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´╗┐Title: Mary Louise
Author: Baum, L. Frank (Lyman Frank), 1856-1919
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Mary Louise" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



MARY LOUISE

By

Edith Van Dyne


Author of "Aunt Jane's Nieces Series" "The Daring Twins," etc.



TO YOUNG READERS

You will like Mary Louise because she is so much like yourself. Mrs.
Van Dyne has succeeded in finding a very human girl for her heroine;
Mary Louise is really not a fiction character at all. Perhaps you know
the author through her "Aunt Jane's Nieces" stories; then you don't
need to be told that you will want to read all the volumes that will be
written about lovable Mary Louise. Mrs. Van Dyne is recognized as one
of the most interesting writers for girls to-day. Her success is
largely due to the fact that she does not write DOWN to her young
readers; she realizes that the girl of to-day does not have to be
babied, and that her quick mind is able to appreciate stories that are
as well planned and cleverly told as adult fiction.

That is the theory behind "The Bluebird Books." If you are the girl who
likes books of individuality--wholesome without being tiresome, and
full of action without being sensational--then you are just the girl
for whom the series is being written. "Mary Louise" is more than a
worthy successor to the "Aunt Jane's Nieces Series"--it has merit which
you will quickly recognize.

THE PUBLISHERS.



CONTENTS


 I     JUST AN ARGUMENT

II    GRAN'PA JIM

III   A SURPRISE

IV    SHIFTING SANDS

V     OFFICIAL INVESTIGATION

VI    UNDER A CLOUD

VII   THE ESCAPE

VIII  A FRIENDLY FOE

IX    OFFICER O'GORMAN

X     RATHER QUEER INDEED

XI    MARY LOUISE MEETS IRENE

XII   A CHEERFUL COMRADE

XIII  BUB SUCCUMBS TO FORCE

XIV   A CALL FROM AGATHA LORD

XV    BUB'S HOBBY

XVI   THE STOLEN BOOK

XVII  THE HIRED GIRL

XVIII MARY LOUISE GROWS SUSPICIOUS

XIX   AN ARTFUL CONFESSION

XX    DIAMOND CUT DIAMOND

XXI   BAD NEWS

XXII  THE FOLKS AT BIGBEE'S

XXIII A KISS FROM JOSIE

XXIV  FACING THE TRUTH

XXV   SIMPLE JUSTICE

XXVI  THE LETTER



CHAPTER I

JUST AN ARGUMENT


"It's positively cruel!" pouted Jennie Allen, one of a group of girls
occupying a garden bench in the ample grounds of Miss Stearne's School
for Girls, at Beverly.

"It's worse than that; it's insulting," declared Mable Westervelt, her
big dark eyes flashing indignantly.

"Doesn't it seem to reflect on our characters?" timidly asked Dorothy
Knerr.

"Indeed it does!" asserted Sue Finley. "But here comes Mary Louise;
let's ask her opinion."

"Phoo! Mary Louise is only a day scholar," said Jennie. "The
restriction doesn't apply to her at all."

"I'd like to hear what she says, anyhow," remarked Dorothy. "Mary
Louise has a way of untangling things, you know."

"She's rather too officious to suit me," Mable Westervelt retorted,
"and she's younger than any of us. One would think, the way she poses
as monitor at this second-rate, run-down boarding school, that Mary
Louise Burrows made the world."

"Oh, Mable! I've never known her to pose at all," said Sue. "But, hush;
she mustn't overhear us and, besides, if we want her to intercede with
Miss Stearne we must not offend her."

The girl they were discussing came leisurely down a path, her books
under one arm, the other hand holding a class paper which she examined
in a cursory way as she walked. She wore a dark skirt and a simple
shirtwaist, both quite modish and becoming, and her shoes were the
admiration and envy of half the girls at the school. Dorothy Knerr used
to say that "Mary Louise's clothes always looked as if they grew on
her," but that may have been partially accounted for by the grace of
her slim form and her unconscious but distinctive poise of bearing. Few
people would describe Mary Louise Burrows as beautiful, while all would
agree that she possessed charming manners. And she was fifteen--an age
when many girls are both awkward and shy.

As she drew near to the group on the bench they ceased discussing Mary
Louise but continued angrily to canvass their latest grievance.

"What do you think, Mary Louise," demanded Jennie, as the girl paused
before them, "of this latest outrage?"

"What outrage, Jen?" with a whimsical smile at their indignant faces.

"This latest decree of the tyrant Stearne. Didn't you see it posted on
the blackboard this morning? 'The young ladies will hereafter refrain
from leaving the school grounds after the hour of six p.m., unless
written permission is first secured from the Principal. Any infraction
of this rule will result in suspension or permanent dismissal.' We're
determined not to stand for this rule a single minute. We intend to
strike for our liberties."

"Well," said Mary Louise reflectively, "I'm not surprised. The wonder
is that Miss Stearne hasn't stopped your evening parades before now.
This is a small school in a small town, where everyone knows everyone
else; otherwise you'd have been guarded as jealously as if you were in
a convent. Did you ever know or hear of any other private boarding
school where the girls were allowed to go to town evenings, or whenever
they pleased out of school hours?"

"Didn't I tell you?" snapped Mable, addressing the group. "Mary Louise
is always on the wrong side. Other schools are not criterions for this
ramshackle establishment, anyhow. We have twelve boarders and four day
scholars, and how Miss Stearne ever supports the place and herself on
her income is an occult problem that the geometries can't solve. She
pays little Miss Dandler, her assistant, the wages of an ordinary
housemaid; the furniture is old and shabby and the classrooms gloomy;
the food is more nourishing than feastful and the tablecloths are so
patched and darned that it's a wonder they hold together."

Mary Louise quietly seated herself upon the bench beside them.

"You're looking on the seamy side, Mable," she said with a smile, "and
you're not quite just to the school. I believe your parents sent you
here because Miss Stearne is known to be a very competent teacher and
her school has an excellent reputation of long standing. For twenty
years this delightful old place, which was once General Barlow's
residence, has been a select school for young ladies of the best
families. Gran'pa Jim says it's an evidence of good breeding and
respectability to have attended Miss Stearne's school."

"Well, what's that got to do with this insulting order to stay in
evenings?" demanded Sue Finley. "You'd better put all that rot you're
talking into a circular and mail it to the mothers of imbecile
daughters. Miss Stearne has gone a step too far in her tyranny, as
she'll find out. We know well enough what it means. There's no
inducement for us to wander into that little tucked-up town of Beverly
after dinner except to take in the picture show, which is our one
innocent recreation. I'm sure we've always conducted ourselves most
properly. This order simply means we must cut out the picture show and,
if we permit it to stand, heaven only knows what we shall do to amuse
ourselves."

"We'll do something worse, probably," suggested Jennie.

"What's your idea about it, Mary Louise?" asked Dorothy.

"Don't be a prude," warned Mable, glaring at the young girl. "Try to be
honest and sensible--if you can--and give us your advice. Shall we
disregard the order, and do as we please, or be namby-pambies and
submit to the outrage? You're a day scholar and may visit the picture
shows as often as you like. Consider our position, cooped up here like
a lot of chickens and refused the only harmless amusement the town
affords."

"Gran'pa Jim," observed Mary Louise, musingly, "always advises me to
look on both sides of a question before making up my mind, because
every question has to have two sides or it couldn't be argued. If Miss
Stearne wishes to keep you away from the pictures, she has a reason for
it; so let's discover what the reason is."

"To spoil any little fun we might have," asserted Mable bitterly.

"No; I can't believe that," answered Mary Louise. "She isn't unkindly,
we all know, nor is she too strict with her girls. I've heard her
remark that all her boarders are young ladies who can be trusted to
conduct themselves properly on all occasions; and she's right about
that. We must look for her reason somewhere else and I think it's in
the pictures themselves."

"As for that," said Jennie, "I've seen Miss Stearne herself at the
picture theatre twice within the last week."

"Then that's it; she doesn't like the character of the pictures shown.
I think, myself, girls, they've been rather rank lately."

"What's wrong with them?"

"I like pictures as well as you do," said Mary Louise, "and Gran'pa Jim
often takes me to see them. Tuesday night a man shot another in cold
blood and the girl the murderer was in love with helped him to escape
and married him. I felt like giving her a good shaking, didn't you? She
didn't act like a real girl at all. And Thursday night the picture
story told of a man with two wives and of divorces and disgraceful
doings generally. Gran'pa Jim took me away before it was over and I was
glad to go. Some of the pictures are fine and dandy, but as long as the
man who runs the theatre mixes the horrid things with the decent
ones--and we can't know beforehand which is which--it's really the
safest plan to keep away from the place altogether. I'm sure that's the
position Miss Stearne takes, and we can't blame her for it. If we do,
it's an evidence of laxness of morals in ourselves."

The girls received this statement sullenly, yet they had no logical
reply to controvert it. So Mary Louise, feeling that her explanation of
the distasteful edict was not popular with her friends, quietly rose
and sauntered to the gate, on her way home.

"Pah!" sneered Mable Westervelt, looking after the slim figure, "I'm
always suspicious of those goody-goody creatures. Mark my words, girls:
Mary Louise will fall from her pedestal some day. She isn't a bit
better than the rest of us, in spite of her angel baby ways, and I
wouldn't be surprised if she turned out to be a regular hypocrite!"



CHAPTER II

GRAN'PA JIM


Beverly is an old town and not especially progressive. It lies nearly
two miles from a railway station and has little attractiveness for
strangers. Beverly contains several beautiful old residences, however,
built generations ago and still surrounded by extensive grounds where
the trees and shrubbery are now generally overgrown and neglected.

One of these fine old places Miss Stearne rented for her boarding
school; another, quite the most imposing residence in the town, had
been leased some two years previous to the time of this story by
Colonel James Weatherby, whose family consisted of his widowed
daughter, Mrs. Burrows, and his grandchild, Mary Louise Burrows. Their
only servants were an old negro, Uncle Eben, and his wife, Aunt Polly,
who were Beverly bred and had been hired when the Colonel first came to
town and took possession of the stately Vandeventer mansion.

Colonel Weatherby was a man of exceptionally distinguished appearance,
tall and dignified, with courtly manners and an air of prosperity that
impressed the simple villagers with awe. His snow-white hair and
piercing dark eyes, his immaculate dress upon all occasions, the
whispered comments on his ample deposits in the local bank, all
contributed to render him remarkable among the three or four hundred
ordinary inhabitants of Beverly, who, after his two years' residence
among them, scarcely knew more of him than is above related. For
Colonel Weatherby was an extremely reserved man and seldom deigned to
exchange conversation with his neighbors. In truth, he had nothing in
common with them and even when he walked out with Mary Louise he merely
acknowledged the greeting of those he met by a dignified nod of his
stately head.

With Mary Louise, however, he would converse fluently and with
earnestness, whether at home during the long evenings or on their
frequent walks through the country, which were indulged in on Saturdays
and holidays during the months that school was in session and much more
often during vacations. The Colonel owned a modest automobile which he
kept in the stable and only drove on rare occasions, although one of
Uncle Eben's duties was to keep the car in apple-pie order. Colonel
Weatherby loved best to walk and Mary Louise enjoyed their tramps
together because Gran'pa Jim always told her so many interesting things
and was such a charming companion. He often developed a strain of humor
in the girl's society and would relate anecdotes that aroused in her
spontaneous laughter, for she possessed a keen sense of the ludicrous.
Yes, Gran'pa Jim was really funny, when in the mood, and as jolly a
comrade as one would wish.

He was fond of poetry, too, and the most severe trial Mary Louise was
forced to endure was when he carried a book of poems in his pocket and
insisted on reading from it while they rested in a shady nook by the
roadside or on the bank of the little river that flowed near by the
town. Mary Louise had no soul for poetry, but she would have endured
far greater hardships rather than forfeit the genial companionship of
Gran'pa Jim.

It was only during these past two years that she had come to know her
grandfather so intimately and to become as fond of him as she was
proud. Her earlier life had been one of so many changes that the
constant shifting had rather bewildered her. First she remembered
living in a big city house where she was cared for by a nurse who was
never out of sight or hearing. There it was that "Mamma Bee"--Mrs.
Beatrice Burrows--appeared to the child at times as a beautiful vision
and often as she bent over her little daughter for a good-night kiss
the popular society woman, arrayed in evening or ball costume, would
seem to Mary Louise like a radiant angel descended straight from heaven.

She knew little of her mother in those days, which were quite hazy in
memory because she was so young. The first change she remembered was an
abrupt flitting from the splendid city house to a humble cottage in a
retired village. There was no maid now, nor other servant whatever.
Mamma Bee did the cooking and sweeping, her face worn and anxious,
while Gran'pa Jim walked the floor of the little sitting room day by
day, only pausing at times to read to Mary Louise stories from her
nursery books.

This life did not last very long--perhaps a year or so--and then they
were in a big hotel in another city, reached after a long and tiresome
railway journey. Here the girl saw little of her grandfather, for a
governess came daily to teach Mary Louise to read and write and to do
sums on a pretty slate framed in silver. Then, suddenly, in dead of
night, away they whisked again, traveling by train until long after the
sun was up, when they came to a pretty town where they kept house again.

There were servants, this time, and horses and carriages and pretty
clothes for Mary Louise and Mamma Bee. The little girl was sent to a
school just a block away from her home. She remembered Miss Jenkins
well, for this teacher made much of her and was so kind and gentle that
Mary Louise progressed rapidly in her studies.

But the abrupt changes did not end here. Mary Louise came home from
school one afternoon and found her dear mother sobbing bitterly as she
clung around the neck of Gran'pa Jim, who stood in the middle of the
room as still as if he had been a marble statue. Mary Louise promptly
mingled her tears with those of her mother, without knowing why, and
then there was a quick "packing-up" and a rush to the railway again.

Next they were in the house of Mr. and Mrs. Peter Conant, very pleasant
people who seemed to be old friends of Mamma Bee and Gran'pa Jim. It
was a cosy house, not big and pretentious, and Mary Louise liked it.
Peter Conant and Gran'pa Jim had many long talks together, and it was
here that the child first heard her grandfather called "Colonel."
Others might have called him that before, but she had not heard them.
Mrs. Conant was very deaf and wore big spectacles, but she always had a
smile on her face and her voice was soft and pleasing.

After a few days Mamma Bee told her daughter she was going to leave her
in the care of the Conants for a time, while she traveled to a foreign
country with Gran'pa Jim. The girl was surprised at being abandoned but
accepted her fate quietly when it was explained that she was to go to
school while living with the Conants, which she could not do if she was
traveling with her mother and grandfather, who were making this
arrangement for the girl's best good.

Three years Mary Louise lived with the Conants and had little to
complain of. Mr. Conant was a lawyer and was at his office all day,
while Mrs. Conant was very kind to the girl and looked after her
welfare with motherly care.

At last, quite unexpectedly, Mary Louise's trunk was packed and she was
taken to the station to meet a train on which were her mother and
grandfather. They did not leave the cars except to shake hands with the
Conants and thank them for their care of Mary Louise. A moment later
the train bore away the reunited family to their new home in Beverly.

Mary Louise now found she must "get acquainted" with Mamma Bee and
Gran'pa Jim all over again, for during these last three years she had
developed so fast in mind and body that her previous knowledge of her
relatives seemed like a hazy dream. The Colonel also discovered a new
granddaughter, to whom he became passionately attached. For two years
now they had grown together until they were great friends and cronies.

As for Mrs. Burrows, she seemed to have devoted her whole life to her
father, the Colonel. She had lost much of her former beauty and had
become a thin, pale woman with anxious eyes and an expectant and
deprecating air, as if always prepared to ward off a sudden blow. Her
solicitude for the old Colonel was almost pathetic and while he was in
her presence she constantly hovered around him, doing little things for
his comfort which he invariably acknowledged with his courtly bow and a
gracious word of thanks.

It was through her association with this cultured old gentleman that
Mary Louise had imbibed a certain degree of logic and philosophy
unknown to many girls of fifteen. He taught her consideration for
others as the keynote of happiness, yet he himself declined to mingle
with his fellow men. He abhorred sulking and was always cheerful and
pleasant in his home circle, yet when others approached him familiarly
he resented it with a frown. He taught his granddaughter to be generous
to the poor and supplied her freely with money for charity, yet he
personally refused all demands upon him by churches or charitable
societies.

In their long talks together he displayed an intimate acquaintance with
men and affairs, but never referred in any way to his former life.

"Are you really a colonel?" Mary Louise once asked him.

"Men call me so," he replied, but there was a tone in his voice that
warned the girl not to pursue the subject further. She knew his moods
almost as well as her mother did.

The Colonel was very particular as to dress. He obtained his own
clothing from a New York tailor and took a keen interest in the gowns
of his daughter and of Mary Louise, his taste in female apparel being
so remarkable that they were justly considered the best dressed women
in Beverly. The house they were living in contained an excellent
library and was furnished in a quaint, old-fashioned manner that was
very appealing to them all. Mary Louise sincerely hoped there would be
no more changes in their lives and that they might continue to live in
Beverly for many years to come.



CHAPTER III

A SURPRISE


On the afternoon when our story begins Mary Louise walked home from
school and found Colonel Weatherby waiting for her in the garden,
leggings strapped to his gaunt legs, the checked walking-cap on his
head, a gold-headed crop in his hand.

"Let us go for a walk, my dear," he proposed. "It is Friday, so you
will have all day to-morrow in which to get your lessons."

"Oh, it won't take all day for that," she replied with a laugh. "I'll
be glad of the walk. Where shall we go, Gran'pa Jim?"

"Perhaps to the mill-race. We haven't visited it for a long time."

She ran to the house to put away her books and get her stout shoes, and
presently rejoined him, when together they strolled up the street and
circled round the little town until they came to the river bank. Then
they followed the stream toward the old mill.

Mary Louise told her grandfather of the recent edict of Miss Stearne
and the indignation it had aroused in her girl boarders.

"And what do you think of it, Gran'pa Jim?" she asked in conclusion.

"What do YOU think of it, Mary Louise?"

"It is rather hard on the girls, who have enjoyed their liberty for so
long; but I think it is Miss Stearne's plan to keep them away from the
picture theatre."

"And so?"

"And so," she said, "it may do the girls more good than harm."

He smiled approvingly. It was his custom to draw out her ideas on all
questions, rather than to assert his own in advance. If he found her
wrong or misinformed he would then correct her and set her right.

"So you do not approve of the pictures, Mary Louise?"

"Not all of them, Gran'pa Jim, although they all seem to have been
'passed by the Board of Censors'--perhaps when their eyes were shut. I
love the good pictures, and I know that you do, but some we have seen
lately gave me the shivers. So, perhaps Miss Stearne is right."

"I am confident she is," he agreed. "Some makers of pictures may
consider it beneficial to emphasize good by exhibiting evil, by way of
contrast, but they are doubtless wrong. I've an old-fashioned notion
that young girls should be shielded, as much as possible, from
knowledge of the world's sins and worries, which is sure to be
impressed upon them in later years. We cannot ignore evil,
unfortunately, but we can often avoid it."

"But why, if these pictures are really harmful, does Mr. Welland
exhibit them at his theatre?" asked the girl.

"Mr. Welland is running his theatre to make money," explained the
Colonel, "and the surest way to make money is to cater to the tastes of
his patrons, the majority of whom demand picture plays of the more
vivid sort, such as you and I complain of. So the fault lies not with
the exhibitor but with the sensation-loving public. If Mr. Welland
showed only such pictures as have good morals he would gain the
patronage of Miss Stearne's twelve young ladies, and a few others, but
the masses would refuse to support him."

"Then," said Mary Louise, "the masses ought to be educated to desire
better things."

"Many philanthropists have tried to do that, and signally failed. I
believe the world is gradually growing better, my dear, but ages will
pass before mankind attains a really wholesome mental atmosphere.
However, we should each do our humble part toward the moral uplift of
our fellows and one way is not to condone what we know to be wrong."

He spoke earnestly, in a conversational tone that robbed his words of
preachment. Mary Louise thought Gran'pa Jim must be an exceptionally
good man and hoped she would grow, in time, to be like him. The only
thing that puzzled her was why he refused to associate with his fellow
men, while at heart he so warmly espoused their uplift and advancement.

They had now reached the mill-race and had seated themselves on the
high embankment where they could watch the water swirl swiftly beneath
them. The mill was not grinding to-day and its neighborhood seemed
quite deserted. Here the old Colonel and his granddaughter sat dreamily
for a long time, conversing casually on various subjects or allowing
themselves to drift into thought. It was a happy hour for them both and
was only interrupted when Jackson the miller passed by on his way home
from the village. The man gave the Colonel a surly nod, but he smiled
on Mary Louise, the girl being as popular in the district as her
grandfather was unpopular.

After Jackson had passed them by Gran'pa Jim rose slowly and proposed
they return home.

"If we go through the village," said he, "we shall reach home, without
hurrying ourselves, in time to dress for dinner. I object to being
hurried, don't you, Mary Louise?"

"Yes, indeed, if it can be avoided."

Going through the village saved them half a mile in distance, but Mary
Louise would not have proposed it herself, on account of the Colonel's
well-known aversion to meeting people. This afternoon, however, he made
the proposal himself, so they strolled away to the main road that led
through the one business street of the little town.

At this hour there was little life in Beverly's main street. The
farmers who drove in to trade had now returned home; the town women
were busy getting supper and most of their men were at home feeding the
stock or doing the evening chores. However, they passed an occasional
group of two or three and around the general store stood a few other
natives, listlessly awaiting the call to the evening meal. These cast
curious glances at the well-known forms of the old man and the young
girl, for his two years' residence had not made the testy old Colonel
any less strange to them. They knew all about him there was to
know--which was nothing at all--and understood they must not venture to
address him as they would have done any other citizen.

Cooper's Hotel, a modest and not very inviting frame building, stood
near the center of the village and as Mary Louise and her grandfather
passed it the door opened and a man stepped out and only avoided
bumping into them by coming to a full stop. They stopped also, of
necessity, and Mary Louise was astonished to find the stranger staring
into the Colonel's face with an expression of mingled amazement and
incredulity on his own.

"James Hathaway, by all the gods!" he exclaimed, adding in wondering
tones: "And after all these years!"

Mary Louise, clinging to her grandfather's arm, cast an upward glance
at his face. It was tensely drawn; the eyelids were half closed and
through their slits the Colonel's eyes glinted fiercely.

"You are mistaken, fellow. Out of my way!" he said, and seizing the
girl's arm, which she had withdrawn in affright, he marched straight
ahead. The man fell back, but stared after them with his former
expression of bewildered surprise. Mary Louise noted this in a glance
over her shoulder and something in the stranger's attitude--was it a
half veiled threat?--caused her to shudder involuntarily.

The Colonel strode on, looking neither to right nor left, saying never
a word. They reached their home grounds, passed up the path in silence
and entered the house. The Colonel went straight to the stairs and
cried in a loud voice:

"Beatrice!"

The tone thrilled Mary Louise with a premonition of evil. A door was
hastily opened and her mother appeared at the head of the stairs,
looking down on them with the customary anxiety on her worn features
doubly accentuated.

"Again, father?" she asked in a voice that slightly trembled.

"Yes. Come with me to the library, Beatrice."



CHAPTER IV

SHIFTING SANDS


Mary Louise hid herself in the drawing-room, where she could watch the
closed door of the library opposite. At times she trembled with an
unknown dread; again, she told herself that no harm could possibly
befall her dear, good Gran'pa Jim or her faithful, loving mother. Yet
why were they closeted in the library so long, and how could the
meeting with that insolent stranger affect Colonel Weatherby so
strongly?

After a long time her mother came out, looking more pallid and harassed
than ever but strangely composed. She kissed Mary Louise, who came to
meet her, and said:

"Get ready for dinner, dear. We are late."

The girl went to her room, dazed and uneasy. At dinner her mother
appeared at the table, eating little or nothing, but Gran'pa Jim was
not present. Afterward she learned that he had gone over to Miss
Stearne's School for Girls, where he completed important arrangements
concerning his granddaughter.

When dinner was over Mary Louise went into the library and, drawing a
chair to where the light of the student lamp flooded her book, tried to
read. But the words were blurred and her mind was in a sort of chaos.
Mamma Bee had summoned Aunt Polly and Uncle Eben to her room, where she
was now holding a conference with the faithful colored servants. A
strange and subtle atmosphere of unrest pervaded the house; Mary Louise
scented radical changes in their heretofore pleasant home life, but
what these changes were to be or what necessitated them she could not
imagine.

After a while she heard Gran'pa Jim enter the hall and hang up his hat
and coat and place his cane in the rack. Then he came to the door of
the library and stood a moment looking hard at Mary Louise. Her own
eyes regarded her grandfather earnestly, questioning him as positively
as if she had spoken.

He drew a chair before her and leaning over took both her hands in his
and held them fast.

"My dear," he said gently, "I regret to say that another change has
overtaken us. Have you ever heard of 'harlequin fate'? 'Tis a very
buffoon of mischief and irony that is often permitted to dog our
earthly footsteps and prevent us from becoming too content with our
lot. For a time you and I, little maid, good comrades though we have
been, must tread different paths. Your mother and I are going away,
presently, and we shall leave you here in Beverly, where you may
continue your studies under the supervision of Miss Stearne, as a
boarder at her school. This house, although the rental is paid for six
weeks longer, we shall at once vacate, leaving Uncle Eben and Aunt
Sallie to put it in shape and close it properly. Do you understand all
this, Mary Louise?"

"I understand what you have told me, Gran'pa Jim. But why--"

"Miss Stearne will be supplied with ample funds to cover your tuition
and to purchase any supplies you may need. You will have nothing to
worry about and so may devote all your energies to your studies."

"But how long---"

"Trust me and your mother to watch over your welfare, for you are very
dear to us, believe me," he continued, disregarding her interruptions.
"Do you remember the address of the Conants, at Dorfield?"

"Of course."

"Well, you may write to me, or to your mother, once a week, addressing
the letter in care of Peter Conant. But if you are questioned by
anyone," he added, gravely, "do not mention the address of the Conants
or hint that I have gone to Dorfield. Write your letters privately and
unobserved, in your own room, and post them secretly, by your own hand,
so that no one will be aware of the correspondence. Your caution in
this regard will be of great service to your mother and me. Do you
think you can follow these instructions?"

"To be sure I can, Gran'pa Jim. But why must I---"

"Some day," said he, "you will understand this seeming mystery and be
able to smile at your present perplexities. There is nothing to fear,
my dear child, and nothing that need cause you undue anxiety. Keep a
brave heart and, whatever happens, have faith in Gran'pa Jim. Your
mother--as good a woman as God ever made--believes in me, and she knows
all. Can you accept her judgment, Mary Louise? Can you steadfastly
ignore any aspersions that may be cast upon my good name?"

"Yes, Gran'pa Jim."

She had not the faintest idea what he referred to. Not until afterward
was she able to piece these strange remarks together and make sense of
them. Just now the girl was most impressed by the fact that her mother
and grandfather were going away and would leave her as a boarder with
Miss Stearne. The delightful home life, wherein she had passed the
happiest two years of her existence, was to be broken up for good and
all.

"Now I must go to your mother. Kiss me, my dear!"

As he rose to his feet Mary Louise also sprang from her chair and the
Colonel folded his arms around her and for a moment held her tight in
his embrace. Then he slowly released her, holding the girl at arms'
length while he studied her troubled face with grave intensity. One
kiss upon her upturned forehead and the old man swung around and left
the room without another word.

Mary Louise sank into her chair, a little sob in her throat. She felt
very miserable, indeed, at that moment. "Harlequin fate!" she sighed.
"I wonder why it has chosen us for its victims?"

After an hour passed in the deserted library she stole away to her own
room and prepared for bed. In the night, during her fitful periods of
sleep, she dreamed that her mother bent over her and kissed her
lips--once, twice, a third time.

The girl woke with a start. A dim light flooded her chamber, for
outside was a full moon. But the room was habited only by shadows, save
for her own feverish, restless body. She turned over to find a cooler
place and presently fell asleep again.



CHAPTER V

OFFICIAL INVESTIGATION


"And you say they are gone?" cried Mary Louise in surprise, as she came
down to breakfast the next morning and found the table laid for one and
old Eben waiting to serve her.

"In de night, chile. I don' know 'zac'ly wha' der time, by de clock,
but de Kun'l an' Missy Burrows did'n' sleep heah a-tall."

"There is no night train," said the girl, seating herself thoughtfully
at the table. "How could they go, Uncle?"

"Jus' took deh auto'bile, chile, an' de Kun'l done druv it heself--bag
an' baggage. But--see heah, Ma'y 'Ouise--we-all ain' s'pose to know
nuth'n' bout dat git-away. Ef some imper'nent puss'n' ask us, we ain'
gwine t' know how dey go, nohow. De Kun'l say tell Ma'y 'Ouise she ain'
gwine know noth'n' a-tall, 'bout nuth'n', 'cause 'tain't nobody's
business."

"I understand, Uncle Eben."

She reflected upon this seemingly unnecessary secrecy as she ate her
breakfast. After a time she asked:

"What are you and Aunt Polly going to do, Uncle?"

"Fus' thing," replied the old negro, "Polly gwine git yo' traps all
pack up an' I gwine take 'em ovah to Missy Stearne's place in de
wheel-barrer. Den I gwine red up de house an' take de keys to Mass'
Gimble, de agent. Den Polly an' me we go back to our own li'l' house in
de lane yondeh. De Kun'l done 'range ev'thing propeh, an' we gwine do
jus' like he say."

Mary Louise felt lonely and uncomfortable in the big house, now that
her mother and grandfather had gone away. Since the move was
inevitable, she would be glad to go to Miss Stearne as soon as
possible. She helped Aunt Polly pack her trunk and suit case,
afterwards gathering into a bundle the things she had forgotten or
overlooked, all of which personal belongings Uncle Eben wheeled over to
the school. Then she bade the faithful servitors good-bye, promising to
call upon them at their humble home, and walked slowly over the
well-known path to Miss Stearne's establishment, where she presented
herself to the principal.

It being Saturday, Miss Stearne was seated at a desk in her own private
room, where she received Mary Louise and bade her sit down.

Miss Stearne was a woman fifty years of age, tall and lean, with a
deeply lined face and a tendency to nervousness that was increasing
with her years. She was a very clever teacher and a very incompetent
business woman, so that her small school, of excellent standing and
repute, proved difficult to finance. In character Miss Stearne was
temperamental enough to have been a genius. She was kindly natured,
fond of young girls and cared for her pupils with motherly instincts
seldom possessed by those in similar positions. She was lax in many
respects, severely strict in others. Not always were her rules and
regulations dictated by good judgment. Therefore her girls usually
found as much fault as other boarding school girls are prone to do, and
with somewhat more reason. On the other hand, no one could question the
principal's erudition or her skill in imparting her knowledge to others.

"Sit down, Mary Louise," she said to the girl. "This is an astonishing
change in your life, is it not? Colonel Weatherby came to me last
evening and said he had been suddenly called away on important matters
that would brook no delay, and that your mother was to accompany him on
the journey. He begged me to take you in as a regular boarder and of
course I consented. You have been one of my most tractable and
conscientious pupils and I have been proud of your progress. But the
school is quite full, as you know; so at first I was uncertain that I
could accommodate you here; but Miss Dandler, my assistant, has given
up her room to you and I shall put a bed for her in my own sleeping
chamber, so that difficulty is now happily arranged. I suppose your
family left Beverly this morning, by the early train?"

"They have gone," replied Mary Louise, non-committally.

"You will be lonely for a time, of course, but presently you will feel
quite at home in the school because you know all of my girls so well.
It is not like a strange girl coming into a new school. And remember,
Mary Louise, that you are to come to me for any advice and assistance
you need, for I promised your grandfather that I would fill your
mother's place as far as I am able to do so."

Mary Louise reflected, with a little shock of pain, that her mother had
never been very near to her and that Miss Stearne might well perform
such perfunctory duties as the girl had been accustomed to expect. But
no one could ever take the place of Gran'pa Jim.

"Thank you, Miss Stearne," she said. "I am sure I shall be quite
contented here. Is my room ready?"

"Yes; and your trunk has already been placed in it. Let me know, my
dear, if there is anything you need."

Mary Louise went to her room and was promptly pounced upon by Dorothy
Knerr and Sue Finley, who roomed just across the hall from her and were
delighted to find she was to become a regular boarder. They asked
numerous questions as they helped her to unpack and settle her room,
but accepted her conservative answers without comment.

At the noon luncheon Mary Louise was accorded a warm reception by the
assembled boarders and this cordial welcome by her school-mates did
much to restore the girl to her normal condition of cheerfulness. She
even joined a group in a game of tennis after luncheon and it was while
she was playing that little Miss Dandler came with, a message that Mary
Louise was wanted in Miss Stearne's room at once.

"Take my racquet," she said to Jennie Allen; "I'll be back in a minute."

When she entered Miss Stearne's room she was surprised to find herself
confronted by the same man whom she and her grandfather had encountered
in front of Cooper's Hotel the previous afternoon--the man whom she
secretly held responsible for this abrupt change in her life. The
principal sat crouched over her desk as if overawed by her visitor, who
stopped his nervous pacing up and down the room as the girl appeared.

"This is Mary Louise Burrows," said Miss Stearne, in a weak voice.

"Huh!" He glared at her with a scowl for a moment and then demanded:
"Where's Hathaway?"

Mary Louise reddened.

"I do not know to whom you refer," she answered quietly.

"Aren't you his granddaughter?"

"I am the granddaughter of Colonel James Weatherby, sir."

"It's all the same; Hathaway or Weatherby, the scoundrel can't disguise
his personality. Where is he?"

She did not reply. Her eyes had narrowed a little, as the Colonel's
were sometimes prone to do, and her lips were pressed firmly together.

"Answer me!" he shouted, waving his arms threateningly.

"Miss Stearne," Mary Louise said, turning to the principal, "unless you
request your guest to be more respectful I shall leave the room."

"Not yet you won't," said the man in a less boisterous tone. "Don't
annoy me with your airs, for I'm in a hurry. Where is Hathaway--or
Weatherby--or whatever he calls himself?"

"I do not know."

"You don't, eh? Didn't he leave an address?"

"No."

"I don't believe you. Where did he go?"

"If I knew," said Mary Louise with dignity, "I would not inform you."

He uttered a growl and then threw back his coat, displaying a badge
attached to his vest.

"I'm a federal officer," he asserted with egotistic pride, "a member of
the Government's Secret Service Department. I've been searching for
James J. Hathaway for nine years, and so has every man in the service.
Last night I stumbled upon him by accident, and on inquiring found he
has been living quietly in this little jumping-off place. I wired the
Department for instructions and an hour ago received orders to arrest
him, but found my bird had flown. He left you behind, though, and I'm
wise to the fact that you're a clew that will lead me straight to him.
You're going to do that very thing, and the sooner you make up your
mind to it the better for all of us. No nonsense, girl! The Federal
Government's not to be trifled with. Tell me where to find your
grandfather."

"If you have finished your insolent remarks," she answered with spirit,
"I will go away. You have interrupted my game of tennis."

He gave a bark of anger that made her smile, but as she turned away he
sprang forward and seized her arm, swinging her around so that she
again faced him.

"Great Caesar, girl! Don't you realize what you're up against?" he
demanded.

"I do," said she. "I seem to be in the power of a brute. If a law
exists that permits you to insult a girl, there must also be a law to
punish you. I shall see a lawyer and try to have you properly punished
for this absolute insolence."

He regarded her keenly, still frowning, but when he spoke again he had
moderated both his tone and words.

"I do not intend to be insolent, Miss Burrows, but I have been greatly
aggravated by your grandfather's unfortunate escape and in this
emergency every moment is precious if I am to capture him before he
gets out of America, as he has done once or twice before. Also, having
wired the Department that I have found Hathaway, I shall be discredited
if I let him slip through my fingers, so I am in a desperate fix. If I
have seemed a bit gruff and nervous, forgive me. It is your duty, as a
loyal subject of the United States, to assist an officer of the law by
every means in your power, especially when he is engaged in running
down a criminal. Therefore, whether you dislike to or not, you must
tell me where to find your grandfather."

"My grandfather is not a criminal, sir."

"The jury will decide that when his case comes to trial. At present he
is accused of crime and a warrant is out for his arrest. Where is he?"

"I do not know," she persisted.

"He--he left by the morning train, which goes west," stammered Miss
Stearne, anxious to placate the officer and fearful of the girl's
stubborn resistance.

"So the nigger servant told me," sneered the man; "but he didn't. I was
at the station myself--two miles from this forsaken place--to make sure
that Hathaway didn't skip while I was waiting for orders. Therefore, he
is either hidden somewhere in Beverly or he has sneaked away to an
adjoining town. The old serpent is slippery as an eel; but I'm going to
catch him, this time, as sure as fate, and this girl must give me all
the information she can."

"Oh, that will be quite easy," retorted Mary Louise, somewhat
triumphantly, "for I have no information to divulge."

He began to pace the room again, casting at her shrewd and uncertain
glances.

"He didn't say where he was going?"

"No."

"Or leave any address?"

"No."

"What DID he say?"

"That he was going away and would arrange with Miss Stearne for me to
board at the school."

"Huh! I see. Foxy old guy. Knew I would question you and wouldn't take
chances. If he writes you, or you learn what has become of him, will
you tell me?"

"No."

"I thought not." He turned toward the principal. "How about this girl's
board money?" he asked. "When did he say he'd send it?"

"He paid me in advance, to the end of the present term," answered the
agitated Miss Stearne.

"Foxy old boy! Seemed to think of everything. I'm going, now; but take
this warning--both of you. Don't gabble about what I've said. Keep the
secret. If nothing gets out, Hathaway may think the coast is clear and
it's safe for him to come back. In that case I--or someone appointed by
the Department--will get a chance to nab him. That's all. Good day."

He made his exit from the room without ceremony, leaving Mary Louise
and Miss Stearne staring fearfully at one another.

"It--it's--dreadful!" stammered the teacher, shrinking back with a moan.

"It would be, if it were true," said the girl. "But Gran'pa Jim is no
criminal, we all know. He's the best man that ever lived, and the whole
trouble is that this foolish officer has mistaken him for someone else.
I heard him, with my own ears, tell the man he was mistaken."

Miss Stearne reflected.

"Then why did your grandfather run away?" she asked.

It was now Mary Louise's turn to reflect, seeking an answer. Presently
she realized that a logical explanation of her grandfather's action was
impossible with her present knowledge.

"I cannot answer that question, Miss Stearne," she admitted, candidly,
"but Gran'pa Jim must have had some good reason."

There was unbelief in the woman's eyes--unbelief and a horror of the
whole disgraceful affair that somehow included Mary Louise in its
scope. The girl read this look and it confused her. She mumbled an
excuse and fled to her room to indulge in a good cry.



CHAPTER VI

UNDER A CLOUD


The officer's injunction not to talk of the case of Colonel Weatherby
was of little avail in insuring secrecy. Oscar Dowd, who owned and
edited the one weekly newspaper in town, which appeared under the title
of "The Beverly Beacon," was a very ferret for news. He had to be;
otherwise there never would have been enough happenings in the vicinity
to fill the scant columns of his little paper, which was printed in big
type to make the items and editorials fill as much space as possible.

Uncle Eben met the editor and told him the Colonel had gone away
suddenly and had vacated the Vandeventer mansion and put Mary Louise
with Miss Stearne to board. Thereat, Oscar Dowd scented "news" and
called on Miss Stearne for further information. The good lady was
almost as much afraid of an editor as of an officer of the law, so
under Oscar's rapid-fire questioning she disclosed more of the dreadful
charge against Colonel Weatherby than she intended to. She even
admitted the visit of the secret service agent, but declined to give
details of it.

Oscar found the agent had departed for parts unknown--perhaps to trail
the escaped Colonel--but the hotel keeper furnished him with other
wisps of information and, bunching all the rumors together and sifting
the wheat from the chaff, the editor evolved a most thrilling tale to
print in the Wednesday paper. Some of the material his own imagination
supplied; much else was obtained from irresponsible gossips who had no
foundation for their assertions. Miss Stearne was horrified to find, on
receiving her copy of the Wednesday "Beacon" that big headlines across
the front page announced: "Beverly Harbors a Criminal in Disguise!
Flight of Colonel James Weatherby when a Federal Officer Seeks to
Arrest him for a Terrible Crime!"

Then followed a mangled report of the officer's visit to Beverly on
government business, his recognition of Colonel Weatherby--who was none
other than the noted criminal, James J. Hathaway--on the street in
front of Cooper's Hotel, how the officer wired Washington for
instructions and how Hathaway, alias Weatherby, escaped in the dead of
night and had so far successfully eluded all pursuit. What crime
Hathaway, alias Weatherby, was accused of, the officer would not
divulge, and the statements of others disagreed. One report declared
the Colonel had wrecked a New York bank and absconded with enormous
sums he had embezzled; another stated he had been president of a
swindling stock corporation which had used the mails illegally to
further its nefarious schemes. A third account asserted he had insured
his life for a million dollars in favor of his daughter, Mrs. Burrows,
and then established a false death and reappeared after Mrs. Burrows
had collected the insurance money.

Having printed all this prominently in big type, the editor appended a
brief note in small type saying he would not vouch for the truth of any
statement made in the foregoing article. Nevertheless, it was a
terrible arraignment and greatly shocked the good citizens of Beverly.

Miss Stearne, realizing how humiliated Mary Louise would be if the
newspaper fell into her hands, carefully hid her copy away where none
of the girls could see it; but one of the day scholars brought a copy
to the school Thursday morning and passed it around among the girls, so
that all were soon in possession of the whole scandalous screed.

Mable Westervelt, after feasting upon the awful accusations, cruelly
handed the paper to Mary Louise. The girl's face blanched and then grew
red, her mouth fell open as if gasping for breath and her eyes stared
with a pained, hopeless expression at the printed page that branded her
dearly loved Gran'pa Jim a swindler and a thief. She rose quickly and
left the room, to the great relief of the other girls, who wanted to
talk the matter over.

"The idea," cried Mable indignantly, "of that old villain's foisting
his grandchild on this respectable school while he ran away to escape
the penalty of his crimes!"

"Mary Louise is all right," asserted Jennie Allen stoutly. "She isn't
to blame, at all."

"I warned you that her goody-goody airs were a cloak to hidden
wickedness," said Mable, tossing her head.

"Blood will tell," drawled Lina Darrow, a very fat girl. "Mary Louise
has bad blood in her veins and it's bound to crop out, sooner or later.
I advise you girls to keep your trunks locked and to look after your
jewelry."

"Shame--shame!" cried Dorothy Knerr, and the others echoed the
reproach. Even Mable looked at fat Lina disapprovingly.

However, in spite of staunch support on the part of her few real
friends, Mary Louise felt from that hour a changed atmosphere when in
the presence of her school fellows. Weeks rolled by without further
public attacks upon Gran'pa Jim, but among the girls at the school
suspicion had crept in to ostracize Mary Louise from the general
confidence. She lost her bright, cheery air of self-assurance and grew
shy and fearful of reproach, avoiding her schoolmates more than they
avoided her. Instead of being content in her new home, as she had hoped
to be, the girl found herself more miserable and discontented than at
any other period of her life. She longed continually to be comforted by
Gran'pa Jim and Mamma Bee, and even lost interest in her studies,
moping dismally in her room when she should have been taking an
interest in the life at the school.

Even good Miss Stearne had unconsciously changed in her attitude toward
the forlorn girl. Deciding one day that she needed some new shoes, Mary
Louise went to the principal to ask for the money with which to buy
them.

Miss Stearne considered the matter seriously. Then she said with
warning emphasis:

"My dear, I do not think it advisable for you to waste your funds on
shoes, especially as those you have are in fairly good condition. Of
course, your grandfather left some money with me, to be expended as I
saw fit, but now that he has abscon--eh--eh--secreted himself, so to
speak, we can expect no further remittances. When this term is ended
any extra money should be applied toward your further board and
tuition. Otherwise you would become an outcast, with no place to go and
no shelter for your head. That, in common decency, must be avoided. No;
I do not approve of any useless expenditures. I shall hoard this money
for future emergencies."

In happier times Mary Louise would have been indignant at the thought
that her grandfather would ever leave her unprovided for, but she had
been so humbled of late that this aspect of her affairs, so candidly
presented by Miss Stearne, troubled her exceedingly. She had written a
letter every week to her grandfather, addressing it, as he had
instructed her to do, in care of Mr. Peter Conant at Dorfield. And
always she had stolen out, unobserved, and mailed the letter at the
village post office. Of course she had never by a single word referred
to the scandal regarding the Colonel or her mother, or to her own
unhappy lot at school because of that scandal, knowing how such a
report would grieve them; but the curious thing about this
correspondence was that it was distinctly one-sided. In the three
months since they had gone away, Mary Louise had never received an
answer to any of her letters, either from her grandfather or her mother.

This might be explained, she reflected, by the fact that they suspected
the mails would be watched; but this supposition attributed some truth
to the accusation that Gran'pa Jim was a fugitive from justice, which
she would not allow for an instant. Had he not told her to have faith
in him, whatever happened? Should she prove disloyal just because a
brutal officer and an irresponsible newspaper editor had branded her
dear grandfather a criminal?

No! Whatever happened she would cling to her faith in the goodness of
dear Gran'pa Jim.

There was very little money in her purse; a few pennies that she must
hoard to buy postage stamps with. Two parties for young people were
given in Beverly and at both of them Mary Louise was the only girl
boarding at the school who was uninvited. She knew that some of the
girls even resented her presence at the school and often when she
joined a group of schoolmates their hushed conversation warned her they
had been discussing her.

Altogether, she felt that her presence at the school was fast becoming
unbearable and when one of the boarders openly accused her of stealing
a diamond ring--which was later discovered on a shelf above a
washstand--the patient humility of Mary Louise turned to righteous
anger and she resolved to leave the shelter of Miss Stearne's roof
without delay.

There was only one possible place for her to go--to the Conant house at
Dorfield, where her mother and grandfather were staying and where she
had already passed three of the most pleasant years of her short life.
Gran'pa Jim had not told her she could come to him, even in an
emergency, but when she explained all the suffering she had endured at
the school she knew quite well that he would forgive her for coming.

But she needed money for the long journey, and this must be secured in
some way from her own resources. So she got together all the jewelry
she possessed and placing it in her handbag started for the town.

She had an idea that a jewelry shop was the proper place to sell her
jewelry, but Mr. Trumbull the jeweler shook his head and said that
Watson, at the bank, often loaned money on such security. He advised
the girl to see Watson.

So Mary Louise went to the "bank," which was a one-man affair situated
in the rear of the hardware store, where a grating had been placed in
one corner. There she found Mr. Watson, who was more a country broker
than a banker, and throve by lending money to farmers.

Gran'pa Jim was almost as fond of pretty jewels as he was of good
clothes and he had always been generous in presenting his
grand-daughter with trinkets on her birthdays and at Christmas time.
The jewelry she laid before Mr. Watson was really valuable and the
banker's eye was especially attracted by a brooch of pearls that must
have cost several hundred dollars.

"How much do you want to borrow on this lot?" he asked.

"As much as I can get, sir," she replied.

"Have you any idea of redeeming it?"

"I hope to do so, of course."

The banker knew perfectly well who Mary Louise was and suspected she
needed money.

"This is no pawnbroker's shop," he asserted. "I'll give you a hundred
dollars, outright, for this pearl brooch--as a purchase,
understand--but the rest of the junk I don't want."

A little man who had entered the hardware store to purchase a tin
dipper was getting so close to the "bank" that Mary Louise feared being
overheard; so she did not argue with Mr. Watson. Deciding that a
hundred dollars ought to take her to Dorfield, she promptly accepted
the offer, signed a bill of sale and received her money. Then she
walked two miles to the railway station and discovered that a ticket to
Dorfield could be bought for ninety-two dollars. That would give her
eight dollars leeway, which seemed quite sufficient. Elated at the
prospect of freedom she returned to the school to make her preparation
for departure and arrived just in time to join the other girls at
dinner.



CHAPTER VII

THE ESCAPE


As she packed her trunk behind the locked door of her room--an
unnecessary precaution, since the girls generally avoided her
society--Mary Louise considered whether to confide the fact of her
going to Miss Stearne or to depart without a word of adieu. In the
latter case she would forfeit her trunk and her pretty clothes, which
she did not wish to do unless it proved absolutely necessary; and,
after all, she decided, frankness was best. Gran'pa Jim had often said
that what one could not do openly should not be done at all. There was
nothing to be ashamed of in her resolve to leave the school where she
was so unhappy. The girls did not want her there and she did not want
to stay; the school would be relieved of a disturbing element and Mary
Louise would be relieved of unjust persecution; no blame attached to
any but those who had made public this vile slander against her
grandfather. From all viewpoints she considered she was doing the right
thing; so, when her preparations were complete, she went to Miss
Stearne's room, although it was now after eight o'clock in the evening,
and requested an interview.

"I am going away," she quietly announced to the principal.

"Going away! But where?" asked the astonished teacher.

"I cannot tell you that, Miss Stearne."

"Do you not know?"

"Yes, I know, but I prefer not to tell you."

Miss Stearne was greatly annoyed. She was also perplexed. The fact that
Mary Louise was deserting her school did not seem so important, at the
moment, as the danger involved by a young girl's going out into the
world unprotected. The good woman had already been rendered very
nervous by the dreadful accusation of Colonel Weatherby and the
consequent stigma that attached to his granddaughter, a pupil at her
eminently respectable school. She realized perfectly that the girl was
blameless, whatever her grandsire might have done, and she deeply
deplored the scornful attitude assumed by the other pupils toward poor
Mary Louise; nevertheless a certain bitter resentment of the
unwholesome scandal that had smirched her dignified establishment had
taken possession of the woman, perhaps unconsciously, and while she
might be a little ashamed of the ungenerous feeling, Miss Stearne
fervently wished she had never accepted the girl as a pupil.

She HAD accepted her, however. She had received the money for Mary
Louise's tuition and expenses and had promptly applied the entire sum
to reducing her grocery bills and other pressing obligations; therefore
she felt it her duty to give value received. If Mary Louise was to be
driven from the school by the jeers and sneers of the other girls, Miss
Stearne would feel like a thief. Moreover, it would be a distinct
reproach to her should she allow a fifteen-year-old girl to wander into
a cruel world because her school--her sole home and refuge--had been
rendered so unbearable that she could not remain there. The principal
was really unable to repay the money that had been advanced to her,
even if that would relieve her of obligation to shelter the girl, and
therefore she decided that Mary Louise must not be permitted, under any
circumstances, to leave her establishment without the authority of her
natural guardians.

This argument ran hurriedly through her mind as the girl stood calmly
waiting.

"Is this action approved by your mother, or--or--by your grandfather?"
she asked, somewhat more harshly than was her wont in addressing her
pupils.

"No, Miss Stearne."

"Then how dare you even suggest it?"

"I am not wanted here," returned the girl with calm assurance. "My
presence is annoying to the other girls, as well as to yourself, and so
disturbs the routine of the school. For my part, I--I am very unhappy
here, as you must realize, because everyone seems to think my dear
Gran'pa Jim is a wicked man--which I know he is not. I have no heart to
study, and--and so--it is better for us all that I go away."

This statement was so absolutely true and the implied reproach was so
justified, that Miss Stearne allowed herself to become angry as the
best means of opposing the girl's design.

"This is absurd!" she exclaimed. "You imagine these grievances, Mary
Louise, and I cannot permit you to attack the school and your fellow
boarders in so reckless a manner. You shall not stir one step from this
school! I forbid you, positively, to leave the grounds hereafter
without my express permission. You have been placed in my charge and I
insist that you obey me. Go to your room and study your lessons, which
you have been shamefully neglecting lately. If I hear any more of this
rebellious wish to leave the school, I shall be obliged to punish you
by confining you to your room."

The girl listened to this speech with evident surprise; yet the tirade
did not seem to impress her.

"You refuse, then, to let me go?" she returned.

"I positively refuse."

"But I cannot stay here, Miss Stearne," she protested.

"You must. I have always treated you kindly--I treat all my girls well
if they deserve it--but you are developing a bad disposition, Mary
Louise--a most reprehensible disposition, I regret to say--and the
tendency must be corrected at once. Not another word! Go to your room."

Mary Louise went to her room, greatly depressed by the interview. She
looked at her trunk, made a mental inventory of its highly prized
contents, and sighed. But as soon as she rejoined Gran'pa, Jim, she
reflected, he would send an order to have the trunk forwarded and Miss
Stearne would not dare refuse. For a time she must do without her
pretty gowns.

Instead of studying her text books she studied the railway time-card.
She had intended asking Miss Stearne to permit her to take the
five-thirty train from Beverly Junction the next morning and since the
recent interview she had firmly decided to board that very train. This
was not entirely due to stubbornness, for she reflected that if she
stayed at the school her unhappy condition would become aggravated,
instead of improving, especially since Miss Stearne had developed
unexpected sharpness of temper. She would endure no longer the
malicious taunts of her school fellows or the scoldings of the
principal, and these could be avoided in no other way than by escaping
as she had planned.

At ten o'clock she lay down upon her bed, fully dressed, and put out
her light; but she dared not fall asleep lest she miss her train. At
times she lighted a match and looked at her watch and it surprised her
to realize how long a night can be when one is watching for daybreak.

At four o'clock she softly rose, put on her hat, took her suit case in
hand and stealthily crept from, the room. It was very dark in the
hallway but the house was so familiar to her that she easily felt her
way along the passage, down the front stairs and so to the front door.

Miss Stearne always locked this door at night but left the key in the
lock. To-night the key had been withdrawn. When Mary Louise had
satisfied herself of this fact she stole along the lower hallway toward
the rear. The door that connected with the dining room and farther on
with the servants' quarters had also been locked and the key withdrawn.
This was so unusual that it plainly told the girl that Miss Stearne was
suspicious that she might try to escape, and so had taken precautions
to prevent her leaving the house.

Mary Louise cautiously set down her suit case and tried to think what
to do. The house had not been built for a school but was an old
residence converted to school purposes. On one side of the hall was a
big drawing-room; on the other side were the principal's apartments.

Mary Louise entered the drawing-room and ran against a chair that stood
in her way. Until now she had not made the slightest noise, but the
suit case banged against the chair and the concussion reverberated
dully throughout the house.

The opposite door opened and a light flooded the hall. From where the
girl stood in the dark drawing-room she could see Miss Stearne standing
in her doorway and listening. Mary Louise held herself motionless. She
scarcely dared breathe. The principal glanced up and down the hall,
noted the locked doors and presently retired into her room, after a
little while extinguishing the light.

Then Mary Louise felt her way to a window, drew aside the heavy
draperies and carefully released the catch of the sash, which she then
succeeded in raising. The wooden blinds were easily unfastened but
swung back with a slight creak that made her heart leap with
apprehension. She did not wait, now, to learn if the sound had been
heard, for already she had wasted too much time if she intended to
catch her train. She leaned through the window, let her suit case down
as far as she could reach, and dropped it to the ground. Then she
climbed through the opening and let herself down by clinging to the
sill. It was a high window, but she was a tall girl for her age and her
feet touched the ground. Now she was free to go her way.

She lost no time in getting away from the grounds, being guided by a
dim starlight and a glow in the east that was a promise of morning.
With rapid steps she made her way to the station, reaching it over the
rough country road just as the train pulled in. She had been possessed
with the idea that someone was stealthily following her and under the
light of the depot lamps her first act was to swing around and stare
into the darkness from which she had emerged. She almost expected to
see Miss Stearne appear, but it was only a little man with a fat nose
and a shabby suit of clothes, who had probably come from the village to
catch the same train she wanted. He paid no attention to the girl but
entered the same car she did and quietly took his seat in the rear.



CHAPTER VIII

A FRIENDLY FOE


It required two days and a night to go by rail from Beverly to Dorfield
and as Mary Louise had passed a sleepless night at the school she
decided to purchase a berth on the sleeper. That made a big hole in her
surplus of eight dollars and she also found her meals in the dining car
quite expensive, so that by the time she left the train at Dorfield her
finances would be reduced to the sum of a dollar and twenty cents.

That would not have disturbed her, knowing that thereafter she would be
with Gran'pa Jim, except for one circumstance. The little man with the
fat nose, who had taken the train at Beverly, was still on board. All
the other passengers who had been on the train at that time had one by
one left it and been replaced by others, for the route lay through
several large cities where many alighted and others came aboard. Only
the little man from Beverly remained, quiet and unobtrusive but somehow
haunting the girl's presence in an embarrassing manner.

He seldom looked at her but was found staring from the window whenever
she turned her eyes toward him. At first she scarcely noticed the man,
but the longer he remained aboard the train the more she speculated as
to where he might be going. Whenever she entered the dining car he took
a notion to eat at that time, but found a seat as far removed from her
as possible. She imagined she had escaped him when she went to the
sleeper, but next morning as she passed out he was standing in the
vestibule and a few moments later he was in the diner where she was
breakfasting.

It was now that the girl first conceived the idea that he might be
following her for a purpose, dogging her footsteps to discover at what
station she left the train. And, when she asked herself why the
stranger should be so greatly concerned with her movements, she
remembered that she was going to Gran'pa Jim and that at one time an
officer had endeavored to discover, through her, her grandfather's
whereabouts.

"If this little man," she mused, glancing at his blank, inexpressive
features, "happens to be a detective, and knows who I am, he may think
I will lead him directly to Colonel Weatherby, whom he may then arrest.
Gran'pa Jim is innocent, of course, but I know he doesn't wish to be
arrested, because he left Beverly suddenly to avoid it. And," she added
with a sudden feinting of the heart, "if this suspicion is true I am
actually falling into the trap and leading an officer to my
grandfather's retreat."

This reflection rendered the girl very uneasy and caused her to watch
the fat-nosed man guardedly all through that tedious day. She
constantly hoped he would leave the train at some station and thus
prove her fears to be groundless, but always he remained in his seat,
patiently eyeing the landscape through his window.

Late in the afternoon another suspicious circumstance aroused her
alarm. The conductor of the train, as he passed through the car, paused
at the rear end and gazed thoughtfully at the little man huddled in the
rear seat, who seemed unconscious of his regard. After watching him a
while the conductor suddenly turned his head and looked directly at
Mary Louise, with a curious expression, as if connecting his two
passengers. Then he went on through the train, but the girl's heart was
beating high and the little man, while seeming to eye the fleeting
landscape through the window, wriggled somewhat uneasily in his seat.

Mary Louise now decided he was a detective. She suspected that he had
been sent to Beverly, after the other man left, to watch her movements,
with the idea that sooner or later she would rejoin her grandfather.
Perhaps, had any letter come for her from her mother or Gran'pa Jim,
this officer would have seized it and obtained from it the address of
the man he was seeking. That would account for their failure to write
her; perhaps they were aware of the plot and therefore dared not send
her a letter.

And now she began wondering what she should do when she got to
Dorfield, if the little man also left the train at that station. Such
an act on his part would prove that her suspicions were correct, in
which case she would lead him straight to her grandfather, whom she
would thus deliver into the power of his merciless enemies.

No; that would not do, at all. If the man followed her from the train
at Dorfield she dared not go to Peter Conant's house. Where, then,
COULD she go? Had she possessed sufficient money it might be best to
ride past Dorfield and pay her fare to another station; but her funds
were practically exhausted. Dorfield was a much bigger town than
Beverly; it was quite a large city, indeed; perhaps she could escape
the supervision of the detective, in some way, and by outwitting him
find herself free to seek the Conant's home. She would try this and
circumstances must decide her plan of action. Always there was the
chance that she misjudged the little man.

As the conductor called the station the train halted and the girl
passed the rear seat, where the man had his bare head half out the open
window, and descended from the car to the platform. A few others also
alighted, to hurry away to the omnibuses or street car or walk to their
destinations.

Mary Louise stood quite still upon the platform until the train drew
out after its brief stop. It was nearly six o'clock in the evening and
fast growing dark, yet she distinctly observed the fat-nosed man, who
had alighted on the opposite side of the track and was now sauntering
diagonally across the rails to the depot, his hands thrust deep in his
pockets and his eyes turned away from Mary Louise as if the girl
occupied no part of his thoughts.

But she knew better than that. Her suspicions were now fully confirmed
and she sought to evade the detective in just the way any inexperienced
girl might have done. Turning in the opposite direction she hastily
crossed the street, putting a big building between herself and the
depot, and then hurried along a cross-street. She looked back now and
then and found she had not been followed; so, to insure escape, she
turned another corner, giving a fearful glance over her shoulder as she
did so.

This street was not so well lighted as the others had been and she had
no idea where it led to. She knew Dorfield pretty well, having once
resided there for three years, but in her agitated haste she had now
lost all sense of direction. Feeling, however, that she was now safe
from pursuit, she walked on more slowly, trying to discover her
whereabouts, and presently passed a dimly-lighted bakery before which a
man stood looking abstractedly into the window at the cakes and pies,
his back toward her.

Instantly Mary Louise felt her heart sink. She did not need to see the
man's face to recognize the detective. Nor did he stir as she passed
him by and proceeded up the street. But how did he happen to be there?
Had she accidentally stumbled upon him, or had he purposely placed
himself in her path to assure her that escape from him was impossible?

As she reached the next corner a street car came rushing along, halted
a brief moment and proceeded on its way. In that moment Mary Louise had
stepped aboard and as she entered the closed section and sank into a
seat she breathed a sigh of relief. The man at the bakery window had
not followed her. The car made one or two more stops, turned a corner
and stopped again. This time the little man with the fat nose
deliberately swung himself to the rear platform, paid his fare and
remained there. He didn't look at Mary Louise at all, but she looked at
him and her expression was one of mingled horror and fear.

A mile farther on the car reached the end of its line and the conductor
reversed the trolley-pole and prepared for the return journey. Mary
Louise kept her seat. The detective watched the motorman and conductor
with an assumption of stupid interest and retained his place on the
platform.

On the way back to the business section of Dorfield, Mary Louise
considered what to do next. She was very young and inexperienced; she
was also, at this moment, very weary and despondent. It was clearly
evident that she could not escape this man, whose persistence impressed
her with the imminent danger that threatened her grandfather if she
went to the home of the Conants--the one thing she positively must not
do. Since her arrival was wholly unexpected by her friends, with whom
she could not communicate, she now found herself a forlorn wanderer,
without money or shelter.

When the car stopped at Main Street she got off and walked slowly along
the brilliantly lighted thoroughfare, feeling more safe among the
moving throngs of people. Presently she came to a well-remembered
corner where the principal hotel stood on one side and the First
National Bank on the other. She now knew where she was and could find
the direct route to the Conants, had she dared go there. To gain time
for thought the girl stepped into the doorway of the bank, which was
closed for the day, thus avoiding being jostled by pedestrians. She set
down her suit case, leaned against the door-frame and tried to
determine her wisest course of action.

She was hungry, tired, frightened, and the combination of sensations
made her turn faint. With a white face and despair in her heart she
leaned heavily back and closed her eyes.

"Pardon me," said a soft voice, and with a nervous start she opened her
eyes to find the little fat-nosed man confronting her. He had removed
his hat and was looking straight into her face--for the first time, she
imagined--and now she noticed that his gray eyes were not at all
unkindly.

"What do you want?" she asked sharply, with an involuntary shudder.

"I wish to advise you, Miss Burrows," he replied. "I believe you know
who I am and it is folly for us to pursue this game of hide-and-seek
any longer. You are tired and worn out with your long ride and the
anxiety I have caused you."

"You are dogging me!" she exclaimed indignantly.

"I am keeping you in sight, according to orders."

"You are a detective!" she asked, a little disarmed by his frankness.

"John O'Gorman by name, Miss. At home I have a little girl much like
you, but I doubt if my Josie--even though I have trained her--would
prove more shrewd than you have done under such trying circumstances.
Even in the train you recognized my profession--and I am thought to be
rather clever at disguising my motives."

"Yes?"

"And you know quite well that because you have come to Dorfield to join
your grandfather, whom you call Colonel Weatherby, I have followed you
in an attempt to discover, through you, the man for whom our government
has searched many years."

"Oh, indeed!"

"Therefore you are determined not to go to your destination and you are
at your wits' end to know what to do. Let me advise you, for the sake
of my own little Josie."

The abrupt proposal bewildered her.

"You are my enemy!"

"Don't think that, Miss," he said gently. "I am an officer of the law,
engaged in doing my duty. I am not your enemy and bear you no ill-will."

"You are trying to arrest my grandfather."

"In the course of duty. But he is quite safe from me for to-night,
while you are almost exhausted through your efforts to protect him. Go
into the hotel across the way and register and get some supper and a
room. To-morrow you will be able to think more clearly and may then
make up your mind what to do."

She hesitated. The voice seemed earnest and sincere, the eyes
considerate and pitying, and the advice appealed to her as good; but--

"Just for to-night, put yourself in my care," he said. "I'm ashamed to
have annoyed you to such an extent and to have interfered with your
plans; but I could not help it. You have succeeded in balking the
DETECTIVE, but the MAN admires you for it. I noticed, the last time you
took out your purse in the dining-car, that your money is nearly gone.
If you will permit me to lend you enough for your hotel expenses--"

"No."

"Well, it may not be necessary. Your friends will supply you with money
whenever our little--comedy, shall we say?--is played to the end. In
the meantime I'll speak to the landlord. Now, Miss Burrows, run across
to the hotel and register."

She gazed at him uncertainly a moment and the little man smiled
reassuringly. Somehow, she felt inclined to trust him.

"Thank you," she said and took her suit case into the hotel office.

The clerk looked at her rather curiously as she registered, but
assigned her a room and told her that dinner was still being served.
She followed the bellboy to her room, where she brushed her gown,
bathed her hands and face and rearranged her hair. Then she went to the
dining room and, although the journey and worry had left her sick and
nervous, she ate some dinner and felt stronger and better after it.



CHAPTER IX

OFFICER O'GORMAN


Mary Louise returned to her room and sat down to consider the best way
out of her dilemma. The detective's friendliness, so frankly expressed,
pleased her, in a way, yet she realized his vigilance would not be
relaxed and that he was still determined, through her, to discover
where Gran'pa Jim was hidden.

An uncomfortable degree of danger had already been incurred by her
unconsciously leading the officer to Dorfield. He knew now that the man
he was seeking was either in this city or its immediate neighborhood.
But unless she led him to the exact spot--to the dwelling of the
Conants--it would take even this clever detective some time to locate
the refugee. Before then Mary Louise hoped to be able to warn Gran'pa
Jim of his danger. That would prevent her from rejoining him and her
mother, but it would also save him from arrest.

Glancing around her comfortable room she saw a telephone on the wall.
Beside it, on a hook, hung the book containing the addresses of the
subscribers. She opened the book and glancing down its columns found:

"Conant, Peter; r. 1216 Oak St. Blue 147."

Why hadn't she thought of this simple method of communication before?
It would be quite easy to call Mr. Conant and tell him where she was
and have him warn Gran'pa Jim that a detective was searching for him.

She went to the telephone and took down the receiver.

"Office!" cried a sharp voice. "What number do you want?"

Mary Louise hesitated; then she hung up the receiver without reply. It
occurred to her that the hotel office was a public place and that the
telephone girl would be likely to yell out the number for all to
overhear.

To satisfy herself on this point she went down stairs in the elevator
and purchased a magazine at the news stand. The telephone desk was near
by and Mary Louise could hear the girl calling the numbers and
responding to calls, while not six feet from her desk sat a man whose
person was nearly covered by a spread newspaper which he appeared to be
reading. But Mary Louise knew him by his striped trousers and
straightway congratulated herself on her caution. Undoubtedly the
detective had figured on her telephoning and she had nearly fallen into
the trap.

Back to her room she went, resolved to make no further move till
morning. The day had been a hard one for the girl, mentally and
physically, and at this moment she felt herself hopelessly involved in
a snare from which she could see no means of escape. She read a little
in her magazine, to quiet her nerves, and then went to bed and fell
asleep.

At daybreak Mary Louise wakened to wonder if she had done right in
running away from Miss Stearne's school. Gran'pa Jim had placed her
there because he did not wish to take her with him when he left
Beverly, and now she had come to him without his consent and in doing
so had perhaps delivered him into the hands of his enemies. Poor
Gran'pa Jim! She would never cease to reproach herself if she became
responsible for his ruin.

As she lay in bed, thinking in this vein, she allowed herself to wonder
for the first time why her dear grandfather was being persecuted by the
officers of the law--by the Government of the United States, indeed,
which should be just and merciful to all its people. Of course he was
innocent of any wrong-doing; Gran'pa Jim would never do anything to
injure a human being, for he was goodness itself and had taught her to
honor truth and righteousness ever since she could remember. Never for
a moment would she doubt him. But it was curious, when she came to
reflect upon it, that he would run away from his enemies instead of
facing them bravely. For many years he had hidden himself--first in one
place and then in another--and at the first warning of discovery or
pursuit would disappear and seek a new hiding-place. For she now
realized, in the light of her recent knowledge, that for many years
Gran'pa Jim had been a fugitive from the law, and that for some unknown
reason he dared not face his accusers.

Some people might consider this an evidence of guilt, but Mary Louise
and Gran'pa Jim had been close comrades for two years and deep in her
heart was the unalterable conviction that his very nature would revolt
against crime of any sort. Moreover--always a strong argument in her
mind--her mother had steadfastly believed in her grandfather and had
devoted herself to him to the exclusion of all else in her life, even
neglecting her own daughter to serve her father. Mamma Bee loved her,
she well knew, yet Mary Louise had never enjoyed the same affectionate
intercourse with her mother that she had with her grandfather, for
Mamma Bee's whole life seemed to center around the old Colonel. This
unusual devotion was proof enough to Mary Louise that her grandfather
was innocent, but it did not untangle the maze.

Looking back over her past life, she could recall the many sudden
changes of residence due to Colonel Weatherby's desire to escape
apprehension by the authorities. They seemed to date from the time they
had left that big city house, where the child had an especial nurse and
there were lots of servants, and where her beautiful mother used to
bend over her with a good-night kiss while arrayed in dainty ball
costumes sparkling with jewels. Mary Louise tried to remember her
father, but could not, although she had been told that he died in that
very house. She remembered Gran'pa Jim in those days, however, only he
was too busy to pay much attention to her. Let's see; was he called
"Colonel Weatherby" in those days! She could not recollect. That name
did not become familiar to her until long afterward. Always he had been
just "Gran'pa Jim" to her. Yet that dreadful officer of the law who had
questioned her in Beverly had called him "Hathaway--James J. Hathaway."
How absurd!

But where had she heard the name of Hathaway before? She puzzled her
brain to remember. Did it belong to any of her schoolgirl friends? Or
was it--

With a sudden thought she sprang from her bed and took her watch from
the dresser. It was an old watch, given her by Mamma Bee on the girl's
twelfth birthday, while she was living with the Conants, and her mother
had bidden her to treasure it because it had belonged to her when she
was a girl of Mary Louise's age. The watch was stem-winding and had a
closed case, the back lid of which had seldom been opened because it
fitted very tightly. But now Mary Louise pried it open with a hatpin
and carried it to the light. On the inside of the gold case the
following words were engraved:

"Beatrice Hathaway, from her loving Father."

Mary Louise stared at this inscription for a long while. For the first
time, ugly doubts began to creep into her heart. The officer was right
when he said that James Hathaway was masquerading under the false name
of Colonel Weatherby. Gran'pa Jim had never told even Mary Louise that
his real name was Hathaway; Mamma Bee had never told her, either. With
a deep sigh she snapped the case of the watch in place and then began
to dress.

It was still too early for breakfast when she had finished her toilet,
so she sat by the open window of her room, looking down into the
street, and tried to solve the mystery of Gran'pa Jim. Better thoughts
came to her, inspiring her with new courage. Her grandfather had
changed his name to enable him the more easily to escape observation,
for it was James Hathaway who was accused, not Colonel James Weatherby.
It was difficult, however, for the girl to familiarize herself with the
idea that Gran'pa Jim was really James Hathaway; still, if her mother's
name before her marriage was indeed Beatrice Hathaway, as the watch
proved, then there was no question but her grandfather's name was also
Hathaway. He had changed it for a purpose and she must not question the
honesty of that purpose, however black the case looked against her
beloved Gran'pa Jim.

This discovery, nevertheless, only added to the mystery of the whole
affair, which she realized her inability to cope with. Grouping the
facts with which she was familiar into regular order, her information
was limited as follows:

Once Gran'pa Jim was rich and prosperous and was named Hathaway. He had
many friends and lived in a handsome city house. Suddenly he left
everything and ran away, changing his name to that of Weatherby. He was
afraid, for some unknown reason, of being arrested, and whenever
discovery threatened his retreat he would run away again. In this
manner he had maintained his liberty for nine years, yet to-day the
officers of the law seemed as anxious to find him as at first. To sum
up, Gran'pa Jim was accused of a crime so important that it could not
be condoned and only his cleverness in evading arrest had saved him
from prison.

That would look pretty black to a stranger, and it made even Mary
Louise feel very uncomfortable and oppressed, but against the
accusation the girl placed these facts, better known to her than the
others: Gran'pa Jim was a good man, kind and honest. Since she had
known him his life had been blameless. Mamma Bee, who knew him best of
all, never faltered in her devotion to him. He was incapable of doing
an evil deed, he abhorred falsehood, he insisted on defending the
rights of his fellow men. Therefore, in spite of any evidence against
him Mary Louise believed in his innocence.

Having settled this belief firmly in mind and heart, the girl felt a
distinct sense of relief. She would doubt no more. She would not try,
in the future, to solve a mystery that was beyond her comprehension.
Her one duty was to maintain an unfaltering faith.

At seven o'clock she went to the breakfast room, to which but two or
three other guests of the hotel had preceded her, and in a few minutes
Detective O'Gorman entered and seated himself at a table near her. He
bowed very respectfully as he caught her eye and she returned the
salutation, uneasy at the man's presence but feeling no especial
antagonism toward him. As he had said, he was but doing his duty.

O'Gorman finished his breakfast before Mary Louise did, after which,
rising from his chair, he came toward her table and asked quietly:

"May I sit at your table a moment, Miss Burrows?"

She neither consented nor refused, being taken by surprise, but
O'Gorman sat down without requiring an answer.

"I wish to tell you," he began, "that my unpleasant espionage of you is
ended. It will be needless for me to embarrass or annoy you longer."

"Indeed?"

"Yes. Aren't you glad?" with a smile at her astonished expression. "You
see, I've been busy investigating while you slept. I've visited the
local police station and--various other places. I am satisfied that Mr.
Hathaway--or Mr. Weatherby, as he calls himself--is not in Dorfield and
has never located here. Once again the man has baffled the entire force
of our department. I am now confident that your coming to this town was
not to meet your grandfather but to seek refuge with other friends, and
so I have been causing you all this bother and vexation for nothing."

She looked at him in amazement.

"I'm going to ask you to forgive me," he went on, "and unless I
misjudge your nature you're not going to bear any grudge against me.
They sent me to Beverly to watch you, and for a time that was a lazy
man's job. When you sold some of your jewelry for a hundred dollars,
however, I knew there would be something doing. You were not very happy
at your school, I knew, and my first thought was that you merely
intended to run away--anywhere to escape the persecution of those
heartless girls. But you bought a ticket for Dorfield, a faraway town,
so I at once decided--wrongly, I admit--that you knew where Hathaway
was and intended going to him. So I came with you, to find he is not
here. He has never been here. Hathaway is too distinguished a
personage, in appearance, to escape the eye of the local police. So I
am about to set you free, my girl, and to return immediately to my
headquarters in Washington."

She had followed his speech eagerly and with a feeling of keen
disappointment at his report that her grandfather and her mother were
not in Dorfield. Could it be true?

Officer O'Gorman took a card from his pocket-book and laid it beside
her plate.

"My dear child," said he in a gentle tone, "I fear your life is
destined to be one of trials and perplexities, if not of dreary
heartaches. I have watched over you and studied your character for
longer than you know and I have found much in your make-up that is
interesting and admirable. You remind me a good deal of my own
Josie--as good and clever a girl as ever lived. So I am going to ask
you to consider me your friend. Keep this card and if ever you get into
serious difficulty I want you to wire me to come and help you. If I
should happen, at the time, to have duties to prevent my coming, I will
send some other reliable person to your assistance. Will you promise to
do this?"

"Thank you, Mr. O'Gorman," she said. "I--I--your kindness embarrasses
me."

"Don't allow it to do that. A detective is a man, you know, much like
other men, and I have always held that the better man he is the better
detective he is sure to prove. I'm obliged to do disagreeable things,
at times, in the fulfillment of my duty, but I try to spare even the
most hardened criminal as much as possible. So why shouldn't I be kind
to a helpless, unfortunate girl?"

"Am I that?" she asked.

"Perhaps not. But I fear your grandfather's fate is destined to cause
you unhappiness. You seem fond of him."

"He is the best man in all the world!"

O'Gorman looked at the tablecloth rather than to meet her eyes.

"So I will now say good-bye, Miss Burrows, and--I wish you the
happiness you deserve. You're just as good a girl as my Josie is."

With this he rose to his feet and bowed again. He was a little man and
he had a fat nose, but Mary Louise could not help liking him.

She was still afraid of the detective, however, and when he had left
the dining room she asked herself if his story could be true, if
Gran'pa Jim was not in Dorfield--if he had never even come to the town,
as O'Gorman had stated.

The Conants would know that, of course, and if the detective went away
she would be free to go to the Conants for information. She would find
shelter, at least, with these old friends.

As she passed from the dining room into the hotel lobby Mr. O'Gorman
was paying his bill and bidding the clerk farewell. He had no baggage,
except such as he might carry in his pocket, but he entered a bus that
stood outside and was driven away with a final doff of his hat to the
watching girl.

Mary Louise decided in the instant what to do. Mr. Peter Conant was a
lawyer and had an office in one of the big buildings down-town. She
remembered that he always made a point of being in his office at eight
o'clock in the morning, and it was nearly eight now. She would visit
Mr. Conant in his office, for this could not possibly endanger the
safety of Gran'pa Jim in case the detective's story proved false, or if
an attempt had been made to deceive her. The man had seemed sincere and
for the time being he had actually gone away; but she was suspicious of
detectives.

She ran upstairs for her coat and hat and at once left the hotel. She
knew the way to Peter Conant's office and walked rapidly toward it.



CHAPTER X

RATHER QUEER INDEED


Mary Louise found the door of the office, which was located on the
third floor of the Chambers Building, locked. However, the sign: "Peter
Conant, Attorney at Law," was painted on the glass panel in big,
distinct letters, so she was sure she had made no mistake. She slowly
paced the hall, waiting, until the elevator stopped and Mr. Conant
stepped out and approached the door, his morning paper in one hand, a
key in the other. Running to him, the girl exclaimed:

"Oh, Mr. Conant!"

He stopped short and turned to face her. Then he stepped a pace
backward and said:

"Great heavens, it's Mary Louise!"

"Didn't you recognize me?" she asked.

"Not at first," he answered slowly. "You have grown tall
and--and--older, in two years."

"Where is Gran'pa J-"

"Hush!" with a startled glance up and down the hall. Then he unlocked
the door and added: "Come in."

Mary Louise followed him through the outer office and into a smaller
room beyond, the door of which Mr. Conant carefully closed after them.
Then he turned to look steadily at the girl, who thought he did not
seem especially delighted at her appearance in Dorfield. Indeed, his
first words proved this, for he asked sternly:

"Why are you here?"

"I left the school at Beverly because the girls made it so
uncomfortable for me there that I could not bear it longer," she
explained.

"In what way did they make it uncomfortable for you?"

"They jeered at me because--because--Gran'pa Jim is being hunted by the
officers of the law, who accuse him, of doing something wicked."

Mr. Conant frowned.

"Perhaps their attitude was only natural," he remarked; "but there was
no accusation against you, my child. Why didn't you stick it out? The
scandal would soon have died away and left you in peace."

"I was unhappy there," she said simply, "and so I thought I would come
here to mother and Gran'pa Jim."

"Here?" as if surprised.

"Yes. Aren't they here, with you?"

"No."

"Then where are they?"

"I've no idea."

She sat still and stared at him, while he regarded her with a
thoughtful and perplexed look on his face.

Mr. Conant is difficult to describe because he was like dozens of men
one meets every day, at least in outward appearance. He was neither
tall nor short, lean nor fat, handsome nor ugly, attractive nor
repulsive. Yet Peter Conant must not be considered a nonentity because
he was commonplace in person, for he possessed mannerisms that were
peculiar. He would open his eyes very wide and stare at one steadily
until the person became confused and turned away. The gaze was not
especially shrewd, but it was disconcerting because steadfast. When he
talked he would chop off his words, one by one, with a distinct pause
between each, and that often made it hard to tell whether he had ended
his speech or still had more to say. When very earnest or interested he
would play with a locket that dangled from his watch chain; otherwise
he usually stood with his hands clasped behind his back.

Mary Louise well knew these peculiarities, having previously lived in
his house, and also she knew he was a kind-hearted man, devotedly
attached to his deaf wife and thoroughly trusted by Gran'pa Jim.

"I was told," said the girl presently, "to direct all my letters to my
grandfather in your care."

"I am aware that you have done so," he replied.

"So I thought, of course, that he and my mother were with you."

"No; they did not come here. Colonel Weatherby arranged for me to
forward your letters, which I did as soon as they arrived."

"Oh; then you know his address?"

"I do not. There are six different points to which I forward letters,
in rotation, both those from you and from others on various matters of
business, and these points are widely scattered. My impression is that
Colonel Weatherby is in none of these places and that the letters are
again forwarded to him to--wherever he may be."

Mary Louise felt quite discouraged. With hesitation she asked:

"Do you suppose you could find him for me?"

"It is impossible."

"What am I to do, Mr. Conant?"

"I advise you to go back to your school."

"Can't I stay here, with you?"

He stared at her with his round eyes, playing with his locket.

"I haven't the money for the return trip," she went on falteringly. "I
had to sell some of my jewelry to get here. I won't be much trouble, if
you will let me live with you until I can find Gran'pa Jim."

Mr. Conant still stared.

"I'm sure," said Mary Louise, "that my grandfather will gladly repay
you any money it costs you to keep me."

"You--don't--un-der-stand," he retorted, chopping off his words rather
viciously. "Moreover, you can't understand. Go to the house and talk to
Hannah. Have you any baggage!"

"I've a suit case at the hotel," she said, and went on to tell him the
experiences of her journey and of her encounter with Detective O'Gorman.

During this relation, which he did not interrupt, Mr. Conant toyed
persistently with his watch charm. His features were noncommittal but
he was thoroughly interested.

"You see," he remarked when she had finished, "Colonel Weatherby's
elaborate system of evading discovery is quite necessary."

"But why should he wish to hide?" asked the girl.

"Don't you know?"

"No, sir."

"Then your grandfather doesn't wish you to know. I am his lawyer--at
least I am one of his lawyers--and a lawyer must respect the
confidences of his clients."

Mary Louise looked at him wonderingly, for here was someone who
evidently knew the entire truth.

"Do you believe my grandfather is a bad man?" she asked.

"No. I have the highest respect for Colonel Weatherby."

"Do you know his name to be Weatherby--or is it Hathaway?"

"I am his lawyer," reiterated Mr. Conant.

"Is it possible that an innocent man would change his name and hide,
rather than face an unjust accusation?"

"Yes."

Mary Louise sighed.

"I will go with you to the hotel and pay your bill," said the lawyer.
"Then you may go to the house and talk to Hannah. When I have talked
with her myself, we will determine what to do with you."

So they went to the hotel and the girl packed her suit case and brought
it downstairs.

"Queer!" said Mr. Conant to her, fingering his locket. "Your bill has
been paid by that man O'Gorman."

"How impertinent!" she exclaimed.

"There is also a note for you in your box."

The clerk handed her an envelope, which she opened. "I hope to be able
to send you your grandfather's address very soon," wrote O'Gorman. "You
will probably stay in Dorfield; perhaps with the Conants, with whom you
lived before. You might try sending Colonel Weatherby a letter in care
of Oscar Lawler, at Los Angeles, California. In any event, don't forget
my card or neglect to wire me in case of emergency."

Having read this with considerable surprise the girl handed the note to
Mr. Conant, who slowly read it and gave a bark like that of an angry
dog when he came to the name of the California attorney. Without remark
he put the detective's letter in his pocket and picking up Mary
Louise's suit case led the girl outside to the street corner.

"This car will take you to within two blocks of my house," he said.
"Can you manage your grip alone?"

"Easily," she assured him.

"You have carfare!"

"Yes, thank you."

"Then good-bye. I'll see you this evening."

He turned away and she boarded the street car.



CHAPTER XI

MARY LOUISE MEETS IRENE


As Mary Louise approached the home of the Conants, which was a pretty
little house set far back in a garden filled with trees and shrubs, she
was surprised to hear a joyous ragtime tune being drummed upon the
piano--an instrument she remembered Mrs. Conant kept in the house
exclusively as an ornament, being unable to play it. Then, as the girl
reached the porch, the melody suddenly stopped, a merry laugh rang out
and a fresh, sweet voice was heard through the open window talking
rapidly and with eager inflection.

"I wonder who that can be?" thought Mary Louise. Everyone had to speak
loudly to poor Mrs. Conant, who might be entertaining a visitor. She
rang the bell and soon her old friend appeared in the doorway.

"My dear, dear child!" cried the good lady, recognizing the girl
instantly and embracing her after a welcoming kiss. "Where on earth
have you come from?"

"From Beverly," said Mary Louise with a smile, for in her depressed
state of mind this warm greeting cheered her wonderfully.

"Come right in," said Mrs. Conant, seizing the suit case. "Have you had
breakfast?"

"Yes, indeed; hours ago. And I've seen Mr. Conant at his office. He--he
wanted me to talk to you."

She spoke loudly, as she had been accustomed to do, but now Mrs. Conant
wore on her ear an instrument similar in appearance to a small
telephone receiver, and she seemed to hear quite distinctly through its
mechanism. Indeed, she pointed to it with an air of pride and said: "I
can hear a whisper, my dear!"

As Mary Louise was ushered into the cosy sitting room she looked for
the piano-player and the owner of the merry laugh and cheery voice.
Near the center of the room was a wheeled chair in which sat a young
girl of about her own age--a rather pretty girl in spite of her thin
frame and pallid countenance. She was neatly dressed in figured dimity,
with a bright ribbon at her throat. A pair of expressive brown eyes
regarded Mary Louise with questioning earnestness. Over her lap lay a
coverlet; her slender white fingers rested upon the broad arms of her
chair.

"This," said Mrs. Conant, "is my niece, Irene Macfarlane, who is living
with us just now and is the life and joy of our formerly dull
household. You'll have to love her, Mary Louise, because no one can
help doing so."

Mary Louise advanced to the chair and took one of the wan hands in her
own. A thrill of pity flooded her heart for the unfortunate girl, who
instantly noted her expression and met it with a charmingly spontaneous
smile.

"Don't you dare think of me as a cripple!" she said warningly. "I am
not at all helpless and my really-truly friends quickly forget this
ugly wheeled chair. We're to be friends, are we not? And you're going
to stay, because I see your baggage. Also I know all about you, Mary
Louise Burrows, for Aunt Hannah never tires of singing your praises."

This was said so naturally and with such absence of affectation that
Mary Louise could not fail to respond to the words and smile.

"I'm glad to find you here, Irene," she said, "and I don't know yet
whether I'm to stay or not. That will depend on Mrs. Conant's decision."

"Then you're to stay," promptly decided the hospitable lady, who by
turning her mechanical ear toward the speaker seemed able to hear her
words clearly.

"But you don't know all the complications yet," confessed the girl.
"I've run away from school and--and there are other things you must
know before you decide. Mr. Conant wasn't at all enthusiastic over my
coming here, I assure you, so I must tell you frankly the whole story
of my adventures."

"Very good," returned Mrs. Conant. "I think I can guess at most of the
story, but you shall tell it in your own way. Presently Irene is going
out to inspect the roses; she does that every morning; so when she is
out of the way we'll have a nice talk together."

"I'm going now," said Irene, with a bright laugh at her dismissal.
"Mary Louise won't be happy till everything is properly settled; nor
will I, for I'm anxious to get acquainted with my new friend. So here I
go and when you've had your talk out just whistle for me, Mary Louise."

She could propel the chair by means of rims attached to the wheels and,
even as she spoke, began to roll herself out of the room. Mary Louise
sprang to assist her, but the girl waved her away with a little laugh.

"I'm an expert traveler," she said, "and everyone lets me go and come
as I please. Indeed, I'm very independent, Mary Louise, as you will
presently discover."

Away she went, through the hall, out at the front door and along the
broad porch, and when she had gone Mary Louise whispered softly into
Mrs. Conant's mechanical eardrum:

"What is wrong with her?"

"A good many things," was the reply, "although the brave child makes
light of them all. One leg is badly withered and the foot of the other
is twisted out of shape. She can stand on that foot to dress
herself--which she insists on doing unaided--but she cannot walk a
step. Irene has suffered a great deal, I think, and she's a frail
little body; but she has the sweetest temperament in the world and
seems happy and content from morn till night."

"It's wonderful!" exclaimed Mary Louise. "What caused her affliction?"

"It is the result of an illness she had when a baby. Irene is sixteen
and has never known what it is to be well and strong, yet she never
resents her fate, but says she is grateful for the blessings she
enjoys. Her father died long ago and her mother about a year since; so,
the child being an orphan, Peter and I have taken her to live with us."

"That is very kind of you," asserted Mary Louise with conviction.

"No; I fear it is pure selfishness," returned the good woman, "for
until she came to us the old home had been dreadfully dull--the result,
my dear, of your going away. And now tell me your story, and all about
yourself, for I'm anxious to hear what brought you to Dorfield."

Mary Louise drew a chair close to that of Aunt Hannah Conant and
confided to her all the worries and tribulations that had induced her
to quit Miss Stearne's school and seek shelter with her old friends the
Conants. Also, she related the episode of Detective O'Gorman and how
she had first learned through him that her grandfather and her mother
were not living in Dorfield.

"I'm dreadfully worried over Gran'pa Jim," said she, "for those
terrible agents of the Secret Service seem bent on catching him. And he
doesn't wish to be caught. If they arrested him, do you think they
would put him in jail, Aunt Hannah?"

"I fear so," was the reply.

"What do they imagine he has done that is wrong?"

"I do not know," said Mrs. Conant. "Peter never tells me anything about
the private affairs of his clients, and I never ask him. But of one
thing I am sure, my dear, and that is that Peter Conant would not act
as Colonel Weatherby's lawyer, and try to shield him, unless he
believed him innocent of any crime. Peter is a little odd, in some
ways, but he's honest to the backbone."

"I know it," declared Mary Louise. "Also I know that Gran'pa Jim is a
good man. Cannot the law make a mistake, Aunt Hannah?"

"It surely can, or there would be no use for lawyers. But do not worry
over your grandfather, my child, for he seems quite able to take care
of himself. It is nine or ten years since he became a fugitive--also
making a fugitive of your poor mother, who would not desert him--and to
this day the officers of the law have been unable to apprehend him. Be
patient, dear girl, and accept the situation as you find it. You shall
live with us until your people again send for you. We have excellent
schools in Dorfield, where you will not be taunted with your
grandfather's misfortunes because no one here knows anything about
them."

"Doesn't Irene know?" asked Mary Louise.

"She only knows that your people are great travelers and frequently
leave you behind them as they flit from place to place. She knows that
you lived with us for three years and that we love you."

The girl became thoughtful for a time. "I can't understand," she
finally said, "why Gran'pa Jim acts the way he does. Often he has told
me, when I deserved censure, to 'face the music' and have it over with.
Once he said that those who sin must suffer the penalty, because it is
the law of both God and man, and he who seeks to escape a just penalty
is a coward. Gran'pa knows he is innocent, but the government thinks he
is guilty; so why doesn't he face the music and prove his innocence,
instead of running away as a coward might do and so allow his good name
to suffer reproach?"

Mrs. Conant shook her head as if perplexed.

"That very question has often puzzled me, as it has you," she
confessed. "Once I asked Peter about it and he scowled and said it
might be just as well to allow Colonel Weatherby to mind his own
business. The Colonel seems to have a good deal of money, and perhaps
he fears that if he surrendered to the law it would be taken away from
him, leaving you and your mother destitute."

"We wouldn't mind that," said the girl, "if Gran'pa's name could be
cleared."

"After all," continued Mrs. Conant reflectively, "I don't believe the
Colonel is accused of stealing money, for Peter says his family is one
of the oldest and richest in New York. Your grandfather inherited a
vast fortune and added largely to it. Peter says he was an important
man of affairs before this misfortune--whatever it was--overtook him."

"I can just remember our home in New York," said Mary Louise, also
musingly, "for I was very young at the time. It was a beautiful big
place, with a good many servants. I wonder what drove us from it?"

"Do you remember your father?" asked Mrs. Conant.

"Not at all."

"Peter once told me he was a foreigner who fell desperately in love
with your mother and married her without your grandfather's full
approval. I believe Mr. Burrows was a man of much political influence,
for he served in the Department of State and had a good many admirers.
Peter never knew why your grandfather opposed the marriage, for
afterward he took Mr. and Mrs. Burrows to live with him and they were
all good friends up to the day of your father's death. But this is
ancient history and speculation on subjects we do not understand is
sure to prove unsatisfactory. I wouldn't worry over your grandfather's
troubles, my dear. Try to forget them."

"Grandfather's real name isn't Weatherby," said the girl. "It is
Hathaway."

Mrs. Conant gave a start of surprise.

"How did you learn that?" she asked sharply.

The girl took out her watch, pried open the back ease with a penknife
and allowed Mrs. Conant to read the inscription. Also she curiously
watched the woman's face and noted its quick flush and its uneasy
expression. Did the lawyer's wife know more than she had admitted?

If so, why was everyone trying to keep her in the dark?

"I cannot see that this helps to solve the mystery," said Mrs. Conant
in a brisk tone as she recovered from her surprise. "Let us put the
whole thing out of mind, Mary Louise, or it will keep us all stirred up
and in a muddle of doubt. I shall tell Peter you are to live with us,
and your old little room at the back of the hall is all ready for you.
Irene has the next room, so you will be quite neighborly. Go and put
away your things and then we'll whistle for Irene."

Mary Louise went to the well-remembered room and slowly and
thoughtfully unpacked her suit case. She was glad to find a home again
among congenial people, but she was growing more and more perplexed
over the astonishing case of Gran'pa Jim. It worried her to find that
an occasional doubt would cross her mind in spite of her intense
loyalty to her dearly loved grandparent. She would promptly drive out
the doubt, but it would insist on intruding again.

"Something is wrong somewhere," she sighed. "There must be some snarl
that even Gran'pa Jim can't untangle; and, if he can't, I'm sure no one
else can. I wish I could find him and that he would tell me all about
it. I suppose he thinks I'm too young to confide in, but I'm almost
sixteen now and surely that's old enough to understand things. There
were girls at school twenty years old that I'm sure couldn't reason as
well as I can."

After a while she went down stairs and joined Irene in the garden,
where the chair-girl was trimming rose bushes with a pair of stout
scissors. She greeted Mary Louise with her bright smile, saying:

"I suppose everything is fixed up, now, and we can begin to get
acquainted."

"Why, we ARE acquainted," declared Mary Louise. "Until to-day I had
never heard of you, yet it seems as if I had known you always."

"Thank you," laughed Irene; "that is a very pretty compliment, I well
realize. You have decided to stay, then?"

"Aunt Hannah has decided so, but Mr. Conant may object."

"He won't do that," was the quick reply. "Uncle Peter may be an
autocrat in his office, but I've noticed that Aunt Hannah is the ruler
of this household."

Mr. Conant may have noticed that, also, for he seemed not at all
surprised when his wife said she had decided to keep Mary Louise with
them. But after the girls had gone to bed that night the lawyer had a
long talk with his better half, and thereafter Mary Louise's presence
was accepted as a matter of course. But Mr. Conant said to her the next
morning:

"I have notified your grandfather, at his six different addresses, of
your coming to us, so I ought to receive his instructions within the
next few days. Also, to-day I will write Miss Stearne that you are here
and why you came away from the school."

"Will you ask her to send my trunk?"

"Not now. We will first await advices from Colonel Weatherby."

These "advices" were received three days later in the form of a brief
telegram from a Los Angeles attorney. The message read: "Colonel
Weatherby requests you to keep M. L. in Dorfield until further
instructions. Money forwarded. Hot. Caution." It was signed "O. L." and
when Mr. Conant showed Mary Louise the message she exclaimed:

"Then Mr. O'Gorman was right!"

"In what way?" questioned the lawyer.

"In the note he left for me at the hotel he said I might find my
grandfather by writing to Oscar Lawler at Los Angeles, California. This
telegram is from Los Angeles and it is signed 'O. L.' which must mean
'Oscar Lawler.'"

"How clever!" said Mr. Conant sarcastically.

"That proves, of course, that Gran'pa Jim and mother are in California,
But how did the detective know that?" she asked wonderingly.

"He didn't know it," answered Peter Conant. "On the contrary, this
message proves to me that they are not there at all."

"But the telegram says--"

"Otherwise," continued the lawyer, "the telegram would not have come
from that far-away point on the Pacific coast. There now remain five
other places where Colonel Weatherby might be located. The chances are,
however, that he is not in any of them."

Mary Louise was puzzled. It was altogether too bewildering for her
comprehension.

"Here are two strange words," said she, eyeing the telegram she still
held. "What does 'hot' mean, Mr. Conant?"

"It means," he replied, "that the government spies are again seeking
Colonel Weatherby. The word 'caution' means that we must all take care
not to let any information escape us that might lead to his arrest.
Don't talk to strangers, Mary Louise; don't talk to anyone outside our
family of your grandfather's affairs, or even of your own affairs. The
safety of Colonel Weatherby depends, to a great extent, on our all
being silent and discreet."



CHAPTER XII

A CHEERFUL COMRADE


The more Mary Louise saw of Irene Macfarlane the more she learned to
love her. No one could be miserable or despondent for long in the
chair-girl's society, because she was always so bright and cheery
herself. One forgot to pity her or even to deplore her misfortunes
while listening to her merry chatter and frank laughter, for she seemed
to find genuine joy and merriment in the simplest incidents of the life
about her.

"God has been so good to me, Mary Louise!" she once exclaimed as they
were sitting together in the garden. "He has given me sight, that I may
revel in bookland and in the beauties of flowers and trees and shifting
skies and the faces of my friends. He has given me the blessing of
hearing, that I may enjoy the strains of sweet music and the songs of
the birds and the voices of those I love. And I can scent the fragrance
of the morning air, the perfume of the roses and--yes! even the
beefsteak Aunt Hannah is frying for supper. The beefsteak tastes as
good to me as it does to you. I can feel the softness of your cheek; I
can sing melodies, in my own way, whenever my heart swells with joy. I
can move about, by means of this wonderful chair, without the bother of
walking. You don't envy me, Mary Louise, because you enjoy almost equal
blessings; but you must admit I have reason for being happy."

Irene read a good many books and magazines and through the daily papers
kept well posted on the world's affairs. Indeed, she was much better
posted than Mary Louise, who, being more active, had less leisure to
think and thus absorb the full meaning of all that came to her notice.
Irene would play the piano for hours at a time, though obliged to lean
forward in her chair to reach the keys, and her moods ran the gamut
from severely classical themes to ragtime, seeming to enjoy all
equally. She also sewed and mended with such consummate skill that Mary
Louise, who was rather awkward with her needle, marveled at her talent.

Nor was this the end of the chair-girl's accomplishments, for Irene had
a fancy for sketching and made numerous caricatures of those persons
with whom she came in contact. These contained so much humor that Mary
Louise was delighted with them--especially one of "Uncle Peter" toying
with his watch fob and staring straight ahead of him with round,
expressionless eyes.

"Really, Irene, I believe you could paint," she once said.

"No," answered her friend, "I would not be so wicked as to do that. All
imitations of Nature seem to me a mock of God's handiwork, which no
mortal brush can hope to equal. I shall never be so audacious, I hope.
But a photograph is a pure reflex of Nature, and my caricatures, which
are merely bits of harmless fun, furnish us now and then a spark of
humor to make us laugh, and laughter is good for the soul. I often
laugh at my own sketches, as you know. Sometimes I laugh at their
whimsical conception, before ever I put pencil to paper. Lots of
caricatures I make secretly, laughing over and then destroying them for
fear they might be seen and hurt the feelings of their innocent
subjects. Why, Mary Louise, I drew your doleful face only yesterday,
and it was so funny I shrieked with glee. You heard me and looked over
at me with a smile that made the caricature lie, so I promptly tore it
up. It had served its purpose, you see."

So many of these quaint notions filled the head of the crippled girl
that Mary Louise's wondering interest in her never flagged. It was easy
to understand why Mrs. Conant had declared that Irene was the joy and
life of the household, for it was impossible to remain morbid or blue
in her presence.

For this reason, as well as through the warm and sincere affection
inspired by Irene, Mary Louise came by degrees to confide to her the
entire story of the mystery that surrounded her grandfather and
influenced the lives of her mother and herself. Of her personal
anxieties and fears she told her new friend far more than she had ever
confessed to anyone else and her disclosures were met by ready sympathy.

"Phoo!" cried Irene. "This isn't a REAL trouble; it will pass away.
Everything passes away in time, Mary Louise, for life is a succession
of changes--one thing after another. Remember the quotation: 'Whate'er
may be thy fate to-day, remember--this will pass away.' I love that
little saying and it has comforted me and given me courage many a time."

"Life will also pass away," observed Mary Louise pessimistically.

"To be sure. Isn't that a glad prospect? To pass to a new life, to new
adventures, planned for us by the wisdom of God, is the most glorious
promise we mortals possess. In good time that joy will be ours, but now
we must make the most of our present blessings. I take it, Mary Louise,
that there is a purpose in everything--a Divine Purpose, you know--and
that those who most patiently accept their trials will have the better
future recompense. What's a twisted ankle or a shriveled leg to do with
happiness? Or even a persecuted grandfather? We're made of better
stuff, you and I, than to cry at such babyish bumps. My! what a lot of
things we both have to be thankful for."

Somehow these conversations cheered Mary Louise considerably and her
face soon lost its drawn, worried look and became almost as placid as
in the days when she had Gran'pa Jim beside her and suspected no
approaching calamity. Gran'pa Jim would surely have loved Irene, had he
known her, because their ideas of life and duty were so similar.

As it was now less than a month to the long summer vacation, Mary
Louise did not enter the Dorfield High School but studied a little at
home, so as not to get "rusty," and passed most of her days in the
society of Irene Macfarlane. It was a week or so after her arrival that
Peter Conant said to her one evening:

"I have now received ample funds for all your needs, Mary Louise, so I
have sent to Miss Stearne to have your trunk and books forwarded."

"Oh; then you have heard from Gran'pa Jim?" she asked eagerly.

"Yes."

"Where is he?"

"I do not know," chopping the words apart with emphasis. "The Colonel
has been very liberal. I am to put twenty dollars in cash in your
pocketbook and you are to come to me for any further sums you may
require, which I am ordered to supply without question. I would have
favored making you an allowance, had I been consulted, but the Colonel
is--eh--eh--the Colonel is the Colonel."

"Didn't Gran'pa Jim send me any letter, or--any information at all?"
she asked wistfully.

"Not a word."

"In my last letter, which you promised me to forward, I begged him to
write me," she said, with disappointment.

Peter Conant made no reply. He merely stared at her. But afterward,
when the two girls were alone, Irene said to her:

"I do not think you should beg your grandfather to write you. A letter
might be traced by his enemies, you know, and that would mean his
undoing. He surely loves you and bears you in mind, for he has provided
for your comfort in every possible way. Even your letters to him may be
dangerous, although they reach him in such roundabout ways. If I were
you, Mary Louise, I'd accept the situation as I found it and not demand
more than your grandfather and your mother are able to give you."

This frank advice Mary Louise accepted in good part and through the
influence of the chair-girl she gradually developed a more contented
frame of mind.

Irene was a persistent reader of books and one of Mary Louise's
self-imposed duties was to go to the public library and select such
volumes as her friend was likely to be interested in. These covered a
wide range of subjects, although historical works and tales of the age
of chivalry seemed to appeal to Irene more than any others. Sometimes
she would read aloud, in her sweet, sympathetic voice, to Mary Louise
and Mrs. Conant, and under these conditions they frequently found
themselves interested in books which, if read by themselves, they would
be sure to find intolerably dry and uninteresting. The crippled girl
had a way of giving more than she received and, instead of demanding
attention, would often entertain the sound-limbed ones of her immediate
circle.



CHAPTER XIII

BUB SUCCUMBS TO FORCE


One day Peter Conant abruptly left his office, came home and packed his
grip and then hurried down town and caught the five o'clock train for
New York. He was glum and uncommunicative, as usual, merely telling
Aunt Hannah that business called him away and he did not know when he
would be back.

A week later Peter appeared at the family breakfast table, having
arrived on the early morning express, and he seemed in a more gracious
mood than usual. Indeed, he was really talkative.

"I met Will Morrison in New York, Hannah," he said to his wife. "He was
just sailing for London with his family and will remain abroad all
summer. He wanted us to occupy his mountain place, Hillcrest Lodge,
during July and August, and although I told him we couldn't use the
place he insisted on my taking an order on his man to turn the shack
over to us."

"The shack!" cried Aunt Hannah indignantly.

"Why, Peter, Hillcrest Lodge is a little palace. It is the cosiest,
most delightful place I have ever visited. Why shouldn't we accept Will
Morrison's proposition to occupy it?"

"I can't leave my business."

"You could run up every Friday afternoon, taking the train to Millbank
and the stage to Hillcrest, and stay with us till Monday morning."

He stared at her reflectively.

"Would you be safe in that out-of-the-way place?" he asked.

"Of course. Didn't you say Will had a man for caretaker? And only a few
scattered cottages are located near by, so we shall be quite by
ourselves and wholly unmolested. I mean to go, and take the girls. The
change will do us all good, so you may as well begin to make
arrangements for the trip."

Peter Conant stared awhile and then resumed his breakfast without
comment. Mary Louise thought she saw a smile flicker over his stolid
features for a moment, but could not be positive. Aunt Hannah had
spoken in a practical, matter-of-fact way that did not admit of
argument.

"Let me see," she resumed; "we will plan to leave on Thursday morning,
over the branch road, which will get us to Millbank by noon. If you
telegraph the stage-driver to meet us we can reach Hillcrest Lodge by
three o'clock--perhaps earlier--and that will enable us to get settled
before dark. That is far better than taking the afternoon train. Will
you make the proper arrangements, Peter?"

"Yes," he briefly replied.

As he was leaving the house after breakfast he fixed his stare on Irene
and said to her:

"In New York I ran across a lot of second-hand books at an auction
sale--old novels and romances which you will probably like. I bought
the lot and shipped them home. If they arrive in time you can take them
to Hillcrest and they will keep you reading all summer."

"Oh, thank you, Uncle Peter!" exclaimed the chair-girl gratefully.

"Have you any--any--news of Gran'pa Jim?" asked Mary Louise diffidently.

"No," he said and walked away.

During the few days that remained before their exodus they were busy
preparing for the anticipated vacation. Summer gowns had to be looked
over and such things gathered together as might be useful during their
two months' stay at Hillcrest.

"Of course no one will see us," remarked Aunt Hannah; "it's really the
jumping-off place of the world; but Will Morrison has made it as cosy
as possible and we three, with just Peter at the week-ends, can amuse
one another without getting lonely. Peter will fish in the mountain
streams, of course, and that's the reason he is allowing us to go.
We've visited the Morrisons two or three times at the Lodge and Peter
has fished for trout every minute he was there."

"Who are the Morrisons?" asked Mary Louise.

"Will Morrison is a rich banker and his wife Sallie was an old
schoolmate of mine. The Lodge is only a little resort of theirs, you
know, for in the city they live in grand style. I know you girls will
enjoy the place, for the scenery is delightful and the clear mountain
air mighty invigorating."

All girls delight in change of location and although Irene was a little
worried over the difficulties of getting to Hillcrest Lodge in her
crippled condition, she was as eager to go as was Mary Louise. And she
made the trip more comfortably than she had feared.

At Millbank the stage-driver fixed a comfortable seat for her in his
carryall and loaded the boxes and baggage and the wheeled chair and the
box of books--which had arrived from New York--on the railed top of his
bus, and then they drove away through a rough but picturesque country
that drew from the girls many exclamations of delight.

Presently they came to a small group of dwellings called the "Huddle,"
which lay at the foot of the mountain. Then up a winding path the four
horses labored patiently, halting often to rest and get their breaths.
At such times the passengers gloried in the superb views of the valley
and its farms and were never impatient to proceed. They passed one or
two modest villas, for this splendid location had long ago been
discovered by a few others besides Will Morrison who loved to come here
for their vacations and so escape the maddening crowds of the cities.

Aunt Hannah had planned the trip with remarkable accuracy, for at about
three o'clock the lumbering stage stopped at a pretty chalet half
hidden among the tall pines and overlooking a steep bluff. Here the
baggage and boxes were speedily unloaded.

"I gotta git back ter meet the aft'noon train," said Bill Coombs, their
driver. "They won't be any more passingers in this direction, tain't
likely, 'cause the houses 'roun' here is mighty scattered an' no one's
expectin' nobody, as I know of. But in the other direction from
Millbank--Sodd Corners way--I may catch a load, if I'm lucky."

So back he drove, leaving the Conants' traps by the roadside, and Peter
began looking around for Morrison's man. The doors of the house were
fast locked, front and rear. There was no one in the barn or the
shed-like garage, where a rusty looking automobile stood. Peter looked
around the grounds in vain. Then he whistled. Afterward he began
bawling out "Hi, there!" in a voice that echoed lonesomely throughout
the mountain side.

And, at last, when they were all beginning to despair, a boy came
slouching around a corner of the house, from whence no one could guess.
He was whittling a stick and he continued to whittle while he stared at
the unexpected arrivals and slowly advanced. When about fifteen paces
away he halted, with feet planted well apart, and bent his gaze
sturdily on his stick and knife. He was barefooted, dressed in faded
blue-jeans overalls and a rusty gingham shirt--the two united by a
strap over one shoulder--and his head was covered by a broad Scotch
golf cap much too big for him and considerably too warm for the season.

"Come here!" commanded Mr. Conant.

The boy did not move, therefore the lawyer advanced angrily toward him.

"Why didn't you obey me?" he asked.

"They's gals there. I hates gals," said the boy in a confidential tone.
"Any sort o' men critters I kin stand, but gals gits my goat."

"Who are you?" inquired Mr. Conant.

"Me? I'm jus' Bub."

"Where is Mr. Morrison's man?"

"Meanin' Talbot? Gone up to Mark's Peak, to guide a gang o' hunters f'm
the city."

"When did he go?" asked the lawyer.

"I guess a Tuesday. No--a Wednesday."

"And when will he be back?"

The boy whittled, abstractedly.

"Answer me!"

"How kin I? D'ye know where Mark's Peak is?"

"No."

"It takes a week ter git thar; they'll likely hunt two er three weeks;
mebbe more; ye kin tell that as well as I kin. Mister Will's gone ter
You-RUPP with Miss' Morrison, so Talbot he won't be in no hurry ter
come back."

"Great Caesar! Here's a pretty mess. Are you Talbot's boy?"

"Nope. I'm a Grigger, an' live over in the holler, yonder."

"What are you doing here?"

"Earnin' two bits a week."

"How?"

"Lookin' after the place."

"Very well. Mr. Morrison has given us permission to use the Lodge while
he is away, so unlock the doors and help get the baggage in."

The boy notched the stick with his knife, using great care.

"Talbot didn't say nuth'n' 'bout that," he remarked composedly.

Mr. Conant uttered an impatient ejaculation. It was one of his
peculiarities to give a bark similar to that of a dog when greatly
annoyed. After staring at the boy a while he took out Will Morrison's
letter to Talbot, opened it and held it before Bub's face.

"Read that!" he cried.

Bub grinned and shook his head.

"_I_ kain't read," he said.

Mr. Conant, in a loud and severe voice, read Mr. Morrison's instruction
to his man Talbot to do everything in his power to make the Conants
comfortable and to serve them as faithfully as he did his own master.
The boy listened, whittling slowly. Then he said:

"Mebbe that's all right; an' ag'in, mebbe tain't. Seein' as I kain't
read I ain't goin' ter take no one's word fer it."

"You insolent brat!" exclaimed Peter Conant, highly incensed. Then he
turned and called: "Come here, Mary Louise."

Mary Louise promptly advanced and with every step she made the boy
retreated a like distance, until the lawyer seized his arm and held it
in a firm grip.

"What do you mean by running away?" he demanded.

"I hates gals," retorted Bub sullenly.

"Don't be a fool. Come here, Mary Louise, and read this letter to the
boy, word for word."

Mary Louise, marking the boy's bashfulness and trying to restrain a
smile, read Mr. Morrison's letter.

"You see," said the lawyer sharply, giving Bub a little shake, "those
are the exact words of the letter. We're going to enter the Lodge and
take possession of it, as Mr. Morrison has told us to do, and if you
don't obey my orders I shall give you a good flogging. Do you
understand that?"

Bub nodded, more cheerfully.

"If ye do it by force," said he, "that lets me out. Nobody kin blame me
if I'm forced."

Mary Louise laughed so heartily that the boy cast an upward,
half-approving glance at her face. Even Mr. Conant's stern visage
relaxed.

"See here, Bub," he said, "obey my orders and no harm can come to you.
This letter is genuine and if you serve us faithfully while we are here
I'll--I'll give you four bits a week."

"Heh? Four bits!"

"Exactly. Four bits every week."

"Gee, that'll make six bits a week, with the two Talbot's goin' ter
give me. I'm hanged ef I don't buy a sweater fer next winter, afore the
cold weather comes!"

"Very good," said Mr. Conant. "Now get busy and let us in."

Bub deliberately closed the knife and put it in his pocket, tossing
away the stick.

"Gals," he remarked, with another half glance at Mary Louise, "ain't
ter my likin'; but FOUR BITS--"

He turned and walked away to where a wild rosebush clambered over one
corner of the Lodge. Pushing away the thick, thorny branches with care,
he thrust in his hand and drew out a bunch of keys.

"If it's jus' the same t' you, sir, I'd ruther ye'd snatch 'em from my
hand," he suggested. "Then, if I'm blamed, I kin prove a alibi."

Mr. Conant was so irritated that he literally obeyed the boy's request
and snatched the keys. Then he led the way to the front door.

"It's that thin, brass one," Bub hinted.

Mr. Conant opened the front door. The place was apparently in perfect
order.

"Go and get Hannah and Irene, please," said Peter to Mary Louise, and
soon they had all taken possession of the cosy Lodge, had opened the
windows and aired it and selected their various bedrooms.

"It is simply delightful!" exclaimed Irene, who was again seated in her
wheeled chair, "and, if Uncle Peter will build a little runway from the
porch to the ground, as he did at home, I shall be able to go and come
as I please."

Meantime Aunt Hannah--as even Mary Louise now called Mrs.
Conant--ransacked the kitchen and cupboards to discover what supplies
were in the house. There was a huge stock of canned goods, which Will
Morrison had begged them to use freely, and the Conants had brought a
big box of other groceries with them, which was speedily unpacked.

While the others were thus engaged in settling and arranging the house,
Irene wheeled her chair to the porch, on the steps of which sat Bub,
again whittling. He had shown much interest in the crippled girl, whose
misfortune seemed instantly to dispel his aversion for her sex, at
least so far as she was concerned. He was not reluctant even to look at
her face and he watched with astonishment the ease with which she
managed her chair. Having overheard, although at a distance, most of
the boy's former conversation with Uncle Peter, Irene now began
questioning him.

"Have you been eating and sleeping here?"

"Of course," answered Bub.

"In the Lodge?"

"No; over in Talbot's house. That's over the ridge, yonder; it's only a
step, but ye kain't see it f'm here. My home's in the South Holler,
four mile away."

"Do you cook your own meals?"

"Nobudy else ter do it."

"And don't you get dreadfully lonesome at night?"

"Who? Me? Guess not. What the Sam Hill is they to be lonesome over?"

"There are no near neighbors, are there?"

"Plenty. The Barker house is two mile one way an' the Bigbee house is
jus' half a mile down the slope; guess ye passed it, comin' up; but
they ain't no one in the Bigbee house jus' now, 'cause Bigbee got shot
on the mount'n las' year, a deer hunt'n', an' Bigbee's wife's married
another man what says he's delicate like an' can't leave the city. But
neighbors is plenty. Six mile along the canyon lives Doolittle."

Irene was delighted with Bub's quaint language and ways and before Mrs.
Conant called her family to the simple improvised dinner the chair-girl
had won the boy's heart and already they were firm friends.



CHAPTER XIV

A CALL FROM AGATHA LORD


Hillcrest Lodge was perched upon a broad shelf of the wooded mountain,
considerably nearer to the bottom than to the top, yet a stiff climb
from the plain below. Behind it was a steep cliff; in front there was a
gradual descent covered with scrub but affording a splendid view of the
lowlands. At one side was the rocky canyon with its brook struggling
among the boulders, and on the other side the roadway that wound up the
mountain in zigzag fashion, selecting the course of least resistance.

Will Morrison was doubtless a mighty hunter and an expert fisherman,
for the "den" at the rear of the Lodge was a regular museum of trophies
of the chase. Stag and doe heads, enormous trout mounted on boards,
antlers of wild mountain sheep, rods, guns, revolvers and
hunting-knives fairly lined the wails, while a cabinet contained reels,
books of flies, cartridge belts, creels and many similar articles. On
the floor were rugs of bear, deer and beaver. A shelf was filled with
books on sporting subjects. There was a glass door that led onto a
little porch at the rear of the Lodge and a big window that faced the
cliff.

This sanctum of the owner rather awed the girls when first they
examined it, but they found it the most fascinating place in all the
house and Irene was delighted to be awarded the bedroom that adjoined
it. The other bedrooms were on the upper floor.

"However," said Mr. Conant to Irene, "I shall reserve the privilege of
smoking my evening pipe in this den, for here is a student lamp, a low
table and the easiest chairs in all the place. If you keep your bedroom
door shut you won't mind the fumes of tobacco."

"I don't mind them anyhow, Uncle Peter," she replied.

Bub Grigger helped get in the trunks and boxes. He also filled the
woodbox in the big living room and carried water from the brook for
Aunt Hannah, but otherwise he was of little use to them. His favorite
occupation was whittling and he would sit for hours on one of the broad
benches overlooking the valley, aimlessly cutting chips from a stick
without forming it into any object whatsoever.

"I suppose all this time he is deeply thinking," said Mary Louise as
the girls sat on the porch watching him, the day after their arrival,
"but it would be interesting to know what direction Bub's thoughts
take."

"He must be figuring up his earnings and deciding how long it will take
to buy that winter sweater," laughed Irene. "I've had a bit of
conversation with the boy already and his ideas struck me as rather
crude and undeveloped."

"One idea, however, is firmly fixed in his mind," declared Mary Louise.
"He 'hates gals.'"

"We must try to dispel that notion. Perhaps he has a big sister at home
who pounds him, and therefore he believes all girls are alike."

"Then let us go to him and make friends," suggested Mary Louise. "If we
are gentle with the boy we may win him over."

Mr. Conant had already made a runway for the chair, so they left the
porch and approached Bub, who saw them coming and slipped into the
scrub, where he speedily disappeared from view. At other times, also,
he shyly avoided the girls, until they began to fear it would be more
difficult to "make friends" than they had supposed.

Monday morning Mr. Conant went down the mountain road, valise in hand,
and met Bill Coombs the stage-driver at the foot of the descent, having
made this arrangement to save time and expense. Peter had passed most
of his two days' vacation in fishing and had been so successful that he
promised Aunt Hannah he would surely return the following Friday. He
had instructed Bub to "take good care of the womenfolks" during his
absence, but no thought of danger occurred to any of them. The
Morrisons had occupied the Lodge for years and had never been molested
in any way. It was a somewhat isolated place but the country people in
the neighborhood were thoroughly honest and trustworthy.

"There isn't much for us to do here," said Mary Louise when the three
were left alone, "except to read, to eat and to sleep--lazy occupations
all. I climbed the mountain a little way yesterday, but the view from
the Lodge is the best of all and if you leave the road you tear your
dress to shreds in the scrub."

"Well, to read, to eat and to sleep is the very best way to enjoy a
vacation," asserted Aunt Hannah. "Let us all take it easy and have a
good time."

Irene's box of books which Mr. Conant had purchased for her in New York
had been placed in the den, where she could select the volumes as she
chose, and the chair-girl found the titles so alluring that she
promised herself many hours of enjoyment while delving among them. They
were all old and secondhand--perhaps fourth-hand or fifth-hand--as the
lawyer had stated, and the covers were many of them worn to tatters;
but "books is books," said Irene cheerily, and she believed they would
not prove the less interesting in contents because of their condition.
Mostly they were old romances, historical essays and novels, with a
sprinkling of fairy tales and books of verse--just the subjects Irene
most loved.

"Being exiles, if not regular hermits," observed the crippled girl,
sunning herself on the small porch outside the den, book in hand, "we
may loaf and dream to our hearts' content, and without danger of
reproach."

But not for long were they to remain wholly secluded. On Thursday
afternoon they were surprised by a visitor, who suddenly appeared from
among the trees that lined the roadway and approached the two girls who
were occupying a bench at the edge of the bluff.

The new arrival was a lady of singularly striking appearance, beautiful
and in the full flush of womanhood, being perhaps thirty years of age.
She wore a smart walking-suit that fitted her rounded form perfectly,
and a small hat with a single feather was jauntily perched upon her
well-set head. Hair and eyes, almost black, contrasted finely with the
bloom on her cheeks. In her ungloved hand she held a small
walking-stick.

Advancing with grace and perfect self-possession, she smiled and nodded
to the two young girls and then, as Mary Louise rose to greet her, she
said:

"I am your nearest neighbor, and so I have climbed up here to get
acquainted. I am Agatha Lord, but of course you do not know me, because
I came from Boston, whereas you came from--from--"

"Dorfield," said Mary Louise. "Pray be seated. Let me present Irene
Macfarlane; and I am Mary Louise Burrows. You are welcome, Miss
Lord--or should I say Mrs. Lord?"

"Miss is correct," replied their visitor with a pleasant laugh, which
brought an answering smile to the other faces; "but you must not
address me except as 'Agatha.' For here in the wilderness formalities
seem ridiculous. Now let us have a cosy chat together."

"Won't you come into the Lodge and meet Mrs. Conant?"

"Not just yet. You may imagine how that climb winded me, although they
say it is only half a mile. I've taken the Bigbee house, just below
you, you know, and I arrived there last night to get a good rest after
a rather strenuous social career at home. Ever since Easter I've been
on the 'go' every minute and I'm really worn to a frazzle."

She did not look it, thought Mary Louise. Indeed, she seemed the very
picture of health.

"Ah," said she, fixing her eyes on Irene's book, "you are very
fortunate. The one thing I forgot to bring with me was a supply of
books, and there is not a volume--not even a prayer-book--in the Bigbee
house. I shall go mad in these solitudes if I cannot read."

"You may use my library," promised Irene, sympathizing with Miss Lord's
desire. "Uncle Peter brought a great box of books for me to read and
you are welcome to share their delights with me, I believe there are
fifty of them, at the least; but many were published ages ago and
perhaps," with a glance at the dainty hands, "you won't care to handle
secondhand books."

"This ozonic air will fumigate them," said Agatha Lord carelessly. "We
don't absorb bindings, Irene, but merely the thoughts of the authors.
Books are the one banquet-table whereat we may feast without destroying
the delicacy or flavor of the dishes presented. As long as the pages
hold together and the type is legible a book is as good as when new."

"I like pretty bindings, though," declared Irene, "for they dress
pretty thoughts in fitting attire. An ill-looking book, whatever its
contents, resembles the ugly girl whose only redeeming feature is her
good heart. To be beautiful without and within must have been the
desire of God in all things."

Agatha gave her a quick look of comprehension. There was an
unconsciously wistful tone in the girl's voice. Her face, though
pallid, was lovely to view; her dress was dainty and arranged with
care; she earnestly sought to be as beautiful "without and within" as
was possible, yet the twisted limbs forbade her attaining the
perfection she craved.

They sat together for an hour in desultory conversation and Agatha Lord
certainly interested the two younger girls very much. She was decidedly
worldly in much of her gossip but quick to perceive when she infringed
the susceptibilities of her less sophisticated companions and was able
to turn the subject cleverly to more agreeable channels.

"I've brought my automobile with me," she said, "and, unless you have a
car of your own, we will take some rides through the valley together. I
mean to drive to Millbank every day for mail."

"There's a car here, which belongs to Mr. Morrison," replied Mary
Louise, "but as none of us understands driving it we will gladly accept
your invitations to ride. Do you drive your own car?"

"Yes, indeed; that is the joy of motoring; and I care for my car, too,
because the hired chauffeurs are so stupid. I didn't wish the bother of
servants while taking my 'rest cure,' and so my maid and I are all
alone at the Bigbee place."

After a time they went into the house, where Miss Lord was presented to
Aunt Hannah, who welcomed their neighbor with her accustomed
cordiality. In the den Agatha pounced upon the books and quickly
selected two which she begged permission to take home with her.

"This is really a well selected collection," she remarked, eyeing the
titles critically. "Where did Mr. Conant find it?"

"At an auction of second-hand junk in New York," explained Irene.
"Uncle Peter knows that I love the old-fashioned books best but I'm
sure he didn't realize what a good collection this is."

As she spoke, Irene was listlessly running through the leaves of two or
three volumes she had not before examined, when in one of them her eye
was caught by a yellowed sheet of correspondence paper, tucked among
the pages at about midway between the covers. Without removing the
sheet she leaned over to examine the fine characters written upon it
and presently exclaimed in wondering tones:

"Why, Mary Louise! Here is an old letter about your mother--yes, and
here's something about your grandfather, too. How strange that it
should be--"

"Let me see it!" cried Mary Louise, eagerly stretching out her hands.

But over her friend's shoulder Irene caught the expression of Agatha
Lord--tense, startled, with a gleam of triumph in the dark eyes. It
frightened her, that look on the face of one she had deemed a stranger,
and it warned her. She closed the book with a little slam of decision
and tucked it beside her in her chair.

"No," she said positively, "no one shall see the letter until I've had
time to read it myself."

"But what was it about?" asked Mary Louise.

"I don't know, yet; and you're not to ask questions until I DO know,"
retorted Irene, calmly returning Miss Lord's curious gaze while
addressing Mary Louise. "These are my books, you must admit, and so
whatever I find in them belongs to me."

"Quite right, my dear," approved Agatha Lord, with her light, easy
laugh. She knew that Irene had surprised her unguarded expression and
wished to counteract the impression it had caused.

Irene returned the laugh with one equally insincere, saying to her
guest:

"Help yourself to whatever books you like, neighbor. Carry them home,
read them and return them at your convenience."

"You are exceedingly kind," answered Agatha and resumed her examination
of the titles. Mary Louise had not observed the tell-tale expression on
Miss Lord's face but she was shrewd enough to detect an undercurrent of
ice in the polite phrases passing between her companions. She was
consumed with curiosity to know more of the letter which Irene had
found in the book but did not again refer to it in the presence of
their visitor.

It was not long before Agatha rose to go, a couple of books tucked
beneath her arm.

"Will you ride with me to Millbank to-morrow?" she asked, glancing from
one face to another.

Mary Louise looked at Irene and Irene hesitated.

"I am not very comfortable without my chair," she said.

"You shall have the rear seat all to yourself, and it is big and broad
and comfortable. Mary Louise will ride with me in front. I can easily
drive the car up here and load you in at this very porch. Please come!"

"Very well, since you are so kind," Irene decided, and after a few more
kindly remarks the beautiful Miss Lord left them and walked with
graceful, swinging stride down the path to the road and down the road
toward the Bigbee house.



CHAPTER XV

BUB'S HOBBY


When their visitor had departed Mary Louise turned to her friend.

"Now, Irene, tell me about that queer letter," she begged.

"Not yet, dear. I'm sure it isn't important, though it's curious to
find such an old letter tucked away in a book Uncle Peter bought at an
auction in New York--a letter that refers to your own people, in days
long gone by. In fact, Mary Louise, it was written so long ago that it
cannot possibly interest us except as proof of the saying that the
world's a mighty small place. When I have nothing else to do I mean to
read that old epistle from start to finish; then, if it contains
anything you'd care to see, I'll let you have a look at it."

With this promise Mary Louise was forced to be content, for she did not
wish to annoy Irene by further pleadings. It really seemed, on
reflection, that the letter could be of little consequence to anyone.
So she put it out of mind, especially as just now they spied Bub
sitting on the bench and whittling as industriously as ever.

"Let me go to him first," suggested Irene, with a mischievous smile.
"He doesn't seem at all afraid of me, for some reason, and after I've
led him into conversation you can join us."

So she wheeled her chair over to where the boy sat. He glanced toward
her as she approached the bench but made no movement to flee.

"We've had a visitor," said the girl, confidentially; "a lady who has
taken the Bigbee house for the summer."

Bub nodded, still whittling.

"I know; I seen her drive her car up the grade on high," he remarked,
feeling the edge of his knife-blade reflectively. "Seems like a real
sport--fer a gal--don't she?"

"She isn't a girl; she's a grown woman."

"To me," said Bub, "ev'rything in skirts is gals. The older they gits,
the more ornery, to my mind. Never seen a gal yit what's wuth havin'
'round."

"Some day," said Irene with a smile, "you may change your mind about
girls."

"An' ag'in," said Bub, "I mayn't. Dad says he were soft in the head
when he took up with marm, an' Talbot owned a wife once what tried ter
pizen him; so he giv 'er the shake an' come here to live in peace; but
Dad's so used to scoldin's thet he can't sleep sound in the open any
more onless he lays down beside the brook where it's noisiest. Then it
reminds him o' marm an' he feels like he's to home. Gals think they got
the men scared, an' sometimes they guess right. Even Miss' Morrison
makes Will toe the mark, an' Miss' Morrison ain't no slouch, fer a gal."

This somewhat voluble screed was delivered slowly, interspersed with
periods of aimless whittling, and when Irene had patiently heard it
through she decided it wise to change the subject.

"To-morrow we are going to ride in Miss Lord's automobile," she
remarked.

Bub grunted.

"She says she can easily run it up to our door. Do you believe that!"

"Why not?" he inquired. "Don't Will Morrison have a car? It's over
there in the shed now."

"Could it be used?" quietly asked Mary Louise, who had now strolled up
behind the bench unperceived.

Bub turned a scowling face to her, but she was looking out across the
bluff. And she had broached a subject in which the boy was intensely
interested.

"Thet thar car in there is a reg'lar hummer," he asserted, waving the
knife in one hand and the stick in the other by way of emphasis.
"Tain't much fer looks, ye know, but looks cuts no figger with
machinery, s'long's it's well greased. On a hill, thet car's a cat; on
a level stretch, she's a jack-rabbit. I've seen Will Morrison take 'er
ter Millbank an' back in a hour--jus' one lonesome hour!"

"That must have been in its good days," observed Mary Louise. "The
thing hasn't any tires on it now."

"Will takes the tires off ev'ry year, when he goes away, an' puts 'em
in the cellar," explained Bub. "They's seven good tires down cellar
now; I counted 'em the day afore ye come here."

"In that case," said Mary Louise, "if any of us knew how to drive we
could use the car."

"Drive?" said Bub scornfully. "That's nuth'n'."

"Oh. Do you know how?"

"Me? I kin drive any car thet's on wheels. Two years ago, afore Talbot
come, I used ter drive Will Morrison over t' Millbank ev'ry week t'
catch the train; an' brung the car home ag'in; an' went fer Will when
he come back."

"You must have been very young, two years ago," said Irene.

"Shucks. I'm goin' on fifteen this very minnit. When I were 'leven I
druv the Higgins car fer 'em an' never hit the ditch once. Young!
Wha'd'ye think I am--a KID?"

So indignant had he become that he suddenly rose and slouched away, nor
could they persuade him to return.

"We're going to have a lot of fun with that boy, once we learn how to
handle him," predicted Irene, when the two girls had enjoyed a good
laugh at Bub's expense. "He seems a queer mixture of simplicity and
shrewdness."

The next day Agatha Lord appeared in her big touring car and after
lifting Irene in and making her quite comfortable on the back seat they
rolled gayly away to Millbank, where they had lunch at the primitive
restaurant, visited the post-office in the grocery store and amused
themselves until the train came in and brought Peter Conant, who was
loaded down with various parcels of merchandise Aunt Hannah had ordered.

The lawyer was greatly pleased to find a car waiting to carry him to
the Lodge and after being introduced to Miss Lord, whose loveliness he
could not fail to admire, he rode back with her in the front seat and
left Mary Louise to sit inside with Irene and the packages. Bill Coombs
didn't approve of this method of ruining his stage business and scowled
at the glittering auto as it sped away across the plain to the mountain.

On this day Miss Lord proved an exceedingly agreeable companion to them
all, even Irene forgetting for the time the strange expression she had
surprised on Agatha's face at the time she found the letter. Mary
Louise seemed to have quite forgotten that letter, for she did not
again refer to it; but Irene, who had studied it closely in the
seclusion of her own room that very night, had it rather persistently
in mind and her eyes took on an added expression of grave and gentle
commiseration whenever she looked at Mary Louise's unconscious face.

"It is much more fun," observed Peter Conant at breakfast the nest
morning, "to ride to and from the station in a motor car than to
patronize Bill Coombs' rickety, slow-going omnibus. But I can't expect
our fair neighbor to run a stage line for my express accommodation."

"Will Morrison's motor car is here in the shed," said Mary Louise, and
then she told of their conversation with Bub concerning it. "He says he
has driven a car ever since he was eleven years old," she added.

"I wondered what that boy was good for," asserted the lawyer, "yet the
very last thing I would have accused him of is being a chauffeur."

"Why don't you put on the tires and use the car?" asked Aunt Hannah.

"H-m. Morrison didn't mention the car to me. I suppose he forgot it.
But I'm sure he'd be glad to have us use it. I'll talk with the boy."

Bub was found near the Talbot cottage in the gully. When Mr. Conant and
Mary Louise approached him, soon after finishing their breakfast, he
was--as usual--diligently whittling.

"They tell me you understand running Mr. Morrison's car," began the
lawyer.

Bub raised his eyes a moment to the speaker's face but deemed an answer
unnecessary.

"Is that true?" with an impatient inflection.

"Kin run any car," said Bub.

"Very well. Show me where the tires are and we will put them on. I want
you to drive me to and from Millbank, hereafter."

Bub retained his seat and whittled.

"Hev ye got a order from Will Morrison, in writin'?" he demanded.

"No, but he will be glad to have me use the machine. He said everything
at the Lodge was at my disposal."

"Cars," said Bub, "ain't like other things. A feller'll lend his
huntin'-dog, er his knife, er his overcoat; but he's all-fired shy o'
lendin' his car. Ef I runned it for ye, Will might blame ME."

Mr. Conant fixed his dull stare on the boy's face, but Bub went on
whittling. However, in the boy's inmost heart was a keen desire to run
that motor car, as had been proposed. So he casually remarked:

"Ef ye forced me, ye know, I'd jus' hev to do it. Even Will couldn't
blame me ef I were forced."

Mr. Conant was so exasperated that the hint was enough. He seized the
boy's collar, lifted him off the stump and kicked him repeatedly as he
propelled his victim toward the house.

"Oh, Uncle Peter!" cried Mary Louise, distressed; but Peter was
obdurate and Bub never whimpered. He even managed to close his knife,
between kicks, and slip it into his trousers pocket.

When they came to the garage the lawyer halted, more winded than Bub,
and demanded sharply:

"What is needed to put the car in shape to run?"

"Tires, gas'line, oil 'n' water."

"The tires are in the cellar, you say? Get them out or I'll skin you
alive."

Bub nodded, grinning.

"Forcin' of me, afore a witness, lets me out," he remarked, cheerfully,
and straightway went for the tires.

Irene wheeled herself out and joined Uncle Peter and Mary Louise in
watching the boy attach the tires, which were on demountable rims and
soon put in place. All were surprised at Bub's sudden exhibition of
energy and his deft movements, for he worked with the assurance of a
skilled mechanic.

"Now, we need gasoline," said Mr. Conant. "I must order that from
Millbank, I suppose."

"Onless ye want to rob Will Morrison's tank," agreed Bub.

"Oh; has he a tank of gasoline here?"

Bub nodded.

"A undergroun' steel tank. I dunno how much gas is in it, but ef ye
forced me I'd hev to measure it."

Peter picked up a stick and shook it threateningly, whereat Bub smiled
and walked to the rear of the garage where an iron plug appeared just
above the surface of the ground. This he unscrewed with a wrench,
thrust in a rod and drew it out again.

"'Bout forty gallon," he announced. "Thet's 'nough fer a starter, I
guess."

"Then put some of it into the machine. Is there any oil?"

"Plenty oil."

Half an hour later Bub started the engine and rolled the car slowly out
of its shed to the graveled drive in the back yard.

"All right, mister," he announced with satisfaction. "I dunno what
Will'll say to this, but I kin prove I were forced. Want to take a ride
now?"

"No," replied Mr. Conant, "I merely wanted to get the car in shape. You
are to take me to the station on Monday morning. Under the
circumstances we will not use Morrison's car for pleasure rides, but
only for convenience in getting from here to the trains and back. He
surely cannot object to that."

Bub seemed disappointed by this decision. He ran the car around the
yard two or three times, testing its condition, and then returned it to
its shed. Mr. Conant got his rod and reel and departed on a fishing
excursion.



CHAPTER XVI

THE STOLEN BOOK


Miss Lord came up to the Lodge that Saturday forenoon and proved so
agreeable to Aunt Hannah and the girls that she was invited to stay to
lunch. Mr. Conant was not present, for he had put a couple of
sandwiches in his pocket and would not return home until dinner-time.

After luncheon they were all seated together on the benches at the edge
of the bluff, which had become their favorite resort because the view
was so wonderful. Mary Louise was doing a bit of fancy work, Irene was
reading and Aunt Hannah, as she mended stockings, conversed in a
desultory way with her guest.

"If you don't mind," said Agatha, after a time, "I'll run in and get me
a book. This seems the place and the hour for dreaming, rather than
gossip, and as we are all in a dreamy mood a good old-fashioned romance
seems to me quite fitting for the occasion."

Taking permission for granted, she rose and sauntered toward the house.
There was a serious and questioning look in Irene's eyes as they
followed the graceful form of Miss Lord, but Mary Louise and Aunt
Hannah paid no heed to their visitor's going in to select a book, it
seemed so natural a thing for her to do.

It was fully fifteen minutes before Agatha returned, book in hand.
Irene glanced at the title and gave a sigh of relief. Without comment
their guest resumed her seat and soon appeared to be immersed in her
volume. Gradually the sun crossed the mountain and cast a black shadow
over the plain below, a shadow which lengthened and advanced inch by
inch until it shrouded the landscape spread beneath them.

"That is my sun-dial," remarked Mary Louise, dropping her needlework to
watch the shifting scene. "When the shadow passes the Huddle, it's four
o'clock; by the time it reaches that group of oaks, it is four-thirty;
at five o'clock it touches the creek, and then I know it's time to help
Aunt Hannah with the dinner."

Agatha laughed.

"Is it really so late?" she asked. "I see the shadow has nearly reached
the brook."

"Oh! I didn't mean--"

"Of course not; but it's time I ran home, just the same. My maid Susan
is a perfect tyrant and scolds me dreadfully if I'm late. May I take
this book home, Irene? I'll return the others I have borrowed
to-morrow."

"To be sure," answered Irene. "I'm rich in books, you know."

When Miss Lord went away the party broke up, for Aunt Hannah was
already thinking of dinner and Mary Louise wanted to make one of Uncle
Peter's favorite desserts. So Irene wheeled her chair into the house
and entering the den began a sharp inspection of the place, having in
mind exactly the way it had looked when last she left it. But presently
she breathed a sigh of relief and went into her own room, for the den
had not been disturbed. She wheeled herself to a small table in a
corner of her chamber and one glance confirmed her suspicions.

For half an hour she sat quietly thinking, considering many things that
might prove very important in the near future. The chair-girl knew
little of life save what she had gleaned from books, but in some ways
that was quite equal to personal experiences. At dinner she asked:

"Did you take a book from my room to-day, Mary Louise?"

"No," was the reply; "I have not been in your room since yesterday."

"Nor you, Aunt Hannah?"

"No, my dear. What book is missing?"

"It was entitled 'The Siberian Exile.'"

"Good gracious!" exclaimed Mary Louise. "Wasn't that the book you found
the letter in?"

"Yes."

"And you say it is missing?"

"It has mysteriously disappeared."

"Nonsense," said Uncle Peter, who had returned with a fine string of
trout. "No one would care to steal an old book, and the thing hasn't
legs, you know."

"Nevertheless," said Irene gravely, "it is gone."

"And the letter with it!" added Mary Louise regretfully. "You ought to
have let me read it while I could, Irene."

"What letter are you talking about?" asked the lawyer.

"It is nothing important, Uncle Peter," Irene assured him. "The loss of
the book does not worry me at all."

Nor did it, for she knew the letter was not in it. And, to avoid
further questioning on the part of Mr. Conant, she managed to turn the
conversation to less dangerous subjects.



CHAPTER XVII

THE HIRED GIRL


Mr. Conant had just put on a comfortable smoking-jacket and slippers
and seated himself in the den, pipe in mouth, when the old-fashioned
knocker on the front door of the Lodge began to bang. It banged three
times, so Mr. Conant rose and made for the door.

Mrs. Conant and Mary Louise were in the kitchen and Irene was in her
own room. The lawyer reflected, with a deprecating glance at his
unconventional costume, that their evening caller could be none other
than their neighbor, the beautiful Miss Lord, so as he opened the door
he regretted that his appearance was not more presentable.

But it was not Miss Lord who stood upon the porch awaiting admittance.
It was a strange girl, who asked in a meek voice:

"Is this Hillcrest Lodge?"

"It is," replied the lawyer.

The girl came in without an invitation, bringing a carpet-bag in one
hand and a bundle tied in a newspaper tucked under the other arm. As
she stood in the lighted room she looked around inquiringly and said:

"I am Sarah Judd. Where is Mrs. Morrison, please?"

Mr. Conant stood and stared at her, his hands clasped behind his back
in characteristic attitude. He could not remember ever having heard of
Sarah Judd.

"Mrs. Morrison," he said in his choppy voice, "is in Europe."

The girl stared at him in return, as if stupified. Then she sat down in
the nearest chair and continued to stare. Finding her determined on
silence, Mr. Conant spoke again.

"The Morrisons are spending the summer abroad. I and my family are
occupying the Lodge in their absence. I--eh--eh--I am Mr. Conant, of
Dorfield."

The girl sighed drearily. She was quite small, about seventeen years of
age and dressed in a faded gingham over which she wore a black cloth
coat that was rusty and frayed. A black straw hat, fearfully decorated
with red velvet and mussed artificial flowers, was tipped over her
forehead. Her features were not bad, but her nose was blotched, her
face strongly freckled and her red hair very untidy. Only the mild blue
eyes redeemed the unattractive face--eyes very like those of Mary
Louise in expression, mused Mr. Conant, as he critically eyed the girl.

"I have come here to work," she said after a long pause, during which
she seemed trying to collect her thoughts. "I am Sarah Judd. Mrs.
Morrison said I must come here on Saturday, the tenth day of July, to
go to work. This is the tenth day of July."

"H-m--h-m; I see. When did Mrs. Morrison tell you that?"

"It was last September."

"Oh; so she hired you a year in advance and didn't tell you, afterward,
that she was going abroad?"

"I didn't see her since, sir."

Mr. Conant was perplexed. He went into the kitchen and told Aunt Hannah
about it and the good woman came at once to interview Sarah Judd,
followed by Mary Louise, who had just finished wiping the dishes.

"This seems very unfortunate for you," began Mrs. Conant, regarding the
strange girl with mild interest. "I suppose, when Mrs. Morrison engaged
you, she expected to pass the summer at the Lodge, and afterward she
forgot to notify you."

Sarah Judd considered this soberly; then nodded her head.

"I've walked all the way from Millbank," she said with another sigh.

"Then you've had nothing to eat!" exclaimed Mary Louise, with ready
sympathy. "May I get her something, Aunt Hannah?"

"Of course, my dear."

Both Mr. and Mrs. Conant felt rather embarrassed.

"I regret," said the latter, "that we do not need a maid at present. We
do our own housework, you see."

"I have left a good place in Albany to come here," said Sarah,
plaintively.

"You should have written to Mrs. Morrison," declared the lawyer,
"asking if she still required your services. Many unforeseen things may
happen during a period of ten months."

"Mrs. Morrison, she have paid me a month in advance," asserted the
girl, in justification. "And she paid me my expenses to come here, too.
She said I must not fail her; I should come to the Lodge on the tenth
of July and do the work at the Lodge. She did not say she would be
here. She did not say you would be here. She told me to come and work,
and she paid me a month in advance, so I could give the money to my
sister, who needed it then. And I must do as Mrs. Morrison says. I am
paid to work at the Lodge and so I must work at the Lodge. I cannot
help that, can I?"

The lawyer was a man of experience, but this queer complication
astonished him. He exchanged a questioning glance with his wife.

"In any event," said Mrs. Conant, "the girl must stay here to-night,
for it would be cruel to ask her to find her way down the mountain in
the dark. We will put her in the maid's room, Peter, and to-morrow we
can decide what to do with her."

"Very well," agreed Mr. Conant and retreated to the den to have his
smoke.

Mary Louise arranged some food on the kitchen table for Sarah Judd and
after the girl had eaten, Mrs. Conant took her to the maid's room,
which was a very pleasant and well furnished apartment quite in keeping
with all the comfortable appointments at Hillcrest Lodge, although it
was built behind the kitchen and formed a little wing of its own.

Sarah Judd accepted these favors with meek resignation. Since her one
long speech of explanation she had maintained silence. Leaving her in
her room, the family congregated in the den, where Mr. Conant was
telling Irene about the queer arrival and the unfortunate
misunderstanding that had occasioned it.

"The girl is not to blame," said Mary Louise. "She seems an honest
little thing, resolved to do her duty. It is all Mrs. Morrison's fault."

"Doesn't look like a very competent servant, either," observed Mr.
Conant, comfortably puffing his pipe.

"You can't tell that from appearances, Peter," replied Mrs. Conant.
"She can at least wash dishes and sweep and do the drudgery. Why not
keep her?"

"Oh, my dear!"

"Mrs. Morrison has paid her a month's wages, and Molly Morrison
wouldn't have done that had not the girl been competent. It won't cost
us anything to keep her--except her food--and it seems a shame to cast
her adrift just because the Morrisons forgot to notify her they had
changed their plans."

"Also," added Mary Louise, "Sarah Judd will be useful to us. This is
Aunt Hannah's vacation, as well as a vacation for the rest of us, and a
rest from cooking and housework would do her a heap of good."

"Looking at it from that viewpoint," said Peter, after puffing his pipe
reflectively, "I approve of our keeping Sarah Judd. I believe it will
please the Morrisons better than for us to send her away, and--it
surely won't hurt Hannah to be a lady of leisure for a month or so."



CHAPTER XVIII

MARY LOUISE GROWS SUSPICIOUS


And so Sarah Judd's fate was decided. She prepared their Sunday morning
breakfast and cooked it quite skillfully. Her appearance was now more
tidy and she displayed greater energy than on the previous evening,
when doubtless she was weary from her long walk. Mrs. Conant was well
pleased with the girl and found the relief from clearing the table and
"doing" the dishes very grateful. Their Sunday dinner, which Sarah
prepared unaided and served promptly at one o'clock, their usual hour,
was a pleasant surprise to them all.

"The girl is a treasure," commented Mrs. Conant, contentedly.

Sarah Judd was not talkative. When told she might stay she merely
nodded her red head, displaying neither surprise nor satisfaction. Her
eyes had a habit of roving continually from face to face and from
object to object, yet they seemed to observe nothing clearly, so stolid
was, their expression. Mary Louise tried to remember where she had
noted a similar expression before, but could not locate it.

Miss Lord came over that afternoon and when told about the new maid and
the manner of her appearance seemed a little startled and uneasy.

"I must see what she looks like," said she, "for she may prove a
congenial companion for my own maid, who is already sulking because the
place is so lonely."

And presently Sarah Judd came out upon the lawn to ask Mrs. Conant's
further instructions and this gave Agatha the desired opportunity to
examine her closely. The inspection must have been satisfactory, for an
expression of distinct relief crossed the lovely face.

That Sunday evening they all went down to the Bigbee place in Miss
Lord's motor car, where the lady entertained her guests at a charming
luncheon. The Bigbee place was more extensive than Hillcrest Lodge, as
it consisted of a big, rambling residence and numerous outbuildings;
but it was not nearly so cosy or homelike, nor so pleasantly situated.

Miss Lord's maid, Susan, was somewhat a mystery to the Hillcrest
people. She dressed almost as elaborately as her mistress and performed
her duties grudgingly and with a scowl that seemed to resent Miss
Lord's entertaining company. Stranger still, when they went home that
night it was the maid who brought out the big touring car and drove
them all back to Hillcrest Lodge in it, handling the machine as
expertly as Agatha could do. Miss Lord pleaded a headache as an excuse
for not driving them herself.

Sarah Judd opened the door for them. As she stood under the full light
of the hall lamp Mary Louise noticed that the maid Susan leaned from
her seat in the car and fixed a shrewd glance on Sarah's unconscious
face. Then she gave a little shake of her head and drove away.

"There's something queer about the folks at Bigbee's," Mary Louise
confided to Irene, as she went to her friend's room to assist her in
preparing for bed. "Agatha Lord kept looking at that velvet ribbon
around your neck, to-night, as if she couldn't keep her eyes off it,
and this afternoon she seemed scared by the news of Sarah Judd's
arrival and wasn't happy until she had seen her. Then, again, that
queer maid of Agatha's, Susan, drove us home so she could see Sarah
Judd for herself. How do you account for all that, Irene?"

"I don't account for it, my dear. You've been mixed up with so many
mysteries that you attach suspicion to the most commonplace events.
What should there be about Sarah Judd to frighten anyone?"

"She's a stranger here, that's all, and our neighbors seem suspicious
of strangers. I'm not questioning poor, innocent Sarah, understand; but
if Agatha and her maid are uneasy about strangers coming here it seems
likely there's a reason for it."

"You're getting morbid, Mary Louise. I think I must forbid you to read
any more of my romances," said Irene lightly, but at heart she
questioned the folks at Bigbee's as seriously as her friend did.

"Don't you think Agatha Lord stole that missing book?" asked Mary
Louise, after a little reflection.

"Why should she?" Irene was disturbed by the question but was resolved
not to show it.

"To get the letter that was in it--the letter you would not let me
read."

"What are your affairs to Agatha Lord?"

"I wish I knew," said Mary Louise, musingly. "Irene, I've an idea she
came to Bigbee's just to be near us. There's something stealthy and
underhanded about our neighbors, I'm positive. Miss Lord is a very
delightful woman, on the surface, but--"

Irene laughed softly, as if amused.

"There can be no reason in the world, Mary Louise," she averred, "why
your private affairs are of any interest to outsiders, except--"

"Well, Irene?"

"Except that you are connected, in a way, with your grandfather."

"Exactly! That is my idea, Irene. Ever since that affair with O'Gorman,
I've had a feeling that I was being spied upon."

"But that would be useless. You never hear from Colonel Weatherby,
except in the most roundabout ways."

"They don't know that; they think I MIGHT hear, and there's no other
way to find where he is. Do you think," she added, "that the Secret
Service employs female detectives?"

"Perhaps so. There must be occasions when a woman can discover more
than a man."

"Then I believe Miss Lord is working for the Secret Service--the
enemies of Gran'pa Jim."

"I can't believe it."

"What is on that black ribbon around your neck?"

"A miniature of my mother."

"Oh. To-night it got above your dress--the ribbon, I mean--and Agatha
kept looking at it."

"A good detective wouldn't be caught doing such a clumsy thing, Mary
Louise. And, even if detectives were placed here to watch your actions,
they wouldn't be interested in spying upon ME, would they?"

"I suppose not."

"I've never even seen your grandfather and so I must be exempt from
suspicion. I advise you, my dear, to forget these apprehensions, which
must be purely imaginary. If a thousand spies surrounded you, they
could do you no harm, nor even trap you into betraying your
grandfather, whose present location is a complete mystery to you."

Mary Louise could not help admitting this was true, so she kissed her
friend good night and went to her own room.

Left alone, Irene put her hand to the ribbon around her neck and drew
from her bosom an old-fashioned oval gold locket, as big as any
ordinary watch but thinner. She opened the front of the ease and kissed
her mother's picture, as was her nightly custom. Then she opened the
back and drew out a tightly folded wad of paper. This she carefully
spread out before her, when it proved to be the old letter she had
found in the book.

Once again she read the letter carefully, poring over the words in deep
thought.

"This letter," she murmured, "might indeed be of use to the Government,
but it is of far more value to Mary Louise and--to her grandfather. I
ought not to lose it; nor ought I to allow anyone to read it, at
present. Perhaps, if Agatha Lord has noticed the ribbon I wear, it will
be best to find a new hiding place for the letter."

She was in bed now, and lay looking around the room with speculative
gaze. Beside her stood her wheeled chair, with its cushion of dark
Spanish leather. The girl smiled and, reaching for her work-basket,
which was on a stand at the head of the bed, she drew out a pair of
scissors and cut some of the stitches of the leathern cushion. Then she
tucked the letter carefully inside and with a needle and some black
linen thread sewed up the place she had ripped open.

She had just completed this task when she glanced up and saw a face at
her window--indistinctly, for even as she raised her head it drew back
and faded into the outer gloom.

For a moment Irene sat motionless, looking at the window. Then she
turned to the stand, where the lamp was, and extinguished the light.

An hour, perhaps, she sat upright in bed, considering what she should
do. Then again she reached out in the darkness and felt for her
scissors. Securing them, she drew the chair cushion upon the bed and
felt along its edge for the place she had sewn. She could not determine
for some time which was the right edge but at last she found where the
stitches seemed a little tighter drawn than elsewhere and this place
she managed to rip open. To her joy she found the letter and drew it
out with a sigh of relief.

But now what to do with it was a question of vital importance. She
dared not relight her lamp and she was helpless when out of her chair.
So she put back the cushion, slid from the bed into the chair and
wheeled herself in the dark to her dresser, which had a chenille cover.
Underneath this cover she spread the letter, deeming that so simple a
hiding-place was likely to be overlooked in a hasty search and feeling
that the letter would be safe there for the night, at least.

She now returned to her bed. There was no use trying to resew the
cushion in the dark. She lay awake for a long time, feeling a certain
thrill of delight in the belief that she was a conspirator despite her
crippled condition and that she was conspiring for the benefit of her
dear friend Mary Louise. Finally she sank into a deep slumber and did
not waken till the sun was streaming in at the window and Mary Louise
knocked upon her door to call her.

"You're lazy this morning," laughed Mary Louise, entering. "Let me help
you dress for breakfast."

Irene thanked her. No one but this girl friend was ever permitted to
assist her in dressing, as she felt proud of her ability to serve
herself. Her toilet was almost complete when Mary Louise suddenly
exclaimed:

"Why, what has become of your chair cushion?"

Irene looked toward the chair. The cushion was gone.

"Never mind," she said, although her face wore a troubled expression.
"I must have left it somewhere. Here; I'll put a pillow in its place
until I find it."



CHAPTER XIX

AN ARTFUL CONFESSION


This Monday morning Bub appeared at the Lodge and had the car ready
before Mr. Conant had finished his breakfast. Mary Louise decided to
drive to Millbank with them, just for the pleasure of the trip, and
although the boy evidently regarded her presence with distinct
disapproval he made no verbal objection.

As Irene wheeled herself out upon the porch to see them start, Mary
Louise called to her:

"Here's your chair cushion, Irene, lying on the steps and quite wet
with dew. I never supposed you could be so careless. And you'd better
sew up that rip before it gets bigger," she added, handing the cushion
to her friend.

"I will," Irene quietly returned.

Bub proved himself a good driver before they had gone a mile and it
pleased Mr. Conant to observe that the boy made the trip down the
treacherous mountain road with admirable caution. Once on the level,
however, he "stepped on it," as he expressed it, and dashed past the
Huddle and over the plain as if training for the Grand Prix.

It amused Mary Louise to watch their quaint little driver, barefooted
and in blue-jeans and hickory shirt, with the heavy Scotch golf cap
pulled over his eyes, taking his task of handling the car as seriously
as might any city chauffeur and executing it fully as well.

During the trip the girl conversed with Mr. Conant.

"Do you remember our referring to an old letter, the other day?" she
asked.

"Yes," said he.

"Irene found it in one of those secondhand books you bought in New
York, and she said it spoke of both my mother and my grandfather."

"The deuce it did!" he exclaimed, evidently startled by the information.

"It must have been quite an old letter," continued Mary Louise,
musingly.

"What did it say?" he demanded, rather eagerly for the unemotional
lawyer.

"I don't know. Irene wouldn't let me read it."

"Wouldn't, eh? That's odd. Why didn't you tell me of this before I left
the Lodge?"

"I didn't think to tell you, until now. And, Uncle Peter, what, do you
think of Miss Lord?"

"A very charming lady. What did Irene do with the letter?"

"I think she left it in the book; and--the book was stolen the very
next day."

"Great Caesar! Who knew about that letter?"

"Miss Lord was present when Irene found the letter, and she heard Irene
exclaim that it was all about my mother, as well as about my
grandfather."

"Miss Lord?"

"Yes."

"And the book was taken by someone?"

"The next day. We missed it after--after Miss Lord had visited the den
alone."

"Huh!"

He rode for awhile in silence.

"Really," he muttered, as if to himself, "I ought to go back. I ought
not to take for granted the fact that this old letter is unimportant.
However, Irene has read it, and if it happened to be of value I'm sure
the girl would have told me about it."

"Yes, she certainly would have told you," agreed Mary Louise. "But she
declared that even I would not be interested in reading it."

"That's the only point that perplexes me," said the lawyer.
"Just--that--one--point."

"Why?" asked the girl.

But Mr. Conant did not explain. He sat bolt upright on his seat,
staring at the back of Bub's head, for the rest of the journey. Mary
Louise noticed that his fingers constantly fumbled with the locket on
his watch chain.

As the lawyer left the car at the station he whispered to Mary Louise:

"Tell Irene that I now know about the letter; and just say to her that
I consider her a very cautious girl. Don't say anything more. And
don't, for heaven's sake, suspect poor Miss Lord. I'll talk with Irene
when I return on Friday."

On their way back Bub maintained an absolute silence until after they
had passed the Huddle. Before they started to climb the hill road,
however, the boy suddenly slowed up, halted the car and turned
deliberately in his seat to face Mary Louise.

"Bein' as how you're a gal," said he, "I ain't got much use fer ye, an'
that's a fact. I don't say it's your fault, nor that ye wouldn't 'a'
made a pass'ble boy ef ye'd be'n borned thet way. But you're right on
one thing, an' don't fergit I told ye so: thet woman at Bigbee's ain't
on the square."

"How do you know?" asked Mary Louise, delighted to be taken into Bub's
confidence--being a girl.

"The critter's too slick," he explained, raising one bare foot to the
cushion beside him and picking a sliver out of his toe. "Her eyes ain't
got their shutters raised. Eyes're like winders, but hers ye kain't see
through. I don't know nuth'n' 'bout that slick gal at Bigbee's an' I
don't want to know nuth'n'. But I heer'd what ye said to the boss, an'
what he said to you, an' I guess you're right in sizin' the critter up,
an' the boss is wrong."

With this he swung round again and started the car, nor did he utter
another word until he ran the machine into the garage.

During Mary Louise's absence Irene had had a strange and startling
experience with their beautiful neighbor. The girl had wheeled her
chair out upon the bluff to sun herself and read, Mrs. Conant being
busy in the house, when Agatha Lord strolled up to her with a smile and
a pleasant "good morning."

"I'm glad to find you alone," said she, seating herself beside the
wheeled chair. "I saw Mr. Conant and Mary Louise pass the Bigbee place
and decided this would be a good opportunity for you and me to have a
nice, quiet talk together. So I came over."

Irene's face was a bit disdainful as she remarked:

"I found the cushion this morning."

"What cushion do you refer to?" asked Agatha with a puzzled expression.

Irene frowned.

"We cannot talk frankly together when we are at cross purposes," she
complained.

"Very true, my dear; but you seem inclined to speak in riddles."

"Do you deny any knowledge of my chair cushion!"

"I do."

"I must accept your statement, of course. What do you wish to say to
me, Miss Lord?"

"I would like to establish a more friendly understanding between us.
You are an intelligent girl and cannot fail to realize that I have
taken a warm interest in your friend Mary Louise Burrows. I want to
know more about her, and about her people, who seem to have cast her
off. You are able to give me this information, I am sure, and by doing
so you may be instrumental in assisting your friend materially."

It was an odd speech; odd and insincere. Irene studied the woman's face
curiously.

"Who are you, Miss Lord?" she inquired.

"Your neighbor."

"Why are you our neighbor?"

"I am glad to be able to explain that--to you, in confidence. I am
trying to clear the name of Colonel Weatherby from a grave charge--the
charge of high treason."

"In other words, you are trying to discover where he is," retorted
Irene impatiently.

"No, my dear; you mistake me. It is not important to my mission, at
present, to know where Colonel Weatherby is staying. I am merely
seeking relevant information, such information as you are in a position
to give me."

"I, Miss Lord?"

"Yes. To be perfectly frank, I want to see the letter which you found
in that book."

"Why should you attach any importance to that?"

"I was present, you will remember, when you discovered it. I marked
your surprise and perplexity--your fear and uncertainty--as you glanced
first at the writing and then at Mary Louise. You determined not to
show your friend that letter because it would disturb her, yet you
inadvertently admitted, in my hearing, that it referred to the girl's
mother and--which is vastly more important--to her grandfather."

"Well; what then, Miss Lord?"

"Colonel Weatherby is a man of mystery. He has been hunted by
Government agents for nearly ten years, during which time he has
successfully eluded them. If you know anything of the Government
service you know it has a thousand eyes, ten thousand ears and a myriad
of long arms to seize its malefactors. It has not yet captured Colonel
Weatherby."

"Why has he been hunted all these years?"

"He is charged, as I said, with high treason. By persistently evading
capture he has tacitly admitted his guilt."

"But he is innocent!" cried Irene indignantly.

Miss Lord seemed surprised, yet not altogether ill-pleased, at the
involuntary exclamation.

"Indeed!" she said softly. "Could you prove that statement?"

"I--I think so," stammered the girl, regretting her hasty avowal.

"Then why not do so and by restoring Mary Louise to her grandfather
make them both happy?"

Irene sat silent, trapped.

"This is why I have come to you," continued Agatha, very seriously. "I
am employed by those whose identity I must not disclose to sift this
mystery of Colonel Weatherby to the bottom, if possible, and then to
fix the guilt where it belongs. By accident you have come into
possession of certain facts that would be important in unravelling the
tangle, but through your unfortunate affliction you are helpless to act
in your own capacity. You need an ally with more strength and
experience than yourself, and I propose you accept me as that ally.
Together we may be able to clear the name of James J. Hathaway--who now
calls himself Colonel James Weatherby--from all reproach and so restore
him to the esteem of his fellow men."

"But we must not do that, even if we could!" cried Irene, quite
distressed by the suggestion.

"Why not, my dear?"

The tone was so soft and cat-like that it alarmed Irene instantly.
Before answering she took time to reflect. To her dismay she found this
woman was gradually drawing from her the very information she had
declared she would preserve secret. She knew well that she was no match
for Agatha Lord in a trial of wits. Her only recourse must be a
stubborn refusal to explain anything more.

"Colonel Weatherby," she said slowly, "has better information than I of
the charge against him and his reasons for keeping hidden, yet he
steadfastly refuses to proclaim his innocence or to prove he is
unjustly accused, which he might very well do if he chose. You say you
are working in his interests, and, allowing that, I am satisfied he
would bitterly reproach anyone who succeeded in clearing his name by
disclosing the truth."

This argument positively amazed Agatha Lord, as it might well amaze
anyone who had not read the letter. In spite of her supreme confidence
of the moment before, the woman now suddenly realized that this
promising interview was destined to end disastrously to her plans.

"I am so obtuse that you will have to explain that statement," she said
with assumed carelessness; but Irene was now on guard and replied:

"Then our alliance is dissolved. I do not intend, Miss Lord, to betray
such information as I may have stumbled upon unwittingly. You express
interest in Mary Louise and her grandfather and say you are anxious to
serve them. So am I. Therefore I beg you, in their interests, to
abandon any further attempt to penetrate the secret."

Agatha was disconcerted.

"Show me the letter," she urged, as a last resort. "If, on reading it,
I find your position is justifiable--you must admit it is now
bewildering--I will agree to abandon the investigation altogether."

"I will not show you the letter," declared the girl positively.

The woman studied her face.

"But you will consider this conversation confidential, will you not?"

"Since you request it, yes."

"I do not wish our very pleasant relations, as neighbors, disturbed. I
would rather the Conants and Mary Louise did not suspect I am here on
any especial mission."

"Very well."

"In truth," continued Agatha, "I am growing fond of yon all and this is
a real vacation to me, after a period of hard work in the city which
racked my nerves. Before long I must return to the old strenuous life,
so I wish to make the most of my present opportunities."

"I understand."

No further reference was made to the letter or to Colonel Weatherby.
They talked of other things for a while and when Miss Lord went away
there seemed to exist--at least upon the surface--the same friendly
relations that had formerly prevailed between them.

Irene, reflecting upon the interview, decided that while she had
admitted more than was wise she had stopped short of exposing the truth
about Colonel Weatherby. The letter was safely hidden, now. She defied
even Miss Lord to find it. If she could manage to control her tongue,
hereafter, the secret was safe in her possession.

Thoughtfully she wheeled herself back to the den and finding the room
deserted she ventured to peep into her novel hiding-place. Yes; the
precious letter was still safe. But this time, in her abstraction, she
failed to see the face at the window.



CHAPTER XX

DIAMOND CUT DIAMOND


Tuesday afternoon Miss Lord's big touring car stood at the door of
Hillcrest Lodge, for Agatha had invited the Conant party to ride with
her to Millbank. Irene was tucked into the back seat in a comfortable
position and beside her sat Mrs. Conant, who was going to make a few
purchases at the village store. Mary Louise rode on the front seat with
Agatha, who loved to drive her car and understood it perfectly.

When they drove away there was no one left in the house but Sarah Judd,
the servant girl, who was washing the lunch dishes. Bub was in the
shed-like garage, however, washing and polishing Will Morrison's old
car, on which the paint was so cracked and faded that the boy's attempt
to improve its appearance was a desperate one.

Sarah, through the kitchen window, watched Bub for a time rather
sharply. Then she went out on the bluff and looked down in the valley.
Miss Lord's big car was just passing the Huddle on its way up the
valley.

Sarah turned and reentered the house. Her meek and diffident expression
of countenance had quite disappeared. Her face now wore a look of stern
determination and the blue eyes deepened and grew shrewd.

She walked straight to the den and without hesitation approached the
farther wall and took from its pegs Will Morrison's fine hunting rifle.
In the stock was a hollow chamber for cartridges, for the rifle was of
the type known as a "repeater." Sliding back the steel plate that hid
this cavity, Sarah drew from it a folded paper of a yellow tint and
calmly spread it on the table before her. Then she laid down the rifle,
placed a chair at the table and with absorbed attention read the letter
from beginning to end--the letter that Irene had found in the book.

It was closely written on both sides the thin sheet--evidently of
foreign make--and although the writing was faded it was still clearly
legible.

After the first perusal Sarah Judd leaned her elbows on the table and
her head on her hands and proceeded to study the epistle still more
closely. Then she drew from her pocket a notebook and pencil and with
infinite care made a copy of the entire letter, writing it in her book
in shorthand. This accomplished, she replaced the letter in the rifle
stock and hung the weapon on its pegs again.

Both the window and the glass door of the den faced the back yard.
Sarah opened the door and stood there in deep thought, watching Bub at
his work. Then she returned to the table and opening a drawer drew out
a sheet of blank paper. On this she wrote the following words:

"John Folger, 1601 F. Street, Washington, D. C.

Nothing under sterling over letter bobbing every kernel sad mother
making frolic better quick. If England rumples paper Russia admires
money.

Sarah Judd."

Each word of this preposterous phrasing she wrote after consulting
another book hidden cleverly among the coils of her red hair--a tiny
book it--was, filled with curious characters. When the writing was
finished the girl seemed well satisfied with her work. After tucking
away the book in its former place she went to her room, got her purse
and then proceeded to the shed and confronted Bub.

"I want you to drive this car to Millbank, to the telegraph office at
the railway station," said Sarah.

Bub gave her a scornful look.

"Ye're crazy," he said and went on with his polishing.

"That needn't worry you," retorted the girl.

"It don't," declared Bub.

"You can drive and you're going to," she continued. "I've got to send
this telegram quick, and you've got to take it." She opened her purse
and placed two coins on the fender of the car. "There's a dollar to pay
for the message, and there's a five-dollar gold-piece to pay you for
your trouble."

Bub gave a gasp. He came up beside her and stared at the money. Then he
turned to look at Sarah Judd.

"What's up?" he demanded.

"Private business. Don't ask questions; you'd only get lies for
answers. Go and earn your money."

"Miss' Conant, she's gone to Millbank herself. Ef she sees me there,
I'll git fired. The boss'll fire me himself, anyhow, fer usin' the car
when he tol' me not to."

"How much do you get a week!" asked Sarah.

"Four bits."

"That's about two dollars a month. In two months the Conants will move
back to the city, and by then you'll have earned four dollars. Why,
Bub, it's cheaper for you to take this five-dollar gold-piece and get
fired, than to work for two months for four dollars."

Bub scratched his head in perplexity.

"Ye ain't count'n' on the fun o' workin'," he suggested.

"I'm counting on that five dollars--eight bits to a dollar, forty bits
altogether. Why, it's a fortune, Bub."

He took out his knife, looked around for a stick to whittle and,
finding none, put the knife in his pocket with a sigh.

"I guess Will Morrison wouldn't like it," he decided. "Put up yer
money, Sairy."

Sarah withdrew the gold-piece and put a larger one in its place.

"There," she said; "let's make it ten dollars, and save time."

Bub's hesitation vanished, but he asked anxiously:

"Tain't go'n' to do no harm to them gals thet's stoppin' here, is it?"

"It is to do them a good turn that I'm sending this telegram."

"Honor bright?"

"Hope to die, Bub."

"All right; I'm off."

He folded the letter, placed it inside his Scotch cap and stowed the
money carefully in his pocket.

"Don't let any of the folks see you if yon can help it," warned Sarah;
"and, whatever happens, don't say anything about that telegram to a
living soul. Only--see that it's sent."

"I'm wise," answered Bub and a moment later he started the car and
rolled away down the road.

Sarah Judd looked after him with a queer smile on her face. Then she
went back to her kitchen and resumed her dish-washing. Presently a
scarcely audible sound arrested her attention. It seemed to come from
the interior of the Lodge.

Sarah avoided making a particle of noise herself as she stole softly
through the dining room and entered the main hallway. One glance showed
her that the front door was ajar and the door of the den
closed--exactly the reverse of what they should be. She crept forward
and with a sudden movement threw open the door of the den.

A woman stood in the center of the room. As the door opened she swung
around and pointed a revolver at Sarah. Then for a moment they silently
faced one another.

"Ah," said the woman, with an accent of relief, "you're the servant. Go
back to your work. Mrs. Conant told me to make myself at home here."

"Yes, I know," replied Sarah sarcastically. "She said she was expecting
you and told me it wouldn't do any harm to keep an eye on you while
you're here. She said Miss Lord was going to get all the family away,
so you could make a careful search of the house, you being Miss Lord's
maid, Susan--otherwise known as Nan Shelley, from the Washington
Bureau."

Susan's hand shook so ridiculously that she lowered the revolver to
prevent its dropping from her grasp. Her countenance expressed chagrin,
surprise, anger.

"I don't know you," she said harshly. "Who are you?"

"New at the game," replied Sarah Judd, with a shrug. "You don't know
me, Nan, but I know you; and I know your record, too. You're as slick
as they make 'em, and the one who calls herself Agatha Lord is just an
infantile amateur beside you. But go ahead, Nan; don't let me interrupt
your work."

The woman sank into a chair.

"You can't be from the home office," she muttered, staring hard at the
girl. "They wouldn't dare interfere with my work here."

"No; I'm not from the home office."

"I knew," said Susan, "as soon as I heard the story of your coming,
that it was faked. I'd gamble that you never saw Mrs. Morrison in your
life."

"You'd win," said Sarah, also taking a chair.

"Then who could have sent you here?"

"Figure it out yourself," suggested Sarah.

"I'm trying to. Do you know what we're after?"

"A clew to Hathaway. Incidentally, any other information concerning him
that comes your way. That includes the letter."

"Oh. So you know about the letter, do you?" asked Susan.

"To be sure. And I know that's what you're here for now. Don't let me
interrupt you. It's a mighty hard job, finding that letter, and the
folks'll be back by and by."

"You're right," exclaimed the woman, rising abruptly. "Go back to your
work in the kitchen."

"This is my occupation, just now," retorted Sarah, lolling in her
chair. "Go ahead with your search, Nan, and I'll tell you when you are
'hot' or 'cold.'"

"You're an impudent little chit," said Nan tartly. "See here," with a
sudden change of voice, "let's pool issues. If we can discover anything
important in this place, there's reward enough for us all."

"I am not opposing you," protested Sarah Judd, "I'm not a particle
interested in whether you trace Hathaway or not. I don't believe you
can do it, though, and that letter you're so eager for won't help you a
bit. It was written ten years ago."

"That makes it more important," declared the other, "We've two things
to accomplish; one is to locate Hathaway, and the other to secure
absolute proof of his guilt."

"I thought he was caught doing the job."

"So he was, in a way. But the Department needs more proof."

Sarah Judd smiled unbelievingly. Then she chuckled. Presently she
laughed outright, in genuine merriment, as the thought that amused her
grew and expanded.

"What fools--" she said, "what perfect fools--we mortals be!"

All this annoyed Nan Shelley exceedingly. The successful woman
detective did not relish being jeered at by a mere girl.

"You've read the letter, I suppose, and are now making fun of me for
trying to get it? Perhaps you've hidden it yourself--although that
isn't likely. Why can't you give me an honest tip? We're both in the
same line, it seems, and both trying to earn an honest living. How
about that letter? Is it necessary for me to find it?"

"I've read it," admitted Sarah, "and I know where it is. You might
perhaps find it, if you hunted long enough, but it isn't worth your
while. It wouldn't help in the least to convict Hathaway and of course
it couldn't tell you where he is now hiding."

"Is this straight?"

"True as gospel."

"Then why don't you prove it by showing me the letter?"

"Because I don't belong on your side of the fence. You're working for
one organization and I for another. Any little tip I let slip is just
for your personal use. Don't bother about that letter."

Susan--or Nan Shelley--sat for a time in thought. Once in a while she
would cast a furtive glance around the room and its wall covered with
trophies, and then she would turn to Sarah Judd's placid face.

"Where did the boy go?" she asked abruptly.

"What boy?"

"Bub; in the automobile."

"To Millbank."

"What for?"

"To send a telegram."

"Your report?"

"Yes."

"Important?"

"I think it'll bring things to a climax."

"The Hathaway case?"

"You can guess anything, Nan, if you guess long enough."

Nan rose and put the revolver in her pocket. Then she held out her hand
frankly to Sarah Judd.

"If you've beaten me in this affair," she said, with no apparent
resentment, "you're clever enough to become famous some day. I'm going
to take your advice about the letter and if that climax you're
predicting arrives on schedule time I'll not be sorry to quit this
dreary, dragging case and pick up a more interesting one."

The tone was friendly and frank. Sarah stretched out her hand to meet
that of Nan and in a flash a handcuff snapped over her wrist. With a
cry she drew back, but a dextrous twist of her opponent's free hand
prisoned her other wrist and she at once realized that she was fairly
caught.

"Fine!" she cried admiringly, as she looked at her bonds, "What next,
Nan?"

But Nan was too busy to talk. She deftly searched the girl's pocket and
found the notebook. The shorthand writing caught her eye at once but
the characters were unknown to her.

"Cipher, eh?" she muttered.

"A little code of my own invention," said Sarah. "Sometimes I can't
make it out myself."

Nan restored the book and examined Sarah Judd's purse.

"They keep you well supplied with funds, it seems."

"Comes handy in emergencies," was the reply.

"Now let's go to your room."

Sarah, handcuffed, led the way. Nan Shelley made a wonderfully rapid
search through every article in the maid's room. The lining of her
clothes was inspected, her hair-brush tested for a sliding back, the
pictures on the wall, the rug and the bed-clothing examined minutely.
Yet all this consumed but a brief period of time and resulted in no
important discovery.

"Feel better?" asked Sarah cheerfully.

"You know I do. I'm going to remove these handcuffs, now, and then I'm
going home. Come and see me, some time when you feel lonesome. I've
only that fool Agatha to talk to and I've an idea you and I might
interest each other."

As she spoke she unlocked the manacles and dropped them with a slight
click into a concealed pocket of her dark skirt.

"I imagine Agatha isn't REAL brilliant," returned Sarah; "but neither
am I. When I'm your age, Nan, I hope to be half as clever. Just now you
can twist me around your finger."

Nan regarded her seriously.

"I wish I knew what you are up to," she remarked suspiciously. "You can
scarcely conceal your joy, my girl, and that proves I've overlooked
something. You've puzzled me, youngster as you are, but you must
remember that I'm working in the dark while some mysterious gleam of
knowledge lights your way. Put us side by side, on the same track, and
I wouldn't be afraid of you, Sarah Judd."

"Don't apologize, Nan; it makes me feel ashamed."

Nan's frown, as she looked into the blue eyes, turned to a smile of
appreciation. Sarah also smiled, and then she said:

"Let me make you a cup of tea before you go."

"A good idea. We're friends, then?"

"Why not? One friend is worth a thousand enemies and it's absurd to
quarrel with one for doing her duty."

"That's what O'Gorman is always saying. Ever hear of O'Gorman?"

"Yes; he's one of the old stand-bys in the secret service department;
but they say he's getting old. Slipped a good many cogs lately, I hear."

"He's the Chief's right hand man. O'Gorman used to have this case--the
branch of it I'm now working--but he gave it up and recommended the
Chief to put me on the job. Said a woman could trail Mary Louise better
than any man and with less chance of discovery; and he was right, for
I've lived half a block from her in Dorfield and she never saw my face
once. But O'Gorman didn't suspect you were coming into the case and the
thing's getting altogether too complicated to suit me."

Sarah was brewing the tea and considered an answer unnecessary. The
conversation drifted away from the Hathaway case and into less personal
channels. When Nan Shelley finally rose to go there was sincere
friendliness in Sarah's "good-bye" and the elder woman said in parting:

"You're the right sort, Sarah. If ever you drift into Washington and
need work, come to me and I'll get the Chief to take you on. I know
he'd be glad to get you."

"Thank you, Nan," said Sarah meekly.

But there was a smile on her freckled face as she watched her recent
acquaintance walk down the road, and it lingered there while she
returned to her kitchen and finally washed and put away the long
neglected lunch dishes.

Bub dashed into the yard and tooted his horn. Sarah went out to him.

"Ye kin call me lucky, ef ye don't mind," he said with a grin. "Sent
yer tel'gram, found out the tenner ye guv me were good, an' got back
without the folks gett'n' a single blink at me."

"You're some driver, Bub, and you've got a wise head on your shoulders.
If you don't talk about this trip, and I don't, no one will ever know,
except we two, that the car has been out of the garage."



CHAPTER XXI

BAD NEWS


Peter Conant had told his wife that he wouldn't be at the Lodge this
week until Saturday, as business would prevent his coming earlier, yet
the Thursday afternoon train brought him to Millbank and Bill Coombs'
stage took him to Hillcrest.

"Why, Peter!" exclaimed Aunt Hannah, when she saw him, "what on earth
brought you--"

Then she stopped short, for Peter's eyes were staring more roundly than
usual and the hand that fumbled at his locket trembled visibly. He
stared at Aunt Hannah, he stared at Irene; but most of all he stared at
Mary Louise, who seemed to sense from his manner some impending
misfortune.

"H-m," said the lawyer, growing red and then paling; "I've bad news."

He chopped the words off abruptly, as if he resented the necessity of
uttering them. His eyes, which had been fixed upon the face of Mary
Louise, suddenly wavered and sought the floor.

His manner said more than his words. Mary Louise grew white and pressed
her hands to her heart, regarding the lawyer with eyes questioning and
full of fear. Irene turned a sympathetic gaze upon her friend and Aunt
Hannah came closer to the girl and slipped an arm around her waist, as
if to help her to endure this unknown trial. And Mary Louise, feeling
she could not bear the suspense, asked falteringly:

"Has--Gran'pa Jim--been--"

"No," said Mr. Conant. "No, my dear, no."

"Then--has anything happened to--to--mother?"

"Well, well," muttered the lawyer, with a sort or growl, "Mrs. Burrows
has not been in good health for some months, it seems. She--eh--was
under a--eh--under a nervous strain; a severe nervous strain, you know,
and--"

"Is she dead?" asked the girl in a low, hard voice.

"The end, it seems, came unexpectedly, several days ago. She did not
suffer, your grandfather writes, but--"

Again he left his sentence unfinished, for Mary Louise had buried her
face in Aunt Hannah's bosom and was sobbing in a miserable,
heart-breaking way that made Peter jerk a handkerchief from, his pocket
and blow his nose lustily. Then he turned and marched from the room,
while his wife led the hapless girl to a sofa and cuddled her in her
lap as if she had been a little child.

"She's best with the women," muttered Peter to himself. "It's a
sorrowful thing--a dreadful thing, in a way--but it can't be helped
and--she's best with the women."

He had wandered into the dining room, where Sarah Judd was laying the
table for dinner. She must have overheard the conversation in the
living room, for she came beside the lawyer and asked:

"When did Mrs. Burrows die?"

"On Monday."

"Where?"

"That's none of your business, my girl."

"Has the funeral been held?"

He regarded her curiously. The idea of a servant asking such questions!
But there was a look in Sarah's blue eyes that meant more than
curiosity; somehow, it drew from him an answer.

"Mrs. Burrows was cremated on Wednesday. It seems she preferred it to
burial." Having said this, he turned to stare from the window again.

Sarah Judd stood silent a moment. Then she said with a sigh of relief:

"It's a queer world, isn't it, Mr. Conant? And this death isn't
altogether a calamity."

"Eh? Why not?" whirling round to face her.

"Because," said Sarah, "it will enable Mr. Hathaway to face the world
again--a free man."

Peter Conant was so startled that he stood motionless, forgetting his
locket but not forgetting to stare. Sarah, with her hands full of forks
and spoons, began placing the silver in orderly array upon the table.
She paid no heed to the lawyer, who gradually recovered his poise and
watched her with newly awakened interest. Once or twice he opened his
mouth to speak, and then decided not to. He was bewildered, perplexed,
suspicious. In thought he began to review the manner of Sarah's coming
to them, and her subsequent actions. She seemed a capable servant. Mrs.
Conant had never complained of her. Yet--what did she know of Hathaway?

Mary Louise did not appear at dinner. She begged to be left alone in
her room. Sarah took her some toast and tea, with honest sympathy in
her eyes, but the sorrowing girl shook her head and would not taste the
food. Later, however, in the evening, she entered the living room where
the others sat in depressed silence and said:

"Please, Mr. Conant, tell me all you know about--mother."

"It is very little, my dear" replied the lawyer in a kindly tone. "This
morning I received a message from your grandfather which said: 'Poor
Beatrice passed away on Monday and at her request her body was cremated
to-day. Be very gentle in breaking the sad news to Mary Louise.' That
was all, my child, and I came here as quickly as I could. In a day or
so we shall have further details, I feel sure. I am going back to town
in the morning and will send you any information I receive."

"Thank you," said the girl, and was quietly leaving the room when Irene
called to her.

"Mary Louise!"

"Yes?" half turning.

"Will you come with me to my room?"

"Now?"

"Yes. You know I cannot go up the stairs. And--I lost my own dear
mother not long ago, you will remember."

Tears started to the girl's eyes, but she waited until Irene wheeled
her chair beside her and then the two went through the den to Irene's
room.

Mrs. Conant nodded to Peter approvingly.

"Irene will comfort her," she said, "and in a way far better than I
might do. It is all very dreadful and very sad, Peter, but the poor
child has never enjoyed much of her mother's society and when the first
bitter grief is passed I think she will recover something of her usual
cheerfulness."

"H-m," returned the lawyer; "it seems a hard thing to say, Hannah, but
this demise may prove a blessing in disguise and be best for the
child's future happiness. In any event, I'm sure it will relieve the
strain many of us have been under for the past ten years."

"You talk in riddles, Peter."

"The whole thing is a riddle, Hannah. And, by the way, have you noticed
anything suspicious about our hired girl?"

"About Sarah? No," regarding him with surprise.

"Does she--eh--snoop around much?"

"No; she's a very good girl."

"Too good to be true, perhaps," observed Peter, and lapsed into
thought. Really, it wouldn't matter now how much Sarah Judd--or anyone
else--knew of the Hathaway case. The mystery would solve itself,
presently.



CHAPTER XXII

THE FOLKS AT BIGBEE'S


Mr. Conant decided to take the Friday morning train back to Dorfield,
saying it would not be possible for him to remain at the Lodge over
Sunday, because important business might require his presence in town.

"This demise of Mrs. Burrows," he said confidentially to his wife in
the privacy of their room, "may have far-reaching results and turn the
whole current of Colonel Weatherby's life."

"I don't see why," said Aunt Hannah.

"You're not expected to see why," he replied. "As the Colonel is my
most important client, I must be at the office in case of developments
or a sudden demand for my services. I will tell you one thing, however,
and that is that this vacation at Hillcrest Lodge was planned by the
Colonel while I was in New York, with the idea that he and Mrs. Burrows
would come here secretly and enjoy a nice visit with Mary Louise."

"You planned all that, Peter!"

"Yes. That is, Weatherby planned it. He knows Will Morrison well, and
Will was only too glad to assist him; so they wired me to come to New
York, where all was quickly arranged. This place is so retired that we
considered it quite safe for the fugitives to come here."

"Why didn't they come, then?"

"Two reasons prevented them. One was the sudden breaking of Mrs.
Burrows' health; the other reason was the Colonel's discovery that in
some way our carefully laid plans had become known to the detectives
who are seeking him."

"Good gracious! Are you sure of that, Peter!"

"The Colonel seemed sure. He maintains a detective force on his own
account and his spies discovered that Hillcrest is being watched by
agents of the Secret Service."

"Dear me; what a maze of deceit!" wailed the good woman. "I wish you
were well out of the whole affair, Peter; and I wish Mary Louise was
out of it, too."

"So do I, with all my heart. But it's coming to a focus soon, Hannah.
Be patient and it may end better than we now fear."

So Bub drove Mr. Conant to Millbank and then the boy took the car to
the blacksmith shop to have a small part repaired. The blacksmith made
a bungle of it and wasted all the forenoon before he finally took Bub's
advice about shaping it and the new rod was attached and found to work
successfully.

It was after one o'clock when the boy at last started for home and on
the way was hailed by a stranger--a little man who was trudging along
the road with both hands thrust in his pockets.

"Going far?" he asked.

"Up th' mount'n to Hillcrest," said Bub.

"Oh. May I have a lift?"

"How fer?"

"Well, I can't say how far I'll go. I'm undecided. Just came out here
for a little fresh air, you know, with no definite plans," explained
the stranger.

"Hop in," said Bub and for a time they rode together in silence.

"This 'ere's the Huddle, as we're comin' to," announced the boy. "Ol'
Miss' Parsons she sometimes takes boarders."

"That's kind of her," remarked the stranger. "But the air isn't so good
as further up the hill."

"Ef ye go up," said Bub with a grin, "guess ye'll hev to camp out an'
eat scrub. Nobody don't take boarders, up th' mount'n."

"I suppose not."

He made no demand to be let out at the Huddle, so Bub drove on.

"By the way," said the little man, "isn't there a place called
Bigbee's, near here?"

"Comin' to it pretty soon. They's some gals livin' there now, so ye
won't care to stop."

"What sort of girls are they?"

"Sort o' queer."

"Yes?"

"Ye bet ye. Come from the city a while ago an' livin' by theyselves.
Someth'n' wrong 'bout them gals," added Bub reflectively.

"In what way?" asked the little man in a tone of interest.

"They ain't here fer nuth'n' special 'cept watchin' the folks at
Hillcrest. Them's the folks I belongs to. For four bits a week. They's
someth'n' queer 'bout them, too; but I guess all the folks is queer
thet comes here from the city."

"Quite likely," agreed the little man, nodding. "Let me out at
Bigbee's, please, and I'll look over those women and form my own
opinion of them. They may perhaps be friends of mine."

"In thet case," asserted Bub, "I pity ye, stranger. F'r my part, I
ain't got no use fer anything thet wears skirts--'cept one er two,
mebbe," he added reflectively. "Most men I kin git 'long with
fust-rate; but ef a man ever gits in trouble, er begins cussin' an'
acts ugly, it's 'cause some gal's rubbed him crossways the grain er
stuck a knife in him an' twisted the blade--so's ter speak."

"You're an observant lad, I see."

"When I'm awake I kain't help seein' things."

"And you're a pastoral philosopher."

Bub scowled and gave him a surly glance.

"What's the use firin' thet high-brow stuff at me?" he asked
indignantly. "I s'pose ye think I'm a kid, jes' 'cause I don't do no
fancy talkin'."

"I suspect you of nothing but generosity in giving me this ride," said
the stranger pleasantly. "Is that Bigbee's, over yonder?"

"Yes."

The little man got out at the point where the Bigbee drive met the
road, and walked up the drive toward the house. Agatha Lord was
standing at the gateway, as he approached it, and seemed rather
startled at his appearance. But she quickly controlled her surprise and
asked in a calm voice, as she faced him:

"What's up, O'Gorman?"

"Hathaway's coming here," he said.

"Are you sure?"

"He's in Dorfield to-day, waiting to see Lawyer Conant, who went in on
the morning train. Where's Nan?"

"Here, my lord!" said Nan Shelley, stepping from behind a tall shrub.
"How are you, partner? I recognized you as you passed the Huddle with
the boy."

"Field glasses, eh? There isn't much escapes you, Nan."

"Why didn't you tell me?" asked Agatha reproachfully.

"Why don't you make your own discoveries?" retorted her confederate.
Then, turning to O'Gorman, she continued: "So Hathaway's coming, is he?
At last."

"A little late, but according to program. How have you been getting
along?"

"Bored to death," asserted Nan. "Agatha has played the lady and I've
done the dirty work. But tell me, why didn't you nab Hathaway at
Dorfield?"

O'Gorman smiled a little grimly as he answered:

"I'm not sure, Nan, that we shall nab Hathaway at all."

"Isn't he being shadowed?" with some surprise.

"No. But he'll come here, right enough; and then--"

"And then," she added, as he paused, "the chase of years will come to
an end."

"Exactly. We may decide to take him to Washington, and we may not."

She gazed at him inquiringly.

"There are some new developments, then, O'Gorman?"

"I'm inclined to suspect there are."

"Known to the department?"

"Yes. I'm to investigate and use my judgment."

"I see. Then Agatha and I are out of it?"

"Not yet; I'm still depending on your shrewdness to assist me. The
office has only had a hint, so far, of the prospective break in the
case, but--"

"Oh, yes; I remember now," exclaimed Nan.

"That girl up at Conant's sent a telegram, in a desperate hurry. I
suspected it meant something important. Who is she, O'Gorman, and why
did the Chief cut under us by planting Sarah Judd in the Conants'
household?"

"He didn't. The girl has nothing to do with the Department."

"Then some of you intercepted the telegram?"

"We know what it said," he admitted.

"Come, let's go to the house. I've had no lunch. Can you feed me?"

"Certainly." They turned and walked slowly up the path. Said Nan,
musingly: "That Sarah Judd is rather clever, O'Gorman. Is she in
Hathaway's pay?"

"I think not," he replied, with an amused chuckle.

Nan tossed her head indignantly.

"Very well; play me for a ninny, if you like," she said resentfully.
"You'll get a heap more out of me, in that way!"

"Now, now," said Agatha warningly, "keep your tempers and don't
quarrel. You two are like cats and dogs when you get together; yet
you're the two cleverest people in the service. According to your
story, Mr. O'Gorman, there's an important crisis approaching, and we'd
all like to be able to render a good account of ourselves."

Agatha Lord may have lacked something of Nan's experience, but this
speech proved her a fair diplomat. It dispersed the gathering storm and
during the rest of that afternoon the three counseled together in
perfect harmony, O'Gorman confiding to his associates such information
as would enable them to act with him intelligently. Hathaway and Peter
Conant could not arrive till the next day at noon; they might even come
by the afternoon train. Nan's field glasses would warn them of the
arrival and meanwhile there was ample time to consider how they should
act.



CHAPTER XXIII

A KISS FROM JOSIE


That evening, as Sarah Judd was sitting in her room reading a book, her
work for the day being over, she heard a succession of little taps
against her window-pane. She sat still, listening, until the taps were
repeated, when she walked straight to the window, drew the shade and
threw tip the sash. O'Gorman's face appeared in the opening and the
girl put a hand on each of his cheeks and leaning over kissed him full
upon his lips.

The man's face, lighted by the lamp from within the room, was radiant.
Even the fat nose was beatified by the love that shone in his small
gray eyes. He took one of her hands in both of his own and held it
close a moment, while they regarded one another silently.

Then he gave a little beckoning signal and the girl turned to slip on a
light coat, for the nights were chill on the mountain. Afterward she
unfastened her outside door and joined the detective, who passed an arm
around her and led her to one of the benches on the bluff.

The new moon was dim, but a sprinkling of stars lit the sky. The man
and girl were far enough from the Lodge not to be overheard.

"It's good to see you again, Josie," said O'Gorman, as they seated
themselves on the bench. "How do you like being a sleuth?"

"Really, Daddy," she replied, "it has been no end of a lark. I'm dead
sick of washing other folks' dishes, I confess, but the fun I've had
has more than made up for the hard work. Do you know, Dad, I had a
session with Nan Shelley one day, and she didn't have much the best of
it, either, although she's quick as a cat and had me backed off the map
in every way except for the matter of wits. My thoughts didn't crumble
much and Nan was good enough to congratulate me. She knew, as soon as I
did, about the letter the crippled girl found in a book, but I managed
to make a copy of it, while Nan is still wondering where it is hid. I'm
patting myself on the back, Dad, because you trained me and I want to
prove myself a credit to your training. It's no wonder, with such a
master, that I could hold my own with Nan Shelley!"

He gave a little amused laugh.

"You're all right, Josie dear," he replied. "My training wouldn't have
amounted to shucks if you hadn't possessed the proper gray matter to
work with. But about that letter," more seriously; "your telegram told
me a lot, because our code is so concise, but it also left a good deal
to be guessed at. Who wrote the letter? I must know all the details in
order to understand it properly."

"It's all down in my private shorthand book," said Josie O'Gorman, "but
I've never dared make a clear copy while Nan was so near me. You can't
read it, Dad, and I can't read it to you in the dark; so you'll have to
wait."

"Have you your notebook here?"

"Always carry it."

He drew an electric storage-lamp from his pocket and shielded the tiny
circle of light with his coat.

"Now, then," said he, "read the letter to me, Josie. It's impossible
for anyone to see the light from the house."

The girl held her notebook behind the flap of his coat, where the lamp
shed its white rays upon it, and slowly read the text of the letter.
O'Gorman sat silent for some time after she had finished reading.

"In all my speculations concerning the Hathaway case," he said to his
daughter, "I never guessed this as the true solution of the man's
extraordinary actions. But now, realizing that Hathaway is a gentleman
to the core, I understand he could not have acted in any other way."

"Mrs. Burrows is dead," remarked Josie.

"I know. It's a pity she didn't die long ago."

"This thing killed her, Dad."

"I'm sure of it. She was a weak, though kind-hearted, woman and this
trouble wore her out with fear and anxiety. How did the girl--Mary
Louise--take her mother's death?"

"Rather hard, at first. She's quieter now. But--see here, Dad--are you
still working for the Department?"

"Of course."

"Then I'm sorry I've told you so much. I'm on the other side. I'm here
to protect Mary Louise Burrows and her interests."

"To be sure. I sent you here myself, at my own expense, both to test
your training before I let you into the regular game and for the sake
of the little Burrows girl, whom I fell in love with when she was so
friendless. I believed things would reach a climax in the Hathaway
case, in this very spot, but I couldn't foresee that your cleverness
would ferret out that letter, which the girl Irene intended to keep
silent about, nor did I know that the Chief would send me here in
person to supervise Hathaway's capture. Mighty queer things happen in
this profession of ours, and circumstances lead the best of us by the
nose."

"Do you intend to arrest Mr. Hathaway?"

"After hearing that letter read and in view of the fact that Mrs.
Burrows is dead, I think not. The letter, if authentic, clears up the
mystery to our complete satisfaction. But I must get the story from
Hathaway's own lips, and then compare his statement with that in the
letter. If they agree, we won't prosecute the man at all, and the
famous case that has caused us so much trouble for years will be filed
in the office pigeonholes and pass into ancient history."

Josie O'Gorman sat silent for a long time. Then she asked:

"Do you think Mr. Hathaway will come here, now that--now that--"

"I'm quite sure he will come."

"When?"

"To-morrow."

"Then I must warn them and try to head him off. I'm on his side, Dad;
don't forget that."

"I won't; and because you're on his side, Josie, you must let him come
and be vindicated, and so clear up this matter for good and all."

"Poor Mary Louise! I was thinking of her, not of her grandfather. Have
you considered how a knowledge of the truth will affect her?"

"Yes. She will be the chief sufferer when her grandfather's innocence
is finally proved."

"It will break her heart," said Josie, with a sigh.

"Perhaps not. She's mighty fond of her grandfather. She'll be glad to
have him freed from suspicion and she'll be sorry--about the other
thing."

Sarah Judd--otherwise Josie O'Gorman--sighed again; but presently she
gave a little chuckle of glee.

"Won't Nan be wild, though, when she finds I've beaten her and won the
case for Hathaway?"

"Nan won't mind. She's an old hand at the game and has learned to take
things as they come. She'll be at work upon some other case within a
week and will have forgotten that this one ever bothered her."

"Who is Agatha Lord, and why did they send her here as principal, with
Nan as her maid?"

"Agatha is an educated woman who has moved in good society. The Chief
thought she would be more likely to gain the friendship of the Conants
than Nan, for poor Nan hasn't much breeding to boast of. But she was
really the principal, for all that, and Agatha was instructed to report
to her and to take her orders."

"They were both suspicious of me," said the girl, "but as neither of
them had ever set eyes on me before I was able to puzzle them. On the
other hand, I knew who Nan was because I'd seen her with you, which
gave me an advantage. Now, tell me, how's mother?"

"Pretty chirky, but anxious about you because this is your first case
and she feared your judgment wasn't sufficiently matured. I told her
you'd pull through all right."

For an hour they sat talking together. Then Officer O'Gorman kissed his
daughter good night and walked back to the Bigbee house.



CHAPTER XXIV

FACING THE TRUTH


Irene was a great comfort to Mary Louise in this hour of trial. The
chair-girl, beneath her gayety of demeanor and lightness of speech, was
deeply religious. Her absolute faith sounded so cheering that death was
robbed of much of its horror and her bereaved friend found solace. Mary
Louise was able to talk freely of "Mamma Bee" to Irene, while with Aunt
Hannah she rather avoided reference to her mother.

"I've always longed to be more with Mamma Bee and to learn to know her
better," she said to her friend; "for, though she was very loving and
gentle to me while I was with her, she spent most of her life caring
for Gran'pa Jim, and they were away from me so much that I really
didn't get to know Mamma very well. I think she worried a good deal
over Gran'pa's troubles. She couldn't help that, of course, but I
always hoped that some day the troubles would be over and we could all
live happily together. And now--that can never be!"

Irene, knowing more of the Hathaway family history than Mary Louise
did, through the letter she had found and read, was often perplexed how
to console her friend and still regard honesty and truth. Any
deception, even when practiced through the best of motives, was
abhorrent to her nature, so she avoided speaking of the present
affliction and led Mary Louise to look to a future life for the
motherly companionship she had missed on earth.

"That," said she, "is the thought that has always given me the most
comfort. We are both orphans, dear, and I'm sure your nature is as
brave as my own and that you can bear equally well the loss of your
parents."

And Mary Louise was really brave and tried hard to bear her grief with
patient resignation. One thing she presently decided in her mind,
although she did not mention it to Irene. She must find Gran'pa Jim and
go to him, wherever he might be. Gran'pa Jim and her mother had been
inseparable companions; Mary Louise knew that her own present sorrow
could be nothing when compared with that of her grandfather. And so it
was her duty to find him and comfort him, to devote her whole life, as
her mother had done, to caring for his wants and cheering his
loneliness--so far, indeed, as she was able to do. Of course, no one
could quite take the place of Mamma Bee.

She was thinking in this vein as she sat in the den with Irene that
Saturday afternoon. The chair-girl, who sewed beautifully, was fixing
over one of Mary Louise's black dresses while Mary Louise sat opposite,
listlessly watching her. The door into the hall was closed, but the
glass door to the rear porch was wide open to let in the sun and air.
And this simple scene was the setting for the drama about to be enacted.

Mary Louise had her back half turned to the hall door, which Irene
partially faced, and so it was that when the door opened softly and the
chair-girl raised her head to gaze with startled surprise at someone
who stood in the doorway, Mary Louise first curiously eyed her friend's
expressive face and then, rather languidly, turned her head to glance
over her shoulder.

The next moment she sprang to her feet and rushed forward.

"Gran'pa Jim--Oh, Gran'pa Jim!" she cried, and threw herself into the
arms of a tall man who folded her to his breast in a close embrace.

For a while they stood there silent, while Irene dropped her eyes to
her lap, deeming the reunion too sacred to be observed by another. And
then a little stir at the open porch door attracted her attention and
with a shock of repulsion she saw Agatha Lord standing there with a
cynical smile on her lovely face. Softly the sash of the window was
raised, and the maid Susan stood on the ground outside, leaned her
elbows on the sill and quietly regarded the scene within the den.

The opening of the window arrested Colonel Weatherby's attention. He
lifted his head and with a quick glance took in the situation. Then,
still holding his granddaughter in his arms, he advanced to the center
of the room and said sternly, addressing Agatha:

"Is this a deliberate intrusion, because I am here, or is it pure
insolence?"

"Forgive us if we intrude, Mr. Hathaway," replied Agatha. "It was not
our desire to interrupt your meeting with your granddaughter, but--it
has been so difficult, in the past, to secure an interview with you,
sir, that we dared not risk missing you at this time."

He regarded her with an expression of astonishment.

"That's it, exactly, Mr. Weatherby-Hathaway," remarked Susan mockingly,
from her window.

"Don't pay any attention to them, Gran'pa Jim," begged Mary Louise,
clinging to him. "They're just two dreadful women who live down below
here, and--and--"

"I realize who they are," said the old gentleman in a calm voice, and
addressing Agatha again he continued: "Since you are determined to
interview me, pray step inside and be seated."

Agatha shook her head with a smile; Nan Shelley laughed outright and
retorted:

"Not yet, Hathaway. We can't afford to take chances with one who has
dodged the whole Department for ten years."

"Then you are Government agents?" he asked.

"That's it, sir."

He turned his head toward the door by which he had entered, for there
was an altercation going on in the hallway and Mr. Conant's voice could
be heard angrily protesting.

A moment later the lawyer came in, followed by the little man with the
fat nose, who bowed to Colonel Weatherby very respectfully yet remained
planted in the doorway.

"This is--er--er--very unfortunate, sir; ve-ry un-for-tu-nate!"
exclaimed Peter Conant, chopping off each word with a sort of snarl.
"These con-found-ed secret service people have trailed us here."

"It doesn't matter, Mr. Conant," replied the Colonel, in a voice
composed but very weary. He seated himself in a chair, as he spoke, and
Mary Louise sat on the arm of it, still embracing him.

"No," said O'Gorman, "it really doesn't matter, sir. In fact, I'm sure
you will feel relieved to have this affair off your mind and be spared
all further annoyance concerning it."

The old gentleman looked at him steadily but made no answer. It was
Peter Conant who faced the speaker and demanded:

"What do you mean by that statement?"

"Mr. Hathaway knows what I mean. He can, in a few words, explain why he
has for years borne the accusation of a crime of which he is innocent."

Peter Conant was so astounded he could do nothing but stare at the
detective. Staring was the very best thing that Peter did and he never
stared harder in his life. The tears had been coursing down Mary
Louise's cheeks, but now a glad look crossed her face.

"Do you hear that, Gran'pa Jim?" she cried. "Of course you are
innocent! I've always known that; but now even your enemies do."

Mr. Hathaway looked long into the girl's eyes, which met his own
hopefully, almost joyfully. Then he turned to O'Gorman.

"I cannot prove my innocence," he said.

"Do you mean that you WILL not?"

"I will go with you and stand my trial. I will accept whatever
punishment the law decrees."

O'Gorman nodded his head.

"I know exactly how you feel about it, Mr. Hathaway," he said, "and I
sympathize with you most earnestly. Will you allow me to sit down
awhile? Thank you."

He took a chair facing that of the hunted man. Agatha, seeing this,
seated herself on the door-step. Nan maintained her position, leaning
through the open window.

"This," said O'Gorman, "is a strange ease. It has always been a strange
case, sir, from the very beginning. Important government secrets of the
United States were stolen and turned over to the agent of a foreign
government which is none too friendly to our own. It was considered, in
its day, one of the most traitorous crimes in our history. And you,
sir, a citizen of high standing and repute, were detected in the act of
transferring many of these important papers to a spy, thus periling the
safety of the nation. You were caught red-handed, so to speak, but made
your escape and in a manner remarkable and even wonderful for its
adroitness have for years evaded every effort on the part of our Secret
Service Department to effect your capture. And yet, despite the
absolute truth of this statement, you are innocent."

None cared to reply for a time. Some who had listened to O'Gorman were
too startled to speak; others refrained. Mary Louise stared at the
detective with almost Peter Conant's expression--her eyes big and
round. Irene thrilled with joyous anticipation, for in the presence of
this sorrowing, hunted, white-haired old man, whose years had been
devoted to patient self-sacrifice, the humiliation the coming
disclosure would, thrust upon Mary Louise seemed now insignificant.
Until this moment Irene had been determined to suppress the knowledge
gained through the old letter in order to protect the feelings of her
friend, but now a crying need for the truth to prevail was borne in
upon her. She had thought that she alone knew this truth. To her
astonishment, as well as satisfaction, the chair-girl now discovered
that O'Gorman was equally well informed.



CHAPTER XXV

SIMPLE JUSTICE


All eyes were turned upon Mr. Hathaway, who had laid a hand upon the
head of his grandchild and was softly stroking her hair. At last he
said brokenly, repeating his former assertion:

"I cannot prove my innocence."

"But I can," declared O'Gorman positively, "and I'm going to do it."

"No--no!" said Hathaway, startled at his tone.

"It's this way, sir," explained the little man in a matter-of-fact
voice, "this chase after you has cost the government a heavy sum
already, and your prosecution is likely to make public an affair which,
under the circumstances, we consider it more diplomatic to hush up. Any
danger to our country has passed, for information obtained ten years
ago regarding our defenses, codes, and the like, is to-day worthless
because all conditions are completely changed. Only the crime of
treason remains; a crime that deserves the severest punishment; but the
guilty persons have escaped punishment and are now facing a higher
tribunal--both the principal in the crime and his weak and foolish
tool. So it is best for all concerned, Mr. Hathaway, that we get at the
truth of this matter and, when it is clearly on record in the
government files, declare the case closed for all time. The State
Department has more important matters that demand its attention."

The old man's head was bowed, his chin resting on his breast. It was
now the turn of Mary Louise to smooth his thin gray locks.

"If you will make a statement, sir," continued O'Gorman, "we shall be
able to verify it."

Slowly Hathaway raised his head.

"I have no statement to make," he persisted.

"This is rank folly," exclaimed O'Gorman, "but if you refuse to make
the statement, I shall make it myself."

"I beg you--I implore you!" said Hathaway pleadingly.

The detective rose and stood before him, looking not at the old man but
at the young girl--Mary Louise.

"Tell me, my child," he said gently, "would you not rather see your
grandfather--an honorable, high-minded gentleman--acquitted of an
unjust accusation, even at the expense of some abasement and perhaps
heart-aches on your part, rather than allow him to continue to suffer
disgrace in order to shield you from so slight an affliction?"

"Sir!" cried Hathaway indignantly, starting to his feet; "how dare you
throw the burden on this poor child? Have you no mercy--no compassion?"

"Plenty," was the quiet reply. "Sit down, sir. This girl is stronger
than you think. She will not be made permanently unhappy by knowing the
truth, I assure you."

Hathaway regarded him with a look of anguish akin to fear. Then he
turned and seated himself, again putting an arm around Mary Louise as
if to shield her.

Said Irene, speaking very slowly:

"I am quite sure Mr. O'Gorman is right. Mary Louise is a brave girl,
and she loves her grandfather."

Then Mary Louise spoke--hesitatingly, at first, for she could not yet
comprehend the full import of the officer's words.

"If you mean," said she, "that it will cause me sorrow and humiliation
to free my grandfather from suspicion, and that he refuses to speak
because he fears the truth will hurt me, then I ask you to speak out,
Mr. O'Gorman."

"Of course," returned the little man, smiling at her approvingly; "that
is just what I intend to do. All these years, my girl, your grandfather
has accepted reproach and disgrace in order to shield the good name of
a woman and to save her from a prison cell. And that woman was your
mother."

"Oh!" cried Mary Louise and covered her face with her hands.

"You brute!" exclaimed Hathaway, highly incensed.

"But this is not all," continued O'Gorman, unmoved; "your mother, Mary
Louise, would have been condemned and imprisoned--and deservedly so in
the eyes of the law--had the truth been known; and yet I assure you she
was only guilty of folly and of ignorance of the terrible consequences
that might have resulted from her act. She was weak enough to be loyal
to a promise wrung from her in extremity, and therein lay her only
fault. Your grandfather knew all this, and she was his daughter--his
only child. When the accusation for your mother's crime fell on him, he
ran away and so tacitly admitted his guilt, thus drawing suspicion from
her. His reason for remaining hidden was that, had he been caught and
brought to trial, he could not have lied or perjured himself under oath
even to save his dearly loved daughter from punishment. Now you
understand why he could not submit to arrest; why, assisted by a small
but powerful band of faithful friends, he has been able to evade
capture during all these years. I admire him for that; but he has
sacrificed himself long enough. Your mother's recent death renders her
prosecution impossible. It is time the truth prevailed. In simple
justice I will not allow this old man to embitter further his life,
just to protect his grandchild from a knowledge of her mother's sin."

Again a deathly silence pervaded the room.

"You--you are speaking at random," said Hathaway, in a voice choked
with emotion. "You have no proof of these dreadful statements."

"But _I_ have!" said Irene bravely, believing it her duty to support
O'Gorman.

"And so have I," asserted the quiet voice of Sarah Judd, who had
entered the room unperceived.

Hathaway regarded both the girls in surprise, but said nothing.

"I think," said Officer O'Gorman, "it will be best for us to read to
Mr. Hathaway that letter."

"The letter which I found in the book?" asked Irene eagerly.

"Yes. But do not disturb yourself," as she started to wheel her chair
close to the wall. "Josie will get it."

To Irene's astonishment Sarah Judd walked straight to the repeating
rifle, opened the sliding plate in its stock and took out the closely
folded letter. Perhaps Nan Shelley and Agatha Lord were no less
surprised than Irene; also they were deeply chagrined. But O'Gorman's
slip in calling Sarah Judd "Josie" had conveyed to his associates
information that somewhat modified their astonishment at the girl's
cleverness, for everyone who knew O'Gorman had often heard of his
daughter Josie, of whom he was accustomed to speak with infinite pride.
He always said he was training her to follow his own profession and
that when the education was complete Josie O'Gorman would make a name
for herself in the detective service. So Nan and Agatha exchanged
meaning glances and regarded the freckled-faced girl with new interest.

"I'm not much of a reader," said Josie, carefully unfolding the paper.
"Suppose we let Miss Irene read it?"

Her father nodded assent and Josie handed the sheet to Irene.

Mr. Hathaway had been growing uneasy and now addressed Officer O'Gorman
in a protesting voice:

"Is this reading necessary, sir?"

"Very necessary, Mr. Hathaway."

"What letter is this that you have referred to?"

"A bit of information dating nearly ten years ago and written by one
who perhaps knew more of the political intrigues of John and Beatrice
Burrows than has ever come to your own knowledge."

"The letter is authentic, then?"

"Quite so."

"And your Department knows of its existence?"

"I am acting under the Department's instructions, sir. Oblige us, Miss
Macfarlane," he added, turning to Irene, "by reading the letter in
full."



CHAPTER XXVI

THE LETTER


"This sheet," explained Irene, "is, in fact, but a part of a letter.
The first sheets are missing, so we don't know who it was addressed to;
but it is signed, at the end, by the initials 'E. de V.'"

"The ambassador!" cried Hathaway, caught off his guard by surprise.

"The same," said O'Gorman triumphantly; "and it is all in his
well-known handwriting. Read the letter, my girl."

"The first sentence," said Irene, "is a continuation of something on a
previous page, but I will read it just as it appears here."

And then, in a clear, distinct voice that was audible to all present,
she read as follows:

"which forces me to abandon at once my post and your delightful country
in order to avoid further complications. My greatest regret is in
leaving Mrs. Burrows in so unfortunate a predicament. The lady was
absolutely loyal to us and the calamity that has overtaken her is
through no fault of her own.

"That you may understand this thoroughly I will remind you that John
Burrows was in our employ. It was through our secret influence that he
obtained his first government position, where he inspired confidence
and became trusted implicitly. He did not acquire full control,
however, until five years later, and during that time he met and
married Beatrice Hathaway, the charming daughter of James J. Hathaway,
a wealthy broker. That gave Burrows added importance and he was
promoted to the high government position he occupied at the time of his
death.

"Burrows made for us secret copies of the fortifications on both the
east and west coasts, including the number and caliber of guns, amounts
of munitions stored and other details. Also he obtained copies of the
secret telegraph and naval codes and the complete armaments of all war
vessels, both in service and in process of construction. A part of this
information and some of the plans he delivered to me before he died, as
you know, and he had the balance practically ready for delivery when he
was taken with pneumonia and unfortunately expired very suddenly.

"It was characteristic of the man's faithfulness that on his death bed
he made his wife promise to deliver the balance of the plans and an
important book of codes to us as early as she could find an opportunity
to do so. Mrs. Burrows had previously been in her husband's confidence
and knew he was employed by us while holding his position with the
government, so she readily promised to carry out his wishes, perhaps
never dreaming of the difficulties that would confront her or the
personal danger she assumed. But she was faithful to her promise and
afterward tried to fulfill it.

"Her father, the James J. Hathaway above mentioned, in whose mansion
Mrs. Burrows lived with her only child, is a staunch patriot. Had he
known of our plot he would have promptly denounced it, even sacrificing
his son-in-law. I have no quarrel with him for that, you may well
believe, as I value patriotism above all other personal qualities. But
after the death of John Burrows it became very difficult for his wife
to find a way to deliver to me the packet of plans without being
detected. Through some oversight at the government office, which
aroused suspicion immediately after his death, Burrows was discovered
to have made duplicates of many documents intrusted to him and with a
suspicion of the truth government agents were sent to interview Mrs.
Burrows and find out if the duplicates were still among her husband's
papers. Being a clever woman, she succeeded in secreting the precious
package and so foiled the detectives. Even her own father, who was very
indignant that a member of his household should be accused of treason,
had no suspicion that his daughter was in any way involved. But the
house was watched, after that, and Mrs. Burrows was constantly under
surveillance--a fact of which she was fully aware. I also became aware
of the difficulties that surrounded her and although impatient to
receive the package I dared not press its delivery. Fortunately no
suspicion attached to me and a year or so after her husband's death I
met Mrs. Burrows at the house of a mutual friend, on the occasion of a
crowded reception, and secured an interview with her where we could not
be overheard. We both believed that by this time the police espionage
had been greatly relaxed so I suggested that she boldly send the parcel
to me, under an assumed name, at Carver's Drug Store, where I had a
confederate. An ordinary messenger would not do for this errand, but
Mr. Hathaway drove past the drug store every morning on his way to his
office, and Mrs. Burrows thought it would be quite safe to send the
parcel by his hand, the man being wholly above suspicion.

"On the morning we had agreed upon for the attempt, the woman brought
the innocent looking package to her father, as he was leaving the
house, and asked him to deliver it at the drug store on his way down.
Thinking it was returned goods he consented, but at the moment he
delivered the parcel a couple of detectives appeared and arrested him,
opening the package before him to prove its important contents. I
witnessed this disaster to our plot with my own eyes, but managed to
escape without being arrested as a partner in the conspiracy, and thus
I succeeded in protecting the good name of my beloved country, which
must never be known in this connection.

"Hathaway was absolutely stupefied at the charge against him. Becoming
violently indignant, he knocked down the officers and escaped with the
contents of the package. He then returned home and demanded an
explanation from his daughter, who confessed all.

"It was then that Hathaway showed the stuff he was made of, to use an
Americanism. He insisted on shielding his daughter, to whom he was
devotedly attached, and in taking all the responsibility on his own
shoulders. The penalty of this crime is imprisonment for life and he
would not allow Mrs. Burrows to endure it. Being again arrested he did
not deny his guilt but cheerfully suffered imprisonment. Before the day
set for his trial, however, he managed to escape and since then he has
so cleverly hidden himself that the authorities remain ignorant of his
whereabouts. His wife and his grandchild also disappeared and it was
found that his vast business interests had been legally transferred to
some of his most intimate friends--doubtless for his future benefit.

"The government secret service was helpless. No one save I knew that
Hathaway was shielding his daughter, whose promise to her dead husband
had led her to betray her country to the representative of a foreign
power such as our own. Yet Hathaway, even in sacrificing his name and
reputation, revolted at suffering life-long imprisonment, nor dared he
stand trial through danger of being forced to confess the truth. So he
remains in hiding and I have hopes that he will be able--through his
many influential friends--to save himself from capture for many months
to come.

"This is the truth of the matter, dear friend, and as this explanation
must never get beyond your own knowledge I charge you to destroy this
letter as soon as it is read. When you are abroad next year we will
meet and consider this and other matters in which we are mutually
interested. I would not have ventured to put this on paper were it not
for my desire to leave someone in this country posted on the Hathaway
case. You will understand from the foregoing that the situation has
become too delicate for me to remain here. If you can, give aid to
Hathaway, whom I greatly admire, for we are in a way responsible for
his troubles. As for Mrs. Burrows, I consider her a woman of character
and honor. That she might keep a pledge made to her dead husband she
sinned against the law without realizing the enormity of her offense.
If anyone is to blame it is poor John Burrows, who was not justified in
demanding so dangerous a pledge from his wife; but he was dying at the
time and his judgment was impaired. Let us be just to all and so remain
just to ourselves.

"Write me at the old address and believe me to be yours most faithfully

E. de V.

The 16th of September, 1905."

During Irene's reading the others maintained an intense silence. Even
when she had ended, the silence continued for a time, while all
considered with various feelings the remarkable statement they had just
heard.

It was O'Gorman who first spoke.

"If you will assert, Mr. Hathaway, that the ambassador's statement is
correct, to the best of your knowledge and belief, I have the authority
of our department to promise that the charge against you will promptly
be dropped and withdrawn and that you will be adjudged innocent of any
offense against the law. It is true that you assisted a guilty person
to escape punishment, and are therefore liable for what is called
'misprision of treason,' but we shall not press that, for, as I said
before, we prefer, since no real harm has resulted, to allow the case
to be filed without further publicity. Do you admit the truth of the
statements contained in this letter?"

"I believe them to be true," said Mr. Hathaway, in a low voice. Mary
Louise was nestling close in his arms and now she raised her head
tenderly to kiss his cheek. She was not sobbing; she did not even
appear to be humbled or heart-broken. Perhaps she did not realize at
the moment how gravely her father and mother had sinned against the
laws of their country. That realization might come to her later, but
just now she was happy in the vindication of Gran'pa Jim--a triumph
that overshadowed all else.

"I'll take this letter for our files," said Officer O'Gorman, folding
it carefully before placing it in his pocketbook. "And now, sir, I hope
you will permit me to congratulate you and to wish you many years of
happiness with your granddaughter, who first won my admiration by her
steadfast faith in your innocence. She's a good girl, is Mary Louise,
and almost as clever as my Josie here. Come, Nan; come, Agatha; let's
go back to Bigbee's. Our business here is finished."





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