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Title: The Camp Fire Girls Solve a Mystery - or, The Christmas Adventure at Carver House
Author: Frey, Hildegard G. (Hildegard Gertrude), 1891-1957
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Camp Fire Girls Solve a Mystery - or, The Christmas Adventure at Carver House" ***

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                          The Camp Fire Girls
                            Solve a Mystery


                            at CARVER HOUSE

                          By HILDEGARD G. FREY

                               AUTHOR OF
                       The Camp Fire Girls Series

                           A. L. BURT COMPANY
                     Publishers           New York



                                  THE
                         Camp Fire Girls Series

          A Series of Stories for Camp Fire Girls Endorsed by
           the Officials of the Camp Fire Girls Organization


                          By HILDEGARD G. FREY


  The Camp Fire Girls in the Maine Woods

  The Camp Fire Girls at School

  The Camp Fire Girls at Onoway House

  The Camp Fire Girls Go Motoring

  The Camp Fire Girls’ Larks and Pranks

  The Camp Fire Girls on Ellen’s Isle

  The Camp Fire Girls on the Open Road

  The Camp Fire Girls Do Their Bit

  The Camp Fire Girls Solve a Mystery

  The Camp Fire Girls at Camp Keewaydin


                            Copyright, 1919
                         By A. L. Burt Company


                  THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS SOLVE A MYSTERY



                          THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS
                            SOLVE A MYSTERY



                               CHAPTER I
                            THE EMPTY HOUSE


Katherine Adams stepped from the train at Oakwood, glanced expectantly up
and down the station platform, hesitated a moment, and then, picking out
a conspicuous spot under a glaring arc light, deposited her suitcase on
the ground with a thump, mounted guard beside it and patiently waited for
Nyoda to find her in the surging crowd.

It was two days before Christmas, and travel was heavy. It seemed as
though the entire population of Oakland was either coming home,
departing, or rushing madly up and down before the panting train in
search of friends and relatives. Katherine was engulfed in a tidal wave
of rapturous greetings that rolled over her from every side, as a
coachful of soldiers, home for Christmas, were met and surrounded by the
waiting lines of townspeople.

Katherine stood still, absorbed in watching the various reunions taking
place around her, while the tidal wave gradually subsided, receding in
the direction of Main Street. The principal stream had already flowed
past her and the crowd was rapidly thinning out when Katherine woke to
the realization that she was still unclaimed. There was no sign of Nyoda.
The expectant smile faded from Katherine’s face and in its place there
came a look of puzzled wonder. What had happened? Why wasn’t Nyoda there
to meet her? Was there some mistake? Wasn’t this Oakwood? Had she gotten
off at the wrong station, she thought in sudden panic. No, there was the
sign beside the door of the green boarded station; its gilded letters
gleamed down reassuringly at her. Katherine stood on one foot and
pondered. Was this the day she was supposed to come? What day was it,
anyway? The thick pad calendar beside the ticket seller’s window inside
the station proclaimed it to be the twenty-third. All right so far; she
hadn’t mixed up the date, then. She had written Nyoda that she would come
on the twenty-third, on the five-forty-five train. The train had been on
time. Where was Nyoda?

Katherine was assailed by a sudden doubt. Had she mailed that letter?
Yes, she was certain of that. She had run out to the mail box at ten
o’clock at night especially to mail it. What had gone wrong? Why wasn’t
there someone to meet her?

She looked around at the walls as if expecting them to answer, and her
roving eye caught sight of the lettering on a glass door opposite. The
telephone! Goose! Why hadn’t she thought of that before? Of course there
was some mistake responsible for Nyoda’s not meeting her, but in a moment
that would be all straightened out.

She sprang across to the booth and picked up the directory hanging beside
the telephone. Then a queer, bewildered look came into her eyes and she
stood still with the book hanging uncertainly from her fingers. She had
forgotten Nyoda’s name! She twisted her brows into a pucker and made a
frantic effort to recall it. No use; it was a fruitless endeavor. Where
that name used to be in her mind there was now a blank space, empty and
echoless as the original void. It was _too_ ridiculous! Katherine gave a
little stamp of vexation. It was not the first time a name had popped out
of her mind at a critical moment. And sometimes—O horror! it didn’t come
back again for days. Was there ever anything so utterly absurd as the
plight in which she now found herself? She knew Nyoda’s name as well as
her own. M. M. It certainly began with an M.

After nearly an hour’s exasperated wracking of her brains she gave it up
in disgust and stalked out of the station. Not for worlds would she have
confided to anyone her plight.

“People will think you’re an escaped lunatic,” she told herself in
terrified wrath. “They might put you in an asylum, and it would serve you
right if they did. You aren’t fit to be out without a guardian. After
this you’ll have to have your destination written out on a label tied to
your ankle, like a trunk.”

She had one recollection to guide her. The house Nyoda lived in stood on
top of a hill. The name of Carver House and the address on Oak Street had
faded along with Nyoda’s name. “I’ll walk until I come to a house on the
top of a hill,” she decided, “and find it that way. There can’t be many
houses on hills in this town, it seems to be all in a valley. Come along,
Katherine, what you haven’t got in your head you’ll have to have in your
heels.”

No one, seeing the tall, clever looking girl stepping briskly out of the
station and turning up Main Street with a businesslike tread, would have
guessed that she was a stranger in a strange town and hadn’t any idea
where she was going. There was such an air of confidence and capability
about Katherine that people would have been more likely to ask her to
help them out of their difficulties than to suspect that she needed help
herself.

Certainly, Nyoda’s house wouldn’t be hard to find. Oakwood lay in a
valley, curled up among its sheltering hills like a kitten in a heap of
leaves. To be on a hill Nyoda must be on the outskirts of the town. She
inquired of a passing youngster what part of Oakwood was on a hill and
got the information that Main Street ran up hill at the end.

She set out blithely in the direction he pointed, enjoying the walk
through the crisp, icy air. A light fall of snow, white as swan’s down,
covered the ground and the roofs, and sparkled in the light of the street
lamps in myriads of tiny twinkles. Not many people were abroad, for it
was the supper hour in Oakland. A Christmas stillness hovered over the
peaceful little town, as though it lay hushed and breathless in
anticipation of the coming of the Holy Babe. Low in the eastern sky
burned the brilliant evening star, bright as that other Star in the East
which guided the shepherds on that far-off Christmas night. Katherine
felt the spell of it and gradually her hasty steps became slower and at
times she stood still and looked upon the quiet scene with a feeling of
awe and reverence. “Why, it might be Bethlehem!” she said to herself.
“It’s so still and white, and there’s the star in the east, too!” Almost
unconsciously she began to repeat under her breath:

  “O little town of Bethlehem,
  How still we see thee lie,
  Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
  The silent stars go by.”

“Only it isn’t quite true about the deep and dreamless sleep,” she
qualified, her literal-mindedness getting the upper hand of her poetic
feeling, “because they’re all inside eating supper.” The thought of
supper made Katherine suddenly realize that she was ravenously hungry.
She had had nothing to eat since an early lunch on the train. “I hope I
get there before supper’s over,” she thought, and quickened her pace
again. Not that she wouldn’t get something anyhow, she reflected, but
somehow the idea of coming in just as supper was ready, and sitting down
to a table covered with steaming dishes seized her fancy and warmed her
through with a pleasant glow of expectation.

“Nearly there!” she said to herself cheerfully. “Here’s where Main Street
starts to go uphill.” The houses had gradually become farther and farther
apart as she went on, until now she was walking along between wide, open
spaces, gleaming white in the starlight, with only an occasional low
cottage to break the landscape. The walk was steeply uphill now, and
looking back Katherine saw Oakwood curled in its sheltering valley, and
again she thought of a sleek, well fed kitten lying warm and comfortable
and drowsy, at peace with all the world.

“There aren’t any poor people here, I guess,” she thought to herself.
“All the houses look so prosperous. There probably aren’t any hungry
children crying for bread. I’m the only hungry person in this whole town,
I believe. My, but I _am_ hungry! I could eat a whole house right now,
and a barn for dessert! Thank goodness, there’s the top of the hill in
sight, and that must be Nyoda’s house.” A great dark bulk towered before
her at the top of the steep incline, its irregular outlines standing
sharply defined against the luminous sky. Katherine charged up the
remainder of the hill at top speed, slipping and falling in the icy path
several times in her eagerness, but finally landing intact, though
flushed and panting, upon its slippery summit, and stood still to behold
this wonderful house that Nyoda lived in, whose charms had been the theme
of many an enthusiastic letter from the Winnebagos during the previous
summer. It loomed large and silent before her, its frost covered window
panes shining whitely in the starlight with a faint, ghostly glimmer. No
gleam of light came from any of the doors or windows. The house was still
and dark as a tomb. Katherine stood wide-eyed with disappointment and
perplexity. Nyoda was not at home.

She clutched at a straw. Nyoda had gone to meet her and missed her; that
was it. But at the same time she felt a doubt rising in her mind which
rapidly grew into a certainty. This was not Nyoda’s house before which
she stood on this lonely hilltop. It was some other house and it was
absolutely empty. Not only was it untenanted, but it had the look of a
house that has stood so for years. Even the soft, sparkling mantle of
snow that lay upon it could not hide the sagging porch, the broken steps,
the broken-down fence, the general air of decay which surrounded the
place.

Katherine emitted a cluck of chagrin. She was puffing like an engine from
her dash up the hill, she was tired out, she was ravenously hungry, she
was unutterably cross at herself. She scowled at the dark house with its
spectral, frosty windows, and made another frantic effort to recall
Nyoda’s name, only to be confronted with that baffling blank where the
name once had been.

With a growing feeling of helplessness she stood on one foot in the snow
in the pose which she always assumed when thinking deeply, and considered
what she should do next. Should she keep on walking and climbing all the
hills until she finally came to the right one; should she go all the way
back to the station and sit there until the name came back to her, or
should she walk boldly up to one of the hospitable looking doors she had
passed, confide her plight and ask to be taken in for the night?
Katherine was trying to decide between the first two, leaving the third
as the extreme alternative in case she neither found the right hill nor
succeeded in remembering Nyoda’s name before bedtime, when suddenly
something occurred which sent a chill of ice into her blood and left her
standing petrified in her one-legged pose, like a frozen stork. From the
dark and empty house before her came the sound of a song, ringing clear
and distinct through the frosty air. It was the voice of a woman, or a
girl. Beginning softly, the tone swelled out in volume till it seemed to
Katherine’s ears to fill the whole house and to come pouring out of all
the doors and windows. Then it subsided until it came very faintly, like
the merest ghost of a song. Katherine felt the hair rising on her head;
she gave an odd little dry gasp. Wild terror assailed her and she would
have fled, but fear chained her limbs and she could not move hand or
foot. She stood riveted to the spot, staring fascinated at the dark,
untenanted house, which stared back at her with frost veiled, inscrutable
eyes; and all the while from somewhere in its mysterious depths came the
voice, now louder, now fainter, but always distinctly heard.

A sudden thought struck Katherine. Was she already a victim of
starvation, and was this the delirium which starving people went into?
They generally heard beautiful voices singing. No, that wasn’t
possible—she couldn’t be starving yet. She was tremendously hungry, but
there was still a fairly safe margin between her and the last stages.
Somehow the thought of hunger, and the idea of food, commonplace,
familiar victuals which it connoted, dissipated the supernatural
atmosphere of the place, and Katherine shook off her terror. The blood
stopped pounding in her ears; her heart began to beat naturally again;
her limbs lost their paralysis.

“Goose!” she said to herself scornfully. “Flying into a panic at the
sound of a voice singing and thinking it’s ghosts! I’m ashamed of you,
Katherine Adams! Where’s your ’spicuity? Vacant houses don’t sing by
themselves. When empty houses start singing they aren’t empty. Besides,
no ghost could sing like that. A voice like that means lungs, and ghosts
don’t have lungs. Anybody that’s got breath to sing can probably talk and
tell me where the next hill is. I’m going up and ask her.”

She passed through an opening in the tumble-down fence, in which there
was no longer any gate, and went up the uneven, irregular brick walk and
up the broken steps, treading carefully upon each one and half expecting
them to go down under her weight. They creaked and trembled, but they
held her and she went on over the sagging porch to the door, which lay in
deep shadow at the one side. She felt about for a bell or knocker, and
then she discovered that the door stood open. She could hear the voice
plainly, singing somewhere in the house. Failing to find a doorbell she
rapped loudly with her knuckles on the door casing. To her nervous ears
the sound seemed to echo inside the house like thunder, but there was no
pause in the singing, no sound of footsteps coming to the door.

She rapped again. Still no sign from within. A sportive north wind,
racing up the hill, paused at the top to whirl about in a mad frolic, and
Katherine shivered from head to foot. She felt chilled through, and
fairly ached to get inside a house; anywhere to be in out of the cold.
She rapped a third time. Still the voice sang on as before, paying no
heed to the knock. Katherine grew desperate. Her teeth were chattering in
her head and her feet were going numb.

“Of course she can’t hear me knock when she’s singing,” thought
Katherine. “The sound of her own voice fills her ears. I’m going in and
find her. I’ll apologize for walking in on her so unceremoniously, but
it’s the only thing to do. I’ve got to get in out of the cold pretty
soon.”

Acting upon her resolution she stepped through the open door into the
hall inside and tried to fix the direction from which the voice was
coming. She looked in vain for a glimmer of light under a door to guide
her to the mysterious dweller in this strange establishment. The house
was apparently as dark on the inside as it looked from without. Katherine
opened her handbag and fumbled for her electric flash. In a moment a tiny
circle of light was boring valiantly into the gloom. By its gleam
Katherine saw that she stood in a long hall. Upon her left was a
succession of doors, all closed; upon her right a staircase curved upward
into the blackness above. Idly she turned her flashlight on the staircase
and noticed that the post was of beautifully carved mahogany. The polish
was gone, but it must have been handsome once, must have been—Katherine
gave a great start and nearly dropped her flashlight. Her eyes, traveling
up the mahogany stair rail, encountered those of a man who was leaning
over the banister half way up. His face, in the light of her flash, was
white as a sheet, and he seemed to be staring not so much at her as at
the door behind her, through which she at that moment discovered the
voice to be proceeding.

Katherine recovered from her surprise and remembered her manners. This
man must live here. She must explain quickly, or he would take her for a
burglar, coming in that way and looking around with a flashlight.
Katherine suddenly felt apprehensive. Suppose he wouldn’t believe her
story? It was one thing to go into a house in search of a voice that
wouldn’t come to the door; it was another thing to find a man inside.

She cleared her throat and wet her lips. “Excuse me for coming in like
this—” she began. She got no farther with her apologies. At the sound of
her voice the man gave a startled jump, backed away from the banister,
ran down the stairs two steps at a time and disappeared through the front
door, leaving Katherine standing in the empty hall, open-mouthed with
astonishment.



                               CHAPTER II
                          THE PRINCESS SYLVIA


Katherine did not know whether she was more astonished or relieved at the
sudden flight of the man on the stairs. “I suppose I do look pretty
wild,” she reflected, “but I didn’t suppose my appearance was enough to
make a man run on sight. Well anyhow, he isn’t going to trouble me, and
that’s some comfort. Now to find the singer.”

There was an open transom over the door before which Katherine stood and
she perceived that the voice came through this. With hand raised to knock
on the door panel she paused in admiration. The song that floated through
the transom had such a gay swing, such an irresistible lilt, that it set
her head awhirl and her blood racing madly through her veins in a wild
May dance. It was as though Spring herself, intoxicated with May dew and
brimming over with all the joy of all the world, were singing. Like
golden drops from a sunlit fountain the gay, glad notes showered down on
her:

  “_Hark, hark, the lark at heaven’s gate sings,_
  _And Phoebus ’gins arise_
  _His steeds to water at those springs_
  _On chaliced flower that lies;_
  _And winking Mary buds begin_
  _To ope their golden eyes,_
  _With everything that pretty been,_
  _My lady sweet arise!_”

The voice fell silent, and Katherine came back to herself and knocked on
the door.

“Come in, my dear Duchess,” called a merry voice from behind the door.
There was no mistaking the note of glad welcome.

Katherine turned the knob and opened the door. Only darkness greeted her
eyes.

“Where are you?” she asked.

From somewhere in the room came a sudden exclamation of surprise.

“Who is it?” demanded the voice which had bidden her enter. “You are not
my lady-in-waiting, the Duchess.”

“I’m afraid I’m not,” said Katherine, considerably puzzled at the
salutation she had received. She stood still inside the door trying to
locate her mysterious hostess in the darkness. Her flashlight lay in her
hand, useless, its battery burned out.

“I’m looking for another house on another hill,” she began hurriedly,
speaking into the darkness and feeling as though she had slipped into the
Arabian Nights, “and I got the wrong hill and and now I’m so mixed up I
don’t know where to go. I heard you singing and came in to ask if you
could tell me where the other hill is. I knocked before I came in,” she
added hastily, “but you didn’t come to the door, so I took the liberty of
walking in. I beg your pardon for coming right in that way, but I was so
cold——”

“You are welcome in our lodge,” interrupted the invisible voice with
lofty graciousness. “Do you not know where you have come?” it continued,
in a tone which indicated there was a delicious surprise in store. “This
is the royal hunting lodge, and I am the Princess Sylvia!”

“Oh-h-h!” said Katherine, too much astonished to say another word. She
did not know how to act when introduced to a princess.

“Is there anything I can do for your majesty?” she asked politely,
remembering that the other had mentioned a lady-in-waiting that she
seemed to be expecting.

“Light the lights!” commanded the voice imperiously.

Katherine took a step forward uncertainly. “Where—” she began.

“On the table beside you!” continued the voice.

Katherine put out her hand and came in contact with the edge of a table,
and after groping for a moment found a box of matches. She struck one and
by its flare saw an oil lamp standing on the table beside the matches.
She lit it and looked around the room curiously. She could not see the
owner of the voice at first. The room was large and shadowy and contained
very little furniture. A bare pine table on which the lamp stood; a
couple of kitchen chairs; a cot bed next to the wall; a small stove; a
rocking chair and a sewing machine; these were the objects which the lamp
illuminated. The other end of the room lay in deep shadow. It was from
this shadow that the voice now issued again.

“Bring the lamp and come here,” it commanded.

Katherine picked up the lamp from the table and advanced toward the
shadowy corner of the room. The darkness fled before her as she advanced
and the corner sprang into light. She saw that the corner was a bay, with
three long windows, in which stood a couch. On the couch was a mountain
whose slopes consisted of vari-colored piecework, and from whose peak
there issued, like an eruption of golden lava, a tangle of bright yellow
curls which framed about a pair of big, shining eyes. The eyes were set
in a face, of course—they had to be—but the face was so white and
emaciated as to be entirely inconspicuous, so Katherine’s first
impression consisted entirely of hair and eyes. The eyes were dark brown,
a strange combination with the fair hair, and sparkled with a hundred
little dancing lights, as the girl on the couch—for it was a girl
apparently about fourteen years old—looked up at Katherine with a roguish
smile.

“You must be Her Grace, the Marchioness St. Denis,” she said with an air
of stately courtesy, “of whose presence in our realm we have been
informed. I trust Your Grace is not over fatigued. You will pardon the
informality of our life here,” she continued, her brown eyes traveling
around the room and resting somewhat regretfully on the shabby
furnishings. “We take up our residence in the Winter Palace for state
occasions,” she went on, “but for our daily life we prefer the simplicity
of our Hunting Lodge. We are less hampered by formal etiquette here.”

Katherine stared in perplexity. Winter Palace? Hunting Lodge? Her Grace
the Marchioness? What was this strange child talking about? Her feeling
of having wakened in the midst of a fairy tale deepened.

“You can see the Winter Palace from the window here, when there isn’t any
frost on it,” proceeded the “princess,” setting up a volcanic disturbance
inside the patchwork mountain by turning herself inside of it, and she
pointed toward one of the bay windows with a thin white hand. “It’s on
top of a high hill and at night it twinkles.”

It came over Katherine in a flash that possibly it was Nyoda’s house that
this queer child meant by the “Winter Palace.” A big house set on a high
hill——

A rippling laugh caused her to look down hastily, and there was the girl
on the couch fairy convulsed with laughter.

“It’s been such fun!” she exclaimed, demolishing the mountain by throwing
the quilt aside with a sudden movement of her arms and disclosing a
slender little body wrapped in a grayish woolen dressing gown. “I never
had anybody from outside to play it with before. I get tired playing it
alone so much, and Aunt Aggie is mostly always too busy to play it with
me. Besides,” she said with a regretful sigh, “she has no imagination,
and she forgets most of the really important things. Oh, it was wonderful
when you said, ‘Is there anything I can do for you, Your Majesty?’ It was
just as real as real!” She laughed with delight at the remembrance.

Katherine, as much startled by the swift change in her little hostess as
she had been at her strange manner of speech in the beginning, was still
uncertain what to say. “Is it a game?” she asked finally.

The girl nodded and began to explain, talking as though to an old friend.

“You see,” she began, “not being able to walk, it’s so hard to find
anything really thrilling to do.”

“You are lame?” asked Katherine with quick sympathy. It had just come
over her that while the slender arms had been waving incessantly in
animated gestures as the voice chattered gaily on, the limbs under the
dressing gown had not moved.

The girl nodded in reply to Katherine’s question. “Crippled,” she
explained. “I was following a horse down the middle of the street trying
to figure out which leg came after which when I slipped and fell and hurt
my spine, and I have never walked since.”

“Oh-h!” said Katherine with a shudder of distress.

“And so,” continued the girl, “to pass away the time while Aunt Aggie was
working I began to pretend that I was a princess and lived in a palace
with my indulgent father, the king, and had a grand court and a great
train of attendants—all dukes and duchesses and counts and things, and a
royal grand duchess for my lady-in-waiting. That one is Aunt Aggie, of
course, and it’s great fun to pretend she’s the duchess.”

“‘My dear Duchess,’” she cried, giving an animated sample of her make
believe, “‘what do you say to having our cousin, the Crown Prince, in to
tea!’ Then Aunt Aggie always forgets and says, ‘Let’s see, which one is
the Crown Prince, now?’ It’s _very_ disconcerting, the way the Grand
Duchess forgets her royal relations!” She giggled infectiously and
Katherine smiled too.

“What is your real name, Princess Sylvia?” she asked.

“Sylvia Deane,” replied the girl. “Only the princess part is made up. My
name is S-s-ylvia-a.”

Her teeth began to chatter on the last words and she drew the quilt up
around her tightly. Katherine suddenly felt cold, too. Then she became
conscious for the first time that there was no heat in the room. In the
first contrast to the biting wind outside the place had seemed warm, and
with her heavy fur-collared winter coat she had not felt chilly. She
glanced at the stove. It was black and lifeless.

“The f-f-fire’s g-g-gone o-u-t,” chattered Sylvia, huddling under the
quilt as a fierce blast rattled the panes in the bay windows. Katherine
felt hot with indignation at the thought of the invalid left all alone in
the cold room.

“Where is your—lady-in-waiting?” she asked, a trifle sharply.

“Aunt Aggie’s gone to the city,” replied Sylvia. “She went at six o’clock
this morning and she was going to back at noon. She hasn’t come yet, and
I’m so cold and——”

She checked herself suddenly and held her head up very stiffly.

Katherine turned abruptly and made for the stove. It was a small
old-fashioned cook stove, the kind that Katherine had been familiar with
in her childhood on the farm. Beside it in a box were several lumps of
coal and some kindling. She stripped off her gloves and set to work
building a fire. When the stove had begun to radiate heat she lifted
Sylvia, quilt and all, into the rocking chair and drew it up in front of
the fire.

“And now, if you’ll tell me where things are I’ll prepare your Majesty’s
supper,” she said playfully.

“Thank you, but I’m not hungry,” replied Sylvia.

“I don’t see how you can help being,” said Katherine wonderingly. “Or
have you had something to eat since your aunt went away?” she added.

“No,” replied Sylvia.

“Then you must be famished,” said Katherine decidedly, “and I’m going to
get you something.”

She moved toward a cupboard on the wall over in a corner of the room
where she conjectured the supplies must be kept. The cupboard had leaded
glass doors, she noticed, and the framework was of mahogany to match the
woodwork of the room. It had probably been designed as a curio cabinet by
the builder of the house.

“Never mind, I don’t want anything to eat,” said Sylvia again, in a tone
which was both commanding and pleading.

“You must,” said Katherine firmly, with her hand on the cut glass knob of
the cupboard door. “You’re cold because you’re hungry.”

She opened the door and investigated the inside. There were some cheap
china dishes and some pots and pans, but no sign of food. She glanced
swiftly around the room, but nowhere else were there any supplies. Then
Katherine understood. Her intuition was slow, but finally it came to her
why Sylvia did not want to admit that she was hungry. There was nothing
to eat in the house. There was a pinched, blue look about Sylvia’s face
that Katherine had seen before, in the settlement where she had worked
with Miss Fairlee. She recognized the hunger look.

Sylvia met her eye with an attempt at lofty unconcern. “Our royal
larder,” she remarked, valiantly struggling to maintain her royal
dignity, “is exhausted at present. I must speak to my steward about it.”

Then her air of lofty composure forsook her all at once, and with a
little wailing cry of “Aunt Aggie!” she put her head down on the arm of
the chair and wept, pulling the quilt over her face so that Katherine
could not see her cry.

Katherine was beside her in an instant, seeking to comfort her, and
struggling with an unwonted desire to cry herself. The thought of the
brave little spirit, shut up alone here in the dark and cold, hungry and
anxious, singing like a lark to keep down her loneliness and anxiety, and
welcoming her chance guest with the gracious air of a princess, moved
Katherine as nothing had ever done before.

“Tell me all about it,” she said, cuddling the golden head close.

Sylvia struggled manfully to regain her composure, and sat up and dashed
the tears away with an impatient hand. “How dare you cry, and you a
princess?” she said aloud to herself scornfully, with a flash of her
brown eyes, and Katherine caught a glimpse of an indomitable spirit that
no hardship could bow down.

“’Twas but a momentary weakness,” she said to Katherine, with a return of
her royal manner. Katherine felt like saluting.

“We’ve been having a hard time since Uncle Joe died,” began Sylvia. “He
was sick a long time and it took all the money he had saved. Then Aunt
Aggie got sick after he died and isn’t strong enough yet to do hard work.
She makes shirts. There’s a shop here that lets her take work home. You
see, she can’t leave me.” Here Sylvia gave an impatient poke at her
useless limbs. “We came here from Millvale, where we used to live, a
month ago. We couldn’t find any place to live, so Aunt Aggie got
permission from the town to come and live in here until we could find a
place. Nobody seems to own this house, that is, nobody knows who owns it,
it’s been empty so long. Aunt Aggie sold all her furniture to pay her
debts except her sewing machine and the few things we have here. Aunt
Aggie makes shirts, but her eyes gave out this week and she couldn’t do
anything, so there wasn’t any pay. Aunt Aggie got credit for a while at
the store, but yesterday they refused her, so we played that we would
keep a fast to-day in honor of our pious grandfather, the king, who
always used to fast for three days before Christmas. Aunt Aggie only had
enough money to go to the city and get glasses from somebody there that
would make them for nothing for her, so she could go on sewing. She went
on the earliest train this morning and expected to get back by noon. I
can’t think what’s keeping her so late.”

Katherine looked at her watch. It was half past seven. She wondered if
the shops were still open so that she could go out and buy groceries. She
began to draw on her gloves.

“Don’t go away,” pleaded Sylvia, catching hold of her hand in alarm.
“Stay here till she comes. Oh, why doesn’t she come? I know something’s
happened to her. She’s never left me alone so long before. Oh, what will
I do if she doesn’t come back?”

Fear seized her with icy hands and her face worked pitifully. “Aunt
Aggie! Aunt Aggie!” she cried aloud in terror.

Katherine soothed her as best she could, mentioning all the possible
things that could have occurred to delay her in the rush of holiday
travel. Sylvia looked reassured after a bit and Katherine was just on the
point of running out to get some supper for her when there was a sound of
feet on the creaking steps outside.

“Here she comes now,” said Sylvia with a great sigh of relief.

The footsteps crossed the porch and then stopped. Instead of the sound of
the front door opening as they expected there came a heavy knock.

“How queer,” said Sylvia, “she never knocks. There’s no one to let her
in.”

Katherine hastened out to the hall door. A man stood outside. “Does Mrs.
Deane live in this house?” he asked.

“Yes,” said Katherine.

“I’m Mr. Grossman, the man she works for,” he said. Katherine admitted
him. “The girl, is she here?” he asked. Katherine brought him into the
room. Sylvia looked up inquiringly.

Without greeting or preamble he blurted out, “Your aunty, she’s been
hurt. Somebody just telephoned me from such a hospital in the city. She
was run over by a taxicab and her collarbone broke and her head hurt.
She’s now by the hospital. She tells them to tell me and I should let you
know.”

He stopped talking and whirled his hat around in his hand as though ill
at ease.

Sylvia sank back in her chair, dead white, her eyes staring at him with a
curiously intent gaze, as though trying to comprehend the size of the
calamity which had befallen her.

Tingling with pity, Katherine looked into Sylvia’s anguished eyes, and in
the stress of emotion she suddenly remembered Nyoda’s name. Sheridan.
Sheridan. Mrs. Andrew Sheridan. Carver House. 241 Oak Street. How could
she ever have forgotten it?

“What’s going to become of me?” cried Sylvia in a terrified voice.

Mr. Grossman shifted his weight from one foot to the other and scratched
his head reflectively. Then he shrugged his shoulders helplessly. He was
a Russian Jew, living with his numerous family in a few small rooms over
his shop, and what to do with this lame girl who knew not a soul in town
was too much of a problem for him. To his evident relief Katherine came
to the rescue. “I will take care of her,” she said briefly. She opened
her handbag and fished for pencil and paper. “Go out and telephone this
person,” she directed, after scribbling for a minute, “and give her the
message written down there.”

Mr. Grossman departed, much relieved at being freed from all
responsibility regarding Sylvia, and Katherine sat down beside her little
princess and endeavored to soothe her distress of mind regarding her
aunt. Finally the warmth of the stove made her drowsy and she fell into a
doze with her head on Katherine’s shoulder.

Half an hour later the long blast of an automobile horn woke the echoes
in front of the house. Sylvia half-awakened and murmured sleepily, “Here
come the king’s huntsmen.”

Katherine slipped out through the front door and flung herself upon a
fur-coated figure that was coming up the walk, followed by a man.

“_Nyoda!_”

“Katherine! What in the world are you doing here?”

Katherine explained briefly how she came there.

“But I never received your letter!” cried Nyoda in astonishment. “I
thought you were coming to-morrow with the other girls. Poor Katherine,
to come all alone and then not find anybody to meet you! I’m so sorry!
But it wouldn’t be you, Katherine,” she finished with a laugh, “if
everything went smoothly. Now tell me the important thing your message
said you wanted to tell me.”

Katherine spoke earnestly for a few minutes, at the end of which Nyoda
nodded emphatically. “Certainly!” she said heartily.

A minute later Katherine gently roused the sleeping princess. “What is
it, my dear Duchess?” asked Sylvia drowsily.

“Come, Your Majesty,” said Katherine, beginning to wrap the quilt around
her, “make ready for your journey. We leave at once for the Winter
Palace!”



                              CHAPTER III
                          THE SHUTTERED WINDOW


“Nyoda, isn’t there a secret passage in this house somewhere?” asked
Sahwah eagerly, pausing with the nutcracker held open in her hand. “There
generally was one in these old houses, you know.”

Christmas dinner was just drawing to a close in the big, holly hung
dining room at Carver House, and the merry group of young folks who
composed Nyoda’s Christmas house party, too languid after their strenuous
attack upon the turkey and plum pudding to rise from their chairs,
lingered around the table to hear Nyoda tell stories of Carver House,
while the ruddy glow from the big log in the fireplace, dispelled the
gloom of the failing winter afternoon.

It was a jolly party that gathered around the historical old mahogany
dining table, which had witnessed so many other festivities in the one
hundred and fifty years of its existence. At the head sat Sherry, Nyoda’s
soldier husband, still pale and thin from his long illness; and with a
long jagged scar showing through the closely cropped hair on one side of
his head. He had never returned to duty after the wreck in which he had
so nearly lost his life. While he was still in the military hospital to
which he had been removed from the little emergency hospital at St.
Margaret’s where the sharp battle for life had been fought and won, there
came that day when the last shot was fired, and when he was ready to
leave the hospital he came home to Carver House to stay.

Opposite him, at the foot of the table, sat Nyoda, girlish and
enthusiastic as ever, with only an occasional sober light in her
twinkling eyes to tell of the trying year she had passed through. Along
both sides of the table between them were ranged five of the
Winnebagos—Katherine, Sahwah, Migwan, Hinpoha and Gladys, and in among
them, “like weeds among the posies,” as the captain laughingly put it,
were Slim and the captain, Slim filled to the bursting point as usual,
and looking more than ever like an overgrown cherub. Across from these
two sat a third youth, so slender and fine featured as to seem almost
frail in comparison with Slim’s overflowing stoutness. This was Justice
Dalrymple, Katherine’s “Perfesser,” now engaged in his experimental work
at Washington, whence Nyoda had invited him up for her Christmas house
party as a surprise for Katherine.

Agony and Oh-Pshaw, whom Nyoda had also invited to come over to the house
party, were spending the holidays with an aunt in New York and could not
come, much to Sahwah’s disappointment, who had not seen them since the
summer before. Veronica was ill at her uncle’s home and also could not be
with them.

Enthroned beside Katherine in a great carved armchair that had come over
from England with the first Carvers, sat Sylvia Deane, looking very much
like a story book princess. With their customary open-heartedness, the
Winnebagos had already made her feel as though she were an old friend of
theirs. The romantic way in which Katherine had found her appealed to
their imaginations and added to their interest in her. Beside that, there
was a fascinating something about her dark eyes and light hair that kept
drawing their eyes to her face as though it were a magnet. There was so
much animation in her voice when she talked that the most commonplace
thing she said seemed extremely diverting. Her eyes had a way of suddenly
lighting up as though a lamp had been kindled inside of her, and when she
talked about other people her voice would take on a perfect mimicry of
their intonations and expressions.

She showed not the slightest embarrassment at being thus transplanted
into a strange household, so much more splendid than anything she was
accustomed to. She was entirely at her ease in the great house, and acted
as though she had been used to luxurious surroundings all her life.
Katherine was secretly surprised to find her so completely unabashed. She
herself was still prone to make ridiculous blunders in the presence of
strangers, and was still ill at ease when anyone looked critically at
her.

They were all surprised to learn that Sylvia was eighteen years old,
instead of fourteen as they had all thought when they first saw her. Her
slender, childlike form, and her short, curly hair made her look much
younger than she really was.

The animated talk that had accompanied the first part of the dinner
gradually died away, as a sense of repleteness and languor succeeded to
eager appetites, and conversation had begun to lag, when Sahwah stirred
it into life again by asking if there was not a secret passage in Carver
House. A ripple of interest went around the table, and all the girls and
boys began to sit up and take notice.

“Haven’t you had enough adventures yet to satisfy you?” asked Sherry
quizzically. “Aren’t you content with fishing a lieutenant out of the
Devil’s Punch Bowl the last time you were here, that you must begin again
looking for excitement? By the way, where is this young Allison?”

“Still across,” replied Sahwah. “His last letter said he would be there
for six months yet. He’s going on into Germany. He isn’t a lieutenant any
more. He’s a captain.”

“Captain Allison?” asked Justice. “Captain Robert Allison? You don’t mean
to say that you know Bob Allison?”

“Does she know Captain Allison!” echoed Hinpoha. “Who sent her that
spiked helmet, and that piece of marble from Rheims Cathedral and that
French flag with the bullet holes in it, to say nothing of that package
of French chocolates? But, of course, you didn’t know,” she added,
remembering that Justice had only met Sahwah the day before.

“Do you know Captain Allison?” asked Sahwah.

“Best friend I had in college,” replied Justice. “He was dreaming of
flying machines then. Bob Allison, the fellow you pulled out of the
water! It seems that all my friends, as well as my family, are going to
get mixed up with you girls. It seems like fate.”

“Wherever the Winnebagos come there’s sure to be something doing,” said
the captain. “I wonder what the next thing will be. What’s this about
secret passages now?”

“With so much paneling,” continued Sahwah, “it seems as if there must be
a hollow panel somewhere that would slide back and reveal a passage
behind it. Isn’t there one, Nyoda?”

“There may be one, for all I know,” replied Nyoda, “but I have never
found it if there is. I have never looked for any such thing. It takes
all my time,” she proclaimed with a comic-tragic air, “to keep all the
open passages in this place clean, without looking for any more behind
panels.”

“Do you care if we try to find one?” asked Sahwah eagerly. “I just feel
it in my bones that there is one somewhere.”

“Search all you like,” replied Nyoda, with an amused laugh.

“O goody!” exclaimed Sahwah. “Let’s begin right away.”

She rose from the table and the rest followed, much taken up with this
new quest, and the search began immediately. Upstairs and downstairs they
tapped, peered, pried and investigated, but without success. One by one
they abandoned the quest and drifted into the library where Nyoda and
Sherry and Sylvia sat in a close group before the fire; Sherry smoking,
Nyoda reading aloud, and Sylvia watching the images in the fire. Sahwah
and the captain were the last to give up, but finally they, too, drifted
in and joined the ranks of the unsuccessful hunters.

Nyoda paused in her reading and looked up with a smile as Sahwah and the
captain came in.

“What have you to report, my darling scouts?” she asked gravely.

“Nothing,” replied the captain, rather sheepishly.

Sahwah rubbed her fingers tenderly. “There are _miles_ of oak paneling in
this house,” she remarked wearily, “and I’ve rapped on every inch of it
with my knuckles, until they’re just _pulp_, but not one of those panels
sounded hollow.”

“Poor child!” said Nyoda sympathetically.

“You should have done the way the captain did,” said Slim. “He used his
head to knock with instead of his knuckles; it’s harder.”

A scuffle seemed imminent, and was only averted by Sahwah’s next remark.
“Nyoda,” she asked, “where does that door at the head of the stairs lead
to, the one that is locked? It was locked last summer when we were here,
too.”

“That,” replied Nyoda, “is the room Uncle Jasper used as his study. I’ve
been using it as a sort of store room for furniture. There were a number
of pieces in the house that didn’t quite fit in with the rest of the
furniture and I set them in there until I could make up my mind what to
do with them. I didn’t want to dispose of them without consulting Sherry,
and as he has been away from home ever since we have lived here until
just now, we have never had time to go over the stuff together. As the
room looks cluttered with those odd pieces in there I have kept it
locked.”

“Your uncle’s study!” exclaimed Sahwah. “Oh, I wonder if there wouldn’t
be a concealed door in there! It seems such a likely place. Would you
care _very_ much if we went and looked there?”

Nyoda laughed at Sahwah’s eagerness in her quest. “You’re a true
Winnebago,” she said fondly. “Never leave a stone unturned when you’re
looking for anything. I might as well say yes now as later, because I
know you will never rest until you have investigated that room. You’re
worse than Bluebeard’s wife. I have no objections to your going in if
you’ll excuse the disorderly look of the place and the dust that has
undoubtedly collected by this time. I’ll get you the key.”

With the prospect of a fresh field for investigation the others revived
their interest in the search and followed Nyoda eagerly as she led the
way upstairs and unlocked the closed door at the head. A faint, musty
odor greeted their nostrils, the close atmosphere of a room which has
been shut up, although the moonlight flooding the place through the long
windows gave it an almost airy appearance. Nyoda found the electric light
button and presently the room was brilliantly lighted from the
chandelier. The Winnebagos trooped in and looked curiously about them at
the queer old desks and tables and cabinets that stood about. Sahwah’s
attention was immediately drawn to the window at the far end of the room.
She knew it was a window because it was framed in a mahogany casement
like the other windows in the house, but instead of a pane of glass there
was a dark, opaque space inside the casement. Sahwah ran over to it at
once, and a little exclamation of astonishment escaped her as she
examined it. On the inside of the glass—if there was a pane of glass
there—was a heavy black iron shutter fastened to the casement with great
screws.

“What did you put up this shutter for, Nyoda?” asked Sahwah wonderingly.

The others all came crowding over then to exclaim over the iron shutter.

“I didn’t put it up,” replied Nyoda. “It was there when I came here.”

“But what’s it for?” persisted Sahwah. “Is the window behind it broken?”

“No, it doesn’t seem to be,” replied Nyoda. “I looked at it from the
outside.”

“Then what can it be for?” repeated Sahwah.

“I don’t know, I can’t imagine,” replied Nyoda. A note of wonder was
creeping into her voice. “To tell the truth,” she said, “I never thought
anything about it. I noticed that there was an iron shutter over that
window when we first came here, but I was too much taken up with Sherry’s
going away then even to wonder about it. The room has been closed up ever
since and I had forgotten all about it. It _does_ seem a queer thing, now
that you call my attention to it. But Uncle Jasper did so many eccentric
things, I’m not surprised at anything he might have done. We’ll take the
shutter off in the morning and see if we can discover any reason for
having it there.

“Now, aren’t you going to hunt for the secret passage after I’ve opened
the door for you?” she said quizzically. “There’s still an hour or so
before bedtime; long enough for all of you to complete the destruction of
your knuckles.”

Again the house resounded with the tapping of knuckles against hardwood
paneling, until it sounded as though an army of giant woodpeckers were at
work, but the eager searchers continued to bruise their long suffering
knuckles in vain. The paneling in Uncle Jasper’s study was as solid as
the Great Wall of China.



                               CHAPTER IV
                       AN INTERVIEW WITH HERCULES


Among the furniture stored in the study was one piece which Nyoda had
pounced upon with an exclamation of joy the night before when she opened
the room to please the Winnebagos. That was an invalid’s wheel chair.

“Just the thing for Sylvia!” she exclaimed delightedly. “She can get
around the house by herself in this. It’s a good thing you got curious
about this room, Sahwah dear; I’m afraid I wouldn’t have thought of
opening it until spring. I remember now, Uncle Jasper had a paralytic
stroke some months before he died which left him lame, and he went about
in a wheel chair during his last days. This certainly comes in handy
now.”

The morning after Sahwah had discovered the iron shutter Sylvia was set
in the wheel chair and rolled into the study, and the rest came flocking
up to watch Sherry and the boys remove the shutter. It was no easy job,
taking that shutter off, for the screws had rusted in so that it was
almost impossible to turn them. Nyoda gave an exclamation of dismay at
the holes left in the mahogany casement. The Winnebagos were too much
absorbed in the window which was revealed by the removal of the shutter
to pay any attention to the damaged casement. Unlike the other windows in
the room, which were of clear glass, this one was composed of tiny leaded
panes in colors. It was so dirty on the outside that it was impossible to
see what it really was like. Sahwah hastened out and got cleaning rags
and washed it inside and out, standing on the roof of the side porch to
get at it on the outside, because it did not open. When it was clean, and
the bright sun shone through it, the beauty of the window struck them
dumb.

The leaded panes were wrought into a design of climbing roses, growing
over a little arched gateway, the rich red and green tints of the flowers
and leaves glowing splendid in the mellow light that streamed through it.

After a moment of breathless silence the Winnebagos found their voices
and broke into admiring cries. Hinpoha promptly went into raptures.

“Why, you can almost _smell_ those roses, they’re so natural! Oh, the
darling archway! Did you ever see anything so beautiful? Don’t you just
_long_ to go through it? O why did your uncle ever have that horrible old
shutter put over it?”

“Maybe he was afraid it would get broken,” suggested Gladys.

“But why would he put the shutter on the inside?” asked Sahwah shrewdly.
“There would be more danger of the window’s getting broken from the
outside than from the inside, I should think.”

“There wouldn’t be with Slim around,” said the captain, and prudently
barricaded himself behind a bookcase in the corner. Slim gave him a
withering glance, but did not deign to follow him and open an attack. He
could not have squeezed in behind the bookcase, so he ignored the thrust.

“I wonder why he didn’t put shutters on the other windows also,” said
Katherine.

“Mercy, I’m glad he didn’t!” said Nyoda with a shiver, eyeing the ugly
screw holes in the smooth mahogany casement with housewifely horror at
such marring of beauty. “One set of holes like that is enough. Isn’t it
just like a man, though, to put screws into that woodwork! It’s time a
woman owned this house. A few more generations of eccentric bachelors and
the place would be ruined.”

“But,” said Sahwah musingly, “didn’t you tell us once that this house was
the pride of your uncle’s heart, and he never would let any children in
for fear they would scratch the floors and furniture?”

“That’s so, too,” replied Nyoda. “Uncle Jasper was so fond of this house
that it was a byword among the relations. He loved it as though it were
his own child. How he ever allowed anyone to put screws into that
mahogany casement is a mystery.”

“Don’t you think,” said Sahwah shrewdly, “that there must have been some
great and important reason for putting up that shutter? A reason that
made him forget all about the holes he was making in the woodwork?”

A little thrill went through the group; all at once they seemed to feel
that they were standing in the shadow of some mystery.

“What kind of a man was your uncle Jasper?” asked Sahwah.

“He was a queer, silent man,” replied Nyoda, sitting down on the edge of
a table and rubbing her forehead to aid her recollection. “He was an
author—wrote historical works. I confess I don’t know a great deal about
him. I only saw him twice; once when I was a very little girl and once a
few years ago. He never corresponded with any of his relations and never
visited them nor had them come to visit him. Most everybody was afraid of
him; he was so grim and stern looking. He couldn’t have been very
sociable here either, for none of the people of Oakwood seemed to have
been in the habit of calling on him. None of those that called on me had
ever been inside the house before. The old man didn’t mix with the
neighbors, they said. He seldom went outside the house. No one seems to
know much about him. Of course,” she added, “living up here on the hill
he was sort of by himself; there are no near neighbors.”

“Maybe he put up that shutter for protection,” suggested Hinpoha.

“With all the other windows in the house unshuttered?” asked the captain
derisively. “A lot of protection that would be! Besides, do you think the
neighbors were in the habit of shooting pop guns at him?”

“Well, can you think of any other reason?” retorted Hinpoha.

“Why don’t you ask old Hercules?” suggested Sahwah. “He might know.”

“To be sure!” cried Nyoda, springing down from the table. “Why didn’t I
think of Hercules before? Of course he’d know. He was with Uncle Jasper
all his life. I’ll call him in and ask him and we’ll have the mystery
cleared up in a jiffy. Will one of you boys go out and bring him in?”

The captain and Justice sprang up simultaneously in answer to her request
and raced for the stable. In a few minutes they were back, bringing old
Hercules with them. Hercules had a somewhat forlorn air about him like
that of a dog without a master. Nyoda said he was grieving for Uncle
Jasper; Sherry said it was the goat he was mourning for. At any rate, he
was a pathetic figure as he hobbled painfully up the stairs one step at a
time on his shaky, stiff old limbs. His eyes brightened a bit as he saw
the door into Uncle Jasper’s study standing open, and he looked around
the room with an affectionate gaze as the boys piloted him in. Nyoda saw
his eyes rest on the window from which the shutter had been removed, and
it seemed to her that he gave a start and gazed through the window
apprehensively.

“Hercules,” said Nyoda briskly, “we’ve just taken this ugly old shutter
off that stained glass window, and we’re curious to know why it was put
up. It seems such a pity to have put those great screws into that
mahogany casement. Why did Uncle Jasper put it up?”

Hercules scratched his head and shifted his corn cob pipe to the other
side of his mouth. “Dat shutter’s bin up a good many years, Mis’
’Lizbeth,” he quavered.

“I see it has, from the way the screws were rusted in,” replied Nyoda.
“But why was it put up?”

“Dat shutter’s bin dere twenty-five years,” reiterated the old man
solemnly, still looking at it in a half-fascinated, half-apprehensive
way.

“Yes, yes,” said Nyoda, trying to control her impatience. “But _why_ has
it been there all this time? Why did Uncle Jasper put it up?”

Hercules scratched his head again, and replaced his pipe in its original
position. “I disremember, Mis’ ’Lizbeth,” he said deprecatingly. “It’s
bin so long since. My memry’s bin powerful bad lately, Mis’ ’Lizbeth.
Seems like I caint remember hardly anything. It’s de mizry, Mis’
’Lizbeth; it’s settled in my memry.” He carefully avoided her eyes.

“Please try to remember!” said Nyoda, trying hard to hold on to her
patience, but morally certain that Hercules was trying to sidestep her
questions. “Think, now. Twenty-five years ago Uncle Jasper put up an iron
shutter to cover the most beautiful window in Carver House. Why did he do
it?”

Nyoda turned so that she looked right into his face, and her compelling
black eyes held his shifty gaze steady. There was something strangely
magnetic about Nyoda’s eyes. People could avoid answering her questions
as long as they did not look into her eyes, but once let her catch your
gaze, and things she wanted to know had a habit of coming out of their
own accord. Hercules seemed to be on the point of speaking; he cleared
his throat nervously and shifted the pipe once more. Nyoda cast a
triumphant glance at Sherry. In that instant Hercules shifted his gaze
from her face and met another pair of eyes, eyes that seemed to look at
him accusingly, and sent a chill running down his spine. These were none
other than the eyes of Uncle Jasper, who, hanging in his frame on the
study wall, seemed to be looking straight at him, in the way that eyes in
pictures have. When Nyoda glanced back at Hercules he was staring
uneasily at Uncle Jasper’s picture and there was a guilty look about him
as if he had been caught in a misdemeanor.

“I ’clare, I cain’t remember nothin’ ’bout why dat shutter was put up,
Mis’ ’Lizbeth,” he said earnestly. “Come to think on it now, Marse Jasper
ain’t never _told_ me why he want it put up,” he continued triumphantly.
“He just say, ‘Herc’les, put up dat shutter,’ and he ain’t ever say why.
I axed him, ‘Marse Jasper, what for you puttin’ up dat shutter over dat
window?’ and he say, ‘Herc’les, you put up dat shutter and mind your
business. I ain’t tellin’ _why_ I wants it put up; I jest wants it put
up, dat’s all.’ No’m, Mis’ ’Lizbeth, I’s often wondered myself about dat
shutter, but I never found out nothin’.”

He glanced up at Uncle Jasper’s picture as though expecting some token of
approval from the stern, grim face.

Nyoda saw it was no use trying to get anything out of Hercules. Either he
really did not know anything, or he would not tell.

“You may go, Hercules,” she said. “That’s all we wanted of you.”

Hercules looked unaccountably relieved and started for the door. Half way
across the room he turned and looked long through the clear panel of
glass underneath the archway of the gate in the stained glass window. He
stood still, seemingly lost in reverie, and quite oblivious to the group
about him. Finally his lips began to move, and he began to mutter to
himself, and Sahwah’s sharp ears caught the sound of the words.

“Dey’s tings,” muttered the old man, “dat folks don’t _want_ ter look at,
and dey’s tings dey _dassent_ look at!”

Still lost in reverie he shuffled out of the room and hobbled painfully
downstairs.



                               CHAPTER V
                             THE FIRST LINK


“What did old Hercules mean?” asked Sahwah in astonishment. “He said,
‘Dey’s some tings folks don’t want ter look at, and dey’s tings dey
dassent look at!’”

“I can’t imagine,” said Nyoda, thoroughly mystified. “But there’s one
thing sure, and that is, Uncle Jasper had some very potent reason for
putting that shutter over that window, and I more than half believe
Hercules knows what it was. Hercules’ explanations always become very
fluent when he is not telling the truth. If he really hadn’t known
anything about it he probably would have said so simply, in about three
words, and without any hesitation. The elaborate details he went into to
convince me that he knew nothing about it sounds suspicious to me.

“But I don’t believe the exclamation he made when he went out was
intended to deceive me. I think it was the involuntary utterance of what
was in his thoughts. He seemed to be thinking aloud, and was quite
unconscious of our presence.

“But what a queer thing to say—‘Dey’s tings people _dassent_ look at!’ I
wonder what it was that Uncle Jasper dared not look at? Was it something
he saw through this window? What is there to be seen out of this window,
anyway?” She moved over in front of the window with the others crowding
after her to see, too.

Uncle Jasper’s study was at the back of the house and the windows looked
out upon the wide open meadow which stretched behind Carver Hill, between
the town and the woods. The front of Carver House looked out over the
town. Nearly half a mile to the east of Carver Hill another hill rose
sharply from the town’s edge. Upon its top stood another old-fashioned
dwelling. This hill, crowned with its red brick mansion, was framed in
the arch of the gateway in the window like an artist’s picture, with
nothing between to obstruct the view. A beautiful picture it was,
certainly, and one which could not possibly have any connection with
Hercules’ muttered words.

“Who lives in that house?” asked Sahwah.

“I don’t know,” said Nyoda. “It’s way up on the Main Street Hill. I’m not
acquainted with the people in that end of town.”

Sherry got out his binoculars and took a look through the window.
“Nothing but an old house on a hill,” he reported, and handed the
binoculars to Sylvia, that she might take a look through them.

“Why,” said Sylvia after peering intently through the glasses for a
minute, “it’s the house Aunt Aggie and I live in! What did that old house
have to do with your Uncle Jasper?” she asked wondering. “It’s been empty
for many, many years.”

“Oh, wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a romance in your Uncle
Jasper’s life?” exclaimed Hinpoha eagerly. “A blighted romance. He never
married, did he?”

“No, he never married,” replied Nyoda.

“Then I’m sure it’s a blighted romance!” said Hinpoha enthusiastically.
“I just know that some deep tragedy darkened the sun of his life and left
him shrouded in gloom forever after!”

Even Nyoda smiled at Hinpoha’s sentimental language, and the rest could
not help laughing out loud.

“You sound like Lady Imogen, in ‘The Lost Heiress,’” said Katherine
derisively.

“Well, I don’t care, you’ll have to admit that there are some very
romantic possibilities, anyway,” said Hinpoha stoutly.

“Yes, and some very prosaic ones, too,” retorted Katherine. “Uncle Jasper
probably never married because he was a born bachelor, and preferred to
live alone.”

“O Katherine, why are you always taking the joy out of life?” wailed
Hinpoha. “It’s lots more fun to think romantic things about people than
dull, stupid, everyday things.”

“I think so too,” said Sahwah, unexpectedly coming to the defense of
Hinpoha. “I’ve been thinking a lot about old Mr. Carver, living alone
here all those years, and I’ve wondered if there wasn’t some reason for
it. Certainly something happened that made him put that shutter up,
that’s clear.”

“Well, whatever motive the old man may have had for putting it up, we’ll
probably never find it out,” said Sherry, gathering up the screws and
screwdriver, “inasmuch as he’s dead and it’s no use asking Hercules
anything; so we might as well stop puzzling over it. I’ll hunt up
something to fill in those screw holes with, Elizabeth, and polish them
over.” Sherry, in his matter-of-fact way, had already dismissed the
matter from his mind as not worth bothering over.

Not so Nyoda and the Winnebagos. The merest hint of a possible mystery
connected with the shutter set them on fire with curiosity and desire to
penetrate into its depths.

“I wonder,” said Nyoda musingly, eyeing the massive desk before her with
a speculative glance, “if Uncle Jasper left any record of the repairs and
improvements which he made to the house while he was the owner. The item
of the shutter might be mentioned, with the reason for putting it up.”

“It might,” agreed the Winnebagos.

Nyoda looked around at the litter of odd pieces of furniture crowding the
room. “Sherry,” she said briskly, “make up your mind this minute whether
you want any of that old stuff, because I’m going to clear it out of here
and sell it.”

“A lot of good it would do me to make up my mind to want any of it, if
you’ve made up your mind to sell it,” said Sherry in a comically
plaintive tone.

“All right,” responded Nyoda tranquilly, “I knew you didn’t want any of
it. Boys, will you help Sherry carry out those two tables and that high
desk and the chiffonier—all the oak furniture. I’m not keeping anything
but the mahogany. Set it out in the hall; I’ll have the furniture man
come and get it to-morrow.

“There, now the room looks as it did when Uncle Jasper inhabited it,” she
remarked when the extra pieces had been cleared out.

“It certainly was a pleasant room; I don’t see how Uncle Jasper could
have maintained such a gloomy disposition as he did, working all day in a
room like this. The very sight of that open field out there makes me want
to run and shout—and that window! Oh, who could look at it all day long
and be crusty and sour?”

“But he had the shutter over the window,” Sahwah reminded her.

“Yes, he did, the poor man!” said Nyoda in a tone of pity. She whisked
about the room, straightening out rugs and wiping the dust from the
furniture, and soon announced that she was ready to begin investigations.
She looked carefully through the desk first, through old account books
and files of papers and bills, but came upon nothing that touched upon
repairs made to the house. There was a long bookcase running the entire
length of one wall, and she tackled this next, while the Winnebagos sat
around expectantly and Sylvia looked on from her chair, which she could
move herself from place to place, to her infinite delight.

The boys had gone downstairs with Sherry to hear reminiscences from
“across.” All three boys worshipped Sherry like a god. To have been
“across,” to have seen actual fighting, to have been cited for bravery,
and finally to have been shipwrecked, were experiences for which the
younger boys would have given their ears, and they treated Sherry with a
deferential respect that actually embarrassed him at times.

Nyoda opened the bookcase and began taking out the books that crowded the
shelves, opening them one by one and examining their contents. Most of
them were works on history, some of them Uncle Jasper’s own; great solid
looking volumes with fine print and dingy leather bindings. Ancient
history, nearly all of them, and nowhere among them anything so modern as
to concern Carver House.

“What a collection of dry-as-dust works to have for your most intimate
reading matter!” exclaimed Nyoda, making a wry face at the books. “Not a
single book of verse, not a single romance or book of fiction, not the
ghost of a love story! There are plenty of them downstairs in the
library, that belonged to Uncle Jasper’s father and mother, who must have
had quite a lively taste in reading, judging from the books down there;
but Hercules told me that Uncle Jasper hadn’t opened the cases down there
for twenty-five years. He never read anything but this ancient stuff up
here.

“He did write one book that had some life in it, though,” she continued
musingly. “That was a story of the life of Elizabeth Carver, his great
grandmother, the one whose portrait hangs downstairs over the harp in the
drawing-room. He’s got all her various love affairs in it, and it’s
anything but dry. I sat up a whole night reading it the time I came
across it in the library down below. But from the date of its publishing,
Uncle Jasper must have been a very young man when he wrote it, probably
before the ancient history spider bit him.”

“And before the shutter went up,” added Sahwah.

“Well,” said Nyoda, after she had peeped into nearly every book in the
bookcase, “there doesn’t seem to be anything here more modern than the
Fall of Rome, and that’s still several seasons behind the affairs of
Carver House. Hello, what’s this?” she suddenly exclaimed, holding up a
book she had just picked up, one that had fallen down behind the others
on the shelf.

It was a fat, ledger-like volume heavily bound in calfskin. There was no
title printed on the back of it and Nyoda opened the cover. Two truly
terrifying figures greeted her eyes, drawn in India ink on the yellowed
page; figures of two pirates with fiercely bristling mustachios, and
brandishing scimitars half as large as themselves. Nyoda quite jumped,
their attitude was so menacing. Under one was printed in red ink, “Tad
the Terror,” and under the other “Jasper the Feend.” Underneath the two
figures was printed in sprawling capitals:

                   DIERY OF JASPER M. CARVER, ESQWIRE

Nyoda gave a little shriek of laughter and held it up for the Winnebagos
to see. “It must be Uncle Jasper’s Diary when he was a boy,” she said.
“His youthful idea of a man is a rather bloodthirsty one, according to
the portrait, I must say. I suppose ‘Jasper the Feend’ is supposed to be
Uncle Jasper. His mustachios bristle more fiercely than the other’s, and
his scimitar is longer, so without doubt he was the artist.”

Her eyes ran down the pages following, glancing at the lines of writing,
which, having apparently been done in India ink, were still black,
although the page on which they were written was yellow with age. As she
read, her eyes began to sparkle with interest and enjoyment.

“O girls,” she exclaimed, “this is the best thing I’ve read in ages.
Sherry and the boys must see it. I have to go and get lunch started now,
but all of you come together after lunch and I’ll read it out loud to
you.”

“We’ll all help,” said Migwan, “and then we’ll get through faster,” and
the Winnebagos hurried downstairs in Nyoda’s wake.



                               CHAPTER VI
                          UNCLE JASPER’S DIARY


After lunch the Winnebagos and the boys gathered around Nyoda in Uncle
Jasper’s study to hear her read aloud from “The Diery of Jasper M.
Carver, Esqwire.” She held the book up that all might see the portraits
of the fearsome pirates, and then turned over to the next page, where the
sprawly, uneven writing began, and started to read.

  “October 7, 1870. Confined to the house through bad behavior while
  father and mother have gone to the fair. I wasn’t lonesome though
  because I had company. A boy ran into the yard chasing a cat and saw me
  sticking my head out of the upstairs window and blew a bean shooter at
  me and hit me on the chin and I hit him with an apple core and then he
  dared me to come out and lick him but I couldn’t go out of the house so
  I dared him to climb up the porch post and come in the window. He came
  and I licked him. He is a new boy in town and his name is Sydney
  Phillips, but he wants to be called Tad. He lives up on Harrison Hill.
  We are going to be pirates when we grow up. I am going to be Jasper the
  Feend and he is going to be Tad the Terror. We swore eternul frendship
  and wrote our names in blood on the attic window sill.”

“Oh, how delicious!” cried Sahwah at the end of the first entry. “Your
uncle must have been lots of fun when he was young. What crazy things
boys are, anyway! To start out by fighting each other and end up by
swearing eternal friendship! Go on, Nyoda, what did they do next?”

Nyoda proceeded.

  “November 10, 1870. Tad and I made a great discovery this afternoon.
  There is a secret passage in this house. It is——”

The concerted shriek of triumph that went up from the Winnebagos forced
Nyoda to pause.

“I told you there was!” shouted Sahwah above the rest. “Please hurry and
read where it is, I can’t wait another minute!”

Nyoda turned the page and then paused. “The next page is torn out,” she
said, holding the book up so they could all see the ragged strip of paper
left hanging in the binding, where the page had been torn out.

“Oh, what a shame!” The wail rose on every side.

“Maybe it tells later,” said Sahwah hopefully. “Go on, Nyoda.” The dairy
continued on a page numbered six.

  “January 4, 1871. Tad and I played pirat to-day. We made a pirat’s den
  in the secret passage. We are going to hide our chests of money there,
  all pieces of eight. We haven’t any pieces of eight yet just some red,
  white and blue dollars we found in the desk drawer in the library. Tad
  thinks maybe they are patriotick curency they used in the Revolushun”

Nyoda had to wait a minute until Sherry had got done laughing, and then
she proceeded:

  “February 19, 1871. I am in durrance vile, being locked in my room for
  a week with nothing to eat but bread and water because I shut Patricia
  up in the secret passage and went away and forgot all about her because
  there was a fire. I remembered and let her out as soon as I got home
  but she had fainted, being a silly girl and afraid of the dark, and she
  couldn’t scream because we tied a handkerchief over her mouth when we
  kidnapped her, being pirats. So now I am in durrance vile and cannot
  see any of my family, not even Tad. But he stands behind the hedge and
  shoots pieces of candy through my window with the bean shooter and
  lightens my durrance vile which is what a sworn frend has to do when
  their names are written in blood on the attic window sill.”

Thus the entries in the scrawling, boyish hand covered page after page,
recounting the adventurous and ofttimes seamy career of the two youthful
pirates, through all of which the two stood up for each other stanchly,
and never, never gave each other away, because they were “sworn frends
till deth us do part,” and their names were “written in blood on the
attic window sill.”

The entries became farther apart after a while, and the spelling improved
until finally there came this announcement:

  “Tad and I can’t be pirates any longer. We are going to college next
  week.”

There the India ink ceased and also the illustrations. After that came
page after page of neat entries in faded but still legible blue ink,
telling of the progress through college of the two boys; chronicles of
the joys, the troubles, the triumphs and the escapades of the two
friends, still so inseparable that their names have become a byword among
the students and they go by the nickname of David and Jonathan. When one
of them gets into trouble the other one still does “what a sworn friend
has to do when their names are written in blood on the attic window
sill.” The Winnebagos listened with shining eyes while Nyoda read the
tale of this remarkable friendship.

The dates of the entries moved forward by months; records of scrapes
became fewer and fewer; David and Jonathan had outgrown their colthood
and were beginning to win honors with brain and brawn. Then came the
record of their graduation and return to Oakwood; of “Tad the Terror”
becoming a doctor, of the marriage of Jasper’s sister Patricia to a sea
captain; the death of his father and the passing of Carver House into his
possession.

Later came the account of a delightful year spent abroad with Tad
Phillips, of mountain climbing in the Alps; of browsing among rare old
art treasures in France and Italy; of gay larks in Paris. It was always
he and Tad, he and Tad; still as loyal to each other as in the days when
they wrote their names in blood on the attic window sill.

After the entry which chronicled Jasper’s return to Oakland and settling
down in Carver House with his mother, and his enthusiastic adoption of
literature as a profession, came an item which made the Winnebagos sit up
and listen. It was:

  “June 3, 1885. I have had a new window put into my study on the side
  which faces toward’s Tad’s house on Harrisburg Hill. I had the young
  Italian artist, Pusini, who has lately come to New York, come and set
  the glass for me. It is a representation of a charming scene I came
  across in Italy—an arched gateway covered over with climbing roses. The
  window is arranged so that through the arch of the gateway I can look
  directly at Tad’s house. It gives me inspiration in my work.”

“What a beautiful idea!” said Hinpoha, carried away completely by the
great love of Jasper Carver for his friend, so simply expressed in his
diary.

“So that was Tad’s house, that we are living in!” said Sylvia excitedly.
“I wonder where he is now.”

“Go on reading, Nyoda,” said Sahwah, consumed with interest in the tale.
“See if he says anything about the shutter.” Nyoda passed on to the next
entry.

  “June 27, 1885. Went to the Academy of Music in Philadelphia to hear
  Sylvia Warrington sing. She is the new singer from the South that has
  created such a furore. The Virginia Nightingale, they call her. What a
  God-gifted woman she is! There never was such a voice as hers. She sang
  ‘Hark, hark, the lark,’ and the whole house rose to its feet. She was
  Spring incarnate. Sylvia Warrington! The name itself is music. I cannot
  forget her. She is like a lark singing in the desert at dawning.”

A vague remembrance leaped up for an instant in Katherine’s mind and died
as it came.

Nyoda read on through pages that recorded Uncle Jasper’s meeting with
Sylvia Warrington; his great and growing love for her; his persistent
wooing, her consenting to marry him; his wild happiness, which found vent
in page after page of rapturous plans for the future. Then came the
announcement of Tad’s return from a period of study abroad, and Uncle
Jasper’s proud presentation of his bride-to-be. After that Tad’s name
appeared in connection with every occasion, still the faithful David to
his beloved Jonathan.

Then, almost without warning, the great friendship ran on the rocks and
was shattered. For Tad no sooner saw Sylvia Warrington than he too, fell
madly in love with her. A brief and bitter entry told how she finally
broke her engagement to Uncle Jasper and married Tad, and how Uncle
Jasper, beside himself with grief and disappointment, turned against his
friend and hated him with the undying hate that is born of jealousy. With
heavy strokes of the pen that cut the paper he wrote down his
determination to have no more friends and to live to himself thereafter.
Then, in a shaky hand in marked contrast to the fierce strokes just
above, he wrote: “But Sylvia—I love her still. I can’t help it.” That
shaky handwriting stood as a mute testimonial to his heart’s torment, and
Nyoda, reading it after all these years, felt a sympathetic spasm of pain
pass through her own heart at the sight of that wavering entry.

“It’s just like a story in a book!” exclaimed Hinpoha, furtively drying
her eyes, which had overflowed during the reading of the last page. “The
beautiful lady, and the rival lovers, and the disappointed one never
marrying. Oh, it’s too romantic for anything! Oh, _please_ hurry and read
what comes next.”

Nyoda turned the page and read the brief entry:

  “I have taken up the study of ancient history as a serious pursuit. In
  it I hope to find forgetfulness.”

The eyes of the Winnebagos traveled to the bookcase, and now they knew
why there was nothing there but dull old books in heavy bindings, and why
Uncle Jasper Carver hated love stories.

The next entry had them all sitting up again.

  “I have had Hercules fasten an iron shutter over the window in my
  study—the one through which I can see Tad’s house when I sit at my
  desk. I cannot bear to look at anything that reminds me of him.”

“There!” shouted all the Winnebagos at once. “_That_ was the reason for
putting up the iron shutter! The mystery is solved!”

“Poor Uncle Jasper!” said Nyoda pityingly. “What a Spartan he was! How
thoroughly he set about removing every memory of Tad from his mind! Think
of covering up that beautiful pane of glass because he couldn’t bear to
look through it at the house of his friend!” She finished reading the
entry:

  “Hercules demurred at covering up the window—he admired it more than
  anything else in the house—so to give him a satisfactory reason for
  doing so I told him the devil would come in through that gateway some
  day and I was putting up the shutter to keep him out. There’s one thing
  sure; Hercules will never take that shutter down as long as he
  lives—he’s scared nearly into a Chinaman.”

“So that’s why Hercules threw such a fit when we took the shutter off!”
said Sherry. “He thought that now the devil would come in and get him.
Poor, superstitious old nigger!”

“I wonder if Tad and Sylvia went to live in the house on Harrisburg
Hill,” said Sahwah curiously. “He doesn’t say whether they did or not.”

“Oh, I wonder if they did!” cried Sylvia, with eager interest. “To think
I’ve been living in the same house they lived in—if they _did_ live
there,” she added. “But how strange it seems to hear them call that place
Harrisburg Hill. It is called Main Street Hill now.”

“I wonder what Tad and Sylvia did after they were married,” said Hinpoha,
with romantic curiosity. “Did they stay in Oakwood, or did they go away?
Is there any more, Nyoda?”

Nyoda was already glancing down the next page, which was written over
with lines in blacker ink, and broader and heavier strokes of the pen,
which seemed somehow to express grim satisfaction on the part of Uncle
Jasper. Grim satisfaction Uncle Jasper must indeed have felt when he
wrote those lines, for misfortune had overtaken the one who had caused
his own anguish of heart. The entry told how Tad had become staff
physician at one of the large army posts in the west. There was an
epidemic of typhoid and quite a few of the men were ill at once, all
requiring the same kind of medicine. Through carelessness in making up a
certain medicine he put in a deadly poison instead of the harmless
ingredient he intended to put in, and a dozen men died of the dose. There
was a tremendous stir about the matter, and the newspapers all over the
country were full of it. He was court-martialed, and though he was
acquitted, the mistake being entirely accidental, the matter had gained
such publicity that his career as a doctor was ruined. He left the army
and fled out of the country, taking Sylvia with him. Some months later
the papers brought the announcement of both their deaths from yellow
fever in Cuba. Again the handwriting began to waver on the last sentence.
“She is dead.” In those three little words the Winnebagos seemed to hear
the echo of the breaking of a strong man’s heart. There were no more
entries.

“Isn’t it perfectly _thrilling_!” gulped Hinpoha, with eyes overflowing
again. “It’s better than any book I ever read! And to think we never
suspected there was anything like that connected with your Uncle Jasper!
There, now, Katherine Adams, what did I tell you? You said he was a born
bachelor, and just look at the romance he had!”

“He certainly did,” said Katherine, in a tone of surrender.

“That must be why the house we lived in was shut up so long,” said Sylvia
musingly. “The man that said we could live in it said that old Mrs.
Phillips had moved away many years ago and had never come back, and
although people knew she was dead, no one had ever come to live in the
house, and nobody in Oakwood knew who owned it. The man said he had heard
from older people in the town that Mrs. Phillips had had a son who was
away from home all the time after he was grown up and who had gotten into
some kind of trouble—he couldn’t remember what it was. This must have
been it! How queer it is, that I should first come to live in Tad’s
house, and then stay in the house of his friend! I never dreamed, when I
heard that man telling Aunt Aggie about the almost forgotten people that
used to live in the old house, that I should ever hear of them again.
Things have turned out to be _so_ interesting since I came to stay in the
Winter Palace!” she finished up with sparkling eyes.

Darkness had fallen by the time Nyoda had finished reading Uncle Jasper’s
Diary, and she jumped up with a little exclamation as the clock on the
mantel-piece chimed six. The other hours had struck unnoticed. “Mercy!”
she cried, “it’s time dinner was on the table, and here we haven’t even
begun to get it! I forgot all about dinner, thinking about poor Uncle
Jasper.”

All the rest had forgotten about dinner, too, and the Winnebagos could
not get their minds off the tale they had just heard read. “Poor Uncle
Jasper!” they all said, looking up at his picture, and to their pitying
eyes his face was no longer grim and stern, but only pathetic.



                              CHAPTER VII
                             SYLVIA’S STORY


“Katherine Adams, whatever has happened to you?” asked Gladys suddenly,
meeting her under the bright light in the hall that evening after dinner.

“Why?” asked Katherine, looking startled. “Is there any soot on my face?”

“No,” replied Gladys with a peal of laughter, “I didn’t mean anything
like that. I meant that you look different from the way you used to look,
that’s all. You’ve changed since the days when I first knew you. What
have you done to yourself in the last year? You’re the same old
Katherine, of course, but you’re different, somehow. I noticed it when
you first came to Brownell last fall, but I’ve been too busy to give it
much thought. But since we’ve been here I’ve been watching you and I
can’t help noticing the difference. Now stand right there under that
light and let me look at you.”

Katherine laughed good humoredly and stood still dutifully while Gladys
inspected her with appraising eyes that took in all the little
improvements in Katherine’s appearance. She was heavier than she used to
be; some of her angles were softened into curves. She now stood erect,
with her head up and her shoulders thrown back, which made her look
several inches taller. Her hair no longer hung about her face in stringy
wisps; the loose ends were curled becomingly around her temples and ears
and held in place with invisible hairpins. She wore a trim worsted dress
of an odd shade of blue, which was just the right shade to go with her
dull blonde hair and with the dark brown of her neat shoes. Her knuckles
were no longer red and rough; her fingernails were manicured; the sagging
spectacles of the old days had given way to intellectual looking nose
glasses with narrow tortoise shell rims.

“Well, what’s the verdict?” asked Katherine, smiling broadly at Gladys.

“You’re wonderful!” said Gladys enthusiastically. “You’re actually
stunning! Whoever told you to get that particular shade of blue to bring
out the color of your hair?”

“Nobody told me,” answered Katherine. “I bought it because it was a
bargain.” But there was a knowing twinkle in her eyes which gave her dead
away, and Gladys, seeing it, knew that Katherine had at last achieved
that pride of appearance which she had struggled so long to instill into
her.

“However did you do it?” she murmured.

“It was your eleven Rules of Neatness that did it,” replied Katherine,
laughing, “or was it seven? I forget. But I did do just the things you
told me to do, and it worked. There is no longer any danger of my coming
apart in public! What a trial I used to be to you, though!” she said,
flushing a little at the recollection. “How you ever put up with me I
don’t know. How _did_ you stand it, anyway?”

“Because we loved you, sweet child,” replied Gladys fondly, “and because
we all believed the motto, ‘While there’s life, there’s hope.’ We knew
you would be a paragon of neatness some day as soon as you got around to
it. You never _could_ think of more than one thing at a time, Katherine
dear!”

“O my, O my, look at them hugging each other!” exclaimed a teasing voice
from above. Looking up they saw Justice Dalrymple leaning over the
banisters at the head of the stairs. “You never do that to me,” he
continued in a plaintive tone.

Katherine and Gladys merely laughed at him and walked on, arm in arm, and
Justice came down the stairs wringing mock tears out of his handkerchief
and singing mournfully,

  “Forsaken, forsa-ken,
  Forsa-a-a-ken a-m I,
  Like the bones at a banquet
  All men pass me-e-e by!”

“Do behave yourself, Justice,” said Katherine with mock severity. “If you
disgrace me I’ll never get you invited anywhere again. Why can’t you be
good like the other two boys?”

“’Cause I’m a Junebug,” warbled Justice, to the tune of “I’m a Pilgrim,”

  “’Cause I’m a Junebug,
  And I’m a beetul,
  And I can’t be no
  Rhinoscerairus,
  ’Cause I’m a Junebug,
  And I’m a beetul,
  I can’t be no,
  Rhinoscerairus!”

He advanced into the drawing room, where Katherine now stood alone, and
drew out the last syllable of his absurd song into a long bleating wail
that sent her into convulsions of laughter till the tears rolled down her
cheeks.

  “Tears, idle tears——”

began Justice, picking up a vase from the table and holding it under her
eyes, and then he stopped, as if struck by a sudden recollection. “I said
that to you once before,” he said, “don’t you remember? The first time we
really got acquainted with each other. You were standing by the stove,
weeping into the apple sauce.”

“It was pudding,” Katherine corrected him, with a little shamefaced laugh
at the remembrance, “huckleberry pudding. And I streaked it all over my
face and you nearly died laughing.”

“Well, you laughed too,” Justice defended himself, “and that’s how we got
to be friends.”

“That seems ages ago,” said Katherine, “and yet it’s only a little over a
year. What a year that was!”

Both stopped their bantering and looked at each other with sober eyes,
each thinking of what the trying year at Spencer had been to them.
Justice’s eyes traveled over Katherine, and he, too, noticed that she was
much better looking than when he first knew her. Katherine noticed the
admiration dawning in his eyes and divined his thoughts. After Gladys’s
spontaneous outburst of approval she knew beyond any doubt that her
appearance no longer offended the artistic eye. The knowledge gave her a
new confidence in herself, and a thrill of pleasure that she had never
experienced before went through her like an electric shock. At last
people had ceased to look upon her as a cross between a circus and a
lunatic asylum, she told herself exultingly.

“Well, what are you thinking about?” she asked finally, as Justice
continued silent.

“I was just thinking,” replied Justice gravely, “about the difference in
plumage that different climates bring about.”

“Whatever made you think about birds?” asked Katherine wonderingly. “You
jump from one subject to another like a flea. I don’t see how you can
keep your mind on your work long enough to invent anything. By the way,
how is that thingummy of yours going? You’re as mum as an oyster about
it.”

“Pretty well,” replied Justice. “I’m hampered though, by not having the
right kind of help, and not being able to get some of the things I need.”

Katherine looked at him scrutinizingly. He looked tired and rather worn.
The nonsensical boy had vanished and a man stood in his place, a man with
a heavy responsibility on his shoulders. Justice had that way of changing
all in an instant from a boy to a man. At times he would go frolicking
about the house till you would have sworn he was not a day older than
Slim and the Captain; an instant later he was all gravity, and looked
every day of his twenty-six years.

Katherine always stood in awe of him whenever that change took place. He
seemed so old and wise and experienced then that she felt hopelessly
ignorant and childish beside him. She liked him best when he seemed like
the other boys.

“What do you think of my Winnebagos?” she asked him, leading him away
from the subject of his work. He always got old looking when he talked
about it.

“Greatest bunch of girls I ever saw,” he replied heartily. “Never came
across such an accomplished lot in all my life. Each one’s more fun than
the next. Hinpoha’s a beauty, and Gladys is a dainty fairy, and Sahwah
looks like a brown thrush, and Migwan’s a regular Madonna. And, say—would
you mind telling me how you do it, anyway?”

“Do what?”

“Stick together like that. I thought girls always squabbled among
themselves. I never thought they could do things together the way you
girls do.”

“Camp Fire Girls can do things together!” Katherine informed him with
emphasis. “You boys think you’re the only ones that know anything about
teamwork. Teamwork is our first motto.”

“I guess it must be,” admitted Justice. “You certainly are a team.”

The rest of the “team” came in then, Sahwah and Gladys and Hinpoha, all
three arm in arm, and Migwan behind them, pushing Sylvia in her rolling
chair. They settled in a circle before the fireplace, and the talk soon
drifted around to Uncle Jasper and his blighted romance. Indeed, Hinpoha
had done nothing but talk about it all during dinner. Sylvia, too, was
completely taken up with it.

“I love Sylvia Warrington!” she exclaimed fervently. “I am going to have
her for my Beloved. I’m glad she had black hair. I adore black hair. And
I’m _so_ glad my name is Sylvia, too. I’ve been pretending that she was
my aunt, and that I was named after her. I’ve been pretending, too, that
she taught me to sing, ‘Hark, hark, the lark!’ Now, when I sing it I
always think of her. Wasn’t it beautiful, what Uncle Jasper said about
her? ‘She is like a lark, singing in the desert at dawning!’ Oh, I can
see it all, the desert, and the sun coming up, and the lark soaring up
and singing. I just can’t _breathe_, it’s so beautiful. And my Beloved is
like that!”

A radiant dream light came into her eyes, and she seemed suddenly to have
traveled far away from the group by the fire and to be wandering in some
far-off land.

“Sylvia is a beautiful name,” said Katherine. “For whom are you called?
Was your mother’s name Sylvia?” It was the first time any of them had
spoken of Sylvia’s mother, who they knew must be dead.

Sylvia’s eyes lost their dreaminess and she looked up with a merry smile.

“I made it up myself,” she said. “I don’t know what my first real name
was, but when Aunt Aggie got me she named me Aggie, after herself. But
Aggie is such a hopelessly unimaginative sort of name. It doesn’t make
you think of a thing when you say it. You might just as well be named
‘Empty’ as ‘Aggie.’ Then once we lived in the same house with a lady who
sang, and she used to sing, ‘Who is Sylvia?’ It was the most _tuneful_
name I’d ever heard, and I wondered and wondered who Sylvia was. But I
guess the lady never found out, because she kept right on singing, ‘Who
is Sylvia?’ So one day I said to myself, ‘I’ll be Sylvia!’ Don’t you
think it’s a _fragrant_ name? When I say it I can see festoons of pink
rosebuds tied with baby ribbon. I made people call me Sylvia, and that’s
been my name ever since.”

“Oh, you funny child!” said Nyoda, joining in the general laugh at
Sylvia’s tale of her name.

“But Sylvia,” said Sahwah wonderingly, “you said you didn’t know what
your _first_ real name was before you came to live with your aunt. Didn’t
your aunt know it?”

“No,” replied Sylvia. “You see,” she continued, “Aunt Aggie isn’t my real
aunt. She adopted me when I was a baby.”

“Oh-h!” said the Winnebagos in surprise.

“But why do you call her ‘aunt’?” asked Sahwah. “Why don’t you call her
‘mother’?”

“She never would have it,” replied Sylvia. “She always taught me to call
her Aunt Aggie. I don’t know why.”

Sylvia moved restlessly in her chair, and from the folds of the loose
dressing gown which she wore a picture tumbled out. Katherine picked it
up and laid it back on her lap. It was a small colored poster sketch of a
red haired girl in a golf cape, which had evidently been the cover design
of a magazine some years ago.

“Why are you so fond of that poster, Sylvia?” asked Katherine curiously.
“You brought it along with you when you came here, and you keep it with
you all the time.”

Sylvia’s tone when she answered was half humorous and half wistful.
“That’s my mother,” she said.

“Your mother!” exclaimed Katherine, incredulously.

“Oh, not my really real mother,” Sylvia continued quickly. “I never saw a
picture of her. But Aunt Aggie said my mother had red hair and was most
uncommonly good looking, so I found a picture of a beautiful lady with
red hair and called it my mother. It’s better than nothing.” The
Winnebagos nodded silently and no one spoke for a moment.

Then Katherine asked gently, “What else do you know about mother?”

Sylvia sat up and related the tale told her hundreds of times by Aunt
Aggie, in answer to her eager questioning about her mother. Unconsciously
she used Aunt Aggie’s expressions and gestures as she told it.

“‘Me an’ Joe was coming on the steam cars from Butler to Philadelphy, and
in back of us sat a young couple with a baby about a month old. The
girl—she wasn’t nothing but a girl even though she was a married
woman—was most uncommon good looking. She had bright red hair and big
grey eyes, and she wore a golf cape. Her husband was a big, red faced
feller, homely but real honest lookin’. They weren’t either of them
twenty years old. Farmers, I could tell from their talk, and as well as I
could make out, the name on their bag was Mitchell. Well, well, along
between Waterloo and Poland there suddenly come a terrible bump, and then
a smash and a crash, and the next thing I was layin’ under the seat and
Joe was trying to pull me out. When I did finally get out the car was
a-layin’ over on its side all smashed to bits. Somehow or other when Joe
dug me out from under the seat I had ahold of the little baby that had
been in the seat in back of me. The young man and woman were under the
wreck. They were both killed, but the baby never had a scratch.

“‘Nobody ever found out who the red headed woman and the man were,
because they were all burned up in the wreck, and all their luggage.

“‘I had taken care of the baby, thinkin’ I’d keep her until her people
were found, but they were never heard from, so I decided to keep her for
my own. That baby was you, Sylvia.’

“So that’s all I know about my mother and father,” finished Sylvia with a
sigh. “But I can think up the most _dazzling_ things about them!”

“Sylvia,” said Katherine, “who was the man I saw on the stairs of your
house the night I came in and found you?”

Sylvia looked at her in wonder. “What man?”

“When I came into the hall there was a man leaning over the banisters
about half way up the stairs. When I came in he ran down the stairs and
out of the front door.”

“I can’t imagine,” said Sylvia. “No man ever came to the house to see us.
I didn’t hear anybody come in that day.”

“But the front door stood open when I came up on the porch,” said
Katherine. “That hadn’t been standing open all day, had it?”

“No,” replied Sylvia, “for Aunt Aggie was always careful about closing it
when she went out.”

“Then he must have opened it,” said Katherine.

“How queer!” said Sylvia. “What do you suppose he could have been doing
there? He never knocked on the inside door.”

“Possibly he thought the house was empty, and went in to get out of the
cold,” concluded Katherine. “Then he heard you singing, and it scared
him. He looked frightened out of his wits when I saw him. When I came in
he just ran for his life.” Katherine laughed as she remembered her own
dismay at seeing the man and thinking that he was the owner of the house,
when he was only a stray visitor himself and worse frightened than she.
Here she had prepared such an elaborate apology in her mind, and he was
nothing but a tramp! The humor of it struck her forcibly, now that it was
all in the past, and she laughed over it most of the evening.

About nine o’clock Hercules came shuffling in, suffering from a bad cold,
and asked Nyoda to give him something for it. While Nyoda went upstairs
to the medicine chest Sahwah craftily asked the old man, “Hercules, did
you ever hear of there being a secret passage in this house?”

Hercules gave a visible start. “Whyfor you ask dat?” he demanded.

“Oh, for no special reason,” said Sahwah casually. “I just thought maybe
there was one and that you might know about it. There always is one in
these old houses, you know.”

“Well, dere ain’t in dis!” answered the old man vehemently, and at the
same time looking relieved. “Marse Jasper he always useter say to me,
‘Herc’les,’ he useter say, ‘dere’s one good thing about dis house, and
dat is it ain’t cluttered up wif no secrut passidges.’ Secrut passidges
am powerful unlucky, Mis’ Sahwah. Onct I knew a man dat lived in a house
dat had a secrut passidge an’ one night de ole debbil got in th’u dat
secrut passidge an’ run off wif him! Don’ you go huntin’ no secrut
passidges, Mis’ Sahwah, if you knows what’s good fer you. Dey suttinly am
powerful unlucky!”

Nyoda came down stairs and bore Hercules off to the kitchen, and the
Winnebagos and the boys had their laugh out behind his back. “How _can_
he tell such fibs in such a truthful sounding way!” remarked Justice. “If
I didn’t know about that passage from Uncle Jasper’s diary I’d be
inclined to believe every word he said. But I bet the old sinner knows
all about it, just as Uncle Jasper did. Even if he doesn’t, how can he
invent such convincing speeches on the part of Uncle Jasper out of the
empty air? He’s the most engaging old fibber I ever came across.”

Nyoda came back and bore Sylvia off to bed and then she returned to the
library. “Sherry,” she said thoughtfully, leaning her chin in her hand,
“Dr. Crosby was here this morning to return those binoculars he borrowed
the other day, and I talked to him about Sylvia. He said he had once been
called in to treat her for tonsilitis when she lived in Millvale, and had
examined her spine at the time. He said it was a splintered vertebra and
it could be fixed by grafting in a piece of bone. They’re doing wonders
now that way. He said Dr. Gilbert, the famous specialist, could perform
an operation that would cure her. He hadn’t had a chance to talk it over
with Sylvia’s aunt because he had been called away suddenly and when he
returned to town the Deane’s were gone. He had no idea what had become of
them. He only made a hasty examination, but he is positive she can be
cured. I know the Deane’s can’t afford to pay for such an operation, but
Dr. Crosby said he was sure he could persuade Dr. Gilbert to perform it
free, in his clinic. I told Dr. Crosby to bring Dr. Gilbert to Oakwood as
soon as he could. He said he thought it would be possible soon. I thought
as long as we are going to keep Sylvia in our care until her aunt is well
again we might as well have her fixed up in the meantime. I would like to
have the operation over before her aunt knows anything about it, say the
first week of the new year. What do you think?”

“Whew!” whistled Sherry, looking at his wife in astonishment. The
rapidity with which Nyoda got a project under way was a nine days’ wonder
to Sherry, who usually spent more time in deliberating a course of action
than she did in carrying it out. “Go ahead!” was all he could say.

The Winnebagos gave long exclamations of joy. It had never occurred to
them that anything could be done for Sylvia.

“Does she know it?” asked Hinpoha.

“Not yet,” replied Nyoda. “I thought we would keep it for a birthday
surprise. Her birthday is the twenty-ninth. I’ll have Dr. Gilbert come
that day and let him tell her himself. Don’t anybody mention it to her
until then.”

“We won’t,” promised the Winnebagos, and trooped off to bed, heavy with
their delicious secret.



                              CHAPTER VIII
                      THE FOOTPRINTS ON THE STAIRS


The Winnebagos woke bright and early the next morning, eager to begin the
search for the secret passage again, but whatever plans they had formed
were driven entirely out of their minds by the appearance of the
footprints on the stairs. Nyoda discovered them first when she raised the
curtains on the stair landing on her way down to bring in the morning
paper.

The day before, in anticipation of the coming of the men from the second
hand store to remove the discarded furniture from Uncle Jasper’s study,
she had improvised a runner to cover the front stairs to keep them from
being scratched. The stretch from the upstairs to the landing she had
covered with a strip of rag carpet, and from the landing down she had
used a length of white canvas. The landing itself was still bare, as she
had not yet found the old rug she intended laying there.

Now, as she came downstairs, she noticed, on the strip of white canvas
that covered the bottom half of the stairs, three dark red footprints. On
the white background they stood out with startling distinctness. They
began on the third step from the top and appeared on every other step
from then on to the bottom. All three were the prints of a right foot. No
heel marks were visible, only the upper half of the foot. From the
direction which they pointed they were made by a person descending the
stairs, and from their size that person was a man.

Nyoda’s first thought that Sherry had cut his foot and had gone
downstairs, leaving a bloody trail on her stair runner, and full of
concern she immediately sought him. But her search revealed him down in
the basement, coaxing up the furnace, and there was nothing the matter
with his feet. The Captain was with him and he likewise disclaimed a cut
foot. The two of them had come down the back stairs. Nyoda hurried back
upstairs. Justice and Slim were in the upper hall when she came up, just
in the act of coming down.

“Good morning!” they both called out in cheery greeting.

“Which one of you has the cut foot?” she asked.

“Cut foot? Not I,” said Justice.

“Nor I,” said Slim. “Did somebody cut his foot?”

“Look,” said Nyoda, pointing to the marks on the lower steps.

“It must have been your husband, or the Captain,” said Justice. “It
wasn’t either of us.”

“It wasn’t either of them,” replied Nyoda. “I asked them. They’re down in
the basement fussing with the furnace.”

“It’s the print of a foot with a shoe on,” said Justice, examining the
marks.

“Somebody must have gotten into the house last night!” exclaimed Nyoda in
a startled tone. “Sherry,” she called, “come up here!”

Sherry came up from the basement on the run, for he recognized something
out of the ordinary in his wife’s tone, and the Captain came hard on his
heels. The girls came running down from above to see what the commotion
was about, and the whole household stood staring at the mysterious
footprints in startled bewilderment.

“Burglars!” cried Hinpoha with a little shriek.

“Oh, my silverware!” exclaimed Nyoda in a stricken tone, and raced into
the dining room. She pulled open the sideboard drawers with trembling
hands, expecting to find them ransacked, but nothing was amiss. Every
piece was still in its place. Neither had the sterling silver
candlesticks on top of the sideboard been disturbed. A thorough search
through the house revealed nothing missing. Various gold bracelets and
watches lay in plain sight on dressers, and Hinpoha’s gold mesh bag hung
on the back of a chair beside her bed. Sherry reported no money gone.

Nothing stolen! Who had entered the house then, if not a burglar? The
thing had resolved itself into a mystery, and everyone looked at his
neighbor with puzzled eyes. Breakfast was completely forgotten.

“What gets me,” said Sherry, “is where those footprints started from. By
the way they point, the man was going downstairs, but they begin in the
middle of the stairway. Clearly he didn’t start at the top. Do you
suppose he came in through the landing window?”

He examined the triple window on the landing closely, but soon looked
around with a puzzled expression on his face.

“The windows are all fastened from the inside,” he reported, “and there’s
no sign of their having been tampered with. It doesn’t look as though
anyone could have come in this way.” He examined all the rest of the
windows on the first floor, and found them all latched and their latches
undisturbed. The doors, too, were locked from the inside. The cellar
windows had a heavy screening over them on the outside which could not be
removed without being destroyed, and this screening was everywhere
intact.

“He must have come in through one of the upstairs windows after all,”
said Nyoda. “There were about a dozen open in the various bedrooms. The
window in the room Hinpoha and Gladys sleep in is directly over the front
porch.”

Hinpoha and Gladys gave a simultaneous shriek at the thought of the
mysterious intruder coming through their room while they lay sleeping.

“But if he came down from upstairs, why aren’t the footprints _all_ the
way down, instead of beginning in the middle?” insisted Katherine. “He
_couldn’t_ have come down from upstairs; he _must_ have come in through
this window on the landing,” she said decidedly, going up to the window
and looking it over sharply for any sign of having been opened, and, by
shaking the wooden framework of the little square panes vigorously, as if
she would shake the truth out of it by force.

The window, however, still yielded no sign of having been opened, and the
sill outside bore no marks of an instrument. The mystery grew deeper. How
could those footprints have started under the landing window if the feet
that made them did not enter by that window?

“Maybe he did come from upstairs after all,” said Sahwah, whose lively
brain had been working hard on the puzzle, “but his foot didn’t begin to
bleed until he was half way down. Maybe he hurt it on the landing.”

“Sat down to trim his toe-nails and cut his toe off, probably,” suggested
Justice, and the girls giggled hysterically.

Striking an attitude in imitation of a story book detective, Justice
began to address the group. “Gentlemen of the jury,” he began, “we have
here a mystery which has baffled the brightest minds in the country, but
unraveling it has been the merest child’s play to a great detective like
myself. Here are the facts in the case. A man goes down a stairway. The
first half of his descent is shrouded in oblivion; half way down he
begins to leave bloody footprints. There is only one answer, gentlemen;
the one which occurred to me immediately. It is this: Upon reaching the
landing the mysterious descender suddenly remembers that it is the day on
which he annually trims his toe-nails. Being a very methodical man, as I
can detect by the way his feet point when he goes downstairs, he sits
down and does it then and there. But the knife slips and he cuts off his
toe, after which he makes bloody footprints on the rest of the stairs.”

“Justice Dalrymple, you awful boy!” exclaimed Katherine, and then she
laughed with the rest at his absurd explanation of the mystery.

“Well, can you think up any argument that disproves my theory?” he
retorted calmly.

“I can,” replied the Captain. “If your theory was correct we’d have found
the toe lying on the stairs.”

The girls shrieked and covered their ears with their hands. The Captain
chuckled wickedly, but said no more.

“I can think up another argument,” said Sahwah. “Your man went barefoot
after he cut his toe off, but this one had his shoe on.”

“So he did!” admitted Justice. “Now you’ve ‘done upsot my whole theory!’”

“But how could his foot bleed through his shoe?” asked Katherine
skeptically.

“The sole must have been cut through,” said Justice. “He probably wore a
rubber-soled shoe, like a sneaker, and stepped on some broken glass that
went right through the sole into his foot. I did the same thing myself
once. It bled through, all right.”

“But what did he step on?” asked Nyoda, puzzled. “There isn’t any sign of
broken glass around.”

“I give it up,” said Sherry, who could make nothing from the facts before
him and had no imagination to help him supply missing details. “The man
undoubtedly got in through the upstairs window and out the same way. He
was a burglar, only he got scared away before he could steal anything.
Some noise in the house, probably.”

“He must have heard Slim snoring, and thought it was a bombing plane
coming after him,” said Justice, and then dodged nimbly as Slim made a
pass at his head with a menacing hand.

“Whatever he did to his foot fixed him,” said Sherry. “He called it a day
when that happened and went off without making a haul. Probably had a pal
outside in a machine.”

“Nyoda,” said Sahwah, struck with a sudden thought, “do you think it
could have been Hercules? He might have come in for something in the
night.”

“Of course!” exclaimed Nyoda. “Why didn’t I think of that before?
Hercules has a key to the back door. How idiotic of me not to have
guessed before that it was Hercules. Here we stand looking at these
footprints like Robinson Crusoe looking at Friday’s, and talking about
burglars, and wracking our brains wondering where he came in, and it must
have been Hercules all the while. He cut his foot and came in to get
something for it, or he came in to get something more for his cold and
cut his foot after he got in. Poor old Hercules! He wouldn’t even wake us
up to get help. I’ll go right out and find out what happened to him.”

She started for the back door, but before she had reached the kitchen
there was a stamping of feet on the back doorstep, a tapping on the door,
and then Hercules opened it himself and came in, as was his custom.

“Mawnin’, Mis’ ’Lizbeth,” he quavered genially, smiling a broad,
toothless smile at the sight of her. “Mighty nippy dis mawnin’.” He
shivered and stamped his feet on the floor, edging over toward the stove.

Nyoda looked down at his feet hastily and instantly realized that it was
not he who had left the print on the stairs. The loose, flapping felt
slippers which Hercules invariably wore, bursting out on all sides, would
have left a mark twice the size of the mysterious footprints. Nobody knew
just how big Hercules’ feet were. He owned to wearing a size twelve, at
which Sherry openly scoffed.

“I’ll bet a size fifteen could hurt him,” he declared.

The rest also saw at a glance that there was no possibility of Hercules
having made the footprints.

Hercules, unconscious of the charged atmosphere of the house, looked
around for the breakfast which should be set out for him on the end of
the kitchen table at this hour.

“You-all overslep’?” he inquired good-temperedly of Nyoda.

“No, we didn’t,” replied Nyoda. “We’ve had a little excitement this
morning and forgot all about breakfast. Somebody got into the house last
night.”

“Burglars?” asked Hercules anxiously. “Did anything get stole?”

“No,” replied Nyoda, “nothing was stolen, but the burglar left some
bloody footprints on the stair runner. We thought at first it might have
been you, coming to get something for your cold, but I see now that it is
impossible for you to have left the footprints. You didn’t come into the
house last night, did you?” she finished.

“No’m,” answered Hercules with simple directness. “I done slep’ like a
top, Miss’ ’Lizbeth. Took dat hot drink you-all gave me to take, an’
never woke up till de sun starts shinin’ dis mawnin’. Feelin’ better now.
Cold gittin’ well. Feelin’ mighty hungry.” His eye traveled speculatively
toward the stove.

There was absolutely no doubt about his telling the truth. When Hercules
was trying to conceal something his language was much more eloquent and
flowery.

“Your breakfast will be ready before long,” said Nyoda kindly. Then, as
Hercules hobbled toward the stove she asked solicitously, “Have you a
sore foot, Hercules?”

“No’m,” replied Hercules, “but the mizry in my knees is powerful bad dis
mawnin’, Mis’ ’Lizbeth. Seems like my old jints is gittin’ plumb rusted.”
He launched into a detailed description of the various pains caused by
his “mizry,” until Nyoda sought refuge in the front part of the house.
She had heard the tale many times before.

Pretty soon Hercules hobbled in and took a look at the footprints on the
stairs.

“Powerful sing’ler,” he said, scratching his head in a puzzled way.

Sherry went on to explain all the details for the old man’s benefit. “We
thought at first he must have come in through the window on the stair
landing, but that hadn’t been touched, so we decided he must have come in
through one of the upstairs windows. It seems queer, though, that the
footprints should have begun under the stair landing, doesn’t it?”

“What’s the matter, Hercules, are you sick?” asked Nyoda, looking at the
old man in alarm. For Hercules’ eyes were rolling wildly in his head and
his legs threatened to collapse under him. He sat heavily down on a chair
and began to rock to and fro, muttering to himself in a terrified way.
Straining their ears to catch his words, they heard him say:

“Debbil’s a-comin’, debbil’s a-comin’, debbil’s a-comin’ after old
Herc’les for takin’ dat shutter down. Debbil done lef’ his footprint fer
a warnin’ fer old Herc’les.”

He seemed beside himself with fright. Nyoda and Sherry looked at each
other in perplexity.

“What’s the matter with him?” asked Nyoda, in a tone of concern.

“Superstitious,” replied Sherry reassuringly. “Most negroes believe the
devil is walking around on two legs, waiting to grab them from behind
every fence. You remember Uncle Jasper mentioned in his diary that he
told Jasper if he ever took that shutter down the devil would come in
through the window and get him. Now he thinks it’s happened. Don’t be
alarmed at him. Get him his breakfast, and that’ll give him something
else to think about.”

The Winnebagos hastened to set out his breakfast on the table, but he ate
scarcely anything, and still trembled when he went back to his rooms in
the coach house.

“Funny old codger!” commented Sherry, looking after him. “He’s chuck full
of superstition. If he throws many more such fits, I suppose I’ll have to
nail up the old shutter again to keep him from dying of fright.”

“You’ll do no such thing!” replied Nyoda. “I’ll have no more holes in
that casement. Hercules will be all right again in a day or two. By that
time he’ll have a new bogie.

“Now everybody come to breakfast, and forget all about this miserable
business.”



                               CHAPTER IX
                       THE TRIALS OF AN EXPLORER


“Oh, tell me again about the time you went camping, and the people
thought you were drowning,” begged Sylvia.

Hinpoha drew up a footstool under her feet, and sank back into a
cushioned chair with a long sigh of contentment. All day long she had
been helping the others search for the secret passage, upstairs and
downstairs, and back upstairs again, until she dropped, panting and
exhausted, into a chair beside Sylvia in the library and declared she
couldn’t stand up another minute. The others never thought of stopping.

“But you aren’t fat,” she retorted when Sahwah protested against her
dropping out. “You can run up and downstairs like a spider; no wonder you
aren’t tired. I’m completely inside.”

“You’re what?”

“Completely inside. Classical English for ‘all in.’ ‘All in’ is slang,
and we can’t use slang in Nyoda’s house, you know.”

Sahwah snorted and returned to the search, which was now centered in
Uncle Jasper’s study.

“Now tell me about your getting rescued,” said Sylvia.

“We were spending the week-end at Sylvan Lake,” recounted Hinpoha, “and
there were campers all around. Sahwah and I wanted to get an honor for
upsetting a canoe and righting it again, so we put on our skirts and
middies over our bathing suits and paddled out into deep water. Nyoda was
watching us from the shore. We were going to take the complete test—upset
the canoe, undress in deep water, right the canoe and paddle back to
shore. We got out where the water was over our heads and upset the canoe
with a fine splash. We were just coming up and beginning to pull off our
middies, when we heard a yell from the shore. Two young men from one of
the cottages were tearing down to the beach like mad, throwing their
coats into space as they ran.

“‘Hold on, girls, we’ll save you,’ they shouted across the water, and
jumped in and swam out toward us.

“‘O look what’s coming!’ giggled Sahwah.

“‘Oh, won’t they be surprised when they see us right the canoe!’ I
sputtered as well as I could for laughing. ‘Come on, hurry up!’

“‘What a shame to spoil their chance of being heroes,’ said Sahwah. ‘They
may never have another chance. Let’s let them tow us in.’ Sahwah went
down under water and did dead man’s float and it looked as though she had
gone under. I followed her. But I laughed right out loud under water and
made the bubbles go up in a spout and had to go up for air. The two
fellows were almost up to us. Sahwah threw up her hand and waved it
wildly, and I began to laugh again.

“‘Keep still and be saved like a lady!’ Sahwah hissed, and I straightened
out my face just in time. The two fellows took hold of us and towed us to
shore. People were lined up all along, watching, and they cheered and
made a big fuss over those two fellows. We could see Nyoda and Migwan and
Gladys running away with their handkerchiefs stuffed into their mouths.
We lay on the beach awhile, looking awfully limp and scared and after a
while we let somebody help us to our cottage, and you should have heard
the hilarity after we were alone! We laughed for two hours without
stopping. Nyoda insisted that we go and express our grateful thanks to
the two young men for saving our lives, and we managed to keep our faces
straight long enough to do it, but the strain was awful.”

“Oh, what fun!” cried Sylvia, laughing until the tears came, and then
with an irresistible burst of longing she exclaimed, “Oh, if I could only
do things like other girls!”

“You _are_ going to do things like other girls!” said Hinpoha in the tone
of one who knows a delightful secret. “You’re going to walk again; Nyoda
said the doctor said so.”

Sylvia’s face went dead white for an instant, and then lighted up with
that wonderful inner radiance that made her seem like a glowing lamp.

“Am I?” she gasped faintly, catching hold of Hinpoha’s arm with tense
fingers.

“You certainly are,” said Hinpoha, in a convincing tone. “Nyoda said you
could be cured. The specialist is coming in a day or two to arrange the
operation. O dear, now I’ve told it!” she exclaimed. “We were going to
save it for a birthday surprise.”

“Oh-h-h-h!” breathed Sylvia, and sank back in her chair unable to say
another word. Her eyes burned like stars. To walk again! Not to be a
burden to Aunt Aggie! The sudden joy that surged through her nearly
suffocated her. To walk! Perhaps to dance! The desire to dance had always
been so strong in her that it sometimes seemed to her that she must die
if she couldn’t dance. All the joy that was coming to her whirled before
her eyes in a wild kaleidoscope of shifting images.

“Then I can be a Camp Fire Girl!”

“You’re going to be a Winnebago!”

“Oh-h-h!”

“You can go camping with us!”

“Oh-h-h!”

“You will be a singer, and go on the stage, maybe!”

“Oh-h-h-h-h-h!”

“Maybe you’ll even——” Hinpoha’s sentence was suddenly interrupted by a
mighty uproar from the basement. First came a crash that rocked the
house, followed by a series of lesser thumps and crashes, mingled with
the racket of breaking glass. The Winnebagos, rushing out into the hall
from Uncle Jasper’s study, were brushed aside by Sherry and Justice and
the Captain, tearing down the attic stairs. Sherry snatched up his
revolver from his dresser and went down the stairs three at a time, with
the boys close at his heels.

“The burglars are in the basement!” came from the frightened lips of the
girls as they crept fearfully down the stairs. All felt that the mystery
of the footprints on the stairs was about to be cleared up.

Sherry opened the cellar door and paused at the top. “Who’s down there?”
he called, in a voice of thunder.

From somewhere below came a dismal wail. “Throw me a plank, somebody, I’m
drowning. There’s a tidal wave down here!”

“It’s Slim!” cried Nyoda, recognizing his voice. “What’s the matter?” she
called.

She and Sherry raced down the cellar stairs, with the Winnebagos and the
two boys streaming after.

They found Slim lying on the floor of the fruit cellar, nearly drowned in
a pool of vinegar which was gushing over him from the wreck of a
two-hundred-gallon barrel lying beside him. Around him and on top of him
lay the debris of a shelf of canned fruit.

Sherry and the boys rescued him and finally succeeded in convincing him
that he was not fatally injured. The stream of vinegar was diverted into
a nearby drain, and Slim told his tale of woe.

He had been down in the cellar looking for the secret passage. There was
a place in the stone wall that sounded hollow when he struck it with a
hammer, and he went around to see what was on the other side of that
wall. It was the fruit cellar. While he was poking around in it a big
stone suddenly fell down out of the wall and smashed in the head of the
barrel, which tipped over almost on top of him, and nearly drowned him in
vinegar, while the jars of fruit came down all around him.

“That loose stone in the wall!” exclaimed Sherry. “I forgot to warn you
boys about it when you were sounding the walls with hammers. It’s a
mighty good thing it fell on the barrel and not on you.”

He and Nyoda turned cold at the thought of what might have happened.

But the sight of Slim, dripping with vinegar and covered with canned
peaches, drove all thoughts of tragedy out of their minds, and the cellar
resounded with peals of helpless laughter for the next twenty minutes.
Justice tried to sweep up the broken glass, but sank weakly into a bin of
potatoes and went from one convulsion into another, until the Captain
finally poured a dipper of water over him to calm him down.

“O dear,” gasped Justice, mopping his face with the end of a potato bag,
“if Uncle Jasper could only have seen what he started with that diary of
his, it would have jolted him clean out of his melancholy!”



                               CHAPTER X
                           THE SECRET PASSAGE


“Oh, tell Aunt Aggie I think the Winter Palace is the most wonderful
place in the whole world!” cried Sylvia enthusiastically. “Tell her that
the ladies-in-waiting are the dearest that ever lived, and the three
court jesters are the funniest. Tell her I’m so happy I feel as though I
were going to burst! And be _sure_ and tell her that I’m going to get
well!”

Sylvia had not been able to conceal her rapture for a minute after
Hinpoha had told her the news the day before. They all knew she knew it,
and when they saw her rapture they did not scold Hinpoha for letting the
cat out of the bag before the time set. To have given her those two extra
days of happiness was worth the sacrifice of their surprise. All morning
she had filled the house with her song and chattered happily of the time
when she would go camping with the Winnebagos.

“We’ve made more plans than we can carry out in a hundred years!” she
told Nyoda gleefully. “Oh, _please_ live that long, so you can help us do
all we’ve planned.” Nyoda smiled back into the starry eyes, and promised
faithfully to live forever, if need be, to accommodate her.

“I’ll give Aunt Aggie all your messages,” she said now, stopping in the
act of drawing on her gloves to pat the shining head.

“You’re _so_ good to go and see Aunt Aggie!”

Nyoda patted her on the head again and then started cityward with her big
box of delicacies for Mrs. Deane. With her went Migwan and Gladys and
Hinpoha, who wanted to do some shopping in the city.

Sahwah and Katherine refused to give up their search for the passage even
for one afternoon. Sahwah had an idea that possibly there was a secret
door in the back of one of the built-in bookcases in the library, and had
Nyoda’s permission to take out all the books and look. Justice and Slim
and the Captain had promised to help take out the books. Sylvia was
wheeled into the library where she could watch the proceedings, and the
work of removing the books began. Sherry looked on for a while and then
went out to tinker with the car.

Section by section they took the books from the cases and examined the
wall behind them, but it was apparently solid. Sahwah and the Captain
worked faithfully, taking out the books and replacing them, but Katherine
would stop to read, and Slim soon fell asleep with his head against the
seat of a chair. Justice spied Slim after a while and began to throw
magazines at him. Slim wakened with an indignant grunt and returned the
volley and then the two engaged in a good-natured wrestling bout.

“I know a new trick,” said Justice. “It’s for handling a fellow twice
your size. A Japanese fellow down in Washington taught it to me. Let me
practice it on you, will you? You’re the first one I’ve seen since I
learned it who was so much heavier than I.”

Slim consented amiably enough and Justice proceeded with a series of
operations that rolled his big antagonist around on the floor like a meal
sack.

“Don’t make so much noise, boys!” commanded Katherine, putting a warning
finger to her lips. “Don’t you see that Sylvia has fallen asleep? Go on
out into the hall and do your wrestling tricks out there.”

Slim and Justice removed themselves to the hall and continued their
wrestling, and the Captain abandoned the books to watch them and cheer
them on.

“Bet you can’t back him all the way up the stairway!” said the Captain,
as Justice forced Slim up the first step.

“Bet I can!” replied Justice, and then began a terrific struggle, science
against bulk. Slim fought every inch of the way, but, nevertheless, went
up steadily, step by step. Sahwah and Katherine, drawn by the Captain’s
admiring exclamations at Justice’s feat, also abandoned the books and
came out to watch.

Justice got Slim as far as the landing, and there Slim got his arms wound
around the stair post and anchored himself effectively. One step above
the landing was as far as Justice could get him. Justice leaned over him
and tried another trick to break his grip on the post and the two were
see-sawing back and forth when suddenly the Captain gave a yell that made
Justice loosen his hold on Slim and ask in a scared voice, “What’s the
matter?”

“The landing!” gasped the Captain. “Look at the landing!”

Justice looked, and the others looked, and they all stood speechless with
amazement, for the stair landing was doing something that they had never
in all their born days seen a stair landing do before. It was sliding out
of its place, sliding out over the bottom flight of stairs as smoothly
and silently as though on oiled wheels. The five stood still and blinked
stupidly at the phenomenon, unable to believe their eyes. The landing
came out until there was a gap of about two feet between it and the wall,
and then noiselessly came to a stop. In the opening thus made they could
see the top of an iron ladder set upright against the wall below.

Sahwah rallied her stunned senses first. “The secret passage!” she cried
triumphantly.

“Daggers and dirks!” exclaimed the Captain.

“What made it open up?” asked Katherine curiously. “Where is the spring
that works it?”

Justice and the Captain shook their heads.

“The post!” exclaimed Slim, mopping the perspiration from his brow. “I
was pulling at it for dear life when all of a sudden something clicked
inside of it. Then the Captain yelled that the stair landing was coming
out. The spring that works it is in the landing post!”

Slim reached out and tugged away at the post again, but nothing happened.
Then he got hold of the carved head and began to twist it and it turned
under his hands. There was a click, faint, but audible to the eagerly
listening ears, and the landing began to slide smoothly back into place.
In a moment the opening was closed, and the landing was apparently a
solid piece of carpentry.

“Whoever invented that was a genius!” exclaimed Justice in admiration.
“And all the while we were trying to find a secret passage through the
walls by tapping on the panels! If it hadn’t been for Slim we could have
spent all the rest of our lives looking for it and never would have found
it, for we never in all the wide world would have thought of twisting the
head of that stair post. Slim, you weren’t born in vain after all.”

“See if you can make it open up again,” said Sahwah.

Slim twisted the head of the post, and presently there came the now
familiar click and the floor slid out with uncanny quietness.

“Let’s go down!” said the Captain, going to the edge of the opening and
looking in.

“What’s down there?” asked Katherine.

“Nothing but space,” replied the Captain, straining his eyes to peer into
the darkness, “at least that’s all I can see from here. Give me your
flashlight, Slim, I’m going down.”

Slim handed him his pocket flash and the Captain began to descend the
ladder. He counted twelve rungs before he felt solid footing under him.
He found himself in a tiny room about six feet square, whose walls and
floor were of stone. The top was open to allow the passage of the ladder.
The Captain figured out that he was standing level with the floor of the
basement and that the space above the opening at the top of the little
room was the space under the stairway. There was a door in the outside
wall, next to the ladder.

“What’s down there?” asked Sahwah from above.

“Just a little place with a door in it,” replied the Captain, retracing
his steps up the ladder.

“The passage isn’t inside the house at all,” he reported when he reached
the top. “It’s _outside_. There’s a door down there that probably opens
into it. I’m going to get my coat and see where the passage leads to.”

“We’ll all go with you,” said Sahwah, and it was she who went down the
ladder first when the expedition started.

The Captain came next, carrying a lantern he had found in the kitchen. At
the bottom of the ladder he lit the lantern. The first thing its light
fell upon was a broken glass jar, lying in a corner, and from it there
extended across the floor a bright red stream. Sahwah recoiled when she
saw it, but the Captain stooped over and streaked his finger through it.

“Paint!” he exclaimed. “Red paint.”

“Oh!” said Sahwah. “It looked just like blood. Why—that’s what must have
made the footprints on the stairs! The man must have stepped in this
paint! He came in through this passage!”

The other three had come down by that time, and they all looked at each
other in dumb astonishment. How clear it all was now! The footprints
beginning under the stair landing—the mystery connected with the entrance
of the intruder—they all fitted together perfectly.

“The paint’s still sticky,” said the Captain, examining his finger, which
had a bright red daub on the end. “It must have been spilled there quite
recently.”

“The burglar must have spilled it himself,” said Katherine.

“But how on earth would a burglar know about this secret entrance?”
marveled Sahwah.

The others were not prepared to answer.

“Maybe Hercules told somebody,” said Justice.

“But Hercules doesn’t seem to know about it himself,” said Katherine.

“He _says_ he doesn’t, but I’ll bet he does, just the same,” said
Justice.

“Hercules wouldn’t tell any burglar about this way of getting into the
house!” Sahwah defended stoutly. “He’s as true as steel. If anybody told
the burglar it was somebody beside Hercules.”

“Maybe the burglar discovered the other end of the passage himself, by
accident, just as we did this end,” said Slim.

“Come on,” said the Captain impatiently, “let’s go and see where that
other end is.”

“Wait a minute, what’s this,” said Justice, spying a long rope of twisted
copper wire hanging down close beside the ladder. This rope came through
the opening above them; that was as far as their eyes could follow it.
Its beginning was somewhere up in the space under the stairs.

“Pull it and see what happens,” said Slim.

“I bet it works the slide opening from below here,” said Justice. He gave
it a vigorous pull and they heard the same click that had followed the
twisting of the stair post. In a moment the light that had come down
through the opening vanished, and they knew that the landing had gone
back into position. Another pull at the rope and it opened up again.

“Pretty slick,” commented Justice. “It works two ways, both coming and
going. A fellow on the inside could get out, and a fellow on the outside
could get in, without the people in the house knowing anything about it.”

“Are you coming now?” asked the Captain. “I’m going to start.”

He opened the door in the outer wall as he spoke. It swung inward,
crowding them in the narrow space in which they stood. A rush of cold air
greeted them. The Captain held the lantern in front of him and peered out
into the darkness.

“There are some steps down,” he said.

He stepped over the threshold and led the way. Six steps down brought
them to the floor of a rock-lined passage, a natural tunnel through the
hill.

“Carver Hill must be a regular stone quarry,” said Justice. “All the
cellar walls of Carver House are made of slabs of stone like this, and so
is the foundation.”

“There are big stones cropping out all over the hill,” said the Captain.
“It’s a regular granite monument. What a jolly tunnel this is!”

“And what a gorgeous way of escape!” remarked Justice admiringly.

“But what need would there be of an underground way of escape?” asked
Katherine wonderingly. “What were the people escaping from?”

“This house was built in the days of the Colonies,” replied Justice
sagely, “and the Carvers were patriots. That probably put them in a
pretty tight position once in a while. No doubt they concealed American
soldiers in their home at times. This passage was probably built as a
means of entrance and escape when things got too hot up above. British
troops may have been quartered in the house, or watching the outside.
What a peach of a way this was to evade them!” he exclaimed in a burst of
admiration.

“I wish I’d lived in those times,” he went on, with envy in his tone.
“They didn’t keep fellows out of the army on account of their throats
then. What fun a soldier must have had, getting in and out of this house,
right under the nose of the British! Suppose they suspected he was in the
house and came in to search for him? He’d just turn the post on the
stairs, and click! the landing would slide open and down the ladder he’d
go and out through this passage. The enemy would never discover where he
went in a million years.”

“Come on, let’s see where this passage comes out,” urged the Captain, and
started ahead with the lantern.

The passage sloped steeply downward, with frequent turns and twists.

“We’re going down the hill,” said the Captain.

“Whoever heard of going down the _inside_ of a hill,” said Sahwah.

“It’s like going through that passage under Niagara Falls,” said Slim,
“only it’s not quite so wet.”

After another sharp turn and a steep drop they came out in a good-sized
chamber whose walls, floor and ceiling were all of rock.

“It’s a cave!” shouted the Captain, and his voice echoed and re-echoed
weirdly, until the place seemed to be filled with dozens of voices. A
cold draught played upon them from somewhere, and, although they all had
on sweaters and caps, they shivered in the chilly atmosphere. There was
no glimmer of light anywhere to indicate an opening to the outside.

The light of the lantern fell upon a wooden bench and a rough table, both
painted bright red. On the table stood two tall bottles, thickly covered
with dust, and between them was a grinning human skull with two cross
bones behind it. Katherine and Sahwah involuntarily jumped and shrieked
when they saw it.

“Somebody died down here!” gasped Sahwah.

“Nonsense!” said Justice. “It was Uncle Jasper playing pirate. See,
there’s his chest over there.”

Against the rocky wall stood a large wooden chest, likewise painted
bright red, with a huge black skull and cross bones done on its lid.

“That must be Uncle Jasper’s ‘Dead Man’s Chest,’ that he mentions in his
diary,” said Sahwah. “Of course, this is the pirates’ den where he and
Tad played.”

The five looked around them with interest at this playroom of the two
boys of long ago, its treasures living on after they were both dead and
gone. Truly the den was a place to inspire terror in the heart of a
luckless captive. Skulls and cross bones were painted all over the rocky
walls, grinning reflections of the one on the table. Sahwah and Katherine
clung to each other and peered nervously over each other’s shoulders into
the darkness beyond the radius of the lantern light.

“What a peach of a pirate’s cave!” exclaimed the Captain
enthusiastically. “Captain Kidd himself couldn’t have had a better one.
It seems as if any minute we’ll hear a voice muttering, ‘Pieces of eight,
pieces of eight.’” He picked up one of the bottles from the table and set
it down again with a resounding bang.

  “‘Fifteen men on a dead man’s chest,
  Yo! ho! ho! And a bottle of rum!’”

he shouted in a fierce voice which the echoes gave back from all around.
“This must have been the life!”

“Those must have been the bottles from which they drank the molasses and
water that they used for rum,” said Katherine. “What fun it must have
been!”

“I wish I’d known Uncle Jasper Carver when he was a boy,” sighed the
Captain. “He must have been no end of a chap, and Tad, too.”

“Let’s have a look at what’s in the chest,” said Justice.

He raised up the heavy oak lid and the Captain held the lantern down
while they all crowded around to see. One by one he lifted out the
pirates’ treasures and held them up; wooden swords, several tomahawks, a
white flag with a skull and cross bones done on it in India ink, a
stuffed alligator, a ship’s compass, a section of a hawser, a heavy iron
chain, deeply rusted, a pocket telescope, a brass dagger, a pair of bows
and a number of real flint-headed arrows, and a box of loose arrow heads
which the Captain seized eagerly.

“Glory! what wouldn’t I have given for a bunch of real Indian arrow heads
when I was a kid,” he said enviously.

“They look like Delawares,” said Justice knowingly, pawing them over.

“How can you tell?” asked the Captain.

Justice explained the characteristics of the dreaded weapon of the
Lenni-Lenape.

Slim and the Captain could not dispute him because they didn’t know
anything about arrow heads, so they listened to him in respectful
silence.

“They must have had fun, those two,” sighed the Captain enviously. “I
thought _I_ had fun when I was a kid, but Uncle Jasper Carver had it all
over me with this cave and secret passage of his.”

Slim and Justice echoed his envious sigh. In their minds’ eye they too
had traveled back with Uncle Jasper to his lively boyhood and saw a
panorama of delightful plays passing in review, with the secret passage
and the pirate’s cave as the background.

The last thing that came out of the chest was a flat stone on which had
been carved the names “Jasper the Feend” and “Tad the Terror,” bracketed
together at both ends and surmounted by a wobbly skull and cross bones,
under which was carved the legend, “Frends til Deth.” When Sahwah saw it
she could not keep back the tears at the thought of this wonderful boyish
friendship which had endured through thick and thin, and then had ended
so bitterly. To Sahwah the breaking up of a friendship was the most awful
thing that could happen. There were tears in Katherine’s eyes, too, and
the three boys looked very solemn as the stone was laid back in the
chest.

“Now let’s go and see where the passage leads on to,” said the Captain,
when the treasures of the two youthful pirates had been replaced in the
chest. At a point opposite to the passage by which they had entered the
cave another passage opened, or rather, a continuation of the first one,
for the cave was merely a widening out of this subterranean tunnel.

“This way out,” said the Captain, lighting the way with his lantern.

“Why, there’s a door here!” exclaimed the Captain, when they had gone
some thirty or forty feet into the passage.

The door was just like the one beside the ladder in Carver House;
tremendously heavy, bound in brass and studded thickly with nails. It had
been painted over with bright red paint, but here and there the paint had
chipped off, showing the metal underneath. It was set into a doorway of
brick and mortar. Over the knob was a curious latch, the like of which
they had never seen. To their joy it snapped back without great
difficulty and they got the door open.

Several stone steps down, and then they saw they were in a cellar
passage.

“The passage comes out in another house!” said the Captain. “I wonder
whose?”

“It must be that old empty brick cottage that stands at the foot of the
hill,” said Sahwah, who knew the lay of the land from the previous
summer. “We often used to poke around in it and wonder who had lived in
it. In the old days it must have been a place of safety for the American
soldiers. It’s at the back of the hill, toward the woods. The soldiers
probably escaped through the woods.”

“Let’s go on into the cellar proper and up into the house,” said the
Captain, eager to continue his exploration.

But what he proposed was impossible, for they discovered that the end of
the passage was blocked by a huge stone that had fallen out of the wall.
It filled up the space from the floor to the low ceiling, all but a few
inches at the top and a few inches at the one side, where an irregularity
in its contour did not fit against the straight side of the wall. A very
faint light from the cellar showed through these crevices, and a cold
draught of air played like a thin stream down the backs of their necks.

“There doesn’t seem to be any way of getting out around that rock,” said
the Captain. “Can you see any way?”

They all looked diligently for some way to get over, or around it, or
through it, and soon admitted that it was impossible.

“How on earth did that fellow ever get in from this end?” asked Justice
in perplexity. “There isn’t a ghost of a show of getting through.”

“He _couldn’t_ have,” said Katherine decidedly, “unless he really _was_
the devil, as Hercules believed.”

“Or unless the stone fell after he was in,” suggested the Captain.

“But if he came in this way and went out again, how does it happen that
the door here was fastened on the other side?” asked Sahwah.

“I give it up,” said Justice. “I don’t believe he came in this way.”

“Maybe he didn’t come in through the secret passage at all,” said Slim.
“Maybe he _did_ come in through the upstairs window, as we thought at
first.”

“But how about the paint?” objected Sahwah. “He stepped into it and
tracked it down the stairway. He _must_ have come in through this way.”

Just then Katherine reached up to brush her hair out of her eyes, and her
cold hand brushed Slim’s neck. He jumped convulsively, lost his footing,
and pitched over against the door, which went shut with a bang. He was up
again immediately, and stretched out his hand to open the door, but it
resisted his attempt.

“I guess she’s stuck,” he remarked. Justice and the Captain both lent a
hand, but not a bit would the door budge. They gave it up after a few
minutes, and stared at each other in perplexity.

“The door’s locked!” said Justice in a voice of consternation.

“The lock must have snapped over from the jar when the door banged,” said
Sahwah.

“I don’t see how it could,” said Justice skeptically.

“Oh, yes, it could,” replied Sahwah. “The same thing happened to me once
with our back screen door at home. It slammed on my skirt one day, when I
was going out, and the latch latched itself, and there I was, caught like
a mouse in a trap. I couldn’t pull my skirt loose and I couldn’t unlatch
the door from the outside. There was nobody at home and I had to stand
there a long while before someone came and set me free. Latches _do_
latch themselves sometimes, and that’s what this one has done now!”

“Well, we’re caught like mice in a trap, too,” said Justice gloomily.
“With the passage blocked at this end, and the door locked, how are we
going to get out of here?”

“Break the door down,” suggested Sahwah.

“Easier said than done,” replied the Captain. “What are we going to break
it down with? You can’t knock down a door like that with your bare
hands.”

Nevertheless they tried it, pounding frantically with their fists, and
kicking the solid panel furiously.

“No use, we can’t break it down,” said Slim crossly, nursing his aching
hand. “My knuckles are smashed and my toes are smashed, but there’s never
a dent in the door. You’d think the old thing would be rotten down here
in this hole, but it’s so covered with paint that it’s waterproof. It
isn’t wet enough to rot it,” he finished unhappily, scowling at the piles
of dust at his feet.

“We’ll have to call until somebody hears us and comes down,” said Sahwah.

“Nobody’ll ever hear us down here,” said Justice. “We’re on the lonesome
side of the hill, remember!”

Nevertheless they did shout at the tops of their lungs, and called again
and again until their ears ached with the racket their voices made in the
closed-in little place, and their throats ached with the strain.

“_Nobody can hear us!_”

The disheartening realization came to them all at last.

“Do you suppose we’ll have to stay down here until we starve to death?”
asked Sahwah in an awe-stricken voice, after a terrified hush had reigned
for several minutes.

“We’ll freeze to death before we starve,” said Justice pessimistically,
shivering until his teeth chattered.

“Nonsense!” said Katherine severely. “We’ll get out somehow. Sherry and
Nyoda will find the stair landing open and will come after us,” she
finished, and the rest shouted aloud, so great was their relief at the
thought.

Then Justice struck them cold again with his next words. “No, they won’t
find it open, because I closed it several times, but I left it closed.
They’ll never find that spring in a million years.”

A groan of disappointment went up at his words and their hearts sank like
lead.

“We’ll get out somehow,” repeated Katherine determinedly, after a minute.
“We were shut up in a cave once before, and we got out all right.”

“Yes, but that time Slim and I were on the outside, not on the inside
_with_ you,” the Captain reminded her.

“Yes, and that time it wasn’t so cold,” said Sahwah, vainly trying to
stop shivering, “and we had eaten so many strawberries that we could have
lasted for days. I’m hungry already.”

“So’m I,” said Slim decidedly. “I’ve been hungry for an hour.”

“You’re always hungry,” said Justice impatiently. “I guess you’ll last as
long as the rest of us, though.”

“Stop talking about ‘lasting,’” said Katherine with a shudder of
something besides cold. “You give me the creeps.”

“If we only had something to break the door down with!” sighed Justice.
“It would take a battering ram, though,” he finished hopelessly.

“Too bad Hercules’ old goat isn’t down here with us,” said Sahwah with a
sudden reminiscent giggle. “He could have smashed the door down in no
time with his forehead.”

“But he _isn’t_ here, and we are,” remarked Slim gloomily.

“I wish now I’d waked Sylvia up and shown her the stair landing opening,”
sighed Katherine regretfully. “She was so sound asleep, though, I
couldn’t bear to waken her. If she only knew about it she could send
Sherry after us!” Oh, the tragedy bound up in that little word “if”!

Then to add to their troubles the lantern began to burn out with a series
of pale flashes, and Slim was so agitated about it that he dropped the
biggest electric flashlight on the floor and put it out of commission.
Katherine’s small pocket flash had burned out some time before. That left
only two small flashlights.

“Put them out,” directed Justice, “so they’ll last. We can flash them
when we need a light.”

It was much worse, being there in the darkness. Sahwah and Katherine
clung to each other convulsively and the boys instinctively moved nearer
together. Conversation dropped off after a while and it seemed as if the
silence of the tomb hovered over them. No sound came from any direction.

During another one of these silences, following a desperate outburst of
shouting, a sound burst through the uncanny stillness. It was a slight
sound, but to their strained nerves it was as startling as a cannon shot.
It was merely a faint pat, pat, pat, coming from somewhere. They could
not tell the direction, it was so far off.

“It’s footsteps!” said Sahwah, starting up wildly.

“No, it’s only water dropping,” said Justice, cupping his hand over his
ear in an attempt to locate the direction of the sound. “I wonder where
it can be.”

He flashed the light and looked for the dropping water, but failed to
find it. He turned the light out again. Then in the darkness the sound
seemed clearer than before—pat, pat, pat, pat.

“It’s getting louder,” said Katherine.

“It _is_ footsteps!” cried Sahwah positively. “They’re coming nearer!
Listen!”

The tapping noise increased until it became without a doubt the sound of
a footfall drawing nearer along the passage on the other side of the
cave.

“It’s Sherry looking for us; he’s found the passage!” shrieked Sahwah,
“or maybe it’s Hercules!”

“Yell, everybody!” commanded Justice, “and let him know where we are.”

They set up a perfectly ear-splitting shout, and as the echoes died away
they heard the snap of the lock on the other side of the door. Slim, who
was nearest, flung himself upon the door handle and in another instant
the door yielded under his hand and swung inward.

“Sherry!” they shouted, and crowded out into the passage, all talking at
once.

“Sherry! Sherry! Where are you?” Sahwah called, suddenly aware that no
one had answered them. Justice and the Captain sprang their flashlights
and looked about them in astonishment. There was no one in the passage
beside themselves.

Who had unfastened the latch and let them out?

Sahwah and Katherine suddenly gripped each other in terror, while the
cold chills ran down their spines. The same thought of a supernatural
agency had come into the mind of each. Then they both laughed at the
absurdity of it.

“It couldn’t have been a ghost,” declared Katherine flatly. “Ghosts don’t
make any noise when they walk.”

As fast as they could they ran back through the passage to the door in
the cellar wall, jerked the cable that opened the trap, and came out
through the landing just as Nyoda, arriving home, was taking off her furs
at the foot of the stairs. They never forgot her petrified expression
when she saw them coming up through the floor.

“We thought it must be nearly midnight!” said Sahwah in amazement, when
they found out that they had never even been missed. They had only been
gone from the house for two hours.

Sherry came in presently and was as dumbfounded as Nyoda when he saw the
opening in the landing and heard the tale of the Winnebagos and the boys.

“We thought you had found the passage and were coming to let us out,”
said Sahwah, “but it must have been Hercules, after all!”

“But Hercules was with me all afternoon, helping me overhaul the motor of
the car,” said Sherry. “I just left him now.”

“Then—who—unlocked the—door?” cried the five in a bewildered way.

“Thunder!” suddenly shouted Justice. “It was the same man that made the
footprints on the stairs! He got in through that secret passage, and
what’s more, he’s down there yet!”



                               CHAPTER XI
                         A CURE FOR RHEUMATISM


All wrought up over the idea of the strange midnight visitor still
lurking down in the passage, Nyoda made Sherry and the boys arm
themselves and search the tunnel and the cave thoroughly, but they found
no sign of anyone hidden down there.

“It must have been a ghost that unlatched the door, after all,” said
Justice. “Most likely the ghost of the fellow that put the latch on. He’s
probably detailed to look after all the latches he put on doors!—goes
around with the ghost of an oil can and keeps them from squeaking.
Yesterday must have been the date on his monthly tour of inspection. No,
it couldn’t have been a spook anyhow,” he contradicted himself. “There’s
the can of paint and the footprint on the stairs. Ghosts don’t leave
footprints. That was real paint. He’s a live spook, all right.”

“But where is he now?” asked Nyoda nervously. “I’m afraid to open a table
drawer, for fear he’ll step out. Does he fold up like an accordion, I
wonder, or turn into smoke like the Imp in the Bottle? I declare, I’m
getting curious to see him. I’m sorry now I made you barricade the door
down there beside the ladder; I’ve half a notion to sit on the stairs all
night and see if he won’t appear.”

“I know an easier way than that,” said Justice gravely. “Just grease the
stairs and then come when you hear him fall. It’ll save you the trouble
of sitting up.”

“You might recommend that method to the cat, instead of her watching
beside the mousehole,” replied Nyoda, laughing.

Then she heard a familiar fumbling at the back door. “Here comes
Hercules,” she said hastily. “Quick, close up the landing. Don’t anybody
mention finding the secret passage to him, or he’ll make life miserable
for me from now on, worrying for fear his old friend, the devil, will
come in and carry us all off. Come, get away from the stairway, and don’t
act as if anything unusual had happened.

“What is it, Hercules?” she asked, as the old man shuffled into the
kitchen. “Is your cold worse?”

“I was jest goin’ to ask yer could I have some coffee,” said the old man
in a plaintive voice. “I got the mizry so bad it’s jest tearin’ me ter
pieces, an’ when it gits like dat it don’ seem like anything’ll help it
’xcept drinkin’ hot coffee.”

Nyoda smiled at this novel cure for rheumatism, but she replied heartily,
“Why, certainly you may have some coffee, Hercules. Just sit down there
at the kitchen table and I’ll get you a cup. There’s some left in the
pot; it’ll only take a minute to warm it up.”

She heated the coffee and motioned Hercules to a seat at the kitchen
table, but he took the steaming cup and edged toward the door.

“I’ll jest take it out an’ drink it gradual,” he said. “Never seems ter
help de mizry none ’less I drink it gradual an’ keep my feet in hot water
de while. Tanks, Mist’ Sher’dan, I don’ need no help. I kin git along by
myself.”

Hercules shuffled out to the barn with his cup of hot coffee and Nyoda
waited until he was out of earshot before she laughed aloud.

“That man certainly is a character!” she exclaimed. “Whoever heard of
curing rheumatism by drinking coffee ‘gradual’ and holding your feet in
water? I never know what queer notion he’s going to have next. I put a
pot of bright red geraniums in his room once to brighten it up and he
promptly brought it back, because, ‘Jewraniums am powerful unlucky, Mis’
’Lizbeth. I was plantin’ jewraniums dat day de goat got killed.’ Poor old
Hercules, he does miss that goat so! He was simply inconsolable at first,
and finally I resigned myself to a life of misery and told him to go and
get himself another goat, but he wouldn’t do it. Nothing could take the
place of that fiendish old animal in his affections. I believe he’ll
mourn for him all the rest of his life.”

“Let’s invite him in for Sylvia’s birthday party to-morrow night,”
suggested Migwan. “That’ll cheer him up and make him forget all about his
‘mizry’ for a while. Let’s find a masquerade costume for him, too, so he
can be one of us.”

Nyoda smiled brightly at Migwan. “Thoughtful child!” she said fondly.
“Always thinking of someone else’s pleasure. Certainly we’ll ask Hercules
to the party.

“Now, all you menfolk clear out of this kitchen, or we won’t get any
dinner to-night!”



                              CHAPTER XII
                        THE SPIRIT OF A PRINCESS


“O Nyoda, it _can’t_ be true!”

Sahwah’s anguished wail cut across the stricken silence of the room.

The eminent surgeon had just made his examination of Sylvia and
pronounced the verdict that had sent all their rosy air castles tumbling
about their ears: “Nothing can be done. An operation would be useless. It
is not a case of a splintered vertebra which could be patched. The nerves
which control the limbs are paralyzed. She will never walk again.”

The last five words fell upon their ears like the tolling of a sorrowful
bell. “She will never walk again.” Stunned by the unexpected verdict the
Winnebagos stood mutely about Sylvia in anguished sympathy.

She lay motionless on the sofa, a white-faced, pitiful little ghost of a
princess; her glad animation gone, her radiance extinguished, her song
stricken upon her lips.

“O why did you tell me?” she wailed. “Why did you tell me I could be
cured, when I never can? Why didn’t you leave me as I was? I was happy
then, because I had never hoped to get well. But since you told me I’ve
been planning so——” Her voice broke off and she lay back in silent
misery.

“Now I can never be a Camp Fire Girl!” she cried a moment later, her
grief breaking out afresh. “I can never go camping! I can never help Aunt
Aggie!” All the joyful bubbles her fancy had blown in the last two days
burst one by one before her eyes, each stabbing her with a fresh pang.
“I’ll never be any use in the world; I wish I were dead!” she cried
wildly, her rising grief culminating in an outburst of black despair.

“Oh, yes, you can too be a Camp Fire Girl,” said Nyoda soothingly. “You
can do lots of things the other girls can do—and some they can’t. There
isn’t any part of the Law you can’t fulfill. You can Seek Beauty, and
Give Service, and Pursue Knowledge, and Be Trustworthy, and Hold on to
Health, and Glorify Work, and Be Happy! Campfire isn’t just a matter of
hikes and meetings. It’s a spirit that lives inside of you and makes life
one long series of Joyous Ventures. You can kindle the Torch in your
invalid’s chair as well as you could out in the big, busy world, and pass
it on to others.”

“How can I?” asked Sylvia wonderingly.

“In many ways,” answered Nyoda, “but chiefly by being happy yourself.
Even if you never did anything else but be happy, you would be doing a
useful piece of work in the world. Just sing as gayly as you used to, and
everyone who hears you will be brighter and happier for your song. If you
cannot do great deeds yourself, you may inspire others to do them. What
does it matter who does things, as long as they are done? If you have
encouraged someone else to do something big and fine, all on account of
your happy spirit, it is just as well as if you had done the thing
yourself. Did you ever hear the line,

  ‘All service ranks the same with God,’?

“Sylvia, dear, you have the power to make people glad with your song.
That is the way you will pass on the Torch. You already have your symbol;
you chose it when you began to hero-worship Sylvia Warrington, and loved
her because she was like a lark singing in the desert at dawning. That is
the symbol you have taken for yourself—the lark that sings in the desert.
Little Lark-that-sings-in-the-Desert, you will kindle the Torch with your
song! Instead of being a Guide Torchbearer, or a Torchbearer in
Craftsmanship, you will become a Torchbearer in Happiness!”

With these words of hope and encouragement Nyoda left her sorrowful
little princess to the quiet rest which she needed after the fatiguing
examination by the surgeon. Going into Hinpoha’s room she found her lying
face downward on the bed in an agony of remorse, her red curls tumbled
about her shoulders.

“I told her, I told her,” she cried out to Nyoda with burning
self-condemnation. “I couldn’t keep my mouth shut till the proper time; I
had to go and tell her two days ahead. If I’d only waited till we were
sure she would never have had her heart set on it so. Oh, I’ll never
forgive myself.” She beat on the pillow with her clenched fist and
writhed under the lash of her self scorn. For once she was not in tears;
her misery was far deeper than that. “I didn’t mean to tell her that day,
Nyoda, I knew you’d asked us to keep it a secret, but it just slipped out
before I thought.”

“Hinpoha, dear,” said Nyoda, sitting down on the bed beside her and
speaking seriously, “will it always be like this with you? Will
everything slip out ‘before you thought’? Will you never learn to think
before you speak? Will you be forever like a sieve? Must we always
hesitate to speak a private matter out in front of you, because we know
it will be all over the town an hour later? Are you going to be the only
one of the Winnebagos who can’t keep a secret?”

Hinpoha’s heart came near to breaking. Those were the severest words
Nyoda had ever spoken to her. Yet Nyoda did not say them severely. Her
tone was gentle, and her hand stroked the dishevelled red curls as she
spoke; but what she said pierced Hinpoha’s heart like a knife. A vision
of herself came up as she must seem to others—a rattle brained creature
who couldn’t keep anything to herself if her life depended upon it. How
the others must despise her! Now she despised herself! Above all, how
Nyoda must despise her—Nyoda, who always said the right thing at the
right time, and whose tongue never got her into trouble! Nyoda might have
nothing more to do with such a tattle tale! In her anguish she groaned
aloud.

“Don’t you see,” went on Nyoda earnestly, “what suffering you bring upon
yourself as well as upon other people by just not thinking? You could
escape all that if you acquired a little discretion.”

“Oh, I’ll never tell anything again!” Hinpoha cried vehemently. “I’ll
keep my lips tight shut, I’ll sew them shut. I won’t be like a sieve. You
can tell all the secrets in front of me you like, they’ll be safe. Oh,
don’t say you’ll never tell me any more secrets!” she said pleadingly.
“Just try me and see!”

“Certainly I’ll keep on telling you secrets,” said Nyoda, “because I
believe they really will be safe after this.” She saw the depth of woe
into which Hinpoha had been plunged and knew that the bitter experience
had taught her a lesson in discretion she would not soon forget. Poor
impulsive, short-sighted Hinpoha! How her tongue was forever tripping her
up, and what agonies of remorse she suffered afterward!

Hinpoha uncovered one eye and saw Nyoda looking at her with the same
loving, friendly glance as always, and cast herself impulsively upon her
shoulder. “You’ll see how discreet I can be!” she murmured humbly.

Nyoda smiled down at her and held her close for a minute.

“Listen!” she said. From the room where Sylvia lay there came the sound
of a song. It began falteringly at first and choked off several times,
but went bravely on, gaining in power, until the merry notes filled the
house. The indomitable little spirit had fought its battle with gloom and
come out victorious.

“The spirit of a princess!” Nyoda exclaimed admiringly. “Sylvia is of the
true blood royal; she knows that the thoroughbred never whimpers; it is
only the low born who cry out when hurt.”

“Gee, listen to that!” exclaimed Slim, sitting in the library with Sherry
and the other two boys, when Sylvia’s song rang through the house, brave
and clear. The four looked at each other, and the eyes of each held a
tribute for the brave little singer. Sherry stood up and saluted, as
though in the presence of a superior officer.

“She ought to have a Distinguished Valor Cross,” he said, “for
conspicuous bravery under fire.”

“Pluckiest little kid I ever saw!” declared Slim feelingly, and then blew
a violent blast on his nose.

“Sing a cheer!” called Sahwah, and the Winnebagos lined up in the hall
outside Sylvia’s door and sang to her with a vigor that made the windows
rattle:

  “Oh, Sylvia, here’s to you,
  Our hearts will e’er be true,
  We will never find your equal
  Though we search the whole world through!”



                              CHAPTER XIII
                             THE MASQUERADE


“I don’t suppose we’ll have the party now,” observed Gladys, after Sylvia
had fallen asleep. “It’s a shame. We were going to have such a big time
to-night.”

“Indeed, we _will_ have the party anyhow!” said Nyoda emphatically.
“We’ll outdo ourselves to make Sylvia have a hilarious time to-night. The
time to laugh the loudest is when you feel the saddest. Gladys, will you
engineer the candy making? You have your masquerade costume ready,
haven’t you? The rest of you will have to hurry to get yours fixed, it’s
three o’clock already. There are numerous chests of old clothes up in the
attic; you may take anything you like from them. And that reminds me, I
must go and bring out my old Navajo blanket for—” “Goodness!” she said,
stopping herself just in time, “I almost told who is going to wear it.
Now everybody be good and don’t ask me any questions. I have to bring it
down and air it before it can be worn because it’s packed away in
mothballs.”

She ran lightly up the stairs, chanting:

  “There was an old chief of the Navajo,
  Fell over the wigwam and broke his toe,
  And now he is gone where the good Injuns go,
  And his blanket is done up in cam-pho-o-or!”

She trailed out the last word into such a mournful wail that the
Winnebagos shrieked with laughter.

A few minutes later she came down the stairs with a mystified face. “The
blanket’s gone!” she announced. “Stolen. I had it in the lower drawer of
the linen closet off the hall upstairs, all wrapped up in tar paper. The
tar paper’s there in the drawer, folded up, with the mothballs lying on
top of it, and the blanket is gone. Did any of you take it out to wear
to-night?” she asked, looking relieved at the thought.

No one had taken it, however. Slim was the only one who wanted to be an
Indian, and he was waiting for Nyoda to fetch the blanket for him.
Without a doubt it had been stolen. So the midnight visitor had been a
thief after all! But why did he take a blanket and nothing else? It was a
valuable blanket, but the silverware and jewelry in the house were worth
a great deal more. The mystery reared its head again. What manner of man
was this strange visitor?

“My mother always used to keep her silver wrapped in the blankets in a
clothes closet,” said Gladys, “and burglars broke into our house and
found it all. The policeman that papa reported it to said that was a
common place for people to hide valuables and burglars usually searched
through blankets. This burglar must have been looking for valuables in
the blanket, and got scared away before he looked anywhere else, but took
the blanket because it was such a good one.”

“That must have been it,” said Nyoda. “I’ve heard of cases before where
valuables were stolen from their hiding places in blankets and bedding.
Well, we were lucky to get away as we did.

“Slim, you’ll have to be something beside an Indian chief, for I haven’t
another Navajo blanket. It’s too bad, too, because you had the real bow
and arrows, but cheer up, we’ll find something else. The trouble is,
though,” she mourned, “we haven’t much of anything that will fit you. The
blanket would have solved the problem so nicely.”

“Let him wear the mothballs,” suggested Justice. “He can be an African
chief instead of an Indian. A nice string of mothballs would be all——”

Slim threw a sofa cushion at him and Justice subsided.

The stolen blanket remained the chief topic of conversation until late in
the afternoon, when Katherine made a discovery which furnished a new
theme. She was up in the attic, hunting something from which to concoct a
masquerade suit, and while rummaging through a trunk came upon a
photograph underneath a pile of clothes. It was the picture of a young
girl dressed in the fashion of a bygone day, with a tremendously long,
full skirt bunched up into an elaborate “polonaise.” Above a pair of
softly curved shoulders smiled a face of such witching beauty that
Katherine forgot all about the trunk and its contents and gazed
spellbound at the photograph. In the lower right hand corner was written
in a beautiful, even hand, “_To Jasper, from Sylvia_.”

Katherine flew downstairs to show her find to the others.

“O how beautiful!” they cried, one after another, as they gazed at the
picture of the girl Uncle Jasper could not forget. The small, piquant
face, in its frame of dark hair, looked up at them from the picture with
a winning, friendly smile, and looking at it the Winnebagos began to feel
the charm of the living Sylvia Warrington, and to fall in love with her
even as Uncle Jasper had done.

“Take it up to Sylvia,” said Migwan. “She’ll be delighted to see a
picture of her Beloved.”

Sylvia gazed with rapt fondness at the beautiful young face.
“Isn’t—she—lovely?” she said in a hushed voice. “She looks as though she
would be sorry about my being lame, if she knew. May I keep her with me
all the time, Nyoda? She’s such a comfort!”

“Certainly, you may keep the picture with you,” said Nyoda, rejoicing
that a new interest had come up just at this time, and left her hugging
the photograph to her bosom.

Right after supper Nyoda shooed all the rest upstairs to their rooms
while she arrayed Sylvia for the party. In her endeavor to cheer and
divert her she gathered materials with a lavish hand and dressed her like
a real fairy tale princess, in a beautiful white satin dress, and a gold
chain with a diamond locket, and bracelets, and a coronet on her
fine-spun golden hair. The armchair she made into a throne, covered with
a purple velvet portiére; and she spread a square of gilt tapestry over
the footstool.

The effect, when Sylvia was seated upon the throne, was so gorgeously
royal that Nyoda felt a sudden awe stealing over her, and she could
hardly believe it was the work of her own hands. Sylvia seemed indeed a
real princess.

“We have on the robes of state to-night,” said Sylvia, with a half
hearted return to her once loved game, “for our royal father, the king,
is coming to pay us a visit with all his court.”

Nyoda made her a sweeping curtsey and hurried upstairs to dress herself.
The costumes of all the rest were kept a secret from one another, and no
one was to unmask until the stroke of eleven. She heard stifled giggles
and exclamations coming through the doors of all the rooms as she
proceeded down the hall.

Crash! went something in one of the rooms and Nyoda paused to
investigate. There stood Slim before a mirror, hopelessly entangled in a
sheet which he was trying to drape around himself. A wild sweep of his
hand had smashed the electric light bulb at the side of the mirror, and
sent the globe flying across the room to shatter itself on the floor.

“Wait a minute, I’ll help you,” said Nyoda, coming forward laughing.

Slim emerged from the sheet very red in the face, deeply abashed at the
damage he had done.

“I was only trying to grab ahold of the other end,” he explained
ruefully, “like this—” He flung out the other hand in a gesture of
illustration, and smash went the globe on the other side of the mirror.

Nyoda laughed at his horror-stricken countenance, and soothed his
embarrassment while she pinned him into the sheet and pulled over his
head the pillow case which was to act as mask.

“Just as if you could disguise Slim by masking him!” she thought
mirthfully as she worked. “The more you try to cover him up the worse you
give him away. It’s like trying to disguise an elephant.”

She got him finished, and as a precaution against further accidents bade
him sit still in the chair where she placed him until the dinner gong
sounded downstairs; then she hastened on toward her own room.

“Oh, I forgot about Hercules!” she suddenly exclaimed aloud. “I promised
to get something for him.”

“Migwan’s gone down to fix him up,” said a voice from one of the rooms in
answer to her exclamation. “She found a costume for him this afternoon,
and she’s down in the kitchen now, getting him ready.”

Nyoda breathed a sigh of gratitude for Migwan’s habitual thoughtfulness,
and went in to don her own costume.

Down in the kitchen Migwan was getting Hercules into the suit she had
picked out for him from the trunkfull of masquerade costumes she had
found up in the attic. It was a long monkish habit with a cowl, made of
coarse brown stuff, and it covered him from head to foot. The mask was
made of the same material as the suit, and hung down at least a foot
below his grizzly beard.

“Sure nobody ain’t goin’ ter recognize me?” Hercules asked anxiously.

Migwan’s prediction that an invitation to the party would cheer him up
had been fulfilled from the first. Hercules was so tickled that he forgot
his misery entirely. He was in as much of a flutter as a young girl
getting ready for her first ball; he had been in the house half a dozen
times that day anxiously inquiring if the party were surely going to be,
and if there would be a suit for him.

Migwan put in the last essential pin, and then stepped back to survey the
result of her efforts. “If you keep your feet underneath the gown, not a
soul will know you,” she assured him. She had thoughtfully provided a
pair of gloves, so that even if he did put out his hands their color
could not betray him.

“Of course, you must not talk,” she warned him further.

“Course not, course not,” he agreed. “When’s all dese here mask comin’
off?” he continued.

“When the clock strikes eleven we’ll all unmask,” explained Migwan, “and
then the Princess is going to give the prize to the one that had the best
costume.”

“An’ dey’s nobody ’xcept me an’ you knows I’m wearin’ dis suit?” he
inquired for the third time.

Migwan reassured him, and with a final injunction not to show himself in
the front part of the house until he heard the dinner gong, she sped up
the back stairs to her own belated masking.

She had barely finished when the sound of the gong rose through the
house, and the stairway was filled with a grotesquely garbed throng
making its way, with stifled exclamations and smothered bursts of
laughter, into the long drawing room where the Princess sat. Migwan
clapped on her mask and sped down after them, getting there just as the
fun commenced. She spied Hercules standing in the corner behind the
Princess’s throne, maintaining a religious silence and keeping his feet
carefully out of sight. She kept away from him, fearing that he would
forget himself and speak to her, entirely forgetting that he could not
recognize her under her disguise.

Sylvia shrieked with amusement at the grotesque figures circling around
her. It was the very first masque party she had ever seen, and she could
not get over the wonder of it. Nyoda smiled mistily behind her mask as
she watched her. How lonely that valiant little spirit must have been all
these years, shut away from the frolics of youth; lonely in spite of the
brave make believe with which she passed away the time! And now the years
stretched out before her in endless sameness; the poor little princess
would never leave her throne.

Sherry and Justice and the Captain kept Nyoda guessing as to which one
was which, but she soon picked out the one she knew must be Hercules, and
watched him in amusement. She had rather fancied that he would turn out
to be the clown of the party, but he sat still most of the time and kept
his eyes on the Princess. He seemed utterly fascinated by the glitter of
her costume. Even the Punch and Judy show going on in the other end of
the room failed to hold his attention, although the rest of the
spectators were in convulsions of mirth.

The Princess called on Punch and Judy to do their stunt over and over
again until they were too hoarse to utter another sound. Migwan, who had
been Judy, fled to the kitchen for a drink of water to relieve her aching
throat. She took the opportunity to slip off the hot mask for a moment
and get a breath of fresh air. She was almost suffocated behind the mask.

Then, while she stood there cooling off, she remembered the big pan of
candy Gladys had set outdoors to harden, and hastened out to bring it in.
Someone was walking across the yard, and as Migwan looked up, startled,
the light which streamed out of the kitchen door fell full upon the black
face of Hercules. Migwan stood still, clutching the pan of candy
mechanically, her eyes wide open with surprise. Hercules stood still too,
and stood staring at her with an expression of dismay. He no longer had
the monk’s costume on.

“How did you get out here?” Migwan asked curiously. “You’re inside—at the
party.”

Hercules laughed nervously, and Migwan noticed that his jaw was
trembling.

“What’s the matter, Hercules?” she asked. “What’s happened?”

“Now, missy, missy—” began Hercules, and Migwan could hear his teeth
chatter, while his eyes began to roll strangely in his head.

“What’s the matter, are you sick?” asked Migwan in alarm.

“Yes’m, dat’s it, dat’s it,” chattered Hercules, finding his voice. “I’m
awful sick. I had to come outside.”

“But I left you sitting in there a minute ago with your suit on,” said
Migwan wonderingly, “and you didn’t come out after me. Did you go out of
the front door?”

“Yes’m, dat’s it,” said Hercules hastily. “I come out de front doah an’
roun’ dat way.”

A sudden impulse made Migwan look down the drive, covered with a light
fall of snow and gleaming white in the glare of the street light.

“But there aren’t any footprints in the snow,” she said in surprise.
“Your footprints are coming from the barn.” A nameless uneasiness filled
her. What was Hercules doing out here?

“Yes’m,” repeated Hercules vacuously, “I came from de barn.”

Migwan stared at him in surprise. Was he out of his mind?

“Hercules,” she began severely, but never finished the sentence, for the
old man swayed, clutched at the empty air, and fell heavily in the snow
at her feet.



                              CHAPTER XIV
                           AN UNINVITED GUEST


Migwan ran into the house and burst breathlessly in upon the merrymakers.

“Nyoda!” she cried in a frightened voice, “Hercules is—” Then she stopped
as though she had seen a ghost, for there sat Hercules in his monk’s
costume, just as he had been all evening!

“What’s the matter?” asked Nyoda in alarm, seeing her pale face and
staring eyes.

Migwan clutched her convulsively. “There’s a man outside,” she panted,
“that looks just like Hercules, and when I spoke to him he fell down on
the ground!”

In an instant all was pandemonium. Everybody rushed for the kitchen door
and ran out into the yard, where the figure of a man lay dark upon the
snow. Sherry tore off his mask and flung it away, and bending over the
prostrate man turned his flashlight full on his face.

“It _is_ Hercules!” he exclaimed in astonishment.

“Is he dead?” faltered Migwan.

“No, he’s breathing, but he’s unconscious,” said Sherry. “It’s his heart,
I suppose. He’s been having spells with it lately. Run into the house,
somebody, and get that leather covered flask in the medicine chest.”

Justice raced in for the flask and Sherry raised Hercules’ head from the
ground and poured some of the brandy between his lips. In a few minutes
the old man began to stir and mutter, and Nyoda, holding his wrist, felt
his pulse come up. They carried him to his room in the stable and laid
him down on his bed, and Nyoda found the heart drops which Hercules had
been taking for some time.

“But where is the one I thought was Hercules—the one with the monk’s suit
on?” cried Migwan, after the first fright about Hercules had subsided.

Sherry and the boys looked at one another dumfounded. None of them had
known, as Migwan did, that the brown robe and cowl presumably covered
Hercules. They looked about for the brown figure that had moved so
unobtrusively amongst them that evening. It had vanished.

“He’s gone!” shouted Sherry excitedly. “There’s something queer going on
here.”

The monk was certainly not in the house any longer, and there were no
footprints in the snow outside the house.

“Did he fly away?” asked Sherry in perplexity.

Justice jumped up with a great exclamation. “The secret passage!” he
shouted, “he’s gone down the secret passage!”

They flew back inside the house to the stair landing, half expecting to
find it standing open, but it was closed and looked perfectly natural.
Sherry grasped the post, the landing slid out and the four went down the
ladder. Justice gave a triumphant exclamation when he reached the bottom.
“The barricades are taken down! He did come this way!”

They hurried through the door into the passage, half expecting to see a
figure flying along ahead of them, but the passage was empty and no sound
of a footfall broke the silence. They searched the place thoroughly, but
nowhere did they find their man hidden. Behind the chest in the cave,
however, Justice pounced upon something with a shout. It was the long
brown costume that had been worn by the monk at the party.



                               CHAPTER XV
                            HERCULES’ STORY


When Sherry and the boys returned from their fruitless chase Hercules had
regained consciousness, and was telling Nyoda in a shaking voice that he
felt better, but he was still too weak to sit up.

“Mah time’s come, Mis’ ’Lizbeth,” he said mournfully. “I’se a goner.”

“Nonsense,” said Nyoda brightly. “You’ll be up and around in the morning.
The doctor that gave you this medicine said you’d have these spells once
in a while, but the heart drops would always bring you round all right.”

“I’se a-goin’ dis time,” he repeated. “I’se had a token. Dreamed about
runnin’ water las’ night, an’ dat’s a sure sign. _Ain’t_ no surer sign
den dat anywhere, Mis’ ’Lizbeth.”

“Nonsense,” said Nyoda again. “You shouldn’t believe in signs. Tell us
what happened to-night and that’ll make you feel better.”

“Mis’ ’Lizbeth,” said the old man solemnly, “I’se goin’ ter tell de whole
thing. I wasn’t goin’ ter say nothin’ a-tall, but gon’ ter die, like I
am, I’se skeered ter go an’ not tell you-all.”

He took a sip from the tumbler at his hand and cleared his throat.

“Mis’ ’Lizbeth,” he began, “dat weren’t no burglar dat git inter de house
dat night. You jus’ lissen till I tell you de whole bizness. Dat day
you-all find dem footprints on de stairs I mos’ had a fit, ’case I knowed
somebody’d got in th’u de secrut passidge.”

“But you said you didn’t know anything about a secret passage,” said
Nyoda, in surprise.

“Mis’ ’Lizbeth,” said Hercules deprecatingly, evidently urged on to open
confession by the knowledge that death had him by the coat tail, “I
_said_ dat, but it weren’t true. Ole Marse Jasper, he say once if I ever
tell about dat secrut passidge de debbel’d come in th’u it an’ carry me
off, an’ I’se bin skeered even ter say secrut passidge.

“Dere weren’t nobody livin’ dat knew about dat secrut passidge, an’ when
I sees dem footprints I reckons it mus’ be de debbel himself. But
yestidday I sees a man hangin’ roun’ behin’ de barn, an’ I axs him what
he wants, an’ he sticks up two fingers an’ makes a sign dat I uster know
yeahs ago. I looks at de man agin, an’ I says, ‘Foh de Lawd, am de dead
come ter life?’ ’Case it’s Marse Jasper’s ole frien’, Tad Phillips.”

A sharp exclamation of astonishment went around the circle of listeners.

“He’s an ole man, an’ his hair’s nearly white, but I see it were Marse
Tad, all right.

“‘I hearn you-all was dead,’ I says ter him, but Marse Tad, he say no,
people all thought he’s dead an’ he let ’em think so, ’case he cain’t
never meet up wif his ole frien’s no more. You see, Mis’ ’Lizbeth,” he
threw in an explanation, “Marsh Tad he gave some sick folks poison
instead of medicine, an’ dey die, an’ he go ’way, outen de country, an’
bimeby de papers say he’s dead an’ his wife’s dead. But dey ain’t; it’s a
mistake, but he don’ tell nobody, an’ bimeby he come back, him an’ his
wife. Dey take another name, an’ dey goes to a town whar nobody knows
’em. Bimeby a baby girl gits born an’ his wife she dies.

“Marse Tad he ain’t never bin himself since he gave dem folks dat poison;
he cain’t fergit it a-tall. It pester him so he cain’t work, an’ he
cain’t sleep, an’ he cain’t never laugh no more. He give up bein’ a
doctor ’case he say he cain’t trust himself no more. He get so low in his
mind when his wife die dat he think he’ll die too, an’ he sends de baby
away to some folks dat wants one.

“But he don’t die; he jest worry along, but he’s powerful low in his mind
all de time. He think all de time ’bout dem people he poisoned. Fin’lly
he say he’ll go ’way agin; he’ll go back ter South America. But before he
goes, he gits ter thinkin’ he’d like ter see his chile once. He fin’s out
dat de people he sent her to ain’t never got her; dat she’s with somebody
else, in a place called Millvale, in dis very state. He go to Millvale,
an’ he look in th’u de winder, an’ he see her. She’s the livin’ image of
his dead wife, light hair an’ dark eyes an’ all.

“He never let her know he’s her father, ’case he feel so terrible ’bout
dem folks he poisoned dat he thinks he ain’t no good, a-tall, an’ mustn’t
speak to her. But he’s so wild to see her dat he hang aroun’ in dat town,
workin’ odd jobs, an’ at night lookin’ in de window where she sits.

“Den suddenly de folks she’s wif up an’ move away, an’ he cain’t see her
no more. He jest cain’t stand it. He finds out dat dey come here to
Oakwood, an’ he comes too. But he don’t know which house she live in and
he cain’t find her. He gets to wanderin’ around, and one night he comes
to de ole big house he uster live in, way up on Main Street Hill. It’s
all dark and tumble down, and he thinks he’ll just go in once and look
around. He goes in, and inside he hears a voice singin’. It sounds jest
like his wife’s voice. She were a beautiful singer, Mis’ ’Lizbeth—de
Virginia nightingale, folks uster call her. He stands dere in dat dark,
empty house, lissenin’ ter dat voice and he thinks it’s his wife’s
sperrit singin’ ter him. She’s singin’ a song she uster sing when she
were young, somethin’ about larks.”

Katherine made a convulsive movement, and her heart began to pound
strangely.

“Den he say a lady come in de front door and he gits scairt and runs
out.”

Katherine’s head began to whirl, and she kept silence with an effort.

“He stand around outside for a while and bimeby an autermobile comes
along and de folks carries a girl out of de house and takes her away. He
sees de girl when dey’s bringin’ her out, and he knows she’s his. He
watches where dat autermobile goes and it comes here.”

The old man paused for a minute and looked around at the group at his
bedside, all hanging spellbound upon his words.

“Mis’ ’Lizbeth,” he said dramatically, “little Missy Sylvia am Tad
Phillips’ little girl!”

When the sensation caused by his surprising story had subsided, Hercules
continued:

“He jest have ter see her before he go ’way, and he remember about de
secrut passidge th’u de hill dat he and Marse Jasper uster play in. He
come th’u in de night an get inter de house, but he cain’t find her. He
see dere’s people sleepin’ in all de spare rooms dat uster be empty, and
he cain’t go lookin’ round. He left dem footprints on de stairs, Mis’
’Lizbeth; it ain’t blood; it’s paint. Dey’s a ole jar of paint down dere
in de passidge, and he knocks it over and it breaks and he steps inter de
paint.”

“But Hercules,” interrupted Sherry, “how did he get into the passage from
the outside? The way is blocked.”

“Dere’s another way ter git out,” replied Hercules, “before you come to
de doah down dere. I disremember jest how it is, but it comes up th’u de
floah of dat little summerhouse down de hillside. De boys fixed it up
after de other way was blocked.

“When I find Marse Tad out behind de barn he’s feelin’ sick, and I
brought him in and put him in my bed.”

A light flashed through Nyoda’s mind. “Was that what you wanted the hot
coffee for yesterday?” she asked.

“Yessum,” replied Hercules meekly. Then he continued:

“Marse Tad he wanter see little missy so bad I promise ter help him. When
you-all gives me dat invite to de party and says I gotter wear a mask I
fixes it up wif Marse Tad to put on de maskrade suit after I get it and
go in and see little missy. While he’s inside I stays outside. Den all of
a sudden out come Missy Camphor Girl and sees me and screeches dat she
jest left me inside. I got so scairt I jest nat’chly collapsed. Dat’s
all.”

“Your friend Tad ran out through the secret passage and disappeared,”
said Sherry.

“He’s gone on de train by dis time,” said Hercules, his voice getting
weak again. “He was goin’ on de ten-ten. He’s goin’ ter sail Noo Year’s
Day.”

“Whew!” whistled Sherry. “What a drama has been going on right under our
very noses, and we knowing nothing about it! Sylvia the child of Uncle
Jasper’s old friend! And by what a narrow chance we came upon her!”

Into this excitement came Migwan, who had been in the house with Sylvia.

“Sylvia’s sick,” she said in a troubled voice to Nyoda. “Her head is hot
and her hands are like ice, and she’s been coughing hard for the last
half hour. She couldn’t hold her head up for another minute, and I put
her to bed.”

“I was afraid she was going to be sick,” said Nyoda. “She been coughing
off and on all day long, and her cheeks were so bright to-night, it
seemed to me she looked feverish. I’m afraid the excitement of the party
was too much for her. Don’t anyone breathe a word of what Hercules has
told us just now, she must be kept quiet.”

They all promised.

In the moment when they stood looking at Hercules and waiting for Nyoda
to start back to the house, Slim suddenly thought of something.

“If it wasn’t a thief that came in, why did he take your blanket?” he
asked.

Hercules answered, addressing himself to Nyoda. “Marse Tad didn’t take
dat blanket, Mis’ ’Lizbeth. _I_ took dat blanket. But I didn’t steal it.
I jest borried it. Borried it to wrap around Marse Tad. I couldn’t ask
you-all fer one, ’case you-all knew I had plenty, and I was skeered you’d
be gettin’ ’spicious. I saw you-all puttin’ dat ole blanket away in dat
drawer a long time ago, and I thought you-all never used it and would
never know if it was gone fer a day. It ain’t hurt a might, Mis’
’Lizbeth, dere it is, over in de corner. How’s you-all know it was gone?”
he asked, in comical amazement.

Nyoda explained, and soothed his agitation about the blanket in a few
words.

The strain of telling his story had worn him out and he lay back and
began to gasp feebly.

“Everybody go back to the house,” commanded Nyoda, “and let Hercules
rest.”

“I’se a-goin’ dis time,” murmured the old man. “I’se goin’ ter Abram’s
bosom. Swing low, sweet chariot, comin’ fer to carry me home!”

“Nonsense!” said Nyoda, “you’ll be all right in the morning,” but she
called Sherry back and asked him to stay with Hercules the rest of the
night.

Then she went back to the house and found Sylvia burning with fever and
too hoarse to speak. She applied the usual remedies for a hard cold and
rose from bed to see how she was every hour throughout the night. Morning
brought no improvement, however, and with a worried look on her face
Nyoda went downstairs and telephoned the doctor.



                              CHAPTER XVI
                                A LETTER


Sylvia’s illness increased during the day; her fever rose rapidly and the
coughing spells grew more violent and more frequent. Nyoda turned
Hercules over to Sherry and Justice and gave Sylvia her whole attention.
No whisper of the exciting news that rocked the family was allowed to
come to her ears for fear of its effect upon the fever.

“Bronchitis,” the doctor had said whom Nyoda had hastily summoned, “watch
out for pneumonia.”

The Winnebagos roamed the house, anxious and excited, talking in low
tones about the amazing turn of events, and listening eagerly for Nyoda
to come out of the sick room. Slim and the Captain shifted uneasily from
one chair to another until Katherine begged them to go out and take a
long walk.

“You make me nervous, trying so hard to keep quiet,” she said to Slim.

The boys went out.

Migwan made some lemon jelly for Hercules and Sahwah carried it out to
him.

“Does he still believe he’s dying?” asked Katherine when Sahwah returned
to the house.

“He’s surer than ever,” replied Sahwah. “He’s making the arrangements for
his funeral. He’s sorry now that he didn’t join the Knights of Pythias
when he had the chance so he could have had a band.”

“Is he really as sick as that?” asked Hinpoha in a scared voice.

“Sherry says he isn’t,” said Sahwah, “but Hercules insists that he won’t
live till morning. Sherry’s getting sort of anxious about him himself,
Justice told me outside the barn. Sherry said that Hercules believed so
firmly in signs he’d just naturally worry himself to death before long,
if he didn’t stop thinking about the ‘token’ he’d had. People do that
sometimes. Hercules’ heart _is_ bad and believing that his end was near
might bring on a fatal spell.”

“Can’t we do something to make him stop thinking about it?” asked Migwan.
“Remember the Dark of the Moon Society, Sahwah, that you got up to bring
Katherine out of a fit of the blues that time up on Ellen’s Isle?”

“We can’t do anything like that now, though,” said Sahwah. “The foolish
things we do wouldn’t have any effect upon him at all.”

“I guess you’re right,” said Migwan with a sigh, after various things had
been suggested and immediately abandoned. “But I wish we could do
something to rouse him from the dumps he’s fallen into,” she added with a
sigh. “It seems as though we Winnebagos ought to be equal to the
emergency.”

“You might read something to him,” said Katherine desperately, after
several minutes of hard thinking had sprouted no ideas. “Read him ‘The
Hound of the Baskervilles.’ That will gently divert his thoughts. It’s
absolutely the biggest thriller that was ever written. Judge Dalrymple
bought it on the train once, when he was going from Milwaukee to some
little town in Wisconsin, and he got so absorbed in it that he never came
to until the train pulled into St. Paul, hundreds of miles beyond his
stop. You might read him one chapter a day and he won’t think of dying
before he knows how it is coming out. It’ll be a sort of Arabian Nights
performance.”

“Where will I get the book?” asked Migwan.

“I saw it in one of the cases in the library,” replied Katherine. “It
must have belonged to Mr. Carver’s housekeeper, for I’m sure he never
owned such a book.”

“All right,” said Migwan, “let’s take it out and tell Justice to read it
to Hercules.”

Katherine found the book on the library shelf and opened it to a picture
she wanted the girls to see. As she turned the pages a letter fell out
and dropped to the floor. She stopped to pick it up, and could not help
reading the address. It was addressed to Mr. Jasper Carver, Esquire, and
had never been opened.

“Here’s a letter for Uncle Jasper that must have come after he died,”
said Katherine, “for it hasn’t been opened.” Nyoda came into the room
just then, and she handed it to her.

Nyoda looked at the date. “April 12, 1917,” she read. “That’s the very
day Uncle Jasper died. This letter must have come while he lay dead in
the house here, and in the confusion somebody put it into that book,
where it has stayed all this while. I opened all the other letters that
came after his death and took care of the matters they concerned. I hope
this isn’t a bill—the creditor will think we are poor business people not
to reply.” She reached for the letter opener and slit the envelope.

Inside was a letter, not a bill, written in a cramped, shaky hand upon
coarse notepaper. It was dated from a small town in New York State. Nyoda
carried it over to the window and read it:

    “Mr. Jasper Carver, Esq.,

        Oakwood, Pa.

    Dear Sir:

  I take the liberty of writing to you, for you are the only one I can
  find a trace of who was a friend of the late Dr. Sidney Phillips. I
  found a card with your name and address on the floor of his room after
  he left the army post at Ft. Andrews, and to you I am committing the
  task of clearing his name from a disgrace which has unjustly been
  fastened upon it. He is dead, and the wrong can never be righted to
  him, but for the sake of his friends and relatives his memory must not
  remain dishonored.

  This letter is at once an explanation and a confession. I was a Captain
  of Infantry at Ft. Andrews when Dr. Phillips came there as army
  surgeon. There was another officer there, a sneaking, underhand sort of
  chap with whom I was having constant trouble. Upon one occasion he
  committed a grave breach of military discipline, but managed to throw
  the blame upon me and I was deprived of my captain’s commission and
  reduced to the ranks, besides doing time in the guard house.

  I brooded upon my wrong until I was ready to murder the man who had
  brought it upon me. At the time of the typhoid epidemic, matters were
  in bad shape at Ft. Andrews. That was before the days of Red Cross
  nurses, and many of the boys had to turn in and nurse their comrades. I
  was detailed to help Dr. Phillips. The man who had ruined me was down
  with the fever. Ever since I had been reduced to the ranks he had
  taunted me openly with my disgrace and even as he lay in bed he made
  insulting remarks when I brought him his medicine. Finally in a mad
  rage I decided to be revenged upon him once and forever. I put a deadly
  poison into the dose Dr. Phillips had just mixed for him, slipping it
  in while the doctor was out of the room for a moment. I thought the
  dose was intended for him alone, but to my horror it was given to a
  dozen men, and they all died.

  The whole country became stirred up about it, and such abuse was hurled
  at Dr. Phillips as no man ever suffered before. It was supposed that he
  had carelessly mistaken the poison for another harmless ingredient. I
  dared not confess that it was I who had done it, for in my case it
  would mean trial for first degree murder, while with the doctor it was
  simply a case of accident, and would blow over in time.

  The doctor left the Post, a broken-down, ruined man, and died of yellow
  fever in Cuba not long after.

  I have kept the secret for twenty-five years, suffering tortures of
  conscience, but not brave enough to confess. Now, however, I am in the
  last stages of a fatal disease and cannot live a week longer. By the
  time this reaches you I shall be gone. Take this confession and publish
  it to the world, that tardy justice may be done the memory of Dr.
  Phillips. He was innocent of the whole thing. May God forgive me!

                                                     George Ingram.”


The confession was witnessed by two doctors whose signatures appeared
under his.

“He didn’t do it! Tad didn’t do it!”

The amazed cry rang through the library, as the Winnebagos and Nyoda
clutched each other convulsively.

“We must bring him back!” said Nyoda, and ran out to the barn to Sherry
with the letter in her hand.

An hour later Sherry and Hercules sat drinking strong, hot coffee at the
kitchen table while Nyoda hastily packed traveling bags for them.
Hercules had forgotten all about dying. When he heard the news in the
letter he sprang from bed and began dressing with greater speed than he
had ever done in his life. The train for New York went in two hours and
he and Sherry must catch it if they hoped to reach the steamer before she
sailed. There was no way of reaching Tad by telegraph. They did not know
what name he was going under, nor the name of the boat on which he was to
sail. The only thing they could do was rush to New York, find out which
boat was sailing for South America on the first, go on board and search
for Tad. Only Hercules would be able to identify him. Hercules rose to
the occasion.

“We certainly gave Hercules something to make him forget his
superstition,” said Katherine, sitting down on the sink to collect her
thoughts after the meteoric flight of the two men from the house.

“We certainly did,” said Migwan, trembling with excitement.

A racking cough sounded through the house. “Sh, Sylvia’s worse,” said
Migwan, putting her fingers to her lips. “Don’t anybody go near her, or
she’ll notice how excited you are. How on earth does Nyoda manage to keep
so calm when she’s with her?”

“If Sylvia should get pneumonia—” began Sahwah, and then chocked over the
dreadful possibility.

“If they only bring Mr. Phillips back in time,” said Katherine, as if
echoing the thing that lay in Sahwah’s thoughts.

“Don’t say such dreadful things,” said Hinpoha, with starting tears.

“Maybe they won’t be able to find him at all,” said Katherine dubiously.

“They _must_, they _must_,” said Sahwah, with dry lips.

“They _must_,” echoed the others, and hardly daring to think, they
entered upon the trying period of waiting.



                              CHAPTER XVII
                                WAITING


“How is Sylvia?” Katherine’s voice was husky with anxiety.

Nyoda looked grave over the tray she was carrying down to the kitchen.
“No better yet; a little worse this morning, if anything. Her fever has
gone up one degree during the night and she is coughing more than ever.”

“Is it going to be pneumonia?” asked Katherine steadily, her eyes
searching Nyoda’s face.

“Not if I can help it,” replied Nyoda, in a tone of grim determination,
the light of battle sparkling in her eyes. Nevertheless, there was a note
of worry in her voice that struck cold fear into Katherine’s heart,
stoutly optimistic as she was. What if Sylvia should die before her
father came back? The other Winnebagos, clustering around Nyoda to hear
the latest news from Sylvia’s bedside, stood hushed and solemn. Nyoda set
the tray down on the table and leaned wearily against the door, her eyes
heavy from lack of sleep. Instantly Migwan was at her side, all
solicitude.

“Go, lie down and sleep awhile, Nyoda,” she urged. “You’ve been up nearly
all night. I can look after Sylvia for a few hours—I know how. Go to bed
now and we’ll bring some breakfast up to you, and then you can go to
sleep.” Putting her arm around Nyoda she led her upstairs and tucked her
into bed, smoothing the covers over her with gentle, motherly hands,
while the girls below prepared a dainty breakfast tray.

“Nice—child!” murmured Nyoda, from the depths of her pillow.
“Nice—old—Migwan! Always—taking—care—of—someone!” Her voice trailed off
in a tired whisper, and by the time the breakfast tray arrived she was
sound asleep.

Sylvia also slept most of the time that Migwan watched beside her, a
fitful slumber broken by many coughing spells and intervals of difficult
breathing. Never had Sylvia seemed so beautiful and so princesslike to
Migwan as when she lay there sleeping in the big four-poster bed, her
shining curls spread out on the pillow and her fever-flushed cheeks
glowing like roses. Lying there so still, with her delicate little white
hand resting on top of the coverlet, she brought to Migwan’s mind
Goethe’s description of the beautiful, dead Mignon, in whom the vivid
tints of life had been counterfeited by skillful hands. To Migwan’s
lively imagination it seemed that Sylvia was another Mignon, this child
of lofty birth and breeding also cast by accident among humble
surroundings, and singing her way into the hearts of people. Would it be
with her as it had been with Mignon; would she never be reunited in life
with her own people? The resemblance between the two lives struck Migwan
as a prophecy and her heart chilled with the conviction that Sylvia was
going to die. Tears stole down her cheek as she saw, in her mind’s eye,
the father coming in just too late, and their beautiful, radiant Sylvia
lying cold and still, her joyful song forever hushed.

Migwan’s melancholy mood lasted all morning, even after Nyoda came back
and sent her out of the sick-room, and she sat staring into the library
fire in gloomy silence, quite unlike her busy, cheery self. The day crept
by on leaden feet. The hands of the clock seemed to be suffering from
paralysis; they stayed so long in one spot. Ordinarily clock hands at
Carver House went whirling around their dials like pinwheels, and the
chimes were continually striking the hour. Now each separate minute
seemed to have brought its knitting and come to stay.

“No word from Sherry and Hercules yet!” sighed Sahwah impatiently, as the
whistles blew half past eleven.

“Give them a chance,” said Katherine, her voice proceeding in muffled
tones from the depths of the music cabinet, which, in order to pass away
the time, she had undertaken to set to rights.

“They’ve had plenty of chance by this time to get down on board the
boat,” returned Sahwah, getting up from her chair and pacing restlessly
up and down the room. Sahwah was not equipped by nature to bear suspense
calmly; under the stress of inaction she threatened to fly to pieces.

Katherine looked up with a faint smile from the heaps of sheet music
lying on the floor around her.

“Come and help me sort this music,” she advised mildly, “it’ll settle
your mind somewhat, besides giving me a lift. I’m afraid I’ve bitten off
more than I can chew. This is one grand mess of pieces without covers and
covers without pieces. You might get all the covers in order for me.”

Sahwah gazed without enthusiasm upon the littered floor. “Sort
music—ugh!” she said, with a grimace and a disgusted shrug of her
shoulders. She picked her way to the other end of the library and stood
staring restlessly out of the window.

It was a dreary, dull day. The Christmas snow had vanished in a thaw, and
a chilly rain beat against the window panes with a dismal, melancholy
sound. The three boys fidgeted from one end of the house to the other,
but could not get up enough steam to go out for a hike. Slim and the
Captain drummed chopsticks on the piano, and Justice tried to keep up
with them on the harp, until Migwan ordered them to be quiet so Sylvia
could sleep, after which they sat in preternatural silence before the
library fire, listlessly turning over the pages of magazines which they
did not even pretend to read. The atmosphere of the house got so on
everybody’s nerves that the snapping of a log in the fireplace almost
caused a panic.

The clock struck twelve, and Migwan, rousing herself from her
preoccupation, went out into the kitchen to prepare lunch, aided by
Gladys and Hinpoha, while Sahwah continued to pace the floor and
Katherine went on nervously fitting covers to pieces and pieces to
covers, her ear ever on the alert for the sound of the telephone bell.
Justice and Slim and the Captain, grown weary of their own company,
trooped out into the kitchen after the girls, declaring _they_ were going
to get lunch, and it was not long before the inevitable reaction had set
in, and pent-up spirits began to find vent in irrepressible hilarity.

Protests were useless. In vain Migwan flourished her big iron spoon and
ordered them out. Justice calmly took her apron and cap away from her and
announced that _he_ was going to be Chief Cook. Tying the apron around
him wrong side out, and setting the cap backward on his head, he held the
spoon aloft like a Roman short-sword, and striking an attitude in
imitation of Spartacus addressing the Gladiators, he declaimed feelingly:

  “Ye call me _Chef_, and ye do well to call him _Chef_
  Who for seven long years has camped in summertime,
  And made his coffee out of rain when there was no spring water handy,
  And mixed his biscuits in the wash-basin,
  Because the baking-pan no longer was.

  But I was not always thus, an unhired butcher,
  A savage _Chef_ of still more savage menus——”


The teakettle suddenly boiled over with a loud hissing and sizzling, and
the impassioned orator jumped as though he had been shot; then,
collecting himself, he rushed over and picked the kettle from the stove
and stood holding it in his hand, uncertain what to do with it.

“Set it down on the back of the stove!” commanded Migwan. “A great cook
you are! Even Slim would know enough to do that!”

“Thanks for the implied compliment,” said Slim stiffly.

“Slim ought to be Chief Cook,” said the Captain. “He’s fat. Chief cooks
are always fat.”

“Right you are!” cried Justice, taking off the apron and tying it around
Slim as far as it would go.

“But I can’t cook!” protested Slim.

“That doesn’t make any difference,” replied Justice. “You look the part,
and that’s all that’s needed. Looks are everything, these days.”

He perched the cap rakishly on top of Slim’s head and stood off a little
distance to eye the effect critically.

“Nobody could tell the difference between you and the Chef of the
Waldorf,” was his verdict.

Indeed, Slim, with his full moon face shining out under the cap, and the
apron tied around his extensive waistline, looked just like the pictured
cooks in the spaghetti advertisements.

“Isn’t he the perfect Chef, though?” continued Justice admiringly. “He
must have been born with an iron spoon in his hand, instead of a gold one
in his mouth.” Then, turning to Slim and bowing low before him, he
chanted solemnly, “Go forth, go forth, Lars Porsena, go forth, beloved of
heaven! All the other cooks will drown themselves in their soup kettles
in despair when they see you coming. All hail the Chief Cook!”

“But I can’t cook!” repeated Slim helplessly.

“You don’t have to,” Justice reassured him. “Chief Cooks don’t have to
cook; they just direct the others. Behold, we stand ready to obey your
lightest command.”

“All right,” said Slim, “suppose you pare the potatoes.”

“Ask me anything but that!” Justice begged him. “I never get the eyes cut
out, and then when they’re on my plate they look up at me reproachfully,
like this——”

Justice screwed up his face and rolled his eyes into a grimace that
convulsed the girls.

“No, you pare the potatoes, Slim,” he continued. “The Chief Cook always
pares the potatoes himself. It’s too delicate a job to entrust to a
subordinate.”

Slim had his mouth open to protest, and Sahwah and Katherine, who had
just wandered out into the kitchen, were in a gale of merriment over
Slim’s costume, when the doorbell rang and a messengerboy passed in a
telegram.

They all pressed around eagerly while Katherine read it. It was from
Sherry:

  “South America boat sailed yesterday. Dr. Phillips gone. Can get no
  clue. Coming home to-night.”


A long, tragic “Oh-h-h!” from Hinpoha broke the stricken silence which
had fallen on the group at the reading of the message.

“Tough luck,” said the Captain feelingly, and Justice repeated, “Tough
luck,” like an echo.

The Winnebagos glanced uncertainly toward the stairway and looked at each
other inquiringly.

“Somebody go up and call Nyoda,” said Katherine.

Just at that moment the door of Sylvia’s room opened and Nyoda came
running downstairs with light, swift footsteps, her face wreathed in
smiles.

“Sylvia’s better,” she called, before she was halfway down. “The fever
left her while she was sleeping, and her temperature is normal. The
danger of pneumonia is over. I’m so relieved.” She skipped down the last
of the stairs like a young girl.

Then she caught sight of the telegram in Katherine’s hand, and sensed the
atmosphere of depression that prevailed in the lower hall. She knew the
truth before a word was spoken, and composed herself to meet it.

“They were too late?” she said quietly, as she joined the group, and held
out her hand for the bit of yellow paper.

“Poor Sylvia!” she exclaimed huskily. “She would soon be well enough to
hear the news—and now there is nothing to tell her. If we had only found
that letter a day sooner!”



                             CHAPTER XVIII
                       KATHERINE GOES TO THE CITY


“Does anyone want to go in to the city this afternoon?” asked Nyoda, as
they rose from luncheon. It had been a rather silent, dispirited meal,
and quickly gotten over with. “I had planned to go in and take a few
things to Mrs. Deane to-day, but now it will be impossible for me to get
away. Sylvia has been fretting about her aunt and I think someone ought
to go.”

“I’ll go,” said Katherine readily, her spirits rising at this prospect of
action. The suspense of the morning, ending in such a disappointment, had
begun to react upon her in a fit of the blues. Sahwah and Hinpoha, with
Slim and the Captain, had planned during luncheon to go roller-skating
that afternoon, but as Katherine could not roller-skate the plan held no
attraction for her. Justice had promised Sherry that he would go over the
lighting system on his car while he was away and was planning to spend
the whole afternoon in the garage; Migwan was going to sit with Sylvia to
give Nyoda a chance to rest; and Gladys had a sore throat which made her
disinclined to talk. Taking it by and large, Katherine had anticipated a
rather dismal afternoon, a prospect which was pleasantly altered by
Nyoda’s request.

“You can make the two o’clock train if you start immediately,” continued
Nyoda, “and the five-fifteen will bring you back in time for dinner. I
have the things for Mrs. Deane all ready.”

Katherine rose with alacrity and put on her hat and coat. “Any errands
while I am in town?” she asked, hunting for her umbrella in the stair
closet.

“None that I can think of,” replied Nyoda, after wrinkling her brow for a
moment, “unless you want to stop at the jeweller’s and get my watch. It’s
been there for several weeks, being regulated.”

“All right,” said Katherine, writing down the name of the jeweller in her
memorandum book. “You’ll notice I’m not trusting my memory this time,”
she remarked laughingly.

“I’ll take the five-fifteen train back,” she called over her shoulder as
she went out of the front door.

“Be careful how you hold that package!” Nyoda called warningly after her.
“There’s a glass of jelly in it that’ll upset!”

Gingerly holding the package by the string, Katherine picked her way
through the rapidly widening puddles on the sidewalks to the station. By
some miracle of good luck the package was still right side up when she
arrived at the hospital, and she breathed an audible sigh of relief when
it was at last safely out of her hands.

She found Mrs. Deane a frail, kindly-faced woman, bearing her discomfort
cheerfully, but, nevertheless, lonesome in this strange hospital ward and
very grateful for any attention shown her. Katherine began, as she
described it, to “express her sympathy quietly and in a ladylike manner,”
and ended up by delivering her famous “Wimmen’s Rights” speech for the
benefit of the whole ward. She finally escaped, after her sixth encore,
and fetched up breathless on the sidewalk, only to discover that she had
left her umbrella behind, and before she retrieved it she had to give her
speech all over again, for the benefit of an old lady who had been asleep
during the first performance.

There still being three-quarters of an hour before train time after she
had called at the jewellers for Nyoda’s watch, Katherine dropped into a
smart little tea-room to while away the intervening moments with a cup of
tea and a dish of her favorite shrimp salad. As she nibbled leisurely at
a dainty round of brown bread and idly watched the throngs coming and
going at the tables around her, a shrill cry of delight suddenly rang out
above the hum of voices and the clatter of dishes.

“Katherine! Katherine Adams!”

Katherine looked up to see an animated little figure in a beaver coat and
fur hat coming toward her through the crowd.

“Katherine Adams!” repeated the voice, “don’t you know me?”

“Why—Veronica! Veronica Lehar!” gasped Katherine in amazement. “What are
you doing here? I thought you were in New York.” She caught the little
brown-gloved hands in her own big ones and squeezed them until Veronica
winced.

“Katherine! Dear old K! How I’ve missed you!” Veronica cried rapturously,
and drawing her hands from Katherine’s grip she flung her arms
impulsively around her neck, regardless of the curious stares of the
onlookers.

“Let them stare!” she murmured stoutly, seeing Katherine’s face flush
with embarrassment as she encountered the quizzical gaze of a keen-eyed
young man at the next table. “If they hadn’t seen their beloved K for
nearly two years they’d want to hug her, too.”

She released Katherine after a final squeeze, and stood staring at her
with a puzzled expression on her vivacious face.

“What’s the matter?” asked Katherine wonderingly. “Have I got something
on wrong-side before?”

“That’s just what _is_ the matter,” replied Veronica, her bewilderment
also manifesting itself in her tone. “You _haven’t_ anything on
wrong-side before. You don’t look natural. What has happened to you?”

“Nothing,” replied Katherine, laughing, “and—everything. I’ve just
learned that clothes _do_ matter, after all.”

“Why, Katherine Adams, you’re perfectly stunning!” exclaimed Veronica in
sincere admiration. “That shade of blue in your dress—it was simply
_made_ for you.”

“I just happened to get it by accident,” said Katherine deprecatingly,
almost sheepishly, yet thrilled through and through with pleasure at
Veronica’s words of appreciation. It was no small triumph to be admired
by Veronica, whose highly artistic nature made her extremely critical of
people’s appearance.

“How I used to make your artistic eye water!” said Katherine laughingly.
“It’s a wonder you stood me as well as you did.”

“It was not I who had to ‘stand’ you, but you who had to ‘stand’ me,”
said Veronica seriously. “In spite of your loose ends you were—what do
you call it? ‘all wool and a yard wide,’ but I was the original prune.”
Veronica, while a perfect master of literary English, still faltered
deliciously over slang phrases.

Katherine, as usual, steered away from the subject of Veronica’s former
attitude toward her. When a thing was over and done with, Katherine
argued, there was no use of dragging it out into the light again.

“You haven’t told me yet how you happen to be here in this tea-room this
afternoon,” she said, by way of changing the subject, “when you told us,
over your own signature, that you would have to stay in New York all this
week. What do you mean,” she finished with mock gravity, “by deceiving us
so?”

“I have to play at a concert here in town to-night,” explained Veronica.
“It will be necessary for me to be back at the Conservatory to-morrow,
and am returning by a late train to-night. I didn’t know about it when I
wrote to Nyoda, or I should have insisted on her coming in for the
concert and bringing all the girls along. It’s an emergency case; I’m
just filling in on the program in place of a ’cello soloist who was taken
suddenly ill with influenza. The concert managers sent a hurry call to
Martini last night, asking him to send over the first student who
happened to be handy, and as I happened to be taking a lesson from
Martini at the time, I was the lucky one. I just came over this
afternoon.”

Veronica modestly suppressed the fact that it had been the great Martini
himself who had been urgently requested to play at the concert, but
having a previous engagement, had chosen her, out of the whole
Conservatory, to play in his stead.

“My aunt is here with me,” continued Veronica. “She’s over at that table
in the far corner behind that palm. I suppose she is wondering what has
become of me by this time. When I saw you over here I just jumped up and
ran off without a word of explanation. She’s probably eaten up my nut
rolls by this time, too; they were just being served when I rushed away.
Come on over and see her.”

Katherine followed Veronica through the crowded room to the far corner,
where, at a little table beneath a softly shaded wall lamp Veronica’s
aunt, Mrs. Lehar, sat placidly sipping tea and eating cakes. She did not
recognize Katherine at first, never having seen her otherwise than with
clothes awry and hair tumbling down over her eyes, and Katherine was
secretly amused at the gentle lady’s look of astonishment upon being told
who it was.

“She did eat my rolls, after all,” said Veronica to Katherine. “I knew
she would. But I’m glad she did; I am in far too exalted a mood for nut
rolls now. Nothing but nectar and ambrosia will do to celebrate our
meeting. Look and see if there’s any nectar and ambrosia on your menu
card, will you, Katherine dear? There doesn’t seem to be any on mine.”

“None here, either,” reported Katherine, after gravely reading her card
through.

“Then let’s compromise on lobster croquettes,” said Veronica. “I never
eat them ordinarily, but I feel as though I could eat a dozen to
celebrate this occasion.”

“Be careful what you eat, now,” warned her aunt. “It would be rather
awkward if you were to be taken with an attack of acute indigestion just
when you are due to appear on the platform.”

“Never fear!” laughed Veronica. “I am so transported over meeting
Katherine that nothing could give me indigestion now. What an inspiration
I shall have to play to-night!”

Then, taking Katherine’s hand, she said coaxingly, “You will come and
hear me play, won’t you?”

“I’m afraid I can’t,” replied Katherine regretfully. “I’m due to go back
on the five-fifteen train.”

“O, but you _must_ come!” cried Veronica pleadingly. “I’ll be so
miserable if you don’t that I sha’n’t be able to play at all. You
wouldn’t want me to spoil the concert on your account, would you,
Katherine dear? There is a later train you can go home on just as well,
isn’t there?”

“There is one at ten-forty-five,” replied Katherine, consulting the
time-table which she carried in her hand bag.

“You can hear me play, and make that train, too,” said Veronica eagerly.
“My numbers come in the early part of the program, all but one. If you
went out after I had played my first group you could make your train
beautifully. Do telephone Nyoda that you are going to stay over, and have
her send somebody down to meet you at the later train. That Justice
person——” she said mischievously, finishing with an expressive movement
of her eyebrows.

Katherine finally yielded to her pleading, and telephoned Nyoda that she
was going to stay in town until the ten-forty-five, which so delighted
Veronica that she ordered another croquette all the way around to
celebrate the happy circumstance.

“_Do_ be careful, dear,” warned her aunt a second time. “Those croquettes
are distressingly rich. What _would_ happen if you were to be taken ill
to-night?”

Veronica smiled serenely. “I’m not going to be taken ill to-night, aunty
dear,” she replied. “I’m going to be like Katherine, who can eat forty
lobster croquettes without getting sick.”

“Remember the mixtures we used to cook up in the House of the Open Door?”
she asked, turning to Katherine. “They were lots worse than lobster
croquettes, if the plain truth were known. You wouldn’t worry at all,
aunty, dear, if you knew what we used to eat at those spreads without
damaging ourselves!”

Katherine was completely carried away by Veronica’s vivaciousness and
temperamental whimsies. If she had admired the fiery little Hungarian in
the days of the House of the Open Door, she was now absolutely enslaved
by her. To plain, matter-of-fact Katherine, Veronica, with her artistic
temperament, was a creature from another world, inspiring a certain
amount of awed wonder, as well as admiring affection.

“What are you going to play at the concert to-night?” Katherine asked
respectfully.

Veronica’s eyes began to glow, and she pushed aside her plate, leaving
the second croquette to grow cold while she spoke animatedly upon the
subject that lay ever nearest her heart.

“I’m going to play a cycle from Nágár, a Roumanian Gypsy composer,” she
replied. “One of the pieces is the most wonderful thing; it’s called ‘The
Whirlwind.’ It fairly carries you away with its rush and movement, until
you want to fly, and shout, and go sailing away on the wings of the wind.
Another one is named ‘Fata Morgana.’ You know that’s what people call the
mirage that we can see out on the steppes—the open plains—of Hungary.”

“Yes?” murmured Katherine in a tone of eager interest. She loved to hear
Veronica tell tales of her homeland.

“Many a time I have seen it,” continued Veronica, her eyes sparkling with
a dreamy, far-off light, “a beautiful city standing out clear and fair
against the horizon; and have gone forth to find it, only to see it
vanish into the hot, quivering air, and to find myself lost out on the
wide, lonely steppe.”

Katherine listened, fascinated, while Veronica told stories of the
curious mirage that lured and mocked the dwellers on the lonely steppes
of her native land, and so deep was her absorption that she
absent-mindedly ate up Veronica’s croquette while she listened, to the
infinite amusement of Mrs. Lehar.

“Aren’t you going to play any of your own compositions?” asked Katherine,
when Veronica had finished talking about the Nágár cycle.

“Not as a regular number,” replied Veronica, taking up her fork to finish
her croquette, and deciding that she must already have eaten it, since
her plate was empty. “If, by any chance, I should be encored, I shall
play a little piece of my own that I have named ‘Fire Dreams,’ and
dedicated to the Winnebagos. I wrote it one night after a ceremonial
meeting out in the woods where we danced around the fire and then sat
down in a circle to watch it burn itself away to embers. We all told our
dreams for the future that night, don’t you remember? I have woven
everything together in my piece—the tall pines towering up to the sky;
the stars peering through the branches; the wind fiddling through the
leaves, and the river lapping on the stones below; with the firelight
waving and flickering, and coaxing us to tell our dreams. I love to play
it, because it brings back that scene so vividly; that and all the other
beautiful times we had around the camp fire.”

Katherine gazed at Veronica in speechless admiration. With absolutely no
musical ability herself, it seemed to her that anyone who could compose
music was a child of the gods. Veronica smiled back frankly into
Katherine’s admiring eyes, and gave her hand a fond squeeze.

“Now, tell me about Carver House and all the dear people there,” she
said, settling herself comfortably in her chair and propping her elbows
on the table. “We still have an hour to spare. Aunty won’t mind if we
talk about our own affairs, will you, aunty? Now, Katherine, take a long
breath and begin.”

The hour was up before Katherine was half way through telling the
exciting things that had happened at Carver House in the past week, and
with a sigh Veronica rose from the table and drew on her gloves.

“Come,” she said regretfully, “we’ll have to be starting. I have to go
over to the hotel first and get my violin, and the auditorium where I am
to play is some distance out.”

As they stepped from the tea-room into the street Katherine paused to buy
Veronica a huge bunch of violets at a little stand just inside the
entrance of the tall building next door. Not having enough money in her
change-purse to pay for them, she took a roll of bills from a bill-fold
in her inner pocket, and, taking five dollars from the roll, returned it
to its place of safety in the lining of her coat. Lounging against the
glass counter beside her was a slender, long-fingered man, whose gaze
suddenly became concentrated when the roll of bills made its appearance.
Katherine noticed his look of absorbed interest and a little thrill of
uneasiness prickled along her spine. She looked sharply at this
inquisitive stranger, fixing in her mind the details of his appearance.
He wore a long, light-colored overcoat and a visor cap pulled down over
his eyes, which were small and dark, and set close together in his thin,
sallow face, giving him a peculiar, ratlike expression. Katherine
buttoned her coat carefully over the bill-fold and hastily rejoined
Veronica and Mrs. Lehar in the street outside, conscious that the man’s
eyes were still upon her and that he had followed her out of the shop. To
her relief, Mrs. Lehar hailed a taxicab, and in a moment more they were
being whirled rapidly away from the scene.

An hour later Katherine found herself sitting in state in one of the
front boxes of a crowded auditorium, impatiently waiting for the soprano
soloist to finish a lengthy operatic aria and yield her place to
Veronica. The soloist bowed her way out at last, and Veronica, looking
like a very slender little child in contrast to the massive singer,
tripped out on the stage with her violin under her arm, just as she had
always carried it around in the House of the Open Door.

“She isn’t a bit scared!” was Katherine’s admiring thought.

Nodding brightly to the audience, Veronica laid her bow across the
strings with that odd little caressing gesture that Katherine remembered
so well, and began to play her long cycle from memory.

Strange images flitted through Katherine’s brain as she listened; the
lighted stage faded from sight, and in its place there stretched a wide,
grassy plain, shimmering in the sunlight and flecked with racing cloud
shadows, far ahead, gleaming clear against the gray-blue horizon, rose
the white towers and spires of a fair city, which seemed to call to her
in friendly invitation, awakening in her an irresistible longing to
travel toward it and behold its wonders at near hand. But ever as she
approached it receded into the distance, vanishing at last in the
twinkling of an eye, and leaving her alone in the heart of a wild,
desolate moor upon which darkness was swiftly falling. She started in
affright at the long, eerie cry of a nightbird; the deepening shadows
were filled with fearful, unnamable terrors. Her head reeled; the
strength went out from her limbs, and with icy hands pressed tightly over
her eyes to shut out the menacing shadow-shapes, she sank shuddering to
the ground. She was roused by the sound of thunder, and opening her eyes
found the lonely moor vanished, and in its place the brightly lighted
stage, while the thunder which echoed in her ears resolved itself into a
tumult of hand-clapping.

Katherine rubbed her eyes and sat up straight. “What was that piece she
just played?” she asked in a whisper.

“That was the ‘Fata Morgana,’” replied Mrs. Lehar.

It was several minutes after ten o’clock when Veronica finished her last
encore, and Katherine, glancing at her watch, hastily reached for her
coat, and leaving a goodnight message for Veronica with Mrs. Lehar,
started from the auditorium.



                              CHAPTER XIX
                  THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF KATHERINE


The curious spell of the “Fata Morgana” descended upon Katherine again as
she emerged from the concert hall and made her way through a poorly
lighted side street toward the main avenue where the street cars passed.
The long, waving shadows seemed to clutch at her ankles as she walked;
strange noises sounded in her ears; the trees that bordered the curb left
their places and began to move toward her with a grotesque, circling
motion, while the distant glare of light toward which she was traveling
began to recede until it was a mere twinkling speck, miles away in the
distance. Again her strength forsook her, and with violently trembling
hands she grasped an iron fence railing and clung desperately to keep
herself from falling. The touch of the cold metal sent a little shock
tingling through her; she braced herself and looked steadily at the
spectres crowding about her. The trees had gone back into their places;
the shadows no longer seemed to be crouching ready to spring at her.

“Silly!” exclaimed Katherine, though her teeth still chattered.

She let go of the fence and started on; immediately the trees resumed
their fantastic circling, and again her knees threatened to double under
her. Then she realized that it was not the “Fata Morgana” that held her
in thrall, but the extra lobster croquette. The disastrous fate which
Mrs. Lehar had predicted would overtake Veronica had befallen her
instead—she was in the throes of acute indigestion! O, if only she had
not eaten that second croquette! Lobster never agreed with her; she
should have known better than to eat it, especially after she had just
eaten shrimp salad. Why hadn’t she had the sense to refuse that second
one? (Katherine was still unaware that she had eaten, not two, but three
of the deadly things, a circumstance which had undoubtedly saved Veronica
from a like fate.)

She clung dizzily to the fence for a few moments, and then, feeling
somewhat relieved by the cold wind blowing strongly against her face,
struck out once more for the carline. A few steps convinced her that she
could not make it; the world was whirling around her, and her limbs
refused to obey her will. A little farther up the street, where the fence
ended, the arched entrance-way into a church offered a resting-place and
shelter against the high wind and beating rain. Stumbling up the steps,
she sank down on the stone floor, and, pressing her cold hand against her
throbbing temples, leaned weakly against the wall of her little
sanctuary.

Weariness overcame her and she sank gradually into a doze, from which she
wakened with a start at the sound of a steeple clock chiming. Boom! Boom!
Boom! The clanging tones echoed through the narrow street. Katherine sat
up hastily and stared around her in bewilderment for a moment; then
recollected herself and rose cautiously to her feet. To her infinite
relief she found that her knees no longer had any inclination to knock
together; the feeling of illness had passed. Taking a deep breath, and
setting her hat straight on her head, she walked steadily down the steps
and out upon the street once more. The clock which had wakened her so
rudely was in the steeple just above her and Katherine gave a gasp of
dismay when she saw the time. A quarter to eleven! She should be down at
the station now, taking the ten-forty-five train back to Oakwood. What
had happened? Could she possibly have fallen asleep in that cozy little
entrance way? Why had she not heard the clock strike the half hour? How
worried Nyoda would be when she did not come in on that ten-forty-five
train! she thought in sudden panic. She must hasten down to the station
immediately and telephone Nyoda that she had missed that train, but would
come on the next.

Was there another train to-night? she wondered, in fresh panic.
Ten-forty-five sounded like the last local. She stopped under a street
light for the purpose of consulting her time-table, and then she made a
discovery which drove the matter of time-tables out of her head entirely,
and brought the weakness back to her knees in full force, namely, the
discovery that she no longer carried her handbag. Her heart almost
stopped beating, for in that handbag was Nyoda’s watch—the little
jewelled watch Sherry had given her for an engagement present. Aside from
its intrinsic value, which was considerable, Nyoda cherished that watch
above all her other possessions.

She must have left the bag in the entrance-way where she had stopped to
rest, Katherine decided, and, forgetting all about the weakness of a half
hour ago, she ran swiftly across the street and up the steps of the
church. She felt over every inch of the floor in the darkness, but the
bag was not there.

Had she brought it with her out of the auditorium? Yes, because she had
dropped it in the lobby, and in stooping to pick it up had felt the first
touch of that dizzyness which had overpowered her so soon afterward. She
must have lost it in the street. She retraced her steps back to the
concert hall, now dark and deserted, carefully searching all the way. Her
search, however, was unavailing; and with a sinking feeling she realized
that either someone had picked it up, or else she had been deliberately
robbed while she slept; in either event, the bag was gone, and with it
Nyoda’s watch.

It seemed to her that she could never go home and tell Nyoda that it was
lost; she wished the earth would open up and swallow her where she stood,
thus releasing her, at one stroke, from her distressful position. She
bitterly reproached herself for having stayed in town that evening,—if
she had gone home on the five-fifteen train this wouldn’t have happened.
Nyoda had given her precious watch into her keeping, trusting her to
bring it back safely, and she had betrayed that trust; had proved herself
unreliable. Nyoda would never trust her with anything valuable again;
would never send her on another errand. True, it was not exactly her
fault that she had lost the bag; but if she had not been foolish enough
to eat all those lobster croquettes after eating shrimp salad she would
not have had any dizzy spell to distract her attention from her
responsibility.

For fully five minutes she stood still and called herself every hard name
she could think of, and ended up by making an emphatic resolution in
regard to the future attitude toward lobster croquettes. In the meantime,
she decided, she had better notify the police about the watch. A block
ahead of her the green and blue lights of a drug store shone blurred but
unmistakable through the misty atmosphere, and she splashed her way
toward it, only to find on arriving that the place was closed. She walked
several more blocks, searching either for an open drug store where she
could telephone, or a corner policeman, and finding neither. A street
clock pointed to eleven, and from somewhere in the darkness behind her
came the subdued tone of the steeple chime.

The rain had stopped now, and it was growing colder; the puddles on the
sidewalk began to be filmed over with ice. The wind took on a cutting
edge and came sallying forth in great gusts, shrieking along the
telephone wires and setting the electric arc lights overhead swaying
wildly back and forth, until the rapidly shifting lights and shadows
below gave the street the look of a tossing lake. Now billowing out like
a sail, now wrapping itself determinedly around her ankles, Katherine’s
long coat began to make walking a difficult proceeding. Then, without
warning, the arc lights suddenly went out, plunging the world into utter
blackness. With that, Katherine abandoned her intention of searching for
a telephone and decided to get down to her train as fast as she could.
With every other step she went crashing through a thin coating of ice
into a puddle, for in the darkness it was impossible to see where she was
going, and once she tripped over an uneven edge of flagging and went
sprawling on her hands and knees. Thereafter, she felt her way, like a
blind person, with the point of her umbrella.

It was gradually borne in upon Katherine, as she floundered on through
the puddles, that she was not retracing her steps toward the carline, but
was proceeding in a new and entirely unknown direction. The store fronts
which loomed indistinctly through the darkness were not the same ones she
had passed before; surely those others had not been so shabby and
disreputable looking. But so intense was the blackness of the night that
she could not be sure about anything; she might be on the right track
after all. Undoubtedly the next turn would bring her back to the lighted
drug store, and from that point she could easily locate herself. No green
and blue lights appeared when she turned the next corner, however; as far
as she could see, there was only gloom in the distance. Katherine tried
street after street with no better success; they all led endlessly on
into darkness. She met no one from whom she dared ask the way; for there
was only an occasional passer-by, and he usually looked tipsy. It was
evidently a factory district Katherine had wandered into, for all around
her were great dark buildings with high chimneys, long, dim warehouses,
box cars standing on sidings, silent, gloomy freight sheds; there seemed
to be no end of them anywhere; in all directions they stretched out, like
Banquo’s descendents, apparently to the crack of doom. The nightmare of
the “Fata Morgana” had come true, and she was lost in the wilderness of a
strange city.

For a long time Katherine had not heard the rumble of a street car, and
this phenomenon finally became so noticeable that she realized what must
have happened—the traction power had been cut off as well as the lighting
current. With that realization her last hope of getting down to the
station went glimmering—unless she could get a taxicab. But where was one
to find a taxicab in this district? A faint light gleaming in the window
of a small shop that crouched between two tall factories lured Katherine
on with the hope that here was a telephone, or at least someone about who
could tell her the way. She hastened toward it, but her heart turned to
water within her when she saw that the lettering on the window pane was
Chinese. More than anything else in the whole universe, Katherine feared
a Chinaman; she was so afraid of the little yellow men that even in broad
daylight she could never go by a Chinese laundry without holding her
breath and shuddering. Even the picture of a Chinaman gave her the
creeps. When she discovered that she was in a Chinese neighborhood after
eleven o’clock at night, with the street lamps all out, a hoarse cry of
terror broke involuntarily from her lips, and she began to run blindly,
she knew not where, penetrating deeper and deeper into that jungle of
factories which flanks the railroad on both sides for miles.

Out of breath finally, she came to a stop, and for a few moments stood
gasping, with a hand to her side. Not far ahead of her a light from a
building shone across the darkness of the street, and loud sounds of
revelry coming from the direction of the light told her that the place
was a saloon. She stood still for another moment, trying to get up
courage to pass it; decided at last that with Chinamen in the other
direction it was the lesser of two evils, and walked on, praying
fervently that none of the revellers inside would come out at the moment
she was going by. She had hardly gone a few steps when a figure appeared
on the lighted sidewalk in front of the place with a suddenness which
left no doubt of his having come from within. In the bright glare
Katherine recognized the long light coat and visor cap of the man who had
stood beside her that evening in the flower shop where she had purchased
Veronica’s violets, and who had looked with such a covetous eye upon the
roll of bills she had taken from her inside coat pocket. The bills were
still there, and it seemed to her now that they made a very telltale
bulge over her right breast. The man was coming toward her; in a few
minutes he would see and recognize her, and then——

Katherine darted into an alleyway which opened near her, and on through a
half-open gate in a low, solid wooden fence, and crouching there behind
the fence in the darkness, she waited until the footsteps had gone
past,—creak, creak, creakety-creak, with a rhythmic squeaking of shoes.
Not until the sound had died away completely did she venture forth from
her hiding place, and then she stood perfectly still and looked
cautiously about her in every direction before she made a move to
proceed. With the knowledge that the danger had passed, her feeling of
panic began to leave her, and her native coolness began to assert itself.
She took a careful stock of her situation and tried to think up a way to
escape from her predicament. That she was hopelessly lost in this
wilderness of streets whose names meant nothing to her, even if she had
been able to see the sign boards, she realized full well; instinct warned
her not to betray her situation to anyone she might meet in this
neighborhood—providing she met any one, for the wind seemed to have blown
all pedestrians off the streets; and the lateness of the hour made it
extremely unprobable that she would find a telephone. She stood on one
leg in the storklike attitude which always indicated deep thought with
her, and pondered all the phases of her dilemma with the calm
deliberation which invariably came to her in moments of great stress.
“The only time Katherine is composed,” Sahwah had said once, “is when she
is in a pickle.” And if Katherine was now in the biggest pickle she had
ever experienced, by the same token her brain had never worked so coolly
and logically before.

“When lost in the woods,” she said to herself, going over in her mind her
knowledge of woodcraft, “the first thing to do is to climb a tree and get
your bearings. That’s all right for the woods, but there aren’t any trees
here to climb. I might climb a telegraph pole,” she thought whimsically,
as her eye fell upon one nearby, “and see if I can locate myself. No,
that wouldn’t do, either, for the whole city is dark, and I couldn’t see
anything if I did get up. So much for rule number one.

“Now for rule number two. ‘Establish your directions by observing and
reading the signs of nature. Moss always grows on the north side of
trees.’ Hm. Trees again, and telegraph poles won’t do as substitutes this
time. Moss doesn’t grow on the north side of telegraph poles. There isn’t
any difference between the north side of a telegraph pole and any
other——”

Katherine’s train of thought was suddenly interrupted by her glance
resting on the pole in question. One side of it, she could see in the
light from the saloon, was glazed with ice where the driving rain had
frozen in the chill wind. That wind was now coming from every
direction—north, south, east and west—at once, and it was therefore
impossible to judge from the whirling gusts which was north; but earlier
in the evening, when the rain was falling, the wind had blown steadily
from the north. Accordingly, the strip of ice on those poles carried the
very same message as the moss on the trees in the woods. Katherine
exclaimed aloud in delight at her discovery. In a twinkling she had her
bearings.

“North, south, east, west,” she said triumphantly, pointing in the four
respective directions. “Not a bad piece of scouting, that. What’s the
difference, whether it’s moss or ice?—it’s the same principle. Talk about
your _pole_ stars!

“I believe I know approximately where I am,” she continued, her brain
keeping up its logical working. “We turned south from B—— Avenue to go to
the Music Hall, I remember hearing Veronica say so; therefore, not yet
having come to B—— Avenue in my wanderings, I must still be on the south
side of it, and by going due north will come to it eventually. The way is
as plain as the nose on your face; just follow the ice on the telegraph
poles. I can feel it in places where it’s too dark to see. All aboard for
B—— Avenue!”

Katherine set off as fast as she could go through the darkness, whistling
in her relief, and confidently keeping her feet pointed toward the north.
As if acting upon the principle that the gods help them who help
themselves, the street lights came on again just at that moment, showing
up the corners and crossings, and making progress very much easier. She
had gone some half dozen blocks, and was once more passing the long row
of gloomy, windowless warehouses which she remembered having seen before,
when it became apparent to her alert senses that she was being followed.
For the last two or three blocks she had heard the sound of a footfall
behind her, turning the same corners she had turned, taking the same
short-cut she had taken through a factory yard, and gradually drawing
nearer. “Creak, creak, creakety-creak!” Through the still night air it
sounded with startling distinctness; the same squeaking footfall that had
passed her ten minutes before, when she had crouched, with wildly beating
heart, behind the fence in the dark alley. Filled with prophetic
apprehension, she turned and looked around, and in the light of a street
lamp several hundred yards behind her saw the figure that had loomed so
large in her fears all evening. It required no second glance to recognize
the long, light overcoat and the visor cap drawn low over the eyes. For
an instant, Katherine’s feeling of alarm held her rooted to the spot,
even while she noticed that the man had increased his speed and the
distance between them was rapidly lessening; then the power of locomotion
came back with a rush and she began to run. Her worst fears were
confirmed when she heard the man behind her start to run also.

Katherine doubled her speed and fled like a deer, slipping wildly over
the icy sidewalk and expecting every minute to fall down, but by some
miracle of good luck managing to retain her balance. Yet, run as she
might, she realized that her pursuer was gaining; the footsteps pounding
along behind her sounded nearer and nearer every minute. Her long coat,
winding about her knees, caused her to slacken speed; her breath began to
give out; she developed an agonizing pain in her side. She knew that the
race was lost; in a moment more she would be overtaken. She had just
summoned breath for a last final spurt when she heard a crash behind her
and the sound of a body falling on the sidewalk; she dashed on without
slackening speed. The next minute she slipped on a sheet of ice in the
middle of a crossing and fell headlong to the ground, just as a taxicab,
coming out of the side street, turned the corner. Katherine heard a
hoarse shout and the jamming of an emergency brake, then, before she had
time to draw breath, the car was on top of her. A blinding light flashed
for a moment in her eyes; her ears were filled with a deafening roar;
then all of a sudden light and sound both ceased to be.

Hearing came back first with returning consciousness. The roaring noise
no longer sounded in her ears, and from somewhere, a long distance off,
came the sound of a voice speaking.

“Can’t you lift the car? She’s pinned underneath the wheels. No, you
can’t back up; you’ll run over her head. Don’t you see it’s right behind
that left wheel? Got a jack in your tool box? All right. Here—— Now——”

Gradually the weight that was pinning her to the ground was lifted, and
she opened her eyes to find herself beside, and no longer under, the
quivering monster with the hot breath. Three figures were moving about
her in the light of the head-lamps, and now one of them knelt beside her
and laid a hand on her head.

“She isn’t killed,” said a voice which sounded strangely familiar in
Katherine’s ears, a voice which somehow carried her back to Carver House
and the library fire.

Carver House. Nyoda. Nyoda would be worried to death because she did not
come home. Poor Nyoda, how sorry she would be about the watch!

Unconsciously Katherine groaned aloud.

“She must be pretty badly hurt,” continued the voice beside her ear.
“Help me lift her now and we’ll get her into the car. A hand under her
shoulders—so. I’ll take her head. Easy now.”

Katherine felt herself being lifted from the ground and carried past the
glare of the headlamps. Suddenly there came an explosive exclamation from
one of the rescuers—the one who had done the talking—and the hand that
supported her head trembled violently.

“Good God! It’s _Katherine_.”

Katherine opened her eyes fully and looked up into the dumfounded face of
Sherry.

“Fo’ de lan’ sakes!” came an echoing exclamation from beside Sherry, and
the black face of Hercules shone out in the light.

“Hello Sherry,” said Katherine, in a voice which sounded strange in her
own ears.

“Katherine!” cried Sherry in terrified accents, “are you badly hurt?”

“I d-o-n-’t k-n-o-w,” replied Katherine thickly, through a mouthful of
fur from the collar of her coat.

“I guess not,” she resumed, after Sherry had laid her on the back seat of
the car. “Nothing cracks when I wiggle it. My nose is skinned,” she
supplemented a minute later, “and there’s a comb sticking straight into
my head. I guess that’s all.”

“Oh,” breathed Sherry in immeasurable relief. “It’s a miracle you weren’t
killed. I thought sure you were. It looked as though both front wheels
had gone over you.”

“One went over my hat and the other over the tail of my coat,” replied
Katherine cheerfully. “They just missed me by a hair’s breadth.”

“Are you sure your head isn’t hurt?” Sherry continued anxiously. “You
were unconscious when we lifted the car off of you, you know.”

Katherine solemnly felt her head all over. “There _is_ a bump there—no;
that’s my bump of generosity; it belongs there. Anyway, it doesn’t hurt
when I press it, so it must be all right,” she assured him. “I must have
fainted, I guess, when the car came on top of me. It came so suddenly,
and it made such a terrible noise. You can’t think how awful it was.”

“It must have been.” A shudder went quivering through Sherry’s frame at
the thought of it. “I can’t get it out of my mind. I thought those wheels
went right over you. It’s nothing short of a miracle that they went on
each side of you instead of over you,” he said, repeating the sentiment
he had just uttered a moment before. “It all happened so quickly the
driver didn’t have a chance to turn aside. There was no one in sight one
minute, and the next minute we were right on top of you. That driver out
there’s so scared he can’t stand up on his legs yet.”

“How did you happen to be in that taxicab?” Katherine inquired curiously.

“We’re on our way home,” replied Sherry. “We missed the Pennsylvania out
of New York and had to take the Nickel Plate, which meant we had to
change from one station to the other here in Philadelphia. We were going
across in a taxi.”

“So you were too late to catch Dr. Phillips?” said Katherine soberly.

“Yes,” replied Sherry gloomily. “The boat had gone yesterday.”

“How did Hercules stand the disappointment?” asked Katherine, with quick
sympathy.

“He’s pretty badly cut up about it,” replied Sherry. “He had quite a bad
spell with his heart on the train. He says he’s had a ‘token’ that he’ll
never see Marse Tad, as he calls him, again. I’m afraid he won’t, myself.
Even I’ve got a gloomy hunch that fate has the cards stacked against us
this time. From Hercules’ account, I don’t think Dr. Phillips will live
to reach South America.”

“How unutterably tragic that would be!” sighed Katherine, beginning to
feel a load of world-sorrow pressing on her heart. What a dismal business
life was, to be sure!

Sherry interrupted her doleful reverie. “But tell me, Katherine, what, in
the name of all that’s fantastic, were you doing here in this
neighborhood at this time of night?”

Katherine explained briefly, and in her overwrought state, burst into
tears at the mention of the watch.

“And you say there was a footpad actually following you?” asked Sherry in
consternation. “You were running away from this man when you fell under
the car? Where is he now?”

Katherine shook her head. “I don’t know. He slipped and fell just before
I did, and I don’t know what became of him after that.”

Sherry gave a long whistle, and, thrusting his head out of the taxi, gave
a look around.

“There’s a man coming up the street now,” he said. “He’s limping badly.
Is that the man? He’s probably trying to slip away quietly in the
excitement.”

Katherine raised her head and glanced out. “That’s the man,” she
exclaimed. “He’s the same one that followed me. Why, he’s coming over
here toward us!” she said, in a tone of surprise. “How queer! Is he going
to hold us all up, I wonder?”

The man in the light overcoat, limping painfully, crossed the curb and
approached the car standing, temporarily disabled, in the middle of the
street. Sherry thrust out a belligerent face, at the same time looking,
out of the tail of his eye, for his driver and Hercules. Both were out of
sight, kneeling on the ground at the other side of the raised engine
hood.

The stranger limped up and hesitated before Sherry. Katherine, looking
over Sherry’s shoulder, noticing with a start of surprise that the man
had snow white hair. Although the long, light coat and the visor cap were
the same as those she had seen on the man in the flower shop, this was an
entirely different man. His blue eyes were mild and pensive; his whole
bearing was gentle and retiring, and, standing there with the electric
light behind him making a halo of his white hair, he looked like some
little, old, melancholy saint.

“The young lady that you just picked up,” said the stranger in a voice
mellow with old-fashioned courtesy, raising his cap politely. “I have
been following her for some time, trying unsuccessfully to catch up with
her. I saw her drop this bag on the street, some two hours ago, and since
then have been attempting to restore it to her, but have not been able to
reach her. As soon as I saw her drop the bag I picked it up and hurried
after her, but she suddenly disappeared like a conjurer’s trick. I walked
around for some time, looking for her, when all of a sudden the street
lights went out, and in the darkness I mistook my way and wandered down
into the factory district, where it was not long before I was hopelessly
lost. The only place that showed any signs of life was a saloon down on a
corner, and, although I have my opinion of those places, sir, I went in
and asked the proprietor the way out of the neighborhood. It was not long
afterward that I saw this same young lady who had dropped the handbag not
far ahead of me in the street, having evidently wandered down there in
the darkness just as I had done. I hurried after her, but she became
frightened and began to run. I ran, too, thinking to overtake her and
explain the reason for my pursuit, but just when I was nearly up to her I
slipped and fell on the sidewalk. I must have lain there stunned for
several minutes, for when things had become clear again I saw this car
standing here and you gentlemen carrying the young lady into it. She is
not badly hurt, I trust? Here is the bag I spoke of.”

He spied Katherine looking over Sherry’s shoulder at that moment, and
held out the handbag, again lifting his cap as he did so.

At sight of the precious bag Katherine gave a shriek of joy, and seizing
it with trembling fingers, looked inside to see if Nyoda’s watch was
still there. She almost sobbed with relief when her fingers closed upon
the little velvet case, from which a faint ticking came to reassure her.

“Then you aren’t the man I saw in the flower shop at all!” exclaimed
Katherine, covered with confusion. “When I saw your light coat and that
cap I was sure it was the same.”

The two men laughed heartily.

“Isn’t that just like a woman, though?” said Sherry. “They think that
every man walking on the streets at night is a burglar, as a matter of
course. It never occurs to them that an honest man could possibly have
any business on the street after dark.”

“I’m awfully sorry,” said Katherine sheepishly, “but I really was
frightened to death when you began to run after me. You say you have been
following me ever since I dropped the bag? Where did I drop it?”

“Along by that iron fence on —th Street,” answered the old man.

“That’s where I was taken with the dizzy spell,” said Katherine. “I must
have dropped it without knowing it when I caught ahold of the fence to
steady myself.”

“But where did you go right after that?” asked the old man curiously.
“You disappeared as suddenly as if the earth had swallowed you. I put up
my umbrella for a few minutes to shield my face from the rain and when I
looked out from behind it you were nowhere in sight.”

“That was where I went into the dark doorway of a church, and sat down to
wait for the dizzy spell to wear off,” replied Katherine. “I must have
fallen asleep, for the first thing I knew a clock was striking a quarter
to eleven. When I discovered the bag was gone I ran around like mad
looking for it, and the first thing I knew I was lost, and the lights
were out, and there I was down in those awful factory yards. I saw you
coming out of that saloon and thought you were the man who had watched me
take out some bills out of an inner pocket earlier this evening, and hid
behind a fence until you had gone by.”

“But fate evidently intended that our paths should cross again,” resumed
the old man, with the faint flicker of a smile on his pensive
countenance, “for it was not long before you were just ahead of me again.
The lights came on then, and I saw you plainly.”

“And I saw you, and started to run,” finished Katherine, joining in
Sherry’s burst of laughter.

Just then Hercules straightened up from the ground and came around the
front of the car.

“Kin we have yo’ pocket flasher, Mist’ Sherry?” he asked.

Then his glance fell upon the stranger standing beside the car. His eyes
started from their sockets; his jaw dropped, and for a moment he stood as
if petrified. Then he gave a great gasp, and with a piercing cry of
“Marse Tad!” he sank upon his knees at the old man’s feet.



                               CHAPTER XX
                        THE END OF A PERFECT DAY


“Daggers and dirks!” exclaimed Sherry, weakly sitting down on the car
step when it was finally borne in upon him that Katherine’s highwayman
was none other than Sylvia’s father, Hercules’ “Marse Tad,” the man for
whom he and Hercules had been futilely fine-combing the earth for the
last twenty-four hours.

“Am I awake?” he continued, “or is this all an opium dream? First
Katherine, whom we thought at home at Carver House, materializes before
us out of thin air; then Dr. Phillips, whom we thought on a ship bound
for South America. What’s happening here to-night, anyway? Is it
witchcraft?”

“O, Marse Tad,” quavered Hercules, still on his knees, “we shore thought
you was gone on dat South Ameriky boat. We bin a-lookin’ for you so.
Mist’ Sher’dan an’ I bin down to N’Yawk all day.”

“You have been looking for me?” asked Dr. Phillips in surprise.

Hercules, trying to tell the story all at once, became utterly incoherent
in his excitement, and Sherry saw that he would have to step in. And so
there, in the light from the lamps of the disabled taxicab, with the
fitful explosions of the reviving engine drowning out Sherry’s speech
every few minutes, Tad Phillips heard the great news that would lift the
crushing load of anguish from his heart, and would turn the world once
more into a place of laughter, and light, and happiness.

“It was a miracle, my deciding to stay over for the next boat,” he
declared solemnly, a few minutes later, after nearly wringing Sherry’s
hand off in an effort to express his joy and gratitude. “It was the hand
of Providence, sir, nothing less than the hand of Providence. I had fully
made up my mind to go on that boat yesterday; then for no reason at all I
suddenly decided to wait until next week before sailing.” His voice sank
away into a whisper of awe as he repeated, “It was Providence itself,
sir, nothing less than the hand of Providence, that made me change my
mind about sailing yesterday.”

“You may have been inspired by Providence to change your mind about
sailing,” rejoined Sherry, “but if it hadn’t been for Katherine, here, we
never would have found you, for it never occurred to us that you were
still in Philadelphia. It’s all Katherine’s doing—her losing that
handbag.”

“But if I hadn’t eaten those lobster croquettes and gotten sick I
wouldn’t have lost the handbag,” said Katherine comically. “It all comes
back to the lobster croquettes. Providence and lobster croquettes! What a
combination to work miracles!”

It was a rather dishevelled, but altogether triumphant quartet that
arrived at Carver House some few hours later. Katherine’s hair had
escaped from its net and hung in straggling wisps over her eyes; her hat
had been so completely crushed by its contact with the wheel of the taxi
that it was unrecognizable as an article of millinery, and hung, a mere
twisted piece of wreckage, in a dejected lump over one ear. Her coat was
plastered with dirt from neck to hem, and her gloves were stiff and
discolored. One eye was closed in a permanent wink by a black smudge that
decorated her forehead and half of her cheek.

Blissfully unconscious of her startling appearance, she burst into the
library, where the household were waiting to welcome the returned
wanderers.

“O Katherine,” cried all the Winnebagos in chorus when they beheld her,
“now you look natural again!”

The tale of Katherine’s adventure, with its astonishing ending, left them
all staring and breathless.

“Katherine surely must have been born under a different sign of the
Zodiac than those you see in the ordinary almanacs,” said Nyoda. “There
is some special influence of planets guiding her that is denied to
ordinary mortals.”

“Must be the sign of the Lobster, then,” laughed Katherine, gratefully
sipping the hot milk Migwan had brought her, and allowing Justice to draw
the hatpins from her hat and remove the battered wreck from her head.

“How’s Sylvia?” asked Sherry.

“Very much improved,” replied Nyoda, “but her heart is still acting
queerly. I don’t know how she is going to stand this excitement.”

Dr. Phillips agreed with her that he must not appear before Sylvia too
suddenly, or the shock might be fatal. Impatient as he was for the
recognition to take place, he knew that it would have to be brought about
with caution. There was too much at stake to make a misstep now. Nyoda
must prepare her gradually, first telling her that her father was alive,
and letting her recover from the excitement of that announcement before
breaking the news that he was actually in the house.

The Winnebagos looked at Dr. Phillips with a surprise which it was
difficult to conceal. This mild-eyed, white-haired gentleman was utterly
different from the picture they had conjured up of the bold intruder who
had so determinedly made his entrance into Carver House. They had
expected to see a grim-faced, resolute-looking man, and Hinpoha confided
afterward that her mental picture had included a pair of pistols sticking
out of his pockets. The early portrait of “Tad the Terror,” in Uncle
Jasper’s diary, had been slightly misleading in regard to his appearance.

Nyoda saw Dr. Phillips’ eyes fixed, with a sorrowful expression, upon the
portrait of Uncle Jasper above the library fireplace, and she guessed
what bitter pangs the breaking up of that friendship had cost him;
guessed also, that he had held no such bitter feeling against Jasper
Carver as the master of Carver House had held against him, and
understanding the characters of the two men, she saw why it was that
Sylvia Warrington had preferred the one to the other.

Over by the fireplace, Justice was teasing Katherine unmercifully about
the lobster croquettes, while behind her back the Captain had taken one
of the broken feathers from her hat and was tickling Slim with it, who
had fallen asleep in his chair. The clock on the stairway chimed four.

An irrepressible attack of yawning seized the whole party, and with one
impulse the Winnebagos began to steal toward the stairway.

“Well,” said Katherine, with a sigh of deep content, as she went wearily
up the stairs leaning on Migwan’s shoulder, “well, this is the end of a
perfect day!”



                              CHAPTER XXI
                          FATHER AND DAUGHTER


In the morning Sylvia was so much better that Nyoda allowed her to sit up
out of bed, and there, sitting beside the wheel chair which was to be the
throne of the little princess all her life, she told Sylvia the story of
her parentage. For a moment Sylvia sat as if turned to stone; then with a
cry of unbelieving ecstasy, she clasped the picture of Sylvia Warrington
to her heart.

“My mother!”

Nyoda stole out softly and left the two of them together.

                    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

Later on in the afternoon there was a lively bustle of preparation in
Sylvia’s room. The great carved armchair that had served as throne on the
night of the party had been brought up from the library, and once more
covered with its purple velvet draperies. Sylvia, whose romantic fancy
had seized eagerly upon the immense dramatic possibilities of the
occasion, had insisted upon being arrayed as the princess when her father
should come in to see her.

“The king is coming! The king is coming!” she exclaimed every few
moments. “Array me in my most splendid robes, for my royal father, the
king, is coming!”

Thrills of excitement, like little needle pricks, ran up and down her
spine; her whole being seemed alight with some wonderful inner radiance,
that shone through the flesh and transfigured it with unearthly beauty.

Nyoda brought the fairy-like white dress and draped it about her, playing
the rôle of lady-in-waiting with spirit. Every time she passed before
Sylvia she bowed low; she made the Winnebagos stand up in a line and pass
in the bracelets from hand to hand; she herself brought in the crown on a
cushion, and placed it upon Sylvia’s head with much ceremony.

“Doesn’t she look like a real royal princess, though!” Migwan exclaimed
to Hinpoha in the far end of the room. “I feel actually abashed before
her, knowing all the while that it’s only playing.”

“O, if she could only have been cured!” Hinpoha sighed in answer. “How
much jollier it would have been!”

Migwan echoed the sigh. “Life is very strange,” she said musingly.
“Things don’t always come out the way we want them to.”

“That’s so,” said Hinpoha, beginning to see a great many sober
possibilities in life which had never before occurred to her.

An automobile horn sounded outside. “There’s Sherry now, bringing Dr.
Phillips back from their ride,” said Migwan. “They’ll be coming up in a
few minutes.”

The horn sounded again.

“The royal trumpeter!” cried Sylvia. “Our royal father, the king,
approaches!”

She settled the crown more firmly upon her head, and sat up very straight
on her throne. Her cheeks glowed like roses; her eyes were like great
stars. Nyoda watched her keenly for any signs of being overcome with
excitement.

From the hall came the sound of footsteps.

“His Majesty, the King,” said Nyoda, throwing open the door with a
dramatic flourish.

For a moment Dr. Phillips stood transfixed upon the threshold, overcome
by the scene of splendor within.

Then he held out his arms to her, forgetting that she was paralyzed.

“Sylvia—daughter!”

“Father!”

Then the amazing thing happened. Sylvia rose to her feet, stepped from
the throne, and ran across the room into her father’s arms.

“It happens sometimes,” explained Dr. Phillips a few moments later, when
they had all recovered from their first stupefied amazement. “Some great
shock, and the paralyzed nerves wake to life again. That is what has
taken place here. She is cured.”



                              CHAPTER XXII
                             ONE MORE TOAST


“To the Christmas Adventure at Carver House!” proposed Katherine, raising
on high her glass of fruit punch.

New Year’s dinner was over, and they all stood in their places around the
table, drinking toast after toast.

“The Christmas Adventure at Carver House!” echoed the Winnebagos. “The
best adventure we’ve had yet. Drink her down!” The toast was drunk with a
will.

Sylvia stood beside her father, her face one big sparkle, while a more
subdued, but equally rapturous, gleam shone from the doctor’s eye as he
gazed on the adored child from whom he need never more be separated. The
Captain stood opposite Hinpoha and gave her a long look as he touched her
glass, as if he wished to fix every detail of her in his mind against the
separation that was coming on the morrow; Slim also had his eyes turned
toward Hinpoha as he clicked glasses with Gladys across the table.
Justice gave Katherine’s glass a little nudge as he touched it, to
attract her attention, for she had her face turned away from him toward
Sylvia; Sahwah’s eye had a far-away look as she matched with Migwan.
Nyoda and Sherry beamed impartially upon them all, and Hercules smacked
his lips over his glass in the corner by himself. Hercules had abandoned
his intention of dying, and announced that he was planning to get himself
another goat, because life was too uneventful for a man of his vigor
without something to fuss over and take up his time.

“And it all happened because Katherine forgot Nyoda’s name!” said Sahwah,
setting her glass down.

“I wasn’t born in vain after all!” laughed Katherine, meeting Justice’s
eye bent upon her in a close, quizzical scrutiny.

“Which goes to prove,” said Nyoda, “that everything has its use in this
world, even our shortcomings. Let’s celebrate that discovery. We have
drunk to the memory of Uncle Jasper Carver and to the memory of Sylvia
Warrington; we have drunk to the memory of the man who built Carver House
with the secret passage; we have one swallow of punch left. Let’s drink
one more toast, not to the _memory_ of Katherine Adams, but to her
_forgettory_!”

And amid a great shout of laughter the last toast was drunk.


                                THE END



                       The Girl Comrade’s Series


                         ALL AMERICAN AUTHORS.
                         ALL COPYRIGHT STORIES.


A carefully selected series of books for girls, written by popular
authors. These are charming stories for young girls, well told and full
of interest. Their simplicity, tenderness, healthy, interesting motives,
vigorous action, and character painting will please all girl readers.

                        HANDSOME CLOTH BINDING.
                            PRICE, 60 CENTS.

A BACHELOR MAID AND HER BROTHER. By I. T. Thurston.

ALL ABOARD. A Story For Girls. By Fanny E. Newberry.

ALMOST A GENIUS. A Story For Girls. By Adelaide L. Rouse.

ANNICE WYNKOOP, Artist. Story of a Country Girl. By Adelaide L. Rouse.

BUBBLES. A Girl’s Story. By Fannie E. Newberry.

COMRADES. By Fannie E. Newberry.

DEANE GIRLS, THE. A Home Story. By Adelaide L. Rouse.

HELEN BEATON, COLLEGE WOMAN. By Adelaide L. Rouse.

JOYCE’S INVESTMENTS. A Story For Girls. By Fannie E. Newberry.

MELLICENT RAYMOND. A Story For Girls. By Fannie E. Newberry.

MISS ASHTON’S NEW PUPIL. A School Girl’s Story. By Mrs. S. S. Robbins.

NOT FOR PROFIT. A Story For Girls. By Fannie E. Newberry.

ODD ONE, THE. A Story For Girls. By Fannie E. Newberry.

SARA, A PRINCESS. A Story For Girls. By Fannie E. Newberry.


For sale by all booksellers, or sent postpaid on receipt of price by the
publishers, A. L. BURT COMPANY, 114-120 East 23d Street, New York



                         The Girl Chum’s Series


                         ALL AMERICAN AUTHORS.
                         ALL COPYRIGHT STORIES.


A carefully selected series of books for girls, written by popular
authors. These are charming stories for young girls, well told and full
of interest. Their simplicity, tenderness, healthy, interesting motives,
vigorous action, and character painting will please all girl readers.

                        HANDSOME CLOTH BINDING.
                            PRICE, 60 CENTS.

BENHURST, CLUB, THE. By Howe Benning.

BERTHA’S SUMMER BOARDERS. By Linnie S. Harris.

BILLOW PRAIRIE. A Story of Life in the Great West. By Joy Allison.

DUXBERRY DOINGS. A New England Story. By Caroline B. Le Row.

FUSSBUDGET’S FOLKS. A Story For Young Girls. By Anna F. Burnham.

HAPPY DISCIPLINE, A. By Elizabeth Cummings.

JOLLY TEN, THE; and Their Year of Stories. By Agnes Carr Sage.

KATIE ROBERTSON. A Girl’s Story of Factory Life. By M. E. Winslow.

LONELY HILL. A Story For Girls. By M. L. Thornton-Wilder.

MAJORIBANKS. A Girl’s Story. By Elvirton Wright.

MISS CHARITY’S HOUSE. By Howe Benning.

MISS ELLIOT’S GIRLS. A Story For Young Girls. By Mary Spring Corning.

MISS MALCOLM’S TEN. A Story For Girls. By Margaret E. Winslow.

ONE GIRL’S WAY OUT. By Howe Benning.

PEN’S VENTURE. By Elvirton Wright.

RUTH PRENTICE. A Story For Girls. By Marian Thorne.

THREE YEARS AT GLENWOOD. A Story of School Life. By M. E. Winslow.


For sale by all booksellers, or sent postpaid on receipt of price by the
publishers. A. L. BURT COMPANY, 114-120 East 23d Street, New York



                       The Camp Fire Girls Series


By HILDEGARD G. FREY. The only series of stories for Camp Fire Girls
endorsed by the officials of the Camp Fire Girls’ Organization.

          Handsome Cloth Binding. Price, 60 Cents per Volume.


THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS IN THE MAINE WOODS; or, The Winnebagos go Camping.

    This lively Camp Fire group and their Guardian go back to Nature in a
    camp in the wilds of Maine and pile up more adventures in one summer
    than they have had in all their previous vacations put together.

THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS AT SCHOOL; or, The Wohelo Weavers.

    How these seven live wire girls strive to infuse into their school
    life the spirit of Work, Health and Love and yet manage to get into
    more than their share of mischief, is told in this story.

THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS AT ONOWAY HOUSE; or, The Magic Garden.

    Migwan is determined to go to college, and not being strong enough to
    work indoors earns the money by raising fruits and vegetables. The
    Winnebagos all turn a hand to help the cause along and the “goingson”
    at Onoway House that summer make the foundation shake with laughter.

THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS GO MOTORING; or, Along the Road That Leads the Way.

    In which the Winnebagos take a thousand mile auto trip.

THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS’ LARKS AND PRANKS; or, The House of the Open Door.

THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS ON ELLEN’S ISLE; or, The Trail of the Seven Cedars.

THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS ON THE OPEN ROAD; or, Glorify Work.

THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS DO THEIR BIT; or, Over the Top with the Winnebagos.

THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS SOLVE A MYSTERY; or, The Christmas Adventure at
  Carver House.

THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS AT CAMP KEEWAYDIN; or, Down Paddles.


For sale by all booksellers, or sent postpaid on receipt of price by the
publishers A. L. BURT COMPANY, 114-120 East 23rd St., New York



                             The Blue Grass
                         Seminary Girls Series


                       By CAROLYN JUDSON BURNETT

                         Handsome Cloth Binding

                  _Splendid Stories of the Adventures
                     of a Group of Charming Girls_


THE BLUE GRASS SEMINARY GIRLS’ VACATION ADVENTURES; or, Shirley Willing
  to the Rescue.

THE BLUE GRASS SEMINARY GIRLS’ CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS; or, A Four Weeks’ Tour
  with the Glee Club.

THE BLUE GRASS SEMINARY GIRLS IN THE MOUNTAINS; or, Shirley Willing on a
  Mission of Peace.

THE BLUE GRASS SEMINARY GIRLS ON THE WATER; or, Exciting Adventures on a
  Summer’s Cruise Through the Panama Canal.



                           The Mildred Series


                            By MARTHA FINLEY

                         Handsome Cloth Binding

                   _A Companion Series to the Famous
                   “Elsie” Books by the Same Author_


MILDRED KEITH

MILDRED AT ROSELANDS

MILDRED AND ELSIE

MILDRED’S MARRIED LIFE

MILDRED AT HOME

MILDRED’S BOYS AND GIRLS

MILDRED’S NEW DAUGHTER


For sale by all booksellers, or sent postpaid on receipt of price by the
publishers A. L. BURT COMPANY, 114-120 East 23d Street, New York.



                      The AMY E. BLANCHARD Series


MISS BLANCHARD has won an enviable reputation as a writer of short
stories for girls. Her books are thoroughly wholesome in every way and
her style is full of charm. The titles described below will be splendid
additions to every girl’s library. Handsomely bound in cloth, full
library size. Illustrated by L. J. Bridgman. Price, 60 cents per volume,
postpaid.


The Glad Lady. A spirited account of a remarkably pleasant vacation spent
  in an unfrequented part of northern Spain. This summer, which promised
  at the outset to be very quiet, proved to be exactly the opposite.
  Event follows event in rapid succession and the story ends with the
  culmination of at least two happy romances. The story throughout is
  interwoven with vivid descriptions of real places and people of which
  the general public knows very little. These add greatly to the reader’s
  interest.

Wit’s End. Instilled with life, color and individuality, this story of
  true love cannot fail to attract and hold to its happy end the reader’s
  eager attention. The word pictures are masterly; while the poise of
  narrative and description is marvellously preserved.

A Journey of Joy. A charming story of the travels and adventures of two
  young American girls, and an elderly companion in Europe. It is not
  only well told, but the amount of information contained will make it a
  very valuable addition to the library of any girl who anticipates
  making a similar trip. Their many pleasant experiences end in the
  culmination of two happy romances, all told in the happiest vein.

Talbot’s Angles. A charming romance, of Southern life. Talbot’s Angles is
  a beautiful old estate located on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. The
  death of the owner and the ensuing legal troubles render it necessary
  for our heroine, the present owner, to leave the place which has been
  in her family for hundreds of years and endeavor to earn her own
  living. Another claimant for the property appearing on the scene
  complicates matters still more. The untangling of this mixed-up
  condition of affairs makes an extremely interesting story.


For sale by all booksellers, or sent prepaid on receipt of price by the
publishers A. L. BURT COMPANY, 114-120 East 23d Street, New York



                          The Navy Boys Series


A series of excellent stories of adventure on sea and land, selected from
the works of popular writers; each volume designed for boys’ reading.

                        Handsome Cloth Bindings


                       PRICE, 60 CENTS PER VOLUME


THE NAVY BOYS IN DEFENCE OF LIBERTY.

    A story of the burning of the British schooner Gaspee in 1772. By
    William P. Chipman

THE NAVY BOYS ON LONG ISLAND SOUND.

    A story of the Whale Boat Navy of 1776. By James Otis.

THE NAVY BOYS AT THE SIEGE OF HAVANA.

    Being the experience of three boys serving under Israel Putnam in
    1772. By James Otis.

THE NAVY BOYS WITH GRANT AT VICKSBURG.

    A boy’s story of the siege of Vicksburg. By James Otis.

THE NAVY BOYS’ CRUISE WITH PAUL JONES.

    A boy’s story of a cruise with the Great Commodore in 1776. By James
    Otis.

THE NAVY BOYS ON LAKE ONTARIO.

    The story of two boys and their adventures in the War of 1812. By
    James Otis.

THE NAVY BOYS’ CRUISE ON THE PICKERING.

    A boy’s story of privateering in 1780. By James Otis.

THE NAVY BOYS IN NEW YORK BAY.

    A story of three boys who took command of the schooner “The Laughing
    Mary,” the first vessel of the American Navy. By James Otis.

THE NAVY BOYS IN THE TRACK OF THE ENEMY.

    The story of a remarkable cruise with the Sloop of War “Providence”
    and the Frigate “Alfred.” By William P. Chipman.

THE NAVY BOYS’ DARING CAPTURE.

    The story of how the navy boys helped to capture the British Cutter
    “Margaretta,” in 1776. By William P. Chipman.

THE NAVY BOYS’ CRUISE TO THE BAHAMAS.

    The adventures of two Yankee Middies with the first cruise of an
    American Squadron in 1775. By William P. Chipman.

THE NAVY BOYS’ CRUISE WITH COLUMBUS.

    The adventures of two boys who sailed with the great Admiral in his
    discovery of America. By Frederick A. Ober.


For sale by all booksellers, or sent postpaid on receipt of price by the
publishers, A. L. BURT COMPANY, 114-120 East 23d Street, New York



                          The Boy Spies Series


These stories are based on important historical events, scenes wherein
boys are prominent characters being selected. They are the romance of
history, vigorously told, with careful fidelity to picturing the home
life, and accurate in every particular.

                        Handsome Cloth Bindings


                       PRICE, 60 CENTS PER VOLUME


THE BOY SPIES AT THE BATTLE OF NEW ORLEANS.

    A story of the part they took in its defence. By William P. Chipman.

THE BOY SPIES AT THE DEFENCE OF FORT HENRY.

    A boy’s story of Wheeling Greek in 1777. By James Otis.

THE BOY SPIES AT THE BATTLE OF BUNKER HILL.

    A story of two boys at the siege of Boston. By James Otis.

THE BOY SPIES AT THE SIEGE OF DETROIT.

    A story of two Ohio boys in the War of 1812. By James Otis.

THE BOY SPIES WITH LAFAYETTE.

    The story of how two boys joined the Continental Army. By James Otis.

THE BOY SPIES ON CHESAPEAKE BAY.

    The story of two young spies under Commodore Barney. By James Otis.

THE BOY SPIES WITH THE REGULATORS.

    The story of how the boys assisted the Carolina Patriots to drive the
    British from that State. By James Otis.

THE BOY SPIES WITH THE SWAMP FOX.

    The story of General Marion and his young spies. By James Otis.

THE BOY SPIES AT YORKTOWN.

    The story of how the spies helped General Lafayette in the Siege of
    Yorktown. By James Otis.

THE BOY SPIES OF PHILADELPHIA.

    The story of how the young spies helped the Continental Army at
    Valley Forge. By James Otis.

THE BOY SPIES OF FORT GRISWOLD.

    The story of the part they took in its brave defence. By William P.
    Chipman.

THE BOY SPIES OF OLD NEW YORK.

    The story of how the young spies prevented the capture of General
    Washington. By James Otis.


For sale by all booksellers, or sent postpaid on receipt of price by the
publishers, A. L. BURT COMPANY, 114-120 East 23d Street, New York



                             The Boy Allies
            (Registered in the United States Patent Office)
                             With the Navy


                       By ENSIGN ROBERT L. DRAKE


           Handsome Cloth Binding, Price 60 Cents per Volume


Frank Chadwick and Jack Templeton, young American lads, meet each other
in an unusual way soon after the declaration of war. Circumstances place
them on board the British cruiser “The Sylph” and from there on, they
share adventures with the sailors of the Allies. Ensign Robert L. Drake,
the author, is an experienced naval officer, and he describes admirably
the many exciting adventures of the two boys.

THE BOY ALLIES ON THE NORTH SEA PATROL; or, Striking the First Blow at
  the German Fleet.

THE BOY ALLIES UNDER TWO FLAGS; or, Sweeping the Enemy from the Seas.

THE BOY ALLIES WITH THE FLYING SQUADRON; or, The Naval Raiders of the
  Great War.

THE BOY ALLIES WITH THE TERROR OF THE SEA; or, The Last Shot of Submarine
  D-16.

THE BOY ALLIES UNDER THE SEA; or, The Vanishing Submarine.

THE BOY ALLIES IN THE BALTIC; or, Through Fields of Ice to Aid the Czar.

THE BOY ALLIES AT JUTLAND; or, The Greatest Naval Battle of History.

THE BOY ALLIES WITH UNCLE SAM’S CRUISERS; or, Convoying the American Army
  Across the Atlantic.

THE BOY ALLIES WITH THE SUBMARINE D-32; or, The Fall of the Russian
  Empire.

THE BOY ALLIES WITH THE VICTORIOUS FLEETS; or, The Fall of the German
  Navy.


For sale by all booksellers, or sent postpaid on receipt of price by the
publishers A. L. BURT COMPANY, 114-120 East 23rd St., New York



                          The Boy Allies With
            (Registered in the United States Patent Office)
                                the Army


                           By CLAIR W. HAYES


           Handsome Cloth Binding, Price 60 Cents per Volume


In this series we follow the fortunes of two American lads unable to
leave Europe after war is declared. They meet the soldiers of the Allies,
and decide to cast their lot with them. Their experiences and escapes are
many, and furnish plenty of the good, healthy action that every boy
loves.

THE BOY ALLIES AT LIEGE; or, Through Lines of Steel.

THE BOY ALLIES ON THE FIRING LINE; or, Twelve Days Battle Along the
  Marne.

THE BOY ALLIES WITH THE COSSACKS; or, A Wild Dash Over the Carpathians.

THE BOY ALLIES IN THE TRENCHES; or, Midst Shot and Shell Along the Aisne.

THE BOY ALLIES IN GREAT PERIL; or, With the Italian Army in the Alps.

THE BOY ALLIES IN THE BALKAN CAMPAIGN; or, The Struggle to Save a Nation.

THE BOY ALLIES ON THE SOMME; or, Courage and Bravery Rewarded.

THE BOY ALLIES AT VERDUN; or, Saving France from the Enemy.

THE BOY ALLIES UNDER THE STARS AND STRIPES; or, Leading the American
  Troops to the Firing Line.

THE BOY ALLIES WITH HAIG IN FLANDERS; or, The Fighting Canadians of Vimy
  Ridge.

THE BOY ALLIES WITH PERSHING IN FRANCE; or, Over the Top at Chateau
  Thierry.

THE BOY ALLIES WITH THE GREAT ADVANCE; or, Driving the Enemy Through
  France and Belgium.

THE BOY ALLIES WITH MARSHAL FOCH; or, The Closing Days of the Great World
  War.


For sale by all booksellers, or sent postpaid on receipt of price by the
publishers A. L. BURT COMPANY, 114-120 East 23rd St., New York



                         The Boy Scouts Series


                           By HERBERT CARTER


           Handsome Cloth Binding, Price 60 Cents per Volume


THE BOY SCOUTS’ FIRST CAMP FIRE; or, Scouting with the Silver Fox Patrol.

THE BOY SCOUTS IN THE BLUE RIDGE; or, Marooned Among the Moonshiners.

THE BOY SCOUTS ON THE TRAIL; or, Scouting through the Big Game Country.

THE BOY SCOUTS IN THE MAIN WOODS; or, The New Test for the Silver Fox
  Patrol.

THE BOY SCOUTS THROUGH THE BIG TIMBER; or, The Search for the Lost
  Tenderfoot.

THE BOY SCOUTS IN THE ROCKIES; or, The Secret of the Hidden Silver Mine.

THE BOY SCOUTS ON STURGEON ISLAND; or, Marooned Among the Game Fish
  Poachers.

THE BOY SCOUTS DOWN IN DIXIE; or, The Strange Secret of Alligator Swamp.

THE BOY SCOUTS AT THE BATTLE OF SARATOGA. A story of Burgoyne’s defeat in
  1777.

THE BOY SCOUTS ALONG THE SUSQUEHANNA; or, The Silver Fox Patrol Caught in
  a Flood.

THE BOY SCOUTS ON WAR TRAILS IN BELGIUM; or, Caught Between the Hostile
  Armies.

THE BOY SCOUTS AFOOT IN FRANCE; or, With the Red Cross Corps at the
  Marne.


For sale by all booksellers, or sent postpaid on receipt of price by the
publishers A. L. BURT COMPANY, 114-120 East 23rd St., New York



                    Our Young Aeroplane Scout Series
            (Registered in the United States Patent Office)


                            By HORACE PORTER


           Handsome Cloth Binding, Price 60 Cents per Volume

A series of stories of two American boy aviators in the great European
war zone. The fascinating life in mid-air is thrillingly described. The
boys have many exciting adventures, and the narratives of their numerous
escapes make up a series of wonderfully interesting stories.

OUR YOUNG AEROPLANE SCOUTS IN FRANCE AND BELGIUM; or, Saving the Fortunes
  of the Trouvilles.

OUR YOUNG AEROPLANE SCOUTS IN GERMANY.

OUR YOUNG AEROPLANE SCOUTS IN RUSSIA; or, Lost on the Frozen Steppes.

OUR YOUNG AEROPLANE SCOUTS IN TURKEY; or, Bringing the Light to Yusef.

OUR YOUNG AEROPLANE SCOUTS IN ENGLAND; or, Twin Stars in the London Sky
  Patrol.

OUR YOUNG AEROPLANE SCOUTS IN ITALY; or, Flying with the War Eagles of
  the Alps.

OUR YOUNG AEROPLANE SCOUTS AT VERDUN; or, Driving Armored Meteors Over
  Flaming Battle Fronts.

OUR YOUNG AEROPLANE SCOUTS IN THE BALKANS; or, Wearing the Red Badge of
  Courage.

OUR YOUNG AEROPLANE SCOUTS IN THE WAR ZONE; or, Serving Uncle Sam In the
  Cause of the Allies.

OUR YOUNG AEROPLANE SCOUTS FIGHTING TO THE FINISH; or, Striking Hard Over
  the Sea for the Stars and Stripes.

OUR YOUNG AEROPLANE SCOUTS AT THE MARNE; or, Harrying the Huns From
  Allied Battleplanes.

OUR YOUNG AEROPLANE SCOUTS IN AT THE VICTORY; or, Speedy High Flyers
  Smashing the Hindenburg Line.


For sale by all booksellers, or sent postpaid on receipt of price by the
publishers A. L. BURT COMPANY, 114-120 East 23rd St., New York



                        The Jack Lorimer Series


                        Volumes By WINN STANDISH

                       Handsomely Bound in Cloth
                          Full Library Size —


CAPTAIN JACK LORIMER; or, The Young Athlete of Millvale High.

    Jack Lorimer is a fine example of the all-around American high-school
    boy. His fondness for clean, honest sport of all kinds will strike a
    chord of sympathy among athletic youths.

JACK LORIMER’S CHAMPIONS; or, Sports on Land and Lake.

    There is a lively story woven in with the athletic achievements, which
    are all right, since the book has been O.K’d by Chadwick, the Nestor
    of American sporting journalism.

JACK LORIMER’S HOLIDAYS; or, Millvale High in Camp.

    It would be well not to put this book into a boy’s hands until the
    chores are finished, otherwise they might be neglected.

JACK LORIMER’S SUBSTITUTE; or, The Acting Captain of the Team.

    On the sporting side, the book takes up football, wrestling,
    tobogganing. There is a good deal of fun in this book and plenty of
    action.

JACK LORIMER, FRESHMAN; or, From Millvale High to Exmouth.

    Jack and some friends he makes crowd innumerable happenings into an
    exciting freshman year at one of the leading Eastern colleges. The
    book is typical of the American college boy’s life, and there is a
    lively story, interwoven with feats on the gridiron, hockey,
    basketball and other clean, honest sports for which Jack Lorimer
    stands.


For sale by all booksellers, or sent postpaid on receipt of price by the
publishers A. L. BURT COMPANY, 114-120 East 23d Street, New York



                     The Broncho Rider Boys Series


                            By FRANK FOWLER


A series of stirring stories for boys, breathing the adventurous spirit
that lives in the wide plains and lofty mountain ranges of the great
West. These tales will delight every lad who loves to read of pleasing
adventure in the open; yet at the same time the most careful parent need
not hesitate to place them in the hands of the boy.

THE BRONCHO RIDER BOYS WITH FUNSTON AT VERA CRUZ; or, Upholding the Honor
  of the Stars and Stripes.

    When trouble breaks out between this country and Mexico, the boys are
    eager to join the American troops under General Funston. Their
    attempts to reach Vera Cruz are fraught with danger, but after many
    difficulties, they manage to reach the trouble zone, where their real
    adventures begin.

THE BRONCHO RIDER BOYS AT KEYSTONE RANCH; or, Three Chums of the Saddle
  and Lariat.

    In this story the reader makes the acquaintance of three devoted
    chums. The book begins in rapid action, and there is “something
    doing” up to the very time you lay it down.

THE BRONCHO RIDER BOYS DOWN IN ARIZONA; or, A Struggle for the Great
  Copper Lode.

    The Broncho Rider Boys find themselves impelled to make a brave fight
    against heavy odds, in order to retain possession of a valuable mine
    that is claimed by some of their relatives. They meet with numerous
    strange and thrilling perils and every wideawake boy will be pleased
    to learn now the boys finally managed to outwit their enemies.

THE BRONCHO RIDER BOYS ALONG THE BORDER; or, The Hidden Treasure of the
  Zuni Medicine Man.

    Once more the tried and true comrades of camp and trail are in the
    saddle. In the strangest possible way they are drawn into a series of
    exciting happenings among the Zuni Indians. Certainly no lad will lay
    this book down, save with regret.

THE BRONCHO RIDER BOYS ON THE WYOMING TRAIL; or, A Mystery of the Prairie
  Stampede.

    The three prairie pards finally find a chance to visit the Wyoming
    ranch belonging to Adrian, but managed for him by an unscrupulous
    relative. Of course, they become entangled in a maze of adventurous
    doings while in the Northern cattle country. How the Broncho Rider
    Boys carried themselves through this nerve-testing period makes
    intensely interesting reading.

THE BRONCHO RIDER BOYS WITH THE TEXAS RANGERS; or, The Smugglers of the
  Rio Grande.

    In this volume, the Broncho Rider Boys get mixed up in the Mexican
    troubles, and become acquainted with General Villa. In their efforts
    to prevent smuggling across the border, they naturally make many
    enemies, but finally succeed in their mission.



                          The Boy Chums Series


                            By WILMER M. ELY

In this series of remarkable stories are described the adventure of two
boys in the great swamps of interior Florida, among the cays off the
Florida coast, and through the Bahama Islands. These are real, live boys,
and their experiences are worth following.

THE BOY CHUMS IN MYSTERY LAND; or, Charlie West and Walter Hazard among
  the Mexicans.

THE BOY CHUMS ON INDIAN RIVER; or, The Boy Partners of the Schooner
  “Orphan.”

THE BOY CHUMS ON HAUNTED ISLAND; or, Hunting for Pearls in the Bahama
  Islands.

THE BOY CHUMS IN THE FOREST; or, Hunting for Plume Birds in the Florida
  Everglades.

THE BOY CHUMS’ PERILOUS CRUISE; or, Searching for Wreckage on the Florida
  Coast.

THE BOY CHUMS IN THE GULF OF MEXICO; or, A Dangerous Cruise with the
  Greek Spongers.

THE BOY CHUMS CRUISING IN FLORIDA WATERS; or, The Perils and Dangers of
  the Fishing Fleet.

THE BOY CHUMS IN THE FLORIDA JUNGLE; or, Charlie West and Walter Hazard
  with the Seminole Indians.



                                The Big
                          Five Motorcycle Boys
                                 Series


                            By RALPH MARLOW


It is doubtful whether a more entertaining lot of boys ever before
appeared in a story than the “Big Five,” who figure in the pages of these
volumes. From cover to cover the reader will be thrilled and delighted
with the accounts of their many adventures.

THE BIG FIVE MOTORCYCLE BOYS ON THE BATTLE LINE; or, With the Allies in
  France.

THE BIG FIVE MOTORCYCLE BOYS AT THE FRONT; or, Carrying Dispatches
  Through Belgium.

THE BIG FIVE MOTORCYCLE BOYS UNDER FIRE; or, With the Allies in the War
  Zone.

THE BIG FIVE MOTORCYCLE BOYS’ SWIFT ROAD CHASE; or, Surprising the Bank
  Robbers.

THE BIG FIVE MOTORCYCLE BOYS ON FLORIDA TRAILS; or, Adventures Among the
  Saw Palmetto Crackers.

THE BIG FIVE MOTORCYCLE BOYS IN TENNESSEE WILDS; or, The Secret of Walnut
  Ridge.

THE BIG FIVE MOTORCYCLE BOYS THROUGH BY WIRELESS; or, A Strange Message
  from the Air.



                          Transcriber’s Notes


--Silently corrected palpable typos in spelling and punctuation

--Harrison Hill becomes Harrisburg Hill in the course of the narrative;
  this was not changed

--Adjusted front matter to give a complete list of the series





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