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Title: Gypsy Flight - A Mystery Story for Girls
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 "Gypsy Flight - A Mystery Story for Girls" ***

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                      _A Mystery Story for Girls_



                              GYPSY FLIGHT


                                  _By_
                              ROY J. SNELL


                          The Reilly & Lee Co.
                                Chicago


                             COPYRIGHT 1935
                                   BY
                          THE REILLY & LEE CO.
                        PRINTED IN THE U. S. A.



                                CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                                                           PAGE
  I The Dark Lady                                                     11
  II The Vanishing Bag                                                34
  III The “Flying Corntassel”                                         48
  IV With the Aid of Providence                                       58
  V Danby’s Secret                                                    64
  VI The Gypsy Witch Cards                                            75
  VII A Strange Battle                                                83
  VIII Trailing an Old Pal                                            94
  IX Little Sweden                                                   103
  X One Wild Night                                                   111
  XI Goodbye Fair                                                    118
  XII Flying Through the Night                                       126
  XIII Suspects                                                      135
  XIV Gypsy Trail                                                    142
  XV Lady Cop of the Sky                                             150
  XVI A Suspicious Character                                         161
  XVII A Surprise Visit                                              170
  XVIII The Red Devil                                                178
  XIX The Fire-Bird                                                  189
  XX Someone Vanishes                                                195
  XXI An Astonishing Discovery                                       202
  XXII The Silver Ship                                               211
  XXIII The Gypsy’s Warning                                          217
  XXIV 48-48                                                         228
  XXV Lost in the Air of Night                                       238



                              GYPSY FLIGHT



                               CHAPTER I
                             THE DARK LADY


Rosemary Sample adjusted her jaunty cap carefully, smoothed out her
well-tailored suit, then lowering her head, stepped from her
trans-continental airplane.

Oh yes, that was Rosemary’s plane. Rosemary was still young, and she
looked even younger than her years. A slender slip of a girl was
Rosemary, rather pretty, too, with a touch of natural color and a dimple
in each cheek, white even teeth, smiling eyes of deepest blue.

Strange sort of person to have a huge bi-motored plane with two 555
horse-power motors and a cruising speed of one hundred and seventy miles
per hour. It cost seventy thousand dollars did that airplane. Yet this
slip of a girl was its captain, its conductor, its everything but pilot,
as long as it hung in air. Rosemary was its stewardess—and that meant a
very great deal.

Rosemary stepped across the cement runway with a buoyant tread. “Life,”
she thought with a happy tilt of her head, “is just wonderful! It is
perfection itself.”

Rosemary loved perfection. And where may one find perfection of high
degree if not in a great metropolitan airport? Those giant silver birds
of the air, their motors drumming in perfect unison, wheeling into
position for flight—how perfect! The touch of genius, the brain and
brawn of the world’s greatest has gone into their making. And as to the
care of them, Rosemary knew that the most valuable horse in the world
never received more perfect treatment.

The depot, too, was perfect. Its hard white floor was spotless. The
ticket sellers, the loitering aviators, even the black-faced redcaps
somehow appeared to fit into a perfect picture.

“The travelers and their luggage,” she whispered, “they too fit in. No
shabby ones. No drab ones. Per—”

She did not finish for of a sudden, as if caught and banged against a
post, her picture was wrecked, for a young man apparently unsuited to
the place had dashed through the depot’s outer door and, grasping her by
the arm, said in a low hoarse whisper:

“I must speak to you personally, privately.”

For a space of ten seconds there was grave danger that Rosemary would
deviate from the path of duty, that she would smash Rule No. 1 for all
airplane hostesses into bits. “Courtesy to all,” that was the rule. And
in the end the rule won.

Getting a steady grip on herself, the girl glanced about, noted that the
small room to the right was at that moment vacant, motioned her
strangely distraught visitor—who, if appearances could be trusted, must
have slept the night before in an alley and fought six policemen
single-handed in the morning—inside, after which she closed the door.

“Than—oh thank you!” the young man gasped.

Then for a period of seconds he seemed quite at a loss as to what he
might say next.

This gave the girl an opportunity for a swift character analysis. She
was accustomed to this. She had flown for two years. Four hundred
thousand miles of flying were down to her credit. Passengers, usually
ten of them, flew with her. It was her duty to keep them comfortable and
happy. To do this she must know them, though she had seen them but for
an hour.

“He’s not as bad as I thought,” was her mental comment. “He’s not been
drinking. He needs sleep. There’s a lot of trouble somewhere. But it’s
not _his_ trouble—at least not much of it. He needs help. He—”

As if reading this last thought, the youth gripped her arm to exclaim:

“You must help me!”

“All right.” Rosemary displayed all her teeth in a dazzling smile.
“That’s my job. How shall I help you?”

“You’re flying west to Salt Lake City. Plane leaves in half an hour. I
must have a place in that plane.”

“I’m sorry.” Rosemary truly was. She had seen most of the other
passengers. They promised to be rather dull. But this young man—“I’m
sorry,” she repeated. “The trip was sold out forty-eight hours ago.”

“I know—” The young man’s tone was impatient. “But—but it must be
arranged. Here!” He crowded a small roll of bills into her hand. “You
can fix it. I can’t. You know who they are. There must be no fuss. No
one must know. You find one. You know folks; you can pick the right one.
Surely there’s one of them that will wait until the night plane. That’s
not sold out yet.

“Be-believe me!” His eyes were appealing as he saw her waver. “It’s not
for myself. If it were, I’d never ask it. It—it’s for a thousand
others.”

“No,” Rosemary was saying under her breath, “it’s not for himself. And
so—”

“All right,” she said quietly, “I’ll try.”

She went away swiftly, so swiftly he could not catch at her arm to thank
her.

On entering the main waiting room of the airport, the young stewardess
looked quickly about her. Twenty or more people were in the room. Which
were passengers, which mere sightseers? She knew some of the men who
were to be with her on this trip. They were old-timers, mostly traveling
men. She would not dare suggest to one of these that he sell his
reservation.

Her gaze at last became fixed upon a youth. “Must be about twenty,” she
told herself. “He’s going. First trip. Nervous, and trying not to show
it. He’ll welcome a delay, like as not. Have to try.” She took in his
ready-to-wear suit, his $5.99 variety of shoes, wondered vaguely why he
was going by air at all, then plunged.

“You mean to tell me,” he was saying slowly three minutes later, “that
some man will give me fifty dollars just to wait six hours for the next
plane? Say! I’d wait a week. Where’s the money?”

“Here! Here it is.” Rosemary felt a great wave of relief sweep over her.
She wanted to ask this youth a dozen questions, but there was not time.

“What’s the name of the man that’s taking your reservation?” the ticket
seller asked of the ready-to-wear youth.

“Why I—”

“I’ll have that for you right away, Charlie,” Rosemary broke in.

“O.K.” Charlie turned to other matters.

Ten minutes later Rosemary received the second shock of the day and from
the same source. Someone touched her on the arm. She wheeled about to
find herself looking at a young man in spotless linen, faultless gray
suit and traveling cap. In his hand he carried a dark brown walrus-hide
bag.

“I—I—why you—” she stammered.

“Quick change artist.” He smiled broadly. “Got hold of my bag, you see.”

It was the young man who only a brief time before did not fit into her
picture of perfection.

“Di-did you get it?” he asked. There was a slight twitch about his
mouth.

She nodded. “Step over here.”

“You’re a marvel!” he murmured. “I can’t tell you—”

“Don’t,” she warned.

“You’ll have to give your name and address here,” she said in a brusque
tone. Then, “Here Charlie. This is the man.”

“Name and address, please,” said Charlie.

“Danby Force, Happy Vale, Connecticut,” said the young man promptly.

“Goodbye,” said Rosemary, “I’ll be seeing you.” And indeed she
should—many times. The power behind all things, that directs the stars
in their courses, that keeps all the little streams moving downhill and
notes the sparrow’s fall, had willed that their paths should cross many
times and in many curious places.

“There is time,” Rosemary told herself, “for a stroll in the open air
before we take to the air.” Then, of a sudden, she recalled a curious
sort of plane that had landed but a short time before. “Wonder if it’s
still here.” She hurried out to the landing field.

“Yes, there it is! I must have a look.”

Speeding over the broad cement way, she crossed to a spot where a small
plane rested. Truly it was a strange plane. It had been painted to
represent a gigantic dragon fly. Its planes seemed thin and gauze-like.
This, she knew, was pure illusion.

“But how beautiful!” she exclaimed.

“Yes, it is beautiful.” To her surprise, she was answered by a
blonde-haired girl who had just stepped round the plane.

“Is—is it yours?” she asked in surprise.

“But yes.” The strange girl spoke with a decided French accent. “I am
the one they call Petite Jeanne. You have heard of me. No? Ah well, it
does not matter.” She laughed a silvery laugh. She was, Rosemary noted,
a slender girl with beautifully regular features and dancing eyes.
“Dancing feet too,” she whispered to herself. “They are never still.”

Unconsciously she had been following the girl round the plane. There, on
the other side, she met with a surprise. Seated on bright colored
bundles, close to a small fire over which a small teakettle steamed, was
a large, stolid-looking gypsy woman and a small gypsy girl.

“So the gypsies are taking to the air!” she exclaimed. “And you—” she
turned to the blonde girl, “are you a gypsy too?”

“As you like.” A cloud appeared to pass over the girl’s face. It was
followed by a smile. “Anyway,” she said, “I am flying now. And you,
since you are flying always, you may see me again in some strange new
place.

“Indeed,” she added after a brief silence, “Madame Bihari here, who is
my foster mother, was telling my fortune with cards.”

“Your fortune?”

“But yes.” The girl laughed merrily. “What would a gypsy be if she did
not tell fortunes?

“And in my fortune,” she went on, “I was to meet a stewardess of the
air. This meeting was to lead me into strange and mysterious adventures.
And now here you are. Is it not strange? It is very wonderful, truly it
is, this telling fortunes with gypsy cards. You must try it.”

“I will,” replied Rosemary. “But now it is almost time for my plane.
I’ll hope to be seeing you. I—”

“One moment please!” Bending over, the blonde girl picked up three small
sticks. “Wherever I land,” she went on, “I shall put two sticks so, and
one stick so, close to the door of the airport depot. If you see it you
will know that I have been there and may be there still.”

“I get you,” Rosemary laughed, “but what do you call that?”

“It is our gypsy _patteran_,” the girl explained soberly. “It is a
custom older than any of your country’s laws.”

“Good! I’ll be seeing you!” Rosemary hurried away. She was not soon to
forget this blonde-haired Petite Jeanne, whom so many of you already
know well. Nor was she to forget that even the gypsies had taken to the
air.

After casting a practiced eye over the interior of her ship, adjusting a
chair and looking to her supply of newspapers and magazines, Rosemary
stepped down from the plane into the sunlight of a glorious day.

A porter was wheeling the baggage cart into position, the chain was
being dropped. In an even tone through a microphone the announcer was
saying, “Plane No. 56 leaving for Omaha, Cheyenne, Salt Lake City and
points west, now loading.”

“We’ll be in the air soon,” Rosemary whispered to herself. The faintest
possible thrill ran up her spine. For this very-much-alive girl, even
after two years of flying, could never quite still the joy and thrill of
flight.

Then the sound of an excited voice reached her ears.

“I must take the bag with me in the cabin,” a woman’s voice was saying.

“But that is contrary to the rules,” the attendant at the gate replied
politely. “The cabin is small. A brief case is quite all right. But
bags, no. If everyone took a bag inside, there’d be no getting about. We
will give you a check for your bag. It will be locked in the baggage
compartment. Nothing can happen to it. In case of loss, the Company’s
millions insure you.”

“But I want—” The tall, dark-complexioned owner of the bag cast a
sweeping glance over her fellow travelers who stood awaiting their turn
at the gate. She appeared to suspect them, one and all, of having
designs on her bag.

The much-traveled commercial passengers smiled indulgently, two ladies
gave the dark-complexioned one a half sympathetic glance. But the young
man who had, through Rosemary’s good offices, so recently acquired a
place on the plane favored her with not so much as a look. He appeared
to have become greatly interested in a small yellow plane that was just
then taking off.

“He just _seems_ to be interested in that plane.” The thought leapt
unbidden into the young stewardess’ mind. “He’s more interested in that
woman than he’d like anyone to know. I wonder why?”

“Oh well, if you insist!” The dark-complexioned lady dropped her bag,
grabbed impatiently at the check offered for it, then hurrying past
Rosemary without affording her so much as a look, climbed aboard the
plane to sink into the seat farthest to the rear.

“As if she proposed to watch the others all the way to Salt Lake City,”
was Rosemary’s mental comment, although she knew the thought to be
unwarranted and absurd.

Ten minutes later, with all on board, they were sailing out over the
city. Rosemary settled down to the business of the hour. She loved her
work, did this slender girl. Hers was an unusual task. She performed it
unusually well. She was in charge of the “ship” while it was in the air.
She was hostess to the ten passengers entrusted to her care. At once her
alert mind took up the problems of this particular journey. She smiled
as two of the four traveling men launched forth on a discussion of the
country’s economic problems. “That settles them,” she told herself. The
third traveling man buried himself in the latest newspaper, and the
fourth dragged out papers from his brief case to pour over figures. Two
rather flashily dressed young men, who had not slept the night before,
asked for pillows. They were soon checked off to the land of dreams. Two
middle-aged women began discussing the feeding and training of children.

All this left to Rosemary’s care only the dark-complexioned woman in a
rear seat and the young man of great haste. “A very quiet trip,” she
told herself. In this, as all too often, she was mistaken.

“What can I do for you?” She flashed a smile at the dark-complexioned
woman. She received no smile in reply.

“Nothing.”

“Magazine? A pillow?”

“No. Nothing.” The woman’s black and piercing eyes were fixed upon her
for a full ten seconds. Then they shifted to the world beneath the
swiftly gliding plane.

Rosemary was neither dismayed nor disheartened. There were many such
people. All they wanted was to be left alone with their thoughts.
Perhaps flashing through the air thousands of feet from the ground
brought serious and solemn thoughts to some types of mind. She rather
guessed it did.

But how about the young man of great haste? He intrigued her. Perhaps he
was the kind who liked to talk. If he were, then perhaps he would tell
secrets. Men often told her secrets. She always guarded them well. “He
may tell me why he was in such great haste,” she thought to herself.

Some people like to talk, some to listen. It is the duty of an airplane
stewardess to talk or to listen as occasion demands. Rosemary was
prepared in this case, as in all others, to do her duty.

“Strange sort of profession, yours,” the young man said, smiling.

“It’s wonderful work!” Rosemary knew on the instant that she would do
most of the talking.

For half an hour he asked questions and she answered them. His
questions, never very personal, were about the life an airplane
stewardess leads. She answered them honestly and frankly. “He honestly
wants to know,” she told herself. “He is the type of person who absorbs
knowledge as a sponge does water. Delightful sort. I’d like to know him
better.”

“But look!” he exclaimed suddenly. “The propeller on this side is gone!”

“Oh, no!” She laughed low. “It’s not gone. Just going around so fast you
can’t see it.”

“But I saw it revolving when we started.”

“We were going slowly then.”

“So it is really still there, producing tremendous power, helping pull
us along—tons of people, mail and steel—at a hundred and seventy miles
an hour! And yet we cannot see it. Marvelous! Unseen power!

“Do you know,” he said, “that’s like God’s influence on our lives. You
can’t see it, you can’t feel it as we feel things with our hands; yet it
is there, a tremendous force in our lives.”

“Yes,” she agreed soberly, “it must be like that.”

At that moment she found herself liking this strange young man very
much. It was, she believed, because of his deeply serious thoughts.

Having discovered that the two traveling salesmen had settled all the
nation’s problems and were looking for reading material, she excused
herself, gripped the seat ahead to steady her, then moved swiftly
forward.

With all her passengers happy once more, she dropped into the one vacant
seat to indulge in a few moments of quiet meditation. Into this
meditation there crept, as she closed her eyes, a slim girlish figure.
Blonde-haired and smiling, she stood beside a plane that resembled a
dragon fly.

“The flying gypsy,” she whispered. “But is she a gypsy?” To this
question she found no answer.

That this slender girl was an interesting person she did not doubt. She
found herself hoping that the gypsy woman’s fortune telling might prove
a success—that they might meet many times.

“Mystery and adventure, those were the words she used.” Mystery and
adventure. Well, this day had not been without its mystery. There was
the strange man, Danby Force, and his urgent need for going somewhere.
Then too there was the dark woman with the bag which she had all but
refused to trust away from her, even in the locked compartment of a
trans-continental plane. What could she have in that bag? The girl
thought of one instance when it had been believed that high explosives
carried in a bag on an air-liner had brought disaster to a score of
persons. “But of course it would not be that,” she told herself.

Rising from her place, she moved back to where the dark-faced one rode.
She seemed fast asleep. But was this only a pose? She could not tell.
Someone forward beckoned to her. Routine duties were resumed.

The hours passed quietly. At five o’clock they were over the Rockies.
Marvelous moment! The golden sun was sinking over the distant prairies.
The mountains, half white with snow, half green with forests, lay
beneath them. They were beyond the timber line.

Suddenly the co-pilot’s light blinked at the back of the cabin.

“Signaling for me. I wonder why.” She moved swiftly forward.

“A storm roaring up the mountains from the west.” Mark Morris, the young
co-pilot, spoke in short jerky sentences. “Going down here. Landing
field of a sort. Laid out on the plateau. Hunting lodge below. No real
danger. Get straps hooked up. Usual stuff.”

Rosemary understood. She passed swiftly along the aisle. A word, a
whisper, a smile, that quiet, care-free air of hers did the work.

“Forced landing. What of that?” This was what the passengers read in her
face.

What indeed? They swooped downward, bumped with something of a shock,
bumped more lightly, glided forward, then came to a standstill.

The tall dark woman sprang to her feet, threw open the door, then swung
herself down. She was wearing low shoes and sheer silk stockings. She
landed squarely in eighteen inches of snow.

“Wait!” Rosemary cried in dismay. “Give her a hand up, some of you men.
I’ll fix you all up right away.”

There were, of course, neither high boots nor leggings in the airplane
cabin, but Rosemary was equal to the occasion. Tearing up a blanket, she
was soon busy fashioning moccasins for the ladies.

“Tie these cords about the bottoms of your trousers,” she said to the
men. “Yes, we’ll go down to the hunting lodge. Be three or four hours
anyway.”

“Where’s the trail?” She spoke now to the young co-pilot.

“See that big rock?”

“Yes.”

“Blazed trail starts there. Easy to follow. About half a mile. Fine
place. Been there three times. Big fireplace. Bacon and other things to
eat. You’ll enjoy your stay,” he chuckled.

“All airways are beaten trails to our pilots,” Rosemary murmured.

A cold wind came sweeping up the mountain. Sharp bits of snow cut at
their cheeks. They were impatient to make a start when, as before, the
dark-faced lady held them up.

“My bag!” she exclaimed. “I must have it!”

“Safe enough here,” said Mark. “All locked up. We’re staying, the pilot
and I.”

“But I insist!” She stamped the ground impatiently.

Five minutes of chilling delay, and she had it. Nor would she relinquish
its care to the most courteous traveling man. She plunged through the
snow with it banging at her side.

“Queer about that bag,” Rosemary murmured to Danby Force, who marched at
her side.

To her surprise he shot her a strange—perhaps, she thought, a startled
look.

“As if I had discovered some secret,” she thought to herself. “Well, I
haven’t—not yet.”

After floundering through the snow for some distance, they came at last
to a spot where a trail wound down the mountainside. Ten minutes of
following this trail brought them to a long, low, broad-roofed building
that, in the gathering darkness, seemed gloomy and forbidding.

“Fine place for a murder,” Danby Force whispered to Rosemary.

“Don’t say that!” She shuddered.

Stamping their feet on the broad veranda, they pushed the door open and
entered. Danby Force struck a match. Directly before him, at the
opposite side of the room, was a fire all laid in a broad fireplace. The
young man’s second match set a mellow glow of light from the dancing
flames searching out every dark corner. For the time at least, the place
lost its forbidding aspect. Indeed it might well have been the banquet
hall of some ancient British hunting lodge, of long ago.

Nor was the banquet lacking. Rosemary Sample was from Kansas. And in
Kansas mothers teach their daughters to cook. Fragrant coffee, crisp
bacon, candied sweet potatoes, plum pudding from a can, steamed to a
delicious fineness—this was the repast she prepared for the guests of
her trans-continental airplane.

All thoughts of the dark-faced lady’s mysterious bag, of Danby Force’s
urgent need, and of the gypsies’ fortune telling were forgotten in the
merriment that followed. One of the college youths, who had slept all
the day, discovered an ancient accordion and at once began playing
delirious music. The rough floor was cleared and all joined in a wild
dance—all but the dark-faced one who sat gloomily in a corner.

From time to time as the music died away, Rosemary listened for the
sounds that came down the chimney. There was a whistle and a moan, the
sighing of evergreen trees and then a rushing roar as if a giant were
blowing across a mammoth bottle.

“Be here all night,” she said to Danby Force at last.

“Guess so. Fine place for a murder.” He smiled at her in a curious way
as he repeated that weird remark of a few hours before.

“Strange place for a—” Rosemary could not make her lips form that
remaining word as, two hours later, staring into the dark, she whispered
that line. She was in the bunk room at the back of the lodge. The women
of the company were all sleeping there. The men had cots before the fire
in the main room.

The dark lady had dragged her traveling bag into the farthest corner and
had crept beneath her blankets after very little undressing. A very
strange person, this dark lady. Rosemary did not exactly like her, but
found in her a certain fascination. Even now, as she turned her face
toward that corner, she fancied that she could see her eyes shining like
a cat’s eyes in the dark. Pure fancy, she knew, but disturbing for all
that.

Just when she fell asleep she never quite knew. She was always definite
about the time of waking—it was just at the break of dawn. She was
startled out of deep sleep by a sudden piercing scream. Instantly Danby
Force’s words came to her. “Fine place for a murder.” But there had been
no murder.



                               CHAPTER II
                           THE VANISHING BAG


“My bag! It is gone! My traveling bag! It has been stolen!” The young
stewardess knew on the instant that the dark-faced lady was the one who
was screaming. That the bag was truly missing she did not doubt.

“Well, it’s happened,” she thought to herself as she tumbled from her
bunk.

What she said to the dark-faced lady was done in a more official manner:

“I’m sure it can’t be far away. Someone has moved it by mistake. We’ll
dress, then we will have a look.” Her tone was calm enough, though her
heart was not.

They did dress and they did have a look—several looks, but all to no
avail.

To Rosemary this was distressing. The whole affair had gone off so
extremely well until now. Of course no one had wished to be delayed on
the journey, but the evening in the lodge had been a delightful one. She
had planned waffles with real maple syrup and coffee for breakfast. And
now came this. It was disheartening.

Here in the gloom of early morning was the dark-faced woman claiming
that her traveling bag had been taken. And who, in the end, could doubt
it? It surely was not to be seen in the bunk room. Everything was turned
over there except the dark one’s bunk which had been made up. And of
course in a bunk flat as a pancake one does not look for a sizable
traveling bag stuffed with all manner of things.

It was not in the large outer room either. When they went outside to see
if some person might have crept in and taken it, or, as the dark-faced
one insisted, “crept out to hide it” there was the clean white snow with
never a track save the half-buried one of Mark Morris coming to report
on the progress of the storm some hours before.

“It’s the strangest thing!” said Rosemary, for once finding herself
quite out of bounds. “It can’t have gotten away. It just can’t!”

“I insist that every person in the place be searched!” the dark woman
demanded.

“What! Search our pockets for a traveling bag?” A rotund drummer roared
with laughter.

“Not for the bag, but for the valuable papers I carried. The bag, more
than likely, has been burned in the fireplace.”

“Absurd!” exclaimed one of the middle-aged ladies. “Leather creates a
terrible odor when burned.”

“Who said it was leather?” snapped the inquisitor. “It was, I believe,
fiber.”

In the end, for the good of her company’s reputation, Rosemary persuaded
them to submit to a search of a sort. The men emptied their pockets,
then turned them inside out. The dark-faced woman went over the other
women with hands that suggested they might have been used for that same
purpose often, so deft, precise and cat-like were her motions.

It was while the men were going through their part of the performance
that the young stewardess noticed a curious thing. The woman watched
them all with what appeared to be slight interest until it came the turn
of Danby Force who had paid so high a price for his reservation on this
plane. Then it seemed to the girl that veritable sparks of fire shot
from the black eyes of the woman. That she took in every detail was
evident. That a look of grim satisfaction, seeming to say, “Ah ha! It is
as I thought!” settled on the woman’s face at that moment, the girl
could not for a moment doubt.

“But why?” she asked herself. “Why?”

To this question she could form no sensible answer for, as in all other
cases, the woman said in a low tone: “None of these are mine.”

Just then the airplane pilot came in to tell them that the storm was at
an end and they might resume their journey. In the rush of preparation,
the hurried brewing of coffee, the hasty eating of a rather meager
breakfast, the dark-faced woman and her vanished traveling bag were
pretty much forgotten.

When at last the travelers were on their way, walking single-file up the
steep incline, Rosemary found herself standing quite unexpectedly beside
the strange young man, Danby Force.

“Wonderful place, this lodge!” he was saying. “Wouldn’t mind coming up
here for a week sometime.”

“Nor I!” Rosemary spoke with unfeigned enthusiasm. And who would not?
They were standing on a broad ledge. Above them, seeming to melt into
the fleecy clouds, was the mountain’s snowy peak. Below, a sheer drop of
a thousand feet, was a very narrow valley all covered with the dark
green of pine, spruce, cedar and tamarack. The air was rich with the
fragrance of the forest.

“One of the high officials in our company is a member,” Rosemary said,
nodding back at the lodge. “That’s why we are free to use it.”

“I fancy I shall be coming back.” The young man spoke slowly. He looked
her squarely in the eyes. Then turning, he followed swiftly after the
others.

“What did he mean by that?” Rosemary asked herself. A strange thought
leaped unbidden into her mind. “Supposing the young man took the missing
bag and hid it somewhere about the place?

“Nonsense!” she whispered. “Where could he have hidden it? No one had
been outside, absolutely no one. And if he did take it, surely he would
not tell me he hoped to return.”

Then a strange fact struck her—the look on this young man’s face had
changed. When she first saw him he had the appearance of one who had
gone through much, who was still haunted by the thought of some great
loss. Now his face was as bland and cheerful as an early spring morning.

“What am I to make of that?” she asked herself.

The answer in the end appeared simple enough, “One good night’s sleep.”
This, she knew full well, was capable of working wonders on a young and
buoyant spirit.

It is strange the manner in which a single incident may change the whole
course of thought for an entire group. As they resumed their journey to
Salt Lake City, no one in the plane discussed economic conditions or
child welfare. No one read. No one wrote or figured. When they spoke it
was in low tones just above the roar of the motors. And Rosemary, though
she heard never a word, knew they talked of the dark-faced woman and her
missing bag. “And those who do not talk are thinking of it,” she told
herself. “And it _is_ strange! What can have become of that bag?”

As if reading her thoughts, Danby Force leaned across the aisle to say
in a low distinct tone: “I fancy Santa Claus must have come down that
broad chimney and carried it off.”

Those were the only words spoken to her until they were nearing their
destination. Then that strange young man leaned over once more to say:

“Curious sort of job you’ve got here! Necessary enough, though. And you
fit in very well, I can see that. I am no end grateful for what you did
back there in Chicago. You saved the situation for me, you surely did!
Hope I may travel with you often. This is my first trip by air, but not
the last—you may be assured of that. I enjoy being carried along by
this—this invisible power.” He chuckled. “And I—I like the company, if
you don’t mind my saying it.”

“Not in the least. I’ve enjoyed knowing you.” Rosemary was vexed at
herself for saying so trite a thing. Truth was, her mind was still
filled with that missing bag. That the dark-faced woman would report the
loss to the office and that there would be no end of fuss about it, she
did not doubt.

“I—I’d like to know you better,” she added as a kind of after-thought,
as she favored Danby Force with a smile.

“You will,” he prophesied, “Oh yes, I am sure you will.”

“And if I don’t,” she told herself a moment later, “I shan’t know much
except that he says his name is Danby Force and that he fancies, at
least, that he can be of service to a few thousand people. Well—” she
sighed, “that’s really something, if it’s not pure fancy.”

The landing field at Salt Lake City seemed hot after their rapid gliding
down from the lands of perpetual snow. In spite of this, Rosemary Sample
breathed a sigh of relief. Her journey was over. From this point the
party would break up. She would rest for a few hours, then go soaring
back to home base where she was to have two whole days to herself.

“Guess we’d better stick around for a bit,” suggested the pilot. “That
woman will be putting in a complaint. We’ll have to tell what we know.

“For that matter, though,” he added, “I can’t see that we have much
responsibility in the matter. She refused to leave the bag locked in the
plane where it would have been safe. Took the matter in her own hands.
The bag was in her possession when it disappeared. So—o!” He smiled.
“That about lets us out. We—

“Look there!” he exclaimed suddenly. “Even the gypsies are taking to the
air.”

At that moment a stout dark-faced woman, wearing the typical gypsy garb,
broad, bright-colored skirt and dazzling silk scarf tied about her head,
was alighting from a small cabin-type monoplane. The plane was like a
huge dragon fly. It had a bottle-green body and silver wings that
glistened like glass in the sun.

The stout, dark woman was followed by a girl of some eight years. And
after her, in a pilot’s garb, came a golden-haired girl who did not look
a day over eighteen.

“It’s strange!” Rosemary’s tone expressed her surprise. “I saw those
same people in Chicago, just before we took off. And now, here they are
right with us.”

“Not so strange,” replied the pilot. “That giant bug of hers may be
quite speedy. They probably took off later than we did and just in time
to miss the storm.

“But look!” he exclaimed, “If that sort of thing is allowed to go on,
what is to come of this bright new thing we call aviation? There’ll be a
crack-up every day in the week. The papers will be full of them and no
one will dare to travel by air. And all that because of rank amateurs
and lax regulations. I’m starting an investigation right now.”

“Nice plane you have,” he said to the golden-haired girl.

“Oh yes, but perhaps a little too small.” The girl spoke with a pleasing
foreign accent.

“You’re not a gypsy?” The veteran pilot smiled in spite of himself.

“But no.” The girl smiled back. “Not entirely. I am French. People call
me Petite Jeanne. I was adopted by gypsies in France. Oh so good,
Christian gypsies! This lady is Mrs. Bihari, my foster mother.”

“I suppose,” said Mark with a laugh, “that you traded a flivver for an
automobile, the auto for a better one, the better one for a poor
airplane, the poor plane for a good one?”

“But no!” The golden-haired girl frowned. “A year ago my own people were
found in France. I had inherited property. This is my very own plane.
And see!” She held out a paper. “This is my license to fly.”

“Mind if I take your ship up for a little spin?” Mark said bluntly.

“But no.” The girl spoke slowly. “That is, if I may go, and if she will
go with us.” She nodded her head toward Rosemary.

Rosemary had little desire to fly in a small plane. She had always
traveled in the magnificent big bi-motored transportation planes which,
she believed, were safe as walking. She had it on the tip of her tongue
to refuse, when the girl cast her an appealing look that she could not
well disregard.

“Yes,” she said, “yes, surely I will go.”

Three minutes later they were in the air. Ten minutes later, with a sigh
of relief Rosemary found her feet once more on the solid earth.

“You’d be surprised!” Mark whispered enthusiastically. “Never saw a
better equipped plane, nor one in finer condition. That motor is a joy!
The radio is perfect. Everything, just everything. If all the amateurs
were as careful this world of the air would be one great big joy.”

“Wonderful little plane!” he exclaimed, gripping the little French
girl’s hand. “And how wonderfully cared for!”

“But why not?” The girl showed all her white teeth in a smile. “We gypsy
people have a saying, ‘Life is God’s most beautiful gift to man.’ This
is true, I am sure. Then why should anyone do less than the very best
that he might keep that gift?”

“Why indeed? And thanks for the good word.”

“Do you travel much?” It was a new voice that asked this question. The
rather mysterious Danby Force had come up unobserved.

“Oh yes! We are gypsies. All gypsies travel much,” was the girl’s reply.

“Where will you go next?”

“Over the mountains to Cheyenne.”

“Ah, then you will be going part way back the way we came,” Danby Force
said. There was an eager note in his voice. “I wonder if it would be
possible for you to take a passenger and to pause for a brief time at a
safe landing field?”

Rosemary started. So Danby Force meant to return. He was going back to
the lodge. Had he, after all, taken the dark-faced lady’s bag? Had he
hidden it there? Would he return and carry it away? If so, why? Why?
Such were the questions that crowded her mind. And she did not like
them. She _did_ like Danby Force. She wanted to believe that he was
incapable of doing a thing dishonest or dishonorable. She had not
forgotten his delightful words about God’s invisible power in our lives.

But the little French girl was speaking. “If it will help someone,” she
was saying. “We will take you over the mountains and stop at this safe
place you speak of.”

“It will help—help a great deal, I assure you!” Danby Force exclaimed.
“It may help three thousand people.”

“There it is again,” Rosemary thought. “Always speaking of thousands.”

“We might as well get over to the airport,” Mark, the pilot, suggested
to Rosemary. “The dark lady has had ample time to lodge her complaint.”

They went, but much to their surprise found that no complaint had been
filed. What was more, the dark lady had vanished. No one about the place
could tell them how she had gone, nor where.

“It’s the strangest business I ever had anything to do with!” Mark
grumbled. “Loses her bag, valuable papers and all, and still no
complaint. But believe me!” he exclaimed, “we’ve not heard the last of
this!” Nor had they.



                              CHAPTER III
                        THE “FLYING CORNTASSEL”


The evening after her arrival in Salt Lake City, Rosemary Sample, the
young airplane stewardess, overheard a conversation that interested her
greatly and at the same time strengthened her faith in the rather
mysterious young man, Danby Force.

She might have thought of herself as an eavesdropper had not the
incident occurred in that most public of all public places, the lobby of
a large hotel, the Hotel Temple Square. Not that she was staying at so
expensive a place. Far from that, she occupied a room in a clean,
modest-priced rooming house. But Rosemary had a weakness for large downy
chairs, soft lights, expensive draperies and all that and, since at this
time of year this hotel was not crowded, she could see no reason why she
might not indulge these tastes for an hour or two at least.

She was buried deep in a heavily upholstered chair, thinking dreamily of
her home in Kansas, of her mother, father, and the young people of the
old crowd back home. She was smiling at the name they had given her,
“The Flying Corntassel of Kansas,” when, chancing to look up, she beheld
a vision of beauty all wrapped in deep purple and white. To her
astonishment she realized that this was none other than the flying
gypsy’s adopted daughter who called herself Petite Jeanne. She wore a
long cape of purple cloth trimmed with white fox fur.

At the same moment someone else caught the vision, Danby Force. And
Danby Force had something to say about it.

“What a gorgeous cape, and what marvelous color!” he exclaimed. There
was in his tone not a trace of flattery. He spoke with the sincerity of
one who really knows beauty of texture when he sees it.

“Yes,” the little French girl agreed, “it is very beautiful. It was sent
to me only last month by my gypsy friends in France. Since I have had a
little money I have helped them at times. Their life is hard. These days
are very hard.

“The cloth,” she went on after a time, “was woven by hand from pure
sheep’s wool taken from the high French Alps.”

“And the color?” Danby Force asked eagerly.

“Ah-h—” the little French girl smiled. “That is a deep secret that only
the gypsies know. There are those who say the kettle of color only boils
at midnight and that then the color is mixed with blood. That is
nonsense. These are good gypsies, Christian gypsies, just as the great
preacher, Gypsy Smith was. But they have their secrets and they keep
them well.

“Perhaps,” she added after a moment’s thought, “this is the royal purple
one reads of in the Bible. Who can tell?”

“That,” said Danby Force, “is a valuable secret.” He motioned the little
French girl to a seat and took one close beside her.

“I know a man,” he said after a moment of silence, “who made some
valuable discoveries regarding colors. He could dye cloth in such a
manner that it would not fade, yet the process was not costly.

“This man had spent his boyhood in a town where textile mills had
flourished. After his remarkable secret discoveries he returned to that
town to find the people idle, the mills falling into decay. The weaving
industry had moved south where there was cotton and cheap
labor—pitifully cheap!”

Danby Force paused to stare at the pattern of the thick carpet on the
floor. He appeared to be making a mental comparison between that carpet
and the cheap rag rugs on the floors in that forgotten town.

Rosemary stole a look at the little French girl’s face. It was all
compassion.

“And this little forgotten town?” suggested Petite Jeanne at last.

“It is forgotten no longer.” Danby Force smiled a rare smile. “The man
who possessed those rare secrets of color gave them to his home town.
Since they were able to produce cloth that was cheap, and better than
any other of its kind, the mills began to flourish again and the people
to work and smile.

“But now,” he added as a shadow passed over his interesting face, “their
prosperity is threatened once more.”

Then, as if he had been about to divulge a forbidden secret, he sprang
to his feet. “I must be going. We leave at eight. That right?”

“It is quite right,” agreed Petite Jeanne.

Rosemary Sample went to her rest that night with a strange sense of
futile longing gnawing at her heart. What was its cause? She could not
tell. Had she become truly interested in that strange young man, Danby
Force, who talked so beautifully of God’s unseen power, who spoke of
doing good to thousands, and yet who might have—. She would not say it
even to herself, yet she could not avoid thinking. Could she become
seriously interested in such a young man? She could not be sure.

“That charming little French girl is carrying him away in the morning,”
she assured herself. “I may never see him again.

“He is going back to the hunting lodge. I wonder—”

She tried to picture in her mind the bit of life’s drama that would be
enacted by Danby Force and the little French girl after they had landed
and gone down the narrow trail to the lodge. In the midst of this rather
vain imagining she fell asleep.

She awoke next morning prepared for one more journey through the air,
one more group of passengers. “Wonder if there will be any interesting
ones?” she whispered. “Wonder if that dark-faced woman will return with
me?” She shuddered. “She’s like a raven, Poe’s raven. Wonder if she’s
filed a complaint about her missing bag. And if she has, what will come
of it?”

After oatmeal, coffee and rolls eaten at a counter with the capable and
ever friendly Mark Morris at her side, she felt well fortified for the
day’s adventures, come what might.

We advertise our occupation in life by the posture we assume. The barber
has his way of standing that marks him as a barber. The clerk of a
department store puts on a mask in the morning and takes it off at
night. The posture of an airplane stewardess is one suggesting the
jaunty joy of life pictured by a blue bird on the tiptop of a tree,
seventy feet in air.

“Safe?” her posture says plainer than words. “Of course it’s safe to
fly. Look at me, I’ve flown four hundred thousand miles.”

Rosemary Sample was an airplane stewardess to the very tips of her
fingers. Her task was a dual one, to inspire confidence and to
entertain. She did both extremely well. Yet she too must be entertained.
She must receive a thrill now and again. Riding in a plane brought no
thrill to her. Only her passengers could bring her the change she
craved.

“There’s always one,” she had a way of saying to her friends, “one
passenger who is worth five hours of study.”

She was not long in finding the “one” on this journey back to Chicago.
Strangely enough, he took the seat vacated by the dark-complexioned
lady. Yet, how different he was! He was young, not much over twenty,
Rosemary thought.

“Hello, little girl!” were his first words. “What’s your name?”

“Rosemary Sample.” She smiled because she was saying to herself, “He’ll
do the talking. That’s fine. I’m too tired to talk.”

“So you’re a sample.” He laughed. “I’d like a dollar bottle of the
same.”

“A sample’s all there is and all there can be,” she replied quickly.

“What! You mean to say you couldn’t grow?”

“Exactly. Five feet four inches tall, weight a hundred and twenty
pounds. Those are the regulations for a stewardess. You can be smaller,
but no larger. You see,” she laughed, “they couldn’t make the airplane
cabins to fit the stewardesses, tall, short, thin or thick, so the
stewardess must be picked to fit the cabin.”

“Oh!” The young man’s grin was frank, honest and friendly. “Well, this
is my first trip in these big birds. I’ve got a little ship all my own,
only just now she’s busted up quite a bit.”

“Cracked up? Too bad!” Rosemary was truly sorry. She was going to like
this passenger. Besides, to one who sails the air a crack-up is just as
true an occasion for sorrow as a shipwreck is to a mariner on the high
seas. “What happened?” she asked quietly. “Bad storm?”

“No.” He laughed lightly. “Couple of struts got loose. I nearly lost
control two thousand feet up. Cracked up in a corn field. Shucked a lot
of corn.” He laughed rather loudly.

Rosemary’s face was sober. She had seen his kind before. They went in
for flying because it promised thrills. They neglected their planes. If
they crashed and were not killed, they turned it into a joke. The whole
thing made her feel sick inside. She loved flying. She thought of it as
one of God’s latest and most marvelous gifts to man. She knew too that
nothing very short of perfection in care, equipment and piloting could
put it in the place in every man’s life where it belonged.

“So you laugh at a crash that results from carelessness?” Her lips were
white. “That’s the sort of thing that makes life hard for all of us who
are trying to make flying seem a safe and wonderful thing. Nothing but
selfishness could make one laugh at a tragedy or a near tragedy that is
his own fault. It—”

But she stopped herself. After all, she was a stewardess, being paid to
be pleasant.

Springing to her feet, she moved up the aisle to see that the airplane
load of traveling salesmen forward had the papers, pencils, magazines
and pillows they needed.

“So you’re a sample,” said the youth as she returned to her seat. “Don’t
know as I want a full bottle after all.”

“In the end you’ll take it.” She was smiling now. “Or someone will be
setting up a marble marker where little Willie lies. And that,” she
added slowly, “would be too bad.”

She spoke, not of herself, but her attitude toward aviation. He knew
this. She could read it in his eyes.

“Tha—thanks for these few kind words,” he replied rather lamely.

Five minutes later this young man, who went by the name of William
VanGeldt and whose family evidently were possessed of considerable
wealth, was speaking in glowing tones of his mother. He had, the young
stewardess discovered, beneath his thin coating of indifference to the
serious things of life, a warm heart full of appreciation for the ones
who had given of their best that his life might be well worth living.

“He’ll take the full bottle,” she whispered to herself. “And he’ll get
to like it.” She was to learn the truth of these words in days that were
to come.



                               CHAPTER IV
                       WITH THE AID OF PROVIDENCE


To the little French girl, Petite Jeanne, each day dawned as a bright
new adventure. Mysteries might come and go, as indeed they often had,
but adventure! Ah yes, adventure was always with her.

Nor had her new treasure, the airplane with its gauze-like wings,
lessened her opportunity for adventure. Indeed it had increased it
tenfold. To Rosemary Sample one might say, “Well, you’re off to another
airplane journey,” and she undoubtedly would answer with a sigh, “Yes,
one more trip.” Not so Petite Jeanne. She was not reckless, this slender
child of the air. Her motor was inspected often, each guy and strut
tested, her radio tuned to the last degree of perfection. For all that,
each day as she took to the air it was with such a leaping of the heart
as comes only with fresh adventure.

And so it was that, as she climbed into the cockpit, with Madame Bihari,
Danby Force, and the tiny gypsy girl at her back, she touched the
controls of her perfect little plane for all the world as if never
before had her fingers known that touch. And as, after skimming along
the air above the foothills, she began climbing toward one lone snowy
peak among the Rockies, her heart was filled to overflowing with a fresh
zest for living.

“Just to live,” she whispered, “to live, to love, to dream, to hope and
sometimes see our hopes fulfilled! To see the dew on the grass in the
early morning, to hear the robins chirping in the early evening, to
watch children play, to feel the wind playing in your hair, to feel the
warm sunshine kiss your cheeks, to watch the red and gold of evening
sky. Ah yes, and to watch that snowy peak just before me, watch it grow
and grow and grow—that is _life_—_beautiful, wonderful, glorious life!_”

The airplane, which might have seemed to one far away a giant silver
insect, went gliding about the white capped mountain to drop at last
with scarcely a bump upon that landing field that had at other times
been a pasture above the clouds.

How convenient it would be if at times one’s spirit might, for a space
of a half hour or more, leave the body that, closing about it, holds it
in one place, and go with the speed of light to distant scenes. The
spirit of Rosemary Sample, speeding away toward Chicago, might for a
quarter hour or more have been spared from the great trans-continental
airplane. No one surely would have begrudged so faithful a worker such a
short period of recreation. And surely Rosemary would have been thrilled
by the opportunity of following our little company on the mountain crest
as they left Jeanne’s plane and followed the trail winding down to the
hunting lodge.

Had the spirit of Rosemary truly been with them, she must surely have
been asking herself, “Why is Danby Force here? What does he expect to
find at the lodge? Did he take the dark lady’s traveling bag? Is it
hidden there? Will he find it? And if he does, what will he take from
it? ‘Valuable papers’ were the dark lady’s words. Were there such
papers? There is some relation between this fine-appearing young man and
that lady. What can it be?” So the spirit of Rosemary Sample might have
spoken to itself had it followed down the mountainside. But the spirit
of Rosemary Sample was not there. Rosemary Sample, body, soul and
spirit, was in the trans-continental plane speeding on toward Chicago.
And beside her, now talking loudly and boastfully of his dangerous
exploits as an amateur aviator, and now speaking in kindly and gentle
tones of his mother, was young Willie VanGeldt.

“I should not care for him at all,” Rosemary told herself. Yet there was
something about him, his light and good-natured views of life, his smile
perhaps, something about him that claimed her interest.

“As if the stars had willed that for a time our lives should run
together, like trains on parallel tracks,” she whispered to herself.
Little did she guess the part that this youth with his wealth and his
reckless ways would play in her life, nor that which she would play in
his.


In the meantime Jeanne, Danby Force and their gypsy companions were
wending their way down the trail that led to the hunting lodge.

“I shan’t detain you long,” Danby Force was saying to Jeanne. “It’s just
a little thing I want to look into up here.”

Jeanne, whose curiosity had not as yet been aroused, scarcely heard him.
She was awed and charmed by the grandeur and beauty of the mountains. To
look up two thousand feet to the snow-clad rocks that were the mountain
peaks, then to look down quite as far to the tree-grown canyons far
below—ah that was grand!

When at last they came in sight of the rustic lodge, flanked as it was
by massive rocks and half covered by overhanging boughs of evergreens,
she stopped in her tracks to stand there lost in admiration.

“Ah!” she murmured, “What a grand solitude is here! Who would not wish
to return many, many times!”

She was soon enough to learn that it was not solitude the interesting
young man, Danby Force, sought. For, contrary to Rosemary Sample’s
suspicion, he had not hidden the dark lady’s traveling bag. He had
returned to seek it. How did he hope to succeed when, on that other
occasion, all others had failed? Well may one ask. Yet Danby Force did
not lack for hope. He believed in a kind Providence that sometimes
guides an honest soul in its search for hidden things. With the aid of
this Providence he might succeed where others had failed.



                               CHAPTER V
                             DANBY’S SECRET


Before leaving Salt Lake City, in accord with the customs of all
gypsies, Madame Bihari and Jeanne had laid in a supply of provisions.
Having come upon them while in the act, Danby Force had added a few
luxuries to the stock. They were therefore prepared for a stay of some
length if need be.

In spite of this, Danby Force said as he entered the lodge, “We won’t be
here long I hope. I came to look for that bag.” He favored Jeanne with a
smile.

“Oh, a mystery!” she cried. “A missing bag. Was it yours? And how was it
lost?”

“Oh! Of course!” he exclaimed. “You don’t know a thing about it! How
stupid of me! Sit down and I’ll tell you about it. At least—” he
hesitated, “I’ll tell you some things.”

Madame Bihari had kindled a fire in the huge fireplace. The glow of it
lighted up the little French girl’s face. It made her look
extraordinarily beautiful. Danby Force took in a long breath before he
began.

That which he told her after all was not so very much—at least he did
not tell her why he was so intensely interested in that traveling bag.
He did tell her all that had passed in that cabin on the previous day.

“So you see,” he ended, “that the bag must be here somewhere. You don’t
carry away a leather bag a foot high and two feet long in your mouth,
nor inside your shoe either.” The little French girl joined him in a low
laugh.

“But no!” she exclaimed. “And yet I cannot see how it could matter so
much.”

“It’s the papers in that bag,” he explained. “She did not steal those
papers, that dark lady. She is no common thief. They are hers in a way.
And yet she could use them to ruin the prosperity and happiness of three
thousand people.”

“But why would she do such a terrible thing?” The little French girl
spread her hands in horror.

“There are reasons. She is a truly bad woman,” he said briefly.

“I will help you.” On Petite Jeanne’s face was written a great desire.
“And these others I will help if I can.

“To do something for others—” she spoke slowly. “To really do things and
to love doing them! Ah, there is the key to all true happiness! In the
terrible times that are passing, if we have learned this, then it is
worth while.”

“Yes,” said Danby Force, taking her slender hand in a solemn grip. “It
_is_ worth it.”

“But come!” Jeanne sprang to her feet. “We must find this so important
bag.

“Where,” she asked a moment later, “did this lady sleep?”

“In here.” Danby Force led the way to the bunk room.

“In which bunk?” Jeanne insisted.

“I think that one. I can’t be sure.” Danby Force pointed to the darkest
corner.

“When we gypsies are camping in tents,” said Jeanne, “when we are afraid
of thieves, we put the things we treasure most at the bottom of our bed
where no one can touch them without touching our toes.”

After casting the gleam of a flashlight upon the bunk Danby Force had
indicated, she seized the blankets and threw them back.

At once an exclamation escaped Danby’s lips:

“The bag!”

It was true. There, well flattened out beneath the blankets, lay a
flexible leather traveling bag. When he had seized upon it, the young
man found it unlocked and empty.

“She tricked me,” he murmured. “The bag was not lost. It was hidden. She
put on the extra clothes she carried and wore them beneath a long coat.
She carried the papers in some concealed pockets. By pretending that the
bag was lost she has thrown me completely off her track.

“I was not sure—” He was speaking slowly, calmly now. “I could not be
sure that she was what we suspected her of being. I had been away from
our plant when she was employed there. I did not believe she knew me, so
I followed her. This act, this hiding of the bag proves that she is the
person we thought her and that she did know me. Now she has escaped me.
She is gone. Who can say how or where? The trail is old by now. I cannot
follow her.”

Moving slowly, like one in a dream, he retraced his steps to his place
by the fire, then sank gloomily into a chair. For a long time he sat
staring into the fire.

“Do something for someone else,” he murmured after poking the fire until
it glowed red. “Yes, that’s the thing. That should be the slogan of our
generation—do something for someone else. But when there are those who
block all your efforts, what then?”

He looked up for a moment. By chance his gaze fell upon a broad window.
Through that window one’s eyes beheld a magnificent sight—the topmost
peak of the mountain’s jagged crest, rearing high in all its glory.

For a full moment the young man’s gaze remained fixed upon this crown of
beauty. Then in a voice mellowed by reverence, he murmured:

  “‘I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills
    From whence cometh my help.
  My strength cometh from the Lord
    Which made heaven and earth.’

“I am going to tell you,” he said, turning to the little French girl.
“Perhaps you can help me.”

“I can but try,” Petite Jeanne’s tone was deep and serious.

“I told you of the man who made priceless discoveries regarding color.”

Jeanne leaned far forward to listen. In the corner the gypsy woman sat
stolid in silence. The child was playing with some bright feathers in a
spot of sunlight on the floor. The place was very still.

“Yes—yes,” the little French girl whispered.

“Perhaps I told you he returned to his home town to find it in
desolation and that he gave his precious secrets to his town, and how it
prospered after that.”

“You have told me,” replied Petite Jeanne, “but you have not told all.
Were you the discoverer of these rare colors?”

“I—?” The word came in shocked surprise. “No, it was not I.”

There was a period of silence. Then in a voice raised scarcely above a
whisper he said:

“It was my father.”

“Oh!” the little French girl breathed.

“He made these discoveries while serving as an industrial chemist in the
Great War,” Danby Force went on after a time. “The war was terrible for
him. He was gassed. He did not live many years. There—there’s a library
in his town now, a splendid tribute to his memory.

“And I—” he spoke slowly. “I, his only son, have tried to guard his
secrets well. But now it seems I am about to fail.”

“But you have not. Not yet?” The little French girl’s tone was eager.

“No, perhaps not yet.”

“Then you shall not!” Petite Jeanne sprang to her feet. “I shall help
you. We all can help. This young lady, this stewardess you have told me
of, she travels far. She can watch. But tell me,” she demanded eagerly,
“tell me of this dark-faced woman. One must know much if one is to be
truly helpful.” She sank back into her chair.

“That woman!” Danby’s tone became animated. “I am convinced that she is
an industrial spy.”

“An industrial spy?” Jeanne’s eyes opened wide.

“Yes. An industrial spy is one who makes it his business to spy out the
secret processes of his fellow workers, then to sell these secrets to
others.

“Sometimes he is one of your fellow countrymen. More often he is from
another land. In these days of extreme difficulty and great struggle to
make goods cheaply and to sell in many markets, there are many, many
spies.

“At first we trusted this woman. For three months she was employed in
our factory. And to think—” springing to his feet, he began pacing the
floor. “To think that all that time she was spying out secrets that
rightly belong to our people!

“These spies!” he exclaimed bitterly. “They fasten cameras beneath their
jackets. A tiny lens is concealed as a button. They take pictures,
hundreds of them. They make drawings. If they may, they carry away
secret receipts.”

“Did that woman do all this?” Jeanne asked.

“I am not sure that she has the secret formula. If she has not, then all
may not be lost. And yet, she may have all the information needed. If
she has, she will carry it back to her own country and we are ruined,
for hers is a land where the poor slave long hours for little pay.”

“We must find her!” the little French girl exclaimed. “We shall, I am
sure of that.”

“Yes, we must find her,” Danby agreed. “It is known that she is an alien
in this country without passport. If only she can be found, she may be
sent back to her own country with pockets empty as far as industrial
secrets are concerned.”

Then, as if he wished to forget it all for a little space of time, that
he might revel in the comfort and natural beauty of his surroundings,
Danby Force shook himself, glanced away at the snow-capped mountains,
then dropped into a chair to sit musing before the glowing fire.

The little French girl had wandered to the back of the cabin. Presently
he heard her light footsteps approaching. Looking up suddenly, he caught
a vision of pure loveliness. Jeanne had slipped over her shoulders the
purple cape with its faultless white fox collar. Just at that instant
she was standing by a window where the light turned her hair into pure
gold.

“How—how perfect!” he breathed. “But why so pensive?” he asked as he
caught a glimpse of her face.

“I was thinking,” said Jeanne slowly. “Wondering. Should you lose your
precious secrets, then perhaps I might coax the secret of this royal
purple from my gypsy friends. That would help you. Is it not so?”

“Yes, yes,” he agreed eagerly. “It would help a great deal!”

“But would it be right?” Jeanne’s brow wrinkled. “In France there are
many poor gypsies, thousands perhaps, who weave cloth and dye it too. If
the secret were lost to them, then perhaps they would go hungry.”

“That,” said Danby Force, “requires much thinking. We must do no wrong.
And we _must_ find that woman!” He sprang from his chair.

“Yes,” Jeanne agreed. “We must! But first we must eat.” She laughed a
merry laugh. “See! Our good Madame Bihari has prepared a gypsy feast. I
am sure you will enjoy it.”

Danby Force did enjoy that feast. A meat pie filled with all sorts of
strange and delicious flavors, a drink that was not quite hot chocolate
nor quite anything else, thin cakes baked on the coals, and after that
fruit and bonbons. What wonder they lingered over the repast—lingered
indeed too long, for, when at last they stepped from the doorway all the
mellow sunshine had vanished and in its place dark clouds, like massive
trains with huge silently rolling wheels were moving up the
mountainside.

“Good!” Jeanne clapped her hands. “Now we shall remain in this most
wonderful place all night. And Madame Bihari, she shall tell your
fortune.”

“My fortune?” The young man stared at her.

“But yes!” Jeanne did not laugh. “You are in trouble. There are many
things you wish to know. To be sure you must have your fortune told. And
Madame Bihari, she tells fortunes beautifully, I assure you!” She went
dancing, light as a fairy across the broad veranda to disappear like
some woods sprite along a winding trail.



                               CHAPTER VI
                         THE GYPSY WITCH CARDS


So that evening Danby Force consented to have his fortune told. Being a
practical young man who thought in terms of dollars and cents, and
seldom found time for dreaming, he was not likely to take the matter
seriously. Why did he consent? Perhaps it was because he liked Petite
Jeanne and wished to please her. And then again there may have been in
his nature, as there is in many another practical person’s, a feeling
for the mysterious, the thing that cannot be entirely explained. And who
can say that this race of wanderers, these gypsies, may not have hidden
away in their breasts some secrets unknown to others? Surely, as we have
seen, they could make a cape of royal purple such as is known among no
other people. Whatever the reason, Danby Force consented to have his
fortune told.

That night the great lounge of the hunting lodge presented to Jeanne a
setting both weird and wonderful. She loved it. Flames in the great
fireplace sent shadows chasing one another from beam to beam of the
ceiling. Two candles, one at each end of the long table, casting each
its yellow gleam, brought out the handsome smiling face of Danby Force,
but left Madame Bihari in all but complete darkness. From the mantel
above the fire came the slow tick-tock of a clock. Once, from without,
the girl thought she caught the challenging cry of some wild thing,
perhaps a wolf.

“There,” said Madame Bihari, looking up at Danby Force, “are the cards.
You shall shuffle them, my young friend. You shall cut them with your
left hand. Then you shall place them on the table in positions I shall
tell you of.” Madame Bihari talked at this moment just as Jeanne had
always imagined a wooden man might talk, each word spoken in the same
low, slow tone.

“There are the cards,” Jeanne thought to herself. Yes, there they were.
How many times she had watched Madame Bihari tell fortunes from those
cards! As she closed her eyes she could see some rich and dignified
dame, at the steps of a castle in France, spread out those same cards,
then sit intent, motionless, expectant as Madame Bihari told her
fortune.

“And how cleverly she tells them!” Jeanne whispered to herself. “There
was the Chateau Buraine. Madame said, ‘It will be destroyed by fire.’
Two months later it was in ashes. And the gypsies did not set the fire.
_Mais_ no! No! They were all away at the Paris Fair.”

“Now—” Madame was speaking once more to Danby. “Now you have shuffled,
you have cut the cards. You shall now lay them face-up in rows, six in
the first row, then eight in a row for five rows, and last, six in a
row.”

Jeanne watched fascinated as the cards were turned up. She knew those
cards by heart. Each had its number. On each card was a different
picture, a serpent, a sun, a moon, children at play, a house, a cloud, a
tree, a mouse, a bear; yes, yes, there were pictures and each picture
had its meaning, a good prophecy or a bad one. Health, happiness,
riches, love, enemies, failure, deception, sickness, death—all these and
many more were prophesied by these pictures.

Most important of all was one card, the picture of a gentleman in
evening coat and tall, starched collar. His number was 19. It was this
card that, in the next moment or two, would stand for the young man,
Danby Force. Would he be surrounded by cards telling of success, love
and happiness, or by those telling of dire misfortune? She held her
breath as Danby, his fingers trembling slightly, dealt the cards.

Did Jeanne believe in all this? Had you asked her, she would perhaps
have found no reply. She had lived long with the gypsies, had Petite
Jeanne. How could she escape believing? And, after all, who would wish
to escape? Who is there in all the world that cares to say, “I know all
about these things. There is no truth in them?”

Anyway, here was Madame Bihari, Danby Force, Petite Jeanne. Here were
the dancing shadows. There were the cards. And there—Jeanne caught her
breath. Yes, there was the man in evening dress. There was card number
19. Every card placed close to him must have a very special meaning.
Leaning back into the shadows, she waited. When all the cards were down,
Madame Bihari would study them. There would be a silence, three minutes,
four, five minutes long, then Madame would speak.

In her eagerness to catch every word, Jeanne moved close up beside Danby
Force.

Silence followed, such a silence as makes a roar of the wind singing
down the chimney. From the mountainside there came the whisper of spruce
trees. Torn, twisted, and tangled by storms, those trees stood there
like horrible dwarfs whispering of love and life, of hatred and death.
Once Jeanne, moved by who knows what impulse, went tip-toeing from her
place to press her nose against the glass and peer into that darkness.
Then, as if all the gnarled trees had been shaking fists at her, she
sprang back to her place close to Danby Force.

When at last Madame Bihari broke the silence, she spoke in a deep
melodious tone:

“Ah. The snake!”

“The snake!” Jeanne murmured low. She shuddered.

“But he is not too near.” There was a measure of relief in Madame’s
tone. “And see! Between Monsieur and the snake is the Book. Ah! That is
good! The Book stands for mystery that shall be solved. And the Eye!”
Her tone became animated.

“Oh! The Eye!” Jeanne was smiling now, for well she knew that the Eye
betokened great interest taken by friends.

“Friends,” she whispered to Danby Force, when Madame had told of the
Eye, “Friends, they are everything!”

“Yes.” Danby’s tone was full of meaning. “Friends, loyal friends, they
are worth more than all else in this life! And, thank God, I have many
friends!”

“And see!” Madame exclaimed. “Here is the Moon. A very good sign.

“But the fox! Ah, this is bad! This speaks of distrust. There are those,
Monsieur, whom you must not trust too much—perhaps some who are very
close to you.”

“Yes, I—”

Madame did not permit the young man to finish. “The Sun!” Her face
darkened. “The Sun tells of future vexation.”

“I shouldn’t wonder.” Danby Force laughed. “Indeed I have had quite a
lot of that already. But come! I shall be having the jitters from all
this evil prophecy. Let’s get our little blonde-haired friend to make us
a steaming cup of chocolate, and please put in just one spoonful of
malted milk and a marshmallow.” He touched Jeanne’s golden locks gently.

“But one moment!” Madame protested. “Here is the pig close at hand. He
tells of great abundance.”

“Perhaps that means that I am to have two cups of chocolate.” Danby
laughed once more.

“But yes!” Jeanne joined him in the laugh. “Three if you say so.”

“One moment more, I pray you!” Madame’s tone was very earnest. “I read
in these cards that there is one who calls himself your friend. He has
dark and curly hair. He smiles. He dances. He is very much alive. But
ah! He is a rascal! You must beware!”

“I shall beware. Thank you,” Danby said soberly.

“And now!” exclaimed Jeanne, springing to her feet, “Our cup of cheer!”

When their light repast was over, when Madame sat nodding by the fire
that had burned low, Jeanne spoke to Danby Force in words of exceeding
soberness. “You must not treat too lightly Madame’s forecast with the
cards. Indeed you must not! She is old. She has told fortunes since she
was a child. The rich and the very great, they have listened often to
her fortunes. Truly they have.

“Once—” her voice dropped to a whisper. “Once she said to a man, a very
great man who lived in a castle on a hill: ‘You shall die. In two months
you will be dead.’ And in two months his heart stopped. He was dead,
dead.”

For some time after that she sat staring at the fire. When she spoke
again it was in a changed tone:

“But you, my friend, you did not have a bad fortune. Indeed not! There
were troubles. They come to all. You will overcome them. There were
those you must not trust. You will discover that they are traitors. In
the end you shall have honor, perhaps much money, and always I am sure—”
her voice dropped, “Always you shall have many, many friends.”

“Ah yes,” he whispered. “Please, dear little French girl, many friends!”

After that, for a long time, with the fire gleaming brightly before them
and the murmur of the wild out-of-doors coming down the chimney to them,
they sat reading their own fortunes in the flames.



                              CHAPTER VII
                            A STRANGE BATTLE


In the meantime the little stewardess, Rosemary Sample, had made her way
back to Chicago. During the time Danby Force was having his fortune told
she was thinking at intervals of him. She was in her own small room and,
as one will, whose mind is not actively engaged in performing a task,
she was thinking of many things. Rosemary was, by nature, romantic.
Contrary to general opinion, there are few romances between pilots of
the air and their lady companions. Pilots, as a rule, are married men
with homes they love all the more dearly because of enforced absence
from them. Rosemary had been obliged to find romance, if any, from
contact with her passengers. And there had been romances of a sort,
though none of serious import. She smiled now as she thought of the
great banker who more than once had favored her with a smile; of the
movie actor, little more than a boy, who had traveled on her ship, once
every week for four months. “Such a nice boy,” she whispered. “He—”

Her thoughts broke off. She listened intently. Over her head was clamped
a head-set for receiving messages. Her radio was in tune with the
sending sets of all her company’s great fleet of airplanes. What message
did she expect to receive? Often none in particular. She loved the
general chatter of the air. “Plane Number 9 taking off from Chicago to
New York.” “Plane Number 34 due in Cheyenne at 9:15, twenty minutes
late.” “Plane Number 11 grounded by a storm near Troy, New York.” All
this was music to her ears, for was she not part of it all, the great
air-transportation system, not of tomorrow, but of today?

Tonight, however, she half expected a personal message. To each of six
friends, all stewardesses of the air, she had told what she knew of the
dark lady. To each she had said, “If she boards your ship, give my call
number and let me know. I’ll be listening till time for sleep.”

The message that for the instant held her attention proved
disappointing. It was not for her. So she went on with her dreaming. And
in those dreams there frequently appeared two faces—a serious one, Danby
Force, and a smiling one, Willie VanGeldt.

“How different they are!” she thought to herself. “And yet, if I am not
mistaken each has been, or will be, heir to a large fortune. It seems
that even rich people have their own way of living.”

These thoughts did not long hold her fancy. Soon she was dreaming of
trips she would make in the future. No, not trips from Chicago to New
York, then New York to Chicago. Nothing like that, but long trips into
strange places. She’d collect a pocketful of passes and go wandering.
She’d catch a ship across the Canadian prairies to Edmonton, take the
north going plane and land at last at the mouth of the Mackenzie River
on the shore of the Arctic. There she’d play with brown Eskimo babies
and tame seals. She would drive dog teams and reindeer, ride in
skin-boats and perhaps—just perhaps—hunt polar bear.

When she tired of all this, she’d go flying south through the air, south
to Cuba, Panama, Rio and the slow-moving Amazon. Ah yes, this airplane
business was quite wonderful, if only you knew how to make the most of
it. And she knew. Ah yes, she, Rosemary Sample, knew.

But first there were other matters to be considered. Willie VanGeldt and
his badly cared for little flivver of the air; Danby Force and his dark
lady. And—and—

Well, what of the rest? Rosemary had fallen asleep.

She awoke a half hour later and remained so just long enough to remove
the head-set, shut off her radio, slip out of her day clothes and into
her dream robes. Then again she fell fast asleep.


The charming little gypsy child who, in her bright colored dress and
purple headdress looked more like an animated doll than a child, played
little part in the bit of life drama played at the crest of the mountain
by Petite Jeanne and her friends until, after breakfast of bacon, toast
and delicious coffee, the members of the party left the hunting lodge to
wend their way up the mountainside.

They were approaching the skyline landing field. A sharp, bleak wind,
whispering of approaching winter, cut at their cheeks and tore away at
the broken and twisted fir trees that made up the advance guard of
timberline.

The little gypsy girl was in the lead. Of a sudden she paused and,
pointing excitedly, exclaimed, “See! Teddy bears! And do look! They are
alive! One of them stuck his tongue out at me!”

The older members of the party did not share the little girl’s happy
animation. To their consternation they discovered two grizzly bear cubs
half hidden among the rocks not a dozen paces away.

“Come!” said Madame, seizing the child’s hand. There was a quaver of
fear in her voice.

“But why?” The child Vida’s round face suddenly took on a sober look.
“They are pretty bears. And they are alive. I know they are.”

Jeanne too knew they were alive, and Danby Force knew. They also
realized that bear-cub twins usually had a mother close by, and a mother
bear spelled trouble.

“We—we’ve got to get out of here!” Danby’s words were low, but tense
with emotion. The airplane was still a quarter of a mile away.

“Come!” Madame voiced a sharp command as the child hung back. Next
moment the child found herself on Danby’s shoulder, and they were all
hurrying away toward their plane.

Jeanne’s heart had gone into a tailspin. Were they going to make it? Was
the mother bear close at hand, or had she gone some distance in her
search for food?

One glance back gave Jeanne the answer. “Run! Run!” She uttered the
words before she thought them.

Instantly they sprang into wild flight.

Bears are swift runners. This mother was no exception. Had someone been
standing upon a rock overlooking the scene, he might have discovered
that the bear, almost at a bound, had shortened the distance between
herself and the fleeing ones by half. He would have opened his eyes in
sheer terror as he saw her, mouth open, tongue lolling out, white teeth
gleaming, gaining yard by yard until it seemed her breath would burn the
sturdy gypsy woman’s cheek.

Jeanne led the procession. Danby Force came next. Madame, unaccustomed
to running, lagged behind.

Danby heard the beast’s hoarse panting. What was to happen? He had no
weapon. Yes, one, if it might be called that—a six-foot stick. This
stick was very hard and stout, sharpened at one end. He had used it as
an Alpine staff. As Jeanne reached the plane he threw the gypsy child
into her hands; then swinging about, he sprang to Madame’s assistance.
He was not a moment too soon. The irate beast was all but upon her.

At sight of this one who dared to turn and face her, the bear paused,
reared herself upon her haunches and, for a space of ten seconds, stood
there, glaring, snarling, frothing at the mouth.

The respite was brief. It was enough to permit Jeanne to drag her foster
mother into the plane.

Danby’s thought as he turned to face the bear had been that he might set
the stick at such an angle as to bring it into contact with the bear’s
ribs as she charged. He had heard of hunters practicing this trick. In
the end his courage failed him. Seeing his chance he dropped the stick,
sprang for the plane, fell through the opening then slammed the door
after him.

“Safe!” he breathed thickly. “But is the battle over? Perhaps it has but
begun. She—she could wreck this plane.”

“Oh my poor Dragon Fly!” Jeanne groaned. The great beast hurled herself
against the stout door with such a shock as set the whole ship to
quivering.

Consternation was written on every face but one in that small cabin. And
why not? If their plane were wrecked, what then? Danby Force was in a
hurry to get away. Every moment counted. The happiness of an entire
community was at stake. Then too the breath of winter was in the air. At
any moment a wild blizzard, sweeping in from the north, might send snow
whirling into every crack and cranny of the mountain. Burying trails,
filling canyons with fathomless depths of snow, it might shut them away
from all the outside world.

In spite of this, one face was beaming, one pair of sturdy legs were
hopping about in high glee. The gypsy child’s joy knew no bounds. “Now
there will be a fight!” she screamed. “The big Dragon Fly has knives on
his nose. They are very sharp. They whirl round and round. You cannot
see them. The big bear cannot see. The big Dragon Fly will bite the big
bear. He will roll down dead!”

Listening to this wild chatter, Danby Force received a sudden
inspiration.

“Jeanne, start your motor,” he said in as quiet a tone as he could
command. “She may attack the propeller. If she does, goodbye bear and
goodbye propeller. I don’t think she will. We’ll have to risk it.”

With lips drawn in a straight white line, Jeanne took her place at the
wheel, then set the motor purring.

All prepared for a second lunge at the offending box that held her
fancied enemies, the bear paused to listen.

Then, with a suddenness that was startling, the motors let out a roar.

“Good!” screamed Vida, the gypsy child. “The big Dragon Fly shouts at
the bear. Now she will run away.”

The bear did not run away. Instead, she turned half about to look away
to the rocky ridge where her cubs were hiding. Then it was that Danby
had one more brilliant idea.

“Jeanne,” he shouted in the little French girl’s ear, “wheel your plane
about, then start taxiing slowly toward those cubs.”

Jeanne’s fingers trembled as she grasped one control after another, to
set her plane to do Danby’s bidding. “What will be the result?” she was
asking herself. Her great fear was that the mother bear would leap at
the propeller. She had no desire to kill this mother, nor did she wish
to lose her propeller.

To Jeanne the result was astonishing. No sooner had the “giant insect,”
all made of metal, started toward the rocks than the mother bear,
fearing no doubt for the safety of her children, started to beat its
time.

“A race!” Vida shouted. “Goody! A race! And the big Dragon Fly will
win!”

She was a greatly disappointed child when, after following the bear for
a short distance, the plane swung round, increased its speed, went
circling about the narrow landing field; then at Danby’s shout, “UP!”,
left the ground to go sailing away among the clouds.

“Well,” Danby sighed as he settled back beside Jeanne, “we are out of
that.”

“Yes,” Jeanne sighed happily. “We are out, and the big Dragon Fly is
safe!”



                              CHAPTER VIII
                          TRAILING AN OLD PAL


That same evening Jeanne’s giant dragon fly came drifting sweetly down
from the clouds to land at the Chicago airport. After a few words with
Danby Force and a promise to meet him before the airport depot on the
following day, she taxied her little plane into a hangar, gave the
mechanics some very definite instructions regarding its care and general
inspection, then went away with her gypsy companions to spend the night
in a cozy Chicago haunt of those dark brown wanderers, the gypsies.

It was past mid-afternoon of the following day when a large,
rosy-cheeked girl came striding along the path that leads to aviation
headquarters. Had you noted her jaunty stride, the suggestion of
strength that was in her every movement, the joyous gleam of youth that
was in her eyes, you would have said: “This is our old friend Florence
Huyler, her very own self.” And you would not have been wrong.

Had Petite Jeanne been there at that moment she must surely have leapt
straight into her good pal’s strong arms. They had been separated for
months, Jeanne had journeyed to France. Florence had been adventuring in
her own land. Letters had gone astray, addresses lost, so now here they
were in the same great city, but each ignorant of the other’s nearness.
Would they meet? In a city of three million, one seldom meets casually
anyone one knows.

But here was Florence. She had come to the airport with a definite
purpose. She was, as you will recall, a playground director. She had
tried her ability at many things, but this was her true vocation. Times
were hard. Playgrounds had been closed. For the moment Florence was
unemployed. But was she downhearted? Watch that smile, that jaunty
tread. Florence was young. Tomorrow was around the corner and with it
some opportunity for work. Just at this moment an unusual occupation had
caught her fancy; she wished to become an airplane stewardess. How
Jeanne would have laughed at this.

“Oh, but my dear Florence!” she would have cried, “You and your one
hundred and sixty pounds! You an airplane stewardess!”

Jeanne was not there, so Florence, marching blissfully on, arrived in
due time at the door of aviation headquarters.

“I wonder if I might see Miss Marjory Monague?” she said to the girl by
the wicker window. There was a suggestion of timidness in her voice.

“Miss Monague, the chief stewardess?” The girl at the small window
arched her brow. “She’s frightfully busy. But I—” She hesitated, took
one more look at Florence’s face, found it clean, frank and fair as a
dew-drenched hillside on a summer morning, wondered in a vague sort of
way how anyone could keep herself looking like that, then said, “I—I’ll
call her.”

She turned to a telephone. A moment later she said to Florence, “Miss
Monague will talk to you. Go right up those stairs. It’s the last office
to the right.”

To the girl beside her this one whispered, “Bet she’s going to apply as
a stewardess of the air! Can you e-ee-magine!

“All the same,” she added after a moment’s silence, “I’m sorry they
won’t let her. She—she’s a swell one I bet! Regular pal like you dream
about sometimes.”

In the meantime Florence had made her way blithely up the stairs. “Chief
stewardess,” she was thinking, “probably forty, wears horn-rim glasses,
sits up straight, stares at you and says, ‘Age please?’”

She was due for a shock. The chief stewardess was not forty, nor yet
twenty-five. A slim slip of a girl, she looked in her large mahogany
chair not more than twenty.

“I—I want to see Miss Monague,” said Florence.

“I am Miss Monague.”

“You? Why I—” Florence broke off, staring.

The other girl smiled. “There have been stewardesses of the air for only
about five years,” Miss Monague explained quietly. “We were all young
when we started. Naturally you can’t grow gray hair and get your spine
stiff with old age in five years. So—” she smiled a very friendly smile.
“So—o here I am. What can I do for you?”

“I—why you see—” Florence began, “I—I’d like to be a stewardess. I—I’ve
been a playground director.” She went on eagerly, “That really calls for
pretty much the same thing. You try to make people comfortable and
happy—show them a good time. That’s what a stewardess does, isn’t it?”

“Yes, I suppose so. But—”

“That,” Florence broke in, “that’s just about what I’ve done. Sometimes
I taught them to do things, when they didn’t know how—trapeze, swinging
rings and all that. But mostly I just stayed around and saw that
everyone was busy and happy. Truly, I did love it. But I’ve been away.
And now there are no openings. I just thought—”

“Yes.” The little chief of the stewardesses favored the big girl with
one of her rarest smiles. She too liked this girl. She wished to help,
but—

“I’m truly sorry!” A little up-and-down line appeared between her eyes.
“The trouble is, I don’t think you could ever reduce that much. Besides,
you’re too tall.”

“Reduce!” Florence exclaimed. “Of course I couldn’t. I’m hard as a rock.
I put in four hours in the tank or the gym every day when I can. Why
should I want to reduce?”

“Because—” a strange little smile played around the chief stewardess’
mouth. “Because our airplane cabins are just so big and we have to get
girls that fit the cabins,—five feet four inches, a hundred and twenty
pounds; those are the limits. Can be smaller, but never larger.”

“Oh!” Florence stared for a moment, then burst out in good-natured
laughter. “I—I guess I won’t do.”

She was gone before the truly kind-hearted stewardess could tell her how
sorry she was.

Florence was still smiling when she left the building. But the smile did
not last. It is always hard, for even the strongest hearted to be in a
great city alone and with no one near who will say, “You may help me do
this.”

She walked slowly and quite soberly over the cinder path that led to the
airport depot. Arrived there, she walked in and looked about her. There
was something about the place that stirred her strangely. “Such
movement! Such a wonderful feeling of abundant life!”

She walked through the door that led to the landing field. Once outside,
she stood spellbound. A giant silver plane, looking more like a huge sea
bird than any man-made thing, came gliding down the runway to wheel
gracefully about and into position. From somewhere came the barking
notes of an announcer: “Plane No. 43 eastbound for Toledo, Buffalo and
New York, now loading.” She saw the smiling passengers following redcaps
to the plane as they might have to a train, caught the signal, watched
the plane roll away, heard the thunder of its motors, then saw it rise
slowly in air and speed away.

“That—” her voice caught. Experienced as she was in the ways of the
world, a tear glistened in her eye as she murmured hoarsely, “That is
what I wanted to become a part of. And they won’t let me be—because I’m
too big.”

She turned about to hide that tear. Next instant she was staring
fascinated at three tiny objects lying close to the wall, three tiny
sticks, two parallel and one crossing them at a sharp angle. “Jeanne!
Petite Jeanne!” she all but cried aloud. “Jeanne has been here, not long
ago either. That is her gypsy _patteran_!”

“Listen!” In her excitement she grasped the arm of an attendant. “Was
there a slim blonde-haired girl here a little while ago?”

“Plenty of them,” the attendant grinned good-naturedly, “mebby twenty.”

“No, but one you would not forget. One who dresses in bright clothes
like a gypsy. Perhaps there was a gypsy woman with her.”

“Oh, you mean that gypsy pilot!” The attendant began to show a real
interest. “Yes, she was here. She went away with Rosemary Sample and a
couple of men.”

“Who—who’s Rosemary Sample?” Florence could scarcely speak for
excitement. Jeanne! She had found her good pal Jeanne—that is, almost.

“Rosemary Sample is a stewardess,” the attendant explained.

“Wh—where did they go?”

“I don’t—yes, come to think of it, I heard Rosemary say they was goin’
to Little Sweden.”

“Little Sweden? Where’s that?”

“How should I know?” the man drawled. “You might ask in Norway. That’s
close to Sweden, ain’t it?

“Yes!” His voice rose suddenly. “Coming!” He hurried away, leaving
Florence hanging between the heights of heaven and the depths of
despair.



                               CHAPTER IX
                             LITTLE SWEDEN


Little Sweden, strange to say, is not in Europe, but on the near-north
side in Chicago. It is a place to eat, a unique and interesting place.
There buxom maidens in white aprons and quaint starched caps do your
bidding. It is a place of marvelous abundance. You do not order food. It
is there before you on a long table. You pay for a meal, then help
yourself. On the long board tables are great circles of chopped
meat—beef, veal and chicken cooked in the most delicious manner. Salads,
also done in circles, and luscious fruits, strange cakes and curious
loaves of brown bread. It is as if all that is best in Sweden had been
carried across the sea and reassembled for you and for your guests.

Our four friends, Rosemary, Jeanne, Danby and Willie had been whisked
away from the airport to this remarkable place. A half hour after
Florence had asked the question, “Where is Little Sweden?” they might
have been found shut away in a small private dining room of the place,
holding a conference over cakes and coffee.

Rosemary was on a forty-eight hour rest period. This is a regular thing
for all stewardesses when they arrive at their home port. During the
past twelve hours Rosemary had seen much of Petite Jeanne, and she had
found her to be a very charming person. Simple in her tastes, modest,
kindly, ever ready to serve others, Jeanne was, she thought, altogether
lovely. During that twelve hours Danby Force had kept the wires hot in a
vain search for some clue that might lead him to the dark-faced woman
who had so mysteriously vanished.

Willie VanGeldt had been admitted to the conference because, as Rosemary
had discovered, beneath his apparently happy-go-lucky and altogether
haphazard nature there was a foundation of pure gold. He liked folks and
was ready to help them, to “go the limit,” as he expressed it, if only
they would tell him what might be done. He had been quite entranced with
the company of the little stewardess and was more than ready to aid her
friends.

“First of all,” Rosemary was saying, “I want you all to keep in touch
with me as far as that is possible. I have a radio in my room. You have
radios on your airplanes. We will see that they are in tune. When I am
here I’ll be in my room from eight to eleven in the evening. Should you
have anything to report or be in need, call the numbers 48—48, give your
location if you can, then deliver your message. I’ll not be able to
reply by radio, but I’ll help in any way I can.”

“And I’ll take you round the world in my plane if need be,” said Willie.

To this he received a strange reply from the little stewardess: “You’ll
not take me off the ground, no matter what happens.”

“Why? Why won’t I?” He stared in unbelief.

“I’ll answer that later.” She cast him a half apologetic look. “Mr.
Force has something to show us.”

“This,” said Danby Force, “is a picture of the lady who threatens to
ruin our happy community.” He held the photograph before them.

“She appears to prefer air travel, and she will travel again,” said
Rosemary. “We have a hundred and fifty stewardesses in the air. Why not
have a picture made for each of these? If they all keep watch, we may
find her quickly.”

“Grand idea!” Danby exclaimed. “I’ll have them made at once.”

“I’ll be wandering about, as gypsy people have a way of doing,” Jeanne
said with a fine smile. “If I catch sight of that dark lady, I’ll
whisper 48—48 into my receiver and things will be doing at once.” Little
did Jeanne dream of the strange circumstances under which that mystic
signal 48—48 would slip from her lips.

“But tell us—” Jeanne leaned forward eagerly. “Tell us of these so
terrible spies. Shall they be shot at sunrise?”

“No.” Danby Force smiled. “We don’t shoot industrial spies. In fact I’m
afraid it would be difficult to so much as get them put in prison. An
idea, however valuable, is not easy to get hold of and prove. You may
steal it, yet no one in the world can prove that you have it. That
sounds rather strange, doesn’t it?” He laughed a jolly laugh.

“And by the way!” he exclaimed suddenly. “Just this morning I received a
message that proves we still have spies in our plant. A scrap of
note-paper with plans drawn on it, picked up off the floor of the mill,
proves that. And this,” he added rather strangely, “gives me fresh
hope.”

“Hope! Hope! Hope!” the others cried in chorus.

“To be sure,” said Danby, “if they are still with us, then they have not
yet secured all the secrets needed for their selfish and cowardly plans.
You see—”

He broke short off. There came a movement at the draperies of the door.
A head was thrust in. A smiling face looked down upon them. A pair of
lips said:

“Jeanne, I have found you!”

Ten seconds later Jeanne was in someone’s arms. It was her good pal
Florence. They were together once more.

“This,” said Jeanne, turning a smiling face to her friends at the table,
“is Florence Huyler, the best girl friend I have ever known. And,” she
added, eagerly nodding at Danby Force, “she’s a fine solver of mysteries
as well.”

“Ah!” Danby’s eyes gleamed. “Come and join us, Miss Huyler.”

“I shall be back very soon.” Jeanne popped out of the little dining room
to reappear in an incredibly short time with a heaping plate of food.

“This,” she exclaimed, “is Little Sweden, the place where everyone eats
all he can.”

“And now,” said Danby, nodding to Jeanne, “tell me about your friend.
Why do you think she is a solver of mysteries?”

“Because,” Jeanne replied, “she has solved many.” At once she launched
into a recital of her friend’s many achievements. She spoke of the
mysterious “Crimson Thread,” of the “Thirteenth Ring,” of the “Lady Cop
and the Three Rubies.”

“I am delighted,” said Danby Force. “But then—” his voice dropped, “no
doubt you are permanently employed and cannot join us in our search for
this dark lady and her companion spies.”

“On the contrary,” Florence smiled a doubtful smile, “I am very much
unemployed.”

“How fortunate!” Danby extended his hand. “And you are a social worker
of a sort, a recreation lady. I have been promising myself for a long
time that we should have a social secretary at our plant. I shall
appoint you at once and you shall have a double duty—to serve our
simple, kindly people, and to search for a spy. What do you say?”

“What can I say but yes!” The large girl beamed. “What a day!” she was
thinking to herself. “I go blundering into a place looking for a job
that’s several sizes too small for me. And now I fall upon one that is
just exactly my kind.”

“Life,” she said aloud, “is beautiful.”

“Yes,” Danby Force agreed, “life is beautiful at times, and should
always be so. When we are selfish or unkind we mar the beauty of life
for someone. When we are suspicious or unjust, when we lay heavy burdens
on the weak, we are destroying life’s beauty.

“Yes,” he repeated slowly, “life must be beautiful.”

“Listen!” Rosemary Sample held up a hand. “What was that?”

“A horn,” said Jeanne. “There’s another and another. This, why this!”
She sprang to her feet. “This is the night of Hallowe’en! And this is
the last night of the Great Fair, that most beautiful Century of
Progress. Florence,” she cried, “do you not remember the ‘Hour of
Enchantment’? We must go there tonight. We truly must!”

“We shall all go,” said Danby Force. “It will prove a
never-to-be-forgotten night, I feel sure.” He spoke the truth, but he
did not even so much as dream the half of it.



                               CHAPTER X
                             ONE WILD NIGHT


A half hour later the little company had joined the merry mad throng
that, combining the enthusiasm of Hallowe’en with a farewell to a
beloved play spot, was making the most of one wild night.

Never had any of them seen anything quite so tremendous, for Chicago,
like some young giant, has never learned how big it really is. When a
crowd of three hundred thousand persons descends upon one narrow park,
things are sure to happen. And even now they were happening fast.

Already the “Battle of Paris” was on. In the Streets of Paris someone
had thrown a bottle through a mirror. At once a hundred bottles were
dying, a hundred windows crashing. With wild abandon the throng surged
back and forth along the narrow streets.

All this was quite unknown to our friends. They had not come to revel
but to bid a fond farewell to a spot they had learned to love. The Sky
Ride, the shimmering waters of the lagoon, Hollywood, Rutledge Tavern—a
hundred little corners had played a part in the lives of Florence and
Jeanne.

For all this, the spirit of the mob gripped them and, grasping one
another by the shoulders that they might not be separated, they surged
on through the crowd.

“One wild night!” Florence screamed.

“And it’s not yet begun!” Willie, who was in the lead, called back.

The Streets of Paris was not the only spot where revelers, getting out
of bounds, were rushing shops and collecting souvenirs.

“Come down from there!” shouted a policeman as a large fat man climbed
to the top of a shop-keeper’s shelves for some treasure.

“Come and get me!” The fat man brandished a cane. The crowd roared
applause.

Three burly policemen marched upon him. One seized his cane, the others
caught him by his massive legs, and down he came. Once again the crowd
roared. On this night of nights, one moment you were a hero and the next
you were forgotten.

Like great armies of rats, this human throng burrowed in everywhere. A
barrel of rootbeer was turned half over, glasses seized and a toast
drunk to the departing Fair. When the barrel was drained a long, lank
individual sat astride it. Three men gave the barrel a push. Barrel and
man went rolling and bouncing down a steep incline and on into the
lagoon.

They were crossing the lagoon bridge, Willie, Danby, Florence, Rosemary
and Jeanne, when of a sudden Danby Force exclaimed in a hoarse whisper,
“There! There she is! The dark lady, the spy! See that split ear? I’d
know her anywhere by that. There can be no doubt of it. Her ears have
evidently been pierced for ear-rings, and one of the rings at some time
must have been torn through the flesh, leaving a disfigurement. Yes,
that’s the spy, I’m sure of it.”

“The spy! The spy!” came from the others. Could a moment more thrilling
and more impossible be imagined? Here they were not twenty feet from the
one they sought. And that twenty feet packed tight with writhing,
twisting, screaming revelers of Hallowe’en, the end of the Fair!

Then, as if to redouble the suspense, someone threw a great switch. As
if by magic, the entire grounds went dark.

“Oh! Oh! Oh!” came the murmurs of surprise, thrill and horror, from the
streets many miles long, all packed with humanity.

The effect was strange. In a crowd of many thousands each individual
feels very much alone. Florence felt Rosemary’s grip tighten on her
shoulder as she, in turn, clutched at Willie’s coat. Danby Force alone
did not lose his poise.

“Don’t lose her,” he whispered. “This is midnight. The lights will be on
again soon. Then we must get her.”

He was not mistaken. Like the sudden dawn of a tropical day, the lights
flashed on. The Sky Ride towers turned to tall stems of light. Masses of
red, orange and green shone on every side. From the loud-speaker came
the notes of a bugle, the high clear notes of “Taps.” For the moment, so
great was the feeling that came welling up from the very center of her
being, Florence forgot the spy. Then, with lips that quivered, she
whispered to Willie:

“Where is she?”

“There! There! Just ahead! I’ll get her.” Willie lunged forward.

But the crowd still surged about them. He moved slowly. And the dark
lady, apparently unconscious of the fate that lurked so near, also moved
on with the throng.

“Pass the word back,” Willie whispered. “Tell them to get a good grip on
the fellow’s shoulders just ahead and then shove. Flying wedge. See?”

Florence passed the word back. Next instant, urged on by a great push
from behind, she sent her solid one hundred and sixty pounds against
Willie’s back.

It worked. They moved forward. A foot, two feet, three, four, five, ten.

“I’ll get her!” Willie hissed. “You’ll see!”

She might have heard. Perhaps she did. She turned half about. No matter
now, for, just as Willie’s outstretched hand all but touched her, a
second flying wedge composed of college boys struck their line at the
very center. The result was rout and confusion. Like beads when the
string is broken, our friends were scattered far and wide.

And where was the lady spy?

For a space of time, no one knew. Then Willie spotted her, farther away
and moving rapidly.

After that things happened so fast that even to Florence’s keen mind
they remain a blur. Willie sprang forward. A cleared space just before
him was closed as if by magic. Four policemen and a score of revelers
closed it. There came the sound of thwacking clubs. Willie tripped and
fell. He was up on the instant, but minus his hat. No matter. Someone
jammed a hat on his head. Whose hat? He did not know or care. But for
the instant after that he cared a lot. It was a policeman’s hat. He wore
a dark blue suit. In the crush he was mistaken for an officer.

He had just sighted the dark lady once more when three strong men seized
him, lifted him on high, lunged forward, then tipped him neatly over the
rail. As he shot down, down, down to the icy waters of the lagoon, the
crowd let out a roar of approval.

“Crowds,” he grumbled as he swam for the shore, “psychological mobs
never have any sense of humor.”

When he had clambered to the embankment, he turned to see his four
friends waving at him from the bridge.

“Goodbye folks!” he shouted, “I’m going home for my dress suit.”

Then, realizing they could not hear, he grasped his damp coat tail, gave
it a wringing twist, threw up his hands, pointed to the spot where city
lights gleamed, and marched away. “Forty above!” he was grumbling again.
“No night for a plunge.”

Then as his mood changed, he began to sing, “Goodbye Fair! Goodbye
Paree! Goodbye boys! Goodbye girls! Goodbye everybody! I’m going home to
my Mom-ee!”

As for the lady spy, she had lost herself for good and all. In a crowd
of three hundred thousand you might hope to meet anyone once, but never
twice.



                               CHAPTER XI
                              GOODBYE FAIR


Rosemary, Florence, Jeanne and Danby did not leave the Fair grounds at
once. Indeed they could not because of the crush. They did turn their
faces toward the exit.

As they pressed their way out of the dense throngs to a spot where there
was at least space for breathing, their eyes were greeted by strange
sights.

Off to the right a group of thoughtless revelers were tearing up a
hedge. Some were carrying away the shrubs as souvenirs, others were
using them as mock-weapons for beating one another over the back.

From a village where imitation towers reared themselves to the sky came
cries of laughter and screams of distress. Presently a throng broke
through the flimsy walls and came pouring out. They had gone too far in
their vandalism. The firemen had thrown a cooling stream of water on
their heated brows.

“They’ll have time enough to cool off now,” Danby Force laughed.

“But how sad to think that those who so often have come to this place to
find beauty and happiness should, on this last night, remain to
destroy!” There was a look of distress on the little French girl’s face.

“Come!” said Danby Force, “There are some things we must try to forget.
This is one of them. Let us always think of the great Fair as it was in
the height of its glory.”

As they moved on toward the Aisle of Flags, they came to a spot that,
like an eddy in a stream, even on this night of turmoil was at rest.

“Goodbye.” A boy was clasping a girl’s hand. “Goodbye Mary. See you at
the next Fair.”

Jeanne knew these two a little. They had worked side by side selling
orangeade and ice cream cones. Now it was “Goodbye until the next Fair.”

“And when that comes,” she murmured, “their hair will be gray. Goodbye
until the next Fair.”

As they passed an apparently deserted hot-dog stand, Jeanne caught sight
of a figure crumpled up in a dark corner. A young girl, perhaps not yet
eighteen, she sat with head on arms, silently sobbing.

Jeanne was gypsy enough to read that girl’s fortune. All through the
bright summer days and on into the glorious autumn, the great Fair had
offered her means of making a living. Perhaps she was helping to support
her parents. Who could tell? Now it was all over—the last hot-dog sold.
“Goodbye Fair,” Jeanne whispered, swallowing hard.

Stepping silently back, she slipped a bit of green paper into the girl’s
hand, then disappeared too quickly to be seen.

“Life must be beautiful,” she said to Danby Force, “but how can it be,
for all?”

“It must be increasingly beautiful for all.” The young man’s face set in
hard lines of determination.

Jeanne thought of the work he had done for his own little city, thought
too of those industrial spies who threatened to destroy it all. “I must
help,” she told herself almost fiercely. “I must do all I can. Life,”
she whispered reverently, “Life _must_ be beautiful.”

As for Florence, her mind all this while was so full of the morrow that
she had little thought for the passing hour. “Tomorrow,” she was saying
to herself, “I shall be speeding through the air with Danby Force on my
way to a new field and fresh adventure. I am to help the children, yes,
and the grownups, of a small city—to enjoy life. At the same time I am
to search for a spy.” She wondered in a vague sort of way what that
search would be like and how successful she would be as a lady
detective. She was wondering still when Danby Force said:

“Time for a hot drink before the clock strikes one.”

“Yes. Oh yes!” Jeanne’s voice rose in sudden eagerness. “I know the very
place. It is run by some English gypsies. At this time of night only
gypsies will be found there. But, ah my friend, such good tea as they
brew! You never could know until you have sipped it.”

“Ah, a gypsy’s den at one in the morning! Show us the way.” And Danby
hailed a taxi.

Ten minutes later they were entering a long, low basement room such as
only Jeanne had seen before. It was finished as the inside of the
ancient gypsy vans were finished, in a score of bright colors, red,
yellow, orange, blue, silver and gold. There were few lights. Some were
like ancient lanterns, and some were mere glimmering tapers. Trophies of
the hunt hung against the walls—the head of a deer, the grinning
skeleton of a wild boar’s head.

There were no chairs. Instead all sat, true gypsy fashion, on rugs.
Strange rugs they were too, woven of some heavy material and all
brightly colored.

In one corner a group of dark foreign looking people in bright costumes
sat smoking long-stemmed pipes and sipping tea. A cloud of smoke,
hanging close to the ceiling, created the illusion of low-hanging clouds
and the out-of-doors.

“Perfect!” Danby murmured.

At sound of his voice, a solidly built woman, wrapped in a bright shawl,
turned to look up at him. In her eyes was a dreamy look. Before her on
the floor were cards. On the cards were pictures—a snake, a house, a
fountain, a lion, a mouse, a burning fire.

“Madame Bihari!” Florence exclaimed, delighted. “And you have the gypsy
witch cards. You shall tell my fortune, for tomorrow I am to begin a
splendid new adventure.”

“You shall find beauty and happiness.” Madame smiled a glad smile. She
did not look at the cards. “You have learned a great secret. Health,
strength, sunshine, the wide out-of-doors—they are your great joy. With
these alone anyone may find happiness. You are a true gypsy at heart, my
splendid Florence.”

“Thank you. That is kind.” Florence favored her with a rare smile. “But
Madame, please, my fortune! You have never told it.”

“There is no need,” the gypsy woman murmured. “It is written in your
face.

“But sit you all down upon my rug. Order me a good cup of black tea and
you shall have as good a fortune as I can bring you. But beware, child!
You have insisted. If the cards turn up wrong, do not blame your poor
old Madame Bihari. It is you who shall shuffle, cut and deal—not I.”

When tea had been brought on a silver tray, Florence shuffled the cards,
cut them with her left hand, then placed them one by one in their proper
positions. Then Madame, bending forward, began to study them. The four
friends, forgetting their tea, sat upon their feet, waiting in eager
expectation. Moving in from their corner, the gypsies too watched in
silence.

Over one who has seen them often an indescribable spell is cast by the
gypsy witch cards. The serpent striking at some unseen object; the eye,
gleaming at you from the half darkness; the fire leaping from the
hearth; the mouse; the clasped hands; the lightning—all these and many
others appear to take on a special meaning. And so they do in very truth
to the teller of fortunes.

When at last Madame began to speak, an audible sigh rose from the little
group of watchers.

“You have friends.” Her voice was low and even as the murmur of a slow
moving stream. “Many friends. It is well, for there shall be perils.
There is one you may wish to trust, even to love a little; but you must
not, for that one is a traitor.”

“The spy!” Jeanne whispered in her companion’s ear.

“The spy!” Florence shuddered.

“You shall serve and shall be served,” Madame went on. “You shall
travel—high in air.”

“Tomorrow,” Danby laughed a low laugh.

“You are entering upon a fresh adventure. Will you succeed?” Madame
stared long at the cards. “It is not written here. The cards are silent.
Perhaps another time.” She looked up with a slow smile on her face.

“And now, Jeannie, my little one, my tea.”

A long sighing breath from every pair of lips, a light nervous laugh,
then the spell was broken. Florence knew her fortune. They might all
drink their tea, then scatter to their homes for a short night of
repose. To Florence, at least, the coming day would bring new scenes and
fresh promise of adventure.



                              CHAPTER XII
                        FLYING THROUGH THE NIGHT


Just twenty-four hours after she had stood disconsolate before the
airport depot, watching giant man-made birds sail away into the blue
sky, Florence stood, traveling bag in hand, all radiant, waiting for her
silver ship to wheel into position for flight. Beside her stood Danby
Force and the little French girl. Danby too was going. It was to be a
night flight. “All the more thrilling!” had been Jeanne’s instant
prediction. “Flying by night! Seeming to play among the stars! Ah, what
could be more delightful!”

Rosemary Sample, whose plane did not go out until the following morning,
was there to see them off. So too, quite dried out from the previous
night’s adventure, was Willie VanGeldt.

Florence found herself thrilled to the very tips of her toes. As a blue
and gold plane with three motors thundering glided away, then with a
roar of thunder rose in air, as a small yellow one followed it into the
sky, she counted the moments that remained before the number of her own
plane should be called and she, walking with all the care-free
indifference of the much air-traveled lady (which she was not at all),
should march to the three iron steps leading to the plane and climb on
board.

“You may think it strange,” Danby was saying to Jeanne, “that we should
go to so much trouble to catch one industrial spy, and a lady at that.”

“But no!” Jeanne exclaimed. “Lady spies, they are the most clever and
most difficult of all. The great and terrible war proved that.”

“Yes,” Danby agreed. “And in this peace-time war of industry, when great
secrets are being guarded, secrets that might win or lose another great
war—which, please God, there may never be—the ladies bear watching, I
assure you.

“And there _are_ secrets,—” his tone became animated. “Chemical secrets
that have made work for thousands, secret processes for heat-treating
steel that have revolutionized an entire industry.”

“And secrets that give us better and more beautiful dresses. Ah!” Jeanne
laughed a merry laugh. “This is the most wonderful secret of all. For
where there is color there is beauty. Beauty brings happiness. Life must
be beautiful. So—o, my good friend—” She put forth a slender hand—“I
wish you luck! May you and my good friend Florence catch those so very
wicked spies and may they be shot at sunrise!

“And now,” her tone changed, “I must say adieu, for see! There is your
silver ship wheeling into position. Do not be surprised if some day you
see my own little dragon fly coming to light on the top of your flag
pole or the landing field nearby.

“And now, Florence!” She gave her good pal a merry poke. “Shoulders up,
eyes smiling, the good and jaunty air. Tell the world that this is
nothing new. And _bon voyage_ to you both. I shall be seeing you. And I
shall be watching, always watching for that dark lady, the most terrible
spy.”

Smiling, Florence touched her lips to Jeanne’s fair brow, then putting
on her very best air of indifference, which was very good indeed,
marched to her plane, climbed the steps, then sank into a soft low seat
to let forth a sigh that was half relief and half deep abiding joy.

Having seen them off, Jeanne went in search of her flying gypsies. They
had planned to join in a reunion of their tribe a hundred miles away.
Jeanne was to fly them there.

“Now,” said Willie VanGeldt when he and Rosemary were alone, “You said
last night you would not fly with me. Why not?”

“Because—” an intent look overspread Rosemary’s usually smiling face.
“Because you are grown up, and yet you insist on playing about, on
making life a joke and because flying with you is not safe.”

“Not safe!” He stared. “I’ve a pilot’s license. Didn’t get it with a
pull either. Earned it, I did.”

“I’m not questioning that,” she went on soberly. “All the same, it’s
flyers like you who are spoiling this whole aviation business. Look at
me—I’m a worker. Being a flying stewardess is my job. I work at it every
month in the year. The pilots and their helpers, the mechanics in our
shops, the radio men on duty all day, every day, depend on it for their
living and the support of their families. Together we hope to make our
transportation safe, comfortable and inexpensive for all. We—”

“Well, I—”

“No! Let me finish,” she insisted. “Look at our planes. Sixty of them,
cost seventy thousand dollars apiece. Multiply that and see what it
comes to. Shows that men with money believe in us.

“See how those planes are cared for. Looked over in every port. Least
thing wrong, out they go. Motors taken off and overhauled every three
hundred hours. Always in perfect condition.

“And you—” there was a rising inflection in her voice. “You go round the
world proclaiming to all the world that life is a joke and that
airplanes are grand, good playthings. You flirt with death. And in the
end death will get you. Then thousands will say, ‘See! Flying is _not_
safe!’ See what I mean?”

“Well, I—”

“Tell you what!” she exclaimed. “It’s a safe guess you don’t even know
when your motor was last overhauled and cleaned.”

“No, I—” the play-boy was not smiling now. “Well now, Miss Sample, you
see this crack-up has cost a lot of money. So I—”

“So you ask me to risk my life flying with you. And I say ‘No!’

“I—I’ll have to be going.” Her tone changed. “Got a report to make out.
I’ll be seeing you. And I only hope it won’t be under a high bank of cut
flowers.”

She was gone, leaving Willie staring.

“Queer sort of girl!” he grumbled after a time. “But I—she sure is a
good one!

“She might be right at that,” he murmured as he left the building.

For Florence, speeding away through space with the stars above and the
earth below, that was a never-to-be-forgotten night. First the broad
expanse of the city’s gleaming lights and after that, in sharp contrast,
deep, sullen blue below that suggested eternity of space.

“We’re over the lake,” Danby Force smiled. “Way over there is the light
of a ship.”

“And still farther there is another,” Florence replied. “How rapidly we
leave those lights behind! How strange to be speeding along through the
night.”

Soon the deep blue below changed to varying shadows. They were over land
once more. The panorama that passed beneath them never lost its charm.
Here, faintly glowing, were the lights of a tiny village. Were they
asleep, those people? Probably not. Too early for that. Some were
reading, some studying, some playing games, those simple kindly people
who live in small villages.

The village vanished and only a single light, here and there, like
reflections of the stars, told where farm houses stood. A city loomed
into sight, then passed on into the unknown.

“It’s like life,” Florence said soberly. “We are always passing from one
unknown to another.

“And speaking of unknowns—” her voice changed. “Do you think the
industrial spy who is still in your employ is a man or a woman?”

“We have no means of knowing.” Danby spoke soberly. “To find this out if
you can, this is to be part of your task.”

“If I can,” Florence whispered to herself, after a time.

So they rode on through the night. Danby Force seldom spoke. This riding
in an airplane appeared to cast a spell of silence over him. Perhaps, at
times, he slept. Florence could not tell. She did not sleep. The
experience was too novel for that. Twice she caught the gleam of colored
lights and knew they were meeting another plane. She tried to imagine
what it would be like when everyone traveled by air. But would that time
come? Who could tell?

It was still dark when Danby Force, after looking at his watch, said:

“We’ll be there in ten minutes. You shall go to my house for ten winks
of sleep.”

True to his prediction, the plane went roaring down to a small landing
field. They disembarked, were met by a small man in a green uniform and
were led to a powerful car. Having taken their places in the back seat,
they were whirled away to at last mount a hill by a winding road and
stop before a tall gray stone house surrounded by very tall trees.

“My mother and I live here,” Danby said. “I should prefer greater
simplicity, but a beautiful old lady you call ‘mother’ must always be
humored.” Florence could have loved him for that speech.

She understood more clearly what he meant when, once inside the wide
reception room, they were met by a butler and a white-capped maid
whisked her away to a spacious bedroom all fitted up with massive
furniture.

Sleep came at once. Before she realized it a rosy dawn ushered in
another day. “What shall this day bring forth?” she murmured as, with a
chill and a thrill, she leaped from her bed to do a dozen setting-up
exercises, and at last to dress herself in her most business-like
costume.

“Mademoiselle the detective,” she laughed as she looked in the mirror.
“I surely don’t look the part.”



                              CHAPTER XIII
                                SUSPECTS


The small city—scarcely more than a large village—that Florence found
herself entering that morning was, at this season of the year, a place
of enchanting beauty. Half hidden by the New England hills, its white
homes surrounded by trees and shrubs turned by the hand of a master
artist, Nature, into things of flaming red and gold, it seemed the
setting for some marvelous production in drama or opera.

“It—it seems so unreal,” she whispered to herself. “The hillside all
red, orange and gold, the houses so clean and white. Even the women and
children in their bright dresses seem automatic things run by springs
and strings.”

Finding herself half-way up a hill, on one side of which a whole
procession of very small houses, all just alike, appeared to be
struggling, she paused to stare at a sign which read: “Room for rent.”

“How could they rent a room?” she asked herself. “The house is little
more than a bird’s nest.”

Consumed by curiosity, she climbed the narrow steps and knocked at the
door.

A small lady with prematurely gray hair appeared. “I came to ask about
the room,” Florence said in as steady a tone as she could command.

Next instant she found herself in a house that made her feel very large.
The hall was narrow, the doors low, the rooms tiny.

“This is the room.” She was led to what seemed the smallest of the four
rooms.

“But this is already occupied.” She looked first at the display of
simple toilet articles on the dresser, then at the half-filled closet.

“Oh yes, our daughter Verna has it now,” the little lady hastened to
explain. “But she—she’s to sleep in our—our general room.”

“The one they use for parlor, living room and dining room,” Florence
thought to herself. “How terrible!”

She was about to say politely, “I guess I wouldn’t be interested,” when
a young and slender girl of surprising beauty stepped into the doorway.

“Here is Verna now,” her mother said simply.

“Yes, here she is,” some imp appeared to whisper in Florence’s ear, “and
you are going to take this room. You will have to now. You are going to
buy a small bed and share the room with this beautiful child. You will
cast your lot with this little family. You have seen her. It is too late
to turn back now.”

Perhaps if he had been a very wise imp he might have added, “This step
you are taking now will bring you into grave danger, but that does not
matter. You will take the room all the same, and like it.” But the imp,
being of a very ordinary sort, did not say this.

Florence _did_ take the room. She _did_ buy herself a very narrow bed
and she _did_ share this small room in this canary-cage of a house with
the beautiful girl. And, strangest of all, she became very happy about
it almost at once.

The life into which she found herself thrown was strange indeed. She had
lived in a small mid-western city where there was no mill or factory.
She had lived in a great city. In each place she had found companions of
her own sort. But here she was thrown at once into a community of small
homes owned by people whose incomes had always been small and who looked
out upon the world beyond their doors with something akin to awe. To
Florence all this was strange.

Her task, that of finding the industrial spy, she believed to be an easy
one. In the privacy of his inner office, she said to Danby Force, “Most
of these people have lived here all their lives. You could not make a
spy of them if you chose. All I have to do is to find out the ones who
have been here a short time. It must be one of these.”

“You are probably right,” the young man agreed. “Not so many of them
either, perhaps a dozen. I shall see that you have their names
tomorrow.”

On the morrow she had the names. And, after that, one by one, in the
most casual manner she looked them up. There were, she found, two
middle-aged, dark-complexioned sisters named Dvorac, expert weavers who
lived in a mere shack at the back of the city. Miriam, the taller of the
two, appeared to be the leader. “Might be these,” she told herself.
“They resemble the one who escaped.”

There was a little weasel-faced German who excited her suspicion at
once. He was an expert electrician of a very special sort. He was in
charge of the hundreds of motors that ran the looms and spinning
machines. He was, of course, all over the place. “Finest chance in the
world,” she told herself. “And he appears to be always prying about,
even when nothing seems wrong.” This man’s name was Hans Schneider.

There was a girl too, one about her own age, who came in for her full
share of suspicion. She worked in the dyeing room. The very first day
Florence caught her slipping out with an ink bottle. The bottle was
filled with dyeing fluid. “I only wanted to dye a faded dress,” the girl
explained reluctantly. “You’d want to do that too if you hadn’t had a
new dress for four years.”

Florence guessed she would. She wanted to accompany the girl home, but
did not quite dare. So she suggested that the bottle be taken to the
floor supervisor and permission obtained for its removal.

The girl, who called herself Ina Piccalo (a strange combination of
names) flashed Florence a look of anger as she obeyed instructions.

“Her eyes are black as night,” Florence told herself. “She’d look
stunning in a gown of deep purple and the dye is just that. I’ll be
looking for that gown,” she told herself as a moment later, with a flash
of her white teeth, Ina passed her, the bottle still in her hand.

This was the only instance in which Florence interfered in any way with
the actions of the employees of the mill. She was, to all appearances,
only a young welfare worker whose business it was to make everyone
happy, with special interest in the children of the city.

This part she played very well. Long hours were spent in the mill’s
gymnasium and social house, and upon its playgrounds. Not a week had
passed before this stalwart, rosy-cheeked girl was known to every child
of the city, and nearly every grown-up as well. “That’s her,” she would
hear them whisper as she passed. “That’s the Play Lady.” Yes, she was
the Play Lady; but much more than this, she was the Lady Cop, the
detective who, she hoped, in time was to free their happy little city
from the dark cloud that, all unknown to the greatest number, hung over
them.

Yes, this truly _was_ a happy city. Florence grew increasingly conscious
of this as the days went by. The mill she found enchanting. The little
city with its clean white homes, surrounded by the golden glow of
autumn, was indeed a place where one might long to linger.

“Just now,” she said to herself, “I feel that I could love to live here
forever.”

This mood, like many another in her strange, wandering life, she knew
all too well, would pass. “And I must not allow myself to be lulled into
inaction by it all,” she told herself. “There is the spy. I _must_ find
the spy. Even now he may be gathering up his stolen secrets and
preparing to carry them away to some other city, or even across the
sea.”

But how was one to catch a spy? Every moment of each day she was
watching, watching, watching. And yet, save for the rather simple matter
of Ina Piccalo’s carrying away a bottle of purple dye, nothing unusual
had caught her eye.

“I may fail,” she told herself, “fail utterly.” Yet she dared to hope
for a turn of the wheel of fortune—“the lucky break” as the smiling
Willie VanGeldt would have called it.



                              CHAPTER XIV
                              GYPSY TRAIL


If life, for the moment, had been robbed of its adventure for Florence,
the little French girl Petite Jeanne had not fared so badly. To her life
had come one more thrill. It happened in a strange and quite unexpected
manner. Having left the gypsy child with friends in Chicago, she and
Madame Bihari had gone on a true gypsy tour of the air. Their
destination was anywhere, their home the landing field that appeared
beneath them at close of day. Never had Jeanne been so buoyantly happy
as now. And who could wonder at this?

One evening just at sunset they came soaring down upon a landing field
in the open country. Many years ago some great lover of trees had
planted here a long row of hard maples. These now formed the farthest
boundary of the landing field. The most glorious days of autumn had
arrived. Never had there been such a gorgeous array of colors. Here red,
orange, yellow and green were blended in a pattern of matchless beauty.

The light of the setting sun presented all this to the little French
girl in a manner that delighted her very soul. As if attracted by some
great magnet, her little plane taxied toward them. The planes were all
but touching the leaves when at last the ship came to a halt.

“Madame,” Jeanne said, all but breathless with delight, “this is where
we stay tonight.” Her tone became deeply serious. “Why do men from
Europe say America is ugly? Nowhere in the world is there a moment more
beautiful than this!” She took up a handful of golden leaves, lifted
them high, then sent them sailing away into the breeze.

“Here is a little pile of wood,” she said a moment later. “There is a
bare spot just out from the trees. We shall make a little fire and boil
some water for tea. We shall dream just this once that we are back in
our so beautiful France on the Gypsy Trail.

“And Madame!” she exclaimed joyously, “Why shouldn’t all gypsies travel
in airplanes? How wonderful that would be! When the frost comes biting
your toes in this beautiful northland, when the trees lose their glory
and stand all bleak and bare, then they could fold their tents to go
gliding away to the south. One, two, three, four, five hours racing with
the wild ducks in their flight, and see! there you are! Would it not be
wonderful?”

“Quite wonderful.” Madame Bihari beamed. Already she had the fire
burning, the water on to boil.

They had traveled far that day. Jeanne was tired. Dragging out the pad
to her cot, she spread it beneath one of those ancient maples.
Stretching herself out upon it, she lay there looking up into the
labyrinth of red and gold that hung above her.

“Oh,” she breathed, “if only heaven is half as beautiful as this!”

“Madame,” she said after a very long time, “why is there always trouble?
Why do people struggle so much, when all this beauty may be had without
asking?”

“If I could answer that,” Madame said soberly, “I should be very wise.
But this you must remember, my Jeanne: wherever you go, whether you
succeed or fail, you will find people ready to drag you down. Shall you
let them? Surely not, my Jeanne. We must fight, my Jeanne.”

“Always?” the little French girl asked as a wistful note crept into her
tone.

“Always, my Jeanne.”

For a time after that they sat staring dreamily at the fire. Then,
seeming to recall half forgotten words, Jeanne murmured softly, “Does
the road lead uphill all the way?” Then, as if answering her own
question, “Yes, my child, to the very end.

“Trouble,” Jeanne whispered. At once she thought of her good pal
Florence, then of Danby Force and the problem they were trying to solve.

“Madame,” she whispered, “do you suppose Florence has found her spy?”

“Who knows?” Madame’s words were spoken slowly. “Spies are hard to find.
Some, I am told, went all through the great war and were not captured.”

“We should help her,” Jeanne decided quite suddenly. “We shall go to
that little city. Perhaps tomorrow we shall go.”

At that moment some wood sprite might have whispered, “No, Jeanne, not
tomorrow.”

With the lightning bugs flashing about them and the song of tree toads
in their ears, they drank their tea, munched some hard crackers, and
felt that life was indeed very beautiful.

“Shall you sleep now?” Madame asked a half hour later. “The tent is
ready.”

“No. Not yet.” Jeanne wrapped herself in a blanket, then stretched out
beneath her canopy of gold. “How wonderful autumn is!” she sighed. “It
makes you wish that life were all like this and that one might go on
living forever. But this we cannot do, so it is best to sing.

  “‘Dance, gypsy, dance.
    Sing, gypsy, sing,
  Sing while you may, and forget
    That life must end.’

“I should go in,” she told herself after a time. But she did not go. Dry
leaves, rustling in the breeze, seemed to whisper, stars, peeping
through the trees, appeared to wink at her. The whole world seemed at
peace. Even the dog that barked from some place far away appeared to be
singing in the night.

“How like it is to one of those lovely nights in France,” she thought to
herself. “I was only a small child. There were many gypsies, sometimes
fifty, sometimes a hundred. They sang and they danced. Their violins! Ah
yes, how sweetly they sounded out into the night!

“And yet—” her mood changed. “Would I go back to that? Perhaps not. This
is America. This is a new day. There are exciting things to do. There
are mysteries to solve, people to be helped. I shall solve those
mysteries. I shall help those people. I—the little French girl they call
Petite Jeanne!” She laughed a low laugh.

“I should go in,” she said again. She took in three deep breaths of the
pure night air, yet she did not move. Very soon after, had one been
passing, he might have said, “She is asleep.” He would have spoken the
truth.

When she awoke some time later, a sense of strangeness filled her mind.
A spot of light in the sky caught her eye. An exclamation escaped her
lips. “I am still dreaming,” she murmured. She pinched herself hard. It
hurt. She must be wide awake, yet, up there in the sky, gleaming as a
white tower gleams when a hundred spotlights are upon it, was a silver
ship—an airplane.

“Angels!” she murmured. “They too must have taken to the air in planes.”
This, she knew well enough, was pure fancy. What could this silver ship
be? And what kept it glistening like a star? That there were no
spotlights near, she knew well. And if there were, their beams of light
would stand out against the darkness.

The silver ship began to circle as for a landing. Jeanne shuddered. What
if this strange visitor of the night should land close to her own tiny
plane! She was about to spring up and dash for the tent, when a vision
of extraordinary beauty caught her eye. The plane, having arrived at a
point directly above her leafy bower, formed a gleaming white background
against which the red and gold of maple leaves stood out like the colors
of the most costly tapestries.

So lost in her contemplation of this was the little French girl, she did
not miss the plane when it was gone. The after-image lingered on the
picture walls of her mind.

“It is gone!” she cried softly at last, “Gone!” So it was. As if
swallowed up by the night, the silver ship had vanished.

“Perhaps it has gone over to the depot,” she told herself. “I may see
that mysterious ship in the morning.”

Then, as if in need of companionship and protection, she rolled up her
thin mattress and disappeared within the tent.

“There is a plane by the depot, a silver plane!” Jeanne exclaimed
excitedly the moment she thrust her head from the tent next morning. “I
must see it. There was one that glowed white all over last night. Is
this the one? I must know.”

Since it was some distance to the depot Jeanne, using her plane as
another might an automobile, warmed up the motor and went taxiing over.

To Madame’s vast astonishment, ten minutes later as the silver plane
went gliding over the field to at last rise in air, Jeanne’s dragon fly
went speeding on its trail and, in an astonishingly short time, both
planes were lost in the blue.



                               CHAPTER XV
                          LADY COP OF THE SKY


But we must not forget Florence. At Danby Force’s request, she had
arranged for a dance in the Community House. “Call it a waltz night,” he
suggested. “All these older people love the old-fashioned dances and the
waltz is the best of them all.”

“Yes,” she agreed, “there’s nothing quite like a waltz.”

She took great pleasure in arranging for this simple social affair. She
sent a bevy of girls into the hills to gather branches of maple and
sumac. These, all afire with colors of autumn, turned the rather drab
social hall into an elfin grotto. High in one corner she hung a
cardboard moon. Behind this was a powerful electric lamp.

“For the last waltz,” she whispered to Verna who was helping. “We will
turn off all the other lamps and waltz by the light of the golden moon.”

“That,” said the happy girl softly, “will be grand.”

Their waltz night came and with it such a crowd as the Community House
had never before known.

From the musicians of the community Florence had managed to assemble an
excellent orchestra.

To the swinging rhythm of “The Beautiful Blue Danube,” Danby Force and
Florence led the merrymakers away for the first dance.

“They’re happy,” Danby Force said as a pleased smile passed over his
face. “Truly, peacefully happy. This waltz night idea is going to be
fine. We’ll have several of them, have them all winter long.”

“Has he forgotten?” Florence asked herself. “Has the spy and my mission
here slipped from his memory so soon?” It surely seemed so, for here he
was planning her social service work for the distant future.

“Some day,” she told herself with a little shudder, “there will be a big
blow-up around here. The spy will be found. Perhaps I shall find him.
And then there will be no more social work done by little, big
Florence.”

She resolved to forget all this and, for one night at least, enjoy life
to its full.

The fourth waltz had come to a close with a glorious swing. She was
seated on the side line with Danby Force when, of a sudden, a figure
appeared on the narrow platform. A jolly-faced young man he was. His
dark eyes were sparkling, his bushy black hair tumbled about his ears.
His was a face to charm the world. From some woman’s gown he had
snatched a broad belt of red cloth. A fantastic, romantic figure he cut
indeed as he stood there waving his hands. “Well now, that was
wonderful!” he shouted. “Beautiful! Artistic! Entrancing! Marvelous!

“And now—” his face became animated like a thing glowing with inner
fire. “Now let’s have a little jazz.”

The orchestra leader beckoned. He bent low to listen. Then,

“No music? Bah! Who wants music? It goes like this!”

Like a clown in the circus, he produced a saxophone from nowhere at all,
put it to his lips and began a series of strange sounds which everyone
knew was jazz.

“Now!” He beckoned to the orchestra. His body swayed. His eyes shone.
“Now!”

Who could resist him? Whether they could or not, no one did. The
orchestra followed his lead. Dancers swarmed out upon the floor. Soon
the place was a mad house of wild, hilarious dancing. Only Florence and
Danby Force did not dance.

“Who is he?” Florence asked as a puzzled frown overspread her face.

“Hugo?” Danby Force said in a tone of surprise. “Haven’t you met him?
Well, of course you might not. He’s an inspector, works in a back room.
But in a place like this he’s what’s known as the life of the party.

“In fact,” he added, “that’s why I employed him. I thought, with his
saxophone and his high spirits he’d stir things up. We’re a bit dull in
this old town. Well—” he laughed an uneasy laugh. “He’s done it all
right. He’s stirred us up. See for yourself. He’s only been here three
months and he practically runs the town. Jolly fellow, Hugo.”

“Three months,” Florence was thinking to herself. “Then he’s one of the
newcomers. He might be—”

Her thoughts broke off suddenly. Had she caught some movement behind
her? A door stood ajar. Her keen eyes caught sight of a figure that
vanished instantly. It was the little hunchback German, Hans Schneider,
one of her suspects,—she was sure of that.

As if he had read her thoughts, Danby said: “The German people are the
cleverest dye makers in the world. While the World War was on and we
could not get their dyes, we made some very poor cloth I can tell you.
But now—”

He did not finish. She knew what he would have said: “Now if we can but
find this spy, if we can protect our interests, we shall lead the world
and our little city may become the center of a great industry.”

“You don’t dance to that sort of music?” he said, nodding his head
toward the squealing, squawking, sobbing orchestra.

“Is it music?” Florence smiled.

“I wonder!” He did not smile. He was watching the younger people in this
mad whirlpool of motion and sound. “Sometimes I wonder,” he repeated.
“I’ve been told that this jazz started in the dark heart of Africa, or
perhaps in the black Republic of Haiti. That it used to be practiced as
a wild, frenzied dance, mingled with a sort of madness, by the Voodoo
worshippers before they performed something terrible—perhaps human
sacrifice.

“Anyway—” his voice changed, “this wild revel does things to our people.
There’s sure to be things happen tomorrow, a whole batch of color
spoiled perhaps, or bolts of cloth ruined, perhaps valuable machines
wrecked. People are nervous and jumpy after just one wild night. You
can’t trust them to be themselves.

“Last time we had a revel like this,” he laughed low, “one of the girls
was working near a vat of indigo blue coloring matter. She—she tried a
new jazz step, I believe,—and—fell in! She was blue for a week after
that.” He laughed aloud. Florence joined him and felt better. Her night
of waltz music was spoiled, but here at least was amusement. “She would
have been blue for life,” Danby went on, “only the coloring material
wasn’t in its last stages.

“Well—” he rose. “I’ll be going. Got a lot of work to do. No more waltz
tonight.”

“No—no more waltz!” Florence looked up at her imitation moon. She was
disappointed and unhappy. She had pictured that last dance as something
unusual and beautiful.

“Your Hugo is attractive at any rate,” she said to Danby.

Just at that moment Hugo went whirling by. He was dancing with Ina
Piccalo, the dark-eyed girl who had carried away the dye.

“She’s wearing a purple dress,” Florence said to herself, “the very
shade that was in the ink bottle. I wonder—” she was to wonder many
times.

It was not many hours after Florence had returned to her small room in
the bird-cage cottage, when Jeanne, in quite a different part of the
country, started on her strange flight following the small silver plane.

“What can have happened?” Madame Bihari asked herself in utter
astonishment as she watched the two planes, like homing pigeons, rapidly
disappearing into the distance.

That which had happened was truly very simple. As Jeanne, after taxiing
down the field, came in sight of that silver plane, she caught sight of
a tall dark figure just entering the plane. One look was enough. Her
lips parted in sudden surprise as she hissed under her breath: “The dark
lady! The spy!”

She was about to spring from her place when the silver plane, whose
propeller had been slowly revolving, started gliding away. There was
nothing left but to follow.

Jeanne followed, not alone on the ground, but in the air. And did she
follow? Miles and miles the two planes roared on. Perhaps some early
milkman, looking up at the sky, wondered where they were going. Jeanne
wondered also, but not once did she think of turning back. In her mind’s
eye, she could see the earnest look on Danby’s face. She could picture
his happy little city and her friend Florence working there.

“I’ll catch that so terrible spy,” she told herself. “Somehow I _must_!”

We feel certain that she would have accomplished her purpose, but for
one thing. She and Madame had traveled far on the previous day. Their
supply of gas was low. Just when Jeanne fancied that the silver plane
was slowing up for a landing, her motor gave an angry sput-sput-sput,
then went quite dead.

“No gas!” she exclaimed in sudden consternation.

Wildly her eyes sought the earth beneath her. There were plowed fields
to the right and left of her, very soft and dangerous, she knew.
Directly before her were corn shocks, hundreds of them. There were wide
spaces between the shocks. Could she land between them?

With a little prayer to the god of the air, she set her plane to go
gliding in a circle and land as nearly as possible in one particular
spot.

She missed the spot and the space between the shocks completely. With a
sudden intake of breath, she saw herself headed for an endless row of
shocks.

“God take pity on one poor little gypsy girl!” she whispered.

The plane bumped softly. A brown bundle shot past her, another and
another, five, ten, twenty. The earth and sky turned brown. Then, her
plane quite buried in brown, she came to a standstill.

Realizing the danger from fire, she leaped from the plane to begin
dragging at the bundles of corn fodder that covered her motor. To her
surprise, she discovered that someone on the other side was engaged in
the same occupation. When at last the motor was quite clear, a freckled
youth, with two front teeth gone, came round the side to grin at her.

“Now you’ll have t’set ’em all up ag’in, I reckon.” He cackled a merry
cackle.

“Oh no; you set them up.” Jeanne joined him in the laugh. Then, digging
deep in her knickers pocket, she dragged forth a new five dollar bill.
“You take this and get me some gas. You can keep the rest. Just enough
gas to take me to the landing field. Where is the nearest one?”

“Thanks! Er—” the boy paused to cackle again. “Them shocks was just
husked. I husked ’em. Weren’t tied none. If they wasn’t husked you’d
might nigh cracked up, I reckon.

“I’ll get the gas,” he added hurriedly. “Sure I will. Landin’ field over
thar.” He pointed north. “Ten miles. How come you all didn’t stop thar?”

“No gas.” Jeanne smiled a happy smile. “But say! You hurry!” she put in
as he moved slowly away. “I’m a lady cop of the air. I was chasing a
spy.”

“Gee Whillikins! A spy!” The boy was away on the run.



                              CHAPTER XVI
                         A SUSPICIOUS CHARACTER


Jeanne had lost her spy. She had lost herself as well. Only after much
flying and four landings was she able to find her way back to the spot
where Madame Bihari patiently awaited her. When she arrived the sun was
setting once more and it was again time for tea.

As on the previous night, Jeanne lay long beneath her canopy of red and
gold. But no silver plane came to shine down upon her.

“Marvelous plane,” she murmured. “Wonder if I shall ever see it again,
or learn the secret of its shining beauty?”


On the day following the dance, Florence took a forenoon off to climb to
the crest of a hill that overlooked the city. She sat herself down upon
a heap of fallen leaves, then proceeded to indulge in an occupation
quite unusual for a girl. Selecting a fine smooth stick that had lain
long enough upon the ground to become brittle and all sort of “whitty,”
she began to whittle. A boy cousin had long ago introduced her to the
joyous art of whittling. What did she make? Mostly nothing at all. She
just whittled. And as she carved away at the brittle wood, she thought.
Long, deep thoughts they were too. Ah yes, there was the charm of
whittling—it made thinking easy.

“If it wasn’t all so tranquil and beautiful, I’d leave it,” she thought
as her eyes took in the scene beneath her feet. Yes, it surely was
beautiful. The red brick factory, built beside a rushing stream, quite
old and all covered with vines, had a quiet charm all its own. Beside
it, reflecting the golden glory of autumn trees, was the millpond.
Beyond that the water flowing over the dam, sparkled like a thousand
diamonds.

“Yes,” she murmured, “it is beautiful. I did not know that old New
England could be so entrancing. And yet, it is not the city, the
factory, the hills, the trees that hold you. It’s the people.”

This was true. There was the little family in the canary-cage house who
had taken her in. The room she and Verna occupied was so small. There
was hardly room to move about. Yet they were happy. Verna was obliging,
kind and generous to a fault. More important than that, she was eager to
know about everything. And she, Florence, knew so many, many things
about which this child of a small city had scarcely dreamed. They talked
at night, hours on end.

Strangely enough as she thought of this flower-like girl, a sudden
mental image gave her a picture of Hugo, the idol of last night’s
affair. She could see him now as plainly as she might if his picture had
been thrown upon a screen before her. His dark eyes were flashing, his
tangled hair tossing, his white teeth gleaming, as he exclaimed: “That’s
fine! Now let’s have a little jazz!”

She shuddered. Somehow, she did not wish to think of Verna and Hugo at
the same instant. And yet if asked why, she could not have found a
sensible reply.

“Surely,” she said to the trees, the hills and the city before her, “he
is handsome, gallant and popular. Who could ask for more?”

And the hills seemed to echo back, “Who? Who? Who?”

Ah yes, who? For all this, Florence was experiencing a feeling of
unhappiness over the whole affair. “Why?” she asked herself. “Why?”

She did not have high social ambitions, of this she was certain.
Happiness, she knew, could not be attained by sitting close to the head
of the table at a banquet, nor of being intimate with great and rich
people. Happiness came from within. And yet this had been her first
little social venture. Always before she had worked in the gymnasium or
on the playground. This time she had planned something different,
planned it well. She had dreamed a new dream and the thing had not
turned out as she had expected. The thing she had planned would, she had
hoped, be beautiful. Had this affair ended beautifully? She was to be
told in a few hours that it had been wonderful. Just now she was
thinking, “There was plenty of noise.” Once Hugo had dumped out a whole
bank of flowers to seize the tub that had held them, and beat it for a
drum. Everyone had laughed and shouted. There had been no beautiful
moonlight waltz at the end, only a wild burst of sound.

“Probably I’m soft and sentimental,” she told herself. “And yet—” she
was thinking of Danby Force. “Our people,” he had said, “seemed a little
dull, so I hired Hugo. Thought he might stir them up with his
saxophone.”

He _had_ stirred them up—some of them. Some remained just as they had
been. Her little family in the canary-cage house were that sort. They
lived simply, quietly, snugly in that tiny house. They did not ask for a
bigger house. They had no car. They did not crave excitement. Their
lives were like small, deep, still running streams.

Once those streams had been disturbed, horribly disturbed. That was when
the mill shut down four years before. It was Tom Maver, father of the
family, who had told her about it. Tom was a small, quiet sort of man.

“I’ve worked in the mill since I was sixteen,” he said. “Always tending
a bank of spinning wheels. Never did anything else. We were happy. Had
our home, our garden, our little orchard all snug and cozy.

“Then,” he had sighed, “mills down south where labor is cheap, child
labor and all that, cut in on our trade. The mill shut down. I had to
find work. I went to a farm. They set me cutting corn, by hand. The corn
was taller than I was, and heavier. I lasted three days. My face and
hands were cut, and my back nearly broken. I was sick when I came home.”
A look of pain overspread his honest face. “I tried ditch-digging and,
in winter, putting up ice. That was terrible. I fell in and was nearly
drowned. After that I—I just gave up.

“Well,” he sighed, “we didn’t starve, but we didn’t miss it much.

“But now,” he added brightly, “the mill is running and we are happy.”

“Yes,” Florence thought to herself, “they say they are happy, and I
believe they are. And that’s what counts most—happiness.” Yes, that was
it. They did not need jazz and a saxophone, a grinning Hugo and his
roaring tub to make them happy. They had something better, a simple,
kindly peace.

“Jazz,” she murmured. “It seems to get into people’s very lives.” She
was thinking now of a friend, a beautiful girl not yet twenty. Her life
was a round of jazz dances. Her doctor had ordered her to an island in
Lake Superior for her health. She had been taking drugs for hay fever.
This was affecting her heart. On this island there was no hay fever. She
had escaped hay fever, but there was no jazz and her cigarettes ran out.
“In another week I should have died—simply died,” she had said to
Florence. And Florence knew she had spoken the truth. “How terrible to
become a slave to habits that are not necessary to our lives!” she
whispered. “And yet, I must not judge others. I only can try to select
the best from both the old and the new for myself.”

As she sat there looking down upon the city, thinking of its joys and
its sorrows, its successes and its perils, she was like some brooding
Greek goddess dreaming of the future.

Suddenly she stood up straight and tall. Flinging her arms wide, she
remained thus, motionless as a statue. She was beautiful, was this girl
of strong heart and a strong body, beautiful as heroic Greek statuary is
beautiful. Standing there, she saw the sun come out from behind a cloud
to bathe the hillside with its glory of light. Racing down the hill,
this narrow patch of light appeared at last to linger lovingly over the
little city.

“It is a sign,” the girl whispered. “In the end troubles shall be
banished!” For the moment her face was transfigured by some strange
light from within. Then she turned to walk slowly down the hill.

As she entered the grounds that surrounded the mill, she was startled to
see a strange figure half hidden by a wild cranberry bush at a spot near
the gate. At first she believed him to be hiding there and thought
swiftly, “This may be the spy!” Next instant she realized that he was
raking dead leaves from beneath the bush.

A strange, rather horrible sort of person he appeared to be. His hair
was kinky and cut short, his dark face all but covered with a short
curly beard. His bare arms were long and hairy. As he rested there, bent
over, clawing at the leaves, he resembled an ape. He grinned horribly at
the girl as she passed, but did not speak.

“One more newcomer to the community,” was her mental comment. “But of
course, since he works about the yard he does not enter the mill. He
could scarcely be the spy. And yet—” she wondered how strong the locks
and bolts of doors and windows were and whether it were possible, after
all, for the spy to come from without, at night.

On enquiry she was to discover that at night the plant was guarded by a
watchman, one of the oldest employees of the place, and entirely
trustworthy.

For the moment, however, she was bent on entering the mill. She liked
its din, loved to see the speeding shuttles and feel the movement of
life about her. Besides, she had not forgotten what Danby Force had
said: “Things often happen in the mill after a jazz night.” She thought
of the girl who had fallen into a vat of blue dye. “Has anything
happened today, I wonder?” she whispered to herself.



                              CHAPTER XVII
                            A SURPRISE VISIT


To Florence with her interest in mechanical things and her love for the
glorious throb of life, the cotton mill was a place of great
enchantment. As she entered now she was greeted by the crack-crack-crack
of a hundred shuttles and by the boom-bang of weavers’ beams.

“It sounds like a battle,” she told herself. “And so it is—a battle
against depression, cold, hunger and despair.” She looked about her.
Everywhere hands were busy, faces bright and hearts light.

“And to think,” she whispered, “all unknown to these honest, happy ones,
there hangs above them a shadow like some great bombing airplane, a
shadow that some day may drop a bomb as if from the sky upon all this
glorious harmony of noise and still it forever. Unless—” she was
thinking of the spy who, all undiscovered, lingered in their midst. He
was a thief. No, he did not take their money, nor their other trifling
treasures. He took their means of living—or would if he could.

“And who is he?” she asked herself. “Who?” She thought of the hunchback
German who tended the motors, of the two dark-faced silent sisters who
so resembled the spy that had escaped. “That one too may come back,” she
told herself. Danby Force had said that he was sure they had not
discovered all the secrets. “It’s a complicated process. Each secret is
known by only one or two workers.” These had been his words. “No one of
them knows all of it.” She thought of the black-eyed girl she had seen
carrying away the bottle of dye stuff. “She may have wanted to analyse
it,” she thought. “More likely that she merely used it to dye that dress
she wore last night.” She laughed in spite of herself. Then she recalled
the little ape-like man working out there among the shrubbery. He might
know a great deal. Who could tell?

“No one knows now.” She clenched her hands tight. “But we shall know!”

That evening after working hours she was favored with a surprise visit.
She had entered her tiny room in the canary-cage house. Weary and
perplexed, wondering uneasily whether she had as yet been of any real
service to this unusual community, and wondering too in a disturbed sort
of way whether she should not tell Danby Force there was no use of her
staying longer, she threw herself on her bed and had fallen half asleep
when a touch like the brush of a feather awakened her.

At once she sprang to a sitting position.

“It is I, Verna.” There followed a low laugh. “You have a caller. And
such a romantic one! You’d never guess.” Verna laughed a low, happy
laugh.

“Danby Force is not romantic,” said the big girl, fumbling at her hair.

“And it’s not Mr. Force,” said Verna. Her cheeks, Florence saw, were
flushed. “It is Hugo, Hugo!” There was a note of deep admiration in her
tone as she repeated the name a second time softly: “Hugo.”

“Oh, Hugo?” Florence started. Hugo, the one who had stolen her act, was
here to see her. She wondered why. And, what was more, this lovely
school girl admired him greatly.

“Did you see him?” she asked.

“No. Oh! I wish I had!” Verna clasped her hands. “Mother opened the
door. She seated him, then called me from the kitchen to tell you.
Aren’t you thrilled? You are not hurrying at all.”

“No,” Florence said quietly, “it isn’t wise to hurry—at least not for a
man.” She smiled at this, then gave the girl a pat on the cheek.

She found herself considerably disturbed as she stepped into the little
parlor.

“Ah!” Hugo, the magnificent, sprang to his feet at sight of her. And he
was, in his own way, magnificent,—bright blue suit, orange colored tie,
a flower in his buttonhole, a smile showing all his white teeth. “Ah,
Miss Huyler. I came to congratulate you, to tell you how wonderful the
party was last night. You certainly are a marvelous hostess. We of the
mill—”

He broke short off to stare at something on the wall. He stood there for
a count of ten, then he murmured, “How exquisite! How charmingly
beautiful!”

He was looking at a picture. It was indeed beautiful. Done by a very
great artist who had chanced to visit the little city, it was carefully
done,—a picture of a very beautiful face.

“Yes,” Florence said quietly, “that is a picture of Verna, the daughter
of this house.”

“Do you mean to say she lives—that she is real!” The man’s astonishment
was genuine.

“Yes,” Florence replied.

“I must meet her.” Hugo smiled a dazzling smile.

“She’s only a child in high school.”

“High school,” he murmured low. “Ah, that is the age of romance, of
exquisite grace and beauty. I must meet her,” he repeated.

For just no real reason at all Florence wished to say, “I hope you never
do,” and there came also a temptation to emphasize her thought with two
or three words that do not often appear in print. What she did say was,
“Won’t you have a seat? You wanted to see me about something?”

“Yes—yes—ah—” Hugo appeared to dance toward a chair. He sat down with
the flourish of an expert rider mounting a horse. “Yes,—er—” He was on
his feet again, circling about that picture. At last, like a bee that
has circled a flower, his gaze came to a center close to the picture.
“Ah yes,” he murmured. “A very great artist. A priceless thing!” Heaving
a sigh, he tore himself away.

“Yes, Miss Huyler.” His change of poise and tone was fairly stunning. As
he wheeled about he was once more the social conquistador, seeking, the
girl knew not what advantage. “Yes, Miss Huyler, we admire you. In fact
we enjoyed the party so much we wish you to organize another within a
week, a truly wonderful party, a harvest ball. A thing to be done in
costume, a masked ball.”

Florence might have reminded him that she had started her little social
meeting as one sort of affair and that he had ended it in quite a
different manner. She might have told him that if he wanted any sort of
party at all, he was quite free to get it up as he chose. She did
nothing of the kind. Instead, she said: “And does Mr. Force approve?”

“Oh, Force!” Hugo made a dismissing gesture. “He doesn’t mind. He wants
this dead old town wakened up!”

“Does he?” Florence said quietly.

“Does he?” Hugo stared. “Isn’t that why you’re here?”

Florence started. “Yes, yes, I suppose that is why I’m here,” she
replied hurriedly. It would never do for any of these people to guess
why she was here. “Yes. And I am sure the party will be all right. I can
count on your assistance and—and all the others?”

“Absolutely! Absolutely! That’s the spirit!” Hugo sprang forward to
grasp her hand. For Florence that was a disturbing handclasp. Hugo’s
hand was hot and trembling. After holding her hand ten seconds too long
for her comfort, he suddenly dropped it to do three more turns about the
room. Then, making a grab at his hat, and snatching a look at his watch,
he exclaimed: “Must be going!” At that he bolted out of the room.

“What a remarkable person!” she thought a trifle wearily. “He’s a living
impersonation of jazz.” He was a great deal more than that, but this she
was to discover at a later date.

In the meantime she went to her room for a look at her mail. This was
followed by a few moments of thinking. Those were very solemn thoughts
indeed. “How,” she asked herself, “is this affair to end? Shall I
discover the spy? If so, how and when? Will the spy be a man or a woman?
Will there be a struggle, a trial perhaps?” She shuddered. “After all,”
she thought, “perhaps I should have accomplished more by attempting to
follow the dark lady’s trail.”

In time her thoughts began to wander. She thought of Hugo. “At least,”
she told herself, “he has good taste in art. That is a lovely picture of
Verna.”

Drawn by this thought, she left her room to wander into the small living
room. Instantly her lips parted in a suppressed cry of surprise. _The
picture was gone!_

“But then,” she thought, “why raise an alarm? I have been out of the
room for some time. Perhaps a member of the family has carried it away.”
She decided at last upon a course of watchful waiting. “I’ll find it in
another room,” she told herself. But would she?



                             CHAPTER XVIII
                             THE RED DEVIL


Has the little airplane stewardess been quite forgotten? Such vivid
personalities as hers are never long forgotten. These were busy days for
her. A trip to Boston and return; a day of rest; a sudden call for a
special trip to the Arizona desert—she was ever on the wing.

With all this she had not forgotten her promise to Danby Force. Pictures
of the dark lady with a torn ear were made and quietly distributed among
her fellow-workers. She was surprised at the results. Ladies resembling
this suspected one began, it seemed to her, to travel by air in whole
platoons. She heard from one in Dallas, another in Boston. One was seen
boarding a plane in Seattle and another in Portland, Maine. One and all
were investigated and found lacking in one particular or another. So, at
the end of a week the missing lady was still missing.

One day the chief stewardess said to her, “I have a very interesting
request for your services. You’ll want to go, I’m sure. A group of very
learned people are to visit a little city down east called Happy Vale.
Ever hear of it?”

“Happy Vale.” Rosemary said the words slowly. Then with a sudden start
she exclaimed, “That’s the home of Danby Force. That’s where the
industrial spies are supposed to be at work. I wonder—”

She broke off to stare out of the window.

“Of course,” she said in a changed tone. “Surely, I’ll be glad to go.”

“Danby Force,” she thought as she left the room. “He must have requested
that I come with the party. I wonder if it has anything to do with the
dark lady. Wonder if he’s found her, wants me to identify her, or—or
something.

“Anyway,” she concluded, “he’s a fine young man. It will be a real
adventure to visit his city.”

Then, as if Fate had whispered some word of warning in her ear, she made
her way slowly toward a certain hangar.

Arrived at the hangar she sought out a certain airplane, then called:

“Jerry! Oh Jerry! Come here!”

“At your service!” said Jerry, a bright young mechanic, grinning broadly
as he extended a greasy hand.

“Thanks, Jerry.” The girl gripped his hand.

“Jerry,” she said, “have you time to look over this motor a bit?”

“Sure, Miss Sample. But what—why that plane belongs to Willie VanGeldt,
the rich young bum. Why—”

“Jerry,” Rosemary smiled, “curiosity once killed a cat. Will you look it
over while I go in and make my report?”

“Sure, Miss Sample.”

Fifteen minutes later when Rosemary reappeared, Jerry made a wry face.

“Terrible, Miss Sample, just terrible! Carbon in the cylinders, oil in
the spark plugs, everything wrong! Wonder it runs at all.

“It’s a shame!” he went on. “It really is! Here we are keeping
everything perfect. Motors dragged out and overhauled every three
hundred hours, everything just perfect. And these amateurs!”

“I know, Jerry,” Rosemary broke in. “But tell me, have you a couple of
mechanics who’d like to earn some overtime by overhauling this motor?”

“That motor? Willie VanGeldt’s? You pay for it? Honest, Miss Sample,
he’s not worth it! He ain’t worth much of anything. That’s my guess.”

“Everyone is worth something,” Rosemary replied soberly. “I don’t want
to see him get himself killed. It will be bad for aviation in general.
And besides, Jerry, I’ve a feeling about that airplane—one I can’t
explain. So you just get that motor fixed up, and I’ll pay the men, pay
them tomorrow.”

“All right, Miss Sample. But—”

Rosemary had vanished.

So Rosemary Sample, still dreaming of her approaching visit to Happy
Vale, crossed the airport grounds, and entered the low depot to order a
sandwich and cup of coffee, and to sit staring absently at the wall
until the coffee was cold.

At the same time, in a far away city coming events were casting their
shadows before them, and in that very city the little French girl Petite
Jeanne was preparing for a visit to a great concert hall. This visit was
to have the most astounding results. So, like some famous stage manager,
Fate was getting ready to assemble the cast for the final scenes in our
little drama.

Even while Rosemary Sample sat staring at the ceiling, Florence was
saying to Danby Force: “I think the Harvest Dance would be a fine thing.
Not that we harvest anything but bright prints,” she laughed. “But these
golden days surely call for glorious good times. Only—” she hesitated.

“Only what?” He urged her on.

“I wish we could lay out a plan and stick to it, in—in spite—”

“In spite of our good man Hugo,” he laughed. “Well, this time we’ll do
just that. We’ll arrange an attractive printed program. On the card
every other offering will be an old-fashioned dance. The last shall be a
waltz in your artificial moonlight. And I—” he laughed low. “I speak for
that last dance right now.”

“Oh!” Florence flushed in spite of herself. “And I—I accept.

“Do you know,” she said a moment later, “I’ve thought of something that
might be done. The floor, you know, is very large. Why not send out in
the country and get a dozen corn shocks and set them up about the room?”

“A dance among the corn shocks!” Danby Force exclaimed. “A great idea!
We’ll do it. We’ll have the place lighted with imitation
jack-o-lanterns. That will be a grand ball indeed.”

And it was, even for Florence, up to a certain point. Then something
happened, as things have a way of doing, that for a time at least
spoiled her fun.

The mixed program of modern and old-fashioned dances served to hold the
hilarity to a moderate level. More than once a man in a red devil
costume, whom Florence recognized as Hugo, attempted to bribe the
musicians into changing the program, but it was no go. They had their
orders. They would follow them.

It was this same red devil who caused all of Florence’s trouble, which
in the end turned into quite a joy. She was standing on the side line
between dances when the red devil peeked round a corn shock, then as he
approached her whispered, “I am told that this beautiful child who lives
at your house is here. Do me the favor to tell me how she is dressed.”

“I—I really don’t know.” Florence was both surprised and frightened. She
had not known that Verna was to be there. Indeed she was under the
impression that her parents had forbidden her coming.

“Oh yes you know!” the red devil hissed in her ear. “You know well
enough, but you won’t tell. It’s all right. I’ll find out. I take what I
want!” There was a serpent-like hiss in his voice. Then he was gone.

Florence stared at the corn shock behind which he had vanished. Her mind
was in a whirl. Was Verna truly here? If she was, she must find and warn
her. The words of Rosa, tragic words, came to her: “He is a bad, bad
man!” His own words still rang in her ears: “I take what I want.”

“Does he?” she asked herself fiercely. “Perhaps he does.” Strangely
enough, she saw in her mind’s eye at that moment the picture of Verna.

Florence had developed an unusual gift. She had discovered long ago that
she could recognize friends, even at some distance, by their habitual
movements. If they were walking, rowing or playing a game, it was all
the same. She had developed this gift until now she could recognize
people instantly under any circumstances. “I must find Verna,” she
whispered, gripping at her heart to still its wild panic.

A dance began. Her partner came to claim her. It chanced to be a waltz.
As she floated about among the corn shocks, she was looking, looking,
looking.

And then she saw her. “A fairy!” she whispered to herself. “Verna is
dressed as a fairy, all in white, with wings. How exquisite!”

She wanted to break away and warn her at once. This might make a scene.
She would wait until the dance was over. She lost sight of her entirely.

Never before had a waltz seemed so long. She glided in and out among the
corn shocks, in and out, in and out, until it seemed to her that dawn
must come and a new day begin.

When at last the music stopped she fairly tore herself from her partner
and was away on her quest. But where was that white fairy? Ten minutes
of frantic search convinced her that she was too late. Verna was not
there. Neither was the red devil.

Sick at heart, she crept away to the dressing room. There she sank into
a chair to surrender herself to despair. But not for long. Before her
was a wooden bench. On this bench lay a large suit of rough coveralls, a
pair of cotton gloves and an ugly mask. This was a corn husker’s outfit
abandoned by one of the masqueraders. Ten minutes later Florence had
vanished; so too had the coveralls, mask and gloves.

Fifteen minutes later the red devil and the exquisite fairy might have
been seen walking along a narrow bridle path, lined on either side by
tall bushes. The red devil, if observed by some old, wise person, would
have been said to be in the act of practicing his art. He was doing, at
that moment, nothing that might be called reprehensible. He was in the
act of beguiling the exquisite fairy. That was all.

Surely no more perfect setting could have been found for a love tryst.
The moon, full and golden, hung over great masses of dark foliage. The
air was filled with faint noises, the chirp of a cricket, the rasping of
a katydid, the call of some bird in his sleep, the distant bay of a
hound. The air touched the fairy’s cheek like a faint caress.

“You are beautiful,” the red devil murmured low.

“Oh!” the fairy breathed.

“More lovely than a flower, more delicate than a rose, more graceful
than—”

The red devil broke off suddenly to listen. “Thought I heard a sound.”
His voice took on a sudden gruffness.

A moment later he was his own sweet devil of a self again, murmuring:
“If I had all the flowers of this beautiful world I would not look at
them, but at you. If I might touch the stars I would touch your hand
instead. Your lips—”

They had by this time all but reached the end of the lane. One moment
more, and they would have been in the open woods, when something quite
terrible occurred.

A figure that loomed large in the half darkness leaped at the red devil.
Startled, the red devil swung out with both fists. He missed. Something
very like a sledge-hammer struck him on the side of the jaw. With one
wild scream, the exquisite fairy was away. But not the red devil.



                              CHAPTER XIX
                             THE FIRE-BIRD


Strange as it may seem, it was at this very hour that Petite Jeanne
received one of the most unusual thrills of her not uneventful life. She
and Madame Bihari were back in Chicago. The Ballet Russe, too, was in
that city. And to Jeanne who, as you may know, was one of the finest of
gypsy dancers, anything like the Ballet Russe was a call which, if need
be, would draw from her purse the last silver coin.

“The Ballet Russe!” she exclaimed to Madame. “We must go. And ah yes,
tonight we must go! This is the last performance.”

“Impossible, my pretty one,” Madame said with slow regret. “I have
promised to say farewell to our good friends of Bohemia. They are
leaving tomorrow for their native land.

“But you, my child, you must go. Put on your bright gown of a thousand
beads and your purple cape with the white fox collar, and go. Surely no
one, not even the Fire-Bird, shall outshine my Petite Jeanne.”

So Jeanne went alone. She secured a seat at the side of the gallery
where she might look almost directly down upon the dancers. And was that
an hour of pure joy for Jeanne! Not for months had she witnessed
anything half so charming. The lights were so bright, the costumes so
beautiful, the dancers so light-footed and droll, and the music so
entrancing that she at times believed herself transported to another
world.

The first piece was a bit of exquisite nonsense. But when the time came
for that entrancing story, “The Fire-Bird,” to be told in pantomime,
music and dancing, Jeanne sat entranced. Once before, as a small child,
she had seen this in Paris. Now it came to her as a thing of renewed and
eternal beauty.

As the lights of the great Auditorium went dark and the orchestra took
up an entrancing strain, Jeanne saw at the back of the stage a tree that
seemed all aglow with light. And before this tree, dancing like some
enchanted fairy, was a creature that, in that uncertain light, seemed
half maiden, half bird.

“The Fire-Bird!” Jeanne’s lips formed the words they did not speak.

Soon the beautiful, glimmering Fire-Bird began to seem ill at ease. The
shadow of a young man appeared in the background.

“Prince Ivan,” Jeanne whispered.

The Prince pursued the Fire-Bird. Round and round they danced. How light
was the step of the Fire-Bird! She seemed scarcely a feather’s weight.
How Jeanne envied her!

And yet there were those who would have said, “Petite Jeanne is a more
splendid dancer.”

The Prince seized the Fire-Bird in his arms. She struggled in vain to
escape. She entreated him. She attempted to charm and beguile him. He
released her only, in beautiful and fantastic dance rhythm, to capture
her again. At last, on being given one of her shining feathers as a
charm against all evil, he granted her the freedom she asked.

The Fire-Bird vanishes. Day begins to dawn upon the stage. The music is
low and enchanting. Then a bevy of dancing girls emerge from a castle
gate. These are Princesses, bewitched and enslaved by a wizard.

As the thirteen Princesses danced upon the stage, Jeanne received a
momentary shock. One of these, the third from their leader, had about
her an air of familiarity. Jeanne was a dancer. She had learned to
recognize other dancers by their movements. But this one—

“Where have I seen her?” she whispered.

Closing her eyes, she attempted to call forth upon the dimly lighted
picture gallery of memory some scene of other days, some open air arena,
some stage where this one had danced.

“No, no!” She tapped her small foot. “It will not come. And yet I _have_
seen her!”

Then again she gave herself over to the story unfolding so beautifully
before her.

In the story played out for Jeanne, Prince Ivan falls in love with the
most beautiful of the enchanted Princesses. There follows a marvelous
dance done by the maidens. Jeanne as she watched had eyes for but one
dancer, the mysterious person she felt she should know, but could not
recall.

Dawn comes. The enchanted ones disappear through the gate of the castle.
Prince Ivan, in the abandon of love, follows. There comes the unearthly
din of gongs and bells. A host of weird creatures come out to attack
him. They are powerless because of the magic feather, gift of the
Fire-Bird. Ivan is not afraid.

Then comes the terrible wizard who, if he could, would destroy Ivan with
his very breath.

For the time Jeanne forgot the mysterious dancer who had once more
appeared upon the scene. Carried away by the story, Jeanne had eyes only
for the brave little Prince and the terrible creature who seeks his
destruction. As the wizard approaches step by step, his hand trembling
with rage, his small hard foot stamping the floor, Jeanne actually
trembled with fear. Then, as Prince Ivan waved the magic feather and
called upon the Fire-Bird to aid him, when the splendid dancing
Fire-Bird appeared upon the scene, Jeanne wanted to scream for joy.

Such enchantment passes rapidly. When at last Ivan had triumphed and the
wizard been destroyed, Jeanne thought again of the mysterious dancer who
had, she was sure, played some part in her past life.

“If you please—” she spoke to her nearest neighbor whose opera glass
dangled idly from a ribbon. “Just for one moment, may I borrow it?”

“Certainly.” The lady smiled.

Strangely enough, as she put the glass to her eyes, the little French
girl found herself all atremble. “Coming events cast their shadows
before them.” Scarcely had the glass been focussed upon the mysterious
dancer than her hand dropped limply to her lap.

“It cannot be!” she murmured aloud. “But yes! It is she! It can be no
other. There is the dark face. Even beneath her make-up one feels it.
There is the torn ear. I can’t be wrong. It is the dark lady! It is the
spy!”

Twenty seconds later the opera glasses were in their owner’s hands.
Jeanne had vanished.



                               CHAPTER XX
                            SOMEONE VANISHES


Poor red devil! He surely was in for it!

What a pity that anyone so jolly, so full of the froth and bubble of
life, should find any hard spots on his joyous glide through life! Pity
or no pity, he was in for it!

He was soft from too much eating, too much drinking and too many good
times. There was jazz in his blood, plenty of it. But one cannot defend
one’s self with the jittering rhythm of jazz. Hugo, the red devil, went
down and came up again. He went down and was soundly beaten by this
mysterious intruder. He roared for help, but there was no help near. He
had chosen a lonely spot for his promenade. In the end he began
whimpering like a baby. Then the intruder left him. And as he left, Hugo
fancied he heard him mutter, “You take what you want.” He was, however,
too dazed and befuddled to tell truly whether he had heard aright or no.

When Danby Force came to claim Florence for the last dance of the
evening, he was surprised to find an unaccustomed wealth of color in her
cheeks. He fancied too that she seemed agitated and quite unusually
excited. Her breath seemed to come with a little catch.

He said nothing about it and soon they were floating across the floor to
the music of the old but ever beautiful waltz, “Over the Waves.”

“Ah,” Florence whispered as, like light row boats on moonlit waters they
glided on and on, “how beautiful! Nothing could be more wonderful. I
wish it might go on forever.”

Danby Force did not answer. A slight tightening of the hand was his only
reply.

“But look!” he exclaimed suddenly. “Your knuckles are bleeding!”

“It’s nothing,” she laughed. “I can’t make the silly things stop.”
Deftly she twisted her handkerchief about the offending knuckles. Then
the dance went on.

“I fell upon something rather rough and bad,” she said after a time in
quite an absent-minded manner.

“Have you found our spy?” Danby Force asked, after thanking her for his
good time when the dance was over.

“Not yet.” Suddenly Florence felt very weary.

“I’m working on it. There’s a hunchback German and two dark-faced ladies
and a little fellow like an ape who rakes leaves. It must be one of
these.”

“But may not be,” he said quietly. “You will do well to keep right on
looking.”

“Now what did he mean by that?” she asked herself after he was gone.
“Does he suspect someone else, someone who has not even caught my
attention? Perhaps I’m not much good as a lady cop after all.”

With that she entered the little cottage that for the time was her home.

The instant she entered her room she shot an anxious look toward Verna’s
bed. Then she heaved a sigh of relief. Verna was sleeping peacefully. A
single tear that glistened on her cheek detracted not one whit from her
beauty.

The big girl smiled as her eyes fell upon the crumpled fairy’s wings
that lay upon a chair. “Wings all crumpled but the fairy’s safe,
tha—thank God!” She choked a little over these last words.

For a long time after her light was out, she lay in her bed looking at
the moon shining through her window. Had one been present who could see
in the dark, he might have found her lips smiling. Florence was large,
too large and strong for a girl. Many a time she had shed bitter tears
over this. Many a time too she had looked upon her slim and willowy
sisters and felt her heart burn with envy. But tonight as she stirred
beneath the covers, as she sensed the glorious strength of her arms, her
limbs, her whole superb body, she was filled with such a warmth of
gladness as one does not soon forget.

“Thank you, God!” she whispered. “Thanks for making me big and strong!”
At that she fell asleep.

And tomorrow was another day.


Back in Chicago the night was not over for the little French girl. To
her unutterable surprise, she had discovered among the dancing girls of
the Ballet Russe the dark lady who she believed was the industrial spy.
At once Jeanne had stepped from her place and vanished.

How she managed to make her way unchallenged to the wings of the stage,
she will never quite know. Enough that she at last was there, nor,
unless carried away by the heels, would she budge from the place until
she had gotten one good look at that mysterious lady.

“And after that,” she told herself, “I shall call the police.”

By the time she had made her way to the wings of the stage, the last
production of the evening, “The Beautiful Blue Danube,” had begun.
Nothing ever done by the Ballet Russe is more charming than the Blue
Danube. The music and dancing were so lovely that for a space of time
Jeanne quite forgot her mission. But not for long. Soon her eyes were
upon the dancing girls. As, swinging and swaying, rising on tip-toe,
seeming to float in air, they approached her, she caught her breath,
then whispered: “It is this one. No, that one—or that one.”

In the end, to her great disappointment, she discovered that it was not
one of them all. They all had perfect ears.

What had happened? Had she been mistaken? Impossible. Had she been
tricked? This was possible.

“But no,” she thought to herself. “That dark lady will come on later. In
this picture she has a separate part.”

So, standing on tip-toe, longing every second to throw away her purple
cape and join the dancers, she watched and waited—waited in vain for,
when the curtain fell, no dark lady with a torn ear had appeared upon
the stage.

Then of a sudden someone said, “Well! How did you get here?”

“I am a dancer,” Jeanne replied quick-wittedly. “Perhaps after a while I
shall be given a chance to try my skill.”

“Perhaps, and again perhaps not.” The tall, dark man looked at her
doubtfully. But Jeanne, in her gown of many silver beads and her purple
cape, was very charming. Few could resist her. So she stayed.

“But tell me!” she exclaimed. “There was one of the dancing girls I have
known. She was third in the Fire-Bird. Where is she?”

“Ah yes.” The tall, dark man shrugged. “Where is she? She is gone.”

“Gone?” Jeanne felt her knees sink. “She is gone?”

“Ah yes, Mademoiselle. She came as a substitute to this country with us.
She has been away. Tonight she comes back. She asks that she may dance.
She is very clever, that one. We say, ‘You may dance.’ You have seen,
she danced very well. And now she is gone.” He spread his hands wide.

“But where has she gone?” Jeanne demanded eagerly.

The tall, dark man spread his hands wider still. “Who knows? Not one
among us here. We are through at this city. She will not come back here.
Shall we see her again? Who can say? She is a queer one, that dancer.”

“Yes,” Jeanne murmured low, “she is a queer one.”

At that she made her way from the fast clearing house out into the cool,
damp night. She had wanted to dance on that broad stage. She wanted to
dance no more. The dark lady had appeared before her very eyes. Now she
was gone. She, Petite Jeanne, had failed.



                              CHAPTER XXI
                        AN ASTONISHING DISCOVERY


When Jeanne returned from the Ballet Russe she found Madame Bihari
seated by a low table. Before her, spread out in rows, were her gypsy
witch cards. So intent was her study of these cards that she did not so
much as notice the little French girl’s entrance. When Jeanne had put
away her cape, she pressed one cold hand against Madame’s cheek to
whisper:

“And what do the cards say tonight?”

Madame Bihari started. “Many things,” she murmured low. “Always they
speak of many things, hunger, happiness, sickness, sudden death, great
riches, love, hate, despair. The cards tell of life, and this, my child,
is life.

“But my Jeanne—” her tone changed. “You have often spoken of a visit to
Florence and Danby Force in their so beautiful city. It is well that we
go tomorrow.”

“Do the cards say this?” Jeanne demanded.

“I say this.” There was a solemn note in Madame’s reply, like the deep
tolling of a bell.

“All right.” Jeanne went skipping across the floor. “Tomorrow we shall
go, very early, perhaps at dawn.”

Jeanne was happy once more. The dark lady had escaped her. What of that?
Had that not happened an hour, two hours before? Was it not already of
the past? Was not tomorrow a new day? On with tomorrow! She did a wild
gypsy dance. At last dancing out of her dress of a thousand beads, she
danced into dream robes and then into the land of dreams.


It was on the evening of the next day that Florence went for a long
walk, and made a startling discovery. These evening walks were a source
of real joy to her. She loved the cool damp of falling dew on her check;
the smell of wood smoke from a hundred chimneys brought back pleasant
memories of days spent in the woods along the shores of Lake Huron and
on Isle Royale. She derived a keen satisfaction from looking in at open
windows where little families sat smiling over their evening meal or
reading beside an open fire.

“These are _my_ people,” she would whisper to herself. “It may lie
within my power to do them a great good. Perhaps tomorrow, or even
tonight within the very next hour I may discover the spy who is
threatening their happiness.”

She was in just such a frame of mind when, on passing one of the few
truly modern homes of the town, a rather gaudy Spanish bungalow, she
stopped dead in her tracks. The house stood quite near the street. In
one room the shades were up and the lights on. She could see every
object within. The chairs, the fancy spinet desk, the bed covered with a
silk spread of brilliant hue, all stood out before her as if arranged
for inspection. None of these, however, interested her in the least. The
thing that held her attention was a small picture on the wall.

“It can’t be!” she breathed. “And yet it is!” She moved a little closer.
“Yes, it is the picture of Verna, that matchless painting by a truly
great artist.”

At once her mind was in a whirl. What had happened? Had Mrs. Maver sold
that picture? Impossible. She had said that, whatever happened, they
would never part with that picture. Had she loaned it? This did not seem
probable.

“And yet,” Florence asked herself, “if it had been stolen, would she not
have told me?”

Strangely enough, at that moment a cold sweat broke out on her brow.
Perhaps the Mavers had missed the picture. Perhaps they believed she had
taken it. Perhaps for days, all unknown to her, they had been watching
her movements.

“How terrible!” she murmured. “And I an amateur lady cop!

“It _was_ stolen!” she concluded. “And I know who took it.” Words spoken
only last night came back to her: “I take what I want.”

Like a flash she was up on the steps and ringing the bell.

“Does the person they call Hugo live here?” she asked the lady who came
to the door.

“Oh yes,” the woman replied. “But he’s not here just now. We expect him
back any time. Would you care to wait?”

“No, I—I’ll come back later.” Florence turned away to mutter under her
breath, “Only I won’t.”

For some time after that, in the shadow of a great elm, she stood
watching that room and that one small picture. Hugo did not appear. In
time the woman of the house opened the door to snap off the light.

“Oh!” Florence drew in a long deep breath. Her moment had arrived. She
moved swiftly. Screens had been removed from the house. The window was
not locked. To lift it noiselessly, to step within was the work of
seconds. Moving slowly in the pale moonlight, she crossed the room. Her
hand was on the picture when a footstep sounded outside. Her heart
stopped beating. What if it were Hugo! Supposing the moonlight were
strong enough to expose her?

She thought of the night before, and gained courage. “But tonight I am
not dressed as a man.” Her heart sank.

The footsteps continued. The person did not turn in. For the moment she
was saved.

Swiftly she re-crossed the room, sprang through the window and was once
more her own free self walking in the cool damp of night. The picture
was safely hidden under her jacket.

“He takes what he wants.” She laughed low as she hurried along. “Well,
so do the rest of us—sometimes.”

For all the laugh, she felt depressed. Hugo a thief! She had not thought
this possible. For all he had interfered with her plans, she had for
this dashing young man a certain admiration.

“Well,” she sighed at last, “we must take people as we find them. We—”

Her thoughts broke off suddenly. Some small object bumped against her
leg as she walked. Putting down a hand she grasped a small rubber bulb.
The bulb was attached to a tube. She gave a slight pull and it came free
from the picture, behind which it had doubtless been hidden.

“That’s queer!” she whispered. “One of Hugo’s little secrets.”

At the other end of the tube was a small cube of black material. The
thing did not interest her overmuch. Perhaps it was a small atomizer or
an affair for spraying perfume. That Hugo was fond of costly, quite
faint perfume, she knew well. She dropped it in the pocket of her jacket
and there it remained until the following afternoon when, at Danby
Force’s request, she motored up to the stately old mansion where Danby
lived with his mother.

She found the young man seated with his mother in an out-of-doors
pavilion. The sun was bright. It was a rare autumn afternoon.

“This is my mother,” Danby said simply. The beautiful white-haired woman
smiled her a welcome. “Danby has been telling me of you. We are going to
have some tea,” she said, motioning Florence to a chair.

“It is beautiful up here.” Florence took one long deep breath. It was,
just that. The broad-spreading elms, the wavering shadows, the bright
crimson flowers, all this was marvelous.

“Yes,” Danby Force spoke quietly, “life has always been beautiful up
here. My father and his father before him worked to make it so. But life
down in our little city has not always been beautiful for all. It should
be so.”

At that moment Florence caught some movement in a tree, a whisk of gray.

“A squirrel,” Mrs. Force explained. “There must be hundreds of them. We
feed them, place boxes for them in the trees. The gray ones are
brightest, most friendly. Life is always beautiful for them.”

Just then Florence put her hand in her pocket. Feeling something cold
and hard, without thinking what it might be, she drew it out and held it
to view.

“Where did you get that?” Danby exclaimed on the instant. It was the
curious affair Florence had unintentionally carried away from Hugo’s
room the night before.

“Why—I—I—” the girl stammered.

“Do you know what it is?” Danby broke in.

“No, I—”

“Then I’ll tell you.” He was smiling now. “It is a very small camera,
the sort spies use in taking pictures. If you look closely you will see
that the front is shaped like a button. The tiny lens is in the center
of that button. You put that in a button hole and draw the bulb up under
your arm. Each press of your arm takes a picture.”

“Where did you get it?” he asked a second time.

“Oh please!” Florence was horribly confused. She did not feel ready to
tell the whole story. “Please. I did not know it was of any consequence.
Shows how good a lady cop I am! But I—I got it under very unusual
circumstances. I—I’ll tell you. I’ll have to, but not—not just now,
please.”

“Oh that’s all right.” Danby’s tone was kindly. “Would you mind letting
me have it for a time?”

“Of course not.” Florence held it out to him.

Just then the butler appeared. “James,” said Danby, “give this to Oliver
and tell him to deliver it at once to Mr. Mills at his photo shop. If
there chances to be a film inside, have him instruct Mills to develop it
with extraordinary care, then to make enlargements of all the good
exposures.”

“And now,” he said, turning to the ladies, “we may have our tea.”



                              CHAPTER XXII
                            THE SILVER SHIP


Early on the following morning two planes left the airport. One was
small. It resembled a dragon fly. In it rode Jeanne and Madame Bihari.
The other was a great bi-motored cabin plane. It carried as its
stewardess our good friend Rosemary Sample. Her passengers were as
interesting a group as you might hope to meet.

They were destined, these planes, for the same little city, Happy Vale.
Both Jeanne and Rosemary were ignorant of this fact. So it is in life,
two congenial souls travel for years along the same path, all
unconscious of one another’s nearness.

Rosemary’s interest in her passengers increased as she became better
acquainted with them. They were, she discovered, from the
University—sociologists, teachers of ethics, psychologists—all
delightfully simple, kindly people who laughed and joked about the long
strings of letters Ph.D., LL.D. and the like, attached to their names.

She was not long in discovering that a tall thin man with long hair and
thick glasses named H. Bedford Biddle had chanced upon what he spoke of
as a “rare find” in the field of sociology. They were all, it seemed,
going for a look at his “find.”

The “find,” she knew in advance, was Danby Force’s cotton mill and his
little city of Happy Vale. She was thrilled at the thought of seeing him
once more.

As she listened to these learned men discussing the “find” she realized
there was much she could tell them about it. Not being asked, however,
she kept silent. She smiled from time to time at their curiously learned
remarks about a thing that to her had seemed quite simple and very
beautiful, a group of common people, working together to make their
little city the happiest, most contented in all the world.

They landed on the outskirts of a beautiful little city. A bus carried
them to the factory. There they were met by Danby Force who had a very
special message for the little stewardess.

“I wanted you to come.” It was a rare smile he gave her, something quite
special that warmed her heart. “I felt you were interested and would
truly understand.”

“And is—have you—”

“No.” His voice was low. “We have not found her. We have no true notion
of the harm she may have done. We can only hope.” He was speaking,
Rosemary knew, of the spy.

It was an hour later when, after a frugal repast wonderfully prepared,
they were ready to enter the mill.

Rosemary had dropped modestly to the rear of the group when of a sudden
she noted some stranger joining their party. With a quick eye for faces
she already knew all her party well. “He is not of our party, and yet,”
she told herself, “there is something familiar about him. He gives me
the shivers. I wonder why.”

A little later she was thinking to herself, “Wonder if he has been
invited to join us. None of my affair—but—” But what? She did not know.

Invited or no, the youth did join this group. He did go with them. To
Rosemary his attitude was disconcerting. A part of the time he seemed
quite indifferent, the rest of the time he was like one on tip-toes.
Drinking in every word that was said, at the same time he went through
strange motions, fumbling first at his vest, then at his pockets.

Their journey through the plant was half over.

“No,” Danby Force was saying, “this is not Utopia. We have made mistakes
and been criticized. Members of our group have complained and claimed
unfair treatment. Some have moved away. This is human. But we are trying
to live up to our motto: ‘Do something for someone else.’ We—”

For the first time, with no apparent reason, the mysterious stranger
looked Rosemary square in the eyes. His black eyes flashed a dark
challenge. Instantly she knew this was no youth. This was the mysterious
dark lady! By the gleam of an eye she had made this discovery. This
woman had changed her complexion and her disguise. She had returned for
more facts, perhaps for the secret formula. And what was she, Rosemary
Sample, to do about it? Inside her a tumult was raging. Externally she
was calm. “I must think,” she told herself, “think calmly. And then I
must act.”


In the meantime Jeanne too had made a discovery. Was it important? Who
could tell? An hour after Rosemary’s party left the small landing field
at Happy Vale, Jeanne’s dragon fly came circling down to at last taxi to
a position close beside a small silver plane.

“That ship,” Jeanne said to Madame, “looks familiar. And—” she clapped
her hands. “I know where I saw it before.”

Her heart skipped a beat as, making a dash for it, she peered within.
“Oh!” she breathed out her disappointment. “She is not there!” This was
the luminous silver ship that one night had hovered over her golden
tree, the very one she had followed so far next day. She was sure of
that. A young man sat at the wheel. He seemed about to start the plane.

Throwing open the door, he said, “Howdy, sister. What can I do for you?”

“Wh—where is she?” Jeanne asked breathlessly.

“She?” He appeared not to understand.

“The dark lady.”

“Which one?” He laughed. “I’m told there are several in America.”

At that Jeanne decided to give him up. “Only one more question,” she
thought.

“How do you make it shine all over at night?” she asked.

“There are ten thousand holes in the fusilage and the planes,” he
explained in a friendly tone. “Neon tubes made of a special kind of
glass run everywhere inside the plane. When we light these tubes they
shine out through all the little holes. Simple, what?”

“Very simple,” Jeanne agreed.

A moment later she saw him go bobbing across the field to rise at last
and soar away.

“All the same,” Jeanne told herself, “he _did_ once have that dark lady,
the spy, as a passenger. Wonder if he has her still?” She concluded that
plane would bear watching if it ever returned.



                             CHAPTER XXIII
                          THE GYPSY’S WARNING


When Rosemary Sample discovered that the person who had attached herself
to the learned party being conducted through the textile mill was none
other than the spy, she found herself in a tight position. This visit of
the wise men, she realized from the look on Danby Force’s serious face,
was an occasion of no small importance. “A group of University
professors do not charter a plane every day in the week in order that
they may be conducted through a factory or mill,” she assured herself.
“If I cry ‘WOLF!’—if I let them know there is an industrial spy in their
midst, everything will be thrown into confusion. The charm will have
been broken, the entire effect lost.

“I’ll keep an eye on this spy,” she thought, “I’ll see that nothing is
taken from the mill. When the tour is over I will see that she is taken
into account and made, at least, to explain why she is here.” That the
matter would go much farther than that, she did not doubt. Would there
be a struggle? She shuddered.

During the half hour that followed, though no one would have guessed it,
Rosemary heard not a word that her good friend Danby Force was saying to
the learned professors.

And then, at the very end, Danby did something that commanded her
attention in spite of herself. The guests were passing one at a time
through a narrow door. Danby was working levers on a peculiar
instrument.

“Perhaps you would like to know—” there was an amused look on his face.
“All of you might like to know what I am doing. I am spraying you with
the light from an X-ray lamp.

“In your case I am sure it is quite unnecessary. But it is a precaution
we take with all those who pass through our mill. In these days of keen
industrial struggle there are spies everywhere seeking to secure
advantages through trickery. They often carry tiny cameras concealed
upon their persons. Should there be one such among you, the X-ray light
would entirely ruin his negatives. His picture-taking would be without
result.”

As he made this explanation Danby caught and held the little stewardess’
interest for a brief interval. Fatal interest. Ten seconds later, when
she gripped his arm to whisper, “Danby Force! There—there is your spy!”
she found herself staring at empty space. The spy had vanished.

Danby stared at her in amazement. “What? You don’t mean—” He was
apparently unable to finish.

“Yes, yes! She was here. She was dressed as a young man. But it was a
woman. I saw her fumbling at the back of her coat, as only a woman
would. And now—now she’s gone!”

“Quick!” He whispered low, that the professors might not hear. “Run
outside. Perhaps you can see her. If you do, ask any man about the plant
to seize her. He’d do it at the risk of his life.”

There was no demand for such heroism. The spy had vanished. Look where
she might, call others to her aid as she did, the little stewardess
could find no trace of her.

When, disappointed and downhearted, she returned to the office of the
plant, Danby Force only smiled and said quietly, “Forget it. We will
catch up with her yet. You’ll see!

“And now,” he added briskly, “come with me. We are to take this group of
learned men for a tour of our little city. Then, I regret to say, we
must part once more. You are to start them back to Chicago in just one
hour.”

What Rosemary saw in that hour’s ride through shady streets and narrow,
beautiful lanes more than once caused her throat to tighten with pure
joy at the realization that here at least was one community where
happiness and simple prosperity reigned. The streets were clean, the
narrow lawns well cared for, the small homes painted, and the people,
for the most part, smiling.

Yet, even as her heart swelled with admiration for those who could bring
such a state of affairs into being, her mind was filled with misgiving.

“It doesn’t seem possible that one selfish person could spoil all this,”
she said in a low tone to Danby.

“Yet it _is_ possible.” His brow wrinkled. “Once the secrets of our new
processes are in the hands of unscrupulous persons, they will be
exploited. And that will bring ruin to us.

“We have not tried to expand,” he said a moment later. “Perhaps we
should have done so. But it has seemed to us that much of the
unhappiness of the world has been brought about by the desire of honest
but misguided men to tear down factories and build bigger, to cut costs,
to sell cheaper in every market. Our aim has been an honest living, and
simple contentment for all.”

“Simple contentment for all,” the girl whispered to herself. “What would
that not mean if it were realized by every person in this great land of
ours!”

Yet, even as she thought this, an imaginary colossal figure appeared to
loom above her, the figure of a dark-faced woman who never smiled, and
she seemed to be saying:

“My bag! My traveling bag! It is gone!”

“And yet it was not gone,” the girl told herself.

“There’s a golden-haired French girl,” Danby Force was speaking again.
“She travels in an airplane with a gypsy woman and a child. Strange
combination,” he mused. Then, more briskly, “They have a secret of
dyeing in purple that would be of immense value to us. But it belongs to
hundreds of gypsies in France. Dare we ask her to reveal that secret?
Have we a right to it? That, for the moment, is a question. I am unable
to answer.”

“Yes,” Rosemary replied, “I too know Petite Jeanne. She is a dear!”

Little did either of them realize that at this very moment Jeanne was
close at hand, on Happy Vale’s landing field. Rosemary left that very
field an hour later without discovering Jeanne’s presence.

That afternoon, on wandering across the grounds before the mill,
Florence came face to face with Hugo. He appeared quite worried and ill
at ease. His attempt to favor her with one of his dazzling smiles was a
failure.

“Does he know I took the picture?” she asked herself after he had passed
on. “Does he know about the camera? And was it his camera?”

As she closed her eyes and tried to picture to herself the face of the
spy she had so long sought, she saw not Miriam Dvorac and her dark
sister, not Hans Schneider, not Ina Piccalo and not the curious person
who trimmed the shrubs about the grounds. Instead, a very different face
appeared, a smiling face she had seen many times before. Startled by
this picture, she exclaimed: “No! No! It cannot be!” And yet the picture
remained.

Yes, as Florence had guessed, Hugo was troubled, so very much troubled
that any person with an eye for such things could have told it quickly
enough. And he was superstitious. Oh, very much so! Selfish people who
think much of their own happiness and very little of others are likely
to be superstitious. So, when one of his fellow-workers told him that
something very strange had happened—that two gypsies, one very old and
dark, and one young, blonde and beautiful, had come flying in from the
air, he said at once: “It is Fate. I shall have my fortune told.”

Jeanne was not in sight when he arrived. Madame Bihari, seated upon her
bright rug before the tent, was shuffling her witch cards. Shuffling,
dealing, then gathering them up to shuffle and deal again, she did not
so much as look up as Hugo, magnificent in his bright garments,
approached. His roving eyes sought in vain for the beautiful young
gypsy. His countenance fell.

“But after all,” he reasoned, “I came to have my fortune told. The older
ones are best for that.”

“Old woman,” he said rather rudely, “tell my fortune.”

Madame did not look up. Her face darkened as she cut and dealt the
cards.

Hugo appeared to understand, for he said in a quiet tone, “I would like
my fortune told.”

Madame looked up. Something like a dark frown passed over her face.
Madame had lived long and in many lands. There were faces that to her
were like an open book in a bright light. She read them with greatest
ease.

“Today,” she said slowly, “we have traveled far.”

Then she shuffled and dealt once more.

Hugo grew impatient. He opened his lips to utter harsh words, when
Madame said:

“Cross my palm with silver.”

Carelessly, Hugo threw a silver half dollar on the rug. The frown on
Madame’s face deepened.

“Here are the cards,” she said in an even tone. “You must sit down
before me. You must shuffle them well. You will cut them with your left
hand—this is very important, then you will deal them six in a row, then
eight in a row for five rows, after that six in a row once more. All
must be face up with pictures toward me. To deal wrongly is sure to
bring bad fortune.”

Hugo’s hand trembled as he cut and dealt the cards. Darkness had fallen.
Only the glimmer of a small fire lighted up the cards and Madame’s dark
face. Despite his care, he turned the picture of a snake toward himself.

“Ah!” Madame snatched at the card. “You have redoubled your misfortune.”

“Here! Give me the cards! I’ll deal them again!” Hugo exclaimed.

“What is done is done.” Madame’s voice seemed to come from the depths of
a well.

And “Ah!” she muttered after one moment of scrutinizing the cards. “What
an evil fortune you have laid out before me!”

At this Hugo appeared to exert all his will to snatch away the cards,
but seemed powerless to move a muscle. So he sat there staring.

“The mountain, the broken glass—” Madame was speaking now in a
monotonous singsong. “The fox, the dog, the rapier, the lightning, the
lion, all clustered about you and all telling of misfortune! My life has
been long, but never have I read such omens of evil!

“And such a jolly life as you have lived!” She went on without looking
up. “Everything has been yours—youth, love, friends, happiness—all that
you could ask.”

“And now?” The words stuck in Hugo’s throat.

“Now—” Madame’s voice rose. “Now it were better for you if you were not
in your native land. Discovery is at hand. Hate will enter where
admiration and love have lingered long. The wealth you have hoped for
will never come. You shall wander far alone without a friend.”

After Madame had ended this long utterance of prophecy, she sat for one
full moment staring gloomily at the cards. Would she have changed their
reading if she could? Who can say? How had she known so much? Had
someone told her? Certainly not. Had the cards truly guided her? Again
we must reply, who knows? There is wisdom in every land that to us, who
think ourselves so very wise, is hidden.

When Madame looked up at last, Hugo was gone. Darkness had closed about
the place where he had been. With a heavy high, Madame gathered up her
cards. Then, having thrown fresh fuel on the fire, she called softly:
“Jeanne! My Petite Jeanne!”

Jeanne peered with sleepy eyes from within the tent. “Jeanne,” Madame
said, “tonight I have told a fortune. Ah, such a terrible fortune!
Tomorrow, my Jeanne, tomorrow and the day that is to follow, strange
things will happen, very strange indeed.”

She did not describe the person whose fortune had been told, nor had
Jeanne seen him. She had been asleep in the tent. Perhaps this was
unfortunate. But you alone shall be the judge.



                              CHAPTER XXIV
                                 48—48


It was rather late on the following afternoon that Florence received a
hurry-up call from Danby Force. She went at once to his office in the
mill.

As she entered she found him in a fine state of excitement. He had been
pacing the floor but, as she entered, he turned abruptly toward his
desk. Snatching up a handful of pictures, he held them out to her.

“Look at these!”

Florence looked. “They were taken inside the mill,” she said.

“By a spy!” His eyes fairly shone. “And with the camera you gave me, the
little one that is worn in a button hole. Whose is it?”

“I—I truly do not know.” Her head was in a whirl. “But I—per—perhaps I
should tell you. Yes, yes I must. Hugo stole a picture, a very rare
little painting.”

“Stole it?” He stared.

“Yes. He stole it. Can’t be any doubt of it. I saw it in his private
room. I took it for the rightful owner. This—this camera was behind it.
Was it—”

“It was his beyond a doubt.” Danby was staring harder than ever.

At that moment the girl thought she caught some stealthy movement about
the ivy outside the window. She looked quickly. Did she catch sight of a
face? She could not be sure. If so, it was gone on the instant.

“Hugo!” Danby’s voice rose. “Hugo! He is our spy! Who would believe it!”

He pounded hard on an electric button. Mark Sullivan, the day watchman,
appeared at the door.

“Mark,” Danby said in a steady tone, “go find Hugo. Bring him here. If
he refuses to come, use force—but bring him!”

But Hugo was not to be found. He was gone. He had flown in the truest
sense of the word. Strangest of all, it was the little French girl,
Petite Jeanne, who aided in his escape. This may not seem so strange
when we recall that Jeanne had never seen Hugo and that Hugo surely had
a way with the ladies.

It was late afternoon of that same day. Petite Jeanne sat in the door of
her dragon fly airplane. The door faced the sun. She was basking in its
warmth. She loved the sun, did this little French girl. She had once
heard an aged gypsy say the sun was the smiling face of God. A rather
fanciful remark this, yet it had stayed in her mind. “At least,” she
told herself, “God made the sun and everything He created is good, so
surely He means us to enjoy the sunshine.”

All day long, without presuming to call upon the busy Danby Force, or
even upon Florence, Jeanne had wandered through the town and had come to
love it.

“It is wonderful!” she had said to Madame Bihari. “And to think that any
possible harm might come to it! This indeed is too terrible!”

She was thinking of all this when her eye caught sight of a person
approaching rapidly. It was Hugo.

“You are Petite Jeanne,” he said. He appeared to be in great haste.

“Yes, I—”

“I am a friend of Florence,” he said, casting his spell with a beaming
smile.

“A friend of Florence is my friend.”

“Ah!” One might have detected in the man’s deep intake of breath a
feeling of great relief.

“Then you will help me!” he exclaimed.

“But yes, if I may.” Jeanne was on her feet.

“If you would but take me a short distance in your plane—it will not
require an hour—you will be back before dark.” Hugo talked rapidly as
one in great haste.

“What could be easier? Will you come aboard?” Jeanne climbed to her
place at the wheel.

Ah, poor Jeanne! Had you but known!

A little thrill ran up the little flier’s spine as her plane took to the
air. She felt restless, ill at ease.

“Ah well,” she whispered, “just one more incident in a flying gypsy’s
life—nothing more.”

It was more, much more than that, as she was to learn.


Time passed. In Chicago it had been dark for two hours. Rosemary Sample
was seated at her desk in her own private room. A radio head-set had
been clamped down over her ears for two hours. She was reading a book.
At the same time she was listening. She had not forgotten her promise to
be on the air listening every evening she was at her home port,
listening for that code number she had given so long ago, but never
forgotten.

Of a sudden the book dropped from her nerveless fingers. A message of
startling clearness had reached her ears.

“48—48! Petite Jeanne! One hundred miles north of Happy Vale, an
abandoned farm. You will see my plane. Help! Come quick, or you may be
too late!”

“Too late?” Rosemary repeated, springing to her feet.

A moment later she had Jerry, the mechanic, on the wire:

“That motor done?” she demanded. “This is Rosemary Sample.”

“Just finished. But say!—”

Rosemary hung up.

Another moment and she was talking to Willie VanGeldt.

“Willie,” she said, “this is Rosemary Sample. Be down at the flying
field in a quarter hour. I’m going to take a ride in your plane.”

“A ride? That’s great! Say—”

Once more Rosemary hung up.

When Willie appeared, prompt to the moment, he found his plane oiled,
fueled and ready for flight.

“What’s happened?” he demanded. “You said you’d never fly in my plane.
You—”

“Hop in,” Rosemary commanded. “I’ve had duplicated head-sets put in. We
can talk on the way. We’ll be flying the best part of the night.”

Willie’s mouth dropped, but, be it said to his everlasting credit, he
never faltered. Three minutes later they were in the air flying an
air-lane in the dark.

Rosemary shuddered as she thought what the outcome of this journey might
be. Not that night flying over a regular air route, such as they were to
follow for hundreds of miles, is usually hazardous. It is not. The way
is “fenced” in by code signals broadcast by radio stations along the
way. If the pilot is on the beaten path he hears a series of dot
signals. If he swings to the right, this becomes dot-dash, and if to the
left it becomes dash-dot, so he never loses the way.

“Unless—” the girl whispered to herself. She had seen to it that
Willie’s motor was O.K. She smiled grimly as she thought of the month’s
pay it would cost her.

“But if I had chartered one of our own planes, it would have taken half
a year to pay up.” That, with her mother back in Kansas looking to her
for part of her support, was not to be considered. “I just had to come!”
she told herself. “I promised. And that little French girl would never
call unless there was some great need.”

“Listen to that motor!” Willie chuckled in her ear. “Never heard it
rattle along so sweetly.”

“No,” Rosemary agreed, smiling down deep in her soul, “I guess you never
did!”

“For all that,” she thought, “he’s a real sport, shooting away like this
into the night without asking a single question.”

“Willie!” she exclaimed aloud, “We’re getting dot-dashes! You’re off the
course.

“There!” she sighed ten seconds later. “That’s O.K.”

So they zoomed on into the night.


What had caused Jeanne to call for help?

She had flown the hundred miles when, to her surprise, she was ordered
to make a landing on a pasture of what appeared to be a small farm.

This was a level country. She experienced no trouble in landing and in
taxiing her plane up to a spot near the house.

“Wait!” Hugo commanded. “There may be some message to take back.”

There was that about Hugo’s look, the tone of his voice that gave Jeanne
a sudden impulse.

“As soon as he’s inside I’ll take a run down that pasture, then go into
the air,” she told herself.

As if he had read Jeanne’s thoughts, Hugo turned and looked back. Then
it came to Jeanne as a sort of revelation, “He must be one of the spies!
And I—I have been aiding him to escape!”

Hugo had disappeared through a door. Like a flash Jeanne leaped for the
shadows beneath a window.

There, chilling and thrilling, she listened to strange voices. There
were, she told herself, a man and a woman. They spoke in a foreign
tongue. But Jeanne, who had lived long in Europe, knew a little of many
tongues. She was able to understand enough to know that they were
discussing the advisability of flight over the border.

“But have you all the papers?” a woman’s voice demanded.

“Yes, all.” It was Hugo who answered. “Pictures, diagrams, plans,
everything. They are there in the black bag.”

“If only I had that bag!” thought Jeanne.

But now they had reached a decision. They would come out. She must not
seem to have been listening.

To her surprise, as she sprang toward her plane, she saw that it had
grown quite dark. The discussion had lasted longer than she had thought.

“Here! Where are you?” Hugo called. “We have decided to ask you to fly
us to Canada. We will pay you very well.”

“I—I’ll have to see if I have enough gas,” Jeanne said in as even a tone
as she could command.

This was true. But that was not all. She meant, at the risk of her life
if need be, to get off a message. Then it was that, after softly closing
her cabin door she had sent the message that reached Rosemary Sample’s
ears and sent her flying away into the night.

“But what am I to do next?” Jeanne whispered to herself, all but in
despair. What indeed?



                              Chapter XXV
                        LOST IN THE AIR OF NIGHT


Petite Jeanne surely was in a tight place. Hugo and the dark lady—for it
was she who had been with Hugo in the house—with what they had described
as all the material needed to exploit the secret process of the Happy
Vale textile mill, were awaiting her. To carry them across the border
would be a simple matter. She was close to a “radio-fenced” air-lane. To
follow this, even in the night, was a simple matter.

But the little French girl did not propose to follow it. To do this
would almost certainly lose for Danby Force his only chance to save his
happy little city from ruin.

No, Petite Jeanne could not do that. But what could she do? Should she
start her motor and make a try at escape? To do this she realized would
be perilous. The spies might be armed. She could not get away on the
instant. They might wreck her plane, or even worse.

“And they’d still have their black bag,” she told herself.

She decided on flight, on foot, alone. Where to? She did not know.

Opening the door of her cabin, without a sound she slipped away into the
night.

She had barely rounded the corner of a low shed when she heard a door
swing open, and Hugo called:

“Here! Where are you? Is there gas enough?”

“Yes,” Jeanne whispered beneath her breath. “But not for such an evil
purpose!

“They’ll be after me with a flashlight,” she told herself, thrown into
sudden panic.

The large red barn of the farm loomed before her. Into its inviting
darkness she crept.

At once a pleasing fragrance reached her nostrils—Nature’s own perfume,
the smell of new cut clover hay. Jeanne knew that glorious perfume. More
than once as a gypsy she had slept within the shadow of a haystack.

Next instant, with breath coming short and quick, she was climbing a
narrow ladder leading to the loft. At its top she tumbled into the
welcoming billows of sweet smelling hay.

Creeping far back, she burrowed like a rat and was soon quite lost from
sight.

“Never find me here,” she whispered.

She listened. The silence was complete. Then she caught a low, rustling
sound.

“Mice in this hay!” She shuddered. She hated mice; yet nothing could
induce her to give up this place of hiding.

From far below she heard Hugo call again:

“Here! Where are you?”

A moment later, through the broad cracks of the barn wall she caught a
gleam of light, then heard their sharp exclamations upon discovering
that she was gone.

“What will they do?” she asked herself. “Will they finally become angry
and demolish my plane? My so beautiful dragon fly!” She was ready to
weep.

Would they attempt to fly the plane themselves and wreck it? She could
but wait and see.

“Never find me here,” she repeated to herself as she sank deep into the
fresh cut clover.


In the meantime Rosemary Sample and Willie VanGeldt were speeding to the
rescue.

“Strange business this for a steady going stewardess of the air,”
Rosemary was saying to herself. “I suppose there are a million girls who
believe that being an airplane stewardess is exciting. Nothing, I
suppose, is less exciting. But this—this is different, flying through
the night with an amateur pilot in a plane that—”

“Willie!” she exclaimed, “We’re on the dot-dash again. Swing over. We’ve
got to keep on the dotted line.”

Time passed. An hour sped into eternity, and yet another hour. It was
approaching midnight. Rosemary switched on the dot-dot-dot of the
directive radio to tune in on her home station and ask for a weather
report.

The report filled her with fresh concern. “Willie,” she said in a quiet
voice that, after all, was tense with emotion, “we’re headed straight
for a thunderstorm. Be in the midst of it in less than an hour if we
keep on this air-lane.”

“And if we don’t keep on it,” Willie groaned, “we’re lost, lost in the
air at night. I’m for zooming straight ahead. Storm may swing some other
way.”

It did not swing some other way. Three quarters of an hour later they
were in the midst of it. Lightning flashed from cloud to cloud. The sky
was black. Only the steady dot-dot-dot of the directive radio gave them
hope.

And then, right in the midst of it, when the wind was tearing at their
wings, when their struts were singing and the flash-flash of lightning
was all but continuous, disaster descended upon them. Their radio went
dead.

“I might have known!” Rosemary groaned within herself. “Perfection, only
perfection of equipment and eternal vigilance such as a great transport
company exercises can save one in the air.

“But I’ll not say a word!” She set her teeth hard. “Have to carry on.”
Snapping on a small light attached to a cord, she set about the task of
inspecting the radio connections, a trying task in such a moment of sky
turmoil.


In the meantime the ones who had been left marooned in that abandoned
farmhouse by Jeanne’s sudden flight were discussing their plight.

For a full half hour they had hunted the missing little French girl.
Giving this up at last, they returned to the house.

“What is to be done?” the woman asked.

“There is little to be lost by waiting,” suggested Hugo. He hated
darkness and night. “She can’t have gone far. It is pitch dark. A storm
is coming up out of the west. She has no light. If she had, we should
have seen it. She will be frightened and return.”

“But why did she leave?” the woman asked. “Did you give her cause for
fear?”

Hugo shrugged. “Who knows what a gypsy will do? I should not have
trusted her.

“She’ll hardly do us harm before dawn,” he added. “I have flown a plane
a few thousand miles. In daytime I would attempt a solo flight, but at
night, and a storm in sight? No, it would not do.”

After that, having brewed themselves some strong coffee and gulped it
down, they settled themselves as comfortably as might be to await the
coming dawn.

And Jeanne? Strange as it may seem, hidden away there in the hay, she
had fallen fast asleep. Had you been there to waken her and ask her how
she could sleep in such a place, doubtless her answer would have been:

“What would you have? I could not be harmed more quickly asleep than
when awake. Besides, at heart I am a gypsy. Gypsies sleep where and when
they may.”


In the meantime Rosemary Sample and her rich young pilot were battling
the storm. Having long since lost the beaten airway, they were flying
blind.

The storm was all about them. Now the lightning appeared to leap across
their plane wings. Now, caught by a rushing gush of wind and rain, they
were all but hurled through space; and now, met by a counter-current,
like a ship in a heavy sea they appeared to stand quite still.

All this time, quite unconscious of the tumult, Rosemary was working
over the radio. She tested a wire here, a tube there. She pried, twisted
and tapped, but all to no avail.

And then, with a suddenness that was startling, they glided from out the
storm into a gloriously moonlit world. The earth lay silent beneath
them. The whole of it, groves of trees, broad farms, sleeping villages,
was bathed in golden glory.

“If only we knew where we were!” Willie sighed.

“But boy! Oh boy! What do you think of my motor now? I didn’t think it
would go through that.”

“You wouldn’t,” Rosemary replied drily.

Then of a sudden she fairly leaped to her feet. “It’s working!” she
cried. “The radio is working! I’m getting something.

“Willie,” she said a moment later, “turn sharply to the right and keep
up that course.”

After that for some time only the zoom of the motor was heard. Then—

“There, Willie! I have it. Dot-dash, dot-dash! Keep straight on. We’ll
be on the air-lane in just no time at all.”

And they were.

Dawn found them wide-eyed and resolute, circling the vicinity of that
spot where they believed Jeanne’s message had originated.

“Ought to find it,” Willie grumbled. “Getting light enough. Just saw a
farmer going out to milk his cows. He—”

“Listen!” Rosemary stopped him. “Hear that! There’s another airplane
near here. Yes, yes! There it is over there to the right!”

“It’s strange.” Willie’s brow wrinkled. “They seem to be circling too.
Wonder if—”

“They might be looking for Jeanne’s silver-winged plane too.”

“Friend or foe?” Willie’s eyes were fixed for a second on that other
plane as if he would read the answer there.

They began making wider circles. The strange plane was lost to view
when, with a suddenness that was startling, the girl gripped Willie’s
arm to exclaim:

“There! Right down there it is!”


Jeanne had wakened from her sleep in that strange, fragrant bed two
hours before. For a long time she had lain there wondering how this
affair was to end. She had all but dozed off again when she was wakened
by the familiar and, to her at this time, startling sound of an airplane
motor.

“My motor!” There was no mistaking that. She knew the sound too well. At
once she went into a panic.

“My airplane!” she all but wailed. “My so beautiful big dragon fly!
Those terrible people will try to fly it away, and they will wreck it!”

At once she was torn between two desires—the wish to preserve her
choicest treasure and her desire to serve Danby Force and his wonderful
little city.

If she went to the spies now and offered to fly them across the border,
they would permit her to do so, she was sure of that. But would she do
it?

“No, oh no!” she sobbed low. “I must not!” She stopped her ears that she
might not hear her motor and be tempted too much.

That was how it happened that when Willie and Rosemary came zooming down
from the sky to land upon that narrow pasture, she did not hear them at
all, and had no notion that they had arrived.

Hugo had Jeanne’s motor well warmed up and was preparing to fly away
when Willie’s airplane came to a standstill squarely in their path.

As Rosemary leaped from the plane, the woman came to meet her. She
recognized her on the instant.

“That,” she said with no preliminary maneuvers, “is the little French
gypsy’s plane. Where is she?”

“If we knew, we would be glad to tell you,” the woman said coldly.

“You know,” Rosemary insisted, “there is no need of covering things up.
We know who you are and why you are in America. You need not attempt any
violence. My companion is fully prepared to meet you.”

She glanced at Willie who had one hand in his pocket. She hoped he would
keep it there. One fears what one does not see. And she believed these
people were cowards. There might be a pistol in Willie’s pocket—just
might.

Just how the matter would have ended had not a second plane circled for
a landing at that moment, no one can say.

Rosemary was astonished and immensely relieved to see Danby Force and
two uniformed officers alight from the plane. She was doubly astonished
thirty seconds later to see Petite Jeanne, well festooned with clover,
spring out from the broad barn door and all but throw herself into the
arms of Danby Force as she cried:

“It is saved! My so beautiful big dragon fly is saved! My heart and my
happiness, they are saved!”

This spontaneous burst of joy brought a smile even to the grim-faced
dark lady.

Jeanne’s heart and happiness were indeed saved. So was the heart and
happiness of many another. When, confronted with the facts and charged
with spying out the secrets of the Happy Vale mill, the strange woman
admitted it freely enough.

“But remember this,” she added, “I am no thief. I had a camera. It was
mine. I took pictures. They also were mine. I made drawings with my own
hands. Surely that which one creates is his own. I saw things. One
cannot be arrested for seeing. And more than this,” she added with a
touch of sadness, “I did all this, not for myself, but for thousands in
my own land who should be as prosperous as your people in Happy Vale.”

“I believe this,” said Danby Force, “yet that does not justify your
action. To rob one community that another may be prosperous gets us
nowhere.

“I am willing, however—” he spoke slowly. “I am willing to make matters
as simple as possible. If you are willing to surrender the pictures and
papers you have in your possession, if you will submit to a search and
will leave our land empty-handed, we of Happy Vale will forgive and
forget.”

This the dark lady could not refuse. Her papers were surrendered and
were taken over by Danby Force.

“As for you!” Danby Force turned to Hugo. On his face was a look in
which was strangely mingled sorrow, pity and scorn. “You are an American
citizen. This woman has been doing what she could for her people—doing
it in a wrong way, but doing it all the same. You—” he paused. “You have
sold out your own countrymen to her for gold. You were given the
friendship, love, admiration and loyalty of our people. You sold it for
a price. You attempted to steal the labor of another’s brain. For this
there is no legal penalty. But to know that you have been a traitor, to
know that thousands who have admired you will think of you as a traitor,
to live all your life remembering that you have been a traitor, that is
punishment enough. You may go.”

With bowed head, the once magnificent Hugo disappeared from their sight.
And at that Petite Jeanne’s heart was heavy with sorrow. Why? Who could
tell?

“And now,” said Willie VanGeldt to the little stewardess when they were
alone once more, “what do you think of my motor?”

“I think,” said Rosemary soberly, “that if I hadn’t spent a month’s pay
having it put in order, we would not be here at all. It would never have
carried us through the storm had it not been for that. So—o! Chalk up
one big mark for the Flying Corntassel from Kansas.”

“What? You?” Willie stared.

“Yes,” she smiled. “I did that. But forget it. Only take a solemn vow
with yourself and me that you will never, never go into the air again
unless a mechanic’s seal of ‘Perfect’ is stamped upon your plane! The
little French girl was right—life _is_ God’s most beautiful gift.”

“I will,” said the boy soberly, “if anyone really cares.”

“God cares.” Rosemary spoke soberly, too. “Your mother cares, and I
care. That should be enough.”

“Yes,” said Willie huskily, “it is enough.”


Next morning there was a gypsy party in Danby Force’s garden. Over a
brightly glowing fire luscious steaks were broiling. The aroma of coffee
and all manner of good things to eat filled the air. Jeanne was there
and Florence, Willie, Rosemary, Madame Bihari, Danby Force and his
mother—a very merry party indeed. By the help of all, a cloud had been
driven away from the skies above Happy Vale. Why should they not be
merry?

“Tomorrow,” Florence said to Danby Force at the end of the glorious
evening, “I shall fly away with my little gypsy friend, Petite Jeanne. I
shall not return. But wherever I am, whatever I do, I shall not forget
Happy Vale.”

“Nor shall Happy Vale ever forget you,” Danby replied solemnly.

And what happened next to all these people who have become your friends?
Well, if you watch for a book called _The Crystal Ball_ and read it you
will hear more about them.



                          Transcriber’s Notes


--Copyright notice provided as in the original printed text—this e-text
  is public domain in the country of publication.

--Silently corrected palpable typos; left non-standard spellings and
  dialect unchanged.

--In the text versions, included italics inside _underscores_ (the HTML
  version replicates the format of the original.)





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