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Title: Nan Sherwood on the Mexican Border
Author: Carr, Annie Roe
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 "Nan Sherwood on the Mexican Border" ***

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  NAN SHERWOOD
  ON THE
  MEXICAN BORDER

  BY

  ANNIE ROE CARR

  [Illustration]

  THE WORLD SYNDICATE
  PUBLISHING COMPANY
  CLEVELAND NEW YORK



  _Published 1937 by
  The World Syndicate Publishing Co._

  [Illustration]

  _Printed in the United States of America_



  TABLE OF CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                                  PAGE

       I UNEXPECTED GUESTS                    1

      II YOU'RE GOING WITH ME                12

     III ADAIR MACKENZIE SPEAKS UP           24

      IV TROUBLE AT THE BORDER               32

       V TELL US ABOUT THE HACIENDA          40

      VI SOMETHING ABOUT MEXICO              48

     VII BESS SMELLS A ROMANCE               57

    VIII TROUBLE FOR RHODA                   66

      IX RESOLUTIONS                         73

       X FIRST MEXICAN EXPERIENCE            81

      XI A LEGEND                            90

     XII LINDA RIGGS TURNS UP                97

    XIII NAN TURNS PHOTOGRAPHER             104

     XIV SMUGGLERS                          111

      XV A BULLFIGHT                        117

     XVI END OF THE FIGHT                   124

    XVII A HASTY DEPARTURE                  132

   XVIII LINDA PERFORMS AN INTRODUCTION     140

     XIX FLOATING GARDENS                   149

      XX GOOD-BYE TO MEXICO CITY            156

     XXI THE HACIENDA                       165

    XXII STUBBORN FOOLS                     174

   XXIII IN A PATIO                         183

    XXIV STOLEN!                            189

     XXV BESS HAS SUSPICIONS                195

    XXVI SERENADERS                         200

   XXVII WALKER DEPARTS                     208

  XXVIII NAN'S BIG ADVENTURE                214

    XXIX HAPPILY EVER AFTER!                220



NAN SHERWOOD ON _the_ MEXICAN BORDER

[Illustration]

CHAPTER I

UNEXPECTED GUESTS


Elizabeth Harley jumped down from her bicycle and dropped it noisily
against the steps of the Sherwood back porch.

"Nan, oh, Nan!" she called.

There was no answer. She ran up the steps and into the cottage, letting
the screen door bang behind her. A friend since primary school days of
Nan Sherwood, she was like one of the family and always ran into the
Sherwood home on Amity Street without the formality of ringing the
doorbell or pausing to knock.

Now she was more than anxious to find Nan. She had something important
to tell her, news, she felt, that had to be told right away.

Grace and Rhoda and Laura and Amelia, the whole crowd that had gone to
England to see the king and queen crowned in Westminster the year before
were coming to Tillbury by motor to spend a couple of weeks. Nan and
Bess had invited them during the last busy days at school, but Bess had
only just now received a telegram saying they could come. Oh, there was
so much to do!

"Nan, Nan!" she called again. They would have to have parties and
picnics and hikes. Bess's mind was busy planning even as she wondered
where in the world Nan was. They would have a steak fry down on the
shore of the lake. They would stay late and after the moon was up, they
would sit on the shore and sing and talk and build the fire up high and
then when the embers were low, they would toast marshmallows and talk
some more until it was time to go home. But where was Nan?

Bess called again. Again there was no answer, but Bess heard the sound
of voices in the front of the house. She walked on through. Excited
herself, she failed to notice the excitement in the voices that
attracted her, so when she stuck her head through the door between the
hall and the Sherwood front parlor, she was taken completely by
surprise.

There were strangers in the room! Bess withdrew her head in
embarrassment, but Nan had seen her and came towards her laughing.

"Oh, Bess," she said, reaching her hand out toward her friend and
pulling her into the room. "Come on in, you are just the person we
wanted to see."

"Yes, Bess, it's so," Mrs. Sherwood nodded her head reassuringly at her
daughter's young friend.

"Yes, lassie, come in," one of the strangers, a white-haired old man
spoke up. "Come over here by me, and let me look at you." His bright
blue eyes twinkled as he noted the blush on the girl's cheek but he did
nothing to relieve her embarrassment. On the contrary, he adjusted his
glasses on his nose, and carefully looked her up and down.

"Hm-m-m, a pretty bit," he smiled as he rendered his verdict and then
reached over and drew Nan, who was standing close beside Bess, near to
him. "So this is another of the lassies who went over to see the good
king crowned," he addressed his remark to Nan. "And I gather you are
pretty good friends."

Nan and Bess both nodded at this.

"And you go to the same school and you pay attention to your lessons and
you mind your own business?" The old gentleman tried to look severe as
he asked these questions.

"We try to, sir." Bess found her voice at last.

"You obey your elders and you think you are going to spend your
vacation here in Tillbury, a God-forsaken place, with a half dozen
bright lassies like yourself?"

"Yes, sir. No, sir. Yes, sir." Bess didn't know what to answer. This
strange old man was like no one she had ever met before. She wanted to
protest that Tillbury was not a God-forsaken place, that she and Nan
both liked it, but she didn't quite dare. She wanted to speak up and
tell him that vacation in Tillbury with all her friends would be fun,
but she didn't dare do that either. She didn't quite know what to think
of this white-haired gentleman who seemed so fond of Nan and was so
outspoken. In her confusion, she was tongue-tied.

But he wasn't. Each time that he opened his mouth, the words that came
forth were more astonishing than they had been before. Bess found
herself listening in amazement.

"Well, you're not going to stay here in Tillbury for the summer," he
continued his discussion of Bess and Nan's vacation. "I won't have it.
And your friends aren't going to either. You're all coming with me.
England one summer, and Tillbury the next. Forsooth! I thought you all
had more imagination than that. You, Nan, I'm disappointed in you." His
eyes twinkled merrily as he looked at his young cousin, for the stranger
was Adair MacKenzie, first cousin to Mrs. Sherwood, and a wealthy
Memphis, Tennessee, business man.

"Now, let's see, when can we start?" He took out his watch as he spoke.
"Hm-m-m. It will take a little time to pack," he reflected. "Lassies are
such fussy creatures. They have to have two or three dresses--"

"Two or three!" Nan exclaimed, "Why, cousin Adair, we have to have just
dozens if we are going to stay away all summer."

"Who said you were?" The old Scotchman roared and then threw back his
head and laughed long and heartily at the young girl who seemed so
self-possessed no matter what he said or did. Nan laughed with him and
then, turning toward Bess, she introduced her eccentric old relative and
his pretty daughter, Alice, a young lady about five years older than Nan
who, up to this time, had said nothing, but had watched her father with
amusement.

At the introduction, Adair MacKenzie bowed gracefully and, taking Bess's
hand lightly in his, kissed it quickly. "You're a nice lassie," he said
then. "Now let's all sit down and talk a while about this trip to
Mexico."

"To Mexico!" Bess was wide-eyed as the exclamation slipped off her
tongue. "Are we going to Mexico?"

"Why, yes. That was all settled weeks ago," MacKenzie knitted his brows
as he looked at Bess. "Such a bright young lassie and yet she didn't
know that!"

"Don't mind father," Alice took Bess's hand in hers. "He goes about
planning all these things and never says anything to anyone until he has
everything all ready. It used to wear me out, but now I think it is
quite charming of him. Of course, it keeps everyone at home in a
constant state of turmoil and it makes the housekeeper furious, but then
we manage."

"Manage!" the old man exploded again. "Manage! Why, you imp, you, you
love it and you know you do. It's the spice of life to you. Mexico,
Europe, Alaska, South America, Egypt, why, the world's a place to live
in, not just to read about. India and China and Japan, these are places
we haven't been."

"And daddy, we're not going just yet." Alice acted as though she wanted
to forestall any possibility of their starting off the next day or the
next hour for the Orient. "Remember, it's Mexico we're going to this
summer. We're going to live in that big hacienda that was dumped into
your hands when you sued those clients of yours that were exporters in
Mexico City. Oh, daddy, remember, when you came back the last time, you
said it was a grand old place with gorgeous vines flinging scarlet
sprays all over everything."

"Yes, I remember. I said that the sunsets were more gorgeous, the birds
more brilliant, the flowers brighter, the moon more silver, the sea
bluer than anything we've ever seen."

"And that wasn't all you said," Alice seemed to be baiting her father
now.

"I know it." He fell right into the trap of the daughter whom he adored.
"I said also that there was a bunch of darn Mexicans cluttering up the
place down there who put the politeness of us Southerners to shame.
Never saw anything like it," he turned to Mrs. Sherwood with this. "They
fall all over themselves every time they turn around, and women just eat
it up. Can't stand it myself. Never get anything done. Have to change
that."

Mrs. Sherwood laughed softly at this. Adair had not changed a bit since
she saw him last, and that was longer ago than she liked to remember.
That was at her wedding. She smiled now to herself in recalling it. She
and Bob, in their anxiety to escape from the wedding reception without
being followed, had taken Adair into their confidence. He had promised
to get them a horse and buggy, to see that they got off safely to the
train that was to bring them up North on their honeymoon. He had told
them to leave everything to him, and, in their innocence, they had.

Adair had meant well, but somehow or other in his peremptory handling of
events, he got everything in such confusion that practically the whole
town turned out to see the Sherwoods off. They, in their turn, almost
missed the train, for the horse and buggy never did arrive. However, it
had all turned out happily, and when the bride and groom stood on the
back of the train and waved to their friends, they had an especially
fond feeling for Adair. He, however, felt pretty glum, and their last
view of him was of a perplexed young man standing off alone on one
corner of the station platform, wondering how in the world all of the
people had happened to be there.

No, Adair, she could see, hadn't changed a bit. He still liked to manage
people, still liked to follow up any impulsive idea that came to his
active mind. Through the years, tales of his adventures had reached her
by letter from friends and relatives. Adair himself was not given to
writing. "Takes too much time," he said. "Can't sit still that long."

His visit now was a surprise. He had arrived, unannounced, when she and
Nan were in a turmoil unpacking the trunks that Nan had brought back
from school with her. Only the peremptory peal of the doorbell had
announced his coming. When she opened the door, he had taken her in his
arms and kissed her and then, without even introducing Alice whom she
had never met, he began immediately to call for Nan.

"Where's that girl?" he asked almost before he was inside the door.
"Come all the way up here from Memphis to see her and then she doesn't
even come to greet me." In his impatience, he pounded on the floor with
his cane. Mrs. Sherwood called her daughter.

"You're Nan," he said positively, when Nan finally entered the room.
"I'm Adair. I would have known you anyplace. You look and walk and talk
(Nan hadn't said a word) just like your mother. The same eyes, the same
hair, the same determined chin. Now I believe everything I've been
hearing about you. Didn't before. Sounded like a bunch of nonsense to
me."

"Young school girl takes part in English coronation. Young school girl
saves child from rattlesnake. Young school girl saves life of old lady.
Didn't believe a word of it. Now I do. You're going to Mexico with me."

"Adair MacKenzie!" Mrs. Sherwood exclaimed. "Will you please lay your
cane aside, take off your coat, put your hat down and have a chair
before you go sweeping Nan off her feet with your scatterbrained ideas.

"Nan, don't worry, darling," she turned toward her daughter and laughed.
"This man is really quite harmless. He is Adair MacKenzie, our cousin.
Remember, the one we wrote to some years ago when we were in such
trouble. He can't help being like this. He's always been so."

"Well, well, well!" Adair grinned rather winningly at Mrs. Sherwood. "I
must say, Jessie, you haven't changed either. Still think you can manage
me, do you? Alice," he turned toward his daughter now for the first
time, "this woman you see here is the only woman who ever thought she
could wind me around her finger."

Mrs. Sherwood and Alice exchanged sympathetic glances at this. Alice,
too, if her father only knew it, had her ways of managing him. Nan's
mother knew this instinctively and liked Alice.

Nan liked her too. She was tall, slender, with blond curly hair and deep
blue eyes. She was pretty and happy looking. And she liked Nan and hoped
against hope that her father could work out his plan to induce Nan and
her friends to come to Mexico with them. She sat quietly by while he
plunged into the matter.

"Come here, Nancy," he commanded when he had taken off his coat. Nan
walked across the room and stood in front of him. "You want to go to
Mexico?"

Nan hesitated. She had never before thought of going to Mexico.

"You want to go to Mexico? Yes, or no?"

"Why, I can't." Nan hesitated as she answered.

"No such word. Never say can't to me. Don't like it. Why can't you?"
Adair MacKenzie frowned at Nan.

"Why, sir, I have friends coming to stay with me for a few weeks. I
can't run away from them." Nan hardly knew what to say.

"You like them?"

"Of course."

"Are they as nice as you?"

"Nicer."

"Don't be modest. They couldn't be. When are they coming?"

"I'm not just sure. Perhaps next week."

"That's all right then. They'll come with us. We'll all go to Mexico
together. Now, that's taken care of."

It was on this decision, that Bess had entered the room so
unexpectedly.



CHAPTER II

YOU'RE GOING WITH ME


"But do you think the others can go?" Bess asked anxiously when Adair
MacKenzie and Alice had driven off in search of Mr. Sherwood. "To bring
him home where he belongs when he has visitors," Adair had said.

"What do you think, Momsey?" Nan referred the question to her mother.
The three were in the kitchen where Mrs. Sherwood was bustling about
preparing a company dinner.

"The good Lord only knows," Mrs. Sherwood shook her head as she sifted
more flour on her biscuit dough and then kneaded it lightly and
expertly. "I can only tell you two girls this. When Adair MacKenzie sets
out to do something, he usually does it. He has a way about him that
almost always wins people over to his side."

"Yes, but to Mexico. He wants to take us all to Mexico and he doesn't
even know us!" Bess couldn't believe it, not even after seeing and
hearing the old Scotchman. "And if I can't believe it," she questioned,
"how in the world will the others when they haven't even seen him or
heard him talk?"

"Don't you worry, Bessie," Mrs. Sherwood looked affectionately at this
girl who was almost a second daughter to her. "They'll be both seeing
him and hearing him talk before long now. If I know Adair MacKenzie at
all, he'll be at work on this thing before another day is up. And if
he's one-half the man he used to be, you might just as well begin
packing tonight."

"You mean to say you are sure we will all go?" Bess was incredulous.

"Yes, you'll go and have the grandest time you ever have had," Mrs.
Sherwood said confidently. "There never was another man like Adair
MacKenzie."

"Then I'm going?" Nan had, despite her cousin's assurance, been somewhat
doubtful. She knew that her mother had wanted her to stay at home this
summer, that she had been lonesome without her daughter the summer
before and was planning all sorts of little surprises for this vacation.

"Go! Of course you're going!" Mrs. Sherwood nearly dropped her biscuit
dough in her surprise at Nan's question. "And I shouldn't be a bit
surprised if your father and I were to go at least part way with you.
Adair said something about it. Aye, but he's a thoughtful soul."

So it came about that Rhoda Hammond, Grace and Walter Mason, Amelia
"Procrastination" Boggs, and Laura Polk, all school chums of Bess and
Nan, in the days that followed, received telegraphic invitations to
spend the summer with Nan in Mexico.

While each of them is laying her plans, packing her clothes and wiring
"Santa Claus", as Laura Polk immediately dubbed Cousin Adair, let's
briefly review the adventures of Nan Sherwood and her friends up to this
point.

Nan was born in Tillbury, a pleasant little town, some distance from any
big city, and her early school days were spent with Elizabeth Harley,
the only one of Nan's many friends who has followed her through all of
her adventures.

In the first book of the series, "Nan Sherwood at Pine Camp" or "The Old
Lumberman's Secret" Nan and Bess are pals at Tillbury High School. Here
Nan is extremely popular with all of her classmates and excels in
sports. She and Bess have grand times together, though the Sherwoods
live on a reduced income while Bess, the daughter of one of Tillbury's
wealthiest families, has everything that money can buy.

The first big disagreement the girls ever have comes in the opening
chapters of this book when Bess, having decided to go away to an
exclusive boarding school on the shores of Lake Michigan, tries to
induce Nan to go with her. Though Nan wants with all her heart to go,
she absolutely refuses to ask her parents because she knows that they
cannot afford to let her. She is happy later at her decision, because on
the eve of it, she discovers that her father has lost his job in the
Tillbury Mills. Everything looks extremely dark for the Sherwoods.
Momsey Sherwood is ill and Papa Sherwood, because of his age, is
complete at a loss as to know where to turn for a job.

However, when things are darkest, Mrs. Sherwood receives two letters.
One from Scotland informs her that she is sole heir of a fortune in
Scotland, and the other, from her cousin Adair MacKenzie, whom we have
already met, promises her aid until such time as she can collect on her
inheritance. With this, Nan's parents leave for Scotland and pack Nan
off to Northern Wisconsin where she spends an exciting year in the
lumber country with an uncle and aunt. Here, in chapter after chapter
that are full of thrills for Nan, those about her, and the reader, the
plucky young girl solves a mystery that, in the end, clears her uncle's
title to a valuable piece of property.

In the next volume of the series, "Nan Sherwood at Lakeview Hall" or
"The Mystery of the Haunted Boathouse" our young heroine goes off to
school with Bess. And there never was a nicer school anyplace than
Lakeview Hall. Situated on a bluff overlooking the lake it's like an old
castle. Mrs. Cupp, assistant to Dr. Beulah Prescott, is the keeper and
the girls, early in the volume, learn to respect her, if not to admire
her. Here, they make the acquaintance of a number of new friends.

There are Grace Mason and her brother Walter, children of a wealthy
Chicago family; Laura Polk, a red-headed girl whose lively imagination
and ready tongue are constantly getting her into difficulties; Amelia
Boggs, a serious book-loving soul with a roomful of clocks; and finally,
Linda Riggs, a snobbish, spoiled child, who is extremely jealous of Nan
and her well-deserved popularity.

Last, but not least, there is the boathouse ghost around whom is woven a
mystery that brings Nan and Walter Mason together in such a way that
they develop a keen admiration for one another. This book is chock full
of adventure, excitement and mystery and Lakeview Hall is the center of
it all.

Her friendship with Grace and Walter bring about her next big
experience, a visit to Chicago. In "Nan Sherwood's Winter Holidays" or
"Rescuing the Runaways" the Lakeview Hall crowd spends Christmas
vacation in Grace Mason's palatial Chicago home. The story of Nan's
meeting with a very famous movie star and her solution to the mystery
surrounding the strange disappearance of two young farm girls who have
come to the city to go into the movies is recounted in this volume.

Next, Nan and her friends go off on a visit to a western ranch, the home
of Rhoda Hammond, a school chum. Here the northern girls get their first
taste of what it is to live in the wide open spaces of the west. The
story of lost treasure that is told in this volume of the series, "Nan
Sherwood at Rose Ranch" or "The Old Mexican's Treasure" is one that no
admirer of plucky Nan Sherwood would want to miss.

The year that follows this western adventure is a pleasant one at
Lakeview Hall and at its end, we find Nan and her friends trekking off
to Florida and Palm Beach. So, in "Nan Sherwood at Palm Beach" or
"Strange Adventures Among the Orange Groves" in a background of wide
sandy beaches, beautiful graceful palms, and a hotel that overlooks the
sea, a villain who has tried to cheat one of Nan's many acquaintances
out of her fortune, comes to a well-deserved end, and Nan emerges a
heroine once more. At the end of this volume, we find that Walter and
Nan are becoming more and more fond of one another, and we see the
Lakeview Hall girls teasing them about it again and again.

In the sixth volume, Mrs. Sherwood's Scotch connections bring about an
invitation to Nan to visit Scotland and the family estate of her
mother's people. Bess is heartbroken that her friend is going away
without her. However, she tries to conceal her disappointment and joins
with Nan's other friends in planning a grand farewell party. The party
proves to be a surprise all round and the great day ends with an
announcement by Dr. Prescott that she is taking a party of six girls
abroad to see the king and queen of England crowned! Such excitement!
Such last minute rush! Such fun! Never was there a happier, more
exciting, more adventurous crossing of the ocean than the Lakeview Hall
crowd enjoyed on the S. S. Lincoln. And the whole is rounded out in the
last chapter with Nan as a lady-in-waiting to the Queen at the
coronation. How this all came about is a story that all Nan Sherwood
fans will want to read.

It was the part his little cousin had played in the coronation that made
Adair MacKenzie resolve to hunt her up. It was this that brought him to
Tillbury and the cottage on Amity street on the day the present volume
opens.

"Good biscuits!" Adair MacKenzie bit off a piece of their lightness the
evening the present story opens. They were all sitting at the Sherwood
dinner table. There he sat, chewing reflectively, as he glanced down the
table at young Nan.

"So you helped crown the good queen," he remarked, "And it didn't go to
your head. You're a good lass. You Blakes," he turned to Mrs. Sherwood
now, "were always a bunch of modest creatures. That's why I like you.
Now, Bessie there," he pointed to Bess who had stayed for dinner, "she's
not so modest, but she's kind and loyal. She's a little spoiled, but
she'll get by."

Bess blushed all shades of the rainbow at Adair's frankness. Used to
being babied and somewhat pampered at home, his outspokenness troubled
her. She felt strangely like crying. Nan caught her eye and smiled
encouragingly. Mrs. Sherwood patted her hand beneath the tablecloth. And
Alice, well, Alice was a dear, for she turned the conversation toward
school, and both Nan and Bess utterly forgot themselves in telling of
the horse show in which they had both taken part during the last week at
school.

"So you think you can ride, eh?" Adair MacKenzie was secretly pleased
at both of the young girls. "Well, we'll see. I'll put you each on a
Mexican mule and let you try to climb a mountain and see what happens."
He chuckled at the thought.

Alice laughed merrily at this. "Well, you'll never get me on one," she
vowed. "Once was enough. Instead of the mule pulling me up the narrow
path, I pulled the mule up. I never worked harder in my life."

"Oh, my sweet, you never worked at all." Adair shook his finger at his
daughter. "But you'll work this summer--if that old housekeeper of ours
keeps her resolution not to go down to that dirty hole which we call a
hacienda. The words are hers," he explained to Nan and Bess.

"She once, when she was a very young girl, spent a summer on a sugar
beet farm here in the north. A lot of Mexicans worked on it. They were
miserably treated and poorly paid. As a result their huts were like
hovels. She saw some of them and now she says that wild horses couldn't
drag her into that country down there. She'd rather see me starve first.
But I'll get her yet." Adair MacKenzie smiled as though he liked
opposition. "I'll show her who is boss," he ended.

"Of course you will, daddy," Alice agreed. "But now tell us, when are we
going? How long are we going to stay? And whom have you invited?"

This last question put Adair MacKenzie in a corner and he knew it.
Really, a very kind and extremely impulsive soul, when he went on these
summer jaunts for pleasure he was apt to go about for weeks, inviting
all his friends. As a result, no matter how large the house was he
rented, it was always too small, and no matter what preparation Alice
made for guests, they were always inadequate.

Now, as he sat thinking, a mischievous light came into his eye. "There
is only one that I've invited," he teased, "besides these girls that
will interest you."

"And that is--?"

"Walker Jamieson, that smart-alecky reporter that we met in San
Francisco a couple of years ago. Remember?"

"Remember? Of course I remember and he wasn't smart alecky. He was kind
and sweet and--" But Alice didn't finish her sentence, for she became
conscious of the fact that all the eyes around the dinner table were on
her. She blushed prettily.

"Anyway," she justified herself, "he'll be a help in handling you, for
he's smart, almost as smart as you are, daddy."

"A reporter! You mean to say a real newspaper reporter will be down
there with us?" Nan couldn't contain herself any longer.

"Yep, a no good reporter." Adair MacKenzie tried hard to look
disdainful as he said this, but he didn't succeed very well and both Nan
and Bess guessed that he had a genuine regard for the "young scamp" as
he called him. "Got to have someone around," he muttered as he drank his
coffee, "to help handle you women, even if it's a young scalawag who
spends all his time tracking down stories for your worthless newspaper."

"Stories!" Bess and Nan were wide-eyed.

"Now, see here," Adair shook his finger in the direction of the two
young girls, "reporters are no good. They're a lazy lot that hang around
with their feet on desks pretending to think. Think! Why, I never knew
one yet that had a thought worth telling, let alone writing.

"This one that you are going to meet is no better than the rest. M-m-m,
and no worse either," he conceded as he noted the expression on Alice's
face. "I asked him to come along because he has a knack of making things
lively wherever he is.

"Soon's he gets those two big feet of his down off his desk, he makes
things hum. That's the way he is, lazy one minute, full of action the
next. If there's absolutely nothing happening, he knows how to stir
things up. I rather like a man like that--not that I like him," he added
hastily, "but if we're going to go across the border this summer, got to
have someone like him around. Might just as well be Jamieson as anyone
else."

"And will he write stories while we're there and will they be in the
paper?" Nan was reluctant to let the conversation about the young
reporter drop.

"Never can tell anything about people like him," Adair MacKenzie shook
his head as though he would be the last person in the world to predict
anything about reporters. Could he have looked into the future he would
have shaken it even more violently, for in the next few weeks Walker
Jamieson, with the help of Nan and the Lakeview Hall crowd, was to
uncover in Mexico one of the biggest stories of the year.



CHAPTER III

ADAIR MACKENZIE SPEAKS UP


It all started in Laredo, Texas, just after Nan and her guests had been
met by Adair MacKenzie, Alice, and that amazing young newspaper man,
Walker Jamieson.

"Got everything?" Adair MacKenzie asked gruffly when the bevy of pretty
young girls, all in their early teens, had stepped, one after the other,
from the streamlined train that had brought them from St. Louis. They
had met in that city, all except Rhoda whose home, as those who have
read "Nan Sherwood at Rose Ranch" will remember, was in the South. She,
therefore, had joined the party at beautiful San Antonio. From there on,
the girls had all been together.

"I-I-I guess so," Nan answered her eccentric old cousin slowly as she
looked about first at her friends and then at the suitcases and bags
that the porters were setting on the station platform beside them.

"Looks it." Adair MacKenzie agreed laconically. "Got almost as many
bags as Alice here and I thought that she carried more junk than any
other woman alive. So these are the girls. H-m-m." He looked at the
Lakeview Hall group in much the same manner that he had appraised Bess
just three weeks before.

"Let's see," he began, and Nan's eyes twinkled as she realized that he
was not going to keep his conclusions to himself any more than he had
before. "You're Laura," he said positively, picking the red-headed girl
out of the crowd as though he had studied a photograph of her until he
couldn't possibly mistake her features.

"And that red hair's going to get you in trouble sometime," he continued
his characterization. "Got a temper now. I can see that. A ready tongue
too, I'll wager. But you'll get by if you can go on laughing at
yourself. You've got a sense of humor. Keep it."

"Yes, sir," Laura answered as meekly as she could. She had already been
warned, on the train, by Bess as to what to expect, so this frank
analysis of her character did not take her altogether by surprise.

"And you, Miss," the old Scotsman went on around the circle of girls
enjoying himself hugely as he characterized his young cousin's friends,
"you," he was looking at Amelia as he spoke, "are the one that has all
of those clocks. You're too serious. You'll learn down here in this lazy
country that time just doesn't matter. Ask anybody to do anything for
you and he'll nod his head slowly and mutter, if he's got enough pep,
'Si, si, señor, mañana!' He'll do anything in the world you want him to
do, mañana, and mañana never comes.

"However, you and I will get along. I like you. You are punctual. It's a
virtue. Never been late for anything in your life, have you?"

Amelia hardly knew what to answer, for Adair had made time seem both
important and unimportant.

"Speak up," the old man looked at her kindly now. "Don't be modest like
my young cousin here. Well, never mind," he passed Amelia by as he saw
that he had embarrassed her beyond her ability to speak. "I'll take care
of you later," he ended before he turned to Rhoda.

"From the West, aren't you?" he questioned the proud brown-eyed young
girl. "Can tell in a minute. That carriage, the way you hold your head,
your clear eyes. Even if I hadn't heard that Western accent, I would
have known." Adair MacKenzie was proud of his ability to read character,
and as he went from one of the young lassies to the other, he was
pleased with himself and pleased with them, for their quiet acceptance
of his outspokenness.

"A city girl. Just a little too shy." Grace's turn came last, and she
had been dreading it. "You've got to learn to stick up for your own
rights," he had struck home here, he knew, and though he realized that
Grace could take it with less equilibrium than any of the rest, he
wasn't going to spare her.

"Say, 'boo,' to you," he went on, "And you'll run. Isn't it so?"

Grace said nothing, but nodded her head.

"Try saying 'boo!' back sometime," he advised in a quieter tone than he
had used to any of the other girls, "and see what happens. If the person
you say it to doesn't run, stand your ground and say it again, louder.
But be careful," he patted Grace on the shoulder, "and don't scare
yourself with your own voice."

At this everyone laughed, including Grace, and Alice MacKenzie took her
father by the arm and started toward the station. "If you don't look
out, father," she warned, "I'll say 'boo!' to you and then you'll jump."

"Oh, go along with you," Adair MacKenzie pounded his cane on the wooden
platform, and then shook it at his daughter, "If you don't behave
yourself, I'll give you one last spanking that will hold you until you
are as old and gray as I am."

For answer, Alice laughed provocatively up into his face.

"Now, come on, you girls," Adair frowned as best he could under the
circumstances, "we've got to get along. And you too, you get a move on,"
he pointed his cane, with this, at a tall, lanky blond young man.

At this, Nan and Bess, Rhoda and Grace, Laura and Amelia with one accord
turned their eyes on Walker Jamieson.

"It's real, girls." Walker grinned down into their faces. "It moves and
speaks, eats and sleeps just like the rest of the world. It does
everything but work." So saying, he winked quite openly at Alice and
lengthened his steps so that he walked beside her father.

"First truth I've ever heard you utter," Adair MacKenzie tried to sound
brusk, but didn't succeed very well. The truth was, of course, that he
was intensely pleased with the prospect of spending his summer with this
crowd of young people. And, though he would be the last person in the
world to admit it, he was intensely flattered that this brilliant young
newspaper man was in the party. "Not that he came," he thought to
himself as he noted, with some satisfaction, the regard with which
Walker seemed to hold Alice, "to keep me company." He sighed deeply as
he finished the thought. Alice was his only child.

"Got everything?" Adair MacKenzie repeated the question with which he
greeted the girls as they all approached the customs office. "Baggage
checks? Tourist cards?"

At this, they all opened their purses and rummaged around in them.

"Shades of Glasgow." Laura murmured into Nan's ears. "Seems good to be
going through this red tape again, doesn't it?"

Nan nodded. She felt much the same as she did the day they had first
stepped foot on foreign soil, an unforgettable experience that they all
had talked over again and again since that morning in May when the great
boat had been moored to the dock and they had walked, one after the
other, down the gangplank to set their feet in Scotland for the first
time. The adventures that had followed had made their vacation the most
exciting of their lives as those who have read "Nan Sherwood's Summer
Holidays" all agree. Now, as they all walked forward toward the offices
of the Mexican officials, Nan wondered idly what further adventures were
in store for her.

"Señorita, your bag, señorita."

"Why don't you answer when you are called?" Walker Jamieson dropped
back into step beside Nan. "Lady," he prodded Nan with his elbow, "the
handsome young Mexican with the neat little mustache that is running
after us, is calling you."

"Me?" Nan's voice had a surprised ring to it. "Am I Señorita?"

"None other, for months to come, now." Walker Jamieson answered. "You
are Señorita Sherwood and you had better answer when these Señores call
or they will be so much insulted that they will never recover."

"Oh, I'm sorry," Nan looked genuinely regretful as she turned to the
tall thin native that had been following her.

"It is nothing," he dismissed her concern with a wave of his hands, "but
the Señorita has dropped her purse. May I give it to her?" He bowed
gracefully as he presented it, and Nan felt that he couldn't possibly
have presented the finest gift in the world with more grace.

However, before she could possibly thank him, he disappeared. She turned
to follow the others into the offices, rummaging through her purse, even
as they had done, as she went.

"Why, it's gone!" Nan looked first at her purse and then in the
direction in which the obliging young Mexican had vanished.

"Uh-huh, we should have guessed," Walker Jamieson shook his head sadly.
"Dumb of me. What did he get?"

"My visitor's pass!" Nan exclaimed. "Now, what will I do?"
Involuntarily, they both looked toward Adair MacKenzie who was just
disappearing through the door. Then they laughed.

"I don't know, kid," Walker liked this youngster that Alice had already
filled his ears with tales about. "But you're in for it. It's tough,
these days, getting duplicates of the things. Shall I break the news to
the ogre," he nodded in Adair MacKenzie's direction. "He'll explode, but
you've just got to take it."



CHAPTER IV

TROUBLE AT THE BORDER


"Here, here, what's eating you two?" Adair MacKenzie came bursting forth
from the door he had entered just a few moments before Nan's encounter
with the Mexican. "H-m-m, lost your pass, I'll wager." With the uncanny
instinct of many peppery old gentlemen, Adair MacKenzie as soon as he
saw the baffled expression on Nan's face, jumped immediately to the
right conclusion.

"Might have known that would happen. Should have taken care of them all
myself. Can't depend on women and girls. Always tell Alice that. Ought
to have a safe place to keep things. Old pouch my mother used to strap
around her waist was a good idea."

Nan couldn't restrain the smile that came to her eyes at this. She had
known one person in her life who tied a bag around her waist. That was
grim old Mrs. Cupp, assistant to Dr. Beulah Prescott, principal at
Lakeview Hall. Legend had it that Mrs. Cupp had a dark secret the key to
which she carried in the black bag which someone, in days long before
Nan and Bess descended on Lakeview Hall, had seen. Whether or not it was
so, Nan didn't know, but at Lakeview Hall, the words "Keep it a secret"
were generally expressed by saying "Put it in the black bag."

"Laughing at me, Miss!" Adair's roar brought Nan out of her reveries.
She jumped, and looking up into his face, she winged her way from
Lakeview Hall on the shores of the Great Lakes back to Laredo, Texas and
the immediate problem of the lost visitor's pass.

"I said you should take care of your things the way I do," he roared
again. "See," he pushed his hand inside his topcoat pocket, "Always know
where my things--" the end of the sentence was lost in a sputter, as
Adair MacKenzie searched frantically in pocket after pocket for his
visitor's pass. It was gone!

"W-w-why, somebody's picked my pockets. Can't allow this. Where's a
policeman? You, you, why don't you do something instead of standing
there and laughing?" Adair shook his cane at Walker Jamieson who was
grinning broadly at the spectacle of the old man fuming and sputtering
now, not at his own negligence, but at the inefficiency of a government
that would allow such things to happen. His tirade against Nan and her
carelessness were utterly forgotten.

But it wasn't necessary for Walker to do anything. Adair, in his
outburst, railing against governments in general now, calling down the
wrath of the gods on the heads of all policemen, and expressing himself
most forcibly on the subject of newspaper men in particular, attracted a
crowd. Shortly, English and Spanish words were being flung this way and
that and everyone was arguing, but what it was all about no one seemed
to know.

"Why, daddy, what has happened?" Alice having heard the excitement from
her seat in the office where her father had left her had worked her way
through the crowd, and now put a restraining hand on his arm.

Immediately, he was quiet. "I'm sorry, dear," he looked down at her
shamefacedly, "but these blundering Mexicans have lost not only that
poor young girl's," he pointed to Nan with his cane, "visitor's pass,
but mine too. It's an outrage! That's what it is, an outrage. And I
won't stand for it."

"Oh, Walker," Alice turned to the young reporter now, "What shall we
do?"

"I beg your pardon, Miss," the voice was that of a Texas Ranger with a
big ten-gallon hat who had watched the whole scene with some amusement,
"but if you'll step right over to the offices there" he nodded in the
direction of the door from which Alice had emerged a moment before, "Mr.
Nogales will take care of you."

"Thanks," Walker acknowledged the information, grinned, as though he was
sharing a joke with the stranger, took both Alice and her father by the
arm, and, with Nan, worked his way out of the crowd.

"It's a difficult problem." Lozario Nogales gave a slight Spanish accent
to his words as he spoke to the Americans who, a few moments after the
scene above, were ushered into his office. "You see, it's like this--"
he spoke slowly and fingered a pencil as he chose his words, for English
did not come any too easily to him.

"Nonsense! No difficulties at all." Adair MacKenzie was always impatient
with slow speech, "all you have to do is write out another of those
cards for each of us. Take you a minute. They're nothing but a lot of
silly red tape anyway. If I had my way about it, there would be no
passports, no customs, no visitors' passes, no anything that impedes
free movement of people across the borders. It's all foolishness the way
you Mexicans do these things." Thus, with utter inconsistency, Adair
MacKenzie, in a moment's time placed the whole burden of border
regulations in the laps of the Mexicans.

"But Señor," Lozario felt that he never would become accustomed to the
ways of these Americans, and of this American in particular, "there are
the rules."

"Rules! What rules?" Adair stormed further, then he caught Alice's eye
and capitulated, "Well, what are we to do?"

"It's simply this," Mr. Nogales was more than grateful for Alice's
presence which gave him at last an opportunity to speak, "there has been
a good deal of smuggling across the borders in the past few months, and
your American government has made new rules about the issuing of
duplicates when passes are lost."

"Smuggling?" Walker Jamieson now spoke up for the first time since the
party entered the office. "Smuggling what?"

"Well, the American gentleman knows that immigration laws prohibit the
free passage of certain nationalities into the United States."

Walker nodded. His work in San Francisco had brought this fact most
forcibly to his mind again and again, for there he had worked often
among the Chinese and the Japanese and numbered among them many close
friends. These people admired him and respected him greatly. They
thought that because he was a newspaper man, he could do anything in the
world for them that he wanted to do.

As a consequence, they were constantly coming to him with tales of
wives or mothers or children that they wanted to see, but could not get
into the United States because of the immigration laws.

"And the señor knows that these people somehow or other manage to get
across the border in spite of these laws?" Mr. Nogales continued. He
liked this young man.

"Yes." Walker knew that too. Often he had been amazed while covering his
beat in Chinatown to meet the very mothers, wives, or children he had
been asked to "get here for me, please, Mr. Jamieson" a few days after
being asked.

However, as he threaded through the dark streets of the famous San
Francisco Chinatown this surprise always wore off. The ways of the
people he was among were so silent and mysterious, even to him working
among them and calling them "friends", that he had grown to take such
sudden appearances for granted.

"Well, just lately," Mr. Nogales went on, "there have been even more
than the usual number of persons smuggled across. Your government and
mine has been working hard on the problem of putting an end to this.
One means of stopping it has been to check most thoroughly the
issuance of all duplicate visitor's passes."

Nan was beginning to see light in the whole situation now. Immigration
laws and the smuggling of aliens across the border was something she had
studied about in social science classes at Lakeview. This scene in the
Laredo offices was a school lesson brought to life.

Nan vaguely remembered, as she stood there listening and watching, that
Laura had once had a special report to give on this particular subject.
She remembered because it was at the time the girls were planning a big
spread down at the boathouse, and Laura had been so excited about the
whole thing that she had gone to class utterly unprepared. In the few
minutes before the assembly bell rang Nan helped her out, and so Laura
had managed to struggle through the social science hour.

Nan turned. She wished that Laura and the rest were here now, but she
knew that they were waiting in an outer office.

"Then you think," Walker Jamieson's words brought Nan back to the
present plight of herself and her cousin Adair, "that there is a regular
trade in visitors' passes, that the pickpocket who got ours wanted
nothing else?"

"You had no money stolen, did you?" Mr. Nogales queried.

"Uh-h-h-" Adair MacKenzie had been silent for a long while for him. Now
he rummaged through his pockets even as Nan checked on the contents of
her purse.

"Just as I thought," Mr. Nogales nodded his head, as the two agreed that
all their money was there. "Your visitors' passes are the only thing
missing. Just a moment, please, I'll see what can be done." With this,
he disappeared into the office of his superior, and Adair MacKenzie
followed him.

Nan, Alice, and Walker Jamieson looked hopelessly at one another as
Adair disappeared from their view.



CHAPTER V

TELL US ABOUT THE HACIENDA


"What did you think?" Laura inquired afterwards when the girls were all
settled in a hotel close to the border for the night. "That the walls of
that inner office would just cave in when Mr. MacKenzie started
bellowing."

"Why, Laura Polk, how disrespectfully you talk!" Bess exclaimed from her
place in front of the dressing table where she was brushing her hair.
"And Mr. MacKenzie is our host too. If it weren't for him we wouldn't be
down here now. At this minute we'd probably be on the shores of a lake
near Tillbury."

"Oh, Bess, you know I'm not one bit disrespectful, really," Laura
retorted. "I like Mr. MacKenzie real well and you know I do. I'd give
anything in the world to be able to roar the way he does." There was
genuine longing in her voice as she spoke. "Just imagine," she
continued, "how handy that roar would have come in the night we routed
the ghost. I just think," she continued to play with the idea of making
use of Adair MacKenzie's roar, "how handy it would come in, if we were
to meet Linda Riggs.

"Couldn't we manage," she was lying prone on the bed, and, as this new
idea came to her, she cupped her chin in her hands and looked off into
space, "to have your cousin around sometime when Linda Riggs was
present. I'd love to have him analyze her the way he did us today. Such
fun!" Laura's eyes danced merrily at the thought.

"And then I'd like to have her open her mouth to protest," Laura
continued, "and have him roar at her. Oh, I'd give a million dollars,
a trillion dollars," she amended generously, "to hear that roar."

"You and me too," Bess joined in. "By the way, have any of you heard
anything about her lately."

"Not I," Nan answered, "and I must say the less I hear about her and the
less I see of her, the better. There was a rumor, you know, at school
that she was going to be allowed to come back this fall."

"I know it," Bess somehow always managed to hear all the rumors, "and I
can't for the life of me understand why Dr. Prescott would ever let her
reenter. Certainly, she's no credit to Lakeview Hall, or to any school
for that matter. If I were a principal I wouldn't let her in my school.
In fact, if I got the chance at all, I'd just slam the door right in her
face."

"Oh, Bess, do you ever sound as though you meant it? Cousin Adair
should hear you talk now. He thinks that Laura has a temper. He should
hear you sometimes." Nan laughed at her pal.

"I know it, but I think I'm more than justified. She's certainly caused
us plenty of trouble from the very first time we ever met her. I'll
never forget how she embarrassed us on the train that took us to
Lakeview the first time."

"Nor how Professor Krenner took our part," Nan added.

"Nor how you outwitted her and drove up to school in the back of Walter
Mason's car as though you were a princess returning to her palace,"
Laura giggled. "There never was a freshman created more of a stir than
you did that night. Boy, did we ever put our heads together in corridor
four and decide that we would have to put you in your place right away,"
she continued slangily.

"And did I ever hate you, Laura Polk," Bess laughed now at the
recollection. "You embarrassed me so about that lunch box that when I
went to bed that night I cried myself to sleep."

"Poor Bessie," Laura sympathized. "You were such a proud little thing
that I never in the world thought I'd ever be able to get along with
you."

"Get along with Bess!" Nan exclaimed, "if you had ever heard what Bess
said about you that night, you would have been surprised that she ever
spoke to you again."

"What did you say, Bess?" Laura looked positively impish as she looked
at Bess's reflection in the mirror.

"Oh, I don't remember." Bess was obviously concealing the truth.

"You do too," Amelia joined in as she wound the pretty little travelling
clock that had been given her the week before.

"If you don't tell, I will," Nan was enjoying the situation as much as
the rest, for she saw that Bess was not really embarrassed.

"Go ahead then and see if I care," Bess retorted, giving a few final
strokes to her hair.

"Well, you said," Nan began slowly, "that that homely red-headed Polk
girl was just as mean as she could be!"

"Did she say that?" Laura laughed heartily. Even in those days she would
have been the first to laugh at herself. Now she could laugh doubly, for
the homely red-headed girl had, since then, blossomed out into a pretty,
fair complexioned curly headed miss with a very pleasing personality.

And so the girls continued for some time to talk over events and
happenings that are recounted in other books of this series until Laura
turned to Nan, "Anyway," she said, "if we may return to the present and
Laredo, Texas, will you please tell us just how your cousin managed to
extract those passes from the authorities this afternoon? I respected
his abilities to get what he wanted from the moment mother capitulated
and let me come down here with what she called, 'a perfect stranger,'
but I never respected them as much as I did when I saw that white
uniformed official bowing you people out of that office as though you
were the President's party itself."

"Wasn't he just grand!" Nan's eyes were alight at the recollection.
"That man was none other than a special aid to the Mexican consular
office here in Laredo, and he nearly fell all over trying to help us
after cousin Adair ceased his storming and told those people who he was.
I never saw anything like it in my life.

"It was 'Si, señor, this,' and 'Si, señor, that' until Alice and Walker
and I began to think that we were really somebody, if only by reflected
glory."

"Well, you certainly looked like somebody very important when you came
out," Bess agreed. "I wondered for a moment whether I had really heard
allright when you went in."

"Then you did hear us?" Nan laughed.

"All Mexico did," Laura put in. "Really, at first we thought another
revolution was taking place. Grace here was looking around for
someplace to hide herself. Amelia was clutching her watch to her with
a look of determination which said as plainly as anything 'no foraging
rebel is going to get this' and Rhoda looked as though she wished she
had brought her trusty six shooter along. And then when we had gotten
ourselves all worked up to the point of accepting the inevitable, who
should come round the corner but you and Mr. Jamieson, Alice and her
father!"

"You sound as though we disappointed you," Nan remarked.

"Oh, not at all." Laura hastened to correct this impression. "I don't
believe Mr. MacKenzie has ever disappointed anyone in his life. He just
couldn't. Not with that cane, that roar, and that honesty which stops at
nothing. He's a dear. Now tell us, Nan, all you know about this place we
are going to."

"I've done that a thousand times since I met you in St. Louis," Nan
responded as she pulled off her dress and slipped her arms into the
lounging robe that the Lakeview Hall girls had given her at a surprise
party in her honor more than a year before.

"Oh, no, you haven't," Laura denied. "We made you spend most of the
time telling us about this angel of a cousin that appeared out of a
clear sky and offered to take us all to Mexico. Doesn't sound real even
now when we're here."

"There's one thing about it," Amelia added, "if one can't have rich
relations oneself, the next best thing in the world is to have charming
friends who have them."

"Here, here!" Laura raised a protesting hand. "You're out of order. The
first thing you know Nan will be thinking we're fond of her."

"Oh, you old ducks," Nan looked at them all fondly. "Don't you know that
cousin Adair knew that if he didn't invite all of you that I wouldn't
come at all? Now, let's forget all of this gratitude stuff. It
embarrasses me."

"All right then," Bess agreed, "but you really haven't told Rhoda
anything at all about the hacienda, Nan."

"I don't know anything myself," Nan admitted after some hesitation.
"I've tried and tried to get cousin Adair to tell me something about the
place, but he just won't say anything. I'm not sure whether he knows and
won't tell or whether he doesn't know himself. At any rate, he's being
extremely mysterious about the whole thing. Says that we didn't see
anything when we saw Emberon, that this place that we are going has that
beat all hollow. Now what do you people make of that?"

"Dungeons, secret passage, weird wailing of bagpipes, that's what
Emberon had," Laura summarized. "If this Mexican hacienda has anything
better to offer, I'd like to see it."

"And so would I," Nan agreed. She almost resented the idea that anything
could possibly be any nicer than the old Blake estate in Scotland. "And
listen, he says this further, that if we think we had adventures in
Scotland and England, we just haven't seen anything yet. What in the
world do you suppose he means?"

"If Doctor Prescott said that, or Mrs. Cupp, or your father or mine,"
Rhoda answered, "I might possibly hazard a guess as to what was meant,
but there's no telling about this cousin of yours, Nan."

"No, he's as unpredictable as the seasons, Alice says, and the only
thing we can do is wait." Nan sounded as though waiting was the hardest
thing in the world to do.



CHAPTER VI

SOMETHING ABOUT MEXICO


"What's this?" Laura questioned the next morning when she came upon
Amelia in her hotel room reading diligently from a book.

"Oh, nothing." Amelia barely looked up.

"Come on, tell aunty," Laura teased. "Nobody else is up yet and I've
simply got to talk to someone."

"You mean there's no one else about, so you'll talk to me. Well, I like
that!" Amelia returned to her book as though she were really indignant.

"You know I didn't," Laura sounded very conciliatory--for her. "It's
just this; I've got the whim-whams something terrible. Did you ever have
the whim-whams, Amelia?"

"Can't say I did," Amelia answered. "At least I didn't call them any
such name as that."

"Then you know what I mean?" Laura looked very serious.

"You mean," Amelia turned the open book over on her lap and answered
Laura's question, "that you have awakened early in a hotel in a strange
city, that you want like anything to go off exploring, that you know you
can't, and that the next best thing you can find to do is to annoy
someone else who can't go either."

"My dear professor," Laura assumed as serious a mien as possible, "you
have hit the well-known nail squarely on the head. It must be that you
have the whim-whams too. Now what is that you are reading?"

"Well, if you must know," Amelia gave in, "It's a guidebook to Mexico."

"Ah, what could be better." Laura herself reached for the book. "Let's
see what this country across the street from this hotel is like."

"It does seem funny, doesn't it," Amelia said, "that when we look out
our hotel windows we are looking into a foreign country. It doesn't look
any different. It doesn't sound any different. And it doesn't--"

"Smell any different," Laura finished, "and that's the most surprising
thing of all, because according to Mr. MacKenzie, Mexico is just the
smelliest place on God's green earth."

"Did he tell you that too?" Amelia asked. "Really, when he finished the
tirade against the country that he delivered to me after dinner, I began
to wonder why in the world he ever brought along five such nice girls as
we."

"Five? What's the matter, 'Mealy, can't you count before breakfast?
There are six of us."

"I said five _nice_ girls," Amelia insisted. "He might have had one of
several reasons for bringing you along."

"Such as--" Nan had come into the room just in time to hear this last.

"Oh, he might have wanted to make the world a better place for the rest
of us to live in by losing Laura, making her a target for the
revolutionists, feeding her to the bulls, or just leaving her here as
food for the fleas," Amelia responded airily, and then she put her arm
around Laura's shoulder as though to show her that she didn't mean a
word of what she was saying.

"They do say," Grace added as she joined the group, "that the fleas here
are man-sized. That reporter told me last night that the reason they
give us mosquito netting to put over us at night is that the fleas and
the mosquitos wage a nightly battle as to who is going to carry off the
Americans."

"And you believed him?" Laura laughed.

"Well, not exactly," Grace answered, "but I did carefully tuck my
netting all round me last night."

"He told me lots of things about Mexico, too," Nan added, "and I don't
know which of them to believe. This is a queer country we are going
into, full of so many strange legends, so many different kinds of people
that any wild tale at all might be true."

"That's what I was thinking," Amelia agreed, "when Laura came into the
room this morning. This guidebook here is full of all sorts of queer
tales."

"Such as--?" Nan queried.

"Oh, you people in there," Bess called from another room, "wait until
Rhoda and I come before you talk any more about Mexico. We want to hear
too."

"All right, slow-pokes," Nan called back, "but you'll have to hurry.
We're supposed to be downstairs for breakfast with Cousin Adair in
exactly one-half hour."

At this, Bess and Rhoda came into Amelia's room and the girls, all
dressed in sports clothes, settled themselves to learn something about
the country they were going to visit.

"It says here," Nan began, for she had long ago lifted the guidebook
from Amelia's lap, "that Mexico is a Latin-American country south of the
United States of America. The Gulf of Mexico is to the east and the
Pacific Ocean to the west."

"Oh, we know that," Bess interrupted impatiently, "tell us something
that is different."

"Well, how's this?" Nan queried, "Mexico is a land of great contrasts.
About sixty percent of its population are Indians who live in a backward
civilization that weaves its own clothes, grinds its own corn, does
everything for itself by hand. The other forty percent is advanced and
modern. The first can neither read nor write. The latter attends modern
schools and universities.

"Nothing in Mexico, in its history, its climate, its people, or its
landscape is dull or monotonous."

"That's better," Bess approved. She was not one to care much for facts
or figures.

"Oh, there are more interesting things than that in the book," Amelia
reached for it. "Here let me read you something that I found this
morning."

"Just a second," Nan held on to it, "How in the world do you pronounce
these words with all their z's and x's. No wonder there are so many
people that can't read or write. I wouldn't be able to write myself if
I lived here. Imagine living in a place called I x m i q u i l p a n or
X o c h i m i l c o." She spelled them all out because she couldn't
possibly pronounce them. "They must all be Indian words dating from the
time of the Aztecs," Nan went on. "Look, they all have beautiful
meanings.

"Chalchihuites is translated into 'Emeralds in the Rough', Tehuacan,
'Stone of the gods', Chiapas, 'River of the Lime-leaved Sage', and
Tzintzuntzan, 'Humming Bird'. And here's a place I want to go,
Yecapixtla or 'Place Where People Have Sharp Noses'."

"What a funny place that must be," Laura laughed with Nan, "I'll bet
they all spend their time minding one another's business."

"They probably have a factory there," Nan went on, "for turning out
people like Mrs. Cupp and they have catalogues showing the sharp,
sharper, and sharpest noses."

"And when a school principal wants to hire an assistant that will see
everything and hear everything he pays top price and gets the sharpest,"
Laura liked the idea. "We ought to go there," she ended, "if it's only
to get a postcard so that we can send it back to Mrs. Cupp with the
words 'Wish you were here'."

"Oh, Laura, you old meany," Nan laughed. "You know she isn't half as bad
as you make her out to be."

"No, she isn't," Laura agreed. "Lakeview Hall certainly wouldn't be
complete without her. Why, down here in Mexico--well, on the border of
Mexico--when I'm going farther and farther away from her all the time, I
can almost believe that I'm fond of her. But don't let me talk about
it," she pretended to sniff as though she was going to cry, "or I'll be
getting homesick for her."

"Small chance of your ever getting homesick for anyone," Bess remarked,
"but let's hear what it is Amelia wants to tell us about and then go
downstairs, I'm almost starved."

"Oh, I'm sorry, Amelia," Nan handed over the book, "I didn't mean to
monopolize it." These Lakeview Hall girls, together for so many years
under all sorts of circumstances, were still polite to one another and
thoughtful about little things. They teased one another, laughed at one
another's faults, and quarreled sometimes among themselves, but they
were always eager to forgive and more than anxious to please. This was
why they had been friends for so long. They were never really jealous of
one another and were always ready to praise anyone in the group who did
anything outstanding.

"It's all right, Nan," Amelia answered as she reached for the book. "I
merely thought that this story of the founding of Mexico City might be
fun to read. It's short, Bess, so we'll be downstairs in just a few
minutes. Here it is.

"'When the Aztecs, a people that inhabited this part of Mexico long
before the coming of the white man from across the water, were wandering
from place to place in search of a spot on which to establish
themselves, their head priest had a vision.

"'In it, he saw their War God and heard him telling them to go on and on
until they found an eagle on a cactus growing from the rock. The cactus,
the War God said, was the heart of his treacherous nephew who had waged
war against him and lost. As punishment, he had been put to death and
his heart was torn from him and thrown into the lake. It fell upon a
rock among the reeds, and from it grew a cactus so big and strong that
an eagle, seeking a place to build his nest, had made his home upon it.

"'The Aztecs heeded the words of their War God as told them by the
priest. For years they wandered, until finally, one morning very early,
their long search was rewarded. They came upon the eagle on the cactus!
His wings were extended to the rays of the sun and in his claws he held
a snake.

"'So it was here that they built their city and even to this day, the
cactus and the eagle, holding a snake in his beak, is Mexico's emblem.'"
With this, Amelia closed the book.

"So that's why I've been seeing that symbol on so many Mexican things
all these years," Nan commented. "I've wondered what it meant, but was
always too lazy to look it up. How strange the history of this country
is that we are going into! I wonder what will happen."

"Probably everything," Laura said, "so, now I think we'd better go
downstairs and eat, fortify ourselves so to speak for any emergency."

"Guess you're right," Nan laughed. And with this, Nan and her friends
all hurried down to breakfast and to the beginning of another day in
their Mexican adventure.



CHAPTER VII

BESS SMELLS A ROMANCE


"Well, how are the charming señoritas this morning?" Walker Jamieson
dropped his feet from the chair next to him and rose as Nan and her
friends entered the lounge of the hotel.

"Let's see, one, two, three, four, five, yes, there are six of you
still. There was no victory for the mosquitoes last night I can see. I
had an idea," he nodded his head slowly as though he had been seriously
considering the subject, "that all would go well after my joust with the
man-sized monster that forced its way into my room. Boy, was it a big
one! It had a million legs like tentacles that wound themselves around
me so that if it hadn't been for my trusty Excalibur, none of us would
have been here this morning. It was a fight." He shook his head as
though the recollection was more than he could bear.

"Yes, we can see it was." Alice, too, had been waiting for the girls to
appear. "We can see the marks of the bloody battle all over your face."

"Can you really?" Walker Jamieson grinned down at the girl who was just
a foot shorter than himself. "Well, they are all for you ladies," he
pretended now to doff a big sombrero and sweep it across in front of him
in the most approved style.

"What's all this nonsense?" Adair MacKenzie joined the party. "Can't
stand silliness any time, and least of all before breakfast. Now, get
out into that dining room and eat."

At this, the whole party moved. "Don't intend to spend the summer in
Laredo," Adair muttered as he followed them.

Breakfast was a silent meal--silent that is, save for Adair's sputtering
into his coffee. At its finish, he pushed his plate back, called the
waiter and gave him an extraordinarily large tip, and turned to his
young cousin.

"Well, Nancy," he said agreeably, "How are things with you this fine
morning? Ready to move on? And you, Bess, and all the rest of you, are
you all right? Now, let me tell you all a secret," he went on as he
realized how quiet everyone had been throughout the meal, "I'm not
really such a bad old soul. Oh, I lose my temper at times. I admit
that," he said generously, "but I'm not bad, not bad at all." He shook
his head as though he was entirely satisfied with himself and the world
in general.

"And you there, Jamieson, you're not bad either," he went on.

Walker nodded his head as though he acquiesced entirely and Alice beamed
on everyone. It was nice to have everyone in such a happy frame of mind,
she thought, and then, for luck, crossed her fingers.

"And now, daddy," she ventured while he was still in his expansive mood,
"What's on the program for today?"

"Oh, lots of things, lots of nice things," he looked very pleased with
himself. "First off, how soon can you all be ready to move on? We should
be moving along to Mexico City, a grand place, one of the most
interesting cities I've ever visited. What say you, Jamieson?"

"Eh, what?" Jamieson had been quite bowled over by the old man's sudden
change in mood and had been wondering whether it would be the right time
now to ask whether he could kidnap Alice for part of the morning. He was
trying to signal her to ask her opinion, when the question was addressed
to him. Now, he was at a complete loss, for he had heard nothing of the
conversation that preceded the query.

"I say," Adair repeated his question patiently, "isn't Mexico City a
grand place?"

"Yes, yes, a grand place," Walker answered absently. Had Alice
understood what he was signaling? He couldn't be sure. What was she
telling him with her lips. Was it "Better wait" or "Better not." "What?"
The question came out audibly without his realizing it.

It was Nan, the darling, who saved the day. She had been watching the
frantic efforts of Walker Jamieson to communicate with Alice and noted
his lack of success. She, too, had been trying to read Alice's answer
and was as startled as Walker when his "what?" was voiced. Now, like a
"veteran" (Walker used the word later when he promised to buy her
something, anything from a gorgeously colored serape to an jade bracelet
for coming to his rescue) she filled the breach.

"I said," she affirmed, looking at Walker as though she was answering
his question, "that we can all be ready to leave about noon, if it
pleases cousin Adair." She turned to her cousin somewhat diffidently as
she added this last. The truth was, of course, that she and her friends
could have left in an hour, in a half hour, but it was fun trying to
help Walker and Alice out.

"Let's see," Adair took out his big gold watch and considered. "Noon.
That gives us a few hours to make a good start on our way before dark.
Could you make it by eleven?"

Nan looked at Walker. "Eleven-thirty." She read his lips.

"Eleven-thirty," she smiled up at her cousin.

"You little beggar, you," he tweaked the pink ear that showed just
beneath her brown bobbed hair, "you'll be able to barter with those
Mexicans like a veteran. It's your Scotch blood." He looked proud of her
as he turned to the others, "Well, Nan here says 'eleven-thirty', so
eleven-thirty it is. Now get out, all of you, I've got some business to
attend to, and I don't want to see any more of any of you until it's
time to leave. No, not even you," he added as he looked at Alice.

They all strolled out of the dining room together and Walker executed a
few fancy little steps for Nan's benefit, as, when they reached the
elevators, he and Alice went on past them to the doors and out.

"Why, Nan Sherwood, it's a romance. Walker Jamieson is in love with
Alice MacKenzie. I'll bet you anything." Bess's face was all alight as
she closed the door of Nan's room. "It's just thrilling. Did you see the
way the two of them walked away together. Why, they were so glad you
said you couldn't be ready until eleven-thirty! I just know they were!"
Bess was fairly bubbling over with excitement. "Didn't you see it at
all?"

"See what?" Nan pretended innocence.

"Why, how glad they were, of course," Bess seemed impatient with Nan's
inability to see a romance when it was right under her nose.

"Oh, Bess, you imagine things," Nan answered. She didn't want Bess to be
aware at all that she had tried to help Alice and Walker out.

"Imagine things! You're just blind, that's all," Bess was very proud of
her discovery. "They are in love with one another and they'll get
married in Mexico. You'll be the maid of honor and we'll be the
bridesmaids and everything will be just grand, won't it?"

"Bess, Bess," Nan laughed, "how you do jump to conclusions! Have you
ever considered that the bride has to have someone to give her away and
have you tried to imagine cousin Adair giving Alice away?"

Bess was all soberness immediately. "No, I didn't think of that," she
admitted. "Oh, what can we do about him?" she puckered her brows as if
Adair was an immediate and very difficult problem. "If we could get him
right after he has had a good breakfast," she laughed, "maybe he would
be as nice as he was this morning and then I'm sure everything would be
all right."

"Or," she continued, as a new and better idea came to her, "they could
elope. Wouldn't that be exciting, Nan? And just think how mad your
cousin would be. No, that's not so good either. Mr. MacKenzie would
probably disown Alice and then they wouldn't have all his money."

"Bess!" Nan exclaimed, "how you do run on."

"Yes, I know," Bess agreed, "but it's such a perfectly entrancing
subject. She's a darling and so is he. Why, he's almost as nice as
Walter Mason," she added slyly.

Nan ignored this last. "Walker is nice, isn't he?" she said. "And he and
Alice do look dear together."

"He's swell," Bess said slangily. "He's tall and handsome and full of
fun. Do you know, I think sometimes that Mr. MacKenzie does like him,
for all the way he calls him 'lazy' and a 'no-good reporter.'"

"Of course he does," Nan agreed, "and Walker likes him too. I just know
it."

Bess looked at Nan questioningly at this latter bit of information. Did
Nan know something she didn't know?

"Anyway, we'll just have to wait and see what happens," Nan tried to
dismiss the subject.

"I suppose so," Bess sighed, "but it would be such fun to be an
attendant at a wedding."

"Oh, Bessie," Nan ruffled her friend's hair, "you're such a romantic
soul. I'll bet that you think that if worse came to worse and cousin
Adair insisted that Alice marry someone else, Walker would ride up on a
charger and carry Alice off the way young Lochinvar did in that poem we
learned back in the fifth grade. Remember?"

"You mean the one about Lochinvar coming up out of the West, 'through
all the wide world his steed was the best,'" Bess laughed.

"Yes, that's the one," Nan assented. "Remember how we loved that thing
and how we used to say over and over again the stanza that followed the
one where he asked the bride to dance with him

  'One touch to her hand, and one word in her ear
  When they reach'd the hall door, and the charger stood near;
  So light to the croupe the fair lady he swung,
  So light to the saddle before her he sprung!
  She is won! we are gone, over bank, bush, and scaur;
  They'll have fleet steeds that follow, quoth young Lochinvar.'"

"And then at the end," Bess went on, "there was this,

  'There was racing and chasing, on Cannobie lea,
  But the lost bride of Netherby ne'er did they see.
  So daring in love, and so dauntless in war,
  Have ye e'er heard of gallant like young Lochinvar?'"

"Oh, Nan," Bess laughed when she had finished, "when I was a kid I
thought there couldn't possibly be anything more romantic than that."

"Nor I neither," Nan admitted, "And I thought of it often when we were
in Scotland last summer. But do you know, Bess," she giggled, "that
Young Lochinvar of today would have to dash up in a car--"

"Yes, or in Mexico it might be a burro," Bess laughed heartily at the
thought.

"Say, what are you two making such a rumpus about," Laura stuck her head
in through the door. "First thing you know, they'll be locking you up as
a couple of laughing hyenas, because you are making such a racket."

"Come on in, Laura," Nan invited, "We've just got a silly streak, that's
all. Bess, here, had a couple of crazy ideas that she aired. She's all
right now. You can come in," she finished reassuringly. "What's up?"

"Oh, nothing," Laura answered in such an unusual tone that Nan knew
immediately something was wrong.

"Come, what is it?" she asked again, going over to Laura and closing
the door behind her.



CHAPTER VIII

TROUBLE FOR RHODA


"Oh, it's Rhoda," Laura admitted when the door was closed. "Nan,
something terrible's happened and Rhoda is in her room crying her eyes
out. Won't you come and see if you can't do something for her."

"Of course," Nan started for the door at once. "But what's happened?"
She and Bess asked this last together.

"Rhoda just received a telegram from her father asking her to come home
at once."

"Why?"

"Oh, girls," Laura herself was almost in tears, "Rhoda's mother is
seriously ill and they don't know whether or not she will live until
Rhoda gets there."

"Go downstairs," Nan took command of the situation at once, "and find
cousin Adair. Tell him what's happened and ask him what to do. I'll go
to Rhoda. Bess, you had better come too," she continued. "Somebody will
have to fix her bags so that she can leave at once. Now, don't any of
you cry in front of Rhoda, we've got to help her to be as brave as
possible. Maybe it isn't as bad as it seems." With this Nan and Bess and
Laura set about to help their friend and, for the time, all thoughts of
their Mexican journey were forgotten.

Mrs. Hammond, Rhoda's mother, had entertained the girls a couple of
years previous to the present story, on the Hammond ranch in the West.
They all remembered her as a beautifully graceful, sweet woman. Blind
for many years, she had not let her affliction crush her spirit and was,
perhaps, one of the happiest, nicest people they had ever known.

Those who have read "Nan Sherwood at Rose Ranch or The Old Mexican's
Treasure" will remember Mrs. Hammond too and remember well her first
meeting with the girls.

"I'll never forget it," Nan had told her own mother again and again. "As
we rode up to the veranda of the low-roofed ranch house Mr. and Mrs.
Hammond stood there on the porch waiting for us. She was a tall lovely
person. I liked her the moment I saw her. As I came up the steps behind
her friend, Mrs. Janeway, she took hold of me and asked 'Who is this?'

"Before I had a chance to answer she ran her fingers lightly over my
face, even feeling my ears and the way my hair fluffed over my forehead
and the way my eyebrows were. Then, without any hesitation and before I
had said anything at all, she said, 'Why, this is Nan Sherwood that I
have heard so much about.'

"When I asked her how she knew, she laughed the prettiest laugh I've
ever heard, outside of yours, and said that she knew because Rhoda had
written home about me and because she was a witch. She knew the others
by touch too. Oh, she was such a nice person and so good to us all the
while we were there!

"She never once said a thing about her blindness. She seemed to take it
for granted and never excused herself on account of it.

"I only hope that, if ever anything terrible happens to me, I will
remember her and be as sweet and uncomplaining about it as she is."

The other girls had felt the same as Nan. All had left Rose Ranch with a
very warm feeling for Mrs. Hammond and they were all better girls for
having met her.

In the days that followed their return to school that year they sent her
a gift along with their bread-and-butter notes. Ever after that, boxes
Rhoda received from her Western home always contained some sort of
goodies specially marked for Rhoda's Lakeview Hall friends. So Mrs.
Hammond had become a well-beloved friend to them all.

Now, when the telegram came telling of her serious illness, they all
felt personally concerned.

"Oh, Nan," Laura came into the room where Nan was helping Rhoda dress
and comforting her as much as possible, "I can't find your cousin
anyplace. He seems to have gone out on business and he didn't leave word
with anyone as to where he was going."

"Well, we've got to find him, that's all." Nan was not one to give up
easily in any circumstances. "Have you tried to locate Walker Jamieson?"

"Yes, and I can't find him or Alice either. You don't know where they
were going, do you?"

"No." Already Nan was regretting that she had helped Alice and Walker
out. She felt that she needed them now, very much. "I tell you what you
do, you call up the railway station and find out what are the best
possible train connections that Rhoda can make. Then reserve her a
compartment. After that call those offices where we were yesterday and
ask whether cousin Adair is there or is expected.

"By the time you finish, Rhoda will be ready and we'll be downstairs at
the telegraph desk. We are going to wire her father so that he can have
someone at the station to meet her."

At these instructions, Laura flew across the hall to her own room to
make the calls, for she wished to keep things as quiet as possible
around Rhoda. In the meantime, both Amelia and Grace had heard what had
happened and came to help.

The girls were all sticking together in trouble even as they always did
in pleasure, and it was a great comfort to completely bewildered Rhoda.

Now, as Nan completed the job of helping Rhoda dress and Bess finished
packing her bags, there was a gentle knock on the door and a gentle
voice inquired, "May I come in?" It was Alice.

"Walker's gone for father," she said, "And Laura's asked me to tell you
that there's a train out in a half hour. Is everything ready?"

Rhoda nodded her head, but said nothing. She was trying hard now not to
cry.

"So you know where cousin Adair is?" Nan looked across the room at
Alice.

"No, but Walker will find him and have him here in no time at all,"
Alice replied quietly and confidently.

She had hardly finished the sentence, when those in the room heard the
firm tread of Adair MacKenzie in the hall and heard his voice boom out,
"Porter, porter, come here, and take these bags."

It was good to hear him, good to hear his decisiveness. Everyone in the
room felt better as soon as he opened the door.

"Here, here, what's all this?" He looked at Rhoda's red eyes. "Come,
girl, buck up," he patted her roughly on the shoulder. "Ready, are you?"

"You're going by plane. It leaves in fifteen minutes and there's a taxi
waiting downstairs. That red-headed girl, what's her name, got you a
compartment in a train, but we've cancelled that.

"Now, that good-for-nothing newspaper friend of my daughter's is
downstairs putting through a long distance call so that you can talk to
your father before you leave here.

"You can tell him that this is a private plane and that it will
practically drop you in your own back yard. Do they have back yards
where you come from?"

Rhoda nodded. How good everyone was being to her.

"Now, now, don't thank me," Adair MacKenzie forestalled her thanks.
"Help a nice girl like you out any time I can. Ready? You better go
downstairs. You've just got time to talk to your father before you make
the plane. You'll find everything comfortable there.

"Come, you, Nan," he motioned to his cousin, "You're the only one that
can come along with us. Don't want a lot of fuss. See the rest of you
later." With this, he hurried Nan and Rhoda out of the room and down the
elevator so quickly that Rhoda, in doing things, got control of herself,
just as Adair MacKenzie had known she would.

The talk with her father was comforting, but not encouraging, and it was
with a heavy, heavy heart that Rhoda Hammond waved good-by to her
friends at the airport a few minutes later.

Nan stifled a sob as the plane taxied across the field and rose into the
air. Adair MacKenzie looked down on her. "There, there, child," he said
gently, "Things will turn out all right and we'll make this up to the
girl sometime later."

Nan caught her upper lip between her teeth and tried to smile up at
him. "Please, please, make everything right." It was a prayer that she
breathed.



CHAPTER IX

RESOLUTIONS


It was a sad little party that drew out of Laredo that afternoon. The
thoughts of Nan and her friends were all with Rhoda. At every turn they
wondered where she was and what she was doing.

Only Adair MacKenzie's insistence had made them depart from the city on
the border at all.

"Got to be on our way now," he had said brusquely when he and Nan had
driven up to the hotel after seeing Rhoda off. "Now, get busy, you," he
ordered the girls after they had heard the details of Rhoda's departure
from Nan. "Can't stay around here any longer. Sick and tired of this
place. Nothing but a hole in the wall. Don't like it. Don't like the
people. We're leaving. Get busy, I say." He tapped his cane impatiently
on the floor of the hotel veranda. "I mean you and you and you." He
pointed with it to each separate member of the party.

The girls jumped. Alice jumped. And Walker Jamieson jumped. Everyone got
busy and in an hour's time they were all sitting on the veranda, dressed
for traveling, waiting for the car to come.

"What are you doing here?" Adair MacKenzie appeared in the doorway.
Short and somewhat stocky with a face that was perpetually tanned and
dressed as he was in a white suit and large white panama hat, he looked
like a permanent part of the scene about him. Nan, as she looked at him
felt proud. Despite all his blustering, his ordering of people around,
and his abrupt manner, he was kind and gentle at heart. This, she knew,
was the reason for his success. This was why everyone who had ever known
him liked him and loved him.

Now, characteristically, he followed his abrupt question with a piece of
information that laid bare his softness and unfailing thoughtfulness.

"Get inside, all of you," he ordered, "there are long distance calls
coming through for each of you from your parents. Can't have you mooning
around," he muttered, "waiting for mail in order to find out whether or
not your mothers and fathers are well. You, Nancy, your call is waiting
now. Just talked to Jessie myself in Memphis. She's fine, just fine.
Never felt better in her life she says. Might have known it in the first
place. The Blakes are strong people."

With this, he walked away. "No nonsense, now," he grumbled as he
disappeared and each of the girls went in to talk from a telephone booth
on the southern border of the United States to her parents in the north.

How exciting it was to talk over that great distance! How good it seemed
to the girls to hear their mother's voices! Nan talked to both her
father and mother in Tennessee, and as she did, she imagined just how
they looked, the expressions on their faces when they said certain dear,
familiar things and the look in their eyes when they laughed. It was
almost like having them in the same room with her.

As she hung up, a wistful expression crossed her face, one that Adair
MacKenzie, standing off to one side of the room noted. "What's the
matter, Nancy?" he asked in a softer tone than Nan had ever heard him
use.

"Lonesome?" Adair questioned further.

"Oh, a little bit," Nan smiled. "Sometimes, I miss Momsey a great, great
deal." As she spoke her thoughts slipped back to those first days at
Pine Camp recounted in the first volume of the Nan Sherwood series when
it was so hard to fight off the wave of homesickness that came over her.

"Not going to back down on me and go home, are you?" Adair MacKenzie
asked the question half in fun and half in seriousness.

"Oh, no," Nan laughed. "I couldn't do that."

"That's the spirit!" Nan's cousin applauded. "Never back down on
anything you set out to do. When you start a thing, finish it. That's
the way people get places. Made me what I am. Never started a thing yet
I didn't finish."

Nan looking at him, believed it. He had the air about him of one that
accomplishes things. You could see it in the way he walked, the way he
talked. "Doesn't make any difference," he continued, "what it is, a
school lesson, a vacation, a housekeeping task for your mother. If you
begin it, finish it." He said this last so emphatically that Nan looked
about her half expecting to find something that she should finish right
away.

"Doesn't make any difference," he went on, "how hard the thing is or how
much you want to do something else. Do the thing you first started and
do it as well as you possibly can. Understand what I mean?" Nan's cousin
looked at her very intently for a moment and then he ruffled her pretty
brown hair with his rough hand. "Of course you do, child," he smiled at
her. "You're as bright as they make them."

"Dad, oh, dad!" Alice MacKenzie joined the two. "You're wanted. The
car's ready and the driver wants to know when we're going to start."

"Start!" Adair MacKenzie, the soft mood having slipped away from him
now, roared. "Haven't I been waiting around here for an hour now for
that old sluggard. And then he has the effrontery to send word to me
that he's waiting! The dolt! I'll fix him. I'll fix him, if it's the
last thing in the world I do! Thinks I'm a softy, does he? I'll show
him!" With this, Adair MacKenzie went fuming from the room.

Fifteen minutes later Nan Sherwood and her friends, Walker Jamieson, and
Alice and her father were riding along the road toward Mexico City.

"Got this telegram just before we left," Adair MacKenzie felt in his
pockets for the yellow paper, "It's from that Hammond girl." He turned
it over to Nan who read aloud to the others.

"Arrived safely at San Antonio. Plane there ready to take me on. Called
home again. Mother holding her own. Love. Rhoda."

Nan's voice was husky as she finished. She folded the telegram slowly
and thoughtfully, thinking of the struggle that was going on at Rose
Ranch and remembering her own concern years back over her own mother's
health.

"There, Nan," Bess laid a gentle hand on her friend's. "Don't look so
worried. I'm sure things will turn out for the best."

"Oh, Bess, if they don't," Nan half whispered in return, "It will leave
Rhoda and her father all alone. It will make things so hard, for
everyone just worships Mrs. Hammond."

"I know," Bess's voice was heavy too, "but don't think of those things."
The role of consoler was new to Bess, but instinctively she was saying
just the right thing. "Mrs. Hammond just has to get well, and so she
will. I feel sure that what I'm saying is true. Oh, Nan, don't cry,"
Bess's own voice was full of tears.

"Here, here, what's happening back there?" Adair MacKenzie turned from
his place next to the driver and frowned at the girls. "Can't have this.
No blubbering on this trip."

Nan smiled a wan smile at the word.

"Thought you were a brave girl," Adair went on. "Now, dry away those
tears," he ended, and turning, resumed his work of instructing the
driver as to how to drive.

It was Laura who unthinkingly started them all off again.

"Makes you think, doesn't it," she remarked, "of the number of things
you overlook doing for your mother when you're around her? Will I ever
be good," she continued, "when I get home. I'll wash the dishes, set the
table, run to the store, do anything and everything without question."

Laura sounded so serious and so unlike herself in her seriousness that
even Nan had to smile, as she agreed. "That's just the way it makes me
feel," she said.

"Oh, Nan," Bess protested, "and you're always so good to your mother.
I'm the one that's mean. Why, I never do a thing around the house if I
can help it." And Bess spoke the truth. The daughter of a family that
had plenty of money, Bess was a pampered child. As a general rule, she
had little regard for either of her parents. Whatever she wanted, she
asked for without regard for cost. What she couldn't get from her
mother, she frequently managed to get from her father, and the two were
well on the way toward spoiling her utterly when she went off to
Lakeview with Nan.

There, away from home among strangers in a place where she had to live
up to certain well-defined rules, Bess had improved considerably. Those
that have watched her since her first appearance in "Nan Sherwood at
Pine Camp" have seen a change come over her gradually. She is a little
more thoughtful, a little more considerate of other people, but she
still has a selfish streak which at times like the present confronts her
so that her conscience pricks her sharply.

"When I get home," Bess spoke more quietly than was her wont, "I'm
going to do a little reforming myself. I'm going to pay more attention
to what mother has to say. I'm going to be a better daughter."

"And I am too," Laura agreed.

"And I," Grace and Amelia said this together.

So even while Rhoda Hammond in a plane that was winging its way toward
her western home, was remembering little, dear things about the mother
she was so fond of, her friends were thinking of her and making
resolution after resolution about their own conduct toward their
parents.



CHAPTER X

FIRST MEXICAN EXPERIENCE


The days that followed were punctuated by telegrams received from Rhoda.

"Arrived safely." That was the first one. It told nothing at all of her
mother's condition.

"Mother's condition very serious. Not much hope." That was the second
and the girls scarcely had the heart to go on with Adair MacKenzie's
party. Privately, they gave up hope entirely, but Adair tried to keep
their spirits up. "Never can tell about these things," he said after
reading the message.

"Some improvement. Pray. Love. Rhoda." The third one read, and everyone
felt better.

Then for two days, there was no word, and everyone's hope just dwindled
away to nothing. During these days, it was Walker Jamieson with his
knowledge of Mexico and its ways that put what life there was into the
party.

The eight hundred miles over the new Pan-American highway from Laredo
to Mexico City was through gorgeous tropical and mountain scenery, and
all the way Walker regaled the girls with stories and legends about
Mexico and its history.

He told bloody stories of bandits coming down out of the hills,
attacking travelers, kidnaping them and then robbing them, or holding
them for huge ransom. He told of warfare between the Mexicans and the
Indians back in the hills. He told of lost tribes who still worshipped
the Sun God, talked their native tongue, still lived in the way those
who had built the pyramids had lived.

Alice listened breathlessly to all he had to say. Nan and her friends
hung on his every word. Adair MacKenzie listened and grunted
noncommittally.

From Laredo to Monterey, he told these stories and from Monterey to
Villa Juarez until everyone, whether he would admit it or not, felt
deeply the spell of Mexico.

Then from Villa Juarez to Tamazunchale, across rivers that were bordered
by heavy tropical foliage, everyone except Adair MacKenzie was more or
less silent absorbing quietly the beauty about.

"Listen!" Nan had the temerity to interrupt one of Adair's outbursts
against their chauffeur. Surprised by the command, Adair chuckled and
kept quiet. Nan had heard the song of a tropical bird. Its call was
picked up by another on the other side of the road. The chauffeur slowed
down and then, at Adair's command, stopped.

For a few moments everyone listened, and then Nan pushed open the door
of the car and got out. The others followed. To the right and to the
left of them the luxuriant growth made the place like nothing else they
had ever seen before. The birds that flew out of the thicket were
gorgeous things in brilliant colors. The butterflies that drifted from
flower to flower were lovely too. But the biggest surprise of all was
the orchids.

"Why, they grow wild!" Bess was amazed. The only ones she had ever seen
before had been in the window of a florist's shop on Madison Avenue in
Chicago and in a shoulder corsage worn by Linda Riggs at a school ball.
This last had made Bess exceedingly envious, despite the fact that Linda
had been reprimanded afterwards, by Dr. Prescott, for wearing it. And
now, here they were growing all about her, wild! Bess could scarcely
believe her eyes.

Walker Jamieson laughed at her. "You like them?" he asked. "Didn't know,
did you, that they grew any place outside of a hothouse?"

Bess shook her head. It was the first time in her life that she had
ever really been moved by nature in any form. The others felt the same.
The air seemed quiet and heavy and yet full of all sorts of strange
noises too. Grace was timid in the face of all the strangeness and held
on to Nan's hand.

Nan's eyes were big and wondrous. It was like tropical jungles that she
had read about. It was like something she had never even dared hope to
see. She was quiet. Silently Adair MacKenzie watched her, and felt
pleased with himself that he had shown it to her. In regarding her, he
felt almost as though he himself had created it for her special benefit.

She caught his glance, looked up at him and grinned. "Wish I could take
a piece of it home with me," she said.

"You can." Walker Jamieson sounded as though that would be the simplest
thing in the world.

"How?" Nan asked in the tone of one who didn't believe a word of what
she heard.

"Easy." Jamieson's eyes twinkled, for he knew that she thought that this
was only another bit of his foolishness. "All you've got to do is get a
camera and take a picture. Then you'll have it for life."

"But I can't," Nan was serious too now.

"Why?"

"First, I've no camera and secondly, I don't know how to take pictures."

"Oh, we'll take care of that," Walker Jamieson waved these difficulties
aside as though they didn't amount to anything. "I've got a camera in
the car, and, if you want, I'll show you how to get the best results.
I'm in your debt anyway," he whispered.

"Do you mean that about the camera and everything?" Nan was incredulous.

"Mean it? It's a promise, isn't it?" Walker drew Alice into the
conversation.

She nodded her head happily. She knew, if Nan didn't, that Walker had
made a hobby of photography and just the year before, had won a prize in
a national show.

"We'll begin, just as soon as we get back in that car," Jamieson
promised further. "When we get to Mexico City, we'll buy some more films
and the camera is yours to do with as you will until we return to the
States."

So, because of an impulsive wish and an impulsive promise, Nan began
almost immediately to develop a hobby that, even before her Mexican
adventure was over, was going to have amazing consequences.

From Tamazunchale to Mexico City, the drive was quite another
experience. The road now was hewn out of sheer mountain rock. The car
climbed and climbed, until the girls' ears felt strange and Bess
declared that she could hardly breathe. She forgot this, however, when
they, upon Alice's insistence, this time, got out again. All around
them, huge mountain peaks rose to great heights making them all, except,
perhaps, Adair MacKenzie, feel small and insignificant.

Straight down below them they saw rivers and waterfalls that looked
small and white and unimportant, like a thread that some mighty hand had
dropped carelessly in the greenness. Then they got in the car, went down
the mountainside again, and they came to a lovely white village in a
fertile green valley.

Here they stopped and ate.

"Can't understand this jargon," Adair MacKenzie laid the menu that had
been given him down and looked utterly disgusted.

"No sense in their making it like this," he continued as though it was a
personal insult that anyone should presume to speak or write any other
language than English. "Can't see how they can understand it
themselves."

In the end, it was Walker Jamieson who did the ordering. "How about
some nice mode de guajolote?" he grinned at Nan and her friends as he
put the question. "It's turkey to you," he explained when they laughed,
"stuffed turkey to be exact and a choice bit here. With it, we'll have
tortillas, the Mexican substitute for bread, and frijoles, the favorite
Mexican bean. Sound all right?"

The girls nodded as they tried to find the items on their own menus. And
Adair MacKenzie grunted that he would take the same.

The meal wasn't entirely a success. Nan and her friends enjoyed it, but
Adair MacKenzie grumbled throughout despite all that Alice could do to
mollify him.

"Never mind, daddy," she said at last, "in a couple of more days we'll
be at the hacienda--"

"Yes, and that housekeeper of ours better be there, or I'll fire her."
Adair was off again.

Alice restrained a smile. For twenty years now, Adair had been firing
the housekeeper and for twenty years she had been running him and his
house just as she pleased. It was a joke that the motherly old lady and
Alice shared.

"She'll be there," Alice tried to reassure him, "and so will that
Chinese cook that we have heard so much about."

Nan and the rest looked up from their turkey, half expecting a story,
but Alice said nothing further. They finished the meal in silence and
followed Adair to the car.

Then, by way of Zimapan, an attractive hillside village, remembered
ever afterwards by the girls for its huge cacti, some more than
thirty-five feet high, they continued on toward Mexico City. They passed
through Tasquillo, and then over a sandy road between other tall cacti
to Ixmiquilpan, a picturesque town where native Indians were tending
sheep and spinning along the streets.

Here Nan took a picture, the first of many she was to take, of the girls
as they stood in a market where they had just bought some gayly woven
baskets. The sight of the Indians brought more stories to Walker's mind
and so, in the few miles that lay between them and their stopping place
for the night, he told more tales.

He told stories of buried treasure left by the Aztecs in deep
underground chambers, of turquoise and jade that was more lovely than
any the modern world has discovered. He told of gold so plentiful that
it had no value, of great temples that American Museums were spending
hundreds of thousands of dollars to rebuild.

He knew all the stories, because, since his early childhood, spent in
California where Mexican labor was plentiful because it was cheap, he
had been interested in the country.

When, on the third day of their journey, they approached Mexico City,
Walker Jamieson was in a particularly expansive mood, one designed to
keep their minds off the question of what word they would find from
Rhoda in the capital.

"Below you, ladies and gentlemen," he said with a great sweep of his
arm, "you see Mexico City, the capital of this surprising republic of
Mexico. There you will find romance, adventure, everything."



CHAPTER XI

A LEGEND


"Mexico City," he went on, as though he were a guide introducing a party
of tourists to its first sight of a city, "lies, as you can see from
here, in a mountain valley on the Great Central Plateau. Constructed on
a former lake by those Aztecs who once made of this whole region a grand
and glorious place, it was called by them 'Tenochtitlan', an Aztec word
meaning 'Belonging to the property of the Temple.'

"When the Spaniards conquered Tenochtitlan, they found grand palaces
and elegant homes under the shadow of the mountains that lie all about.
They found gardens more beautiful and more highly cultivated than any
they had ever known. They found wealth and splendour such as not even
their vivid imaginations had ever constructed. They found everything,"
he finished dramatically, "and they drove the people who had conceived
it out, and they took it unto themselves, and it went to ruin. You see
now, the modern city, and as you go through its streets, you will find
everywhere evidences of all these changes living side by side with the
new that the present generation is in the process of building up."

Walker Jamieson had started his little harangue half in fun, but as
always when he talked about the old city, he grew serious as he went on.
Now, as he noted the half scowl on Adair MacKenzie's face, the look of
interest on Alice's, and the attention of Nan Sherwood and her friends,
he paused.

"How am I doing?" he directed the question to the group in general.

Adair MacKenzie grunted.

Alice beamed, her eyes full of pride in him.

And Nan and her crowd nodded their heads for him to go on.

"So, my public adores me," he said in a mocking self-satisfied tone that
caused Alice and Nan to laugh aloud.

With this he wrapped his guide's cloak about him again and went on.

"As you go about," he said, "and look up from day to day at the
mountains that surround you, you will soon be able to name them all from
Chiquihuite, 'the basket', to El Cerro Gordo, 'the fat hill', but there
is none that has a more fascinating story than La Sierra Madre over
there to the west." He pointed as he spoke. "That's the famous one with
the two volcanoes, Ixtaccihuatl, 'the white woman', and Popocatepetl,
'the mountain that smokes'.

"At one time, before the great Cortez conquered the country, these
volcanoes were worshipped as deities. There were days set aside for
their veneration, feasts in their honor, and elaborate ceremonies."

"Just imagine," Laura interrupted, "having a feast in honor of a
mountain."

"Strange, isn't it?" Walker Jamieson agreed. "But wait, I have even
stranger things to tell you."

"I have no doubt." The remark was Adair MacKenzie's who, whether he
would admit it or not, was really enjoying himself thoroughly.

"Ixtaccihuatl had a wooden idol representing her in the Great Temple and
Popocatepetl a representation of dough of amarand and maize seeds. These
idols you will see in the great museums of the city. The legend that
surrounds them, if you will bear with me, goes something like this.

"Ixtaccihuatl was the beautiful daughter of a proud and powerful Aztec
Emperor and his only child. As such, she was heir to his throne and
watched and guarded throughout her youth. Her father adored her, but as
he grew old and weak and his enemies began to wage war against him, he
realized more and more how difficult it would be for a woman to hold
together his vast and wealthy empire. So he set out to find a husband
worthy of his daughter, worthy of the splendour that would be hers after
his death.

"He called to his aid all the proud young warriors of his tribe and
offered his daughter in marriage and his throne to the one among them
who would conquer his enemies.

"This Popocatepetl that you see yonder went into the fight. He had long
been in love with the beautiful princess.

"The war was long. It was cruel. It was bloody. But Popocatepetl endured
to the end. Ah, but he was proud and triumphant when he saw that it
would surely be he who would return to claim the princess whom he loved.

"But alas, his triumph was short-lived. His enemies, having failed in
battle, stooped to the lowest form of deceit. They sent back to the
Princess the false news that her beloved had been killed. She languished
and became ill of a strange malady that not even the smartest witch
doctors in the realm could cure her of. She died.

"Popocatepetl's grief was more than he could bear. He wished to die too,
so he caused to be constructed a great pyramid upon which he himself
laid the beautiful Ixtaccihuatl. Next to it, he built another. There, he
stands, holding a funeral torch.

"The snow has enfolded her body and covered that of the man that would
have married her, but it has never covered the torch which burns on, a
symbol of the love of Popocatepetl for Ixtaccihuatl."

"And the smoke," Nan said quietly when she saw that he had finished, "of
the volcano is the smoke of the torch's flame."

"Smart girl," Walker Jamieson slipped into a lighter mood now.

"And they believed that story?" Bess sounded incredulous.

"Yes, O doubtful one," Laura answered the question, "and they had feasts
for the couple. Didn't you listen to the beginning?"

"Hm-m, they probably weren't edible," Adair MacKenzie suddenly
remembered the meal he had found so distasteful a short time before.

Walker winked at Alice who patted her father on the arm, "Never mind,
dad," she said, "there'll be food that you like later on."

"Too late then." Adair MacKenzie was not to be mollified now. "Be all
burned up before then by these confounded Mexican chiles. Must have a
million varieties. Find them in everything. Afraid even to order
ice-cream. Probably comes with a special chile sauce on it. Somebody
ought to teach these Mexicans how to eat. Do it myself if I had time.
Always think that when I come here. Teach them that and how to build
roads," he added as the car bumped over the highway.

"Anyway, we're coming into some sort of civilized city, now." He looked
about himself with some degree of satisfaction, for as Walker had
proceeded with his account of the legend of the two famous volcanoes,
the car had been progressing toward the city. Now it was on the
outskirts and Nan and Bess, Grace and Amelia and Laura were craning
their necks so as not to miss one single sight.

"How nice it would be," Amelia remarked to the group after she had
missed something that Walker had pointed out on the side of the road
opposite to the one she had been watching, "to have a face on all sides
of your head so that you could see all ways at once."

"Well, all I can say is," Laura returned dryly, "that you are doing
pretty well with the one that you have. You might have missed the old
flower woman back there, but you are certainly making up for it now."
With this she laughed and pushed Amelia's head, that was now blocking
her own line of vision, out of the way.

"Such pretty young girls," Nan remarked as the car stopped at a
crossroad to let a half dozen Mexicans cross the street.

"Aren't they though?" Bess agreed. "One of them looked just like
Juanita. Remember?"

Of course Nan remembered the girl that had been involved in the hidden
treasure plot that was recounted in the story "Nan Sherwood at Rose
Ranch." The thought of her now brought Rhoda back to mind and her
mother, and with it a return of the anxiety they had felt at not having
heard recently from their friend.



CHAPTER XII

LINDA RIGGS TURNS UP


Adair MacKenzie was quick to note the change in their mood. "Wells Fargo
and Co., Madero 14." He gave instructions to the chauffeur, and then
turned to Nan. "It's the American Express of this country," he explained
in a tone that indicated that they had no right to call it other than
the "American Express". "We'll pick up mail there. You see."

"What have you done to the old man?" Walker Jamieson questioned as he
helped Nan out of the car a few minutes later. "Why, Alice," he
continued, assisting her too, "he's practically putty in her hands."

"I know," Alice smiled as she took Nan's arm and walked along beside
her. "It is amazing and I'm almost jealous. I thought that I was the
only one in the world that could manage him." She looked fondly in the
direction of Adair MacKenzie who had already passed through the door and
was at the counter inside demanding his mail.

"See, what did I tell you?" He asked triumphantly when they all entered
together. "There's a whole bunch of mail here. See." He held up a truly
large package of letters, letters from home for each of the girls. As
they all crowded around him, he teased them by delaying the process of
handing them out.

"Let's see, this one looks interesting, mighty interesting." He lingered
over the address. "But the writing isn't very clear."

Alice reached for it as though to help him out. He raised his arm high.
"No, it's not for you," he shook his head at her. "This mailman always
delivers his mail to the proper person. Now, stand back all of you,
while I look again."

"This is as bad or worse than it is at school when they distribute mail,
isn't it?" Laura nudged Nan. "But look, isn't the old duck getting a
kick out of it all?"

Nan nodded. There was only one thing that she was really impatient
about. She wanted to know now, right away, whether there was any word
from Rhoda. She felt as though she couldn't stand it a moment longer not
to know.

"Please, Cousin Adair," she begged, "is there anything there at all from
Rhoda?"

"Yes, father, tell us quickly," Alice chimed in.

"Oh, I'm sorry," Adair MacKenzie was immediately all contrition. "H-m-m,
wait." He leafed quickly through the pack.

"Yes, there is something," he admitted at last. "It's addressed to
Nan." With this he handed a yellow telegram over to her. "Take it
easily," he advised, while they all waited anxiously for Nan to open
it. She tore the seal, pulled the message out, dropped it in her
nervousness, and then when it was restored to her hands, read it slowly
to herself.

At long last she looked up. "It's--" she caught her breath before she
could continue--"all right. Rhoda's mother is going to get well." Saying
this, she passed the telegram over to Bess and Laura, and then, before
she realized at all what was happening, her eyes welled up with tears.

"Why, Nan, darling!" Alice exclaimed, "don't cry. Everything's all right
now. Come," she drew from her own purse a pretty white handkerchief and
wiped Nan's tears away, "you'll have us all in tears."

Nan took the handkerchief away from her and wiped her own eyes, hard.
Then she smiled. "Don't mind me," she laughed. "I'm just an old silly.
Please, cousin Adair, what's in the rest of that package."

"Yes, what's in it?" Even Adair MacKenzie sounded as though he had lost
possession of himself for a moment. Now, he collected himself again and
took the party in his hands, as he had had it before. "Too much stalling
around here," he grumbled to no one in particular, and then went on with
the distribution of the mail.

The letters from home were fun to get, fun to read, and fun to share.
Each one was read and re-read a dozen times by the girl that received
it, and then it was passed around and enjoyed by all the others. There
were letters from their mothers and fathers and letters from their
friends. There was a round robin from their pals at school.

Though all of them had news, this last had the choicest bits.

"Do you know that," it began, "Professor Krenner and Dr. Beulah Prescott
are going to be married before the summer is over?"

"Nan," Bess stopped Nan who was reading the bit aloud to the others, "is
it true? Did I hear you right?"

"I guess you did," Nan's eyes looked merry now. She of all the girls had
been the only one who knew that this announcement was coming. Beloved by
Dr. Beulah and the best student and most wide-awake person that had ever
come to Dr. Krenner's attention, she had been in their confidence before
school had closed.

The romance between the Principal of Lakeview and one of its most
scholarly instructors had blossomed the summer the two had escorted the
present group of girls on their European trip. Professor Krenner joined
the party in London, just before the coronation. There he and Dr.
Prescott learned of the million and one things they had in common. Nan
knew of this, knew too that the wedding was to take place in the chapel
at Lakeview just before school opened. Already, she had planned to
attend.

Now, she went on with the reading of the round robin. "Do you know," she
continued, "that the old boathouse where we had that grand party on
Bess's twenty-five dollars, is going to be pulled down and a big new one
built?

"That the dormitories are being redecorated and that corridor four where
we have rooms is going to have all the walls done over and that serapes
will look especially nice hanging on them?

"And that, and this is the biggest piece of news of all, Linda Riggs is
someplace in Mexico?"

"No!" the exclamation was Bess's. If it was possible to say that one
girl in the room disliked the proud Linda more than the rest, Bess was
that girl.

"I hate her. I just hate her." Bess had said vehemently many times. And
well she might, for often in the days that followed the registration of
Bess and Nan at Lakeview, Linda had purposely embarrassed and humiliated
them. At first, Bess, because she naturally coveted wealth, and Linda
was a very wealthy girl, had tried to make friends with "Her Highness"
as Laura dubbed Linda. But her efforts always ended disastrously.

Nan, as all those who have followed the fortunes of the young girl know,
time and again tried to help Linda. Once or twice she was instrumental
in saving her life. But despite this, whenever Linda was in a position
to do so, she managed to belittle Nan, to snub her rudely, to make her
just as uncomfortable as she possibly could.

So Nan and Bess had particular reasons for disliking the girl who had
even been expelled from school for one bit of meanness that caused an
explosion which might easily have cost the lives of many of the Lakeview
Hall students. Linda, in other words, was cordially hated by most of the
students of the fashionable boarding school.

Now, the news that she was in Mexico brought consternation to the group.

"It's just as I've always said," Bess fumed. "It's impossible to go
anyplace without having her turn up."

"Probably likes you and just won't admit it." Laura could well afford to
add fuel to the flame. Linda generally avoided her.

"She doesn't like me and you know it, Laura Polk," Bess exclaimed. "Why
she had to come down here when there's all the rest of the world for her
to travel in, I don't know. But you can just be sure of this, no good
will come of it."

"Sh! Bess," Nan warned as she looked over to one side where Adair
MacKenzie, Alice, and Walker Jamieson were deep in consultation.

"I'm sorry, Nan," Bess lowered her voice, "but I just don't seem to be
able to control myself when that girl comes to mind. She's caused us so
much unhappiness that I can't stand her."

"I know," Nan was genuinely sympathetic, "but don't you worry, we
probably won't see her at all. Mexico, after all, is a pretty big
place."

"Yes, it has twenty-seven states, besides the Federal District and the
Territory of Lower California." Laura quoted the guidebook glibly.

"Doesn't make any difference," Bess said firmly. "If she's anywhere in
the country, there's no escaping her. We'll meet her." She ended
positively.

How truly Bess spoke, the crowd was soon to find out, but the
circumstances and the far-reaching results must be left to other
chapters.



CHAPTER XIII

NAN TURNS PHOTOGRAPHER


"Well, what's on the program this morning?" Adair MacKenzie was in a
genial mood the day after the telegram had informed the girls that
Rhoda's mother was going to recover.

He had had a good night's sleep and a generous well-cooked breakfast in
the fashionable hotel where he had chosen to take his brood. Though he
had complained about the coffee in no uncertain terms, as is the custom
of most Americans traveling in foreign countries, the rest of the food
had seemed good and now he acted as though he was entirely at the
disposal of his guests.

"What do you say, Jamieson?" He turned to the young newspaper man. "Got
any ideas?"

"Only those that we talked over at Wells Fargo's yesterday." Walker
Jamieson assumed a mysterious air.

"Oh, that, that has to wait until the afternoon," Adair MacKenzie looked
mysterious too.

"Then we might just explore the city, take the buses and street cars
and find out how the natives get around. We might let the girls get a
glimpse of The Cathedral, one of the most important in all of the
Americas. It was built over the old Aztec Templo Mayor and it took two
and a half centuries to build."

"Two and a half centuries to build a church!" Laura exclaimed.

"What can you expect?" Adair MacKenzie asked in a tone that indicated he
was not the least bit surprised, "of a nation that has 'mañana' for its
motto?"

Walker Jamieson laughed heartily at this. "Well, maybe you are right,"
he admitted, "but I don't think you'll find your interpretation in any
guidebook. They say merely that the Indians contributed a third of the
cost and all the work and that 'many died each day due to the long hours
of unaccustomed strenuous work.'"

"That's right, they'll never admit they are wrong," Adair shook his
head as though this fact grieved him deeply. "Never be afraid, you Nan,"
he pointed his finger sternly at his young cousin, "to admit you are
wrong. Best medicine in the world. If you are wrong say so. It's good
for you." Adair MacKenzie had a habit of talking thus in circles,
agreeing with himself over some great truth. Now he nodded his head with
great satisfaction as though he himself made a practice of admitting his
mistakes.

Walker looked at Alice. Alice looked at Walker. They both laughed. Both
knew that the old man had never in his life admitted that he had made a
mistake. Both at this moment thought him charming and lovable.

"Well, shall we leave The Cathedral out then?" Walker Jamieson was
always willing to give in in little particulars. "There's plenty else to
see, palaces, parks, markets. Why, there's a whole new city to explore."

"Won't leave anything out," Adair MacKenzie looked at his watch as he
spoke, "but we've got to do everything up in a hurry. Haven't got much
time to stay in this city. Got a telegram this morning from the
caretaker at the Hacienda. Expects us there within the next couple of
days."

"Oh, daddy," Alice laughed. "That's the way you always are. Always
wanting to move on just as soon as we arrive at a place."

"And you," he twitted, "mañana is always good enough for you. You're
just a lazy beggar. Now, what do you want to do today."

"Oh, everything, just everything," Alice looked as though she would
like to do it all and do it now. She had that happy faculty that some
people have of always having a good time no matter what happens.

Nan had it too. The word "bore" which slips so easily from the tongues
of many young people who really shouldn't know what boredom is, had
never crossed her lips. Life seemed too full of adventure, too full of a
number of things to do for her to even think of applying it to herself.
Linda Riggs might have used the word, but never Nan, and never Alice.

"Well, there's your answer," Adair MacKenzie turned to Walker when Alice
answered that she wanted to do "just everything." "It's a typical
woman's answer. Now, do what you want to with it."

"O-kay." Walker Jamieson assumed the responsibility willingly enough.
"Now, listen here," he turned to the girls and assumed a serious air and
a stern one that unfortunately didn't impress them at all, and said,
"we've got just about four hours in this day to do with as you want to
do."

"Four hours!" Nan exclaimed, "why, how short the days are here! It's
only nine o'clock now, or is Amelia's watch slow?" She had been looking
at Amelia's wrist as she spoke.

"I said four hours." Walker repeated, still sternly.

"He said four hours." Adair MacKenzie was equally stern.

"Then, why don't you get started," Alice teased.

"Come on, here. We are." Walker pretended that he was angry and that
Alice's remark was just the last straw. He took her by the arm and with
the others following after, they all left the dining room, walked
through the lounge and then out into the morning sunshine.

The four hours flew by. They shopped in the busy Mexican markets,
bartered with natives, dressed in brilliantly colored blankets and huge
sombreros, bought serapes, beautiful Indian pottery, some opals that
were sold by the dozen, handwoven baskets and a million and one little
things that Walker declared would fill a trunk.

Nan took her camera along and snapped pictures of everyone, pretty
Mexican señoritas selling flowers, little Mexican boys who were
boot-blacks, proud of the American slang they had learned in the movies,
and whole families complete with shawls, squatting over low fires making
tortillas for whomsoever would buy.

She took pictures until in her enthusiasm she forgot herself entirely
and asked Adair MacKenzie if he would please hold a little Mexican baby
while she photographed it.

As soon as the question was out of her mouth, she realized that she had
made a mistake.

What a torrent it brought forth! Adair MacKenzie blustered as he had
never blustered before. He would see himself tied and hung before she
would ever find him even touching one of those kids. Why, the idea. Did
she think he was an embassador of good will, that he was down there to
kiss babies and wear serapes to show that he was just one of the people.
Did--d--did she think he was--why, what did she think he was? He
stuttered in his surprise.

Finally, Nan and Walker and Alice and all the rest broke down in
laughter, for Adair MacKenzie was certainly outdoing himself.

With this, he stopped in amazement. And they were laughing at him! "No
respect any more at all," he muttered and then he laughed too.

"You, Walker, you," he took the remaining bit of his impatience out on
that able young man, "you've no sense at all in that head of yours. Let
the girls get out of hand all the time. Now, I'm going to take charge of
the party. Had enough of your nonsense. Come on, you," he turned to Nan
and the rest with this, "there'll be no more pictures today. We're going
back to the hotel now."

"And then what?" Alice ventured to ask.

"You'll see. Just wait. You'll see. This is my party now." So, he
right-about-faced and went striding from the market with the others
following him.



CHAPTER XIV

SMUGGLERS


"A bullfight, Bess, we're going to a bullfight," Nan exclaimed as she
and Bess dressed for the afternoon excursion with Adair MacKenzie.

"Why, Nancy Sherwood, I never in all the world thought you were the
bloodthirsty creature that you are," Bess laughed at her pal.

"Oh, you are just the same, Elizabeth Harley," Nan returned. "When
Cousin Adair told us at the luncheon table what we were going to do this
afternoon, you were just as excited as the rest of us."

"I know it," Bess confessed. "But I expect to hold my ears and close my
eyes through the worst parts. They do say they can be very gory
spectacles with blood streaming all over everything."

"That's right," Nan admitted. "It scares me to think of that part, but I
want to see it anyway." As the girls talked, they dressed, combed their
hair, and then tidied up the room.

"Ready?" Laura stuck her head through the door and asked. "Amelia and
Grace are already downstairs. We better get started, or Grace will be
backing down. Really, I think she's scared to death, but is afraid to
admit it. Me, I'm going to love this."

"Me, too," Nan admitted. "I can hardly wait. I've read about them so
often. Remember the lecturer at Lakeview who had all those slides about
bullfights in Spain. I've wanted to see one ever since then."

"Yes, Mrs. Cupp was so angry over that. She didn't think it was the
proper sort of thing for young ladies to see. She thought it would
coarsen them," Laura finished primly. "Wait until we get back to
Lakeview, will we ever have some tales to tell her that will make her
hair stand on end! She'll have to go to bed for a week to recover."

"Oh, Laura," Nan laughed, "you sound as though you'd be brave enough to
tell her all about it yourself."

"Well, if I'm not," Laura joined in the laughter, "because we aren't
exactly bosom pals, you know, she'll find out. Nothing escapes her."

"Truer words were never spoken," Nan agreed as she adjusted her hat in
front of the mirror. "Come on, now, I'm ready. Are you, Bess?"

"Just a second." Bess was rummaging through her purse. "There's
everything here except the thing I want."

"Looks almost like an over-night bag," Laura commented as Bess poured
the contents out on the dresser.

"What in the world are you looking for?" Nan asked somewhat impatiently.
Bess never could find things in her purse because she had a habit of
saving everything and never cleaning the pocket-book out.

"Oh, my passport--I mean my visitors' pass." Bess really did look
worried. "I had it this morning. I know I did."

"All I can say is," Laura commented dryly, "if you've lost that, you
might just as well go out and drown yourself, because if you don't, Mr.
MacKenzie will roar so loud when you tell him that the earth will just
open up and swallow us all."

"I know it." Bess was almost in tears. She didn't like to be roared at.
She took scoldings harder than anyone else in the crowd, because at home
she had always been made to feel that what she did was right.

"Bessie, you're such a silly," Nan laughed. "You've got the wrong
pocket-book. That isn't the one you had with you this morning. You had
the little black one and that's over there on your trunk. Remember, you
put it there when you came in so that you would be sure to know where it
was when you wanted it again."

Bess laughed too now. "Isn't that just like me, always hunting for
something and always finding it just where it ought to be?"

"I do that too," Laura sympathized as they three left the room. And so
does everyone, but Bess had a habit of getting confused and impatient as
soon as things went wrong and using all her energy in getting excited.
Nan generally remained calm and found things. Laura was calm too and
that because she never took anything very seriously. If she couldn't
find one thing, another would do, and so she always went happily on her
way.

Bess was thinking of this, as Nan pushed the button for the automatic
elevator. "But you couldn't have substituted anything for the visitors'
pass." She directed her remark to Laura as though they had been talking
over the thing she was thinking about.

"Whatever are you talking about?" Laura laughed. "Or, is it a secret?
You know what happens to people in this country who go around talking to
themselves? They throw them to the bulls. Now, come on, Bessie," she
finished. "You may be a harum-scarum child, but we love you. Cheer up."

At this, the elevator jolted and settled to its place on the first
floor and the three girls stepped out to find Adair, Alice, Walker
Jamieson and the rest all waiting for them.

"Thought you had cold feet, and were backing out." Walker Jamieson
greeted them with this sally as they all walked down the entrance stairs
and out to their waiting car.

"Look!" Nan pointed at a street car they were passing.

"At what?" Laura questioned.

"Oh, you were too late," Nan answered while she adjusted her camera so
that it would be ready for her to take pictures when she wanted to.
"There was a sign on that car which said, 'Toreo.'"

"What does that mean?" Grace questioned.

"Bullfight, darling, that's where you are going now," Laura answered.
"See, there's the sign that Nan saw again. It's on the front of that bus
that's stopped across the street. This must be a holiday. Practically
everyone seems to have dusted off his best sombrero and come out on the
streets."

"It's a holiday everyday here." Adair MacKenzie turned around to join in
the conversation. "Saw a calendar of festivals posted in the hotel
lobby. No end to it. No wonder the people never get anything done."

"I saw that too," Walker Jamieson remarked. "Saw something else posted
on a bulletin board that was interesting. It was a warning to everyone
to take good care of his visitor's pass. Right beside it was the
announcement of a reward being offered to anyone who could give
information as to the whereabouts of one Antonio Mazaro, an American
citizen and former aviator, who is suspected of being an accomplice in
an international smuggling ring."

"They must be the smugglers Mr. Nogales told us about at the border,"
Nan remarked.

Walker Jamieson said nothing further. The truth, was, however, that he
had just an hour before received an assignment from a big New York
newspaper to cover certain aspects of this smuggling ring story, and he
was already wondering whether or not it was going to be possible for him
to go on to the Hacienda as he had planned.

"These Mexicans will never catch anyone, much less a band of American
crooks." Adair MacKenzie looked around again. "Need a couple of good
G-men down here, if they're going to find out anything at all."

"Think so too," Walker agreed, "they are sending some down, I
understand."

"You got your nose in the story?" Adair MacKenzie asked abruptly, and
everyone looked at Walker, waiting for his answer.



CHAPTER XV

A BULLFIGHT


"Oh, always interested in whatever goes on," Walker answered
off-handedly. "You know how it is. See a story breaking, you want to be
in on the kill. Just can't help yourself. Gets in your blood, after
you've worked on any paper for a while.

"Back four years ago, I went up into northern Canada for a vacation.
Chose that spot because I thought it would be far away from newspapers
and stories of all kinds. I guess I was feeling rather disgusted with
everything and wanted to get away, so when an old newspaper buddy who
had struck out a claim for himself asked me to go up and do a little
prospecting for gold with him, I jumped at the chance.

"It looked like an ideal set-up. We were to go alone to his cabin which
was miles away from civilization and stay there for the summer. We
stocked up with plenty of food, some books I had been wanting to read
for a long time, and took a radio along.

"I had a book I wanted to write, something I had started and never
found time to finish. Oh, it was nothing," he added as Nan and the rest
looked impressed. "All newspaper people think that some day they'll
write a book that will take the world by storm.

"Well, I thought I would finish that, do some prospecting and just have
a nice quiet time for myself. The chap I was going up with was a nice
sort of fellow, quiet like myself.

"We went by train as far as we could go, and then got an old Indian to
paddle us the rest of the way in a canoe. It was nice going. We took it
leisurely, stopped and fished along the banks of the river, and camped
for three days in a gorgeous spot that seemed as remote from
civilization as any place could possibly be.

"Things went along quite perfectly until one night--this was after we
had been in the camp for a couple of weeks--there was a radio call
'Plane carrying doctor and infantile paralysis serum to Canadian outpost
in Northwest down. Position approximately'--Oh, I've forgotten what it
was now, but it was not far from our camp.

"The next morning we were up at daybreak and by the next afternoon we
had located the plane. The pilot was dead, but the doctor, though
suffering from a broken leg and shock, was still living. After we had
fixed him up, we spent the night trying to get the plane's radio to the
point where it would function, so that we could get the news back to
civilization.

"But things were so radically wrong with it, that my pal finally decided
that he would set out for the nearest outpost, traveling as we had when
we came, walking and by canoe. In the meantime, the doctor was fretting
and stewing because he couldn't get to the station that was in such
urgent need of medical aid, so partly on this insistence, partly because
I'm a stubborn fool when I start out to do anything, I kept tinkering
around with the radio.

"Finally, the thing came to life, and we were able to get in touch with
the outside world. You know as well as I what happens in such cases. It
wasn't long before I was up to my neck, sending exclusive stories back
to my old sheet and then, when another plane came to take the doctor and
brought with it a whole flock of reporters, I was swamped with work.

"I grumbled, but I loved it, and when the story died down and I was
called back to work on an assignment that I was more than proud to
accept I was like a kid with a new toy. Never so glad to get back into
harness in my life.

"I feel now, a little the way I did then. Mexico and the land of mañana
spelled romance and rest to me in the city room where I do my daily
stint. But now I want neither of them. I smell a story."

With this, he sniffed the air as though he was actually trying to get
the direction of the scent. Alice laughed and held her hand on the
handle of the door. "Maybe you do," she said, "but you're not leaving us
today, at least not this minute. Walker Jamieson, we're headed for a
bullfight and you're going along with us whether you want to or not."

There was no protest, and Walker was glad afterwards when he pieced the
little sections of the plot together that he hadn't struck out on the
trail of the story before that memorable bull-fight.

"And what's the man with the wheelbarrow doing in the parade?" Nan asked
the question of Walker Jamieson.

They were all sitting now in the huge arena, "Plaza de Toros," the most
important bull-fighting ring in all Mexico. The place was packed and Nan
thought as she looked out over the people that she had never in her life
seen such a gay colorful crowd, nor one in such an excited mood.

They were sitting on the shady side of the ring, "Sombra" it was called,
the seats of which cost twice the price of those on the sunny side, or
"Sol."

It was four o'clock exactly and the cuadrilla or parade that precedes
every bull-fight had just entered the arena. Everyone was standing up
shouting, waving his sombrero, and cheering for his favorite.

"That's a secret, not to be divulged until later," Walker answered Nan's
question.

"I didn't know it would be like this," Grace, generally so quiet and
shy, said. Her face was all alight and she was waving the pillow that
had been bought for her to sit on, as were all the rest of the girls and
women in the place. Laura was waving hers too, and so were Bess and Nan
and Amelia.

Down in the ring below them the parade was marching around. First came a
man on a spirited horse that pranced and danced and bowed its head to
the ground again and again as the rider circled the ring. Then followed
the matadores or bullfighters themselves in brilliant costumes that
proclaimed to everyone that they were the heroes of the hour. It was for
them that pillows were waved and cheers echoed back and forth across the
ring.

"Oh, they're gorgeous, simply gorgeous," Nan was carried away with the
excitement. "What are they called?" she pointed her finger to a number
of men now riding on horseback and directed her question to Walker.

"And look, what are they?" Laura turned to him at the same time. She was
pointing to men in white suits, red sashes, and caps who came in on
mules.

"One at a time, please," Walker laughed at their excitement. "Nan's
first. Those men on horseback are the picadores. Watch them later. And
you, Señorita," he turned to Laura, "you asked about the wise monkeys,
'monosabios' we Mexicans call them. When the fight's over they'll drag
out the dead bull."

"Oh!" The exclamation was Grace's. She had forgotten that a bullfight
meant that there would be blood and killing.

Walker looked at her questioningly and then at Alice. "Here was a girl,"
the glances they exchanged said, "that would have to be watched at the
killing."

Now, below them, the horseman leading the procession bowed before the
judge of the bullfight, the formation disbanded, and the ring cleared
for the entrance of the first bull.

It came in, charging from a door that was opened below the ring, went
bellowing madly across the arena, and charged straight into a target
that maddened it further.

Now the prettiest, most graceful part of the whole spectacle began.

Two helpers carrying lovely bright capes stepped from the side into the
arena. One of them waved his cape, attracting the attention of the bull
which came rushing toward the bright moving object. The helper danced
gracefully aside. The bull turned and rushed at him again, putting his
head down and going for him with his horns. But the man was graceful and
daring and teasing and avoided him.

Now the other helper waved his cape and was equally provocative and the
bull went for him with the same lack of success.

So they played back and forth, tantalizing the bull, attracting it with
one cape and distracting it with another until it was thoroughly
maddened.

Then the rider came in on his horse and the rider and the horse teased
the bull further. So it went until the climax when the third and most
important part of the fight began--the actual killing of the bull.



CHAPTER XVI

END OF THE FIGHT


The ring was in a furor when Bess clutched Nan's arm. "Look, Nan, look,"
she said. "It's she. It's Linda. Look, Nan."

Nan's eyes were riveted on the ring, where the bullfighter with his
spear was waiting for a propitious moment to plunge it into the mad
bleeding animal that was lunging at him.

"Just a minute, Bess," Nan hadn't heard what her friend had said. The
horror and cruelty and yet the excitement of the scene before her was
holding all her attention.

Down there before her the bullfighter was fighting a championship fight.
He was playing with the bull, teasing him toward him and then skillfully
dancing away. The end was imminent. The fighter was waiting only for an
opportunity to make the clean, quick plunge that would finish the fight
with one stroke.

Now, the moment seemed near and everyone, Nan and her friends, and the
more than twenty thousand other people in the great ring stood up,
cheering for the finish.

The fighter closed in and then drew back to make the lunge, but there
was blood on the ground beneath his feet and he slipped. The bull gave a
mighty roar and went toward him, his horns lowered. The fight had
turned. There could be only one possible end now. Death for the fighter.

But wait. That fighter is clever. He gracefully pulls aside so the
menacing horns glance across his arm. He jumps up from the ground, pulls
his arm back, and before the bull has had a chance to recover from his
surprise, that fighter is, with one mighty thrust, plunging the spear
straight through the bull's heart.

There, it's over now. The fighter has fought the fight that will surely
bring him the trophy, a pair of little gold ears. The throng, wild with
excitement, throws hats, scarfs, pillows, everything loose that it can
lay its hands on into the ring as the hero of the hour slowly walks
around and bows with arms thrown out wide as though to embrace the whole
cheering multitude.

Everything is gay and happy now. Even the man that follows after the
hero and picks up the hats, scarfs, and pillows that litter the ground
and tosses them lightly back to the owners above is laughing. Yes, even
the man that pushed the wheelbarrow in the grand opening procession is
happy, basking in reflected glory, as he trundles his burden around the
ring, sprinkling sawdust over the blood spots.

It was not until the monosabios, "wise monkeys", came to drag out the
bull, destined now for food for a nearby hospital, that Bess again tried
to attract Nan's attention.

"Nan, I tell you that that's Linda Riggs down there below us," she said
insistently this time. "Look at the way she's tossing her head and
talking to that man that's next to her. You would think that he was a
prince, a handsome prince, the way she is acting."

"Why, Bess, you're right. That is Linda." Nan at last drew her eyes away
from the ring and looked at the girl Bess was pointing to.

"Yes, and I'm sure she saw us a while ago," Laura contributed. She too
had been watching the girl that the Lakeview crowd had grown to dislike
so cordially. "You know the way she always looks around her to see
whether there is anyone she really ought to be decent to, anyone that
might be able to do something for her. Well, she did that when she first
came in. I saw her, but I wasn't going to say anything because I didn't
want to spoil the fun we were having."

"I'll bet she sneered when she saw us," Bess said. "She's always hated
us and especially since we had the laugh on her on the boat last
summer."

"Oh, Bess, that wasn't exactly a laugh," Nan protested. "The girl almost
drowned."

"Yes, and you went and saved her. And what thanks did you get?" Bess
could always be indignant when she thought of Linda Riggs. "You should
have let her alone. I would have. I would have enjoyed seeing the waves
wash her over-board. I would have looked over the rail and laughed when
I saw her screaming and waving her arms and trying to keep herself from
going under."

"You little fiend!" Nan exclaimed. "How can you say such things?"

"Because they are true," Bess retorted. "People like her shouldn't be
allowed to clutter up things. She makes everybody that knows her
unhappy, so what good is she anyway? Her father is always trying to get
her out of trouble. Look at her down there now. You can see by the way
she's holding her head that she's mean and proud and deceitful."

"Bess, be quiet!" Nan warned. "You'll have everyone looking at you.
Linda is a little prig and she does make trouble and I don't like her
any more than you do, but there's no use making things unpleasant
because she's happened to turn up here where we are. Forget her."

"Forget her!" Bess exclaimed. "You can't forget a thorn that's forever
sticking in your flesh. Trying to forget her doesn't do any good. She
always makes trouble. It's best to watch her so that you will be
prepared for what happens."

Perhaps Bess was right. Certainly, if at other times Nan and Bess had
been more watchful they might have been able to avoid trouble. But Nan
always believed that there was some good in everyone and she was always
trustful. She felt often that Linda, because of her wealth and the fact
that her mother was dead and her father tried to give her everything she
wanted, was not entirely to blame for her actions. And Bess, well,
Bess's attitude toward Linda had changed considerably since their first
meeting.

Then Bess had thought that the daughter of the railroad magnate would
be a nice person to have for a friend, for Bess was decidedly impressed
by her wealth, by the way she ordered people around, and the way she
dressed. Bess had even written home in the first days at school and told
her mother that she didn't have at all the proper kind of clothes to
wear, if she was going to chum around with people that amounted to
something. She had Linda in mind when she wrote it, Linda's clothes and
Linda's social position. But Linda had soon shown Bess that there was no
room for her in her world.

Girls that Linda called friend, if there was any such word in her
vocabulary, had to bow to all her wishes. She liked them only if they
thought everything she did and said was right. No girl could be her
friend and have a will of her own. No girl could be her friend and have
other friends too. Linda wanted to be the very center of everyone's
attention. As a consequence she had no real friends at all.

Bess never analyzed this to herself, but after one or two attempts to go
around with Linda, she gave up entirely and grew to dislike her very
much, as all the readers of the Nan Sherwood series know. She disliked
her particularly because of the mean things she had done to Nan, for if
Bess had no other outstanding characteristic, she did have a sense of
justice that was almost as strong as Nan's.

This she had although her sympathies were not as deep nor as
understanding as Nan's. Bess was apt to accept or reject things and
people on account of appearances. Nan never did this. She liked everyone
and had always had some sort of sixth sense that made her look beneath
surfaces and find the true person. Thus she made friends with all sorts
of people.

This was the reason that Nan led such an adventurous life. This was the
reason everyone liked her. Everyone called Linda snobbish. A few people
called Bess the same. But no one ever thought of applying the word to
Nan.

And Nan seldom talked about people. So now, as the girls sat in the
arena in Mexico City waiting for the next bullfighter to come into the
ring, Nan was doing her best to quiet her friend.

"There's no reason whatsoever to get so excited," she said in an
undertone to Bess. "She's sitting way down below us so we won't have to
even talk to her when we go out. We'll be up the stairs and out the exit
before she does. We'll probably never even see her again while we're
here."

"That's right," Laura agreed, talking in a whisper too. "And though you
might think that you could prepare yourself for what might happen if you
did encounter Linda, you never could. No one ever knows what that girl
might do. And, Elizabeth Harley, you're not smart enough to guess."
Laura being Laura with her red hair and her love for battle couldn't
resist adding this thrust.

"Well, I could try anyway," Bess retorted.

"Say, what are you people all talking about so quietly?" Amelia leaned
over and asked now. "Why, you didn't even pay any attention when Mr.
Jamieson took Grace out."

"Took Grace out!" Nan exclaimed, noticing now for the first time that
two in the party were missing. "Why?"

"She almost fainted when she saw all the blood streaming from the bull,
so just before he was killed, Walker Jamieson took her by the arm and
said they were going for a walk and would be back soon."

"I don't blame her," Bess said emphatically. "I would have fainted
myself--"

"--if you had been watching the bullfight instead of Linda Riggs," Nan
supplied the end of the sentence.

"I guess you are right," Bess laughed. "That girl certainly does have a
habit of getting in my hair. I'm always on pins and needles whenever she
is around."

"There, Bessie," Nan tried to smooth her friend's ruffled feelings.
"Just you sit quietly and watch the next fight and you'll feel better.
We'll see that Linda doesn't cross your path."

"She hadn't better," Bess replied and then did try to devote herself to
watching the next fight on the program.



CHAPTER XVII

A HASTY DEPARTURE


"Sit quietly and watch a bullfight!" Adair MacKenzie had heard Nan's
counsel to Bess. "Never heard of such a thing. Never saw such a thing
happen. Couldn't possibly sit quietly and watch a bullfight. Too
exciting. Too much blood and gore. No place to bring a woman."

Adair had been upset by Grace's fainting spell and now he was sorry he
had ever brought the girls here. Already he was casting about in his
mind for something else to do that would wipe the memory of the
unpleasantness of the spectacle out of their minds. He was oblivious of
the fact that none of them outside of perhaps Nan and Amelia had
witnessed the fight with their whole attention. He didn't yet know the
story of Linda. The fact that her presence distracted them consequently
had gone unobserved.

"Got your things? Come on. We're going now." Abruptly he made up his
mind and plunged into action without further ado.

"But father," Alice demurred.

"Don't 'but' me," Adair answered. "We're going to get out of this
outlandish place right away. Can't have you all fainting on my hands.
Ready?" He was already halfway out the row and effectively blocking the
view of the ring of all the people who had seats behind his party. But
it didn't matter to him. In fact, he was so concerned with his own
immediate problem that no one else in the world existed. Now he turned
around again to see if the girls were following him.

"Fine spectacle for civilized people to put on," he muttered. "Hurry,
you people. Can't be all day getting out of here."

"That's right." The voice that agreed with him was an American voice and
it startled him. Adair looked up. "What's that?" he asked the question
gruffly.

"I said, 'that's right,'" the stranger answered. He was sitting about
three rows behind where Adair was standing.

"What do you mean?" Adair looked more belligerent than ever.

"I mean you can't be all day getting out of here." The voice in back
answered positively.

"W-w-why, you old--old--old," Adair spluttered. He could think of no
epithet appropriate and yet forceful enough to call his critic in the
presence of the girls. So his spluttering died away as he brandished his
cane and just stood and looked.

"Daddy, daddy," Alice put a soft hand on his arm. "Do come. We are
blocking the view."

"Nothing to see down there anyway," Adair returned. "These Americans,"
he went on talking loudly and looking back at the man above him, "come
down here and think they can run everything. Want to tell us to move on.
Who do they think they are anyway?"

"Sh, daddy." Alice was worried for fear her father would start a fight,
even while she was secretly amused that he was accusing a fellow
countryman of doing the very thing that he was guilty of. "We must get
down and out so that we can find how Grace is," she added tactfully.

"Well, I'm hurrying just as fast as these Mexicans will let me," Adair
answered. "I always said they were the slowest, most inconsiderate
people in the world."

Adair was wrong in what he said, and he knew it. As he was now
sputtering about them being inconsiderate, so often he had sputtered
because of their patient consideration for other people. Then he had
said that they were too polite.

However, Adair prided himself on his willingness to change his mind.
"Only dunces never contradict themselves," he often said.

Now, Alice and the girls were themselves moving along as fast as they
could behind him, so, though he continued to mutter and even brandish
his cane at others whom he suspected of calling at him in Spanish, he
was soon safely out in the aisle and they all hurried up the stairs and
out.

"O-o-ooh, but that was close," Laura's eyes were dancing at the
recollection of the scene in the stands as she and Nan stepped out into
the street.

"Wasn't it though?" Nan was laughing too, now, though at the time, she,
like Alice, had been worried for fear Adair would come to blows with the
American.

"Two Americans come to blows at a bullfight," Laura said, "and the
bullfight is forgotten."

"That's just what I was afraid of," Nan whispered. "These people in this
country are so hot-headed that I was afraid there would be a general
riot, before we got out of there. They were all worked up so over the
first fight that they would have entered our private little fray without
any question."

"That's what I thought too," Laura agreed. "And did you see the
expression on Bess's face?"

"No," Nan returned, "but I can just imagine what it was like. She hates
scenes of any kind. I do too, but this one was almost funny. Cousin
Adair is so quick tempered that he glides in and out of trouble with the
greatest of ease."

"Doesn't he though?" Amelia contributed. "It fascinates me when I see
one of his explosions coming. Every time he opens his mouth, he gets in
deeper."

"That is funny when you see it happen to someone else," Laura agreed
somewhat ruefully. "But when it happens to you, if you have a sensitive
soul, like mine, it's pretty embarrassing." Laura was in earnest, for
her quick tongue often did its work before she had a chance to stop it.
"Oh Laura," her mother had more than once shaken her head over her
daughter's failing, "you need to count to a hundred at least when you
feel your cheeks flushing and your head getting hot with anger. And you
need to button your mouth up tight, or you'll always be terribly
unhappy."

Laura thought of this now, and giggled.

"Well, I don't know what's so funny," Bess remarked. She still felt
irritated at what had happened. "Maybe if you had seen Linda Riggs
looking around at us, you wouldn't be giggling the way you are. I wish I
could have just gone right through that floor."

"But it was concrete and you couldn't." Laura pretended to be very
practical.

"That is, not without hurting herself," Amelia appended.

"Oh, it isn't funny." Bess was genuinely upset. She would have hated the
scene anyway, and when it occurred in Linda's presence, she hated it
doubly. "You should have seen the look of pity and disgust and triumph
on her face when she saw that it was our party that was making all the
fuss," Bess went on, growing more vehement the more she talked. "It was
positively humiliating."

More than any of the others, Bess cared about what other people thought
of her. Always conscious of herself and eager to make a good impression,
she was always upset when things went wrong at all. When they did not
run just according to the way she thought they should, in public
especially, she felt like hiding her head and running. "It's the way I
am and I can't help it," she retorted once when Nan accused her of being
over-sensitive, and so she never made the proper effort to overcome her
failing.

"Who cares what Linda thinks?" Laura said airily as Walker and Grace
joined the party, and the incident was forgotten, for the moment, while
everyone made a fuss over Grace.

"You're just a sissy," Laura teased. "See a little bit of blood and you
go off in a faint. What will you do when we start dissecting things in
biology at school next fall?"

"I don't know." Grace looked worried as though she was going to have to
do the dissecting right away.

"Tut! Tut! We'll worry about that when the time comes," Adair MacKenzie
answered as though it was his problem to be handled in due course. "How
are you now?" He looked at Grace closely while he asked the question.
"Feeling all right again, are you?" He spoke gently, as he might have
spoken to Alice, his daughter, and a warm feeling of sympathy toward him
went through all those standing around.

"Why," Nan said afterward, and Bess had to agree, "I believe he was
irritable up in the stands because he was worried about Grace."

"I suppose so." Bess was much less tolerant of other people's failings
than her friend. "But that was no excuse for him to get all riled up. I
can't forget the way Linda looked."

"Bessie, forget it." Nan spoke sharply. "It's not important at all. It
doesn't matter what Linda thinks of us. And it is important that we not
criticise Cousin Adair. After all, we are his guests."

"You are right," Bess agreed. She could, on occasion, be generous in
yielding when she knew she was in the wrong.

As they talked these things over, the whole party walked toward the
waiting car. Again, it was a voice from the United States that arrested
them, but one more softly spoken than that they had heard in the
grandstands.

"I beg your pardon," it said. Nan and her Lakeview Hall companions
looked up startled. The speaker who had accosted them was accompanied by
none other than Linda Riggs!



CHAPTER XVIII

LINDA PERFORMS AN INTRODUCTION


"I beg your pardon." Linda Riggs' companion spoke again, "but could you
direct us to Avenida Chapultepec?"

Before anyone could answer Linda rushed over to Nan and took her by the
arm. "Why, Nancy Sherwood!" she exclaimed as though Nan was the best
friend she had in the world. "I'm so surprised to see you here. When did
you arrive? Isn't this city just perfectly gorgeous? More quaint, don't
you think, than anything we saw in Europe?"

Nan was at a loss as to what to say. Deep within her she was entirely
out of patience with the situation. Linda was being disgustedly
affected. She was talking slowly, dragging her vowels and gesturing with
her hands, acting as a person twice her age might act and even then be
nauseous. But Linda disregarded Nan's coolness.

"And you, Bess," Linda turned to Elizabeth Harley. "Imagine seeing you
here. Isn't it all too romantic for words, a whole crowd of Lakeview
Hall people meeting in this far-off corner of the globe. The most
astounding things do happen, don't they?"

"Yes, they do," Laura remarked dryly, looking Linda up and down as she
did so.

"And you, Laura Polk. Why, you are all together, I do believe." Linda
acted as though she had made a brilliant observation. She was having a
difficult time, even for her, in the situation, for her effusions were
being received rather coldly to say the least.

"I'd like to have you meet my friend, Arthur Howard," she went on,
forcing Nan to introduce her and her companion to her cousin and Alice.

"Hm! Glad to meet you." Adair MacKenzie said abruptly. "Got to be going
now. Sorry, don't know the way to Avenida whatever-it-was-you-said.
Can't keep any of these streets straight in my mind. They're all mixed
up." With this, he summarily herded his daughter, Nan, Laura, Bess, and
Amelia toward the car where Walker Jamieson and Grace who had gone on
alone together were waiting. Linda and her companion were thus left
behind.

"Nan," Grace hardly waited until the girls were in the car beside her
before she asked the question, "was that Linda Riggs that you were
talking to out there?"

"None other," Laura answered. "And why are you giggling so, Bess. A few
moments ago you were all hot and bothered about Linda and now you're
laughing. Will you please make up your mind about what you're thinking."

"Oh, it's so funny." Bess was off again. "Did you see the way she looked
when Mr. MacKenzie walked away so suddenly. I do believe that she
thought we would fall all over her the way she was falling all over us.
Oh, dear, did that do my heart good!" Bess sounded positively gleeful.

"Mine too." Laura was laughing with her.

"And do you remember," Bess went on, "how, when Mr. MacKenzie analyzed
all of us when he first met us, we wished that some day he would have
the chance to do it to Linda. Well, that wish almost came true down
there. I do believe that if we had stayed a moment longer he would have
done it. I was hoping--"

"Elizabeth Harley! I thought you didn't like Cousin Adair," Nan, too,
was tickled at the whole situation.

"Oh, I do now," Bess capitulated. "I just love him. Do you know that's
the first time since we've known her, that we've seen her as embarrassed
as she makes us sometimes. How I wish we had stayed just a moment
longer."

"What's this about your just loving someone?" Adair turned around to
join in the conversation.

Bess blushed.

"Well, all I can say is," he went on when she failed to answer. "I hope
it's not that girl back there that we just met that you're being so
enthusiastic about. Don't like her at all myself. No character. She's
snippy. She's deceitful. Can't even talk without putting on airs. Can't
stand her. Hope she's no friend of yours." He turned to Nan as he said
this last.

Nan shook her head and said nothing further. She felt, and rightly so,
that it was unnecessary to discuss Linda among people who did not know
her. This was a consideration that Linda would never have shown Nan. In
fact, time and again, Linda had purposely attempted to blacken Nan's
character in front of strangers. This was one reason that Bess, loyal as
she was to Nan, disliked Linda so much.

"Can't tolerate people who are affected," Adair MacKenzie went on
blustering as the car drove out into the street. "And didn't like that
man she was with either. He didn't have a very honest look about him."

"But he was nice-looking." Bess let the words out before she realized
what she was doing, and the wrath of Adair MacKenzie descended upon her.

"Nice-looking! That's all you think of. Nice-looking, bah! Can't judge
people by their looks. It's what's in their eyes and their hearts that
counts. Have to see that before you can accurately decide what they are.
Anybody can dress up and make a good appearance. You, Bessie," he
lowered his tone at a look from Alice, "you've got to learn something
about true values before you get much older. You're a nice sort of girl,
but you put too much emphasis on money and worldly goods. You'll have to
be taught sometime that they are not so important as you think.

"That goes for all of you," he ended, sweeping them all with his glance.
"You've all had easy lives, so you don't know yet, really, what's worth
while and what isn't."

"Now, that girl back there," he resumed his talk after a few moments of
silence, "she has no conception what-so-ever of worth. What's her name,
anyway?" he asked.

"Linda Riggs," Nan answered.

"Not the daughter of the railroad king?"

"That's right." Nan nodded her head.

"Knew him, when he was a young fellow," Adair paused, remembering his
own youth. "He was a nice chap then. Can't understand how he could have
reared such a poor excuse for a daughter. We belonged to the same
college fraternity. He was president of it at one time I think. Always
helping people out. Everybody liked him. That's how he happened to get
on in the world the way he did. Met up with someone who had lots of
dough and no son to carry on the family name. Riggs seemed to fill the
bill, so the wealthy old codger took him into his business and taught
him the ropes.

"Riggs wore well, and when the old man died he inherited the fortune.
Sounds like a fairy story, but those things happen. Jamieson here must
know the tale."

Walker nodded in agreement. "Do. Interviewed the old bird one time under
particularly difficult circumstances. There was a big railroad merger
story about to break, and nobody wanted to talk. I got wind of it
through a hot tip from a stooge in New York. Tried everything in order
to get the story, and finally in desperation went to Riggs himself. It
was rumored that he had the controlling interest in the stock. I had to
go through a dozen secretaries before I finally got to him.

"Then he didn't want to talk either. However, some little thing I said
in passing, captured his fancy, and before I knew it, I was laying all
my cards on the table and he was putting them together so that they made
sense. When we were finished, I realized that I had one of the biggest
stories of the year and was about to grab my hat and run out to put it
on the wires, when he put out a restraining hand. 'Sorry,' he said, 'but
I must ask you to keep this quiet for twenty-four hours longer. If you
promise, I assure you that no one else will get the release until your
paper has the scoop all sewed up.'

"In a way I was up a tree, because I knew that if the story had leaked
out to me, someone else was very likely to get wind of it too. I
hesitated. He stuck out his hand as though to shake mine and he did it
in such a frank friendly fashion, that I agreed to what he asked, even
though I knew it was a dumb thing to do under the circumstances.

"But there was something about the man that inspired confidence and
regard."

"Lived up to the agreement, didn't he?" Adair said positively.

"Sure did," Walker assented, "and under difficulty too. Just as I
suspected, some other paper did get wind of the story and sent one of
their ace men out to get the details. Riggs let him in, quizzed him to
find out what he knew, excused himself, and then called me to tell me
that the time was up, that I'd better shoot the yarn right through if I
wanted to scoop the rest of the dailies.

"Well, after he did that, he went back into his office and told the
other reporter the whole story he had told me. It took him three hours
to tell it, and when my competitor came out of the office our extras
were already on the street."

"That was the Midwestern merger, wasn't it?" Adair questioned.

"Right!" Jamieson agreed. "Remember it, don't you? But you chits," he
turned his attention to the girls who had been listening with their
customary attention to his tale, "you wouldn't remember. You were hardly
out of your cradles then. Nan here was probably still creeping around in
rompers. Bess, well, Bess probably didn't creep, that was too dirty for
her, but she was probably beginning to put her hands up to her father
and saying, 'gimme'."

This brought a laugh from everyone, including Adair MacKenzie.

"Can't understand," he returned to the question of Linda, "how a girl
with a father like Riggs could be such an obnoxious person."

"Oh, there are lots of explanations," Walker answered. "I happen to know
that his wife died when the girl was just a baby. He was all broken up
and turned to the child for comfort. Guess he lavished all his attention
on her and spoiled her."

"Sounds plausible," Adair agreed, and then looked at Alice. "See how I
ruined my daughter with kindness," he twitted. "Let her get out of hand
completely. Now I can't do anything with her."

"Want to get rid of her?" Walker winked at Alice, as he asked the
question.

"What's that?" Adair was startled.

"Oh, nothing, dad," Alice frowned at Walker. "Where are we going now."

"Don't know." Adair took out his watch as he shook his head. He
frowned. "Guess we can make it though," he continued, laughing with the
others at his own inconsistency.



CHAPTER XIX

FLOATING GARDENS


"Xochimilco or place of flowers. How lovely," Nan spoke softly in the
presence of the beauty before her.

Adair MacKenzie in his desire to introduce the girls to something that
would make them forget the bullfight had brought them to one of the
prettiest places in all Mexico. Now, he was looking exceedingly pleased
with himself.

"Oh, daddy," Alice too was thrilled at the spectacle before them. "Many,
many times I've heard of the floating gardens of Mexico and I've always
wanted to see them."

"Well, there they are," Adair said as off-handedly as possible under the
circumstances. "Now you see them."

They laughed at his matter-of-factness.

"If you will allow me," Walker Jamieson who had deserted the party
immediately after the car had been parked, now brought a canoe he had
rented and paddled up one of the many canals before them to a stop at
their feet. He stood up and held out his arm to Alice.

"Fair lady, you come first." He said as he helped her in and assisted
her to a seat opposite him. "And now, Nan." So one after the other he
helped the members of the party to places in the large canoe.

"H-h-hm," Adair MacKenzie cleared his throat as he seated his bulk.
"Now, I'd say this is more in keeping with what young ladies should
like. How about it?" He addressed his question to Grace who was beaming
beside him.

She nodded in agreement.

Everyone was completely happy as Walker pushed the canoe off. So the
rest of the afternoon was whiled away in paddling lazily through the
flower-bordered canals.

"Why are they called floating gardens?" Nan addressed her question to
Walker who seemed a fountainhead of information about all sorts of
things.

"Simply because they float," Walker answered as he disentangled his
paddle from some lily stems along the side.

"But you can't actually see them move," Nan said as she peered earnestly
at one of the many islands.

"No, you can't, now," Walker agreed. "But there was a time, Miss
Curiosity, ages ago when these beautiful gardens actually did float from
place to place, a time when you didn't know from one day to the next
just where you'd wake up and find a certain particularly beautiful one."

"Why?" The subject was an intriguing one and Nan wanted to know all
about it.

"Oh, they say," Walker continued quietly, "that the earth of the gardens
lies on interlacing twigs. Naturally before the water filled in as it is
now, these twigs moved with the current and carried their burden of
earth and flowers along with them.

"This was always a beautiful spot," he continued, "even back before the
Aztecs found the eagle on the cactus and conquered the region and
settled their capitol. When they did all this and found themselves with
leisure on their hands, the nobles made of this place a playground, and
the Aztec papa and mama came here with the Aztec child for Sunday
picnics.

"Today, if I hadn't been as energetic as I am," he paused and grinned at
the snort that this brought forth from Alice's father, "a descendant of
these same Aztecs, who still, by the way, speaks the tongue of his
forefathers, would have been plying this gondola. The Aztecs still live
around here and still preserve many of the ancient customs of their
people."

He rested the paddle on the side of the canoe as he finished and, as
water dripped from it making little rings in the canal, he sat idly
dreaming. The canoe drifted along and came to rest under an over-hanging
willow. No one spoke. It was a magic moment, for the sun was setting and
sending low rays over the water. Tropical birds were singing
full-throated songs and in the distance they could hear, faintly, the
sound of music.

Finally, Alice spoke. "It can't be very different," she said, "than it
was centuries ago. For the same exotic flowers ran wild here then that
do now, and the same birds sang. How queer that makes me feel. Century
after century has unrolled and yet this is the same."

"I know." Walker looked across at her. "Makes you feel, doesn't it, that
time isn't so important after all, that a philosophy in which 'mañana'
is the all-important word is perhaps not such a bad one after all."

"Here, here," Adair MacKenzie broke the spell. "Don't go preaching that
mañana business to these girls. They are lazy enough as it is. Look at
them now, will you?"

In truth, the girls did all look comfortable and lazy, entirely at peace
with themselves and the world and not at all like the busy energetic
beings that they were at school.

"The world doesn't seem real, does it?" Nan looked at Bess as she made
this observation.

"No," Bess answered. "Not real at all. This, I believe, is the most
romantic spot we have ever been in."

"Yes," Nan agreed idly, and for some reason or other her thoughts
drifted back towards home and school and then to Walter, Grace's
brother.

"I've been meaning to tell you," Grace broke in on her train of thought
as though she knew what had been going on in Nan's mind. "Mother said in
that letter I got at Wells Fargo's this morning that she had consented
to let Walter go on a motor trip through the West and Mexico with his
Spanish teacher."

"Yes." Nan's voice betrayed her interest, and she was conscious as she
spoke that all the girls were suddenly more alert. The piece of news was
one they were interested in too.

"It seems," Grace went on, pleased that she had the attention of
everyone, "that every year he takes a group down through this district
so that they can hear Spanish spoken by the people whose tongue it is.
Walter likes Spanish and so he's going along with them."

"When will he be here," Bess asked the question which she knew Nan
wanted to ask but wouldn't in face of the interest that everyone was
showing in the matter.

"Oh, mother wasn't sure," Grace answered. "It all depends on so many
things. They'll be gone the whole summer and will linger at the places
the boys seem to like the best. It seems that the teacher leaves the
itinerary almost entirely up to them."

"Sounds like fun." Nan tried to be casual and general as she spoke, but
she didn't altogether succeed.

"What's all this about?" Adair MacKenzie had caught the drift of the
conversation. "Who is this Walter anyway?"

"He is Grace's brother," Nan answered.

"Yes?" Adair was not to be put off so easily.

"And he went with us to Rose Ranch a few summers ago and met us in
London with Grace's mother and dad last year." Nan thought it would be
better for her to answer the questions.

"Hm-m-m. Think I understand." Adair appeared to be devoting much thought
to this "understanding" business for he said nothing further for a
while. Finally, as though he suddenly remembered what they had been
talking about, he returned to the subject.

"Why can't the young hoodlums--I have no doubt but what they are young
hoodlums, all boys are--stop at the hacienda with us for a few days?" he
asked.

Grace's face beamed at this. "Why, how nice!" she exclaimed, "but just
think, there will be five of them at least."

"What of it?" Adair dismissed this as an objection. "Got lots of room.
We'll make a party of it when they come and serve them a real Mexican
meal." Adair seemed to have forgotten entirely that he personally
despised Mexican cooking. "Hot tamales, tortillas, everything." He waved
his hand grandly as though the whole world would be at the disposal of
the boys for the asking.

"Like boys anyway," Adair went on. "Girls are a nuisance. Always
fainting. Oh, it doesn't matter," he glossed over this last part of
conversation as he saw the blood mounting to Grace's cheeks. "Just like
to have boys around." He ended rather weakly. "Now, let's see. It's
getting pretty dark, better move on." He motioned to Walker who
obediently took the paddle in hand and began the leisurely journey back.



CHAPTER XX

GOOD-BY TO MEXICO CITY


"Oh, yesterday was a grand day!" Nan stretched her arms wide and high as
she sat up in her bed the next morning.

"Yes, wasn't it?" Bess rolled over in her bed and looked at Nan. "It was
just full of surprises. I don't know what I liked the best."

"I do," Nan said promptly.

"What?"

"Oh, Cousin Adair. I think he's a darling."

"He'd probably roar a mighty roar if he heard you say that," Bess
laughed at the prospect, "but you know, I quite agree with you, even if
it isn't my friend that he has invited to stop at the hacienda."

"But Walter's a friend to all of us," Nan protested.

"Yes, yes, of course," Bess agreed. "He's a friend to all of us and a
particular friend to you."

"Bessie, if this big pillow wasn't so soft," Nan looked at the pillow
she was holding in her hand speculatively, "I'd heave it over at you so
fast that you wouldn't know what had struck you."

"That's all right, Nancy," Bess laughed. "I understand. You don't like
to be teased."

"Wasn't it fun last night?" Nan changed the subject completely.

"What was fun?" Bess could remember so many nice things that she really
didn't know which one Nan was talking about.

"Dinner on the bank of the canal at Xochimilco," Nan answered promptly.
"I'll never forget it. The lights. The flowers. The music. Who would
ever think to look at him and hear him talk that Cousin Adair would be
romantic enough to think up anything like that?"

"I know it." Bess idly watched an insect that was buzzing around the
room. "I was much surprised. Then I began to wonder if it wasn't Walker
Jamieson's idea after all. You know he has a clever way of suggesting
things to your cousin, so that when your cousin decides what to do it
appears as though he thought up the idea originally."

"Why, Bess." Nan appeared to be horrified at the thought.

"Oh, you know it's so." Bess looked over at Nan. "It's lots of fun to
watch him do it. Do you know, sometimes I think that he's almost clever
enough to make Mr. MacKenzie think that the idea of his marrying Alice
was his, Mr. MacKenzie's I mean, originally. Do you suppose?"

"Bess, if you don't stop speculating about that, I don't know what I'm
going to do to you." Nan laughed. "You know you might spoil everything
by talking about it," she ended seriously. "For all you know the idea
has never once entered Walker Jamieson's head."

Bess hooted at this. "Don't you ever think that," she said finally,
"because it isn't true and you know it isn't."

"Say, what are you two people doing in bed at this hour?" Laura stuck
her head in the doorway and inquired. "Don't you know that it's long
past time to get up."

"Oh, bed's so nice," Nan answered, "I just hate to get up."

"Well, all I can say is," Laura finished before she closed the door,
"the temperature downstairs is slightly chilly, and if you know what's
good for you, you'll be out of there in a jiffy."

"Right-o." Nan jumped up at this bit of information. "Hi! Laura," she
called after her friend, "come back here a minute. Was there any mail
this morning," she asked as Laura's red head reappeared.

"Nothing for us," Laura answered, "but your cousin got something that
made him blow up. That's why I'm telling you to hurry. I gather from
certain orders I overheard him giving the chauffeur that he wants to
start immediately, if not sooner, for the hacienda."

"Really?" Bess asked, as she too jumped out of bed. "You mean we are
going to leave Mexico City today."

"That's the impression I'm trying hard to convey," Laura responded. "And
I think that if you two lugs want any breakfast at all, you better get a
hustle on." With this she closed the door definitely and disappeared.

Needless to say, Nan and Bess hurried as they had not hurried for a long
time. "Getting ready for an early morning class in the winter has
nothing on this," Bess laughed as she tied a bright three-cornered scarf
around her neck and pulled it in place.

"I'll say it hasn't," Nan agreed, quickly tying the laces in her white
oxfords. "A lick and a promise and we're ready to go." With this she
bounded across the room and opened the door wide for her friend.

"Such energy!" Bess exclaimed as though horrified. She was never one to
be as exuberant as Nan. She was always more dignified and more correct.
Nan was more natural and more full of fun. She did what she liked to do,
for the most part, simply because it was fun. Bess was more apt to do
things because other people did them. Nan was a leader, and Bess, the
follower. That was, perhaps, the reason they had been friends for so
long. They were alike in some respects, but totally different in others.

Now, as they came down the broad stairway of the big hotel lobby
together, this difference was most plain. Adair MacKenzie, pacing up and
down the lobby even as he did in his office when he was at work, stopped
to look at them.

"She'll get by," he thought with satisfaction as he noted Nan's bright
face and free, graceful walk. "'bout time you two made your appearance,"
he said aloud and assumed a grim appearance. "Finished a day's work
myself already. Guess it's another to get you people started."

"Started?" Nan questioned.

"Can't stay here all the time." Adair answered her question. "Anyway, I
just got word that the housekeeper is arriving tomorrow and I've got to
get down there and have things straightened around before she puts in an
appearance. These ornery housekeepers, you know, have to be babied. If
you don't, they leave every time you turn around. Someday, someone will
invent a robot that will do the work, and then--"

"You won't have a housekeeper to scold anymore, daddy," Alice
interrupted and finished for him.

"Serve her right," Adair answered as though the housekeeper would be the
loser. "Can't see that she's any good anyway."

"So we're leaving." Walker Jamieson joined the rest in the lobby. He had
been out for an early morning walk and looked fresh and full of life as
he came in. "Got your camera, Nan?" he turned to her when he spoke.

"Upstairs," Nan answered.

"Let's take a few pictures," Walker suggested. In the face of Adair's
morning state, this seemed a daring thing to suggest, and Nan looked at
Adair to see his reaction. He seemed not to be listening.

"Run along," Alice gave Nan a little shove. "Dad's going to be busy for
the next half hour or so, finishing up some business here, so if we
hurry, we can take all the pictures we want to."

At this Nan did go upstairs for her camera. She was anxious enough to,
but she had hesitated because she never liked to be the one to arouse
her cousin.

Now, she almost petted the camera as she returned with it. She loved it
and was already looking forward to the day when she could own one
herself, for she had made up her mind, since Walker had been giving her
instructions to learn all she possibly could about taking pictures. This
was the reason she took pictures of everyone and everything she saw
until Walker declared that the authorities would be questioning her on
suspicion that she was a spy of some sort.

"Me, a spy?" Nan laughed at the thought.

"Well, you do look harmless," Walker agreed, "but then strange things do
happen, especially to people who spend all their time taking pictures.
How many have you got now?"

"Oh, I don't know," Nan laughed.

"Come on, 'fess up'," Walker urged.

"Let's see there must be a dozen rolls upstairs," Nan admitted. "It will
cost a fortune to develop them, won't it?"

"What do you say to my buying some developer and pans and whatever else
is needed and taking them along to the hacienda with us?" Walker asked.
"We could develop all your films there then, for practically nothing."

"I'd like that," Nan agreed enthusiastically, "but I thought you had
some big story you were going to work on down there."

"Oh, that can wait." Walker Jamieson acted as though stories did wait
for people and laughed at himself while he did it. "Anyway it will
only take a jiffy to teach you all I know about the photography
business."

"All right then," Nan agreed.

So it came about that Nan and Walker went to the hacienda supplied with
everything to develop pictures. How fortunate this was! But then that
story belongs to later chapters.

"Well, eagle eye, how's the camera working this morning?" Laura inquired
as Nan and Walker went out into the lovely patio of their hotel. "Want
to take some pictures of me draped around one of those tall white
pillars?"

"Do one of you strung from that balcony, up there, kid," Walker offered
generously.

"Thank you, kind sir," Laura replied graciously, "but since I'm going to
need my neck for a little while longer, I must refuse--with regret of
course."

"On second thought, perhaps that is best," Walker agreed. "It would be a
shame to spoil this lovely scene this fine morning."

"It is pretty, isn't it?" Nan looked about her with great satisfaction.
The patio or courtyard so familiar to Spain is a part of the Mexican
scene too, and this one where Nan was taking pictures was particularly
lovely with its gay flowers, deep green foliage, and pond all surrounded
by the pinkish colored walls of the hotel itself.

"Oh, but I hate to leave all this," Nan remarked when the pictures were
taken and she and Laura and Walker were returning to the hotel lobby.

"And so do we," the other girls chorused, as the party all came
together.

"Ah, you go, but you return." Walker sounded quite poetic as he said
this. "And then, remember, you have no conception of the adventures the
hacienda holds in store for you."

"Have you?" The girls looked suspiciously at Walker, when Nan asked this
question.

His answer was a mysterious look.



CHAPTER XXI

THE HACIENDA


"That must be it over there," Walker Jamieson pointed to a low rambling
building nestled among the hills, as the car swung around a curve in the
road.

The party had, despite sundry irritating delays, left Mexico City in the
middle of the forenoon, and now, as evening approached they did sight
the hacienda, their destination and proposed home for the summer.

"About time," Adair MacKenzie said curtly. "Hundred miles from Mexico
City. Humph! That's what they told me in Memphis. Hundred miles maybe,
as the crow flies, but on this treacherous piece of bandit-infested
highway it's at least two hundred."

He looked about him, as he finished, as though he was daring someone to
gainsay him. No one accepted the dare.

"What's the matter?" he surveyed the silent group. "All worn out?"
Again, there was no answer.

"Say, you," he looked directly at Nan now, "are you backing down on
your old cousin? Don't know what's happened," he continued. "Can't even
get anyone to fight with me any more." He really sounded pathetic.

At this, the whole group broke down in laughter.

"What is this?" Adair laughed too now, but his face bore a puzzled
expression.

"Nothing, dad." Alice wiped the tears from her eyes.

"Don't say nothing to me, child." Adair brandished his cane as though he
was going to take Alice over his knee and spank her. "What were you
trying to do," he jumped to the correct conclusion immediately, "give me
the silent treatment?"

Alice nodded her head half guiltily, half roguishly. The idea had been
hers.

"Your mother tried that years ago," Adair reminisced. "It didn't work
then, and it's not working now. It's better to give me an opportunity to
explode," he advised. "Volcanoes have to erupt or something terrible
happens."

"That's what I said, sir." Walker Jamieson agreed with the old man.

"You mean to say, to sit right there and say," Adair exploded "that you
had the gall to liken me to a volcano?"

Walker nodded his head in agreement.

"You-you-you, why, I like you!" Adair thrust out his hand and shook that
of the young reporter. "You say what you think no matter how dire the
consequences. Maybe you're not such a bad reporter after all." He said
this as though he was making a great concession.

"Yes, sir. No, sir." Walker hardly knew what to say in the face of all
this unexpectedness.

"Now, come on here," Adair turned around and addressed this to the
driver. "Can't this old jallopie do more than 15 miles an hour even when
it sees its berth in the distance." He too, pointed to the white
buildings that stood out from the green foliage around them.

"Not a bad looking place, from here." He went on contentedly. "Supposed
to be one of the finest in the district, but you never can tell about
such comparisons. Been fooled too many times to believe much of what I
hear now. Take everything with a grain of salt.

"Hear that, girl?" He turned to Nan. "Best always not to believe what
you hear. Discount at least fifty percent and then draw your own
conclusions. That right, Jamieson?"

Walker nodded his head in complete agreement. It was one of the first
lessons he had learned as a cub reporter.

Now, as they talked, the car climbed a steep hill. At the top, they
turned to the right and came upon the hacienda.

"How perfectly lovely!" Alice's face was all aglow as she caught her
first real glimpse of the place. The buildings were in Spanish style of
a stucco material of a color bordering on the pink. There were iron
balconies, large windows, and a courtyard or patio complete with palms,
a fountain, and seats.

The girls had thought that there could be nothing in the world so pretty
as the patio in their hotel in Mexico City, but here already was one
that surpassed it.

"Humph!" Adair MacKenzie was as pleased as the others at his first sight
of the place, but more cautious than they and more reluctant to let his
real feelings be known, he let his "Humph!" be his only comment as he
descended from the car and walked with the others through the archway
into the courtyard.

There crowds of natives awaited the arrival of the new master, and the
overseer of the place hurried forth to greet him.

"Eet ees a pleasure, señor," he said as he took Adair's hand and bowed
deeply. The rest in the party smiled and hung back at this bit of
Mexican courtesy. Walker grinned broadly.

"You, Señorita, are next," he whispered in Alice's ear. "Are you
prepared to have your hand kissed by a servant who would consider it an
honor to die in your service?"

"Be still," Alice murmured, and then smiled as the overseer did come
forward, take her hand and bow deeply. "Buenos días, señorita," he
greeted her. "May your stay here be as pleasant to you as your honoring
us with your presence has been to us."

"Come on, now," Adair was always impatient with the elaborate courtesies
of the south, impatient probably because he never felt at ease with
them. "I always suspect," Alice laughed once when she and Walker were
talking about Adair's abruptness, "that he's more than a little afraid
that some day some one of these strangers will break down and kiss him
on the cheek."

"I wonder what he would do?" Walker paused in speculation.

"You might try it yourself, sometime, and find out," Alice retorted.

"Do you want to have me ousted bag and baggage from your presence, fair
lady?" Walker questioned, but Alice never had a chance to answer, for
just at that moment her father came upon the two and demanded all their
attention.

Alice smiled over this in recollection now as they went through the
door of the main building and into a spacious entrance hall with its big
winding stairway, its high-beamed ceiling, and its pretty tiled floor.
Walker caught the smile and guessed at its origin, but he said nothing
as they were all escorted up the broad steps to their quarters.

"Ours, all ours?" Bess questioned when the Lakeview Hall girls were
conducted to a suite of five rooms overlooking on one side the patio and
the other, a river, broad fields, and mountains in the distance.

"Si, si, Señoritas," the smiling Mexican maid, Soledad, who was to be
theirs during their stay, hadn't understood the question, but "Si, si,"
seemed the proper answer. Now she bustled about trying to help them
until her curiosity as to what was going on downstairs got the better of
her and on some slight pretext she left.

"Just think of it!" Bess exclaimed when she had disappeared. "A whole
suite of rooms of our own, a maid, and everything, oh, everything we can
wish for. It's a magic country and Adair MacKenzie is the presiding
genie."

"Well, he is in one way," Laura admitted dryly. "When he waves his wand
things happen."

"Yes, and he goes up in smoke," Nan added.

"Right," Laura laughed, "and there's no one that can do it more
expertly."

Alone now, the girls went from one to another of their rooms enjoying
everything. Even Grace, accustomed as she was to luxury, was greatly
impressed. She had never been in a house like this before.

The rooms were big and spacious with heavy oaken furniture, thick rugs,
tapestries, and beds so high that it was necessary to climb up a little
ladder in order to get to them. Each room had big double windows opening
out onto the patio.

Bess stood out on hers and looked down on the courtyard below where
maids were already busy setting a table under a tree centuries old. "Do
they ever serenade people here," she directed her question toward those
inside.

"I hear that they do, sometimes," Nan called back. "But you have to wait
for a clear night, with a sky that's blue as blue can be, a moon big and
silver, shining low over these pretty buildings, and stars that are
bigger and closer to earth than any you have ever seen."

"Why, Nan Sherwood," Bess came into the room now. "Where did you learn
all these things?"

"Oh," Nan shrugged her shoulders, "this atmosphere gets into your blood
and you just can't help yourself. There is only one regret that I have."

"And that?" Bess couldn't imagine anyone having any regrets at this
time. The world seemed just perfect to her now.

"That Rhoda isn't here with us," Nan replied promptly. She had been
thinking of Rhoda a great deal in the past few days that had been such
fun.

"I know," Grace agreed with Nan softly. "I have been thinking of her
too. We should be hearing from her now in a few days because in those
last letters that we sent we told her to direct all future mail to this
place."

"I wonder how you get your mail here," Laura said. "Do you suppose a
Mexican caballero comes dashing up on a donkey, sweeps his hat in a wide
arc toward the ground, and then deposits the bills and things as though
they were special messages from the king of Spain?"

"Oh, Laura, don't be silly," Bess was taking her romance seriously and
didn't want it to be spoiled with laughter. "Do you suppose," she turned
to Nan now, "that all those people that we saw down there in the
courtyard live on this estate."

"Probably those and many more," Nan assented, "but we'll have to wait
for the tour of the estate that's been promised before we know for sure.
And there are a million other things, at least that I want to know
about."

"Me too," Laura agreed, and the rest chimed in, for this Mexican
hacienda was something that captured the imagination of all of them.



CHAPTER XXII

STUBBORN FOOLS


"Oh, Bess, you should see yourself now," Nan laughed the next morning.
It was early and the girls were all mounted on mules as they passed
through the archway of the patio and out into the gardens with their
huge palms and brilliant flowers and birds.

"Feel like a fool myself," Adair grumbled as he tried to adjust his
position on the beast he was riding. And truly, he was a ridiculous
figure.

"Well, dad," Alice pretended that she was trying to mollify him, "you
just weren't made to ride a mule. Nor were you," she looked at Walker
Jamieson's long dangling legs as she spoke.

"Nor you either," Walker retorted laughing. "You're too little. Hey,
you," he broke off his conversation with Alice quickly and called to
Nan, "don't do that."

"What?" Nan asked innocently.

"You know. Don't look so innocent."

"Nan Sherwood!" Bess guessed at what Walker was driving at. "You're not
taking pictures of us in _these_ outfits are you?"

"She not only is, but she has," Walker answered before Nan could say
anything. "I saw her sliding that little camera back into its case."

"Nan, please," Alice joined in the protest, "have mercy on us and think
how our children and grandchildren will laugh if they ever see pictures
of us riding mule-back. We're all perfect sights."

But Nan had already taken the pictures, so the protests came too late.
Now it was Adair MacKenzie who diverted their attention. "Get along
there. Get a move on, you slow poke." Adair was kicking the sides of his
mule with real force. But the mule was accustomed to such treatment and
he only raised his ears lazily, turned his head slowly and looked at his
rider sleepily. Then he stopped, dead in his tracks.

"Get along there, get along, I say," Adair kicked the mule again. "Can't
you understand plain English?"

"Understands only Spanish, I guess, Mr. MacKenzie," Walker said. "Try
that on him."

"If he can't understand English, the best language in the world, he
can't understand anything," Adair was as stubborn as the mule he was on,
but for once all his railing, all his sputtering, all the ordering that
he could do, didn't accomplish a thing. The mule just wouldn't move.

"Here you," Adair called ahead to their guide who had philosophically
shrugged his shoulders at the outburst of the new master, and sat now,
on his mule on the trail above waiting for the party to move on. At the
call, he ambled back to see what was wrong.

"Hey, you," Adair was impatient with everyone and everything now. "Get a
hustle on. It's today we want to see this blasted estate, today. Not
mañana."

The guide understood one word, 'mañana.' His face broke into a broad
grin. "Si, si, señor. Si, Señoritas." He was more than glad that these
strangers could speak his language. Now, he broke out into a voluble
explanation, all in Spanish of course, as to how to treat a mule.

Walker stood off laughing heartily at the whole situation. Adair
MacKenzie did not understand one single word of what was being said to
him, but it was coming forth so fast that he could neither interrupt nor
stop the flow. For once in his life he looked utterly helpless.

Alice was as amused as Walker. "Poor dear," she said, "to think that he
should come all of this way to be baffled by a mule and a man whose
philosophy says 'tomorrow', we will do it 'tomorrow'."

Adair saw their smiles. It was more than he could stand, more than any
man could stand. Awkwardly, he dismounted from his beast, walked around
in front and shook his ever present cane at him. The beast did nothing
but blink.

"Why, wh-wh-why, you good-for-nothing, senseless, no-count, beast you,"
he burst forth in a torrent, "if you think you can stop me, you're
mistaken. You'll go up there if I have to carry you and you'll not take
a picture of that either," Adair turned to Nan with this last. It was
somehow much more satisfying to explode to Nan than to either the beast
or the Mexican.

"No, cousin," Nan answered as seriously as she could.

"And don't be meek either." He brandished his cane again. "Never get
anyplace like that." There was no satisfying the man now. Neither
agreement nor disagreement could placate him. Nan kept still.

It was Alice finally, who smoothed his ruffled feelings and got him back
on the mule. "Now, daddy," she said quietly, "if you'll just sit quietly
and wait, the mule will go, but you can't beat him into action the way
you do me." Saying this she laughed up at him. He stooped over and
kissed her.

It was nice to see this father and daughter together. They seemed to
understand one another perfectly. Adair, explode as he might, could
never frighten Alice. She knew how soft-hearted and kind he was
underneath all his crust. She had known from babyhood that he wouldn't
intentionally, for all his angry outbursts, hurt anyone.

Now, having smoothed his ruffled feelings some, she let Walker assist
her back on her mule. The party moved slowly along the narrow stony
trail while huge limbs of great palm trees waved slightly above them.

Reaching the top of a high hill on the estate they looked out over the
countryside.

"What's that?" Laura, ever curious, indicated a point in the distance,
something that showed black against the sky and that clearly had been
built by man.

Walker drew forth his field glasses and directed his glance toward the
object. "Can't be sure," he rendered his verdict after some thought,
"but think it might be a pyramid. There are several in the district you
know. Perhaps the most famous of them all is the one that a hunter down
from New York discovered three or four years ago. It's rather
inaccessible, but such an old one that some old codger in the East with
a lot of money on his hands donated a considerable sum to have it
opened."

"What did they find?" Nan asked.

"Oh, lots of dried up bones."

"That all?" Nan sounded disappointed.

"Well, not exactly," Walker admitted and then stopped. He enjoyed
teasing these youngsters.

"Well, what did they find then," Nan persisted.

"Some jewels. Some gold. Some exceptionally fine pottery."

"And--" Nan saw that he was still holding out.

"Some poison spiders that killed three members of the excavation party.
Now you satisfied?" Walker grinned down at her.

"Well, yes," Nan agreed. "But I still want to visit a pyramid sometime."

"Visit those in Egypt," Walker advised. "There's nothing more
impressive."

"You been there?" Nan questioned. The path was wide enough so that they
could ride now with their mules side by side.

"Yes, years ago, with my father," Walker answered. "He had a bad case of
the wanderlust, so whenever he could scrape a few dollars together, off
he would go to some outlandish place."

"Taking your mother with him?"

"Oh, sometimes. She went up into Alaska when he went to pan gold from
the streams. She went down into South America when he went as an
engineer on a big industrial project. And she went when he set out for
Russia after the revolution, but after that she gave up."

"You must be like your father," Nan commented.

"Oh, a little," Walker admitted. "But I haven't quite got the wanderlust
as much as he has. He could go into raptures over anything that was far
away from him. I've been thinking of him a lot today, riding over this
estate. He spent some time down here in Mexico, and never grew tired of
extolling the country. This was after my mother died.

"Though we are not entering the country at all that he was fondest of,
I've been thinking of his descriptions of it, especially after seeing
that pyramid in the distance.

"It was down in Oaxaca and was called, I believe, Tehuantepec. It took
days to get there by horseback, according to his account, and the route
was through tropical jungles more dense than any others in the world.
You see my father never saw mediocre things," he explained by the way.

"The City itself lay on a river by the same name in a gorgeous tropical
setting surrounded by orchards and many gardens, all shaded by flowering
trees and palms.

"The population was largely Indian, a tribe that had its own language
and preserved its own traditions, but it seems that above all this
particular tribe was known for its beautiful women, more independent,
more lovely, and more beautifully dressed than any of the women in other
tribes.

"He described them as being tall, well-built, and industrious. Their
dresses consisted of long full skirts made of bright colors with a deep
white flounce at the bottom, that swept the ground and covered their
bare feet. The blouse was short and square-necked and for adornment they
wore much jewelry, earrings and long heavy chains hung with ten and
twenty American gold pieces.

"They had a graceful carriage, walking straight and firmly with an ease
that only those women who have been trained to carry things on their
head have. These people, he said, carry their flowers, fruit, and foods
to the market in painted gourd bowls perched firmly on the crowns of
their heads.

"Ah, yes, those people were perfect, more perfect my father said than
any he had ever come across. But then, my father," Walker admitted
boyishly, "always did tell a grand tale."

"So that's why you became a newspaper man," Nan concluded.

"Yes, I suppose so," Walker admitted. "You know this taste for queer
places and queer things is often bred right in your bones."

"Say, what are you two talking about back there?" Adair MacKenzie
suddenly became conscious of the fact that two in his party were paying
no attention whatsoever to him and his troubles with his mule. Had he
had a horse, he would liked to have galloped back beside them, but with
a mule there was no galloping. As it was he turned the mule's head
sharply.

It was just too much. The mule was tired of his burden anyway, so
before anyone realized at all what was happening, Adair was deposited
firmly on the ground and the mule, with more intelligence perhaps than
he had been given credit for, was gazing at him soberly.



CHAPTER XXIII

IN A PATIO


"Are you hurt? Daddy, are you hurt?" Alice cried, but even as she did,
tears of laughter were rolling down her cheeks. She had never in her
life seen her father in such a ridiculous position, which was saying
something, for Adair MacKenzie had a knack of getting himself in more
absurd situations than anyone else in the world.

"Stop your blubbering." Adair was thoroughly irritated this time. "I'll
conquer you yet." He scolded the mule. "Think you can vanquish Adair
MacKenzie, do you? I'll show you." But to all of this scolding that fell
dully on the tropical verdure about them, that sounded harsh and out of
place in the soft greenness of the scene, the mule never blinked an
eyelash.

"Daddy, are you hurt?" Alice repeated her question as she took hold of
one arm while Walker Jamieson took the other.

But their offers of assistance went unappreciated. Adair MacKenzie
merely shook off their hands, used his own to push himself up, and then
stood, brushing himself off while he continued his tirade.

"Now, you're going home, and you're going to stay there." Adair
spluttered off into the kind of scolding that he might have given an
erring child. With this, he about faced and walked, leading the mule
beside him the three miles back to the hacienda.

It was a quiet party, but one full of suppressed mirth, that wound its
way back over the path. The Lakeview Hall girls could scarcely contain
themselves until they got in their apartments.

"It was just perfect." Laura laughed heartily.

"Did you see the way he looked, and the way the donkey looked?" Amelia
asked.

"They just stared at one another until I thought that cousin Adair would
beat the beast with his cane."

"I thought of that, too," Bess said. "But I guess he's too kind-hearted
to do anything like that."

Bess was right. Adair MacKenzie had never in his life made any attempt
to hurt a dumb animal in any way until that morning when he had dug his
heels in irritation into the mule's side. At home, he always had animals
about him, a dog that was now well along in years, a stable full of
horses, and yes, a mule that he once bought on the street when he saw
its master trying to beat it into moving along.

"The crust of that mule," Laura said slangily. "Did it ever do my heart
good to see its stubbornness matched against Mr. MacKenzie's! I wonder
what kind of a character sketch he would make of it, if he had the
chance, that is, I mean, if the mule could understand him."

"Probably, 'stubborn fool' and let it go at that," Nan answered. "Anyway
his troubles with that mule will never be forgotten."

"And 'stubborn as a mule', will always mean something to us now," Nan
added. "Now, we've got to get ready and get downstairs. Dinner's going
to be ready very shortly."

So the girls changed their clothes, washed, combed and presented
themselves downstairs all clean and neat.

There was no one around. They walked through the great hall and out into
the patio. Still they found no one except the servants.

"I never saw so much help in all my life," Grace remarked. "Why, just
millions of people work here. I haven't seen the same person twice at
all."

"Didn't you hear Walker Jamieson say that labor's cheap in this
country?" Nan explained. "Everyone has one or two or three servants. But
I wonder where cousin Adair and everyone is now."

She hadn't long to wait, for just as she spoke they heard loud voices
from the direction of the kitchen at the back, and shortly Adair, Alice
and Walker appeared.

"There that's done," Adair slapped his hands together as though he had
just disposed of a mighty problem. "Trouble, trouble all the while," he
looked at the girls as he spoke. "If it isn't one thing, it's another.
One moment it's a mule and the next it's a woman." He looked utterly
worn out, and Nan felt sorry for him.

"Oh, daddy, don't take Mrs. O'Malley too seriously," Alice tried to ease
his worry.

"Too seriously! Well, I like that," Adair exclaimed. "When the best
housekeeper in all Christendom threatens to walk out on you, tell me
now, what are you supposed to do? Say, all right, go ahead? Just what
would you do, now?" He looked at Alice.

She hesitated.

"There," he didn't give her a chance to answer, "she'd walk out on you
before you did anything. You can't hesitate in serious matters like
this. You have to act. But never mind," he turned to his guests, "you
don't need to worry. I have acted. Mrs. O'Malley has promised to stay.
The Chinese cook has promised to stay. Everyone's staying. There'll be
no deserting the ship on this trip."

"That's fine, daddy," Alice complimented him. "And now when do we have
dinner?"

"Dinner? Where's dinner?" Adair was off again. He picked up a bell and
rang it forcefully. Everyone, except the famous Mrs. O'Malley and the
Chinese cook came running. People came out of doors, in through the
arches of the patio, and stuck their heads out from windows. Everyone
thought that there was something radically wrong. When they saw that it
was just the American again, they disappeared as quickly as they came.

The old women shook their heads. Would he never learn, they wondered,
that there was no necessity to rush anything, that if you let things
just go their own quiet, placid way, they would eventually work
themselves out. They couldn't understand this man who had come to them
as their master. Already, thanks to the guide of the morning, legends
about him and his wrath were spreading around the place. The wireless
that civilization knows is fast, but the grapevine among the Mexican
Indians was even more effective.

When he saw the commotion he had caused, Adair MacKenzie sat down, and
shortly dinner appeared, as it would have appeared even though he had
done nothing.

The dinner was good and the cool fruit juices that followed it were
good. And everyone sat, as long as the warmth of the day permitted, in
the patio under the tropical sky and talked some, sat silent more, for
it was all very peaceful.

"So you're not going to work on that smuggling story after all?" Adair
MacKenzie asked Walker just before they all got up to go in.

"Well, I wouldn't say that," Walker answered carefully. "Feel the need
of a little rest now and I like this place and I like the people and
it's hard to tear myself away."

"We thank you, don't we?" Adair took his daughter's hand in his. He
felt vaguely that there was something more serious in all of this than
appeared on the surface, but just now he was too tired to question. He
squeezed Alice's hand.



CHAPTER XXIV

STOLEN!


"Nan, it's a letter from Rhoda," Bess repeated the information twice
before she got any response at all, and then it was only a grunt. It was
the morning after the famous mule-back excursion, and Nan was in her
room alone until Bess's entrance.

"Whatever are you doing?" Bess asked when she saw that Nan, strangely
enough, didn't seem to be interested in her bit of information.

"Oh, Bess, I can't find it anyplace," Nan looked as though the world had
come to an end. She had all that she could do to keep from crying.

"Find what?"

"Oh, my ring. You know the one I mean, the one old Mr. Blake gave me in
Scotland last summer. He said it was a family heirloom and that I should
keep it as long as I lived and then see that it was passed on down to my
children. Now, it's gone and I'm sure I left it in this room when we
went away yesterday."

"Are you sure, Nan?" Bess looked worried too, now. The ring was a
lovely thing with the bluest of blue sapphires in an old-fashioned gold
setting. Bess had coveted it herself, and often wanted to wear it. But
she respected Nan's sentiment about the bit of jewelry enough to have
not even asked to try it on.

Now it was gone!

"When did you wear it last?"

"Bess, I had it on yesterday morning before we went on that trip by
muleback and I took it off because I was afraid I would lose it. I left
it in this box I'm sure, and it isn't here now. I've looked through it a
dozen times." As she finished, she proffered the box to Bess, who took
it, opened it up, and carefully looked through the trinkets contained
therein. The ring wasn't there.

"Have you told anybody, yet?" Bess questioned.

"No, but if it doesn't come to light pretty soon, I'm going to tell
cousin Adair. I'm almost afraid to do that, because he values the ring
almost as much as I. He saw it once, he said, when he was in Scotland,
and he was proud to think that it came to me. Now I've lost it, and I'm
sure he'll think that I've been very careless."

"It doesn't matter what he thinks," Bess said firmly. "You'd better
tell him right away. If someone has stolen it, he's the only one that
can find the culprit. Come on, let's go downstairs now. Or do you want
me to hunt first?"

"Yes, do that." Nan did dread telling Adair MacKenzie of her loss.

Bess looked thoroughly, but nowhere could she find the ring.

So together, the two girls went down the stairs, Bess this time in the
role of comforter.

They found Adair out in the gardens talking as best he could with an old
gardener who knew at least a few words of English. Adair looked up at
their entrance.

"So you like flowers, too," he greeted them. Nan nodded her head, and
then couldn't say anything for a few minutes.

"Why, what's the matter, Nancy child," Adair was all sympathy as he
noted the worried look on the girl's face. "Nothing serious, I hope."

"I'm afraid it is," Nan answered. "You know my ring--"

"The sapphire ring that you brought home from Scotland?" Adair said.

"Yes," Nan nodded her head to indicate that he was right. "It's
missing."

"What do you mean, missing?" Adair asked. "Have you lost it?"

"No, it was in my room, and it's gone now." Nan said this very
positively.

"Gone, gone where?" Adair flared up as usual.

"That's what I don't know," Nan was having a difficult time being
patient. "I wish I did."

"You think it's stolen." Adair now had the girls by the arm and was
taking them back to the hacienda.

"I don't like to say that," Nan hedged.

"If that's what happened, speak up." Adair wanted to get to the bottom
of this right away and although he was very fond of Nan he wasn't going
to spare her or her feelings any now. The ring, he felt, was a personal
loss to him too and as he went into the house, he was determined to find
it.

First he quizzed all the girls to find out, if by chance, they knew of
anything that would indicate that Nan was mistaken. They didn't. No one
had seen her wearing it after the time at which she said she had put it
away.

Then he quizzed all of the upstairs' servants. This was done with
Walker's help, since he was the only one in the crowd that knew any
Spanish at all. Again, there was no light cast on the mystery.

He called in all the rest of the house servants, with no results. Then
he blustered and fumed and threatened, but this to no avail.

Finally, with one last grand threat that he would find out who the
culprit was in spite of everybody, he sent everyone from the room.

The girls went up to their quarters together.

"Now, who do you suppose could have done anything like that?" Bess
wondered as they all sat around listlessly and hopelessly, for there was
nothing that they could do. "Do you suspect anyone, Nan?"

"No one in this whole wide world." Nan answered wholeheartedly. "The
servants since we have been here have all been just as nice as they
could be. I don't think there is a one of them that would stoop to
anything like that."

"It doesn't seem possible," soft-spoken Grace agreed, "but then someone
has taken it. We're sure of that."

"As sure as we are of anything," Nan said.

"Is it very valuable, Nan?" Amelia asked.

"Oh, I don't know that," Nan answered. "I think, however, that the value
is mostly sentimental. It was originally given to one of the Blakes as a
reward by the king. It was supposed then to have the power to bring the
king's soldiers to the help of the person wearing it, in whatever
trouble he might be.

"There is a story that once, someone who owned it committed treason and
was about to be beheaded when he brought forth the ring. It saved him,
even then, and instead of killing him they banished him to another
country for ten years. Ordinarily, it would have been death or a life
banishment, but the ring's power was mighty."

"Maybe then," Laura suggested, "if you or your cousin will offer a
reward, the ring will turn up. The person that stole it probably thought
that it was valuable."

"I thought of that," Nan answered, "but cousin Adair says 'no,' that he
will get the ring back without any such monkey business. So I guess
we'll just have to leave it up to him."



CHAPTER XXV

BESS HAS SUSPICIONS


They did leave it up to Adair MacKenzie, and for several days nothing
happened. The house was like a morgue, for everyone suspected everyone
else and the servants were all under suspicion.

Finally, Nan couldn't stand it any longer, and decided to do a little
investigating on her own. It was Bess who put her on the track.

"I don't trust Chinamen," Bess had confided and then felt foolish
immediately afterward, for if there was one thing that Nan resented
above all others, it was race prejudice in any form.

"Oh, Bess, don't be silly," Nan dismissed the statement shortly.

"But I don't," Bess persisted.

"Elizabeth Harley," Nan exclaimed, "if you make that remark again, I'll
never speak to you as long as I live." Nan was cross and irritable these
days, because nothing seemed to be going right and she felt that if she
hadn't said anything about the ring in the first place, everyone would
be enjoying themselves.

"But Nan," Bess put her arm around her friend. "I don't mean it all the
way you think. I haven't liked the cook ever since that first day when
he had a fight with Mrs. O'Malley and she's such a dear too."

"Oh, but Bess, you know how that happened," Nan protested. "Mrs.
O'Malley went into the kitchen that he had run for some twenty years and
tried to tell him what to do. He just wouldn't stand for it."

"Even then, I don't like him." Bess persisted. "He's been horrid and
mean to all of us ever since we've been here. I think he stole your
ring, and if you don't do something about it, I'm going to tell Mr.
MacKenzie myself."

"See here, Bess," Nan was very serious now. "If you don't keep quiet
about what you have just been saying to me, I'm going to be very angry.
I don't want suspicions being cast on people who haven't done anything,
and I don't think he has, honestly."

Bess paused and thought before she said anything further.

"And Bess," Nan said more softly now, "don't resent the way I've talked
to you these days. I feel very troubled."

Bess felt badly too now. It wasn't very often that Nan let her temper
get away with her, and since she had, Bess thought, she must be more
troubled than any of us realize. So the subject was dropped between the
two friends.

But Bess's remarks had done their work. When Nan was alone, the thought
of what Bess had said, came back to her again and again. She dismissed
it impatiently at first, but then little things about the cook began to
come to her attention constantly.

Finally she determined to do something about it all and so, one day when
she was alone, she went back to the kitchen.

She was just about to open the door and go through when she heard loud
voices.

"I tell you it's not enough," one, an American voice was saying.

"Alle samee, it's all I can get." The voice of the cook came to her in
reply.

Nan stopped, startled. This, why, this verified Bess's suspicions. Nan
stood back and listened further, but heard nothing. She had come in on
the end of the argument. Shortly, she heard a door slam on the other
side of the kitchen, and then there were no more sounds at all.

She waited for some time, and then cautiously opened the door and went
in.

Over in one corner, the cook, alone, was busy preparing the evening
meal. He looked up as the girl entered, and was on the point of
reprimanding her for invading his quarters when he stopped, recognizing
her. He waited then, resentfully, for her to speak.

Nan was equally wary however, so there was a moment of embarrassed
silence, before either said anything. Then, as they stood waiting, a
call outside distracted their attention.

The cook answered it, and when he returned, they both felt more at ease.
He brought her a stool to sit on and offered her some of his choice
cookies, so before long they were talking to one another. They talked
about little things, and Nan went away without mentioning the ring or
the conversation she had heard at all.

But she went back the next day. Following this procedure it wasn't long
before the cook poured out his whole sorry tale.

Nan later, when she got Walker Jamieson alone, told it and swore him to
secrecy.

"Then he took the ring," Walker concluded, when the story had all been
told.

"He hasn't said so," Nan was being very careful that the facts were all
understood as they were, not as other people might imagine them to be.

"No, not in so many words," Walker agreed, "but then, he did. You and I
know that, and it's not necessary to tell anyone at all anything about
this yet. It's a bigger story than you realize," he ended, "and it has
many, many more angles than this particular one. Let me work on it
awhile without any interference."

Nan agreed to this, and so the two conspirators parted.



CHAPTER XXVI

SERENADERS


"What's going on downstairs?" Laura came into Nan's room quietly. "Of
course, it's none of my business," she went on, "but everything seems to
be in an uproar. Your cousin is ranting around as I've never seen him
rant before, and Walker Jamieson is there and he looks as though
everything is wrong with the world."

"Why, I don't know," Nan looked up from the diary she was writing, a
diary in which she kept a day by day account of her trip. But she looked
worried. Had Walker, after all, told the story that they had promised to
keep a secret and was her cousin insisting on getting to the bottom of
everything right away?

"What were they talking about?" she asked Laura.

"I don't know," Laura answered. "When I came through the room, they
stopped, and seemed to be waiting until I got out, before continuing. I
got the point and hurried. I was only after a magazine that I had left
in the room, anyway. But even for the short time I was in there, the air
seemed so heavy with emotion that you could cut it."

"And you didn't hear anything?" Nan repeated the thought of her former
question.

"I said, 'no'." Laura insisted. "Why, what did you expect me to hear?"
She looked at her friend intently. As Bess often did in similar
circumstances, Laura now felt that Nan knew much more about what was
going on downstairs than she wanted to reveal.

"Oh, nothing," Nan managed to say this airily, as though she truly had
had nothing in view when she asked the question. So saying, she screwed
the top on her fountain pen, put her diary away, and stamped a letter
she had just written home. With these little things done, she turned
again to Laura, "Do you know that Grace's brother and his friends are
expected here at the hacienda tomorrow?" she asked.

"Are they? Tomorrow?" Laura had been out in the courtyard watching some
Mexican youngsters at play when Grace had told Nan. Now, the information
was a surprise to her. "What's been planned? How many will there be? How
long will they stay?" The questions rolled off her tongue one after the
other, until Nan stopped her.

"Oh, Laura," she said, "one at a time, please. We've not planned
anything definite yet and we don't know how many nor how long, but we're
hoping that they can stay at least a week. Isn't it all going to be
fun!"

"Yes," Laura was almost as excited as Nan. "It's going to be grand to
have them all here. Now, let's go and get the other girls and plan
something."

But before they could get out of the room, the others came bursting in.
"Oh, do you know," Bess got the words out first, "Walter and his friends
probably will arrive tonight." Amelia and Grace nodded their heads in
unison.

"How do you know?" Nan asked.

"Here's a telegram." Grace waved it in the air. "It says," she read,
"'Arriving tonight. Six of us. Anxious to see you. Walter.' I wonder
when they'll get here." Saying this, she went over to the windows and
looked down into the courtyard as though she expected them at once. Then
she turned toward the others again, "How good it's going to be!" she
exclaimed. "I've been a little lonesome for someone from home ever since
Rhoda's mother became so ill."

"Have you, Gracie?" Nan put her arm affectionately around the more
timid girl's shoulder. "I guess we all have been. It will be good to see
Walter because he has seen all our parents since we left. Now let's go
downstairs and tell cousin Adair."

But the girls lingered a little while longer, talking and planning. "It
must have been fate that kept us there," Laura laughed afterwards, for
one of the very nicest things of all their trip happened just before
they departed.

It was Nan who heard it first, that faint far-away sound of the
strumming of a guitar. "Sh! Quiet!" she broke in on the hubbub in the
room. "What's that I hear?" They all listened for a second.

"Oh, nothing." Laura waved the question aside, "and do you think we can
get Mr. MacKenzie to go with us again on a mule ride over the estate?"
she went on with the planning of entertainment for the boys.

"It is too something," Nan insisted, for she heard again the sound of
music. "Listen!"

"Oh, Nan, you're hearing things," Laura perhaps was more impatient than
any of the others, for she was intrigued with the idea of asking Adair
to get on a mule again, and she wanted to talk about it.

"She isn't either." Bess heard the strains now. "I hear something too."

"Come--oh, look!" Nan was at a balcony window beckoning the others
eagerly. They all clustered round her, and there in the moonlit
courtyard below them Walter and his friends were serenading the girls.
When they all appeared, the music grew louder, stronger, and the boys
harmonized their voices as they sang for the second time,

  "Soft o'er the fountain,
      Ling'ring falls the southern moon;
  Far o'er the mountain,
      Breaks the day too soon!

  In thy dark eyes' splendor,
      Where the warm light loves to dwell,
  Weary looks, yet tender,
      Speak their fond fare-well.
  Nita! Juanita!--"

As they swung into the chorus, the girls, laughing but enjoying it all
thoroughly, pulled flowers that they had picked that day from the garden
from their dresses and threw them down. The chorus ended, and the girls
clapped. The boys laughed up at them, and others in the courtyard who
had been attracted by the music called for more.

It was all very gay and happy. The boys did sing an encore, and then as
Alice and Adair came out on the veranda they broke off, and Walter went
up the steps and introduced himself and his friends. The girls came down
and they all had a merry evening together, talking over the million and
one things that had been happening.

It was not until the afternoon of the next day, that Nan and Walter had
a moment alone together. Then she told him the story of her missing
ring.

"Then the cook didn't actually tell you that he took it?" Walter asked
at the end.

"No, but he implied it," Nan answered, "and I'm as sure he did as I am
certain that he is not to be blamed."

Walter couldn't restrain the smile that came at this. Nan always
trusted people, always felt that there was good in everyone. This was
one of the things that first attracted Walter to her. Somehow, she,
unlike many others her own age, never found enjoyment in criticising
others. She seemed to understand their faults and to be able to explain
them sympathetically no matter what they were. Now, in talking of the
man whom she felt sure had stolen her ring, she honestly believed that,
in doing so, he had been influenced by conditions over which he had no
control. She felt sorry for him, and didn't want to do him any injury.
This was one of the big reasons why she had pledged Walker Jamieson to
secrecy.

"And what does Mr. MacKenzie think of all of this?" Walter asked just
before Nan left him to dress for dinner.

"Oh, he doesn't know anything about it at all," Nan hastened to explain,
"and I don't want you to say a thing. This is all a secret
until--until--until--"

"Until what?" Walter looked at the young girl curiously, as she stopped
midway in her sentence.

"Until it's solved," Nan smiled at her friend, and then refused to
explain further.

"Nancy Sherwood," Walter spoke seriously now, "if you're not careful,
you're going to get yourself all involved in a plot that might hurt you.
Come, be sensible for once. Either forget the ring entirely, or tell
your cousin all that you know about it. Promise?"

Nan shook her head. She couldn't tell Walter that she and Walker had
already made certain promises about the ring and the Chinaman's part in
its disappearance. She couldn't tell him that the reporter sensed a big
story and asked her to protect the details until he had arrived at a
solution. She couldn't tell him, but she wanted to.

Now it was Grace who saved what otherwise might have been an
embarrassing situation. She came out into the corner of the patio where
Nan and Walter were standing.

"Nan," she asked, "did you know that Walker Jamieson left the hacienda
early this afternoon and that he took his bags with him?"

"Left the hacienda!" Nan exclaimed, "are you sure, Grace?"

"As sure as I am of anything," Grace replied, "and if you don't believe
me you can either wait to see if he appears at dinner, or you can go in
right now and ask Bess."



CHAPTER XXVII

WALKER DEPARTS


However, it was Bess who sought Nan out, and that before Grace had
barely had time to finish divulging her bit of news.

"What did I tell you?" Bess greeted Nan as soon as she could find her.

"What do you mean?" Nan retorted.

"I mean that talk we had some time ago up in your room."

"What talk?" Nan pretended to have forgotten.

"You know as well as I," Bess responded impatiently. "I mean that talk
about Walker and Alice. It was nice, but it's all over now."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that Walker talked to your cousin sometime yesterday, that your
cousin was simply furious, and that Walker Jamieson has left, never to
return!"

"Oh, Bess, don't get romantic about it," Nan said abruptly. "Now get
your breath and tell me actually what you know."

"I have," Bess insisted. "Walker wanted to marry Alice and Adair
MacKenzie said 'no!' Walker left without saying goodby to anyone and
nobody knows when he is going to return if at all. Alice has gone to her
room, and everybody in the house is all broken up, except the old
housekeeper. All she does is shake her head and say 'You just wait. This
will all be all right in the end. Young people are too hasty.'

"Imagine that!" Bess ran on indignantly. "She says young people are too
hasty, when all the trouble here is caused by Mr. MacKenzie and he
certainly isn't young!"

"Elizabeth Harley, you be careful!" Nan warned her friend. "You don't
know for sure whether what you are saying is true or not. You'll have
everybody in trouble if you don't watch out."

"But Nan, I could just cry," Bess protested. "He is such a nice person
and so is she. And now it's all spoiled."

"Hush, Bess," Nan spoke more softly now. Then she looked over at Walter
as though begging him to leave them for a few moments which he did.

"Now, see here," she spoke sternly to Bess when he disappeared. "If
there is anything at all in what you say, and I doubt it, there is
nothing in the world to be gained by crying and talking and
interfering."

"I'm not interfering!" Bess was indignant.

"Well, then talking about it," Nan corrected herself. "We can't do
anything about it except sit around and wait. I don't believe that
Walker has gone away for the reason you say he has at all, and if he
has, he'll be back."

"Well, if he hasn't gone away for that reason, why has he gone at all?"
Bess demanded.

"You can't tell," Nan answered lamely. Why was it, she thought, that she
was forever running into the secret that she had promised Walker she
would keep. She had done the same thing ten minutes ago with Walter. Now
she was doing it with her best friend. "You've just got to wait and find
out," she added.

"Come on, Bess," she made a decided effort to change the subject, "let's
go in and get the camera. I want to take some pictures of the boys.
Anyway we are neglecting them by staying out here like this."

"Neglecting them!" Bess exclaimed. "They've done nothing all day but sit
around and loaf. They're a lazy bunch, and we all had such high hopes."
She let her sentence die away tragically.

"Why," she wrinkled up her nose at Nan, as she spoke, "are boys in
general so dumb? Oh, Walter's all right, but all the rest are just like
bumps on a log."

"No, they aren't," Nan denied. "Don't you remember last night when they
were all out there below our balconies? You didn't think they were bumps
on a log then, did you?"

Bess shook her head and her eyes shone. "No, that was grand," she said.
"But today, they just don't do anything."

"Maybe they think that we're neglecting them?" Nan suggested.

"Well, let them," Bess flounced away from Nan and into the house.

Nan looked bewilderedly after her. "What can be wrong with Bess," she
asked herself and then did go after her camera. If Bess didn't want any
pictures of the visitors, she did.

A few hours later, after an afternoon siesta and a long cool refreshing
drink of fruit juices beneath the palms of the courtyard, everyone felt
better. Alice's eyes were red and swollen with crying, but she made an
appearance. Adair MacKenzie was even more terse than usual, but he was
kinder too. And Bess who had but three hours before found the boys so
disagreeable now was surrounded by them. She was telling them in low
tones of the donkey episode of the day before.

It was all very cheerful and pleasant despite the emptiness that was
felt because of Walker's absence. However, no one mentioned his name. In
fact, he might have remained away from the hacienda, away from Alice,
indefinitely, if it hadn't been for Adair himself, Adair and Nan.

"Well, well, girls, how do you like your new home now?" Adair MacKenzie
was feeling somewhat talkative after his long refreshing drink of
loganberry juice. "A pretty nice place, isn't it?" He looked about
himself with a satisfied sort of appreciation. Adair MacKenzie for all
of his Scotch blood and his leanings toward economy really liked the
good things of life. This southern home pleased him.

"It's grand, Cousin Adair," Nan answered for them all. "Perfectly grand.
There's only one thing that's lacking."

"And that?"

"We're missing Rhoda. She was so excited about the plans to come down
here that she could hardly contain herself, and now we won't see her all
summer. We won't see her until we get back to school in the fall."

"Who said you wouldn't?" Adair asked suddenly. "Don't jump to
conclusions like that. Just to show you how wrong you are--you're
leaving tomorrow morning by plane to visit with this Hammond girl over
the week end, and then if it's at all possible, she is to come back with
you to stay here for a week or two. Now, how's that?"



CHAPTER XXVIII

NAN'S BIG ADVENTURE


Nan couldn't answer for a moment, then unexpectedly, even to herself,
she threw her arms around Adair MacKenzie's neck and kissed him.

"Tut! Tut!" he straightened his necktie and adjusted the soft white
collar of his shirt after her hug. "Can't stand for this. What's the
matter? Aren't you pleased?"

"Oh, dear!" Nan's face was flushed and her eyes bright as she answered.
"There was never in all this wide world a nicer cousin than you are
being to me."

"Wait a second," Adair was immensely pleased at this outburst. "What
will these young men all think of you? Want to make them jealous of an
old codger like me? Better watch out."

Nan looked at the boys sitting around the ground and in the big
comfortable chairs and blushed furiously. She had completely forgotten,
at the announcement of her proposed journey that anyone else was present
beside the girls whom she knew so well.

But her embarrassment couldn't last long in the face of the excitement.

Nan was going for Rhoda! Nan was going by plane to get Rhoda and bring
her back. Nan was going to start the next morning and by Monday she
would be back, having flown half the length of Mexico to the border and
then from there to Rose Ranch.

It was exciting to think of, but then a thousand, a million times more
exciting in reality, for all sorts of unexpected things were to come
about as the result of that ride.

Now, Nan could scarcely contain herself as she sat in the group and
listened to the little everyday things they were talking about. The only
thing that really penetrated her consciousness was the fact that she was
leaving and that when she returned Walter and his friends would have
left.

Adair brought this fact to life. In his free open, hospitable style, he
tried to induce the youngsters to linger. He liked them, liked the
excitement they had caused, for in spite of Bess's complaint to Nan that
they were a dull lot, they kept things moving from the moment they
serenaded their hostesses until they left.

Through the days there had been hikes, parties, a visit into the
interior by auto, and an excursion to a small village where the Indians
were celebrating a native holiday. They had seen them dressed in native
dress, dancing native dances with all the abandon of a people freed from
the daily routine, and they had witnessed one of their elaborate
religious rites in which the ritual of the church and the ritual of
pagan ancestors who had worshipped the Sun God were mingled with one
another to result in a queer worship that was unlike anything any place
else in the world.

Then they all went to a moving picture show where Roberta Taylor, the
pretty little American actress whom everybody adored spoke in Spanish.
How queer that seemed! They had all seen the film--it was an old one--in
a theatre in Chicago, but how different it seemed now with all the
conversation translated into Spanish. They giggled when the heroine
looked up at her tall American hero and murmured "Señor, Señor," and
when he greeted her with "Buenos Días" and other common Spanish phrases.
It was all very charming and amusing and everyone had a grand time.

But now Nan was going to leave and the boys were going to leave. The
evening, in spite of the excitement about Nan's proposed journey, turned
a little sad when they all gathered around Walter and his guitar to sing
as they had each night since he arrived. The songs they sang were all
sad little songs.

By next morning all this was forgotten. The girls were all thrilled
over Rhoda's coming. They had telegraphed to tell her what was happening
and she had wired back that her mother was well enough now so that she
could carry out the plans that Adair MacKenzie had made with such
enjoyment, for he did enjoy doing things for other people. He liked
being Santa Claus the year round.

So, by ten o'clock the next day a whole caravan drew up to the airport
and Walter, his friends, Bess, Laura, Grace, Amelia, Adair and Alice saw
Nan off. How exciting it was, getting the ticket, standing by while the
plane's motors were warmed up, and then, when the passengers started to
get in, taking pictures of the plane, of the people around it, and of
the crew.

Finally, she was off and Nan was soaring over the heads of all her
friends. She looked out the window and waved a big white handkerchief,
but already she seemed part of the clouds and those below, waving too,
couldn't see her.

How much fun it was climbing, climbing, climbing. Nan wasn't worried at
all. She looked out. Around her were clouds and beneath her the
mountains of Mexico were stretched out. She was higher than the
mountains! Her spirits soared with the thought and she looked around at
her fellow passengers, two men who were in earnest conversation, a woman
with a small child beside her, and another man who seemed to be alone.

None of them looked particularly interesting and Nan returned to her
watching of the landscape, so when, after they had traveled for some
time, there was a commotion up in the pilot's cabin and the one traveler
who seemed alone stood up and quietly ordered everyone to put his hands
up, Nan was taken completely by surprise.

"Hands up, there, you!" The remark was addressed to Nan when she failed
to comply with the first request. She put her hands up. The woman with
the baby screamed. The baby cried. Nan put her hands down and moved to
help the two.

"Put your hands up there!" the order came again in good American
diction. Nan did. The voice meant business.

Now the plane began to rock. It slowed down some and glided down a hill
of air to taxi across a field in a place far removed from civilization.

Now, for the first time, Nan was really frightened. Somehow, up in the
air, she hadn't been very scared. It had all happened too suddenly. Now,
with her feet on the ground, however, she felt as though she was going
to faint. She clenched her fists at her side, gritted her teeth, and
stood waiting for the next move.

It came, quickly. Everyone was ordered to surrender his pass to cross
the border, told to remove his luggage, and then together, they were
hurried over the rough ground to a cabin and locked in.

Shortly, they heard the motors of the great plane again and then the
drone as it swung around over head and went off in the direction it was
headed for before anything happened--the United States.

The passengers, they were only Nan and the woman with the baby--the men
had all been involved in the plot--looked at one another in
consternation. What had happened? Were they being kidnapped and why? How
long would they be left in this deserted spot?

They tried the doors and the windows. Someone outside yelled a warning
to them. They paced the floor and the baby cried a pathetic little cry.
They tried to help it, but still it cried, a baffled little cry.



CHAPTER XXIX

HAPPILY EVER AFTER!


"Passenger plane X 52 headed toward the border missing. Nan Sherwood--"

Walker Jamieson in a newspaper office in Mexico City got no further as
the news came over the wire. He grabbed a phone, asked for long
distance, and called the hacienda.

Yes, they had received the news. No, they didn't know anything beyond
what Walker did. Nan was traveling alone. Walker breathed a deep sigh of
relief at this. He had been afraid that Alice was with her.

It was all a complete mystery. Couldn't Walker do something? This plea
came from Alice herself and it wrung his heart.

"I'll try." These were the words with which he hung up and somehow they
comforted the young woman on the phone. She turned to her father and
said simply, "It was Walker. He'll help."

And Walker did. While government planes swooped back and forth again
and again across the country looking for a wrecked plane, Walker was
busy working out his own theories.

"I tell you," he was calling his New York editor, "there's a whale of a
good story here, one that's bigger than anyone has guessed. This is no
mere plane accident.

"How do I know? Oh, just smart that way. Can't tell you more now. Want
to go through with it? It will cost plenty of dough. Need a plane and a
couple of darn good pilots.

"Sky's the limit, you say? Okey-doke." With this he slammed the receiver
down and was off.

He went to the United States Embassy, called the hacienda again, hired a
plane and zoomed off in the direction X52 was headed for when it
disappeared.

For hours he and his pilot combed the district and found nothing that
satisfied Walker. Then, along about nightfall a lone shack in a deserted
district attracted his attention. The plane dropped down.

Nan heard it, from her shack prison she heard it and thought that it
was the X52 returning. While she waited, she didn't know what she wanted
the more--to have the plane come or have it stay away. If it stayed
away, she thought, that somehow, some way they could get out of the
cabin, but to what end she couldn't imagine. In the meantime, she was
concerned over the child and the fear that it would starve.

She waited tensely as the motor died, as she heard footsteps approaching
the cabin.

A voice called.

Where had she heard it before? Could it possibly be--Walker! Was she
dreaming? She heard it again. This time she answered and a great flood
of relief came over her. It was he! She ran to the door and shook it,
although she had done it a dozen times before during the day and nothing
had happened. Because Walker was here now, because there was someone out
there that she knew, she felt that almost anything might come true. She
pushed and shouted and beat upon the door.

Walker called to her again. This time she answered. His relief was as
great as hers. She was alive. His hunch was right! He too beat upon the
door with all his strength, pulled and pushed, but to no avail. Then he
and the pilots got a beam and rammed it into the unresisting blockade.
After what seemed hours, the door moved on its hinges, then gave way and
Walker found Nan, the pluckiest little girl in the world he said later,
unharmed by her experience.

"But Mr. Jamieson," Nan questioned him as the plane he had brought took
to the air with the pilots and the other prisoners, the woman and child,
"how did you guess what had happened?"

He didn't hear her at first. He was already busy planning the release on
the tale he had pieced together.

The lead--"Plucky Nan Sherwood Found Alive in Deserted Shack in
Wilderness. Gang of smugglers exposed in daring attempt to take plane
load of Chinese across the border."

Sounded good, he was thinking, but they really hadn't been exposed as
yet. He knew how they worked, but he didn't know who they were. He
turned now to Nan to see if he could find a clue.

"What did the men who imprisoned you look like?" he questioned her.

Nan described them briefly.

"Did you hear or see anyone besides the people you saw in the plane?" he
questioned.

Nan hadn't, but as he talked she had an inspiration. "Oh, I know, maybe
I can help you!" she exclaimed. Then she told him of the pictures she
had snapped before boarding the transport.

The rest of the plane ride was a dash toward a place where the pictures
could be developed. One by one they were brought forth from the
developing fluid, until it seemed as though the inspiration had not been
such a fortunate one after all. But Walker didn't give up. It was the
last one that brought the desired results.

"Why, I know that man." Walker Jamieson summoned forth from his long
experience as a newspaperman, the recollection of a story about an
aviator who had been discharged from the airplane mail service because
of irregularities. Here was a picture of the man.

Nan took it up and studied it. "Why, I know him too!" she exclaimed.

"Of course you do," Walker agreed. "He was one of the men who held up
the plane, wasn't he?"

"Yes, and not only that," Nan now divulged a surprising bit of
information, "he was present at the bull fight in Mexico City a few days
ago."

"What do you mean?" Walker looked at her intently.

"He was there with a former schoolmate, a Linda Riggs, and he was
introduced to Cousin Adair by her."

"His name?"

Nan searched back in her memory before she answered. "Arthur--"

"Howard?" Walker supplied the name.

"That's right." Nan was smiling now, thinking of Bess's glee when she
found out what a position Linda would be in when this story came out.

"So, you perhaps can even locate him," Walker looked at the amazing
youngster beside him.

"Linda is staying--oh, I don't know." Nan looked disappointed as she
remembered that they hadn't exchanged addresses with the girl. But it
didn't matter, before the night was over, Linda Riggs, thoroughly
frightened because she had unwittingly entertained and been entertained
by an international crook, revealed all she knew about his whereabouts.
And before the morning run of the great metropolitan daily that Walker
was associated with had gone to press, the story was completed.

Arthur Howard using visitors' passes stolen at the border and altered to
suit his needs passed back and forth freely between the United States
and Mexico. He was engaged in smuggling Chinese across and in this
particularly daring attempt to finish up a big job had, after he held up
the plane on which Nan had been a passenger, loaded it heavily with men
who had paid high prices to make the trip.

The Chinese cook at the hacienda had been involved because he had paid a
high price to try to get a relative of his across. The ring stolen from
Nan was his last desperate effort to finish his payments, payments which
had been draining all of his resources for months and had taken all of
his life's savings. This was the part of his story that he had told Nan
after she had won his confidence.

Needless to say, Arthur Howard and his gang were rounded up by a group
of United States G-men and he received a long prison sentence after a
startling trial.

But to Nan and her friends at the hacienda, the most important result of
the whole complicated affair was a certain wedding.

"Your cousin just couldn't be mean after Walker found you," Bess hugged
Nan in her excitement. "And there is to be that wedding that we talked
about, and you are going to be maid of honor and we're all going to be
bridesmaids. It will be in the garden and there will be lots of guests
from all over the country and maybe Walter will be back here. Oh, Nan,
I'm so excited!"

"And that isn't the half of it," Nan finished. "Cousin Adair has given
this place to Walker and Alice and he's settled a large sum of money on
them and he's inviting Momsey and Papa down for the wedding. Oh, Bess,
and Rhoda's going to come too, but not by plane," she added. "Everything
is just perfectly grand!"

So, let's leave Nan Sherwood and her friends to a happy, happy time, to
finish out a summer in Mexico that was more exciting than they ever
imagined a summer could possibly be.



Transcriber's Notes


Obvious printer's errors were silently corrected. Otherwise spelling,
hyphenation, interpunction and syntax of the original have been
preserved.



Line 1142: some-place should be non-hyphenated.





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