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Title: Hour of Enchantment - A Mystery Story for Girls
Author: Snell, Roy J. (Roy Judson), 1878-1959
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.

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                      _A Mystery Story for Girls_



                                HOUR OF
                              ENCHANTMENT


                                  _By_
                              ROY J. SNELL


                          The Reilly & Lee Co.
                                Chicago


                             COPYRIGHT 1933
                                   BY
                          THE REILLY & LEE CO.
                        PRINTED IN THE U. S. A.



                                CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                                                           PAGE
  I The Three-Bladed Knife                                            11
  II The Sky Walk                                                     24
  III Footsteps on the Stairs                                         32
  IV The Golden Temple                                                40
  V A Hearse in the Moonlight                                         50
  VI “The Chest Is Empty!”                                            62
  VII The Place of Darkness                                           70
  VIII Jeanne’s Double                                                82
  IX “Haunts”                                                         94
  X Entering a New World                                             104
  XI From China’s Ancient Treasure                                   111
  XII The Dodge-Ems                                                  121
  XIII Dances and Dreams                                             136
  XIV Two Black Horses and a Coffin                                  141
  XV Transforming a Mountain                                         147
  XVI Magic from the East                                            156
  XVII A Scream Brings Startling Results                             164
  XVIII The Slim Stranger                                            175
  XIX A Sound in the Night                                           183
  XX Pictures on the Clouds                                          191
  XXI Work and Dreams                                                200
  XXII Beneath the Floodlights                                       205
  XXIII Golden Days                                                  214
  XXIV The Battle in the Orange Grove                                223
  XXV Once Again the Organ Plays at Midnight                         230
  XXVI Carried Away in the Night                                     235
  XXVII Her Big Night                                                242



                          HOUR OF ENCHANTMENT



                               CHAPTER I
                         THE THREE-BLADED KNIFE


Florence Huyler took one look at the Chinaman. He was wearing a long
yellow coat and carrying a huge yellow umbrella. His back was toward her.

“I can’t be sure,” she whispered. “If—”

She paused, uncertainly. In a moment he would move, and then she would
know—by his ears.

Again, for a moment, she gave herself over to a study of the magnificent
panorama that lay before her. She was poised, like a pigeon in a belfry,
but oh, so high up! Six hundred and twenty feet in the air, she could
look down upon every skyscraper in the city.

She had been doing just this until her eyes had fallen by chance upon
this Chinaman. She had been looking for a Chinaman, looking hard—for a
Chinaman with prodigiously long ears. But she had decided to forget him
for a time, to enjoy the Sky Ride and its observation towers. And now
here he was, haunting her still.

The Sky Ride! Ah, there was a marvel indeed! Eiffel Tower, not the Ferris
wheel, could be compared with this. Two steel towers reared themselves to
dizzy heights. Between these there were steel cables. And darting from
one tower to the other over these cables, like veritable rockets which
they were made to represent, were cars of steel and glass from which one
might view the magnificent spectacle of the fairgrounds at night. All
aflame with a million lights, truly alive with a hundred thousand
merrymakers, the grounds seemed a picture from another world.

With great eagerness she had paid her fee and entered the express
elevator to go shooting upward toward the stars.

She had decided not to take her sky ride at once. Truth was, Fate had
decreed that she should not take it at all that night. This, of course,
she could not know. So, quite joyously, she had shot up and up until she
was at the very top of that steel tower.

She had shuddered as she left the elevator. The tower appeared to sway,
as indeed it did.

“What if, by some secret power of rhythmic motion, it should be made to
sway too far?” she whispered to herself now. “What if it should swing and
swing, and at last bend and bend—then go crashing down!

“Nonsense!” She got a grip on herself. “That could not happen. This is
one of the marvels created by our American engineers. They figure and
figure for days and days. Then they set mill wheels revolving, turning
out steel. They send steel workers to their tasks, and here we are.
Nothing could go wrong. It’s all been figured out.”

Having settled this problem to her own satisfaction, she walked to the
rail and began studying the city she had learned to love.

“It looks so strange!” she told herself. And so it did. Streets were
steel-gray ribbons where automobiles, mere bugs all black, blue and
yellow, crept along, blinking their fiery eyes.

Her eye was caught by twinkling lights atop a skyscraper.

Drawing forth her binoculars she focussed them upon that spot. Then she
laughed. Atop that skyscraper was a home, a pent house, a gorgeous affair
that shone like marble. About it, all gay with flowers, was a garden.

“A garden party,” she whispered, as if afraid they might hear. “That’s
the reason for the strings of lights.”

She could see graceful women in gorgeous gowns with men all in white and
black evening dress swaying to the rhythm of some entrancing music.

“They are rich,” she thought to herself. “Bankers, perhaps, or managers
of great corporations. Members of Society spelled with a big S. They
don’t know I am looking at them.” She turned away again.

“Ah, well!” she sighed. “Even a mouse may look upon a queen. If—”

Had the tower indeed begun to sway in an ominous manner it could not have
startled her more than the vision that met her gaze. The little yellow
man in the long yellow coat had turned about. She could see his ears now.

“The—the long-eared Chinaman! I—I’ve got him!” she hissed.

At that instant the wind blew his long yellow coat aside, exposing to
view the hilt of the three-bladed knife. And in the hilt of that knife
jewels shone.

“I—I’ve—”

She spoke too soon, for without appearing to see her at all the man
glided to an elevator and before she could cry: “Stop him!” shot
downward.

“Oh!” she breathed, and again, “Oh!”

The next instant she too had leaped to an elevator and went shooting down
after him. “I’ll get him yet!” But would she?

Even as her elevator shot downward from those dizzy heights, she had time
to think of the circumstances leading up to this, one of the most
thrilling moments of her not uneventful life.

                            * * * * * * * *

It had been night, deep, silent, mysterious night, when first she had
seen that three-bladed knife, and the long-eared Chinaman. No stars had
shone. No moon had cast its golden gleam across the black and sullen
waters of Lake Michigan. From afar, as in a dream, seated with Petite
Jeanne, her companion, on the sand before a little fire of sticks, she
had caught the ceaseless rumble of the city.

“The hour of enchantment, it is near at hand,” Jeanne, the little French
girl, murmured.

“The—the hour of enchantment?” Florence murmured after her. Not
understanding, but being too full of dreams to care, she said no more.

“Yes, my good friend, Florence Huyler, the enchanted hour.”

Once more the little French girl lapsed into silence.

Florence moved her lips as if about to speak. But she remained silent.
Why break a magic spell with mere talk?

And to her this was indeed a magic moment. For hours, earlier in the day,
she had listened to the roar of the greatest carnival the world has ever
known. About her had swarmed a thousand children. Brown heads, golden
heads, laughing eyes, weeping eyes, dancing feet, all that goes to make
up a host of youngsters on a holiday. And every day was a holiday on the
grounds of this great show.

Nor did Florence miss a day of it. Indeed she could not, for she was a
part of it.

On her ear drums had beat the noisy blare of the merry-go-round and the
shrill whistle of the miniature train, the hilarious shouts of the
joy-makers.

“And now,” she breathed, “it is night. They are home, tucked in bed,
those blessed children. I have only to rest here by the fire with
Jeanne.” She threw out her splendid arms in an air of abandon, then
curled herself up on the dry sand before the fire.

“Only just look!” Jeanne began all over again a moment later. “See what I
found to-day in the chest. That last one we bought; the oh, so mysterious
chest with a dragon on its cover.”

In her hand she held an object that cast back the light of the dying
fire.

For the moment Florence could not be roused from her dreamy stupor. Never
had she worked so hard as on these days of the great Fair. Never had life
seemed so full of joy. Jeanne was with her once more; a whole half year
the French girl had been in her native land. Now she was back. There was,
too, a spirit of glorious madness about this great exhibition, that
somehow entered into her very soul. Cars packed with screaming visitors
rocketing across the sky, airplanes drumming and dipping, speed boats
thundering down the lagoon; speed, light, joy—who could resist it all?

But when day was done, the throngs departed, it was good to pick up a few
broken bits of wood, kindle a small fire here on the beach and play the
vagabond through one wee hour of the night. To sip black tea, to stare at
the fire, to dream—who could ask for more? And yet here was Petite Jeanne
insisting that she “only look.” Look at what?

Ah, well, Jeanne had not worked that day. She had no need to work. She
was rich. Fortune had overtaken her at last—given her a chateau in France
and much else.

“Jeanne,” she grumbled like some good-natured bear, “you have been curled
up among the pillows all day, petting the cat. And now you ask me to
look, to think—I, who have done nothing all day but lead children in
play, march them up the magic mountain and down again, lift them on the
little train and off again, follow them on—”

“Stop!” Jeanne stamped her pretty foot. “It is enough. I would not say
‘Look’ but it is yours, yours and mine, this curious dagger. You must
tell me what it is. Only see! It has three blades!”

“Dagger! Three blades!” Florence found herself at last.

“Yes, yes! Three blades! A very strange dagger!”

The thing Florence took from Jeanne’s hand was indeed a curious affair. A
knife with a hilt of ordinary length, it had not one blade, but three,
extending in triangular formation, ten inches from the hilt.

“That,” Florence declared emphatically, “is something!”

“And see the handle!” Jeanne was her old enthusiastic self. “See how it
shines in the light! Jewels, some red, some white—”

“Glass, I suppose.” Absent-mindedly Florence drew one of the white spots
that glistened in the light across the crystal of her watch. Then she sat
up quite abruptly.

“Dumb! Now I’ve scratched my crystal and it will break. Jeanne! Don’t ask
me to buy another chest. No need to buy trouble. That, at least, you may
get free.”

“But see!” Jeanne snatched the curious dagger from her. “If it indeed
scratches glass, then truly it is a diamond. And see! There are one, two,
three, four—oh, how is one to count them? There are many jewels, and they
go round and round the handle.”

“Diamonds?”

“Yes. Surely! They are diamonds. And the red ones are rubies. Half belong
to you and half to me. For see, we bought the box together, the box with
the dragon on the cover.

“Truly!” she cried, dancing across the sand, waving the dagger over her
head. “Truly this is for me the hour of enchantment!

“Listen!” The little French girl’s voice changed abruptly. She held up a
hand.

From somewhere in the distance came the slow _D-o-n-g, D-o-n-g_, of a
clock striking two.

“The enchanted hour!” Her tone was solemn.

Once again she swung her hands high. Next instant a sharp cry escaped her
lips. The three-bladed knife with all its jewels was gone. Some one half
concealed in the darkness at her back had snatched it from her.

It was the stout Florence who sprang to her feet and, but for Jeanne,
would have dashed away in mad pursuit.

But Jeanne prevented this. She leaped forward just in time to seize her
friend about the waist.

“No! No! My friend, you must not! You will be killed! He has a knife!”
she exclaimed in a hoarse whisper. “He has that dagger with three blades!
You—you have nothing!”

“I have my two hands!” Florence continued to struggle. “He is small, only
a little Chinaman. I—I saw him. I’d break his back if he did not give me
the knife!”

“But think!” Jeanne loosed her hold as Florence ceased to struggle. “It
is only a dagger, a dagger I found in a box, and we paid so little for
that box.”

“Only a dagger with a hilt encrusted with jewels!” Florence dropped to
her place beside the dying fire.

“Rich for a moment,” she sighed, “then poor forever.

“But I’ll know that man if I ever see him again,” she added hopefully.
“He had the longest ears of any person I ever saw. He wore an
orange-colored cap, and there was a bit of bright glass—oval-shaped it
was—shining from his forehead. And those ears!” she exclaimed. “Who could
mistake them?”

“We will find him. Truly we must!” Jeanne spoke with confidence. “This is
the enchanted hour. My enchanted hour!”

                            * * * * * * * *

And now, twenty-four hours later, shooting down, down, down, a hundred,
two, three, four hundred feet, Florence was in pursuit of that very
long-eared Chinaman. From his belt had shone the jeweled hilt of the
three-bladed knife.

“It’s ours!” she muttered low to herself. “Jeanne’s and mine. I’ll get
him yet!”

But would she?



                               CHAPTER II
                              THE SKY WALK


As she boarded the down-going car, the girl’s mind flashed through the
incidents leading up to this strange chase, and then came bang up against
a problem with no certain answer. Should she leave the car at the two
hundred foot level, the spot from which the cars of the Sky Ride went
flashing away into the night, or should she ride to the ground level?

Following instinct, when she reached the Sky Ride level she darted from
the car. At once she caught her breath. There was the long-eared
Chinaman.

The instant she saw him he was on the move. There was no mistaking the
look in her eyes. She meant to have that three-bladed knife. He made no
mistake about that. Imitating a monkey, a spider and a snake all in one,
he managed by curious contortions to make his way past the waiting
rocket-car and out upon the cables that carried the cars on their
exciting journey.

At once the place was in a panic.

“A car from the other side will come and crush him! He will fall! He’ll
be electrocuted!” came from the crowd as men fought for a spot where they
might view the impending catastrophe.

But no catastrophe occurred—at least not at once. Standing with the air
of a tight rope walker, which indeed this long-eared one must have been,
he unfolded his large yellow silk umbrella; then, apparently all
unconscious of the shouting throng, he turned and walked the cables as
another person might walk the street.

“If another car comes—” Florence came near to wishing she had stuck to
her resolve and made it a night of pure pleasure.

No car came from the other side. A quick-witted guard had stopped it in
the nick of time, by a phone call.

So the little yellow man in a long yellow jacket with a three-bladed
knife in his belt balanced himself with his yellow umbrella and proceeded
blithely on his way while an ever increasing sea of faces gazed upward.

Great searchlights began playing upon him. Like fingers they pointed him
out. Ten thousand, twenty, fifty, perhaps seventy thousand pairs of eyes
were fixed upon him.

Not one of all these people, save Florence, knew what it was all about.
“Is this one more feature, a grand surprise in this the grandest of all
shows?” This is what the thousands were asking.

Other questions occupied Florence’s mind. What did the man mean to do?
Did he know himself? How was it all to end?

The suspense continued. It is well that it did. The first few hundred
feet of this curious person’s sky walk was over the solid earth. Beneath
him was the gasping multitude. Jammed together in one solid mass, not one
of them could have moved had this sky walker come hurtling down from
those dizzy heights.

He did not fall. Instead, with all the grace of a fine lady out for a
promenade, he moved along the cables that, being all but invisible in the
night, made him seem to walk on air.

“If he were only over water!” Florence spoke without meaning to do so.
“Then there would be some chance.”

“At two hundred feet?” some one doubted.

All the same, Florence waited and hoped. “Now he’s a third of the way to
the place above the lagoon,” she assured herself. “Now half—now
two-thirds.

“Now!”

She caught her breath. Something was happening. The man was seen to
teeter.

“If he falls—” She set her lips tight. “If he does, if he falls and kills
some one, I shall never forgive myself. A knife!” She all but said it
aloud. “A knife with a diamond-studded hilt—what’s that to a human life?”

But the man had regained his poise. He was tripping along as before.

“He—he’s almost there,” she sighed, as a low prayer escaped her lips.
“He—he must be over the water. Thank—thank God!”

But, after all, what _did_ this astounding person propose to do?

Did he plan it, or was it the work of Fate? Perhaps no one will ever
know. Be that as it may, just as he reached a spot above the center of
the lagoon the man was seen once more to waver.

This time he did not regain his poise, but with a movement that seemed
half a leap, half a fall, launched himself into mid-air.

Florence closed her eyes. She opened them at once to find the Chinaman
still going down.

“How—how remarkable!” she breathed.

“It’s the umbrella,” some one at her side volunteered. “It’s made for
that purpose, like a parachute.”

She did not give the information that, as far as she could tell, the man
had entertained no notion of making that unusual journey.

She continued to watch while the Chinaman plunged downward. With his fall
checked by the umbrella, he had, she believed, a fair chance for a safe
landing.

“And then?” Some spirit inside her appeared to ask the question. “Why,
then,” she answered the spirit, “I’ll be after him!”

The Chinaman disappeared into shadows that lay above the surface of the
lagoon.

At once spotlights were playing upon the water. If he came to the surface
no one saw him.

“But then,” Florence assured herself, “there are a hundred boats out
there on the lagoon. A man with such a trick as that in his bag must have
others. He need only come up alongside a boat, cling there until the
excitement is over, then go on his way. We shall meet again.

“But not to-night,” she amended, as she surveyed the dense throng below.

“So here’s for a sky ride!”

She gave herself over to the joyous excitement of the hour.

Curiously enough, upon descending from the steel tower after a half hour
of shooting through space, she bumped squarely into her roommate and pal
of many strange adventures—Petite Jeanne.

“Oh, Jeanne!” she exclaimed. “I have found him, the little Chinaman with
long ears.”

“And the knife?”

“He still has it.”

“Tell me about it,” Jeanne begged.

In her own truly dramatic style Florence told the story. “And when he
dropped,” she ended breathlessly, “I said ‘that’s the end of him!’”

“But it was not?” Jeanne breathed.

“I am not sure it was not. We shall see him again, perhaps many times.”

“But, Florence, why does he want that three-bladed knife so very, very
much?”

“It is set with jewels,” Florence spoke slowly, “but there is something
more. I am sure of it. Perhaps something quite terrible. I saw it in his
eyes. He’d kill some one to possess that knife, if necessary. I am quite
sure of that.”

“Then, oh my Florence, you must be careful!”

“We will be careful. But we shall have the knife. It belongs to us. We
bought it.”

“Yes,” Jeanne agreed, “we bought it.”

As Jeanne closed her eyes she could see the place of purchase, a long,
low auction house blue with tobacco smoke; a bald-headed auctioneer
shouting:

“Three dollars. Who’ll make it three-fifty?”

A Chinaman in an obscure corner was bidding against her for that chest
with a blue dragon on the cover.

Sudden confusion. Three men dragging the protesting Chinaman away.

“What did it all mean?” she asked herself.

“Anyway,” she sighed, “we got the chest.”

Then a thought struck her all of a heap.

“Florence,” she cried, “there were other things in that chest. Oh, so
many more!”

“Other things?” Florence fairly sprang at her. “Why did you not tell me?
Is it still in our room under the bed?”

“Yes. Oh, yes.”

“Then we must hurry home. They may be in our room at this very moment,
those little yellow men, carrying the chest away.”

“Yes!” Jeanne exclaimed. “Let us hurry!”



                              CHAPTER III
                        FOOTSTEPS ON THE STAIRS


All her life Florence had lived in the great and noisy city.

Not so Petite Jeanne. If you have read of her at all you will know that
as a child she had been a vagabond with gypsies of France, a very
beautiful vagabond, an accomplished dancer, but a vagabond all the same.
How this slender, golden-haired child of France came to America and how
at last France discovered her once more and carried her back to be the
mistress of a grand old chateau is no part of our story.

It was enough for Jeanne that she was here with her good pal Florence,
that they lived on the top floor of an ancient rooming house, that they
might come and go as they pleased, and that if she chose she might once
more turn vagabond for a day, a week, or a month.

For the moment she was interested most of all in this vast and most
marvelous of all carnivals, the Century of Progress. For many this was
not a carnival at all, but a serious attempt to place before man’s eye
all the stupendous achievements of mankind. For Jeanne it was a vast
carnival, a place to enjoy one’s self, a thing of beauty and a joy
forever.

Now as she tripped along at Florence’s side she whispered: “See! Are not
those steel towers mysterious? They are like fingers pointing to the
stars we do not see because the clouds hide them. And the little rocket
cars waiting there—they seem ready not just to carry you over to the
island of enchantment, but on and on through the sky to the moon, to
Venus, to Mars.

“But, oo, la la! Here I am dreaming again. We must hurry. Those terrible
Orientals may be turning our room upside down this very moment.”

More often than not, in this life, it happens that the thing we most
expect does not happen at all. With breath coming quick and short Petite
Jeanne and Florence climbed the four flights of stairs leading to their
room only to find everything as they had left it.

“Oh!” Jeanne breathed. “There is no one!”

“One would think,” Florence laughed, “that you were disappointed.”

“But no!” Jeanne made a face of horror. “What could one do if she were to
find her room filled with queer little yellow men?”

“Throw them down the stairs.”

“Ah, yes, you—you who are always tumbling around in a gymnasium. But poor
little me? Bah! It is quite im-poss-i-ble. I am glad they are not here.

“But, see!” The little French girl’s voice changed. She dragged a curious
box-like trunk from beneath the bed. “See what we have here.

“I had the worst time getting it open, this box,” she complained. “The
locks, they were strong.

“But, look!”

She held up a curious sort of banner on which was pictured a Chinese lady
holding out her hand so that a flock of bright colored butterflies might
light on it.

“Only a dusty Chinese banner!” Florence was disappointed. “Is there
anything else?”

“Many more like this. Always the picture is different. I love them. They
are so odd!”

“You may have them.” Florence was very weary. She began disrobing for the
night.

“See! Here is a jolly little bell!” A mellow tinkle rang out.

Florence laughed. “Bronze. You can buy one just like it at the Chink
store on Wabash. It’s too bad, little old sister.” She put her arms
affectionately about her slender companion. “We have lost the best
thing—a three-bladed dagger set with rubies and diamonds.

“But cheer up!” She tossed back the bed covers. “To-morrow will come. And
after that another to-morrow. I shall never forget that long-eared
Chinaman. And if we meet!” She made a gesture of violence.

“Besides,” she added as she crept into bed, “there are many more boxes to
be sold in the future. Better luck next time.”

Scarcely had her head touched the pillow than she was fast asleep.

Jeanne did not sleep. There was no need. For was she not at heart a
gypsy? And did not gypsies sleep when the spirit moved them to do so?
Twenty hours in one long sleep and after that, if opportunity presented
itself, twenty hours of adventure.

Ah, yes, no rising at seven to gulp down toast and coffee, then to dash
for a train. Jeanne was a real vagabond. Curled up among the cushions in
the sunshine, she had slept long hours that day.

So now she dragged the mysterious box into their tiny living room and
spread its highly colored banners on every available piece of furniture.

“Truly,” she whispered, “they are grotesque.” She was studying a picture,
all done in some form of needlework, the picture of a god with a dozen
arms and quite as many legs. “But then, they are beautiful, too. What
gorgeous tapestries they would make!”

She was thinking now of the all too bare walls of the great living room
in her own castle in France.

She had not found being rich in France a joyous business, this Petite
Jeanne.

In France if you are young and you are rich, then you are watched over by
a mother or perhaps an aunt (Jeanne had an aunt). You must see certain
people. You must not see others. You must not wander away alone. You must
not—oh, no, my dear, you must not—speak to strangers! No life was this
for a sweet and beautiful vagabond like Petite Jeanne.

So, when Florence had written her a glowing letter telling of the city of
many marvels that was spreading itself fairy-like across the waterfront
in Chicago, she gave her chateau over to a caretaker, bade him allow all
the good children to play on her grounds and in her forest at will, then
took a ship for America and her beloved big pal, Florence.

“And now,” she sighed happily, “here I am.

“And here—” Her tone changed. “Here you are.” She was addressing the box
of mysteries. “One would think—”

She broke off short to stand on tiptoe like a bird poised for flight. Had
she caught a sound from without, a shuffling of soft-padded feet on the
stairs? Ah, yes. There! A board creaked.

Snapping off the light, she stood in the darkness, tense, alert,
listening intently.

“That box!” Her thoughts were in a tumult. “Why do they want more? They
have the best.

“Shall I throw open the door and thrust the box at them?

“Ah, no, I shall not do that. Mystery, how one yearns for it! And yet how
one dreads it! This box, it is ours. We have bought it. We will fight for
it. I will call Florence. She will throw them down the stairs.

“But no! She is weary. They may have the knife. The lock is strong. Let
them spy upon us if they must.”

Jeanne was by nature a child of the night. To sit there in the dark, to
think and think, to wait and wait for that which in the end did not come,
was no hardship for her.

The first faint gray light of dawn was creeping upon the towers of that
magic city on the shores of Lake Michigan when at last she parted the
curtains to look away at the land and the black waters that lay beyond.

“_Bon jour_, sweet world!” she murmured. “Now we have a new day. And
to-night I shall go out alone to seek adventure.”

At that she shoved her pink toes beneath covers of silk filled with
eiderdown and slept the sleep of perfect peace, while out there by the
shores of Lake Michigan fifty thousand happy people romped through the
sunshine of a bright summer’s day.



                               CHAPTER IV
                           THE GOLDEN TEMPLE


Why did Petite Jeanne sleep all day to haunt strange places in the night?
Who can say? Why do certain birds deep in the forest sing only at night?
Why do all manner of wild things choose the night for their joyous
frolics? Jeanne was as wild by nature as any of these, for had she not
lived the very early years of her life with the gypsies? And is it not at
night that the gypsies dance, sing and tell fortunes round the camp fire?

She did not leave her room, this little French girl, until night shadows
had fallen and automobile lights like twin stars were blinking their way
down the boulevard.

When she did leave she carried a well filled laundry bag. Yet, strange to
say, she did not carry this bag to a laundry depository, but to a hotel
two blocks away. Here she entrusted its care to a smiling check boy. The
boy’s smile broadened when she slipped him a bright new dollar bill with
a whispered,

“I may not call for it for oh, so long. You keep it till I come. Yes?”

The boy grinned and nodded. Such occurrences were not new to him. Many
young ladies entrusted their secrets to him. “But this girl,” he told
himself, “is different. I wonder—”

He had little time to wonder. He thrust Jeanne’s bag far back in a deep
recess and straightway forgot it; which is, after all, just the proper
thing for a check boy to do.

Jeanne did not leave the hotel at once; instead, she took the elevator to
the top floor, then walking to a window, looked away toward the lake
front.

Though she had looked upon the scene before, she could not suppress a low
exclamation of awe: “Magnificent!”

“The city of a million lights!” she murmured.

It was all of that and more, this great Century of Progress. And night
was its time of entrancing beauty. Tall towers glowing like shafts of
white hot metal, great structures changing color like giant chameleons,
now pink, now yellow, now pale blue, fountains of fire leaping up from
the gleaming surface of the lagoon.

“It is like the end of the world,” she murmured. “All is on fire.”

To her ears, like the roar of a distant cataract, came the sound of it
all. She seemed to catch the whistle of rocket cars as, gliding over
steel cables, they carried screaming joy riders through space to the
distant island.

“How marvelous it all is!” she murmured again. “To think that only a
short time ago there was no island, that ships came to anchor where now
ten thousand children play!”

But Jeanne’s eyes did not linger on the Sky Way where rocket cars glided
nor the waters where fiery fountains played. Her eyes had come to rest at
a spot close to Soldiers’ Field where a low roof cast back a gleam of
gold.

“The Golden Temple of Jehol from that enchanting land of mystery, China!”
she whispered. “I shall go there to-night. It may be that there I shall
learn much regarding that very curious chest, those banners and that
ancient three-bladed dagger with all those jewels in the handle.

“It may be!” She shuddered in spite of herself. “It just may happen that
there I shall find the little Chinaman with those so very long ears. And
if I find him? Ah, then what shall I do?”

She was not one to worry much about what should be done under certain
circumstances, this little French girl. Inspiration of the moment should
guide her. Tripping lightly to the elevator door, she went speeding
downward and was soon on her way to the Golden Temple of Jehol.

On entering the Golden Temple Jeanne found it all but deserted.

“Ah!” she breathed. A spell seemed to take possession of her. She wished
to turn about and go away from this place of mellow lights and silence;
yet some mysterious power held her.

Before her, seeming alive in that uncertain light, a fat Buddha sat and
smiled. Beyond were all manner of curious objects, trumpets three yards
long, miniature pagodas, images of gold and bronze, a great bell
suspended from a frame.

“This,” she whispered, “is a Chinese Temple. Every part of it,
twenty-eight thousand bits of wood, was made in China.”

As if taking up the story, the low melodious voice of a mandarin talking
to three ladies in black said:

“Everything you see here came from the temples of China. Everything. They
are all very old and quite priceless.”

Jeanne moved toward him. “This,” he went on, appearing to see her out of
the corner of his eye, “is a prayer wheel. Inside this wheel, which is,
you might say, like a brass drum, are bits of paper. On these are written
one hundred million prayers. See!” He spoke to Jeanne. “Turn the handle.”

The girl obeyed.

“Now,” he smiled, “you have said one hundred million prayers. Is it not
very easy?”

Jeanne favored him with one of her rare smiles. This chubby mandarin in
his long robe could help her. “He is not that one who stole my dagger,”
she assured herself. “His ears are quite short. He—”

Her thoughts broke short off. Her eyes opened wide.

“Where—where did that come from?” She was pointing to a three-bladed
knife lying on a low bench.

“This,” the mandarin went on in his slow, melodious voice, “like all the
rest, came from a temple. It is very old.”

“May—may I see it?” Jeanne’s heart throbbed painfully.

“Oh, yes, you may see.”

He held it out to her.

She did not take it. “That,” she said more to herself than to him, “is
not the one. There are no jewels in the hilt, only gold.”

“No jewels?” The small eyes narrowed.

“You have seen one set with jewels, diamonds and rubies?”

“Only yesterday.”

“And where is it now?” The mandarin strove in vain to maintain his
Oriental calm.

“Who knows?” Jeanne shrugged her shoulders. She had said too much. “A—a
Chinaman had it. He is gone. I know not where.”

The mandarin went on telling in his slow way of the treasures in that
golden temple; yet it was plain that his mind was not upon the ancient
bell, the miniature pagoda nor the smiling Buddha. He was thinking of
that knife with a jeweled handle, Jeanne was sure of that.

“I wonder how much he knows,” she thought to herself. “Could he help us
find that long-eared one? I am sure of it. And if he did? Ah, well, what
then?”

In the end she decided that she dared not trust him, at least not yet.

For some time she lingered in that place of soft lights and silent
footsteps.

When at last with a sigh she prepared to drag herself out where humanity
flowed like a great river, she dropped a coin in the mandarin’s hand and
whispered:

“I will return again, and yet again.”

“Y-e-s.” The mandarin’s tone was barely audible. “Those who reveal dark
secrets are often richly rewarded. It is written in a book. You have said
one hundred million prayers. You will not forget.”

“I will not forget.”

She was about to leave the place when again her mind received a shock.
Because the light was dim, she had not observed until now that the walls
were hung with banners.

“They are like those in the chest!” she told herself with a sudden shock.
“They belong to some temple. Were they stolen from a temple, all those,
the knife, the bell, the banners? And did the thief, after bringing them
to America, fear to claim them? Is that why we were able to buy them at
that auction house where unclaimed goods are sold?

“Ah, yes, it must be so! There was an Oriental bidding against us. Some
strange persons came and dragged him away, the secret police, I am sure.”

She was trembling from head to foot. What strange Oriental mystery had
caught her in its web? What intrigue had she but half unearthed?

“Bah!” She took a strong grip on herself. “It is nothing. This place, it
gives me strange ideas.”

“These banners on the wall?” She spoke in the casual tone of an
inquisitive visitor. “Are they also very old?”

“Many are very old.” The mandarin was smiling again. “These were made by
rich Chinese ladies who wish to have the gods be very good to them. They
are all made by hand, embroidered with gold and silver thread. Worth many
dollars, very, very many dollars, each one of these.”

Jeanne asked not another question. She had had enough for one night.
Never before had she so wished herself in the outer air.

She was nearing the door when a voice she had not heard before said:

“Would you like a book telling of the Golden Temple?”

She turned quickly to find herself looking into the face of a man, and at
once she knew that here was a person well worth knowing. He was large,
well built, muscular. His face was brown, the brown of one who lives in
the out-of-doors. His hat was drawn low over his eyes, yet he did not
inspire her with fear.

“Y-yes, I would like a book.” She held out a quarter. “Do you know
China?”

“I was born there.” The man spoke in the steady, even tone of the white
man who has lived long in strange lands. “Until six weeks ago I lived in
China.”

“Then—then perhaps you can help me.”

“Gladly. How?”

“An—another time.” Once more Jeanne felt she had spoken too soon.

Without a backward look, she left the place to lose herself in the
merry-mad throng that, whirling and swirling like autumn leaves caught in
a gust of wind, revolved about the entrance to the million dollar Skyway.



                               CHAPTER V
                       A HEARSE IN THE MOONLIGHT


Petite Jeanne, too, seemed a bright autumn leaf as, dressed in a filmy
orange-colored gown, she drifted down the broad paved walk.

Passing a great building that gleamed from within as if it were on fire,
she marveled at the mystery of light.

“Why should I find myself intrigued by a mere Oriental dagger and one
small Chinaman with long ears?” she asked herself, “when a thousand
mysteries of science, chemistry, light, heat and sound lie all about me?”

Finding no answer to this question, she still kept a keen watch for that
long-eared Chinaman who had snatched the jeweled dagger from her hand and
later had walked the cables of the Sky Ride.

“It is like a Chinaman to have three blades to his knife where only one
is needed,” she assured herself. “But why must one have a dagger in a
temple? I’ll ask that interesting white man who sold me the book.”

Indeed she would, and many other questions besides. “There is a destiny
that shapes our ends, rough hew them though we may.” The men we meet and
pass, never to meet again, the ones who because of a passing word become
part of our very lives, all their names are written in a book, and the
name of that book is FATE.

A long, low bus, looking for all the world like a mammoth greyhound,
stopped at Jeanne’s very feet. Because on the long seat filled with
smiling people there was room for one more, Jeanne paid her fare and took
her place with the rest.

Where was she going? She did not know nor care. Some time perhaps she
would take this exhibition seriously. Time enough for that. The whole
summer was before her, fifteen glorious weeks. For the moment she would
wander at will.

Gliding along in the bus she lost all sense of time until, with a start,
she found herself at the far end of that all but endless pageant.

“_Mon Dieu!_” she exclaimed. “Why did I come all this way? Florence is
waiting. She will never forgive me!”

Climbing aboard a second bus, she went gliding back the way she had come.

“Ah, my dear!” she cried as she sighted her good friend seated in a camp
chair, watching the fading lights. “How can you forgive me?”

“That is not so hard,” the big girl drawled. “I’ve been sitting here half
asleep, watching the throngs pass by.

“Do you know, Jeanne,” her tone became animated, “people come a long
distance from north, south, east and west, thousands of miles, to view
the wonders of this place. And who can blame them? But, after all, when
they are here, throngs and throngs of them, they themselves are more
interesting than all the marvels they come to see.”

“Ah, yes. It is so.

“But, Florence!” Jeanne cried suddenly. “I have found such a charm of a
place! And we may dine there if we hurry.

“Ah, but I fear the buses are stopped. See, all the lights are fading.”
Her voice dropped.

It was true. The lights were fading. Here a brightly illuminated tower
went dark, there a fiery fountain became a well of blackness, and there
an endless chain of light vanished into the night.

“It is like the end of the world!” Jeanne said in an awed whisper.

“But this place you speak of? Is it far?” Florence sprang to her feet.

“Oh, yes, very far.”

“Then we will go. I am tired of seeing and hearing. A long walk will be
just grand.”

“And, ah! to see this place by moonlight!” Jeanne clasped her hands.
“That will be so very wonderful!”

The broad, paved way, where thousands had wandered during the day, was
all but deserted. Here a belated visitor hurried toward a gateway. There
an attendant, his labors over, raced away to catch a home-bound car.

Down by the shore a score of camp fires were gleaming. For the first time
in many years Indians were camping on Chicago’s water front. The wavering
light of their fires turned their tepees into ghost-homes of the long
ago.

Farther south other fires gleamed about the temporary homes of other wild
men from faraway lands. All these were a part of the great show.

But it was none of these that had caught and held the little French
girl’s attention.

Before them loomed the Midway. With lights out, its fantastic structures,
standing out black against the sky, seemed huge beasts come to life from
the past and now crouching by the roadway in their sleep.

As if feeling something of this, Jeanne quickened her pace. But not for
long.

“Here!” she exclaimed. “Down here it is!”

She turned sharply to the right, hurried forward twenty steps, then
halted before a door.

“If it is closed!” she breathed. “Can it be? Yes, perhaps. See! The
electric light is out.

“No, no. There is some one!”

“Only a scrub woman.” Florence pressed close to the glass door.

Just then the person inside stood up. Florence caught her breath. She had
not been wrong. The one who stood there had been scrubbing. Her dress was
pinned up; her arms were bare to the elbow. But surely she was not a
regular scrub woman! Seldom had Florence seen a more beautiful face. She
was young, too, surely not yet twenty. Cheeks aglow with natural bloom,
big eyes shining, brown hair tossed back, she stood there smiling, a
picture of natural youth and beauty. Smiling at what? Had she seen them?
Yes, she was coming to the door.

“Would you like to come in?” she whispered.

Too astonished to answer, the girls found themselves inside.

The place they had entered was a long, low room. The floor was of rough
boards. Massive beams ran from one end to the other of the paneled
ceiling. At one side was a curious sort of refreshment stand, and to the
right of this the broadest fireplace Florence had ever seen.

Noting the surprised look on Florence’s face, the girl said: “Have you
never been here before?”

By her rich, melodious drawl, Florence knew at once that this girl came
from the southern mountains.

“This,” the girl went on, “is the Rutledge Tavern. It was by this
fireplace that the young man, Abe Lincoln, sat and talked for long hours
to a girl with hair like corn tassels in autumn. Can you see them there
now? She is sewing. He is dreaming of days that are to come.”

“So this is the spot that charmed my little French friend,” Florence
whispered to herself. “Little wonder! Coming from the past with its
simple grandeur, it has an appeal all its own.”

“Perhaps,” said the stranger, “you’d like to sit here by the fire. I—I’ll
soon be through with my work.”

“But you,” Florence exclaimed, “surely you do not have to scrub floors
all night long!”

“Oh, no! Not all night long. Only this one. And I love it!” The girl’s
eyes shone. “I am Jensie Crider. I am from the mountains of Kentucky.
This is the Lincoln group. And Abraham Lincoln, our great President, came
from the mountains where I was born. They—they let me care for these
buildings because I understand how they should be kept.

“Come!” Her voice fell to a whisper. “Come back here and you shall see
those other buildings by the moonlight.”

She led the way to the back of that long room, then pointed silently.
Standing there, bathed in the golden moonlight, were two small log cabins
and a rough structure built of boards.

“That little cabin,” the girl whispered, “is the one in which the great
President was born; no, not quite. It is exactly like it, but for me it
is the same.

“Does it not seem wonderful?” Her low voice was singing now. “No windows,
a stick chimney, a clay floor. He was born there, the great President. He
was one of us, of our poor mountain folk. Do you wonder that I love my
work?”

“No,” Florence whispered.

“But look!” Jeanne gripped her companion’s arm. “What is that strange
thing over there?”

“That—” The girl’s tone changed. “That is a very old hearse. Perhaps it
is the one that carried our martyred President to his grave.”

“A hearse!” Jeanne shrank back. “A hearse in the moonlight.”

“Come!” said Florence. “Let’s go and sit by the fireplace and dream.”

“Yes, do!” The mountain girl’s voice rang with hospitality. “I have some
corn bread, the sort we make in the mountains, baked in an oven under the
coals. I’ll make some tea very soon, and we shall have a bite to eat.”

To sit in the Rutledge Tavern, beside the fireplace where Abe Lincoln and
Ann Rutledge had made love long ago! Could anything be more romantic?

A moment more and they were there, Florence and Jeanne, staring dreamily
at the fire. But try as she might, Jeanne could not quite drive from her
mind the image of that ancient hearse standing out there in the
moonlight.

“It seems a sign,” she told herself. A sign of what? She could not tell.

The mountain girl’s corn bread baked in a Dutch oven beneath the coals
was delicious. Buried in strained honey which, Jensie Crider assured
them, came from a bee tree away up on the side of Big Black Mountain, it
was a dish to set before a king.

“Those other buildings there,” Jensie explained in a quiet voice, “one is
the home of Abe Lincoln in Indiana and the other, that one built of
boards, is where Lincoln and Berry kept store, or tried to and failed.

“I—I’m sort of glad they failed.” Her voice trailed into silence. On the
broad hearth the coals glowed. Behind them, down the long room, all was
shrouded in darkness. And still in the golden moonlight the dilapidated
hearse stood. Jeanne thought of this, and shuddered.

“Why?” It was Florence who spoke at last. “Why are you glad that Lincoln
failed.”

“Because he is my hero,” Jensie’s tone was deeply serious. “And if my
hero never failed, how could I hope to be like him? We all fail
sometimes.

“Of all these buildings,” she went on after a time, “I have the little
cabin where he was born. I was born in just such a cabin, way up on the
side of Big Black Mountain.”

“Oh!” Jeanne’s eyes opened wide. “And is that your home now?”

“No, no! Now we have two rooms and two real glass windows.

“Of course,” Jensie half apologised, “that isn’t very much. But there’s a
porch to sit on all summer long. And oh! it is beautiful in the mountains
in the springtime. When the dogwood blossoms are like drifting snow on
the hillsides, when little streams covered over with mountain ivy come
dashing, cool, damp and fragrant, from far up the mountains, oh, then it
is a joy to live!

“Will you come and see me there some time? You two?” Her voice rang with
eagerness.

“Yes, yes!” Jeanne cried impulsively, throwing her arms about the girl
and kissing her apple-red cheek. “Yes, indeed! We will come in spring
when the dogwood is in bloom.”

Once again silence settled over the room where darkness played hide and
seek with little streaks of light among the massive hand-hewn rafters.

Only an ancient clock in a far corner disturbed the silence with its
solemn _tick-tock, tick-tock_.

“Listen!” Jeanne gripped Florence’s arm. The clock made a curious noise
like a very old man clearing his throat, then struck twice: _Dong! Dong!_

“Two o’clock!” Jeanne sprang to her feet. “Two o’clock! This is my hour
of enchantment! We must be going!

“Good-bye.” Once again she embraced the mountain girl. “We will be back.
Many times.”

She led Florence out into the moonlight. But even as she did so she cast
an apprehensive look behind her. She was thinking still of the hearse in
the moonlight. A fence hid it from her view. With a shudder she
exclaimed, “Come! Let us go fast!”



                               CHAPTER VI
                         “THE CHEST IS EMPTY!”


“Jeanne, you left the door open!”

Standing on the stair landing before the door to their apartment,
Florence gave her companion a reproving glance.

“I? Leave the door open?” The little French girl was vigorous in her
denial. “To be sure I did _not_ leave it open. I closed it tight!”

“Then,” said Florence, catching her breath, “some one has been here, may
be here yet.”

“If they are here still, you may throw them out of the window. See, you
have my permission.” Crowding past her, Jeanne entered their living room
and snapped on the light.

What she saw caused her to hold up her hands in horror. The place was in
the wildest state of confusion. Cushions had been dragged from sofas and
chairs, beds tumbled about, dresser drawers emptied on the floor.

“Anyway,” Jeanne sighed, “they are gone.”

“And the chest!” Florence exclaimed. “That Oriental chest?”

“The chest is empty, to be sure.” Jeanne threw back the lid. “What would
you have? They came for that which was in the chest; nothing more. Why
then would they not take it if they found it here?”

“Gone!” Florence sat down to stare at the chest. “And I don’t feel so
sorry about that. After all, what use could we have for some dusty old
Chinese banners and a silly little bell?”

“What indeed?” There was a curious light in Jeanne’s eye that Florence
did not quite understand.

“But Jeanne!” Florence sprang to her feet. “If those people found what
they wanted in the chest, why did they take the trouble to tear this
place up so terribly?”

“Who knows?” Jeanne’s eyes were veiled, dreamy now.

When order had been restored, Florence retired for the night.

Jeanne sat up for a long time studying. She was reading the book she had
purchased in the Golden Temple of Jehol.

As she read her wonder grew. From her reading she learned for certain
that the embroidered panels that had but yesterday reposed in the now
empty chest had indeed come from the temples of China—not one, but many
temples; that they had been made of gold and silver thread. When she
recalled them one by one and attempted to compute their value, it made
her a little dizzy.

“But then,” she sighed at last, “it is not so much what one possesses
that counts; it is what he is able to sell it for.

“And how did you come to Chicago?” She addressed the chest. “You have no
address on you. No, not one! I scoured you clean. You have only a dragon
on your cover. Did some one steal all those priceless things? And were
they afraid at last to claim them in America?”

Once again she recalled the circumstances under which she had bought the
box. Both she and Florence had long haunted auction houses. Once she had
bought an ancient gypsy god.

“And did that cause me trouble!” she exclaimed in a whisper. “Oo, la, la!
But it was great fun, and very mysterious, too.

“And now there is this box.” She kicked the thing with her toe. “It was
lost in the express with no label on it, the auctioneer said.

“I made a bid. A Chinaman raised me. I bid again. Once more he raised.
There was murder in his eye. And then—” She paused for breath. “Then some
officers in plain clothes came and carried him away.

“Poor fellow! It is hard when you wish very much to buy a package so
mysterious, and you cannot.

“But then,” she added after a moment, “perhaps it was to him not so
mysterious after all. Possibly he knew what was in the chest.

“Ah, well, we will keep an eye out for that one with the long ears. And
if we find him? What then?”

Unable to answer this question, she crept into her bed and fell asleep.

Next day she spent three hours alternately laughing and crying over
Sandburg’s life of Lincoln called _The Prairie Years_.

“Ah, now I understand it all,” she sighed, as she wiped her eyes after
reading the chapter telling of the love of young Abe for Ann Rutledge.
“Who would not gladly scrub the floors of those buildings where our
little Jensie Crider labors? And yet, how I love her for it!”

On this day Florence was given the surprise of her life. And to Jeanne a
bright new dream was born.

Florence was on her way to work on the Enchanted Island. She was about to
start across the bridge over the lagoon when she saw some one leaning on
the rail looking away at the water.

“Why, it’s Jeanne!” she exclaimed in a whisper. “What in the world?”

Tiptoeing up to the girl who was looking away from her, she seized her by
the shoulders as she fairly shouted in her ear:

“Jeanne! How did you get here? And where did you get that jacket? It’s a
peach!”

Taken by surprise, as she undoubtedly had been, the girl did not so much
as start.

“My name’s not Jeanne!” Her voice was icy cold. “What’s got you?”

“Oh, come on, Jeanne,” Florence laughed, looking her full in the face,
“you can’t fool me! But, honest, where _did_ you get that jacket?”

A sudden and quite surprising light overspread the other girl’s face.

“Say!” There was a ring in her voice now. “I told you the truth the first
time. My name’s not Jeanne. But say! Do you mean to tell me there’s a
girl in this city that looks so much like me that you really can’t tell
I’m not that girl even when you look me square in the face?”

Florence stared at her in blank amazement. “If you’re not Petite Jeanne,
the little French girl, who are you?”

“I’m Lorena LeMar, the movie star. Surely you must recognize me from the
screen!”

“I—I’m sorry. I seldom go to the movies.” Florence looked her apology.
“I’m convinced now, and I—I apologise.”

She was about to pass on when the other girl seized her arm eagerly. “Who
is this girl? Has she been in the movies? No, of course not. Could she
act a part, do you think?”

The girl seemed so much in earnest that for a moment Florence could only
stare.

When at last she found her tongue she assured the young movie star that
while Jeanne had never appeared in the movies she was quite capable of
acting a part, that she had once starred for an entire season in light
opera and that for one glorious night she had sung a stellar part in
grand opera.

“Do you believe in luck?” the girl demanded.

“Mostly in the luck that comes after a lot of hard work,” Florence
smiled.

“Sometimes you get the breaks. You can’t deny that,” the girl insisted.
“Might as well call it luck. Who is this friend of yours? Does she like
acting? Does she need money? Is she a kindly person? Would she throw a
rope to a drowning soul?”

“Mostly yes,” Florence smiled.

“Lead me to her.”

“Can’t now. Going to work.”

“What work?”

“Over on the Enchanted Island.”

“When can I see her then?”

“At eleven to-night, at the Rutledge Tavern in the Lincoln Group.”
Florence was thinking fast. She must be on her way.

“That—that will be swell. Here, shake on it!” The girl gripped Florence’s
hand. “You won’t fail me?”

“We’ll be there.”

Florence went dashing across the bridge. All the way over she was saying:
“What does it all mean? What can she want of Petite Jeanne?”

No answers came to her, but deep in her soul was the conviction that
Jeanne was in for one more novel adventure, and the sort of adventure she
loved, at that.

Still, she had not guessed the half of it.



                              CHAPTER VII
                         THE PLACE OF DARKNESS


Florence never tired of her work on the Enchanted Island. On this island
which man by his ingenuity and tireless energy had drawn from the very
bottom of the lake, children romped while their elders sought amusement
to their own liking.

Florence loved small children. With their gay frocks, their tossing hair,
their frank smiles, she found them entrancing. Just to watch over them as
they rode on gay launches or diminutive motor buses, or laughed at the
talking cow and the puppet show; to climb with them the magic mountain
where all manner of strange people from fairyland awaited them; then to
call all this work and to receive money for it on pay day—this to her
seemed absurd.

And yet this was her manner of spending her day on the Enchanted Island.
So absorbed in it did she become that she all but forgot to call Jeanne
and tell her of the strange appointment she had made for eleven o’clock
that night.

At four she did think of it, and at once dashed to the telephone.

“Oh, Jeanne!” she exclaimed, as a voice came to her over the wire. “Are
you there? I’ve got exciting news. We are to meet a movie queen at the
Rutledge Tavern to-night—eleven o’clock. You’ll be there?”

“Of a certainty!” Jeanne’s tone was eager. “But why?”

“I can’t tell you.”

“Why can’t you tell me?”

“Because I don’t know. Good-bye. See you at eleven.”

She hung up, leaving the little French girl in a state of bewilderment,
her mind all awhirl with questions. Who was this movie person? Was she
truly a queen of the cinema? Why must she meet her?

There was some question in the end regarding Jeanne’s ability to keep
this engagement. This, fortunately, was outside her knowledge. So, having
eaten a very good dinner at the hotel, and having bestowed a knowing look
upon the check boy, custodian of her mysterious laundry bag, she made her
way to the fairgrounds and for a time purposely lost herself in the vast
throng that, eddying now this way and now that, poured like a river down
the broad walks running for miles along the lake front.

“I wonder,” she mused as, jostled here and pushed aside there, she moved
forward, “how a rain drop feels when it falls into the center of the
great Mississippi. Snuggles right down and makes itself feel right at
home. Surely this is so. And I, wandering here with this throng from all
over this broad land, feel as if I had been too long away from it all, as
if in some other world I had marched on and on, on and on with a vast
throng that, like the Milky Way, moves forward forever.”

The ebb and flow of that great human tide at last carried her to the
Golden Temple. And here, more by instinct than desire, she sought once
more the cool silence of a place where worship seemed the mood of the
hour.

Sinking into a chair, she sat in a dreamy mood listening to the low,
melodious voice of the mandarin. “This,” he was saying, “is the laughing
Buddha, god of happiness. Wart on temple stands for nobility. Long ears,
long life.”

Glancing up, Jeanne saw the long ears of this grotesque idol, and
laughed. “Long ears, long life,” she whispered. “There is one Chinaman
who needs to avoid Florence if his life is to be long. She’d throw him
into the lagoon.”

The mandarin was continuing his chant. “The three-bladed knife is not for
to kill. Oh, no, he is for drive demons away. Always ring little bell,
swing three-bladed knife through the air. Demon go away.

“Demon very bad. Make people sick. Make people die. Make land dry. Rice
not come up. Millet not get ripe. All people starve. Oh, yes, demon very
bad!”

He turned to the prayer wheel. Jeanne ceased to listen. “So that is the
meaning of the three-bladed knife and the bell,” she was thinking to
herself. “How strange! I wonder if the demons flee if the knife is
flashed through the air and no bell rings.”

Once more the stream of humanity called. Again she lost herself in that
great rushing river. Nor did she emerge until she stood before an immense
affair that, seeming a prodigious barrel one hundred and twenty-five feet
high, stood out against the night.

As she stepped inside this gigantic barrel her mind went into a tailspin.
Had she passed into another world? It seemed so.

The inner walls of that great barrel were all alive. Here she looked deep
into the heart of a tropical jungle where giant tractors dragged great
mahogany logs through the forest, there a magnificent trans-continental
limited leaped at her from the mouth of a tunnel, and here, sailing high
over the white vastness of Arctic wilds, a splendid airplane came to rest
on an endless expanse of snow.

That it was a trick performed by the miracle of a hundred moving picture
projectors she knew right well. Yet it did not destroy for her the sense
of illusion.

She stood there lost to the world about her, entranced, when with a
sudden shock she felt a hand on her shoulder.

Turning quickly, she found herself looking into the mask-like face of the
long-eared Chinaman.

So sudden was the shock that she thought she might fall to the floor or
scream.

But she did neither. With the lightning-like movement of a frightened
deer, she darted forward. Seeing a door knob, she grasped it. The door
opened. Before her was a steel ladder. She was fifty feet up that ladder
before she took time to think.

At that instant the door closed. She was in profound darkness. Only far
above her shone pale light, a small square of night sky.

Her heart was racing furiously. Why had she indulged in such madness?
That great dome of the Transportation Building was thronged with people.
Any one of these would have offered her protection.

Now here she was in a narrow place of darkness. The door was closed. Had
it shut itself? Had the long-eared Chinaman entered to close it behind
him?

“He has the three-bladed knife!” she thought with a shudder.

“The three-bladed knife is not for to kill.” The mandarin’s words came
back to her. Scant comfort in this. It was sharp enough to kill if the
Oriental’s purpose was murder.

She was at the parting of the ways. Above her, a hundred and twenty-five
feet from the ground, up that narrow ladder, was the top of the dome.
Beneath her, fifty feet down, the good earth and the man she feared.

All this passed through her mind in ten seconds of time. Then, without
having truly willed it, she began to climb.

Never before had she climbed so high on a ladder. Now to go higher and
higher, feeling her way every step in the dark, thinking of the dizzy
depths below, was agony.

But what else was there to be done? All her life she had been frightened
by the mysterious silence of Orientals. They moved about with padded
footsteps. Their voices were low. She seldom heard them speak.

“That man may be coming,” she told herself, “climbing like a
cat—silently.”

Up, up she went. The square of light appeared to grow, to come closer and
closer until with a sigh that was half a sob, she tumbled over its brink
to fall upon the cold metallic surface of the dome.

“Oh!” she breathed. “Oh!”

Then, having thought of the Chinaman, she seized a trap door, slammed it
shut, and sat down upon it.

“He might be able to lift me!”

Her keen eyes sought and found a bolt that could be drawn. It would
fasten down the trap door. She shot the bolt into place.

Then, experiencing an overwhelming sense of relief, she sprang to her
feet and, whirling into an intoxicating rhythm, went dancing across that
vast dome.

For the moment she was safe, she was free. Petite Jeanne did not bother
too much about the future.

Dancing away to the very crest of the dome, which was not a dome as we
think of it, but a vast inverted saucer two hundred feet in diameter, she
spread her arms wide and stood there poised like some white bird ready
for flight.

The scene that lay spread out far beneath her was entrancing. To her
right, by the lagoon’s bank, blazed the camp fire of the African village.
Farther away were the tepees of the red men. Close at hand all manner of
lights were blinking, racing, plunging, dancing. These were the wild
thrill-producing features of the Midway. Here a vast building lifted a
blue tower to the sky. Far away the rocket cars of the Sky Ride shot
through space.

For a time Jeanne thought only of that which lay beneath her eye. At last
her gaze wandered to the cool of Lake Michigan’s vast waters by night.

And then her thoughts returned to that great circle of steel upon which
she stood.

“Not a beam support, not a post nor a girder. It is suspended in air.
Great steel cables hold it in place. Cut those steel cables, and—”

She shuddered at the thought. And yet, what a marvel it all was!

Then of a sudden she recalled her appointment at the Rutledge Tavern.

“Florence said I was to meet a movie queen. There was something in her
tone that tells me an exciting time is to be had, and here—here I am!”

Instantly her mind sobered. She was alone on this broad dome. Should she
scream for help the sound of her voice would be lost in the roar of the
merry-mad throng. From the Midway came the grind of a merry-go-round.
Somewhere much farther away a band was dispensing glorious music.

“I must get down. The ladder is the only way.”

She shuddered. Coming up, straight up a hundred and twenty-five feet, had
been nerve-wracking. What must a descent into that black hole be?

“And that terrible Chinaman!”

Well, perhaps, after all, he had not followed.

Then a thought struck her. What if some guard had seen her mount that
ladder? She would surely be arrested.

“I—I’ve got to do it!” She set her teeth hard. “I’ll find out about the
long-eared one; lift the trap door quick. If he’s there I’ll slam it down
again.

“And if he’s not there, I—I’ve got to go down!”

Catching a quick breath and whispering: “_Now!_” she lifted the trap
door.

She did not drop it. There was no one at the top of the ladder.

Who can say that it did not take courage to drag her feet off the top of
the dome and allow them to dangle until they came into contact with a
round of the ladder? Who can tell how many miles it seemed to the bottom?

Enough that she reached solid earth at last.

Then, catching her breath for the second time, she seized the knob,
turned it, swung the door open, stepped out, closed it silently, glanced
to the right and to the left, then dashed for the cool outer air of
night—free!



                              CHAPTER VIII
                            JEANNE’S DOUBLE


On reaching the Tavern Jeanne found herself in a high state of agitation.
The hour was late. How late? This she could not tell. Had she missed her
appointment? Would the movie queen be gone? She caught her breath at the
thought. Something had told her that this meeting meant an open door, one
more great opportunity.

“Oh!” she breathed as, dropping into a chair, she looked at the clock.
“It lacks ten minutes of the hour.”

Her eyes roved the room. “They are not here.”

“Tea,” she said to the waitress, “very black tea, one large pot of tea.”

After that experience in the great dome she felt in need of this mild
stimulant.

She was in a state of mellow glow imparted by the tea, when Florence
ushered into the now all but empty room a person who on the instant
brought a gasp from Jeanne’s pink lips.

For a full moment Jeanne and the stranger stared at one another in
amazement.

“You,” said Jeanne at last, “must be I.”

“No,” said the other quite positively, “it is you who are to be some one
else. You are to be Lorena LeMar. That is what we are here to talk about.

“Waiter,” she ordered, “bring us coffee, very black.”

“One demi-tasse,” Jeanne murmured.

It was only after the golden-haired movie star had drained the last drop
of her coffee piping hot, that she turned to Jeanne.

“You see, I—”

“Won’t you-all draw your chairs up to the fire?” It was Jensie Crider,
the rosy-cheeked mountain girl, who stood beside them. “You see everyone
is gone. There is a cool breeze from the lake. The fire is so cheerful!”

“Yes, yes, let us do that!” Jeanne exclaimed quickly, touched by the
girl’s simple kindness. “Yes, we shall do that, and you, my dear, shall
sit with us.”

“But this—” Miss LeMar’s tone suggested caution. “This is to be something
of a secret.”

“This,” Jeanne said in a sharp whisper, “does not matter. In the
mountains secrets are kept as nowhere else in the world. Jensie is from
the mountains. It is not so?” She turned to Jensie.

“It most certainly is true,” Jensie agreed.

“Oh, well then—” Lorena LeMar moved toward the fire.

“You see,” she threw out a petulant hand as they gathered about the fire,
“I am on the lot over there in what they call ‘Little Hollywood.’ Five
days from now I am to begin a picture—you know, show the people how it’s
done. There are seats for thousands out there, and all that. Bah! I don’t
like seats. And I hate people about, when I am making a picture!”

“But people, an audience!” Jeanne murmured, “That is wonderful!”

“Glad you like it. Not for me!” Miss LeMar tossed her head.

“And now,” she went on, “comes the opportunity of a lifetime. My
opportunity. Rodney McBride, one of the richest men in Chicago, is making
up a yachting party to go north. Think of it! A yacht a hundred and forty
feet long! Singing, dancing, drinking! Oh, yi! yi! Moonlit waters.
Mackinac Island, the Soo Canal, Isle Royale in Lake Superior, speed
boats, sailboats and all that!” She sprang to her feet in a gesture of
great impatience. “Think of giving up all that just to work out there on
the lot with five thousand people staring at you!”

“But think of having your name on the electric signs all over the
country!” Jeanne murmured.

“Nix!” Miss LeMar stamped her foot. “When it’s all over the thing’s sure
to be scrapped. The picture’s too big for the lot.

“They’ve shot some fine little stories out there, short ones; but not
this. No! No!” Again she stamped her foot.

“I thought—” Her tone changed as she dropped into a chair. “I thought
that since you are my double, so perfectly, and since you’d been in light
opera, you might—” she cleared her throat—“you might be willing to take
my place on—on the lot.”

“As Lorena LeMar?” Jeanne stared at her in unbelief.

“As Lorena LeMar. It wouldn’t be hard, really.” The movie star’s tone was
eager. “All you’d have to do would be to study the script, get the
continuity and the lines, then just go on and—and do your bit.

“And really,” she half apologized, “it’s not as if the thing would ever
get across. It never will. One of those natural things, not spicy at
all—don’t you know? And besides, there’s the lot—it’s too small. It could
only be done properly in Hollywood, really.”

Jeanne looked at Florence. Florence was gazing at the fire. Jeanne knew
what that meant. Florence was saying to herself: “She’s off again! First
it was light opera, then grand opera; now it’s to be the movies.”

“Tell me,” Jeanne’s tone was little more than a whisper, “the story of
this movie.”

“The story,” Miss LeMar said lightly, “doesn’t amount to much. As I’ve
told you, it may never get as far as a preview.”

“I must know,” Jeanne murmured.

“Oh, it’s just one of those mountain things.” Miss LeMar’s tone was
light. “The side of Big Black Mountain; that’s the place, I think.”

“Big Black Mountain!” Jensie, who had listened quietly until now,
exclaimed. “That’s my home!” Her cheek turned crimson.

“And down there somewhere Lincoln was born!” said Jeanne. There was a
touch of reverence in her tone.

All this was lost on Lorena LeMar. “It’s a love story, of course,” she
went on. “Boy and girl standing on the side of a mountain. Springtime.
Trees in bloom. Apple trees, I guess.”

“Dogwood,” Jensie corrected. She was leaning forward eagerly.

“Well, anyway, there’s the girl, about sixteen, and a boy about eighteen.
Lovers. Boy’s going away. They’re saying good-bye. No clinches. Too
bashful for that. Just a touch of the hand. Girl throws her apron over
her eyes after he’s gone—that sort of thing.

“The girl—her name’s Zola Setser—hears some one singing. She listens. She
looks. A donkey appears around the rough path. An Italian, with big brown
eyes and all that, rides the donkey bareback. He is singing ‘O Sole Mio.’

“She listens and watches. A horse comes into view. A downcast sort of
woman is riding the horse; two ragged children are hanging on behind.

“Of a sudden there comes the clatter of hoofs and a fat youth, dressed to
kill, all leggings, silver spurs, you know, comes dashing along on a
blooded horse. He bumps into the woman, knocks the children off the
horse, bumps into the Italian and sends him sprawling.

“‘Damn poor white trash!’ the fat youth swears, as he leaps from his
saddle. ‘Damn Dago!’” Miss LeMar waved her hands.

“The mountain girl’s dog,” Lorena LeMar’s voice went on, “a long-eared
sort of hound, comes out barking. The fat youth gives the poor hound a
kick that sends him away with a wild howl.

“Then he puts on a grand air, and favors the beautiful Zola with a
flattering smile while he asks the way to Pounding Mill Creek.

“Zola tells him the way. But you can see she’d much rather shoot him.

“‘Damn poor white trash!’ the Italian repeats, picking himself up from
the dust after the fat youth has ridden on. ‘Damn Dago!’ Everybody like
us, eh? Ha! Getta ’long fine. I gotta ten dolla’, gotta one donkey. What
say we start a coal mine?’

“Zola laughs at the joke.

“But the Italian is serious. He makes good his word and starts a mine.
Zola’s father owns some rough land full of coal. He and this Italian,
Tony Riccordio, join as partners.

“And that,” Miss LeMar yawned, “is what you might call the first act.”

“It’s a fine beginning,” Florence enthused. “And I suppose the mine
prospers. Zola marries the dark-eyed Italian, and they live happily ever
after.”

“No, no, you’re wrong. That’s too simple.” Lorena LeMar took a fresh
start. “They mine coal and ship it. The fat youth from the outside, who
is supposed to be rich, mines coal and ships it too.

“But there is intrigue in Louisville. Tony Riccordio has his coal held on
the rails. Costs pile up. He is about to go into bankruptcy and Zola’s
papa with him.

“So Zola hides in a load of soft coal and rides to Louisville. The
switchmen dig her out and wash her up. When they see what a swell looker
she is, they swear allegiance to her cause, and the day is won.

“Zola goes back. There is a dance. Mountmorris Mortimer, the fat youth,
insults Zola. Tony throws him over a cliff—not a very high cliff. Only
two ribs are broken. They ship him out in a freight car.

“It turns out that Mountmorris has lost all his money. His mine closes.
Tony gets rich—”

“And he marries—” Jeanne put a hand over Florence’s mouth.

“No,” Miss LeMar smiled, “the handsome mountain boy Zola was telling
good-bye in the beginning comes back. He and Zola go into a clinch. Tony
adds his blessing, sells his share in the mine, stuffs his pockets with
money and goes riding back over the mountains, singing ‘O Sole Mio’.

“That,” Miss LeMar added with a drawl, “is the drift of the story. Of
course there’s a lot more to it. But you can see. What do you say? Is it
a go? I’ll see that you get five hundred dollars a week. Two full weeks
if you’ll only do it.”

“Five hundred dollars for just one week!” It was Jensie, the little
mountain girl who spoke in a whisper.

“That, dearie,” Lorena LeMar favored her with a smile, “is nothing, just
nothing at all.

“I’m sorry,” she half apologised to Jeanne. “It’s all I can spare just
now.”

“Oh, it—it’s all right.” One could see plainly enough that Jeanne was not
thinking of the money at all, but of the strange circumstances that had
brought this unusual opportunity to her door.

“To _be_ some one else for two whole weeks,” she was saying to herself.
“To forget that Petite Jeanne lives at all. To act in the movies when one
has never crossed a movie lot before. It seems quite impossible. And
yet—”

“It sounds like a beautiful story,” she murmured after a time.

“It _is_ beautiful!” Jensie exclaimed. “But they could make it so much
more beautiful if they only knew.”

“Knew what?” Miss LeMar opened her eyes wide.

“Knew the mountains.”

“But that—” The movie star’s voice was low, almost sad. There was about
the little mountain girl an all but irresistible appeal. “That does not
matter. It’s only an exhibition. It’ll never go on the screen.”

“It could be made very beautiful,” Jeanne repeated musingly. Then
suddenly a new light sprang into her eyes.

“All right, I’ll do it!”

“Wonderful!” Miss LeMar leaped to her feet.

“I shall have to see a great deal of you in the next few days,” Jeanne
insisted. “I must copy your character.”

“See me all you like, so long as I can get off on that yacht cruise.
Good-night. I’ll be seeing you.” The great movie star, Lorena LeMar, was
away, leaving in her wake surprise, anticipation, eager hope and blank
despair.

“Why did I say ‘yes’?” Jeanne murmured at last. “Who in the world could
ever do that?”

“Only one person,” Florence smiled. “And her name is Petite Jeanne.”

But could she?



                               CHAPTER IX
                                “HAUNTS”


“Does she mean that you can _really_ act in the movies?” Jensie Crider’s
eyes were big with wonder as she ventured this question. They were still
seated by the fire.

“She undoubtedly thinks that.” Springing to her feet, the little French
girl walked the length of the long room and back again.

“But it _is_ too bad it is not to be a real picture.” There was genuine
sadness in the little mountain girl’s tone. “I’ve seen some mountain
pictures. They are so, so terrible! And they could be so beautiful!

“When the dogwood is in bloom,” she murmured softly.

“Jensie!” Jeanne cried, seizing her by the shoulders and looking far back
into her deep, mysterious eyes. “If I tried to make that a real picture,
would you help me?”

“I—I’d do my double-durndest!” Jensie laughed in spite of herself.

“All right, Jensie.” Jeanne was like a spring day. Sunshine and joy came
one moment. The next there were clouds and rain. “All right, little
girl.” Her shoulders drooped. “We—we might try it. You never can tell.”

She dropped into a chair before the fire.

Jensie went about the humble task of scrubbing the floor. Florence
insisted upon helping her, so together, on hands and knees, they made
their way back and forth, back and forth across the large room.

All this time Jeanne sat in deep thought. Once she murmured to herself,
“It was before the fire in Rutledge Tavern that the great one, Abraham
Lincoln, who with all his greatness was so simple and kind, sat for long
hours dreaming of the future, reading his fortune in the flames, reading
it to a girl, Ann Rutledge who, as simple and kind as he, understood.

“And then—” She stared hard at the fire. “Then the girl was gone forever,
and he had to go on alone, all the way alone.

“He was an American, this great Lincoln, and I am only a poor little
French girl.

“But perhaps—” She stared once more at the flames of orange and gold.
“Perhaps I might make people understand and love him more if I could give
them a true picture of the mountain country where he was born.

“When the dogwood is in bloom,” she whispered. Her voice was deep and
mellow, like a night bird’s call.

“Come on, Jeanne! Snap out of it!” Florence was at her side. “The floor
is done. We’re going to have hot chocolate and some of those cake squares
they call brownies.”

Once again Jeanne marched across the floor to the back of the room. As
she turned, her gaze strayed through the window.

“The hearse,” she whispered with a shudder. “It’s still waiting in the
moonlight.”

Having turned quickly about to shut out the scene, she found herself
looking at a tall-backed organ standing against the wall. The moonlight
falling across its ivory keys, yellow with age, gave it a ghostly
appearance.

“Boo! Spooky place!”

She was glad enough to retreat to the narrow circle made by the fire’s
yellow glow.

“When the dogwood is in bloom,” she whispered a moment later. With the
light of the fire in her eyes, she forgot all else save those far away
mountains.

She called back from memory’s hidden places one springtime when, with
Bihari the gypsy and his good wife, she had stolen away to the mountains
of France in a gypsy van. They had gone to meet the loitering spring.

They had found her lingering among the hills. There tiny flowers were
blooming gaily. There, too, they had caught the white drift of blossoming
trees.

Never in all her wanderings had Jeanne found such simple and kindly
people as those who had hewn their homes from the forests on these hills.

When nights were damp and chill they had invited her to sit beside their
rough stone fireplaces. At night they had tucked her away in a corner and
piled her high with blankets and coverlids woven in fantastic patterns,
all woven by hand.

When Bihari had mended their pots and pans, when they were ready to
journey onward, they had crowded round to press her hand and add as a
blessing an invitation to return.

“And these mountains where our Jensie lives,” she whispered. “They are
like that. They must be.

“Ah, yes,” she breathed, “it must be truly wonderful when the dogwood is
in bloom on Big Black Mountain. Jensie shall tell me all about it. Then,
who knows? If only—”

“Dreaming still,” Florence broke in. “Come! The hot chocolate and cakes
are ready.”

During this late hour of refreshment, which was indeed a time of glorious
fellowship, a thing happened which will linger long in their memories.

“It was in this Tavern,” Jeanne was saying, “that Abe Lincoln and Ann
Rutledge sang those strange religious songs that people of those times
loved so well. I read some of them only yesterday. Listen! This is one of
them:

  “Death like an overflowing stream
  Sweeps us away. Our life’s a dream,
  An empty tale, a morning flower
  Cut down and withered in an hour.”

There was silence down that long, dark room, where only the dull glow of
coals cast an uncertain light about the narrow semicircle. Jeanne’s soul
was like a deep pool; it reflected all that came before it. Deeply moved
by the strange sad words of other days, she could move her listeners.

Presently her mellow voice rose again:

  “Teach me the measure of my days,
  Thou Maker of my frame.
  I would survey life’s narrow space
  And learn how frail I am.

“Such songs as these,” she whispered. “Is it not very strange?”

“Yes,” the little mountain girl replied, catching the spirit of the
moment. “And sometimes Ann Rutledge sat before that tall old reed organ
and played while they sang together. They—”

“Listen!” Jeanne held up a hand. Out from the silence of that long room
came the _Dong! Dong!_ of the ancient clock striking the hour. “This—”
Her tone was deep and low. “This is my hour of enchantment. This—”

Who knows what she was about to say? She broke off to sit listening,
stiff with sudden emotion. From the far corner where the darkness reigned
came the strange, church-like notes of a reed organ.

The melody that came rolling back to them was strange, a wild, weird
something, perhaps from the past—a forgotten song no living mortal had
ever heard.

It continued for a full five minutes. And in all that time not one of
them moved or spoke.

When the last note died away, the stout Florence found her courage
returning. “I’m going to see.” Her voice reached them in a low whisper.

Dropping on hands and knees, she disappeared into the dark.

“Who—who can it be?” Jeanne whispered to Jensie.

“There is no one.” Jensie’s words were scarcely audible.

After that they sat in silence until with a start Jeanne felt a hand on
her shoulder.

“Oh!” She sprang to her feet.

Florence stood beside her.

“Who—who was it?”

The look on Florence’s face was strange. “There was no one.”

“Didn’t I tell you?” Jensie reminded Jeanne. “I told you there was no
one.”

“Wha—what do you mean?”

“Haunts,” Jensie explained quite simply. “We have haunts in the
mountains. There are good haunts and bad haunts. I think this was a good
haunt. Ann Rutledge was good.”

After that, without a word, they filed out of the place in silence,
locked the door behind them, then hurried away into the night.

                            * * * * * * * *

For a long time that night after Florence had retired, Jeanne sat by the
open window, thinking.

Far away she caught the black sweep of Lake Michigan’s waters, where dim,
indistinct, a single ship’s light gleamed.

“It’s a strange and wonderful world!” she told herself. “Sometimes quite
terrible, too.”

Once more she allowed her mind to drift over the events of the past few
days. She saw it all as in a dream: the auction house, the mysterious
chest, the fire on the beach, and the Chinaman fleeing into the night
with the three-bladed knife.

“Florence will never rest until she has found him and has that precious
knife back,” she told herself. “But will she find him?”

Once again in her imagination she saw their room in wild confusion—saw,
too, the empty chest.

“I never told Florence about—about that laundry bag I left with the check
boy at the hotel. I wonder if I should? And should I leave it there any
longer? The mandarin said they were worth many, many dollars, those
ancient pieces of embroidery work all done in threads of silver and gold.

“Ah well, the place to hide things is where no one will expect to find
them. And as for Florence, the things you do not seem to possess are the
ones that trouble you least.”

Again she sat wriggling her pink toes and staring away at that one yellow
light far out upon the lake.

“But this moving picture!” she exclaimed at last. “Why did I say ‘yes’?
How can I be some one else for even two short weeks?

“But then—” Her face took on a rapt expression. “If one could but make a
success of that picture when every one believes it is to be a failure.
Ah, that would be marvelous! So very, very superb!”

Leaping to her feet, she danced across the floor and at last tucked
herself into her bed.



                               CHAPTER X
                          ENTERING A NEW WORLD


“Of course, when I sail away on that glorious yachting party, you’ll come
here to live.” That Lorena LeMar, Jeanne’s double, spoke in a
matter-of-fact tone made no difference. Jeanne’s heart fluttered.

“Here!” she managed to gasp as her eyes swept the spacious hotel
apartment with its glimmer of silver and gold, silk and satin. “Here? I
couldn’t!”

“Oh, but you must!” In Lorena LeMar’s tone there was a note of finality.
“You couldn’t well live anywhere else. This is the apartment of Lorena
LeMar. Every one knows that. This is my address. They call me on the
phone here, my company, my friends, my—”

“Your friends!” Jeanne gasped afresh. “Am I to be Lorena LeMar to your
friends also? How—how very impossible!”

Jeanne’s head was in a wild whirl. For three days she had haunted the
steps of her double, Lorena LeMar. They had been obliged to show great
caution. Never had they been where others might see them together. This
would have proved fatal to their plans. Nevertheless in out-of-the-way
places and in this, Lorena LeMar’s apartment, Jeanne had been privileged
to study her famous double until, as she expressed it to Florence,
“already I am no more Petite Jeanne, but altogether Lorena LeMar.”

Never until this moment had it occurred to her that if she were to carry
off her part she must abandon the shabby comfort of her rooms with
Florence and come here to live, nor that Lorena LeMar’s friends must for
two weeks be her friends.

“How does Lorena LeMar live?” she asked herself with a sinking heart.
“And what do those friends expect of her?”

Little need to ask. Already she knew all too well. Lorena LeMar was an
American, city-bred girl, no better and no worse than the average.
Slender, vivacious, frank, quite lovable, she lived as those others live.
There were dances, late parties, jazz and everything that went with it.
Jeanne knew very little of this type of life.

“Your—your friends—” she stammered again.

“Oh, well, as to that—” Lorena LeMar shrugged her shoulders. “Shake ’em,
every one of them. Tell them that Lorena LeMar, meaning you, is doing a
picture, a vastly important picture, going to make you famous and all
that. Tell ’em you are in mourning or something like that, no parties, no
nothing until this picture is made.”

“I—I see,” Jeanne replied.

“And that,” she thought aside, “is perhaps more true than you think.”

Once again her gaze swept the room. Could she do it, live like an
American queen for two weeks?

Costly paintings were on the walls, the sort she loved. Inch-deep
Oriental rugs were on the floor. Against the broad wall was a great
friendly hearth where a real wood fire burned. Heavy draperies were
everywhere.

“Those Oriental embroideries, threads of silver and gold,” she thought
suddenly. “How they would fit in here!

“But no! No! It must never be! I—”

“If you’ll step in here for a moment,” the movie queen threw open a door,
“I will show you my wardrobe.”

“It’s rather poor,” she apologised. “Some good things, though.”

Jeanne found herself in a sleeping chamber. The opening of a second door
revealed row upon row of coats and gowns. Here squirrel, mink and ermine
vied with silk and satin.

“Oh!” she breathed. “Oo, la la!”

“Of course,” once again Lorena LeMar’s tone was matter-of-fact, “while
you are Lorena LeMar you will wear these. Nothing will go so far toward
perfecting your disguise.”

This time Jeanne had no word to offer. She was trying in vain to picture
herself, Petite Jeanne—the little French girl who for many months had
traveled with gypsies, dancing with a bear—living in this apartment and
wearing these clothes.

It was true that for the better part of a year she had been considered
rich. But, in France, to be rich is to be thrifty. Her people were all
that. She had fallen into their way of thinking. Few garments had been
added to her wardrobe.

“And now this!” she thought. “Ah, well, I am to be a queen, a queen of
the movies for two weeks.”

She went skipping away across the floor in one of her wild gypsy dances.

Lorena LeMar caught her in her arms as she came dancing back. “Then you
will do it? You dearest of all creatures!”

“How could I resist it?”

And yet, left alone in the midst of all this splendor while her double
went on a shopping tour to secure sports clothes for her yachting trip,
the little French girl was all but overcome with misgivings. It is one
thing to appear on a movie lot each day and say certain words, go through
certain gestures that have been learned and rehearsed; but quite another
to live as your double has lived, among acquaintances, associates,
friends off stage, from morning till night.

“I shall become a bookworm,” she assured herself. “When I am not
rehearsing or playing a part I shall be right here curled up reading a
book.”

But could she? Would Lorena LeMar’s friends permit it? What did those
friends expect?

“Ah, well, time will tell,” she sighed.

“And besides, there is that so beautiful story, the movie story of
mountain life, life of Lincoln’s own country, where he was born. One
cannot forget, one must not forget!

“When the dogwood is in bloom,” she murmured. “If only I can do it! If
only I can!

“Ah, well,” she consoled herself, “Lorena LeMar belongs in California.
All her friends are there, or nearly all. They must be.”

That she was mistaken in this, she was to know, and that almost at once.
As she left the hotel elevator on the way home, a hand touched her arm.
She turned about to find herself looking into a pair of smiling eyes.

“I’m Jerry,” the boy was saying. “You remember me, don’t you, Miss LeMar?
Could I—”

For a second Jeanne’s head spun, then she found her senses and her ready
French tongue.

“No, no, Jerry! No dates! I’m out on the lot, doing a picture, you know.
It—it’s dreadfully important. Sorry, Jerry. Good-bye.”

“There now,” she whispered to herself as she leaped into a taxi, “I got
away with it.”

For all that, a sinking feeling lurked around the pit of her stomach.
“This,” she was thinking, quite against her will, “is but the beginning.
Miss LeMar has many friends and more admirers. Not all of these will be
as smiling and as kind as this Jerry.

“Oh, well,” she reassured herself, “Florence shall be my bodyguard.
She’ll throw them from the window.” She smiled a merry smile.

But Florence was working. Long hours every day she was on the Enchanted
Island. And just there came the blow to Jeanne’s plans.



                               CHAPTER XI
                     FROM CHINA’S ANCIENT TREASURE


While Jeanne was making the rather disturbing discovery that when you
take over a double’s labors you take over her friends as well, Florence
was listening to words that, now thrilling her to the very depths of her
soul, and now slowing up her heart until her very blood ran cold, left
her at last full of half-formed hopes and well established fears.

Every afternoon from four o’clock to six, she was given a rest from her
duties on the Enchanted Island. During these periods of leisure she
wandered through the grounds. The wonders of science and invention that
were spread out before her never failed to hold her interest. For all
this, she took pleasure at times in visiting the more bizarre
attractions. To watch the Seminole Indians dive beneath a great alligator
with his snapping jaws and thrashing tail, to watch the little brown
man’s conquest of the scaly monster, gave her a thrill. To study the
quaint customs of men from the heart of Africa; to don a bathing suit and
take a long, long slide into the blue waters, all these things held a
charm for this sturdy, adventure-loving girl.

This day she had entered the Golden Temple of Jehol to study its varied
treasures from the heart of China. These things charmed and fascinated
her.

The place was crowded. With such a throng pushing through its narrow
aisles, the temple had lost much of its charm. She was about to wander
once more into the open air, when her attention was caught and held by a
face.

To her own astonishment, she stood there and stared at the man until he
turned and smiled at her. Then she felt ashamed.

“Want a book?”

It was the white man who had been born in China and had lived all his
life there; the one who had so held Jeanne’s attention and had all but
drawn from her the secret of the three-bladed dagger and the chest of
Oriental embroideries. Surely here was some one it was hard to overlook.
The tone in which he spoke was matter-of-fact. Yet a strange light shone
from his eyes.

There are meetings that appear to have been ordered by some power outside
ourselves. The instant the thing has happened we know it. With a simple
flash of an eye one soul says to the other: “We are kindred spirits. We
were born to be friends.”

“Where—where did all this come from?” she asked rather breathlessly.

“All this stuff, the idols, the trumpets, the tapestries?”

“Yes.”

“From China. Much of it from far back in the interior, even in Mongolia.
I—I had a hand in gathering it. All came from temples, ancient
temples—hard to get at times.”

The man, who was quite young, spoke with a curious accent.

“You are not American?”

“I belong to China.”

“But you are not Chinese,” she laughed.

“Not Mongolian; but if you are born in China, live there always, what are
you then?” He showed his fine white teeth in a grin.

Looking her up and down, taking in her costume that told she was “one of
them,” he said in a tone quite low and aside:

“I’ll be free in half an hour. What about a cup of coffee? I’ll tell you
about these things.”

“All—all right.”

“See you then?”

“Sure.”

As she wandered out into the sunlight, something told her she had started
one more friendship that would end in adventure. What she did not know
was that she was about to be given one more chapter in the history of the
mysterious Oriental chest and its temple treasures.

An hour after leaving the temple, she found herself seated at a narrow
table in a dark little corner of a nearby coffee house, drinking black
coffee and following every word of this most astonishing young man. His
name, she had discovered, was Erik Nord. He had lived all his life in
China and, as he expressed it, had “adventured all over the place.”

“We’d gone into Mongolia, that cold, barren land where no one is wanted,”
he was saying. “The man I was with—I shall not tell you his name—had been
commissioned to gather up a lot of this art treasure that is so rapidly
disappearing from the decaying temples.

“There was a long-eared Chinaman who came near doing me in! Big knife and
all that.”

“A—a long-eared Chinaman!” Florence exclaimed.

“Longest ears I ever saw. Looked as if some plastic surgeon had spliced
pieces on from some other fellow’s ears—might have, too.

“It happened like this,” he went on, taking no notice of her stare.

“We’d picked up some things, jolly unusual they were, too; gold and
silver embroidery, rare old stuff, a bell and a knife—three-bladed
affair—some rare old pieces of embroidery—”

“A knife!” Florence was staring again. “Three-bladed!

“But of course,” she added hurriedly, “they are common, I suppose. There
is one over in the temple, isn’t there?”

“I must not betray secrets,” she was saying to herself. “Not to a man I
have known for only an hour.”

“This one was not common,” Erik Nord said quietly. “The hilt was all
studded with jewels, diamonds and rubies.”

Once again Florence opened her mouth to speak, then thought better of it.

“We found these things,” Erik Nord went on, after a moment, “in a rather
extraordinary manner. It seems some American, a curious sort of fellow,
but very real in his devotion to these people, had somehow talked the
whole little city out of their temple worship. He’d turned the temple
into a hospital for children, Chinese children.” His voice trailed off
into silence.

“Ever see any?” he asked a moment later.

“See what?” Florence asked, startled.

“Beg pardon. Ever see any Chinese children? No, of course not. Well,
they’re the cutest ever.

“Look!”

Drawing a thin metal case from his pocket, he shook a handful of cards
from it, then spread them out on the table.

Florence stared in astonishment. Each card was a photograph, the picture
of a Chinese child. Children asleep, children crying, laughing, romping.
In their quaint costumes they were indeed fascinating.

“Little children.” His voice dropped to a husky whisper. “The hospital
was for them. The people had agreed that all the treasures of the temple
should be sold and the money spent in equipping their hospital for
children, the quaint little children of China.

“And then,” his voice changed abruptly, “the treasures were all lost. I
fear the money may never be paid. And it was entirely my own fault! Can
you imagine what that means to me?”

Florence did not answer. She was thinking hard. And in her thoughts the
mental image of a long-eared Chinaman was blended with flashes of a
three-bladed knife and the pictures of a host of cute Chinese children.

When at last she broke the silence she was surprised to find that her
voice, too, had taken on a suspicious hoarseness.

“You—you said there was a long-eared Chinaman?”

“Yes, that long-eared fellow. It—it was queer.” He took a long pull at
his black coffee. “He looked like some sort of monk, or priest. A
Buddhist, I mean. He nearly got the chest of treasure from us.

“You see, it was entrusted to our care. It was sold all right, but
wouldn’t be paid for until delivered to the purchaser in America.

“He tried to knife the man I was with, this long-eared fellow did.
Entered our tent at night. Fortunately, I was awake. I smashed him one
just in time; nearly killed him. Thought I had, until he showed up in
Tientsin and made a second attempt to rob us.”

“But the treasure?” Florence tried to still her wildly beating heart, to
seem calm, unconcerned. “The treasure? What happened?”

“That’s just the question!” Erik Nord shrugged his broad shoulders. “It
was entrusted to me. I sent the chest that contained it all—worth a lot
of dollars I can tell you—to San Francisco in care of a friend. It
arrived in due time. The friend paid the duty and re-shipped it to
Chicago. As far as I know, it never arrived.” He sat back and stared at
the ceiling. “I trusted the wrong man. He bungled it somehow.

“That,” he added in a whisper, “is one of the reasons I’m here. Somehow
that long-eared Chinaman has beaten us. We’ve got to catch up with him.
In time we’ll get him, too.”

“That man—”

Florence did not finish. What should she tell? All or nothing?

“Might not be the man,” she assured herself. “Might not have been the
same chest. Anyway, the chest is all I have left. That’s worthless.
What’s the good of getting mixed up in an Oriental intrigue? Anyway, I’ll
talk it over with Jeanne.”

Thus her mind ran, and all this time Erik Nord was studying her face.

“That man,” she finished rather lamely, “must have been clever.”

“Clever no end!

“Well, time to wander back.” He rose. “It’s been a pleasure to be with
you. I’d like to know about America, the best of America.”

“Do you think I belong to the best?” she laughed.

“You seem rather real.” His smile was frank. “I don’t like all this
face-paint and jazz, pretty girls smoking cigarets, and all that. Well,
I’m old-fashioned, I suppose. In China we put paint on the temples and
burn incense in ancient copper dragons, not between young ladies’ lips.”
He laughed good-naturedly, then ushered her into the twilight of the
passing day.



                              CHAPTER XII
                             THE DODGE-EMS


“They say,” Florence murmured to herself, as she left the Enchanted
Island that night, “that murderers always return to the scene of their
crimes. That long-eared Chinaman did not commit murder when he took that
sky-walk of his, but if he didn’t commit suicide he may be back. Perhaps
the Sky Ride holds for him some strange fascination. I wonder.”

She was still wondering when her feet had led her to the foot of the east
tower of that spectacular Sky Way. She waited for an up-going car.

“I’d like to get him,” she told herself. “I must!” A fierce determination
took possession of her. Erik Nord’s story had embedded itself deeply in
her soul.

“Children.” She smiled as she recalled the pictures of cute Chinese
youngsters he had shown her. “And to think that they should be robbed of
hospital care by one selfish Chinaman!”

Just then the elevator door opened. She stepped inside to go whirling
upward. She did not cease to ponder. “Is this long-eared Chinaman merely
selfish? Is he greedy for wealth?” There had been a rather startling look
of fierce determination on his face. “Superstitious,” she whispered. “All
Orientals are that, I suppose. There must be something about that knife,
the bell and the banners that we don’t know about. He would risk his life
for them, I am sure of that. Commit murder, too!” She shuddered.

“And yet—” A sudden thought struck her. “He has them all now; he must
have; the chest was empty. What more can he want?”

She recalled Jeanne’s story of her flight up the ladder in that vast
steel dome. “He was about to speak to her, touched her on the shoulder.
What did he want? He—”

Her car shuddered slightly, then came to a halt. They had reached the two
hundred foot level where one boards the Sky Ride.

Without really willing it, she allowed herself to be carried out with the
crowd.

She was standing there only half conscious of the rocket car just loading
before her, still asking herself questions. “Should she tell Jeanne Erik
Nord’s story? What should she do about the whole affair? Should she tell
Erik what she knew? Should—”

Of a sudden, eyes wide, arms extended, she sprang forward. But she was
just one step too late. The door closed. The rocket car went shooting on
its way. And in it, smiling sardonically no doubt, was the long-eared
Chinaman.

                            * * * * * * * *

Jeanne went for a stroll on the boulevard that night. And she wore not
her own modest sport coat but one of Lorena LeMar’s wraps, a superb
creation.

“You must do this,” the screen star had insisted. “You must become
accustomed to wearing these things. And you _must_ wear them, you know.
You couldn’t be Lorena LeMar without them.”

Jeanne had not objected in the least. The truth was, she loved fine
clothes. And this was such a “darb” of a cape: midnight-blue satin
trimmed with real white fox, the sort of thing that catches the eye of
every passer-by; that causes them to turn and stare.

And to stroll on the boulevard as she had seen so many fine ladies do!
Ah, that would be heavenly!

And it was all of that. One fact troubled her a little; she was alone.
She would have felt better with a woman companion dressed as she was, or
a gentleman in evening clothes and a high hat.

But then, Jeanne was at heart a gypsy. Gypsies are never afraid, nor do
they mind being alone.

There are beautiful shops on the boulevard. The windows of Paris are not
more gay than are those of our boulevards. Jeanne went window-shopping.

“Five hundred a week!” she whispered to herself. “Two weeks. A whole
thousand dollars to spend as I please! No one shall say: ‘This is an
inheritance. It belongs to the past and to the future.’ I shall spend it.

“But two weeks of being Lorena LeMar!” She sighed heavily. “It will be so
difficult!

“Ah, well!” She drew the gorgeous cape about her, snuggled her head in
the soft fur, and for the moment felt quite recompensed.

“I shall have that dress,” she told herself, stopping before a window.
“Nile-green. The color suits me well.

“And some perfume.” She paused again. “That great bottle cut like a
diamond. I love bottles, the fantastic sort.

“And shoes!” She was a veritable Cinderella dreaming dreams that night.
“Shoes! There are some darling ones. Golden shoes to match the nile-green
dress. And only forty dollars. Think of it!”

Yes, she was a joyous little Cinderella. But all her joy vanished on the
instant.

Of a sudden three very much over-dressed young men swooped down upon her.

“Lorena! Lorena LeMar!” they shouted in a chorus.

“And now, such a night as we shall make of it!”

Jeanne was pleased and frightened at one and the same time; pleased that
she had copied the LeMar manner so well that her friends were thoroughly
deceived; frightened at being alone at such a time.

“Oh, no you won’t!” She tried in vain to steady her voice. “I—I’m doing a
picture; on the water-wagon and all that, till it’s finished.”

“Water-wagon! Water-wagon!” they shouted in derision, crowding about her.
“That’s a good one! A real wise crack!”

Of a sudden the little French girl’s world whirled about her. When it
steadied she happened to see, by the most fortunate chance in the world,
a familiar figure standing by the corner of a skyscraper.

In appearance this person was not so very different from the three nearer
at hand. Natty brown suit, black derby, bright tie, spats, and all that.
But his face! Ah, there you had it! His cheeks wore a healthy glow. His
muscles were smooth and hard. In the eyes of these three who had so
suddenly come upon her there was a nervous twitch. Their faces spoke of
excess: too much money, too much fun, too many hours in a day, too much
everything.

“Oh, all right!” She tossed her head in the LeMar manner. “I’ll go. Which
way? Over here?” She walked rapidly toward the one on the corner.

Caught off their guard, the gay trio followed. Not until it was too late
did they realize that they had been tricked.

“Why, hello, my good friend Pat!” Jeanne called suddenly, as if the
meeting had been by chance. She grasped the firm hand of the one on the
corner. “Boys,” she trilled, “this is Pat Murphy. He’s a detective,
aren’t you, Pat? Show them your star, Pat.”

Pat grinned as he threw open his coat.

“Been looking for pickpockets and—and mashers, haven’t you, Pat?” Jeanne
gave her detective friend a look.

“Yeah. Just anything. A fellow’s gotta make a pinch now and then to hold
his job.” Pat was still grinning. For all that, a queer something had
stolen into his voice.

“Oh say, George!” one of the joy-hunting trio exclaimed. “Forgot
something, didn’t we? Directors’ meeting, or something like that. It was
at ten sharp, wasn’t it?

“Awfully sorry!” He turned hurriedly to Jeanne. “Be seeing you again,
LeMar.”

“We’ll be seeing you.”

“We’ll be—” They were gone.

“Yeah, they forgot something!” Pat chuckled. “What’ll I do? Go and get
them?”

“Oh no, please don’t!” Jeanne grasped his arm.

“You see,” she explained, “they thought I was some one else.”

“This LeMar person? Well, ain’t you?”

“No, I’m not, really.” She gave him a knowing look. “I’m just Petite
Jeanne, the little French girl who lived with Bihari the gypsy. You know
that, Pat. You’ve known it quite a long while.

“All the same,” she added hastily, “if you see Lorena LeMar, who looks
just like me, having any trouble, you just march right up and say:
‘What’s all this about?’ Will you?” She gave his arm a squeeze and was
gone.

Dashing to a corner she boarded a bus and was whirled away. No more
window-shopping for her that night. Only her own top floor rooms with the
door safely locked could still her heart’s wild beating.

“Not Lorena LeMar yet,” she thought, as fresh consternation seized her.
“Yet I am threatened with the doubtful kindness of her friends.

“Oh, I know,” she breathed. “They were only three gay play-boys out for a
good time.

“But when you don’t know what play-boys are like, when you haven’t the
least notion what they expect of you—how terrifying!

“Good old Pat!” she thought with a sigh. “He saved me that time. To think
what it means, this having humble friends all strewn along your pathway,
scores and scores of just common folks, your friends!

“But why not?” She laughed a little laugh. “Am I not myself only Petite
Jeanne, friend of the gypsies, humblest of them all?”

So she hurried home to lock the door, hang the beautiful robe carefully
in a corner, settle herself in a great shabby chair and give herself over
to watching the rocket cars streak across the sky far above the great
Fair.

                            * * * * * * * *

And in one of these cars, hoping against hope that she might at the other
end catch up with the long-eared Chinaman, was Florence.

“No chance!” she breathed a moment later, as she sent one wide sweeping
glance across the landing platform. “He’s gone. But which way? Down or
across?”

Choosing to re-cross the broad expanse, she once more boarded a rocket
car and went speeding away.

This time, having all but given up hope of catching the fugitive, she
gave herself over to enjoyment of the moment.

Never, though she rode the Sky Ride a thousand times, would she lose that
feeling of breath-taking thrill that came over her as, hanging high in
air, she watched the ever changing lights and the milling throng upon the
land, the flashing fountains, the darting boats on the lagoon.

“It’s marvelous!” she breathed. “Why must one be disturbed by the
problems of others? Why should not one—”

Once more they were across. She leaped to her feet, was first at the
door.

“There! There he is! He—he’s going down!”

Leaping for the descending car, she caught it just in time, only to find
herself wedged in between a very fat man and two extremely tall women.
The Chinaman was in the car, of that she was sure. Yet, crane her neck as
she might, she could not catch sight of him.

Nor was she more fortunate upon landing. He was gone before she caught a
glimpse of him. Only one thing she knew, he had gone toward the lagoon.
Throngs were pressing in that direction. All other avenues were clear.

Following more by instinct than knowledge, she arrived at the shore of
the lagoon just in time to see a fluttering yellow jacket go gliding
across the water in a Dodge-Em.

“Here!” She crowded a young couple aside, pressed a half dollar into the
starter’s hand, leaped into a Dodge-Em and was away.

A Dodge-Em is a curious sort of boat. It is short and broad, is very
heavy and has a motor that appears to run forever. That it does not run
forever Florence was to learn later, to her sorrow.

You may stand on the edge of a Dodge-Em. It will not tip you out. You may
run it nose first into another Dodge-Em or into a stone wall—yet you will
not harm the Dodge-Em. It has a solid rubber prow and heavily padded
sides. A truly remarkable craft is a Dodge-Em. Only one thing you cannot
do; you can never make a Dodge-Em go faster than its accustomed speed,
which is some four miles per hour.

This last Florence learned to her great disgust. Step on the gas as she
might, and did, she could get no burst of speed from that indolent
Dodge-Em.

So, in the end, she lost the race. Having crossed the lagoon, the fleeing
one abandoned his boat, climbed the breakwater and disappeared in the
Florida orange grove that by some touch of magic had been made to grow on
the shores of Chicago.

“Oh, well,” she sighed, settling back in her seat. “It’s a grand night
for dreaming, and who could fail to dream at night in a slow old
Dodge-Em. I—”

“Hello there! Out for a ride?”

It was Erik Nord who called from another Dodge-Em.

“Did—did you see him, too?”

She spoke before she thought.

“See him?”

“Yes—er—well, there was a curious sort of person out here on the water.
Gone now.” She would not tell him, not just yet.

“Let’s double up,” he suggested. “Fine night for sport.”

So it happened that she found herself seated in his Dodge-Em, gliding
across the blue waters.

The hour was late. There were few boats on the lagoon.

“Queer, the things you can do with these things.” He steered his craft
toward the shadows. In the shadows was another Dodge-Em. Without
appearing to plan it, he allowed his boat to strike the other a glancing
blow.

Came a scream from the other boat.

“Hey! Watch out! What are you doing?”

“Beg your pardon!”

Erik and Florence glided away. “No,” he chuckled, “you can’t hurt ’em,
these Dodge-Ems. Don’t hurt the spooners to shake ’em up a bit.”

“Look out!” Florence gripped his arm. He was headed square for a Dodge-Em
coming from the other way. Too late. Came a sudden jolt, a growl from a
placid fat man who, up to that moment, had been dreaming along in his own
slow way.

“Nope, you can’t hurt them. And they can’t hurt you!” Once again they
were away.

They passed out no more sudden shocks that night, but gliding down the
lagoon and back again, talked of many things, of customs in China, of
temples and gardens, of America and her own ways and of the great Fair.

“It’s been a pleasure to be with you,” he said, as he bade her good-night
at the gate. “Here’s hoping we meet again!”

“Here’s hoping.” She hurried away into the night.

There was little need to hope. They would indeed be together again and
that under the most unusual circumstances.



                              CHAPTER XIII
                           DANCES AND DREAMS


“Jeanne, what can you be doing?”

Florence stared at her eccentric little friend in surprise.

“But can you not see?” Jeanne did not pause for an instant. “I am doing a
gypsy dance, practicing for my so very wonderful moving picture. We begin
rehearsals to-morrow, and must I not be prepared?”

“Yes, but—”

Florence could say no more. The whole affair was too fantastic for words.
Here was Jeanne in the sumptuous apartment of Lorena LeMar. She was
clothed in a filmy thing of nile-green that floated around her as clouds
float about a mountain peak. She was as radiant, too, as any mountain
peak at dawn. She was doing one of her gypsy dances, one of those exotic,
fairy-like dances that, now dreamy, now wild as a bird in flight, drug
one’s very senses.

“But Jeanne!” she exclaimed, when at last the little French girl threw
herself upon a low couch. “Your moving picture is to be one of those
simple, human affairs, a story of the Cumberlands. You are to be Zola, an
innocent little mountain child.”

“Ah, yes!” Jeanne sat up. Vibrant, alive to the very tips of her toes,
she shook her finger at Florence. “There is the trouble! No contrast,
none at all. And what is a movie, what can any dramatic thing be, without
contrast?

“Our Zola,” she hurried on, “is not so simple as you think.

“You remember she is rescued from a car-load of soft coal, very black,
and she is scrubbed up?”

“Yes.” Florence smiled.

“Well!” Jeanne struck a dramatic pose. “When she is washed up she is
introduced to the president of the railroad. He thinks she is a—how would
you say it?—a ‘wow’!

“So! He takes her home. He has a son and a daughter about her own age.
This daughter dresses her up in this.” She touched the filmy gown.

“They are in a place like this.” She glanced about the apartment. “Only
grander, much grander; you know: high ceilings, marble pillars, ancestral
portraits, butler, and all that.” She threw her arms wide.

“When they have dressed our Zola of the box car up, she does like this.”

Once again she went drifting like a butterfly across the room and again
alighted upon her downy perch.

“And then,” she cried exultantly, “they _know_ she is a wow!”

“But, Jeanne,” Florence objected, “where could a little mountain girl
learn that dance?”

“Gypsies, traveling gypsies. They go everywhere.

“And,” she went on, “when Zola does that dance, they want to keep
her—just the way you’d like to keep a beautiful wild bird who flies into
your window.

“They do keep her, too, for a few days. But the little wild thing longs
for her mountain home. So, one starry night, she folds up the gorgeous
pink nightie they have given her, puts on her old calico dress and steals
away, back to her home on the side of Big Black Mountain.

“See!” she exclaimed. “Contrast! Is it not wonderful?” Once again, like
some strange tropical bird, she drifted across the room.

“But Jeanne!” Again the skeptic protested. “Is all this in the scenario?”

“Not yet. I am putting it in to-morrow.”

“Putting it in?” Florence was aghast.

“Yes, yes. And why not? Why must one be a star, a movie queen, if she is
not to have her own way?”

“And Lorena LeMar is gone?”

“Yes. She ’phoned me this morning, only a few words. She was off on the
yacht. I must move in this very day. To-morrow we must rehearse. And
_voila_! Here we are!”

“And you do not know where you can reach her in case—”

“In case what?”

“In case they detect that you are an impostor.”

“Oh, no, my friend, not an impostor!” Jeanne held up her hands in horror.
“Only a twin star.”

“Or in case you fail.”

“Fail? But how could I? The movie is already—how shall I say it?—a flop.

“And I—I shall make it a grand success. I, Petite Jeanne, who has never
failed. Nevair! I have willed that this so beautiful picture shall be a
success!”

“Well,” Florence’s voice was deep and low, “here’s wishing you success.

“To-morrow—” She spoke again after some moments of silence. “To-morrow
will tell the story. If you can carry it off to-morrow you are on your
way.”

“Ah, yes!” Jeanne was drooping a little now. She was like a butterfly who
has ridden the sunbeams long and far. “Ah, yes. To-morrow we shall know.”



                              CHAPTER XIV
                     TWO BLACK HORSES AND A COFFIN


For a full half hour the little French girl reposed upon that luxurious
couch. Now and again her slender fingers touched the folds of her filmy
gown. Often her eyes wandered from pictures to tapestries, then to little
touches everywhere that told of lavish expenditure.

As a kitten lying on the doorstep basks in the sunshine, she basked in
the warmth of elegance that was all about her.

“I am Lorena LeMar,” she was telling herself. “I am no longer a very
careful little French girl. I am care-free, extravagant. I must tip the
porter and the bell boy. I must ride in a taxi. I must—

“Oh!” she exclaimed, springing to her feet. “I came near to forgetting.
We must go to the Tavern. I must see Jensie.”

“To-night?”

“At once.”

Jeanne was out of her finery and into street clothes in a jiffy.

“Now down the elevator and into a taxi.” They were away like a streak.
“You see,” she explained, “there is so very much I do not know about
those blessed mountains. Jensie must tell me. She must go with me
to-morrow. Ah! That most terrible to-morrow!” she sighed.

Florence scarcely heard her. She was thinking of many things, of the
long-eared Chinaman, of Erik Nord’s story, of the three-bladed knife and
last but not least of Jensie and her “haunts.”

“Jeanne,” she said quite suddenly, “you didn’t believe that, did you?”

“Believe what?” Jeanne’s tone showed her astonishment.

“Oh,” Florence laughed, “I forgot you were not reading my mind. You don’t
believe that a ghost was playing the reed organ in the Tavern that night,
do you?”

“What should one believe? You saw no one?”

“No one.”

“And the doors were locked?”

“Of course.”

“The windows, too?”

“Yes, I—I’m sure of it.”

“Well then, what shall we say?”

Florence gave up. Jeanne was at heart a gypsy. And for gypsies all manner
of curious creatures are real, ghosts and devils, goblins and witches,
all quite real, so what _could_ she say?

It was a dark and gloomy night. Black clouds hurried over the black
waters of Lake Michigan. The Tavern seemed dark, mysterious, uninviting.
Yet, as ever, there was the pale light, the low fire of coals, the
slender girl scrubbing on hands and knees.

“Jensie,” said Jeanne. Her voice was low and friendly when at last they
sat before the fire, which had been made to glow a little. “Jensie, when
the big show is over, shall you go back to your mountain home?”

“It is beautiful.” Jensie spoke slowly, and with seeming reluctance.
“Y-e-s, I shall probably go back.”

“But you do not wish it?” Jeanne was surprised.

“I have been through eighth grade down there. It is as far as I can go. I
walked four miles every morning and night for that. I—I would like to
study—study more.”

“Where?” Jeanne’s voice was low.

“There is a place—” The mountain girl’s voice took on a new note of
enthusiasm. “Such a beautiful place! A school. Lena, my chum, is there
now. Her father has a coal mine.

“And this place—” She stared at the fire. “There are trees, great
spreading elm trees, very old. And the brown stone building at the top of
the hill is old, all grown over with ivy. Some of the teachers are old
too. Their hair is like silver. But they are kind, oh so very kind. And
they teach you so much. I have visited there. I know.” Her voice fell.

“Is it far?” Jeanne asked.

“Only an hour’s ride from here.”

“We shall go there some time, you and I.

“But Jensie—” The little French girl was all business now. “To-morrow I
must go out to the lot.”

“The lot?”

“Where they make moving pictures. Will you go with me?”

“I’d love to.”

“Will you help me? Will you tell me if the trees are wrong, if the porch
on the cabin is right, if the old mountaineer says his lines right?”

“I—I’ll do all I can.”

“Jensie,” Jeanne threw her arms about her. “You are a dear! We will make
a picture, oh, such a marvelous picture of the land where your great
Lincoln was born. And I—I shall be famous as—as Lorena LeMar. And you,
ah, well, I shall not tell you now, but if we succeed you shall have
something so very wonderful!”

Releasing her little mountain friend, she went flying away down the dark
room in a wild gypsy dance.

Ten seconds later, she was back on tiptoe, her face white with terror.

“The hearse!” she whispered hoarsely. “There are now two black horses and
a coffin. It moves! Oh, it moves!”

It was a full five minutes before even the stout-hearted Florence found
courage to drive her reluctant feet down the long room. When she did, and
had taken one look out of the window, she returned in haste.

“It’s gone,” she murmured hoarsely, “the hearse is gone!”

“I told you!” Jeanne repeated. “Two black horses and a coffin.”

“Haunts!” Jensie’s tone was solemn. “The hearse will be back there in the
morning.”

“Will it?” Florence asked herself.

Gliding silently out of the room, they locked the door, then hurried away
into the darkness with not a single backward look.



                               CHAPTER XV
                        TRANSFORMING A MOUNTAIN


If Jeanne carried her heart in her mouth as she passed through the gate
and walked out on the lot of that “Little Bit of Hollywood” in Chicago
that day, neither her face nor her feet betrayed her. She was smiling.
Her feet moved in a sort of rhythmic motion that was almost a dance.

“Come over here.” She steered Jensie, who was at her side, into the
shadow of the stadium for spectators.

Before the stadium, a proper distance off, a liberal section of a
mountain had been reproduced. This was surprisingly real with trees,
bushes, grass and rocks. Real flowers were in bloom.

This did not astonish Jeanne. She had become accustomed to the magic of
Chicago scenery. It came and went, she knew that well enough. Four months
before this greatest of all Fairs had opened there had not been a tree
nor even a shrub upon its grounds. And now, there they were, hundreds of
trees, some towering fifty feet in air, thousands of shrubs, miles of
hedges.

“Magic,” Jeanne murmured.

“It’s very beautiful.” Jensie’s voice was low. “A very beautiful
mountain. But it’s not Big Black Mountain.”

“Why? Tell me!” Jeanne’s voice was eager.

Jensie did tell her. For a full quarter of an hour Jeanne listened, and
not a word escaped her.

When at last a short chubby man, who walked with a slight limp, appeared
at the foot of the mountain she was ready. That Lorena LeMar was capable
of an imperious manner befitting a queen, she knew well enough. She was
Lorena LeMar now. She would be imperious.

“Ah! Miss LeMar!” The little man gripped the tips of her fingers. “What a
day!” he enthused. “It is so bright, like a child with a washed face. And
look! What a mountain I have got for you!”

Jeanne looked into his bright little eyes. She was shaking at the knees,
but her voice was steady.

“It’s a very pretty mountain, Mr. Soloman. But it’s not right.”

“What’s this? Not right, you say?” He stared in unfeigned astonishment.

“This story,” she went on, “is about Big Black Mountain. You have pines,
young pines all over it. There are no pines on Big Black Mountain. There
is mountain ivy, rhododendrons and dogwood in bloom. That’s the title,
‘When the Dogwood Is in Bloom.’ Where is it? Not a twig!”

“But Miss LeMar, you know—”

“Yes, I know.” Jeanne was going fast now. “You think the story can never
be on the screen. What of that? These people who come to see pictures
taken, many of them have traveled in the mountains of Kentucky and
Virginia. They will look at your mountain and laugh.”

“Laugh? Laugh at me! At Abe Soloman!” The little director fairly danced.
“I shall have it changed. You shall have your way, your ivy and your
dogwood and what was it you said?”

“Rhododendrons.”

“Yes, and your dogwood, all over the lot.”

“Oh, thanks, Mr. Soloman.” The queen held out an imaginary sceptre.

“And Mr. Soloman,” Jeanne had intended going no further that day, but an
irresistible impulse carried her on, “we can make a success of this
picture, a real big success!”

The small eyes gave her a look that bored like a gimlet into her very
soul. Had he guessed? Had she betrayed herself? She felt that her
trembling knees would betray her. Too late now. She took a fresh start.

“It’s a truly beautiful story. All it lacks is contrast. When this
mountain is done over it will do. We—we can shoot the indoor scenes in
some fine home. I—I have rich friends.”

“Indoor scenes? Miss LeMar, there are no indoor scenes.”

“Oh, but Mr. Soloman!” In her eagerness Jeanne had her hand on the little
man’s shoulder. “There must be indoor scenes. All this, this outside
beauty and simplicity is fine, but there must be a palace, silks, gold,
grandeur, just for contrast.

“When Zola, the little mountain girl, gets to Louisville in a box car she
must be taken up by rich people who live in a grand house. They must
dress her up in gowns, silk gowns and all that.”

Jeanne was running down like an eight-day alarm clock, but the little man
did not appear to notice it. Before he caught up with her she was off
again.

“These people!” She waved a hand at the half-filled stadium. “They come
from everywhere. If they see a little bit of a feature picture shot,
they’ll want to see the finished picture. That’s natural. Put up a big
sign where they can see it. ‘The picture now being made is WHEN THE
DOGWOOD IS IN BLOOM. See it in your home theater next month.’ And won’t
they be there?”

“And how!” the little man muttered hoarsely, as he gripped her hand hard.
“Miss LeMar, you are a vunder! A vunder! How did you ever get that vay?”

Not daring to utter another word, Jeanne fled precipitately from the
spot.

As she rested in the shadow of the stadium, trying in vain to still her
wildly beating heart, momentous questions crowded her brain. Had she
gotten away with it? Had she truly? It seemed impossible.

“He’s a Jew, Mr. Soloman is a Jew. And whoever deceived a Jew? They are
the keenest people living. I didn’t know he was a Jew. If I had known—”

If she had known, what then? Would she have refused? She did not know.

“There’s nothing for it now but to go on until some one shouts: ‘Stop!’”
she assured herself as her mind sobered and her heart ceased its wild
flutter.

She was still very much in the doldrums when, hours later, she sat
wrapped in a satin bathrobe, looking out at the city by night.

“If I only were not so impulsive!” she was saying to Florence. “I meant
to unfold my bright ideas one at a time. And there I blurted them out all
at once, like some little child.

“And now,” she sighed, “he says there’ll be nothing more done on the
picture for two days.

“Nothing more!” Her tone took on a bitter tinge. “Nothing has been done.
We went through the motions and the dialogue to-day; did it just the best
we knew how, too! The camera men seemed to be making shots. But it was
all a fake. People in the stadium got a big kick out of it. But it made
me feel all sick inside.

“The others in the cast are so fine, too.” Her voice changed. “This boy
who’s playing the part of an Italian riding into the mountains on a
donkey is a dear. Just a kid, but such smooth cheeks, such big eyes, such
black hair!

“And he’s nice! Not hard as steel the way you expect movie men to be. He
told me this was the first real part he’d ever been in, and oh, how he
did want it to be a success! But he’d heard it was all set to be a flop.”

“And did you tell him you were going to make it a grand success?”

“No, I—” Jeanne’s voice trailed off. “I—I couldn’t. I—”

“You need more faith,” Florence said quietly. “Did you ever think,
Jeanne, that nothing really worth while is ever accomplished without a
tremendous amount of faith? You must believe in things and in people. You
must believe that this picture is awfully worth while. You must believe
in Mr. Soloman and your young Italian. Most of all, you must believe in
yourself! Faith! That’s a grand word!”

“Yes. And I _will_ have faith!” Springing to her feet, Jeanne went into
such a wild whirl as set her blood racing and brought her back to her
place at last with cheeks as rosy as those of her little Kentucky
mountain friend.

“Do you know what?” she whispered, as if afraid of being overheard.
“Jensie told me the old hearse at the back of the Tavern was in its place
as usual this morning!”

“Of course. What did you expect?”

“But there were horses!” Jeanne’s tone carried conviction. “There were
two black horses. I saw them. And there was a coffin! I saw that too. And
the horses were hauling the hearse away!”



                              CHAPTER XVI
                          MAGIC FROM THE EAST


Long after Florence had retired for the night Jeanne paced slowly back
and forth in that magnificently furnished living room. Her bare feet sank
deep in the softest of Oriental rugs. Her filmy gown shimmered in the
moonlight.

Oblivious of all these surroundings, Jeanne was deep in thought. “Faith!”
she murmured. “Faith! Faith in one’s self, in one’s associates, one’s
tasks. Faith in one’s future. Faith in a kind Providence.

“Faith. Faith. Ah, yes, I shall have faith.”

But the future? How strange the past had been! In her thoughts
three-bladed knives, Buddhas and curious Oriental banners were strangely
mixed with log cabins, a hearse drawn by black horses, and an organ
playing itself.

“Ah, yes, but the future!” she exclaimed. “There is always a to-morrow,
to-morrow, and to-morrow. The grand, good, golden future! Who can be
afraid?”

At that she snapped out the light to stand looking down upon the vast,
mysterious city until the distant chimes rang out the hour of two.

“Ah!” she whispered. “My hour of enchantment!”

For a moment she stood with bowed head as if in prayer. After that, for
long hours, this entrancing room knew her not. For long hours she was
wrapped in sleep.

It was well that she had faith in the future for to-morrow was to bring
events mysterious and terrifying.

The clock was preparing to strike the hour of ten on the following night
before she ventured forth from her well-kept fortress, Lorena LeMar’s
apartment. She had not forgotten her narrow escape from Miss LeMar’s
friends, the three rich and very badly spoiled play-boys. “Not that they
were likely to do me any real harm,” she had confided to Florence. “They
were out for one wild night and wished me to join them. And that for me?”
She had made a face. “No! No! Not for me! Never!”

That she might escape danger from this quarter, she had garbed herself in
her ancient gypsy costume of bright red and had hidden herself inside a
long drab coat that came to her ankles.

She realized that perfect safety was to be had only by remaining inside.
But who wants perfect safety? Certainly not our little French girl.

As a further precaution she descended a back stairway and left the
building from a little-used doorway.

A half hour later she might have been found in the throng of joy hunters
on the Midway of the great Fair.

She had just emerged from a breath-taking crush when off to the right she
caught sight of a curious group gathered about some person beating a
drum.

_Tum_, _tum_, _tum_, the dull monotony of beats played upon her ears.

Having joined the circle, she found herself looking at a very
dark-skinned person with deep, piercing eyes. The man wore a long white
robe. On his head was something resembling a Turkish towel twisted into a
large knot.

Seated on the ground near this man were two others quite as dark as he.
One was beating a curious sort of drum, the other squeaking away at
something resembling a flute.

“Now watch! I will make him go up! Up! He will climb the rope. He will
disappear utterly. Utterly!” The dark man’s voice, coming as it did from
deep down in his throat, suggested that he might be talking from a well.

Upon hearing these words a small man stepped forward. The dark-faced one
drew a circle about this little man.

At once the dark one began to whirl, then to dance.

Jeanne had witnessed many strange dances, but none so weird as this. The
man whirled round and round until his robe seemed a winding sheet for a
ghost. He began revolving about in a circle. And inside that circle stood
the little man who was, Jeanne discovered, dressed in a curious sort of
yellow gown.

Faster and faster went the drum beats, squeak-squeak went the flute,
wilder and wilder flew the dancer.

“What can be going to happen?” the girl asked herself. In a vague sort of
way she wished herself somewhere else, but to her astonishment she found
herself unable to move.

Then a discovery, that under normal circumstances must have fairly bowled
her over, came to her as in a dream: The little man standing there in the
center garbed in an orange gown was none other than the long-eared
Chinaman who had snatched the three-bladed knife from her hand.

“You can get him. Get him now,” a low voice seemed to whisper.

“Ah, yes, but you won’t,” a stronger voice appeared to reach her. “You’re
going to see this thing through.”

And so she was.

Of a sudden, without for an instant abandoning his mad whirl, the
dark-faced conjurer from India, for such he was, produced a rope. Three
times he lifted his hand high.

“Now watch! Watch closely. He will go up.” In his voice there was a
strange hypnotic cadence.

Like a thing shot from a gun, the rope rose straight in the air and, in
so far as Jeanne’s eyes told her the truth, remained there standing on
air.

The next instant a figure all in orange began passing up that rope. Up,
up a yard, two yards, three, four, five. Up, up until the darkness
appeared to stretch out black-robed arms to receive him.

Then of a sudden the dark-faced one ceased whirling. The drum gave forth
one more loud boom, the flute one more squeak, and all was still.

With a sigh that was all but a whisper, Jeanne took one long, full
breath.

She closed her eyes for an instant, then opened them.

To her astonishment she saw no dark-faced one in a white robe. The
musicians, too, were gone.

“And the Chinaman!” she exclaimed aloud. “He has vanished also!”

“What has happened?” It was Erik Nord, the man from China, who spoke to
her. He had just come up. “You must have seen a ghost.”

“No. I—I saw a Chinaman go up a rope that was fastened to nothing but
air.”

“There was no rope,” Erik Nord laughed, “at least not in air, and no
Chinaman.”

“Oh, yes! I saw him!”

“Well, perhaps. But he did not go up the rope.

“That man in the white robe,” he explained, “was India’s cleverest
conjurer. With his weird music and wild whirling he cast a spell over
you. You saw what he wished you to see. Perhaps you were hypnotized. Who
can say?”

“But that Chinaman!” Jeanne murmured. “He was—was—”

She was about to tell the story of the three-bladed knife. Thinking
better of it, she made some commonplace remark, then bade this chance
acquaintance good-night as he hurried away to fill an engagement.

It is little wonder that, after such a mystifying experience as this,
Jeanne should straightway walk into a trap. This is exactly what she did.



                              CHAPTER XVII
                   A SCREAM BRINGS STARTLING RESULTS


Erik Nord was to be found anywhere and everywhere. Young, very strong,
full of the vigor of youth, he was in what was to him a strange
land—America. Little wonder, then, that an hour after he had imparted
valuable information to Petite Jeanne, Florence should have come upon him
standing near the breakwater of the lagoon.

He was looking at a ship, a battered old windjammer tied up there by the
shore.

“Stout little old boat, that!” he said to her with a friendly smile.
“Can’t help but admire her, can you?”

“Why?” Florence wondered.

“Don’t you know the story? Come on board, and I’ll tell you.”

They mounted the gangplank, then wandered across the upper deck and
descended to the deck below.

“See those!” Nord touched a ten-inch hand-hewn beam of ironwood. “Look at
those knees! All hand-hewn. Know how old this ship is? Fifty years.

“And yet—” He paused. “And yet, when Richard Byrd wanted a ship that
would carry him safely through the polar ice of the Antarctic, Roald
Amundsen, who had sailed on this ship as a boy, said: ‘She’s the one you
want.’

“They found her,” his voice was mellow, almost tender, “tied up to a dock
far north in Norway. They’d thought she was through; everyone who knew
her thought that. And yet, isn’t it magnificent! To-day she’s about the
most famous ship afloat. Byrd’s Polar Ship, they call her.

“She’s Scandinavian built,” he said proudly. “My ancestors were Norsemen.
Can you blame me for admiring this old ship?”

“No,” said Florence. “I’m glad you told me. This ship was built right,
wasn’t it?”

“Right and honest. They took their time about it, too.”

“And if we build our lives that way, right and honest, taking our time,
we’ll last, too.”

“There’s reason to hope so.” He gave forth a low chuckle.

“Shall we go up on deck and sit a while?”

“I’d love to.”

So it happened that they found themselves settled comfortably in a dark
corner watching the parade of boats pass by.

It was a warm night. The lagoon was crowded. All manner of boats were
there, speed boats and tiny motor boats, row boats, canoes, dugouts and
gondolas. For some time Florence watched in vain for a certain type of
boat. When at last her vigil was rewarded, she received a shock.

“Look!” she exclaimed, seizing Erik Nord by the arm. “Look there, at that
Dodge-Em!”

“What’s unusual about that?” He looked at her curiously.

“But see who’s riding in it!”

“A Chinaman.” Erik chuckled. “Suits their style. Goes only just so fast.
A Chink is seldom in a hurry.”

“But look who it really is—your long-eared Chinaman! The one who—”

There was not time to finish. One look and Erik Nord was away, dragging
Florence by the hand across the deck.

                            * * * * * * * *

Having witnessed the astonishing performance of Indian magic, Jeanne
spent an hour wandering about the Fair grounds in a sort of trance. It
was impossible to drive from her highly sensitive mind the memory of the
booming drum, squeaking flute and whirling magician. And this walking in
a trance, as we have suggested, ended in her undoing.

She had wandered, without thinking much about it, into an all but
deserted corner of the grounds, when with the suddenness of thought three
figures swooped down upon her.

“Lorena! Lorena LeMar!”

The sound of their voices warned her of danger, but too late.

“The play-boys!” Her mind registered these words, then like a ship
sinking at sea her brain went into a wild whirl.

Before she could scream or flee, they were upon her, all three of the
play-boys. A hand went over her mouth, others lifted her from the earth.
She was dropped with little ceremony onto an upholstered seat, a powerful
motor purred, and they were away.

As the car shot down the drive an observer might have noticed that a
tall, thin young man loitering near had suddenly leaped into action.
Spinning about, he dashed to the nearest waiting taxi, delivered an order
in a low tone, leaped in and went rushing away in the direction the car
had taken.

Poor little French girl! Once inside that car she found her head spinning
round with unimaginable terror. What was to happen? For a time she was
unable to think.

When at last a certain degree of composure took possession of her, the
car had passed from the Fair grounds and was speeding along the
boulevard.

“They think me Lorena LeMar,” she told herself. She shuddered afresh as
she thought how she had tricked them on that other occasion.

“They must have been furious.” Her heart sank. “Miss LeMar had been their
playmate on other occasions; then to treat them like that!

“Oh, if I get out of that I’ll—”

What would she do? That mattered very little now. What truly mattered was
the problem of her immediate conduct and ultimate escape.

“Of course,” she assured herself, “I could tell them I am not Lorena
LeMar. But would they believe it? Probably not. And if they did?”

She thought of her hopes and plans, of the movie that had inspired her,
of the young Italian actor who was dreaming dreams, and of Jensie.

“No,” she whispered, “not if I can help it.

“I know what I’ll do! I’ll play up to them. Let them think I am Miss
LeMar. They will want me to dance. Very good, I shall dance.

“They will—”

She dared think no further.

“I’ll escape,” she told herself stoutly. “I must! But how?”

Her heart sank. Too often she had read of the cruelties practiced by
these rich play-boys.

“They should not be permitted to be at large!” she told herself bitterly.

“But none of this! I must seem happy, full of spirits, gay. I must sing,
I must dance. And then—”

Before a three-story gray stone building the car came to a grinding halt.
All the curtains were drawn, but lights shone through the cracks.

“Some sort of club,” she told herself.

If it indeed was a club it was a very little frequented place. She did
not see a person beside her escort as, carrying out her well-formed plan,
she romped with them up the steps and into a rather large room where
there were numerous chairs and a rather large wood-topped table.

At the far end of the room was a broad fireplace and near it were card
tables with cards scattered over them.

“A kindergarten for rich play-boys,” Jeanne smiled to herself in spite of
her predicament.

Throwing off her dull coat, with an air of abandon she did a dozen fancy
steps across the polished floor.

“Oh, look!” exclaimed the tallest of the three play-boys. “Lorena’s a
gypsy to-night!”

Truth was, until that moment Jeanne had forgotten her gown.

“Yes!” she exclaimed in a tone of forced gaiety. “I’m a gypsy to-night.
Shall I dance my gypsy dance?”

“Yes, yes!”

“On the table!” A pair of stout arms caught her to toss her up.

Catlike, she landed on her feet. She was angry. “But I must not! I must
not be angry!” she told herself fiercely. “I must dance. Time must pass.
Surely something will happen.”

Forgetting time and place, she began the weird, wild dance of the
gypsies. That her audience was impressed she knew at once. So she
prolonged the dance.

All things must have an end. The end of the dance found her heart all
aflutter. What next?

“Bravo! Bravo!” they applauded. “That calls for refreshments.”

Taking a bottle from a concealed locker, the shortest of the trio filled
four glasses.

“Now! A toast!” He passed one glass to her. “Here’s to Lorena LeMar!
Here’s to the new picture!”

When the play-boys lifted their glasses Jeanne followed their example.
The stuff in the glass burned her lips. The glass slipped from her hand
to go crashing upon the table.

“Oh! She dropped it! Too bad! Here’s another.” There was a note of
insolence in the voice of the youth as he poured a second glass. “Here!
Drink this!”

“No, my friend!” Her voice was like thin, clear ice. “No, I will not
drink it.” No longer was she Lorena LeMar. She was Jeanne, the gypsy. In
her veins there coursed the wild, free, fighting spirit of a true
vagabond. Had she possessed a knife.... Ah, well, she had no knife.

One weapon alone she possessed, truly a woman’s weapon—a scream.

This weapon she used. Not in vain had she practiced for hours a stage
scream. When her slender voice rose shrill and high the three play-boys
became rigid as stone.

The effect of that scream was sudden and most astonishing. Some bulk
struck the door. Again; yet again. Then the lock broke and a tall, slim
youth half stepped, half fell into the room. He was followed by a taxi
driver.

Recovering from his shock, the leader of the play-boys took a step
forward. Hot words were on his lips. They were not spoken. He was met by
a heavy chair thrown with lightning-like speed by the astonishing
stranger.

Taking him in the pit of the stomach the chair hurled the play-boy
backward into his companions. Like so many tenpins they went down with a
crash.

Not a word was spoken as the tall stranger gathered Jeanne up in his
arms, marched out of the room and down the steps, deposited his burden in
the taxi, sprang in beside her, gave the driver orders, then watched the
building narrowly as they drove away.

“And I would take my oath I never saw him,” Jeanne whispered to herself.
Sinking deep among the cushions, she suddenly felt very small, very young
and quite helpless.



                             CHAPTER XVIII
                           THE SLIM STRANGER


When Erik Nord and Florence caught sight of the long-eared Chinaman
placidly cruising the lagoon in a Dodge-Em, Erik, as we have said, led
the girl away in hot pursuit.

Unfortunately, on reaching the nearest available craft, they found it to
be but another slow going, doddering old Dodge-Em.

“We’ll take it,” Erik decided on the instant.

“Have to. Nothing else in sight. Probably he hasn’t seen us. Slip up on
him without the least trouble.”

“And if he goes ashore I’ll get him. I can run. No Chinaman has
out-distanced me yet.” He stepped on the gas and they were away, away at
the breakneck speed of four miles an hour.

“Think of finding him right here in Chicago!” Erik exulted. “How’d you
come to know him?”

Florence did not reply.

“Look!” She leaned far forward. “There he goes! He’s headed straight down
the lagoon.”

“He’ll never go outside. Probably land. We’ll get him!” Erik trod angrily
on the lever that kept the motor going. “If only a fellow could get one
burst of speed out of this thing!”

He was making that same remark a quarter of an hour later. The long-eared
one had not gone ashore. Instead, he had headed straight down the lagoon
and out into the open lake where darkness and silence reigned. And Erik
Nord, with all the stubbornness of his race, had followed in slow
pursuit.

“It’s a turtle race,” he said without apparent emotion. “Two turtles. The
question is, which will tire first?”

“We’ll run out of gas,” Florence murmured.

“Something like that.”

“And be stuck out here for the night.” Florence thought this, but did not
say it. The moon would be out in an hour. And then—

Slowly but doggedly the Dodge-Em pushed its stout rubber nose through the
black water. The Chinaman, a dark spot above the water, was ever before
them. They did not lose. They did not gain. They only followed on.

“I’ve been told that a man crossed the lake in one of these,” Erik
rumbled. “Safe enough, I guess. Anyway, when you’ve lived in China you
get used to any mode of travel.”

Florence wondered if they would cross the lake. “And after that?” she
whispered to herself. The rumble of the city was dying away in the
distance, the lights of the Fair were growing dim. It was strange to be
out here in the night with one she had known for so short a time. And yet
this was the turn chance had taken.

Leaning back, she closed her eyes. It had been a long day. The night air
sweeping in from the lake fanned her cheek. The darkness had been kind to
her tired eyes. Now she felt the need for rest.

Did she fall asleep? Perhaps. Perhaps not. All she knew was that when she
opened her eyes at last she became conscious of a change. “Wha—what is
it?”

“Motor stopped. We lose,” Erik grumbled. “We lose.”

“And here we are.” She caught a long breath. The moon was just beginning
to roll, a ball of red, along the black horizon.

“Here we are,” Erik agreed, then settled back comfortably in his corner.

                            * * * * * * * *

It was at about this same moment that Jeanne found herself speeding away
in a taxi with a man she had never seen before.

“He saved me,” she told herself. “Saved me from a horrible night. He knew
I was there. How? He willed to get me out of that place. Why?” To these
questions she could find no answers. There was, she believed, but one
thing to do; to sit back and allow the future to unfold itself.

They were entering the Loop. There was comfort in that. In the Loop were
many people. And in numbers there is always a degree of safety.

“You’ll be in need of a cup of coffee after that,” her companion
suggested. “Supposing we stop in here.” The cab had stopped before a well
lighted coffee house.

Without a word Jeanne followed him inside and back to a small table in
the rear. “Who is he? What does he want?” She was determined now to see
the thing through.

“I’m Tom Tobin of the _News_,” the strange rescuer announced when coffee
had been ordered.

“Oh!” Jeanne caught her breath. “You were after news! And—and I—I will be
in the paper! That explains—”

“It explains nothing.” Tom Tobin’s smile was disarming. “I wasn’t looking
for news, and this will not get you in the paper. Far from it.

“I was keeping tab on you,” he added.

“Tab on me?” Her wide eyes registered astonishment.

“Well, sort of guarding you, if that sounds better. I did it for a very
good reason, too.

“You see,” he leaned forward over the table, speaking in a voice scarcely
above a whisper, “I know you better than you think. You are not Lorena
LeMar.”

“Not—”

He held up a hand for silence. “No use!” he warned. “You are the little
French girl, Petite Jeanne.

“No, I’ll not betray you.” He had read the consternation in her eyes.
“Why should I? You—you’re doing a big thing for me.”

“For you?”

“You are planning to make a success of the scenario I wrote, ‘When the
Dogwood Is in Bloom.’”

“You wrote it? How—how wonderful!” Jeanne stretched a slim white hand
across the table. Tom Tobin grasped it frankly. “Here’s luck!” His frank
eyes shone.

“And here’s our coffee. How jolly!” Fear had flown from Jeanne’s eyes.
She was her own bright, joyous self once more.

“But how could you know I am to make a success of your picture?” she
demanded eagerly. “I do not know it myself.”

“Old Sollie, Mr. Soloman, your producer, told me. He’s all het up about
it; says you showed him how to make a great picture of it and get a lot
of free publicity. He’s working on the scene, got men after real mountain
ivy and rhododendrons and dogwood. Sent for two log cabins like the ones
in the Lincoln Group, and all that.

“Say!” he exclaimed, “Suppose we get together and work over the dialogue
and all that! Sollie says you know a lot about the mountains.”

“No, I’ve never been there.”

“But he told me—”

“Yes, I know.” Jeanne smiled. “I have a friend who prompted me. She has
lived there all her life.”

“Then she’ll help us. We’ll work it over together, beginning to-morrow
afternoon.”

“That—” Jeanne favored him with her loveliest smile. “That—how do you say
it? That is a _go_! Eh, what?”

“That’s it!” Tom grinned. “We’ll get on grand. You’re a regular guy!”

“And why not?” Jeanne laughed a merry laugh.

A half hour later, as Jeanne entered the lobby of the hotel after bidding
Tom Tobin a heartfelt “Happy dreams!” the porter stared at her for a
moment as if uncertain of her identity, then said in a matter-of-fact
tone: “Your trunk has gone up, Miss LeMar.”

“My trunk?” She stared. “Oh, but I have not—”

She broke short off. Was she about to betray her secret? She was Miss
LeMar. Perhaps the real Lorena LeMar had ordered a trunk sent over
without informing her.

Her tone changed. “Very well. Thank you.” She dropped a coin into his
hand, then hurried away.

“But a trunk?” she thought. “A trunk in our apartment!” An unreasoning
terror swept upon her.

“But only a trunk!” She shook herself free of this wild fear. “What is a
trunk?”

What indeed?



                              CHAPTER XIX
                          A SOUND IN THE NIGHT


“Tell me about that mysterious land, China.” Florence settled back in her
place in the stupid little Dodge-Em that, refusing to travel farther, had
left them stalled far out on the black waters of night.

“China.” Erik Nord’s tone was full of the enchanting melody of the Far
East. “How is one to tell you of China? There are sampans where whole
families live their lives away, sampans on the river and great cities on
their banks. Farther up there are villages and on the river great old
junks. Ships from out of the past, they loom before you in the dark. You
never know whether they are manned by brigands who will rob you or
soldiers who may take your possessions from you in the name of the law.
You—”

“Listen!” Her hand was on his arm. There had come a sound from the water.
“Do—do you think his Dodge-Em has stalled too? Wouldn’t it be strange if
we drifted together in the moonlight?”

“Nothing would suit me better!”

Florence believed him.

“But that long-eared one has the knife,” she told herself as a thrill
coursed up her spine. Closing her eyes she seemed to witness a battle on
the water, a fight between a square-jawed white man from China whose
ancestors had built boats that were good fifty years later, and a
Chinaman inspired by who knows what superstitious terror.

“If only we’d sight him!” Nord’s words came from between his teeth. “I
think I might help out a bit, rip a board off this tub of ours and use it
for a paddle or something.”

“It seems pretty solid.” Florence felt the boat over. “Besides, we
haven’t seen him, we’ve only caught a sound. It might not have been his
boat. Probably his gas held out and he’s gone back to land, vanished by
now—the vanishing Chinaman.”

“By the way,” Erik’s voice took on a new note, “how did it happen you
recognized him out there on the water?”

“I—why, I’ve seen him before.” She was stalling for time. Should she tell
him all about the chest, the knife, the banners? She was not proud of the
affair. They had been careless, she could see that now. And yet, if he
knew, they might work together.

She looked away at the golden moon. Her eyes followed the path it painted
across the water.

“Yes,” she said, “I’ll tell you. It was like this. We bought that chest
full of your treasures at an auction sale, bought it for I—I’m ashamed to
tell you how little. And now—now it’s gone; all gone but the chest.”

“Gone?”

“He got it, that long-eared one.”

“Tell me about it.” Erik leaned forward eagerly.

She told him all there was to tell, described the knife, the bell and all
the banners as best she could.

“Gone!” he murmured. “All gone. You have missed much, and the little ones
of China have missed more. There was a reward for the return of that
chest, five hundred dollars.

“Five hun—”

“Five hundred in gold. With that you could have visited this land that
seems to you so mysterious. With care you could have stayed a long time
in China, delved into all manner of Oriental mysteries.”

“I’ll do it yet!” He saw her stout figure stiffen with resolve. “I’ll get
that long-eared one yet! You wait! You shall have all those treasures
back, every one!”

“Splendid! But have a care, my friend. Have a care!” There was a note of
warning in his voice. “Those Orientals are dangerous when some
superstitious terror takes possession of them. There is something we do
not know about those temple adornments; that knife and bell are forces to
fight demons. Who can say what demons have taken possession of our
vanishing Chinaman? Have a care! Just when you wish for your very life’s
sake that he might vanish, you will find him insisting upon being very
much of a present reality. He—”

“Listen!” Again her hand rested on his arm.

                            * * * * * * * *

There are certain people who “feel” events before they transpire. This,
psychologists will tell you, is intuition. Jeanne’s intuition caused her
knees to tremble as she walked from the elevator to Lorena LeMar’s
apartment which, for the time, was her own.

“A trunk,” she whispered. “A trunk beyond that door.” By this time her
key was in the lock. She wished to turn back; she willed to go forward.
In the end courage won. She pushed open the door. She entered the room.

But she did not go far. One look was enough. The trunk, a huge affair
such as is used by commercial traveling men, stood in the center of the
room. Its lid was up. It was empty! And the whole apartment, as far as
her startled eyes could take it in, was in a state of wild confusion.

Next, without exactly knowing how it happened, she found herself outside
with the door locked behind her.

Her heart was beating painfully. As if to still its wild beating she
clutched at her breast. Her brain was in a state of wild confusion. For
some little time she could not think two thoughts in a row.

When at last her senses returned it all came to her in a flash. “It is
that little yellow man with the long ears,” she assured herself. “He or
one of his friends. He believed that those things, those priceless
banners and that curious bell from the temple, were in this place. He had
himself strapped tight in that monstrous trunk and shipped himself to
this hotel, ‘To Miss LeMar’s apartment.’ To—”

She broke off. “He knows!” The thought fairly floored her. “This
long-eared one knows I am not Lorena LeMar. He knows I am Petite Jeanne.
Will he tell? Will he spoil all my fine plans?” Here indeed was a
terrible probability.

“If I make it possible for him to have just what he wants,” she whispered
slowly, “perhaps he will go away and no one will know, no one but
Florence and Miss LeMar and Tom Tobin, who will never tell.”

Here indeed was temptation. She did not know that these treasures had
been intended as a gift to a children’s hospital, for the little ones of
China. Florence had not told her. She only knew that at present they were
her own, that she and Florence had bought them and had received a bill of
sale for them.

Startling as was this revelation, it did not occupy her thoughts long.
Her mind took a fresh turn.

“Florence,” she whispered. “Where is she? The hour is late.”

Once again her head was in a whirl. Where could Florence be?

“Perhaps she is in there! They may have found her. She may have been
murd—”

She could not say the word. Her love for her big companion was all but
compelling her to re-enter that room.

“He may still be there, that little yellow one with the long ears.” She
was fairly beside herself.

Should she call the house detective? This she feared to do. In the
excitement of the moment she might give away the secret of her dual
personality.

“No! No! I must not! I must be brave!”

Once again she approached the door. Her fingers trembled as she fitted
key to lock, yet she did not turn back. The lock clicked. The door
opened. She stepped inside. The door closed behind her.



                               CHAPTER XX
                         PICTURES ON THE CLOUDS


The sound that came to Florence’s listening ears out there on the lake in
the stalled Dodge-Em was a welcome one: the low _put-put_ of a motor
boat.

“If it only comes close enough we’re saved from a night on the water,”
she said hopefully.

“Chilly business, staying out here,” Erik Nord agreed.

The _put-put_ grew louder. A light came swimming across the expanse of
black water. Now they saw it and now it was gone.

“She’s passing to the right of us,” Erik judged. “We’ll have to hail
her.”

Standing up in the boat he cupped his hands to shout:

“_Ahoy there!_”

Never had Florence heard such a roar.

“Ahoy there!” came floating back faintly.

“Give us a lift. We’re stalled.”

“Right O! We’re coming!” The voice seemed very far away.

Presently across the shimmering waters of night a dark bulk loomed.

It was only a fishing boat headed for the dock. This craft smelled of
herring and tar, but she carried, too, a hearty welcome such as one might
not find on a handsomer boat.

“Give us yer line!

“Now! There we are! Where y’ bound fer in that thing?” the sun-tanned
skipper boomed.

“Nowhere in particular. We want to get back to the lagoon.”

“Right O! We’ll tow y’ in.”

Next moment the stranded ones found themselves leaning back comfortably
in the broad seat, watching the play of moonlight upon the water that
rippled and rolled about their prow.

“It would be a grand world to live in,” Erik murmured, “if all its people
were as simple and obliging as these fishermen.”

“They’re common folks.” There was a world of meaning in the girl’s words.

“Uncommon, I’d say, very uncommon indeed.”

“All a matter of point of view, I suppose.”

The fishermen had demanded no pay for their services, were loath in the
end to accept it. They did not, however, depart unrewarded.

When, a half hour later, Florence burst into the apartment, she found
Jeanne sitting before the window, looking out into the night. The trunk
had been sent to a room where empty trunks were kept. The apartment was
in apple pie order. Jeanne did not say, “Oh, my friend, such a terrible
thing has happened! We have been searched again.” She said nothing at
all; she just kept on looking out into the night.

The reason for this is apparent enough. The little French girl harbored a
secret. This secret she had hidden even from her bosom pal. The secret
had to do with that laundry bag still reposing in a cubicle back there in
the small hotel near their own shabby rooms. The check boy was still
custodian of her secret.

Why did Jeanne guard this secret so closely? Perhaps for no reason at
all. Jeanne was at heart a gypsy. A gypsy has a reason for doing a thing
if he chooses. A mere impulse is reason enough for him. Life for him is
action, not thought. He dances, he sings, he plays the violin. He travels
where he will. If you say to him, “Why?” he shrugs his shoulders. Jeanne
was like that.

But to Jeanne, as on other nights long after Florence was asleep, there
came, as she sat there before the window, strange fantastic pictures of
the past and visions of the future. Of these she wondered as in a dream.

Clouds had come drifting in from the west. They filled the sky. From time
to time a powerful radio beacon, swinging in its orbit, appeared to paint
pictures on those clouds. In Jeanne’s fanciful vision these pictures took
on fantastic forms.

Some of the pictures that came to her as she sat there were vivid, as
real as life itself, and some were as indistinct as a mirage on the far
horizon.

A hearse in the moonlight. “A sign.” She shuddered. “A hearse with two
black horses and a coffin.” Again she shuddered.

But now it was gone. Instead there was a sloping hillside where little
streams rushed from beneath dark canopies of mountain ivy. The dark
clouds turned white under the powerful light.

“Will it ever be?” She dared to hope now. “Will our moving picture
succeed?” Tom Tobin had inspired her. She could see his face on the
clouds. Young, slender, eager, full of vitality, he invited hope as
sunshine invites a bud to become a flower.

But now in a cavern of the darkened clouds a great trunk yawned. Out from
it, like a jack-in-the-box, leaped a little yellow man with long ears.
“He wants that bell, those banners. He risks everything to get them. I
wonder why?” She mused for a moment; then the scene in this fairyland of
clouds changed once more.

A slender white cloud curled upward. Its tip became a rope that rose
higher, higher, higher, toward a dark night sky. Up that rope a figure
appeared to glide. “He did go up!” she whispered hoarsely. “I saw him!”

The airplane beacon swung about. The sky went black. It became dark
waters, and on those waters were two boats gliding one after the other,
moving silently out to sea.

“That long-eared one,” she murmured, “he is everywhere at once.

“But Florence—” A smile played about her lips. “Florence and that white
man from China. How romantic to be out there with him beneath the moon
all alone! Surely one may endure mystery, suspense, anything, if it leads
to romance!”

Strangely enough, the night sky took on a tinge of green. In this she saw
a frail child of France garbed all in green and gold. Her eyes opened
wide. It was her very own self.

Yet even as she looked the picture faded, and in its place was a broad
green hill topped by a stately building of brown stone. And after that
all visions vanished.

Florence found her there in the morning fast asleep in the great
upholstered chair before the window. A shaft of sunshine playing across
her face made her seem to smile. A morning breeze from the lake set her
golden hair waving a salute.

She did not sleep long after Florence had stolen away to her work, this
little French girl. Tom Tobin had wakened hope in her heart. He had set
her glorious mind to dreaming. And dreamers seldom sleep too much.

Having wakened, she sprang into action. A shower, ten minutes of wild
dancing to set her blood racing, a cup of coffee with crisp squares of
hard toast, and she was away.

Gathering up the little mountain girl, Jensie, she hurried her away to
the movie lot. There, by great good chance, she came upon Mr. Soloman,
who was, after all, only Assistant Production Manager for a great
Hollywood producer, and no one to be greatly afraid of.

“Ah, Miss LeMar!” he exclaimed. “How very good it is to see you. Look!
Already they have mountain ivy and rhododendrons from the nursery. The
dogwood, too, will come, and there are two cabins to come. And now, Miss
LeMar, might I ask what more would you suggest?

“This,” said Jeanne, pushing Jensie forward, “is my property lady. We
will look over the set together.”

An hour later when she and Jensie reappeared they carried four pages of
notes.

Seated there on the improvised hillside in the sun, they discussed
details with the eager Mr. Soloman, who said, “Yes, Miss LeMar. Yes, Miss
LeMar, this also can be done,” through it all. “A coonskin drying on the
outside of the cabin, a well with an oaken bucket, hound dogs, yes, yes,
three hound dogs. A long-barreled rifle. Yes, yes, we will have all
these.

“And, Miss LeMar, I am wiring Hollywood to-day for approval of my plans.
If they say O. K., then we will have a special car and we will go to this
Big Black Mountain for long shots and such things that cannot be taken
here. What would you say to that?”

“Oh, Mr. Soloman!” Before Jeanne knew what she was doing she had kissed
the chubby little man on the cheek.

“Think, Jensie!” she cried. “Think of going right down to your Big Black
Mountain! And of course you must come along!”

“But my work!”

“Only for two or three days. We will fix that.” The little man smiled
broadly.

“That is all for to-day?” said Jeanne.

“That is all, Miss LeMar. You are very beautiful to-day, Miss LeMar.
There is color in your cheeks. Ha! This is wonderful!” He gave Jeanne
such a sharp look that deep in her soul she trembled. Was he beginning to
guess? And if he knew?

She returned to Lorena LeMar’s apartment with a very sober face. Life had
begun to be quite wonderful. If some one spoiled it all by a sudden
discovery or a betrayal, what then?



                              CHAPTER XXI
                            WORK AND DREAMS


By early afternoon Jeanne’s old cheerful smile was back again. And why
not? Was she not seated between two friends, Jensie and Tom, studying the
dialogue of this altogether absorbing movie that hour by hour took on a
more vivid picture of reality?

They were having a gay time there in Lorena LeMar’s living room. From
time to time peals of laughter came drifting out through the open window.

Jensie was the critic. And a very expert critic she turned out to be.

“No. He would never say that, your old Jud who lives at the foot of Big
Black Mountain. He would not say, ‘Those horses are fast travelers.’ He’d
say, ‘Them’s the travelin’est hosses I ever most seed.’ He wouldn’t say,
‘It’s done.’ He’d say, ‘I done done it.’”

“But Jensie,” Jeanne protested, “if we change all this, how are the
people going to know what it’s all about? Might as well have him talk
German.”

“W-e-l-l, you asked me.” Jensie puckered her fair brow. “That’s the way
we talk down there. We don’t say ‘rifle,’ but ‘rifle-gun.’ We say
‘we-uns’ and ‘you-all.’”

“Well,” said Tom after a moment’s thought, “a great deal of that is easy
enough to understand. It does make the whole thing seem a lot more real.
And if we find old Jud talking too much, why, we’ll just shut him up and
make him talk with his hands and his feet.”

“And his pistol-gun,” Jensie added. “Pistol-guns talk a heap down there
in the mountings.”

They all had a good laugh, and once more the work moved on smoothly.

“To-morrow,” Jeanne said to Jensie before bidding her good-bye,
“to-morrow morning we will go out to that so beautiful college you have
been telling me about. What do you say?”

“That,” Jensie laughed joyfully, “that’s a right smart clever idea.”

“Then we shall go.” Jeanne gave her hand a squeeze. “I am tired. There
are trees, you say, and grass, very much grass. Good! We shall sit upon
the grass beneath those spreading elms and forget this noisy city.”

They went. The electric car whirled them away to the country. It seemed
that but a moment had passed when they found themselves walking up a path
shaded by two rows of ancient elms.

“So green the grass!” Jeanne murmured. “So graceful the trees and so
strong! And that fine old building of limestone. It is like France, my so
beautiful France!

“But listen!”

She paused. From a smaller building with very high windows there floated
the words of a song.

“Singing? It is Chapel! Come!” Jeanne seized Jensie by the hand. “Come
quick! We will slip into a back seat. It has been so long, oh, so long
since I heard such singing.”

As they entered the door all heads were bowed in prayer. Deeply
religious, as all the best of her race are, Jeanne bowed her head
reverently.

The prayer at an end, six hundred young voices burst into song.

“And how they sing it!” There were tears in Jeanne’s eyes. “They sing
what they believe. How very, very wonderful!”

Hidden away in a high-backed seat, they listened to the simple, sincere
message of a white-haired professor as he talked to this silent audience
of young people about God and His relation to their lives.

Jeanne was strangely silent as she left the place. Perhaps in her mind
was a picture of the little stone church in her own land where she had so
often knelt in prayer.

“It is good,” she murmured at last. “Tomorrow as I try to tell to the
world in pictures the story of simple, kindly folks who live in the
mountains, I shall do it better because of having been here.”

For a long time they sat on the grass beneath the elms. A gray squirrel
came down a tree to chatter at them. A robin, whose nest was in a nearby
lilac bush, sang them a song. A cricket chirped. From far away came a
dog’s bark. A cobweb went floating high overhead.

“Come!” Jeanne whispered reluctantly. “We must go back.”

That night as she sat looking out into the half darkness of the night,
Jeanne saw again in her mind’s eye the girl in a nile-green dress and
golden slippers. And as before, the green changed its shade and became a
sloping hill where broad elms sighed in the breeze.

“There will be no nile-green dress and golden slippers,” she whispered.
“Instead, if success is ours, Jensie shall go to that so beautiful
college where they sing that which they believe and ask such wonderful
prayers.”

And down in her heart of hearts she knew that she would strive harder for
success than ever before, because she was working for another’s happiness
and not entirely for her own.



                              CHAPTER XXII
                        BENEATH THE FLOODLIGHTS


This brief period of rest was the last Petite Jeanne was to enjoy for
many days. The work on that little section of Big Black Mountain
progressed more rapidly than had been expected. In order that the
re-making of the scenario should progress quite as rapidly, Tom Tobin
secured a brief leave of absence from his newspaper work. He and Jeanne,
together with Jensie when she could be spared from her beloved Tavern,
were together at all hours of day and night.

So long as Tom was with her, Jeanne had no fear of Lorena LeMar’s boy
friends. Her only fear was that they might discover that she was not Miss
LeMar at all, and end by betraying her secret.

“But what do you care!” Tom exploded one day. “You are as good as Lorena
LeMar.”

“Not in pictures!” Jeanne protested. “No, no! And then you know I have
promised. I said, ‘Yes, I will be Lorena LeMar.’ And Lorena LeMar I must
be.”

It was with grave misgiving that she approached the movie lot on the
first day of actual work. “There is so much I do not know,” she told
herself. “If it is necessary to explain much to me, what must that
sharp-eyed Mr. Soloman think?”

These fears vanished as she saw the rows on rows of faces packed in the
stadium ready to witness the actual making of a movie feature, for it was
this and nothing less that the keen Mr. Soloman had advertised in big
electric words outside the gate.

“I must succeed! I must! I must!” She set her will to the task.

To her vast surprise she found that first day passing as serenely as a
journey down a country lane. The scenes were simple ones, the lines short
and easy. She came to it all with a simple naturalness that pleased both
Soloman and her audience.

But, as the days passed, it seemed to her that the whole affair was like
a gigantic machine that gathers speed as its many wheels revolve.

Not three days had passed ere every person in the cast realized that here
was a real task, the making of a genuine feature in record time on an
improvised stage. “Seldom has it been done,” they were told. “All the
more reason for succeeding,” came their answer.

Powerful lights were hung over the mountain and long after the spectators
were gone the cast of the play toiled on.

Important scenes were filmed not once or twice, but six, eight, ten
times. Each little detail must be right.

Those burning lights burned into Jeanne’s very soul. What matter this?
She must smile. She must weep. She must shout for pure joy when the
script said, smile, weep, shout.

And all this time she felt the small eyes of Soloman upon her. At times
his eyes merely twinkled; at others his lips curled in a smile. Then
again he seemed anxious.

When, on rare occasions, he broke the silence to murmur, “Beautiful!
Beautiful!” she knew that the praise came from the very depths of his
soul and she was glad.

“Does he know that I am not Lorena LeMar?” she said to Tom one night. “He
must!”

“N-no. Well, perhaps. I am sure he does not know who you are.”

“And if he did?” Jeanne’s heart stood still.

“If God found a human as perfect as you are mixed with the angels,” Tom
smiled, “I think He would let that human remain with the angels.”

“But Soloman is not God.”

“He’s no fool either.”

They left it at that, but Jeanne did not cease, at times, to tremble.

There was no picture on the clouds these days. So weary was she when at
last each day was done, that she crept away to Lorena LeMar’s sumptuous
apartment to sleep the hours away.

The long-eared Chinaman, the three-bladed knife, the hearse and the two
black horses, Rutledge Tavern, even the laundry bag checked in the little
hotel were for the moment crowded out of her life.

And then came the marvelous news that they were to board a special car
and speed away to the real mountains.

So weary was Jeanne, by the time she reached that car, that she crept
beneath the blankets in her berth and did not awaken until the morning
sun and the green hills of Kentucky greeted her eyes.

At noon of that same day Jeanne found herself seated on a great rock at
the foot of Big Black Mountain. She was dressed in boys’ unionalls. Her
feet were bare. On her head, slouched down about her ears, she wore an
old straw hat. Gripped in both hands was a fishing rod made from the
branch of a chestnut tree. She was fishing, fishing joyously for “green
perch.” What mattered it that a movie camera was clicking across the
stream, or that the villain of the movie tried in vain to talk to her of
love? All this was but play stuff. The fishing was real.

When the fishing was over she dived, clothes and all, into that deep,
limpid pool to enjoy a glorious swim while the camera clicked on, and
from time to time Ted Hunter, the director, shouted “Cut! Cut!”

“This,” Jeanne whispered to Jensie when the day was over and they stood
before a spring dashing handfuls of clear, cool water over their faces,
“This is not work! It is play.”

And so it seemed to them all. Catching the spirit of the mountains, of
the easy-going, beauty-loving, loyal people of the Cumberlands, they
dreamed the hours away. Only Ted Hunter’s sharp “No! No! Not that!” and
“Yes! Yes! That’s it!” made them realize that they were making a moving
picture.

As for the members of the company, in this mellow atmosphere Jeanne came
to love them all. Anthony Hope, the droll, handsome youth who in the
first and last scenes of the movie made bashful love to her; Scott
Ramsey, the aged character actor; Pietro, the young Italian; and even the
chubby villain came to have a safe little spot in Jeanne’s generous
heart.

There were hours off. And what could be more delightful than to don those
boys’ overalls once more and with Pietro as guard against bears, to climb
far up the side of Big Black Mountain?

Having climbed and climbed until they had lost their breath, they came at
last upon a lovely spot where the sunlight, sifting through the leafy
bower above, wove strange patterns in the moss.

There Pietro threw himself flat upon nature’s soft bed to stare up at an
eagle wheeling high in the sky. It was then that he spoke to her,
sometimes calmly, sometimes passionately, of his hopes, his dreams and
his moments of black despair.

“You think I was born in Italy!” he exclaimed. “I was not, but in
Chicago. Not beautiful Chicago, but ugly Chicago, the near West Side.

“There are seven of us. Three boys. Four girls. I am the oldest.

“I studied hard. I graduated from High School. And then what? Nothing. I
tramped the streets looking for work, any work. There was no work.

“One month, two, three, four, five months!” His voice took on a bitter
note. “Six months I tramped the streets! No work.

“I said, ‘I will get tough. I will join the 42 Gang.’ I—”

“No! No! Never! You would not!” Jeanne’s tone was deep with emotion.

“It was not so much that I would not.” Pietro sat up. “It was that I
_could_ not. My people were honest. I could not steal.

“And then—” His voice mellowed. “Then I met a fat little Jew. He said,
‘Come with me, my boy. I will give you a chance.’

“I did not wish to go. I said to myself, ‘He is a Jew. A Jew!’

“But what was there to do?

“I went. He has taught me how to act in pictures, this little Jew, your
friend, my friend, Mr. Soloman.” There was a touch almost of reverence in
his voice. “And now, here I am,” he concluded.

“And, Miss LeMar—” His eyes appeared to look into her very soul. So deep
was her feeling at that moment that she actually feared he was reading
her true name from her very eyes. But he was not. “Miss LeMar,” he
repeated softly, “tell me that this picture, this ‘Dogwood in Bloom’
story, is to be a success, a real success!”

“Pietro,” her hand was on his arm, “if you and I and all the rest can
make it a success, then it shall be—a grand, a very glorious success. I
can say no more.”

“Good!”

Putting out a hand, solemn as a priest in a temple, he lifted her white
fingers to his lips and kissed them.

Then, as if a little ashamed, he sprang to his feet to lead the way back
down the mountain.



                             CHAPTER XXIII
                              GOLDEN DAYS


It was night. All alone Jeanne sat upon the side of that man-made section
of Big Black Mountain there on the studio lot in Chicago. The faint light
that reached her, coming from afar, served only to intensify the shadows
of trees and shrubs all about her.

It was perfect, this bit of Big Black Mountain. The trees, the shrubs,
the rocks, the little rushing stream, all were perfect.

“Perfect,” she whispered. “And the picture we have been making, will it
be perfect, too?” Her brow wrinkled. She was to know. To-night was the
great night. The picture was finished. To-night came the preview.

“At midnight,” she breathed. “Midnight, one o’clock, and after that my
hour of enchantment. Shall it truly be? Shall—?”

She broke short off to cast a hurried glance up the slope above her. Had
she caught some sound, the snapping of a twig, the rolling of a stone?

“Perhaps nothing,” she told herself. “I am excited. This is a grand
night.”

Ah, yes, this was the night of nights. Two weeks had passed since Lorena
LeMar had walked out of her richly furnished apartment and Jeanne had
walked in.

Two weeks, fourteen days, and such days as they had been! Jeanne sighed
as she thought of it now. And yet her lips were able to form the words
“Golden Days.” They had been just that, beautiful, glorious, golden days.

“It is perfect, this mountain,” she whispered. “Even in the dark one
senses the beauty of it. Ah, the rushing cold water, the scent of
mountain ivy, the glint of sunbeams through the trees!”

Yes, it was a perfect little corner of Big Black Mountain, but the little
French girl’s thoughts were far away. They had wandered to the spot where
Big Black Mountain itself stretched away, away and away until its
glorious green turned to blue that blended with a cloudless sky.

She was thinking of Pietro who rode a donkey so badly he had actually
fallen off more than once, and who sang his Italian songs so divinely.

She was thinking of Tom Tobin and wondering vaguely which of the two she
liked best.

“I want the picture to be a success for them,” she whispered. Her words
were almost a prayer. “Oh, God, make the critics kind! It is for them,
for Pietro and Jensie, for Old Scott Ramsey, for Soloman and—and for
Tom.”

Tom had been with her on her visit to Big Black Mountain. Yes, Tom had
gone, for by this time the story of the possible success of a real
feature written by a Chicago boy and being filmed at Chicago’s front door
had become town talk.

There had been publicity. “Ah, yes, such publicity!” she sighed. Every
day for a week her picture had appeared in the paper. She had been shown
among the dogwood blossoms on the movie lot, on the Enchanted Island with
a hundred beautiful children crowding about her, in a gondola riding down
the lagoon like a queen. Ah, yes, there had been publicity.

“And always,” she breathed, “I am not Petite Jeanne at all, but Lorena
LeMar. Ah, well, what can it matter? To-day one is a queen, to-morrow she
is forgotten.

“And besides—” She smiled a bit wearily. “Besides, how shall I say it?
This picture may, after all, be a flop, and if it is, then it is Lorena
LeMar who has failed and not I.”

Again a little tremor shot up her spine. She _had_ caught a sound above
her. She half rose as if to flee. But the night was warm. The day had
been a hard one. It was good to be alone. Soon the floodlights would be
turned on, the press men with their cameras would be here. To-night was
the preview of that much talked of picture, “When the Dogwood Is in
Bloom.” It had been arranged that the showing should take place in the
Children’s Theatre on the Enchanted Island of the Fair.

“There is no one up there.” She settled back. “Only a few moments more to
think.”

Strangely enough, her thoughts for a moment whirled through a score of
mysteries, the hearse and the two black horses in the dark night, the
organ that played its own tunes, the three-bladed knife, the long-eared
Chinaman, all these remained as mysteries.

“But these,” she told herself, “these are not for to-night. To-morrow or
the day after, perhaps.”

Oh, were they not, though? One may not always elect the hour for the
unfolding of life’s mysteries. Fate at times takes a hand.

But one may choose the subject of one’s own thoughts. Jeanne chose to
think of the real Big Black Mountain. What a glorious time she had down
there in the hills of Kentucky! Climbing steep slopes, she had dropped
upon beds of moss to catch the call of a yellow-hammer or the chatter of
a squirrel.

At night she had sat for long hours before a narrow home-made fireplace,
to creep at last beneath home-woven blankets, and with Jensie at her side
to sleep the long night through.

That had lasted only two days. And then back to the city they were
whirled.

“We must go back!” the producer had exclaimed. “The public is clamoring
for a look at the task we are at, making a feature right in Chicago.”

The public had been there. Every afternoon, as they worked at the
unfolding of this tense drama, the stadium had been packed.

The picture had grown, too. Under the inspiration of the hour, new
fragments of plot were added, new scenes sprang into being. A mountain
feud was added. The scene in a mansion which Jeanne suggested had sprung
into being. A friend of Lorena LeMar, a rich society fan of the movies,
had thrown her home open to them. And there in the midst of the greatest
splendor Jeanne had tripped with dainty feet down a winding marble
staircase, only to cast aside her silken finery at last and don her
calico gown to go stealing out of the mansion and borrow a ride in a box
car back to her beloved mountains.

All this had become part of the thing they were making. Working at white
heat, inspired by one grand idea that success was to be achieved where
failure had been expected, they had poured their very lives into the
business of creating a thing of beauty that in the hearts of men would be
a joy forever.

Never, even in the good days of light opera, had Jeanne so thoroughly
lost herself in the thing she was doing. Day and night she lived, moved
and breathed as Zola, the mountain girl.

She had worked untiringly, not so much for herself as for others. Once
again she had gathered about her a golden circle of friends. Pietro,
Soloman, Tom, Jensie, Scott Ramsey, all these and many others were
included in her Golden Circle.

“And now—” She caught a short breath as she sat there among the trees.
“Now we have done all that can be done. To-night we shall know.

“We shall know.” How her heart raced. Not one foot of that film had she
seen thrown upon the screen. To-night she was to see it all—the picture
she had made.

“I—I can’t wait!” She sprang to her feet.

At that instant floodlights flashed on. Instantly night was turned into
day.

Involuntarily she glanced in the direction from which that disturbing
sound had come.

It was only by exerting the utmost of will power that she avoided
screaming. There, crouching with the three-bladed knife in his hand, not
ten feet away, was the long-eared Chinaman.

“I must not scream! I will not!” She shut her lips tight.

She looked again. _He was gone._

Scarcely believing her eyes, she stood staring at the spot.

“I must not say a word,” she whispered to herself. “This is to be the big
night. There must be no scene! No hue and cry, no wild man-hunt! No! No!
No!”

And there was none.

Five minutes later when the photographers came to take one more picture
of the “Queen” on the mountainside, she stood calm and smiling as a June
bride.

“To think,” she said to Tom Tobin when this ordeal was over, “to-morrow
this beautiful mountain will be a thing of the past! Not one stick, nor
stone, nor even a handful of earth will remain. To-morrow a new picture
is to begin, a desert scene, new director, new cast, new setting, a brand
new movie world.”

“Sort of life-like,” Tom philosophized. “We move a little slower, stay a
little longer on this good, green earth, that’s all.”

“Ah, yes, but to-night let us forget.” Jeanne gripped his arm
impulsively. “This, my friend, is our big moment, yours and mine. Let us
dream for a moment, hope for an hour. Let us dare hope.

“And—” Her voice dropped to a whisper. “And if it is not too much, let us
pray a little.”



                              CHAPTER XXIV
                     THE BATTLE IN THE ORANGE GROVE


It was Florence who next saw the mysterious Chinaman, and that not an
hour from the time he disappeared from Jeanne’s delectable mountain. Her
day’s work at an end, she had retired to the orange grove on the banks of
the lagoon for a short period of rest. She had been here often of late.
There was something very unusual and charming about this orange grove
thriving here in the very front yard of Chicago.

The place was in reality a tropical garden. As she lay there, propped up
on an elbow, the fragrance of tropical flowers, the pungent odor of ripe
tropical fruit suggested that she might be thousands of miles from her
native city, at the edge of some Central American jungle.

And yet, as she opened her eyes to look away across the lagoon, her eyes
told her that she was in truth at the very heart of a fantastical world
of play.

“How like a theatre it is!” she exclaimed.

And indeed, as she allowed her eyes to follow the lagoon until it lost
itself in the broader waters of the lake, she found them filled with the
ever-changing lights of a stage on opening night. Gayly decorated barges
drawn by small power boats drifted past. A bevy of girls, all garbed in
gowns of bright red, shot past in a speed boat. They were singing,
“Sailing! Sailing!”

From a floating platform came the martial music of a band. Overhead an
airplane motor droned. The plane was shooting out a spiral of smoke. The
smoke formed itself into clouds and on these clouds there played living,
moving pictures.

As she lay there on the grass, head propped on elbow, watching, dreaming,
like Petite Jeanne, she caught an unusual sound.

“Not far away,” she whispered. “Over there among the banana leaves,
perhaps.” She thought of investigating this. But she was tired, and as
she had promised to wait for Jeanne’s preview she wished to rest.

So she dismissed the matter from her mind and once again allowed her mind
to drift.

“Wonderful spot, this,” she whispered to herself. “Probably never be seen
in Chicago again, orange trees loaded with fruits and flowers.”

This was true. With endless pains men had grown trees in boxes, then had
shipped them to the Fair. There were lemon trees, and mangoes, and tall
trees that grew tropical melons. In one spot there was a perfect tangle
of tropical vegetation.

“Yes, and banana trees.”

Once again her eyes were upon that cluster of banana trees.

“There _is_ something moving there.”

Getting a grip on herself, she kept up the semblance of dreaming. In
reality she was very much alert, quite alive—watching.

Nor did she watch in vain.

As she watched, fascinated, waiting for she knew not what, ready on the
instant to go dashing away, she saw the banana leaves stir, move to one
side, then fall back into their original position.

Every muscle in her splendid body was tense now. Had she caught a glimpse
of a face? She believed so.

“And yet, one is so easily deceived.”

She should leave the place. This was plain enough; yet stubbornly she
stayed.

She watched the darting rocket cars as they flashed across the sky,
followed the course of an airplane by its spark of light, allowed her
mind to wander for an instant to Jeanne and her problems. But all the
time she was thinking, “I must be on my guard.”

With all this, when at last the banana leaves parted and a form crept
out, she was surprised beyond measure. She recognized the person on the
instant. The very stealth of his movements gave him away. It was the
long-eared Chinaman.

She gasped. “Has he seen me?

“If he has, he’s playing a game.” He did not look her way.

Then it was that, as though it were some picture on the clouds, she saw
faces of children, hundreds of faces, cute Chinese children, and above
them all, resolute, determined, hopeful, the serious face of Erik Nord,
the white man from China.

“Ah! Now I have you!” Was it she who thought this? Or was it Erik Nord
thinking through her? She did not pause for an answer. Instead, she
sprang squarely at the crouching figure.

Her plan, if she might be said to have one, was to snatch the precious
three-bladed knife from beneath his long coat, then to run for it.

In this she failed. With a panther-like spring, the yellow man eluded
her. Then, perceiving perhaps that escape was impossible, he took the
offensive.

He did not draw the knife. There was not time. Then, too, it was for
demons, not for men, nor for girls either. Instead, with a leap and the
swing of an arm he encircled her neck in such a vice-like grip that for a
space of ten seconds she was helpless.

“You shall give the bell!” he hissed. “The bell and the banners you shall
give!”

Too close to the point of strangulation to reply or so much as think
clearly, she placed her hands against his chest, then suddenly threw all
her superb strength into one tremendous thrust.

Did she hear a bone crack in his wrist? Was her own neck being broken?

For a space of seconds, with head ready to burst, she could not tell.
Then, with a sighing groan the intruder relaxed his hold and all but fell
to the ground.

Following up this advantage she fell toward him in such a manner as to
start him rolling down the hill. And then, all in a flash, she caught a
gleam of white on the grass at her feet.

“The knife! The three-bladed knife! If only—”

With one more tremendous push she set the yellow man into a spin that
landed him with a splash into the water of the lagoon.

“He swims well enough,” she assured herself.

Then, with heart thumping wildly, she snatched up the much coveted knife
with the jeweled hilt and went sprinting away up the slope, away to the
south and across the bridge over the lagoon, to lose herself at last in a
throng that had gathered about a wandering Egyptian street fakir.

“Have I lost him?” she whispered.

The answer, though she could not know it now, was “Yes, but not for
long.”



                              CHAPTER XXV
                 ONCE AGAIN THE ORGAN PLAYS AT MIDNIGHT


“I promised to wait for Jeanne on Byrd’s Polar Ship,” she recalled. “I’ll
go there now. Peter Nordsen, the watchman, will be there. People will be
passing through. It will be safe enough now.” She had hidden the
three-bladed knife beneath her blouse. For all this, she did not feel
quite easy about it.

To her surprise, when she arrived at the spot where the ship had been
moored she found it gone.

“Gone!” she exclaimed in surprise.

This surprise lasted but an instant. “Oh! I forgot. There was a parade of
ships on the lake to-day. Byrd’s ship was in that parade. It will be tied
up outside the bridge. The mast must come down before she’ll go under the
bridge.

“That’s fine!” she exulted. “I’ll have a good rest on the old ship with
no one about but old Peter Nordsen smoking his pipe. If Jeanne doesn’t
show up I’ll go to the little theatre at midnight.”

She found the ship readily enough, gave Peter a smile and a “Good
evening,” then went forward to a seat well up in the prow.

“Sturdy old ship!” she murmured as she sank into the chair. Then she
relaxed in a fit attitude for dreaming.

She had learned to love this old ship. It was easy to imagine it in
motion, booming along with all sails set before a nor’west wind.

“Good old ship!” she murmured again. “If only I could sail with you over
the seven seas. Australia, the South Sea Islands, Japan, China and—” She
drew a deep breath. “That mysterious land, China.”

She thought quite suddenly of the jewel-hilted knife. “I should hunt up
Erik Nord and give it to him at once,” she told herself. “But then, I
have no notion where he is; he went off duty an hour ago.”

She laughed a little low laugh as she thought of the Chinaman splashing
in the water of the lagoon. Then, of a sudden there came a thought that
puzzled her. “He said we had the bell and the banners. How absurd! The
chest was empty. They were gone. Who could have taken them if he did
not?”

The thought did not remain with her. No thought did. This was an hour for
relaxation and dreaming. But she must not dream too long. This was
Jeanne’s big night. She must not miss it. “Jeanne’s big night,” she
murmured.

She allowed her eyes to wander once more over the magnificent spectacle
that lay before her. What a sight! Fountains playing amid golden walls, a
hundred lights gleaming as white as diamonds from a lofty tower, trees
turning red and gold under the touch of many-hued lamps, and a ladder of
light towering skyward. All this exercised upon this impressionable girl
a semi-hypnotic spell.

“I must not forget. This is Jeanne’s big night. I must not be late. I—I
will not fail—”

For all that, her head sank lower and lower. The day had been a long one.
The battle in the orange grove had drawn heavily from her reserve of
energy. The hypnotic spell of night and the ever-changing panorama of
light sank deep. She nodded twice, then her head fell slowly forward. She
was asleep.

Along the breakwater at that moment there glided a mysterious figure. By
his nervous stops and starts one might judge him to be in a high state of
nervous excitement. Yet there was in his movements a suggestion of
extreme caution.

As he came near to the spot where the Polar ship lay anchored, he came to
a sudden halt, stood there for a full moment as if rooted to the spot,
then dashed away at full speed.

                            * * * * * * * *

At this moment Jeanne was standing with Jensie at the back of the
Rutledge Tavern. They were looking out into the night. As if for mutual
protection, they had their arms locked tightly together.

“There it is!” Jensie whispered.

“The hearse!” Jeanne shuddered.

And there most certainly it was, standing in the moonlight just as it had
been on that first memorable night.

“Ah, well,” Jeanne whispered to herself, “much has happened since then.”

They were all here at the Tavern, her little company. They had come here
for a late dinner; Soloman, Anthony Hope, Scott Ramsey, Pietro, Tom and
Jensie were by the fireplace.

Now as Jeanne felt the urge to retreat she said to Jensie in a tone that
came from down deep in her throat, “There were two black horses and a
coffin. I saw them.”

“Yes,” Jensie agreed. “There were. And, Jeanne,” her voice took on an air
of mystery, “last night the organ played again.”

“It played again?” Looking into the mountain girl’s eyes, Jeanne thought
she detected there a curious unwonted gleam, but she said not another
word as they wandered back to their place by the fireside.



                              CHAPTER XXVI
                       CARRIED AWAY IN THE NIGHT


Florence awoke with a start. She sprang to her feet. Where was she? She
knew on the instant, or thought she knew. But truly, where _was_ she?
Cold fear gripped her heart. All the bright glory of the Fair, the
changing lights, splashing fountains, clashing rocket cars had faded into
mere nothing, a dull blue against the horizon.

Was she going blind? Men had gone blind in just that way. She rubbed her
eyes, then looked at her hand. She could see it, indistinctly it is true,
but with plenty of detail.

She looked over the rail. Black water was all about her. The old ship
swayed slightly. To her ears there came the sound of a motor.

“But this old ship has no motor. Byrd took it out before he passed
through the Panama Canal.”

For all this, she was convinced that the ship was in motion. She looked
up. Masts, but no sails.

“A tow! Some one is giving it a tow!” Once again her blood chilled. There
had been no plans for moving the ship; this she knew. The old night
watchman had said that the masts would be lowered during the night and
the ship would be brought back within the lagoon.

“But this? What can it mean?”

She had not long to wait. A light came swinging forward. A gas lantern,
it was carried by a short man. Two others were just behind him.

As they came into view she gasped. The leader of the trio was the
long-eared Chinaman. The others were his fellow-countrymen. As if sure of
his ground, he advanced slowly. There was something sinister, deadly,
about that slow advance, like a march of death.

“Caught!” Her head whirled. She thought of leaping overboard. A strong
swimmer, she might make land. But the blur of red and gold that was the
Fair was dim, indistinct.

“We’re far off shore.” Taking a grip on herself, she held her ground.

She took to counting the short, gliding steps of those who approached.
“One, two, three, four, five.”

They came to a halt. The leader advanced two steps farther.

“You will give me that knife!” His tone was low, smooth, musical,
menacing.

“No!” Her tone was defiant.

“The water is deep; the distance is very far.” His tone had not changed.
“You will give me the knife.”

“No.”

“This knife is for Chinaman. Very old, that knife.” His body rocked
slowly back and forth. His voice rose in a sort of chant. “Very powerful,
that knife. Not fight man, that knife. Fight demons. Very ’fraid demons.
Wave that knife, ring that bell, demons gone. You have that bell. You
also give bell, give banners.”

“We do not have the banners or the bell. But if we had, you should not
have them.” Florence held her ground.

“You not speak truth. You have bell, have banners. You will give. The
water is deep. The distance is far.

“Long time fight demons, that knife.” He was chanting again. “Far away,
back very far in China, people all happy, all demons ’fraid, stay away.
Priests of Buddha fight demons, that knife.

“White man take knife, take bell, take banners. Now demons come back.
Make people sick, those demons. Many people die. No knife, no bell, no
banners, can’t fight demons.

“Very dry, no rain. No millet, no rice. Demons make land dry. No knife,
no bell, no banner. Can’t fight demons. I come for knife. He come. He
come.” He nodded at his statue-like companions. “Come for knife, for
bell, for banners. You give.”

“No.” The girl’s figure stiffened. “You will not get the knife. I do not
have those others. You have them. You stole them. The chest was empty.

“All you have said is nonsense!” Her voice rose. “Demons do not make men
die. If your people are sick they should go to the white doctor. He will
cure them. All those things, the knife, the bell, the banners were sold
for money, much money. That money would buy things for the white doctor.
You have no right to them. You stole them. You have them all but the
knife. You will not get the knife.”

“The water is deep. The distance is very far. You will give the knife!”
He advanced a step. Without appearing to move their feet, the statue-like
pair advanced.

The whole scene, the dark ship, the menacing men, the water, the night,
was so like a play that Florence could scarcely believe her senses.

Then to her alert ears came a sound, a low chant:

“A hey, yuh! A hey, yuh! A hey, yuh!”

She had heard that sound before. But where? For ten seconds she wracked
her brain. Then she knew.

“Listen!” She endeavored to speak quietly. “You believe in demons.
Listen! What do you hear?”

The long-eared one stood rigid, silent, listening.

The sound grew louder: “A hey, yuh! A hey, yuh! A hey, yuh!”

“You believe in demons,” she repeated. “Well, here are demons for you,
black demons with long knives in their belts. They are coming to rescue
me. And let me tell you, you will need a hundred three-bladed knives to
frighten these away, and men to use the knives. You are only three. They
are many. They are big, black!”

The menacing ones and the statues glided back a step.

The sound they had heard was the chant of a crew of black men from the
heart of Africa. A part of this great carnival, they were practicing in
their forty-foot dugout, a hollow log boat, for a race.

What she had said was, she supposed, pure fiction. Now her courage
forsook her. They were not coming for her. They would pass a long way
off. They would turn and go back before they came within hailing
distance.

For once luck was with her. What she had said was true. Jeanne, having
come in search of her, had found the ship gone and had seen a frantic
watchman, who had left the ship “but for one short breathing spell,”
racing up and down the breakwater.

At that instant the boatload of black men hove into view. Fearing
treachery, Jeanne had begged them to take her in search of the missing
ship.

So now here they were, out on the dark waters of night. The watchman in
the prow, twenty black men from the heart of Africa at the oars, and the
golden-haired Petite Jeanne urging them on and shouting with them:

“A hey, yuh! A hey, yuh! A hey, yuh!”

It was no time at all before it became plain that their destination was
the misplaced ship. And at this the three yellow men vanished. Came the
sound of a boat’s motor throbbing. Then that sound grew fainter and
fainter in the distance.

“They are gone!” Florence breathed. “And I still have the knife!”



                             CHAPTER XXVII
                             HER BIG NIGHT


It was the crew of smiling blacks who carried Florence and Jeanne back to
shore. A stout little tug came out for the Polar ship, but that was too
slow for them.

With oars flashing in the moonlight, with their crew chanting a weird
song, they went sweeping back to Jeanne’s “Big Night.”

All their friends, the movie company, Tom Tobin and even Erik Nord were
waiting.

“I have it,” Florence whispered to Erik. “The three-bladed knife.” She
slipped it into his hand.

“Wonderful!” He gripped her hand. “But the bell? The banners?”

“There’s something strange about them.”

“Tell me what happened.”

She told him briefly as they hurried along with the others to the little
theatre.

“You’ll never see him again,” Erik said with conviction. “The emigration
officers are on his trail. They’ll get him. He’ll go back to China.”

“Do you know,” Florence spoke in a low, serious tone, “I feel rather
sorry for him.”

“Yes, one does. But that is often so in China. The old is losing out, the
new is coming. That is always sad. But it must be.”

They were at the theatre entrance.

                            * * * * * * * *

Once, while Jeanne, still quite a young girl, was traveling with the
gypsies a man had asked permission to take her picture as she danced with
the bear. Proudly she had posed for the camera man. That had been spring.

“In the autumn when you return this way you shall see your picture,” the
kindly white-haired photographer had said to her.

She recalled all that now as she sat in the little theatre waiting for
the preview of her picture to begin.

“Ah, yes,” she thought, “How thrilled I was when at last we returned to
that village and I was permitted to see that picture! But this! How much
more wonderful! But, perhaps—how terrible!”

And indeed, what an occasion was this! Never before had she seen herself
in motion. Never had she heard her own voice after the sound had been
allowed to grow cold. And now, now she was to see and hear a feature
never before shown on the screen. And in this feature she was the star.
Each act, each movement, every little habit of gesture, yes, almost of
thought, was recorded here. Her very book of life was to be opened up
before her, or so she believed. And not before herself alone was she to
appear, but to an assembled group of notable people. There were rich men
and their wives, friends of the producer. There were reporters and
critics. By the judgment of these last the picture must stand or fall.
Little wonder then that she actually shuddered and leaned hard on
Florence’s arm as Ted Hunter, the director, stepped into the spotlight to
make the accustomed announcement.

It seemed that there were to be still some moments of suspense. They had
made, Ted Hunter announced, a very short mystery reel which they would
now run as a curtain-raiser to the main event.

Too much overcome by thoughts of the immediate future to focus her
attention on this mystery, Jeanne watched with half closed eyes until
with a sudden start she sat straight up, to grip Jensie’s arm and whisper
shrilly:

“Jensie! Only look!”

There was no need for this. Jensie had seen and was staring hard, for
upon the screen there walked with solemn tread two black horses. They
were hitched to an ancient, dilapidated hearse, and on that hearse there
rested a coffin.

That this was a part of the mystery Jeanne knew, but what that part was
she could not guess. She had not followed the plot. One thing was plain
and this she whispered to Jensie.

“That’s the old hearse. It belongs back of the Tavern in the Lincoln
Group. They—they must have borrowed it for this picture. They took it in
the night. That was the time I saw the black horses and the coffin.”

“Yes. And you know that organ?” the mountain girl whispered back. “I
found out about that. It was a colored girl who washes dishes at the
Tavern. She loves music, so she hid in the closet and slipped out to play
the organ at night. I—I caught her.”

“Sh—sh!”

The mystery was over. Once again Ted Hunter was in the spotlight’s glare.
The great moment was at hand.

Never will Jeanne forget the hour that followed. From a distance she
heard the motor hum. Next instant she saw herself upon the screen. One
good look, ten seconds, she saw herself. Then she, Petite Jeanne,
vanished. In her place, standing among the rhododendrons at the side of
Big Black Mountain was Zola the child of that mountain.

All that hour she looked upon the screen, listened and lived with Zola.
She laughed when it was time to laugh, wept when others wept and shouted
as they shouted.

And when the camera gave its last click, when the screen went white and
the lights flashed on, she said to herself, “It was not I.”

Yet, even as she sat there they crowded about her, the members of the
cast of that picture, the reporters, the critics. They lifted her to
their shoulders, carried her to the platform, set her on her feet, and
shouted.

“Speech! Speech!”

Speech? Her head was in a wild whirl.

Then her eyes fell upon the clock. “Listen!” She held up a hand for
silence.

“Listen!” Her voice rose like a captain’s shouting a command. A hush, the
hush that can come only at two in the morning, fell over the group. But
into that hush there came no unusual sound, only the distant chimes
heralding the hour of two in the morning.

“My hour of enchantment!” Jeanne sighed blissfully.

“And now you listen!” It was Florence who spoke. “I have heard you say
that many times. What do you mean—your hour of enchantment?”

“All right, I’ll tell you.” The little French girl’s face beamed. “Long
ago a gypsy woman, a very old and very wise fortune teller, said to me,
‘Your hour of enchantment is two o’clock in the morning.’

“You too,” she hurried on, “each one of you has an enchanted hour—an hour
when wonderful things will come to you; good fortune, riches, a proposal,
marriage, all these will come to you on that enchanted hour.

“It is true!” She was deeply in earnest, this little French girl, so
sincerely in earnest that she did not realize that she was about to
betray a secret.

“You think it strange that my enchanted hour is two in the morning when
most good people are in their beds.

“But you are forgetting that I am at heart a gypsy, that indeed I once
_was_ a gypsy, a French gypsy, a very good gypsy.” She smiled. “But a
gypsy all the same.” At this instant the lips of Mr. Soloman parted in a
low exclamation of excitement.

“So that is who you are!” he exclaimed. “You are the little French girl,
Petite Jeanne! For days I have wracked my brain saying to myself, ‘She is
not Lorena LeMar. Who is she?’ And now look! You are Petite Jeanne, the
star of my most wonderful picture.”

“Oh, Mr. Soloman!” Jeanne’s arms came perilously near encircling his fat
neck. “You knew I was a fraud, and yet you let me go on! How—how so very
wonderful!”

“A fraud!” he thundered. “No! I did not know you were a fraud. I knew you
were a very great star.

“And now, Miss Jeanne,” his voice became confidential, “your name will go
on that picture and in the lights of every Broadway of the land, for it
was you who made that picture, not Lorena LeMar.”

“Oh!” Jeanne caught her breath. “Do you think that would be right?”

“Yes! Yes! Yes!” came in screams from the crowd.

“And what a story that will make!”

“Boys,” the producer turned to a group of reporters, “those pictures you
took, they must go with the greatest story of all time, the story of a
double who in two short weeks became a star.”

“Yes! Yes! You bet! Rah, rah, for Jeanne!” came from the reporters.

“And now, Miss Jeanne.” Soloman drew a paper from his pocket. “Here is a
contract for you. We have made you—no, no, you have made yourself—a star;
and of course you will make another picture; many, many more.”

“Please,” Jeanne pressed the paper back into his hand, “not to-night. My
head is in a whirl. Perhaps never at all, but surely not to-night.”

“To-morrow then. I can wait.” The great little man folded his paper
neatly and thrust it deep in his pocket.

“This moving picture,” said Jeanne, still feeling that she must make a
speech. “It is beautiful. I have seen. You have seen. It is truly
beautiful. But it is not I who have made it. It is you, my friends, Mr.
Soloman, Pietro, Anthony, Scott Ramsey and all the rest. It is the spirit
of those so beautiful mountains. It is the soul of that so great
American, Mr. Lincoln. It is every one. It is everything. It is not I.

“And now,” she murmured after the applause had died away, “I am very
tired. Will you please take me home, not to that so grand hotel but to
the little rooms where my good Florence and I have lived so happily. No
longer am I Lorena LeMar. I am only Petite Jeanne, the gypsy.”

Once more they bore her in triumph on their shoulders, and tucked her
away at last in the taxi between Florence and Jensie, while Erik Nord and
Tom Tobin took their places on the drop seats before her.

There was little left to be told. It was told in the shabby third floor
rooms that were the private castle of Florence and Jeanne. With Tom as
her bodyguard Jeanne hurried to the little hotel where she presented her
check and received in exchange her well filled laundry bag.

When Tom had carried this to the top floor room, she bade him pour its
contents on the floor.

“Behold the bell, the banners!” she exclaimed. “I have had them hidden
away all the time. Do not ask me why. I am a gypsy. A gypsy needs no
reason.

“And now, Mr. Nord, with my good friend’s permission, I return them to
you. Florence has told me of the cute Chinese children. May they all get
well speedily.”

“And the reward?” Erik Nord looked from Florence to Jeanne.

“Florence may have the reward,” Jeanne responded quickly.

“And you will visit China?” He smiled at Florence.

“Perhaps. Some time.” She looked away quickly.

Jensie went to college. Jeanne was called back to France. The great Fair
closed, as all fairs do. So ended another year.

Did Jeanne return to America? Did she renew her rightful claim of stardom
in the movie world? Did Florence indeed visit that “mysterious land,
China”? You may find the answer in the next book, _The Phantom Violin_.



                          Transcriber’s Notes


--Copyright notice provided as in the original printed text—this e-text
  is public domain in the country of publication.

--Silently corrected palpable typos; left non-standard spellings and
  dialect unchanged.

--In the text versions, italic text is delimited by _underscores_.





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