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Title: Green Eyes
Author: Snell, Roy J. (Roy Judson)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Green Eyes" ***

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                      _A Mystery Story for Girls_



                               GREEN EYES


                                  _By_
                              ROY J. SNELL


                          The Reilly & Lee Co.
                          Chicago    New York


                             COPYRIGHT 1930
                                   BY
                          THE REILLY & LEE CO.
                        PRINTED IN THE U. S. A.



                                CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                                                           PAGE
  I The Mysterious Islander                                           11
  II The Lady of the Island                                           22
  III A Gypsy Secret                                                  29
  IV Why?                                                             35
  V The Gypsy Child                                                   45
  VI Haunting Melody                                                  51
  VII Gypsy Moon                                                      57
  VIII Sun-Tan Tillie                                                 61
  IX Banging a Bear                                                   68
  X A Gasp in the Dark                                                73
  XI A Secret Begun                                                   80
  XII Three Rubies                                                    87
  XIII Charmed Days                                                  100
  XIV The Dance of Death                                             107
  XV Fishing and Fighting                                            119
  XVI Ships That Pass in the Twilight                                128
  XVII Voices in the Forest                                          132
  XVIII Reveries                                                     139
  XIX The Stolen Trunk                                               147
  XX 13-13 And Other Signs                                           157
  XXI “Fishin’”                                                      163
  XXII Kidnapped                                                     175
  XXIII Strange Deliverance                                          181
  XXIV Outbound in the Night                                         188
  XXV A Scream in the Night                                          195
  XXVI “A Boat! A Boat!”                                             204
  XXVII The “Spank Me Again”                                         212
  XXVIII Glowing Waters                                              219
  XXIX Fading Shore Lines                                            227
  XXX Their Crowded Hour                                             232
  XXXI Petite Jeanne’s Dark Hour                                     238
  XXXII Petite Jeanne’s Triumph                                      243
  XXXIII Fast Work                                                   251
  XXXIV The Treasure Chest                                           257



                               GREEN EYES



                               CHAPTER I
                        THE MYSTERIOUS ISLANDER


It was night on Morton’s Bay. A bright half moon painted a path of silver
over water as still as the night.

At the very center of this narrow bay some dark object cast a shadow.
This was a rowboat. It was painted black. The anchor lay in its prow. The
boat did not drift. There are times of perfect calm on the upper waters
of Lake Huron.

One figure was noticeable in this boat. A slight girl, she sat bent over
as if in sleep, or perhaps in deep meditation.

There was another person in the stern of the boat. A large girl, she lay
in perfect repose against a pile of pillows. Was she asleep? Did she
dream? She was thinking. One thinks best when at perfect repose. Where
could be found more perfect repose? Perhaps nowhere. Yet this girl, who
was none other than our old friend, Florence Huyler, was slightly
disturbed.

The rowboat had but now ceased rocking. The moment before, a powerful
speed boat, passing at a terrific rate, had stirred the waters and had
sent deep ridges and furrows to lift and drop it, lift and drop it many
times.

Florence did not like speed boats. They hurried too much. She was seldom
in a hurry. She and this other girl had come to the little settlement to
seek repose. More than once a speed boat had interrupted her meditations.
Now it had happened again.

“They’re taking a wide circle,” she told herself. “More than likely
they’ll come back. Why can’t they leave us in peace?”

The circle made by the speed boat widened. Perhaps they would not return
after all. Her thoughts shifted to other matters.

The figure in the forward seat was that of the blonde French girl, Petite
Jeanne. She had not moved for a quarter of an hour. What were her
thoughts? Or did she think?

“Perhaps she is asleep,” Florence told herself. She had not stirred when
the speed boat rocked them.

“Ought I to warn her if they return?” Florence asked herself. “Might
topple over into the bay. She can’t swim.”

Yet, even as she thought this, Florence smiled at the idea of danger.
What if the French girl could not swim? One swimmer was enough. And
Florence could swim. Few better. Once she had swum the Ohio river, a mile
wide, on a wager.

“Easy to rescue her,” she thought. “But then, why get wet?”

She shuddered at the thought of a plunge. It was August, but the season
was late. These northern waters were still cold.

Once more her thoughts shifted. To her right she had caught the gleam of
a light. This light suggested mystery. Where the light shone was an
island; not much of an island, a pile of rocks overgrown with cedars, but
an island all the same. And in the midst of the cedars, dark, mysterious,
all but hidden, was a cottage. And in the cottage lived a lady who
dressed in somber garments and rowed a black boat. She visited no one,
was visited by no one, and was seldom seen save in early morning, or at
night. This much Florence had learned by watching the cabin from a
distance.

“Mystery!” she whispered. “Of all places, on these northern waters in a
community where no man locks his doors. Mystery! Oh, well, probably
nothing.”

For all her whispered words, she was convinced that there _was_
something. She meant to find out what that something was.

But now her thoughts were rudely broken off. With a roar that was
deafening, the racing speed boat was once more upon them.

Coming closer this time, it set a current of air fanning their cheeks and
showered them with fine spray.

The little French girl, waking from her reverie, stared wildly about her,
then clutched at the seat. Just in time. The rowboat, rocking violently,
threatened to tumble them into the water.

“Selfish!” Florence muttered. “As if there wasn’t room enough for both of
us in all Lake Huron!”

Just then a question entered her mind. Was there a purpose in all this?
What purpose?

To these questions she could form no answer. She resolved to remain right
there, all the same; at least until Petite Jeanne had finished her
meditations and asked to be taken in.

“What can so completely fill the mind of little Jeanne?” she asked
herself. “Perhaps it is her part in the play. Ah yes, that must be it.”

That wonderful play! At once her mind was filled with bright dreams for
the little French girl.

Petite Jeanne, as you will remember if you have read our other book, _The
Gypsy Shawl_, had once lived and traveled with the gypsies of France.
Florence and her friend Betty had found her there in France. In her
company they had passed through many thrilling adventures. When these
were over, Florence had invited her to visit America. She had come.

More than that, a marvelous future had appeared like a bright, beckoning
star before her. In France she had taken part in a great charity play,
staged in the famous Paris Opera. There she had performed the ancient
gypsy dance in the most divine manner. She had won the acclaim of the
elite of Paris. Not alone this; she had caught the eye of a renowned
producer of drama. Finding himself prepared to stage a drama in which the
French gypsies had a part, he had sent to France for Petite Jeanne. A
prolonged search had ended in America. He had found Petite Jeanne with
her friend Florence Huyler in her own city, Chicago.

The director had laid his plans before her. Her most important part in
the drama was to be exactly that of her feat in Paris, to dance the gypsy
dance with a pet bear beneath a golden moon. There were, of course, minor
parts to be played, but this was to be the crowning glory.

“Would Petite Jeanne do this?”

Would she? The little French girl had wept tears of joy. Since her
success at the Paris Opera she had dreamed many dreams. This engagement
promised to make these dreams come true.

Only one sorrow had come to her. There was no part in the drama for
Florence.

To Florence this was no deprivation. Acting had never appealed to her.
Life, to her, was more than acting on a stage. Life, vivid life, physical
strength, the great out-of-doors, this was her world.

“But when you are rich and famous,” she had said to Petite Jeanne, “I
will be your ‘mother.’ Every star, you know, must have a ‘mother’ to
protect her from impudent and stage-struck people.”

“Yes, and well you are able to protect me!” laughed Petite Jeanne,
squeezing her arm. “_Parbleu!_ Your arm, it is hard and strong as a
man’s!”

Florence had not waited until the French girl was rich and famous to
become her guide and protector. She had entered upon the task at once.

“At least until she is safely launched upon her career, and well
accustomed to America, I will stay by her side,” she had said to the
great producer, Jeffry Farnsworth.

To this Farnsworth agreed. He at once made provisions for their immediate
needs.

Rehearsals had begun. They proceeded in a satisfactory manner for three
weeks. Then Farnsworth announced a four weeks’ breathing spell.

“Go north, where it is cool,” he had said to Florence. “Our French lily
droops a little in this humid climate. The north waters and woods will be
medicine to her body and religion to her soul.”

So here they were, drifting on a silent bay, with the moon and the stars
above them and all the world, save one restless speed boat, at rest.

Far back in the bay, on a narrow point among the pines and cedars, was
their temporary home. A log cabin it was, with a broad fireplace at its
back, with heavily cushioned rustic chairs in every corner, and with such
an air of freshness, brightness and peace hovering over it as is found
only where sky, water and forest meet in the northland.

Thinking of all this, Florence, too, had fallen into a deep reverie when,
with the suddenness of a world’s end, catastrophe befell them.

With a rush and a roar, a demon of speed sprang at them.

“The speed boat!” she screamed in Jeanne’s ear. “Jump!”

The words were not out of her mouth when, with a swirling swing, she was
lost in a mountain of foam. Their rowboat toppled over, casting them into
the chilling water of the bay.

At once Florence was on the surface, swimming strongly.

“But what of Jeanne? She does not swim. I must save her.” These were the
thoughts uppermost in her mind when a blonde head bobbed up close beside
her.

Her hand flew out. It grasped something, the girl’s cape. It was loose.
It came away. Jeanne began to sink. One more desperate effort and
Florence had her, first by the hair, then by an arm.

“Jeanne!” she panted. “Jeanne! Get hold of my blouse and cling tight!”

The frightened French girl obeyed.

When she had secured a firm hold, Florence swam slowly. She must have
time to think. The boat was overturned, perhaps smashed. At any rate she
could not right it. The speed boat had not paused. It was far away. The
night and dark waters were all about them.

“They never slackened their pace!” she muttered bitterly. “And they
laughed! I heard a laugh. It was a woman. How could they?”

What was to be done?

On the shore a single light gleamed.

“It’s the light of that mysterious islander,” she told herself. “That
woman who goes out only at night. That is by far the nearest point. We
must try for that. It is our only chance. She must let us in; make a
fire; dry us out. Jeanne will perish of cold.”

With that she turned her face toward that light and, swimming strongly,
glided silently through the dark water. The waters were not more silent
than her fair burden, who floated after her like a ghost.



                               CHAPTER II
                         THE LADY OF THE ISLAND


They made a trail in the water, the two girls, one who swam and one who
drifted after. The trail was short. It appeared to begin at nothing and
end nowhere. The moon painted it with a touch of silver.

Florence swam steadily. She thought she knew her powers—had measured the
distance well. She swam with the determination of one who prizes life as
a precious gift, not lightly to be held, or carelessly put aside.

Such a girl will go far. But did she fully know her powers? True, she had
gone a great distance in other waters. But this was night in the north.
The water was chilling. A sudden cramp, a brief struggle, and their path
of silver would vanish. Only the drifting boat would speak of the night’s
tragedy.

Florence did not think of this. Possible tragedies which can in no way be
averted are not worthy of consideration. She thought instead of the
monstrous injustice that had been done them.

“Why did they do it?” she asked. “How could they? What if they _are_
rich, we poor? They have no right to override us. What if their boat _is_
a thing of beauty and power, our own an old rowboat? The water does not
belong to them.

“And they laughed!” she said aloud.

Jeanne heard and answered, “Yes. They laughed. I wonder why.”

“There are three boats on the bay like that one,” Florence said. “I have
seen that many. Perhaps there are more. Which one could it have been?”

The little French girl did not reply.

Then, because she needed her strength for swimming, Florence lapsed into
silence.

To an onlooker the outcome of this adventure might have seemed
questionable. The water was cold, the distance considerable. To Florence,
endowed as she was with splendid strength and great faith, not alone in
her own powers but in the Creator’s goodness as well, there was never a
question.

Such superb endurance as she displayed! Hand over hand, arm over arm, she
measured the yards without one faltering movement. Little wonder, this.
Florence regarded her physical powers as a great gift. She thought of
herself as the Roman maidens did of old. She was a child of the gods.

So she swam on while the moon looked down upon her and appeared to smile.
And the graceful, swaying cedars beckoned. At last, with a sigh of pure
joy, she felt her hand grasp the post of a tiny plank dock, and knew that
her testing was over.

With one last, splendid effort she thrust her silent companion to a place
on the plank surface. Then she followed.

Petite Jeanne was completely benumbed with cold. Her lips were blue. When
she attempted to stand, her knees would not support her.

Gathering her in her arms as she might a child, Florence hurried toward
the cottage not twenty yards away.

The place was completely dark. For all that, she did not hesitate to
knock loudly at the door.

There came no answer. She knocked again, and yet again. Still no answer.

She had just placed her shoulder squarely against the door, preparatory
to forcing it, when a voice demanded:

“Who’s there?”

“I,” Florence replied. “We’ve had an accident. Boat turned over. We are
soaked, chilled, in danger. Let us in!”

There came a sound of movement from within. Then a heavy bar dropped back
with a slam.

As the door swung open, Florence gasped. She had seen the occupant of
this cottage at a distance. Since she always dressed in garments of
somber hue and lived here alone, Florence had expected to find her old.
Instead, there stood before her, holding a lamp high like a torch, a most
dazzling creature. A young woman, certainly not past twenty-five, with
tossing golden hair and penetrating blue eyes, she stood there garbed in
a dressing gown of flaming red.

“Oh!” murmured Florence, for the time forgetting her urgent mission.

“Bring her right in,” said a strong voice in a steady, even tone. “There
are some coals in the fireplace. I’ll soon have it roaring.”

The mysterious young lady was as good as her word. Five minutes had not
elapsed ere a fire was laughing up the chimney. Stripped of their
chilling garments and wrapped in blankets of the softest wool, the two
girls sat before the fire while their strange hostess spent her time
alternately chafing Petite Jeanne’s feet and hands and tending tea that
was brewing.

Florence found time to examine the interior of the cottage. The bar had
been replaced at the door. As her eyes swept the walls, she was startled
to discover that this cabin was entirely devoid of windows. More
startling still was her next discovery. At the head of a low bed, within
easy reach of one who slept there, were two thin, blue steel automatic
pistols.

The things fascinated her. She removed her gaze from them with
difficulty.

At that moment it struck her suddenly that this cabin bore all the marks
of a trap. Had they been dumped out before it by someone with a purpose?
Were they prisoners here?

But why? To this question she could form but a single answer. And that
one seemed absurd.

“Green Eyes!” she whispered.

There was a young lady, an actress, the star of Petite Jeanne’s cast, who
appeared to be intensely jealous of Jeanne. They had called her Green
Eyes because, in certain lights, her eyes seemed as green as the sea.
Once Florence had fancied that she had seen her in a speed boat on these
waters. She could not be sure. Would she stoop to such base plotting? It
did not seem possible.

“Besides,” the girl reassured herself, “this cabin is old. It was built
for some other purpose. That it should have its present occupant is more
or less in the nature of an accident. This woman has a purpose in hiding
here. A mystery!” A thrill of pleasant anticipation shot through her,
dispelling fear as the morning sun dispels the fog.

“Mystery!” she whispered to herself. “That magic word, mystery!”

“The tea is served,” said a pleasant voice. “Do you take one lump, two,
or none at all?”

“N-none at all,” Florence replied, bringing herself back to the present
moment with a start.



                              CHAPTER III
                             A GYPSY SECRET


Hot tea and a blazing fire took the blue from Jeanne’s lips and restored
the natural faint flush to her fair cheeks.

“You say your boat was overturned?” Their hostess abruptly broke the
silence that had fallen upon them.

“Yes.”

“A rowboat?”

“Yes.”

“Was it broken?”

“I—I—” Florence hesitated. “I don’t think so.”

“Then we should go for it at once. The wind is rising. It is offshore.
The boat will drift across the bay. I have a rowboat. Perhaps you would
do well to come with me. It will be something of a task to right it.”

She had spoken to Florence. When Petite Jeanne understood that she was to
be left alone in this windowless cabin, she shuddered ever so slightly,
but said not a word.

“I will go,” replied Florence. She turned to Jeanne. “You will be more
contented here. The night air is very cold.”

They departed. Jeanne was alone. When she had made sure they were out of
hearing distance, she closed the door and dropped the massive oaken bar
in place.

Scarcely had she done this than she found herself possessed of the idea
that someone beside herself was in the cabin.

“There may be other rooms,” she told herself. She searched in vain for
doors leading to them. She looked under the bed.

Convinced at last that she was alone, she looked with wide-eyed interest
at her surroundings. The walls were made of oak paneling, very well
executed and polished to the last degree. The fireplace was massive. It
was built entirely of the strange honeycomb-like stone that is found in
places along the upper bays of Lake Huron.

“But why does she live where there is no light?” she asked herself in
amazement.

Hardly had she thought this than she became conscious for the first time
of a faint flush of yellow light lying on the floor at her feet.

On looking up to discover its source, she found herself staring at a very
broad double skylight some distance above her head.

“It’s like those one sees on the cabins of ships,” she told herself.
“Only higher up.”

Satisfied with her inspection of the place, she dropped into a commodious
chair and at once fell into a reverie which had to do with her past and
the very near future.

How strange her life seemed to her as she reviewed it here in the dim
lights of such unusual surroundings!

Petite Jeanne, as you well know from reading _The Gypsy Shawl_, was born
in France. Her family, one of the country’s best, had been impoverished
by the war. The war had left her an orphan. Possessed only of a pet bear,
she had looked about for some means of support. A friendly and honorable
gypsy, Bihari, had taken her into his family. She had learned to do the
gypsy dances with her bear.

These she had performed so divinely that in a contest she had been chosen
from many other dancers to represent the wanderers of France in a charity
pageant to be given at the Paris Opera.

After many perils, brought upon her by the green-eyed jealousy of other
gypsies, she had achieved a singular triumph on that great occasion.

As guests of this pageant, two Americans sat in a box that night. One was
a playwright, the other a producer.

As the dance progressed, as Petite Jeanne, seeming fairly to fly through
the air, passed from one movement to another in her bewitching dance, one
of these men touched the other lightly on the arm to whisper: “She is the
one.”

“The very one,” the other had whispered back.

“We must have her.”

“We will.”

That was all for the time. But now, after several months, Petite Jeanne,
as she sat in this cabin by the side of a great lake, reveled in the
dream of flitting through her gypsy dance with two thousand Americans
swaying in unconscious rhythm to her every movement, and that not one
night, but many nights on end.

“Nights and nights and nights,” she now murmured, as she clasped her
hands before her.

But suddenly, as if a cloud had fallen over all, she became conscious
once more of dim light and night. Not alone that. There came to her now a
sense of approaching danger.

The gypsies are curious people. Who knows what uncanny power they
possess? A gypsy, a very old woman, had in some way imparted to Petite
Jeanne some of this power. It gave her the ability to divine the presence
of those she knew, even when they were some distance away. Was it mental
telepathy? Did these others think, and were their thoughts carried by who
knows what power, as the radio message is carried over the ether, to this
girl’s sensitive brain? Who knows? Enough that a message now came; that
it caused her to shudder and glance hurriedly about her.

“Gypsies,” she said aloud. “There must be gypsies near, French gypsies,
my enemies.”

Yet, even as she said this, the thing seemed absurd. She had inquired of
the native population concerning gypsies. They did not so much as know
that such people existed. This section of the country, where the greater
part of all travel is done on water, and where the people are poor, has
seldom been visited by a gypsy caravan.

“And yet,” she said with conviction, “they _are_ near!”



                               CHAPTER IV
                                  WHY?


There is that about the woods and water at night which casts upon one a
spell of irresistible loneliness and sadness. It is as if all the
generations of those who have lived and died in the vicinity, whose
canoes have glided silently through rippling waters, whose axes have
awakened echoes and whose campfires have brought dark shadows into being,
return at this hour to mourn their loss of a beautiful world.

Florence felt something of this as the mystery lady donned a cloak of
somber hue, then pushed a dark rowboat into the water.

A faint knock of oarlock was the only sound that disturbed the grave-like
stillness.

Some dark bird, awakened from his sleep, rose in their path to go
swooping away without a sound.

The lady of the island did not speak. From time to time she glanced over
her shoulder to sweep the water with her eye. When some object a little
darker than the water appeared in the distance, she pursued a course that
led directly to it.

“There,” she said, as they bumped against the object, “is your boat. It
doesn’t seem large, nor heavy. You are strong. Perhaps we can right it.”

Ten minutes of muscle testing struggle and the boat, half filled with
water, lay alongside.

As Florence settled back to catch her breath before assisting in bailing
out the boat, she exclaimed:

“How can rich people be so thoughtless, reckless and cruel?”

“Why!” said her hostess in a mild tone, “I haven’t found them so.”

“Didn’t they rush our boat, then laugh as it went over?”

“Did they? Tell me about it.” The young lady’s tone suddenly took on a
note of lively interest.

Florence told her exactly what had happened.

“That is queer,” said the lady, as she finished. “Your boat is dark; your
friend wore a dark cape. Until to-night I have spent every evening for a
week in this bay, sitting just as your companion was sitting, in an
attitude of meditation, you might say. Since you were lying stretched out
in the stern, you would be practically hidden by darkness. One might
easily conclude that I was the intended victim of this little joke, if it
may be called that, and that you had stepped in the way of it.”

“But why should they run you down?” The question slipped unbidden from
Florence’s lips.

It went unanswered.

They bailed out the boat, took it in tow, then rowed back as they had
come, in silence.

“Why should anyone wish to run you down?” The lady of the island asked
this question quite abruptly the moment they entered the cabin.

“Why I—I don’t know.” Florence remained silent for a moment before she
added, “We have heard that there is an actress visiting the Eries, those
rich people over on the far point. From the description, it might be
Green Eyes.”

“Green Eyes? What a name!” The mystery lady opened her eyes wide.

“It’s not her real name,” Florence hastened to assure her. “She’s Jensie
Jameson.”

“Oh! I have seen her. She is quite marvelous. But why do you call her
Green Eyes?”

“Perhaps we’re not quite fair to her. She seems jealous of my friend
here. Green-eyed, as we have a way of saying. Besides, in some lights her
eyes are truly green.”

“Green Eyes.” The tone of the mystery lady became reflective. “How
terrible! What can be worse than jealousy? Hatred is bad. But jealousy!
How many beautiful friendships have been destroyed, how many happy homes
wrecked by jealousy. If I were given to that terrible sin, I should fight
it day and night.

“As for this affair—” She changed the subject abruptly. “I think you may
feel at ease. Unless I miss my guess, this bit of misfortune was not
meant for you at all.

“And now—” She swung about. “What of to-night? Your clothes are not dry.
I can loan you some. But are you not afraid to return to camp at this
late hour?”

“We have little to fear.” Florence smiled in a strange way. “We have a
bear.”

“A bear?”

“A pet bear.”

“But you?” said Petite Jeanne. “Are you not afraid to stay here alone?”

“I have never been afraid.” The strange lady’s tone was quiet, full of
assurance. “Besides, I trust God and keep my powder dry.” She glanced at
the two guns hanging above her bed. “I have no right to be afraid. It is
my business not to be.

“You may leave these on the little dock to-morrow,” she said, as she
helped the girls into some loose fitting house dresses. “You will find
your own there.”

A moment later Florence saw the door to the cabin close as she pushed
away from the dock.

A dark bulk greeted them at their own door. This was Tico, Petite
Jeanne’s bear, her companion in the gypsy dance which, they hoped, was to
make her famous. They had brought him along in order that, alone and
quite unmolested in natural surroundings, the heart of the north woods,
Jeanne might practice her part in the forthcoming play.

Next morning Jeanne and Tico, the bear, wandered away into the forest.

Florence went fishing. There is a type of fishing for every mood. This
day Florence wished to think. Since she was in no mood for silent
meditation she fastened a large spoon-hook to her fifty yard line,
dropped rod and reel in the bottom of the boat, wrapped the line about
her right hand, then went trolling along the edge of a weed bed.

The water rippled slightly, the rushes nodded now and then to a gust of
wind. Her oars made a low dip-dip as she glided across the water. She did
not expect to get a bite. She was trolling more for thoughts than for
fish.

Into her mind crowded many questions. Who was the lady of the island? Why
did her blue eyes reflect so much of fearless daring? Why this strange
retreat? Why the automatics above her bed? Why was she here at all? There
was something about this young woman that suggested intrigue, crime,
possible violence.

“And yet, in such surroundings!” She laughed out loud. “Could there be a
more peaceful spot in all the world?”

And indeed, could there be? Half a mile down the bay a tiny village
basked in the sun. A general store, a confectionery, a grocery, a post
office, a few scattered cabins and cottages; this was Cedar Point. To
right and left of her lay deep bays. Bays and points alike were dotted
with summer cottages, where tired city people came to rest and fish.
Across the bay, half a mile away, were islands. Four of these islands
were small, one large. There, too, were cottages. Who lived in those
cottages? To this question she could form only a vague answer. Two or
three were owned by millionaires with speed boats and yachts.

“They can have them.” She gave her line a fling. “Gas driven things.
Bah!” Her splendid muscles set her boat shooting forward. “What’s better
than the good old oars and a boat that’s light and fast?”

“I wish, though,” she added with a scowl, “that they’d leave us alone.”

This sent her thoughts off on another tack. Once more her line was
forgotten.

“Those people in that speed boat last night meant to run someone down,”
she said with assurance. “Question is, who? And why? Were they after
Petite Jeanne? Was it Green Eyes? Or were they after the lady of the
island? She believes they were after her. But why were they after her?
She didn’t tell me a thing. She—”

Of a sudden there came a great tug at her line.

“Wow!” she cried, dropping the oars and snatching at her pole. “Got a
fish. Wonder what—

“Wow, what a yank!”

She gained possession of her rod in the nick of time. Not ten feet of
line were on her reel when she seized the handle and held fast.

For a space of ten seconds it seemed the stout line would snap. Then it
went slack.

“Dumb! Lost him. I—

“No.” She reeled in furiously. The fish was coming toward her. Then he
whirled about. As the line went taut again the fish leaped high out of
the water.

“A pike or a muskie!” she murmured. “I must have him!”

A battle royal followed. Now the fish, yielding stubbornly yard by yard,
approached the boat. Then, catching sight of her, he leaped away, making
the reel sing.

Again she had him under control. Not for long. A raging demon fighting
for freedom he was.

For fully a quarter of an hour she fought him until, quite worn out, he
yielded, and a twenty pound muskie shot head foremost into her landing
net.

“To think,” she exclaimed, “that I could come out to mull things over and
should catch such a fish!

“Ah well, life’s that way. I come to think. I catch a fish. We come here
seeking absolute quiet, and what do we find? Mystery, intrigue, and all
that promises to keep us up late nights figuring out the next move on the
checkerboard of life.”



                               CHAPTER V
                            THE GYPSY CHILD


In the meantime, accompanied by the lumbering bear, Petite Jeanne had
followed a narrow way that led to the heart of the forest. At first her
way was along a grass-grown road that narrowed to a path used in autumn
by hunters. This path at last became only a trail for wild animals. In a
soft marshy spot she came upon the clean-cut prints of a wild deer’s
hoofs and the smaller marks of her fawn. There, too, she measured the
footprints of a bear.

“A small, black brother of yours,” she said to Tico. The bear appeared to
understand, for he reared himself on two legs to sniff the air and show
his teeth.

Leaving this path at last, she climbed a low hill. There she entered a
narrow grass-grown spot devoid of trees.

Here, with only the fir and balsam trees standing in a circle at a
respectful distance to witness, she robed herself in one of those filmy
creations known to Paris alone.

Then, with all the native grace that the Creator had bestowed upon her,
she went through the steps of that weird dance that was to be the climax
of the drama in which she had been given a great part.

“It is now moonlight at the back of a battlefield,” she whispered softly
to herself. “This is a dance to the dead, to the dead who live
forevermore, to those beautiful brave souls who loved their land more
than life.”

Should one have happened upon her there, dancing with the bear, he must
surely have been tempted to believe in fairies. So light was her step, so
lissom and free her slight form, so zephyr-like her flowing costume, so
great the contrast between her and the cumbersome bear, that she seemed
at this moment a creature of quite another world. Yet this fairy was
capable of feeling fatigue. In time she wound her filmy gown about her
and threw herself on a bed of moss, to lie there panting from exhaustion
brought on by her wild gyrations.

                            * * * * * * * *

Florence, having thought out her problems as far as she was able to
follow them, which was not far, and having conquered her muskie, had
rowed home, docked her boat and entered the cabin. She remained for a few
moments indoors; then she reappeared with a basket on her arm. She took
the trail of Jeanne and the bear.

It was on this same trail that she experienced a severe shock.

As she trudged along over the moss padded path, her soft soled sneakers
made no sound. Thus it happened that, as she rounded a clump of dark
spruce trees, she came unobserved upon a little woodland fantasy played
by a child and a chipmunk. The chipmunk was in the path, the child at one
side. A nut was in the child’s hand, a gleam of desire in the chipmunk’s
eye.

The little striped creature advanced a few steps, whisked his tail,
retreated, then advanced again. The statuesque attitude of the child was
remarkable. “Like a bronze statue,” Florence told herself.

The fingers that held the nut did not tremble. One would have said that
the child did not so much as wink an eye.

For a space of ten minutes that bit of a play continued. The thing was
remarkable in a child so young.

“Not a day over seven,” Florence told herself, as she studied the child’s
every feature and the last touch of her unusual attire.

At last patience won. The chipmunk sprang forward to grasp the nut, then
went flying away.

Did Florence utter an unconscious, but quite audible sigh? It would seem
so. For suddenly, after one startled upward glance, the child, too,
disappeared.

All uninvited, a startling conviction pressed itself upon Florence’s
senses. The child was a gypsy.

There could be no questioning this. Her face might have been that of an
Indian; her attire, never. Florence had seen too much of these strange
people to make any mistake.

“Not alone that,” she told herself, as she once more took up the trail.
“Her people have but recently come from Europe. There is not a trace of
America in her costume.

“Perhaps—” She paused to ponder. “We are near the Canadian border.
Perhaps they have entered without permission and are here in hiding.”

This thought was disturbing. The tribe of gypsies with which Petite
Jeanne had traveled so long had many enemies. She had come to know this
well enough when the terrible Panna had kidnapped Jeanne and all but
brought her to her death. Panna was dead, but her numerous tribesmen were
ready enough to inherit and pass on her dark secrets and black hatreds.

“If Petite Jeanne knew there were gypsies in this forest she would be
greatly disturbed,” Florence said to herself with a sigh.

“After all, what’s the good of telling her?” was her conclusion of the
matter. “Gypsies are ever on the move. We will see nothing more of them.”
In this she was wrong.

She did not tell Jeanne. Together they reveled in a feast of blueberry
muffins, wild honey and caramel buns.

After Jeanne had gone through her wild dance once more, they trudged back
to camp through the sweet-smelling forest while the sunset turned the
woodland trail to a path of gleaming gold.



                               CHAPTER VI
                            HAUNTING MELODY


That evening Florence received a shock. The night before they had,
through no purpose of their own, been thrown for an hour or two into the
company of the young recluse who lived in a windowless cabin on a shadowy
island. Since this person very evidently wished to be alone, Florence had
not expected to see her again. Imagine her surprise, therefore, when, on
stepping to the cabin door for a good-night salute to the stars, she
found the lady standing there, motionless and somber as any nocturnal
shadow, on their own little dock.

“I—I beg your pardon,” the mysterious one spoke. “So this is where you
live? How very nice!

“But I didn’t come to make a call. I came for a favor,” she hastened to
assure the astonished Florence.

“You were very kind to us last night.” Florence tried to conceal her
astonishment. “We will do what we can.”

“It is but a little thing. I wish to visit an island across the bay. It
is not far. Half an hour’s row. I do not wish to go alone. Will you be so
kind as to accompany me?”

“What a strange request!” Florence thought. “One would suppose that she
feared something. And there is nothing to fear. The island channels are
safe and the bay is calm.”

“I’d be delighted to go,” she said simply.

This did not express the exact truth. There was that about the simple
request that frightened her. What made it worse, she had seen, as in a
flash of thought, the two pistols hanging over the strange one’s bed.

“Very well,” said the mystery lady. “Get your coat. We will go at once.”

Since Florence knew that Petite Jeanne was not afraid to be alone as long
as her bear was with her, she hurried to the cabin, told Jeanne of her
intentions, drew on a warm sweater, and accompanied the strange visitor
to her boat.

Without a word, the lady of the island pushed her slight craft off, then
taking up her oars, headed toward the far side of the bay.

“What island?” Florence asked herself.

There were four islands; three small, one large. The nearest small one
was not inhabited. She and Jeanne had gone there once to enjoy their
evening meal. There was a camping place in a narrow clearing at the
center. The remainder of the island was heavily forested with birch and
cedar.

On another small island was a single summer cottage, a rather large and
pretentious affair with a dock and boathouse.

The large one, stretching away for miles in either direction, was dotted
with summer homes.

The course of their boat soon suggested to her that they were to visit
the small island that held the summer cottage. Yet, even as she reached
this conclusion, she was given reasons for doubting it. Their course
altered slightly. They were now headed for the end where the growth of
cedar and birch reached to the water’s edge and where there was no sign
of life. The cottage was many hundred feet from this spot.

“When one visits a place by water at night, one goes to the dock,” she
told herself. “Where can we be going now?”

A rocky shoal extended for some little distance out from the point of the
island. The light craft skirted this, then turned abruptly toward shore.
A moment later it came to rest on a narrow, sandy beach.

“If you will please remain here for a very few moments,” said the lady of
the island, “I shall be very grateful to you. Probably nothing will
happen. Still, one never can tell. Should you catch a sound of commotion,
or perhaps a scream, row away as speedily as possible and notify Deputy
Sheriff Osterman at Rainy Creek at once. If I fail to return within the
next half hour, do the same.”

“Why—er—”

Florence’s answer died on her lips. The mysterious one was gone.

“Who is she? Why are we here? What does she wish to know?” These and a
hundred other haunting questions sped through the girl’s mind as she
stood there alone in the dark, waiting, alert, expectant, on tiptoe,
listening to the tantalizing lap-lap of water on the sandy shore.

A moment passed into eternity, another, and yet another. From somewhere
far out over the dim-lit waters there came the haunting, long drawn hoot
of a freighter’s foghorn.

Something stirred in the bush. She jumped; then chided herself for her
needless fear.

“Some chipmunk, or a prowling porcupine,” she told herself.

A full quarter of an hour had passed. Her nerves were all but at the
breaking point, when of a sudden, without a sound, the lady of the island
stood beside her.

“O. K.,” she said in a low tone. “Let’s go.”

They were some distance from the island when at last the lady spoke
again.

“That,” she said in a very matter-of-fact tone, “is Gamblers’ Island. And
I am a lady cop from Chicago.”

“A—a lady cop!” Florence stared at her as if she had never seen her
before.

“A lady policeman,” the other replied quietly. “In other words, a
detective. Women now take part in nearly every field of endeavor. Why not
in this? They should. Men have found that there are certain branches of
the detective service that naturally belong to women. We are answering
the challenge.

“But listen!” She held up a hand for silence.

To their waiting ears came the sound of a haunting refrain. The sound
came, not from the island they had just left, but from the other, the
supposedly uninhabited one.

“They say—” into the lady’s voice there crept a whimsical note, “that
this island was once owned by a miser. He disappeared years ago. His
cabin burned long since. Perhaps he has returned from another world to
thrum a harp, or it may be only a banjo. We must have a look!”

She turned the prow of her boat that way and rowed with strength and
purpose in the direction from which the sound came.



                              CHAPTER VII
                               GYPSY MOON


As they neared the tiny island, the sound of banjo and singing grew
louder. From time to time the music was punctuated by shouts and clapping
of hands.

“Someone playing gypsy under the gypsy moon,” said the lady of the
island, glancing at the golden orb that hung like a giant Chinese lantern
in the sky.

Florence made no reply. She recalled the dark-skinned child she had
surprised on the trail, but kept her thoughts to herself.

“There’s a tiny beach half way round to the left,” she suggested. “We
were here not long ago.”

The boat swerved. Once more they moved on in silence.

To Florence there was something startling about this night’s happenings.

“Gamblers’ Island; a lady cop,” she whispered. “And now this.”

Once more their boat grounded silently. This time, instead of finding
herself left behind, the girl felt a pull at her arm and saw a hand in
the moonlight beckon her on.

From the spot where they had landed, a half trail, strewn with brush and
overhung with bushes, led to the little clearing at the center of the
island.

Florence and Jeanne had found this trail difficult in broad daylight. Yet
her guide, with a sense of direction quite uncanny, led the way through
the dark without a single audible swish of brush or crack of twig until,
with breath coming quick and fast, Florence parted the branches of a low
growing fir tree and found herself looking upon a scene of wild,
bewitching beauty.

Round a glowing campfire were grouped a dozen people.

“Gypsies,” she told herself. “All French gypsies!” Her heart sank. Here
was bad news indeed.

Or was it bad? “Perhaps,” she said to herself, “they are Jeanne’s
friends.”

Whether the scene boded good or ill, it enthralled her. Two beautiful
gypsies, garbed in scant attire, but waving colorful shawls about them as
they whirled, were dancing before the fire. Two banjos and a mandolin
kept time to the wild beating of their nimble feet.

Old men, women, and children hovered in the shadows. Florence had no
difficulty in locating the child of the trail who had played with the
chipmunk. She was now fast asleep in her mother’s arms.

Florence’s reaction to all this was definite, immediate. She disliked the
immodest young dancers and the musicians. The children and the older ones
appealed to her.

“They have hard faces, those dancers,” she told herself. “They would stop
at nothing.”

Of a sudden a mad notion seized her. These were water gypsies who had
deserted the caravan for a speed boat. They had seen Jeanne, had
recognized her, and it had been their speed boat that had overturned the
rowboat.

“But that,” she told herself instantly, “is impossible. Such a speed boat
costs two or three thousand dollars. How can a band of gypsies hope to
own one?”

Nevertheless, when her strange companion, after once more pulling at her
arm, had led her back to the beach, she found the notion in full
possession of her mind.

Florence offered to row back to the mainland but as if by mistake she
rowed the long way round the island. This gave her a view of the entire
shore.

“No speed boat, nor any other motor craft on those shores,” she assured
herself after a quarter of an hour of anxious scanning. “Wonder how they
travel, anyway.”

Thereupon she headed for the distant shore which was, for the time being,
their home.

Once again her mind was troubled. Should she tell Petite Jeanne of this,
her latest discovery, or should she remain silent?



                              CHAPTER VIII
                             SUN-TAN TILLIE


Next day Florence made a new friend. Petite Jeanne wished to spend the
morning, which was damp and a trifle chilly, among the cushions before
the fire. Florence went for a ramble in the forest.

She took a path she had not followed before. These strange trails
fascinated her. Some of them, she had been told, led on and on and on
into vast, trackless slashings where one might be lost for days, and
perhaps never return.

She had no notion of getting herself lost. By watching every fork in the
trail, and noting the direction she had taken, she made sure of finding
her way back.

She had been following this trail for half an hour when of a sudden a
voice shattered the silence of the forest.

“Now, Turkey, do be careful!” It was a girl’s light pitched voice. “We’ve
got to get them. You know we have.”

“But what if they ain’t here?” grumbled a boy’s voice.

“What can they be after?” Florence asked herself. “And who can they be,
way back here in the forest where no one lives?”

She hesitated for a moment. Then, deciding to investigate, she pushed on.

She was not long in discovering that she had been mistaken on one count.
She was not in the heart of the forest. The trees thinned. She found
herself on the edge of a bay where bullrushes were thick. She had crossed
a point of land and had come to water again.

Near the beach, in shallow water, a boy of twelve and a girl of sixteen
were struggling with a minnow net.

The net was long and hard to handle. Weeds in the water hampered their
progress. They had not seen Florence. The girl labored with the
determined look of one who must not pause until her task is completed.

The boy was a plain towhead. There are a thousand such on the shores of
the Upper Peninsula. The girl caught Florence’s attention. She was plump,
well formed, muscular. Her body was as brown as an Indian’s. She
possessed a wealth of golden red hair. A single garment covered her, a
bathing suit which had once been green, but was now nearly white.

“Natives,” thought Florence. “But what are they after?”

Just then the girl looked up. She took Florence in from head to toe at a
glance.

“Hello.” Her tone was frank, friendly.

“Hello,” Florence came back. “What’s your name?”

“Tillie—Tillie McFadden.” The girl flashed her charming Irish smile.

“Tillie!” exclaimed Florence. “Sun-Tan Tillie!”

The smile faded for a second, then returned. “Oh! You mean I’m brown.
I’ve always been that way.”

“I know girls who’d give their best dresses for your color. They buy it
in boxes, and put it on with a brush, in Chicago.”

The girl laughed. Then she looked at the net and frowned. “Now we lost
’em! Turkey, we’ve got to get ’em. There’s ten autos on the way.”

“What are you catching?” asked Florence.

“Minnies.”

“Oh, minnows? Not many here, are there?”

“No. That’s the trouble. Been trying for more than an hour. Pop, he runs
a tourist camp. Turkey and I catch the bait. It’s tough sometimes.”

“Over across the point,” Florence replied quickly, “there are millions. I
saw them half an hour ago. Water’s black with them.”

“Morton’s Bay.” Tillie’s face lighted. “Turkey, we got to go there. It’s
quite a row, but that’s the only place.”

“Why don’t you bring the net across the point?” Florence asked. “Let your
brother take the boat around. I’ll slip on my bathing suit and help you.”

“Would you?” Tillie smiled gratefully.

“I’d love to. Must be a lot of fun. All those minnows tickling your
toes.”

“Might be fun for some,” said Tillie doubtfully.

“Turkey,” she commanded, “you bring the boat around.”

“Why do you call him Turkey?” Florence asked when they were in the
forest.

“Turkey Trot. That’s his nickname. Boys called him that because they said
he ran like a turkey. He don’t mind. Up here everybody’s got a nickname.”

They said no more, but marched straight on over the woodland trail.
Tillie was strong and fast. There was no questioning that. She was in a
hurry, too. She led the way, and the city girl experienced difficulty in
holding the pace.

She had dropped a little behind. Tillie was around a curve and out of
sight, when of a sudden she heard a piercing scream. The next moment she
beheld Tillie nimbly climbing a tree.

The cause was not far to seek. Despite her efforts at self control, she
burst out laughing. Down the path came a big brown bear. The bear wore a
leather collar set with mother-of-pearl.

When she could stop laughing she screamed to Tillie: “You don’t have to
be afraid of him. He’s our pet bear, Tico.”

But what was this? Tico, if Tico it be, marched straight at her. He
showed all his teeth in an ugly snarl. Florence promptly followed Tillie
up the tree. From this point of vantage she was able to make a more
careful study of the bear and to discover that he was not Tico after all.
He was not as large as Tico. His collar, though somewhat like Tico’s, was
utterly different in design.

“The final laugh is on me,” she said, almost gayly.

“No,” replied Tillie. “It’s on me. There’s a tourist party of ten autos
coming to our camp. They’ll be there in two hours. They’ve got to have
bait. You can’t catch minnies in a tree.”

This, Florence admitted, was true. However, the bear did not keep them
prisoners long. For, after all, he was someone’s tame bear and had eaten
his breakfast. After sniffing at Tillie’s net and enjoying its fishy
smell, he ambled off, leaving them to continue their journey, which they
did at redoubled speed.

As they hurried down the trail, one thought occupied Florence’s mind.
“That bear,” she told herself, “belongs to those gypsies. And he’s nearer
our camp right now than the gypsies have been.” She was thinking once
more of Petite Jeanne.



                               CHAPTER IX
                             BANGING A BEAR


Arrived at the cabin, Florence hurried into her bathing suit. All the
time she was changing she was thinking: “I only hope those minnows are
still there. Tillie promises to become an interesting friend. I do not
wish to lose her by a false move now.”

She need not have feared. The minnows were there still, flashing in the
sunlight.

As Florence appeared with two large buckets, Tillie cried out in great
delight. “We’ll get enough for two days! Put the buckets on the beach.
And please hurry!”

Florence followed her instructions, then seizing one end of the net,
plunged after Tillie into the water.

“Like to fish?” Tillie asked, as she executed a deft curve with the net.

“Yes. Do you?”

“I love it!” Tillie’s tone was full of meaning. “But there’s so little
time. There are boats to bail out, camping places to clean up, lines to
mend, minnies to catch, and a lot more things. We’re never through.
Honest, I haven’t had this suit off, except at night, for days.”

Florence envied her. She adored the very tasks this girl had come to
hate.

“There now!” exclaimed Tillie. “We’ve got ’em. Just swing your end in;
then up with it.”

The brown mesh of the net was all ashimmer with tiny, flapping fishes.

“Seems a shame,” said Florence, as she helped scoop the minnows into one
of the waiting buckets. “So many tiny lives snuffed out just for fun.”

“They wouldn’t ever get much bigger,” said Tillie philosophically. “Pop
says they’re just naturally little fellows like some of the rest of us.”

She set the bucket down. “We’ll leave this one right here. We’ll take the
other one down a piece. We’ll get one more haul. That’ll be enough. Then
Turkey’ll be here.”

Once more they dragged the net over the sandy shallows, circled, closed
in, then lifted a multitude of little fishes from the water.

The last wriggling minnow had gone flapping into the bucket, when
suddenly Tillie straightened up with first a puzzled, then an angry look
on her face.

Seizing a heavy driftwood pole that lay upon the beach, she dashed away
over the sand.

To her horror, Florence saw that the strange bear, who had undoubtedly
followed them, had just thrust his head into their other bucket of
minnows.

“Bears like fish,” she thought. “Tillie will be killed!

“Tillie! Tillie!” she screamed. “Don’t! Don’t!”

She may as well have shouted at the wind. Tillie’s stout arms brought the
club down twice on the bear’s head. Thwack! Thwack!

With a loud grunt, the bear turned about and vanished into the brush.

At the same instant Petite Jeanne appeared at the door. She had heard
Florence scream.

“What happened?” she asked.

“A—a—something tried to steal our minnows,” Florence stammered. “I—I
think it was a dog. Tillie, here, hit him.

“Oh! Tillie, meet my buddy, Petite Jeanne. She’s from France; an
actress.”

“An actress!” Tillie stared at Jeanne as she might have looked at an
angel. “I’ve heard of them,” she said simply.

“I thought,” Florence said in a low tone to Tillie, “that you were afraid
of that bear.”

“Afraid—” Tillie scratched her head. “Yes, I am. But when I get good and
mad, as Pop says, I’m not afraid of nobody nor nothin’.”

At that moment there came a loud whoop from the water. It was Turkey
Trot.

“Got any?” he shouted.

“Plenty,” Tillie shrilled back.

The boat swung in. Tillie, with a bucket in each hand, waded out to it.
The precious cargo was stowed safely aboard; then seizing the oars, with
a good-bye and thank you, Tillie rowed rapidly away.

“She’s a dear!” exclaimed Florence. “We’re going to like her a lot.

“Think of living in a bathing suit, not as a pose, but as a mere matter
of business!” she said to herself some time later. “What a life that must
be!

“Jeanne won’t know about that bear,” she resolved a moment later. “She
must not know about those gypsies. It would disturb her. And she must
rest; must not be disturbed in any way. Believe me, this being a ‘mother’
to a budding actress is no snap. But it’s lots of fun, all the same!”



                               CHAPTER X
                           A GASP IN THE DARK


That evening Florence, reposing on an affair of white birch and pillows
that was half chair and half couch, lived for a time in both the past and
the future.

Once more beneath the moon she battled her way toward the mystery cabin
on the island. Again she stood looking at its strange interior and its
puzzling tenant.

With a vividness that was all but real, she saw the gleam of black waters
as they neared Gamblers’ Island.

“Gamblers’ Island,” she mused. “A lady cop. What is one to make of all
that?

“And the gypsies? How did they come to that island? Can it be that they
truly have a speed boat? Did they run us down? Or was it the young people
at the millionaire’s cabin, and Green Eyes?

“Perhaps neither. It may be that the lady cop is right; that someone
meant to run her down instead. But who could it be?”

A thought came to her. That day she had seen a speed boat leave Gamblers’
Island. Might there not be reason enough for the gamblers wishing to run
down the mystery lady?

“A lady cop. What could be more natural? Gamblers fear detectives.

“But are there gamblers on that island?” Once more she was up against a
stone wall. She knew nothing of those who lived on the island. She wished
that the lady cop were more communicative.

“Perhaps she will tell me much in time.”

Only one thing stood out clearly. In so far as was possible, Petite
Jeanne must be protected from all these uncertainties and strange doings.
She must have peace and rest. Great opportunity lay just before her. She
must be prepared for it.

As if reading her thoughts, Jeanne suddenly sprang to her feet.

“I wish,” she exclaimed, “that I might practice my part back there in the
forest in the moonlight. It would help to make it real.”

“Well, why not?” Florence rose.

“Why not, indeed?” Jeanne danced across the floor.

“Come, Tico!” she called, as she danced out of her bathrobe and into a
gaudy gypsy costume. “To-night there is work to be done.”

Florence knew that it required real courage for Jeanne to take this step.
She was afraid of dark places at night.

“And what is more spooky than a woodland trail at night?” she asked
herself.

Her admiration for the little French girl grew. “She has real grit,” she
told herself. “She means to succeed; she will do anything that will aid
in making success possible.

“And she will succeed! She must!”

By the gleam of a small flashlight, they made their way, now between tall
cedars that stood like sentinels beside their path, and now beneath broad
fir trees that in the night seemed dark Indian wigwams.

They crossed a narrow clearing where the vacant windows of an abandoned
homesteader shanty stared at them. They entered the forest again, to find
it darker than before. The moon had gone under a black cloud.

“Boo!” shuddered Jeanne. “How quite terrible it all is!”

Tico rubbed against her. He appeared to understand.

When at last they came to the little grass-grown spot where Jeanne was
accustomed to do her bit of acting, the moon was out again, the grass
glowed soft and green, and the whole setting seemed quite jolly as Tico
playfully chased a rabbit into a clump of balsams.

“It is charming,” said Jeanne, clapping her hands. “Now I shall dance as
I have never danced before.”

And she did.

Florence, who had witnessed the whole drama as it was played on the
stage, dropped to a tuft of green that lay in the shadowy path, and
allowed herself to enter fully into the scene as it would be enacted on
that memorable night when the little French girl should make her first
appearance before an American audience.

“It is night on a battlefield of France,” she whispered to herself. “The
wounded and dead have been carried away. Only broken rifles and two
shattered cannon are to be seen. Petite Jeanne is alone with it all.

“Jeanne is a blonde-haired gypsy. Until this moment she has cherished a
great hope. Now she has learned that the hope is groundless. More than
that, she believes that her gypsy lover has perished in this day’s
battle.

“The depth of her sorrow is immeasurable. One fact alone brings her
comfort. She has still her pet bear and her art, the art of dancing.

“On this lonely battlefield, with the golden moon beaming down upon her,
she begins to do the rhythmic dance of the gypsy.”

Even as she came to this part of the drama’s story, Jeanne and the bear
began to dance.

“It is exquisite!” she whispered softly. “The moonlight has got into her
very blood. If only, on that great night, she can feel the thing as she
does to-night!”

She did not say more. She did not even think any more. She watched with
parted lips as the slender girl, appearing to turn into an elf, went
gliding across the green.

The dance was all but at an end when suddenly, without warning, the big
girl was given a shock that set her blood running cold.

A twig snapped directly behind her. It was followed by an audible gasp.

At such a time, in such a place, carried away as she had been by the
dramatic picture spread out before her, nothing could have startled her
more.

Yet she must act. She was Jeanne’s defender. Strangers were here in the
night. Who? Gypsies? Gamblers? Indians?

She sprang to her feet and whirled about to stare down the trail.

“No one,” she whispered.

The dance was at an end. Jeanne threw herself upon the ground, exhausted
but apparently quite unafraid.

“She did not hear. I must not frighten her. She may never know.” Florence
walked slowly toward her companion.

“Come,” she said quietly. “It is damp here; not a safe place to rest. We
must go.”

Jeanne rose wearily to follow her.

Strangely enough, as they made their way back over the trail they came
upon no sign that anyone had been there besides themselves.

Stranger still, Florence and Jeanne were to hear of that gasp weeks
later, and in a place far, far away. Of such weird miracles are some
lives made.



                               CHAPTER XI
                             A SECRET BEGUN


Next day it rained. And how it did rain! The lake was a gray mass of
spattered suds. The trees wept.

Petite Jeanne was quite content. She had started to read a long French
novel. There was a box of bonbons by her side, and plenty of wood for the
fire.

“It does not matter.” She shrugged her shoulders. “To-morrow the sun will
shine again.” At that she lost herself in her book.

Florence enjoyed reading. Sometimes. But never in the north woods. Each
day, every day, the woods and water called to her. She endured inaction
until lunch time had come and gone. Then she drew on her red raincoat and
announced her intention of going fishing.

“In the rain!” Jeanne arched her brows, then shuddered. “Such a cold
rain.”

“It’s the best time, especially for bass. Rain spatters the water. They
can’t see you, so they take your bait.”

She drew a pair of men’s hip boots up over her shoes and knickers, donned
a black waterproof hat, and, so attired, sallied forth to fish.

“The sprinkle box is a good place,” she told herself.

John Kingfisher, an Indian, had told her of the sprinkle box. The
sprinkle box belonged to a past age for that country; the age of logging.
To keep trails smooth, that huge loads of logs might glide easily to the
water’s edge, trails in those days had been sprinkled from a large tank,
or box, on a sled. The water from the box froze on the trail. This made
the sleds move easily.

When an anchorage for a very large raft had been needed one spring, a
sprinkle box had been filled with rocks and had been sunk in the bay.

Since water preserves wood, the box remains to-day, at the bottom of the
bay, as it was twenty years ago.

“You find it by lining a big poplar tree on shore with a boathouse on the
next point,” the Indian had told her. On a quiet day she had found it.
She had seen, too, that some big black bass were lurking there.

They would not bite; seemed, indeed, to turn up their noses at her
offering. “You wait. I’ll get you yet!” She had shaken a fist at them.

So now, with the rain beating a tattoo on her raincoat, she rowed away
and at last dropped her line close to the submerged sprinkle box.

Fish are strange creatures. You may make a date with them, but you never
can be sure of finding them at home at the appointed hour. A rainy day is
a good day for fishing. Sometimes. The fish of the ancient sprinkle box
very evidently were not at home on this rainy day. Florence fished for
two solid hours. Never a bite. She tried all the tricks she knew. Never a
nibble.

She was rolling in her line preparatory to returning home, when, on the
little dock on Mystery Island that led to the lady cop’s abode, she spied
a solitary figure. This figure was garbed from head to toe in rubber hat
and slicker. Like some dark scarecrow, it put out a hand and beckoned.

“The lady cop!” Florence caught her breath. “What adventure now?”

She welcomed this promised innovation for a rainy day. A few strong pulls
at the oars and she was beside the dock.

“Come up,” said the lady cop, giving her a hand. “Come in. I must talk.”

“Talk!” The girl’s heart leaped. “Talk. The lady cop is about to talk.
What will she tell?” She followed gladly enough.

When the bar was down at the door and they had found seats before the
fire, she glanced about the room. Everything was just as it had been on
that other occasion. The furnishings were meager; a sort of bed-couch, a
rustic table, some chairs, a fireplace. No stove. And on the walls, still
those two objects, the automatic pistols. But these did not seem so
strange now.

“I live here,” the young lady began, “because this place fits my purpose.
I must not be known to many. I have told you a little. No other living
soul in this community knows as much about me.”

“And even I do not know your name,” Florence suggested quietly.

“A name. That means little in the world of crime and police. The criminal
takes a new name when it suits his purpose. So does a detective. For the
moment I am Miss Weightman.” She smiled. “I am not at liberty for the
present to tell you whether or not that is my true name. And it really
does not matter.”

For a time after that she stared moodily at the fire. Florence respected
her very evident desire for silence.

When at last the lady cop spoke, it was in a tone deep and full of
meaning. “There are days,” she began, “when silence is welcome, when it
is a joy to be alone. Sunshine, shadowy paths, gleaming waters, golden
sunsets. You know what I mean.

“But on a dreary day of rain and fog, of leaden skies, dripping trees and
dull gray waters, one needs a friend.”

Florence nodded.

“If you were to be a detective, a lady detective,” Miss Weightman asked
quite abruptly, “what sort would you wish to be, the sort that stays
about courts, prisons and parks, looking after women and children, or one
who goes out and tracks down really dangerous wrongdoers?”

“I’d want to go after the bad ones.” Florence squared her shoulders.

“Of course you would,” her hostess approved. “I’m after a dangerous one
now, a man who is known from Maine to Florida, from Chicago to San
Francisco. And he’s up here right now.”

The last declaration burst upon the girl with the force of a bombshell.

“In—in a quiet place like this!” She could not believe her ears.

“It’s a way crooks have of doing,” the other explained. “When they have
committed a particularly dangerous crime, or are in possession of stolen
goods difficult to dispose of, when the police are after them, they hide
out in some quiet place where you’d least expect to find them.

“Besides,” she added, “this location is particularly advantageous. The
Canadian border is not far away. In a speed boat, it is but a matter of
an hour or two, and you are over the line. He has a speed boat. He has
some young men with him. Perhaps they are his sons. Who knows?

“But this—” she checked herself. “This is starting at the wrong end of my
story. It can do no harm for you to know the facts from the beginning. I
need not pledge you to secrecy. Through my work I have learned to judge
character fairly accurately.”

“Thanks!” said Florence, charmed by this compliment from so strange a
hostess.



                              CHAPTER XII
                              THREE RUBIES


“Life,” said the lady cop, as the toe of her shoe traced odd patterns in
the ashes before the fire, “at times seems very strange. We are born with
certain impulses. They are with us when we enter the world. They are in
us, a part of our very being. There is in these very impulses the power
to make or break us.

“One of these impulses sometimes takes the form of a vague longing. We do
not always understand it. We want something. But what do we want? This we
cannot tell.

“As this longing takes form, many times it discloses itself as a desire
for change. We feel an impulse that drives us on. We wish to go, go, go.
For most of us, extensive travel is impossible. We have our homes, our
friends, our duties. We do not wander as the Indians and the Eskimos do.
Spring, with its showers and budding trees, beckons to us in vain. So,
too, does the bright, golden autumn.

“But, after all, what is at the back of all this longing but a desire to
take a chance? The savage, roving from place to place, wagers his very
life upon his ability to procure food in the strange land in which he
wanders.

“So we, too, at times, feel a desire to make wagers with life. But we are
city-dwellers, living in homes. No matter. We must take a chance.

“No more wholesome impulse can be found in a human soul than this.
Without this impulse implanted in a human heart, the New World would
never have been known. Man would still be dressing in skins, living in
caves, and retiring to his rest by the light of a tallow dip.

“The desire to take a chance is in every heart. No one knows this better
than does the professional gambler. He seizes upon this impulse, invites
it to act, and reaps a rich harvest.”

She paused to throw fresh fuel upon the fire. There was dry birch bark in
it. It flamed up at once. As the light illumined her intense face and
caused her eyes to glow, she said with startling suddenness:

“Somewhere there are three priceless rubies. I must find them!”

Florence sat up quite suddenly and stared at her.

“Three—three rubies!” she exclaimed. Not the words, but the manner in
which they had been spoken, had startled her.

“Three large rubies set in a manner so unique as to make the whole affair
well nigh priceless,” the lady cop went on quietly.

“You see,” she said, leaning toward Florence, “the thing is Oriental in
its design and workmanship. In fact it came from Japan. They are clever,
those little Japs. This bit of jewelry is very old. Perhaps it once
graced an Empress’s olive brow, or was worn by a priest of some long lost
religion.

“Yes,” she mused, “it is priceless; and these gamblers have it.”

Once more she paused to stare at the fire.

“Do you know,” she said at last, “that the finest impulses in life often
lead to ruin? Take that one desire for change, for risking something we
hold dear for some other thing that lies beyond us. If it is not properly
directed, it may ruin us.

“No habit ever formed is so hard to break as the habit of gambling; not
even the habit of excessive drinking. Go ask some man who has battled
both habits after each has become his master. He will tell you.

“And yet, in our cities to-day, boys and girls, some of them in their
early teens, are frequenting the worst type of gambling houses and
risking all: money, jewels, their very honor, on the turn of a wheel, the
flip of a card.

“Strangest of all, they allow some crooked scoundrel to spin the wheel or
flip the card.

“There was a girl,” she stared hard at the fire, “a very beautiful girl,
from a rich and cultured family, who gambled once and lost. To-day, in
her own sight at least, she stands disgraced.

“And because I know her, because she is kind and good in spite of her
father’s wealth, I am striving to help her. For, after all, what matters
most in life is our own estimation of ourselves. If you feel that your
life is ruined, that you face everlasting disgrace, what does it matter
that the world bows, or even applauds? It is the judgment handed down
from the throne of one’s own soul that counts most of all.

“This girl—she is hardly sixteen, a mere slip of a thing with wistful
blue eyes—as I said, belongs to a rich family. They have a cottage up
here on this very bay, I am told, and she is here now. Yet I have not
seen her. She does not know I am pulling for her, that I have resolved to
retrieve that priceless trinket and return it to her.

“Life is often that way. While we work, or play, even as we sleep, there
are those in the world who are thinking of us, striving to help us,
acting the part of fairy godmothers to us. Is it not wonderful?”

“But these rubies?” Florence asked in a puzzled tone. “If those people
are so very rich, cannot they forgive the loss of one valuable plaything?
And did it not belong to the girl, after all?”

“No,” replied Miss Weightman, “it did not belong to the girl. There’s the
rub. And you misjudge rich people if you think they do not prize their
least possessions. Perhaps they prize them more than do the poor or the
moderately rich. That is why they are rich. Their bump of ownership is
well developed. Their hands and hearts were shaped to grasp and hold. At
times this grows into selfish greed and thousands of poor people suffer
for it.

“The three rubies, set in the strangest manner, were part of a rare
collection gathered from the corners of the earth only after years of
search. It is little wonder that the owner was indignant when it was
broken into.

“The collection was in the girl’s home. She had access to it. In a moment
of bravado, at her chum’s suggestion, she slipped about her neck a chain,
to which the jewels were attached by a sort of pendant.

“Some other fancy seized her and she promptly forgot the jewels still
gleaming at her throat. A telephone rang. She answered it, consented to
join a party of her school friends, and was whirled away into one of
those wild nights that too often end in disaster.

“The gambling place they entered was Oriental. At least those who
appeared to run it were Japanese men. Back of them was an American, a
professional gambler.”

She paused.

“Last night I saw that man.”

“On—on that island!” Florence stared.

“I am sure he is the man. But I want him less than the jewels. I am not
on duty. This is my vacation. I am doing this on my own time.”

“Why?”

“Desire for a professional triumph, perhaps. Besides, as I said, I like
the girl.”

“Getting back to that night,” the lady cop went on after a pause, “the
place that girl and her friends entered was one of those that are quite
typical in some big cities. Secret passages, peculiar knock, and all
that. And then bright lights, whirling wheels, gleaming balls. All
dazzling, and dangerous.

“The little girl gambled with the rest. She won. The narrow eyes of an
Oriental had spied that priceless pendant. He knew its value; resolved to
play for it.

“For a long time the girl won. Her pockets bulged with money. Her
companions applauded. She would break the bank. Her eyes shone. Her
cheeks were flushed. Her hands trembled as she placed her wagers.

“But she didn’t break the bank.” The lady cop sighed as she stared at the
dying fire. “They never do, except in cheap fiction. Instead, she began
to lose. She lost rapidly. Soon all her money was gone. Still the mad
gambling craze was upon her. She borrowed and lost again. She offered her
I.O.U. It was accepted. Once more she lost.

“At last she gave up in despair. Then the Oriental’s eyes became mere
slits as he demanded:

“‘Pay.’

“‘But how am I to pay?’ she asked in despair.

“His slim brown finger pointed to the three rubies that gleamed like
three red eyes at her throat.

“It was the first time she had thought of them for hours. Scarcely
knowing what she did, she unhooked the chain and left the rubies as a
pledge.

“There were other places to visit. There was dancing far into the night.

“She awoke at ten o’clock the next morning with a sense of guilt and
fear. She thought of the pendant.

“In horror, she phoned her friends. They promised to go to the place and
redeem the pledge.

“There was no longer such a place. In the night the gamblers had folded
their tents like the Arabs and silently stolen away. They were in
possession of a priceless bauble. They would make the most of it.

“That,” she concluded, “was the last seen of the three rubies in their
Oriental setting. Where are they now? A reward was offered for their
return. No answer. The police and highly paid private detectives have
been on the trail. They have found nothing. Only last night I saw the man
I suspect. I must make the most of a great opportunity. I must return the
jewels. Then I will get that man!”

Those words sounded strange, coming as they did from a woman’s lips. Yet,
as Florence looked into those flaming eyes she did not doubt that the
lady cop would make good.

“But how?” she asked herself. “How?” She was destined to ask that
question many times in the days that were to come.

Miss Weightman threw fresh fuel on the fire and hung a pot of water over
it to boil. Soon they were sipping tea and munching strangely delicious
biscuits.

As they sat listening to the steady beat of the rain on the skylight of
that mysterious cabin, Florence allowed her eyes to wander from corner to
corner of the place as she speculated upon the possible motives that
might induce one to erect such a home.

“May belong to old Indian days,” she told herself. “Or, since we are near
the border, it may have been a smuggler’s cabin.”

Neither of these solutions satisfied her. She was about to ask the lady
cop what she knew concerning its history, when she heard the sound of a
voice, rising above the storm.

“Rollin’ along. Just rollin’ along.” It was the voice of a girl. “Just
rollin’ along. Just singin’ a song.”

“That,” said Florence, “is Sun-Tan Tillie.”

“And who is Sun-Tan Tillie?” asked her hostess with evident interest.

“She is Turkey Trot’s sister.”

“And who is Turkey Trot?” The young lady seemed amused.

“They are native people here—run a tourist camp; rent boats; catch
minnows, and all that. Tillie’s a dear.”

“What is she doing in the rain?”

“I’ll ask her.” Springing to the door, she threw it open.

“Yoo-hoo!” she shouted. “Yoo-hoo! Tillie! What are you doing?”

“Just rollin’ along,” Tillie came back with a laugh.

That expressed it. She was out rowing in the rain. To her inevitable
bathing suit had been added a yellow slicker and a black rubber hat.

“Tell her to come in and get warm,” said Miss Weightman, joining Florence
at the door.

Florence obeyed instructions. Tillie acquiesced readily, so the three of
them might soon have been seen sitting before the fire.

They had not talked long before Florence discovered the motive behind the
lady cop’s interest in Tillie.

Tillie had lived here all her life. She knew every nook and cranny of the
islands, points and bays. More than that, she knew a great deal about the
inhabitants of Gamblers’ Island and Erie Point. It was plain to see that
this information was given out freely enough, and would prove of great
service to the lady cop in her future movements.

But Miss Weightman was not, as you may have learned, a totally selfish
person. A friendship to her was never one-sided.

There was born in that strange cabin, on that rainy afternoon, a loyal
little club of three friends: the lady cop, Florence and Tillie, which
was to lead to many a secret meeting, for the most part in this very
cabin, and many an undertaking which in the end was to result in benefit
to all.



                              CHAPTER XIII
                              CHARMED DAYS


For Florence, the days that followed were filled with glorious adventure.
The wind, the sun, the forest and the water of that north country have
moods for every hour. Florence, the strong, healthy, joyous child of
nature, had a mood to match each change.

There were days when sky and water were gray, and the forest full of
shadows. At such times Florence wandered far into the forest’s depths to
sit and wonder about many things. What was this world she lived in? Who
had created it? What were these creatures called human beings that had
been allowed to wander for a time upon its surface? Why were they not
like horses and dogs and monkeys? Or were they very different from these,
after all?

“Yes, yes!” she would cry out to the trees that appeared to ask the
questions. “They are different! They think! Think! Do you think, you
trees? Do you think?” she would demand of a whisking chipmunk. The answer
never came except in that still small voice that was never far away. That
voice whispered, “Only men think.”

When the sky cleared and the waters sparkled, she was another person. No
problems came to her then. Enough that she was alive; that all the world
lay spread out before her. Then all her being called for action.

And to Florence, as long as water was near, action meant oars and a boat.
To her the very touch of an oar, the lift and fall of a tossing wave,
imparted a magic charm. Her splendid muscles responded to the touch of
water on the tips of her oars as the robin responds to the first beam of
the morning sun.

Oars, a boat, and away. Sometimes they entered little land-locked bays
where spotted perch lay fanning the water among the pike weed. Again,
they sought out a great submerged rock, beneath whose shadows the black
bass lurked.

Often, too, they left rod and reel untouched to watch a mother duck and
her young busy themselves at the task of gathering the day’s supply of
young frogs, bugs and snails.

There were wild, windy days, too, that seemed to shout at the wanton
spirit of youth that was hers. This seemed always a challenge. Leaving
Petite Jeanne to sit by the fire and dream of her beloved France, she
would push her frail craft off from the shore to battle winds, waves and
foam for hours on end.

As the wind rose and screamed at her, she would turn her face to it, let
her hair fly wildly out, and scream back in wild defiance.

At such times as these, it seemed to her that she must have lived before,
that for years on end she had battled winds and waves.

There are those who believe that we live our lives many times; that in
some new form we return to earth to face life’s problems anew. Florence
knew of this belief. As she battled the elements, it pleased her to
assume the role of a Norseman’s bride. In fancy, riding at the head of
some sturdy crew, she faced the battling waves of the fierce Atlantic and
entered dark caves at night, to sit by a great roaring fire munching hard
bread and venison roasted over the coals.

Florence Huyler’s love of nature amounted almost to a religion. And who
will say that she might not have found a less desirable subject for
devotion?

What is sweeter and finer than the heart of the forest, what purer than
the soul of a crested wave?

For Petite Jeanne, too, woods and water held a great charm. Only her
manner of responding to it differed. She lay for hours on the warm, sandy
beach beneath a great umbrella, half asleep, dreaming. She, too, wandered
in the forest. From these wanderings she returned in a pensive mood.
These trees, these winding paths, reminded her of the forests of France.
They whispered all too loudly of many happy days spent on the edge of
those forests with the gypsies.

On a certain day Florence learned in a forceful manner just what the
little French girl’s feelings were toward the strange people of her
adoption. They were rowing past the end of a private dock which extended
some distance into the waters of the bay, when Petite Jeanne suddenly
cried out:

“Oh look! Look! Stop! Let me read it!”

Florence looked in the direction indicated, then stared at her in
astonishment. She saw before her only a large post, part of the dock,
which rose some three feet above the water. On the post was no note, sign
or any other manner of writing that might be read.

Yet Petite Jeanne seized an oar to turn them about and bring their boat
up close to the post.

Then for the first time Florence saw what had attracted her companion’s
attention—three twigs pinned together by a small nail and fastened
securely to the post.

To the uninitiated this would have seemed the work of a playful child. To
Jeanne it spoke volumes. Even Florence understood enough of its meaning
to cause her worry.

“Now she will know,” she whispered to herself.

The three sticks were a gypsy “patteran,” a part of the sign language
left by these wandering people at every crossroad.

“See!” exclaimed Jeanne. “There are gypsies about. And oh! they are
French gypsies!” She clapped her hands. “Only in France do they make a
patteran like that.

“See! I will read it. They say they are three; a man, a woman and a
little girl. They have gone up the bay and will stay to-night at a small
island.”

Florence marveled that so much could be told by three crossed sticks.
Still, she did not doubt the French girl’s reading.

Yet more astonishing was Jeanne’s attitude toward the whole matter. She
appeared bubbling over with joy. Such a smile illumined her face as had
not been there for weeks.

“But, Jeanne,” said Florence, “do you not fear the gypsies? Once you were
kidnapped and nearly killed by them.”

“Oh—” Jeanne spread her hands, then pretended to blow a feather from her
fingers. “That is all long ago. In spirit I am still a gypsy. And the
gypsies live, not for the past, not for to-morrow, but for this day only.
This day is quite enough.

“Besides,” she added after a moment, “I do not know fear as many do.
Gypsies are not afraid. They love life so much that danger, even death
itself, is forgotten. See! I must tell you a story; then you will
understand.”



                              CHAPTER XIV
                           THE DANCE OF DEATH


“In France, at one time,” Jeanne began, as she settled back in her place
and Florence rested on her oars, “the gypsies were treated as outlaws.
They were hunted from province to province. Many were hanged on trees.
Perhaps—” She shrugged her shoulders. “Perhaps this was their own fault.
They may have behaved badly.

“All this did not rob them of their love for life. They danced and sang
all the same.

“Sometimes they had rifles and bullets. One time they had none. A company
of soldiers were stealing upon them through the forest. They were
expected at midnight, when a young man, Bratu Vaicu, who was in love with
the old chief’s daughter, said to him:

“‘This is the time Tinka promised to marry me.’

“‘Spoken like a brave gypsy!’ exclaimed the chief. ‘Let the wedding go
on.’

“Danger meant nothing to these gypsies when a bridal feast and a dance
were at hand. They kindled fires. The women prepared the feast.

“Stan and Marga decided to be married, too. Two other couples joined
them. Four couples, four weddings in all. What a night of joy for a gypsy
camp!

“They cleared a space among the trees. Old Radu took down his fiddle. He
began to sing. They all started dancing, doing the tarantella, the most
beautiful dance in the world.”

“Yes, the most beautiful,” Florence agreed.

“Shots sounded in the distance,” Jeanne went on, in a tone that was
musical, dramatic. “The shots did not disturb the gypsies. Bullets meant
death. But what was death? Were they not living now as they had never
lived before?

“The dance grew wilder. Shots came closer. Bullets whizzed by. Still they
danced.

“A soldier peered through the branches. He expected to see grim faces and
muzzles of rifles. Instead, he saw laughing eyes and flashing heels. What
did it mean? He did not understand.

“He was joined by another, another, and yet another. A beautiful gypsy
girl saw them. She seized one soldier and drew him into the dance. Others
followed. Soon all the soldiers were dancing.

“Morning found the soldiers without swords or rifles. Who cared? They had
found true happiness. They would join the gypsies. And they did.

“So you see,” Jeanne ended with a sigh, “by their very love of life,
their disregard for danger and death, they won more abundant life. But
surely you can see, too, that gypsies are not really afraid.

“Neither am I. If there are gypsies from France in these forests, I wish
to see them, to speak their language, to hear them speak my own beloved
tongue. In this strange land we have a bond of brotherhood.”

“So that is the way she feels about it!” Florence thought in some
surprise. “Then I must find her some gypsies.”

She did find them, and that very soon—the same three who had left their
patteran on the dock post. She lost them, too, only to be found by them
long weeks afterward under the most unusual circumstances.

In the meantime, there was the rowboat and water that was like glass. She
rowed on and on down the bay until the cottages, the store, the ancient
sawmill, the dock, were all but specks in the distance. Then, with a fir
tree on a point as her guide, she rowed straight for their cabin.

They ate their lunch on the beach that evening. Then Jeanne went for a
stroll along the shore.

Florence pushed her boat out into the bay and rowed toward the open lake.
She loved this spot. No small lake could have so won her affection. Here
in this land-locked bay she was always safe from storms. Yet, just
beyond, through the gap between two points of land, she could see Lake
Huron. “Makes you feel that you are part of something tremendous,” she
had said to Tillie, once. And Tillie had understood.

Now she dropped her oars and sat there alone, watching the light fade
from the sky while “some artist Saint spilled his paint adown the western
sky.”

She was glad to be alone. She wished to think. Jeanne had a disturbing
way of reading one’s thoughts, or very nearly reading them, that was
uncanny. It was of Jeanne, in part, that she wished to think.

“It is positively weird,” she told herself, “the way exciting happenings
keep bobbing up in this quiet place. Just when I think those gypsies have
left these parts and Jeanne is free from any harm they might do her, she
discovers that patteran and gets excited about it.”

She had not expected Jeanne to be so anxious to see the gypsies. Now she
was in a quandary. Should she attempt to find the gypsies and bring them
to Jeanne? She did not doubt that this could be done.

“Their camp is just over there,” she told herself, nodding toward the
little island that lay across the bay. “But if I find them; if they meet
Jeanne face to face, what then?”

Who could answer this question? Certainly it was beyond her. There were
times when she felt certain that this gypsy band had come to America for
the purpose of revenge; that they had somehow secured possession of a
speed boat, had perhaps stolen it, and that it had been they who tipped
over the rowboat and had come near drowning Jeanne on that other night.

Just now she was not so sure of this. “If they stole a speed boat they
would not dare remain so long in one place,” she thought. “But, after
all, what other motive can they have for remaining in this vicinity?”
What, indeed? They were not to be seen at the village, nor along the
shore selling baskets and telling fortunes as gypsies are accustomed to
do. Yet they did not go away.

“If they did not run us down, who did?” she asked herself for the
hundredth time. She all but hated herself for clinging so tenaciously to
this question.

She thought of the rich people who lived on Erie Point. At first she had
blamed them for the near catastrophe—had thought of it as a cruel prank.
The lady cop’s opinion of rich young people had cast a deep shadow upon
this theory. Still she had not wholly abandoned it.

Then, of course, there were the people on Gamblers’ Island. The lady cop
had said she believed someone had mistaken their boat for hers. “That
would mean that they know she is after them, and they wish to destroy
her,” she reasoned. “And yet she hides from them as if they knew nothing
about her. It’s all very puzzling.”

She recalled her latest visit to the lady cop’s cabin. They had been
seated by the lady cop’s fire when Tillie said, “O-oo! How thrilling to
be the friend of a lady detective!”

“It may be thrilling,” Miss Weightman had replied, “but you must not
forget that it is dangerous, too.”

“Dangerous!” Tillie had stared.

“The crook, the lawbreaker is sought by the detective,” the lady cop had
continued soberly. “Too often the tables are turned. The detective is
hunted by the crook. There is an age-long war between the law and the
breakers of the law.”

“Such peril,” Florence assured herself now, “should be welcomed by every
right-minded person. If being a friend to justice and to those who uphold
the arm of the law puts one in danger, then welcome, oh you danger!”

All the while she was thinking these problems through, she was conscious
of a drumming sound beating in upon her senses. Now it suddenly grew into
a roar.

“Another speed boat. And I am alone, far out at sea,” she thought to
herself in sudden consternation as, gripping the sides of her boat, she
braced herself for a sudden shock.

The shock did not come. Instead the put-put-put of a motor ceased and,
ten seconds later, the strangest craft Florence had ever seen glided up
beside her boat. She stared at it in amazement. The thing was not one
quarter the size of her rowboat; yet it boasted an outboard motor capable
of handling a twenty foot boat. It had no keel. The prow was flat as a
surfboard. There was one seat, large enough for a single person. In that
seat reposed a grinning boy of some eighteen summers.

“What is it?” The question escaped her lips unbidden.

“Name’s ‘Spank Me Again.’” The boy’s grin broadened.

“But what is it?” she persisted.

“Guess.”

“I can’t.” She was beginning to feel amused. “It makes a noise like an
airplane. But it has no wings. Looks like a surfboat. But surfboats don’t
have their own power. It can’t be a boat because it has no keel. I guess
it’s a what’s-it.”

“Correct,” laughed the boy. “And I’m a who’s-it. I’m Bradford Erie. My
dad’s frightfully rich, so I have to have this thing to advertise.”

“Advertise?” Florence was puzzled.

“To advertise the fact that I’m just like everybody else. People think
rich folks are not. But they are. How could they be different, even if
they wanted to? They eat and sleep, drink, fish, play, fight and go to
school if they are boys. And what does anyone else do? Exactly the same.”

“I think I could like that boy,” Florence thought to herself.

She said to him in a mocking tone, “It must be truly dreadful to be
rich.”

“Oh! it is!

“Want a tow back?” He changed the subject.

“That might be thrilling, and perhaps a trifle dangerous.”

“I won’t dump you out. I’m no rotter. Give me a try.”

She gave him a try. It was indeed a thrilling ride. His boat cut the foam
as it leaped from side to side. She got some spray in her face, and was
home before she knew it.

“With that boy at the wheel,” she told herself, after thanking him and
bidding him good-night, “no speed boat would run down a humbler craft.
But then, perhaps he only mans the ‘Spank Me Again.’

“That thing will be the death of him,” she said, as she finished telling
Jeanne of this little adventure. “It will turn over when it’s going at
full speed. The motor will take it to the bottom, and him with it.”
Little she knew how nearly a true prophetess she was.

That evening Florence sat for some time before the fire. She was trying
to read the future by the pictures in the flames. The pictures were dim
and distorted. She read little there. But often the smiling face of the
“poor little rich boy,” who found it necessary to advertise the fact that
he was just like other folks, danced and faded in the flames.

“He’s a real sport,” she told herself. “I hope we meet again.”

Strangely enough, with this wish came the conviction that they would meet
again, that his life and her life, the life of Tillie, of Jeanne, and of
the lady cop, were inseparably linked together.

“But after all,” she told herself skeptically, “this, too, may be but a
dream of the passing flames.”



                               CHAPTER XV
                          FISHING AND FIGHTING


“Do you want to catch some fish, some real big black bass?” Tillie’s face
shone, as she shouted this to Florence.

Did she? The supreme thrill of a born fisherman, that which comes from
seeing one’s line shoot out sweet and clean, telling of a bass on the
hook, had come to her but three times in all her young life.

“Do I!” She seized Tillie and gave her an impulsive hug. “Lead on!”

“It’s a long way out. Two miles; maybe more.”

“What’s two miles?” Florence tightened the muscles of her right arm till
they were hard as stone.

“We’ll go,” said Tillie. “I saw them yesterday; three big black bass. And
were they black! And big! Long as your arm. Anyway, half. They all
marched out to see my minnie, like three churchmen in black robes. They
looked, then turned up their noses and marched right back into the weeds.

“But now!” Her eyes shone in triumph. “I got crawdads (soft-shell
crawfish). Five of them. And do they like ’em! You’ll see!”

Half an hour later, in Florence’s clinker-built rowboat, their two pairs
of bronzed arms flashing in perfect unison as they plied four stout ash
oars, they glided down the bay toward Gull Rock Point.

A second half hour had not elapsed before they were silently drifting
toward the edge of a weed bed that ran along a narrow point.

“It’s right there before us,” Tillie said in a low tone. “You can see the
bullrushes. You can’t see the pikeweed, only a top sticking up here and
there. The pikeweed’s got wide leaves and stands thick on the bottom like
a forest. Fish hide there just as wolves and bears do in the woods.

“Here’s the spot.” She dropped her anchor without the slightest splash.

“You catch ’em by the back,” she whispered, seizing a crawfish. “So they
can’t pinch you, you hook ’em through the tail. Then you spit on ’em.
That’s for luck.”

When she had performed all these ceremonies, she tossed her crawfish far
out toward the edge of the weed bed.

“Now for yours.” She adjusted Florence’s struggling crab, then sent him
off at another angle from the boat.

After that she jammed her boy’s cap down over one eye, squinted at the
water with the other, and sat quietly down to wait.

A moment passed into eternity; another, and yet another. Five minutes,
ten, fifteen. The water lapped and gurgled about the boat. A slight
breeze set the bullrushes murmuring. A great, green dragon fly came
bobbing along over the water. A sea gull soared aloft, but uttered never
a sound. From his point of vantage, what did he see? Two girls fishing.
Quite true. But what of the fish? Were those three bass lying among the
weeds? Had they seen the crawfish?

It was Tillie who first knew the answer. The rattler was off her reel.
The reel spun round with no effort and no sound. Suddenly it stopped.

Tillie placed a thumb on the spool, then counted in a whisper. “One, two,
three, four, five.”

The tip of her pole executed a whip-like motion. The fish was hooked, the
battle begun.

She gave him line. She reeled him in. He saw the boat and ran. He leaped
a full foot from the water. He came down with a splash. The line
slackened. Was he off? No. One more wild tug.

And after that a slow, relentless battle in which the girl won.

The fish lay flopping in the boat, a fine three pounder. Tillie bent over
him, exultant, when with startling suddenness a voice sounded in her ear.

“Hey, you kids! Beat it! This is our fishing hole.” The tone was cold and
gruff.

Tillie looked up in amazement. Then she scowled. A trim sailboat, manned
by two boys and a girl, all in their late teens, had glided silently up
to them and dropped anchor.

Tillie fixed her keen blue eyes upon the trio. All were dressed in silk
pajamas and were smoking cigarettes.

“Since when?” she demanded, as her hands moved toward an oar.

“Since then!” The older of the two boys seized a short pike pole from the
deck and struck her across the back.

To Florence, who looked on, it seemed that Tillie’s red hair stood on
end, as she seized her oar and, using it as a spear, gave the intruder a
sharp thrust in the stomach that doubled him up and sent him reeling off
the narrow deck into the water.

“Hey, you little devil!” The other youth turned purple with rage.

All to no purpose. Tillie’s oar mowed him down. He, too, went into the
water.

“That for all your robbin’, gamblin’ lot!” Tillie screamed.

Then in quite another tone, “Up anchor and away. There’s a storm
brewing.”

They were away before the first of their adversaries had reached the side
of the sailboat.

The shore was not far away. Tillie headed straight for it.

“Got to defend our ship,” she breathed. “But we lack ammunition.”

Gull Rock Point is a finger of land three rods wide, a quarter of a mile
long, extending straight out into the bay. Its shores are moderately
steep and composed entirely of small rocks.

They bumped the shore, threw off their anchor, caught at overhanging
branches, and climbed to land.

They looked about. The two boys were on board the sailboat now. They were
lifting anchor and setting sail.

“They’ll come after us,” said Tillie, in the calmly assured tone of a
great commander. “Load up.” She set the example by piling her left arm
with rocks the size of a baseball.

“Don’t shoot till you see the whites of their eyes,” she murmured. “Make
every shot count. We can retreat if we must. They’d never find us in the
brush. But don’t give up the ship.”

Silence once more hung over the bay as the sailboat glided forward. The
rushes whispered, the dragon fly bobbed and the water winked in the sun.

The sailboat was a beautiful thing. Highly varnished it was, and all
trimmed in brass.

“Must have cost a small fortune,” was Florence’s mental comment. “They’re
rich. How does Tillie dare?”

In all this there was no thought of disloyalty to Tillie. She was ready
to fight the affair through at her side.

“Come on,” shouted Tillie, as the boat drew near. “Come on, and I will
give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air and to the beasts of the field.”

The answer was a contemptuous laugh.

This angered Tillie still more. “Come on!” she screamed, “come on, you
crooks, you tin horn gamblers, you—!”

The names Tillie called her adversaries belong only to the land of the
north. Florence heard them that day for the first time. We shall not
repeat them here, but utter a little prayer that Tillie may be forgiven
in Heaven.

She punctuated her last remark with a wild swing of the arm. Not so wild
as it seemed, however, for a stone, crashing against the side of the
highly polished craft, cut a jagged line of white for fully two feet.

“Come on!” she screamed. “We’ll make your pretty boat look like a tin can
the day after Fourth of July!” A second swing, a second streak of white
down the shiny surface of brown.

Suddenly, the younger of the two boys took command. He veered the boat
sharply about, then went sailing away.

“We win!”

For the first time Florence saw that Tillie’s face had gone white. She
slumped down among the rocks to hide her face in her hands.

“I forgot!” she moaned at last. “I got mad, and I forgot. Now they’ll
ruin us. Dad told me not to do it. But I done it all the same.”

After that, for a long time the bay belonged to the rushes, the ripples
and the dragon flies alone.

Rising at last, Tillie seized the anchor line, drew the rowboat close in,
climbed aboard, motioned to Florence to do the same, seized the oars and
began to row.

They fished no more that day. Not a word was spoken until the boat bumped
at Tillie’s dock.

Then Tillie, dangling the fine black bass from the end of a string, said,

“Here! You take it. I couldn’t eat a bite of it. It’d choke me.”

“Thanks.”

“It’s all right. You’re a brick.”

“So are you.”

“Good-bye.”

“Good-bye.”

Tillie was gone.



                              CHAPTER XVI
                    SHIPS THAT PASS IN THE TWILIGHT


That evening, while the sky was still pink and the water changing from
blue to purple and then to gold, Florence went for a row alone. She
wanted to think. The events of that day had stirred her to the very
depths. She had not believed that there were such persons in the world as
those three young people who had attempted to drive them from Tillie’s
fishing hole.

“Rich, that’s it,” she told herself. Yet, in the depths of her heart she
knew that this was not all.

“Tillie called them crooks, gamblers,” she told herself. “A professional
gambler must have a cold heart. He takes money in an unfair way from men
who have earned it and need it. How can one expect to find a warm heart
in the breast of a gambler’s son?”

As she asked herself this question, she rounded a small island that lay a
little way out from the point upon which the palatial summer home of
Erie, the millionaire, had been erected.

She barely missed bumping into a canoe that lay motionless in the water.
The canoe held a solitary occupant, a girl of sixteen.

Instinctively Florence knew that this was the millionaire’s daughter, she
who had lost the three priceless rubies in a gambling den.

Instantly her heart warmed. The girl was beautiful. She was rich. Yet, on
her face was a look of loneliness and sadness such as Florence had seldom
seen on any face.

“It’s not so much the disgrace of losing the rubies,” she told herself.
“This girl is young. She is just launching out into life. She has found
it strange and rather terrible. She doesn’t understand.”

Her first impulse was to pause close beside the girl, to tell her that
she had heard much about her; that she longed to aid her; that she and
the lady cop would help her; that if she would but allow it they would
explain life to her; that in the end they would restore the rubies to
their proper place.

“But she is rich,” thought Florence, with a quick intake of breath. “I am
poor. Her family is in society. I will never be.”

Ah, yes, “society,” that mysterious something to which people have given
this name. She did not understand it. There was a barrier. She must not
speak. So she passed on. And the twilight deepened into night.

She was just turning the prow of her boat toward the lights of home when
a speed boat came roaring by. Just as they were opposite her, the
searchlight from a larger boat played for an instant on the faces of
those in the speed boat. She recognized them instantly.

“Green Eyes, Jensie Jameson, and that boy who sometimes rides in the
‘Spank Me Again’!” she exclaimed beneath her breath. “So she is truly
here. Could it have been they who ran us down that night?

“Green Eyes, perhaps. But not that boy. I’d trust him anywhere.”

Yet, even as she thought this, she was tempted to question her judgment.

“Surely,” she told herself, “I have placed every confidence in other
persons, and in the end have found them unworthy. Why not this boy?”

She rowed silently and rather sadly back to their little dock. Surely
this was a puzzling world. Perhaps, after all, she understood it as
little as the “poor little rich girl,” back there in the canoe.



                              CHAPTER XVII
                          VOICES IN THE FOREST


The following day the weather was threatening. Dark clouds came rolling
down from the north. The biting chill they brought told that they had
journeyed far, from the very shores of Hudson Bay.

Petite Jeanne took one look at the out-of-doors; then she threw fresh
wood upon the fire, curled up in her favorite chair, and lost herself in
a French romance.

Not so, Florence. For her all days were alike. Come sunshine, come rain,
come heat, come cold, calm, or storm, it was all the same to her. The
world outside ever beckoned, and she must go.

This day she chose to wander alone over unfamiliar trails. As she plunged
into the depths of the forest, she felt the cold and gloom press in upon
her. It did not rain; yet the trees shed tears. From all about her came
the sound of their slow drip-drip-drip. A cold mist, sweeping in from the
lake, enveloped all. Now and again, as she passed through a grove of
cottonwoods, a flurry of golden leaves came fluttering down.

“Autumn is here,” she told herself. “We must be going back soon. But how
I long to stay!

“I love you, love you, love you,” she sang. And the song was meant for
lake and beach, forest and stream, alike.

Her trail was long that day. She wandered so far that she began to be a
little frightened.

“Can I find my way back?” she asked herself.

Well enough she knew that before her lay endless miles of slashings and
young timber which were known only to the wild deer and the porcupine;
that it was quite possible for one to become lost here for days and
perhaps die of exposure and starvation.

She was thinking of turning back, when to her great surprise she heard
voices.

“In such a place!” she whispered to herself.

At the same moment she noted that the forest ahead of her had grown thin,
that she could see patches of sky beyond.

Once more she had crossed a broad point and had come to a strange shore.

But what shore? And who were these people?

Again she paused. As before, she caught the sound of voices, this time
much more distinct.

“But what a strange language!” she thought to herself.

She concluded that she must be entering some Finnish settlement.

“Safe enough,” she reassured herself.

For all that, she moved forward cautiously. Safety first. She was far
from her own cabin.

She had just reached a point where, by parting the bushes, she thought
she might be able to catch a glimpse of the strangers, when, with the
suddenness of an eagle’s cry, a scream rent the air. And after that,
another and yet another. They were a woman’s screams.

“What is this?” she asked herself, as her cheeks blanched and the blood
seemed to stand still in her veins. “Is this a murder?”

The question spurred her to action. She was young and strong as a man. If
someone needed aid, it was her duty to step out and do her bit.

With little thought of further concealment, she moved rapidly through the
thin screen of brush.

Imagine her surprise when, upon emerging, she saw a man and a woman,
gypsies, both splashing through the lake water to their waists.

Mystification replaced surprise and fear but for a moment. It was
replaced by sorrow; for, suddenly stooping beside a great rock, the gypsy
man put out his hand and lifted a small form from the water.

“The child!” she exclaimed in a low voice, tense with emotion. “Their
child! She has been playing on the rocks. A wave caused by some passing
ship carried her away. Perhaps they did not notice in time. She may be
dead.”

Without having seen Florence, the gypsies waded ashore. There, with a
look of infinite sadness, the man placed the dripping child on the
ground.

The woman joined him. And there they stood, the two of them, in the bowed
attitudes of those who mourn for the dead.

It came to the girl then that these gypsies, who had spent all their
lives in caravans on land, knew little or nothing of the water, which
they had apparently adopted as their temporary home.

No sooner had she thought this than she sprang into action. Without so
much as a “May I?” or “If you please,” she leaped forward, pushed the
astonished parents aside, seized the child and held her, head down, in
the air. Water poured from the child’s nose and mouth. Next, Florence
placed her across the trunk of a fallen tree and rocked her back and
forth. At last she laid her on the ground and began to work her arms in
an attempt to restore respiration.

All this time the gypsies stood looking upon her as if she might be a
goddess or a demon, sent to restore or devour their child.

Suddenly the child sneezed.

On hearing this, the gypsy woman once more sent forth a piercing scream,
then threw herself upon Florence’s neck.

Shaking herself free, Florence resumed her work.

A moment later the child began to cry.

A few husky wails from the child, and Florence’s work was complete.

After removing the child’s damp clothing, Florence joined the man in
making a fire. She taught the woman, who had partially regained her
composure, how to chafe the child’s hands and feet; then she prepared to
leave them.

“I wish Jeanne were here,” she told herself. “I would like to know who
they are, where they came from, and why they are here. So would Jeanne.
But Jeanne is far away. If I bring her here they will be gone. I cannot
take them to her. Have to trust to good fortune to bring us together
again.”

Did she trust in vain?

If she had seen the look on that woman’s face as she once more vanished
into the forest, she would have known certainly that in this world there
was one person who would, if fate required it, go to the gallows or the
electric chair for her.

Thus does fate play with the children of men. She casts before them
golden opportunities. If they prove themselves steadfast, true and
fearless, in her own good time, in some far future it may be, in ways of
which they do not dream, she sends her reward.



                             CHAPTER XVIII
                                REVERIES


Florence had not lost herself in the forest. Though she had not the
slightest notion what shore she stood on at the time she brought the
gypsy child back to life, she experienced little difficulty in finding
her way back to her cabin.

Two hours had not elapsed when once more she sat before her own fire,
drinking strong coffee and relating her adventure to Jeanne.

“But the poor gypsy child!” Jeanne exclaimed as she finished. “Out in
such weather. And after such an adventure!”

“Their camp must have been very near,” replied Florence. “And you know
well enough that the gypsies can arrange a cozy camp out of less than
nothing at all.”

“Oh yes, yes, surely that is so!” exclaimed the little French girl.

“But how unkind fate is.” Her tone changed. She became sad. “Here I am
pining my heart away for one look at some gypsy friends. And all I see is
three tiny twigs they have touched, their patteran, while you, who care
so little, meet them at every turn.”

“When the storm is over,” Florence sought to console her, “we will row
over to that island where we saw their camp. Perhaps they are still
there.”

“They will not be.” Jeanne refused to be comforted. “Always they are on
the move. When one meets them, the proper thing to say is, ‘Where do you
come from to-day? Where do you go to-morrow?’

“How strange these gypsies are!” Jeanne mused after a moment of silence.
“Always they are on islands and on points of land where there are no
roads. They travel by water. Water gypsies. How quite novel that is! And
yet, in southern France there are some such people. There are villages
where all the fisher-folk are gypsies. Brave and daring seamen they are,
too.

“Ah, yes, very brave. You must not think that gypsies are cowards.
Gypsies fought in the great war, fought and died. Ah, yes! So you see
this beautiful story of the stage, this play in which I am to have so
wonderful a part, this tale of gypsies in war, is not without its
parallel in life.”

At that she lapsed into silence. She was thinking again of that night,
which each sunset found a day nearer, when on an American stage, before
many hundreds of people, she should dance the gypsy tarantella on a
miniature battlefield beneath the light of an imaginary moon.

At such times as this, Florence loved to watch the changes that passed
over Jeanne’s face. As she imagined herself in the wings, awaiting her
cue, a look of uncertainty, almost of fear, was written there. As, still
in her imagination, she stepped out to face her audience, a wistful
expression banished fear. After that, as she entered into the compelling
rhythm of the dance, came complete transformation. Her face, warmed as if
by the mellow light of the morning sun, became the face of a Madonna.

“I only hope,” Florence thought to herself, “that the play proves a great
success. It means so much to her. And she is so kind-hearted, so
unspoiled. She has lost so much; has so much to win.”

“Listen to the rain!” cried Jeanne. “Who would believe it could come down
so hard?”

“Three days’ rain. That’s what the old timers say it will be. We have so
little time to spend here. And there is so much that might be done.”
Florence sighed.

“Do you know,” she spoke again, after watching the glow of the fire and
listening to the steady patter-patter on the roof, “living in a place
like this affects me strangely.”

She stretched herself full length in the great cedar chair. “I feel as if
I had always lived here, never been out of the woods; as if I were very
poor, ignorant and strong. I find it hard to believe that I have warm,
soft, bright garments of fine spun cotton and silk. It is as if my
garments had always been of brown homespun, my boots of coarsest leather,
my hat of rain-proof stuff; as if I tramped days and days over miles of
trail that would weary city-dwellers, but can only bring fresh joy to the
one of browned features and brawny limbs.

“And why not?” she cried with some passion, sitting up quite abruptly.
“Why not a cabin like this, and peace? In winter the trap line, a long,
long tramp in high boots through drifted snow. A weasel pelt here, a mink
there, and by this pond muskrat skins.

“And out over the lake’s four foot ice, far across the frozen inland sea
to Goose Island. There a fish shanty, a hole in the ice, twenty fathoms
of line and a rich catch of lake trout and sturgeon. Why not always at
night the crackling fire, the bacon and corn bread eaten with a relish
because one is truly hungry?

“Why not? No worry about room rent, a run in a silk stocking or a frayed
Sunday dress. Why not always boots of cowhide and coats of canvas that do
not wear out?”

“Oh! but after all you are a girl,” smiled Petite Jeanne.

“In this day,” said Florence with great emphasis, “that does not matter.
All that matters is that I am as strong as a man; that if I choose I can
follow a man’s trap line or fish in a man’s shanty over the frozen lake.”

“That is not all.” The French girl’s tone was quiet, full of assurance.
“Women are born with a desire for beauty, softness and color. We live for
that which we see and touch; your eye catches the glorious red, the
orange, the blue of a gown, and it enchants you. Is it not so?”

“Yes, but here at the edge of the lake we have the sunset. What could be
more gorgeous?

“Ah! But that you cannot touch.

“Did you never note?” Jeanne’s tone grew serious. “Did you never come to
realize how much we live for the sense of touch? A scarf of silken gold
is held out before you. You say, ‘Let me see it.’ But you hold out a
hand. Why? You wish to touch it. You have missed a friend for a long
time. She returns. Your hands, your lips, meet. Why? Because you are not
happy until you have touched the one you love.

“No, no, Miss Florence! This is very wonderful, very peaceful. It is so
very grand. But after all, it is only for now.

“To-morrow, next day, sometime very soon you are going to hear the call
of the city, to feel its pull at your heart. All the bright lights, the
colors, the shouts, the throngs will call to you. And you will go. For
there, after all, is life. Life—beautiful, rushing, throbbing life. That,
my dear friend, is a city. It is found nowhere else.”

Leaping from her chair, the little French girl went whirling across the
floor in her fantastic dance. She danced herself quite out of the cabin
and out into the rain, leaving Florence to meditate upon her strange
words, to conclude that Jeanne was more than half right, then to spring
suddenly to her feet, crying:

“Come back here, Petite Jeanne! Come back right now. You will die of
pneumonia.”

“Ever hear of a sprite dying of pneumonia?” Jeanne’s eyes were as full of
laughter as her golden locks were of water, as she came dancing back.

“You’re not a sprite,” said Florence. “Even if you were one, who had
taken human form, I’d have to keep you human until that play had its
run.”

“Oh! the blessed play!” said the French girl contritely, at the same time
snatching at her drenched garments. “How one does hate being in training
for anything.”

Ten minutes later, wrapped in a white, woolly blanket, she sat toasting
before a fire. At this moment everything, past and future, was forgotten
in the glorious now.



                              CHAPTER XIX
                            THE STOLEN TRUNK


The three days’ rain became a reality. A steady downpour, that set the
forest mourning in earnest and turned the lake into a blanket of gray,
settled down over all.

Petite Jeanne did not care. She had been sent north to rest. There was
still a pile of unread romances in the corner cupboard. The shed at the
back of the cabin was piled high with dry wood. The fire burned ever
brightly. What more could she wish?

When she tired of reading she called to Tico, who lay sleeping by the
fire hours on end, and together they went through some difficult step of
the gypsy dance.

To Florence, save for one condition, this prolonged downpour would have
seemed nothing short of a catastrophe. She was shut away from her beloved
out-of-doors, but this only gave her more time to spend with that
fascinating person, the lady cop.

The lady cop had become all but a pal to Florence and Tillie. Every
evening, after the day’s work was done and darkness had blanketed the
water, Tillie came stealing over to the mystery cabin.

And she never lacked a welcome. She gave the lady cop many a needed bit
of information. With her aid, the lady cop had so far progressed in her
investigation that she whispered to them on the second day of the rain
that soon she would be ready to wire for reënforcements. When these
arrived she would spring the trap.

“And then?” Florence breathed.

“Then the three rubies will be in my hands. And someone will go to jail.

“But let’s not talk too much,” she added. “The best laid plans fail often
enough.”

The hour of the day that Florence and Tillie loved best was the one which
preceded the lady cop’s shooing them out for the night. At that hour,
after brewing herself a cup of coffee and drinking it steaming hot, she
spun weird tales of her adventures as a lady detective.

An only child of a police captain, at the age of eighteen she had seen
her father brought home dead, shot in the back while assisting in a raid
on a notorious gambling house. Over her father’s dead body she had vowed
that she would take his place.

When the time came, when she was of age, her mother, having no boys to
give to the great service of protecting humanity, had smilingly,
tearfully, given that which she had, a girl. And to the city she had
already proved herself a priceless gift.

Working her way secretly into places where no man could ever have
entered, she had brought to light places of vice and crime which for long
years had remained hidden in the dark.

Time and again she had succeeded in attaching herself to some wild young
set, and in so doing had not alone shown them their folly, but had also
brought those who preyed upon them to justice.

“It’s not always easy to place money on the board,” she said one night,
“on the gaming board, with a hand that does not tremble, when you realize
that there are those watching who would gladly kill you, did they but
know who you were.

“Twice I was discovered and locked up. One of these times I let myself
out of the window to the street two floors below on a rope made of my own
skirt. The other time a squad wagon came in time to release me.

“Listen to this!” Her eyes burned brightly. “Never believe the stories
you read in cheap magazines. These stories tell you that crooks are
really good sports, generous, chivalrous and all that. They are not—not
one in a thousand. They are hard as flint; cruel, heartless, ready for
any savage deed that will give them liberty and the wild life they
crave.”

After this outburst on that second rainy night, she lapsed into silence.

In time she sprang to her feet and drew on her raincoat. “I am going out
for a row alone in the dark,” she said. “Stay here and keep the fire
burning. It’s not late. I’ll be back in an hour.”

She left the cabin. Tillie and Florence sat by the fire.

“Ever hear how this cabin came here?” Tillie asked.

“No,” Florence replied quickly.

“It’s sort of interesting. I’ll tell you.”

“Oh! Please do!”

“This,” Tillie began, “was once the cabin of a ship.”

“It looks the part,” replied Florence. “But where are the portholes?”

“Someone has covered them.” Tillie stepped to the wall, fumbled for a
short time with a fastening, then swung back a section of the paneling
which was, in reality, a small door, revealing a circle of brass framing
a glass.

“But why a ship’s cabin on land?” Florence’s face took on a puzzled
frown.

“It was all on account of old Captain Abner Jones. His ship was wrecked
on the shoals near Goose Island. She was the ‘Mary C,’ just a freighter,
but a good strong one.

“Captain Abner Jones had her for his first command. She was his last,
too. He lived in this cabin and sailed the Great Lakes for thirty-five
years.

“Then, when she struck one stormy night, through no fault of his, he
refused to leave her. All through the storm he stuck there, though she
was half torn to pieces. When the storm was over, his men went out to get
him.

“Still he wouldn’t come. ‘No, men. Much obliged all the same,’ he told
them. ‘You’ve been a good crew. You’ll find other berths. But mine’s
here. I’ll never leave this cabin.’

“The men went aside. I’ve heard my father tell it lots of times. They
talked it over. They loved their old skipper. They knew the next storm
would do for the ship, and him, too, if he stayed. So they made a plan.

“‘All right, Cap,’ the first mate said, when they had come back to him,
‘you have your way. And we’ll have ours, too. Give us a day, mebby two,
and we’ll put this cabin in a safe place.’

“‘Meanin’ what?’ the captain asked.

“‘That we’ll set the cabin ashore, and you in her.’

“I guess the captain saw they were too strong for him, so he let them
have their way.

“They took a lot more than two days. You see what a neat job they did.
Why, there’s even a hold to the place! They built it of ship’s timbers.”

“A hold!” Florence stared at her.

By way of answer, Tillie began rolling up the canvas that covered the
floor. When she had done this, she pried up a plank, then another. Next
she sent the gleam of a flashlight into the dark depths below.

“Sure enough, a real hold!” exclaimed Florence.

“And there’s a trunk!” Tillie, too, was surprised. “How long do you
suppose it’s been there?”

“Not long. See! The copper is not tarnished. It’s her trunk.” She spoke
of the lady cop.

“It must be. But such a queer trunk!”

It was indeed an unusual bit of baggage. Made of some very hard tropical
wood, it was bound by broad bands of copper. Strangest of all were its
straps. They were four inches wide and fully three quarters of an inch
thick.

“What monster has a hide like that?” Tillie asked in amazement.

“A walrus or an elephant.”

“It’s empty.”

“Quite naturally. One does not leave one’s things in a trunk in a cellar
like this.”

“But it’s wide open.”

“That’s a bit strange.”

“It’s all strange. A woman with a trunk like that!”

For a moment they stood there, staring down into that dark chasm.

“Tell you what!” exclaimed Tillie at last. “I’ve got an idea!”

Tillie was given to having ideas. Some of them were quite wild, for
Tillie was more than half wild herself.

“Let’s steal her trunk!” she cried, clapping her hands.

“That,” said Florence in some disgust, “seems a dumb idea.”

“Not so dumb as you think. Listen. Day before yesterday I brought the
lady cop a small bag of balsam tips; you know, the green end of twigs
that smell so swell.”

“Yes?”

“She took one sniff of them, then threw up her hands and said, ‘I’d like
a trunk full, a whole trunk full to take home to my friends, for making
pillows.’

“We’ll steal her trunk and hide it in the woods. We’ll fill it with
balsam tips. Turkey Trot and I will bring it back. She’ll drop dead when
she sees it. She’ll never know it’s been gone until she sees the balsam
tips. Come on. Give me a hand. She’ll be back pretty soon. We’ll just
hide it in the brush until we go home. Then we’ll carry it over to your
point.”

Florence, though not fully convinced of the wisdom of such high-handed
proceedings, was quite carried away by Tillie’s bubbling enthusiasm. In
less time than it takes to tell it, the trunk was up from the dark hole
and away to the brush, the planks down again, the canvas spread smoothly
in place.

They were not a moment too soon. Shaking the rain from her coat, the lady
cop came breezing in.

“It’s glorious!” she enthused. “Even in the night and the rain. I hate to
leave it all. But I fear I must. Very soon.”

This last remark sent a chill running up Florence’s spine. But she said
never a word.



                               CHAPTER XX
                         13-13 AND OTHER SIGNS


“Look at this cabin!” The lady cop’s voice was filled with consternation
as she spoke. Florence and Tillie could only stand and stare. The lady
cop’s room was a wreck. She had gone out before dawn; had been gone an
hour, had picked up Florence and Tillie on her way back, and now this!

Florence had never seen such a roomful of confusion. Table upside down,
chairs overturned, clothing scattered everywhere, broken glass from the
transom overhead, the canvas torn up, a gaping hole where the imitation
ship’s hold was; such was the scene upon which she gazed in the utmost
astonishment.

“You know,” said Tillie in a tone that was both serious and solemn, “we
girls didn’t do that.”

“Of course not, child!” The lady cop laughed in spite of herself. “For
all that, I know who did it. And soon enough they shall have their pay.

“I know, too, what it was they wanted. And they—” The lady cop advanced
to the center of the room to cast one glance to the void below, “and they
got it!”

“Wha—what was it they wanted?” Florence managed to stammer. She knew the
answer, but wanted it from the lady cop’s lips.

“My trunk.”

“Your trunk! Why should they want that? It was—” She checked herself in
time.

The lady cop gave her a sharp look, but proceeded to answer her question
as well as she might.

“The truth is, I don’t know why they wanted that trunk,” she began. “They
have wanted it for a long time. Now that they have it, I hope they are
satisfied. I can get a tin one down at the store for a few dollars. And
it, I hope, will contain no secrets.”

“Secrets!” Florence wished to tell her own secret, that the mysterious
trunk was safely locked up in a hunting cabin back in the woods where she
and Tillie had carried it through the rain and the dark. She did not
quite dare.

“That trunk,” said the lady cop, up-ending a chair and dropping into it,
“has been the most spooky thing you ever saw.

“My cousin bought it for me at a police auction sale.”

“A police auction sale!” Tillie stared at her hard.

“Once a year the police department sells all the lost, stolen and
unclaimed articles that have come into its keeping. You’d be surprised at
the variety of articles sold there; electric drills, oriental rugs,
watches, knives, burglars’ tools, suitcases full of silks—everything.

“This trunk was in the sale. It was filled with a lot of worthless
clothing. But my cousin bought it for me. It was such an unusual affair.
Teakwood, heavy copper, walrus hide. You wouldn’t understand unless you
saw it.”

Florence and Tillie exchanged significant glances.

“This cousin of mine is a queer chap,” the lady cop went on. “He’s always
trying to break up superstitions. Belongs to a Thirteen Club formed in
his academy days. Thirteen fellows lived in a building numbered 1313.
Table always set for thirteen, whether they were all there or not. Such
things as that.

“Now every year on the thirteenth day of a month, Friday if possible,
they have a banquet. Six of the thirteen are dead. Four met violent
deaths. Yet they keep it up. Thirteen places set. Seven seats filled. Six
vacant.

“Makes you shudder to think of it. But he loves it.

“He bought this trunk because a crook had owned it. That’s supposed to
bring bad luck.

“He hadn’t got half way home with it before someone dragged it off the
truck. He crowned the fellow with half a brick and retrieved the trunk.

“He took it home. That night he woke up to see it disappearing out of the
window. When he fired a shot through the window the trunk paused in its
journey and he took it back.

“Then, because I am a policewoman, he presented it to me. And here—here
it is not. They got it at last!”

Once more the two girls exchanged glances. They said never a word.

“Queerest part of it all is,” the lady cop concluded, “the thing was
chuck empty!

“But come on!” she exclaimed, springing up. “Let’s get this place
straightened out. Then we’ll fry some bacon.”

“Shall we tell her?” Tillie asked in a low tone as she and Florence
walked down the little dock half an hour later.

“I don’t know. Not just yet.” Florence’s face took on a puzzled look. “If
that trunk has such wandering ways, perhaps it’s safer where it is. Does
anyone go to that hunting shack?”

“Not this time of year.”

“And no one besides us knows where the trunk is, and we won’t tell.”

“Cross my heart!”

“See you this afternoon,” Tillie added. “We’re going fishing.”

“Are we?”

“You know it! Got to work this forenoon. Can go after dinner. And boy!
Will there be fishing!

“You know,” she added with all the wisdom of an old timer, “after a three
days’ storm is the very best time to fish. When it is sunny and still,
the fish lay round and get lazy; too lazy to eat. A storm stirs ’em up.
Watch ’em bite this P. M. So long!” She went skipping away.



                              CHAPTER XXI
                               “FISHIN’”


Youth is the time of life when perils, sorrows and battles are soon
forgotten; when joy persists, and the anticipation of some fresh thrill
is ever uppermost in the mind. As they started on the proposed fishing
trip rather late that afternoon, Tillie, to all appearances, had
forgotten her battle with the children of a rich city gambler. The
splendid black bass they had captured, the memory of the thrill of the
chase, was still with her.

“Do you know,” she said to Florence, “I think the other two bass are
larger, much larger? Perhaps one is a five pounder.

“We are going to have a grand time!” she enthused. “There are two big
muskies lurking in those weeds. I saw them once. They may strike to-day.”

“You don’t think those hateful people will come back?” Florence wrinkled
her brow.

“Guess we gave ’em enough!” Tillie clipped her words short.

“You said they’d ruin you.”

“Mebby they can’t.” Tillie’s strong arms worked fast at the oars.

They arrived at the fishing hole. Once more the conditions were ideal.
Dark, slaty clouds lay spread across the sky. A slight breeze roughened
the surface of the water. Such water as it was! Gray, shadowy water that
suggested fish of immense proportions and infinite fighting power.

The whispering rushes, the gurgling water, the bobbing dragon fly, were
all there.

“As if we had been gone but an hour,” Florence said, as she dropped the
anchor.

“Yes,” replied Tillie, “this old bay changes very little. I climbed up on
Gull Rock to steal a gull’s eggs when I was three. And there it stands
still. And still the gulls lay their eggs there. Only difference is, I
have learned how foolish it is to steal their eggs.”

She baited her hook with a large minnow, drew out her line until thirty
feet of it hung loosely coiled in her left hand; then with a deft toss
landed the minnow thirty feet from the boat.

“There,” she sighed, “right over there.”

Florence was obliged to satisfy herself with a shorter cast.

“Do you know,” said Tillie, and the sound of her voice glided along like
the air of some old song, “this has been my fishing hole ever since I was
old enough to paddle the first little tub of a boat I ever owned? But
it’s never lost its mystery, this hole hasn’t.

“There have been times when I thought I knew all about it. I’ve skated
over it in winter when the ice was like glass. I could see every stone,
every stick and log at the bottom. I peered in between every little
forest of pikeweed and said, ‘Nope, there’s nothing there.’

“There have been times in summer when the surface of the water was smooth
as a looking-glass. Then I peeked around in every little corner down
there in the depths of it, and I said, ‘Ah, ha! At last I have you! I
know all about you. You’re only a hole full of water with a sandy bottom
and a shelving bank. You’re full of weeds and other common things.’

“Just about then the sun goes under a cloud. A little breeze ripples the
water. I can’t see a thing. I wait. The rain comes pattering down. I put
a shiny minnow or a dark old crawdad on my hook and throw it far out over
the edge of the old fishing hole. Pretty soon the line starts stealing
away. My reel goes round and round, silent as a whisper. Then of a sudden
I jerk. I begin reeling in. A beautiful thing all green and gold leaps
from the water. But I have him still.

“‘Ah!’ I cry. ‘A black bass. Where did he come from? The old fishing
hole, to be sure.’ And right away that old pool with its mysterious
blue-green top of rippled, spattered water is as full of mystery as it
ever was.”

“Isn’t it wonderful to have such a fishing hole!” Florence enthused.

“Don’t all boys and girls have fishing holes?”

“I’m afraid not.”

“In the cities, of course not. It’s too bad.”

For a time after that they were silent. It was Florence who broke the
Sabbath-like stillness of the old fishing hole.

“People,” she mused, “are very much like fishing holes. You have a
friend. You are with him a great deal. He tells you all he can about
himself. He turns the light of truth upon himself and allows you to gaze
into the very depths of his soul. At last you say, ‘There is no mystery
left in his being. I know it all.’ Then of a sudden, in time of joyous
tempest, splendid success or dark storm of disappointment and sorrow, in
a moment demanding heroic courage, he shows you in an instant that there
are possibilities in his being of which you never dreamed.

“Cities are like that, too,” she went on. “Take the great city I call
home. It’s a very plain city where millions toil for their daily bread.
I’ve been all over it. I often say to myself, ‘There is no further
mystery in this city.’ I have no more than said it than I come upon a
Chinatown, a theatre, a court room, some dark place at night where such
persons meet as I have never known. Then that old city seems to look up
and laugh as it exclaims, ‘No mystery!’”

“It must be wonderful to explore such a city!” Tillie’s words were filled
with longing.

“Perhaps,” replied Florence, “we can do it together some time.”

A large perch took Florence’s minnow. She reeled him in and threw him in
the live-net.

“Probably all I’ll get,” she commented, “but they are fine fried brown in
butter.”

“None better.”

Tillie lost her minnow. A second and a third disappeared into that dark
expanse.

“Somebody’s stealing my bait.” She selected a very large minnow and
hooked it on with meticulous care. Then out into the deep he went to join
his comrades.

The manner in which he did this was startling in the extreme. Hardly had
he hit the water than Tillie’s reel flew round and round, quite beyond
control. With a quick glance toward the sky, she assured herself that
some thieving bird had not seized her bait, then she pressed a thumb on
her reel as she seized the handle to end its wild flight. Fortunately her
line was long and strong. She had the fish under control in another
moment.

But to play him, to land him—that was the problem.

“What is he?” Florence asked in an awed whisper.

“Who knows?”

Tillie reeled him in for twenty yards, then let him take the line slowly
out.

“Tire him out,” she explained.

This she repeated three times. Then as a look of fixed determination
settled on her face she said quite calmly:

“The landing net.”

Florence was ready. Settling her feet firmly, Tillie began to reel in.
The manner in which she reeled in that mysterious monster was a thing to
marvel at. And he came, foot by foot, yard by yard, fathom by fathom,
until a great gaping mouth appeared close to the surface.

“A pike!” Tillie’s voice betrayed her disappointment. “But he’s a darb.
We must have him. Get ready. When I give him line, get the net ahead of
him.”

Florence obeyed with trembling fingers. She was a second too late. Tillie
did not give the powerful fish line. He took it. Grazing the rim of the
landing net, he shot away, taking fathoms of line with him.

The process of wearing him out was repeated. Once again he was brought to
the side of the boat. This time Tillie gave him very little line.
Unfortunately it was not enough. As his head shot toward the landing net,
the hook that protruded through his jaw caught on the rim of the net.
There was a thundering of water, a whirlpool of white spray, and he was
gone.

“Dumb!” exclaimed Tillie, throwing down her rod.

“Lost him!” Florence dropped the net. “But then,” she added, “a pike’s no
good except to look at.”

“That’s right,” agreed Tillie. “And we came out here for a big black
bass. We’ll have him too!” She baited her hook anew.

An hour passed, and another. The sun hung for a time above the cedars,
then slowly sank from sight. The water turned golden, then red, then
steel blue. Still they fished on.

The number of fine perch, nine, ten, twelve inches long, which Florence
dropped into the live-net, grew and grew. Tillie flung hers overboard in
great contempt, as soon as they were hooked, and grumbled because they
took her bait.

“Do you know,” said Florence teasingly, “I believe I have five pounds of
fish? You have tried all afternoon for a five pounder, and got nothing.
In life one should humbly accept that which comes, and hope for bigger
things.”

“I wonder.” Tillie studied her face with tired eyes. “I wonder if that’s
so, or do you win best if you insist on having only the big things?”

“I suppose,” Florence replied, “that one does that which one’s nature
demands. I can’t throw a good perch away. You can’t keep one. It’s a
queer old world.”

“It is!” Tillie punctuated her remark with a vigorous overhand throw that
landed her minnow far out into the darkening water.

“Watch!” she exclaimed a moment later. “See that line go out! It’s a
bass!”

There is nothing sweeter than the swift run of a bass before he turns his
minnow and swallows it.

Zing! Tillie snapped the line. “Hooked!” she exclaimed, planting her feet
far apart.

The ripples had subsided. The water was like polished steel at the
surface. Yet one could see far into those mysterious depths.

“See!” she exclaimed tensely. “I’ve got him! The big one! And how meekly
he comes in!”

What she said seemed true. She was reeling in rapidly. At the same time a
monster of the lake, such a bass as Florence had never dreamed of, came
racing toward the boat.

Three yards, five, he shot forward. Florence stared. The expression on
Tillie’s face was a strange thing to see. Hope, joy, triumph vied there
with fear, distrust, despair. It was her great chance. She had staked all
in the one cast. Was she to win or lose?

During all this time the afterglow of the sun had lighted the water. In
an instant, without warning, it faded and near darkness came. Not so
soon, however, but that the girls were able to witness a strange sight.
With a sudden stop and whirl, the big bass changed course and shot away.
But Tillie’s reel? It did not spin. She still reeled in. A steady tug
held her line taut. Ten seconds later a beautiful green-tinted bass,
weighing perhaps a pound, broke the water and landed with scarcely a
struggle in the boat.

What had happened? This little one and the giant companion had fought for
the deadly minnow. He had won.

For fully half a minute, while the end of twilight became night, Tillie
stood staring at her catch. He had flapped himself loose from the line
and lay there in the boat snapping about.

Suddenly she seized him and threw him far into the rushes. Then she
dropped into a seat to hide her face in her hands.

Tillie was of the emotional type. Some people are. What of it? Theirs is
the privilege to weep or to shout for joy. Tillie wept.

But what was this? Of a sudden their boat gave a lurch that sent Florence
sprawling over the stern seat.

What had happened? Her eyes told her in an instant. Her heart went to her
throat. A speed boat, with power shut off, had glided upon them
unobserved. The now invisible occupants had seized their anchor line,
then started their powerful motor. They were now headed for the outermost
point of land and the open sea.

“They’ve got us!” Tillie exclaimed. “They’ve got us!”

“Who?” Florence screamed. “In the name of all that’s good, who?”

Tillie did not reply. She was making her way forward.



                              CHAPTER XXII
                               KIDNAPPED


“They are carrying us away!” Florence cried. Her tone was that of
despair.

“We must cut the tiller,” was Tillie’s answer.

“Then they’ll run us down, as they did Jeanne and me.”

“No matter! We must cut the tiller!”

“But how? We have no knife.”

Tillie thought a moment. Then once more she crept forward toward the
bobbing prow. Once there, she gripped the boat’s gunwale, reached far
forward, then set her teeth in the strong rope.

The tiller was an extra thick one, and quite new. Nature had provided
Tillie with a most excellent set of teeth. She used them now with a skill
born of despair. Both she and Florence were strong swimmers. Though their
boat were wrecked, they might still reach land.

“If only we do not get out of the channel,” she thought as she renewed
her attack on the stubborn strands of rope.

As they left Hoyt’s Bay behind, the water grew rougher. Shooting forward,
the slight rowboat plowed through waves instead of riding over them.
Tillie was drenched to the skin. There were times when her very form was
lost in spray. Yet she stuck to her post.

Night had come. There was no moon. The sky was black. The sea was black.
The night was cold. Florence shuddered. Then, feeling the water creeping
over her feet, she began to bail.

Tillie’s task was half done. How stout the rope was. The pull on it was
tremendous, yet with half the strands cut, the boat rode on.

“How—how many more strands?” she asked herself as she spat out a mouthful
of bristly fibre.

“Soon it will be too late,” she told herself. No longer could she
distinguish land from water, but years of experience told her that they
were fast leaving land behind, that they would, in a very brief space of
time, be in the open waters of Lake Huron.

“And then—” she breathed. She dare not think.

The rope was at last three-fourths eaten away. The strain on the
remaining strands was telling. They were beginning to stretch when
suddenly a final cowardly and brutal act capped the atrocities of the
heartless invisible ones. Had they been watching? Did they know the
girl’s purpose? Had they judged their position? Who knows? Enough that of
a sudden their boat gave a swerve to the right. It executed a curve that
no light rowboat could endure. Next instant the girls found themselves
pitched head foremost into the icy waters, while their empty boat sped
on.

Florence struck out with hands and feet. She gave herself half a minute
to regain composure. Then she looked for Tillie. Tillie was swimming with
one hand while she shook a belligerent fist at the fast disappearing
speed boat.

“Well!” she exclaimed when she had completed this ceremony to her
satisfaction. “We are free!”

“Free as a gull. Where’s land?”

“I don’t know.”

“How long can you swim?”

“A long time. How long can you?”

“A long time. But in this water?”

“I don’t know. Boo! It’s cold. Let’s swim.”

“Where to?”

“I don’t know.”

At that moment, as if in answer to an unuttered prayer, a strange thing
happened. A golden light shone across the water. A golden disk appeared
on the horizon.

“The moon! Thank—thank God!” Tillie’s tone was reverent.

“The moon, yes,” said Florence. “It usually rises.”

“But can’t you see? It’s not rising behind water, but trees. That’s Goose
Island over there. It’s three miles from the mainland.”

“What’s Goose Island?”

“It’s where we go fishing through the ice in winter.”

“Anybody live there?”

“No.”

“Any cabins?”

“No.”

“Then—”

Florence stopped herself. She was about to say that outside a cabin, with
no fire, drenched to the skin, they would be chilled to death, when a
voice seemed to whisper, “One thing at a time. Only one.”

“We’ll swim for it,” she said quietly. “How far do you think it is?”

“Two miles, perhaps.”

Two miles! Her heart sank.

“But the wind and waves are with us. We’ll make it.”

“The winds and the waves obey Thy will,” rang through Florence’s ears.
“Yes,” she replied, “we will make it.”

For a long time there was no sound save the dip-dip of their strong arms
and the occasional swirl of a whitecap as it broke near them.



                             CHAPTER XXIII
                          STRANGE DELIVERANCE


An hour passed and still two dark spots, like markers for a gill net,
rose above the waves. The moon, rising higher and higher, brought out
more distinctly the ragged tree line of Goose Island.

At times the weary girls turned on their backs to float like so much
lifeless driftwood. When their weary muscles had gained renewed strength,
they began their task again.

There were times when Florence, stout-hearted though she was, was tempted
to give up hope. At such times she envisioned the rocky beach, the
cabinless forest of scrub trees that must grace the surface of the
island. She felt, too, the chill of the wind that must await them there.

“What’s the use?” she asked herself many times. And always the answer
came, “One step at a time is enough for me.” She must trust the future.

As for Tillie, she never faltered. Such is the soul of one bred to the
rigor, the suffering and perils of the north country. It accepts the
condition that each moment offers and awaits the rest. Who will say that
this, as a rule of life, is not best?

“Cheerio, old thing!” Tillie exclaimed at last. “Another quarter of an
hour, and we will be there.”

There was courage in her voice, but a look of utter weariness in her eye.

“Will she last?” Florence drew one more portion from her reserve
strength, prepared, if need be, to see her gallant friend through.

Her aid was not needed. The sturdy muscles and vigorous heart of this
backwoods girl carried her through. Certainly no city cousin of hers who
starves her body and poisons her blood to obtain a slim and graceful
figure could have done as much. Who wants to be a wisp that contains a
soul? Who would not rather be a Greek goddess?

They landed at last upon a broad and pebbly beach.

As they crept up away from the waves, the sharp pebbles brought no pain
to hands and knees. They were benumbed by cold, too exhausted to feel
pain.

Yet, after Tillie had laid there for a moment, she drew herself to a
sitting position to say an astonishing thing.

“Florence,” she exclaimed, “we’ll get that old black bass yet!”

In spite of the cold and exhaustion, Florence laughed. The laugh did them
both good.

“If we are going to do that,” she said, rising stiffly, “we will have to
keep moving. If we don’t, we’ll be no better than the wreck of the
Hesperus. Let’s go somewhere. It’s a little late, but some place on the
island may still be open. A ham and egg place. Haven’t any money, but
they’ll trust us. We look _so_ honest, and our clothes are _so_ spick and
span.” She looked at Tillie, in her blouse that clung like a rag and
knickers that turned her slim legs into pipe stems, and laughed again.

“Come on,” said Tillie, struggling to keep up the illusion. “I know a
place to go.”

She made her way up the gravel beach to a spot where the surface was
soft, sandy and half overgrown with grass. Then they started to skirt the
shore.

They had not gone a hundred yards before Florence began to feel that
Tillie was leading a lost hope. The wind was rising. The cold seemed more
bitter.

“Never will stand it,” she told herself with grim conviction. “Never in
the world!”

Still she trudged on. Her limbs were growing stiff, her eyes blurred. As
they rounded a clump of scrub birch trees, she thought her eyes deceived
her. There appeared to be something over there that was not a tree; a
small square thing like an overgrown chimney.

“Look!” She pulled Tillie by the arm. “Look, Tillie! Is there something
over there?”

Tillie looked, then cried out for very joy.

“It’s a fish shanty! Daddy Red Johnson’s fish shanty! He left it here
winter before last. Then he died. Nobody touched it. Oh, thank God!”

She dropped to her knees, but was up in an instant.

“It doesn’t look like a shanty,” said Florence as they approached it.
“Looks like a tall box.”

“That’s about all it is. Four sides and a roof. Three feet square. Just a
protection from wind and snow while you fish.

“But oh, good old Daddy Johnson, if you see us now,” she murmured,
talking to the sky, “you know we need your fish shanty a heap worse than
you ever did!

“Here’s the door,” she said a moment later. “Walk right in and make
yourself at home.”

Inside this curious box-like affair, which is moved so easily over the
ice during the winter fishing, there was only standing room for two.

But how warm it seemed! “As if there were a fire.” Florence hugged Tillie
for very joy. Then she thanked the Creator of all for this miraculous
deliverance.

“It’s going to be hard,” she told herself, as she thought of standing
there all night, “but we’ll make it. And to-morrow we will improve our
condition.

“Do boats pass this island?” she asked.

“Only very far away.”

“Could they see a signal flag of distress?”

“I doubt it. Besides, they wouldn’t be looking for it. No one is ever
stranded here.

“Speaking of fire,” mused Tillie, returning to the old subject, “Daddy
Red Johnson used to keep a few sticks in the upper corner.

“Here they are!” she cried as her hand searched the corner.

“Everybody liked Daddy Red Johnson.” There were tears in her voice. “He
was a good man. Nobody would touch his things, not even after he was
dead.

“He always kept a box of matches right down here.” Her hand groped for a
moment. Then such a shout of joy!

“Here they are! Saved, Florence!”

With trembling fingers she drew out a safety match and struck it on the
box. It flared out cheerily, dispelling the dark.

“Come on!” she cried. “We’ll carry this shanty to the beach. We’ll build
a roaring fire before it and be all warm and dry before you know it.”

As they tumbled out of the shanty, then tipped it over, something fell to
the ground with a thud. It was a short handled axe.

“I forgot the axe,” said Tillie, tucking it under her arm. “He used that
for cutting his hole through the ice, Daddy Red Johnson did. Shouldn’t
wonder if his fish line was here, too.”



                              CHAPTER XXIV
                         OUTBOUND IN THE NIGHT


Petite Jeanne was disturbed. Nine o’clock had come and passed.
Reluctantly she made tea and drank it alone. Florence was not back. It
was strange.

“They went fishing, she and Sun-Tan Tillie,” she said to Tico, the bear.
“One does not fish at night, unless it is for bull-heads. And who wishes
for bull-heads? Bah! They are like snakes. You cut off their heads, and
still they bite your finger.”

Ten o’clock found her pacing the floor. Having at last arrived at a
decision, she dressed hurriedly in knickers and a heavy jacket, drew a
pair of men’s rubber boots on over her shoes, called to Tico, and went
out.

There was, she knew, a trail through the forest to the village. She had
never followed it. She dared try it now. So, armed only with a
flashlight, with the bear at her heels, she set out.

She was disturbed more than she cared to admit, even to herself. She
feared, not for herself, but for Florence. All these strange, half told
tales that had reached her ears, tales of gamblers and lady detectives,
of strange water gypsies and half savage bears, had worked upon her
imagination. One who knows no fear for his own safety is often the first
to fear for others. Such was the nature of the little French girl. So she
started out over an unknown trail at night in search of aid.

The trail was long and winding. More than once she lost herself. It was
boggy in places. There was need for boots. At times she was obliged to
take one step at a time, then lift the other foot out of the mud by the
boot straps.

When at last she reached the silent, sleeping village, she was near
exhaustion. The silence of the village frightened her more than the
lonely forest.

“It is as if everyone in the world were dead,” she told herself through
teeth that chattered.

“I must find that boy, Turkey Trot,” she said to Tico. “He may know
something.”

A faint light at the rear of Tillie’s house was reassuring. Someone was
there.

She knocked loudly at the door. A boy appeared with a lamp held high over
his head.

The lamp descended with a crash. Fortunately it went out. The boy, who
was Turkey Trot, had seen the bear, and had not seen Jeanne standing in
the shadows. He vanished.

Driven to desperation, Jeanne sprang after him, seized him by the collar,
and flashed her light in his eyes.

“Why do you run?” she demanded fiercely. “Where is my friend? Where is
Florence?”

“It was the bear!” Turkey Trot still trembled. “Where is Tillie?”

“You do not know?”

“Not me.”

“And you are alone?”

“Folks went to the Soo this morning. Be back to-morrow.

“But I got a motor, an outboard motor,” he added cheerfully. “Man gave it
to me this morning. It’s a hummer. Plenty of boats. We’ll go find them.
Broke an oar, like as not.”

“Oh! Do you think so? Could we?”

This tow-headed boy had suddenly become a savior in Jeanne’s eyes.

“What’ll we do with the bear?” the boy asked doubtfully.

“Do you think we could take him?”

“Don’t he bite?”

“Tico? Never! He is tame. Oh, very!”

“We might try.”

Ten minutes later an outboard motor began its put-put-put. A sixteen foot
boat with Jeanne in the prow, Turkey Trot in the stern, and the ponderous
bear in the middle, was headed out toward Gull Rock Point.

“Know where they fish, I do,” Turkey Trot shouted above the noise of the
motor. “Find ’em out there somewhere.”

“Perhaps,” Jeanne whispered to herself. There was doubt in her mind and
misgiving in her heart. Florence had not stayed out like that before,
without announcing her purpose. And there were strange doings about, very
strange doings indeed.

The water was black with the peculiar blackness that is night. The path
of pale light cast across it by the moon only served to intensify that
blackness. From time to time Jeanne sent a narrow pencil of light from
her electric torch. In a wavering circle this light searched the sea. Its
efforts were in vain. No craft was on the water at all at that late hour.
Florence and Tillie, as you know, were far away.

They reached Gull Rock Point. Still they discovered nothing. They began
circling the deep bays between points of land. One wide circle passed
within their view, a second and a third.

Then, all of a sudden, Turkey Trot, whose eyes were familiar with every
detail of those shores, uttered a low exclamation. Turning sharply, he
headed straight for a log-strewn, sandy beach.

Petite Jeanne had seen only logs. Turkey Trot had seen that which set his
blood racing.

                            * * * * * * * *

In the meantime, on their bleak and barren island, Tillie and Florence
were not idle. The fish shanty which they had found was composed of a
light frame of wood and an outer covering of fibre board. Tillie seized
the edge of the roof, Florence the bottom. Thus, in the half darkness,
stumbling over stumps and stones, but cheered by the thought that here at
last was shelter and a degree of warmth, they made their way to the
beach.

There, with the aid of the axe, they split a dry cedar stick into small
splints. They next lay down side by side in order to break the force of
the wind, and Tillie struck a match. It flickered and flashed, then
blazed up. Another moment, and the dry cedar was crackling like corn in a
popper.

“A fire!” Florence breathed. “A fire! Oh, Tillie, a fire!”

For the moment she was as emotional as her companion.

Soon they had a roaring fire of driftwood. The lake level had risen three
feet that spring. Great quantities of dead timber, to say nothing of logs
and planks from docks, had been carried away. There was no scarcity of
fuel.

The dance they did that night beneath the moon while their clothes were
drying was a thing of wild witchery. But what of that? There was none to
witness save the stars. The island was all their own.

When at last their clothes were dry, with a fire of hot coals before
them, they packed themselves like two very large sardines into the fish
shanty, which lay side down on the beach with its door open to the fire.
In ten minutes they were both sound asleep.



                              CHAPTER XXV
                         A SCREAM IN THE NIGHT


The object that had caught Turkey Trot’s eye as he skirted the log-strewn
beach was a rowboat that, bumping on the beach now and then as if in a
futile attempt to drive itself ashore, lifted its prow in the air.

“It’s Tillie’s!” he breathed as they came close.

“It is.” Jeanne’s tone was low.

“The anchor’s gone. Painter cut.” The boy’s trained eye took in every
detail. The oars, too, were gone. But within the boat, on a stout cord,
mute testimony to Florence’s afternoon of perch fishing, lay a dozen or
more dead perch.

“They fished,” said Turkey Trot.

“How long?”

The boy shrugged.

“Is fishing good in this bay?”

“We never come here. Tillie never does. Sand and small rocks. No weeds in
the bay. They didn’t fish here.”

“Then why did they come?”

For a time Turkey Trot did not answer. Then suddenly his face brightened.
“Lots of raspberries back there.” He nodded toward the fringe of forest
that skirted the shore. “Clearing, back a little way. Lots of trails.
Might have gone back there and got lost.”

“But the anchor? The cut painter? The dead fish?”

Once more the boy shrugged. “All I know is, we might find something back
there. We can’t find anything more here.”

To this argument Jeanne found no answer. They silently grounded their
boat on the sand. Turkey Trot drew it up on the beach. He did the same
for Tillie’s light craft.

“It’s funny,” he murmured, as he gazed at the painter. “Brand new rope.
Looks like it had been chawed off.”

Turning, he put out his hand for the flashlight, then led the way into
the timber.

What can be more spooky than following a woodland trail far from the
homes of men at the dead of night? Nor was this particular trail devoid
of sad ruins telling of other days. They had not followed the narrow,
winding, tree-shadowed trail a hundred rods when they came to the ruins
of what had once been a prosperous logging camp.

Years had passed since the last sound of axe, the last buzz of saw, the
last shout of teamster had died away. The roof of the cook shack had
fallen in. A score of bushes had lifted their heads through its rotting
floor.

The bunk house, proudly displaying its roof, still stood. Its door, which
hung awry, was wide open. Into this door, from off the shadowy trail, a
dark spot dashed.

Petite Jeanne started, then drew back. Was it a wolf, a wandering dog, or
some less formidable creature? Without glancing back, she at last plodded
doggedly on. Since Turkey Trot carried the torch, she was obliged to
follow or be left in the dark.

Once more they were lost in the shadows of cedars and birches as the
trail wound up a low hill. And then they came upon the most mournful
sight of all, an abandoned home.

Standing as it did at the center of a grass-grown clearing, with door
ajar and broken windows agape, the thing stared at them as a blind man
sometimes appears to stare with sightless eyes. To make matters worse,
three tall pines with mournful drooping branches stood in a
graveyard-like cluster near the door, while beneath them, shining white,
some object seemed a marble slab.

“Boo!” Turkey Trot’s stolid young soul at last was stirred. “We—we won’t
pass that way!”

He turned down a trail that forked to the right.

Hardly had he done this than Petite Jeanne gripped his arm.

“Listen!” Her voice was tense.

Turkey Trot did listen, and to his ears came the sound of music.

“It—it’s a banjo or somethin’,” he muttered. “And—and singin’.”

He turned a startled gaze toward the deserted cabin. The sound appeared
to come from there. His feet moved restlessly. He appeared about to flee.

“’Tain’t them,” he said in a near whisper. He spoke of Florence and
Tillie. “They didn’t have no banjo. And besides, they wouldn’t.”

“Of course not.” Petite Jeanne had him by the arm. “All the same, we must
see. They may know something. Many things.”

They moved a few steps down the trail they had chosen. At once they were
able to see more clearly. Behind the cabin, and within its shadows, was a
half burned-out camp fire. And about the fire people sat.

“Who can these be?” Jeanne asked.

Turkey Trot did not reply. Instead, he took her by the hand and led her
farther down the trail.

In time this trail, after circling the narrow hill, came up again, thus
bringing them nearer the camp fire.

At last the boy dropped on hands and knees and began to crawl. Following
his example, Jeanne lost herself in the thick bed of tall ferns.

They had crept silently forward to a point where it seemed that a parting
of the ferns would show them the camp of the strangers, when suddenly a
blood curdling scream rent the air.

Instantly Turkey Trot flattened himself to the earth. As Jeanne did the
same, she found her heart beating like waves on a rocky shore.

She thought of Tillie and Florence. The tiller of their boat had been
cut. She recalled this. Their boat was adrift. Had they been kidnapped
and carried here?

Instantly she was on her feet and darting forward. Knowing nothing of her
thoughts, anxious only for her safety, the boy seized her foot. She fell
heavily, then lay there motionless, as if dead.

The boy was in a panic. But not for long. She was only stunned. Presently
she sat up dizzily.

They listened. Then they rose to their feet. A strange sound had come to
them. They guessed its origin.

When they reached the camp fire no person was there. Old Tico stood
grunting with satisfaction over a box of berries spilled in someone’s
hurried departure.

“Tico!” exclaimed Jeanne. “We forgot him!”

It was true. In their excitement they had forgotten the bear. Having
smelled refreshments, he had taken a direct course to the strangers’
camp. Beyond doubt he had poked his nose over the shoulder of some fair
young lady. A scream, panic, and hasty retreat had followed.

But who were these people that indulged in an after midnight feast in so
lonely a spot? To this question the boy and girl immediately sought an
answer.

They were not long in forming a partial answer. It was Jeanne who cried
out:

“See this handkerchief. Only a gypsy, a French gypsy, wears one like it.

“And this cigarette case!” she added a moment later. “See! It is from
France, too!

“Gypsies, French gypsies!” A note of sorrow crept into her voice. “They
have been here. Now they are gone. I wanted to see them, only to hear
them speak!”

How little she knew.

“Listen!” The boy held up a hand.

From the nearby shore came the thunder of a speed boat leaving the beach.

“Do gypsies have speed boats?” Jeanne asked in surprise.

“Who knows?” was the boy’s wise answer.

“But where are our friends?”

“We won’t find them here.”

Little Turkey Trot was now fully convinced that his sister and Florence
had been taken captive by these strange dark people. He knew little of
gypsies. He had heard that they carried people away. He did not wish to
disturb Petite Jeanne, so he said not a word. Such was the big heart of
the village boy.

“Might as well go home,” was his conclusion.

Jeanne did not question this. They passed around the staring cabin and
down the trail toward the ruins of the lumber camp.

Turkey Trot walked rapidly. Jeanne, who was afraid of tripping in the
dark, was a little way behind him, when she came abreast of the black
bunk house that gloomed in the dark. She stole one glance at it. Then her
heart stood still. From the depths of that darkness two eyes gleamed at
her.

“Green eyes!” She barely missed crying aloud.

With three bounds she was at Turkey Trot’s side.

Even then she did not speak. The boy had not seen the things. Why disturb
him? Perhaps she had seen nothing. Those eyes may have been a creation of
her overwrought imagination. So she reasoned, and was silent.

Turkey Trot was firm in his belief that the missing girls had been
carried away. He fastened a rope to the remains of Tillie’s painter, and
took the boat in tow.

“They won’t be back for it,” he muttered. “Big seas come in here. Smash
it up.”

At that he started his motor and they went pop-popping toward home in the
deep darkness that lay just before dawn.



                              CHAPTER XXVI
                           “A BOAT! A BOAT!”


The sun was high when Florence and Tillie woke on the island where for a
time they were Crusoes. Their first thought was of food. To Tillie, Goose
Island was no unknown land. She had been here often in winter. The time
had been when wild geese laid their eggs here. They came no more. There
would be no eggs for breakfast.

“Fish for breakfast,” Tillie declared. “It’s our only chance.”

“No line,” said Florence.

“Yes. Here’s one.” Tillie produced one from the pocket of her knickers.

“Got a can of worms in your pocket, too?” Florence asked with a laugh. To
her the affair was becoming a lark. The sun was bright and cheering, the
sea a glorious blue. There was not a cloud in the sky.

“Someone will find us,” she declared hopefully.

“We’re a long way off the ship channel,” said Tillie. “We may be here for
days. They’ll search the shores for our boats and our bodies.” She
shuddered. “They’ll beat the forest for miles before they think of
looking on Goose Island. And you may be sure enough that those villains,
whoever they were, will never whisper a word of it. They think we are at
the bottom of the lake. That’s what they hope, too.

“Florence.” Her tone became quite solemn. “It’s not whether you are rich
or poor that counts. It’s whether you are honest and loyal and kind. Take
Daddy Red Johnson. He was poor. But he was square and kind. Once when he
was fishing for trout he caught a ninety pound sturgeon. Mighty near
pulled him through the hole. He got over ten dollars for it. He called
that Providence. Said God sent the sturgeon so he could help out a poor
Indian who was sick and had only dried fish to eat.

“He was poor. But he was good and kind. Then there’s the Eries. They’ve
got millions; yacht worth a hundred thousand, big cottage up here,
sailboats, speed boat, everything. But they’re just as square as any poor
folks.

“Wait till we get back!” she exclaimed. “Somebody’ll suffer for this!
Cedar Point has had enough of that sort of thing. Crooks rob city folks
in the winter. Then they come up here to try and have a good time like
real people. Do you think they ever can? Not much! Man with a black heart
never has a good time anywhere. Cedar Point has had enough badness.

“But there’s the question of breakfast!” she exclaimed. “Plenty of
minnows if we can catch ’em. Pull off your shoes.”

For half an hour they labored on the sandy beach, in shallow water,
constructing a minnow trap of stones and sticks. They made a narrow pond
that could be closed quickly. After corralling a school of sand minnows,
they closed them in. One of them was soon flopping on Tillie’s hook.

“Have to swim for my breakfast,” she explained, rapidly disrobing. “Some
big old rock bass out there beneath that rock, I’ll bet.”

She plunged into the water, swam thirty yards, then mounted the rock.

Standing there in the morning sunshine, she seemed a statue of bronze.

The statue became a thing of great animation shortly after her minnow hit
the water. She had hooked a fish.

“He’s a whopper!” she shouted back. “We’ll get more, too.”

They did. Half an hour later four plump rock bass, spiked to a broad
plank, were roasting to a delicious brown.

“Nothing better than planked fish,” said Tillie, as she cleaned up the
last morsel and sucked her fingers. “Next problem is one of
transportation.”

“Tickets for two,” replied Florence, “and no return tickets, please.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” said Tillie philosophically. “This isn’t half bad;
not near so bad as what was intended for us.”

“No,” Florence’s tone was a sober one, “it’s not.”

“Well,” Florence’s voice took on a more cheerful tone, “this appears to
be our island. We’d better explore it. There may be some ‘Man Friday’
just around the corner.”

They started out along the pebbly beach. Here and there they came upon
bits of wreckage from cottagers’ docks that had been carried away by the
high water. Two posts joined by cross pieces, long planks very full of
spikes, short bits of broken boards—such was the driftwood that
obstructed their path.

“Enough planks and nails to build a house,” was Tillie’s comment.

“Why not?” Florence became enthusiastic at once. “At least we could build
a three-sided shelter with one side open to the fire. That’s good sound
lumber.” She struck one plank a thwack with the small axe she carried in
her hand.

“We might,” admitted Tillie. “We’d better go farther. Find the best
place.”

They trudged on. Then, quite unexpectedly, as they turned a corner, they
saw something looming in the distance.

“A boat! A boat!” Florence fairly shrieked this as she went racing away.

She was not wholly wrong. It was a boat. But one of those heavy, flat
bottomed affairs, used only by commercial fishermen, it lay bottom up,
displaying three stoved-in planks.

“Let’s turn her over.” Tillie’s tone was wholly practical. She had been
brought up in a boat.

They put their shoulders to the craft, and over it went.

Tillie tapped it here and hacked at it there with the axe. “Not so bad,”
was her final judgment. “Sides are sound. Stern, too. Have to give her
three new planks in her bottom. We can calk up the seams with moss and
rosin. Make some oars out of cedar poles, and there you are. It’ll be a
stiff pull. All of two miles to shore. But we’ll make it.”

“How long will all that take?”

“Maybe two days.”

At once Florence became downcast. She was beginning to think of Petite
Jeanne. She had come to this place for rest. “Little rest she’ll get
while I am missing!” she thought gloomily. “We ought to get away from
here at once. But how can we?”

“All right,” she spoke in as cheerful a tone as she could command. “Let’s
get to work at once.”

They did get to work, and made famous progress, too. Lunch forgotten,
supper forgotten, they toiled on until, just as the sun was dropping low,
Tillie declared the clumsy craft would float.

“No oars,” objected Florence.

“Can pole her close to shore,” replied Tillie. “Try to take her down to
our camp.”

This proved a Herculean task. The boat was clumsy and hard to steer.
Three times she filled and all but sank. Bailing with a small wooden box
they found was slow work. They reached camp at last, tired, soaked to the
skin, and ravenously hungry.

“Ought to have caught some fish,” Tillie said remorsefully. “Too late
now. Only bullheads bite in the dark. They stay in the bullrushes. None
here.”

They made a fire, dried their clothes, then heated some water in a hollow
stone. To this water they added bitter willow leaves. As they sipped this
they pretended they were drinking tea.

“To-morrow,” said Tillie with a sigh, “I’ll catch a lot of fish.”

“To-morrow I would like to go home.”

“Well, maybe,” replied Tillie thoughtfully. “All depends on that old
boat. If she only soaks up so she don’t leak like a gill net, we might.”

There was nothing left for it but to attempt to round out the night with
sleep. They were tired enough for that, beyond question.

After building a hot fire, they curled up in their herring box shelter
and prepared to sleep.

Florence had all but drifted off to the land of dreams, when she fancied
she heard the throb of a motor. The impression was half real, half dream.
Reality struggled for a time with dream life. Dream life won, and she
slept.



                             CHAPTER XXVII
                          THE “SPANK ME AGAIN”


Florence awoke with a start. She sat up abruptly, rubbing her eyes in a
futile attempt to remember where she was.

“I am—” she muttered. “This is—”

A dull red glow met her eyes. Like a flash she knew. She and Tillie had
started their second night on Goose Island. The red glow was their camp
fire, burned low. She had been asleep for some time.

“But that sound!” She was now fully awake. A loud throbbing beat in upon
her eardrums.

“It’s a boat! Some sort of motor boat!” she fairly screamed. “Tillie!
Tillie! Wake up! There’s a boat!”

Tillie did wake up. She sprang to her feet to stare into the darkness at
a spot where a dot of red light was cutting its way through the night.

“He’s passing!” she exclaimed. “It’s that boy in the ‘Spank Me Again.’ He
has not seen our fire. We must scream.”

Scream they did, fairly splitting their lungs. And with the most
astonishing results.

The crazy little craft gave vent to a series of sharp sput-sput-sputs.
Then suddenly it went dead; the light disappeared. Night, dark and silent
as the grave, hung over all.

“We—we frightened him,” Tillie gasped. “He—he—went over. He may be hurt,
may drown. We must save him!”

“How?”

“Swim.” Tillie was kicking off her shoes.

Florence followed her example. Together they entered the chilling water
to begin one more long swim, to the spot where the strange little motor
boat had last been seen.

“He’s hurt,” Tillie panted between strokes, “or he’d yell for help.”

Florence thought this probable, and her heart chilled. In their eagerness
for deliverance, had they caused another to lose his life? She redoubled
her efforts.

A dark bulk, lying close to the water, appeared before them.

“The boat,” thought Florence, “it did not sink. There is hope.”

She was right. As they reached the overturned boat, they found the Erie
boy, in a semi-conscious condition and with a bad cut on his temple,
clinging feebly to the stern.

To assist him to a position across the boat’s narrow hull, then to push
and pull the small craft ashore, was the work of an hour.

By the time they reached the beach, the boy had so far regained his
strength that he was able, with their assistance, to walk to their camp.

A great fire was soon busy dispelling the cold, while clouds of steam
rose from their drenched clothing.

Florence bandaged the boy’s head; then, with all the skill of a trained
nurse, she brought him fully back to life by chafing his hands and feet.

“So—so that’s who it was?” he found words to gasp at last.

“I thought it was—well, mebby I didn’t think at all. I just lost control
and she went over. Good thing you were here.”

“It was.” There was conviction in Tillie’s tone. “I always knew that
thing would kill you. And it’s pretty near done it.”

“Mighty close,” he agreed.

“But why are you here?” he asked in some amazement, as he took in their
crude accommodations.

“Because we can’t get away. We’re marooned,” Florence explained.

She proceeded to relate in a dramatic manner their strange adventure.

“The beasts!” exclaimed the boy. “How could they?”

“Guess that gets asked pretty often these days,” said Florence soberly.

“Question is,” mused the boy, “how are we to get away?”

“Your boat—” began Florence.

“Soaked. Engine dead. Besides, she carries only one person. Positively.
Couldn’t even hold one of you on my lap.”

“We’ve fixed up a sort of boat, wreck of an old dory,” suggested Tillie.

“Will she float?”

“I think so.”

“Fine! Give you a tow.

“Tell you what!” The boy stood up. “We’d better get my motor and bring it
to the fire. Dry it out by morning. Got a three gallon can of gas. Be
away with the dawn.”

The motor was soon doing its share of steaming by the fire.

“Got some rations?” the boy asked. “Of course you haven’t. But I have.
Regular feast, all in cans. Always carried ’em for just such a time as
this. Boiled chicken in one can, chili con carne in another, and a sealed
tin of pilot biscuits.”

He brought this unbelievable feast to the place before the fire. When the
chicken and the chili had been warmed, they enjoyed a repast such as even
the millionaire’s son had seldom eaten.

“Well,” he sighed, as the last morsel disappeared, “as it says in ‘The
Call of the Wild,’ ‘He folded his hands across his feet before the fire,
allowed his head to drop forward on his breast and fell fast asleep.’”

“Oh no!” exclaimed Tillie. “Let’s not try to sleep. Let’s tell ghost
stories till morning.”

“Agreed!” the boy seconded with enthusiasm. “And the one who tells the
best one wins this.” He laid a shining gold piece before them on a rock.

The contest was carried forward with spirit and animation. But Sun-Tan
Tillie, with her weird stories of that north country was easily winner.

“Now we shall see how it performs,” said the boy, rising stiffly as day
began to dawn.

He lifted his motor from its place before the fire, and carried it to his
boat. Five minutes had not elapsed before it began to sput-sput merrily.

“Have you home for breakfast,” he predicted.

He made good his word. Just as Jeanne and Turkey Trot, after one more
night of fruitless search, sat down to their oatmeal, bacon, and coffee,
two well soaked girls broke in upon them. By dint of diligent bailing
they had forced their crazy dory, towed by the equally crazy “Spank Me
Again,” to carry them home.



                             CHAPTER XXVIII
                             GLOWING WATERS


There were dark looks on many faces as the story of the kidnapping of the
two girls and the atrocious attempt at their lives spread about the
village. The native population of this Northland is intensely loyal to
its own people. The summer sojourners, too, had come to have a great love
for the happy, carefree Tillie, who caught their minnows and helped to
launch their boats.

“Something will come of this,” was the word on many a tongue.

As for Florence, after receiving Jeanne’s open-hearted and joyous welcome
home, her first thought was of the lady cop.

“We must tell her at once,” she said to Tillie. “Our experience may fit
into the task she has before her.”

“Yes,” replied Tillie, “we must.”

They rowed at once to the lonely cabin among the cedars.

But what was this? As they made their way up from the dock, they spied a
white paper fluttering at the door.

“Gone!” was Florence’s intuition.

She was right. On the paper, written in the round hand of the lady cop,
were these words:

  _They are gone. I must follow. Good-bye, girls. And thank you. I hope
  to meet you in another world._

                                                         _The Lady Cop._

For a moment they stared in silence.

“Gone!” Florence repeated at last. “They have gone! She means the
gamblers.”

“Another world,” Jeanne read in a daze.

“And we have her trunk!” Florence exclaimed suddenly.

“Her trunk?” Jeanne’s eyes opened wide in astonishment. She had not been
told of this episode.

“Sit down.” Florence eased herself unsteadily to a low railing. Then she
told the story of the trunk.

“And now,” she concluded, “we have that mysterious trunk, which was
wanted by the gamblers, though why, not even the lady cop could guess, on
our hands. They want it. She wants it. We have it. And we do not know her
real name. She implied the Miss Weightman was an assumed name. What a
pickle!”

“What a sour pickle indeed!” agreed Jeanne.

“And to-morrow we leave for Chicago.”

“To-morrow! It does not seem possible.” The little French girl’s heart
went into a flutter. This meant that ten days from this time she would be
at the center of a great stage strewn with broken instruments of war, and
lighted only by an artificial moon, doing the gypsy tarantella while a
vast audience looked on and—

Applauded? Who could say? So much must come of this crowded quarter of an
hour. Her heart stood still; then it went racing.

“Ah, well,” she sighed, “only time can tell.”

“I guess that’s true,” Florence agreed, thinking of quite another matter.
“We may be able to find her in Chicago and return her trunk.

“And now—” She closed her eyes for a moment. “Now I must go to our cabin
and sleep.”

The remainder of that day was uneventful. But night set all the village
agog.

After a good sleep, Florence had assisted Jeanne with the packing in
preparation for the morrow’s departure. They had said their sad farewell
to night and the stars, a farewell that night and stars were not to
accept as final. They had crept beneath their blankets and had fallen
fast asleep.

Florence awoke some time later with the glow of an unusual light in her
eyes.

Springing out of bed, she rushed to the window. The next instant she was
shaking Jeanne as she exclaimed excitedly:

“Jeanne! Jeanne! Wake up! There is a fire! A big fire somewhere on the
bay!”

After struggling into their outer garments, they rushed to the water’s
edge and launched their boat.

They had not gone far before they discovered the location of the fire.

“It’s on Gamblers’ Island.” Her voice was tense with emotion. “It’s the
gamblers’ cottage. It will burn to the ground.”

This last seemed certain. Already the flames were mounting high. Even in
the village there was scant fire protection. On the smaller islands there
was none.

Florence seemed to hear the beating of her own heart. Here was swift
revenge for a cowardly crime.

But was it revenge? The lady cop had said the gamblers were gone. Perhaps
they were not all gone. One might have remained behind to light the
blaze, to cover some evil deed. Who could tell?

Then again, the fire might have been accidental, a mouse chewing a match.

All this time Florence was rowing sturdily. They were approaching the
scene of the fire. Other boats were coming. Rowboats, motor boats, speed
boats, like particles of steel attracted by the magnet, they came nearer
and nearer to a common center, the fire.

At a certain distance all paused. The night was very nearly still. A
faint breeze carried the soaring sparks away from the tiny island forest
and out toward the water.

As the scores of craft came to rest they formed a semi-circle.

It was strange. The quiet of the night, the flames rushing silently
upward. The light on the water, the faces of two hundred people, tense,
motionless, lighted red by the flames. And above it all a million stars.

Florence had seen something akin to this pictured in a book. She searched
her mind for that picture and found it; a circle of gray wolves sitting
in a circle about a half burned-out camp fire, beside which a lone
wanderer slept.

“Only these are not wolves,” she told herself. “They are people,
kind-hearted people. It is the home of wolves that is going up in flames.
May they never return!”

“And they never will.” She started at the sound of a voice at her elbow.
Unconsciously she had spoken aloud. Tillie, who had slipped up beside her
in her rowboat, had answered.

“That is not their island,” Tillie explained. “They only leased it. Now
they will not be allowed to rebuild.”

“You should thank God for that.”

“I have,” Tillie replied frankly.

Once more there was silence.

Some time later Tillie spoke again. “We have her trunk, the lady cop’s.
You are goin’ to-morrow. Will you take it?”

“I believe not,” Florence said thoughtfully. “I haven’t her true name. It
will be safer here. If I find her I will send for it.”

After that for a space of a full half hour silence reigned supreme. Not a
boat left that unbroken circle. What held them there? There was nothing
they could do. What is the dread, all-potent charm that holds a throng to
the scene of a fire until the last shingle has flared up, the last rafter
fallen? Does it hark back to days when our ancestors knew no homes, but
slept by camp fires in the forest? Who can say?

As the last wall crumbled in and the chimney came down with a crash, as
if touched by a magic wand the circle melted away into the night.

Half an hour later Florence and Jeanne were once more sleeping soundly.
Such is the boundless peace of youth.



                              CHAPTER XXIX
                           FADING SHORE LINES


The following night found Florence seated on the after deck of a large
lake steamer bound for Chicago. Strange and varied were the thoughts and
emotions that stirred her soul as she watched the dark shoreline of the
North Peninsula fade in the distance.

There was a moment when she sprang to her feet and stretched her arms far
out as she cried, “I want to go back! Oh, I want to go back!”

At this moment the woods and the water, the sunsets, the moon at
midnight, the fish, all the wild forest creatures were calling her back.

Yet, even as this yearning passed, she felt the smooth comfort of silk
stockings, caught the bright gleam of red and blue in her dress and knew
that here, too, was joy. In her imagination she heard the rush and felt
the thrill of a great city, experienced again the push and pull of it,
and once more accepted its challenge.

“I am strong!” she cried aloud. “The summer, this wild life, has renewed
my powers.”

But Jeanne? Ah, there was the question. She had accepted a mission. She
had agreed to take the little French girl into the north woods and see
that she had rest. Had she performed this mission well or ill?

To this question she could form no certain answer. Life in this
out-of-the-way place had so pressed in upon her, adventure and mystery
had so completely taken possession of her, that she had found too little
time to think of Jeanne.

“What if I have failed?” Her heart sank. “What if the doctor says I have
failed?”

Jeanne was asleep in her stateroom. She seemed well and happy, quite
prepared for the great testing which lay just before her. But who could
tell?

“So often,” she thought to herself, “we are led away from the main
purpose of our lives by some surprising affair which springs straight up
before our eyes and for the moment blinds us.”

Yet, as she reviewed the events of the past weeks she experienced few
regrets. She had been working, not for her own glory, but that others
might find success and happiness.

“But what came of it all?” she asked herself. “What mysteries did we
solve?”

The problems that had perplexed her now passed, like soldiers on parade,
before her mind’s eye. Who had run them down and all but drowned them on
that first night? The gamblers? The gypsies? Green Eyes and her rich
friends? She had found no answer.

Where were the three priceless rubies? Did they lie among the ashes of
the gamblers’ cottage? Had the gamblers taken them when they departed?
Had the lady cop regained possession of them? Where was the lady cop, and
what was her real name? Again no answer.

What of the lady cop’s trunk? Why had the gamblers turned the cabin
upside down in search of an empty trunk? How were Tillie and she ever to
return it now?

The problem that stood out in her mind strongest of all was this: Who had
taken them for that terrible ride out into the night waters of Lake
Huron?

“The gamblers, to be sure!” Tillie would have said at once. It seemed
probable that the villagers thought the same.

“And perhaps they burned the gamblers’ cottage for that reason,” she told
herself. Yet, of this there was no proof.

Turkey Trot and Jeanne had surprised gypsies in a feast near Tillie’s
abandoned boat. Jeanne believed these gypsies had taken them on that all
but fatal ride. Had they?

“If they did,” she told herself, “they were striking at Jeanne. They may
strike again.”

The conclusion she reached at the end of this review of affairs was that
she must keep a close watch on Petite Jeanne until the first night’s
performance was over.

“They kidnapped her on the eve of her other great success,” she murmured.
“They may repeat.

“And yet, that was France. This is America.”

At that she rose and walked away to their stateroom.



                              CHAPTER XXX
                           THEIR CROWDED HOUR


Petite Jeanne’s one big night was at hand. Already the shadows were
growing long in her modest little sitting room. To-night, for one brief
hour at least, she was to be an actress. How the thought thrilled her! An
actress for an hour. And then?

True, she had acted once upon the stage of the famous Paris Opera. But
that was but a fete, an affair of a single night. To-night much was to be
decided. Would the play go on? Night after night would she dance the
gypsy tarantella under the stage moon? Would these Americans applaud?

“Americans,” she said aloud, as she sat looking away into the gathering
darkness. “After all, how little I know about them.”

“Americans are like all the rest of the world,” Florence replied. “They
love laughter, dancing and song. Then, too, they can feel a pang of pity
and shed a tear. Just dream that you are on the stage of the Paris Opera,
and all will be well.”

Petite Jeanne was not sure. She had suddenly gone quite cold, and was not
a little afraid.

“Green Eyes will be there. She hates me, I fear,” she murmured.

“On the stage, when the great act comes, there will be only Tico and you.
The night, the broken cannons and the moon.”

“Ah, yes.” The little French girl sighed. “I must try to feel it and see
it all as I felt and saw it, a small child in France.”

“In half an hour we must go to the theatre,” said Florence. “We will have
a cup of tea, as we did sometimes when we were in our cabin.”

“If only we were there now,” sighed the little French girl. “Oh, why must
we be ambitious? Why do we struggle so for success and yet more success,
when peace awaits us in some quiet place?”

To this Florence found no answer. She rose to turn on the electric plate
for tea, when the telephone rang.

She went to answer it. Petite Jeanne heard her answer the telephone, but
paid no attention to her conversation until she caught the word gypsy.
Then she sat straight up.

“I must meet her to-night?” Florence was saying. “A gypsy woman? But that
is quite impossible.

“She is being taken to Canada to-night by the officials, you say? But how
can it be necessary for me to see a gypsy? I know no gypsies. Besides, I
can see no one to-night. Believe me—”

Her words were broken in upon by Petite Jeanne. “If it is a gypsy, you
must see her!” The little French girl was pulling at her arm impulsively.
“It is important. It must be. Besides, gypsies, they are my friends. You
must remain here. I will go to the theatre alone.”

One look at Petite Jeanne’s tense face told Florence that she had no
choice in the matter.

“I will see her,” she spoke into the telephone. “Send her over at once.”

They drank their tea in silence. The night was too full of portent for
words.

“Gypsy?” Florence thought. “What can she want of me?”

Then she thought of those gypsies they had seen in the north country. Had
they made their way to Chicago? That was not impossible. And if they had,
what did this woman have to tell?

“Promise me one thing.” Petite Jeanne suddenly leaned toward her. “Bring
that gypsy woman to the play. She is French. She knows the tarantella.
She has known war, as it was in France. I will dance for her. She will
understand.”

“I promise,” Florence replied solemnly.

The moment for Jeanne’s departure arrived. Florence saw her carefully
packed into the car sent from the theatre, then she returned to her room
to wait.

With Jeanne gone, the place seemed strangely still. The clock ticked
solemnly. From somewhere in the distance a fire siren set up a mournful
wail.

“She is too much for me,” she whispered, speaking of Jeanne. “Think of
her forcing me to remain here to meet a ragged gypsy, and this the night
of all nights. And then I must bring that strange person to her show her
first night!”

A knock sounded at the door. She sprang up to open it. A man stood there,
not a woman. For a moment she did not see the woman behind him in the
shadows.

“I beg your pardon,” said the man, “I am an immigration officer. This
woman and her companions entered our country without permission. We found
them in the west side settlement. They must return to Canada. This woman
insisted upon seeing you.” He pushed the short, brown woman into the
light.

Instantly the girl recognized her, and gasped. She was the mother of the
beautiful child that had so narrowly escaped drowning.

“You wished to see me?” she asked as soon as she gained possession of her
voice.

“Yes. You good. You kind. You not bad. Gypsy not forget. I must tell.”

Mystified, Florence motioned her to a seat.

The tale the woman had to tell was a long one, and passing strange. In
her broken tongue, with many repetitions, it was long in the telling.

And all the time the clock was ticking away the moments. Petite Jeanne’s
great hour approached.



                              CHAPTER XXXI
                       PETITE JEANNE’S DARK HOUR


Petite Jeanne reached the theatre. She was quite alone. She entered at
the stage door unnoticed. A chill numbed her being as the shadowy hallway
leading to the dressing rooms engulfed her.

The past ten days, as she reviewed them now, seemed a bad dream.
Rehearsals had been carried to the last degree of rigor. The director had
been tireless and exacting. On her return the physician had pronounced
her physically perfect; yet, at this moment her knees seemed ready to
cave in beneath her.

“The first night!” she whispered to herself. How often, in the last few
days, she had heard those words. Experienced actors who had known many
“first nights” and many failures as well, spoke them in whispers.
Inexperienced youngsters shouted them. As for Jeanne, no one had heard
these words fall from her lips.

“So much depends upon to-night,” she told herself. “Success or failure.
And who does not wish to succeed grandly?”

The curtain was down, the stage deserted, as she paused in the wings
before going to her dressing room, where Tico, curled up in a warm
corner, awaited her.

Many times she had stared up into the dark rows of empty seats as she did
her dance. In her mind’s eye she could see them even now. But now, too,
she caught the rustle of programs. The seats were filling, filling with
Americans—to her the great unknown. In wild panic she fled to her
dressing room.

The place was bare, barn-like. Only Tico greeted her. It was cruel that
Florence could not be here now.

“But she will come,” she assured herself, as a feeling of great hope
surged through her being. “They will be there in the audience, she and
the gypsy woman. I will see them. They will give me much courage.”

As she changed to her stage costume, a great peace stole over her. But
this was not for long.

The sound of the orchestra’s opening number sent fresh chills up her
spine. What was she to do? How could she find fresh courage for this
hour? No answer came.

The curtain went up. Then, amid such a hush as she had never before
experienced, she tremblingly took her place on the stage. The scene was a
French gypsy camp, for the play told of gypsy life during the World War.

Fortunately her part in the first act, also in the second, was small. She
sat unobtrusively beside the bear in her corner, or moved silently to the
side of the ancient gypsy fortune teller.

The story of the gypsies during that war is a fascinating one. Their
young men volunteered. They died as bravely as any other true Frenchmen.
The older ones, the women and children, wandered here, there, everywhere,
enduring the suffering and privation that had fallen upon the land.

In the story of this play, at its beginning, like Cinderella, Petite
Jeanne, a diminutive figure, was held in the background. Marie Condelli,
a fascinating dark-eyed gypsy girl, dressed in many bright silk skirts,
took the front of the stage. It was she for whom feasts were arranged,
she with whom a great American officer fell madly in love on the very day
before his heroic death on the battlefield, she who was the very darling
of gypsy camp and war camp alike.

One night, so the play ran in its second act, the two girls, the
dark-eyed one and Petite Jeanne, sat at the feet of the fortune teller
when that aged person spread her arms wide as she cried:

“I see a vision. It is a battlefield. Many are dying. A great officer is
wounded. He falls. He is a father. She, his child, comes to him. It is a
girl, a young woman. She bends over him. I see her face. Now I do not see
it. But yes. It is Marie. No, it is little Jeanne. No! No! It is one.
Which is it? My God, the vision is gone!” She falls to the earth in a
spasm. When she comes to herself, the two girls implore her to tell them
the truth. Had she seen one? Had it been the other? For both Marie and
Petite Jeanne had been brought up like orphans in the gypsy camp. It had
been rumored that one of these was stolen as a babe from a great French
family. But which? No one knew.

Such is the story of that drama up to the great third act in which Petite
Jeanne was to emerge from her obscurity and play an important role.

One fact we have not mentioned. Early in this play, it is revealed that
Petite Jeanne’s gypsy lover has gone to war, and is believed to have been
killed.

All during the first act, and again through the second, Jeanne’s eyes
strayed to one spot, to the seats that had been allotted to Florence and
any friend she might care to bring. Always the seats were unoccupied. At
each fresh disappointment her despair deepened.

“Will they not come?” she asked herself over and over. “They must! They
_must_!”



                             CHAPTER XXXII
                        PETITE JEANNE’S TRIUMPH


The tale the gypsy woman had to tell was as astonishing as it was
fascinating. As we have said, told in her halting speech, it was long.
Florence’s face showed her consternation as she looked at her watch when
it was done.

“Come!” she cried, seizing the woman’s arm. “We must go to the theatre at
once! We will miss some. We must not miss all. It is the first big
night.”

She started and all but screamed as a man loomed before her. The officer!
She had quite forgotten him.

“No tricks!” he warned. “She must start for Canada to-night.”

“But she must go with me first.” Florence was quick in recovery.

“No tricks,” he repeated.

“None at all. You may go with us. Only—” she hesitated, “we have but two
seats.”

The man bent a steady look upon her. “You look all right. I’ll meet you
at the box office after the show.”

“Oh, thank—thanks! But we must rush!” Florence was halfway out of the
door.

Down the stairs they raced, then round the corner to a taxi stand.

Only once they paused before reaching the theatre. Leaping from the taxi,
Florence dashed into a telegraph office. There she sent the following
message to Sun-Tan Tillie at her home in the north woods:

“_Bring the trunk at once. Your expenses will be paid._”

On returning to the taxi, she murmured, more to herself than to the gypsy
woman:

“So they were in that trunk all the time! How perfectly marvelous!”

A moment later the taxi came to a grinding stop before the theatre. Here
they were, at last.

                            * * * * * * * *

At that moment Petite Jeanne sat in a dark corner backstage, engulfed in
despair. The curtain was down. The scene shifters were preparing for the
great third act. The orchestra could be heard faintly. Her zero hour was
at hand.

Thus far, the play had gone well. Its fate now lay in her hands. The big
scene, the gypsy dance on a battlefield under the moon, would decide all.

And to Petite Jeanne at that moment all seemed lost. “If only they were
my own French people,” she moaned.

At that moment all the hateful acts performed by her people against
visiting Americans since the war, passed through her mind.

“How they must hate us!” she thought in deep despair. “And they know I am
French. These Americans. They are so tremendous in their approval, so
terrible in their disapproval! How can I dance before them? If only
Florence and that gypsy woman were here!”

At that moment of sheer despair, a hand was laid upon her shoulder. A
voice spoke to her.

“Cheer up, sister!” the voice said. “You are going to be a wonder! Only
forget them all, and dance as you danced that night in the forest beneath
a real moon. That was heavenly!”

The little French girl started in astonishment. She found herself looking
up into the peculiar greenish eyes of the stage star she had thought of
as her enemy.

“You—you saw?” Her eyes were filled with wonder. “And you do not hate
me?”

“I? Hate you? I am your sister of the stage. Your success is the success
of all.”

Petite Jeanne’s mind whirled. Then her thoughts cleared. She stood up
straight and strong. She planted one kiss on the cheek of Green Eyes,
shed one hot tear, then she was gone.

A few moments later, in the hush of moonlight, with a great throng
looking down upon them, she and Tico appeared upon the stage.

In this act, as the play runs, the dark-eyed rival of the girl portrayed
by Jeanne discovers her father, a great French officer who has lived
unknown to his daughter for years, only to find that he is dying.

The light-haired gypsy comes upon the scene to find the other girl in her
dying father’s embrace, thus to learn that her hope of finding as a
father some noble Frenchman is dashed to the ground.

Downhearted, despairing, her lover gone, hopes vanished, she remains with
bowed head while the dying officer is carried away. Then, as her bear’s
nose touches her hand, she remembers her art, the art of dancing. In this
art she finds solace.

Moving gracefully into the dance, Petite Jeanne danced as she had never
danced before. One pair of eyes in all that vast audience inspired her
most. Gypsy eyes they were, the eyes of a stranger who had belonged to
the camps of her enemy in France, but who, in a strange land, had become
her friend. Florence and the strange gypsy had arrived in time.

The spell woven over the audience at that hour was sheer magic. The
moonlight, the battlefield with its broken cannons; all this, with the
bewitching dance of the tarantella, held the throng breathless,
spellbound.

Then, at the dramatic moment, a soldier appeared. He was dressed in the
uniform of a French poilu, but his face was the face of a gypsy.

He stood motionless, entranced, till the dance was done. Then, with a cry
of joy, he clasped Petite Jeanne to his heart. He was her long lost
lover.

To crown all, there comes from the distance a sound of shouting. Jeanne
lifts her head to listen.

“What is it?” she asks hoarsely.

“That?” There is the joy of heaven in her lover’s eyes. “That is the
armistice. The war is over!”

At these words, like the roar of a pent-up torrent, applause from those
silent walls of humanity broke loose. Never before in the history of the
theatre had there been such acclaim.

Petite Jeanne took curtain after curtain. She dragged forth her rival and
her lover, all the cast. At last, quite exhausted, she fled to her
dressing room, where she found Florence and the faithful Tico awaiting
her.

“Oh, Florence!” Her voice broke as she threw herself into her boon
companion’s arms. “These Americans! They are so very wonderful!”

“Down deep in our hearts we love the French as we love no other people.”
Florence’s tone was solemn. “Two millions of our boys have lived in your
villages. They shared your homes. They ate at your tables. They know how
brave and generous the French people are. How could they help loving
them?

“But, oh, Jeanne!” Her voice rose to a high tremolo. “I know all! All
that we wish to know about those mysterious affairs of the north
country!”

“Stop!” implored the little French girl. “You shall not tell me now. We
must escape. We will go to our room. There we will have coffee and some
most wonderful wafers, and we shall talk until it is day. Is this not the
way of actors? And I am an actress now!” She laughed a merry laugh.

“Yes,” said Florence, “you are a very great actress!”

“Tico and I are very great,” Petite Jeanne laughed again, for at that
moment she was the happiest girl in the world.

One moment that wild enthusiasm lasted; then again came desire to know,
to hear the answers to many sealed secrets.

“Come!” she said. “Let us tell secrets by the light of a candle.”



                             CHAPTER XXXIII
                               FAST WORK


In the meantime, in the far-away Northland, there was great commotion
within one small cottage. Tillie had received Florence’s message. She had
read it over twice before showing it to her father and to Turkey Trot.

At last she read it aloud: “Bring the trunk at once. Your expenses will
be paid.”

“What trunk does she mean?” her father asked in surprise.

“It’s a trunk we foolishly took from the lady cop’s cottage last summer,”
Tillie replied, and groaned.

“But oh, father!” she cried a moment later, “I must go!”

Without a word her father disappeared through a door. He reappeared a
moment later holding a well-worn leather bag. In it were their summer’s
savings. He counted out some soiled bills. “She said she’d pay it back,”
was his quiet comment. “Such folks don’t often go back on their word.
Here’s the money.”

“Turkey,” he addressed himself next to his son, “you hitch old Billy to
the stone-boat and go after the trunk. We’ll get Mike Donovan to drive
Tillie over to the station. If we hurry, there’ll be just about time.”

So it happened that an excited girl stepped from the train in
mid-afternoon of the next day in the great city of Chicago. This was
Tillie. She had wired ahead to Florence, who was there to meet her. They
clasped each other tightly.

“Have you got it?” Florence asked breathlessly.

“The trunk? I have. Here’s the check.”

“Good! It’s fearfully important and too mysterious for words. Let’s go
after it at once.”

They were some little time in finding the baggage room in the large
depot. When they did there was a crowd waiting and they were obliged to
stand in line. To such a pair of eager spirits these waits seemed
endless. But at last their time came. With trembling fingers Florence
handed over the check. The agent disappeared with it. After some little
delay he returned. The check was in his hand.

“Sorry,” he apologized. “Not here yet.”

“Not in,” Florence voiced her disappointment. “It was on the Copper
Express.”

“The Copper Express!” The man seemed puzzled. “What sort of a trunk? That
baggage—”

Just then a strange thing happened. Gripping Florence’s arm hard, Tillie
exclaimed in a shrill whisper, “Look! There goes the trunk! That young
man has it!”

Florence could not believe her ears. She did not doubt the testimony of
her eyes. The mystery trunk was fast disappearing down a passageway that
led to the street. It was on a strange young man’s back.

“Come on!” she cried. “He is stealing it! We must not let him.”

After that things happened so rapidly that there was no time to call for
aid. They dashed away after the thief. They found him dumping the trunk
into the back of a low-built, high power automobile. Another young man
was seated at the wheel. With a sudden leap of the heart, Florence
recognized this young man. He was the one Tillie had pitched so
unceremoniously into the water.

“Here, you,” she cried, seizing the trunk stealer by the shoulder and
whirling him about, “that’s our trunk.”

Taken completely by surprise, the man did not act at once. It was well,
for when he did come to his senses, he flashed an automatic. A second too
late. He saw his gun whirl into space as Florence launched her full one
hundred and sixty pounds against his chest. He went down in a heap.

His companion, attempting to come to his aid, found himself expertly
tripped by the versatile Tillie. The next instant, like some jaguar, she
was at his throat and he heard her hiss: “Now we got you. You gamblin’,
robbin’ kidnapper.”

It was fortunate for the girls that they were not obliged to hold their
poses long. Half a dozen coppers arrived in time to give them aid, and
assured them that matters would be adjusted in court at the proper time.

An investigation revealed the astonishing fact that the slick crooks had
learned in some way, perhaps through Florence’s telegram, that the trunk
was on the way. They had boarded the train at an up-state station, forged
a check for the trunk and claimed it.

“They nearly got it that time,” Florence sighed as two red-caps tumbled
the trunk into a waiting taxi and she and Tillie whirled away. “We’ll
take it to Petite Jeanne’s apartment. It will be safe enough there. The
gypsy told us where we could find the lady cop. We have located her. She
and the ‘poor little rich girl’ will be with us at Petite Jeanne’s show
to-night. After that we will go to the apartment and have the formal
opening of the trunk. Won’t that give us a thrill?”

“Won’t it, though?” Tillie bobbed up and down in her excitement.

“Those young men we just caught,” Florence said after a time, “were the
last of the band.”

“What band?”

“A band of gamblers and thieves the law has been after for a long time.
Through information provided by our gypsy friend, the others were taken
to-day. They will not be bothering the kindly people of your settlement
for some time to come. There is enough chalked up against them to last
half a lifetime.”

“I suppose,” replied Tillie thoughtfully, “that I should feel sorry for
them. But I just can’t. They went too far.”

“About two miles too far,” agreed Florence, recalling their
heart-breaking swim in the cold night waters of Lake Huron.



                             CHAPTER XXXIV
                           THE TREASURE CHEST


That night, just as the clock was striking twelve, an interesting company
gathered in Petite Jeanne’s parlor. The lady cop was there. So, too, was
Sun-Tan Tillie. Minus her faded bathing suit, looking quite stunning in a
new dress of dark green, her big eyes shining with interest, Tillie sat
in a corner. Close beside her was the “poor little rich girl,” who once
had pledged her parents’ rubies, and lost. She knew Tillie and, without
having the least notion what it was all about, had come at her request.
Petite Jeanne and Florence completed the company.

A tale was to be told. Secrets, they hoped, were to be revealed. With her
taste for the dramatic, Petite Jeanne had insisted that the affair be
carried off in the grand manner.

Electric lights were off. Shades were down. Four flickering candles
furnished faint illumination for the room. On the very center of the rug
rested the mysterious oriental trunk which had caused many a palpitation
of the heart. It gave off a pungent odor of the forest.

“But how did you get it?” the lady cop exclaimed, on seeing it. “When I
learned that the gamblers did not take it on their flight, I gave it up.
Thought it was burned in their cottage.”

Florence held up a hand. It had been Jeanne’s decree that she should tell
the story. “You will remember,” Florence began, “that it was my good
fortune to be permitted to pour a few quarts of water from the lungs of a
gypsy child.”

“In other words, you saved her life,” suggested the lady cop.

“Something like that. The gypsies are a loyal and grateful people. I have
always known that. From the time I saved her child’s life, that gypsy
mother had it in mind to repay the service. She has done it. Three nights
ago she told me the answer to the riddles that have vexed our minds and
lost us sleep. Yes, she even told me where I would find the three
oriental rubies, which were so unfairly taken from Miss Erie.”

“The—the rubies!” The Erie girl sprang to her feet.

Tillie pulled her down. “Wait!” she whispered.

At that moment Florence felt her heart sink to her shoes. What if, for
once, the uncanny knowledge of the gypsy woman had failed? What if the
three rubies were, after all, irrevocably lost?

“The die is cast,” she told herself sternly. “I must go on.”

“You will recall,” she said, turning to the lady cop, “that on the night
when we first entered your cabin we, Petite Jeanne and I, had just had
our rowboat swamped by some reckless, or willfully wicked people in a
speed boat.”

The lady cop nodded.

“You thought they had been after you. I thought it was the reckless prank
of some rich young people. You were right. The boat was driven by one of
the younger gamblers. His pal and two gypsies were on board. They
suspected you; meant to drown you. They got us instead. And that’s that.”
Florence sighed.

“Now the trunk.” Everyone moved forward. “Not so fast,” she cautioned. “I
am going to account for its presence here.

“You thought—” again she turned to the lady cop, “that the gamblers got
your trunk. They meant to. They were a few hours late. Tillie and I got
it the night before.”

“You?” There was incredulity in the lady cop’s eyes.

“That’s once when a prank turned out well,” Florence smiled. “Tillie and
I meant to fill it with balsam tips and return it. We have. See!”

She threw up the lid of the trunk, and at once the air of the room was
heavy with the natural perfume of the forest.

“We kept the trunk till now,” she said quietly. “And that’s that.

“And now we come to our big night, Tillie’s and mine, the night we were
kidnapped.

“In this instance there were three possibilities. It might have been a
prank indulged in by reckless young people. The gamblers may have done
it, or the gypsies. Tillie thought it was the work of the gamblers.
Because she came upon a gypsy feast that night, Jeanne blamed the
gypsies. They were both right.

“By this time the two rather striking young gypsy girls had learned who
Jeanne was. They had hated her in France. They hated her still. They
could not get at her. She stayed in the cabin. They proposed to take out
their spite on her friends. The gamblers hated Tillie. They combined
forces and prepared to show us a rough time. Well,” she ended grimly,
“they succeeded.

“After cutting our boat loose, they came ashore to prepare a meal and eat
it. It was this feast that Jeanne’s bear interrupted. They fled.”

“And all this,” said Petite Jeanne, coming out from among pillows in a
dark corner, “goes to prove that we owe a most humble apology to my
beloved Green Eyes and to her friends of the Erie cottage. We suspected
you of pranks which were quite impossible for you to perform.” She spoke
the last to Miss Erie.

“Oh, that’s quite all right!” The rich girl’s tone was friendly. “We do
not expect to be entirely understood. We were taught by my father when we
were very young that to take advantage of others because of wealth or
power is the act of a coward. That there are such rich cowards, one can’t
deny. We hope they are very few.”

Jeanne beamed her thanks for this speech. “But, Florence!” she cried
suddenly. “This does not explain the green eyes I saw in the deserted
lumber camp that night.”

“You must work out your own solution for that.” Again Florence smiled.
“Some wild creature was hiding there, or you were having a case of
nerves. Our gypsy friend knew a surprising lot. She did not know
everything. No more could she tell what caused the fire on Gamblers’
Island.”

“But—but the rubies!” exclaimed Miss Erie, as the story seemed about to
end.

“That,” said Florence, true to Jeanne’s dramatic conception, “is to be
the last touch. According to our gypsy friend’s story the three rubies
are supposed to have been hidden in some secret pocket of this ancient
trunk, and there they should be still.”

“The trunk!” “The trunk!” “Trunk!” came from the lips of Tillie, the lady
cop and the Erie girl all at once.

“We will now proceed to find out.” Florence’s voice took on a
business-like tone. “Jeanne, a blanket. We’ll dump these balsam tips in
it and tie up the corners.”

When the trunk seemed empty, all crowded around.

Lighted only by candles, Florence began prodding and thumping with a
chisel until at last she brought forth a hollow sound. A section of the
trunk’s false bottom was pried up, and then they started back. For, in
that dim light, small eyes appeared to gleam up at them.

The spell lasted for but a moment. Then Florence’s hand went down and
came out full of gems.

“A regular treasure chest!” There was awe in the lady cop’s voice.

The next instant she had taken something from beneath her coat and was
pinning it on Florence’s breast. It was her detective badge.

“Now,” she exclaimed, “that is where it belongs!”

“No! No!” The girl removed the badge and returned it to its place. “I had
all the luck. It will be quite different in the future.”

“Who knows?” said the lady cop quite soberly.

The trunk proved to be the hiding place for a noteworthy collection of
gems. The police had taken it in a raid and, quite ignorant of its value,
had sold it. Some of the jewels were returned to their rightful owners.
Several remained unclaimed. So Florence, Petite Jeanne, Tillie, and the
lady cop are all richer by a jewel or two; while the “poor little rich
girl” regained her standing in her family by returning the much prized
bauble to its place in the collection.

The gypsy drama, with Petite Jeanne playing a leading role, enjoyed a
long run. In the meantime, Florence was not idle. Fresh adventures came
to her. Was the lady cop one of her companions? Was Petite Jeanne? Was
Tillie? Did Betty come back? You will find the answer to all these
questions in our next book, to be entitled _The Golden Circle_.





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