignation,
and gave her such a scoring that Cynthia has never forgiven her."

"Is that the only source of unpleasantness between them?"

"No; such affairs are always coming up," and I related the trick of the
costumes, which has been told in the preceding volume. "And lately," I
added, "Cynthia has been very obsequious to Milly, and they have been
quite intimate. Winnie has not approved of the friendship. She told
Milly that she did not believe Cynthia was sincere, but did not succeed
in separating them. Cynthia surmised that Winnie was not pleased, and
taunted her with being jealous, and Winnie let them proudly alone, until
something happened at Milly's dressmaker, when she interfered again,
declaring that Cynthia was going too far, and that Milly needed some one
to protect her."

"What happened at the dressmaker's?"

"I don't know exactly. Milly went to the dressmaker's rooms last week to
have a dress fitted, and Winnie was with her. She came back very much
displeased, and had a long talk with Cynthia in her bedroom. As she came
out we heard her say, 'Downright dishonorable; as bad as stealing;' and
Cynthia called after her: 'I'll pay you for this; we shall see who is a
thief, Miss Winifred De Witt.'"

"Hum!" said Mr. Mudge. "The importance of these little tiffs between
girls must not be exaggerated. They have probably made it all up by this
time."

"Indeed they have not," I replied.

"Can you give me the address of Miss Milly's dressmaker? On second
thought, it is of no consequence. I have it on this bill: 'To Madame
Celeste, Fifth Avenue: For tailor-made costume in dark green cloth,
trimmed with sable, sixty-seven dollars.'"

"But that was Cynthia's dress," I said.

"It is charged here to Miss Milly Roseveldt."

"Oh!" I exclaimed, a light beginning to break in.

"And you never suspected what it was that occurred at the dressmaker's
which displeased Miss Winnie?"

"Never, until this moment. Milly has cried a great deal, but she would
not tell her trouble, even to Adelaide."

"Very well. I will step across to Madame Celeste. No; on reflection I
will speak to Miss Milly first. Will you kindly ask her to come to me?"

"Then this is all you wish to ask me?"

"Thank you, yes. No, one question more. Can you tell me the exact time
at which Miss Winnie visited the parlor last night? The young lady
herself was very exact on that point."

"That is natural!" I replied, "for the great clock at the end of the
corridor was striking twelve as she came back to the bedroom. I thought
it never would stop."

"That tallies also with Miss Cynthia's testimony. She states that she
saw Miss Winnie go to the safe a few minutes before twelve; that she,
Miss Cynthia, lay still until the clock struck the quarter, and then
examined the safe, finding your money gone.

"Inference (since Miss Winnie apparently noticed nothing out of the way
when she looked in): if neither of these young ladies took it, the
robbery must have been committed during that fifteen minutes."

"That seems hardly possible," I said, "since Cynthia, Winnie, and I were
all awake during that time."

"It is possible, though not probable. Cynthia's bedroom door, opening
into the parlor, was closed. Are you quite certain that you did not fall
asleep before the quarter struck. Did you hear it?"

"No, I am not at all certain."

"Very good. Then if the thief were standing in the studio waiting for
his opportunity, he might have slipped in during that time. Is there any
way in which we can ascertain whether any one was in the studio between
twelve and a quarter past?"

"I know of no way," I replied. "There was no one in the studio at ten
o'clock when I looked in."

"Very good; the known quantities are being gathered in, the unknown ones
defined; the problem becomes simpler. I think we will be able to solve
it soon. Meantime, if any new developments appear, be so good as to
report them to me." He rose and bowed stiffly in token of dismissal. I
hurried to our rooms and found Adelaide and Winnie.

"Where is Milly?" I cried; "Mr. Mudge wants to see her next."

"Milly has gone to Madame Celeste's," Adelaide answered. "She wanted to
pay a bill."

"But she had no business to leave the house until she had given her
testimony," I exclaimed. "I wonder why Madame gave her permission."

"I don't think Milly asked it," Adelaide replied; "and I fancy Milly was
not at all anxious to have this interview with the detective and merely
caught at Madame Celeste as a way of escape. She is not often in such a
twitter of promptness in settling her accounts; besides, now I think of
it, all her money was taken. How could she pay Celeste?"

Winnie looked up from the table on which her elbows were resting, her
head grasped firmly between her hands as though it ached. She took no
part in the conversation until I remarked:

"Well, if Milly thinks to escape Mr. Mudge by running away to Madame
Celeste's she is badly taken in, for he is going right over there."

"What?" Winnie almost shrieked. "Does he suspect that she has anything
to do with this miserable business?"

"Madame Celeste? No, but he wants to find why Cynthia had her dress
charged to Milly's account."

"O Tib, Tib, why did you ever mention that?" Winnie groaned; "you don't
know what mischief you have made."

"How did you know it, anyway?" Adelaide asked. "This is the first I have
heard of the matter."

"I did not know it," I replied. "Mr. Mudge was looking over the papers
he took from Milly's drawer and he came across this bill for Cynthia's
dark green cloth dress, charged up against Milly, and I--I just happened
to say that was Cynthia's dress----"

"If you could only have just happened to hold your tongue," Winnie
exclaimed, springing from her seat and pacing the floor. "Adelaide,"
she added, "won't you go to Mr. Mudge and keep him busy hearing your
testimony until Milly has time to get away from Madame Celeste's. That
woman is a match for a lawyer even, but if he happens to meet Milly
there she will be frightened into anything. I knew there would be
trouble when Mr. Mudge took that bill."

"Of course I will go, if you would like to have me do so," Adelaide
replied, rising, "but really, Winnie, I can't say that I at all
comprehend the situation."

Winnie gave each of us a look of despair. "I didn't intend you should,"
she said, "but since ignorance bungles in this way I will explain. Milly
has very weakly been getting things for Cynthia and allowing them to be
charged on her bills. I have remonstrated with her and she has promised
to do so no more. I told her how wicked it would be to send these
accounts in to her father as her own, and she has not done that. She has
kept them separate, intending to settle them whenever Cynthia paid up."

"I don't see why Cynthia could not have taken her debts on her own
shoulders instead of entangling Milly," Adelaide remarked.

"Simply because Cynthia has no credit. Madame Celeste would not trust
her for a penny, while she would let Milly run up any amount. Well,
either Cynthia has paid or Milly has obtained the money in some other
way. One thing is certain, she has it and she has gone down to pay
Madame Celeste; anxious, as you may well imagine, to get her feet out of
the quicksand and not by any mischance to have that bill sent home to
her father. Now, don't you see that if Mr. Mudge ascertains that Milly
has a secret of this kind, that the next thing he will do will be to
suspect that Milly stole the money in order to extricate herself from
this trouble."

"Impossible," Adelaide exclaimed. "Milly has only to tell where the
money came from."

"And I have asked her and she will not tell. It is all right, she
assures me, but she can not or will not tell how."

"Silly goose! I will get it out of her," said Adelaide. "And meantime
there is no need whatever that she should be even suspected. She did not
do it--and suspicion might as well start out from the first on the right
track. I will go at once to Mr. Mudge, and enlighten his benighted
mind."

"What is your theory, Adelaide?" I cried, but not before the door had
closed behind her.

"Don't stop her," Winnie pleaded. "Time is precious; Mr. Mudge may have
tired waiting for Milly and have gone. No matter what her theory is, so
long as it takes suspicion from Milly. I had great hopes that Cynthia
would succeed in making him think I had done it."

"He did have you in his mind at one time," I said. "He said, 'If neither
Miss Winnie nor Miss Cynthia took it, the robbery must have been
committed during the fifteen minutes between their visits to the
safe!'"

"He said that?" Winnie inquired, with interest.

"Yes, and Winnie, the thing is plain to me--I believe Cynthia took that
money." Winnie shook her head.

"Now just listen to my reasoning. Milly has been insisting that Cynthia
shall pay up. We know that Cynthia has received no money lately. She
stole it and gave it to Milly, and made her promise not to tell who gave
it to her. It's as plain as the nose on my face. And then," I continued
triumphantly, warming to my conclusion, "she artfully throws the
suspicions of the robbery on you, as a revenge for the straightforward
talk you gave her. Haven't I ferretted it all out well? Isn't it the
most likely way in the world that it could have happened? Are you not
perfectly convinced?"

"It is the most likely story," Winnie replied, "and so very feasible
does it seem that even I am almost convinced, although I know positively
that it did not happen that way, even Cynthia must not be unjustly
suspected."

"How do you know it?"

"Because Cynthia told the truth when she said that the money was stolen
when she looked into the safe. It was gone when I looked in."

"Winifred! But you told Mr. Mudge that it was there."

"I told Mr. Mudge that I found _my_ money just as I left it. It was not
touched at all, you know; but yours, Milly's, and a part of Adelaide's,
all that was stolen, was already taken."

"But Mr. Mudge did not understand you so."

"That is his own fault."

"Did you want him to misunderstand the situation?"

"Apparently, Tib; but don't ask so many questions. Let him proceed on
the assumption that the robbery was committed in that fifteen minutes.
If any innocent person is apparently implicated, I will confess.
Meantime, you are shocked to find that I am delaying the course of
justice in order to keep suspicion from myself."

"A thousand times no; you could never act a lie unless it was to shield
some one else. Was it to shield Milly, and how?"

"Tib, it breaks my heart--I can't tell you--I love her so--I love her--"

A great fear came over me; Milly had taken the money and Winnie knew it.
But Milly had lost all her money, and yet that was a very transparent
subterfuge. What more natural than that the thief would pretend to be
an innocent sufferer and steal from herself? And Milly knew before she
looked that there was nothing in her purse. I asked relentlessly, "Was
Milly at the safe during the night at some time earlier than you and
Cynthia?"

"Milly will not admit that she was," Winnie replied, her manner
hardening as she realized that she had not quite disclosed her secret,
and her determination to guard it returning with redoubled force.

"Then why do you suspect it?"

"I do not suspect it."

The fixed despair in her eyes added the words, "I know it," as plainly
as if she had spoken them.

"Did you see Milly take the money?" I insisted. "Was that what wakened
you? And is that the reason why you wish it to appear that the safe was
intact at the time you examined it?"

Winnie covered her face with her hands and did not reply. I felt that
I had divined the truth. A solemn silence fell upon us both for a few
minutes, then Winnie straightened herself with the old resolute look in
her face.

"Tib," she said, "I have told you nothing. You know nothing from your
own personal observation. Whatever you may _think_ is purely guess-work,
and you have no right to imagine evil against Milly. She is the sweetest
and dearest girl in our set. She is innocent and unsuspicious, and so
kind-hearted that she is easily led. She has gone wrong in some things,
terribly wrong; but she is the youngest of us all and it is Cynthia's
fault, and I believe she is trying desperately to get straight again. As
for this terrible thing, you must not suspect her of it. It is your
duty, on the contrary, to try to turn the attention of Mr. Mudge in some
other direction."

As she spoke, Cynthia opened the door and Winnie relapsed into silence.
I felt a strange, dizzy sensation, as if the foundations were being
removed. The more I tried to puzzle out the affair the more bewildered
I became. There was Cynthia, who believed that Winnie was the culprit,
or at all events was striving to make Mr. Mudge believe so; and when I
weighed the evidence the case was strongly against her. Here again was
Winnie, who seemed to believe that it was Milly, and I knew that the
evidence which could shake her faith in Milly must be overwhelming. I
had made it seem entirely clear to myself that Cynthia had done it, and
in a blind, unreasoning way, although Winnie's testimony had showed
that this could not possibly be, the suspicion, once started, grew and
strengthened. I watched her as she sat working out algebra problems with
a disagreeable smile on her face--and I said to myself over and over
again, "You did it, and the truth will come out at last."



CHAPTER VI.

HALLOWEEN TRICKS AND WHAT CAME OF THEM.


[Illustration]

Evening was falling when Adelaide returned from her interview with Mr.
Mudge.

"Has not Milly returned yet?" she asked, as she entered the door.

"No," replied Winnie. "Has Mr. Mudge gone to interview Celeste?"

"No, he is off on another scent. He has gone to interview Professor
Waite."

"What does Professor Waite know about the matter?" I asked in surprise.

"Nothing. It only shows the imbecility of these detectives who insist on
pursuing every impossible as well as every possible clew."

"Tell us all about it," I entreated. "I should like to know how it was
possible to drag Professor Waite into the business."

"Why, through the transom, of course," Adelaide replied, and we all
laughed at the absurd suggestion. "The first question that Mr. Mudge
asked was, 'Have you any theory or suspicions in regard to this affair,
Miss Armstrong?' I answered that I had determined from the first that it
was the act of some sneak-thief, who had watched us, through the
transom, put the money into the safe."

Again Winnie made an involuntary movement as though about to speak, but
restrained herself, and Adelaide continued:

"I told him about the face at the transom in the Rembrandt hat, and he
asked me if it was Professor Waite. I told him that I thought not. The
head looked smaller and the hat came lower down over the eyes and at the
back than it would have done on the professor. Besides, the professor
has that little pointed Paris beard, and this face had a smooth chin. I
saw it plainly for a moment in profile. Mr. Mudge did not seem to be
satisfied and made me admit that I might have been mistaken. Professor
Waite's beard is such a very immature affair. Then he asked me how an
outsider could have introduced himself into the studio without coming in
at the front door, which is guarded by the janitor, and coming up the
grand staircase past Madame's room and twenty other rooms, all occupied,
and likely to have their doors open in the evening. I told him that
there were two other ways: the fire escape----"

"Both the corridor window and our own were locked on the inside," I
interrupted.

"He said he found it so--and agreed with me that the turret staircase
was the more likely entrance. I explained that the spiral staircase in
the turret was built especially for the use of the physician when this
part of the building was the infirmary, and that in order to quarantine
it from the rest of the school, there were no entrances to the turret
on any of the other floors--that it led directly from the studio to the
street, and that no one used it but Professor Waite, who kept the key of
the outer door; that he might have negligently left this door unlocked,
and in that case a tramp could easily have slipped in, and as there was
no communication with any other room he would have found himself, on
reaching the end of the staircase, in the studio and in front of our
door. Mr. Mudge then questioned me as to Professor Waite's habits. Did
he usually spend his evenings in the studio, and were we in the habit of
visiting back and forward in a friendly manner through the door with
the broken lock? This made me very indignant. Such a thing, I assured
Mr. Mudge, would be contrary to the rules of the school, and to the
instincts of any self-respecting girl. The door had never been opened
since the lock was first broken, and even Tib, whose duties required her
to be in the studio during half of the day, always entered it by the
corridor door. As to Professor Waite, he did not board in the house. I
believed he belonged to several artist clubs--the Salmagundi, the Kit
Kat, and others--and that he probably spent his evenings there, or in
society, or at his boarding house around the corner; at all events, he
never painted in the studio in the evening, for I had heard Tib say that
the lighting was not sufficient for night work. There was a rumor, too,
that Professor Waite was very popular in society; but that Tib could
inform Mr. Mudge much more explicitly than I on all matters relative to
the professor's habits, as I had never interested myself in him, and
what he did or did not do was of no manner of consequence to me. This
seemed to amuse Mr. Mudge very much, but he replied politely enough
that he had never for an instant imagined that a young artist, like the
professor, could be anything else than an object of supreme indifference
to any right-minded young lady, and then he proceeded to question me
more closely than ever. Though Professor Waite did not usually spend his
evenings in the studio, did he not occasionally drop in on his way home?
Had we ever heard him ascending or descending the turret stairs at about
midnight, for instance. I was obliged to confess that I knew of one
instance when he had visited the studio at that hour, for I had met
him on the staircase; that he was returning from an evening spent in
sketching at the life-class of the Kit Kat Club, and he had run up to
the studio to leave his drawings and materials before returning to his
room at the boarding house. That it was very possible that he did this
frequently. Then, of course, he asked me how it happened that I was
going down that staircase at such an unseemly hour on the occasion when
I met Professor Waite, and I had to confess all that maddening Halloween
business."

We all shouted, for this was a particularly painful subject with
Adelaide. It was the one practical joke which we had ever had the heart
to play on our queen.

Such grave consequences attended this Halloween trick that it is
possibly worth while for me to turn aside from the direct record of the
robbery and devote a chapter or two to a confession of one of our most
serious scrapes.

It had been suggested by Cynthia and approved and carried out by Winnie
before the days of the breaking off of their friendship. Cynthia had a
way of suggesting plots for less cautious people to carry out, whereby
they burned their fingers like the cat in the fable of the chestnuts.

The Amen Corner had conducted itself with praiseworthy propriety
after the opening escapade of the season--that of the roller-coaster
trunk--for the space of a few weeks. But when Halloween came we all
felt the need of what Winnie called an explosion. We had been too
preternaturally goody-goody, and the escape valve must be opened. We
decided to celebrate the eve of "antics and of fooleries" befittingly,
and we arranged to bob for apples, to snatch raisins from burning
alcohol, thereby ascertaining the number of our future lovers.

    We tied our garters around our feet
    And crossed our stockings under our head;
    We turned our shoes toward the street
    And dreamed of the ones we were going to wed.

We poured molten lead into water, striving to ascertain the occupation
of our future husbands from the forms which it took. Adelaide's emblem
was something like a letter A, and we all declared that it was a perfect
easel and quite wonderful; but when we threw apple peelings over our
heads, Milly's broke into two sections, remotely resembling a scrawling
C and a W. Milly herself was the first to recognize the letters and to
blushingly declare that of course it was too absurd, it could not mean
Carrington Waite.

Adelaide's younger brother Jim was attending the cadet school in the
city. He admired Milly exceedingly, as did many of the cadets who had
met her at a fair given at Madame's, the previous year, for the benefit
of the Home of the Elder Brother. Stacey Fitz Simmons, drum major of the
cadet band, and the best dodger and runner of the school foot-ball team,
was also her devoted admirer. The button which Mr. Mudge had discovered
in Milly's bureau drawer was not from a West Point uniform but from
Stacey's; and the foot-ball team was not the Harvard--but the Cadet
Eleven. We all tried to find emblems in the molten lead, or initials in
the apple parings, suggesting the cadets, but Milly would none of them.

There was a Mr. Van Silver, much favored by Milly's family, a caller at
their cottage at Narragansett Pier, whom Adelaide had met while visiting
Milly the previous summer. He was principally remarkable for owning a
coach and four-in-hand, and as he had on one occasion invited Adelaide
to a seat on the box, it was a little fiction of Milly's that Mr. Van
Silver was her humble slave. But we were all innocent in the ways of
flirtations and, with the exception of Milly, heart whole and fancy
free, and it was really a difficult thing to conjure up imaginary
lovers--for the occasion.

The _pièce de resistance_ of the evening was the trick played upon
Adelaide. We planned on our programme that just as the clock struck the
hour of midnight we would all try the experiment of walking downstairs
backward with a lighted candle in one hand and a looking-glass in the
other. Of course it would never do for the procession to file down the
grand staircase in front of Madame's rooms, but the spiral staircase,
secluded in the turret, offered peculiar advantages for the scheme. It
communicated with no other floor, only Professor Waite had the key to
the door at the foot, and he was never in the studio at night. So the
girls believed, until I informed them that he always came in for a few
moments on Wednesday nights to leave his sketches made at the Kit
Kat--and Halloween that year happened to fall upon a Wednesday.

"So much the better," said Cynthia. "We will make Adelaide head the
procession, and she will see Professor Waite's face in her mirror. It
will be too good a joke for anything, for she can't bear the sight of
him since she made that unfortunate speech when she saw him standing in
the open door and thought it was Winnie _en masquerade_."

"I am afraid it will be twitting on facts," I said; "for I more than
half suspect that Professor Waite admires Adelaide as much as she
detests him. He has asked me more than once why she does not join the
drawing class--and even suggested that I should induce her to pose for
the portrait class. He said her profile was purely classical, and that
she took naturally the most superb poses of any girl that he had ever
met."

"So much the better," Cynthia declared. "It will be the best joke of
the season. What time does he usually arrive?"

"He said, in telling one of the class, that he always leaves the Kit Kat
at half past eleven, and reaches the street door of the turret on the
stroke of twelve."

"Delightful!" exclaimed Winnie. "Fortune favors our plans. What fun it
will be!"

It was thought best not to admit Milly into our confidence, for fear
that she could not keep the secret. All went well. We played our tricks
and Winnie told ghost stories, but it seemed as if midnight would never
come. At one time we fancied we heard a noise in the turret and we
looked at each other apprehensively. Had anything happened to bring
Professor Waite back earlier than usual, and would our plans miscarry,
after all? At ten minutes before twelve we organized the procession.
Milly was timid and persisted in being in the middle. To our disgust
Adelaide refused to lead. "Winnie proposes it; let Winnie go first,"
she said resolutely.

"All right," Winnie assented, after a thoughtful pause. "I will if
Adelaide will come next."

Cynthia and I looked at her inquiringly. We did not quite see how this
would answer.

"Tib, let's go and see if Snooks is in bed and the coast is clear,"
Winnie suggested. "It's a pity that we can't get into the studio through
this door, but that chest is too heavy for us to push aside."

Winnie and I reconnoitered, and as we opened the door into the turret
she told me her plan.

"I will lead rapidly and when I get to the bottom will scud into that
little closet under the stairs where they keep the lawn mower, so that
Adelaide will be virtually at the head. We must start right away, so as
to give me a chance to get into my haven of refuge before Professor
Waite arrives."

We all tiptoed into the studio and lighted our candles there, after
we had closed the corridor door. We had had quite a time collecting
mirrors. Adelaide and Milly possessed handsome silver-backed
hand-glasses. Winnie carried a pretty toilet mirror with three folding
leaves. I had a work box with looking-glass inside the lid, and Cynthia
had unscrewed the large mirror from her bureau. We were all giggling
and shivering when Winnie, our marshal, gave the signal for the start
in the following order: Winnie, Adelaide, Milly, myself, and Cynthia
bringing up the rear.

The steps winding around the central pillar were narrower at one end
than the other and it was rather difficult to tread them backward. The
fall wind blew through the slits of unglazed windows and extinguished my
candle. Winnie, in her haste to get to the bottom, fell, extinguished
hers also, and hurt herself quite severely, but she had determination
enough to pick herself up again and limp on. Suddenly there came a
strong draught of air and there was a halt in our march. Milly whispered
that she could hear voices, then Adelaide, who was a little way in
advance, shrieked and came running up the stairs. We were all huddled
together in a jam. Cynthia was shouting with laughter, Milly crying with
fright, Adelaide choking and incoherent with indignation.

"Hurry, hurry!" she cried, pushing us back; "he is coming; he is just
behind me."

We were only a few steps from the studio and we all bundled in--but in
the confusion Milly had dropped her candle, and the light Mother Hubbard
wrapper was all in a blaze.

Cynthia rushed wildly out of the room. I have no recollection of what I
did, but Adelaide fought the flames with her hands; but she would never
have conquered them, and our darling might have died a cruel death in
torturing flames, if Professor Waite had not dashed into the room,
wrapped her in a Persian rug, and extinguished the fire. Strange to say,
she was entirely unhurt. Only her beautiful blond hair was singed, and
that was afterward attributed by her friends to an injudicious use of
the curling irons. Adelaide's hands were badly burned and Professor
Waite bathed them in oil, while an older, serious looking man, who had
followed Professor Waite, whom we only noticed at this stage of the
proceedings, wrapped them in his white silk muffler. Then Cynthia
appeared at the door with a white face and a small water pitcher, and we
were able for the first time to laugh in a hysterical way. Fortunately,
no one had heard us, and we slipped back to the Amen Corner.

Milly was awe-stricken by the peril through which she had passed, but
there was a strange, happy look upon her face which I did not understand
until, as I tucked her away in bed, she pulled me down to her and
whispered in my ear:

"He held me in his arms, Tib; for one heavenly minute he held me close,
close in his arms. I felt the hot breath of the flames, but I did not
care. I was willing to die, I was so happy----"

"My poor little girl," I said, as I kissed her, "you must not let
yourself care for Professor Waite, for he does not----"

"I know," she replied, "he loves Adelaide; he can't help it any more
than I can help----"

"Hush," I said, "this is all foolishness; put it right out of your
little head. You are only sixteen; you are not old enough to care for
any one. You will laugh at this by and by."

She shook her head solemnly. "I shall always remember, Tib--that for one
heavenly minute he held me tight--so." And she embraced her pillow with
all her small might, nestling her hot cheek against it in a way which
would have been absurd if it had not been so unspeakably pathetic.

Adelaide strode into the room at this juncture with the air of a tragedy
queen.

"Thank Heaven, you are safe, Milly dear!" she said, pausing beside the
bed, but her look was not one of pious thanksgiving. Her voice had a
sharp sound, and a crimson spot flamed on her dark cheeks. "He dared
to hold my hands in his," she murmured, "and, worse still, to call me
'noble girl,' and his 'poor child'; and he will think that I went down
those stairs on purpose to see his face in my mirror. Oh, how I hate
him, how I hate him!"



CHAPTER VII.

A STATE OF "DREADFULNESS."


[Illustration]

Miss Noakes had not heard us, but our troubles were not over.

It was not until I had helped Adelaide to retire (for her poor hands
were too badly burned to put up her own hair), and had gone away into my
own room that I realized that Winnie was not with us and that she had
been left behind in the stampede up the turret stairs. I crept around
through the corridor into the darkened studio. Professor Waite and his
friend had gone, why had not Winnie returned? I opened the door leading
to the turret and called her name softly. I was answered by a groan. I
hastened to light a candle and stole down the winding stair. Half way
down I found Winnie sitting on the steps, a bundle of misery.

"I came up once," she exclaimed, "but Professor Waite was in the studio
and I had to go back to the closet and wait until he left the house."

"It must have been very chilly and unpleasant with nothing but a
watering can and a lawn mower to sit on," I remarked; "but why didn't
you come all the way up this time. You surely don't intend to spend the
night where you are."

"I don't know," Winnie replied, with another groan; "I've sprained my
ankle or something, and I can't bear my weight on it. It was all that I
could do to drag myself up and back again, and then as far as this. Ow!
how it hurts! No, I just cannot take another step."

"Dear! dear!" I exclaimed; "what a night this has been! With Milly's
narrow escape from death, and Adelaide's burned hands, and your sprained
ankle, we have had enough Halloween for one year."

"What do you mean?" Winnie asked, in her absorption taking several
little hops up the stairs. "Milly's escape? What has happened? Ow! wow!
You'll have to get a derrick, Tib, and hoist me up. I cannot budge an
inch."

"Lean on me," I said, "and listen while I tell you all about it"; and I
rehearsed the thrilling story of Professor Waite's rescue.

"I can smell the smoke still. Snooks will think the house is on fire,"
Winnie declared, snuffing vigorously as we reached the studio. "You had
better open the windows a bit and air off. And there are some burned
scraps of Milly's wrapper on the floor; let's pick them all up. Ow!
don't let go of me. This is really what Milly calls a state of
dreadfulness--no other word will describe it. How can I ever stand it
until morning?"

I helped her to her bed and bound up her ankle with Pond's Extract; but
it had swollen so much and was so painful that when morning came Winnie
consented to have the school physician called. He kindly asked no
questions, and treated Adelaide's hands, only remarking, "I see you have
been celebrating Halloween."

"He thinks I burned them in snatching the raisins out of the lighted
alcohol," Adelaide said; "or perhaps in putting out some clothing which
was set on fire in that way."

Even Madame was considerate and did not inquire closely into the details
of the trouble.

"I hope you have learned from this," she said, "that it is a dangerous
thing to play with fire."

Halloween was a disagreeable subject after this to all of us, but
especially to Winnie. "Don't mention it," she would say. "I shall never
play another trick in all my mortal days. I feel as mean and demoralized
as a lunch-basket on its way home from a picnic."

The state of dreadfulness deepened as time went on. Winnie kept her room
for days, and it was necessary to feed Adelaide at table, and dress and
undress her; but their hurts troubled me less than the heart bruise
received by my poor Milly. I kept her secret and she was brave, and no
one else suspected it. Professor Waite was very impatient with her,
treating her work contemptuously, and disregarding her personally
altogether. He never alluded to the accident, treating it, as Winnie
said, as of no more consequence than if he had extinguished a bale of
cotton that had happened to take fire.

"That man is utterly incapable of sentiment," Winnie remarked
wrathfully. "Now how natural it would be to make a romance out of
such a rescue, but Professor Waite's heart is as stony as that of the
Apollo Belvedere."

Milly smiled piteously and shook her head, while she looked
significantly from me toward Adelaide, as much as to say: "We know
better; he is not so stony-hearted as he seems."

Having my attention directed to the matter, I kept my eyes open for
little indications of the state of Professor Waite's sentiments, and
presently found that they were not lacking. The studio was not occupied
by classes until after ten o'clock in the morning, and Professor Waite
came every day very early, and painted there alone until the first wave
of pupils swept in and filled the room with an encampment of easels.
He explained to me that he was preparing a picture for the Academy
exhibition, the morning light was good, and as his studio in the city
was shared with another young artist, he preferred to come here where he
could work quietly and undisturbed for a few hours each morning. He
always bolted the corridor door to secure complete seclusion, and we
had often to wait a few moments until he admitted us. He did not show us
the painting, but it was evident that he was deeply interested in it,
for he was frequently distraught, and apparently vexed at being obliged
to turn his attention to our offences against art, just as he was worked
up to a fine phrensy of production. At such times he would run his
fingers through his hair, and stare at the work which the first
unfortunate pupil presented with a repugnance which was often more
clearly than politely expressed. Sometimes his ill humour vented itself
on the model. We were in the habit of taking turns and, dressed in some
picturesque costume, of posing for the class for a week at a time. After
the Halloween experience it happened to be Milly's turn. We had costumed
her as an Italian contadina, and thought that she looked very prettily.
But Professor Waite was not satisfied.

"Why have you chosen a blonde for such a character?" he asked me
impatiently. "That little snub nose and milk-and-water complexion have
nothing Italian in their make up. If you could induce that superb
creature, Miss Armstrong, to wear the costume, you would see the
difference."

Milly had heard the remark though he did not intend she should do so,
and her eyes suffused with tears as usual. "I will ask Adelaide," she
said meekly, "but I don't believe she will be willing to pose for the
class."

"Never mind the class," Professor Waite replied eagerly. "If Miss
Armstrong will honor me by giving me personally a few sittings each
morning for my Academy picture I shall be more gratified than I can
express."

Milly, more than happy to attempt to do the professor a favor, besought
Adelaide, who was obdurate and even indignant.

"The very idea!" she exclaimed. "I never heard of such assurance. _I_
figure in his picture at a public exhibition, indeed."

"Why, I am sure it's a great honor," Milly replied, bridling feebly;
"and I won't have you treat him in such a _desultory_ manner."

We all laughed, for Milly, as usual when excited, had mixed her
words--insulting and derogatory clamoring at the same time in her small
mind for utterance.

"I think it would be perfectly scrum to be in an Academy picture,"
Winnie exclaimed. "I wish he would ask me."

Perfectly "scrum," or "scrumptious," was Winnie's superlative; while
Adelaide, to express a similar delight, would have quoted the
Anglicism, "Quite too far more than most awfully delicious."

"I wonder what his Academy picture is, anyway," Winnie went on, "and why
he never shows it to us. I mean to ask him to let me see it; I am sure I
might help him with some suggestions."

"Well you _are_ unassuming," I exclaimed, never dreaming that Winnie,
with all her audacity, would dare to criticise a picture by our
professor. What was my astonishment, therefore, on awakening the next
morning, to find that Winnie was already dressed.

"I am going into the studio," she remarked coolly, "to take a look at
Professor Waite's picture before he arrives."

"O Winnie!" I begged, "don't; you've no business to do such a thing."
Winnie made a little face, courtesied, and flounced out of the room. She
returned presently, all aglow with excitement.

"He was already there at work," she exclaimed, "painting, as the French
say, like an _enragé_. He had forgotten to bolt the door and I slipped
right in. His back was toward me, and he did not notice me at first, so
I had one good solid look. And what do you suppose it is, Tib? Why,
Adelaide, holding a candle and glancing over her shoulder as he must
have seen her going down the stairs. The Rembrandtesque effect of
artificial light and deep shadow is stunning. He has rigged up his
lay-figure on the landing in the dark turret, and had a lighted candle
wedged into her woodeny fingers, so that he gets the lighting on the
face and drapery, while he has daylight on his canvas.

"Of course he has had to do the face from imagination or memory, but it
was perfect. I screamed right out: 'Don't touch that again or you'll
spoil it!' He turned the canvas back forward quicker than a wink, and
looked at me as if he would like to eat me, but I didn't care, and I
begged him not to disturb himself or interrupt his work on my account;
that I had only dropped in in a friendly way to give him a little
helpful criticism. With that he put on his eye-glasses and remarked;
'Well, you _are_ about the coolest young lady that it has ever been
my privilege to meet,' but he had to come right down from that nifty
position, for I said, 'If my opinions are of no use, perhaps Madame's
will be more helpful; shall I ask her to come up and take a look at the
picture?' That made him wince. He turned all sorts of colors, chewed
his mustache, and hadn't a word to say. I felt sort of sorry for him and
I assured him that I had no intention of telling, at least not if he was
nice; and I reminded him that he owed the subject to me in the first
place, for if I had not suggested the trick he would never have seen
Adelaide in that particular lighting. With that he changed his tune and
said that he was very grateful for my kind intention, and that if I
would kindly lend him a photograph of Adelaide he would be still more
grateful. But I told him that I did not think that it was fair to
exhibit a portrait of Adelaide, and he admitted that it was not, and
said that he had decided not to send the picture to the exhibition, but
merely to keep it himself."

Adelaide happened to knock at our door at this juncture, and Winnie told
her what she had discovered.

"This is past endurance," Adelaide exclaimed angrily; "you must come
with me, Tib, and insist on Professor Waite's showing me this picture.
If the face is recognizable as my portrait I shall destroy it then and
there."

"Don't, Adelaide," I begged. "Professor Waite is a gentleman; he has
already told Winnie that he does not intend to exhibit the picture----"

"But I do not choose that he shall possess it," she cried; "if you
will not go with me I shall go alone," and she hurried to the studio
door. It was locked, and Professor Waite did not choose to reply to
her oft-repeated knocks. He evidently considered Winnie's visit
all-sufficient for one morning. Adelaide came back in a towering
passion. "If my poor hands would only let me write," she exclaimed, "I
would give him such a piece of my mind. Winnie, be my amanuensis.
Write what I dictate."

Winnie sat down good-humoredly and dashed off in her large scrawling
script, which filled a page with these lines, the following indignant
protest:

  PROFESSOR WAITE:

  I regret that I consider the liberty you have taken in painting
  my portrait for the Academy Exhibition, without my knowledge or
  consent, a dishonorable act of which no gentleman would be guilty,
  and I demand that you destroy it instantly.

                                         ADELAIDE ARMSTRONG.

She was excited and she spoke loudly. When she finished, there was dead
silence in the little parlor. We all felt that Adelaide had put it a
little too strongly. That silence was broken by a half-suppressed
sneeze on the balcony outside the window. A sneeze which we all
recognized as belonging to Miss Noakes. Had she been listening? Had
she heard? Winnie balanced the ink bottle over the letter ready to
obliterate its contents by an "accident" if Miss Noakes suddenly
knocked. No one appeared, and going to the window a moment afterward, I
saw Miss Noakes walking between her window and ours, and taking in great
sniffs of the keen morning air with much apparent enjoyment.

The bell rang for breakfast and Adelaide and I walked along together,
pausing to slip the note under the studio door. It would not go quite
through, a little end protruding, but that did not strike us as of any
consequence. I had descended one flight of stairs when I found that I
had forgotten my geometry and I hastened back to get it. I met Winnie
before I turned into the corridor. "Hurry," she exclaimed, "Snooks is
just leaving her door; she will mark you for tardiness." I flew along at
the top of my speed, but on reaching our corridor I saw a sight which
suddenly arrested my footsteps. Miss Noakes stood before the studio
door, carefully adjusting her eye-glasses and looking at the note;
presently she stooped, picked it up, and read the address. She
hesitated a moment, seemed half inclined to replace it, turned it over
as though she wished to open it, then glancing down the hall and spying
me, she placed it in the great leather bag which hung at her side. She
closed the bag with a savage click and glared at me as I turned and
fled, for I had not the courage to meet her.

I reported the calamity at breakfast table in an awe-stricken whisper to
Milly, who turned a trifle pale.

"I am afraid it will get Professor Waite into trouble," she said,
"Adelaide is still very angry with him, but I am sure she does not want
to make him lose his position in the school."

"It may make her lose her own position," Cynthia Vaughn suggested.
"Writing notes to young men is against the rules. It's an expellable
offence. But then," she added, "this wasn't exactly a love letter."

"I should think not," I exclaimed.

"It's all the worse," Milly groaned, as she scalded her throat with hot
coffee.

"Adelaide can say she didn't write it, you know," Cynthia suggested
cheerfully. "Winnie wrote it; and she didn't poke it under the door
either--Tib did that."

"Do you suppose, Cynthia Vaughn, that Adelaide would do such a mean
thing as not to take the consequences of her own actions?" Milly asked
indignantly. Then she clasped my hand, for Miss Noakes stood at Madame's
table, and had opened her black bag and was handing Madame the note. We
could see even at that distance that the seal was unbroken, but this
gave us scant comfort; it was only putting off the evil day.

"Winnie might steal that note for us," Cynthia suggested, "before Madame
has a chance to read it."

"Why are you always thinking up scrapes for Winnie to get into?" Milly
asked.

Winnie pricked her ears, at the other side of the table. "What about
Winnie?" she asked.

"Nothing," Milly replied shortly; but as we went up to the studio a
little before ten o'clock, I explained the situation. To my surprise
Winnie's eyes danced with merriment. "Snooks listened," she exclaimed,
"she heard Adelaide, I knew she did, and now we know how she finds out
things that happen in the Amen Corner; often and often I have thought
that I heard her, and have opened the door quickly only to find the
corridor empty. Of course she is smart enough to know that she would
get caught if she listened at the door; she would never in the world
have time enough to scuttle down to her own room before we would see
her. But the balcony! Strange we never thought of that. I'll lay a trap
for her--no, I need not; she has trapped herself; this affair is proof
enough that she peeks and listens."

"But I don't see how this helps us," I exclaimed. "This is the worst
scrape of the season. Don't you see it is? Such glee on your part is
positively idiotic. We may all be expelled and Professor Waite too."

"Fret not your dear little sympathetic, apprehensive gizzard. Don't say
one word, except to answer questions. Don't volunteer any confessions,
or let Adelaide do so. Remember, the prisoner is not obliged to
criminate himself, the burden of proof lies with Snooks, and she will
find it a pretty heavy burden."

"Not with that note!" I replied.

"That note! Ha! ha! But I won't tell you. It's too good a joke."

"And Professor Waite's picture of Adelaide?"

"The picture, I had forgotten that," and Winnie became grave at once.
"He must take it right away," she added. "I will tell him to."

"You talk as if you could make him do anything," I said.

"Anything I choose to try," Winnie replied confidently. We were at the
studio door a little ahead of time, and Professor Waite threw it open at
our knock, and welcomed us in with his palette still on his thumb. "Come
and see my picture," he said, with a smile.

"Poor man!" I thought, "he would not look so happy if he knew how angry
Adelaide is, and what a mine is waiting to be exploded beneath him."

He led us to the easel and displayed the canvas triumphantly.

It was an effective, striking picture, but it did not in the least
resemble Adelaide.

Winnie uttered an exclamation of disgust. "There now, you've spoiled it.
I knew you would. It was just perfect, and you've ruined it. I'm sure I
never want to look at that thing again. I told you not to touch it. Why
couldn't you let it alone?" and a half dozen other wails of the same
order.

Professor Waite did not attempt to put a stop to her somewhat
impertinent remarks. He was plainly annoyed, however, and when she had
emptied the vials of her indignation, he replied: "I thought you would
approve of the change, Miss DeWitt. It was a remark of yours this
morning which made me realize that I had no right to paint Miss
Armstrong's portrait without her permission; that probably she would be
unwilling that I should possess it; and as I would gladly sacrifice any
ambition or pleasure of my own for the sake of not offending her, I
have, as you see, painted in an entirely new face."

"You are quite right, Professor," I exclaimed warmly; "and Adelaide will
be grateful for your consideration."

At this juncture the girls trooped in and took their places at their
easels, and Professor Waite laid the picture in the great chest in front
of our door. The correction of work went on as usual until the latter
part of the hour, when an ominous knock was heard at the door, and
Madame, accompanied by Miss Noakes, sailed majestically into the room.
Professor Waite bowed deeply and expressed himself as highly honored.
Madame lifted her lorgnette and surveyed the class. Milly was posing in
her despised Italian costume. Madame smiled kindly at her, and then
passed about from easel to easel examining the girls' work. "I do not
know whether it is exactly the thing for the young ladies to allow
themselves to be painted in this way," she said, "though to be sure the
studies are hardly recognizable as likenesses."

"The young ladies have all asked the permission of their parents to sit
for each other," Professor Waite explained.

"For each other," Madame repeated doubtfully; "but do you never make
sketches of them also, Professor? A parent might well object to having
his daughter's portrait exhibited in a public place, sold to a stranger,
or even shown among studies of professional models in your studio."

"I have made no studies from life from any of the young ladies,"
Professor Waite replied promptly.

Miss Noakes drew a long breath and seemed to bristle with anticipated
triumph.

"I am glad that you can assure me of this," Madame replied in her
softest, most purring accents. Then she glanced around the room again
and asked, "Are all of the art students present? I do not see Miss
Armstrong."

"Miss Armstrong has not honoured me by joining the class," Professor
Waite replied stiffly.

"But she at least sits for the others, does she not? She is such a
strikingly picturesque girl, I should think you would ask her."

"We have asked her," Milly replied, "but she is just as obstinate as she
can be. I wish, Madame, you would make her."

Madame shook her little wiry curls. "This is a matter which must be left
entirely to individual preference, my dear. It would be very wrong,
indeed, for any of you to make a portrait of Miss Armstrong without her
consent. I have known young amateur photographers to lay themselves open
to an action at law by taking photographs of people without their
knowledge. Our personality is a very sacred thing, and whoever possesses
himself of that without warrant commits a dishonorable action."

Milly looked as if she were about to faint, while Professor Waite, who
felt the intention of Madame's remarks, and his own thoughtlessness, bit
his mustache nervously. Winnie was tittering in an unseemly manner
behind her easel, but, thankful as I was that the professor had changed
the portrait, I still felt the gravity of the occasion.

Madame's manner changed. "Miss Vaughn," she said to Cynthia, "will you
ask Miss Armstrong to step to the studio for a moment." Then turning to
our teacher, she added, "I have a very painful duty to perform, my
dear Professor, and you must pardon me if my questions seem to you
unwarranted. Will you tell me whether, for any reason whatever, you have
carried on a written correspondence with Miss Armstrong or with any
other member of this school?"

"I have not, Madame."

"Have never either written to her or received letters from her?"

"Never, Madame. Who has charged me with such a clandestine and
dishonourable act?"

Madame did not reply, for Adelaide entered the room. She was very
stately and pale. Cynthia had not had far to go, and Adelaide had come
instantly.

"Why have you sent for me?" she asked resolutely.

"Merely to ask you one or two simple questions," Madame replied. "But
first, Professor, may we be permitted to see the picture which you are
preparing for the Academy exhibition?"

Adelaide leaned forward eagerly. Professor Waite was about to be
punished for his presumption and yet she was not so glad as she fancied
that she would be. Her anger had faded out and she almost pitied him.
A hot blush swept up to his forehead as he felt her gaze, and silently
placed the painting upon the easel. Madame examined it critically
through her lorgnette; it was evidently not what she had expected to
see.

Milly, who had not known of the change, could hardly believe her eyes,
and seemed to fancy that a miracle had been performed to save her dear
professor. Miss Noakes stood at the canvas with a look of disappointed
malignity on her unattractive features.

"Is this the only picture which you intend to exhibit?" Madame asked,
after a moment, during which she had assured herself that the face on
the canvas was utterly unlike any of her pupils.

"It is the only one that I have had time to paint this season,"
Professor Waite replied. "The face bore at one time a resemblance to
Miss Armstrong's, but I purposely destroyed that resemblance and shall
send it in as you see it."

Madame seemed somewhat relieved, but she turned toward Adelaide, who
had seated herself and was staring at the picture, her heart filled with
a vague regret that she had written so unkind a letter.

"Young ladies," said Madame solemnly, "you have heard the questions
which I have asked Professor Waite. Certain accusations have been made
which have greatly troubled me. It has been suspected that a clandestine
flirtation and correspondence has for some time been carried on between
your professor and one of the members of this school. Hitherto I have
paid no attention to these reports, as they rested only on suspicion,
but this morning startling evidence has been produced, and before
bringing it forward I call upon any young lady who has been guilty of
such an indiscretion to anticipate the discovery of her fault by a full
confession." No one responded. The accusation was so much more serious
than the truth, that Adelaide did not imagine that she was the suspected
culprit. Dead silence, in the midst of which Madame produced the fateful
letter. Adelaide started and Madame asked in awful tones:

"Will any young lady present acknowledge that she has written this
letter?"

Winnie and Adelaide each rose promptly.

Madame frowned. "Have we two claimants?" she asked.

"I am responsible for the contents of that note," said Adelaide.

"But I wrote it," added Winnie, "and I demand that it be read aloud."

It seemed to me that Winnie was absolutely insane, and even Adelaide
seemed to feel that there was no necessity of rushing so recklessly on
the spears of the enemy.

Professor Waite looked completely mystified, and Madame said very
seriously:

"You will see, Professor, that this note is directed to you, and that
it has not been opened. I could not take that liberty; but Miss Noakes
discovered it being sent in a very irregular manner, which justified her
in confiscating it. There are other suspicious matters connected with
it, which I trust its contents will fully explain."

I felt that the crucial moment had arrived. Miss Noakes was absolutely
radiant, and sat rubbing her hands with ghoulish glee. Madame looked
troubled but judicial. The professor was a favourite of hers, but Miss
Noakes had brought too weighty an accusation to be glossed over.

A silence like that before a thunder-clap reigned. Winnie covered her
face with her handkerchief and shook--could it be with suppressed
laughter? If so, it seemed to me that she must be going insane.

Professor Waite opened the letter and glanced over its contents. "This
note is from Miss Winifred De Witt," he said to Madame, "and since
I have her permission, I will read it aloud." And to our utter
astonishment, Professor Waite read--not the indignant letter which
Adelaide had dictated, but the following:

  PROFESSOR WAITE.

  _Dear Sir_: May I have your permission to place my easel on the
  balcony in front of the corridor window and make a study of a
  sunrise effect as seen across the roofs? The view is so very
  beautiful that Miss Noakes spends much of her time there absorbed
  in its enjoyment.

                        Very respectfully yours,
                                           WINIFRED DE WITT.

Professor Waite politely handed this effusion to Madame. Miss Noakes
snatched it from her hand and glared at it with the look of a foiled
assassin. Madame bit her lips with annoyance and scowled at Miss
Noakes. She was evidently angry with her for having caused her to
arraign Professor Waite on insufficient testimony and creating a scene
derogatory to her own dignity. She quickly recovered her
self-possession, however, and remarked loftily:

"Miss De Witt, when you have any future communications to make with your
professor, pray do so in a more fitting manner. Placing notes under
doors is really unworthy of any young lady in my school."

"So is listening at windows," Cynthia whispered to Winnie. Madame turned
to Professor Waite and expressed herself as much pleased that this very
serious accusation had been proved to be founded on an entire mistake.
She had herself felt perfect confidence in the integrity of Professor
Waite and the propriety of her pupils throughout the entire affair, and
had only investigated it to give the slander its proper refutation: and
her stiff silk dress rustled with dignity out of the studio.

As for Miss Noakes, she simply disappeared, "evaporated," as Milly
expressed it. The door had hardly closed upon Madame before our
long-repressed feelings found vent in laughter. Winnie congratulated
Professor Waite on the part of the school that he had been found
innocent of so heinous a crime. The girls swarmed up to shake hands with
him. Those who could not grasp his hand shook the skirts of his coat.
Exuberant confusion reigned. Milly was dissolved in happy tears, and
even Adelaide smiled when Professor Waite expressed his regret that Miss
Noakes had connected their names in so disagreeable a manner.

It was not until the occupants of the Amen Corner had gathered in their
study parlor that Adelaide said:

"But I really do not understand what became of my note; the one I
dictated to Winnie and tucked under the door."

"Winnie, how did you manage to steal it?" Cynthia asked.

"I didn't take it from Snooks," Winnie replied. "It struck me that
Adelaide had expressed herself rather strongly, and that she would
regret it after she had cooled down, and if she didn't, she ought to. So
while you were investigating the eavesdropping I destroyed that note,
wrote one of my own and sealed it up in its place."

"And I've really put this note of yours under the door?" Adelaide asked.

"Yes, my dear, and that is why I have not shared Tib's anxiety since we
knew that it had been confiscated. Don't you think that dig about
Snooks enjoying the scenery of the back yard was rather good?" and
Winnie chuckled with enjoyment of her own impertinence. "You should have
seen her face when Professor Waite read that. Nebuchadnezzar's when he
ordered Shadrach, Meshech, and Abednego to the burning, fiery furnace
must have been amiable in comparison. She would have seen me boiled in
oil with pleasure. I haven't enjoyed anything so much for ages."



CHAPTER VIII.

IN THE MESHES OF A GOLDEN NET.


[Illustration]

Of course Adelaide did not feel it necessary to tell Mr. Mudge all the
consequences of our Halloween party, but only the facts of our having
used the turret staircase on that memorable night.

"And now," she said, with a laugh, "Mr. Mudge has gone racing off to
investigate Professor Waite. I seem doomed to get that poor man into
trouble. Though of course he never could be suspected of this robbery."

Milly had entered while Adelaide was speaking, and she uttered a little
cry of dismay. "Professor Waite suspected! that could never be!"

"Circumstances are against him," Winnie replied. "Mr. Mudge believes
that the robbery was committed between twelve o'clock and a quarter
past. Now, if Professor Waite was in the studio at that time----"

"He was earlier than usual," Milly replied. "I heard him come up the
staircase. You know the head of our bed is right against the turret
wall. Someway, I always hear his step on the stair, and then he usually
whistles an air from one of the operas. Last night he whistled the
Wedding March in 'Lohengrin.'"

"Then you were lying awake, too, last night," Winnie remarked. "Did you
hear me moving about in this room?"

"Yes," Milly replied hesitatingly.

"Why didn't you say so before?"

"There didn't seem to be any necessity of telling of it," Milly replied.

"You thought it might throw suspicion on me?"

"Oh, no," Milly disclaimed. "No one could suspect you, Winnie, or
Professor Waite, either; the ideas are equally absurd."

"Unless it is proved that the robbery was committed before Professor
Waite came up the stairs, it may not seem at all absurd to Mr. Mudge,"
Winnie continued mercilessly. "Tib and I saw him examining the door into
the studio, and he seemed possessed with the idea that the burglar
entered the room from the studio. I know, too, that Mr. Mudge examined
Professor Waite's tool chest in the studio, and that he found the broken
lock in it, with a screw-driver and other tools, showing that Professor
Waite had been tinkering with the door, trying unsuccessfully to mend
the lock, as we all know."

"You know this! How did you find it out?" Adelaide asked, and Winnie
replied:

"Professor Waite wanted to use his screw-driver and went to his tool
chest after it during the painting lesson to-day. It was gone; so was
the lock to the door. He hunted everywhere, and told me that he was
afraid that Miss Noakes had been in his studio and had discovered the
broken lock, and that we would be called in question for that old
scrape. I felt sure from the first that it was Mr. Mudge, but I did not
mention him, for Madame told us to say nothing about the robbery outside
of our own circle."

"I would do anything to keep Professor Waite out of trouble," Milly
said. "I am the only one who knows that he was in the studio, and I
will not tell."

"Nothing will help Professor Waite so much as the entire truth," Winnie
replied. "Of course he is not the one who took the money. If the person
really responsible can be discovered, or will confess, the Professor and
all other innocent persons will be cleared from suspicion."

"Of course," Milly replied, looking at Winnie in a puzzled way. "And I
am sure," she added hopefully, "that Mr. Mudge will find the guilty
individual soon, if he is as keen as you all seem to think him. I really
dread meeting him, and I am glad he has gone away for to-day. There goes
the supper bell. What a long day this has been!"

After supper Milly woke to a consciousness that she had not prepared
one of her lessons for the next day. She sat puckering her pretty
forehead into ugly wrinkles, and repeating helplessly, "'Populi
Romani!' I am sure I've had that before." Then she began a wild attempt
at translation, with manifold running comments. "'Because Ariovistus,
King of the Germans, had sat down on their boundaries--' Now, was there
anything ever so absurd as that? Why did old Ariovistus want to sit
down on their boundaries?"

"Perhaps the word doesn't mean boundaries here," Adelaide suggested, and
Milly turned patiently to her lexicon--"If _finibus_ comes from
_finitimus_ it may mean neighbors--and then Ariovistus sat down on his
neighbors; well I must say that was cool----"

Milly worked on for a little while in silence, and then exclaimed, "I'm
getting into the sensibility of it now--how's this? 'These things having
been known, Cæsar confirmed the mind of all Gaul with words.' He was
always very generous of his words. We have a review to-morrow, and the
ridiculosity of the whole thing comes out. Now just listen to this:
'Wherefore it pleased him to send legates to Ariovistus, who should ask
him to appoint some place in the middle of the others for a colloquy. To
these legates he responded if it was too much trouble for him to come to
himself, himself would come to him and he--Cæsar--would then find out
who ought to do the coming. Besides, he would admire to see all Gaul in
a row, and it was no business of Cæsar's or his old Populo Romano.' I
rather like his pluck but I'm afraid my translation is rather free.
Then here is a place that I am not quite sure about; 'The Helvetians,
the Tulingians, and the Lotobigians, and all the other igians, in their
boundaries or something, whence they had something else--he commanded
to--thingummy; and because all their fruits were--were--frost bitten, I
guess, and at home nothing was which could tolerate hunger--he commanded
the other ninkums that they should make for them copious corn--' I
perfectly hate Cæsar. He was always boasting of his own benefits and
clemency to one tribe in making another support it, and then 'pacifying'
the other tribes by slaying a few thousand of their soldiers, and I just
don't see the use of our muddling our heads with what that stupid,
cruel, conceited old bandit did, anyhow. But if I don't know this lesson
I shall not be able to pass in examination, and you will all graduate
and leave me behind for ages and ages----"

Ordinarily Winnie could not have resisted such an appeal as this. I have
known her to patiently translate all of Milly's lessons for her, and
then as patiently explain them to her over and over again, until some
faint idea of their meaning had penetrated her befogged little brain.
And having spent the evening thus, go unprepared to her geometry, and
stoically receive a cipher as her class mark, and see Cynthia carry off
the honors of the day. But to-night Winnie did not seem to see the
forget-me-not eyes turned appealingly to her. She appeared to be
completely absorbed in her Cicero. I endured Milly's frowns as long as I
could, and finally pushed aside my own studies, and said, "Come into my
bedroom where we will not disturb the other girls, and I will straighten
it out for you."

Milly was delighted. She threw her arms around my neck and thrust some
cream peppermints into my pocket.

We were in the midst of Cæsar's negotiations with Ariovistus, and had
nearly finished the paragraph, when Milly suddenly looked up.

"Tib," she said, "do you know whatever became of Madame Celeste's last
bill? I thought I put it in my bureau drawer, but I must have left it
around somewhere. Have you seen it? I can't find it."

"Then you could not pay it this afternoon?" I asked evasively.

"Oh, yes! she made out another bill and receipted it for me, but I want
to be sure that the first one is destroyed."

"I thought all your money was taken; where did you get enough to pay
this bill?"

"Oh! that is a secret," she replied, with a pleased little flutter of
importance. "It's no manner of consequence how I came by it. I've paid
the bill--that's the essential thing--and I've got out of that dreadful
quicksand. Oh, Tib, I have been so unhappy, and Cynthia has been so
mean! I did not think it possible that any one could be so horrid."

"Tell me all about it, dear," I said, caressing the curly blond head
which nestled on my knee.

"I believe I will. I feel like telling somebody, and Winnie is so queer
lately--she freezes me. She has disapproved of me and scolded me ever
since she found out about Cynthia's dress, and I can't bear to be
disapproved of. It isn't one bit nice. Adelaide is perfectly splendid;
she likes me and pets me, but perhaps she wouldn't if she knew
everything; but you are just my dear old Tib. You would always like me,
wouldn't you, even if I were real wicked?"

"Yes indeed, Milly," I replied; "and so would Winnie; you don't half
realize her love for you."

"Then she has a very queer way of showing it. She makes me feel as if I
had committed some dreadful sin, and she was urging me to confess. She
is just about as pleasant a companion as that Florentine monk--what's
his name? who kept nagging Lorenzo de Medici--even when the poor man was
just as busy as he could be a-dying."

"Savonarola acted as he thought was kindest and best for his poor guilty
friend. Sometimes the surgeon who probes our wound is the truest
friend--But you are going to tell me about your trouble--I've noticed
how red your little nose has been of late."

"It was partly Celeste's fault, too," Milly said. "Cynthia's and
Celeste's and mine. Of course the fault was mostly mine. You see it all
started with the minuet--with which Professor Fafalata closed his
dancing class just before the Christmas holidays. He wished us to be
costumed in the Florentine style of the early part of the sixteenth
century. I was talking it over with Celeste, and she said I ought to
have the front of my petticoat covered with some jewelled net which she
had just imported from Paris. It was very expensive, but very beautiful,
and showy in the evening. The net was made of gold thread set with
imitation amethysts and rubies, an arabesque design, copied from some
mediæval embroidery, and just the thing for me, since I was to represent
a young princess of the house of Medici. I thought that I would write
mother, who was in Florida then, and ask her to lend me one of her party
dresses, and that it would be just the thing to put over it; and while I
was admiring it and before I had really ordered it, or realized what she
was doing, Celeste had cut me off a yard of it, and had charged it to my
account--fifteen dollars. I brought it here, you remember, only to find
that Madame had interested Professor Waite in the minuet, and that he
had promised to lend the girls some beautiful costumes of the period
which he had brought back from Paris. There was that lovely heliotrope
velvet edged with ermine for Adelaide, and a faded pink brocade sprigged
with primroses for me.

"So of course there wasn't the slightest need for my golden net. I
carried it to Celeste to see if she would take it back. She said that
she would like to oblige me, but as it was cut she couldn't quite do
that, but she would try to dispose of it for me. And she did sell it a
few days later for ten dollars. I thought that was better than to lose
the entire sum. She handed me the money, saying that it would put her
to some trouble to change her accounts, and I had better let the bill go
in just as she had made it out, and I could hand mother the ten dollars
and explain matters. I really intended to do so, but I was nearly
bankrupt that month. My pocket money just seemed to walk away. I had
invited Adelaide to see the play of the 'Harvard Hasty Pudding,' and of
course I had to have Miss Noakes chaperone us, and I hadn't money enough
left to buy the tickets."

"Why didn't you tell her so?" I asked.

"Oh! I couldn't back out after I had asked her; and I owed her a little
treat of some kind, for she invited me to see the cadet drill at her
brother's school.

"Well, after I had broken the ten dollar bill to get the tickets, the
first thing I knew it was all gone. I knew mother wouldn't mind, and
that I could tell her any time after she came home, but it never seemed
necessary to mention it in my letters and I never did."

"Oh, Milly!"

"Horrid of me, wasn't it? But I had worse temptations. My pocket money
is so very skimpy compared with what the other girls have, and with
what I have, too, in the way of credit for certain things, that I am
often really embarrassed and have to turn and twist and borrow and pinch
to make it stretch out. When you girls clubbed together and paid for
Polo's sisters at the Home, I wanted awfully to help, but I couldn't.
You see father lets me subscribe so much annually to the Home and he
sends in a check every year for me, and thinks that ought to be enough.
But I don't feel as though I was giving it at all, for it does not even
pass through my hands. I don't deny myself to give it, as Adelaide does
for her charities, and I haven't a penny for any special case of
distress or sudden emergency which I may happen to hear of.

"Do you know, Tib, that Satan actually suggested to me how easily I
might have extra pocket money by ordering things from Celeste, and
letting her sell them again in just the same way that she managed with
the golden net? I knew that she would be glad enough to do it, for I
found out afterward that Rosario Ricos bought that net of Celeste and
paid her full price for it! So you see she kept back five dollars on the
second sale, besides making a good commission on the first."

"But you didn't do it, Milly dear; you surely did not obtain your
charity money in any such dishonest way as that?"

"No, Tib. I didn't do it for charity. I some way felt that God would not
accept such a gift from me; but there came a time when I had a worse
temptation still. You know all last term papa used to ride with me every
Saturday afternoon either at the riding academy or in the Park. Well,
something is the matter with his liver; it hurts him to trot, and he has
had to give it up, and Wiggins took me out. But I hate riding with a
groom, and so one day when papa called I told him I didn't care for any
more riding this winter. This happened the week you went home to help
tend your mother when she was sick, and that is the reason you never
heard of it. I was taking father up to the studio when I said it, to
show him Professor Waite's Academy picture, and papa was so vexed with
me about my not wanting to ride that he didn't half notice the pictures.

"He took to Professor Waite, though, right away; and just as he was
leaving asked him if he rode. 'When I am so fortunate as to have the
opportunity,' Professor Waite replied.

"'Very good,' said papa. 'Then possibly you will oblige me by
accompanying my daughter and one of her friends on an occasional ride
in the park.' He explained that he had a good saddle horse, which
needed exercise, which he would be glad to have him use; and that,
what was more important, I needed exercise too, and was so perverse
that I did not want to take it alone. 'And now,' said he, 'the cruel
parent proposes, Milly, to pay for another horse for one of your other
girl friends. I suppose you will choose Adelaide, and if Professor
Waite will act as your escort occasionally, I think you can manage to
extract some pleasure from the exercise.'

"Of course I was perfectly delighted, and hugged papa, and called him a
dear old thing. Professor Waite, who had looked awfully bored and had
even begun to mumble something about being too busy, began to take an
interest in the matter as soon as Adelaide's name was mentioned, and
papa had an interview with Madame and got her permission to let us ride
every Saturday morning. Adelaide was down at her tenement, and it was
left that I was to tell her when she returned, and I thought everything
was settled. But when Adelaide came in she was looking troubled over
some of her tenants' tribulations and she only half listened to me.

"'I would like above all things to ride again,' she said 'as I used to
on the plains when I lived out West; but there is no use talking about
it, Milly dear, I can't do it. I have no riding habit, and I cannot
afford to have one made. Thank you just as much, but don't say another
word about it.'

"You can imagine how disappointed I was. I knew very well that neither
Madame nor mamma would let me ride alone with Professor Waite, even if
papa would permit it; and I knew, too, that the Professor would lose
every bit of interest in the plan if Adelaide did not go. I was not
thoroughly selfish, Tib. I wanted Adelaide to have a good time too, and
I wanted Professor Waite to be happy. I told myself that if he loved
Adelaide, I would do all I could to help him, and perhaps some day he
would remember that it was through me that he had won her, and like me
a little for it, and never suspect that I--that I----"

Her voice broke and she buried her head on my shoulder. "Dear Milly," I
said, caressing and soothing her as best I could. "Of course you were
not selfish. Well, and what happened next?"

"I couldn't give up the plan, Tib, and I thought that if all that kept
Adelaide from joining in it was the lack of a habit, that could be
easily arranged. I would make her a present of it. I was sure that
father would give me twenty-five dollars for my next birthday present,
and I thought it would do no harm to spend it in advance. So I asked
Celeste how much cloth it would take, and I had it sent her from
Arnold's, a beautiful fine dark-green broadcloth. And then I told
Adelaide what I had done and that she must go around to Celeste's with
me and be fitted. Do you believe it, she would not? She said that it
would be wrong for her to accept such a present from me; and besides,
nothing would induce her to ride with Professor Waite, for she couldn't
endure him. That put an end to the ride in the Park. Cynthia would have
taken Adelaide's place, but when I told Professor Waite that Adelaide
would not go, he looked so angry that I saw he wanted to get out of the
arrangement, and I suggested that perhaps we had better give up the
plan. He said, very well, just as I pleased, and looked so relieved that
I almost cried then and there. Papa was so provoked when I told him of
it that I did not dare say a word about the riding-habit, especially as
he had just handed me my little Swiss watch as my birthday present. So I
pretended to be pleased with it, and there was that dreadful cloth for
the riding-habit on my hands, and I didn't know what to do. Mamma was
still in Florida, and papa said that she was not very strong and must
not be worried--I must only write cheerful letters to her. I didn't feel
very cheerful, I assure you. Then Cynthia told me one day that she had
twenty dollars with which she wanted to purchase a winter suit and she
would like my advice about it. I was in debt just twenty dollars for the
cloth for the habit, and I told her about it and begged her to take it
off my hands. She went with me to Celeste's and liked it very much. The
only trouble was that her mother had intended the twenty dollars to pay
for both material and making, and of course she ought to get something
not nearly so nice.

"She said at last that if I would get Celeste to wait for her pay she
would take the dress and pay her later. I thought only of paying for the
material at Arnold's, for I had expected to have the money by that time,
and had asked them to make a separate bill out, and not put it on my
book that goes every month to papa. So we arranged it. Cynthia gave me
her twenty dollars and I settled for the cloth, and Celeste made the
dress for her, and furnished the trimmings. But how she did run them up!
She had a band of real sable around the hem of the skirt and trimmed the
jacket with it too; and made her that cute little toque with heads and
tails on it, and when the bill came in it was sixty dollars. Cynthia was
frightened. 'I never can pay it in the world,' she said. 'I think your
dressmaker is frightfully extortionate; and I had no idea it would be so
much.' I felt sorry for her and I felt, too, that I was to blame for
getting her into the predicament; so I said we would divide the expense,
and she should only pay half. But she grumbled at that, and said that I
had inveigled her into the trouble, and that she had a dressmaker on
125th Street who would have made the suit for ten dollars. When I
reminded her of the fur, she said she did not believe it was real sable,
and she didn't want it any way.

"I offered to take it to Gunther's and see if I could get something for
it, if she would rip it off, but she said she would do no such thing;
the dress would be a fright without it. It was all a miserable mess, and
I was so unhappy. It would have been some consolation if Cynthia had
been grateful, but she blamed me for everything, and I think that,
considering all I have done for her, she treated me very shabbily when
she said that Adelaide was the only lady in the Amen Corner, and she did
not care to speak to any of us again."

"That was like Cynthia, and I am sure that the loss of her friendship
can only be a benefit to you. But, Milly, you must bravely shoulder the
greater part of the blame yourself. Your first wrong step was in getting
the golden net without permission, then in letting Celeste pay you for
it and yet having it charged to your father. Then, again, in getting
the cloth for Adelaide's habit without consulting your father you
deliberately did wrong; and in bargaining with Cynthia, instead of going
straight to your father and confessing your fault, you waded still more
deeply in----"

"I know it; but there you are scolding me just like Winnie, and it
doesn't make the trouble a bit easier to bear to be told that I deserve
it all, and am a miserable little sinner. You needn't imagine that I did
not realize what a wretch I was; only I didn't seem to see the way out.
Everything I did to extricate myself got me deeper into the quicksand. I
saved every way, all that I could; one month I laid by two dollars and
thirty-seven cents, but the next I slipped back three and a quarter, and
Cynthia handed me a five dollar bill one day, and told me that was every
cent that she could pay, and I must let her off from the rest. And to
crown it all, Winnie found out about it, and nearly drove me wild. Oh,
Tib, I have been in such trouble, what with this dreadful bill that I
didn't dare tell papa about, and Professor Waite, and all my lessons so
hard, and my marks getting worse than ever, and Winnie turning on me. It
just seemed as if I would die, and I almost wished I could. I thought
seriously about killing myself only the night before last. I think if I
could have found any poison that would not have hurt I would have taken
it."

"Don't talk so, Milly; it is wicked. You would have done nothing of the
sort."

"But I would. I went into the chemical laboratory and looked at the
green and blue stuff in the test tubes, but I couldn't quite screw my
courage up to do more than taste just a little bit of one kind that
looked more deadly than the rest. It was horrid, and took the skin off
of the tip of my tongue. I ate a quarter of a pound of assorted mints
before I could get the taste out of my mouth. If I could have found some
laudanum, or something that would not have tasted so bad, or would have
killed me by putting me to sleep, I would have taken it that night, for
I was miserable enough to do anything, however unscrupulous and
reckless. If I hadn't been so very desperate perhaps I would never have
dared to do what I did do; the thing which really broke the meshes of
the golden net which seemed to have me in its toils. I didn't mean to
tell any one, but I was just driven to it, and I know you will keep my
secret--besides I have told you so much that you might as well know all.
Tib, I----"

"Milly, it is time we were all in bed." It was Winnie who spoke. She
stood in the doorway, cold and commanding, and Milly cowered before her.
She did not offer to kiss her, but shrank, frightened, away to her room.

"Oh, Winnie," I said, "why did you come in just then? Milly was just
about to confess to me what she did to get the money with which she has
just paid Celeste."

"You have no business to coax her secret from her," Winnie replied
angrily. "Whatever it is, you have no right to know it unless she has
wronged you. I am afraid our dear Milly is in deep waters. But whatever
she may have done lies between her own conscience and God, and I believe
that He will show her how to make restitution and keep, in the future,
strictly to the right. Oh, my poor, precious Milly! I wish I could
suffer all the consequences of your wrong doing for you, but I can't.
Every sin brings suffering, and it is the suffering that purifies. I
can't save you that experience, but I will shield you from open shame if
I can. I forbid you, Tib, to pry into Milly's affairs any further, to
question her, or allow her to confide in you, or even suspect her. Only
pray for her, and love her; that is all you can do."

"It is you who suspect her," I exclaimed hotly, "and unjustly, Winnie.
Milly has been extravagant and thoughtless; worse than that, she has
been underhanded and deceitful in regard to expenditures, but she did
not take the money from the cabinet; of that I am positive."

"Have I ever charged her with anything so dreadful?" Winnie asked. "Have
I not tried in every way to keep that suspicion from every one? Give me
credit for that, at least."

"In words, Winnie; but in your secret thought you have wronged her. I
know that you love her with a sort of a fierce, maternal love which
makes you want her to be perfect, and which fears the worst and tortures
yourself with imaginary impossibilities. I tell you that Milly has
learned a very thorough lesson in regard to deception; she will never
offend in that way again; and as to this affair of the cabinet, I would
as soon suspect you as her."

"Suspect me, then," Winnie cried. "I wish you would. I hoped that
Cynthia was going to lead suspicion my way, but it seems she can't do
it. I have too good a reputation." And Winnie laughed cynically. "Well,
the time may come when you may not think so well of me. Meantime, I
thank you with all my heart for believing in Milly."



CHAPTER IX.

"POLO."


[Illustration]

It must not be inferred that our life that winter was all intense and
tragical; if it had been so we could not have endured it. There were
patches of clear sky, and the sunlight of generous acts glinted through
the storm. We had all merry hearts and good digestions, and these bore
us up under our troubles with the buoyancy which is so mercifully
granted to youth and inexperience. Then, too, our thoughts were not
entirely taken up with ourselves and our own affairs. For a few days
after this we saw nothing of Mr. Mudge, and our attention was partly
diverted to another matter.

One day, earlier in the school year, Mrs. Booth, of the Salvation Army,
had addressed Madame's school on the need of work among the poor of New
York. One little parable which she gave made a great impression upon us.
I cannot repeat Mrs. Booth's eloquent language, but will give the main
points of the story.

"As a young girl," said Mrs. Booth, "I was very selfish and
hard-hearted. I did not care for the suffering and anguish of others.
It was not that I was naturally cruel, but I did not think of them at
all. I thought and cared only for myself, of parties and dresses, and of
having a good time--and this Dead Sea of selfishness was numbing every
generous impulse within me. My heart was growing to resemble a certain
spring which my mother took me to see when a little child. I remember
the walk through the wood beside a little brook which babbled over the
stones, and how the light of the sky shone down into its clear amber
waters, and the trees and the clouds were reflected in its quiet pools;
how long mosses fringed its stones, and water plants made a little
forest under its ripples; and how its depths were all alive with tiny
fish and happy living creatures seeking their food and sporting among
the cresses. But we came presently to a spring quite apart and very
different from the brook. The water was deep, and quiet, and clear, but
when I looked into it I was struck by a death-like influence, weird and
sinister. There were no minnows darting through the depths like silver
needles, or craw-fish burrowing in the banks, or water beetles skimming
the surface like oarsmen rowing their light wherries. There was no life
to be seen anywhere. The very stones had a strange, unnatural look; they
were white as marble; no mosses covered them, no water-lilies or algae
grew through the deadly water. The very leaves which had fallen into the
pool were white and heavy, as though carved in marble. The grasses which
grew downward and dipped into the spring were marble grasses, more like
clumsy branching coral than the delicate bending sprays above the waves.
It was a petrifying spring, and everything dipped in its waters was
presently coated with a fine, stony sediment and practically turned
to stone.

"So the deadly, petrifying spring of selfishness will turn the heart to
stone, and while having the form of life it will be cold and hard and
dead."

This was Mrs. Booth's little parable, and while none of our hearts had
been dipped in this petrifying spring, it woke us to new desires to do
more for the suffering poor.

Something happened a little after this talk, and several weeks previous
to the robbery, which gave a direction to our impulses. Milly and I were
returning from a shopping excursion one very cold and rainy Saturday,
when we were approached by a poor girl who was selling pencils on a
corner. "They are always useful," I said; "suppose we take some."

"I should perfectly love to," Milly replied, "but I haven't a cent."

The girl had noticed our hesitation and came to us. "Please buy some,
young ladies," she said; "I haven't had a thing to eat to-day."

"Then come right along with me," said Milly. "Mother lets me lunch at
Sherry's, whenever I am out shopping."

The girl followed us but stopped beneath the awning of the handsome
entrance. "That's too fine a place for me, Miss," she said. "Only swells
go there. It costs the eyes out of your head just for a clean plate and
napkin in there. How much do you s'pose now, a lunch would cost in that
there palace?"

"Not more than a dollar," Milly replied cheerfully.

"Glory!" exclaimed the girl, "if you mean to lay out as much as that on
me, why ten cents will get me all I want to eat at a bakery on Third
Avenue, and I'll take the balance home to the children."

"That is just where the awkwardness of papa's way of doing comes in,"
Milly said to me. "You see," she explained to the girl, "I've spent all
my money to-day, but I can have a lunch charged here."

Still the girl hesitated. "I'm not fit," she said, looking at her
dripping, ragged clothes. We were sheltered from view by the awning, and
in an instant Milly had taken off her handsome London-made mackintosh
and had thrown it around the girl. "There, that covers you all up," she
said, "and your hat isn't so very bad."

It was a tarpaulin, and, though a little frayed at the edges, its glazed
surface had shed the rain and it was not conspicuously shabby.

We passed into the ladies' restaurant and seated ourselves at one of
the little tables. Milly took up a menu and looked it over critically.
"Now I am going to order a very sensible, plain luncheon," she
announced. "No frills, but something hot and nourishing. We will begin
with soup. Papa would approve of that. He is always provoked when I cut
the soup. Green turtle? Yes, waiter, three plates of green turtle soup."

"Please excuse me," I interrupted. "I do not care for anything."

"No? Well, two plates. I usually loathe turtle soup, but I'm determined
to be sensible and have a solid lunch. Some way, I don't know why, I'm
not very hungry this afternoon."

"Perhaps the ice-cream soda we had at Huyler's has taken away your
appetite," I suggested.

The soup was brought and Milly sipped a little daintily, as she
afterward said merely to keep her guest company. The guest devoured it
ravenously; she had evidently never tasted anything so delicious; but
perhaps plain beef-stew would have seemed as good, for her feast was
seasoned with that most appetizing of sauces--hunger.

"What will you have next?" Milly asked politely, as the waiter removed
their plates.

"Whatever you take, Miss," the girl replied. "I ain't particular. I
guess anything here's good enough for me."

"I declare I don't feel as if I could worry down another morsel," Milly
answered. "There is nothing so surfeiting as green turtle. It makes me
almost sick to think of crabs or birds, or even shrimp salad. Let's skip
all that, and take the desert. Waiter, bring us two ices. Which flavor
do you prefer?" she asked of the pencil vender, and again the bewildered
girl left the choice to her hostess.

"Strawberry, mousse, and chocolate are too cloying," Milly remarked
meditatively. "Bring us lemon water ice and pistache. Don't you just
dote on pistache?"

"I never ate any, Miss."

"Then I shall have the pleasure of introducing you to something new.
You'll be sure to like it."

The girl did like it. She ate every morsel. Possibly something more
solid would have proved as satisfying, but Milly was pleased with her
evident appreciation.

"Why don't you eat the macaroons? Don't you like them? Would you rather
have kisses?"

"If you please Miss, might I take them home to the children?"

"Yes, I suppose so. It isn't exactly good form to put things in your
pocket, but they will be charged for just the same, even if we leave
them, so take them, quick, now that the waiter is not looking."

Although the waiter was not watching us, some one else was. A
faultlessly dressed gentleman approached at this juncture and greeted
Milly in an impressive manner.

"Why, Mr. Van Silver!" she exclaimed, a little fluttered by the
unexpected meeting. "I haven't seen you since last summer at
Narragansett Pier."

"And whose fault is that?" Mr. Van Silver asked plaintively. "If young
ladies will shut themselves up in convents, and never send their adoring
friends any invitation to a four o'clock tea or a reception or even a
school examination or a prayer meeting, where they might catch a glimpse
of them, it is the poor adorer's misfortune, and not his fault, if he is
forgotten. Won't you introduce me to your friends?"

"Certainly. Tib, this is Mr. Van Silver. Mr. Van Silver, allow me to
present you to Tib--I mean to Miss Smith. I can't introduce you to the
other young lady, because I don't know her name."

We had all risen and the last remark was made _sotto voce_. As we left
the building Mr. Van Silver sheltered Milly with his umbrella and the
waif followed with me. "Come with us to Madame's," I had said, "and
perhaps we can do something for you."

As we walked on together Milly and Mr. Van Silver carried on a lively
conversation, part of which I overheard, and the remainder Milly
reported afterward. She first told him of how we had met our new
acquaintance, and he seemed much interested.

"And so you have just given her a very solid and sensible lunch,
consisting of green turtle soup and ice cream." He laughed a low,
gurgling laugh and appeared infinitely amused.

"And macaroons," Milly added; "she has at least five macaroons in her
pocket for the children."

"Oh! yes, a macaroon a piece for the children. I wonder if I couldn't
contribute a cigarette for each of them," and he gurgled again in a
purring, pleasant way.

"You are making fun of me," Milly pouted, in an aggrieved way.

"Not at all. I think it was just like you, Miss Milly, to do such a
lovely thing. You are one of the most kind-hearted girls I know,--to
beggars, I mean,--but the young men tell a different story. There's poor
Stacey Fitz Simmons. I saw him the other day and he was complaining
bitterly of your hard-heartedness. He said you hardly spoke to him at
Professor Fafalata's costume dance."

"How unfair! he was my partner in the minuet. What more could he ask?"

"There's nothing mean about Stacey. He probably wanted you to dance all
the other dances with him. I told him that he was a lucky young dog to
be invited at all. Why did you leave me out?"

"I didn't think that a grown-up gentleman, in society, would care for
a little dance at a boarding-school, where he would only meet
bread-and-butter school girls."

"Oh! I'm too old, am I? Well, I must say you are complimentary. And it's
a fault that doesn't decrease as time passes. Well, I shall tell Stacey
that there's hope for him. You only care for very young men. Why did you
send back the tickets which he sent you for the Inter-scholastic Games!
You nearly broke his heart. He has been training for the past six
months simply and solely in the hope that you will see him win the mile
run."

"But I will see him. I wrote him that Adelaide's brother, Jim, had
already sent her tickets, which we should use, and as he might like to
bestow his elsewhere, I returned them."

"'Bestow them elsewhere?' Not he. Stacey is constant as the pole. He's
as loyal as he is thoroughbred. He was telling me about the serenade
that the cadet band gave your school last year. Some girl let down a
scrap basket from her window full of buttonhole bouquets. He wore one
pinned to the breast of his uniform for a week because he thought you
had a hand in it; and you never saw a fellow so cut up as he was when he
heard last summer that you had nothing to do with it, and even slept
sweetly through the entire serenade."

"Stacey is too silly for anything. It is perfectly ridiculous for a
little boy like him to talk that way."

"Little boy--let me see, just how old is Stacey, anyway! About
seventeen. Six months your senior, is he not? At what age should you say
that one might fall quite seriously and sensibly in love?"

"Oh! not till one is twenty at least," Milly answered quickly; but she
blushed furiously while she spoke.

"Sensible girl! But to return to the subject of the Inter-scholastic
Games. I am glad that you and your friend Miss Adelaide are going. They
are to take place out at the Berkeley Oval, you know. I have no doubt
that the roads will be settled and we shall have fine weather by that
time. May I have the pleasure of driving you out on my coach?"

"Certainly. That is, I must coax papa to write a note to Madame, asking
her to let us go."

"I will call at the bank and see your papa about it to-morrow, and
meantime do beam upon poor Stacey. And, by the way, here is something
which you may as well add to the macaroons for those poor children," and
he pressed a dollar bill into Milly's hand. Some one passed us rapidly
at that instant and gave the young man so questioning a glance that he
raised his hat, asking Milly a moment later if she knew the lady.

"Why, that is Miss Noakes!" Milly exclaimed, in dismay. "You must not go
a step further with us, Mr. Van Silver, or we will be reported for
'conduct.'"

"Far be it from me to gratify the evidently malicious desire of that
estimable person to report you young ladies. Good-by until the games,"
and with another bow he was gone.

As we approached the school building we saw Professor Waite leaving by
the turret door, and I asked him to allow us to enter by it, at the same
time requesting him to buy some of our new friend's pencils. He looked
at the girl closely, and as Milly led the way with her I explained how
we had found her.

"She is a picturesque creature," Professor Waite remarked. "I could make
her useful as a model. The girls pose so badly and dislike to do it so
much, it might be well to try this waif. Tell her to come on Monday, and
if the class like her well enough to club together and pay a small
amount for her services, we will engage her to sit for us."

He scribbled a line on one of his visiting cards for her to show
Cerberus, as we called our dignified janitor, who was very particular
about whom he admitted to the building; and I hastily followed our
_protégé_ to the Amen Corner, where I found Adelaide talking with her
while Milly ransacked her wardrobe for cast-off clothing, finding only a
Tam O'Shanter, a parasol, and some soiled gloves.

"Can't you find her a pair of rubbers?" Adelaide asked. "The girl's feet
are soaked."

"Do you keep your own rubbers?" the waif asked. "That was my father's
business."

"What do you mean?" inquired Adelaide.

"My father was a rubber--a massage man for the Earl of Cairngorm."

"Oh!" said Adelaide, a light beginning to dawn upon her mind. "I meant
rubber overshoes, not a bath woman."

"We call those galoshes," said the girl, as Milly produced a pair which
were not mates. "I'm sure you've given me a fine setting out, young
ladies. I'll do as much for you if I ever has the chance. Who knowses?
Maybe some day I'll be a swell and you poor. Then you just call on me,
and don't you forget it." With which cheerful suggestion she left us,
grateful and happy. I took her down to the main entrance, and, showing
the card to Cerberus, explained that she had been engaged by Professor
Waite, and was to be allowed to enter every morning. He granted a
grudging consent, not at all approving of her appearance without the
waterproof, and I flew back to the Amen Corner to join in the general
conference. She had told Adelaide that her name was Pauline Terwilliger.
Her father had been English, her mother Swiss. They had knocked about
the world as foot-balls of fortune, but had lived longest in London,
where her father had died. Her brother had come to New York some years
previous, and her mother had brought the family over on his insistence.
But this brother had failed to meet them, as he had promised to do, on
their landing at Castle Garden. Their mother had lost his address, and
they were stranded in a strange city. They had advertised in the papers,
and had left their own address at the Barge Office, but her brother had
never appeared. They had taken a room in a tenement house, and the
mother had obtained some work, scrubbing offices and cleaning windows.
But she had taken cold and was now in a hospital, and Polo was trying to
support the two younger children.

"They are living in one of the worst tenement houses in Mulberry Bend,"
said Adelaide. "I would like to give them a room in my house, but it is
full; and cheap as the rent is, they could never pay it."

"The younger children ought to go to the Home," I suggested.

"The Home is full," Winnie replied. "I called there to-day. Emma Jane
says it just breaks her heart to look at the list of applications
waiting for a vacancy. Our dear Princess[2] has in mind a little
old-fashioned house which fronts on a side street, whose yard backs
against ours. She would like to have it rented as an annex. She says the
Home ought to have a nursery for very little babies. You know it does
not now take children under two years of age, on account of the expense
of nurses; but this would be such a charming place for them, and we
could call it the 'Manger,' and have it connected with the main building
with a long glass piazza. The scheme is a perfect one. All it needs
is money to carry it out. Unfortunately, that is lacking. I have
corresponded with all our out-of-town circles of King's Daughters. They
are doing all they can, and have pledged enough, with our other
subscriptions, to carry the Home through the coming year on its old
basis; but there isn't a cent to spare for a 'manger.'"

  [2] "The Princess" was a quaint little foreigner, who gave the
  girls botany lessons, and who originated the idea of the Home,
  whose founding is related in the initial volume of this series.

"Would all of the new house be taken up by the nursery?" Adelaide asked.

"No; the Princess proposed that the upper story, which consists of four
little bedrooms, should be used as 'guest chambers' for emergency cases,
convalescent children returned from hospitals, and children who, on
account of peculiar distress,--like Polo's sisters,--it seemed best to
receive for a short time entirely free. The Princess thought that we
might like to club together and pay for one such room, and then we could
designate at any time the persons we would like to have occupy it. There
is always a list of applicants, which would be submitted to us to choose
from, in case we had no candidates of our own to suggest. The occupants
of such a room would then be as truly our guests as if we entertained
them in our own home. It would come in very nicely now in Polo's case."

Milly gave a deep sigh. "I wish I could help you, girls, but you know
just how I am situated."

Adelaide knitted her brows. "We must get up some sort of an
entertainment. It makes me tired to think of it, but there's no other
way."

"And in the mean time, Emma Jane must find room for those children some
way," said Winnie. "I will call a meeting of the Hornets in our corner
to-night, and we will pledge ourselves to raise money enough for one
guest chamber for these children, and until it is arranged for, Emma
Jane must make up beds for them on the school desks, or we can buy a
_retroussé_ bedstead for the parlor."

"_Retroussé_ bedstead! What's that?" Milly asked, in a puzzled way.

"Don't be dense, Milly; it's vulgar to speak of a turn-up nose, you
know; and I don't know why we should insult a parlor organ bedstead in
the same way. If we can't afford that sort of thing, they might turn the
dining tables upside down; they would make better cribs than the
children have now, I'll venture to say."

"You will tuck them up, I suppose, with napkins and table-cloths,"
Cynthia sneered. But Winnie paid no attention to the interruption.

"They will not mind a little crowding, and the thing will march right
along if we only plunge into it. They must not stay another night in
that old tenement. Polo said there was a rag-picker under them, and a
woman who had delirium tremens in the next room. I am going down
to-morrow afternoon to take them to the Home."

A meeting of our own particular circle of King's Daughters, which was
made up of ourselves and the "Hornets," took place that evening in the
Hornets' Nest. The Hornets were a coterie of mischievous girls rooming
in a little family like the Amen Corner, but in the attic story under
the very eaves. They took up the idea of the guest chamber with great
enthusiasm, but they were nearly as impecunious as ourselves. Suddenly
Little Breeze--our pet name for Tina Gale--exclaimed, "I have a notion!
We will invite the school to a 'Catacomb Party, and the underground
Feast of the Ghouls.'"

"How very scareful that sounds!" said Trude Middleton. "What is it,
anyway?"

"Oh! it's a mystery, a blood-curdling mystery. It will cost everybody
fifty cents, but it will be worth it. I want Witch Winnie to be on the
committee of arrangements with me, and you must all give us full
authority to do just as we please; and it is to be a surprise, and you
must ask no questions."

"We trust you. Where's it to be? In the sewers, or the cathedral
crypts?"

But Little Breeze refused to waft the least zephyr of information our
way, and there was nothing for it but to wait.

As we were returning rather noisily from the Hornets' Nest, we passed
Miss Noakes's open door, and she rang her little bell in a peremptory
manner. This meant that we were to report ourselves immediately to her,
and we did so.

"Young ladies," said Miss Noakes in her most disagreeable manner,
"before reporting you to Madame, I would like to give you an opportunity
of explaining a very irregular performance. As I was returning from a
meeting of the Young Women's Christian Association this afternoon, I saw
three occupants of your corner taking a promenade with a gentleman. This
is, as you know, an infringement of school rules, and I would like to
inquire whether the young man has any authorization from your parents
for such attention."

"Only two of us were concerned in this matter," I replied. "We met Mr.
Van Silver quite by chance, and he very politely offered Milly the
protection of his umbrella for a part of the way home, as she had none.
He is an old friend of her family and thoroughly approved of by Mr.
Roseveldt."

"How often have I told you young ladies never to go out, on the
pleasantest day, without an umbrella or waterproof, since a storm may
come up at any minute?"

"I did take my waterproof," Milly replied.

"Then you had no occasion to accept the gentleman's umbrella," Miss
Noakes said sternly.

"But I gave it to Polo," Milly stammered, quite fluttered.

"Polo! Who is Polo? and how can you tell me, Miss Smith, that Miss
Roseveldt and you were the only ones implicated in this disgraceful
affair, when I saw three of you enter the turret door?"

"The third girl was Polo, the new model whom Professor Waite has engaged
to pose for the portrait class."

"A professional model? Worse and worse! and how comes it that you were
walking with such a questionable character?"

I related the entire story as simply as possible; but it was evident
that Miss Noakes did not approve.

"A most extraordinary performance," she commented. "I feel it my duty to
report it to Madame."

"You may spare yourself that trouble, Miss Noakes," Adelaide replied.
"Tib, Winnie, and I are going to tell Madame all about it at her
next office hour. We want to ask her permission to get up a little
entertainment in behalf of Polo's little brother and sisters."

"And I shall suggest to Madame," Miss Noakes added, "the advisability of
inquiring into the character and antecedents of this girl, before she
allows her to become an accredited dependent of her establishment, or
authorizes the bestowal of charity upon her family. Artists' models are
often disreputable people with whom your parents would not be willing
that you should associate, and I advise you not to become too intimate
with a perfect stranger."

We had come through the ordeal on the whole quite triumphantly, but Polo
had excited Miss Noakes's enmity. She could never be won to regard her
as anything but a vagabond, and always spoke of her as 'that model girl'
in a tone that belied the literal signification of the words; and later,
when by dint of spying and listening Miss Noakes learned that a robbery
had been committed in the Amen Corner, her dislike and suspicion of poor
Polo led to very painful consequences. The relation of which, however,
belongs to a later chapter.

[Illustration]



CHAPTER X.

THE CATACOMB PARTY.


[Illustration]

Polo came on Monday and posed to the satisfaction of Professor Waite and
of the class. Winnie was successful in entering the two children at the
Home, and Adelaide had a happy thought for Polo herself, who was too old
to be received there. One of the smallest apartments in her tenement had
been taken by Miss Billings and Miss Cohens, two seamstresses, honest,
industrious old maids, who had lived and worked together since they were
girls. Adelaide called them the two turtle doves, the odd combination of
their name suggesting the nickname, and their fondness for each other
bearing it out. They were a cheerful pair, and their rooms were bright
with flowers and canaries. One morning Miss Billings woke to find her
friend dead at her side, having passed from life in sleep so peacefully
that she neither woke nor disturbed the faithful friend close beside
her.

The poor old lady was very lonely and was glad to take Polo in. The
young girl brightened her life, and her own influence on the nearly
friendless waif was excellent. In the intervals of posing Miss Billings
taught Polo how to cut and fit dresses. Polo helped her with her sewing,
and Miss Billings promised to take her into partnership by and by. Polo
was very happy and grateful, and the girls all liked her immensely. She
was a character in her way, an irresistible mimic. She would take off
Miss Noakes to the life, while she had a talent which I have never seen
equalled for making the most ludicrous and horrible faces. She was
almost pretty, and with Miss Billings's help, made over the odds and
ends of clothing bestowed upon her very nicely. Her one trinket was a
string of coral beads and a little cross which her brother had sent her
before she left England. She never gave up her faith in this brother.
"Albert Edward'll turn up some day rich," she said. She flouted the
idea that he might be dead. "He ain't the dying kind," she said, when
Cynthia suggested the possibility. "None of our family ain't, except
father. Why, I've been through enough to kill a cat, and I haven't died
yet."

She was especially devoted to Milly, to whom she felt, with reason, that
she owed all her good fortune. Professor Waite found her remarkably
serviceable as a model, from her versatility and ability to adapt
herself to any character, giving a great variety of types for us to
copy. When she wore the Italian costume, one would have thought her an
Italian, and a complete change came over her when she donned the German
cap and wooden shoes. "May be that's because I've lived amongst all
sorts of foreigners so much," she said, "and Albert Edward always said
I'd make an actress equal to the best. He said I had talent. I do pity
them as hasn't. I wouldn't be one of the common herd for anything."

Polo was certainly uncommon. Her use of the English language had an
individuality of its own. She hated Miss Noakes and said she had no
business to be "tryannic" (meaning tyrannical). She spoke of native
Americans as abor-jines (a distortion of aborigines), and intermingled
these little variations of her own with cockney phrases which were new
to our untravelled ears.

She found difficulty in understanding our words and expressions, and
once when Professor Waite told her to set up a screen she astonished us
all by uttering a most blood-curdling yell, under the impression that he
had commanded her to set up a _scream_.

She disliked Cerberus, and to save her from his scornful scrutiny and
contemptuous remarks, Professor Waite had a duplicate key made to the
turret door, by which Polo entered each morning and mounted directly to
the studio.

She was very diverting, but much as we liked her we could not forget
that we had assumed a grave responsibility in taking the support of her
little sisters upon our hands, and we now began to actively agitate the
plans for the Catacomb Party, which was to raise funds for the Annex
with its "Manger and Guest Chambers."

One event of interest to us occurred before the evening of the Catacomb
Party. This was the Annual Drill of the Cadet School. All of the Amen
Corner and the Hornets had invitations. We occupied front seats in the
east balcony of the great armory, vigilantly chaperoned by Miss Noakes.
Her best intentions could not prevent the young cadets from paying their
respects to us during the intervals of the drill.

The young men looked handsomely in their gala uniforms of white trousers
and gloves, blue coats, and caps set off with plenty of frogging and
brass buttons. They performed their evolutions with a precision which
would have done credit to a regiment of regulars--and received the
praise of General Howard, who reviewed them.

Out of all the battalion there were two boys in whom we were chiefly
interested: Adelaide's younger brother Jim, color sergeant of the
baby company, and Milly's friend Stacey Fitz Simmons, the handsome
drum-major.

Winnie insisted that Malcolm Douglas must have been thinking of the
practising of this cadet drum corps when he wrote:

    "And all of the people for blocks around,
      Boom-tidera-da-boom!
    Kept time at their tasks to the martial sound,
      Boom-tidera-da-boom!
    While children to windows and stoops would fly,
    Expecting to see a procession pass by,
    And they couldn't make out why it never drew nigh,
    With its boom-tidera-da--boom-a-diddle-dee;
      Boom-tidera-da-boom!

    It would seem such vigor must soon abate;
      Boom-tidera-da-boom!
    But they still keep at it, early and late;
      Boom-tidera-da-boom!
    So if it should be that a war breaks out,
    They'll all be ready, I have no doubt,
    To help in putting the foe to rout,
    With their boom-tidera-da-boom--
      _Boom-tidera-da-boom--_
    Boom-tidera-da--boom-a-diddle-dee,
      Boom-Boom-_Boom_!"

Stacey was seventeen, tall for his age, with a little feathery mustache
outlining his finely cut upper lip. He was elegant in appearance and
manners, and we all admired and liked him with the exception of
perverse, wilful Milly. Jim was thirteen and small for his years. The
life of privation which he had led during a period when he had been
lost, the account of which has been given in the previous volume, had
stunted his growth, and given him an appearance of delicacy. But Jim was
wiry, and possessed great endurance, and his drilling that evening was
noticeable for its accuracy and spirit. Adelaide and Jim were deeply
attached to one another. They wrote each other long letters every week,
remarkable for their perfect confidence. As Jim's letters give an
insight not only into his life at the cadet school, but also into the
relations which subsisted between several of the cadets and members of
our own school, as well as into a _contretemps_ which introduced great
consternation into the Catacomb Party, I will choose two from Adelaide's
packet and insert them before describing the mystic entertainment of the
Council of Ten.


                            LETTER NO. 1.

  DEAR SISTER:

  I like the barracks better than I did. I almost have gotten over
  being homesick, and the fellows are awfully nice now that I have
  come to know them. I miss mother, but I would rather die than let
  any one know it. I've put her photograph down at the bottom of my
  trunk, for it gave me the snuffles to see it, and Stacey Fitz
  Simmons caught me kissing it once, and I was so ashamed. He is one
  of the nicest fellows here, and he didn't rough me a bit about it,
  only whistled, and said: "You've got a mighty pretty mother; I
  guess she takes after your sister. Pity there wasn't more beauty
  left for the rest of the family." He knows you, and I guess you
  must remember meeting him when you visited the Roseveldts last
  summer at Narragansett Pier. He asked if you and Milly Roseveldt
  were at the same school, and would I please send his regards when
  I wrote. He is one of the Senior A boys, and is going to college
  next year. I am only Middle C, but he is ever so good to me, I am
  sure I don't know why. We are drilling, drilling all the time now
  for the annual drill at the Seventh Regiment Armory.

  Stacey is an awfully good fellow. He's the head of everything.
  He's drum-major, and you just ought to see him in his uniform
  leading the drum corps [Jim spelled it _core_]. He's the cockatoo
  of the school. Stacey's folks are rich, and his mother wrote the
  military tailor not to spare expense, but to get Stacey up just as
  fine as they make 'em, and I don't believe there's a drum-major of
  any of the crack regiments that can hold a candle to him for
  style. In the first place he has a high furry hat that looks like
  the big muffs they carried at the old folks' concerts. Then he has
  a bright scarlet coat all frogged and padded and laced with lots
  of gold cord, and the nattiest trousers and patent leather boots.
  But his baton--oh, Adelaide! words cannot express. I don't believe
  old Ahasuerus ever had a sceptre half as gorgeous, with a great
  gold ball on the top, and it will do your eyes good to see him
  swing it. Doesn't he put on airs, though! Put on isn't the word,
  for Stacey is airy naturally, and dignified, too. Buttertub says
  he walks as if he owned the earth. When he marches backward
  holding his baton crosswise, I'm always afraid that he will fall
  and that somebody might laugh, and that would kill him. But he
  never does fall. He seems to see with the buttons on the small of
  his back, and he stepped over a banana skin while marching to the
  armory just as dandified as you please. And he never fails to
  catch his baton when he tosses it into the air, and makes it whirl
  around twice before it comes down. He never bows to any of the
  fellows or seems to see them--except me. They are going to have
  Gilmore's Band at the drill, and Stacey was practising leading
  them around the armory. I was in the lower balcony, hanging over
  and watching him. He was going through his fanciest evolutions
  when he passed me. He looked straight ahead and never winked an
  eye. I didn't think he saw me till I heard him say, "How's that,
  dear boy?" and I clapped so hard that I nearly fell over.

  Buttertub hates Stacey; he wanted to be drum-major himself.

  He calls Stacey wasp-waist, but it only calls attention to his own
  big stomach. He is always eating, and he won't train, and he can't
  run without having a fit of apoplexy. He weighs too much for the
  crew and he can't even ride a bicycle, or do anything except the
  heavy work on the foot ball team and study. Yes, he can study;
  that's the disgusting part.

  Stacy can do everything. He's a splendid sprinter. There's only
  one other boy in the school that can equal him, and that's a
  red-headed boy they call Woodpecker. He has longer legs than
  Stacey and of course takes a longer stride, and that counts. But
  Stacey is livelier and puts in four strides to three of the
  Woodpecker's, so they are pretty nearly equal. Stacey is a
  prettier runner, too. He does it just as _easy_, while the
  Woodpecker works all over, arms _and_ legs, and bites on his
  handkerchief, and his eyes pop out, and when it's all over he
  falls in a heap and looks as if he were dying, while Stacey takes
  another lap in better time than the last, just for fun.

  Stacey rides the bicycle, too, splendidly. He has one of those big
  wheels and he can manage it with his feet and do all sorts of
  tricks with his hands. He has been giving me points on bicycle
  riding. He picked out my safety for me, and has been coaching me
  how to manage it. He says I am the best rider for a little chap
  that he ever saw, and that he means to make me win the race at the
  inter-scholastic. I tell you Stacey is a trump. He's an all-around
  athlete. He dances, and he rides, and he shoots in the summer when
  he goes hunting with his uncle; and he fences, and he's stroke on
  the crew, and he's our best high jump and there isn't anything
  that he can't do, except his lessons--sometimes--but they don't
  count. He says that if it wasn't for the beastly lessons school
  would be heavenly, and we all agree with him. Ricos said that he
  would head a petition to have lessons abolished and the boys would
  all sign it, but Stacey said that parents were so unprogressive he
  didn't believe they would, and he was afraid the head master
  wouldn't pay much attention to such a petition unless it bore the
  parents' signatures.

  I've written an awfully long letter, but I like to write to you,
  and it was rainy to-day, and we couldn't go to the grounds, and
  I've hurt my ankle by falling from my bicycle so that I could not
  practise in the gymnasium. Now don't go and get scared, like a
  girl, and disapprove of athletics for such a little thing as that.
  It was only a little sprain, that will all be well before the
  drill, and I only barked my shin the least bit, nothing at all to
  what the Woodpecker does most every day.

  I hope I shall be big enough to go on the foot-ball team next
  year. I know you think it's dangerous, but I've calculated the
  chances of getting hurt and they are so very slight that I guess
  I'll risk it. Why, out of the whole eleven last year there were
  only nine that got hurt.

  Be sure you all come to the exhibition drill. I enclose two
  tickets and Stacey sends two more. He wants it distinctly
  understood that you and Miss Roseveldt are his guests. So you can
  give mine with my compliments to Miss T. Smith and Miss Winnie De
  Witt. I don't send any for that Vaughn girl, for Buttertub knows
  her and told me he was going to invite her.

  No more at present,

                From your affectionate brother,
                                     JAMES HALSEY ARMSTRONG.

  P. S. Stacey sends his regards to Miss Roseveldt.

  P. S. No. 2. And to you.


                            LETTER NO. 2.

                                        THE BARRACKS, April.

  DEAR SISTER:

  Wasn't the drill splendid? I knew you would enjoy it. How I wish
  father and mother had been in New York so they could have seen it.

  You looked just stunning in that stylish hat. Stacey said so. You
  must excuse him if he didn't pay you very much attention. He could
  only leave the band during the intermission and of course he had
  to be polite to Miss Roseveldt. Besides he said I stuck so close
  to you that he hadn't any chance. He says he never saw a fellow so
  spooney over his own sister as I am. I tell him there aren't many
  chaps who have such a nice sister as you are, and then we were
  separated so long that I am making up for lost time.

  I am glad you liked the French Army Bicycle drill. That was
  something quite new. Stacey was detailed to command it because
  he's a splendid cyclist himself, and he knew how to put us
  through. I didn't know till the day before that he was going to
  call me out to skirmish. He said: "Jimmy, you can manage your
  wheel better than any one else except the Woodpecker, and I am
  going to have you two go through with a little fancy business that
  will bring the house down." And didn't it? When I fired off my
  gun going at full speed, they clapped so that I nearly lost my
  head. Ricos was mad because he wasn't selected for the special
  manoeuvres. Ricos is better for speed than I am, and he's
  awfully quick-tempered--he's a Spaniard, you know, and he said to
  me, "Never mind, youngster, I'll pay you up for this at the
  inter-scholastic races." I suppose he means to win the gold medal,
  and I told Stacey that I believed he would, and I should be
  thankful to be second, or even third, for there are the best
  cyclists from all the other schools in the city to contend
  against. But Stacey says, "He can't do it, you know," meaning
  Ricos; and our trainer says that if he enters me at all he enters
  me to win. So I am going to try my level best.

  Wasn't Cynthia Vaughn stunning in that green dress trimmed with
  fur! Buttertub said she was the most stylish girl at the drill.
  Stacey made him mad by saying that she was hardly that, though, as
  a Harvard chap once said of some one else, he had no doubt that
  she was a well-meaning girl and a comfort to her mother!

  Ricos invited all the Hornets, and some one of them told him that
  you girls are going to have a great lark--a Catacombing Party. He
  thought it was to represent the games of the Roman arena with cats
  instead of lions and tigers. I told him it must be a mistake,
  and that if he supposed Madame's young ladies, and my sister
  especially, would do anything so low as to look on at a cat-fight,
  he didn't know what he was talking about. But Stacey said that
  there was something up, he knew, for when he asked Milly Roseveldt
  if the girls were going to have a Venetian Fête for the benefit of
  the Home, as they did last year, she said it was a sheet and
  pillow-case party this time, and boys were not admitted. He told
  her he would surely disguise himself in a sheet and pillow-case
  and come; but he only said so to tease her, and when he saw how
  distressed she was he told her he was only fooling. Buttertub
  said Cynthia mentioned it too, and Stacey's idea was a good one
  and he believed he should try it. But Stacey said he would like to
  see him do it and that he would have him court-martialled for
  ungentlemanly conduct, and reduced to the ranks if he attempted to
  play the spy at one of the girl's frolics.

  Stacey wanted me to be sure to tell you to tell Milly Roseveldt
  not to worry about what he said, for the cadets are all gentlemen
  and wouldn't think of going anywhere where they were not invited.
  That's so as far as Stacey is concerned, but I don't know about
  Ricos.

  Do tell me what you are going to do, anyway--and for pity's sake
  don't have any cats in it.

                      Your affectionate brother,
                                            J. H. ARMSTRONG.

Jim's misunderstanding of the Catacomb Party amused us very much. No one
was alarmed by the boys' threats to attend it but Milly, who insisted
that she had no confidence in Stacey and believed him fully capable of
committing even this atrocious act.

As soon as the drill was over our interest centred on this party. The
committee from our circle of King's Daughters waited upon Madame, and
obtained her permission for the projected entertainment. She stipulated,
however, that it must be strictly confined to members of the school and
no outsiders admitted.

"The Literary Society," she said, "will give its public entertainment
in the spring, and we do not wish to have the reputation of spending
our entire time in getting up charity bazaars, and imposing on our
friends to buy tickets. Anything in reason which you care to do among
yourselves, I will consent to. It does young girls good to have an
occasional frolic."

Emboldened by the unusually happy frame of mind in which Madame seemed
to be basking, Winnie asked if we might act a play and have "gentlemen
characters" in it. Formerly the assumption of masculine attire had been
prohibited, and at one of our Literary Society dramas, a half curtain
had been stretched across the stage, giving a view of only the upper
portion of the persons of the actors. The young ladies taking the part
of the male personages in the play, wore cutaway coats outside their
dresses, and riding hats or Tam O'Shanter caps.

Madame laughed as she recalled that absurd spectacle. "Since your
audience is strictly limited to your associates, I think I may suspend
that rule for this occasion," she said leniently. "When do you intend to
give the play? I cannot allow you to use the chapel. How would the
studio do?"

"If you please," said Winnie, "we would like the laundry."

"The laundry!" Madame exclaimed in surprise.

"Yes, Madame. Tina Gale explored the lower regions under the school
building one day, and the furnace room, and the long dim galleries
connecting the coal bins, the cellars, and the laundry seemed to her so
mysterious and pokerish that she thought it would be a nice idea to call
it a Catacomb Party, especially as the girls have been so much
interested in Professor Todd's early history of the Christian Church."

Madame's eyes twinkled as she heard this, for Professor Todd had been
generally voted a prosy old nuisance; but Winnie was earnestness itself.

"Very well," said Madame kindly. "I do not want the girls to think that
I am a cruel tyrant, or unduly strict or suspicious. ["She was thinking
of the way in which she arraigned Adelaide for corresponding with
Professor Waite," Winnie commented afterward.] If your committee will
submit the programme to me, I have no doubt I shall be able to approve
of everything. Let me see--the laundry will be your circus maximus, or
theatre. Where will you have your refreshments?"

We had not thought of that.

"I will give you the key to the preserve closet; it is at the end of the
drying-room, and you may make a raid upon it for your provisions. Only
please be careful not to waste or destroy any more than you can dispose
of. I will have some tables placed in the drying-room, and you may
partake of your collation there."

This was all we needed. The preparations for the Catacomb Party went
merrily on.

Trude Middleton dramatized Cardinal Wiseman's novel, "Fabiola." We who
had remained at school during the Christmas Holidays had read it aloud
together, and its thrilling pictures of the persecutions of the martyrs,
the games of the arena, and all the life of imperial Rome, had made a
deep impression upon us. Trude Middleton had a genius for writing, and
Little Breeze distributed the parts, rehearsed the play, took the rôle
of the sorceress _Afra_, and acted as stage manager. The classical
costumes were easily arranged. Professor Waite showed us how to drape
crinkled cheese cloth and to manage the folds of peplum and toga, to
trace a key-pattern border, to fillet our hair, and lace our sandals.
The rehearsals were carried on in the most secret manner. Only the
actors knew exactly what the play was to be. Expectancy was on the _qui
vive_. Winnie had written some mysteriously attractive admission
tickets, and had ornamented each one with a tiny white wire skeleton.
These tickets the ten sold to the other members of the school to the
number of one hundred and twenty, not a single member of the school
declining to patronize us.

The sale of these tickets had been materially aided by a manifesto,
printed in red ink, supposed to simulate blood, and left dangling
conspicuously from the wrist of old "Bonaparte" (Bonypart), the anatomy
class skeleton.

This manifesto read as follows:

  The Council of Ten, in secret session assembled, hereby summon
  you, each and all, severally and individually, to the Torture
  Chambers of the Inquisition (otherwise known as the studio), on
  the ringing of the great tocsin (sometimes called the eight
  o'clock study bell). At that hour let each be prepared to render
  up her earthly goods to the amount of one ticket, vouching for
  fifty cents; and having donned a winding sheet, and likewise a
  winding pillow-case as headgear, submit to the office of the
  Inquisition, which will transform her, with that happy despatch
  due to long experience, into a disembodied spirit. At the same
  time the Arch Witch Winnie will turn back the clock of Time to the
  first century, and each ghost, being first securely blindfolded,
  will be led by a spirit guide, experienced in the charge of
  personally conducting spirits, into the great amphitheatre of the
  Coliseum, where she will mingle with the most renowned personages
  of ancient Rome, and will be permitted to live a short and
  exciting life under the cheerful persecution of the amiable and
  playful Cæsars.

  After the final scene of the gladiatorial combat in the arena
  each spirit will be led by her guide through the grewsome and
  labyrinthine Catacombs--faint not! fear not! to the

              _Feast of the Ghouls!_

  Thence, conducted by Orpheus with his lute, and Beatrice, the
  guide of Dante, they will cross the Styx and join in the

              _Dance of the Dead_

  in the shadowy Purgatorio.

  At the stroke of midnight each spirit who has passed through this
  ordeal with a steadfast mind will be wafted to upper regions to
  the rest of the blessed.

  Signed by the Council of Ten, as represented by Witch Winnie, of
  the Amen Corner, and Little Breeze, of the Hornets; and sealed
  with the great seal of our office, this ---- day of ---- 18--.

  SEAL.

These preparations were going on simultaneously with the investigation
of the robbery, and served in a measure to relieve the tension to which
we were all subjected. Still the trouble was there, and we never quite
forgot it. Mr. Mudge called twice, and made inquiries, from which Winnie
inferred that he was hopelessly puzzled. Milly was sure that he had
found a clew, but if so, he did not impart his discoveries.

The mystic evening arrived. Cynthia, who, for some reason inexplicable
to us, was in a highly self-satisfied and gracious mood, invited Polo to
sleep with her in order that she might be able to attend the party. It
was necessary to prefer this request to our corridor teacher, Miss
Noakes, who gave us a very grudging consent; but we cared very little
for her iciness since we had effected our wishes.

The girls met in the studio, where all were draped in sheets, a small
mask cut from white cotton cloth tied on, and a pillow case fitted about
the back of the head in the fashion of a long capuchin hood. When thus
robed our dearest friends were unrecognizable. Then, marshalled by
Winnie, the company of spectres paraded through the hall and down the
main staircase. Miss Noakes and the other teachers stood in their doors
and watched the procession, but as it was known that we had Madame's
permission no attempt was made to stop us, and we passed on unabashed.
Arrived at the lower floor each of the guests was securely blindfolded
and conducted by one of our ten down the cellar stairs, and through
winding passages to the laundry, which had been converted for the
evening into an auditorium, sheets having been hung on clothes-lines
across one end, and the space in front filled with camp chairs brought
from the recitation rooms. The set tubs on one side of the improvised
stage were fitted up as boxes, while a semi-circle of clothes-baskets
marked the space assigned to the comb orchestra. As fast as the girls
arrived in the laundry they were seated, and when the last instalment
was in position the lights were turned nearly out, and they were told to
remove the handkerchiefs which bandaged their eyes. At the same time the
comb orchestra, led by Cynthia, struck up a dismal dirge-like overture,
broken in upon at intervals by a tremendous thump with a potato masher
on the great copper boiler. The curtain was drawn slowly aside, the
lights suddenly turned on, and the play began. Adelaide made a very
beautiful _Fabiola_. Winnie acted the part of _Pancratius_ with great
expression. Milly looked the saintly _Agnes_ to perfection. I was
_Sebastian_. We did not indulge in all the dialogue with which the book
is overloaded. Our play was rather a series of tableaux, for which I had
painted the scenery with the assistance of the other art students.
Professor Waite had borrowed various classical properties from his
brother artists for us. The plaster casts of the studio were made to
serve as marble statues, and Madame had sent us several palms in
urn-shaped pots.

When the play was nearly over, Polo, who had acted as doorkeeper, made
her way behind the scenes and took my attention from the prompter's book
with the horrified whisper, "If you please, there are two girls out
there that are boys."

"Who? Where? How do you know it?" I asked in a breath.

"They came in at the end of the procession, without any guides, and sat
down near the door, apart from the others. One is little enough to be a
girl, but the other is taller, even, than Miss Adelaide."

"It is Snooks," Winnie exclaimed. "Just like her to come spying and
speculating here to see what we are up to."

"If that's so, Miss Noakes has bigger feet than I ever gave her credit
for," Polo replied; "and she wears boots too."

"Then those cadets have actually dared!" Winnie exclaimed, and Milly
gave a little shriek. "Oh, that horrid Stacey Fitz Simmons!"

"Hush!" commanded Winnie. "We will make them wish they had never been
born. Oh, I will manage these gay young gentlemen. Go back to your post,
Polo. Keep the door locked, and be sure that no one leaves except in
the regular order and conducted by her guide."

A few moments later and the curtains were drawn at the close of the
final act, tremendous applause testifying the approval of the audience.
Winnie now stepped to the front of the curtain and announced that the
ghosts must now each submit once more to be blindfolded and "to be led
through the grewsome and labyrinthine catacombs to the Feast of the
Ghouls."

Little Breeze and Milly first led away two of the girls, and then Winnie
stepped boldly up to the taller of the two suspected intruders and
offered to blindfold him. The rogue could only follow the example of
those who had preceded him, and submit with a good grace, as any other
course would have led to detection. I followed with the shorter
impostor, tying the handkerchief very tight, and detecting the odor of
cigarettes as I did so. Winnie beckoned to me to follow, and conducted
her victim to the root cellar, a dark, unwholesome little room, with a
small orated window--a veritable dungeon. We led our prisoners into the
centre of this gloomy cell, and, making them kneel on the cemented
floor, bade them remain there until the coming of the ghouls. Hastening
from the place, we chained and padlocked the door securely.

"Now that we have secured our prisoners, what do you propose to do with
them?" I asked of Winnie.

"Call the Amen Corner together after supper to deliberate on their fate.
In the mean time they are very well off where they are. I fancy they
will hardly care to repeat this experiment."

We returned to the laundry and continued the ceremony of leading our
guests to the supper. When all had been led in, the bandages were
removed from their eyes, and they found themselves before tables
provided with plates, knives, and forks, but no edibles. Little Breeze,
beating upon a tin pan with a great beef bone, called the meeting to
order, and, indicating the preserve closet, announced that the ghouls
would now search the neighboring tombs for their prey. At the same time
the door of the preserve closet was thrown open, and Trude Middleton set
the example by capturing a can of peaches. The girls fancied that they
were robbing the pantry, and this gave zest to the performance to a few
of the more reckless ones, but the rest held back, and Winnie found it
necessary to circulate the whisper that even this apparently high-handed
proceeding was authorized by Madame, before the raid became general. A
very heterogeneous repast, consisting of pickles, crackers, dried
apples, canned fruit, prunes, dried beef, and lemonade hastily mixed in
a great earthen bowl, was now participated in by the hilarious ghouls.
One bowl of the lemonade was ruined, after the lemons and sugar were
mingled, by a ludicrous mistake. Milly, mistaking it for water, filled
the bowl from a jar of liquid bluing. The error was discovered when we
began filling some empty jelly tumblers with the strange blue mixture,
and, fortunately, no one was poisoned by drinking the ghoulish liquor.

Under cover of the confusion I managed to tell Adelaide of the captives
in the cellar, and later in the evening, while the ghosts were engaged
in a Virginia Reel in the long underground passage leading from the
furnace room to the other end of the school building, met in solemn
conclave to deliberate on their fate. Adelaide was for delivering the
keys to Madame with a statement of the case. Cynthia argued strongly in
favor of releasing the young men, sending them home, and saying nothing
about it. While we were in the midst of the argument, a far away cry was
heard. It was from Polo, who had been left to guard the door of the root
cellar. We rushed to the spot, only to find that the rusty staple had
yielded to the efforts of two athletic boys, one of whom was heavy of
weight as well as strong of muscle, and had been forced out of the wall,
and our captives had escaped. Polo had followed them in their flight,
and returned breathless to report that they had made a dash, not for the
outside door, but straight up the great staircase to the studio and had
then descended the turret staircase, showing clearly that they had made
their entrance in the same way.

We talked the matter over for a long time. How could they have known of
this staircase, and have timed their coming so as to follow the
procession of sheeted ghosts as they left the studio for their march to
the lower regions? The suspicion instantly suggested itself that some
one of the ten had furnished the information, and this suspicion
deepened to certainty as we considered the excellence of their disguise,
the sheets draped exactly as ours had been, the pillow-case Capuchin
hood fitted about the mask cut from cotton cloth. How, too, could they
have entered, since Polo declared that she had locked the turret door
when she came in that afternoon, and had left the key on a nail in the
studio?

"Show me the nail," Winnie commanded promptly, and Polo led her to the
studio. The nail was there, but the key had gone. We descended the
staircase and found the lower door locked.

As we were returning to the studio we heard the door open and Professor
Waite mounted the stairs, as was his usual custom at this time.
"Heigho!" he exclaimed, "what are you all doing in the studio at this
time of night? Oh! I forgot; this is the evening of the lark. Has it
been a jovial bird? Why do you all look so solemn? By the way, Polo, I
found your key in the lock on the outside of the door. It was very
careless of you to leave it there; you must not let such a thing happen
again. Some thief might have entered the house. I met two young men
running with all their might as I came across the park. They made
something of a detour to avoid me--I thought at the time that they had a
suspicious look. If you are so thoughtless a second time I shall take
the key from you."

"I didn't leave it there," Polo protested. "I hung it on the nail, Miss
Cynthia saw me. Didn't you, Miss Cynthia?"

But Cynthia had gone, and as the quarter-bell struck we were all
reminded that we must descend to our dancers to be present at the
unmasking and close the frolic. We hurried unceremoniously away without
replying to Professor Waite's questions.

After we had dismissed our guests, we adjourned to the Amen Corner and
we again discussed the affair. It was agreed that it was sufficiently
serious to report to Madame, and to this there was only one dissenting
voice--that of Cynthia's. It was too late to disturb Madame that night,
but we presented ourselves at her morning office hour and told her all
the circumstances of the case.

She looked very grave, but did not blame us. "I am very sorry," she
said, "that some one of my pupils has abused my leniency in this way. It
will of course make me hesitate to grant you such frolics in the future.
The matter shall be thoroughly investigated and the offender severely
punished. Again I must ask you to keep this affair strictly among
yourselves. You have kept the secret of the robbery wonderfully; be
equally discrete with this. We do not as yet know certainly that these
young men were cadets, and I shall not make any complaint to the head
master until we have ascertained the culprits. Mr. Mudge will call
to-morrow. He writes me that he has found a clue to the robbery, and we
will place this matter also in his hands. You have done right to bring
it directly to me, and your action only confirms the confidence I have
always reposed in the Amen Corner. Be assured that the truth will out at
last. Meantime don't talk this over too much, even among yourselves, for
Tennyson never wrote truer lines than these:

        I never whispered a private affair
        Within the hearing of cat or mouse,
        No, not to myself in the closet alone,
    But I heard it shouted at once from the top of the house.
        Everything came to be known."



CHAPTER XI.

A FALSE SCENT.


[Illustration]

I think the visit of Mr. Mudge was much dreaded by all of us, even
though we longed to have the mystery cleared up. I know that Winnie,
at least, trembled for the result, and she turned quite pale the next
morning when she received a message from Madame to meet Mr. Mudge in her
office. It was only a few moments before she returned.

"Mr. Mudge wishes to see us all," she said. "Where are the other girls?
He's coming to this room in five minutes."

"Milly is in the studio, Adelaide in the music-room. Cynthia, I don't
know where."

"Please summon Adelaide and Milly, I will wait for you here--I feel
almost faint."

"What is the matter, Winnie?" I asked anxiously.

"Mr. Mudge says that he now knows to a certainty who the thief is, and
that he will announce the name to us this morning. I am afraid, Tib,
that he suspects Milly. He put me on oath this morning and made me
confess something which I did not mean he should know."

"Never mind, Winnie," I replied, as reassuringly as I could, "we both
know that Milly is perfectly innocent, and, as Madame said, the truth
will come out at last."

Winnie shaded her face with her hands but did not reply. I brought
Adelaide and Milly to the Corner, and chancing to find Cynthia, summoned
her also. Mr. Mudge was in the little study parlor when I returned. He
greeted me cheerfully as he stood by the cabinet polishing his glasses
with a large silk handkerchief. Then he stepped across the room and
examined the door leading into the studio.

"So," he said. "You have had a little bolt put on this door. It is an
old proverb that people always lock the stable after the horse has been
stolen. But it is just as well, just as well. I agree with you that the
thief came from that quarter, and having been so successful he may come
again."

"He!" Winnie gasped.

"Yes; much as it may pain you to learn the fact, I must inform you that
all indications now make it a certainty that the thief can be no other
than your Professor of Art, Carrington Waite."

Milly gave a little cry and fainted dead away. The others all sprang to
her assistance, but as I was quite a distance from her I did not move,
and I heard Mr. Mudge give a suppressed chuckle, and remark below his
breath: "Ah! my little lady, I thought that would make you show your
hand."

Milly speedily recovered; and with her first breath exclaimed, "Oh, no,
no! You are mistaken; it cannot be so."

"Why not?" Mr. Mudge asked. "Was not Professor Waite in the studio at
the time that the robbery was committed? Did I not find the lock of this
door in his tool chest? Is it not a well-known fact that he is a poor
man, and yet a few days after the robbery did he not deposit in the
savings bank just one hundred dollars more than his quarter's salary?
What stronger proof do we require?"

"I can explain all these circumstances." Milly replied eagerly, and she
told the story of the broken lock, which amused Mr. Mudge greatly.

"That disposes of one bit of circumstantial evidence," he admitted; "but
the other items?"

"As to the money," Milly continued, with a slight flush, "papa bought
one of Mr. Waite's small pictures, and sent him a check for a hundred
dollars just at the time you speak of. I think if you inquire more
particularly at the bank you will find that it was papa's check which he
deposited; and I can testify that he was not in the studio at the time
the robbery was committed. I was lying awake and I heard him come up the
stairs. He was earlier than usual. It was some time before twelve. He
hardly remained a moment, merely left his canvases and paint-box, and
went right away."

"That is all very well under the supposition that the robbery was
committed between the time that Miss Winnie looked into the cabinet and
Miss Cynthia's discovery. But Miss Winnie has just admitted to me that
the money was gone when she opened the cabinet, so the theft must have
occurred before that time." Winnie threw a piteous glance at Milly,
which Milly did not notice.

"But still, after Professor Waite went away," Milly insisted.

"Why are you so sure of this?" asked Mr. Mudge.

"Because, when I went to the cabinet fully five minutes after he had
gone it was all there."

Mr. Mudge's gray eyes gave a snap which reminded me of the springing
of a trap. "Indeed!" he said. "How many more of you young ladies
investigated the cabinet during that eventful night? Will you kindly
inform me, Miss Roseveldt, for what purpose you opened the cabinet, and
why we are only informed of the fact in this inadvertent way."

Winnie crossed the room and deliberately placed her arm around Milly.
"Milly, dear," she said, "the truth is always the best way, though it
may seem the hardest way; and, whatever you may have to confess, I for
one shall love you just the same."

"Perhaps it is just as well," Milly replied cheerfully, "though
Adelaide and I did not intend that Tib should know it. You remember that
it was the eve of Tib's birthday; Adelaide and I each wanted to give her
fifty dollars toward her European fund. So after we were sure that she
must be asleep, I slipped out into the parlor and took the money from
Adelaide's pigeon-hole and from my purse, and laid it on Tib's shelf,
where we intended she should find it in the morning. Professor Waite had
gone when I did this, so he could not have taken it. Adelaide told me to
put hers with mine, for she didn't see the use of both of us going into
the parlor. We were afraid we might wake the other girls."

"You did waken me, Milly dear," Winnie said. "I heard you, and standing
just behind my door I saw you go to the cabinet as you have said, and
take out Adelaide's money and count out fifty dollars, and then take the
gold pieces from your own little purse. Then I went back to bed and did
not see any more until you went away, when I stepped out and examined
the cabinet, and the money was gone."

Milly did not then comprehend the terrible suspicion which had been in
Winnie's mind, and she was very much pleased to find her testimony
corroborated. "Adelaide saw me, too," she said. "You were watching me
all the time, weren't you, Adelaide?"

"Yes," Adelaide replied. "Tell about the note, too, Milly."

"Oh! that isn't of any consequence. After I had put the money in Tib's
compartment, I thought it would be a good idea to write her a note with
it, and I pulled out the shelf in the cabinet that serves as a writing
desk, but I didn't write anything for I heard a noise in Tib's room. It
must have been Winnie going back to bed. So I shoved the shelf in and
scooted back to my own room. We didn't say anything about it in the
morning because Adelaide and I didn't feel like boasting of the presents
we had given Tib, especially as she never received them."

There was a great light in Winnie's eyes. It was evident that the
suspicion which had poisoned her life ever since the robbery had
vanished. To Winnie's satisfaction, at least, Milly had cleared herself.

Mr. Mudge, too, had certainly shared this suspicion. His announcement
that Professor Waite was the culprit had been only a clever trick to
make Milly criminate herself, for he had guessed her attachment to the
Professor, and felt sure that, rather than let the blame rest with him,
she would confess her crime. His next question showed that he was not
yet fully satisfied.

"Miss Roseveldt," he asked, "will you tell me where you obtained the
money with which you paid Madame Celeste's bill for Miss Cynthia's
costume the day after the robbery?"

"I would rather not tell that," Milly replied.

"I must insist upon it."

"Papa called the day before, and I confessed all about the bill to him,
and he forgave me, and gave me the money."

"We know that he gave you the gold pieces which you placed in your
purse, but these were stolen, and you were apparently penniless on the
morning after the robbery."

"Papa drew a check for Celeste for the amount of the bill, and that was
in my pocket. I did not put it in the cabinet at all. Then he said that
it was a very sad, disgraceful affair, but he knew that I would never do
so again, and he was glad I told him, and he forgave me freely, and now
it was all over we would bury it in the Dead Sea and never let mortal
man or woman know a word about it, and that is why I could not tell
Winnie how I had paid the debt. Papa said too--what was not true--that
it was partly his own fault, for keeping me so short in pocket money and
leaving me free to run up large bills. And then he said that he would
change his tactics and give me an allowance in cash every month, and I
am not to have anything charged any more, but manage my expenses as
Adelaide does. And with that he gave me the gold pieces, and I told him
that I wanted to give them to Tib, and he said, 'Very well, do what you
please, but you will have nothing more for a fortnight, when I will give
you your allowance for the coming month.'"

We each of us drew a long breath. It all seemed so simple now that Milly
explained it that I wondered how we could ever have mistrusted her.
Winnie clasped her more tightly. There was a look of remorse in her
eyes, which told how she reproached herself for having wronged her
darling.

Mr. Mudge tapped the table with his pencil thoughtfully.

"I must acknowledge, Miss Roseveldt," he said, "that you have completely
cleared Professor Waite. It is perfectly evident that he could not have
taken the money; but the question still remains, Who did? How long an
interval was there, Miss De Witt, between the time that Miss Roseveldt
returned to her bedroom, and your examination of the cabinet?"

"I do not know exactly. I waited only until I fancied Milly might be
asleep, then I slipped out softly, closed the doors opening into all the
bedrooms, lighted my candle, and examined the cabinet."

"And when Miss Roseveldt left the room the money was there, and when you
looked----"

"It was gone."

"It seems to me," said Cynthia maliciously, "that Winnie is placed in a
very disagreeable position by these revelations. Her testimony has been
very contradictory and her manner from the first, to say the least,
peculiar. She acknowledges that she was awake during the time that
intervened between Milly's visit to the safe and her own. If a thief
came in it is very strange that she did not hear him."

"It is strange," Winnie acknowledged. "I can hardly believe it possible,
but these are the facts in the case. I certainly did not take the money,
as Cynthia implies."

"Tut, tut," Mr. Mudge remarked sharply. "I am convinced that the thief
is not a member of the Amen Corner. I have in turn taken up the
supposition that the robbery might have been committed by each of you
young ladies, beginning with Miss Cynthia and ending just now with Miss
Milly, and I have proved to my own satisfaction that you are all
innocent. Miss Winnie may have fallen asleep, and during her brief nap
some one may have slipped in from the studio. Professor Waite had gone,
but he may have left the turret door unlocked."

"I heard no one mount the stairs," said Milly.

"True, but a sneak thief might steal up so softly as to disturb no one.
A man bent on such an errand does not usually whistle opera tunes, and
then again the rogue may have been in the studio during Professor
Waite's hasty call. You told me, Miss Armstrong, that the Professor was
the only one who had a key to the turret door."

"I did," Adelaide replied, "but I was mistaken; Polo has a duplicate
key."

"And who is this lawn tennis girl?"

"Polo, Mr. Mudge, not tennis. Her name is Polo, a contraction for
Pauline," said Adelaide.

"Very extraordinary name. Lawn tennis is a much more suitable game for
a young lady. Who is she, anyway?"

"She is a model, and a very good girl. Polo is above suspicion," Winnie
remarked authoritatively.

"Hum--of course," replied Mr. Mudge. "Let me see, this Base-ball must be
the young lady of whom Miss Noakes spoke to Madame as having conducted
herself in a rather peculiar manner night before last, the evening of
the subterranean entertainment."

We all looked up in surprise, and Mr. Mudge continued:

"Madame has confided to me the fact that you young ladies were
unpleasantly intruded upon by certain unknown persons, who may, or may
not, have been connected with one of our well known schools. Madame felt
that they could not have effected their entrance and disguise without
the connivance of some member of this household. This individual need
not necessarily have been one of the young ladies; it may have been a
servant. I have known it to be a fact that the chamber-maids at Vassar
have carried on flirtations with young gentlemen who supposed themselves
to be in correspondence with Vassar girls. Now it is quite possible that
your chambermaid may have heard of this frolic and have mentioned it to
her admirers."

"Oh, no," we all exclaimed; while Adelaide continued: "We never
mentioned it in her presence; besides, she is as stupid and honest as
she is old and homely. I would as soon suspect Miss Noakes."

"But this Lawn Tennis, I beg pardon, Base-ball, of whom we were just
speaking, is neither stupid, nor old, nor ugly, and we know very little
in regard to her honesty----"

"That is so," Cynthia assented, and we all turned and scowled upon her.

"You tell me that she possesses a key to the turret door, and now Miss
Noakes's testimony fits in like the pieces in a Chinese puzzle. On the
afternoon of your entertainment Miss Noakes says that a request was
preferred from you to allow Lawn Tennis--no, Croquet--to share Miss
Vaughn's bedroom for the night. Miss Noakes says she felt a strange
hesitancy about granting this request----"

"Not at all strange," Winnie interrupted. "It is a hesitancy which is
quite habitual in her case."

Mr. Mudge waved his hand in a deprecatory manner and continued. "Miss
Noakes further testifies that in the early evening, as she was sitting
at her open window, the night being especially balmy for the season,
she was startled by a long whistle, which was not that of the postman.
As there was no light in her own room she could look out without being
observed. The gas was lighted in Miss Vaughn's room, and though from
its oblique position she could not see what passed within she could
recognize any one leaning from it." [See plan of Amen Corner.]

Cynthia straightened herself up, and as it seemed to me turned a trifle
pale, while Mr. Mudge went on.

"Miss Noakes says that the first whistle did not appear to be noticed,
and stepping on to her balcony she saw two young men, or boys, standing
at the foot of the tower, looking up at Miss Vaughn's windows. She
instantly retreated into her own room and awaited further developments.
A second whistle, and some one in Miss Vaughn's room turned down the
gas, and coming to the window gave an answering whistle. Miss Noakes
says she could hardly credit her senses, for she has looked upon Miss
Vaughn as a model of propriety; an instant later she observed that the
girl now leaning out of the window and talking with the boys wore a dark
blue Tam O'Shanter cap, and she comprehended that it was not Miss
Vaughn, but Lawn Tennis, or Cricket, or whatever her name is, who had
been given permission to pass the night in Miss Vaughn's room. She could
not hear the entire conversation, her desire to remain undiscovered
keeping her well within her own room, but she distinctly heard one of
the young men say, 'Throw it out--I'll catch it.' The girl replied,
'Here it is,' and said something about the sheets and things being on
the upper landing. She added quite distinctly, 'Don't come into the
studio until I give the signal.'

"Miss Noakes says she was too horrified to act promptly, as she should
have done; but that a few moments later she visited the Amen Corner and
found it deserted by all the young ladies with the exception of Miss
Vaughn, who was studying quietly in the parlor. She asked where the
others were, and was told that they were in the studio, where the
procession was to form. On asking Miss Vaughn why she had not joined
them, she replied that she intended to do so in a short time, but had
been improving every moment for study. Miss Noakes asked for Lawn Tennis
and was told that she had been appointed door-keeper for the evening.
On intimating that she had seen her in Miss Vaughn's room, Miss Vaughn
had replied that this was very possible as she had just left the room."

During this relation of Mr. Mudge's, Cynthia had turned different
colors, from livid purple to greenish pallor. And had several times been
on the point of replying, but the lawyer-detective had continued his
narrative in a sing-song, monotonous way, as though reading it from a
written deposition, and had left her no opportunity for interrupting. He
now turned to her and remarked:

"I repeat all this here, Miss Vaughn, in order to hear your side of the
story."

"I have nothing to say," Cynthia replied sullenly.

"Then Miss Noakes's statement is substantially correct?"

"I don't understand what you are driving at." Cynthia flashed out
passionately. "If you mean to insinuate that I threw the key out to some
of the cadets, and helped disguise them, and gave them the signal when
to join in the procession--why then all I have to say is that it is a
very pretty story, but you will find it very hard to prove it."

"Not so hasty, not so hasty," replied Mr. Mudge. "My dear young lady,
if you will reflect a moment, you will perceive that nothing of this
kind has been charged against you. The question does not concern you at
all, but this athletic young lady--Lawn Tennis."

Mr. Mudge had become so firmly convinced in his own mind that Polo's
name was Lawn Tennis that we saw the futility of correcting him and gave
up the attempt.

"Mr. Mudge," Winnie exclaimed, "we protest! Cynthia, I call upon you to
own up. It wasn't such a very bad frolic. You meant no particular harm.
We will all sign a petition to Madame asking her to let you off. Don't
let Polo be unjustly suspected. You know you did it; own up to it like a
man."

But Cynthia was in no mood to own up to anything like a man, or like a
decent girl. She simply turned her nose several degrees higher and
remained silent.

"Your cowardly silence will not shield you," Adelaide exclaimed
scornfully. "I have some letters from my brother which make me very
positive that this is one of your scrapes, and I will show them to Mr.
Mudge unless you confess instantly."

"I have nothing to confess," Cynthia replied in a low voice, but the
words seemed to stick in her throat.

Mr. Mudge next asked us, in a thoughtful manner, whether "Lawn Tennis"
was connected with the institution at the time of the robbery. I replied
that she was, but that I could not see any relation between that crime
and the present escapade.

"Perhaps not," Mr. Mudge replied; "and then again we never can tell what
apparently trifling circumstance may lead up to the great discovery. As
I have previously remarked, it is more than probable that the thief
having been once successful will try the same game again. Then, too, if
your thief happens to be a kleptomaniac, she could not refrain from
pilfering. Have you lost anything since that eventful night?"

"Nothing whatever."

"And you have used the cabinet since as a depository for your funds?"

"Certainly," I replied. "We consider that we have used sufficient
precaution in having the bolt put upon the door. The result seems to
justify our confidence. To be sure, until night before last we have had
no important sums to deposit."

"How about night before last?" Mr. Mudge asked.

"I had charge of the ticket money for the Home that we gained by the
Catacomb Party," I replied, "and I placed it in my division of the
cabinet. There is just sixty dollars of it, and it is there now."

"And was there during the night that Lawn Tennis slept in this
apartment? And she knew it?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then that is very good evidence that she was not the thief on the
previous occasion."

So confident was I in our security and in Polo's honesty that I
unlocked the cabinet to give Mr. Mudge convincing proof. What was our
astonishment to find my compartment again empty. The floor of the
cabinet was as clean as though swept by a brush. The sixty dollars
which we held in trust for the Home were gone!



CHAPTER XII.

THE INTER-SCHOLASTIC GAMES.


[Illustration]

Mr. Mudge informed us that he did not intend to arrest Polo immediately,
but merely to have her "shadowed," which meant that all her habits and
those of her friends and relatives were to be ascertained and every
movement watched.

"You will not hurt her feelings by letting her know that you suspect
her?" Milly begged, and Mr. Mudge assured her that such a thing was
furthest from his intention, and in his turn he urged us not to allow
Polo to imagine that we suspected her.

"We can't let her see that," Winnie replied, "since we do not suspect
her in the least."

Mr. Mudge coughed. "I hope your confidence will be proved to be not
misplaced," he replied; "but Miss Noakes does not share it, and I deem
Miss Noakes to be a very discriminating woman."

He bowed stiffly, and for that day the conference was ended. Cynthia
retired to her room, and shut the door with a bang. Milly threw herself
into Winnie's arms, and Winnie caressed her and cried over her in
mingled happiness and remorse--joy that Milly had been proved innocent,
and repentance that she had ever doubted her.

"Oh! my darling, my darling," she sobbed; "can you ever forgive me for
believing you capable of so dreadful a thing? I could not blame you if
you refused to ever speak to me again."

"Don't feel so badly," Milly pleaded. "Appearances were awfully against
me, and if papa had not come and helped me out just in the nick of time,
I don't know what I might have been tempted to do. I have been so bad,
Winnie, that I am very humble. I shall never say I never could have
done such a thing, for I cannot know what the temptation might have
been. I am almost glad that you believed me so wicked, because it shows
me that you would have stood by me even then. I am going to try to be a
better girl for this experience, and worthier of your love."

Adelaide and I retired discretely, and talked over the new aspects of
the second robbery. The trust funds must be made up between us. To help
do this I subscribed the twenty dollars which Winnie had given me on my
birthday, and which fortunately had been placed in my portfolio before
we had regained our confidence in the cabinet, and had never been
transferred to my compartment. As the other girls had not suffered this
time, they made up the amount, though it necessitated considerable
self-denial. It took some time for Milly to become accustomed to
properly dividing her spending money, so that she need not come short
before the date for receiving her allowance, but the practice was good
for her and in the end she became an excellent manager.

One peculiar circumstance in regard to this robbery was remarked by
Winnie--the fact that on both occasions money had only been taken from
my shelf. It was true that Adelaide and Milly had each lost fifty
dollars the first night, but not until it had been taken by Milly from
their hoards and placed with mine.

"It would seem," said Adelaide, "as if the thief had a special grudge
against Tib; a determination that she shall not save up enough to go to
Europe next year."

"It can't be that," Winnie replied, "for although the last sum stolen
was taken from Tib's compartment, it was not her money. The whole thing
is very peculiar, and seems to be the work of some unreasoning agent,
for this time, as the last, Adelaide had some bills lying loosely in her
pigeon hole in full sight, which were not touched at all. I have heard
of things having been stolen by jackdaws and mice--and monkeys--and I
believe there has been some monkey business here."

"I heard a story when I was in Boston," said Adelaide. "It was told me
by a member of a prominent firm of jewellers. It is the custom at the
close of the day for one of the clerks to lock up all the jewelry in the
safe for the night. He had done so, and was just about to leave the
store when a box containing a valuable pair of diamond sleeve buttons
was handed him. It was late, and as it would take some time to go over
the combination which locked and unlocked the safe, he tucked the little
box far under the safe and thrust some old newspapers in front of it. In
the morning when he searched for it, what was his consternation to find
that the sleeve buttons were gone. The box was there, but some one had
opened it and abstracted the sleeve buttons. He reported the loss at
once to one of the members of the firm, who reproved him for his
carelessness in not unlocking the safe and placing the box where it
would have been secure. Then the gentlemen put their heads together to
track the thief; and some one suggested that he had seen mice in the
store, and this might be their work. The safe was moved, and a small
hole was discovered in the base-board of the room. A carpenter was sent
for and the wall opened, and there, cozily established in a nest formed
of twine and nibbled paper, and other odds and ends, a family of little
pink mice was discovered, and in their nest were the missing sleeve
buttons. The mother mouse had evidently been attracted by the glitter of
the gems, for she had taken great pains to convey them to her home. She
had stored here many other curious articles: pieces of shiny tin foil,
which she may have used as mirrors; bits of broken glass, and scraps of
narrow, bright ribbon, intended for tying the boxes, all showing that
she had an eye for decorative art. I am very sorry that it was
considered best to kill her, for I believe that mouse could have been
educated. Now, the reason that I have told this long story is that I
half suspect that this is a case of mouse, and not, as Winnie says, of
monkey business."

Winnie immediately examined the cabinet. The panelling was intact, not
even worm-eaten; it fitted apparently as closely as the covering of a
drum; not a crevice large enough for even a cricket to penetrate.

"It is very mysterious, all the same," Winnie remarked; "but I here and
now vow, in the presence of these witnesses, to make this mystery mine,
and to unravel it before the close of school, so surely as my name is
Witch Winnie."

From that time we spoke of the affair of the cabinet as Witch Winnie's
mystery, and we all had faith that some way or other Winnie would find
the clue if Mr. Mudge did not.

One day in May she said: "I feel as if there was something uncanny about
the cabinet itself. I wonder who was its first owner. Perhaps Lucrezia
Borgia kept her poisons in it, and it is haunted by dreadful secrets of
the middle ages. It may be that Lorenzo de Medici confided to its
keeping a will, giving back to Florence the city's liberties, and that
this will was stolen by the Magnificent's heir while the poor man lay
dying. We can imagine that the ghost of the guilty man having, as Mr.
Mudge says, been once successful, has contracted a habit of stealing
from the cabinet, and comes in the wee small hours with stealthy tread
to take whatever occupies the spot where once Lorenzo's testament
reposed."

"What a romantic idea!" Milly murmured. "You could make a lovely
composition out of it, Winnie."

"Good idea!" Winnie exclaimed. "I will. I have got to have something for
the closing exercises of school, and Madame advised me to write on
Raphael. She said that Professor Waite's lectures on the Italian artists
ought to inspire me. Some way they never have, but this old cabinet
does. I shall pretend that I have found a package of letters in a secret
compartment; and in this package I shall tell all the early history of
Raphael--which is not known to the world--his love story with Maria
Bibbiena, and all the criticism and envy which he must have undergone
before he arrived at success. It will be great fun and I shall go to
work at once. No, I shall not go to see the inter-scholastic games
to-morrow. I shall have a solid quiet afternoon to myself while you
girls are skylarking, and I shall have to work like a house on fire on
every Saturday I can get to make my essay the success which I mean it
shall be."

From this decision we could not move her, though it greatly disappointed
Milly, who desired that Mr. Van Silver should meet Winnie. Mrs.
Roseveldt had returned from the South, and had consented to chaperone
the girls, Mr. Van Silver taking us out on his handsome coach.

It was a perfect day and the drive to the Berkeley Oval, where the games
took place, was a delightful one.

Mr. Van Silver's Brewster coach was a glorious affair. It was painted
canary yellow. The four horses were perfectly matched roans. The grooms
were in liveries of bottle-green coats with white breeches and top boots
faced with yellow. Mr. Van Silver wore a light-coloured overcoat, and
the lap robe was of white broadcloth. All the brass about the harness
had been burnished till it shone like gold. Mrs. Roseveldt and Milly sat
beside him on the box. Mrs. Roseveldt wore a Paris costume of white
cloth with Louis XVI jacket with velvet sleeves and vest heavily
embroidered in gold. A little bonnet formed of gold beads fitted her
aristocratic head like a coronet. Milly was bewitchingly pretty in a
fawn coloured shoulder cape, and a pancake hat piled with yellow
buttercups. She seemed, as Adelaide said, cut out of a piece with her
surroundings. Adelaide and I occupied the back seat, with Little Breeze
beside us in the place which had been intended for Winnie. Little Breeze
wore a simple spring suit and I had only one best gown--a gray cashmere;
but Adelaide made up for our simplicity. Her dress was not very
expensive, but Milly's exclamation that it was "too exasperatingly,
excruciatingly becoming" will give an idea of its effect. It was a white
foulard, sprigged in black and caught here and there with black velvet
bows; there was a vest of fluffy white chiffon, and her hat was trimmed
with white marabout pompons powdered with black. The costume was her own
design, executed by Miss Billings. She carried a cheap white silk
parasol, made to look elaborate by a cover constructed from an old black
lace flounce.

"Papa has forbidden me ever to enter Celeste's rooms again," Milly said
to Adelaide; "and I am sure if Miss Billings can make me look as
_recherché_ as you do, she is good enough for me."

"I seem fated never to meet Miss Winnie," Mr. Van Silver said as he
started.

"She is to visit us during the summer," said Mrs. Roseveldt, "and you
must come out to the Pier and see her."

"You are very good, but I am going to take my coach over to the other
side this summer. My mother is visiting at the castle of the Earl of
Cairngorm and wants me to take a lot of people for a coaching trip
through the Scottish Highlands."

"How many of our friends are going to Europe in the summer," Adelaide
remarked. "Professor Waite told me he intended to return to France for
a term of years, and Tib here is going over to study----"

"I'm afraid not," I replied doubtfully.

"Oh, yes you are," Milly insisted; "that will all come out right."

"What a lovely day for the games," Mrs. Roseveldt remarked. "What is
your favorite school, Milly? Columbia, Berkeley, Cutler, Morse? Oh! yes,
I remember--the cadets. But where is your badge? I see that Miss
Armstrong and Miss Smith wear theirs quite conspicuously, and Mr. Van
Silver, too, has decorated his whip and the coach horn with the cadet
colours."

"Adelaide has a brother among the cadets, which accounts for her
preference," Milly replied evasively; "but I don't see why I should
prefer them to any other school."

"Why, have you forgotten," Mrs. Roseveldt asked, much surprised, "your
old friend Stacey Fitz Simmons is a cadet?"

Milly tossed her head disdainfully. She could not tell the story of the
intrusion of the two boys whom we believed to be cadets, for we had
promised Madame not to bruit it abroad; but her reason for not wearing
the cadet colours was her indignation on account of this act. She
believed, or affected to believe, that one of these boys was Stacey, and
she had determined to punish him for the outrage. "Girls," she had said,
before leaving, "after the insult which our school has received from the
cadets, I do not see how any of you can wear their colours."

"We do not know certainly that those interlopers were cadets," Adelaide
replied; "and, even if they were, my brother is still a member of the
school. He rides in the bicycle race and he expects to see me wear his
colours."

I sympathized with Adelaide and made myself a badge to encourage little
Jim.

"Stacey is a friend of mine," Mr. Van Silver asserted. "I expect to see
him carry off several events to-day, and I have come out prepared to
wave and cheer and bawl myself hoarse in his honour."

What a charming drive it was through the park, where many of the trees
and shrubs were in blossom. We passed many a merry party bound in the
same direction, and several great stages laden with boys, who carried
flags, tooted horns, and shook immense rattles. Arrived at Morris
Heights the sight was even still more inspiring, for every train emptied
several carloads of passengers, who hastened to the grounds to be in
time for the opening. As we drove in we could see that the grand stand
and the long rows of seats on either side were well filled. There were
at least four thousand spectators gathered to witness this athletic
contest between the champions of the principal schools of the city. Some
of the contestants were grouped on the verandas of the Pavilion waiting
for their turn to take part. Others were already on the field,
practising the long jumps, or pacing about with "sweaters," or knit
woollen blouses, over their scanty running costumes.

On the grand stand and the "bleaching boards" the adherents of the
different schools had collected in groups, which displayed the school
colours as prominently as possible. These groups were now engaged in
making as hideous an instrumental and vocal din as possible. Each
orchestra, if it might be called so, was led by a sort of master of
discord, who called at intervals upon his constituency for cheers for
the different school favorites, as, "Now, boys, a loud one for Harrison.
One, two, three, 'rah! 'rah! 'rah! C-u-t-l-e-r, Cutler!--Harrison!"
While the Columbia grammar boys would reply, "C-o-l-u-m-b-i-a--Burke!"
and the Berkeleys would yell forth the name of Allen, who has so long
covered the school with glory.

Buttertub was conspicuous as leader of the chorus for the cadets. He
wore an immense cockade, made of sash ribbon, pinned to the front of his
coat, while his hat and a great cane with a knobby handle, too large
for insertion even in his wide mouth, also flaunted the school colours.
Our coach had hardly taken its position before Stacey and Jim spied it
and came toward us. Stacey was in running costume--"undress uniform," he
called it--but he had knotted a rose-coloured Russian bath gown about
him to keep him from taking cold.

"Doesn't he look exactly like a girl?" Milly remarked as he approached,
and then she gave him a curt little bow and turned with great
_empressement_ to Professor Waite, who had come out on horseback, and
who now rode up, hoping for a word with Adelaide. But Jim had clambered
up on the wheel on the other side of the coach, and Adelaide was glad of
this excuse to turn her back squarely on Professor Waite, who felt the
avoidance and would have turned instantly away had not Milly insisted on
introducing him to her mother. Meantime Stacey stood quite neglected. I
longed to speak to him, but as I had never been introduced, did not dare
to do so. Just as a hot flush was sweeping up toward his forehead, Mr.
Van Silver, whose attention had been taken up with his horses, noticed
him. "Hello, Stacey," he cried, "make that little chap get down off
that wheel, will you? These horses are pretty nervous, even with the
grooms at their heads. They are not used to all this racket. See how
they are pawing up the driveway."

Stacey laughed. "Jim is a splendid wheel-man," he said. "You needn't be
afraid for him. But aren't you going to get down? You can see ever so
much better from the grand stand. Did the girls get the tickets that Jim
and I sent?"

Adelaide acknowledged the receipt of the tickets, and spoke so
pleasantly that Stacey seemed a little comforted. One of the grooms set
up the steps and we all climbed down, Stacey assisting. When it was
Milly's turn he spoke to her very earnestly in a low tone, but Milly did
not reply. Mr. Van Silver called to us to keep together, and led the way
to seats near the centre of the stand; and Stacey retired to the field,
much displeased and puzzled by Milly's conduct.

Professor Waite looked after us longingly. He did not dare to leave his
horse, and he was disappointed that we had left the coach, near which he
had intended to hover.

"How very provokingly things do arrange themselves," I thought to
myself. "Cupid must certainly be playing a game of cross purposes with
us. Here is Stacey longing for a kind word from Milly, and Milly
breaking her little heart for Professor Waite, and Professor Waite
desperate because of Adelaide's indifference, Adelaide trying politely
to entertain Mr. Van Silver, who, in his turn, is provoked because
Winnie has not come; and I, who would be very grateful if any of these
gentlemen would be agreeable to me--left quite out in the cold, without
the shadow of an admirer."

I soon forgot this circumstance, however, in my interest in the games.

"There is the cup," said Mr. Van Silver, "on that table with the gold
and silver medals, Berkeley holds it now. See, it is draped with blue
and gold ribbons, the Berkeley colours. The school which wins the
greatest number of points will take it after the games are over. This is
the first heat of the hundred yard dash. Now we shall see some fun. It's
a foregone conclusion that Allen of Berkeley will win. He does not enter
for long distances, but as a sprinter he has no equal in the other
schools." Very easily and handsomely Allen won this race and several
others.

Then we admired the light and graceful way in which an agile youth took
the hurdles, and the professional style of two walkers, and after this
my glance wandered for a time over the spectators.

Cynthia Vaughn and Rosario Ricos had come out in the cars, chaperoned by
Miss Noakes. They did not desire her company, and it was a great bore to
her to come, but Madame would not let the girls come unattended. I was
much surprised presently to see a gentleman make his way to her side. I
nudged Adelaide, exclaiming under my breath, "Only see, Miss Noakes
actually has an admirer!"

Adelaide lifted her opera-glass. "Tib," she ejaculated, "it is Mr.
Mudge. You know he said she was a most discriminating woman. See, she is
so much entertained that she does not notice that Ricos and Buttertub
have made their way to Cynthia and are talking with her."

"Mr. Mudge notices them, though," I replied; "see how sharply he eyes
them."

Mr. Mudge came to us presently, and chatted pleasantly in regard to the
games.

"I did not know that you were so much interested in athletics," I
remarked.

"A lawyer and a detective must be interested in everything which
interests his clients," he replied.

"Did you come out alone?" I asked, more for the purpose of making
conversation than from any desire to know.

"No; I had very charming company," he replied.

"Miss Noakes?" Adelaide asked mischievously.

Mr. Mudge looked at her with stern reproof in his gray eyes.

"Lawn Tennis," he remarked snappishly. "I came out with that young lady,
though she is quite unconscious of my escort."

"What! is Polo here?" I asked.

"One of the most interested spectators. Her eyes are nearly popping out
of her head with every strain of the muscles of that tug-of-war team."

The team to which Mr. Mudge referred was now pulling, and was made up of
members of the Cadet School. They were finely developed young men, and
in their leather apron-like protections, with their muscular arms and
glowing faces, looked like blacksmiths' apprentices. They lay on the
cleats, pulling at the great rope, and the cords swelled in their necks,
as from time to time they ground their teeth, and threw their heads
back with a jerk, which told how intense was the strain. The trainer of
the team, a wiry, eager young man, in a jockey cap, stood with his hands
on his knees, watching the white mark on the rope, which the team were
very slowly working toward their side.

"That is a professional trainer," said Mr. Van Silver. "He has coached
the cadets, and is intensely interested in their success."

At intervals, the captain and anchor of the cadets uttered exclamations
of encouragement to his team, or vituperated at the other. "We're in it,
boys, we're in it," he shrieked, as he gave another twist to the rope.
"Steady, hold your own, and you'll pull 'em right off the cleats. Heave,
now--heave! Oh! those fellows don't know how to pull," he cried again;
"they're weakening! See how purple they're getting in the face. Hold on
another two seconds, and you'll pull them into the middle of next week."

"What a noisy fellow!" Adelaide remarked. "Why doesn't Colonel Grey shut
him up?"

"Not he," replied Mr. Van Silver. "See how his ribald and irreverent
remarks put new courage into the team. I should not wonder if they won
back that three inches which the other side pulled away from them during
the first minute. Time's up. Which side won?" for the announcement of
the judges was drowned in a roar of the cadet claque, led by Buttertub,
who had struggled back to his place in time to head the 'Rah! 'Rah! 'Rah!

Stacey had been looking on close to the rope, and he now shouted across
to Mr. Van Silver, "The cadets have it by half an inch!" and waving
the skirts of his bath-robe with great _abandon_, he threw himself
into the arms of the little man in the jockey cap, and hugged him
enthusiastically.

"Now, notice your friend," Mr. Mudge said to me, in a low voice; and,
looking in the direction in which he pointed, I saw Polo standing on one
of the front seats of the bleaching boards, waving her Tam O'Shanter,
and shouting as wildly as the cadets.

"I did not know that Polo knew any of the boys who go to that school,"
I said, much puzzled.

"I don't believe she does," Mr. Mudge replied, "but Terwilliger, the
trainer there, is her brother, and he hasn't the best record that was
ever known. He was a jockey in England, but outgrew that profession, and
has been a little of everything since. He came over to this country on
the Earl of Cairngorm's yacht. He was associated shortly after with a
noted pickpocket called Limber Tim, and some months since was sent with
him to the Island to serve a term of imprisonment for participation in a
confidence swindle. All of which, you see, has a rather damaging look
for your friend Lawn Tennis. What I would like to know is, how he ever
came to get the position of trainer at the Cadet School."

"The boys seem to be very fond of him," I ventured.

"Naturally; it was his training which has just won the school this
event. Did you notice that young swell, Fitz Simmons, give him a
greenback as soon as the victory was assured. I have not been able to
discover yet whether Terwilliger has renewed his friendship with Limber
Tim. If he has, it is more than likely that they are the two unknown
boys who introduced themselves into your school on the night of your
party."

"Has Adelaide shown you her brother's letters?" I asked. "We think that
the young man who leads the applause and Rosario Ricos's brother are the
scamps."

"That supposition might be entertained provided it had been only a
boyish caper; but the two robberies can hardly be attributed to these
young gentlemen."

I groaned. So our poor Polo was beginning to be "shadowed." She had told
us with such delight, a few days before this, that she had found her
brother. He had been away from New York for two years, but had left no
stone unturned on his return in his search for them. He had a kind
friend who had secured him a fine position, and she was so happy. The
good news had nearly cured her mother.

I was drawn from my reverie by Adelaide's announcement that the time had
come for the one mile safety bicycle race for boys under fifteen, in
which Jim was to take part. This was the great event of the day for us.
There were two entries from the Cadet School--Jim and Ricos.

"Ricos is certainly over fifteen," I said to Adelaide.

"He is no taller than Jim," Adelaide replied doubtfully.

"He is a little fellow," I admitted, "but those Cubans are all stunted,
weazened little monkeys."

Adelaide smiled faintly, but watched the preparations for the race with
straining eyes. So did all the cadets. There were many entries from the
other schools, but they were confident in the prowess of their own
champions. The only question was which would be successful.

"Come boys," shouted Buttertub, "let's give them a rousing send-off.
Whoop her up for Ricos! One, two, three,--'Rah! 'Rah! 'Rah! _Ricos!_"

A red-haired boy, whom I at once recognized as the Woodpecker, shouted
from the field, "Cheer Armstrong, too!" but Buttertub either did not
hear him, or wilfully disregarded his request.

Stacey's rose-coloured bath-gown was conspicuous, fluttering here and
there; he got a bottle of alcohol from the trainer and was presently
seen kneeling on the track, vigorously rubbing down Jim's legs. He
mounted him carefully, and scrutinized every part of his little safety
bicycle, with the most zealous care. The starter gave Jim the inside of
the track, which was an advantage loudly contested by Ricos.

"No use kicking," Stacey remarked. "You've had one medal for cycling,
and Jim is the youngest chap entered. I should like to know now just
when you passed your fourteenth birthday."

Ricos was silent and sullenly took his place. Jim turned and waved his
hand to his sister. Stacey was holding his bicycle, ready to push it off
at the signal. How jaunty and gay he looked in his dark blue jersey,
with the silver C on his breast, and with the wind blowing his blonde
hair from his eager face.

"He's a jolly little chap," Mr. Van Silver remarked admiringly; and
Milly murmured, "I think he's perfectly sweet."

Adelaide said nothing, but the tears came to her eyes. I think that just
for that moment she was perfectly happy. Her mood was contagious. The
glamour of spring was in the hazy atmosphere. The plum trees were
blossoming white out beyond the track, and the blue of bursting buds and
the tender green of the earliest leafage spread itself in a shimmering
haze over all the sweet spring landscape. It was a good world, after
all.

At the report of the starter's pistol, all of the boys were off in line,
but they had hardly made half a lap when two, Jim and Ricos, shot from
the rank and sped on in advance of the others.

"'Rah! 'Rah! for the cadets!" shouted Buttertub.

"'Rah! for Armstrong!" yelled the Woodpecker.

"He's second!" shouted Buttertub.

"He's first!" shrieked the Woodpecker, "and gaining every instant. 'Rah!
'Rah! 'Rah!"

"He can't keep it! Ricos won't let himself be beaten as easily as that,"
replied Buttertub. "See him bend to it. There, he's up with him! They're
even! He's trying to get the inside! 'Rah! 'Rah!"

"Look out! there'll be a smash-up!" cried the trainer. "Keep to the
right, you lummox."

"Hi!" cried Mr. Van Silver, springing to his feet, "that's a bad
tumble."

"Ricos fouled him on purpose," cried the Woodpecker.

A groan ran round the stand. "They are both down--no, only one."

"Which one?" cried Adelaide.

"I don't know," I replied, but I held her down firmly on my shoulder,
for I saw a rose-coloured bath-robe skimming across the field like a
pink comet, and I knew that Stacey would not have manifested such
concern if an accident had happened to Ricos.

"Armstrong's up!" yelled the trainer in the jockey cap. "He's mounting
again!"

"He is!" ejaculated Mr. Van Silver. "By George! Jim's the pluckiest
little fellow I ever saw in my life!"

For an instant the spectators went crazy with cheers, then they quieted
down and watched.

Ricos swept by, he had gained the first lap easily; but only a faint
cheer greeted him. It was thought by many that the collision was
intended, and all eyes were fixed on the little figure in the blue
jersey, now the very last in the race, but who, having been assisted to
his seat by the rose-coloured bath-robe, was now wheeling manfully along
in the rear. Adelaide opened her eyes and waved her handkerchief as he
passed the stand.

"Go it, Jim; go it! You've got the sand," yelled the Woodpecker; while
Stacey, the bath-robe cast aside, came forging up, running at Jim's
side; in his friendly anxiety to see that all was right, unconsciously
breaking his own previous record as a sprinter. If he had been timed
just then even his most enthusiastic friends would have been astonished.
But, convinced that Jim was gaining, he contented himself with cutting
across the Oval to note his place at the end of the second lap. Ricos
had held his own, and passed the stand well ahead of all the other
competitors; but Jim was making up and had distanced two of the
laggards, his legs propelling like the driving-bars of an engine.

"He's gaining!" cried Mr. Van Silver. "I should not wonder if he caught
up with the other fellow; for, see, he has two more rounds to make."

When he passed the stand for the third time and the starter rang the
bell which announced that this was the last lap, Jim had passed all the
others and was following Ricos at a distance of only a few rods. He
looked up toward us with a pitiful smile on his wan face. "Cheer, boys,
cheer!" cried the Woodpecker, "you don't applaud half enough. Whoop 'em
up, Tub! Hurry up, Jim! Hurry up! Go it for all you're worth!"

"Take it easy--easy!" roared Stacey, who saw that the boy was
straining every nerve. "Take your time, Jim. You've got him, now.
Take--your--time!"

The spectators were nearly all silent. The boys belonging to other
schools, seeing that there was no hope for their own champions, had
ceased to applaud and were now deeply interested in the two cadets.
Rosario Ricos had fainted, and Miss Noakes was calling shrilly for
water, but even Mr. Mudge was so much absorbed in the contest that he
paid no attention to her appeal. People near me held their breath in
suspense. It reminded me of Gérome's picture of the chariot race, and
the fall had been not unlike the one described in "Ben Hur."

"Why is it," whispered Adelaide, "that Jim has tied a crimson ribbon
just below his knee? Red is not a cadet colour; see it flutter against
his leg."

I saw the crimson streak to which she referred; but a swift intimation
flashed upon me that this was no ribbon, but a little rill of blood
flowing from a gash cut by Ricos's wheel. I contrasted Jim's face,
deadly pale, with that of Ricos's, flushed to a dark purple, and
wondered whether his strength would hold out to the end. I need have had
no fear, Jim was clear grit through and through. As he neared the goal
he set his teeth and bent nearly flat, throwing no glance this time in
our direction, but with graze fixed straight before him, he worked the
pedals with wonderful velocity and swooped forward, like a little hawk,
far beyond Ricos, and past the finish, on, on, as though the momentum
of that final spurt would never be exhausted. The thunder of applause
which burst forth at this exploit was something which I had never heard
equalled. The spectators all stood upon the benches, the ladies waving
their handkerchiefs, hats, and scarfs, crying and laughing hysterically.
The men yelled and shouted themselves hoarse. Every kazoo, tin horn,
rattle, and other instrument of torture sounded forth its discordant
triumph. The boys stamped and hooted. The cadets, to a man, acted like
raving maniacs. Even Buttertub, who had no love for Jim, led his gang
with "Bully for Armstrong!" "Hi--yi--whoop, three times three and a
tiger!" "Hooray! Hooray! Hooray! What's the matter with Armstrong? He's
all right!"

    "'Rah, 'Rah, 'Rah--ta-tara-da
    Boomerum a boom-er-um.
    Boom, boom, bang!"

But Jim was not all right. He heard the great roar of applause, but it
sounded far, far away to his numbing senses. Then all the light went out
of the sweet spring landscape, and he toppled over, bicycle and all,
into Stacey's friendly arms. No one was surprised to see him stretched
upon the grass wrapped in the rose-coloured bath-gown, for it was a
common thing for victors to faint just as they secured their laurels.
"He'll be up in a minute; Stacey is rubbing his feet," Mr. Van Silver
asserted reassuringly. "Good-hearted fellow, that Stacey. He's devoted
to your brother." But Adelaide watched him anxiously, until a crowd of
boys closed around him and hid him from her view. How terribly long he
lay there--could anything serious be the matter? Suddenly Polo's brother
came running toward us. "Is there any doctor on the grand stand!" he
shouted; "if so, he's wanted _immejiently_."

Adelaide sprang to her feet and clambered down the ranks of seats. I
followed. I have no clear idea of how we reached the ground, but we
hurried on together, the boys making way for us as we came. They had an
instinctive feeling that this handsome, imperious girl, with the white
face, had a right to pass. A panting boy, lying with his face to the
ground, looked up and asked, "What's up?"

"They can't bring Armstrong to," replied the trainer. "Looks like he is
going to die."

"Glad of it," retorted the other, turning his face to the sod again.
It was Ricos, deserted by every one, unnoticed in his defeat. But
through his humiliation and resentment there presently shot a pang of
conscience. "What if Jim should die? Would I not be a murderer?" and
with pallid face he staggered to his feet and tottered after us. The
crowd around Jim opened for us. There he lay with his head on Stacey's
lap. A portly surgeon, with a river of watch-chain flowing around his
vest, knelt at Jim's side examining the wound below his knee. Colonel
Grey, the principal of the school, a retired army officer, and a tall
soldierly man, bent his white head over the doctor and inquired into
Jim's condition.

"The wound is not a serious one, only a minor artery cut, which I have
just tied. The only question is whether the little fellow has lost too
much blood."

"Oh, my darling brother!" Adelaide cried.

"For Heaven's sake, control yourself, my dear Miss Armstrong!" exclaimed
Colonel Grey. He realized the importance of not exciting Jim, and he
loved the boy tenderly. He offered his arm to Adelaide now, while four
of the cadets lifted Jim and bore him very gently to the piazza of the
pavilion. "To think," said the Colonel, "that I was just congratulating
myself on the number of points he was winning for the school. Why, I
would rather the school had not gained a single point than have had this
happen."

"Darn the games," muttered Stacey, switching his bath-robe about
savagely.

When we reached the piazza and Jim had been stretched on a bench, his
eyes opened feebly. He recognized Adelaide fanning him and smiled.

"They are calling the mile run," said the trainer. "You entered for
that, Mr. Fitz Simmons. They say you are sure of winning the race, and
if you do you'll gain the cup for the school."

"Confound the race!" ejaculated Stacey. "Do you suppose I am going to
leave Jim in this condition?"

"I cannot ask it, my boy," said the Colonel. But Jim's forehead furrowed
slightly, and he said very feebly: "Go, Stacey; don't--let the
school--lose the cup."

"Go!" cried Adelaide. "He wishes it." And Stacey strode out to the
track.

Milly told me afterward that she was greatly surprised, and not a little
indignant, to see him take his place with the runners, who were
mustering just in front of us.

"How's Armstrong?" Mr. Van Silver called to him.

Stacey came nearer. "Badly hurt, I'm afraid," he replied.

"Then I think it is very heartless in you to run," Milly exclaimed. It
was the only thing she had said to him that day. He flushed violently.
"Jim begged me to do so," he said, "or else you may be sure that I would
not be here."

The race was called, and Stacey threw himself into the "set," his chin
protruding with bull-dog determination, but Milly's thoughtless remark
had taken all of the spirit out of him. "He was the very last to get
off," said the trainer. "He's running in awful bad form, too. Fifth from
the front. What's he thinking of to let Harrison pass him?"

Around they came, and Stacey looked appealingly to Milly, but with nose
turned in the air, she was waving the Morse colours, snatched from a
girl sitting near her, and applauding the Morse champion, Emerson.

The sight stung him. He would show her that he was a better runner than
the boy she had selected as her favorite, and he put forth every energy,
and gained rapidly.

"I told 'em," said the trainer oracularly, "that Fitz Simmons would wake
up, and sprint further on. _He_ wasn't running this first lap. He ain't
a-running now, he's just taking it easy, to show us some tall running
toward the finish, when he'll have it all to himself."

The cadets evidently thought so too, and Stacey's own drum corps, who
had brought out their drums on the top of a stage in expectation of this
event, beat an encouraging charge as he came around for the second time.
Stacey smiled as he recognized the familiar:

    Boom a tid-e-ra-da
    Boom a diddle dee,
    Boom a tid-e-ra-da
                  Boom!

He turned for an instant, waved his hand to the boys, and then buckled
down to his very best effort.

    "It's one in a million
    If any civilian
    His figure and form can surpass,"

hummed Mr. Van Silver.

"How's that for the cup?" shouted Buttertub, who forgot personal
animosities in the school triumph. He flapped his arms like a rooster
about to crow, and yelled across to the drum corps, "Who's Fitz
Simmons?"

It was a well-known school cry and the boys on the stage responded
lustily:

    "First in peace, first in war;
    He'll be there again, he's been there before;
    _First in the hearts of his own drum corps_;
    That's Fitz Simmons!"

Stacey was leading--only a little way now to the finish. He said to
himself, "Now's the time to sprint." How strange that his muscles would
_not_ obey the command telegraphed to them by his brain. Strain every
nerve as he did, he could not increase the pace. Emerson, the Morse
flyer, shot by him with his magnificent stride, as fresh and unwearied
in this final burst of speed as Milton's conception of a young
archangel. Stacey staggered on, but the drum corps was suddenly silent,
and there was no shout as he passed the cadet contingent. They and he
knew that the contest was now hopeless. He did not look up at Milly. He
knew, without looking, that she was applauding his rival, who had won
the race and was now being borne off the field on the shoulders of his
rejoicing comrades, amidst their delirious cheers. Stacey finished the
course, then stalked moodily a little distance and sat down upon the
grass, with his forehead resting on his knees. His disappointment was
very bitter. The Woodpecker, who had not run in this race, came up to
Stacey with his bath-gown, which he threw thoughtfully about the
exhausted runner.

"Played out, are you, Stacey?" he asked kindly. "Well, I don't wonder;
you tired yourself out keeping up with Armstrong in the bicycle race.
You made staving good time then, but you'd ought to have saved yourself
and put in the licks now, old chap. Never mind, we all know what your
record has been."

"I don't care beans for my own record," groaned Stacey, "but I've lost
the school the cup, and I can never look the fellows in the face
again."



CHAPTER XIII.

POLO IS SHADOWED.


[Illustration]

Polo ran up and with her was her brother, and Mrs. Roseveldt left her
seat on the stand, as soon as the mile run was decided, and joined us as
we stood around Jim. She was a woman of kindly impulses in spite of her
fondness for fashionable life.

"You must let me have the boy conveyed to my house," she said to Colonel
Grey. "His father and mother are abroad, and you have no conveniences at
the 'Barracks' for sickness."

"Oh, thank you, Mrs. Roseveldt," Adelaide murmured, "and will you let me
come too and nurse him?"

"You had better not sacrifice your studies," Mrs. Roseveldt replied
kindly. "We will have a trained nurse and you shall come and sit with
him for a time every afternoon. The hospitalities of my house are just
now taxed by company. I shall have to give Jim Milly's old room and put
a cot in my dressing-room for the nurse."

"But my studies are of no consequence whatever in comparison with Jim,"
Adelaide pleaded; "and the cot in the dressing-room will do finely for
me. Please let me be the nurse, Mrs. Roseveldt."

Mrs. Roseveldt, seeing how much in earnest Adelaide was, turned to the
physician and asked, "Doctor, do you think that an untrained girl like
Miss Adelaide, with all the good intentions in the world, is capable of
nursing your patient?"

"Perfectly," the physician replied. "I am assured now that the boy will
recover. The artery cut was an unimportant one, but the gash just missed
the tibialis; he has had a very fortunate escape. All he needs now is
rest, and careful attendance, to recuperate. I have no doubt that his
sister's society would enliven and benefit him far more than that of a
stranger."

"How shall I get him to my home?" Mrs. Roseveldt asked. "He is hardly
able to ride on the coach."

"Some one must go to the station and telegraph for an ambulance," said
the physician.

"I will undertake that service. I have a good horse here," volunteered
Professor Waite, who had hurried to the pavilion as soon as he saw that
Adelaide was in trouble. No one had noticed him up to this time, but
Adelaide now accepted his offer very gratefully.

"Anything that I can do for you, Miss Armstrong----" Professor Waite
replied; but Adelaide was not listening to him, and he left his remark
unfinished.

"If we can do nothing further here," said Mrs. Roseveldt, "I will ask
Mr. Van Silver to take us home at once. I would like to order some
preparations for the reception of my little guest."

"If you please, Mrs. Roseveldt," said Adelaide. "I would rather wait for
the ambulance and ride down with Jim."

"I will take charge of Miss Armstrong and her brother until the arrival
of the ambulance," said Colonel Grey. And so Adelaide was left.

Mrs. Roseveldt collected her party and Mr. Van Silver gathered up the
reins; but before we started Milly noticed that Miss Noakes was fanning
Rosario Ricos, who had only partially recovered from her fainting fit,
and that the poor woman looked dejected and puzzled. "Oh, Mr. Van
Silver," said Milly, "won't you invite Rosario to take Adelaide's place?
She doesn't look able to go back in the cars."

"Anything you please, Miss Milly," Mr. Van Silver replied; and Milly was
down from her seat in a moment, Miss Noakes accepting the offer most
joyfully.

Stacey came up just as we were leaving. He made no attempt to speak to
Milly, but asked Mrs. Roseveldt if he might call on Jim occasionally.

"My house is always open to you, Stacey," Mrs. Roseveldt replied kindly,
and Stacey thanked her and assisted Rosario to climb up beside her.

"Aren't you going to compete for the high jump?" asked Mr. Van Silver.
Stacey shook his head.

"That accident took all the starch out of you, didn't it?" Mr. Van
Silver continued. "Well, I don't wonder; a nervous shock like that makes
a fellow as weak as a rag. Never mind, Stacey, we'll hear from you next
year at Harvard. I shouldn't wonder if you got on the 'Varsity crew."

On our way home, Mrs. Roseveldt condoled with Rosario. "I am sorry for
your brother's disappointment," she said; "though we were all interested
in Adelaide's brother. It is the great pity in these contests that every
one cannot win."

"It was not him to lose the race what troubled me," said Rosario. "It
was that he to hurt little Jim Armstrong, and some so bad boys near by
to me did say he to do it upon purpose. They called him one 'chump' and
'mucker.' I know not what these words to mean, but I think that they are
not of compliment."

We assured her that we did not believe it possible that her brother had
intentionally hurt Jim, and she was somewhat comforted.

"Fabrique is one little wild," she said, "and his temper is not of the
angels, but he could not be so bad."

"Who was that old gentleman who came and spoke to you during the games?"
Mr. Van Silver asked of me.

"He is Madame's lawyer," I replied. "We see him sometimes at the
school."

"Didn't I hear him mention the Earl of Cairngorm?"

"Did he? Oh, yes! I remember, he said that the Earl of Cairngorm brought
Polo's brother to this country on his yacht."

"He must mean Terwilliger, the ex-jockey and cabin-boy, now trainer at
the Cadet School."

"Exactly. Do you know him?"

"Rather. I got him his present position. If it had not been for me I
don't think Colonel Grey would have engaged him."

"I'm so glad," I cried, "if you can vouch for his character. You
see----" and then I hesitated, bound by Madame's orders not to mention
our trouble.

"What interests you particularly in Terwilliger?" asked Mr. Van Silver.

"He is Polo's brother, for one thing."

"And Polo is the young lady that Miss Milly was lunching so sumptuously
on turtle-soup and ice-cream the afternoon I saw you at Sherry's? I
wanted to inquire whether that large family of starving children were
still subsisting on macaroons."

"Mr. Van Silver, you are just as mean as you can be," Milly pouted.

"Oh, no! you have yet to learn my capabilities in that direction. I am
glad to know that your _protégé_ is a sister of my favorite, for I like
Terwilliger, and I think he has had a harder time than he deserves.
There is one portion of his history that I could have testified to if I
had been in the city and possibly have saved his being sent unjustly to
prison, so I feel that I owe it to him to do him any kindness that I
can."

"What was it, Mr. Van Silver?" I asked eagerly.

"Oh! it's my secret; and as it is too late to help Terwilliger now, I
shan't confess."

"Perhaps it is not too late to help him," I exclaimed. "Mr. Van Silver,
I can't tell you now, but Mr. Mudge will explain everything, and when I
send him to you will you please tell him all you can in Terwilliger's
favor. Indeed, he never needed your friendship more."

"I'm there," Mr. Van Silver replied; "and in return what will you do for
me?"

"Winnie is writing a composition on the life of Raphael. I will copy it
and send it to you," said Milly.

Mr. Van Silver made a wry face; he had not a very favorable opinion of
school-girl compositions. "I would rather see the young lady herself,"
he replied; "but I don't believe there is any Witch Winnie. She is a
Will-o'-the-Wisp, Margery Daw sort of girl."

"She is thoroughly real, I do assure you."

"What does she look like? How does she dress?"

"Well, out of doors she likes to wear a boy's jockey cap of white cloth
and a jaunty little jacket, and I regret to say that she is not
unfrequently seen with her hands in its pockets, and her elbows making
aggressive angles."

"And, I presume, she also wears stiffly-laundried shirt waists, with
men's ties, and divided skirts, and her hair is short and parted on the
side, and she rides a bicycle. I know the type--the young lady who
affects the masculine in her attire."

"She has just the loveliest long hair in the world, and her skirts are
not divided, and she doesn't ride a bicycle, nor wear shirt waists, at
least not horrid, starched, manny ones. She likes the soft, washable
silk kind; and she is a great deal more lady-like than you are, and
lovely, and just splendid; so there!"

Mr. Van Silver chuckled; he liked to tease Milly.

Adelaide remained at Mrs. Roseveldt's for two weeks. Jim did not gain as
fast as the physician had expected. The nervous shock and the great
strain of the race after the accident had been more than the boy's
slight physique could well endure.

Adelaide read to him, and played endless games of halma and backgammon,
and discussed plans for the summer, or told him of the people in her
tenement, in whom Jim was even more interested, if that were possible,
than Adelaide herself. Polo called and brought a bouquet, for which she
had paid seven cents on Fourteenth Street. Jim was glad to meet Polo
when he knew that she was Terwilliger's sister, for the trainer had been
especially proud of Jim, and had given him many points on bicycling.

One day when Polo was present, Jim suddenly asked Adelaide, "Say,
sister, did the boys really go to your cat-combing party?"

"I don't know," Adelaide replied. "There were two suspicious characters
there, but we never found out who they were."

"They was boys," Polo insisted; "and one of 'em was fat, and trod on my
toe, and one of 'em was little, and smelled of cigarettes."

"If I was only back at school," Jim replied, a little fretfully, "I'd
find out for you, fast enough, whether it was Buttertub and Ricos. But
what can a fellow do penned up here?"

"Never mind, Jim," Adelaide replied soothingly. "The truth will all come
out at last."

Polo's great eyes snapped. "Albert Edward could find out," she said.
"The boys tell him lots of things."

Adelaide did not tell Polo that her brother's testimony would count for
little, as he was himself suspected, and the girl went away determined
to assist in unravelling the mystery.

Stacey called frequently and Adelaide could but admire his patience with
the whims of the sick boy. Jim asked him to try to find out whether
Buttertub and Ricos were the intruders on our Catacomb party, and this
was one of the very few requests which Jim made that Stacey refused.

"I don't want to have anything to do with those fellows," he said, "and
you know I never could act the spy."

"I have been thinking," Stacey said, after Adelaide had told him Polo's
history and the needs of the Home, "that we boys might get up some sort
of an athletic entertainment in behalf of the Home of the Elder Brother.
The cadets all like Terwilliger, and if they knew that his little
brother and sister were supported by the Home, they would all chip in
willingly."

"Terwilliger has such a good salary," Adelaide replied, "that Polo tells
me they intend, as soon as their mother is able to leave the hospital,
to take the children from the Home, rent an apartment in my tenement,
and set up housekeeping for themselves. But, if the Terwilligers do not
need it, you may be sure there will always be poor children enough who
do. And something might happen, Terwilliger might lose his place at your
gymnasium, and not be able to support his brother and sister, after
all."

Adelaide was thinking uneasily as she spoke of the cloud which shadowed
Polo and her brother. What if it should be proved that the ex-convict
had committed the two robberies in the Amen Corner with the assistance
of his sister.

"Oh, Terwilliger won't lose his situation," Stacey remarked confidently.
"Colonel Grey likes him, and so do all the fellows. He's up on every
kind of athletics; knows all the English ways of doing things, for he
has been a jockey at the Ascot races and a coach to the Cambridge crew.
He's so good-natured too; doesn't mind helping fellows outside of hours.
He goes out rowing with me every Wednesday night in a two-oared gig on
the Harlem."

"Were you rowing with him on the 10th?" Adelaide inquired eagerly, for
this was the night of the Catacomb party.

"Yes," Stacey laughed, "and we were late, and I got a special blowing up
for it, too. You see, they lock the door at ten, and I had to ring the
janitor up, and he was raving, for he had already been disturbed to let
Ricos and Buttertub in, and he was in no mood to pass it over. He
reported us all to Colonel Grey, who gave us order marks for it."

"Ah!" thought Adelaide, "this is encouraging. Buttertub and Ricos were
out late on the night of our party, and Stacey can prove an alibi for
Terwilliger. I shall report all this to Mr. Mudge."

Jim returned persistently to the idea of the entertainment for the Home
of the Elder Brother. "I wish you would see to it, Stacey. What are the
boys doing now?"

"Tennis, and base-ball. You ought to see Woodpecker; he is going to be
our tennis champion; he can make the neatest underhand cut. He's simply
great."

"Any better than the club down at the Pier?" Jim asked.

"What! the Sand-flies? They can't hold a candle to us."

"It would be nice to have the Cadets play the Sand-flies," Jim
suggested. "Colonel Grey would give the tennis club a field-day if you
asked him, and the excursion to the Pier by boat would be lovely. Mrs.
Roseveldt says she's going to open her cottage earlier than usual this
year, and she will get the Sand-flies interested. Say, is it a go?"

Stacey lashed his boots lightly with his riding-whip; for he was on his
way to the Park for a ride.

"We couldn't make a success of the affair without Miss Milly's help," he
said, "and after the way she treated me at the games I'll never ask
another favor of her--never."

Jim was much distressed.

"That tournament scheme was such a good one," he said. "The Sand-flies
are already interested in the Home of the Elder Brother, and we could
make a big affair of it and rake in lots of money for the Home. I mean
to talk with Mrs. Roseveldt about it, any way."

"All right," Stacey replied as he rose to take his leave; "so long as
you don't talk with Miss Milly. She would think it a put-up job between
us."

"Now it was real vexatious in Stacey to say that," Jim remarked, after
his friend had left. "I meant to have it out with Miss Milly the next
time I saw her. Won't you wrestle with her, Adelaide?"

"I'm afraid it's of no use," Adelaide replied, but Jim would not give
up the idea so easily. He talked it over with Mrs. Roseveldt, who
approved of the tennis tournament. It would be just the thing with
which to open the season. The Cadet team would be a great attraction.
She would intercede with Colonel Grey to allow them to remain several
days. "It must take place early in June," she said, "just after
Milly's commencement exercises, and while Adelaide and you are
visiting us, before your father and mother return and take you away. I
will drop a line to Milly that I want her to come home for my last
reception this season, and I'll invite Stacey to talk it over."

Jim was afraid that Milly might not be inclined to receive Stacey's
proposal with favor, and he accordingly wrote her a long and labored
epistle, urging her, for the sake of the Home of the Elder Brother, to
bury the war hatchet. Jim's intentions were better than his spelling,
which was even worse than Milly's, and his letter amused her very much.
One phrase struck her as especially diverting: "Stacey says you treated
him worse than a Niger."

Jim had spelled the word with an economy of g's, and a capital letter,
which suggested visions of Darkest Africa. Milly laughed till she cried.

"Perhaps I have been impolite to him," she thought. Milly had a horror
of being discourteous, and she wrote Jim that if Stacey would not be
"soft," she would be nice to him for the sake of the Home of the Elder
Brother. Jim considered this quite a triumph, and showed the letter to
Stacey on the occasion of his next visit.

Stacey did not look as pleased as Jim had expected.

"Catch me being soft with her," he muttered. "I'll show Miss Milly
how much I care for her airs. By the way, Jim, we are to have two
invitations each to give away for the prize essays and declamations
at the close of school. I intend to invite Miss Winnie De Witt and
Miss Vaughn. I thought I would mention it, as it might influence your
invitations."

Jim opened his eyes aghast at what he heard. "You don't mean to say that
you are not going to send Miss Milly one of your tickets?"

"Yes, I do."

"And you are going to invite that hateful, horrid Vaughn girl?"

"I heard Buttertub boast that he was going to invite her, and I thought
it would be rather a pleasant thing for him to receive his ticket back
again with the information that as she had already accepted mine she had
no need for it."

Jim could hardly believe his ears. "Well, of all things," he said. "You
shan't do it, Stacey; you shan't do it! I'll invite Miss Milly, with
sister, if you don't want to, but it's a downright insult to fill her
place with such a pimply faced, common, loud----"

"I do not see that it is the young lady's fault if she has a _humorous
disposition_, and as for her being loud----"

"You said yourself that you could hear her hat at the Battery if she was
walking in Central Park. Sister says she toadies fearfully, and she
flirted like a silly at the games, and at the drill. I think you must be
hard up to ask her."

Stacey coloured, but was too proud to back down, and he left Jim in
tears. Poor little fellow, as he expressed it, it seemed as if all the
sticks which he tried to stand up straight were determined to fall down.
He could see that something was wrong with his hero, for Stacey's
disappointment at the games had cut deeply, and the boy was on the verge
of falling into a dangerous state of "don't care." When Jim asked him
what subject he intended to choose for his essay, Stacey said that he
had about decided not to compete. The subject must be connected with
Greek history or life, and he despised the whole business, and the
honour wasn't worth the trouble.

Adelaide took Stacey in hand and suggested a subject, in which he
manifested some interest, but all this worried Jim and kept him from
recovery.

Adelaide watched him anxiously. She had at first thought it best not to
notify her parents of Jim's accident, fearing to spoil their tour; but
as she felt certain that he was not improving she sent a cablegram, and
received an answering one stating that they would sail for America at
once. Adelaide watched eagerly for their coming. Jim pined for his
mother, and one day, to give her little invalid something pleasant to
look forward to, Adelaide told him that their parents were on the way
home. The news did him more good than all the physician's tonics. He
brightened every day and talked of his mother incessantly. Once it
seemed to occur to him that his delight was a poor return for Adelaide's
care, and he asked her anxiously, "You don't mind, do you, sister, that
I am so glad mother is coming? You are the very best sister in all the
world, but then you are not quite mother. You never can know just what
she was to me when we were so very poor."

"Of course, I am not jealous, dear Jim," Adelaide replied. "I can well
understand that you and mother are bound together even more closely than
most mothers and sons, by that long fight together with poverty. I only
wish that I had been with you to help you bear it. But then I do not
know what father would have done. He suffered so much while you were
lost to us, that if I had not been there to live for I think he would
have died or have gone insane."

"I don't wonder that father loves you so much and is so proud of you,
sister. I am very glad you were not with us when we were so very
wretched. You ought not to know what it is to be poor, Adelaide. You
ought to be a queen."

"I am a queen now, Jim, and I think I do know what it is to be poor.
When you told me all your bitter experiences, I felt them as keenly, it
seemed to me, as if I had passed through them myself. I believe that God
sent us this intimate knowledge of how the poor suffer in order that we
might sympathize with and help them." Then Adelaide told him of the
tenement and described each of the families. Some of them Jim had known
in that other life which has been related in a former volume, and he
inquired eagerly for the inventor, Stephen Trimble, and for the Rumples,
and others. Adelaide told him, too, of the two turtle-doves, and of the
sad death of Miss Cohens, and how the Terwilligers were soon to be
established in one of the best suites. This last information pleased Jim
very much.

"I like Terwilliger," he said. "He is so funny; he drops all his h's,
and calls everything 'bloomin'.' Buttertub is a 'bloomin' fool,' and
Stacey is a 'bloomin' swell,' and when I got hurt he said it was a
'bloomin' shame,' and Ricos was a 'bloomin' cad,' and the fellows ought
to have made a 'bloomin' row' about it."

That evening it happened that Mrs. Roseveldt was to give a _musicale_,
and as Jim was feeling very bright, Adelaide had consented to take part.
She was a creditable performer upon the violin, and had decided upon a
romance by Rubenstein. She came to the school early in the afternoon for
her music, and, to give her more of a visit with us, Mrs. Roseveldt had
suggested that she should remain until after dinner, promising to send
the carriage for her. Stacey was expected to call that afternoon and
would keep Jim from being lonely.

We were all delighted to have Adelaide with us once more, for we had
missed her greatly.

I was painting in the studio, and Professor Waite had just told me that
it was all for the best that I could not probably go to Europe in
vacation.

"You are not ready for it," he said. "You will profit far more by
European instruction after a year of thorough training in the Art
Students' League. I would advise you to attend it next winter. Our
disappointments are often blessings in disguise. Providence keeps the
things for which we are not prepared, saved on an upper shelf for us
until we deserve them."

As he said this, a joyful hub-bub rang out in the Amen Corner, led by a
wild, Comanche shriek from Polo, who happened to be in the corridor:
"Miss Adelaide's come! Glory! Oh, glory!"

Professor Waite flushed and paled, took two steps impulsively toward the
door, and then sat down before my easel, and began insanely to spoil a
sky with idiotic dabs of green paint. I wondered whether Providence was
saving up Adelaide until he deserved her. If so, the shelf was for the
present a very high one.

To my surprise, Adelaide tapped at the studio door a moment later. She
greeted Professor Waite cordially. "I am so glad to find you," she said,
"for I want to impose upon you for a little help."

Professor Waite beamed.

"Stacey Fitz Simmons has asked me for a subject for an essay and I have
suggested 'The Athletic Contests of Ancient Greece,' as giving a
subject in which he is greatly interested--athletic sports--a classical
turn, suitable for the dignified occasion. At first he thought he could
make nothing original of it, but would have to crib everything from
books of reference; but it occurred to me that he might treat it from a
rather new standpoint by taking his information from remains of ancient
sculpture. I told him he had better study the casts at the Metropolitan
Museum, as that would be the next best thing to attending the games at
Corinth. Can you give him any additional sources of information?"

Professor Waite threw himself into the idea with enthusiasm and poured
forth at once a dissertation which would have taken the highest honours
at the competition. Then he made a memorandum of several works on art,
which Stacey would do well to consult, and rummaged about in his
portfolios for photographs of ancient statues of athletes and heroes,
the procession from the frieze of the Parthenon, and the like.

When we finally got Adelaide into the Amen Corner, we scarcely gave her
an opportunity to dress for the _musicale_, we had so many little
nothings to talk over with her.

In the midst of it all Mr. Mudge called, and we opened fire upon him at
once with the testimony which we had collected in favor of Polo and her
brother. He was not greatly impressed with Stacey's avowal that he had
been out rowing with Terwilliger on the night of the Catacomb party.

"I had already ascertained that he was out late that night," he said.
"Miss Milly told me that young Fitz Simmons on the night of the drill
threatened to attend your party. What assurance have we that he did not
attend it with Terwilliger as his companion? A lark on the young
gentleman's part, and a clever opportunity to steal on the part of the
trainer. My assistant has discovered that Terwilliger has had no
dealings with his old associate Nimble Tim since his release from
prison. Having to discard the idea that Tim was his companion, I have
been looking about to find another possible one. I thank you for your
assistance."

Milly was very angry. With true womanly inconsistency she scouted the
idea that Stacey could have had any part in the proceedings, although
she was the very one who had at first suggested it.

"And here," she said, "is something which ought to be perfectly
convincing to any sane man. Polo told me last night that her brother
heard Ricos and Buttertub boasting that they had fooled us all so
nicely, and had seen our play. They made fun of Winnie, and said she had
a little squeaky voice for so manly a part, and that it was 'nuts' to
see us try to manage our togas. Oh! I'd just like to choke them."

Mr. Mudge smiled. "It is very natural," he said, "that Terwilliger
should attempt to throw suspicion on some one else."

"But you know that Buttertub and Ricos were out late that night," I
suggested.

"Ricos obtained permission from Colonel Grey to hear Professor Ware's
lecture on Architecture, at Columbia College."

"And did they say they attended it?" Adelaide asked.

"Ricos so reported at the Barracks."

"Well, I happen to know that Professor Ware delivers those lectures on
Tuesday evenings," Adelaide replied triumphantly; "and this was
Wednesday night."

"Are you sure of this?"

"I am sure because I attend the lectures, and neither of those boys were
there."

Mr. Mudge rubbed his brow with his pencil. "Terwilliger's previous bad
record counts against him," he said persistently.

"Mr. Mudge," I entreated, "will you do me the favor to call on a friend
of ours, Mr. Van Silver, who knows all about that previous record of
Terwilliger's."

"How is that?" Mr. Mudge asked, and I related my conversation with Mr.
Van Silver on our return from the games.

"I will interview this gentleman," said Mr. Mudge, "for though
appearances are strongly against Terwilliger, I do not wish to act on
appearances alone. And meantime, if you could find some other witness
than young Fitz Simmons who could prove that he and the trainer were
really boating on the Harlem the night of your party, and some other
witness than Terwilliger to the admission of Ricos and his friend of the
dairy nickname, the cause of Lawn Tennis and her brother would be
materially strengthened."

"I agree to produce such witnesses," said Winnie rashly. "I have called
it my mystery and I intend to fathom it, if it takes all summer."

Mr. Mudge bowed and withdrew. His boots creaked down the hall a little
way and then we heard a knock and the opening of a door.

"Girls, he's calling on Miss Noakes," Winnie cried, in high glee. "Now,
what's to hinder my running out on the balcony and showing her that two
can play at the game of peek-a-boo."

"Nothing but the honour of the Amen Corner," Adelaide remarked. The
words threw a wet blanket on Winnie's proposal, but there was a
flickering smile about Adelaide's lips which showed that she was bent
upon mischief, a rare thing for Adelaide.

"I will wait until Mr. Mudge is gone," she said,--"I would not interrupt
two young lovers for the world,--and then I think I'll call on Miss
Noakes. I want her to help me translate the visit of Æneas to Queen
Dido."

"That's just like Winnie," Milly exclaimed; "but you would never do such
a thing."

"Won't I? You don't half know me, Milly, dear," and Adelaide actually
fulfilled her threat.

[Illustration]

"She expected him," Adelaide exclaimed, when she returned. "I found her
all gotten up regardless--that low-necked black net of hers! She did
look too absurd for anything, but happy is no name for it. There was a
blush on her withered old cheeks, and I actually believe a real tear in
her eye. When I told her what I wanted her to translate, she glared
at me haughtily, but I looked as demure as I could, and she went through
it without flinching. 'Men are deceivers ever, aren't they, Miss
Noakes?' I said. 'Just think of Pious Æneas behaving so cruelly to his
dear Dido.' 'How should I know, child?' she replied rather curtly."

While we were laughing, Cerberus knocked to inform us that Mrs.
Roseveldt's carriage waited and had sent him to inquire for Miss
Armstrong.

Adelaide found that Stacey had waited for her return. He woke to
animation over the photographs. "This decides me," he said. "I shall try
for the prize. I didn't imagine there was anything in Greek civilization
that I cared a rap for; but that quoit player is fine. Just look at his
muscles. I always thought that Discobolus was the fellow's name. It
never dawned upon me that it meant a quoit player. And this Mercury
hardly needs wings on his heels, his legs are built for a runner. And
isn't that Fighting Gladiator superb? And that Hercules and Vulcan?
Well, now, here is something curious. I do believe that Baker got his
'set' from that statue; the left arm is extended in the very same way,
and the boys all thought it was original with him."

So he ran on, his eyes kindling once more with enthusiasm. "Well, I must
go now and 'bone' on my geometry--beastly bore; but Buttertub has been
having very good marks lately, and I am not going to let him rank me."

He had hardly gone before it was time for Adelaide's Romance, and after
that Mr. Van Silver came up to express his compliments.

"I was sorry Stacey could not stay to hear you play," he said, "but he
seems to have a virtuous fit on, and said he must hurry to the barracks
and spend the evening in study. Perhaps, however, it was only an excuse
for mischief."

"Do you think so?" Adelaide asked. "It has seemed to me of late that
Stacey has had little heart for anything, even for mischief."

"That's a fact. I haven't seen him on the river since the games, and he
used to be very fond of rowing."

Adelaide gave a little gesture of despair. "There," she said, "I forgot
to ask him whether any one knew of his going out boating, the night of
our party, with Terwilliger, and Winnie was so particular about it. How
provoked she will be with me."

"Why is it that you young ladies have developed an overweening interest
in Terwilliger?" asked Mr. Van Silver. They were sitting on the
staircase apart from the others, and Adelaide replied:

"It is because he is suspected of a robbery which has occurred at our
school. We have been cautioned not to mention it, but I think I may say
as much to you, for Mr. Mudge, the detective who has been engaged to
investigate the affair, told me this afternoon that he intended to
interview you in regard to Terwilliger's part in the crime for which he
was sent to prison."

A cloud passed over Mr. Van Silver's face. "I hoped that thing was dead
and buried," he said. "It only proves that nothing is really ever
settled unless it is settled right. If it will do Terwilliger any good,
I will testify openly, as I ought to have done in the first place."

Adelaide looked at Mr. Van Silver wonderingly. He understood and said
quickly, "I cannot bear to lose your respect, Miss Armstrong; perhaps I
had better tell you just how it all happened."

"Not to gratify any curiosity on my part," Adelaide replied; "you might
be sorry afterward. And if it is something that the world has no
business to know----"

"The _World_! Heaven forbid that an account of the affair should get
into the _World_, the _Herald_, or any of our newspapers. I would rather
no one knew anything about it; but when I have told you the entire story
you will be able to judge how much of it I ought to confide to your
friend Mudge, in order to aid Terwilliger. You see, young Cairngorm is a
regular cub. His father sent him across on his yacht to us. He wanted
mother to comb him out, introduce him in New York circles, and get him
married, if she could, to some American heiress. If you girls only knew
what scamps some of those slips of nobility are you would not be so
crazy for titles."

Adelaide's eyes snapped. "I do not care a fig for a title," she
said indignantly. "I think a great deal more of an enterprising,
hard-working, true-hearted American, than of a mere name. I think that
the American pride of having accomplished some worthy work in life is
much more allowable than the English pride of belonging to a leisure
class."

"I beg pardon. I did not intend to be personal. When my mother saw what
sort of a specimen had been confided to her hands, she made no efforts
in the matrimonial direction, but simply tried to keep the chap out of
harm's way for a season, using me as her aide-de-camp. He had a passion
for betting and gaming, and I was at my wits end sometimes to head him
off. Terwilliger came over with him, you know; but he left the yacht on
its arrival for he wanted to establish himself permanently in America.
Cairngorm liked Terwilliger, tipped him handsomely on parting, and asked
me to take an interest in him. I promised to look out for him and
immediately forgot his existence. Terwilliger drifted about, waiting for
something to turn up, and Satan, who is the only employer who is on the
lookout for poor fellows who are out of work, appeared to Terwilliger,
in the person of a new acquaintance, Limber Tim. Tim told him that he
was connected with a sort of club devoted to athletics. It was really a
gambling saloon. Tim knew of Terwilliger's acquaintance with Cairngorm,
and he promised Terwilliger a five dollar bill if he would persuade
Cairngorm to patronize his establishment. 'Tell him,' he said, 'that we
are to have a very select game of poker to-night, only gentlemen
present, and get him to come down.'

"Now, how Terwilliger happened to be such a lamb, I can't say; but he
had never heard of poker, and he asked Tim if it was anything like
single stick. This amused Tim and he did not undeceive Terwilliger, who
appeared at our house in search of Cairngorm, and, not finding him, left
a labored epistle inviting him to come to No. -- Bowery, and see some
fun in the way of a sleight of hand performance with a 'poker.'
Cairngorm saw through it, though Terwilliger did not, and went out after
dinner without explaining where he was going. He took the note with him
for fear he might forget the number of the house, and thought that he
replaced it in his pocket, after consulting it under a corner gaslight;
but, as his luck would have it, he dropped the note there, and a
policeman, who had seen him read it, picked it up. The policeman knew
that the house was a gambling saloon, and immediately surmised the
truth, that this finely dressed young swell had been decoyed to his
ruin. Terwilliger had begun his letter simply, 'Nobble Sur,' and our
address was not on the letter, so that there was no clue to Cairngorm's
identity; but he had signed his own name in full, and the astute
policeman had this bit of convincing evidence of Terwilliger's
complicity in the confidence game.

"We knew nothing of this at the time, but it was late at night before
Cairngorm returned to our house, and we had all been very anxious about
him. His statements were to the point, for he had been thoroughly
frightened. He had lost heavily, and in the midst of the game the
police had raided the place, and he had escaped by springing into a
dumb-waiter, which had landed him in a kitchen, where he had remained
secreted until all was quiet.

"'It is very fortunate for you,' my father said sternly, 'that the
police did not secure you, for in that case the reporters would have had
a sensation for the morning papers, and your noble father would have
learned of your lodgment in the Tombs. As it is, you had better leave
New York at once. Your yacht is at Newport. I advise you to report at
home as soon as possible. It is your own fault that your American visit
has had so sudden and so disgraceful an ending.'

"I saw Cairngorm off, much relieved to get him off my hands, for we had
very little in common, and he was so lacking in principle that my
feeling for him was only one of contemptuous pity. On our way to
Newport Cairngorm told me that Terwilliger was perfectly innocent of any
connivance with the gamblers, and that as soon as he saw that they were
playing for money had attempted to induce him to leave the place, using
every persuasion possible, and making the gamblers very angry with him.
They had tried to put him out of the room, but he had insisted on
remaining, and when the police appeared it was Terwilliger who had shown
Cairngorm into the dumb-waiter. Immediately after Cairngorm's departure
to Scotland, I sailed for a long trip around the world, so that it was
over a year before I returned to New York.

"What was my chagrin to find that Terwilliger had been arrested and sent
to prison with the gamblers. My father had succeeded in keeping
Cairngorm's name out of the papers, but as he believed that Terwilliger
had knowingly acted as a decoy he had made no attempt to save him.
Terwilliger would not disclose Cairngorm's name at the trial when
confronted with the letter which he acknowledged having written. Nor did
he write him asking his assistance, so determined was he not to
implicate his patron in the affair. I looked up Terwilliger, and finding
that he had only a few weeks more to serve, set myself to work in
earnest to secure him a good position. I told the entire story to
Colonel Grey, who met him with me, on his release, and feeling confident
that he had not been contaminated by his prison associations, gave him
the position of trainer at his gymnasium. He has had a good record there
ever since, and I have been very unhappy that he has suffered so much on
my graceless friend's account. If I had known that an innocent person
was to be sent to prison I would never have helped him away after his
scrape, but would have insisted on his disclosing the entire truth, and
braving the consequences like a man. As it is I am going to make
Cairngorm do something for Terwilliger this summer. One of my grooms
does not care to go to Europe with me, and if Terwilliger has nothing
better to do while the cadets are on vacation, I will take him across. I
shall bring him back in the fall in time for the opening of the school."

Adelaide was intensely interested in this story. "You will tell it all
to Mr. Mudge, will you not?" she asked, "and convince him that
Terwilliger was unjustly imprisoned."

Mr. Van Silver promised to do this, and soon after took his leave.

Adelaide had not intended to tell Jim anything of the suspicion which
had fallen upon the trainer, but Jim had left his bedroom and come out
upon the landing to listen to the music, and had overheard all of Mr.
Van Silver's account.

When Adelaide went in to kiss Jim goodnight, she found his cheeks hot
and his eyes quite wild. "You will go to Mr. Mudge right away, will you
not, sister?" he urged. And he was not at all satisfied when Adelaide
assured him that this was not necessary, as Mr. Mudge had promised to
call on Mr. Van Silver on the following day.

The next day Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong arrived, and Jim's delight threw him
into a fever of excitement. Such alternations of happiness and worry
were bad for the boy, who needed calm, and Mr. Armstrong wished to
remove him to Old Point Comfort, but Jim begged that he might not be
taken from the city until the closing exercises of the Cadet School. "I
shall be well enough to attend them, I know," he pleaded, "and I want to
see sister graduate, and to know how the mystery turns out, and whether
Terwilliger is all right."

To gratify the boy Mr. Armstrong took furnished apartments fronting on
Central Park, and Mrs. Armstrong devoted herself to the care of her
little invalid, while Adelaide returned to school.

Commencement was near at hand, and Adelaide felt that she must work hard
to pass the final examination creditably. Our life at Madame's was not
all frolic, though I am conscious that my story would seem to indicate
that such was the case. Naturally, a full report of the solid lessons
which we learned would make a very stupid story, but the lessons formed
our daily diet, and the scrapes and good times that I have chronicled
occurred only at intervals.

We had what Milly called a thousand miles of desert, without even the
least little oasis of fun, between the Inter-scholastic Games and the
examinations. Winnie had taken a fit of serious study, and when Winnie
studied she did it, as she played, with all her might. Our only lark for
quite a time was a house-warming which we gave the Terwilligers. Polo
told us how she was fitting up the little flat of three rooms with the
assistance of her brother, and it certainly seemed as if the cloud which
had shadowed her had drifted away. The largest room was the kitchen,
also used as a dining-room. Adelaide had provided a range, and many
other things, with the rooms. The cadets clubbed together and made
Terwilliger a handsome present in money, with which he purchased a
lounge, which served for his own bed, and an easy chair for his mother;
and our King's Daughters Ten provided all the tinware and crockery.
Madame sent down a nice bedstead and some bedding. Professor Waite
contributed a neatly framed portrait of Polo, and Miss Noakes gave a box
of soap. Polo purchased the table linen, towels, etc., with her own
earnings, and Miss Billings hemmed them and the curtains, which were
made of cheese cloth. Mrs. Roseveldt sent her carriage to take Mrs.
Terwilliger from the hospital to her new home and gave a carpet, and Mr.
Van Silver ordered a barrel of flour and a half ton of coal. Mrs.
Armstrong selected a lamp as Jim's present, and took the two children
from the Home to one of the large stores and provided them well with
clothing for the summer before delivering them to their mother. It was a
very happy and united family that met together that evening in
Adelaide's tenement, and Mrs. Terwilliger, who had not been credited by
her acquaintances as being a religious woman, exclaimed reverently, "It
seems to me we'd orter be grateful to Providence for all these mercies;"
and her son responded emphatically:

"Grateful to Providence? You bet your life, I am!"



CHAPTER XIV.

THE CLOUDS PART.


[Illustration]

Then suddenly, just as they were sitting down to the first meal in their
new home, there was a knock at the door, and a policeman said: "I am
sorry, Terwilliger, but you are wanted again."

"What for?" the trainer asked, thunderstruck.

"Mysterious robbery up at Madame ----'s boarding-school," replied the
officer. "Mudge gave me the order for your arrest."

"Go and tell Mr. Van Silver," Terwilliger said to Polo. "He won't let me
go to prison again." And Polo was off like the wind.

Mr. Van Silver came at once, and gave bail for Terwilliger's appearance
at trial, so that he did not go to prison; but this action of Mr.
Mudge's showed that he felt sure that Terwilliger was the thief, and
threw us all into consternation. Mr. Mudge had called on Mr. Van Silver,
but had unfortunately not found him in, and while he had not received
the explanation which had been given Adelaide, one of his detectives
informed him that Terwilliger had made arrangements to leave the country
soon in Mr. Van Silver's employ, and that he had lately been expending
large sums in extravagantly fitting up an apartment for his family. It
was the fear that his man might escape him, which had precipitated Mr.
Mudge's action. He felt that the case was a pretty clear one, and that
the trial would develop more evidence.

Winnie was at her wits' end. She had promised to produce witnesses
proving that Stacey and Terwilliger were on the river the night of the
Catacomb party; and in her desperation she wrote directly to Stacey in
regard to it. Unfortunately, Stacey could think of no one who had seen
them just at the time when the boys were known to have been in the
school building, and Stacey's own testimony would not be regarded as of
sufficient weight to clear Terwilliger, as Mr. Mudge suspected Stacey
of being the trainer's companion. This rendered Stacey very indignant.
It seemed to him that he had trouble enough before this, and he was
desperate now. His father, Commodore Fitz Simmons, was a naval officer,
a bluff old sea dog, who had married, late in life, a refined and
beautiful woman. She was lonely in her husband's long absences, and her
heart knit itself to her son. Her husband had planned that Stacey should
follow his career, but when he understood how this would afflict his
wife, he partly relinquished this idea.

"You can have the training of the boy till he is eighteen," he said to
his wife. "If he does you credit up to that time, I shall feel sure of
him for the rest of his life, and he may have a Harvard education and
follow whatever profession he pleases. But if he takes advantage of
petticoat government, and develops a tendency to go wrong, I'll put him
on a school ship, and let the young scamp learn what discipline is."

Commodore Fitz Simmons had been away for a long cruise, but Stacey's
mother now wrote from Washington that the ship was in, and that the
commodore and she would take great pleasure in attending the closing
exercises of his school. She hoped that her son would distinguish
himself at them, and that there was no doubt about his passing his
Harvard examinations, for his father had referred to their agreement
that Stacey must go to sea if he had not improved his opportunities.
"And you know," she added, "that I could never bear to have you both on
that terrible ocean."

Stacey could not bear the thought, either, for he loathed the sea, and
he suddenly faced the fact that he had not been distinguishing himself
in his studies and had no certainty of passing the examinations. This
suspicion of being implicated in an escapade which had a possible crime
connected with it, was more than he could bear. When he read, in
Winnie's letter, "Mr. Mudge suspects you," he threw the letter upon the
floor and uttered such a cry that Buttertub, who was studying in the
room, sprang to him, thinking that he had hurt himself.

"I don't care who knows it," Stacey cried, beside himself with despair;
"I am suspected of being a thief, and it will kill my mother, and my
father will just about kill me."

Buttertub gave a low whistle. "It can't be so bad as that," he said;
"what do you mean?"

"Some fellows sneaked into the girls' party, and they think I was one of
them and Terwilliger the other."

"Well, what if they do?" Buttertub asked. "There is nothing so killing
about a little thing like that."

"Perhaps not; but there was a robbery committed in the school that very
night, and that's the milk of the cocoanut."

"They can't suspect a _cadet_ of being a burglar."

"Well, it looks like it," Stacey replied. "They've arrested Terwilliger,
and I've just had warning that my turn may come next, unless I can prove
that I was boating that night, and I can't."

"Ginger!" exclaimed Buttertub. "You are in a mess." He was on the point
of confessing his own share in the escapade, when he reflected that it
was not entirely his own secret, he must see Ricos first. Buttertub was
naturally good-natured, and he had no idea that the frolic would take so
serious a turn, but his brain worked slowly, and he did not quite see
what he ought to do.

Stacey was nearly wild. He strode up and down the room. "I haven't seen
father for two years, and mother has written him such glowing accounts
of me that he expects great things. It would be bad enough, without this
last trouble, to have him find out what a slump I am. I can never look
him in the face--never."

"Fathers are pretty rough on us fellows, sometimes," said Buttertub. He
was thinking of his own father, bombastic old Bishop Buttertub, and
wondering, after all, whether he could quite bear to shoulder all the
consequences of his frolic. When the Bishop was angry he had been
compared to a wild bull of Bashan, and Buttertub, Jr., would rather have
faced a locomotive on a single track bridge than his paternal parent on
a rampage. He wished now that he had not yielded to the wiles of the
entrancing Cynthia, and attended the party. "Hang that girl!" he growled
aloud.

"Who?" asked Stacey.

"Miss Vaughn," Buttertub replied. "Some one was saying you meant to
invite her to the declamations. You are welcome to for all me."

"Hang all girls," replied Stacey. "I shan't invite any one."

Buttertub rose awkwardly. "Don't be too blue, Stacey," he said kindly.
"Something's bound to turn up," and he ambled briskly off to find
Ricos. "It's tough," he said to himself, "but I'm no sneak, so here
goes."

But Ricos was not in the barracks, and Buttertub, thankful for a little
postponement of the evil day, went into the great hall to practice his
declamation. He had chosen a dignified oration, and he possessed a
sonorous voice and a pompous manner. Colonel Grey smiled as he heard
him.

"You remind me strikingly of your father," he said. "I am sure that I
shall see you in sacred orders one of these days. Perhaps you too will
become a bishop."

Buttertub hung his head. "Better be a decent, honorable man, first," he
thought. The boys were cheering over in the gymnasium: "Hip! hip! hip!"

"Yes--hypocrite," he said to himself, "I'll punch Ricos until he
consents to making a clean breast of it."

But there was no need for resorting to this means of grace. Deliverance
was coming, and, strange to say, through Ricos himself. Ricos had more
food for remorse than Buttertub. His sister had written him from time to
time of Jim's condition, and this morning he had received a letter which
woke the pangs of conscience. Mr. Armstrong had thoughtlessly told Jim
of Terwilliger's arrest, and the news had affected him very seriously.
He could not sleep, and he could talk and think of nothing else. The
physician feared that his reason would give way. He sent for Stacey,
and his friend went to him immediately, but he could give him no
encouragement, and his call only made Jim worse. As Stacey left the door
he met Ricos.

"You had better not call on Armstrong to-day," Stacey said. "He is
awfully sick. I shouldn't wonder if he died. He had an attack something
like this last year, but the doctor pulled him through because there was
nothing on his mind to worry him; but now everything seems to be in a
snarl, and he isn't strong enough to bear it. You come back with me,
seeing you ain't likely to do him any good."

"It is of needcessity," Ricos said. His face was white and scared.
"Rosario, she write me that he will die, and if I see him not before,
and assure myself that he carry no ill-will of me to the Paradiso, then
my life shall be one Purgatorio. Indeed, I must see him; it is of great
needcessity."

Mrs. Armstrong also hesitated when Ricos presented himself, but Jim
heard his voice and called him eagerly.

"Ricos! Ricos! is it really you? Oh, I'm so glad!"

"Of a surety, it is I," Ricos replied. "I have come to ask your
forgiveness. Alas! I am one miserable."

"I will forgive you, Ricos, if you will tell Colonel Grey all about it,
so that Terwilliger need not go to prison. You know they have arrested
him, and really it is he and Stacey who ought to forgive you, and not I
at all."

"I do not comprehend of what you refer. I ask you to forgive me for your
hurt----"

"But that is nothing! I am sorry that I beat you, Ricos. I wanted to win
awfully, but I know now that you wanted the medal a great deal more than
I did, and I'm so sorry Stacey did not run the best. Mother read me a
verse that seemed just to be written for our games. I read it to Stacey
and he said it would help him. Mother, please read it to Ricos, perhaps
it will help him, too."

And Mrs. Armstrong read:

  Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall
  utterly fall. But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their
  strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall
  run and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint.

Ricos looked still more frightened. The Bible to him was a book only for
priests. Jim must certainly be at the point of death, or he would not
ask to have it read; but Jim spoke up earnestly:

"I suppose, Ricos, that waiting on the Lord means doing our whole duty,
and I want you to do something for my sake. I want you to tell that you
went to the girl's Cat-combing party. You know you went, Ricos. We are
all sure of it, but nobody can prove it. Please tell Colonel Grey. It
would be such a noble thing to do."

"And you will make me assurance of your forgiveness?"

"With all my heart, and I will stick up for you with all the boys."

"Thank you, my friend; now I shall enjoy some comfort of the mind. And
you will tell those in Paradise that Ricos is not so devil as they may
have heard."

Jim looked puzzled. He did not quite understand that Ricos's motive was
fear of retribution. He thought that Jim was going to die, and he felt
himself in a measure responsible for his death; but Jim's forgiveness
and promise of intercession in his behalf was a boon to be purchased at
any price, and he readily promised to disclose everything. Jim fell back
upon his pillow, exhausted but happy, and fell asleep for the first time
in many hours.

Ricos hurried back to the barracks. He had no scruples about implicating
Buttertub in his confession, and he would have gone to Colonel Grey
without consulting his friend had Buttertub not been on the lookout for
him. They were each relieved to find that they had come separately to
similar conclusions, and they sought Colonel Grey together.

They were obliged to wait some time, for their instructor was closeted
with Mr. Mudge.

"I am just going out with this gentleman," said Colonel Grey, as he
noticed them standing in the hall. "Is it anything which cannot wait?"

"It is of needcessity," said Ricos, and then his tongue clave to the
roof of his mouth, and Buttertub made the confession for both.

"Your acknowledgment of your fault comes just in time," said Colonel
Grey. "Make your statement once more to this gentleman, and it may save
an innocent classmate from disgrace, and our unfortunate Terwilliger
from unjust imprisonment."

"You shall imprison me," said Ricos, in a theatrical manner. "That will
make me one supreme happiness."

Buttertub turned pale, but did not falter, and told the story frankly
and simply.

"So you are the two gentlemen who introduced yourselves in disguise into
a young ladies' boarding-school," said Mr. Mudge. "Will you tell me how
you made the acquaintance of Terwilliger's sister, the young lady they
call Lawn Tennis, who gave you admittance."

"But it was not Terwilliger's sister at all. Miss Vaughn threw us out
the key to the turret door," said Buttertub.

"A reliable witness to the affair assures me that it was Lawn Tennis.
She was recognized partly by a Tam O'Shanter cap which she is in the
habit of wearing."

"Miss Vaughn wore a Tam O'Shanter when she looked out of the window. She
had it pulled down over her forehead."

"In view of these disclosures," Mr. Mudge said to Colonel Grey, "I shall
withdraw my prosecution of Terwilliger. I have not sufficient evidence
to make out a case against him, since it is now shown that the other
young gentleman, Mr. Fitz Simmons, did not visit the school on the night
in question, and consequently had no motive for testifying falsely. I
think any court would admit him as a competent witness in Terwilliger's
behalf, and consider the _alibi_ established. There will be no trial of
Terwilliger. I must confess myself completely at fault in this matter."

Buttertub drew a long breath. He felt dazed and sick. Ricos swayed from
side to side, and sank into a chair. Colonel Grey was bowing Mr. Mudge
out, and Buttertub poured a glass of water and handed it to Ricos in his
absence. "Don't give in yet," he said; "we've fixed it all right for
Fitz Simmons and Terwilliger, but we've got to face the music now on our
own account."

But Ricos had gone to the extent of his capabilities, and had fainted
dead away. Colonel Grey returned and assisted Buttertub in restoring him
to consciousness. His first words were, "When is it that we go to the
prison?"

"My dear boy," said the Colonel, "you were not suspected of any
connection with the robbery. But if you imagined that you would be, and
made the avowal which you did in the face of that apprehension, you
deserve all the more credit."

"Shall we not be expelled, sir?" Buttertub asked.

"Never! My school has need of young men who can acknowledge a fault so
honourably. I consider that your generous conduct has wiped the
misdemeanour from existence. You have suffered sufficiently, and I have
no fear that such a thing will ever occur again. I shall only ask you to
make this acknowledgment complete by sending Madame ---- a written
apology for intruding in so unwarrantable a manner upon her school. I
shall call upon her personally and deliver it."

"And my father will not feel that I have disgraced him," Buttertub said
slowly, unconscious that he was speaking aloud.

"I shall tell the Bishop," said Colonel Grey, "that he has a son to be
proud of."

Ricos staggered off to bed, and Buttertub sought Stacey and reported.

"You are a trump!" Stacey cried, "I never realized before what a hero
you are. I beg your pardon for every unkind thing I have thought or said
about you, and if you will accept my friendship it's yours forever. It
is time for supper now, and after that we'll find Terwilliger and tell
him the news."

Jim improved rapidly after this. If Ricos had known that he would
recover he might not have confessed, and there was a lingering feeling
in his mind that Jim had no right to get well, and was taking a mean
advantage of him in not fulfilling his part of the bargain and winging
his way to Paradise, to tell the angels that Ricos was not such a bad
fellow after all. Still, he never really regretted Jim's recovery or his
own avowal. It cleared his conscience of a great load, and the boys,
having heard that Ricos had made _amende honorable_, no longer
complimented him with the terms "chump and mucker," but accepted his
presents of guava jelly and other West India delicacies, and as he had
the Spanish gift for guitar-playing, elected him to the banjo club.

A little after this Mrs. Roseveldt gave her last reception for that
season. She had not forgotten the proposed plan of the tennis tournament
at Narragansett Pier, and she invited Stacey to come and talk it up with
Milly.

In spite of his declaration of war against all womankind, Stacey
accepted the invitation eagerly. Stacey was himself again, yet not quite
his old giddy self. The disappointment and trouble which he had
experienced had changed him for the better. He was less of a fop and
more of a man, than when he tossed his baton so airily before his drum
corps at the annual drill. But he was still something of an exquisite in
dress. His father had given him permission to order a dress suit for the
occasion of prize declamation, and Stacey besieged his tailor until he
agreed to have it done in time for Mrs. Roseveldt's reception.

Milly went home the day before. We had all been invited, but had decided
virtuously that we could not spare the time from our studies, while I
had, as an additional reason, the knowledge that I had no costume
suitable for such a grand society affair. Milly described it all
afterward, and I enjoyed her description more than I would have cared
for the party itself.

The mandolin club played softly in the dining-room bay-window, hidden by
a bank of palms and ferns, and the lights glowed through rose-coloured
shades. The supper-table, in honour of a riding club to which Mr. and
Mrs. Roseveldt belonged, whose members were the guests of the evening,
as far as possible suggested their favorite exercise. The table itself
was horseshoe in shape; saddle-rock oysters, and tongue sandwiches were
served. There was whipped cream, the ices were in the form of top-boots,
saddles, jockey-hats, and riding whips, and the bonbonnières were satin
beaver hats.

Stacey appeared early in the evening. It was the first time that Milly
had seen him in a dress suit, and Milly confided to me privately that he
seemed to her to have suddenly grown several inches taller. He was very
grave and dignified, not at all like the old rollicking, boyish Stacey
with whom Milly was familiar. Milly, quite inexplicably to herself, felt
a little awed by him and was at loss for a subject of conversation. She
referred to the Inter-scholastic Games, and Stacey scowled so violently
that Milly saw that this was an unfortunate beginning, and hastened to
change the subject to that of the proposed tournament at Narragansett
Pier. They were practically alone, for the parlor had been deserted by
the onslaught on the supper table, and Stacey said confidentially:

"I'll tell you just how it is, Milly; I ought not to take part in that
tournament."

"Oh, do!" pleaded Milly.

[Illustration]

"I will if you say so. It shall be just as you say, for I'll do anything
for you; but if I go into this thing I lose every last chance of
passing my examinations for Harvard. All the same, I'll do it if you
want me to."

"No, no;" murmured Milly; "not at such a cost; but it can't be as bad
as that. What do you mean?"

"I mean that I have made a precious fool of myself all winter. I have
gone in for athletics at the expense of my studies, and I've failed
in both; and now that the time is coming for my examinations it will
be a tight squeeze if I pass. I made up my mind to reform after I
extinguished myself at the games, and I've been cramming ever since.
Do you know what the boys call me now?"

"A regular dig, I suppose."

"No, that's obsolete. At Harvard a hard student is a 'grind,' and a very
hard student is a 'long-haired grind.' Woodpecker is complimentary
enough to call me a 'Sutherland Sister hair invigorator grind.'"

Milly laughed.

"No laughing matter, I tell you. I've broken training. I haven't been to
the oval, or on the river, or riding in the park but once since the
games. Instead of that, I put myself in the hands of our Professor of
Mathematics, and I am letting him give me a private overhauling. His
motto is, 'Find out what the boys don't like and give them lots of it.'"

"How horrid!" Milly murmured sympathetically.

"He's just right. If you want to put it in a little kinder way, you
might say, 'Find out where the boys are weak, and then make them
strong.' The trouble is I'm weak all through, so I'm having a rather
serious time just now. I shall have to sit up till one o'clock to pay
for the pleasure of this interview. The examinations take place between
the 25th and 27th of June, inclusive. If I go into this tournament, or
even think of it before then, I lose every ghost of a chance for
Harvard, and will have to take to the sea, and I loathe it. But that's
nothing--if you want me to do it. You don't half know me, Milly. I tell
you, it's nothing at all--why I'd give up life itself for you. There
isn't anything I wouldn't give up for your sake. No, you shan't run
away. We've got to have it out some time, and we might as well
understand one another now. I love you, Milly; I have always loved you;
and if you don't like me--why, I have no use for Harvard, or life
either."

He looked so despairing and yet so wildly eager, that Milly was very
sorry for him.

"Of course, I like you, Stacey," she said kindly.

"You do?" he cried. "I can't believe it. You are fooling me."

"No, Stacey; but you are fooling yourself. You would be very sorry, by
and bye, if I took you at your word now, and snapped you up before you
had time to know your own mind. Why, Stacey, we are both of us too young
to know whether we are in earnest. We ought to wait, and we ought
neither of us to be bound in any way. Perhaps everything will seem very
different to us four years from now. Don't you think so yourself?"

"I can never change," Stacey asserted confidently.

"But I may," Milly said with a smile, thinking of her own foolish little
heart, and of how appropriate the advice she was giving to Stacey was to
her own case.

"I don't believe you will," Stacey replied. "I am sure it's a great
comfort to know that you care for me a little; it's a great deal better
than I expected."

"Did I say so? I didn't mean to," Milly exclaimed in consternation.

"No, you haven't committed yourself to anything, but you have intimated
that I may ask you again after I have graduated from Harvard. And since
I desire that time to come as soon as possible, I presume I have your
permission to give up the tennis tournament and go on preparing for my
examinations."

"Yes, certainly. But I'm sorry for the Home. I don't quite see how we
are going to raise the money for the annex. Still, I suppose, as
students, our first duty is to our studies."

"Exactly. But vacation is coming and we will see what we can do for the
Home then. If your mother will only postpone the time I will see if I
can get the boys together in July."

The old butler came in at this juncture with a tray of ices. He was
followed by Mr. Van Silver, who protested against his introducing
"coolness" between old friends, but who remained all the same, and
spoiled their opportunity for any further conversation on the subject
uppermost in Stacey's mind.

"I've an idea, Stacey," said Mr. Van Silver. "I want you to go to Europe
with me this summer. You'd enjoy the trip I propose to make among the
Scottish hills and lakes. I know your parents will approve, for it will
be a regular education for you, especially with my improving society
thrown in." Mr. Van Silver winked as he said this, and he was greatly
surprised when Stacey answered promptly:

"Awfully kind of you, Mr. Van Silver, but I can't go possibly."

"Why not?"

"Well, first of all, I'm bound to be conditioned on some of my studies
at my Harvard examinations, and I shall have to coach all summer in a
less agreeable way than the one which you suggest. Then I have engaged
to get up a tennis tournament at the Pier----"

"Tennis! what's that to such a trip as I propose. Don't be an idiot,
Stacey."

"It is really not an ordinary tournament," Milly added, with a desire to
make peace between the two. "But, Mr. Van Silver, when do you sail?
Perhaps Stacey can go after the tournament."

"I sail the last of June."

"Then there's no use talking," said Stacey.

"Unless you could join Mr. Van Silver by going over later."

Stacey shook his head vigorously. He had no desire to be expatriated
this summer.

"I comprehend," said Mr. Van Silver. "The Pier possesses greater
attractions than I can offer, but you needn't try to humbug me into
believing that tennis is the magnet which draws you thither. Tell that
to the unsophisticated, but strive not to impose on your grandfather. He
has been young himself."

Mrs. Roseveldt came in with quite a party from the supper, and Stacey
promptly took his leave.

When Milly confided this to me,--as she did nearly all of her joys and
sorrows,--I could not help expressing my sympathy for Stacey.

"Stacey will recover," she said confidently. "Men are never as constant
as we women." And Milly nodded her head with the gravity of an elderly
matron who had experienced all the vicissitudes of life, and who could
now regard the ardours of youthful affection and despair with a benign
tolerance, as foreseeing the end from the beginning.

"Do you know, Tib," she continued, "Mr. Van Silver was joking in the way
that he always does about Stacey, when papa came to us; and papa said,
'Don't put such notions in my little girl's head, Mr. Van Silver. Stacey
has his college course before him and may be able to quote from my
favourite poet when it is over.' With that he took down an old volume
of Praed and read something which is so cute that I copied it afterward.
Here it is:

    We parted; months and years rolled by;
      We met again four summers after.
    Our parting was all sob and sigh;
      Our meeting was all mirth and laughter.
    For in my heart's most secret cell
      There had been many other lodgers:
    And she was not the ball-room's belle
      But only--Mrs. Something Rogers.

"I wonder whether I shall be Mrs. Rogers, or Mrs. Smith, or Mrs. What?
I'd rather be just Miss Milly Roseveldt."

"And how about Professor Waite?" I asked, hardly daring to believe that
the fresh wind of common sense had cleared away the old miasmatic
glamour.

"Oh, Adelaide must repent. They would make such a romantic couple. I
have set my heart on it. And Tib, I believe she does like him, just a
little, though she hasn't found it out herself yet. I am going to take
charge of their case, and some day you and I will be bridesmaids, Tib.
I've planned just how it will be. It's a pity Celeste acted so. Do you
really think Miss Billings will be equal to a wedding dress?"

"What, yours, Milly?"

"Mine? No, indeed. I don't want to be married. It's a great deal nicer
not to be. Don't you think so?"

"Milly, darling, I really believe that you have recovered from that old
folly."

"Why, of course I have--ages and centuries ago." And Milly laughed a
wholesome, gay-hearted laugh, which astonished as much as it pleased me.

"Alas for woman's constancy," I laughed; "but, indeed, Milly, I am very
glad that you are so thoroughly heart-whole. We will keep a jolly old
maids' hall together, only you must not encourage poor Stacey."

"Why not?" asked the incomprehensible Milly. "I am sure he is a great
deal happier with matters left unsettled than he would have been if I
had told him that I hated him; and that would not have been true
either."

"You told him that he might ask you again after he graduates, and you
certainly ought not to allow him any shadow of hope when you know
positively that you can never love him."

What was my surprise to hear Milly reply very seriously: "But I don't
know that, Tib. Four years may change everything. Stacey may not care a
bit for me at the end of his college course. In that case, I'm sure I
shan't repine. But then, again, if he should happen to hold out
faithful, perhaps my stony heart may be touched by the spectacle of such
devotion. Who knows?"

And Milly looked up archly, with a pretty blush that augured ill--for
the old maids' hall.



CHAPTER XV.

THE OLD CABINET TELLS ITS STORY.


[Illustration]

A few weeks passed with no excitement except Cynthia's withdrawal from
the Amen Corner. Madame was very indignant when Mr. Mudge reported
Cynthia's part in inviting the boys to attend our Catacomb party, and
assisting them in entering and disguising themselves. It was rumoured
that Cynthia was to be publicly expelled as a terrible example to all
would-be offenders. She remained closeted in her room, whence the sound
of weeping and wailing could be heard behind her locked door, but she
steadily refused all overtures of sympathy on our part. We waited upon
Madame in a body, and begged her to pardon Cynthia. Madame replied that
she would consider the matter, and we hurried back and shouted the
hopeful news through Cynthia's keyhole. There was no reply.

"Do you think she has killed herself?" Milly asked in an awestruck
whisper.

I applied my ear closely and heard stealthy steps. "She merely wishes to
be let alone," I said; "perhaps we are a little too exuberant in our
expressions of sympathy."

Miss Noakes entered presently and announced that Madame wished to see
Cynthia; and that young lady went, with a very red nose, turned up at a
very haughty angle. She returned shortly, and addressing herself to
Adelaide, as she always did, even when she had something which she
wished to communicate to the rest of us, said scornfully:

"Miss Armstrong, will you kindly say to the other young ladies [we were
all present], that Madame has just told me that I am indebted to you for
permission to remain and graduate with the class."

A murmur of satisfaction ran around the room.

Cynthia's eyes flashed fire. "Do not imagine for one moment," she
exclaimed, "that I would accept your hypocritical condescension, if I
believed that it had been offered."

"Don't you believe that we interceded with Madame?" Winnie asked.

"I believe," Cynthia replied, "that you have done the best you can, by
tale-bearing, to induce Madame to expel me, and have not succeeded; and
as I do not wish to associate with you any longer, I have written my
parents asking them to withdraw me from the school."

"I am sure no one will regret your departure," Adelaide replied, with
indignation. But Cynthia did not leave the school. Either her parents
were too sensible to take her away just before her graduation, or her
remark had been merely an idle threat. Madame gave her a room in another
part of the building, and her place in the Amen Corner remained vacant
for the rest of the term.

Winnie had finished her essay, and one evening we gathered in the
little study parlor to hear her read it. The time for our parting was
now very near, and we were all more or less sentimentally inclined. The
old Amen Corner was very dear to us. Every piece of furniture had its
associations, but none of them were quite so tragical as those which
clustered around the old oak cabinet, and it seemed only fitting that
Winnie should celebrate it in her parting essay. She apologized for the
length of her paper. "Don't think, girls," she explained, "that I
intend to read all this at commencement. I am going to ask Madame to
make selections from it. The task that Professor Waite set me was to
give a picture of Florentine life in the early part of the sixteenth
century, and to bring in the characters who lived then as naturally as
I could--Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, Michael Angelo, Fra Bartolommeo,
the Medici, Macchiavelli, Bibbiena and his niece, and others. While I
was writing, my imagination carried me away, and I gave it free rein.
You are the only ones who will have the full dose."

We were very willing to hear it all. Winnie sat in the great comfortable
wicker armchair with the lamplight gloating o'er her mischievous face.
Adelaide had ensconced herself on the window seat, her classical profile
clear cut against the night. Milly nestled on a cushion at her feet, and
I had stretched myself luxuriously on the old lounge, and watched the
others from the shadowy side of the room. Milly occasionally patted the
cabinet at her side as Winnie referred to it.

The flickering light almost seemed to make the carved faces with which
it was decorated grin sardonically, or knit their brows with threatening
scowls, as Winnie read:


"I am the ghost of the cabinet, Giovanni de' Medici they called me, in
1475, when the drops from the font fell on my forehead in the Baptistry
in Florence, and Leo X, when in 1513 I was made Pope of Rome. I was the
second son of Lorenzo the Magnificent, Christianly christened as a babe
and created Abbot of Fontedolce at the age of seven and Cardinal at
seventeen, for my father was convinced, since the eldest son must carry
down the family glory in succession, for me promotion lay only in the
way of the Church.

"Nevertheless, I held, as it were, to that plough but with one hand,
continually looking back, and ready to drop it altogether, so that,
while I enjoyed the rank and revenue of a prince of the Church, I was
not made a priest with vows of celibacy until the papacy was as good as
in my hand, and until I had been determined thereunto by the closing to
me of a fair pathway which led in quite another direction. For of my
father's choice for me I might have said:

    "For that my fancy rather took
      The way that led to town,
    He did betray me to a lingering book,
      And wrap me in a gown.

"None but the readers of this confession know of my lost love or fancy
that I was capable of any passion save the ambition to reinstate my
family in its ancient position of glory in Florence. Cardinal though I
was, I yet played the spy and the thief to get at the opinions of
Florentines of note and influence, and one of my confederates in my
schemes was a certain carved oak cabinet, which stood in the library of
the palazzo of my nephew by marriage, Filippo Strozzi. This Strozzi was
a man so well regarded in Florence, that although he espoused Maddalena
de' Medici, the daughter of my banished brother Piero, yet was he never
suspected of any plots to advance our family, and lived even with great
freedom and popularity, keeping open house to all the literati of the
city.

"My niece, who shared not altogether the republican sentiments of her
husband, and in whom family affection was most deeply rooted, did
sometimes entertain me after my banishment when my presence in Florence
was not known by the Florentines in general or even to her most
worshipful spouse. At such times I had for my bedchamber a little room
partitioned only from the library of which I have spoken by heavy
hangings of tapestry. Against this tapestry, on the library side, was
set the oak cabinet, which was also a desk for writing, and here my
nephew, Filippo Strozzi, was accustomed to write his letters. Hearing
the scratch of his pen when he little suspected my neighbourhood, filled
me with such an itching desire to know what he wrote, that one night
after he had finished his writing, and had left the room, I slipped into
the library, and found that, having completed his epistle, he had laid
it inside the cabinet, and that this was without doubt the usual
rendezvous for the letters of the family while awaiting the time for the
departure of the post, for other letters, sealed and directed and ready
for the sending, lay on the same shelf. On further examination of the
cabinet I found that its back was a sliding panel, and that by cutting
through the tapestry with my penknife I could open the cabinet from my
own room, and abstract any letters which might have been placed within
it under surety of lock and key. This seemed to me a most providential
circumstance, for not only did my nephew write his letters here, but
other guests of the house had the same custom, and it was most
convenient for me thus to become acquainted with their secret opinions.

"I had another motive for lingering in Florence besides my political
schemes, for as I have said I had not at this time so irrevocably
fastened upon myself the vows of the church that they could not be
shaken off, and I was greatly enamoured of the niece of the merry
Cardinal Bibbiena, the incomparable Maria, whom I had met before my
brother's banishment at his court in Florence, she being a maid in
waiting to his wife and greatly attached to her.

"Maria Bibbiena came frequently to visit my niece Maddalena Strozzi; and
my niece, knowing my passion, gave me opportunity of meeting her, and
I thought that I sped well in my wooing until the cabinet told me
otherwise. My cabinet told me no lies, for Count Baltazar Castiglione, a
most polished man of the world, and guarded in his spoken opinions of
others, opened his mind most frankly in a letter to his friend and
confidante, the gentle and witty Vittoria Colonna, which he wrote in
that room and left in my power, and which was expressed with a freedom
which he would never have allowed himself had he fancied that it would
ever have fallen under my eye.

"I had one friend in Florence in whom I trusted, Niccolo Macchiavelli. I
admired his statecraft and his policy, and I deemed him devoted to our
family, but a letter from his own hand, obtained in like manner with the
others, showed him to be two-faced and treacherous to all who trusted
him--to the Medicis and to Strozzi, whose hospitality he scrupled not to
abuse. It would seem at first sight that my thefts of letters were of
service to me; but I was never able to really profit by them, and the
knowledge which the letters gave me of the perfidy or dislike of their
writers caused me only fruitless indignation and lasting pain, while the
habit into which I had fallen of suspecting, prying, and stealing grew
upon me day by day, till even death itself was powerless to correct it.
When will mankind learn that habit can be so deeply fixed as to follow
us beyond the portals of death.

"The old cabinet and I have been so long partners in guilt that my
erring ghost visits it as of old, abstracting from it whatever is left
to its treacherous keeping. I give back herewith the letters, and when
this confession shall have been publicly read, I will render the moneys
which I have more lately filched, and then my troubled spirit will be
laid at rest. For I was not a great villain.

"Witch Winnie lied when she said I stole from this cabinet the freedom
of the city of Florence, which my father writ out and placed here after
the last visit of the unmannerly monk, Savonarola. I pardoned the
enemies of our family in the day of my triumph, and I pardoned Raphael,
yea, and befriended him and loved him, since he wronged me unwittingly;
and none grieved more than I when we buried him beside his Maria, whom I
fain would have called my own. And so, having forgiven those who have
trespassed against me, and now making restitution, may I also be
pardoned for filching these few letters, whereof the first was from:


  "_Count Baltazar Castiglione to the Excellent Lady Vittoria
  Colonna, Marchesa di Pescara, at Naples._

                               "FLORENCE, 15th October, 1504.

  "MOST WORSHIPFUL MADONNA AND ADMIRED FRIEND:

  "I feel myself highly flattered in that you express yourself
  satisfied with my Cortigiano (which I caused to be writ out at
  your request), and which endeavoured, in some slight way, to
  reproduce the facetious pleasantry joined to the strictest morals
  which subsist at the Court of Urbino. And I deem your request for
  a like picture of Florentine society as a most pleasing proof that
  I have not been hitherto wearisome to you.

  "In Florence, since the passing of the rule of the Medici, there
  has been a passing away also of all standards of aristocracy, so
  that many of the old families hang their heads in political
  disgrace, and there be many upstart ones who flaunt and wanton in
  gorgeousness of apparel. Neither is it possible to say what will
  be the outcome of this state of social incertitude. I have adopted
  what seemed to me a safe rule, and have paid my court neither to
  birth nor to fortune, but to genius. For it is not to be gainsayed
  that there is gathered in Florence at this time a remarkable
  circle of learned and clever men, who form, as it were, an order
  of aristocracy by themselves.

  "I paid my respects first to Maestro Pietro Perugino, my sometime
  friend at Urbino, and whom we there regarded as the very cream and
  quintessence of painting. He has a home here, living in a goodly
  and comfortable state, but has grown somewhat crabbed and soured,
  as happens to men who feel themselves out of fashion and forgotten
  of the world. He has a rival here, one Michael Angelo, and
  Perugino having criticised a cartoon which this fellow had set
  up, representing I know not what absurdity, of bathing soldiers,
  Angelo replied that he considered Perugino to be a man ignorant in
  art matters. Which saying so cut to the quick my friend that he
  somewhat inconsiderately went to law upon the matter, where he
  gained scant salve for his bruises, being dismissed with the
  decree that the defendant had only said what was not to be denied.

  "This discourteous fellow Angelo formeth the greatest contrast to
  Leonardo da Vinci, now the leading artist of Florence, in whom the
  word gentleman hath as full a showing as in any noble living. His
  fortune is sufficient to his tastes (which are of no niggard
  order), and his audience chamber is frequented by the nobles, the
  wits, the fashion, the learning, and beauty of the day.

  "But truly, I must not further speak of this paragon, this
  florescence of his day and generation, or I shall have no space in
  which to make mention of lesser luminaries, and especially of my
  young friend, Raphael Santi of Urbino, who is also visiting at
  this time in Florence. Raphael, while he accords to da Vinci a
  full meed of praise, and goes daily to sketch from his masterpiece
  in the Palazzo Vecchio, and while he is as free from envy as an
  egg from vitriol, yet surprised me by this wondrously assuming
  assertion, greatly at variance with his usual modesty. 'My dear
  Baltazar,' said he, 'keep the sketches and miniature I have made
  for thee. They will one day be as valuable as though signed by da
  Vinci!' Truly, presumption dwelleth in the heart of youth, but
  experience with the world will drive it far from him.

  "I am writing this at the Palazzo Strozzi, where I am for the time
  a grateful guest. Mine host and friend Filippo gave recently an
  artistic supper, the guests being either artists or lovers of that
  guild, whether patricians, such as Giocondo, Nasi, Soderini, and
  others; or scriveners, as Vasari, Macchiavelli, and Guicciardini,
  and churchmen, as Bibbiena, and Bembo; for all Florence will have
  its finger in this art pie, and they who have not the wit to paint
  or the money to purchase, affect superior knowledge, and wag their
  tongues in dispraise. Finding myself partitioned off between two
  of these worthies, I should have died of weariness had I not
  closed my ear on the one side to the borings of Macchiavelli (who
  had it upon his mind that Giovanni de' Medici was in Florence,
  and would have fain tortured from me his hiding place), and on
  the other from the sleep-producing maunderings of Vasari, who
  delivered himself of condemnatory criticisms on Raphael. I would
  not for the world have awakened him to questions by a hint that I
  already knew more of Raphael than he was like to know in his whole
  life, but I suffered him to wander on, straining my ears the while
  to catch some shreds of a merry story with which the Cardinal of
  Santa Maria in Portico (Bibbiena) was setting his end of the table
  in a roar. Supper being ended, I marked that the Cardinal drew
  Raphael's arm within his own, and leading him to the garden, there
  left him with his niece Maria, a most sweet and loving damsel, and
  one exceptionally endowed by nature; for neither in Florence nor
  in the various outlandish cities which it hath been my hap to
  visit in the character of diplomatist, have I found in any five
  ladies, saving in yourself, worshipful madame, such gentleness,
  sprightliness, and wit as is bound up in one bundle in the person
  of Maria Bibbiena.

  "Madonna Maddalena Strozzi has confided to me that her uncle
  Giovanni de' Medici was in time past so greatly enamoured of this
  same Maria that he would fain have given up the Church. This were
  madness indeed on his part, since the wisest policy for any of
  that family is to keep himself from political ambition, than which
  there would seem to be no more convincing evidence to the vulgar
  than devotion to a life of celibacy and monkish austerity; a
  renouncing of the world, its pomps and vanities, and especially of
  family alliances and succession plots, friendships, betrothals,
  marriages, and the like; which, if they be not fooleries of
  youthful passion, savour of worldly ambition.

  "All of this I imparted as my opinion to my hostess, but she
  sighed so deeply as to show that her sympathies are with her
  love-lorn uncle. After this we were bidden by her husband to an
  upper room, where was displayed a picture of Raphael's.

  "But to report the critiques which followed would be greatly
  wearisome to your ladyship, and so I kiss your hands, beseeching
  our Lord to make you as happy as you are pious.

                  "Your sincere friend and servitor,
                                      "BALTAZAR CASTIGLIONE.


  "_Maria Bibbiena to the Lady Alfonsina Orsini Medici, wife of
  Piero de' Medici, in Exile at Urbino._

                                 "FLORENCE, October 12, 1504.

  "MOST MAGNIFICENT, NOBLE, AND UNFORTUNATE LADY:

  "For whom my tears cease not to fall, and my heart to long after
  with true devotion.

  "Truly, madame, whatever may have been your heavy and sore trials
  in separation from your beloved Florence, you cannot have
  experienced more poignant smart than that which wrings the heart
  of your little friend, who in lonesomeness and delaying of hope
  counts the days of your absence. My uncle's friend, Messer
  Macchiavelli, who passes for a man of deep designs, raised my
  hopes at one time by whispering that there was a plot to bring you
  back. But nothing came of it, and instead we were given up to the
  dreadful Piagnoni, so that my uncle, than whom there never was
  a more jocund man, so long as he was chancellor to your most
  worshipful husband, was forced to abandon politics and even for a
  time to hang his head in sadness. But having returned from Rome
  with a cardinal's hat, since the death of Savonarola, I discern
  some faint return to his old cheerfulness.

  "I was minded of you anew but recently. You will doubtless
  remember Madonna Lisa Giocondo. She is now having her portrait
  painted by Maestro da Vinci. It is his manner to invite light and
  diverting society to his studio to converse with and cheer the
  lady during her sitting, and to strive to bring to her lips a
  certain marvelous smile about which he is mightily concerned. Now
  it chanced that Maestro da Vinci heard that I played upon the lute
  at your court, in former days, and so he persuaded my uncle to
  bring me to his studio to play for the diversion of Mona Lisa.
  Presently there came in with Count Castiglione a young man of a
  most beautiful countenance, a divine tenderness suffusing his
  eyes; and a smile of such heavenly sweetness upon his lips, that
  methought that of Mona Lisa but an affected simper in comparison.
  After greeting us he remained a long time in a muse, his eyes
  fastened upon the canvas. Mona Lisa, perceiving that his entranced
  gaze was not so much in admiration of her beauty as in delight at
  the skill of the painter, took her departure, in some pique, while
  Maestro da Vinci waited upon her to the door. Raphael Santi, for
  so is this young man called, turned to me and spoke of the genius
  of da Vinci. After that the Maestro brought forward a portfolio of
  sketches and we overlooked them together. I mind me there was one
  drawing of the Madonna seated in the lap of Sta. Anna, caressing
  the infant Christ, who, in his turn, was toying with a lamb. And
  the younger artist said that what pleased him most in da Vinci's
  paintings was the lovingness which he displayed, as here Sta.
  Anna was beaming proudly and graciously upon her daughter, who
  playfully and tenderly yearned over her son, who as charmingly
  petted his little lamb. And many more things he said, so sweetly,
  and with such courteous and gentle behaviour, that I wondered not
  that he was called Saint Raphael, for indeed he seemed unto me as
  one of the company of the blessed.

  "But with all this I have not told you why it was that this should
  remind me of you. It was because I was told that he was from
  Urbino, and because he was able to give me comfortable tidings
  concerning you, which did not a little solace and unburden my
  heart.

  "After this I met him several times in the outer cloisters of San
  Marco, whither I went first by chance with my uncle, who had some
  business with the prior of the convent, and who left me to wait
  for him in this place, which is assigned to the laity.

  "Presently, while I waited here, Raphael came hastily in, having
  just completed his lesson in colouring with the Fra Bartolommeo,
  an artist who turned monk under the preaching of Savonarola, and
  whom Raphael has chosen as master during his stay in Florence. He
  told me somewhat of this good monk; how when he was a talented and
  rising young man, with life and ambition all before him, he gave
  his paintings to the flames with which the Piagnoni consumed the
  vanities of this world in the public streets, because he feared
  lest he loved his art more than God. But since he has renounced
  the world, the Prior has told him that he can best serve the
  Church by painting altar-pieces, so that his cell is changed to a
  studio, and God has granted him such access of genius that he
  paints more divinely than before, and churches and monasteries in
  Venice and other distant cities send daily for his paintings. But
  he knows not where they go, nor how much money they bring the
  convent, for he paints only for the love of God.

  "Raphael told me also of the heavenly frescoes of Fra Angelico,
  with which the walls of the passages and even the cells of the
  convent, are covered, and he added, 'Truly, I think that Art and a
  monastic life wed well together, and I would willingly retire to
  some cloistered garden afar from the world, if I might carry my
  box of colours with me, and might sometimes see in a vision a face
  like thine to paint from!'

  "Then was I seized with a foolish timidity, so that I could in no
  wise answer, but my heart said, 'And why afar from the world, why
  not in it, making all things better and happier?'

  "Ah! sweet lady, I know you will say, 'My little Maria is grown
  wondrous foolish and love-sick'; but I pray you chide me not,
  seeing that the matter cannot grow further, for I am not likely
  again to meet with Raphael, since I have come to visit for some
  days, on invitation of your sweet daughter Madonna Maddalena
  Strozzi. Nor were it best that I should see him often, for I do
  fear me that in such case my heart might become so rashly pitched
  and fixed upon him that I should in time most inconsiderately fall
  in love, which were a bold and unmaidenly thing to do; and I mind
  me that you were wont to tell me that no woman should allow her
  affections to conduct themselves thus insubordinately, until the
  church hath by the sacrament of marriage given her license
  thereto.

  "And so, madame, praying Maria Sanctissima and Maria the sister of
  Lazarus, my patroness, to keep me constant in this mind, I rest
  your loving friend and devoted servitor,

                                            "MARIA BIBBIENA.


  "_Niccolo Macchiavelli to Bramante, Architect to Pope Julius I, at
  Rome_:

  "MESSER BRAMANTE MIO:

  "We have no longer any politics in Florence. The Medici trusted
  to the luck of their name; but Florence would have none of them,
  and Piero had not the head for his position. He might have had the
  advantage of my brains if he had so chosen; but he had not the wit
  to appreciate wit. The Magnificent was right when he said that he
  had three sons, the one good, the second crafty, the third a fool.
  The good die young: Piero, the fool, has lost his inheritance; it
  remains for the crafty Giovanni to make good the prestige of his
  family. The chances are against him, but if he has something
  better than maccaroni under his tonsure, he will make the Church
  his ladder to power. I thought at one time that Savonarola was
  perhaps shrewder than he seemed, and that he would succeed in
  tumbling Alexander out of the Papal Chair and in taking his seat
  therein as the Pope Angelico. But it seemed that the dolt never
  cared for the Papacy, but only for saving souls! I fear no such
  cause of defeat for a Medici, but I hear rumours concerning
  Giovanni which make me fear that he is not crafty enough for
  success. He has been dissolute; that is no hindrance to a
  cardinal's hat or even to the tiara; the folly I dread is more
  fatal. They say that he has reformed his life and is thinking of
  marriage. If this is true, I renounce his cause in favor of that
  of Cæsar Borgia, who has the audacity of a lion joined to the
  rascality of a fox, and who is not hindered from the putting in
  practice of my principles by any so cowardly and stupid a thing as
  a conscience. And yet they say that his superb physical manhood is
  now a wreck, bloated and permeated through and through with the
  subtle poison which his family alone knows how to prepare, and
  whose effects they can only partially eradicate. Savonarola,
  Borgia, Medici, blunderers all! What name will the next wave bring
  to the surface?

  "But a truce to politics. You know this is a subject from which I
  can no more keep my thoughts than a greedy urchin can forbear
  thrusting his fingers into a pot of comfits. I am not so absorbed
  in my favourite pastime, however, but I can take an interest in
  all that interests my friends, especially in such matters as are
  flavoured with a spice of intrigue, than which no condiment soever
  is better suited to my palate. Touching, therefore, the matter
  concerning which you wrote me, I think that you, as chief
  architect to his Holiness, have indeed cause to fear the rivalry
  of Michael Angelo, for I am credibly informed that he is minded
  presently to journey toward Rome. Moreover, since it is the
  practice of popes to be always meddling with works of art, marring
  and defacing the excellent things done in the Pontificates of
  those preceding them,--when they cannot improve upon them,--and
  whereas they are a whimsical lot, not long contented with one
  object or one workman, be he ever so excellent, you have
  sufficient cause, I say, to fear, having now continued in favour
  for some time, that this Michael Angelo will supplant you in the
  favour of his Holiness. I would suggest, therefore, that you
  search about for some new artist, who shall occupy himself with a
  line of work as fresco painting, not in any way interfering with
  your own architectural designs, but rather depending upon them;
  and that you make haste to introduce him to the Pope, and if
  possible ingratiate him into his favour that, his mind being taken
  up with this new favourite, and his purse lightened by the
  dispensing of moneys for these new works, he will be less inclined
  to look favourably upon a new architect such as Michael Angelo.
  And inasmuch as it seemeth to me that this thing requireth haste,
  I have looked about me somewhat in Florence to find a man suited
  to your occasions.

  "I first bethought me of Leonardo da Vinci as being the successful
  rival of Michael Angelo in this city, and against whom he could
  not for a moment contend. But da Vinci hath no drawings toward
  Rome. I have marked for a long time that he cutteth his doublet
  after the French fashion. Trust me, he is no man for us; he would
  rather trip it merrily with French dames than wear out his knees
  on the cold scagliola of the Vatican. I have bethought me also
  that Leonardo is too old and subtle for you; you need a man whom
  you can manage; who shall look up to you as a patron and as a
  superior. My eye hath lately fallen upon a youngster of surprising
  talent as a painter, a stranger in Florence, of no great
  influence, and utterly unknown to fame. He hath as yet no great
  opinion of himself; make haste to secure him before others shall
  enlighten him as to his merits. This youth is called Raphael
  Santi, and I make sure that the pope will greatly prefer this
  silken dove to that porcupine Angelo.

  "I would the more willingly see him advanced in some foreign city
  in that my good friend Cardinal Bibbiena seems desirous with all
  expedition to get him forth from Florence, and yet it is not so
  much from a desire to pleasure Bibbiena, as from a conviction that
  I have found here a tool of proper service to thee, that I thus
  recommend him to thy good offices.

  "To conclude, my Bramante, make all speed to inform his Holiness
  that the walls of the Vatican are cracked, smoky, filthy, and
  disgraceful, and above all things fetch thy Raphael quickly and
  gain for him a personal interview; for I trust more to the charm
  of his presence than to volumes of thy bungling speech.

  "And when thou hast need of further counsel, or seest that the
  pope desireth an Ahithophel,--now the counsel of Ahithophel which
  he counselled in those days was as if a man had enquired at the
  oracle,--why send then and fetch thy ever loving and honest
  friend,

                                              "MACCHIAVELLI.

  "FLORENCE, October 12, 1504.


  "_Maria Bibbiena to the Lady Alfonsina Orsini Medici, wife of
  Piero dei Medici, at Urbino_:

                                "FLORENCE, October 15, 1504.

  "MOST MAGNIFICENT, MOST BELOVED, AND MOST SWEET LADY:

  "Since I last made bold to write you of my small matters, others
  more weighty to me have transpired, which, as I have made a
  beginning, I will also make an end in the way of their narration.
  And first I have met with a small disquietness from your
  highness's brother-in-law, the Cardinal, concerning whose presence
  in Florence I had not heard. For yestreen, when I was playing upon
  my lute in the garden of the palazzo of your daughter, Madonna
  Strozzi, he came upon me suddenly walking with your daughter.
  Whereat he seemed at first taken all aback, but the Lady Maddalena
  exclaimed, 'A new Petrarch, and new Laura,' and commanded him on
  his fame as a scholar to make some rhymes on that subject. Whereat
  he replied that if I would continue playing he would write, as his
  patron, St. Cupid, gave him utterance, and with that he improvised
  and wrote out the nonsense herewith following:

    "In all Avignon's gardens the nightingales were mute
    As at her open casement she played upon her lute.
    The lonely scholar Petrarch wandered all listlessly;
    'The old man with the hour-glass has sure some grudge 'gainst me.
    The sands they fall so sluggishly that tell the flight of time;
    My studies all are tedium, and weariness my rhyme.'
    'Twas then the Lady Laura, with lips like ripened fruit,
    And lily-petalled fingers, full sweetly touched the lute.
    The lonely Petrarch listened, as she sang, so sweet and low,
    A soft love-laden sonnet, writ by Boccaccio.
    Till Cupid snatched the hour-glass from loitering Father Time,
    And Petrarch's life was all too short to tell his love in rhyme.

  "After the reading, our lady daughter would have me crown the
  poet, but this I would in no manner consent unto. Nay, I even
  flung down my lute in vexation of spirit, and ran away to another
  part of the garden. But I gained nothing thereby, for Giovanni
  pursued after me and came up with me at the fountain, where he
  caught my hand and would in no wise restore my freedom till he had
  delivered his mind of what lay thereon, namely, that he sought me
  for his wife. Whereupon I told him very plainly that I knew that
  he had been bred up for the Church, and that it were disloyalty to
  his brother, your highness's husband, and to his nephew, your son
  Lorenzo, for him to think of marriage and a worldly life, for by
  so doing the Medici interest would be divided. But he said that if
  I would but be his wife he would relinquish all claim to political
  power and Lorenzo should not fear for his succession, for he would
  go with me to dwell in foreign parts. And while I sought in the
  corners of my mind for some answer which should convince him of my
  utter lothness, and yet not offend so noble a gentleman, came
  suddenly your daughter to warn him that others were entering the
  garden; but ere he went he kissed a rose and tossed it to me
  saying, 'This rose comes not from Giovanni the Cardinal, but
  Giovanni the soldier, for henceforth go I to fight the French and
  to win my bride.'

  "Scarcely was he gone than I tore the rose in pieces, wroth that I
  had been so tongue-tied in his presence. And while I shred the
  petals all about me, I was aware of Raphael coming to meet me, and
  holding in his hand a lily such as we see in the pictures of the
  Virgin, which lily he placed in my hand, saying:

    Sicut lilium inter spinas
    Sic Maria inter filias.

  "And as he saw me to tremble with the vexation and the disquiet of
  my interview with the gay cardinal, he most courteously and gently
  inquired the cause of my discomfort, and did so comfortably avail
  to assuage my distress that I presently forgot it. He told me also
  that since he had known me he had so grown into an affection for
  the name of Maria, that he had resolved to devote his life, in so
  far as choice should be vouchsafed him, to the painting of Maria
  Sanctissima. And many other things he said which it is not meet
  nor proper that I should write out here. Suffice it that you, who
  love your dear lord, can well understand my present joyful state,
  and why it is that the nuns, singing now the canticle for the
  Feast of the Purification in the convent next to the palazzo, seem
  to be addressing their song to me:

    Gaude, virgo gloriosa!
    Super omnes speciosa!

  "For happiest of all Virgins is thy little

                                                     "MARIA.

"It was this last letter which broke my heart, and yet did not so much
break as bend it so that I gave up the hope which I could no longer keep
not in bitterness or in wrath, and resigned myself to my destiny as monk
and pope; when Maria Bibbiena died, all too early, I wept not my own
shattered future alone, but Raphael's as well, and so took him to my
heart, though he knew not the reason, and so I beseech the efficacious
prayers of all Christians for all true lovers.

"_Et pro nobis Christum Exora._

                         "GIOVANNI DE' MEDICI,
                               "_The Ghost of the Cabinet._"



CHAPTER XVI.

THE MYSTERY DISCLOSED.


[Illustration]

Winnie's romance of the cabinet pleased us all, but Adelaide was sure
that Madame would not allow it to be read without certain changes,
especially the reference to the robbery in the school, and the
"lovering" parts.

"You need not imagine," said Milly, "that because you object to
lovering, all the rest of the world does. Why, even Miss Noakes has a
softer heart than Adelaide's. But really and truly, Winnie, how much of
that is true? Was Raphael really engaged?"

"Most certainly, my dear."

"And did Leo X love her too? You made me ever so sorry for the poor old
pope."

"Well, no, that part is the only one for which I have no warrant in
history. That is, I have no doubt that Leo X really did love some one
before he took the irrevocable vows. He was what Browning calls

    'Sworn fast and tonsured pate, plain heaven's celibate,
    And yet earth's clear accepted servitor,
    A courtly, spiritual Cupid,
    And fit companion for the like of you;
    Your gay Abati with the well turned leg,
    And rose i' the hat rim. Canon's cross at neck,
    And silk mask in the pocket of the gown.'"

"The cabinet is such an uncanny old thing," said Milly, "that I begin
almost to believe that you have divined the truth, and that an uneasy
spirit really haunts its vicinity."

"Perhaps the fact that we now only keep school books in the cabinet is
the reason the ghost has been so very quiet of late," said Winnie. "Or,
perhaps it has repented its evil deeds and my essay has given it the
peace of conscience which only comes through confession. If it were an
unrepenting spirit it would, as Milly suggests, be very unwilling that
I should publish its evil deeds by reading this essay. I believe that I
will give it an opportunity of showing whether it approves of my reading
its confessions. Here, Tib, take everything else off your shelf, and I
will lay my essay there and call on the spirit to make away with it, if,
indeed, he is able and wicked enough to do it."

Adelaide, Milly, and I watched the incantation with much amusement.

"Guilty ghost," exclaimed Winnie, striking an attitude, "if you have
repented of your crimes, and the reading of this essay will allow you
henceforth to rest in peace, I hereby exorcise you, and command you to
affix some seal of your approval to this paper--either the print of a
bloody hand or at least X your mark." Hereupon Winnie, with a flourish,
laid her essay on my shelf and closed the cabinet door. "If, guilty
ghost," she continued, "you are still up to your tricks, and having
taken the money which Tib confided to her shelf, are determined to go on
in your evil ways, I hereby dare you to steal that essay within the next
half hour, we keeping watch and ward in this room!"

"I think it is no fair test," I said, "unless you leave it there
overnight. Both of the other robberies were committed just at midnight.
This ghost may be of a bashful disposition, or possibly not good-natured
enough to walk at your call in broad daylight."

"Well, if he doesn't appear within a half hour I'll give him another
chance, 'in the dead vast and middle of the night,' 'when churchyards
yawn,' et-cetera. Here, Milly, lend me your watch, that I may time our
visitor."

We all sat for a few moments silently watching the cabinet, but
presently Adelaide tired of this mummery and exclaimed:

"Really, this is too absurd! I have my Latin prose composition to write,
and cannot spend any more time in such nonsense, Winnie."

"Write your exercise in this room. We will all keep still, and I must
have all the Amen Corner as witnesses of my little experiment."

Winnie pulled out the writing shelf, and Adelaide seated herself at the
cabinet and wrote steadily until Winnie cried, "Time's up."

Milly and I approached the cabinet, and Winnie made a few magical passes
in the air and repeated an ancient hocus-pocus:

    "There was a frog lived in a well,
    To a rigstram boney mite kimeo.
    And Mistress Mouse she kept the mill,
    To a karro karro, delto karro,
    Rigstram pummiddle arry boney rigstram
    Rigstram boney mitte kimeo,
    Keemo kimo darrow wa,
    Munri, munro, munrum stump,
    Pummididle, nip cat periwinkle,
    Sing song, kitchee wunchee kimeo."

Adelaide pushed in the writing shelf and stepped aside, and Winnie threw
open the cabinet door. We could hardly believe our eyes--the essay had
disappeared.

Milly gave a shriek of dismay. "It must have been a ghost. How else
could it have vanished with all of us on the watch?"

"Have you been playing a trick on me, Adelaide?" Winnie asked. "Did you
manage to slip it out while we were not looking?"

Adelaide disclaimed any such action, and Milly and I confirmed her
assertion, for we had been watching the door all the time.

Winnie wheeled the cabinet away from the wall, almost expecting to find
a concealed door opening into Cynthia's room. But the wall was perfectly
solid, there was not even a mouse hole in the base-board, while the
back of the cabinet was not a sliding panel. We banged it, and pushed
it, and examined it with a magnifying glass for concealed springs or
hinges. It was simply an honest piece of work, a secure, heavy back,
conspicuously fastened in its place with wooden pegs, a construction to
which cabinet makers give the term dowelling, and to make assurance
doubly sure, the edges had been glued with a cement which had turned
black with age, but had not cracked. There was no possible way in which
the cabinet could have been opened from behind.

"There goes my pet theory," said Winnie, in an aggrieved tone. "It would
have been just like Cynthia to have removed things from the back of the
cabinet, if we could only have discovered a concealed door in the
partition behind it. You see the cabinet backs so conveniently against
her room."

But there was no possibility of any door having ever existed here. The
partition wall was not of boards, which might have been sawed through
and removed. It was clean white plaster which had never been papered,
and would have betrayed the least scratch, and Winnie was obliged to
relinquish this romantic method of access to the cabinet.

"I shall always think," said Adelaide, "that the first robbery was
committed by that individual we saw through the studio transom in
Professor Waite's great Rembrandt hat."

Winnie laughed heartily. "Girls, I may as well confess," she exclaimed,
"that was your humble servant."

"You, Winnie?"

"Yes, I, Winnie. Don't you remember that I was not in the parlor when
the head appeared? I was in the studio, and it struck me that it would
be rather a good joke to pretend to be Professor Waite, tramping up and
down before that door, tormented by a consuming passion for Adelaide.
Wait, I will put the hat on again and let you see." Winnie dashed into
the studio and returned wearing the Rembrandt hat, and we all laughed at
her cavalier appearance.

"But, girls," she exclaimed, throwing the hat on the floor, "this is
really no laughing matter. Do you realize that my essay is gone? My
essay that I am to read next week. And how I am ever to find time to
write it over again, with examinations and all that I have to do between
now and then, is more than I know. Just see how wickedly Giovanni de'
Medici leers at me!" and Winnie pointed to the carved head which
adorned the centre of the cabinet door. "Oh! what shall I do? what shall
I do?"

Winnie soon answered that question for herself, by writing another
essay, and improving it in the process. But the disappearance of the
Florentine letters was a nine days' wonder. We searched the room
thoroughly and even stepped out on the fire-escape and looked up and
down for some bird of heaven that might have carried them away. "I shall
always maintain," said Milly, "that it is no real thief at all. Of
course, none of us really believe in the ghost theory, though it is
almost enough to make one turn spiritualist to be made the victim of
such a trick. I believe that in the end it will be found that somebody's
little pet poodle has found his way in here, and like Old Mother
Hubbard's dog has a weakness for cupboards, and has chewed up everything
that he has found. Sometime Nemesis will overtake that little poodle and
he will be laid upon the dissecting table, and all of the money and
Winnie's essay will be found in his little gizzard."

It was an absurd suggestion, but nothing seemed to explain the mystery,
and we finally all gave it up. All but Winnie. She continued to worry
about it. She laid many traps for her ghost, baiting them with edibles
under the supposition that the thief might be an animal; and with money,
tying silken threads around the cabinet, fastening the handle of the
door to a bell in her own room, but they were all unavailing; the robber
came no more.

The cadets' prize declamation came before our graduation, and we all
attended the exercises.

Stacey did not take a prize, but, as he laughingly told Milly, his coat
did, and that was honour enough.

Woodpecker was the honour man that day, and as Woodpecker was a poor
man's son, he had no dress suit, and Stacey lent him his coat to appear
in while he delivered his oration--Stacey sitting in his shirt sleeves
behind the scenes meantime. Woodpecker's long arms soared and the
stitches in the back cracked, but he spoke with fire, and the committee
unanimously awarded his "Description of a Chariot Race" the first prize,
while Buttertub's sonorous voice and grandiloquent manner secured the
second for his "Philosophy of Socrates," and Stacey's "Athletic Games of
Greece" came off with an "honourable mention" only. There was a good
deal of what Jim called "kicking" at this decision. The drum corps, to
a man, felt that Stacey ought to have had the first prize, and there
was not a boy in the school, not excepting Buttertub, who did not
think Stacey's essay infinitely more entertaining than the Socratic
philosophy. The Commodore, fortunately, was of this opinion. Stacey's
stock had risen rapidly in his father's estimate. The essay interested
the Commodore, and it made no difference to him that the committee did
not agree with him; in his opinion Stacey was the brightest boy in the
school. We girls shared this feeling. Stacey's bouquets proclaimed him
the most popular fellow in the class. The usher kept bringing them up,
and it was impossible for Stacey to carry all his floral tributes from
the stage at one time.

Woodpecker enjoyed the popularity of his friend more than his own
honors. He had laid a wager with Ricos that Stacey would carry off the
first prize, promising that if he did not, he, Woodpecker, would trundle
a wheelbarrow down Fifth Avenue. Having lost the wager by his own
triumph Woodpecker gaily proceeded to pay the penalty by carrying
Stacey's bouquets in a light wheelbarrow to the Buckingham Hotel--where
Commodore and Mrs. Fitz Simmons had taken rooms--immediately after the
exercises.

Stacey himself did not overestimate this expression of his friend's
regard, but it helped soften his disappointment at not obtaining the
first prize. He was not embittered as at his failure at the games, but
humbled in a salutary way. He saw his true position: a talented
fellow, who until recently had not tried to make the best use of his
opportunities, and who could not reasonably hope for the highest
rewards after such brief effort. But something within him whispered,
"You can do it yet. You can be something more than a dude and a good
fellow," and he resolved to devote his vacation to serious training in
his studies.

It gave him a thrill of pleasure, strangely mingled with humility, to
see the Commodore's delight, just as he was handing Mrs. Fitz Simmons
into the carriage, at hearing the old cry from the drum corps, who had
been lined up in front of the barracks by Buttertub for that purpose,
and gave it with a will--Jim's shrill voice joining in the final cheer:

"Who's Fitz Simmons?"

    "First in peace, first in war,
    He'll be there again, as he's been there before,
    First in the hearts of his own drum corps,
    That's Fitz Simmons!"

The Roseveldts were coming down the steps, and Milly heard it too, and
waved her handkerchief, and Stacey opened the carriage door and waved
his hat to her--though the drum corps thought it was in acknowledgment
of their salute, and closing round Woodpecker and his wheelbarrow
escorted him down the Avenue.

There were tears in Mrs. Fitz Simmons's eyes as she pressed her
husband's hand, and the Commodore, not wishing to show his satisfaction
too plainly, asked who that pretty girl was who waved her handkerchief
so enthusiastically.

"You don't deserve it, you young dog," he asserted. "Now if she had
smiled in that way at me I would have cared more for it than for all the
hullabaloo those young rascals are making."

"Perhaps I do," was the reply on Stacey's lips, but it was uttered so
quietly that only his mother heard it, and understood as mothers always
do.

And then through the days that followed, Stacey buckled down to hard
work again, and won, as such work is sure to win, its reward.

"Passed his examinations, admitted to Harvard! Why, of course," said the
Commodore. "There never was any doubt of it." But Stacey knew that there
had been great doubt, and that the expression of esteem by which he was
held by his classmates, which had pleased his father so much, was a very
slight thing compared to this quiet victory, gained through hours of
unregarded toil and for which no cheers were shouted or flowers borne
after him in noisy triumph.

The opening of the college gates was the entering of a better race for
Stacey. He felt that he was now indeed a man, and must put away childish
things.

We of the Amen Corner had been chatting together, the evening before our
commencement, of what we intended to do during vacation. "First of all,"
said Adelaide, "I want some home life. I want to get acquainted with my
own mother. I feel now that we can be companionable. I am not very
learned, it is true, but I am certainly more mature than when we were
together last. I ought to be not only a help to her, but a sort of
comrade. She has kept herself young at heart, and her society will
recompense me in part for the loss of yours. We are going to study music
seriously together. She plays my accompaniments very nicely. Indeed, I
think she has more talent than I have, only she is out of practice, and
her repertoire is a little old-fashioned, but it will be very easy for
her to put herself in touch with modern requirements. Then father has
planned a delightful occupation for me. You know how fond I am of
practical architecture. Well, he has purchased a delightful old colonial
mansion in Deerfield, a charming village in western Massachusetts. It is
an old homestead which has fallen into disrepair from having been long
unoccupied, for the family which once inhabited it have all died. The
one distant relative who owns the place lives in the West, and has sold
it to father. I am to have the direction of all the repairs and
restorations, and I mean to truly restore the old house to its original
condition. We will board in the village while the changes are being
made. It will be just the place for Jim to grow strong in. Father writes
that it has the loveliest elm-shaded street, and a hundred different
drives over the hills and along its three rivers."

"You need not tell us anything about Deerfield," Winnie interrupted.
"Tib and I drove through the old town on our coaching trip. It is the
most charming spot that I ever saw. I congratulate you on having such a
delightful prospect before you."

"And I hereby invite you all to come to the hanging of the crane when
my restorations are finished," Adelaide continued cordially. "That
will be in September, I think, for they will take all summer at least,
and you've no idea how I shall enjoy planning everything and directing
the workmen. Jim and I are going to carve some of the woodwork
ourselves. We will have a portico like that at Mount Vernon, with
Ionic columns, and the windows will have tiny panes and broad seats,
and there are to be china closets with glass doors, and fan work
carved over the mantelpieces, and a raftered ceiling with a great
'summer-tree' in the 'keeping room.' I shall enjoy it more than I can
make you understand. I don't mean so much the possession of the house
when it is done, as altering it, for I love architecture, and wish I
could be an architect. So much for my plans. What are yours, Tib?"

"Work," I replied; "solid work."

"I knew you would say that," Adelaide answered. "I have felt
dissatisfied all this year with Madame's course of instruction. If
it were not that I really must see my mother and have some home life,
I would go to Bryn Mawr. I positively crave some good solid study.
Madame's curriculum makes me think of the course of study Aurora Leigh
pursued." Adelaide took down her favourite blue and gold volume from its
companions in the "poets' corner,"--a set of shelves,--and read with
comments:

    "I learnt a little algebra, a little
    Of the mathematics; brushed with extreme flounce
    The circle of the sciences, because
    She misliked women who are frivolous.
    I learnt: The internal laws
    Of the Burmese Empire; by how many feet
    Mount Chimborazo outsoars Himmeleh.
    I learnt much music, such as would have been
    As quite impossible in Johnson's day
    As still it might be wished--fine sleights of hand
    And unimagined fingering, shuffling off
    The hearers' soul through hurricanes of notes
    To a noisy Tophet."

"And here you are, Tib."

                        "And I drew costumes
    From French engravings, nereides neatly draped,
    With smirks of simpering godship. I washed in
    From nature, landscapes (rather say washed out),
    Spun glass, stuffed birds, and modelled flowers in wax,
    Because she liked accomplishments in girls."

"No," I interrupted, "I will not have you malign Professor Waite. His
teaching at least has been thorough, and I feel that I have received
very valuable training in my art."

"Then I suppose that by solid work you mean that you will devote
yourself to art this summer, and camp under a sketching umbrella in
front of every picturesque nook you can find."

"Art will have to wait until winter," I replied. "I mean that I shall
cook for the farm hands during haying season, and let mother go off for
a visit to her sisters in Northfield, where she can attend the Moody
meetings, and I shall get all the preserving done before she returns,
too."

"You are just lovely, Tib," Milly replied, giving me a hug. "And now
won't you be surprised when you hear what I am going to do. Father says
he is going to superintend my education for a while. He sent me a squib
from one of the papers about the sweet girl graduate:

    'She talks with tears about her mates and quotes from ancient lore.
    She says the Past is left behind, the Future is before.
    Her gown is simply stunning, but she can't subtract or add,
    Oh, what an awful humbug is the Sweet Girl Grad!'

Father is going through practical business arithmetic with me, and says
he means to teach me how to take care of money, and even fit me to take
a position in his bank."

"I pity your father," said Winnie. "But seriously, Milly, it is the best
thing you could do."

"There is something else," Milly said, with a painful blush, "which
father says is the foundation of business, and in which I have already
had one lesson, and that is honesty. He says that all the sad failures,
embezzlements, and defalcations come from borrowing money that does not
belong to one--using money for one purpose that was intended for
another; and he means to go over a great many such cases with me to show
me on what a terrible precipice I have been playing. But indeed he need
not say another word, for I have been severely punished, and I think I
would rather put my hand into fire than go into debt one dollar, or
spend a penny for marsh-mellows that father had given me for chocolate
creams."

Winnie turned and kissed Milly. "I would trust you with millions," she
said; "but Adelaide is the only one in the Corner who knows anything
about business."

"I am sure, Winnie," I replied, "that the way you have managed the Home
finances disproves that modest assertion. What are you going to do
during the summer?"

"I have no mother, you know," Winnie said gravely, "but I am going to my
father, and shall try to make his life a little less lonely for him. He
writes that his eyes have been troubling him. Perhaps he can dictate to
me and I can be his amanuensis. I shall take my paint-box with me, and
mean to daub a little all summer. Professor Waite has no faith in my
genius, but I intend to astonish that gentleman one of these days. He
admits that I have an eye for colour, and the rest can be learned. If
father can spare me for a week I shall accept your invitation, Adelaide,
and when I appear you must give me the interior of a room to decorate.
It will be startling, I tell you. I have a good deal of King's Daughter
work to do, too. You know we have not raised the money for the Manger,
and the Home must have it, for they have been receiving the babies,
though they have no good nursery. Now in the summer we all do more or
less fancy work, and I am going to write to all the circles of King's
Daughters with whom we are in correspondence, and ask them to work for
a fair, which we will hold in New York in the autumn. I have had a talk
with Madame and she favors the idea. She even suggested that each circle
should be invited to send a delegate who should assist in selling the
articles at the tables, and very generously offered to entertain them
here for three days during the continuance of the fair. You see, the
school is never full at the beginning of the term, and perhaps she
thinks it will be a good advertisement of her institution, to have girls
from all over the county meet here, though there is really no need of
imputing such mercenary motives to her. I have spoken about it at the
Home to Emma Jane, and she will see that the proposition is made at the
next meeting of the Board of Managers."

"Well, you certainly have your hands full," Milly remarked, "but I think
I can help you after our tennis tournament is over. I will get the
girls at the Pier to make fancy work for you if I can get any time from
my arithmetic. Where will you hold the fair?"

"I haven't planned as far as that."

"I think the new armory at the barracks will be a splendid place," Milly
suggested. "I will get Stacey to ask Colonel Grey if we can use it, and
then perhaps the cadets will be interested to do something to assist in
the entertainment. They might act a play or furnish the music at least."

"I will drum up the two circles of King's Daughters at Scup Harbor," I
said, "and we will have a useful table, with holders and aprons and
dish-wipers; pickles, honey, butter, and preserves. Why, certainly,
home-made preserves. While I'm about it this summer I will make you some
currant jelly and pickled peaches."

"You had better paint something," Adelaide said; "and you must take
charge of the art department."

"If I can come to town," I said. "And I will start the movement before I
go by asking Professor Waite to get contributions from his artist
friends before he goes abroad."

"I have been greatly touched by one thing," said Winnie. "The interest
which the Terwilligers have taken in this scheme. I happened to mention
it to Polo, and the entire family have risen to the occasion. Mrs.
Terwilliger sent word that she wouldn't consider it too much if she
worked for us to her dying day, considering the way her young ones had
been 'done for' while she was sick. She has been collecting scraps of
silk for a long time past to make a crazy quilt, and she intends to
donate it to us. I fear me it will be a horror; but it shows her
good-will all the same. Terwilliger, the trainer, says he means to
collect sticks from noted places during Mr. Van Silver's coaching tour,
to be made into canes and other souvenirs for us. Polo will not have
time to work for the fair, for she must sew with Miss Billings this
summer. I wish she could go to the country instead."

"I am going to invite her to Deerfield for August," said Adelaide. "The
Home children ought to be able to do something for the fair. Have you
thought of them, Winnie?"

"Emma Jane will see that they manufacture a quantity of little articles
in their sewing class," Winnie replied. "They can hem towels and make
bibs and bags and useful articles. I am really sorry that we cannot have
the reception at the Home, for I would like to have people see those
nice, fat babies."

"They shall see them," Milly replied. "I've an idea. We will devote one
afternoon at the fair to a baby show. Do you remember the bicycle drill?
Well, I will get Stacey to lend me his artillery tactics, and I will get
up some manoeuvres with baby carriages. We will call it the infantry
brigade. The older children shall wheel the carriages. I will drill them
without the babies at first. And then we will have them well strapped
in, and then there will be a triumphal procession by twos and fours, and
I'll deploy them in line and draw them up in a hollow square, and make
them 'present arms,' and 'carry' and 'shoulder arms,' and double quick
and charge. It will be lots of fun; and one baby carriage shall have a
flag fastened to it, for that baby must be the colour bearer, and we'll
have music, of course, and medals for all the babies. Then when people
see what a lot of children we have, with no annex to put them in, they
will rise to the occasion and contribute."[3]

  [3] The Messiah Home for Children, 4 Rutherford Place, New York
  City, the actual analogue of the Home in which the girls of the
  Amen Corner was interested, is greatly assisted in its good work
  by circles of King's Daughters in different parts of the United
  States. These circles intend to unite in a fair to be given in New
  York City immediately before the holidays, and they invite other
  circles of King's Daughters, and any nimble-fingered, warm-hearted
  girl to whom this greeting may come, to aid them in this
  enterprise. Any donations may be sent to the Home in care of the
  matron, Miss Weaver.

"I think something of the kind might really be arranged," Winnie
replied. "The Hornets are sure to be equally fertile in expedients. I
foresee that the plan will be a great success, and it has one admirable
feature--it will reunite us all in New York next winter for a week at
least, and I wonder what will happen after that."

                      "I do not ask to see
    The distant scene; one step enough for me,"

said Adelaide softly, quoting from "Lead, Kindly Light," her favorite
hymn. There was something strangely vibrant in her tone. I knew without
looking that Adelaide was on the point of tears, but I was at a loss to
understand the reason.

The rest of us had had our fits of hysterical weeping at the idea of
parting from one another, but Adelaide was always so superior to any
weakness of that sort. What could be the matter?

Our great, last school day, so paradoxically called commencement, came
at last. The exercises were in the evening, and we of the Amen Corner
and many others of the girls would not leave the school until the
following morning.

We received our diplomas in the school chapel, which had been
beautifully decorated for the occasion. Buttertub's father, who was a
friend of Madame's, addressed us at some length as we stood before him
on the platform. I remember that Adelaide never looked more peerless,
nor Milly more bewitching; and that Winnie, mischievous as ever, found
a rose bug on her bouquet and could not forbear dropping it on
Commodore Fitz Simmons's bald head. The Commodore was in full uniform
and had been shown to a front seat just beneath the platform. I think
Winnie really meant to snap the rose bug at Stacey, but the projectile
fell short of its aim. Then the sweet girl graduates in clouds of mull
and chiffon, drifted into the school parlours, and there was a
reception, and Adelaide and Milly were besieged by battalions of
friends, but I was quite lonely and awkward, and held my bouquet and
rolled diploma stiffly, until Winnie caught me about the waist and
whirled me off for a little dance, for Madame had permitted this.
After the dance there were refreshments in the dining-room, and we all
went down, with the exception of Adelaide, who was on the reception
committee, and had been stationed in the front parlour to receive any
tardy guest. I met Professor Waite bringing up an ice as I went down
the stairs, and Milly drew me into a corner, her eyes dancing with
mischief as I entered the supper-room.

"Something is going to happen," she said to me mysteriously. "I have
given Professor Waite his opportunity, and if he doesn't seize it and
propose I shall never forgive him. I saw him moving around here, looking
bored to death, and I asked him to please take an ice to Adelaide, who,
I happened to mention, was all alone in the parlour. He seized the idea
and the ice simultaneously. I saw resolve in his eye, and now we must
keep people down here as long as we can."

"What shall we do with Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong and Jim?" I asked. "They
are all so proud of Adelaide they will be with her in a moment."

"Winnie is in the plot and has special care of them. Jim thinks there
never was quite so jolly a girl as Winnie. They are discussing the
cabinet now. Mrs. Armstrong thinks that some one of us may be a
somnambulist and have hidden the things in our sleep."

"What a strategic little girl you are, Milly! What made you think of
this opportunity for Professor Waite?"

"Oh! that was the way Stacey found his chance, you know. Speak of
angels----How nice of you, Stacey, to bring me that salad. I am
positively dying for something to eat. Wasn't the Bishop too longsome
for anything? I thought I should expire, and I was wild to get across
the stage at Winnie, whose back hair was coming down. No, I shall not
tell you what we were saying about you. Do get me some chicken salad. I
can't endure lobster;" and as the obedient Stacey ambled briskly away,
Milly confided to me: "Do you know, Tib, Adelaide is beginning to care
for Professor Waite? What makes me think so? Oh, I know the symptoms.
She was packing so late last night that I nearly fell asleep, but not
quite, for just as I was dozing off I saw her drop on her knees before
her trunk with her face in a great white handkerchief, and while I was
wondering where she ever got such a great sheet of a thing, it suddenly
dawned upon me that it was the silk muffler which Professor Waite
wrapped around her burned hands the night of our Halloween scrape.
Suddenly it seemed to occur to her that I might be looking, and she
turned to look at me, but I had my eyes shut and was snoring like an
angel. Of course angels snore, Stacey Fitz Simmons. Did you ever catch
an angel asleep? and if not what right have you to make fun of me? Dear
me, there is the Bishop starting to go upstairs, and they don't need him
a bit--as yet."

Milly darted across the room, planted herself squarely in the Bishop's
way, and exerted her powers of entertainment to such effect that Stacey
became blindly jealous, though Buttertub had not come with his father,
apparently having had quite enough of Madame's young ladies and their
entertainments.

And meantime, how was Professor Waite thriving with his wooing? Adelaide
told me long afterward, so long that it was too late for any word of
mine to set all right, and filled my heart with pity, not alone for the
Professor, but, alas! for Adelaide also.

Professor Waite offered her the ice, which she took and thanked him very
sweetly, though he had dripped it awkwardly upon her dress. Then, as
Adelaide began to eat it, he inconsistently took it away from her,
saying, "Don't eat now, I have something important to say to you, and I
want your entire attention."

"Oh! certainly. What is it?" Adelaide replied, knowing exactly what he
wished to say, and determined to prevent his saying it.

"Miss Adelaide, I began to say what was on my mind last Halloween----"

"Oh! yes, and pardon me for interrupting you, but you remind me that I
must return your muffler, which I have kept all this time. I will get it
now," and Adelaide tried to slip by him and out of the door.

"No, you must not get it now," the Professor exclaimed, barring her way
with his extended hand in which he still held the dish of ice-cream. "I
must speak to you, Miss Adelaide. I may never have another opportunity."

"In that case do set down that ice-cream, for you are spilling it over
everything."

The Professor obeyed her.

"See," she added pathetically, "you have nearly ruined the front of my
gown----"

"But that is nothing," he asserted, "and you must not try to divert me
from my purpose by calling my attention to such a trifle. These little
subterfuges are unworthy of you, Adelaide. You know what it is that I
wish to say and you must hear me."

Thus driven into a corner Adelaide looked him squarely in the eyes, and
braced herself for the attack.

"You know that I love you, Adelaide?"

"Yes, I know it."

"That I have loved you from the first moment that I saw you--desperately,
hopelessly?"

"Thank you for saying that, Professor Waite; it would have been wicked
in me to have given you hope. I never meant to do so. I am glad that
you have not misunderstood me. And since you give me credit for not
encouraging you, rather for striving to keep you from this avowal, why
have you spoken? I would so gladly have spared you the pain, the
humiliation of a refusal."

"You have not allowed me to finish what I was saying. I loved you at
first hopelessly for I saw that you scorned me; but lately you have not
scorned me. You have pitied me; you have been very kind and considerate;
your manner has wholly changed, and I believed that your feelings had
changed also."

Something in Adelaide's honest eyes flamed up as he spoke. She could not
even look a lie, though she tried hard to do so.

"I am right," he cried triumphantly, "you have changed! You love me?
Adelaide, you love me!"

His arms were almost about her, but she kept him off.

"It is impossible, Professor Waite. It can never be," she replied
solemnly.

"Never is a long day. I will not urge you, or hasten you. I will be
patient and wait, for you have changed, and you will love me wholly by
and by. It is our destiny. God meant us for each other. I cannot

    Make thee glorious by my pen
    And famous by my sword,

but I can do it with my brush, and I will spend my life painting you,
Adelaide. Art and Love! It is too much for mortal man to possess and
live."

"Be content with art," Adelaide replied gently. "It is a great gift, and
must console you, for I cannot be your wife."

"Cannot? Why not?"

"I will tell you. You think you love me, but it will pass. I regard you
very highly, but not above duty. The feeling which I have for you,
Professor Waite, cannot be love, since it is perfectly easy for me now
to give you up----"

"No," he assented; "if that is true you do not love me."

"Listen! The reason that it is easy for me, is not that I do not respect
and admire you; not that I am not grateful to you, and do not suffer in
giving you pain; not that I might not come to care still more for you,
but because I know that a far tenderer heart than mine is wholly yours;
that some one else, who richly deserves your affection, loves you with
an utter self-abnegation of which I am incapable----"

"I know of whom you speak," he cried impatiently, "but she is a child,
and will outgrow this fancy. God knows that I am innocent, Adelaide, of
having ever deluded her foolish little heart."

"All too innocent; you might have treated her more kindly!"

"What! When I can never love her?"

"Never is a long day. You have said so. You are going away. Try to
forget me and to love her, and when you return again two years hence to
America----"

"When I return she will be married; she will, at least, have outgrown
this silly dream."

Adelaide shook her head. "Promise me that you will do as I ask; that you
will go and ask her when you come again."

"And if she refuses me, as she certainly will, may I come to you for the
reward of my obedience?"

Again the tell-tale light flashed in Adelaide's eyes, but she only said:
"She will not refuse you." And in the hall Milly's voice was heard in a
high key, with the best of intentions, announcing the return of the
guests from the dining-room, as she replied to some banter of Stacey's:

"Indeed, Stacey Fitz Simmons, I never change my mind--never."

"Good-by," said Adelaide.

Professor Waite raised the _portière_ for her to pass. "You are very
cruel," he murmured.

"You will thank me for this some day," she said, and the curtain of an
impenetrable fate fell between them.

Milly seized my arm a few moments later. "I don't understand it at all,"
she said, "but Adelaide has certainly refused Professor Waite. I met
him just now in the hall, and he glared at me like a maniac. I was
positively afraid of him. I ran in to speak to Adelaide, but others had
entered before me, and she only took my hand and squeezed it tight,
while she talked with the Bishop. And Tib, she was as white as a sheet."

While making allowances for Milly's exaggerations, it seemed probable to
me that her deductions were correct. Something unusual had happened, for
when we went to our rooms we found that Adelaide had already retired for
the night, and had taken Cynthia's empty room, leaving a note for Milly
saying that she had a headache and would rather be alone.

If we had known, Milly and I, that Adelaide had put from her a love
whose dearness she only realized after its sacrifice, we might have
saved her years of heroic self-abnegation, and so have frustrated God's
plan for making her a resolute, generous, and noble character.

But we did not know it, and the two girls who loved each other so dearly
looked into each other's eyes at parting, and thought that they read
each other's souls there, and yet misunderstood the reading as
completely as if they had been utter strangers.

It was fortunate, shall we not say providential, that Adelaide occupied
Cynthia's room that night, and that she was so disturbed that she could
not sleep? for toward morning she noticed a bright light shining through
the transom over the door. Her first thought was that the thief was at
work at the cabinet, and stealing cautiously from her bed she peered
through the key-hole. There was no one near the cabinet, and throwing on
a wrapper she softly opened the door. The room was vacant and the light
which she had noticed streamed in from the window. On looking out what
was her horror to see that the rear of the house was in flames. The fire
had originated in the kitchen, and was making its way toward the front
of the building. Her presence of mind did not desert her. She stepped to
Milly's room, wakened her gently and told her what was the matter, and
then her clear voice rang out, "Fire, fire!" as she hastened to Madame's
room, sounding the telegraphic alarm in the corridor as she went. How
differently people behave during a crisis like this! With the exception
of Adelaide, I think we all lost our wits to a certain extent. Milly,
although wakened so gently, was quite frightened out of hers. She
dressed herself with extreme deliberation, heating her curling irons
in the gas jet and crimping her bangs very prettily. She put on one
high-buttoned boot and one Louis Seize slipper, but was particular about
her gloves--fastening every button--and came to me to be helped with her
graduation dress, which laced in the back.

Winnie was also greatly excited. She donned a diminutive blazer tennis
jacket over her nightgown, and seeming to consider herself in full
dress, rushed off to awaken Miss Noakes, carrying a small pitcher of
ice-water in her hand with which to help extinguish the fire. Having
forcibly entered Miss Noakes's room, she emptied her pitcher in the face
of that indignant woman. I was not much better. Possessed with the idea
that I must save things, I dragged "the commissary" from under my bed,
and filled it with an absurd collection of useless articles--old school
books, empty pickle jars, the tidies from the chairs, all the soap from
the wash-stand, a soap stone which my mother had insisted on my having
as a remedy for cold feet; this I carefully wrapped in my flannel
petticoat to avoid breakage. I then tossed in the globes from the gas
fixtures, and finding that the cover of the trunk would not go down,
sat upon it, crushing the frail glass globes to atoms. It was at this
juncture that Milly came out to have her dress laced, and I was so dazed
that I obeyed her. Adelaide entered a few moments later, and, spreading
a blanket on the floor, opened the door leading into the studio for the
first time since our initial escapade of the school year. Her intensity
of feeling gave her the strength required to push the heavy chest aside,
and she hastily collected all of Professor Waite's sketches and studies,
wrapped them in the blanket, and descended the turret stairs with them.
Managing--how, she never knew--to burst open the door at the foot, and
to carry the heavy package through the crowd which had now collected
across the park to the Home of the Elder Brother, where Emma Jane
received them. Winnie meantime had returned from her life-saving
expedition, and assisted me in tumbling the commissary out of the
window, following it with every other piece of furniture in the room.
We had some difficulty with the cabinet, but finally our united efforts
succeeded in toppling it over the balcony, narrowly missing crushing a
fireman who was coming up the escape to order us to stop throwing out
the furniture, as the fire had been extinguished.

"How provoking!" was Winnie's first exclamation. "All this excitement
for nothing!" The fire had merely burned out the interior woodwork of
the kitchen; but had it not been for Adelaide's prompt alarm, it was
impossible to tell how much damage or even loss of life might have
ensued. On ascertaining that there was no longer any danger, Adelaide
attempted to carry back the pictures, but found herself quite unable to
do so, and a procession of four of the Home boys was formed to bring
them.

Adelaide begged us all to promise not to tell Professor Waite of her
attempt to rescue his property, and as we were all very much mortified
by our own absurd performances, we readily complied with her request.

It was late in the morning when we bethought ourselves of picking up
our shattered property, which Winnie and I had tossed into the yard.
Fortunately, our trunks of clothing had been so heavily packed that
they had not shared this fate. We descended and viewed the heap of
wreckage with dismay. Cerberus came out to aid us, and, removing the
broken lounge and table, discovered the old oak cabinet an almost
unrecognizable jumble of carved panels, for after it had fallen the
lounge had descended upon it with the force of a catapult.

Winnie and I picked up the panels, lamenting loudly over the mischief
which we had done.

"No great harm, after all," said Adelaide consolingly. "The panels are
only separated at the joints; the wood is so hard that they have not
really broken," and then she gave a little cry: "Winnie, what does this
mean? Here is your essay!"

"Has Giovanni de' Medici returned it?" I asked.

"It would seem so," Winnie replied, in great excitement. "See, girls,
here is every bit of the stolen money! The ghost has kept his word, and
has returned it after his confession was read publicly."

"Where did you find it?" I asked, utterly mystified.

"Right here, in the drawer to which we had lost the key, just under the
upper part of the cabinet. You remember it has been locked since the
very first day of school."

"But is the money all there?"

"Yes; your forty-seven dollars, and the sixty from the Catacomb Party
for the Home."

"How did it ever come there?"

"That is what I am trying to find out. You know it is my mystery; and,
girls, I have it! This sliding writing shelf which we pulled out to
write upon is really the floor of the cabinet, on which Tib deposited
her treasures. When you pull it out you rake everything upon it into the
drawer below."

"It must be," said Adelaide, "that some one pulled out that writing
shelf before each of those mysterious disappearances." And when we came
to review the circumstances, we remembered that it had been so in every
instance. The lost money and essay had simply been dropped into the
drawer below. All that had seemed so inexplicable was now made plain,
and in our very last hour together--for, as we carried the fragments
around to the turret door, we saw that the express man had come for our
trunks, and noticed the Roseveldt carriage waiting behind a hansom,
which had just driven up to the main entrance. On the steps Madame was
parting tenderly from Miss Noakes, who was in travelling costume, and
Mr. Mudge sprang from the interior of the hansom to assist her to a
place beside him. Catching sight of his well-known features, Winnie
impulsively waved the drawer of the cabinet and darted across the lawn.

"No wonder I could not discover the thief," he exclaimed testily, as
Winnie showed the mechanism of the sliding shelf. "The cleverest
detective could not have done that when there was no thief to discover.
But, my dear young lady, pray do not detain us; Miss Noakes and I have a
particular engagement for this very minute at the Church of the Blessed
Unity." As he spoke he dodged an old shoe which the astute Polo
projected from the studio window, and springing into the hansom drove
rapidly away.

If there had been any doubt as to these indications we would have been
fully enlightened on finding the announcement of their marriage in our
next mail; but the truth was evident to all.

Madame listened to us with a smile. "It was kind of you, Winnie," she
said, "not to solve your mystery earlier and so take away the excuse for
Mr. Mudge's frequent calls."

"I shall have the dear old cabinet put in order again," Adelaide said,
"and I shall keep your essay in the drawer, Winnie, for I shall always
believe that you were right, and that there was a ghost."

And so with tears and embraces, and with vows never to forget, and to
meet again, and to write often, the old delightful school life and Witch
Winnie's Mystery came to an end together.


THE END.



    Transcriber's Notes: Obvious printer's errors have been silently
    corrected. Otherwise spelling, hyphenation, interpunction and
    grammar have been preserved as in the original.





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