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Title: Dig Here!
Author: Allen, Gladys
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 "Dig Here!" ***

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



Crawford, Dave Morgan and the Online Distributed


                               DIG HERE!

                            BY GLADYS ALLEN

[Illustration]

                      GOLDSMITH PUBLISHING COMPANY

                                CHICAGO


                         COPYRIGHT MCMXXXVII BY
                    THE GOLDSMITH PUBLISHING COMPANY


              MANUFACTURED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                Contents


              CHAPTER                                 PAGE

                   I. AUNT CAL                          13
                  II. FISHERS HAVEN                     19
                 III. CRAVEN HOUSE                      29
                  IV. PRISONERS                         43
                   V. JOHN DOE, ESQUIRE                 51
                  VI. A PIECE OF PAPER                  58
                 VII. CALIPH                            68
                VIII. A SCALP LOCK                      75
                  IX. DAISY JUNE AND THE BLUE EMERALD   82
                   X. WHERE IS CIRCE?                   93
                  XI. HAMISH ON THE JOB                101
                 XII. OVER THE BANISTER                113
                XIII. HARRY’S HAIR RESTORER            119
                 XIV. SUNDAY                           132
                  XV. TRACKS IN THE DUST               138
                 XVI. THE RESCUE                       146
                XVII. CAUGHT                           154
               XVIII. DIG HERE!                        162
                 XIX. THE TREASURE                     176
                  XX. WE SEEK LEGAL ADVICE             186
                 XXI. A CLOSED DOOR                    192
                XXII. THE ESCAPE                       201
               XXIII. A BELATED VISIT                  211
                XXIV. IT FITS                          220
                 XXV. GOPHER                           232
                XXVI. THE UNVEILING                    242

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               DIG HERE!



                                   I

                                Aunt Cal


“BUT this aunt of yours, Sandy, what’s she like?” Eve asked. She was
parked on the couch in my room. Hattie May Lewis, my roommate, stood
before the mirror, trying to arrange her straight, straw-colored hair
into a windblown bob. It was the week before the closing of school for
the summer vacation and we were all looking ahead, in one way or
another, to what the next three months held in store for us.

“Well,” I considered, “I don’t honestly know much about Aunt Cal except
the little Dad has told me. She’s an aunt by marriage, you know. She
married my mother’s brother, my Uncle Tom Poole, he was. They went West
to live for a time, but after Uncle Tom died she came back to Fishers
Haven. She’s lived alone there ever since.”

“Narrow!” ejaculated Hattie May, “and very likely queer besides! You
can depend upon it. I know how old women get who live alone in the
country.” Saying what she thought about people, whether they were
present or not, was part of what Hattie May called her code of speaking
the truth.

“Well, perhaps,” I admitted. “But she’s not so very old.” I felt
slightly annoyed with Hattie May and wished she would go downstairs. I
was anxious for a very special reason to make Aunt Cal seem attractive
to the girl on the couch. For though Hattie May had been my roommate
this first year at school, it was Eve Fordyce’s opinions on most
subjects which had come to matter.

But Hattie May showed no inclination to depart, so I went on. “Perhaps
you’d like to hear what Dad says about her,” I suggested. I reached
into a pigeon-hole in my desk and took out a thin paper envelope with a
foreign stamp. My father is a missionary in China, you see, and that’s
why the long vacation didn’t mean to me quite what it did to the other
girls. It meant a summer spent with some one of a rather scattered
collection of relatives, none of whom I remembered in the least. This
summer it was to mean Aunt Cal.

“Oh, yes; let’s hear it.” Eve smiled encouragingly from the cushions. I
suppose she saw how in earnest I was.

“Your Aunt Calliope,” Dad wrote, “is in many ways a remarkable woman
and I feel that you cannot but profit by her acquaintance. It is,
however, not entirely on your own account that I have suggested this
visit. I am hoping that she in turn may reap some benefit from your
stay with her. I must confess that the occasional letters which we have
had from her within the last few years have reflected a certain
melancholy trend of thought which has given me some concern. So I am
hoping, my dear daughter, that you will bring her something of your own
happy——”

“Well, that’s about all,” I broke off because of that sudden chokiness
that comes over me still at times, even though ten whole months have
gone by since I said good-bye to Mother and Dad on the dock at Shanghai.

“What’d I tell you!” exclaimed Hattie May triumphantly. “Queer! Queer
and brooding! Honest, Sandy, I can’t say I envy you your summer.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Eve drawled. “I think she sounds rather
interesting. And I don’t think she necessarily has to be narrow because
she’s lived in a New England village most of her life. As for being
queer—well, everybody is a little, aren’t they?”

I threw her a grateful glance. “Maybe you’d like to hear her letter,
too,” I said on a sudden impulse. “It just came today. Of course it
doesn’t say much,” I added, a little doubtful, on second thought, of
the wisdom of revealing Aunt Cal any further with Hattie May in the
room.

“I’ll bet it says plenty!” Hattie May swung round. Her small bright
eyes fairly pounced on the letter as I pulled it from its envelope.
“You can tell a lot by handwriting and—well, reading between the
lines.”

“There’s nothing written between the lines,” I said, though I knew, of
course, what she was driving at. The letter was written in a straight,
angular hand and was very short.


  My Dear Niece: I have received your father’s letter and shall be
  very pleased to welcome you to my home at any time. I live very
  plain. Your father speaks of your bringing one of your schoolmates
  with you to keep you company. I don’t suppose two will be much more
  trouble than one.

                                            Your affectionate aunt,
                                                        Calliope Poole


As I finished reading, I saw that Hattie May had sunk into the Morris
chair and was fanning herself violently with a copy of “Queens of the
Screen.” Staging mock fainting fits is one of her pet stunts.

“Of course,” I said apologetically, “she didn’t realize quite how that
last sentence would sound.”

“Yes, written things often sound quite different than one means them,”
agreed Eve comfortably.

Hattie May came to life. “_What_ did you say her first name was—I
didn’t seem to get it?”

“Calliope,” I repeated. “Dad said her mother was sort of romantic when
she was young, read poetry a lot and all that. Calliope was a Muse of
poetry, I believe.”

Hattie May giggled. “It does amuse all right,” she said.

I ignored this. I felt that it was now or never with me. That the
moment had come to speak of the all important matter with which, ever
since the arrival of Aunt Cal’s letter, my heart had been bursting. If
by any wild miracle, I could persuade Eve Fordyce to go to Fishers
Haven with me, half the battle would be over. I felt that I could bear
any number of dour-faced relatives with Eve along. But what would she
think of such an invitation? It didn’t promise much for a clever girl
like Eve.

I was trying desperately to think how to begin when Eve herself took
the words out of my mouth. “Well, darling, who are you going to take
along with you on your mission of cheer?”

I plunged. “Why,” I began, “of course Hattie May can’t go because her
family expects her home and—well, she wouldn’t care ’bout it anyway.
But I thought, maybe—that is, it just occurred to me because of your
mother’s being abroad and all—I wondered, that is—of course it won’t
be exciting or anything like a regular seashore resort——.”

“Sandra, darling,” Eve’s throaty voice broke into my stumbling attempt,
“are you trying to invite me to spend the summer at the home of this
estimable woman, your aunt?”

“Of course she is,” said Hattie May. “But if you take my advice——”

Eve smiled her slow smile. “Hattie May,” she said, “I wouldn’t turn
down the chance of an adventure like that for anything.”

“Oh, Eve, do you really mean it?” I cried.

“Adventure!” snorted Hattie May. “Well, if you call being buried alive
an adventure——”

Eve got lazily to her feet, wrapping her orange coolie coat about her.
“I’m going to write to Aunt Margery right away,” she declared. “I’ll
tell her about the wonderful air and the simple, wholesome life at
Fishers Haven. She’ll eat that up!”

“Oh, Eve,” I gazed rapturously up at her, “that’s perfectly wonderful
of you. And I do hope—oh, I do—that you won’t be sorry!”

“Well, all I’ve got to say,” declared Hattie May stuffily, “is that I
wish you both a pleasant summer, but I’m mighty glad I’m not in your
shoes!”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                   II

                             Fishers Haven


HARBOR STREET, Fishers Haven, runs north and south. On your left, as
you walk up it, you can see a line of blue across green meadows and
hear the faint roar of the surf. Everything looked washed and clean;
the little houses white with green shutters, set in tiny green yards.
Eve said it was a picture village out of a scouring powder
advertisement.

We were walking up from the bus stop. There was no railroad in Fishers
Haven. It seemed good to stretch our legs after the all-day train ride.
I was carrying my suitcase, which was pretty heavy, but I didn’t mind.
The bus driver had directed us: “Turn the corner at the drug store,
it’s the third house.”

There it was! White like the others, with a small front yard, bordered
on two sides by a neat hedge. A brick walk led up to a narrow front
stoop. Our eyes were lifted anxiously to the door as we mounted the
steps. It had, I could not suppress the thought, a very closed look. I
lifted the knocker with some trepidation; it seemed like an intrusion
to make a noise in so silent a place.

It was a feeble knock, but no sooner had it died away when we heard a
window raised above us and a voice called, “Go round to the back and
wipe your feet on the mat.”

Eve giggled. How I loved her for it!

The grass in the side yard had been freshly mowed and smelled
deliciously. “Syringas, too!” Eve inhaled rapturously. “I’m going to
sleep out in that lily-of-the-valley bed,” she whispered, “and pretend
I’m a dryad!”

“Hush! Here she is.”

A small woman in a big white apron was standing on the back porch. Her
eyes were dark and very bright, and her nose had a kind of pinched-in
look as if she were smelling of something. Her expression was—well,
speculative.

“So here you are!” she said, holding out a bony, work-worn hand. “I
guess you’re Sandra. You’ve got the Hutton nose.”

“Have I?” I laughed. And, moved by an impulse for which I was quite
unable to account, I stooped and kissed her where her hair was parted
flatly on her forehead. “This is my best friend, Eve Fordyce,” I said
before she had recovered from her surprise at my salutation.

Eve smiled devastatingly. “Pleased to meet you,” said my relative.

“It was awfully sweet of you to let me come along with Sandy,” Eve
said. “I hope we aren’t going to be a lot of bother.”

“Well, I guess everybody’s a bother when it comes to that,” returned
Aunt Cal not too ungraciously. “It’s a good deal of bother to live
anyway, what with three meals a day winter and summer.”

“Do you know I’ve often thought of that very thing myself,” agreed Eve.
“If it wasn’t for eating, what loads of spare time we’d have to do a
lot of extra exciting things.”

Aunt Cal looked as if precisely this view of the matter had not
occurred to her before. But all she said was, “Come in, supper’s on the
stove.”

The kitchen was small and painfully neat; the same scrubbed look was
everywhere. We washed our hands at the sink at Aunt Cal’s direction, as
supper, she said, had already stood about as long as it could, and sat
down at a blue and white oilcloth covered table. It was a good supper,
though plain, as Aunt Cal had warned me. Baked beans, bread and butter,
tea and applesauce. Eve and I chattered about our trip, while Aunt Cal
drank strong tea and said little.

It was nearly dark by the time we had finished eating everything that
was on the table. The noisily ticking alarm clock on the kitchen shelf
said ten minutes past eight. “I expect you’ll want to go to bed early
after your long trip,” Aunt Cal remarked as she began to clear the
table. She took one of the shining glass lamps from the shelf and,
though it wasn’t yet dark enough to light it, led the way upstairs.

“This is the spare room,” she said with some pride, throwing open a
door at the end of the short passage. It was not large, but its prim,
cool order presented so pleasant a contrast to the clutter of departure
that we had left behind us that morning that we both heaved an
involuntary sight of relief. “Oh, it’s lovely,” Eve breathed. “And that
bed looks big enough for six giants.”

A faint look of dismay flitted across our hostess’ countenance at the
suggested picture. “I guess it’ll hold two your size,” she said dryly.
And added, “Breakfast’s at seven sharp. Goodnight.”

As the door closed, I sank weakly upon the bed. “I feel somehow,” I
said, “as if there’d been a death in the family.”

Eve laughed. And the familiar ring of it made the strange room seem
less strange. “Oh, Evey darling,” I cried, “I’m so glad you’re here.
Promise you won’t go and walk out on me now.”

“Heavens, no! Why should I? I think Aunt Cal is a treasure—only she
doesn’t know it. I’m going to pretend she’s my aunt too. She’s so
different from Aunt Margery, and I think a variety in relations is very
broadening. The thing we’ve got to do, Sandy, is to make her glad we’re
here.”

“I suppose so,” I said. It was like Eve to look at things that way.
Well, maybe I’d feel more optimistic in the morning, I thought. I found
the key to my suitcase and went to unpack.

“Bother this lock!” I exclaimed after a few minutes of fumbling. “The
key just won’t go in!”

Eve, who had already finished emptying her bag while I had been
struggling, came over to help me. “Why, Sandy,” she said, “this can’t
be the key, it’s too large.”

“Well, it’s the key I locked it with this morning,” I retorted
impatiently. “My trunk key is flat and I haven’t any other.”

Eve shook her head puzzled. “You’d better look through your handbag
anyway,” she said. “This simply can’t be the key.”

Just to satisfy her, I dumped the contents of my bag on the blue and
white counterpane of the bed. There was the key to my trunk, half a bar
of nut fudge wrapped in tin foil and bearing unmistakable evidences of
having been sat on, my address book in which all the girls had written
their summer addresses just last night, a vanity case, two rubber
bands, a stub of a pencil, and a handkerchief. That was all.

“You see,” I said, “it’s just got to be the key. It can’t be anything
else.”

“Then,” said Eve most surprisingly, “this isn’t your suitcase!”

“What!” I wheeled about and looked at the case on the chair. It was
black and had once been shiny. It surely looked like mine, scratches
and all. But wait—what was that gouge in the fabric near the hinge? I
didn’t remember that.

Then Eve did a funny thing. She leant over and sniffed it. “Tobacco!”
she exclaimed.

I went to sniff too; the odor was unmistakable. I took the case up and
felt its weight again. “I remember thinking it was awfully heavy on the
way from the station,” I mused. I was looking the case over more
carefully now and the more I looked, the more unfamiliar it became.
Could it be possible that Eve was right and that somehow or other I’d
contrived to walk off with somebody else’s baggage? I could not
understand it.

“But how could it have happened?” I cried. “I had it with me all the
way on the train and in the station in Boston and on the bus after we
left Berkshire Plains.”

Eve had dropped onto an old sea chest which stood under the window. She
seemed to be thinking deeply. Finally her face lighted up. “I’ve got
it!” she cried. “’Member that little, bow-legged man in the funny
clothes who stopped the bus out in the country quite a while after we
left Berkshire Plains? It wasn’t even at a crossroads and I said, ‘How
convenient!’ or something.”

I nodded. I did remember the man. He had taken a seat just in front of
us and, having nothing better to do, I had observed him rather
particularly.

Eve was going on. “He had a suitcase, a black one like this. He must
have placed it in the aisle next yours and when you got out—don’t you
see—you simply picked up his instead of yours.”

“Of all the imbecile performances!” I cried.

Eve grinned impishly. “Oh, you can laugh!” I stormed. “But I’d like to
have you tell me what I’m going to do now?”

“Wonder what’s in it?” Eve’s curiosity, I’ve frequently told her, will
get her into trouble some day. She had taken up the case and was
shaking it gently. “Not quite heavy enough for a bootlegger’s,” she
mused, “still pretty full of something.”

“What does it matter!” I snapped. “I’m not in the least interested in
what stringy little men are carrying about the country. What I’m
interested in is what has become of my second best nightie and my
Japanese kimono and my toothbrush.”

“Oh, well, there’s no use worrying about ’em now,” Eve said
practically. Her finger was toying with the catch of the intruding
baggage. Suddenly there was a snap and it sprang open. The case wasn’t
even locked!

I watched Eve lift the lid gingerly as if she expected something to
spring out at her. Maintaining my pose of indifference, I did not move.
But of course I could not help seeing when the lid fell back, revealing
a pile of men’s clothing with a folded newspaper on top. The paper
fluttered to the floor as Eve poked the clothes aside. “There might be
an address,” she remarked.

Underneath the clothes, we discovered a collection of small jars and
bottles. “Harry’s Hair Restorer,” Eve read. “And what’s this—‘Harry’s
Scalp Salve,’ ‘Harry’s Magic Lotion for Baldness.’” She giggled. Then
meeting my disapproving eyes, she said: “All right, Sandy, you’re right
of course, I am a snoop. But I did think we ought to look for a name or
something to go on.”

“Aren’t there any letters?” I asked.

“Don’t see any.” She was putting the bottles back. “I guess we’ll just
have to take it back to the bus station in the morning and see what
they can do for us. But don’t worry, darling, you’ll surely get your
things back. They wouldn’t do ‘Harry’ any good, you know!”

“But what about Aunt Cal?” I inquired anxiously. “Shall we tell her,
d’you think?”

“I don’t see why not. After all, everyone makes mistakes.”

“Ye-es,” I agreed doubtfully, “I suppose so.” I was thinking of that
speculative look in my relative’s sharp eyes and I was quite certain
that not even in the most unguarded moment of her life would she have
done anything so stupid as to appropriate baggage which did not belong
to her.

It was quite dark before we had finished discussing what had happened
and were at last ready to settle down for the night. Eve was already in
bed when I blew out the light and went to open the window.

I poked my head through the dotted Swiss curtain into the cool sweet
night. The only light spot anywhere was the strip of sandy road beyond
the fence. “Tomorrow,” I thought, “we’ll explore that road and all the
others. We’ll go down to the beach and see how cold the water is
and——”

“What _are_ you looking at?” Eve called impatiently.

I turned and came toward the bed. “There’s a man creeping along the
grass on the other side of the hedge!” I said.

“Creeping?”

“Creeping is what I said!”

“Oh, dear,” Eve sighed. “I just can’t bother with any more mysteries
tonight.” She snuggled deeper into her pillow. “Do come to bed. No
doubt he’s—just—catching fireflies—or—or—hunting bird’s nests—or
something——”

Her voice trailed off into nothingness. And without another word, I
climbed into bed and pulled the covers close about me.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                  III

                              Craven House


WHEN I opened my eyes to a roomful of sunlight and sea breezes, Eve was
gone. My watch had stopped. What with one thing and another, I had
forgotten to wind it. But I knew by the look of things that the morning
would never see seven o’clock again!

Stealing downstairs a quarter of an hour later, I beheld Eve seated at
the kitchen table consuming food. No one else was in sight except a
large gray cat folded up comfortably by the stove.

“Where is she?” I whispered, poking my head cautiously through the
doorway.

“Gone to market,” Eve said, resugaring her oatmeal. “I told her you had
a basketball wrist and the doctor said you needed lots of sleep.”

“Oh, Eve!” I ventured toward the stove and helped myself to oatmeal.
The gray cat rose and began twining himself about my feet. “I didn’t
see any cat last night,” I remarked.

“He comes and goes, Aunt Cal told me. I asked her, by the way, if I
might call her that and she said she didn’t mind.”

Eve continued to talk as I ate. “I told her about the suitcases getting
mixed,” she remarked presently.

“You did!” I regarded her admiringly. I had been worrying about this
ever since I woke up, wondering how I was going to make my mistake
sound plausible. “What did she say?” I demanded anxiously.

Eve grinned. “Oh, just that she could not possibly understand such
carelessness and not knowing one’s own baggage and so forth and so on.”

I nodded gloomily. I was off to a bad start with Aunt Cal, there was no
doubt of that. First this suitcase business and then oversleeping.

“She left word,” Eve continued, “that in case you rose in time, you
were to take the suitcase over to the bus station and make inquiries of
the driver when the morning bus gets in.”

“What time will that be?” As I spoke, I glanced at the clock and was
horrified to see that it was long past eight.

“About nine. It only makes two trips a day so we’d better be starting
soon or we’ll be late.”

Fishers Haven in the morning light was somewhat more prosaic than in
the golden glow of the evening before. Just a straggling little village
with a sprinkling of comfortable homes and a half dozen stores or so,
it made no pretensions to the importance of a seaside resort. But Eve
did not seem to find it prosaic. She was interested in everything from
the list of sundaes in the drug store window to the funny little
cupola-like balconies on top of some of the older houses, built so that
the wives of fishermen could look out to sea and watch for the return
of their men.

“Just think how thrilling when they saw a sail,” I said.

“But pretty tragic too if it didn’t turn out to be the right one,” Eve
returned. “And the next day maybe the same.”

We reached the bus stop ahead of time and sat down on the wooden
platform to wait. Shortly after nine, the bus rolled in. To my relief,
I saw that the driver was the same one who had brought us over from
Berkshire Plains the afternoon before. A detached person in leggings,
he listened to my tale without emotion. “So,” he broke into the middle
of my story, “you think this guy with spectacles took yours?”

I nodded meekly.

“Well, he’ll likely turn it in at Company Headquarters over in
Millport. Better inquire there.” He was turning away when Eve spoke up.
“You didn’t, by any chance,” she inquired, “happen to notice where the
spectacled gentleman got off, did you?”

The driver paused and looked at her. “Well, say, now you speak of it,”
he said, “I do remember. Little chap, wasn’t he, with big specs and a
straw hat? Carried a suitcase too. I recollect now—he got off at
Beecham Corners, next stop up the line. Maybe stopped at the Inn there.”

“Then I think the best thing for us to do would be to ride over there
and inquire,” Eve said.

The driver nodded and hurried away. But he was back shortly, and five
minutes later we were rolling inland. The sandy road gave place to an
uneven dirt one and the smell of the sea to the mingled odors of dust
and gasoline, with now and then a whiff of clover fields or flowering
wayside bush. Not until we had embarked had either of us considered how
we were to get back. I fondly hoped that, in case we had to walk, I
would not have a case full of bottles to carry at any rate.

It proved to be quite a short ride, however, and in less than ten
minutes we were climbing down at a country crossroads. When the driver
had spoken of The Inn, my imagination had pictured a thriving
hostelry—cars drown up at the door under a porte cochère, tables on a
terrace, etc. It was with somewhat of a shock, therefore, as the bus
rolled away that I perceived that there was neither a car nor a human
being in sight. There were four houses, to be sure, but the nearest of
these was boarded up and the others looked as if they might have been
permanently abandoned.

“Quite a metropolis,” remarked Eve cheerfully. “Wonder which is the
Inn?”

I picked up “Harry’s” luggage and trudged after her up one of the
crossroads. In the yard of one of the houses, I perceived a woman
digging dandelion greens. The sight cheered me greatly.

Over the wall, Eve inquired the way to the Inn. The woman rose from her
stooping posture and surveyed us with some curiosity. “I ’spect you
mean Trap’s place,” she said. “It’s the big house over on the other
corner. But I wouldn’t recommend the rooms and they say the meals——”

“Oh, we weren’t thinking of stopping,” Eve assured her hastily. “It’s
just—just an errand.”

From behind a damaged screen door, voices issued as we approached the
side door of “Trap’s place.” Entering, we found ourselves in a narrow
store. A woman sat behind the counter adding a column of figures on a
brown paper bag. In the rear two men were smoking. A hurried glance
told me that neither resembled the gentleman we sought.

Eve advanced to the counter and stated our errand.

“I guess likely it’s that Mr. Bangs you want,” the woman said when she
had finished. I was aware as she eyed us of the same lively curiosity
which had animated the dandelion digger. “He come in last night,” she
went on. “I didn’t hear him say nothin’ ’bout no suitcase. Real
estate’s his line, he said. He was makin’ inquiries about the old
Craven House up Old Beecham way and I seen him start off in that
direction this mornin’, though it’s the first I heard the place was for
sale and what anybody’d want an old rattletrap like that for——”

This was rather of a facer; after we’d come all this way to find our
bird flown. The woman must have seen the disappointment in our faces,
for she added, “If you walked up there right away, maybe you could
catch him. He ain’t been gone more’n half an hour.”

“Is it—far?” I asked weakly with a hostile glance at Mr. Bangs’
baggage on the floor at my feet.

“Not more’n ten minutes’ walk. You can leave the case here if you want.”

This seemed an inspired suggestion. And so without further delay, we
set off in the direction the woman indicated. The road branched off the
regular motor highway and climbed casually upward, between uneven stone
walls and dusty foliage. “I never expected,” Eve remarked, “to spend
the first day of my vacation trailing a barber!”

“Mrs. Trap said he was in the real estate line.”

“I know. But don’t forget the bottles of hair tonic.”

“I’m not likely to, if I have to lug them about the country much more.”

We walked for perhaps ten minutes without appearing to be getting
anywhere in particular. But as we neared the brow of the hill, we spied
above the trees at a distance back from the road the gray roof of a
house. “This must be the place, don’t you think?” Eve said. “It doesn’t
look as if anybody lived here.”

It certainly didn’t! The big front yard was a perfect jungle of coarse
grass and overgrown bushes and a generally deserted and gone-to-seed
air hung about the whole place. But as we paused there a moment in the
dusty road surveying it, there drifted out to us a wave of delicate
perfume—the scent of flowering rose bushes in the sun—which was like
a gesture of welcome.

Plain but substantial and built to last, as the early settlers were
wont to build them, Craven House stood staunchly waiting for what fate
held in store for it. The blinds were closed and the weatherbeaten
shingles showed more than one gap where the wind and weather had made
headway.

Suddenly there came over me that curious feeling one has at times of
having been there before. “What’s the matter,” Eve inquired. “You look
as if you expected to see a ghost or something!”

“Oh, nothing,” I returned hastily. “Come on, let’s go in. Is the gate
locked?”

But Eve had not stopped to discover. Already as I spoke she was halfway
over the wall. I followed her, dropping down into a thicket on the
other side that fairly reached to my waist. I pointed silently to a
dingy sign nailed to a tree. “No Trespassing,” it said.

“Oh, never mind,” said Eve lightly. “We’ve got to find the elusive Mr.
Bangs, haven’t we?”

“But where is he? I don’t see him anywhere about. Maybe this isn’t the
place after all,” I added, stooping to detach a rose branch from my
stocking.

“It’s the place all right,” Eve returned. “Look, here’s a letterbox on
the gatepost!” CRAVEN, I read the faded lettering. I wondered how many
years it was since the mail carrier had left a letter there.

But Eve was now forging impatiently ahead. We crossed the yard and made
our way through a forest of bushes around the corner of the house. In
the rear, the ground sloped gradually down to what had once evidently
been a quite elaborate garden. The outlines of paths and flower beds
were still discernible. And half hidden among the bushes, I caught
sight of a stone urn and of a blackened stone figure on a pedestal. And
in the middle of it all, was the leaf-filled bowl of a fountain. The
scent of honeysuckle mingled with that of the roses. How sweet it was,
but sad too!

Suddenly I felt Eve gripping my elbow. “There he is!” she whispered.
“Look! There on the other side of that stone thing—creeping on the
ground!” She gave a stifled giggle. “Seems to be one of the quaint
customs of the country!”

Creeping! Yes, she was right, I saw him now. A small, intent, bent-over
figure of a man, on his hands and knees in the tall grass.

“He seems very busy,” I murmured. “Perhaps we ought not to interrupt
him.”

“Nonsense, you want your suitcase, don’t you?”

Mr. Bangs did not see us approaching. He was, as I have said, very much
absorbed. But it was not until we were nearly upon him that we saw that
the thing over which he was bending so intently was a tape measure. For
a full minute, I should say, we stood and watched him. His lips were
moving as if he were making calculations.

Then without warning, he jumped to his feet, dusting his hands on his
trousers. It was then that he saw us.

Well, of course nobody likes to find that he has been watched when he
thought he was alone. Still I did not think that this alone was enough
to account for the convulsion of anger which darkened his face. His
knobby Adam’s apple began to work up and down in a really frightful
manner, and for a moment I thought he was going to choke.

It was Eve’s velvety voice that broke the rather appalling silence.
“I’m afraid we startled you, Mr. Bangs,” she said easily.

A sort of cackling gurgle issued from the man’s throat, which presently
formed itself into words. “Ain’t you seen the sign on the post?” he
snapped, “where’t says ‘No trespassin’’? This here’s private property.”

“I know,” returned Eve gently. “And we’d never have thought of coming
in if we hadn’t been looking for you. It’s about the suitcase, you
know—the one we took by mistake.”

At these words, I was relieved to see the convulsive twitching of the
man’s face subside somewhat. “So,” he snarled, “you’re the party that
run off with my baggage! Well, what you done with it?”

“It’s down at the Inn,” I answered. “It’s rather heavy to lug around
and besides I’m tired.”

“Well, I ain’t ast you to lug it, have I?” he retorted. “’Twas your own
doin’. Say, what’s your game anyway?” he added suspiciously. “I could
have you arrested, I s’pose you know, for ’propriatin’ goods that don’t
belong to you.”

“Could you?” inquired Eve, sniffing at a white tea rose. “But of course
you wouldn’t since you’ve got it back all safe. By the way, where is
ours?”

He glared at her for a moment as if he could not at all make her out.
Then with a shrug he turned away. “It’s standin’ in the hall down to
Trap’s,” he said over his shoulder. “And the next time you go travelin’
round the country without a nurse, I advise you to look sharp and see
whose bags ’tis you’re grabbin’.”

“We certainly will,” returned Eve cheerfully. “It has taught us a
lesson, I’m sure. And thank you so much, Mr. Bangs. We’re awfully sorry
to have put you to all this inconvenience—without your hair tonic and
all!”

Though the last words were uttered in a half whisper, instantly the
man’s right hand shot upward to his head. And it was then that I
noticed for the first time that the hair that covered it was thin and
graying. But his only answer was another shrug and a grunt as he walked
away.

It seemed the moment for us to depart. Looking back, I saw that Mr.
Bangs had again fallen on his knees in front of the stone figure.

As we turned back toward the house, I noticed that the back door stood
ajar. The real estate agent had evidently been taking a look around
before entering into his mysterious calculations in the garden. “Let’s
take a peek inside,” I suggested. “He’ll never see us.”

“All right,” Eve agreed. “I’ll bet there are plenty of perfectly good
family spooks living there!”

“Ghosts,” I retorted, “are out of date.”

The door led directly into a big old-fashioned kitchen. The air smelled
damp and more than a little stuffy. One look around was enough for me.
“Oh, it’s just an ordinary old place,” I said. “Let’s not go in after
all. We must get back in time for dinner, you know.”

“Nonsense, we’ve got loads of time,” Eve said. “Come on, I want to see
what the front part is like. I adore old houses, they’re so full of
atmosphere!”

“Nasty dank atmosphere, I call it!” I followed reluctantly as she led
the way into the hall. It was a big wide hall, running the full length
of the house, and I could well imagine that with the doors wide open
and the sunshine and fresh air pouring in, it might have been
attractive. But it was anything but that now, and I shivered in spite
of myself as our feet echoed on the bare boards. Why in the world had I
ever suggested coming in here!

“This must be the parlor,” Eve was saying with her hand on a door at
the right of the hall.

“Oh, never mind if it is,” I urged. “Don’t let’s bother now.”

“It’s now or never, I suspect,” Eve returned coolly. “What’s the matter
with you, Sandy, haven’t you got any curiosity?”

“I don’t like old houses when nobody lives in ’em,” I confessed. “They
give me the creeps.”

Eve seemed to think this funny, and the sound of her laughter echoed
back from the wide stairway. It was uncanny—as if somebody else had
laughed. And now she was opening the door and stepping across the
threshold into the room which she had correctly guessed was the parlor.

It was a wide, bare room. The windows were shuttered and at only one
place, where some of the slats of the blind had been broken, did any
light come in. This was just enough for us to see by, though in truth
there was little to see. An old horsehair sofa and chairs, a low carved
cabinet in front of a broad fireplace, and above the fireplace, a gilt
and white mantle. The wallpaper showing a pattern of faded rosebuds was
warped and ragged in many places.

“I guess probably people have had lots of good times in this room!” Eve
murmured dreamily.

“A good place for a funeral, if you ask me!” I retorted crossly. “Oh,
do let’s get out, I don’t like the place a bit.”

“Oh, all right,” she said, turning toward the door. “Though I should
love to take a look around upstairs,” she added with a glance toward
the stairway. “I think it’s a love——”

The sentence was never finished. A sound suddenly broke in upon the
stillness. It came from the direction of the kitchen. A sound like the
closing of a door. As we stood there in the middle of the hall, hardly
realizing what was happening, it was followed immediately by another
more ominous one—the unmistakable click of a key as it turned in a
lock.

Then Eve was speeding down the hall. Across the kitchen, and pounding
on the closed door. “Mr. Bangs!” she called. “Oh, I say, wait—wait!”

But there was no answer and no sound from without. Our jailer’s
retreating footsteps were already deadened in the thick grass outside!

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                   IV

                               Prisoners


EVE looked at me and I looked at Eve. “The front windows,” I whispered.
“Maybe——” I raced back down the hall as I spoke, back to the big
front parlor. The only place from which the outside world was visible
was the broken front blind I have mentioned. I applied my eyes to the
hole. But what I saw only made my heart sink several fathoms deeper: it
was the round-shouldered back of Mr. Bangs already making good progress
down the road. “He’s g-gone!” I faltered, my voice ragged.

Eve didn’t answer for a minute. I guessed she was getting hold of
herself. “I disliked that man the moment I set eyes on him,” she said
at last.

“But wh-what,” I demanded weakly, “are we going to do?”

“Get out, of course. There’s always some way, a cellar window or
something.”

“But suppose there isn’t? S’pose they’re all nailed fast like these?
Suppose we have to—to spend the night here!”

Eve did not seem to have heard me. She was now hurrying back down the
hall to the cellar door. I listened with my heart in my throat—if that
was locked too! Then with a scraping noise, I heard it open.

I didn’t really like the idea of the cellar at all and I liked it even
less as I watched Eve’s figure disappear into the cobwebby dimness. But
I had no mind to stand waiting alone in that awful empty house. So
gathering what shreds of courage I possessed, I plunged down after her.
It was worse even than I had imagined. The floor was dirt under our
feet and the dampness which hung about the upstairs seemed intensified
a hundredfold. I was sure it would choke me in a minute.

But Eve was pushing ahead. I could just make out the outline of two
smudgy windows above what was probably a coal bin. But they were miles
above our heads and looked as if they had not been open for years.

We made a tour of the rest of the cellar. I was clutching Eve’s hand
now, half paralyzed with fright, I might as well admit. Once a cobweb
brushed against my face and I screamed. In a particularly dark corner
where Eve climbed onto a barrel to examine a nearby window, I
distinctly heard a rat scurry away into the shadows. “Oh, do let’s go
back!” I cried at last with a shudder. “I’m positive there’s no way out
down here.”

Eve was still tugging at the window. “Nailed fast,” she announced.
“This place is sure burglar proof!”

All the rest of them were the same. Finally we went back upstairs. Eve
had a smudge across one cheek. At any other time I would have laughed.
“Well,” she said quite cheerfully, “there are still the upstairs’
windows.”

“Eve,” I said, “have you thought of this? No one knows we’re in this
house. Not even Mr. Bangs. What I mean is that when they start looking
for us, they’ll never think of looking here!” Already I was imagining
searching parties and headlines in the newspapers. There would be
descriptions of our appearance: “Eve Fordyce, brown eyes, short wavy
hair, when last seen was wearing a blue cotton skirt and white slipover
blouse; Sandra Hutton, green eyes, lightish hair, wearing faded gingham
dress——”

“Mrs. Trapp or whatever her name is knows we came up here,” Eve was
saying. “And Mr. Bangs saw us outside.”

“You can’t depend on him for any help,” I declared emphatically. “Oh,
Eve, do you think they’ll broadcast us among the missing persons on the
radio?”

“Of course not! Oh, do cheer up, Sandy. Think what an adventure we’ll
have to tell the girls about next fall. Why, it’ll go over big.
Especially,” she added calmly, “if we spend the night here.”

This view of the situation did not serve to cheer me in the slightest
degree. I was not concerned with the dim and distant fall but with what
was going to happen to us right now. The thought of the night coming
on, of the darkness catching us there in that big echoing house already
sent shivers running up and down my spine. “Oh, dear, why did we ever
come in at all?” I wailed. “It serves me right for being so snoopy.”

“It was more my fault than yours,” Eve declared consolingly. “At least
it was my fault that we stayed so long. Now I’m going to take a look
round upstairs. Very likely they weren’t so particular about fastening
those windows.”

But even if we did find one unfastened, how were we going to get down
to the ground? As I remembered the spacious lines on which the house
was built, I felt that escape that way was hopeless from the outset.
Still there was nothing else to do so I again followed Eve, this time
up the broad curving stairway.

We found ourselves in a square hall from the rear end of which ran a
narrow passage. At our right was a large bedroom, containing a big
double bed, minus mattress or coverings. Instead of springs, there were
wooden slats. “Fancy sleeping on those!” said Eve.

“We may come to it!” I returned miserably.

The blinds were closed as they had been below, and the two windows in
the bedroom were nailed fast. The windows in the other rooms—there
were five in all—were the same. Whoever had been assigned the task of
closing up the old Craven House had made a thorough job of it.

We returned finally to the large front room. I slumped down on a wooden
rocker by the window. My legs felt extraordinarily weak and if I had
been fasting for a week, I could not have been hungrier. I was amazed
to see by my wrist watch that it was only a little after two. I had
thought it hours later.

Eve had gone back to the window. I watched her dismally as she fussed
with the fastening. “I’m going to look for a hammer,” she announced
presently.

“Hammer?” I repeated dully as if I were unfamiliar with the implement.

She nodded. “You’ve noticed of course the difference between these
windows and the ones downstairs?”

“I noticed that they’re all nailed down—isn’t that enough?”

“Yes, but the ones below are nailed from the outside but these are done
from within. Consequently the nails are all in plain sight.”

“You mean——” I jumped up. She was right. “How clever of you to notice
that,” I exclaimed. “But do you think we can ever get ’em out—they
look awfully deep in and they’re rusty besides?”

“I’m going to try anyway,” she returned. “Let’s go downstairs and take
a look for some tools.”

For the first time since I had heard that back door close, I felt a
faint glimmer of hope. In a little room off the kitchen filled with all
manner of household odds and ends, we found a tool box and in it a
hammer, brown and rusty with disuse, but still a hammer.

Well, it was exactly a quarter of three when Eve set to work on those
nails. It was five minutes past before the first one even budged. And
it was nearly four before we got the second one out. Then followed a
long struggle with the window itself. “I’ll bet those old Cravens never
did have any fresh air,” I panted. “No wonder they’re all dead—” I was
pounding the sash with my fist in an effort to loosen it.

“How d’you know they’re all dead? Here, let me have another try.” Eve
pushed me aside.

At last with a groan of protest, it moved—an inch, two. I reached
through and unfastened the blinds and the sweet warm air rushed in. My,
how good it smelled!

The window opened onto the gently sloping tin roof of a narrow side
porch. After we had succeeded in raising it far enough, we climbed
through. It was not at all clear to either of us what we were going to
do next. But anything, we felt, was better than staying cooped up in
that house any longer.

Making our way cautiously to the edge of the roof, we saw that it was,
as I had anticipated, a goodish drop to the ground. Moreover, there
were no adjacent tree branches or any of those convenient trellises
that are always so handy in the story books.

We sat down with our feet braced against the gutter to consider the
situation. “Marooned on a tin roof!” giggled Eve. The spirits of both
of us had risen enormously with our escape from the house. Some one was
bound to pass along the road sooner or later, we decided. And though
the house stood a considerable distance back from it, still our lung
power was good.

The road to Old Beecham, however, was off the main artery of travel and
so far as we could see from our perch, there was simply no sign of life
anywhere. “I can’t think,” I said, “why anyone should want to build a
house way off here, unless he was a hermit or something. I tell you,
Eve,” I added with conviction, “those Cravens were a queer lot!”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Eve returned musingly. “It’s awfully peaceful and
sort of—well, self sufficient. And I shouldn’t wonder if, when the
leaves are off the trees, you could get a glimpse of the sea off there
somewhere.”

“Um—maybe.” I was wondering what Aunt Cal was thinking by now. Any
remaining shred of character which I might have still possessed in her
eyes, must quite have vanished by this time. And if we did not get home
that night—well with a woman like Aunt Cal, I just couldn’t imagine
what would happen. It was within the realm of possibility that she
might send us both packing after such an escapade!

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                   V

                           John Doe, Esquire


THE minutes ticked into an hour and still no one passed. The sun was
already behind the house and a little breeze was rustling the tall
grass and bushes below us. I shall never smell syringas again without
thinking of those hours on that tin roof. For it was nearly two full
hours before we saw anyone!

Then at last we heard, not the hum of a motor for which we had been
listening, but the slow rattle of wheels. It was a farm wagon, coming
from the direction of Old Beecham, and it was drawn by a team of horses
and driven by a boy in overalls and a blue shirt. His head was bare and
we could hear him singing lustily to himself as he drove.

At our first frantic shout, however, he turned his head and gazed up at
the house. We both stood up and began to wave wildly.

“Whoa-o.” We could hear the boy’s voice as he brought the horses to a
stop. The sound brought cheer to our hearts. Another minute and he was
vaulting over the stone wall and coming toward us. His brown face only
a shade lighter than the shock of hair above it was expressionless.
“Anything the matter?” he drawled as he came within earshot.

“Well, you don’t think we’re sitting on this roof for pleasure, do
you?” Eve giggled.

“I haven’t thought anything about it,” retorted the boy. “But from the
yell you let out just now, I judged somebody was being murdered.”

“We had to make you hear,” Eve explained sweetly. “We’ve been sitting
here for two hours!”

“Why don’t you try sitting somewhere else then if you’re tired of it?”

“Better view of the scenery from here,” she told him. “By the way, you
don’t happen to have a ladder in that wagon of yours, do you?”

“What do you think I am—the hook and ladder company?”

“Well, I just thought I’d ask.”

I felt that we weren’t getting anywhere. “Look here Mr—er——”

“Doe,” the boy supplied glibly. “John Doe.”

Eve giggled.

“Well, Mr. Doe,” I continued, “to put the case briefly, what we want
most just now is to get down from this roof.”

“Why don’t you go back the way you came then?” he inquired. “You didn’t
drop down from the skies, I suppose!”

“It’s just awfully clever of you to think of that,” Eve put in. “The
only trouble with your plan is that the doors of the house happen to be
locked on the outside. You see, the real estate agent locked us in.”

“Real estate agent?” the boy repeated. At last there was real
astonishment in his tone. “I never heard that this house was for sale.”

“Never mind that now,” Eve urged impatiently. “The point is that we’re
locked in or out—whichever way you look at it—and, to be perfectly
frank with you, there are other places where we’d rather spend the
night!”

“So if you could borrow a ladder from somewhere,” I put in meekly.

“Or get the key from a gentleman by the name of Bangs down at Trap’s
place at the Corners,” Eve added, “we’d be just eternally grateful.”

The boy did not reply immediately. He seemed to be considering the
situation with an eye on the drain pipe. “Oh, well,” he said at last
with a shrug, “I suppose I’ll have to go get a ladder.”

“The days of chivalry are past!” Eve sighed as we watched our unwilling
rescuer-to-be climb back into his wagon, turn and drive up the road in
the direction from which he had come.

“What can you expect from overalls,” I said. “Be thankful if he
remembers to come back at all.”

But I did him an injustice, it appeared, for less than ten minutes
later the wagon reappeared, this time loaded with a tall ladder.

The boy made no remark as he came dragging the ladder across the yard
and proceeded to prop it firmly against the edge of the roof. “There,”
he said finally when he was satisfied that it was steady.

We descended one at a time. The boy watched us coldly. His opinion of
girls who got themselves locked in empty houses and marooned on tin
roofs was apparent. “I don’t know how we can _ever_ thank you!” Eve
exclaimed as she felt that her feet were on firm earth again.

“It was perfectly swell of you to take all this trouble,” I added
appreciatively.

“A good deed every day, that’s my motto,” drawled the boy.

“Just a splendid young knight errant,” I added. For just the barest
second I thought the corners of his rather uncompromising mouth
twitched. But he quickly controlled them, and lifting the ladder down,
began to drag it back across the grass.

“Oh, let me help!” Eve ran after him and seized the other end. Together
they carried it as far as the wall. “I’ll just leave it here and pick
it up in the morning when I go to work,” the boy remarked. Then with a
nod in our direction, he again vaulted over the wall. We watched him
climb into his seat and gather up the reins. “Well, so long,” he said.

Eve stood beside the wagon and gazed rapturously up at him. “Good-bye,”
she said. “I suppose we shall never see you again but I shall always
treasure your memory.”

“You talk a lot of nonsense, don’t you?” he remarked.

“Nonsense? Me? By the way, you aren’t going far with that wagon, I
suppose?”

“I’m going home,” he stated stolidly. “And you’d better do the same if
you’ve got any.”

“That’s just the point,” Eve exclaimed brightly. “I was wondering if by
any chance—that is, we’re not so very heavy—you see, we’re late for
supper as it is.”

“Well, get in,” he said ungraciously.

We needed no urging, which was fortunate. With more speed than grace we
climbed into the rear of the wagon and in another minute were rattling
down the road toward Beecham Corners.

Conversation was difficult. Only as we approached the crossroads I
managed to make myself heard, “Oh, my suitcase!” I cried. “I can’t go
home without my suitcase.”

The horses were pulled up sharply. “What’s the matter now?” inquired
the boy.

I left Eve to make explanations. I was out of the wagon in one leap and
flying up the road toward Trap’s. I found the case in the front hall
just as Mr. Bangs had said. Nobody was about so I just took it and went
out. Panting, I returned to the wagon.

“Mr. Doe’s going almost to Fishers Haven; isn’t that luck?” Eve said as
she reached down to give me a hand. “He says we can ride as far as he
goes. Or at least,” she added, twinkling, “he didn’t say we couldn’t.”

It was dusk when we saw the white houses of Fishers Haven ahead of us.
At a spreading farmhouse on the outskirts, our equipage came to a stop.
“This is where I live,” the boy said.

We climbed stiffly to the ground. “I suppose,” said Eve, smiling up at
the boy, “that you have no idea who we are?”

It was now our turn to be surprised. “Sure. You’re the girls who are
staying at Mrs. Poole’s.”

“But how in the world did you know?” she demanded. “We only came last
night.”

“Fellow who lives next door is a kind of friend of mine,” he vouchsafed
shortly. “Tells me all his troubles.”

“But,” giggled Eve, “we’re not one of his troubles, are we? At least
not yet!”

The boy made no reply to this but gathered up his reins preparatory to
turning into the drive.

I remembered suddenly the dark figure I had seen creeping along the
hedge last night. “What kind of troubles has your friend?” I called
hastily.

“Oh, cat troubles mostly.” The words drifted back as the wagon rattled
away.

“Did he say ‘cat’?” I asked.

“Sounded like it,” said Eve.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                   VI

                            A Piece of Paper


AUNT CAL listened to our story without interruption at supper that
night. Only at my first mention of the old Craven House, I fancied I
saw an odd expression flit across her face. But her only comment, when
we had finished, was the dry remark that the next time we felt moved to
go poking about empty houses, we’d better make sure that the key was on
the inside.

Following Eve upstairs that night, I found her standing in the middle
of the room, scowling over a scrap of paper. “Is this anything of
yours, Sandy?” she asked.

I peered at it over her shoulder. It was a soiled and dog-eared piece
of notepaper which had been folded twice. Scrawled across the middle, I
read: “Circe south 13-6, 90 degrees W. 7 dig here.”

“I never saw it before. Where did you find it, Eve?” I said, looking at
it curiously.

“Saw it lurking under the bed as I came into the room,” she explained.
“It doesn’t seem like Aunt Cal to leave pieces of old letters about.”

“What do you think it is?” I asked, still staring at the strange
inscription. “A ship’s log maybe? Circe sounds like the name of a ship.”

“Perhaps. But ‘dig here’—what about that? That’s not exactly nautical,
is it?” Eve returned musingly. Suddenly she lifted the paper to her
face and sniffed at it. “Harry’s Hair Restorer!” she exclaimed.

“What!” I sniffed too. She was right. The scent of Mr. Bangs’ lotions
when we had opened his suitcase had permeated everything. It was
unmistakable. “Then—then,” I stammered, “this letter, or whatever it
is, must be his. Must have fallen out when we opened the suitcase!”

“Looks like it. And the wind probably blew it under the bed when you
opened the window. That’s why we didn’t notice it before.”

“I wonder if it’s anything important,” I mused. “What do you make of
it, Eve?”

Eve sat on the sea chest, her eyes round and big. “Sandy,” she said
slowly, “if I read it in a story book, I would think of just one thing!”

“You mean—treasure?” I asked in a half whisper.

She nodded. “But of course in real life,” she went on hurriedly, “well,
you know yourself, Sandy, real life is different, however much you try
to make yourself believe otherwise.”

“Yes,” I admitted, “I know it is. But—look here!” I shot bolt upright
on the bed with the suddenness of the thought that had come to me.
“What do you suppose that man was doing in that garden today?”

“Why,” said Eve, “he was measuring, surveying or something, I suppose.”

“Surveyors don’t crawl on their knees,” I said. “And besides, he hadn’t
any instruments, only a tape measure.”

Eve looked at me solemnly. “What are you driving at?” she asked.

“Well, this paper is his, isn’t it? And it’s got measurements on it.
And he was measuring. It sounds crazy, of course, still——”

“But he didn’t have the paper; it was here under the bed!”

“Yes, I know. But he might have had it in his head, mightn’t he—the
numbers, I mean?”

“You don’t mean you actually think, Sandy, that that man was looking
for buried treasure?” Eve’s voice had fallen to a whisper, too, now.

“I don’t know what to think,” I returned.

“He certainly was annoyed when he saw us watching him!” Eve said
thoughtfully.

“Annoyed is putting it mildly,” I said. “I thought he was going to
strangle!”

Eve nodded. “Do you know,” she said, “I felt there was something very
odd about him from the first. Take his hair, for one thing——”

“Somebody has taken it, or most of it!” I giggled. “He certainly isn’t
much of an advertisement for his old lotions!”

“Not today. But he was yesterday when we saw him on the bus, don’t you
remember?”

“Why, that’s so! I do remember he had thick brown hair that stuck out
all around under his hat. I noticed it particularly, it didn’t seem to
go with his face somehow. You don’t think it could have been——”

“A wig, of course!” Eve cried. “That settles it! That man is up to some
funny business, you can depend upon it. Of course he wasn’t expecting
to see anybody out there in the garden today. I dare say he’d found the
wig hot and had taken it off and laid it in the grass or hung it on a
branch or something!”

“Still, whatever he’s up to,” I said thoughtfully, “I suppose we’ll
have to return his property to him. We can mail it to him in care of
Trap’s Inn, I suppose.”

“All right. You’ll find an envelope in that top drawer.”

When I turned with the envelope, Eve was jotting down something in her
diary. “No harm keeping a copy of those figures,” she remarked. “Just
as a matter of curiosity, you know.”

We mailed the letter to Mr. Bangs next morning. We hoped that we would
receive some acknowledgment of its receipt, something which might shed
some further light on the mystery. But the days went by and nothing
came.

Of course, a man who wears a wig may or may not be a villain. As Eve
pointed out, he may have worn it for professional purposes solely. If
he was a vendor of hair lotions, then the wig was a kind of
advertisement. But even so, I argued, it was deceitful and misleading
and I felt that our first impression of the man was abundantly
justified.

We spoke frequently of making another trip to the old house to try to
find out for ourselves what he was up to. But fear of incurring Aunt
Cal’s disapproval held us back. It would be extremely difficult to
explain to my severe-minded relative what had taken us there. To
discuss anything so fantastic as buried treasure with Aunt Cal seemed
out of the question.

Meanwhile our life at Fishers Haven flowed along serenely. We found
that Aunt Cal was not hard to get along with, once you adapted yourself
to her ways. She had lived so long alone that she couldn’t help being
rather set in her habits, Eve said. Indeed it was due mostly to Eve’s
tact and diplomacy that things went so smoothly. Eve had had some
experience in visiting relatives and, though she admitted that none of
them was in the least like my aunt, still, as she said, when you go to
stay in somebody else’s house, you just have to make up your mind to
doing things differently than when you are in your own home.

We began to feel quite at home too in the village, at the stores where
Aunt Cal “traded” and at the post office where we went for the mail
each morning and at any other odd moment when time hung too heavily on
our hands. We explored the shore for miles and, covering our bathing
suits modestly with coats in deference to Aunt Cal’s proprieties,
walked to the beach for a swim nearly every day.

It was one afternoon when we returned rather late from one of these
expeditions that we found the kitchen door locked. The key was under
the mat where Aunt Cal—with what Eve called a painful lack of
imagination—always placed it if she went out while we were away. We
let ourselves in and found a note on the kitchen table addressed to me.


  “Have gone to Old Beecham to see a sick friend who has just sent
  for me. Rose Blossom is driving me out. May have to spend the
  night. If I am not back by nine, put Adam in the kitchen, lock up
  and go to bed.

                                                           Hastily,
                                                            Aunt Cal.”


“Hurrah!” I cried, seizing the startled Adam from his cushion and
beginning to waltz with him about the kitchen.

“You don’t,” remarked Eve, “seem so awfully depressed at the news of
Aunt Cal’s suffering friend!”

“I wasn’t thinking of her at all,” I confessed. “I was wondering if we
couldn’t make a Welsh rarebit for supper. I’m fed up with beans and
fried potatoes.” For some reason Aunt Cal’s note had filled me with a
strange exhilaration. The thought of being on our own, if only for a
few hours, was exciting. “Why, we won’t even have to wash the dishes if
we don’t want to! And we can sit up as late as we please.”

The odor of toasting cheese is delectable at all times. Never have I
known it so delicious as it was that night. Adam, too, seemed to find
the atmosphere of the kitchen particularly attractive for, even after
he had finished his supper of fried fish, he lingered, purring and
twining himself about my feet.

“He wants some of the rarebit, I guess,” Eve said, dropping a morsel
onto his plate.

Somewhat to my disappointment, Eve elected to wash the dishes as usual.
“Better cover up all guilty tracks,” she laughed.

But we soon had them out of the way and after everything was in order
again, we went out into the soft, sweet smelling dusk, the cat at our
heels. There is a little bench under the locust tree where we had
formed the habit of sitting in the evening and watching Adam at his
capers. For, while in the daytime, he is staid and dignified in the
extreme, in the evening he loosens up considerably and, given a toad or
a grasshopper, will cavort with mild abandon up and down the garden
path and beds. But we were always cautioned by Aunt Cal to keep our
eyes on him and be sure that he did not stray beyond the hedge into her
neighbor’s domain.

Tonight the rarebit or something seemed to have made him unusually
lively. He darted about quite wildly and even in one moment of abandon
so far forgot his years as to chase his tail. “It’s because Aunt Cal’s
away,” I said. “I know just how he feels.”

Eve was lying on her back, trying to find Jupiter. “I wish we could
think of something exciting to do,” I said.

“You might try chasing your tail,” she murmured. “I think stars are
exciting.”

“Of course, if you start thinking about them,” I agreed. “Still, you
can look at them most any time.”

“You hardly ever see so many as there are tonight. See, there’s the
Little Dipper!”

It was while I was trying to see the Little Dipper that Adam saw his
chance. I think very likely the sly thing had been waiting for just
that moment when both our heads should be lifted to the sky.

“Where’s Adam?” Eve asked presently, coming back to earth.

“He was here just a moment ago.” I got up. “Adam, Adam!” I called.

Then suddenly, almost like an echo—but not quite—from the other side
of the hedge I heard a voice. “Caliph, Caliph!” it said.

I stopped short. In the darkness of the adjoining yard, I saw the
figure of Aunt Cal’s neighbor, a short plump gentleman of seafaring
aspect who went in the village by the title of Captain Trout but whom
Aunt Cal herself referred to with some asperity as “that man next
door.” “Caliph, Caliph!” he called again.

“I didn’t know he had a cat,” whispered Eve at my side. Then just in
front of us we saw Adam scurrying toward the hedge. In a second he was
through it and bounding across the yard toward the summoning voice. “He
thinks he’s calling him,” I said. “I guess I’d better go after him.”

I negotiated the hedge with only a scratch or two on my legs and flew
after the runaway. “Adam,” I called. “Come back here, you bad cat!”

But even as I spoke the words, I saw the round figure beyond me stoop
and gather the cat in his arms. “Caliph, you rascal,” he scolded,
“where have you been keeping yourself?” He did not appear to see Eve or
me at all but just went on stroking and scolding the cat by turns.

Finally Eve cleared her throat. “I think,” she said politely, “you’ve
got the wrong cat, haven’t you? That’s our Adam, you know.”

At the words, the man’s head jerked up. “What,” he snapped, “are you
talking about?”

“About Adam, our cat,” said Eve coolly. “It’s long past his bedtime.”

There was quite a pause after this during which the Captain went on
stroking the cat. “You see,” I put in at last out of sheer
embarrassment, “he had Welsh rarebit for supper and it sort of went to
his head——”

But I never finished the sentence. With a sudden soldierly swing, the
figure in front of us turned round and, still bearing the cat in his
arms, marched toward the back door of his house.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                  VII

                                 Caliph


TOO surprised to move, we stood and watched him. Then I caught Eve by
the hand. “Why, we can’t let him carry off Adam like that!” I cried.
“What will Aunt Cal say? Why, it’s highway robbery—stealing our cat
before our eyes!”

“I don’t think he’ll invite us in,” Eve observed with something
suspiciously like a giggle. “Seems sort of a crusty old bird.”

“But we can’t stand here and do nothing!” I was starting forward when I
saw that the back door of the house had opened from within. For a
moment another figure stood there, etched against the light. Then the
Captain entered and the door closed.

“Well,” I cried, “I’m not going to stand for that! Eve, maybe—maybe
they’re vivisectionists or something—going to cut his poor little
insides out!”

At this gruesome suggestion, however, Eve only laughed again. “How you
do let your imagination run on, Sandy!”

“Just the same, are you going to let that man steal my aunt’s cat?” I
demanded. “You know what ‘store she sets by Adam.’”

“Well, I’m thinking,” said Eve. “I think perhaps there’s some
misunderstanding.”

“Misunderstanding!” I scoffed. “I tell you that man’s nothing but a
common thief. Probably knows Aunt Cal’s away and thinks he can get away
with it. But I guess he’ll find he’s mistaken!” With that I advanced
boldly toward the house.

There was a light in the kitchen window and I could hear movements
inside as I crossed the little porch and knocked loudly on the door.
Eve was in the shadow just behind. After a minute the door opened and
the figure I had seen there before stood in the light of an oil lamp
which was burning in a wall bracket behind him.

“What do you want?” It was not a gruff voice like Captain Trout’s, but
clear and a little chilly. Moreover there was something distinctly
familiar about it. But I did not stop to place it. Instead, I stepped
boldly across the threshold and faced the owner squarely. He turned and
the light fell on his face. It was John Doe.

But I did not let my momentary astonishment distract me from my
purpose. “We’ve come for our cat,” I stated.

Looking beyond the boy, I saw the Captain in the act of pouring out a
saucer of milk. “He’s had his supper,” I said. “And besides he likes
his milk warmed.”

“I guess I know what he likes,” snapped the Captain, setting the saucer
of milk down on the floor beside the stove.

I took an indignant step forward. But Eve’s restraining hand was on my
arm. “Wait a minute, Sandy,” she urged. “If Captain Trout wants to give
Adam a little refreshment, surely there’s no harm in that. I’m going
outside to have a little chat with Mr. Doe. You’d better come along.”

I hesitated, looking from the ruddy face of the Captain, bent
solicitously over the cat, to the impassive one of John Doe where he
stood like a sentinel guarding the door. Suddenly the whole situation
became funny. “Eve,” I said, “doesn’t he remind you of Horatius at the
Bridge or something!”

But Eve was saying something to him in a low appealing voice and the
next moment, somewhat to my surprise, we were all three standing
together on the little back porch with the door closed behind us.
“Now,” said Eve, “please, Mr. Doe, do tell us what all this cat
business is about?”

“Oh, don’t call me that,” said the boy impatiently. “You know it isn’t
my name.”

“Naturally,” returned Eve, “but since it’s the name you gave us——”

“Oh, I was just kidding. My name’s Michael Gilpatrick.”

“What an awfully nice name,” Eve smiled. She seated herself on one of
the built-in benches at the end of the porch. “Now,” she said, “we can
talk. Tell us about the cat.”

Michael Gilpatrick leaned against the post. “Well,” he said, “I suppose
I might as well. But I don’t want you to think I’m taking sides in the
matter. Of course I’m a friend of the Captain, still I can see that
there’s something to be said on both sides.”

“Okay,” said Eve. “Having stated your position, please proceed. You
must remember that we’re all in the dark. We never had the slightest
inkling that there was any mystery surrounding Adam until tonight. Of
course we knew that Aunt Cal and the Captain weren’t exactly on cordial
terms.”

“And that the Captain had a habit of creeping along hedges after dark,”
I put in.

Michael’s straight mouth twitched a little, but he quickly regained his
solemnity. “Well,” he began, “it’s quite a long story. Goes back to the
winter before last.”

“Adam must have been something of a kitten then,” Eve suggested.

Michael nodded. “It was about Christmas time, I think, that Captain
Trout bought this little house and settled down here with his invalid
wife.”

“Why, I didn’t know——” I began, but Eve whispered, “Hush!”

“They got this kitten—a kitten, that is,” he went on. “It came to them
on Christmas Day and Mrs. Trout made a big fuss over it. They called it
Caliph.”

“What a flight of fancy!” I murmured.

“That’s what they named it,” said Michael stolidly.

“Well, go on.”

“Some time in February, one cold night when the thermometer was below
zero, the cat disappeared.”

“You didn’t tell us this was a sob story,” I put in, feeling for my
handkerchief.

“Hush, Sandy,” said Eve. “How did he happen to disappear?” she asked.

“I don’t know—he just vanished, the way cats do.”

“Night life and all that?” I queried.

The boy ignored my frivolity. “The next day Mrs. Trout was ill and the
Captain was so occupied with nursing her that he didn’t think very much
about the cat’s absence. But later, when he began to look about and
make inquiries, he couldn’t find any trace of him.”

“And so a year went by,” I prompted, “and still no trace of the missing
che-ild!”

“Well, it wasn’t quite a year. It was the next fall, October, I
believe. Mrs. Trout had died that summer and the Captain was living
here alone. One day he saw Caliph across the hedge. He was following
your aunt, Mrs. Poole, about the garden.”

“How,” I demanded, “did he know it was Caliph? A cat grows a lot
in—let me see—eight months, wasn’t it?”

“He thought it was Caliph,” continued Michael, “and he went over and
told Mrs. Poole so. But she said it was her cat Adam. She said she’d
found him starving on the street the week before and had brought him
home. Then Captain Trout explained about his cat, Caliph, running
away last February and all. But it was no use. Mrs. Poole
remained—er—unconvinced.”

“Naturally,” I exclaimed. “Why, the world’s practically full of Maltese
cats and to tell one from another after it’s had eight months to grow
in—why, I don’t blame Aunt Cal in the least.”

Michael regarded me gravely. “Well,” he said, “I’m just giving you the
facts as I learned them. Of course, the whole thing is rather silly,”
he added, “but you see the Captain was attached to Caliph on account of
his wife and all, and should know his own cat.”

“Of course,” said Eve. “He didn’t have seven toes or anything like
that?” she suggested hopefully.

“Not that I know of.”

“But look here!” I fairly bounced off my seat with the force of the
idea that had come to me. “Why don’t they simply put it to the test.
Get together, I mean, and each call the cat in turn. If he answers to
Adam—why, then he’s ours, I mean Aunt Cal’s. But if he comes to
Captain Trout——”

Michael shook his head. “No good,” he said. “As a matter of fact, the
cat answers to any old name you happen to call him!”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                  VIII

                              A Scalp Lock


I CONFESS I felt a little flat when Michael Gilpatrick said that. I had
been so sure for the moment that I had hit on a brilliant solution of
the problem that now I was inclined to wash my hands of so stupid a cat
once and for all. But I remembered that Aunt Cal had particularly
entrusted him to our care. “What,” I asked, “are we going to say to my
aunt when she comes home and finds no Adam? She’s just as much attached
to him as Captain Trout is to—to Caliph. Why, she might come back any
minute now.”

As I spoke, I glanced over toward the house where it stood dark and
silent beyond the hedge. Suddenly I saw something that made me jump up
and grab Eve’s arm. “Why,” I cried, “I do believe she’s back already!
Look! There’s a light upstairs in that window at the end!”

“What!” Eve and Michael were at my side. For a minute, as we all stood
there, everything was in darkness. Then there came again the faint
flicker of light that I had seen at the upper window. “Looks like a
flashlight,” said Michael. “Or maybe a candle.”

“But why should Aunt Cal be going around the house with a candle? There
are plenty of lamps and they’re always filled.”

No one answered. The light was moving from window to window now.
“Sandy,” said Eve, faintly, “I don’t believe it’s Aunt Cal at all!”

“It looks to me,” remarked Michael, “as if there was somebody in the
house that didn’t want to be seen.”

“You mean a burglar?” I cried. “Oh, Eve, we left the back door wide
open. And there’s the silver in the dining room chest——”

“Guess I’d better have a look,” remarked Michael abruptly, starting
down the steps.

“Oh, do you think you’d better?” asked Eve anxiously. “S’pose he has a
gun or something!”

Michael did not say “Pooh!” but the set of his shoulders suggested the
word as he strode toward the hedge. He cleared it with one leap and
disappeared from sight in the direction of Aunt Cal’s back door.

“Come on,” I said, trying to sound cool and collected. “I’m not afraid!”

“Of course not,” agreed Eve, giving me her hand.

We reached the path where we had been sitting just a few moments
before. The mysterious light had disappeared, there was no sound
anywhere.

Cautiously we advanced. “There’s a lamp on the shelf just inside the
kitchen door,” I stated half-heartedly. “And the matches are just
beside it. It would only take a minute to light it.”

Eve did not answer. Suddenly she stopped and I felt her hand tighten in
mine. “Listen! What’s that?”

From somewhere inside the house a vague clatter reached us—a shuffling
noise—the thud of something falling. Then, quite close at hand, came
the scud and scurry of running feet! Immediately after we heard the
beat of quick panting breaths and two flying figures hurtled past us
into the night!

With one accord, we turned and followed them. But they had vanished
into the blackness of the lower garden almost before we knew it. Back
of the garden is a steep bank, ending in a muddy ditch. If they’d gone
down that, it looked like a pretty sure spill for both of them. The
thought sent us hurrying on. We reached the stone wall which forms the
lower border of Aunt Cal’s property. Eve shouted frantically into the
darkness, “Michael, where are you?”

There was no answer. I climbed gingerly onto the wall. I thought of the
muddy ditch at the bottom of the bank and I had a vision of Michael
lying there wounded and bleeding. “Michael,” I called, “are you down
there?”

Then to our infinite relief, a faint voice answered, “Coming!”

Presently we heard him thrashing his way upward. Finally he stumbled
out from the bushes below where we stood. Even in the darkness, we
could see that his clothes were a wreck. And there was a dark patch on
his forehead—though this subsequently turned out to be mud. “Oh,
you’re hurt!” Eve cried.

“Well, not fatally!” he panted as he reached the wall and sank down
upon it. “But the rascal got away, worse luck! If I hadn’t caught my
foot in a branch down there, I’d have had him. As it is, all I got is
this!” He held up a fuzzy-looking object.

We peered at it. “What in the world——?”

“Big Injun scalp lock!” chuckled Michael.

Eve put out her hand and touched it gingerly. “You mean—he wore a wig!”

“Looks like it. I grabbed at his hair just as I fell. When it came off
in my hand, I thought I must be seeing things!”

Abruptly Eve leaned over and sniffed at the wig. “Harry’s Hair
Restorer!” she announced.

Michael looked at her in amazement. “Mean to say you know the
gentleman? Perhaps he wasn’t a burglar after all?”

“If he wasn’t,” answered Eve slowly, “then I don’t know what he was
doing in our house! Unless—unless he came after the letter!”

“But we sent it back to him,” I cried.

“I know, but maybe he didn’t get it. Maybe he didn’t go back to
Trap’s—don’t you see? But he wanted the letter and when he didn’t find
it in his suitcase, he—he came after it.”

Michael got up from the wall. “Well, I guess I’ll be getting on,” he
said stiffly. “Of course, if I’d known you were acquainted with the
fellow——”

“But we’re not—not really. Oh, wait a minute, please!” Eve put out her
hand to hold him back. “If you’ll just give us a chance we’ll tell you
all about it. In fact, I think it’s time we told somebody.”

Back at the house after we had helped Michael remove some of the mud
from his person, we told him the story; first of Mr. Bangs’ activities
in the garden of Craven House and then of the piece of paper with the
odd inscription, which we had found.

Michael listened without comment. But when we had finished he said, “I
felt there was something suspicious about that real estate agent when
you first mentioned him. I happen to know that Craven House isn’t for
sale and isn’t likely to be and I couldn’t imagine why anyone should be
up there measuring the ground. And now this wig and this letter
business makes it look queerer than ever.”

“What d’you think it’s all about anyway?” Eve asked.

Michael shook his head thoughtfully. “It looks as if he was after
something. Something that’s hidden—or he thinks is hidden at Craven
House. I wonder——” He paused and gazed meditatively into space.
“Suppose we take a look around here,” he suggested at last, “to see if
there’s anything missing.”

“That’s so,” I said, “I hadn’t thought of that.”

Eve took up the lamp and together we made a tour of the house. Upstairs
we found that every dresser drawer had been rummaged and, in many
cases, the contents scattered on the floor. Eve’s empty traveling bag
and my suitcase were lying open in our room. But aside from this and
the chairs he had overturned in his flight through the lower part of
the house, the intruder seemed to have done no damage. And so far as we
could discover, nothing was missing.

Back in the kitchen, we returned to the discussion of what was to be
done. Michael, now that we had furnished a mystery for him to solve,
had entirely dropped his standoffish attitude. He agreed with us that
the only way to find out what the mysterious Mr. Bangs was after was to
keep our own counsel for the present. Michael was anxious to take a
look at the exact spot where we had found him at work in the garden,
and we finally arranged to meet him there the next day after his work
at the farm was over and to bring with us a copy of the letter.

It was not until after Michael had gone and Eve and I had restored
everything to its accustomed order that I remembered Adam. But the
house beyond the hedge was dark; Captain Trout had evidently retired.
The cat problem, we decided, would just have to wait.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                   IX

                    Daisy June and the Blue Emerald


I WAS awakened early next morning by the clatter of a heavy wagon on
the road in front of the house. Stealing to the window in order not to
awaken Eve, I was just in time to catch sight of a familiar,
blue-shirted figure in the driver’s seat. Michael! What was he doing in
this part of town so early in the morning?

When I went downstairs I found the explanation. Eve was still asleep
and, pleased to have got the start of her for once, I resolved to have
breakfast on the table by the time she came down. I unlocked the
kitchen door and went out to bring in the milk which is left in a pail
every morning. Beside the pail I found a paste-board box. As I stooped
to pick it up I saw there were holes pierced in the top. And when I
lifted it—it mewed!

A cat! I pulled off the lid. No, a kitten—a plump gray one with
china-blue eyes and a white spot in its forehead. The mew changed to a
noisy purr as I lifted it.

“What are you doing?” Eve, looking very nice in a fresh blue linen
dress, was standing in the doorway. In my absorption I had forgotten
all about breakfast. Then Eve saw the kitten. “Oh, the darling! Where
did you find it, Sandy?”

I pointed to the box and told her about Michael. “I suppose the idea
is,” I said, “that one cat is as good as another. But I doubt very much
if Aunt Cal will even give it house room!”

“Well, it was nice of him to think of it anyway!” Eve returned,
cuddling the kitten. “I wonder if it’s hungry?”

Aunt Cal returned at ten o’clock. Eve was just taking a loaf of
gingerbread from the oven when I heard the car. Miss Rose Blossom was
at the wheel, there was no mistaking her broad figure. She was beaming
at Aunt Cal as she handed down her bag.

“She’s coming!” I whispered, tiptoeing back into the kitchen. “What
shall we do with Daisy June?” I glanced a little wildly toward Adam’s
cushion by the stove where the kitten slept.

Before Eve could even answer, a firm step sounded outside. Aunt Cal
stood in the doorway. “Well,” she inquired, “how have you been getting
on?”

I stood in front of the stove. “Splendid——” I began and then, fearing
I sounded too enthusiastic, I changed hastily to “All right.”

“How is your friend?” Eve asked, inserting a knife around the
gingerbread.

“A little better. Her sister came over from Millport this morning, so I
felt that I could leave. Mercy, child, I didn’t know you could bake!”

“Well, of course, it isn’t as good as yours,” Eve began modestly.

Aunt Cal picked up her bag and started for the stairs. It was this
moment that Daisy June took to wake from her nap. With a sinking heart,
I felt her between my ankles. Aunt Cal stopped dead in the middle of
the room. “Where,” she inquired in a very stuffy voice, “did that come
from? And where is Adam?”

I swallowed. “Adam’s visiting—visiting Captain Trout,” I said.

My relative’s face became stonier than before. “Take that cat out of
the house!” she ordered.

I took a deep breath and counted ten. Then picking up Daisy June, I
retreated to the side yard. Eve joined me there presently, carrying the
box of carpet rags we were sewing for Aunt Cal. “Eve,” I asked
solemnly, “what is to become of her?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “But I can’t believe that anything so
adorable wasn’t brought into the world for a purpose.”

We didn’t get much sewing done that morning for practically every time
we picked up a strip of cloth Daisy June was dangling on the end of it
and as fast as Eve wound the balls, the kitten unwound them. When we
went in for dinner, we left her sleeping peacefully in the box. She at
any rate had no misgivings about the future.

“I see somebody has been trampling the petunia bed,” remarked Aunt Cal,
dishing out lamb stew and dumplings. “But I suppose it’s no more than
is to be expected when one leaves things to take care of themselves!”

It was Eve who persuaded my aunt to go upstairs after dinner for a
rest. “After being up all night,” she urged, “it’s the only sensible
thing to do.” And though Aunt Cal declared stoutly that she did not
hold with naps in the daytime, she finally yielded.

After we had finished the dishes Eve carried out a saucer of milk for
Daisy June. To our dismay the kitten was gone. There was her bed of
carpet rags, still matted where her soft form had lain, but no sign of
its late occupant. We searched every corner of the yard, calling softly
so that Aunt Cal would not hear. But neither the yard nor garden
yielded any trace of her.

Could she have got through the hedge, I wondered? I went to look. And
there she was, big as life, sauntering up the path toward the Captain’s
back door. I beckoned to Eve. “Look,” I whispered, “for all the world
as if she was about to drop in on a friend for tea or something!”

I was about to pop through the hedge after her when the back door of
the house opened and the owner himself emerged. He was jauntily dressed
in immaculate white trousers and a nautical blue jacket. I wondered how
he managed, living alone as he did, always to look so spick and span.
He was descending the steps when he met the kitten. “Bless my boots!”
The words floated across the quiet air. “Now where in blazes did you
come from?”

Daisy June’s answer was to leap up the intervening step and begin her
accustomed twining movement about the Captain’s ankle. I hurried
forward. “Oh, I’m so sorry,” I began, “we do have such trouble with our
cats!”

Daisy June continued to twine like a boa constrictor. The Captain
retreated and abruptly sat down in the big rocker which occupied the
center of the porch. Without hesitation the kitten jumped into his lap.
I thought for a second that he was going to push her down, but instead
he asked abruptly, “How’s your aunt this morning? Much upset, was she?”

I collected my thoughts. “Oh, you mean about Adam,” I was beginning,
when Eve came up behind me. “Aunt Cal wouldn’t allow herself to be
upset by so little a thing as that,” she said with one of her dazzling
smiles. “She’s much too—a—strong-minded.”

The Captain appeared as surprised as I was to hear this. “Well, well,
well,” he said, “I want to know!” Mechanically, it seemed, his hand
went out to stroke the kitten’s back and, thus encouraged, she reached
up one fat paw for the large gold chain that spanned his waistcoat.
“Hi, there, look at that now! Caliph allus used to go after that chain
when he was a kitten. Well,” he added, “I’m glad to hear your aunt
wasn’t upset. Old Judd Craven allus did say she was the only sensible
one in the family!”

“Judd Craven?” I repeated. “Who was he?”

“What? What’s that? Mean to say you ain’t never heard of Cap’n Judd?
Why, he was related to you in a sort of way.”

“Related to me? But how? Do you mean that he was related to Aunt Cal?”

“Mercy me, yes. He was her uncle. Cal’s mother was Susan Craven. Cap’n
Judd used to set great store by Cal when she was a young one, used to
bring her things every time he come back from a voyage.”

Eve dropped down on the step. “Do tell us about Captain Judd,” she
begged. “You see, we were up at the place they call Craven House the
other day, so we’re interested. Did he build it?”

The Captain shook his head. “No, it was an old house—dates back to the
early settlers. Cap’n Judd bought it and made it over. It was one of
the show places of the countryside in his day. He fixed it up for his
wife, Emily, who wanted to live inland out of sight of the sea. Emily
hated the sea. Besides that, Judd had a kind of notion he wanted to go
in for farming. It was the dream of his life to found a landed estate
like the ones he’d seen in England—handed down from father to son
like. But—well, it didn’t work out. Carter didn’t take to farming; he
was a restless chap, wanted to see the world.”

“Carter was his son?” I prompted.

“Aye, Carter was his only child.”

“It sounds quite like a story out of a book,” Eve commented.

The Captain chuckled. “Yeah, it would make good reading, I calculate,
if all the facts of Judd’s career was set down. A lively old bird he
was, full of funny ideas, allus getting himself talked about. Not in a
bad way, you understand, just odd—doing things different from the run
of folks.”

“Was it he who set up those statues and vases and things in the
garden?” I asked.

“Aye, that was one of the things. Those statues made a great stir.
Folks round here had never heard tell of statues in a garden. They used
to drive from all around just to see ’em.”

“But where in the world did he get them?” asked Eve. “They look awfully
old.”

“Uh-huh, they was meant to. Judd said he got ’em from a Greek temple,
but I guess more likely he picked them up in a second-hand shop in
Athens. Judd allus was one for a joke. There was one he called Mercury
and one Diana.”

“Diana—Mercury,” Eve repeated thoughtfully. “There wasn’t—wasn’t one
called Circe, was there?”

I held my breath. The Captain began to fill his pipe. “Circe? Well now,
there might have been at that; I can’t rightly tell all the names he
gave ’em.”

“Tell me,” Eve demanded, leaning forward with sudden eagerness, “did
Captain Craven leave any—any money—or valuables or anything?”

Captain Trout shook his head. “I guess Carter got most of the money
before the old man died. Judd used to say in his later days that all he
had in the world was the place. That and the blue emerald,” he added,
with a chuckle.

“The blue emerald?” I cried. “But how could an emerald be blue? I
thought they were green.”

“That’s what I never could figger out myself,” the Captain answered. “I
never saw it myself. Some said it was give him by a Rajah in India
’count of some service he done him. But the Cap’n allus was pretty
mysterious about it—liked to keep folks guessing. Me, I didn’t take
much stock in that Rajah chap. But most folks used to eat up the whole
story.”

“Did anyone ever see the emerald?”

“Never heard as they did. But then I was away for years. After the
Cap’n retired and built his house, I didn’t see him very often. But
every now and then when I’d come home, I’d hear talk about the blue
emerald and every time it was wo’th a little more. It sure had the
villagers mesmerized.”

“And Captain Judd’s son?” I asked hesitantly. “What became of him?”

The Captain puffed on his pipe and absently put down his hand to stroke
the kitten’s back. “Carter disappeared about a year after his father’s
death,” he said. “I ain’t heard tell of him since.”

“He didn’t,” inquired Eve, “take the blue emerald with him, did he?”

“Some said so,” Captain Trout answered. “But I reckon no one rightly
knows. But the house—that rightly belongs to your aunt, I was told.”

“To Aunt Cal!” I cried in astonishment.

“Aye. Judd promised her she should have it. But the will, they say, was
never found. Some say Carter didn’t want it should be, that he was
jealous of Cal for bein’ in the old man’s good graces. But that’s just
gossip, I reckon.”

“I think Captain Judd must have been a very interesting person,”
declared Eve. “I wish I’d known him.”

“Aye, he was a fine chap. Great loss to the community, his death was.”

“Thank you very much for telling us about him,” I said. I felt that we
ought to go back before Aunt Cal came downstairs. I got up, looking
doubtfully at the sleeping kitten. It seemed a pity to disturb her.

The Captain appeared to read my thoughts. “Better let her sleep,” he
said. “You can stop by for her later—if you want.”

As he uttered these words, I was conscious that another figure had
joined our group. Adam had come out of the open kitchen door. He stood
for a moment surveying us, advanced to the Captain, sniffed gingerly at
the object in his lap; then, without a word—as it were—turned and
walked down the steps.

“Caliph,” called the Captain, “where you going?” But only a wave of the
tail answered him.

When we got back to our house, a half emptied saucer of fish was on the
back porch and Caliph, alias Adam, was asleep on his cushion by the
stove.

“I feel,” I giggled, “a little dizzy with all this cat business!”

“To say nothing,” added Eve, “of blue emeralds!”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                   X

                            Where Is Circe?


MICHAEL was waiting for us at The Corners at five that afternoon. He
had left the horses tied there in order not to attract attention to our
visit to Craven House. “Haven’t seen anything more of Bangs, have you?”
was his first question.

Eve shook her head.

“Well, he’s left Trap’s,” Michael said. “I went in there just now and
inquired for him. They said he departed the day after he came and they
don’t know anything about him. Didn’t leave any address or say where he
was going.”

“Then he never got his letter back,” I said. “It must be at the Inn
now.”

“No, it isn’t, I’ve got it in my pocket. I just told old man Trap that
a friend of mine had mailed a letter to him and that, as long as they
didn’t know where he was, I thought this person would like to have it
back. So he just handed it out without a word and here it is.”

“Oh, I’m glad you got it,” exclaimed Eve. “For after what Captain Trout
told us this afternoon, I can’t help thinking maybe it is important.”

“So you’ve been talking to the Captain?” Michael queried.

“Yes, you see it was Daisy June’s doing,” Eve began.

“The kitten you left on our doorstep this morning,” I put in. “That was
a marvelous idea of yours, Michael!”

“Say, did it work?” he demanded eagerly. “Did your aunt really take to
it?”

“Aunt Cal? Not on your life! It was Captain Trout. We left Daisy June
asleep on his knee with every appearance of being settled for life. And
when Adam saw her, he just walked out—came back to us!”

Michael threw back his head and roared. We went on to tell him what
Captain Trout had told about Judd Craven and the blue emerald. He
nodded, “I guess everybody around here has heard of old Captain Judd,”
he said.

“But Aunt Cal has never mentioned him to us,” I said. “Though I did
fancy she looked sort of funny the other day when we told her about
being locked in the old house. I expect maybe she knows it well.”

“Wills make a lot of trouble, don’t they?” I went on. “Whether one
makes one or doesn’t, it seems to be always the same. Bad feeling of
some kind.”

Michael grinned at this. “Well, what would you do about it?” he
inquired.

“Oh, I don’t know. I guess maybe it’s better not to have anything to
leave when you die. Then your relatives and friends will go on loving
you.”

“Yeah, or forget you entirely,” he retorted cynically.

We had been climbing the hill as we talked and had come once more to
the tumbling stone wall which bordered the Craven property. We climbed
over it and made our way through the tall grass and bushes to the spot
where we had found Mr. Bangs and his measuring tape two weeks before.
The grass was considerably trampled around the stone figure but, at
first glance, that was the only sign that anybody had been near the
spot.

Michael dropped on his knees and at once set to work examining the
ground. Presently he took a tape measure from his pocket and began
measuring. “You look,” remarked Eve, “quite like Mr. Bangs himself,
except that you’ve got more hair on your head.”

Michael paid no attention. He measured thirteen feet and six inches
south from the statue. Then, turning west at a right angle, counted off
another seven feet. “There,” he exclaimed at last, “that ought to be
the spot, if any!”

We were kneeling beside him now, all three of us, bent eagerly over the
matted grass. Suddenly Michael’s finger dug into the earth and he
lifted bodily forth a big square of ragged turf. “Why!” I stammered,
“how queer!”

“Golly!” cried Eve. “He’s dug here already! We—we’re too late!”

“You mean he fitted the turf back like that to cover his tracks?” I
cried with rising indignation.

“Looks like it,” returned Michael, gazing down at the newly disturbed
earth. “Naturally he didn’t want to leave traces of his operations for
anyone to see. Especially after you two came spying on him.”

“The old villain! What right has he got to Captain Judd’s treasure, I’d
like to know!”

Michael looked up with his quizzical grin. “Did you really expect to
find treasure buried here?” he asked.

“W-well,” I stammered, somewhat embarrassed by the amusement in his
gray eyes. “After what Captain Trout told us—I mean about the blue
emerald and all——”

“Oh, that!” returned Michael scornfully. “That story sounds pretty
fishy to me.”

“But there must have been something here,” put in Eve. “Or else Mr.
Bangs wouldn’t have been carrying around those measurements and all.”

“If you didn’t believe there was anything, why did you bother to come
up here and look?” I demanded a little hotly.

“Well,” he returned slowly, “I was curious to know what the fellow was
up to for one thing. Then,” he grinned again, “I knew you girls
wouldn’t sleep nights till you’d had a look.”

“Oh, is that so!” I retorted haughtily. “Of course, we’re just a couple
of weak, credulous females——”

Michael paid no heed to my ill temper. He had drawn the letter out of
his pocket and was studying it. “I’d give a lot,” he remarked, “to know
who wrote this!”

“What I can’t understand,” mused Eve, “is this: why, if Mr. Bangs found
what he was after, was he so anxious to get the letter back? Anxious
enough, in fact, to break into Aunt Cal’s house last night to look for
it?”

Michael shot her an approving glance. “That’s just the point that has
me guessing,” he said. “It rather looks to me as if the fellow’s
excavations didn’t prove successful after all.”

“But he had the measurements right—we’ve proved that, haven’t we?”

Michael nodded. He seemed to be thinking deeply.

Suddenly Eve got up and wandered over to the blackened stone figure.
She stood with her back to us for several minutes, examining it. At
last she turned around. “Suppose,” she said slowly, looking down to
where Michael and I were sitting, our backs propped against the bowl of
the fountain, “suppose this isn’t the statue of Circe after all!”

“What!” Michael was on his feet like a flash. “I say,” he cried,
“that’s an idea! Maybe the old fellow got the wrong statue!”

“You see,” went on Eve, “Captain Trout told us there were several
statues which Captain Judd brought home from his travels. He said there
was one of Diana and one of Mercury. And this statue, even though it is
so dingy and weatherbeaten, looks to me a lot more like Mercury than
anyone else. Look, you can see the places where the wings were broken
off on his back.”

“Gee, Eve, you’re dead right!” Michael cried appreciatively. “Pretty
dumb of me not to notice that myself!” It was the first time that
Michael had addressed either of us directly by our first names. I felt
that it was a tribute to Eve’s intelligence.

“We simply took it for granted that it was the right statue,” Eve
continued. “And, of course, our friend Bangs couldn’t be expected to
know a great deal about mythology. I suppose one statue looks pretty
much like another to a fellow like him.”

“Then the thing to do,” I burst in excitedly, “is to find the right
one—the missing Circe! She surely must be somewhere around.”

The garden, as I have said, was so overgrown with weeds, tall grass,
rambling rosebushes and every other variety of shrub that the space
around the fountain where Mr. Bangs had made his measurements was
practically the only clear spot in sight. But we now set to work to
make a thorough search of the entire place. But though we combed it
from one end to the other, startling toads from their lairs and
stirring up swarms of mosquitoes, we found not the slightest trace of
any other statue.

We were so absorbed in our search that none of us had noticed the
swiftly darkening sky till Eve exclaimed suddenly, “Goodness, it’s
going to rain.”

“Sure is,” Michael agreed, emerging from a thicket of blackberry
bushes, with a scratch across one cheek. “Guess Circe’ll have to stay
wherever she’s hiding for tonight. I’ll run on ahead and get the wagon
and meet you.”

The drops were already beginning to fall before we reached him. “Better
get in behind,” he ordered, “and put this blanket over your heads.”

It was pouring by the time we reached Fishers Haven. Michael did not
let us out at the farmhouse as he had done before but drove on to Aunt
Cal’s gate. There was no time for any further plans that night. We just
called out our thanks and made a dash for the house. But I was sure
that Michael would not be satisfied until he had fathomed the mystery
of the old garden, whatever it was. For my own part, I was determined
to go back and continue the search at the earliest possible moment.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                   XI

                           Hamish on the Job


THE morning mail brought a letter from Hattie May. Eve was busy
spreading carpet rags on the tin roof of the porch outside our bedroom
window. We had forgotten and left them in the side yard and, as it had
rained practically the entire night, the results can be imagined. Our
only hope now was that the warm sun would dry them before Aunt Cal
discovered what had happened.

“Eve,” I called, “here’s a letter from Hattie May. What do you think it
says!”

Eve poked her head in at the window. “I think the colors are really
going to be improved,” she said. “The fading has made them softer, sort
of artistic looking.”

“Maybe,” I agreed, “though I doubt if Aunt Cal will appreciate the
effect! But don’t you want to know what Hattie May says? Aren’t you at
all curious?”

“Nothing sensible, I’ll be bound. What’s she up to now?”

“She’s coming here!”

“What! Not to Fishers Haven?”

“Yup. She wants to help us solve the mystery, she says.”

Eve climbed into the room. “Sandy,” she demanded sternly, “what have
you been writing her?”

“Why, nothing. I thought she ought to know that our vacation wasn’t
promising to be as dull as she had prophesied, so I just mentioned a
thing or two—guardedly, of course.”

“Too guardedly, I guess,” Eve retorted. “She probably thinks there’s a
lot more to it than there is!”

“But isn’t there?” I asked. “I mean to say, we don’t know yet what
there is to it!”

“Sandy, you know perfectly well that Hattie May can’t keep even the
tiniest secret five minutes.”

“Well, she’s coming anyway and it’s too late to head her off. And that
isn’t all,” I giggled. “She’s bringing Hamish with her—or rather he’s
bringing her. Seems he’s got a car.”

“Not—not that boy with the sticky-out ears! Not actually!” Eve dropped
onto the sea chest, consternation in every line of her face.

“Yup, they’re driving up from Mason’s Cove, wherever that is. It
appears their family is spending the summer there. They’re going to
stay at a hotel or inn or whatever there is, Hattie May says. She says
her parents consented because she told them my father was a missionary,
so they’re sure we’re respectable.” I gave another giggle.

Eve groaned. “No doubt their parents are only too pleased to lose sight
of Hamish for a while,” she remarked.

“Oh,” I returned lightly, “I can imagine worse boys than Hamish.”

“Well, I haven’t your imagination,” Eve returned feelingly. “When did
you say they were coming?”

“Well, the letter says tomorrow. But as it isn’t dated and the postmark
is blurred, it might be they’ll be here today.”

“Today! Well you’d better go down and break the news to your aunt!”

“But I don’t see why that’s necessary—they won’t bother her.”

“Don’t be too sure,” returned Eve darkly.

Aunt Cal departed soon after dinner that day to attend the weekly
meeting of the Ladies’ Civic Betterment Society. The carpet rags were
all dry and Eve and I determined to get a lot of sewing done on them to
make up for our carelessness in leaving them out in the rain. Eve
thought that, once they were sewed and wound into balls, Aunt Cal might
not notice the change in color which many of the pieces had undergone.

We established ourselves in the shade of the side yard. Adam came and
stretched himself in the sun nearby. He had shown no desire to leave
the premises since Daisy June had taken up her residence next door and
had manifested considerable irritation that morning when the kitten had
pounced at his tail from underneath the hedge.

We were discussing what we now termed The Craven House Mystery as we
did much of the time when we were alone. We could not decide what we
ought to do with the old letter which Michael had returned to us.
“Well, whatever you do, don’t show it to Hamish or Hattie May,” Eve was
saying. And it was just at that moment that I looked up and saw a green
roadster drawing up at the gate. I knew at once by the frantic waving
of the girl beside the driver that it was Hattie May. “There they are!”
I cried, jumping to my feet. “Come on, Eve!”

“Oh, Sandy, darling, it seems perfect months since I saw you!” Hattie
May threw herself upon me in her usual effusive manner. Her brother,
climbing out of the other side of the car, was peering around with
small bright eyes behind thick glasses, as if he fairly expected some
mysterious phenomenon to develop right there before his eyes!

“I say,” he demanded without the formality of greeting, “have you seen
the fellow who wears a wig again?”

“Oh, yes, do tell us all the latest developments!” Hattie May cried. “I
can hardly wait to hear.”

“Mr. Bangs has left town,” replied Eve coldly. “And nothing more has
happened. I’m really afraid you’re going to be disappointed, Hattie
May, if you think anything is going to. I’m afraid Sandy has given you
a wrong impression—this isn’t like a mystery thriller, you know!”

“But my dear,” my roommate exclaimed, “surely there is some treasure
buried in that old garden. What else _could_ that cryptic message mean?
Tell me, haven’t you found a thing?”

Well, I guess we both saw that there was nothing for it but to tell
them everything. If we didn’t, Hattie May would begin to imagine all
sorts of startling things that weren’t so, and might even end in
blurting out something and getting us in bad with Aunt Cal.

So we all repaired to the side yard and sat down on the grass. And
while Eve went inside for cold tea and cookies, I told Hattie May and
her brother briefly just how far we had got—or hadn’t got, rather—in
unravelling the mystery and how we had gone about it.

Hattie May, as was to be expected, kept interrupting and asking all
sorts of foolish questions. Hamish said nothing at all but his eyes
were very bright and eager as he listened. When I had finished, he got
up. “Well,” he said, “I guess I’d better go right out there and have a
look round.”

I suppressed a giggle. The pride of Scotland Yard, called in as a last
resort, to solve a baffling crime, couldn’t have spoken with more
importance! “But gracious, Hamish,” I exclaimed, “there’s nothing to
see!”

“Just let me have a look at that letter,” he continued, “so’s I’ll get
the measurements straight.”

Eve came out with the refreshments. “Hamish,” I said, with I fear, a
trace of sarcasm, “is going right out to dig up the treasure!”

“He’ll have to wait for me,” declared his sister. “I’m going to have
some tea first.”

Hamish’s eyes lighted on the cookies. “Oh, well,” he said and sat down.

It ended finally in our producing the letter and then all piling into
the car and driving out to Craven House. Neither Eve nor I was willing
to let Hattie May and, her brother go without us. But I did wish that
Michael were along, somehow it seemed his affair as much as ours.

Hattie May went into ecstasies over the house and, most of all, over
the garden. “My _dear_,” she cried, “I think it is absolutely the most
romantic place. Can’t you just see that old miser bringing his gold and
jewels out here on a dark night——”

“But he wasn’t a miser,” I protested. “And he didn’t have any gold.”

“Nonsense, you needn’t tell me,” she retorted. “He buried something,
didn’t he?”

“Well, we don’t actually know——” I began, but Hattie May had
disappeared after Hamish into a thick growth of underbrush.

For my own part, the old garden had never appeared so thoroughly
unattractive as it did today. It was very hot in the mid-afternoon sun
and heavy with the scent of overgrown vegetation. I sat down on the
edge of the fountain and tried to imagine what it had been like in the
old days, the days when Captain Judd had taken such pride in it and
folks had driven from all around in their buggies to see the funny
statues he had brought from over the sea. I tried to see it with the
paths and flower beds that were now almost entirely lost to view. I
wondered what the Captain’s wife had been like, the woman called Emily,
who hated the sea. Had she loved the flowers and tended them as Aunt
Cal would have done?

Then I fell to thinking of Aunt Cal and wondering what she would have
done to the place had it fallen to her. I could fancy how she would
have enjoyed scrubbing and painting the house and putting it in order
again. And the garden—I smiled to myself when I thought of my
indomitable relative coming to grips with that garden.

Meanwhile the others were wandering about, poking into every niche and
corner for some trace of the missing statue. I believe Hattie May had
expected to discover it almost at once and I could see that she was
considerably crestfallen when she at last returned to join me at the
fountain. “It’s very baffling!” she sighed, wiping her burning face.
“If we could only find the pedestal where the thing stood, that would
be enough.”

Hamish did not give up easily. But at last we persuaded him to abandon
his efforts for the time being, for as Eve pointed out there was really
no fear that Mr. Bangs would get ahead of us so long as the Circe was
missing.

“Unless,” said Hamish astutely, “he has taken it away on purpose!”

“You don’t mean you think he has stolen the statue?” cried his sister.
“Why should he do that?”

“To keep anyone else from finding the treasure of course, stupid. It
looks to me as if we were up against a very clever crook!”

I giggled. “Oh, don’t be absurd,” I said. “Mr. Bangs doesn’t know we’re
interested in his search—why should he? And if he knew where Circe
was, he’d go ahead and dig and find out what there was to find.”

Hamish however clung to his theory. It was the only explanation, he
said, for the absence of the statue. As we were packing ourselves into
the car for the return trip the rattle of a wagon sounded up the road
and Michael drove into view. Eve called to him and at the mention of
his name, Hattie May was out of the car with a bounce.

“Oh,” she cried, “I’ve been wanting so much to meet you! Ever since I
heard how you chased that desperate villain the other night! I think
you were absolutely the bravest thing!”

Michael’s face assumed its stoniest aspect. I feared that he and Hattie
May were not going to get along. “We’ve been looking about the garden
again,” Eve said hurriedly to fill up the awkward pause. “But we didn’t
find anything.”

Michael nodded. “Guess there’s nothing to find,” he remarked
noncommittally. With that he gathered up the reins and drove on.

“Well, I must say he’s a queer acting boy!” Hattie May exploded.

“You shouldn’t have gushed over him,” Eve said. “He doesn’t like that
sort of thing.”

The car was bumping down the road now. We passed Michael on the way,
but he didn’t look around. Hattie May and her brother engaged rooms at
Wildwood Lodge, a quiet little inn on the shore road. That and the big
Seaside Hotel farther down the beach were the only accommodations
Fishers Haven offered to summer guests.

Eve and I were late for supper. Aunt Cal was pouring her second cup of
tea when we came in. We told her about the arrivals and added casually
that we’d been for a drive in Hamish’s car.

“A boy of that age has no business with a car,” Aunt Cal stated
severely. “First thing you know you’ll be in one of those accidents the
papers are full of. In my day young folks didn’t go careering around
the country!”

As if he realized that his reputation was at stake, Hamish himself
reappeared directly after supper. We heard the already familiar honk of
his horn as we were finishing the dishes and a moment later, his
bespectacled face appeared at the screen door. “Is your aunt in?” he
demanded. “I’ve brought her a little present.”

“She’s in the garden,” I answered. “Just a minute and I’ll take you
out.”

But he did not wait for me to take off my apron. “I’ll find her,” he
called and was striding down the path. Eve giggled. “I warned you,” she
said, “how things would be if that boy came to town.”

I wasn’t present at the meeting of my relative and Hamish. By the time
we reached the spot where Aunt Cal and Adam were sitting, the moment
for introductions had passed. Hamish had just pulled a queer looking
package out of his side pocket and was proffering it to my aunt.
“Here’s a little gadget I picked up on my way down today,” he remarked.
“I said to myself as soon as I saw it that it was a thing any good
house-keeper’d like to own.”

Aunt Cal, apparently stunned by the quick movement of events, took the
parcel without a word and began unwrapping it. “It’s a combination
mousetrap and insect sprayer,” Hamish explained. “A new invention, just
on the market.”

“Dear me,” said Aunt Cal, turning it over. “You don’t say. Much
obliged, I’m sure.”

“Glad you like it,” returned Hamish complacently. “Thought you would.
What a handsome cat!” He stooped to give Adam’s back a rub.

But Adam—perhaps resenting the mousetrap—got up and with a backward
swish of his tail, started up the path.

“Here, kitty, kitty!” Hamish pulled a length of twine from his pocket
and began dangling it before the cat’s nose. As he did so a piece of
paper fluttered to the ground, unseen by him as he walked away.

I recognized it instantly and stooped to grab it. But Aunt Cal was
nearest and reached it first. Papers scattered about her garden were
not to be endured even for a second. She was about to crumple it in her
hand when her eyes fell on the handwriting. In an instant I saw her
face change. She was staring hard at the paper and the hand which held
it was shaking. “Wh-what is this?” she demanded in a hard strained
voice.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                  XII

                           Over the Banister


WHEN Aunt Cal saw that letter and I watched that funny, almost
frightened look pass over her face, I knew of course that there was
nothing for it but to tell her everything. But I never am good in a
crisis and this time was no exception. Aunt Cal had picked up the
paper, as I have said, and now sat staring at it just exactly as if she
were seeing a ghost. “What is this?” she demanded again, and this time
I knew that somebody had to answer.

“It’s a paper we found in that suitcase,” I began. “I mean it dropped
out when we opened it to look for an address and found all those
bottles and afterward it got under the bed somehow but as we had
returned it by this time—though of course we could tell by the smell
where it had come from——”

“My dear Sandra,” Aunt Cal had regained some of her composure in the
face of my stumbling recital, “I am sure that I find myself quite
unable to follow you.”

“Perhaps I’d better tell it,” Eve put in quietly. Whereupon she gave
Aunt Cal the facts as they had happened in a few words, including the
evening visit of the mysterious Mr. Bangs on the night when Aunt Cal
had been absent in Old Beecham. Eve made no mention, however, of what
Captain Trout had told us of Aunt Cal’s own connection with the
Cravens, nor of the blue emerald. But she did tell about our search for
the missing statue.

When she had finished I waited breathlessly for what Aunt Cal would
say. Would she be very angry with us for keeping all this from her? But
I was to realize anew that evening that it was part of my aunt’s code
of life to conceal her emotions. And her only comment when Eve had
ended her recital was, “So that explains the condition of my bureau
drawers.”

“But we put everything back just——” I was protesting when a look from
Eve silenced me.

“We expected to tell you all about everything,” she said, “just as soon
as we found out something definite. You see we—we were afraid you
wouldn’t like to have us go out there at all if you knew—about Mr.
Bangs being a housebreaker and all.”

“You are quite correct in that,” returned my aunt severely. “After all
I am responsible for your safety.”

“But of course now,” I put in anxiously, “now that he has left, it is
different—I mean it can’t do any harm just to go out and—and look
around, I mean——”

“I doubt if your investigations will lead you anywhere,” she returned
frostily. “And now if you have quite finished with your extraordinary
revelations, I think I will go in. Here in the country as you
know”—she looked pointedly at Hamish—“we are accustomed to retire
early.”

Well so much for Aunt Cal’s connection with the mystery, I thought, as
we sat in silence and watched her spare, uncompromising figure with
Adam closely at heel disappear inside the kitchen door. Hamish, who had
kept silence for a longer period than I would have deemed possible, now
let out an explosive “Whew!” And added gloomily, “And she went and left
my present behind!” It was true; the combination mousetrap and insect
sprayer still lay in its wrappings on the bench. But the letter was
gone!

“Never mind, Hamish,” I said consolingly. “I think Aunt Cal really was
upset you know, though she didn’t show it. I’m sure nothing but great
stress of mind would have made her forget your lovely present!”

“Well, maybe,” he returned. “I suppose I’d better be going. Glad I made
a copy of that letter though!”

So Hamish had copied the “cryptic message” too. Well, there were plenty
of copies going around. Eve had one, and now Hamish, and I would not
have been surprised if Michael—for all his seeming indifference—had
one too. Besides that, Mr. Bangs apparently had the measurements in his
head, as he had proved. At this rate, all Fishers Haven might soon be
in the secret of the whereabouts of Captain Judd’s treasure.

“Eve,” I said, after we had locked the back door and gone up to bed,
“do you think Aunt Cal will do anything?”

Eve shook her head slowly. “I can’t make her out,” she said. “I’m as
sure as anything that she recognized the handwriting on that paper but
that’s absolutely all I am sure of. If Hamish thought he had pulled a
coup, he jolly well must have been disappointed.”

“What?” I demanded. “You mean Hamish dropped that letter on purpose?”

“Why of course he did,” returned Eve. “He wanted Aunt Cal to see it; he
thought he’d find out something.”

“But,” I protested indignantly, “didn’t we practically swear both him
and Hattie May to secrecy before we showed it to them!”

“They agreed not to say anything. They didn’t agree not to drop things
around apparently by accident.”

“That Hamish!” I cried; “somebody ought to—to sit on him so hard—well
hard enough to make him yell.”

“I warned you there’d be trouble,” said Eve, “just as soon as Hattie
May put her nose into this business.”

I was just ready for bed when I found that I had left my wristwatch
downstairs on the kitchen shelf. Slipping into my bathrobe, I was about
to steal down after it when I was surprised to see a light coming from
the front room below stairs. Had Aunt Cal gone down again, I
wondered—or was this another evening visitor?

For a second I hesitated there on the top step. If it was Aunt Cal I’d
better not go down, but if it was somebody else—Mr. Bangs perhaps,
returned to make another search for his missing property——. The
thought sent me creeping forward. My slippered feet didn’t make a sound
on the carpeted stairs. Over the banister I now had a clear view into
the lighted room below, and there, seated at the old-fashioned
secretary in the corner, was Aunt Cal. The desk was open and spread
with papers—letters by the look. And I had no doubt that Mr. Bangs’
mysterious document was among them.

As quietly as I had descended, I stole back to our room and told Eve
what I had seen. “I think she’s comparing the handwriting with some
she’s got, don’t you?”

“Perhaps,” Eve agreed. “I do hope she isn’t awfully upset by it all,”
she added. “If I thought we’d been the means of worrying her or
anything, I’d be sorry we ever found that letter, Sandy. I really
would.”

“Yes—of course,” I agreed. “Still we weren’t really responsible for
finding it—it isn’t as if we had meant to take it. And anyhow maybe
some good will come of it; you can’t tell.”

“If you mean finding treasure,” Eve shook her head. “No, I’m inclined
to agree with Michael about that. Don’t forget,” she added wisely,
“that we’re living in the twentieth century!”

“No-o, I won’t,” I said with a sigh. “Very likely you’re right,
Eve—very likely we’d better just drop the whole thing, forget about it
entirely. Still—there’s the letter! People don’t write down
measurements, do they, unless there’s something to measure?”

“Or unless they want to fool somebody!”

“Fool somebody?” Oh, that was a disconcerting thought! But fool who?
Mr. Bangs, or Aunt Cal—or us? No, the last two possibilities were
absurd. For our own possession of the letter had been purely
accidental, as, for the matter of that, was Aunt Cal’s. The more I
though of it in the light of Eve’s rather startling suggestion, the
more confused I became. And it was perhaps no wonder that, falling
asleep at last, I should dream that Daisy June’s eyes had turned into
blue emeralds but that, when I put out my hand to take them, it was
Adam’s green ones which I found coldly regarding me.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                  XIII

                         Harry’s Hair Restorer


AUNT CAL was as brisk and decisive as ever next morning. She made no
mention of last evening’s occurrences, but she startled us by proposing
a plan. “How would you like to have a picnic for your two friends this
afternoon?” she asked. “I’m told the young people often go to the beach
and cook their supper over an open fire, though I must say it has
always seemed to me a most unsatisfactory way of preparing a meal.”

“Oh, a beach picnic!” I cried. “What a perfectly swell idea!”

“And you’ll come too, Aunt Cal?” Eve begged.

Aunt Cal shook her head. “I’m obliged to go into Millport this
afternoon on some business,” she said. “But I shall be able to help you
with your preparations this morning if you think favorably of my
suggestion.”

“Bet your life we do!” I jumped up and gave her a hug. “Oh, Aunt Cal,
you are a darling after all—I mean,” I amended hastily, “after all the
trouble and worry we’ve caused you. I’ll go call up Hattie May right
away!”

“Yes, you’d better,” Eve agreed, “before that Hamish goes off on some
wild goose chase or other. When a boy imagines he’s been endowed by a
beneficent providence with the mental equipment of a Sherlock Holmes,
you can’t tell what he may do!”

I returned from the drug store to find Eve stirring a cake and Aunt Cal
making salad. “They’re coming,” I announced, “at least Hattie May is.
Hamish has gone off somewhere but she said he’d promised to be back for
lunch.”

“Well, I only hope you won’t set yourselves afire,” said Aunt Cal with
a sigh. “Or catch your death o’ cold sitting around in those awful
bathing suits!”

“Hattie May says we can dress in the Wildwood Inn pavilion,” I said.
“And don’t forget we’ll have Hamish on hand in case of accidents!”

Eve was putting the finishing touches to the chocolate cake some time
later. As she stood surveying its satiny perfection, she said slowly,
“I do wish Michael Gilpatrick could taste that. I’d like to show him
that a mere girl is good for something! Besides, I hate to think of
Hamish practically gobbling up the whole thing as he’s sure to do if he
doesn’t have a competitor to prevent him.”

“Well you don’t need to worry,” I said. “Because I invited Michael to
come too.”

“What! You did!” Eve was surprised.

“Yes. I thought we might as well ask him. I got hold of him at the farm
in Old Beecham where he works. He didn’t go into ecstasies over the
idea but he said he was planning to go for a swim this afternoon
anyway, as it’s Saturday half holiday, so I guess maybe he’ll show up.
I only hope he and Hattie May won’t come to blows.”

As soon as our rather hurried dinner was over, Aunt Cal, arrayed in her
second best black silk, departed for Millport. Although she reiterated
her warnings against fire and drowning, I felt somehow that her mind
was preoccupied. Indeed she had been vaguely different all day. She
seemed in a way softened, and yet more determined. Was that old letter
responsible for the change and was it that which was taking her to
Millport?

Hattie May and Hamish were waiting on the beach when we got there that
afternoon. Hamish wanted to know at once whether Aunt Cal had said
anything more about the letter. I told him shortly that she had not. I
felt that he deserved a snubbing for what he had done last evening but,
as often happens, the people whom you most wish to snub are the very
ones who are impervious to such tactics.

Michael was late in arriving. Hattie May said that for her part it
didn’t matter whether he came or not as she’d never met a ruder boy. I
thought it a good moment to put in a word of warning. “Michael is
different from most boys,” I said. “He doesn’t like to be made a fuss
about.”

“Why, I just said I thought he was brave in grappling with that
burglar,” Hattie May retorted indignantly. “Though now that I come to
think it over, I quite see that there was probably no danger at all and
that he was just trying to show off.”

“Show off!” This indignantly from Eve. “I tell you Michael’s not that
kind.”

“Oh, you needn’t tell me,” retorted Hattie May. “I guess I know all
about boys.”

When at last Michael’s tall figure came sauntering down the beach,
Hattie May greeted him with a chilly nod. “We thought probably it was
milking time and you wouldn’t be able to get away,” she said casually.

Michael grinned. Apparently he had decided that Hattie May was not to
be taken seriously. “Oh, no,” he said, “we don’t milk till seven. Guess
you’ve never lived on a farm.”

“No,” said Hattie May, “I must admit I’ve never had that pleasure. None
of my family are farmers!”

This did not seem to be a very auspicious beginning for our picnic. Eve
threw herself into the breach. “Do let’s get into the water,” she
urged, “before it gets any later.”

Michael, as one might have guessed, proved to be by far the best
swimmer of us all, though Eve was a good second. Hattie May’s efforts
were punctuated by blood curdling screams and calls for somebody to
“save her”; but as no one paid the slightest attention, she soon gave
up and returned to land. Hamish, too, after paddling about rather
blindly without his spectacles, sat down on the sand where, replacing
his glasses on his dripping countenance, he began making entries in a
notebook.

“What is it, Hamish?” I inquired. “Your diary or memoirs or something?”

He shook his head absently. “No, just bringin’ my notes on the Craven
case up to date.”

I raised myself on my elbow and looked at him. Was he just a rather
overgrown little boy playing at being detective? Or had he really found
out something of importance? Suddenly he fixed me with his thick
lenses. “I know what you think,” he said astutely. “You think I’m one
of those playboy detecitifs like in the books!”

“Oh, no, indeed,” I assured him hastily. “Of course I don’t think
anything of the kind!”

“Yes, you do,” he stated. “But I’m not, I’m different. I figure things
out. I’m smart. I got ideas.”

“I’m sure you have,” I murmured, and waited for what I hoped was
coming. But Hamish just went on writing. At any rate he was keeping his
own counsel in the approved manner of the perfect sleuth.

The day was perfection and, as I lay there on the warm sand and gazed
out over the blue bay with its flecks of white where it met the sea,
the question of why someone had written something in an old letter grew
suddenly unimportant in the face of that bigger wonder of earth and sea
and sky. Then I fell to remembering another blue bay on the other side
of the world across which I had sailed away from Mother and Dad nearly
a year ago.

“Sandy’s being homesick!” Eve’s mellow voice broke into my thoughts.

I sat up. “No such thing!” I declared stoutly. “I was just thinking
that a blue emerald couldn’t hold a candle to the color of that water
out there!”

I caught a glint of appreciation in Michael’s eyes as he stood with the
shallow water swirling about his ankles. But Hamish said, “Guess you
wouldn’t talk like that if you should see it once! Chap I talked to
this morning said it was as big as a quarter!”

“What!” exclaimed Hattie May. “Why, Hamish, you never told me!”

“Had this chap seen the blue emerald?” Eve inquired.

“Well, no, not exactly. But he’d heard his folks talk about it when he
was a youngster.”

“So far as I can discover,” said Eve, “no one ever did see the thing.”

“I suppose you’ll be saying next that Captain Judd himself never saw
it,” remarked Hattie May. “I suppose he was maybe blind when he buried
it!” she added with heavy sarcasm.

“We don’t know that he did bury it,” I remarked. I glanced at Michael
for confirmation, but he only shrugged and grinned and said he was
going up to dress.

“Wait,” I said, “I’m going to take some pictures first.” Some
impulse—for which I was later to thank my lucky stars—had moved me to
bring along my kodak. I took several groups and Eve took some more with
me in them. Then I finished off the film with some snaps of a fleet of
little yachts that were just entering the harbor. Michael said it was
the annual cruise of a Boston yacht club and that they came into the
harbor every year at this time.

“I used to get a great kick out of them when I was a youngster and
first started coming here,” he said. “I was sure I’d be a skipper when
I grew up.”

“Why,” exclaimed Eve, “I thought you were a native of Fishers Haven,
Michael. Weren’t you born here?”

“Oh, no, my home’s in Connecticut. My folks used to come here for
summer vacations. So this summer when I had to get some work, I came up
and got me a job on Cousin Al’s farm.”

After we had dressed we all set to work on preparations for supper. The
boys built an oven in the sand while we collected firewood. Then we
buried potatoes to bake and sharpened long sticks for roasting bacon
over the coals. Eve and Hattie May and I made coffee and spread the
table.

“Why didn’t your aunt come to the picnic?” Hamish asked unexpectedly,
while we all sat about waiting for the potatoes to get done.

“Oh, picnics aren’t in her line I guess,” I said.

“Don’t you suppose she _ever_ went to one—when she was a girl, I
mean?” asked Hattie May.

“Don’t know, I’m sure,” I found it hard somehow to think of Aunt Cal as
a girl at all.

“Well, I’ll bet that old salt next door has been to plenty of ’em,”
said Hamish. “I’ll bet he hasn’t missed much that went on, picnics or
anything else!”

Michael chuckled. “You should hear the sea yarns he can tell when he
gets going!”

“By the way,” continued Hamish casually, “I picked up a little present
for him when I was over in Millport this morning, something practical
and yet fancy.”

“A present for Captain Trout!” We all gazed with curiosity as Hamish
proceeded to extract from the pocket of his jacket an oblong package.

“Hamish,” giggled Eve, “is the world’s great gift giver. He just
showers tokens of esteem about among his acquaintances. He hasn’t given
me anything yet but I’m living in hopes. By the way, when did you get
acquainted with the Captain, Hamish—you only came yesterday?”

“Well,” he returned, “of course I’m not exactly acquainted with him.
But I noticed him walkin’ round his garden last night. And so when I
came across this—this present that I got—I thought right away that
that was just what this sailor fellow needed. Even if I don’t know him,
I think we all ought to help each other all we can.”

“Hamish,” I murmured feelingly, “I never dreamed what deep springs of
unselfishness were—er—slumbering——” I dabbed at my eye as the smoke
from the fire was drifting my way.

“Springs don’t slumber!” put in Eve.

“Well, open it up and do let’s see what fool contraption you’ve bought
now!” demanded Hattie May impatiently.

“’Tisn’t either.” Hamish pulled off the string of the package. “You
see, I noticed as soon as I saw this fellow Trout that he was goin’
bald. So naturally when I ran into a fellow peddlin’ hair tonic——”

“Hair tonic!” came in a chorus from Eve and me.

“Yup.” Hamish held up a large black bottle. Somehow I knew what the
label would say before I read it—“Harry’s Hair Restorer”!

“Hamish,” I demanded tensely, “where did you get it?”

“Why, I just been tellin’ you, on the street in Millport. A fellow was
peddlin’ it—said it was his own secret formula that he’d used for
twenty years. And, boy, you oughta seen his hair!”

“Golly!” said Michael, swallowing half a sandwich at a gulp. “Can you
beat that?”

“Well, what’s eatin’ you?” Hamish’s gaze traveled from him to Eve’s
face and mine. “You all look ’sif I’d committed a crime or sumpin! I
guess the stuff isn’t poison and anyhow nobody’s going to drink it. The
way I figure with a head like Trout’s, anything he can do—even if it
only grows him a couple of hairs—is better than leavin’ things go the
way they are!”

“Look here,” asked Michael. “This fellow you bought the stuff of, is he
still in Millport?”

“How do I know? I didn’t ask him where he was going. Say, what’s all
the excitement anyway?”

“The excitement is,” I said, “that our Mr. Bangs, in addition to
carrying cryptic documents in his suitcase, also carried a cargo of
hair tonic which I guess we forgot to tell you about—bottles labeled
‘Harry’s Hair Restorer’ and so forth.”

“Sufferin’ sunfish! You don’t mean it? Then this guy is the very same
villain that’s been diggin’ up that garden and that broke into your
aunt’s house the other night!”

“Looks like it,” said Michael. “He must have got himself another wig
somewhere.”

“And me talkin’ to him face to face!” moaned Hamish. “Just the very man
I was lookin’ for! And me falling for that yarn of his that he’d lost
all his hair from jungle fever when he was twenty-one and how this
restorer had brought it all back in ninety days! Golly, I could go kick
myself into the ocean—him and his old hair tonic!”

He took out the cork from the bottle and sniffed it disgustedly. “Uh!
Smells like glue and kerosene!”

“Let me smell,” said Hattie May.

The bottle was passed from one to the other and we all made faces in
turn. As I handed it back to Hamish, he seized it violently and,
rising, with a savage gesture, flung it into the sea. It fell far out
in the green water with a plump. “I’m goin’ to get even with that
fellow,” he declared dramatically, “if it’s the very last act of my
life—even if it takes me ten years!”

“Poor Captain Trout,” Eve murmured, “destined to a hairless old age!”

Hamish glared at her. “I say,” he demanded, “when do we start eatin’?”

Michael bent over the oven. “The potatoes are done,” he announced.

While we ate, we continued to discuss the case of Mr. Bangs. What sort
of a man was this? One day appearing as a real estate agent, another as
a burglar and a third, as a street peddler! And if he had failed to
find what he was after in the old garden, why was he still hanging
about? Were the wigs he wore intended merely as an advertisement of his
wares or were they worn for disguise?

As we talked the sun dropped lower and the slanting rays turned the
blue-green water to rose and gold and crimson. The waves grew quiet
under its gilded touch. At their moorings, the little yachts rocked
gently with furled sails. For a moment our chatter subsided. It was
Hamish’s falsetto voice that broke the spell.

“Say, isn’t it about time we got started home? Isn’t anything more to
eat, is there?”

“One sandwich left,” I said.

He shook his head. “Haven’t got time.”

“Time?” Hattie May cried. “Hamish Farragut Lewis what are you going to
do now?”

“Oh, nuthin’,” he muttered. “Just thought it was getting pretty late
and if I was goin’ to drive the girls home—on account of their aunt
bein’ so particular and all——”

His sister eyed him suspiciously. Apparently this explanation of his
haste did not altogether satisfy her. However, we began to pack up the
things. Michael extinguished the last remnants of the fire and Hamish
went to get his car.

We walked up to the Inn with Hattie May. Hamish was waiting to drive us
home. Michael refused a lift, saying he had to see a fellow in the
village.

“Now you come right straight back, Hamish,” Hattie May ordered. “If you
don’t, I’m going to write to Mother first thing in the morning.”

Hamish’s mutterings were unintelligible as he bent over the starter.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                  XIV

                                 Sunday


LITTLE did I think that night as I snuggled into my pillow, trying to
find a comfortable spot for my sunburned shoulder, what momentous
events the coming week held in store.

Sunday was quiet enough, however. Eve and I both overslept but this,
Aunt Cal supposed, was no more than was to be expected after our
“dissipation.” She had apparently forgotten that the dissipation had
been her own suggestion. Indeed her Sunday morning severity seemed to
have quite erased all traces of that softened mood I had imagined I
detected yesterday.

Sunday at Aunt Cal’s had its own particular ritual. Breakfast was half
an hour later, a concession to the day of rest. Or perhaps to keep us
from getting too hungry for the cold dinner which followed church.

I enjoyed going to the service in the little white meeting house with
its faintly musty smell, which reminded me somehow of things I had
never known but which seemed curiously a part of me nevertheless. Eve
said it was my New England ancestry coming out. Eve likes to dwell on
the fact that her own ancestors were among the pioneers who made tracks
into the western wilderness and it is to this fact that she attributes
her own love of change and adventure. Though, as I pointed out to her,
both our family trees probably had their roots in the same soil—so
where was the difference really? It is a subject we never tire of
discussing, that of ancestry and the chances of life which made us what
we are!

We were talking about it that morning as we got ready for church,
taking Aunt Cal as an example of what the past in the shape of
tradition and custom could do for one. Aunt Cal had never spoken of her
family or forbears but I felt practically certain that her direct
ancestral line included a Scotch Covenanter, a Puritan preacher and one
of the judges who sentenced the Salem witches to be burned!

Hattie May was at church in ruffled organdy and a floppy hat with
Hamish, looking very much like a rebellious little boy in his stiff
white collar. I guessed that his sister had him well in hand for the
time at least.

As we walked home in the bright midday sun, one on either side of Aunt
Cal, I felt as if I were taking part in a scene which had happened over
and over again. Perhaps not so long ago, Aunt Cal had walked like this
with her mother on Sunday morning.

As we approached Captain Trout’s cottage, the Captain himself, dressed
immaculately as usual, rounded the corner of the house. “Good morning,
ladies!” he swept off his blue visored cap, revealing the shining
expanse of his bald head. “A beautiful day!”

We smiled at him but Aunt Cal’s only response was a stiff inclination
of the head. As she was about to sweep on, however, a light-footed gray
form darted from behind the hedge, made a wild spring into the air and
landed clinging on the fringe of Aunt Cal’s sash.

“That miserable cat!” cried the Captain, darting spryly through the
gate. But Eve had the kitten first and was gently detaching her sharp
little claws. The Captain’s apologies were almost abject.

“Oh, no damage, I think.” Aunt Cal, unbending a little, was smiling in
spite of herself. “She seems a very lively kitten.”

“Madam, I assure you my life is quite dizzy with keeping up with her.
After—er—my other one——. But you know how it is—these young
things!” He smiled expansively upon Eve and me. “For all their wild
ways, they do help to keep us young!”

To this outburst Aunt Cal’s only response was a murmured word that she
must be getting on. But Eve and I lingered to watch Daisy June who was
now half way up a telegraph pole. “Captain Trout,” asked Eve
unexpectedly, “did you ever happen to know a man by the name of Bangs?
Harry Bangs, I think he is—a barber or something?”

The Captain shook his head. “Can’t say that I have. I’ve met some queer
barbers in different quarters of the globe but I don’t recall any by
that name. Is the gentleman a friend of yours?”

“Oh, no,” returned Eve hastily. “Not at all. We—just heard of him. And
no doubt that isn’t his real name anyway!”

“Sandy,” said Eve that afternoon. We were in our room supposed to be
writing letters. But I had finished mine and Eve said she didn’t
believe in making the Sabbath a day of work. “Sandy, I wish we could
take just one more look for that Circe. I’m not half satisfied yet that
she isn’t somewhere about.”

“I know,” I agreed, “I feel that way too. And if you can think of any
plausible excuse to give Aunt Cal for our going out there again—you
see, now that she knows about things, she’s pretty sure to keep here
eye on us from now on.”

Eve nodded. “Don’t I know it! But I’ve been wondering if we couldn’t go
out and make a call on that friend of hers in Old Beecham. Mrs. Viner,
you know, the one who was sick. Don’t you think we might take her
out—oh, some soup or something? Or just drop in on her to cheer her
up?”

“Maybe she don’t want to be cheered up,” I said. “Maybe she enjoys
being gloomy like Aunt Cal!”

“Just the same I’m going to suggest it,” returned Eve. “’Twon’t do any
harm to try.”

“Well you’d better wait till tomorrow anyway,” I said. “I don’t think
she’s in a very auspicious mood today. I guess maybe her trip to
Millport yesterday had a bad effect on her.”

I was making the bed next morning when Eve came racing up the stairs.
“I’ve done it!” she said, her eyes dancing. “I asked her wouldn’t she
like to have us go out and inquire about Mrs. Viner as it was such a
lovely cool morning and we’d enjoy the trip.”

“Well?”

“Well, she was a little surprised. Guess she suspects some hidden
motive but she did admit that she’d like to know how Mrs. V. is getting
along. So she finally agreed and said she’d send her a bottle of
dandelion wine. She lives in the big stone house next the feed store
and we’re not to stay more than ten minutes and not to talk any
nonsense.”

“The shorter, the better for me,” I said. “Invalids give me the
jitters! Make me feel sorta creepy like.”

“Sandy, I’m ashamed of you! And you a missionary’s daughter!”

“What’s that got to do with it? Besides you can’t pretend that your
own—er—motives are purely hu—what d’you call it?”

“Humanitarian, you mean. Well, what if they’re not! I guess,” she added
sagely, “hardly anybody’s are when you come right down to it!”

“You don’t know my father,” I said.

“Well, I said hardly anybody. Anyway don’t let’s stand here arguing. I
guess you can stand a ten minute call.”

“But what shall we talk about?” I persisted.

“Oh anything—ships or shoes or sealing wax,” she returned lightly.
“Personally I’ve always found shoes a good subject when hard pressed.
Middle-aged people are practically certain to have foot troubles and
they just dote on telling you about the kind of shoes they wear and
where they got ’em and what a lot they had to pay!”

I giggled. “But if Mrs. Viner’s in bed she won’t be wearing shoes.”

“Oh, I guess she isn’t a permanent invalid. I guess it’ll work out all
right. Now do hurry and get ready so we can catch the nine-thirty bus.
Aunt Cal’s wrapping up the dandelion wine.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                   XV

                           Tracks in the Dust


TWENTY minutes later we set forth. But we had not reached the corner of
Harbor Street before we ran into Hattie May. She was walking fast and
her face was red. “Why, Hattie May,” I cried, “what is the matter? Your
dress is wrong side out!”

Hattie May looked vaguely down at the blue print frock she wore. “Well,
it’s no wonder!” she panted. “I dressed in such a hurry——”

“But what _is_ the matter?” Eve demanded. “Is it a fire or something?”

“It—it’s Hamish,” she cried, still struggling with her breath.
“He—he’s gone!”

“Gone? Gone where?”

“How do I know? If I knew, I wouldn’t be running round the streets like
this, would I?”

“Well do sit down on this horse block,” Eve suggested, “and tell us
what’s happened.”

Hattie sank gratefully down. “Well, all day yesterday,” she began,
“Hamish acted queer!”

“How d’you mean queer?” I inquired.

“Well as if he had something on his mind or—or was planning something.
I kept my eye on him all day because I was suspicious that he was up to
something. I didn’t let him out of my sight a single minute.”

“Poor Hamish!” I murmured.

She turned on me sharply. “Well I’ve got to look after him, haven’t I?
I promised mother. You don’t know what crazy things Hamish can do!”

“All right,” Eve soothed. “Go on, tell us what happened.”

“Well we went for a little ride after supper. I thought maybe that
would get him calmed down. But he wouldn’t go far, said he was sleepy
and was going to turn in early. But of course I see now that that was
just a blind—a trick to get me out of the way. If I’d had any sense,
I’d have suspected it at the time. Oh, I’ve been such a fool!” The last
word came out with something suspiciously like a sob.

“But I don’t see as you were to blame, Hattie May,” I said. “Do get on
and tell us the rest.”

“Why, that’s all! I went into his room this morning to call him for
breakfast and he simply wasn’t there! His—his bed hadn’t been slept in
at all!” she wailed.

“Gracious,” I exclaimed, “you mean he’d been gone all night!”

Hattie May nodded, her lips quivering ominously. “I—I w-went to the
place where he keeps his car and the man said he’d come back at half
past nine last night and taken it out again and—and they haven’t seen
him since. And now—oh, I don’t know what to do!”

“Why I wouldn’t be so upset, Hattie May,” Eve Said quietly. “I’m quite
sure Hamish is able to take care of himself, even if he does do queer
things. He’s not a bit stupid, you know. Tell me, haven’t you any
notion where he could have gone—didn’t he drop a hint even?”

“No. The only thing I can think of is that he went over to Millport to
try to get trace of that terrible villain who sold him the hair tonic.
Ever since he found out who he was at the picnic Saturday, he’s been
funny, like I told you.”

“Yes,” I said, “I remember he said he was going to get even with him.”

“Hamish’s like that,” said his sister. “He can’t bear to have anyone
put anything over on him. I guess maybe he’s got one of those superior
complexions or whatever you call it.”

“I don’t think his complexion is anything remarkable,” said Eve with a
giggle. Then she added seriously, “But honest, Hattie May, if he’s just
gone to Millport, I don’t think there’s anything to worry about.”

“Of course not,” I agreed. “Maybe he had a breakdown—I dare say he’ll
turn up any minute.”

“If it was a breakdown, he could have phoned me, couldn’t he? I tell
you he’s got mixed up with that awful barber creature somehow. You
can’t tell what may have happened with a man like that—a man that
wears a wig and—and digs up gardens! How do we know,” she went on
wildly, “what he dug that hole for—how do we know he wasn’t burying a
b-bloody weapon or—or one of his victims!”

“Oh, for heavens sake, pull yourself together, Hattie May,” I said with
some severity. I knew by experience that the best way to treat Hattie
May when she began to get hysterical was to scold. If you tried
sympathy and kind words, she just got worse.

“Yes,” chimed in Eve, “there’s simply no sense in your going on like
this. Nothing has happened to Hamish. I’d be willing to bet my best
embroidered slip on it. The thing for you to do is to come along with
us right now to Old Beecham to call on a friend of Aunt Cal’s. And by
the time you get back, you’ll very likely find Hamish eating his dinner
at the Inn—see if you don’t.” Hattie May wiped her eyes on her dress
skirt. “I c-can’t go c-calling in this dress,” she whimpered. “The
s-seams all show! I’d be the laughingstock of Millport.”

“Oh, nobody’s going to notice it,” I said. “All you have to do is to
act as if it was something new from Fifth Avenue! Come on, we’ll miss
the bus if we don’t hurry.”

She got up uncertainly. “You don’t think we ought to go to the Police
Station,” she faltered, “and report Hamish’s disappearance?”

“I don’t believe there is any,” I said. “Anyway there’ll be time enough
to find out if Hamish isn’t back by dinner time.”

“I feel all in,” said Hattie May as we hurried her down the street.
“It’s the shock, I suppose. You can’t think how I felt when I opened
Hamish’s door and saw his bed all smooth and empty. It was just like a
murder story. You know, when the valet goes to call his master and
finds——”

“Oh, cut it, Hattie May,” Eve ordered. “There’s the bus—we’d better
run!”

Fortunately for us the bus was late in leaving, owing to the fact that
one of the passengers was having an argument with the butcher across
the street. We continued to cheer Hattie May during the short ride to
The Corners. We decided that if Hamish wasn’t back when we returned, we
would get hold of Michael. He would know what to do and that would be
better than going to the police, because we did not want publicity.

“Perhaps you’re right,” Hattie May agreed tearfully. “I’d hate to have
anything get into the papers, mother’d be sure to hear of it.”

“Oh, it won’t come to that,” I returned with considerable more
confidence than I felt. For I realized as his sister had said that with
a boy like Hamish you never could tell what he might do. And I could
well imagine that Mr. Harry Bangs was not one to allow a boy of fifteen
with big ears and a nose for other people’s business to interfere with
his plans.

As the bus rolled away and we started on foot up the hill toward Old
Beecham, we told Hattie May of our plan to stop at Craven House on the
way back and take another look for the missing statue. Hattie May said
she didn’t think she ought to waste time hunting for lost goddesses
when her own brother was missing.

“She wasn’t a goddess,” I corrected, more for the sake of making talk
than anything else. “She was an enchantress who turned the companions
of Ulysses into swine by the wave of her wand.”

“Well, she must have been a very disagreeable person,” returned Hattie
May. “I’m sure I don’t see why anyone should want a statue of her
about!”

As we came abreast of the old house, Hattie May said she’d got to sit
down and rest for a minute. The road was deserted as usual. Beyond the
wall the old house seemed asleep. “To think that we almost spent a
night there,” I mused.

“I’ll bet you’d have seen a ghost if you had,” said Hattie May. “I
can’t think whatever induced you to go inside in the first place.”

“That was Eve’s curiosity,” I said. “Without curiosity, you know,
Hattie May, you never get anywhere.”

Eve said nothing. She was gazing intently at the road in front of where
we sat. “I didn’t know cars came out this way much,” she remarked at
last.

“They don’t,” I said. “That day on the roof we didn’t see a single one.
Michael said there was a better road the other side of the hill.”

“But look at those tracks there in the dust,” Eve said. “It looks as if
two or three cars had been out here recently.”

Hattie May was on her feet in a flash. “You’re dead right!” she cried.
“A car has turned around right in front of this house—see the double
tracks!”

She was right. There were marks of tires going in both directions
clearly discernible in the dry dust of the road.

“Maybe Hamish came out here!” Hattie May cried. “Maybe he went inside
the house and—and—” she cast terrified eyes beyond the wall.

“Hush, Hattie May, don’t be ridiculous. There aren’t any such things as
ghosts as you very well know. Besides,” I added illogically, “no one
ever heard of one’s harming a person.”

“But people die of fright,” Hattie May went on wildly. “Or—or they
fall in a swoon. I’m sure I should if I saw one and Hamish is a year
younger than me. Oh, Eve, would you dare to—to just go up to the house
and—listen?”

“Of course I would,” Eve assured her. “What is there to be afraid of?
I’d go inside only the door is locked of course. But honestly, I don’t
believe those tracks mean a thing—somebody just drove up, discovered
he was on the wrong road and turned around, that’s all.”

But Hattie May shook her head. “No. I feel that something has
happened,” she declared solemnly. “I’m as sure as anything that those
marks were made by Hamish’s car. And,” she flung up her head with a
heroic gesture, “it’s my duty not to leave this place till I’ve found
out—found out what there is to know!”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                  XVI

                               The Rescue


WE climbed over the wall and made our way through the tall grass to the
rear of the house. Eve, as good as her word, walked up to the back door
and knocked. Not, she said, that she expected any answer but just to
satisfy Hattie May.

But Hattie May did not seem at all reassured by the silence that
answered us. “If Hamish is swooned of—or d-dead,” she cried, “of
course he won’t hear! What we’ve got to do is to break down that door!
Or——” she glanced helplessly around—“or get inside somehow. I just
know Hamish is somewhere about this place!”

I saw that she was on the verge of becoming hysterical again.
“Nonsense,” I said, “if Hamish was here, we’d have seen his car,
wouldn’t we?”

“I can’t help it, I’ve got to get inside,” she repeated, her voice
getting more and more raspy and high-pitched. “I guess if your only
brother was lying——” she paused. Eve who had stopped knocking, now
had her hand on the latch. To our utter amazement it turned in her hand
and the door swung inward. Unlocked! What did that mean?

Well to Hattie May it meant just one thing—a confirmation of her worst
fears. She rushed inside. “Hamish!” she cried at the top of her lungs.
“Hamish, where are you?” Her voice went echoing through the big kitchen
and the wide hall beyond. But no other sound answered it. “Hamish!
Hamish, where are you?”

I was still standing just within the doorway. In truth I had little
desire to enter the house again. Suddenly Eve who had not moved from
the threshold, caught me by the elbow. “Listen!” she said, “I thought I
heard something!”

She had swung round and was gazing out toward the garden. And as we
stood there there came to our ears, faint and far away, something which
sounded like a muffled cry. Hattie May turned back. “What is it?” she
asked. “What’s the matter?”

“We thought we heard something outside,” I said. “Listen, there it is
again!” Was it my imagination or was it a cry for help!

“Oh, it’s him—it’s Hamish!” In one dash Hattie May was through the
doorway and running wildly down the grass grown path toward the garden.
“Hamish! Hamish!” she called. And as we sped after her, we heard the
answer again. And this time there was no mistake—“Help, help!” came
the cry!

Through the weeds and brambles we streaked, stumbling over dead
branches, scratching faces and clothes—on and on in the direction of
that cry. Hattie May was in the lead. Once she tripped and fell and Eve
and I had to pull her up. We came to the end of the garden. Beyond the
underbrush was so dense that we could see nothing ahead. But Hattie May
raced on blindly; her hair streaming about her face, her thin dress
torn; while a trickle of blood from a scratch across her nose added to
the general wildness of her aspect.

“Help, help, help!” The cry was quite near now. We came to a straggling
line of stones where a wall had once been. On the other side we made
out the traces of what seemed to be the foundation of an old house. The
cries appeared to come from a spot in the undergrowth just beyond this.
Hattie May plowed on, Eve was at her heels. “Hamish! Where are you?”

“Here I am!” It was Hamish’s voice, there was no mistaking it—but
oddly muffled.

Suddenly ahead of me I saw Eve pause almost like an animal who scents
danger. “Wait!” she cried.

But Hattie May did not heed. “Hamish,” she repeated frantically, “where
are you!” As she spoke I saw Eve reach out and grab her dress skirt.
And she was just in time. A second later, coming up with them, I saw
that they were standing on the very edge of a yawning hole. A rotted
board half covered it but the board was broken and showed new splinters
as if some heavy object had but recently fallen through.

“It’s a well!” Hattie May cried, dropping to her knees and peering into
the blackness below. “Oh, Hamish, are you down there--are you drowned?”

“Get a rope,” came back the voice. “I’m perishin’! Get a rope and a man
quick!”

“Oh, Hamish, are you drowned?” repeated Hattie May wildly.

“Of course he isn’t drowned,” Eve said calmly. “A drowned person
doesn’t scream like that. It’s a dry well, don’t you understand?”

“A dry well!”

“We’ve got to get a man and a rope right away,” Eve went on
practically. “I think we’d better go up to the farm where Michael
works, it can’t be far.”

Hattie May regained some slight semblance of sanity at this suggestion.
“You two go,” she ordered. “I’ll stay here by Hamish. And oh, do hurry,
you can’t tell what awful things are down that well—snakes and
terrible toads! It must be a mile deep, at least it looks it.”

“I’ll stay with Hattie May,” I said. “You go find Michael, Eve.”

So Eve flew away. Hattie May put her face to the hole—while I took
fast hold on what remained of her dress—and called down cheering words
to the prisoner. “Eve’s gone for Michael,” she shouted. “He works up
the road. What? What’s that you said?” She lifted her face from the
hole. “Sandy, did you hear that?”

I shook my head.

“He says,” said Hattie May incredibly, “that Michael is in jail!”

I stared at her. “You must have misunderstood,” I said.

“That’s what it sounded like. You don’t suppose,” a new terror was
dawning in her eyes, “that being down there all this time has—has
affected Hamish’s mind?”

“I think you misunderstood him,” I repeated soothingly. “Perhaps he
said for Michael to bring a pail.”

“A pail! Oh, then there must be water in the well after all! He’s
probably caught pneumonia!” She put her head back to the hole. “Oh,
Hamish, are you very wet?”

“He says he’s dry as a bone!” she sat up. “He says he’s got to have a
drink right away!”

“Well, I guess he’ll just have to wait,” I said.

But Hattie May’s eyes had lighted on something—a bottle on the ground
where Eve had left it. It was the dandelion wine for Mrs. Viner. She
pounced on it. “I’m going to drop this down!” she exclaimed.

“You’re crazy, Hattie May!” I protested. “The bottle will be sure to
break or hit him on the head. Besides,” I added weakly, “very likely he
doesn’t like dandelion wine—many don’t.”

“How can you talk like that, Sandy, at such a moment! I guess if your
brother was perishing of thirst and you had some drink to give him—I
guess you wouldn’t hesitate!”

“Well,” I said resignedly, “if you crack his skull, I don’t think it
will help matters any.” But she wasn’t listening. She was leaning again
over the jagged aperture, the bottle in her hand. I took another
strangle hold on the back of her skirt and held my peace.

The bottle disappeared into the void. Just as it did so, I heard the
sound of voices behind me. Michael Gilpatrick was running toward us and
behind him was a man in blue overalls, carrying a bundle of rope.
Panting in the rear, came Eve.

“Oh, Michael, I’m glad you’re not—I’m glad you came!” I cried. He gave
me barely a nod. I had never seen him look so solemn. “How’d he get
down there?” he asked going quickly to the hole and peering down.

“We don’t know—we heard him shouting.”

“Oh, do hurry,” urged Hattie May. “He says he’s perishing.”

The man, whom Michael called Jo, had now come up, and, without any more
words, the two set to work. We waited breathlessly, Hattie May clinging
hard to my wrist, Eve still panting on the ground at our feet. There
was an endless wait after they let down the rope while they waited for
Hamish to make it fast. Finally came the call to go ahead, and they
began to haul. Inch by inch, tugging singly and together. The muscles
in Michael’s arms stood out brown and hard; perspiration streamed from
his face; even the burly Jo was gasping.

At the moment when her brother’s head appeared above the hole, Hattie
May let out a frightful scream. I don’t know whether it was just the
reaction or the sight of his straw-colored hair and face plastered with
mud. But she continued to scream until the rescue was completed and
Hamish himself, blinking and tottering on unsteady feet, stood before
us. “Shut up!” he said.

His sister threw herself upon him. “Oh, Hamish, you look awful—are you
hurt?”

Michael put out a hand to unfasten the rope about his waist. “He’s
okay, aren’t you, Hamish?” he said, gently pushing Hattie May aside.

“An’ fer the love of Mike, how’d you manage to fall down there?” Jo
demanded, curiously surveying him.

Hamish didn’t answer. He was peering at Michael through near-sighted
eyes—his glasses were gone. “How’d you get out?” he demanded suddenly.

A deeper flush poured over Michael’s hot face. But he only shrugged.
“How long have you been down there?” he asked in his turn.

“All night,” Hamish told him. “And, boy, it was some night, believe me!”

“It must have been ghastly,” returned Michael. “How in the world did it
happen?”

But Hamish announced that he couldn’t say another word till he’d had a
drink. “Didn’t you get the bottle I threw down?” his sister demanded.
His only answer was a look!

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                  XVII

                                Caught!


BACK at the house we heard the whole story. The man Jo had gone back to
work but Michael still lingered. Hamish had taken a long drink of
Craven House well water in bold defiance of Hattie May’s warning that
it was practically sure to be full of deadly germs; his attitude being,
I think, that after what he’d been through a germ more or less was of
trifling moment. He was seated on an old wooden bench at the back door.
Hattie May had wiped some of the mud from his face but it still had a
grayish unhealthy cast.

“How in the world did you happen to go way out there?” It was Michael
who got the story going.

“It was on account of those cops,” Hamish said. “I was tryin’ to get to
the place where I’d parked my car ’thout runnin’ into ’em. You see
after they got you——”

“Were you in the house too?” Michael interrupted.

Hamish shook his head. “No, I was outside but I heard most everything
that went on. I got here ’bout ten o’clock last night. You see I had
kind of a hunch that that Bangs fellow wasn’t through with the place,
after me runnin’ into him in Millport selling that hair tonic. I said
to myself, ‘He’s still on the trail of sumpin or I miss my guess.’”

“Yeah.” Michael nodded understandingly. “Go on.”

“Well I parked my car up the road in that little lane that runs through
somebody’s orchard. Then I came back here to the house. I hid out in
the bushes there to sort of reconnoiter and I hadn’t been there more’n
a few minutes when sure enough along comes a car. It stopped down the
road a bit and after a while I spied a man comin’ through the bushes,
making for the back door. I recognized him even though it was dark—it
was Bangs.”

“Oh, Hamish, weren’t you scared to death?” cried Hattie May.

“Scared of what?” inquired her brother. “There was I lyin’ low behind a
bush—he hadn’t seen me.”

“Oh, go on,” I urged, “what happened then?”

“Well he unlocks the door, goes inside and locks it after him. ‘All
right, mister,’ I says to myself, ‘that’s all I wanted to know. Now
I’ll just buzz over to Millport and get a cop and you can do some
explaining!’”

Michael grinned wryly. “But you didn’t have to!” he put in.

“Gosh no! I hadn’t any more than got to the front wall creepin’ along
so’s not to make a sound when, boy, ’long comes another car. I guess
you know who that was,” he looked at Michael. “It stopped down the road
about where the first one had, near as I could judge. Bye and bye I
heard voices. I picked me a bush close by the house and lay down again.
The voices got nearer. One of the fellows had a flash and I saw they
were cops, two of ’em.”

“Oh, Hamish, what did you do then?”

“Do? I just lay low and listened. I could hear every word they said.
One of ’em went to the back door and one to the front. Pretty soon I
heard the back door crash in—that was the husky one did that,” again
he looked at Michael and again, surprisingly, Michael nodded
confirmation.

“Well so they got in and I could hear them walkin’ round through the
house. Say, get me another drink.”

Michael brought the water. “Oh, do go on,” Hattie May said impatiently.
“What did the villain do when they got him?”

Hamish finished the glass of water before he replied. “They didn’t get
him at all,” he said dramatically. “They got Michael instead! Can you
imagine that?”

“Michael!” All of us turned upon the other boy as if expecting him to
deny this astounding statement. But he only nodded gravely. “But—but I
don’t understand,” Eve cried, “what were you doing in the house?”

Michael gave a shrug. “Oh, it’s just a mess,” he said gloomily. “The
worst I ever got into, I guess. You see I had the same sort of hunch as
Hamish. After he told of seeing Bangs in Millport, I suspected right
away that he was still hanging around for a reason and that that reason
was somehow connected with this place. I thought if he did any more
digging, he’d probably do it at night. So I rode out here last night on
my bicycle and climbed into that upstairs window that you girls left
unlocked.”

“Oh, wasn’t it awfully spooky!” I cried.

Michael gave a wry laugh. “No, it was quite peaceful—for a while. I
poked around some with my flash to make sure the house was empty and
then sat down by the window to wait in case Mr. Bangs should turn up.
Well, everything might have been all right if it hadn’t been for the
fool idea I’d had—” he hesitated, looking rather sheepish. “Well, you
see, I’d had the brilliant idea of trying to disguise myself.”

“Disguise yourself!” Eve cried. “But how?”

“Well I had that wig I’d pulled off Bangs that night I chased him—I
suppose it was that that gave me the idea. I thought it would prevent
anyone’s recognizing me in case I was seen coming in here. So I fixed
myself up with this wig and a straw hat and an old suit of Al’s. I
found an old pair of spectacles around the house too.”

I giggled. “You must have looked rather like Bangs himself!”

“That’s just the dickens of it—I did! Too much so—enough at least to
fool the police!”

“You don’t mean they took you for that villain—not actually?” cried
Hattie May incredulously.

“They sure did!”

“But what did they want him for?” I asked. “Was it the hair tonic?”

“Oh, no, nothing like that. It seems he picked up a car somewhere in
Millport Saturday afternoon, drove it out here last night and hid it in
the woods up the road. Then he came here to the house to pass the
night.”

“You mean he stole a car—Oh, Michael, how terrible!” cried Eve.

“Well, it was bad luck for me, at any rate!”

“But surely you can prove that you didn’t take it,” I put in. “Surely
it will be easy enough to clear yourself!”

“Well, I haven’t convinced ’em yet,” returned Michael sombrely. “You
see it was this way. Seems somebody saw Bangs take the car around five
o’clock that afternoon and turned in a report to the police. Said the
thief had thick bushy hair and wore horn-rimmed glasses. The cops
traced the car out this way somehow—they didn’t inform me how—and
found it hidden in the woods. Then they came on to the house, broke in,
and found me hiding in the hall closet, wearing a wig and spectacles.
That’s all there is to it.”

“But didn’t you tell them?” I protested.

“Why, naturally! But it didn’t get me anywhere. They just laughed at
me. Wanted to know what I was doing in the house and so forth. I told
them about Bangs and that he was in the house too because I’d heard him
come in just before. That was when I got into the closet. They
pretended to make a search of the house but they didn’t find him. They
didn’t expect to—they thought I was spoofing them.”

“Yeah and where was he—that’s what I’d like to know?” Hamish spoke for
the first time since Michael had begun his story.

“I haven’t any idea—I suppose he was hiding somewhere.”

Hattie May gave a startled glance toward the open kitchen door as if
she half expected the form of Mr. Bangs to emerge at any moment.

“Of course he’s had plenty of time to make a getaway now,” Michael went
on. “He’s had all night.”

“But when they found you, did they—did you——?” I began hesitatingly.

“Yeah they took me over to the Millport jail,” returned Michael
stoically. “I phoned Al, my cousin, and he came over about midnight and
got me out. But I’ve got to go to court on Thursday when the case comes
up.”

“To c-court?” Eve’s eyes were harrowed. “But can’t anything be
done—your folks at home——?”

Michael shook his head, his lips were set. “I’m not going to tell
them,” he stated. “I’ll take what’s coming to me.”

“But they can’t convict you of something you never did,” I broke in.
“Why, it’s all too absurd!”

“Well, I don’t know. You see it’s going to be sort of hard to explain
what I was doing in an empty house in the middle of the night. And if
Bangs has left the country——” he shrugged.

“Wouldn’t it do some good if we were all to go over to Millport and
tell the—the judge or whoever it is, that you were with us Saturday
afternoon on the beach?” Eve asked.

Michael shook his head positively. “I wouldn’t have you get mixed up in
it for anything,” he said. “Besides they would simply think you were my
friends trying to help me out of a tight hole. They’d only have your
word that I was with you, you see.”

Eve digested this. It was rather a new idea, I suppose, that her word
might not be good for much in a court of law.

Michael got up. “Well I’ve got to be getting back to work,” he said.
“How do you feel, Hamish? All right?”

“I’m awful hungry!” said Hamish.

“Poor Hamish!” Eve cried. “Here we’ve been sitting talking while you
were starving to death! And after that awful night!”

“Well it was kind of messy down there,” Hamish said. “It was lucky the
bally old well was half filled up or I might have been a goner. You see
I landed on a lot of leaves and old junk that had been thrown down
there to get rid of it, I s’pose. So I just made myself as comfortable
as I could and waited for daylight. I figured that somebody’d be along
lookin’ for me soon as it got light. But it was kind of tiresome
waitin’.”

“Tiresome! I think you had pretty good nerve!” I said. We all got up.
“Hope my car’s all right,” Hamish said, “I guess I’ll get me one of
those Turkish baths up at the hotel after I’ve had dinner.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                 XVIII

                               Dig Here!


WE tried to sew carpet rags that afternoon but it was rather a farce.
So much had happened that morning that it seemed impossible to settle
down to anything so prosaic. We kept talking of Michael and his awful
predicament, and racking our brains to think of some way of helping
him. Eve was inclined to blame Hamish for his part in the affair, for
not coming forward when he saw Michael being taken into custody and
vouching for his identity. But I pointed out that Hamish himself would
have had some explaining to do and would probably have only made
matters worse by trying to account for Michael’s presence in the house.

We had of course told Aunt Cal the whole story but, though she had been
rather decent about the dandelion wine, she had not displayed very much
sympathy either for Michael or Hamish. Her attitude was that they had
got no more than they deserved for meddling in things that didn’t
concern them. I felt that Aunt Cal was being rather unjust for after
all Michael had only been seeking to aid the cause of justice.

Beyond the hedge I caught sight of Captain Trout’s bald head gleaming
in the sun. He waved a pruning knife at us and I said, “Let’s go over
and tell him about Michael. Perhaps he’ll be able to think of something
to do.”

The Captain greeted us cordially and invited us to take seats on his
back porch. “We thought you ought to know,” Eve said, “about the
trouble that Michael is in.”

“Michael in trouble?” The Captain’s astonishment was evident. “Dear me!
Bless my boots! The finest boy in the world!”

This was comforting to hear at least. The Captain listened as we gave
him an outline of the story. “Bless my boots!” he exclaimed again when
we had finished. “Why those police are asses! What do they mean not
believing the boy’s story—don’t they know he’s a Gilpatrick?”

“They don’t seem to consider it important,” I said. “And Michael
declares he won’t go to his family for help.”

The Captain nodded understandingly. “That’s like him,” he said. “His
mother would be upset and his grandfather, too, I expect. A grandson of
Jason Gilpatrick accused of stealing—why it’s absurd!”

“Isn’t Michael’s father living?” I asked.

Captain Trout shook his head. “Killed in the war,” he said shortly. He
seemed to be thinking deeply. “Well,” he said at last, “I’ll have to
see what can be done—I’ll have to tell those guardians of the law a
thing or two!”

Well at least we had done what we could for Michael; though, as we
talked it over, we wondered if the Captain’s sputtering protestations
would really have any effect in a court of law. What Michael needed was
proof and that, alas, he didn’t have.

At last I flung down the blue calico strip I was sewing to another of
black and white check. “I hate the very sight of these miserable rags!”
I exclaimed. “Let’s go somewhere and do something quick before I chuck
them all in the brook!”

Eve laughed. “We might go down to the Inn and inquire about Hamish,”
she suggested. “After his frightful experience he may be in a state of
collapse.”

We found Hattie May on the veranda at Wildwood Lodge, waiting, she told
us, for Hamish to come out of the barber shop of the hotel next door.
“I sent him to get a shampoo,” she said, “his hair was such a mess.”

“How is he feeling?” I inquired. “Fully recovered, I hope.”

“Oh, yes, he’s all right—physically, that is!”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I just mean that he’s still acting kind of preoccupied.”

“It’s the shock,” Eve said. “Really you can’t be surprised.”

Hattie May shook her head. “There’s something he wants to do,” she
said, “but he won’t tell me what it is. But he’s determined to go back
to that terrible place again right away!”

“What! Go back to Craven House? Gracious, I should think he’d never
want to see the place again!”

“I know. But he insists there’s something he’s got to see about. He
says he was so hungry this morning that he couldn’t attend to it.
That’s why I’m watching the door of the hotel, to be sure he doesn’t
get away again without me!”

We sat down to wait. And it was not long before we saw the figure of
Hamish emerge from the hotel. He cast a furtive glance in the direction
of the Lodge and then, in response to his sister’s frantic summons,
came slowly down the steps toward us. “What kept you so long?” Hattie
May inquired sharply.

“Oh, I thought I’d have the whole works while I was about it,” he said.
“Turkish bath, shampoo, oil treatment, face steamin’ and manicure!”

“Heavens, no wonder you look like a boiled rabbit!”

Hamish took out his watch. “Well, I got to be gettin’ along,” he said
with an attempt at casualness. “So long, I’ll be seein’ you.”

As her brother’s form disappeared around the corner of the building,
Hattie May got up. “Come on,” she whispered, and tiptoed down the
steps. In single file we passed around the veranda and, keeping well
under cover of the various barns and garages in the rear, came
presently to the main road, just across which are the row of tin
garages in one of which Hamish kept his car. He was just unlocking the
door when he looked around and saw us. “What’s the big idea?” he
inquired ungraciously.

“The idea,” answered his sister, “is that we’re going along. You don’t
think for a minute that I’m going to let you go out to that place alone
again?”

Hamish’s answer was unintelligible and he was still muttering to
himself as he got into his seat. However he waited, though unwillingly,
while the rest of us disposed ourselves—his sister beside him, Eve and
I in the rumble. For my own part, I had little desire to take part in
the expedition. If Hamish hadn’t had enough of Craven House, I had.
Besides I wondered what Aunt Cal was going to think of more “meddling”
on our part.

Hamish maintained an injured silence during the greater part of the
drive. And to my inquiry as to whether he had heard anything more from
Michael, he shook his head and replied shortly, “Been sleepin’.”

The day was hot and as we left the freshness of the sea behind, the
heat increased by the minute. So we came again within the shadow of the
old house. The sweetness of the honeysuckle was almost overpowering. I
felt a sudden aversion to the place. All its air of romantic mystery
had departed. I hated it because it had given shelter to that villain
and ensnared Michael and yes, because it had brought disappointment and
disillusion to Aunt Cal. “I think I’ll just wait in the car,” I said.

“Oh, Sandy, what for?” Eve cried. And Hattie May added, “Haven’t got
cold feet have you?”

This of course was too absurd to answer. Nevertheless it compelled me
to get reluctantly out of the car and follow the others over the wall.
Hamish was in the lead but with Hattie May panting closely at his
heels. He vouchsafed no explanation as to where he was headed or what
his purpose was. And for my own part I didn’t care much. I was sick of
the whole subject of buried treasure and wished heartily at that moment
that we had never opened Mr. Bangs’ smelly old suitcase. It had been
just like Pandora’s box, I reflected bitterly, for nothing but trouble
had come out of it.

But if it was treasure that Hamish was intent upon, at least he was
seeking it in a new spot. For he passed rapidly through the garden and
plunged into the underbrush beyond. “Well,” I said determinedly, “I’m
not going to get myself all scratched and bitten up again. I’ll wait
here by the fountain and if any of you fall down any wells, don’t
expect me to do anything about it.”

“All right,” said Hattie May. “But I’ve got to keep Hamish in sight.”
And Eve added, “I guess I’d better go along to look after Hattie May.”

So they left me and I heard their voices die away in the distance. I
took out my handkerchief and mopped my hot face. I wished that the
fountain were playing so that I could have stuck my head into its
cooling spray. By and by I heard the others returning. Hattie May’s
voice was high-pitched and excited but that was nothing unusual.

Hamish was in the lead, he was carrying something under one arm. I
looked at Eve and saw that she too was excited. “Well I see you’re all
here,” I remarked.

Hamish walked to the bowl of the fountain and set down the thing he was
carrying. “What is it?” I asked. And then, “Why, it’s a statue! Where
did you get it?”

“Hamish’s found it!” Hattie May cried. “He’s found the Circe!”

“The Circe!” In truth I had almost forgotten about the missing statue.
“Why—where in the world——?”

“It was at the bottom of that awful well!” Hattie May cried.

“I brought it up with me when they hauled me up this morning,” Hamish
explained, taking off his glasses to wipe them. “I guess you were all
too excited to notice it. It was pretty heavy so I just dropped it in
the grass and left it. Bein’ without my spectacles, I couldn’t be sure
what it was. You see when Hattie May dropped that bottle down it hit on
a stone and broke to smithereens. This was the stone, that’s how I
happened to find it.”

Hattie May threw me a triumphant look. “Don’t you think it’s the Circe,
Sandy?” Eve asked. “You see the arms are broken off but one of them is
lifted just as if it might have been holding a wand.”

It was true. The little figure was smaller than the other one in the
garden and it was so blackened by age that the features were hardly
discernible. But there was no doubt that it was a woman’s figure and
that one arm had been upraised. In spite of myself, I felt a queer
shivery thrill as I gazed at it. “But where did it come from?” I
demanded eagerly. “Where did it stand?”

“That,” said Eve, “is just what we’ve got to find out. There simply
must be a pedestal somewhere that we’ve overlooked. It certainly was
never set up down by that old well, nobody would put a statue in a
vacant lot.”

“And when we find where she stood,” put in Hamish, “then we’ll know
where to dig!”

Almost with one accord we all got up again and set out on another tour
of the garden. We had already raked it pretty thoroughly but this time
we had something definite to urge us on. We had discovered the
enchantress, there remained only to discover her resting place.

Back and forth we wandered, poking at every tangle of bushes and clump
of thick grass, kicking at every fallen tree branch. In his zeal,
Hamish even began turning up the slabs of stone which had once formed a
walk as if he expected to find some clue tucked away with the horrid
white crawly things underneath.

Discouraged at last, I came back to the fountain. After all, I told
myself, I didn’t really believe in the buried treasure. Michael didn’t,
I knew, and I was pretty sure he was right. Still I did wish we could
find where the statue had stood just—well just for the satisfaction of
knowing. But though Hamish and the others were still plunging madly
about, the search seemed as hopeless as it had from the first. Indeed
the discovery of the statue had really helped matters little.

Where would one put a Circe, I wondered? A small, graceful figure like
that? On a pedestal of course—but where? Somewhere where she would not
be overlooked, I thought—some conspicuous place——

And then, in a flash of inspiration, my eyes turned to the center of
the fountain. In imagination I saw her there—lithe, poised, with arm
upraised! And from that vanished wand, I was suddenly sure, had come
the jets of water which had played in the sunshine of those bygone
summers!

“Eve! Hamish!” I cried excitedly. Picking up the statue, I stepped
across the leaf-filled bowl. I reached up and set it there in the
middle. “Look!” I shouted, “It fits—fits perfectly!”

“It sure does!” I swung around to see Michael Gilpatrick advancing
toward me. In our absorption none of us had heard the approach of his
wagon. In a minute the others came running at the sound of my excited
summons.

“Oh, Sandy,” Eve cried, “how clever of you! How did you happen to think
of it?”

“My aunt!” There was a grudging admiration in Hamish’s voice as he
gazed at the upright figure. “It sure looks as if that was the place
all right. I was just thinkin’ of having a look at the fountain
myself——”

Eve gave him a scathing glance. “But look here!” cried Hattie May. “If
that’s the right place where are we going to dig? We can’t dig up the
fountain!”

“We won’t have to, silly,” said her brother. “It’s thirteen and a half
feet south of it that we’ve got to measure.” He pulled a tape line from
his pocket as he spoke. “There’s a shovel hidden under that lilac bush
by the road,” he said to Michael. “I brought it with me last night.”

“Preparedness is your motto!” laughed Michael. For the moment he seemed
to have forgotten or thrown aside the trouble that was hanging over him.

By the time he had brought the shovel, Hamish had located the spot to
his satisfaction. It turned out to be directly under a pink rosebush
whose bushes hung thickly to the ground. But Hamish was not to be
daunted by a few thorns.

“I wonder how deep down it’ll be!” breathed Hattie May as Hamish’s
shovel began to scratch at the hard turf. “I’m glad you came along,
Michael, in case it’s very deep.”

“Michael doesn’t believe there’s anything there,” I said.

“Not any buried treasure? Well, I’d like to know what all those
measurements mean then and why?”

Michael didn’t answer. There was a whimsical smile on his tanned face
as he stood watching Hamish clumsily manipulating the heavy shovel.
After a few shovelsful of dirt had been piled in a heap on the grass
with little to show for the effort except the steadily mounting color
of Hamish’s face and the steam on his glasses, Michael offered, “Like
me to take a hand?”

And still with that whimsical smile Michael set to work. And now the
earth began to fly to some effect and the hole, which before had seemed
to fill up almost as fast as the earth came out, now began to grow
quite sizable. Hattie May stood at the very edge and watched each
shovelful as it came out. I thought, “She’s going to be awfully let
down if we don’t find anything.”

Five minutes went by—ten. Michael was breathing hard now, perspiration
streaming down his face. “Better let me take it now,” Hamish said but
the other shook his head.

Deeper and deeper. Finally Michael stopped to wipe his face. “If I was
going to bury a blue emerald,” he remarked with a grin, “or even a
green one, I wouldn’t bother to go much deeper than that!”

Hamish knelt down and thrust one of his lately manicured hands deep
into the hole. “Feel anything?” his sister asked hopefully.

He shook his head. “It’s a washout,” he said disgustedly. “I don’t
believe there ever was any bally old treasure!”

“Sure you got the measurements right?” Michael inquired with faint
irony. The difference between his attitude and Hamish’s was that Hamish
was in deadly earnest, while with Michael it was almost as if he was
playing a game.

So perhaps it was only fair that it should be Hamish who was wielding
the shovel when it finally did strike something. We all heard the
impact. Hattie May screamed and began to jump up and down. Hamish
dropped the shovel and dived, almost literally head first into the
hole. “There goes his shampoo, too!” I thought.

“There—there’s something!” he gasped. “Some—something hard——!”

I giggled, I couldn’t help it. It was partly nervous excitement and
partly the sense which had been with me all along of the ridiculousness
of the whole proceeding. “That,” I said, “will be the iron bound chest
full of doubloons and pieces of eight, no doubt!”

No one paid any attention to me. Hamish was groping desperately with
his fingers. “I c-can’t—seem—to—get hold——!” he panted.

“Let me have a try?” Michael put in quietly. Reluctantly Hamish moved a
little and, kneeling down in his turn, Michael thrust one bare brown
arm into the hole. A minute later he was holding up a small,
dirt-encased object. As he shook off the clinging earth, we saw an
oblong tin box like a tobacco tin. I stared dazedly at it—“Royal Plug”
I read.

Hamish seized the box from Michael’s hand. He shook it. It rattled!
Hattie May screamed again. “It’s the emerald—the blue emerald!”

Hamish was prying at the lid with fumbling awkward fingers. His sister
snatched at it impatiently. “It would take you a week to get that cover
off!” she cried.

But the cover stuck obstinately. Michael took out his jackknife.
“Perhaps this will do it,” he offered.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                  XIX

                              The Treasure


HAMISH took off his spectacles and wiped them carefully as if he hoped
by so doing to see something different from the object which was lying
in Michael’s open palm. The object at which the rest of us were also
incredulously staring. It was just a key—a long old-fashioned rusty
key!

“Is—is that all?” Hattie May’s voice at last broke the silence; it
seemed to come from the region of her shoes. For answer Michael took up
the tobacco tin and turned it upside down. “B-but there must be
something else,” she faltered. “Something else buried—the
treasure—the blue emerald!”

With a shrug Michael again picked up the shovel and set to work anew on
the hole. But though he dug steadily for as much as five minutes, he
turned up nothing more.

“It’s just a washout like I said!” Hamish stated gloomily. He glared at
Eve and me, he seemed to hold us responsible.

I had picked up the key and was examining it. “I suppose,” I said,
“it’s the key to something.”

“That’s right,” chimed in Hattie May with a fresh accession of hope.
“Nobody would take the trouble to bury a key unless it was to something
pretty important. Maybe to the box that holds the treasure or—or to a
locked room—or something. I’ll bet that’s it—the treasure’s hidden in
the house!”

“I don’t think there are any locked rooms in the house,” remarked Eve.
“Sandy and I went over it pretty thoroughly that first day and we
didn’t find any.”

“But there must be something!” Hattie May turned and strode toward the
back door.

“Well I’ve got to be getting on,” Michael said. “I wish you luck with
your blue emerald!”

“Michael Gilpatrick,” Hattie May turned about and faced him, “I don’t
believe you’d take the trouble to pick up that treasure if it was right
before your eyes! All you care about is cows and—and crops and plowing
and grubby things like that!”

Michael’s ringing laugh answered her as he strode away. “You can’t
really blame him,” said Eve, “for not being so awfully keen about this
when he’s got that other thing hanging over him! I’d be worried too.”

Hattie May and Hamish had disappeared inside the house but they were
back in five minutes. “Every door in the place is wide open,” Hattie
May declared in disgust, “and the key doesn’t fit a single lock.”

“Well I think the best thing for us to do now is to go home,” I said.
Somewhat to my surprise Hamish agreed with my suggestion at once. I had
not expected him to give up the search so easily.

Our own orderly garden was cool and refreshing that night after the
sticky heat of the day. We joined Aunt Cal and Adam there after we had
finished the dishes. Under cover of the darkness I took my courage in
my hands. “Aunt Cal,” I asked, “did you ever hear that Captain Judd
Craven had—well anything valuable hidden away? Any—well any treasure
or anything?”

At the word “treasure” I could fairly feel Aunt Cal beside me stiffen.
“Treasure!” she ejaculated scornfully. “What has put such an idea into
your head?”

“Well that paper we found, in the first place,” I returned, “the one
with the measurements on it, you know. And then this afternoon we dug
up an old key out there in the garden at Craven House. It was in a
tobacco tin just as if someone had hidden it on purpose.”

Aunt Cal made a noise that sounded like “pish!” “So that’s what you’ve
been up to,” she said caustically. “I must confess that I’m
considerably surprised that girls of your age and upbringing should
find nothing better to do with your time! Buried treasure indeed!”

“But you see, Aunt Cal,” Eve came to my defense, “it did seem as if
those directions must mean something, especially after that fellow,
that Mr. Bangs, wanted them so badly that he came to the house here to
look for them. So then this morning when Hamish found the missing
statue of Circe down that old well and this afternoon when Sandy
discovered where she used to stand, why we just had to find out what
there was to it, don’t you see? And then when we dug up the key, why we
just naturally couldn’t help wondering what it was the key of.”

Aunt Cal shook her head sadly. “I knew a man who wasted the best years
of his life in the search for treasure!” she said.

“You mean Captain Craven’s son?” I asked timidly, my heart beginning to
beat a little faster for I felt that I was on delicate ground.

She nodded solemnly. “Carter Craven went to the South Seas on a hunt
for buried gold when he was eighteen. It wrecked his life and broke his
father’s heart!”

“Oh!” I had never heard Aunt Cal speak like that before!

“He—he didn’t find anything?” Eve asked slowly.

I could feel the flash in Aunt Cal’s eyes though I could not see it.
“Of course he didn’t. He was the victim of a pack of adventurers! He
was gone six years. And when he came back,” her voice broke, “he was
like an old man! So—so changed!”

“Oh, Aunt Cal, how terrible!” I cried. “What did it?”

“His health was ruined for one thing—the life he’d led, the climate,
the companionships. And what was worse, his moral fibre was gone! He
had no desire to work, to settle down to earn an honest living. His
head was full of schemes, get-rich-quick schemes. He drifted from one
to another. Nothing that he undertook ever amounted to anything.” She
broke off suddenly and her voice softened ever so little. “I am telling
you all this,” she added, “so that you may understand what the lure of
gold can do to a human being.”

We were silent for a long time after she had finished speaking. If the
truth be told I was feeling rather small. Also I was experiencing a new
understanding of Aunt Cal. For the first time I had had a glimpse of
the real person behind the mask of severity she habitually wore. It was
Eve who finally ventured to put one more question. “And Carter Craven,”
she asked, “when he went away the last time, was it for something like
that?”

“I believe so,” Aunt Cal returned shortly. “I was told it was a gold
mine, though I was not here at the time.”

“And no one has heard of him since?”

She nodded. “I went into Millport yesterday to see the lawyer who has
charge of the estate, to tell him about this man Bangs. I feel that if
we could get hold of him, he might be able to tell us something. But
now that he is wanted by the police, no doubt he will have left the
neighborhood for good.” She sighed.

I sighed too. “I do wish they could find him before Wednesday,” I said.
“Then perhaps the police would believe Michael’s story. If they
don’t——” I broke off, conscious that Aunt Cal was not listening. She
seemed utterly absorbed in her own thoughts.

Didn’t she care, I thought, that the good name of a perfectly innocent
boy was about to be dragged in the dust! As the minutes went by and
still she said nothing, all my newly aroused sympathy vanished. If she
was so indifferent to the troubles of others, she didn’t deserve
anybody’s sympathy. I grew so indignant, sitting there in the darkness,
that I finally could stand it no longer and said I guessed I’d go to
bed.

“All she cares about,” I sputtered five minutes, later as I pulled off
my shoes and flung them into the corner, “is that stuffy old house with
its messy old garden and its defunct fountain and—and all of its
moldly old memories!”

“You’re wrong, Sandy,” Eve said. “I think the thing she cares most
about is Carter—his memory, I mean. I don’t think she’ll ever be happy
till that is cleared.”

I stopped with one stocking half off and looked at Eve. “What in the
world makes you think that?” I inquired.

“Don’t you remember what Captain Trout hinted to us, that some people
thought Carter had destroyed his father’s will?”

“Oh,” I said, light beginning to dawn, “you think that is what’s eating
Aunt Cal?”

“I’m sure of it. It isn’t the house, it’s the thought that he would do
such a thing—don’t you see?”

“But didn’t she say he was just a rotter anyway?”

“Yes, but that was after he’d been away. Before perhaps he was
different. Perhaps she cared about him, Sandy. I don’t mean in a
sentimental way necessarily. But maybe she was fond of him—they were
cousins, you know. Perhaps they played together when they were
children, went to school together——And it’s worse to have people
you’re fond of, people you’ve trusted, let you down than anything,
isn’t it?”

“Yes, I see,” I said. I regarded Eve thoughtfully. It was not the first
time that she had astonished me by reading the motives and desires that
were shut up inside of people. Indeed as I thought about it, I found
this new view of Aunt Cal so interesting that Michael and his troubles
were, I’m ashamed to say, entirely forgotten for the time being.

As I lay and watched the sea breeze flutter the muslin curtain, my
imagination was busy with the girl who had been Aunt Cal and the boy
who had been Carter Craven. I played with the idea that there had been
a romance between them. As for my uncle, Tom Poole, well I just left
him out of the picture.

The morning, however, brought me back to reality. It was Tuesday.
Tomorrow Michael would have to go to court. And nothing at all was
being done about it!

“If I could just be there,” Eve said soberly, “I’m sure I could make
that old judge listen to reason!”

“Aunt Cal,” I said, “would pass on at the suggestion—a niece of hers
in a police court!”

“I suppose so!” Eve sighed.

The morning’s mail brought an envelope addressed to me. It was from
Millport, from the photographer where Hamish had taken my film to be
developed. I called to Aunt Cal to come and look as I spread out the
prints on the kitchen table.

“Look here we are in our bathing suits!” I said teasingly. For dear
Aunt Cal went bathing in the days when girls wore ample costumes with
full skirts trimmed with white braid and little puff sleeves and
collars buttoned around their precious throats. We had come upon the
picture of her in one in an old album, so I knew.

Aunt Cal took up the picture and scanned it stoically. But instead of
the comment of disapproval I had expected, she only said, “I see you
got the sail boats in too.”

“Yes, aren’t they pretty?”

She nodded. Then she said a funny thing. “Your young farmer friend
shows up pretty good.”

“Michael, yes that’s him on the end.”

“Um. Didn’t you say it was Saturday that this car he’s in trouble about
was stolen?” she continued still more unexpectedly.

“Yes,” I said, “Saturday afternoon about half past five. Why do you
ask, Aunt Cal?”

She turned back to the sink where she was cleaning beets for dinner.
“Well,” she said, “you’ve got this picture, haven’t you, with this boy
in it? And you took it Saturday afternoon. If he wants—what is it they
call it?—an alibi——”

“Yes of course,” I agreed. “But we can’t prove that it was taken
Saturday afternoon, don’t you see?”

“Oh, I say, but we can!” Eve fairly bounced out of her chair. “Oh,
Sandy, don’t you see?”

I shook my head.

“Why the yachts! They came in Saturday afternoon, anybody in Fishers
Haven would swear to that! And Michael said, don’t you remember, that
they only came into this harbor once a year!”

I gazed at Eve and then at Aunt Cal. And the mounting excitement I felt
was not only at the discovery that perhaps we had found a way to save
Michael but also at the fact that it was Aunt Cal who had pointed it
out to us!

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                   XX

                          We Seek Legal Advice


“OH, Sandy, what luck that you took that picture!” Eve cried. “Shall we
take it to Michael right away or shall we wait till tomorrow and
present it as evidence when the case comes up in court?” She looked
doubtfully at Aunt Cal.

As I had expected Aunt Cal said she couldn’t have us poking around a
police court and it was finally decided that we should all take the
noon bus to Millport and see the lawyer whom Aunt Cal had visited on
Saturday.

“Gracious, I haven’t been so excited in my whole life before!” Eve
said. “Oh, Sandy, if we can only save Michael, won’t it be wonderful! I
can’t decide what dress I’d better put on—what do you think?” She
stood contemplating the row in her closet.

“Well, I don’t think it’ll matter a whole lot,” I returned, “as long as
it’s clean and whole.” I had seldom seen Eve so excited as she was that
morning.

“Oh, but we want to make a good impression, you never can tell when a
little thing like clothes will turn the balance!”

At last we were ready; Aunt Cal in her second best silk, Eve and I in
something far less impressive, but feeling frightfully important just
the same. We gulped down a glassful of milk each before we started, too
excited to eat anything. Aunt Cal locked Adam in the kitchen, more from
long habit, I think, than because she any longer feared he would be
enticed away.

The ride to Millport seemed interminable. It was a quarter to two when
we rolled into the dusty, car-lined main street of the town.

But luck was with us. Mr. Templeton, the lawyer, was in, a portly man
in shiny black who greeted Aunt Cal cordially and motioned us to
chairs. Aunt Cal inquired whether there was any news of the man Bangs.

“Nothing yet I’m afraid,” the lawyer said. “But we may get hold of the
fellow yet.”

“The girls have another matter they wish to discuss with you if you can
spare them a moment,” Aunt Cal then said in her precise manner.

“Spare the time!” I thought. “He’d jolly well better!”

“Certainly,” Mr. Templeton beamed kindly upon us. “Anything I can
do——”

It was Eve who told the story, of course. I would surely have made a
botch of it. When she had finished she took out the photograph and laid
it on the desk.

He examined it, nodding once or twice, while I fumed and twisted
inwardly. “Well,” he said at last, “I think perhaps the best thing we
can do is to go over and have a talk with the officer who has charge of
the case. Perhaps the young ladies will accompany me?” He looked
inquiringly at Aunt Cal.

She nodded her assent. “I will wait here,” she said. “The girls can go.”

“What about young Gilpatrick?” the lawyer inquired as we set forth.
“Any way of getting hold of him if we should want him?”

“Oh, Michael would be at the farm where he works until five o’clock,”
Eve told him. “It’s at Old Beecham, Seaman is the name, I think.”

The rest of the events of that perfectly thrilling afternoon will
always be slightly confused in my memory. What actually did happen is
so mixed with my doubts and fears of what might. Would the august
authority which was the Law stoop to consider our plea at all and, if
it did, would it admit anything so trifling as a snapshot taken by
myself as evidence?

I shall never forget the moment when the red-faced policeman bent
scowling over the picture; then handed it to one of his colleagues to
examine. Nor the moment when Mr. Templeton, tiptoeing in in order not
to interrupt the conference that was going on, whispered that he’d got
hold of Michael by telephone and that he’d be here in a short while.

Most of all I shall never forget the moment when Michael himself
entered the room. He was breathing fast after his hurried bicycle ride.
He did not know what he was wanted for of course but his mouth had that
same set look it had had when he had told us he’d never go to his
family for help. When he caught sight of Eve and me, his astonishment
for a moment wiped out every other expression. But in answer to Eve’s
encouraging smile, he gave only a curt nod and turned toward the desk.
“You sent for me, sir?” he said.

“Yeah,” drawled the officer. “Wanted to have another talk with you
’bout what you did last Saturday afternoon.”

Michael’s lips closed harder; he didn’t answer.

“Let’s see, you told us yesterday, that you didn’t come to Millport
that day.”

“Yes.”

“Where were you, then, Saturday afternoon?”

Michael scowled. “Just where I told you—on Fishers Haven Beach.”

“How long did you stay there?”

“From a little bit after four till just about seven.”

“Are you in this picture?”

Michael started as the policeman tossed the print across the desk. He
picked it up and looked at it. “Yes,” he said, “there on the end.”

“When was this picture taken?”

Michael stared for a second; then in a flash he got it! “Why you can
see for yourself,” he said, a new note in his voice. “It was taken the
day these yachts came in—last Saturday afternoon. They come into the
harbor the second Saturday in July every year. Here, you can see where
the last of them is just coming inside the breakwater!”

The other nodded. But the man beside the desk spoke suddenly: “How do
we know this here picture wasn’t taken Sunday morning when the boats
went out?” he inquired.

Michael laughed at him; it was his old light-hearted, ringing laugh.
“Well, you ought to know, sir,” he said, “that you can’t face inland
and have the sun in your face on Fishers Haven Beach in the morning!
The yachts leave early; the sun would have been behind us instead of in
our faces. Besides the position of the sails in the picture shows which
way the boats were moving. If they’d been going out——”

“All right,” the officer interrupted. “That’s all. Charge dismissed.”

“Oh,” Eve cried, “and he won’t have to go to court tomorrow!”

“That’s right,” the officer said with something that approached a
smile. He turned to Mr. Templeton and the two conferred together. I
caught the name of Bangs.

Michael came toward us; he was actually embarrassed. But the familiar
quirky smile played about his lately solemn countenance. He had come
from the farm just as he was and didn’t even wear a coat over his
turned-in blue shirt. “I thought I told you,” he said with the pretense
of a scowl, “that I didn’t want you mixed up in this!”

“Are you angry with us?” Eve asked demurely.

“Furious! And besides, I never am any good at saying thank you!”

“Then don’t,” retorted Eve. “Anyway it was all Aunt Cal’s doing. She
was the one who first saw what the picture might do for you.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                  XXI

                             A Closed Door


“I THINK it was just poisonous of you not to let us know!” Hattie May
pouted. “I’d just have adored going to a police station!”

“But there wasn’t time, Hattie May,” I protested. “We just had to rush
off to catch the bus as soon as we thought of it.”

“That’s just an excuse,” she declared. “You could have phoned me and
I’d have come right away. I’ll bet I could have managed those
policemen!”

“But they didn’t need any managing! All we had to do was to show ’em
the picture.”

Hamish, who had been lounging on the porch rail, gazing gloomily into
space, sighed heavily. “Well,” he said, “I guess me and Hattie May
might as well go back home. We don’t seem to be much use round here.”

“Nonsense, Hamish,” I said. “You ought to be rejoicing that Michael
doesn’t have to go to court, instead of grousing around.”

“Of course I’m glad he got off,” Hamish returned with dignity. “But,
considerin’ everything, I don’t think you ought to have taken an
important step like that without consulting me.”

I began to feel annoyed. “Well,” I sputtered, “you weren’t so awfully
anxious to help Michael the night he was arrested. Why didn’t you talk
then?”

Hamish looked more grieved than he had before. “Girls don’t understand
’bout such things,” he said. “If I’d popped out of those bushes when
they were taking Michael away, they’d simply have taken me along too
and asked questions later!”

“Well, don’t let’s argue,” Eve said soothingly. “Michael’s free—that’s
the main thing!”

Hamish did not answer. He drew a small square package from his pocket
and eyed it sardonically. “Just money thrown away!” he muttered.

“What’s that?” Eve asked dimpling. “A present for me!”

“No it isn’t. It’s a little contraption I picked up for
Michael—thought it would help him while away the long hours of
his—er—incarceration!”

“Hamish Lewis,” I cried, “how can you talk in that cold-blooded,
outrageous, unfeeling, mean manner?”

“Well you don’t need to get excited, he isn’t going, is he? But the way
things were day before yesterday, it certainly looked as if he was.”

“What is it?” Eve broke in. “Do show me.”

Hamish opened the package and shook out onto his palm several small
brass rings looped together. “It’s a puzzle,” he explained. “The thing
is to get all the rings onto this big one.”

“Very appropriate for a man in jail!” Hattie May giggled.

Hamish glared at her and returned the puzzle to its box. “No one,” he
said, “ever appreciates anything I try to do!”

“Oh, come, Hamish, do cheer up,” Eve urged. “I’m sure there are loads
of people who would just eat that puzzle up, so to speak. Folks with
spare time on their hands like—” her glance strayed to the house
beyond the hedge—“like Captain Trout for instance.”

Hamish brightened visibly. “Do you really think he’d like it?” he said.
“But I scarcely know the old bird! Wouldn’t he think it kind of funny
if I went over and just said, ‘By the way here’s a present for you’?”

We all laughed. “What about the hair tonic?” I asked. “You were going
to give him that.”

Hamish scowled. “That was different,” he said shortly, “entirely a
different matter!”

“I tell you,” Eve said jumping up. “Let’s all go over and make him a
call. We ought to tell him about Michael’s case being dismissed;
perhaps he hasn’t heard. Then Hamish can show him the puzzle and if he
warms to it——”

Hattie May was still pouting as we made our way around by the front
gate to the Captain’s back door. To my surprise the door was closed,
though the cloud of smoke which was issuing from the chimney seemed to
indicate that the Captain was at home and doing some cooking.

Hamish was just about to knock when Eve caught his arm. “Listen!” she
whispered.

From behind the door came the sound of voices. One of them, slightly
nasal, I recognized as the Captain’s. The other was low-pitched and
gruff. “He’s got company,” I whispered. “Maybe we’d better not bother
him just now.”

Hamish looked disappointed. And we were still hesitating when the door
was flung violently open and the Captain himself burst out. “Hot as
blazes in there, Biscuits!” he sputtered. “Need some air——” He
stopped short as he became aware of our presence. “Well, well, well,
bless my boots!” With that he turned and closed the door behind him
with a slam and advanced to the middle of the porch, where he stood
gazing at the street.

But the door had not closed before I had had a fleeting glimpse of a
figure bent over the stove—a short thickset figure in a sailor’s
trousers and a sleeveless shirt.

“Something smells awfully good,” Eve said by way of relieving the
embarrassment which seemed to have seized us all. “We came over to tell
you about Michael,” she added. “His case has been dismissed.”

“You don’t say—well, that’s fine!” The Captain motioned us to seats
and began fumbling for his pipe. “Glad you dropped in; tell me all
about it.”

While we told the story for the second time that morning, I was
conscious that the Captain’s eyes strayed every now and then toward the
closed door as if he were fearful that it might open. All the time we
talked the clatter of pans and the sound of sizzling fat reached us and
once I distinctly heard a raucous cough.

It was after a particularly loud crash as if some large tin receptacle
had fallen to the floor that the Captain remarked with a nervous
chuckle, “Got me a new cook. He thinks he’s in a ship’s galley, I
guess! Ha, ha!”

“It must be awfully hot cooking on a day like this,” Hattie May
remarked guilelessly. “I should think he’d want the door open.”

The Captain shook his head positively. “Not a bit of it. He likes it
hot—used to it. Tropics, you know; the hotter, the better! Why, would
you believe it, I actually had to go up attic last night and bring him
down a winter blanket? Said he had a chill!”

“Really!” exclaimed Hattie May. “The poor fellow!”

It was at this moment that the Captain’s fear was realized. The door
did open but it was only a crack, just enough to let out a strong odor
of frying grease borne on a cloud of smoke and, with it, the form of
Daisy June, her tail erect and her fur on end.

“Jumpin’ Jericho!” exploded the Captain jumping to his feet. But before
he could reach the door, it had slammed again, while the kitten
streaked across the grass and disappeared under a bush.

“I’m afraid we’re keeping you from your dinner,” Eve said, rising.

“Not a bit of it,” the Captain assured her. But as if to give denial to
his assertion, at that moment a ship’s gong was heard booming loudly
from within. Mechanically we all got to our feet. “Aunt Cal’s awfully
annoyed with us when we don’t come to dinner on time,” Eve went on
conversationally. “I really think you ought to go in, Captain.”

“Well, well, that’s too bad!” The Captain’s polite protestations
followed us as we descended the steps and marched, in single file, to
the front gate. No one spoke till we had reached Aunt Cal’s side porch.
We seated ourselves in a row on the top step. It was Hattie May who
broke the silence. “Another mystery!” she exclaimed. “I guess Hamish
and I’ll stay the week out anyway.”

“Fat chance,” said Hamish, “of finding out anything with that door kept
shut! And the Captain guarding it like a bally old sea dog or sumpin.”

“I dare say,” I said lightly, “that there’s really no mystery at all.
Perhaps the Captain simply considered that the seafaring gentleman from
the tropics wasn’t fit company for what he calls ‘young ladies’.”

Hattie May shook her head emphatically. “Nonsense! He was jumpy as a
rabbit! There’s more to it than that.”

“It did all seem a little—queer,” Eve mused. “What do you think,
Hamish?”

Hamish looked appeased at this deference to his opinion. “Well if you
want to know what I think,” he stated significantly, “I think he’s
hiding someone!”

“Do you mean—Bangs?” I breathed. And we all stared at Hamish’s round
solemn face.

“That’s what he calls himself!” he answered.

“Hamish, for Pete’s sake, what are you driving at?” his sister burst
out. “If you’ve got anything to tell why on earth don’t you tell it?
You’re not in the secret service yet, you know! Stop acting like a ‘G’
man.”

“Oh, all right, all right—make fun of me! Treat me ’sif I was Buddie,
the Boy Detective, if you want to!” He got up stiffly and started down
the path toward his car.

“Hamish,” called Eve softly, “please don’t go yet. What are we going to
do about this—this criminal next door? I’m scared stiff!”

He turned about and regarded her suspiciously. But the sincerity in her
brown eyes apparently reassured him. “Well,” he said, coming back and
reseating himself, “if you want my advice—I think the place oughta be
watched.”

“If the man the Captain’s hiding really is Bangs,” Eve said
thoughtfully, “then I think we ought to tell Aunt Cal. She’s very
anxious to have a talk with him.”

“Oh, no, you mustn’t do that—not yet!” Hamish returned quickly.

“But why not?” I protested.

“Oh, gosh, don’t you see!” Hamish’s impatience with the female
intellect was apparent. “Don’t you see that Bangs—or whatever his name
is—is the only person who can lead us to that treasure—or whatever
he’s after at Craven House? If he’s arrested, the game’s up.”

“Hamish is perfectly right,” agreed Hattie May in mounting excitement.
“What we’ve got to do is to watch!”

“But why should the Captain be hiding the man if it is Bangs?” I
demanded. “It makes him guilty too in a way—what is it they call
it—an accessory!”

“You can depend upon it,” returned Hamish profoundly, “he has his
reasons.”

Aunt Cal opened the door. “Dinner’s ready,” she said.

Hattie May and Hamish got up. “Keep your eye on the place as much as
you can,” Hamish said in a whisper. “I’ll be round as soon as it gets
dark.”

“You mean you’re going to watch the house all night?” Eve asked.

“Sure. But don’t say anything to your aunt yet. Not until tomorrow
anyway. Promise?”

“We-ll, all right,” Eve agreed reluctantly. “We promise.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                  XXII

                               The Escape


I HAD looked forward to a swim that afternoon but Hamish’s request that
we keep an eye on the house next door forced us reluctantly to abandon
the plan. Hamish might be a bit theatrical at times but there was no
denying the fact that the Captain had a strange visitor and that, for
whatever reason, he had appeared most unwilling to make us acquainted
with the gentleman. So there did seem some sense in the idea that we
keep our eyes peeled for what went on in our neighbor’s domain.

But as the long afternoon wore away, it seemed evident that nothing at
all was going on. The smoke had long since died away from the chimney
and, though the back door still remained fast closed, there was no sign
of activity within.

I had been, I will confess, a little surprised that Eve had given
Hamish her promise to say nothing to Aunt Cal about the mysterious
guest next door. For Eve, though she could never be called in the least
goody goody, has nevertheless rather strict ideas about honor and all
that. She knew that the police were searching for Bangs and yet she was
keeping silent.

“Eve,” I said at last. She had given up the pretense of sewing and was
lying in the fragrant shadow of the syringa bush, her eyes on the
drifting foamy clouds. “Eve, why did you agree not to tell Aunt Cal?”

“Why,” she frowned a little, “I only agreed to keep it dark till
tomorrow.”

“But why did you agree at all?” I insisted. “It wasn’t because of that
buried treasure stuff—because he might lead us to that?”

“No, it wasn’t that.”

“Then what was it?” I demanded caught by something evasive in her tone.
“What was the reason?”

“Oh, well, I suppose I might as well tell you! You heard what Hamish
said, didn’t you, about Bangs—that his real name might be something
else?”

“Of course, but what of it? Suppose his name is Jones or Brown, what’s
that got to do with it?”

“Hasn’t it ever occurred to you, Sandy,” she said slowly, “that it’s
rather strange that this man has the key to Craven House and—well,
that he knows his way about inside it so well that he was able to hide
from the police the night they searched for him? Doesn’t that strike
you as rather peculiar?”

“Eve, what are you driving at?” I cried.

“Well, suppose—just suppose—that Bangs, instead of being someone who
could give Aunt Cal news of Carter Craven, suppose he was—was Carter
himself!”

“Carter Craven! Oh, Eve, it couldn’t be! Why, he’s supposed to be dead,
isn’t he? And—oh, besides—why this man is just a little sawed-off,
bald headed rascal!”

“Well, you’ve got to remember that Carter was nothing more than a
good-for-nothing—Aunt Cal practically said so.”

“He might be a good-for-nothing,” I retorted, “but that doesn’t make
him a common thief. Besides,” I added firmly, “I don’t believe Aunt Cal
could ever have been fond of a man with bowlegs!”

“What have his legs got to do with it, I’d like to know?”

“Well you know what I mean—he just isn’t the type to be Carter
Craven!” And yet as I uttered the words a horrible doubt had begun to
assail me. Suppose Eve was right, suppose this skulking vendor of fake
hair lotions should turn out to be the long missing son of Craven
House, well where did that put us? So far as we were concerned, of
course, it didn’t really matter except that it made everything seem
rather sordid. But Aunt Cal, how would she feel to find her own cousin
facing a charge for petty thievery? Was that why Eve had promised to
keep still?

“You want him to escape then?” I demanded. “On account of Aunt Cal?”

“Well wouldn’t it be the best thing that could happen?” she returned.
“It isn’t of course as if they hadn’t recovered the car.”

“But the treasure—that letter—those measurements? If he goes—we’ll
never know.”

She shrugged. “What does that matter compared with Aunt Cal’s pride? As
things are she can think of Carter as having died peacefully in some
foreign country. Of course there’s the little matter of the will—still
nothing ever has been proved. Whereas this crime of stealing—everyone
would know if Carter was charged with that!”

I sighed. I felt terribly disillusioned. “I don’t believe he is
Carter!” I repeated stubbornly. “Carter was an adventurer—wild,
restless, perhaps—but big in his way like the old Captain, his father.”

“In short a kind of romantic, story book hero!” retorted Eve cruelly,
“wavy raven locks and fiery piercing eye and all that!”

“And straight legs!” I added. “Well, we’ll wait and see!”

After supper Miss Rose Blossom appeared to discuss Civic Betterment
plans with Aunt Cal and the two were closeted in the front parlor for
the rest of the evening. Things could not have turned out better for
us. Just as dusk was beginning to fall we heard a low whistle from the
bushes by the front fence and going out, found Hamish crouched behind
them. “Where is she?” he whispered.

“In the parlor with the windows shut so you don’t need to whisper,” I
said. “And by the way, if it’s not too much to ask, I’d like to know
what you expect to do in case this—this creature next door does try to
escape?”

“I’ll follow him of course,” he said still speaking in a guarded
undertone as if he imagined there was some hidden listener behind the
next bush. “If he’s who I think he won’t be leaving these parts till
he’s got hold of what he’s after!”

“You mean you’d follow him if he went out to Craven House tonight?” I
demanded. “Does Hattie May know?”

“Never mind Hattie May,” he retorted shortly. “I’ve got to see this
thing through and I’m not going to have any interference from girls,
d’you hear?”

Eve giggled. “Well do try to keep away from wells and things, won’t
you? And I do hope you won’t catch your death of cold out here in the
damp yard.”

“I’ve got my raincoat,” he said. “Now all you’ve got to do is to
scram—see—and keep your mouths shut!”

“Absolutely,” Eve said. “Good luck—see you in the morning!”

It did seem funny going to bed with Hamish hiding out there in the
bushes. Would he really stick it out, I wondered? Sometimes there
seemed more to Hamish than appeared on the surface. Eve poked back the
curtains after she had blown out the light. “See anything of him?” I
asked.

“Not even a shadow! Wonder what Aunt Cal would think if she knew that
the house was guarded!”

Darkness and quiet descended then. Soon Eve’s even breathing told me
that she was asleep. For awhile I lay wondering some more about Captain
Trout’s visitor, coming finally to the common-sense view that he was
just what the Captain himself had stated—a ship’s cook, perhaps
temporarily out of a job. Having reached this conclusion, I fell
comfortably asleep.

The next thing I was conscious of was a footstep in the hall outside
the bedroom door. My first startled thought was of the cook. Then I
heard the steps descending the stairs, soft but firm. Aunt Cal, of
course. But the dark square of the window told me that it couldn’t be
morning yet—why was she going downstairs in the middle of the night?
What prompted her?

I was wide awake at once. What had happened? Had I missed something? I
slipped out of bed and to the open bedroom door. The reflection of a
light was on the wall, coming from the hall below. I stole to the top
of the stairs. I could hear the key turning in the front
door—something very special must be up, I thought. I couldn’t just
stand there and listen, I’d got to know.

I flew back to the bedroom, got into my dressing gown and slippers. Eve
had not stirred. A minute later I was following Aunt Cal out onto the
narrow front stoop. She had set the lamp down on the little stand in
the hall and the light from it streamed out. She turned and saw me as I
started down the steps. “What is the matter?” I whispered.

Instead of the rebuke I had looked for, she said indignantly, “There’s
a tramp asleep behind the hedge! I don’t know what this town is coming
to!”

“B-but how do you know?” I stammered. “I mean maybe you just imagined
it—the shadows, you know—and—and all——”

“Sandra, you’d better go back to bed,” she returned severely. “I do not
require any advice or assistance.”

“No, of course not,” I returned hastily. “I just meant that things are
deceptive at night. And even if it is a tramp,” I went on desperately,
“wouldn’t it be better to wait till morning? At least it would be
safer.”

She was not listening to me. She had now advanced firmly halfway across
the little front yard toward the hedge. “Why on earth couldn’t Hamish
have stayed out of sight?” I thought, “and what had moved my aunt to
look out of the window in the middle of the night anyway!”

Aunt Cal reached the hedge and peered over it. “Come out of there,” she
ordered loudly, “or I shall have you arrested for trespassing.”

There was no answer. She advanced along the hedge, she was approaching
the clump of bushes where we had last seen Hamish. I held my breath. If
only I could do something to prevent the revelation that was impending!
I wished Eve were there, she might have had an inspiration.

Aunt Cal had reached the bushes. She had picked up a stick and now
began poking at them fiercely. “Come out of there!” she repeated. “Or I
shall call the police!”

All of a sudden my eyes, which had been vainly trying to pierce the
shadows, were attracted upward. In the house beyond the hedge a light
had winked on. It was in the little upper window facing our way. Aunt
Cal saw it too for she paused momentarily in her poking.

And while our attention was thus distracted, a figure hurtled from
between the bushes and the hedge and plunged headlong through the
latter and on across Captain Trout’s back yard, a rubber coat flapping
about its ankles as it ran. “There! What’d I tell you!” Aunt Cal
exclaimed. “The miserable loafer!”

We watched the figure disappear into the darkness. “Tomorrow,” said my
aunt, “I shall make a complaint. Come, you must go back to bed at once,
you’ll catch your death on this wet grass.”

“Yes, Aunt Cal,” I said meekly, and followed her back into the house.
And without further ado I presently found myself back in my own room
again with the door, by special admonition of Aunt Cal, locked on the
inside.

But the light in Captain Trout’s upstairs window still winked across
the grass and now and then, I could see it blink as if a figure stepped
between it and the window. Perhaps the cook had had another chill, I
thought with an inward chuckle, and had demanded still more blankets!
Well anyway Hamish had got safely away. Then, suddenly as it had come,
the light winked out.

“What’re you looking at?” Eve stirred sleepily.

“Nothing,” I began and stopped. Someone was coming out of the house
next door—a short figure in white duck trousers, dark coat and visored
cap. The Captain? Where on earth could he be going at this ungodly hour?

Eve was beside me, I could hear her catch her breath. “It’s him!” she
said.

“You mean the Captain?” I asked, puzzled at her intensity.

“Of course not. Can’t you see the way he walks and—and his legs!”

“You mean it’s the cook all togged up like that?”

“Disguised of course. We might have expected something like this. I
suppose Hamish is asleep by now.”

“No,” I said, “I don’t think so. The last I saw him he was hoofing it
across Captain Trout’s back yard in the general direction of the sea.”
And I told her what had happened.

“Why on earth didn’t you wake me?” she said when I had finished. “To
think I should have missed it all! Do you think Aunt Cal suspects
anything?”

“I don’t think so. Where d’you suppose he’s going, Eve—the cook, I
mean?”

“Back to sea, very likely.”

“Then that’ll be the end—of everything. And we’ll never know who he
was or what he wanted!”

Eve yawned. “Well that’s apt to be the way things peter out in real
life, you know,” she said. “The villains just walk out of the picture.”

“And the noble man hunter takes to his heels!” I sighed.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                 XXIII

                            A Belated Visit


HATTIE MAY came over early next morning. She was in a frightful temper
and declared she was going to take the next train back to Mason’s Cove
and leave Hamish to his fate.

“What’s he done now?” I inquired. “No more run-ins with the police, I
hope?”

“So far as I’m concerned,” she stated, “he could languish in a foul
dungeon before I would lift a finger to extrapate him!”

“Extricate, I expect you mean,” I said. “But what has he done?”

She flung herself into Aunt Cal’s rocker on the back porch and began to
rock violently. “He locked me in my room, that’s what he did!”

“Locked you in your room? But whatever for?”

“You’ll have to ask him that! It was last night. As soon as I was
convinced he actually meant to carry out his crazy plan of watching
that house, I told him he shouldn’t go one step without me.”

“Yes, well? I suppose he didn’t take to the notion?”

“My dear, he just shut up like a clam. And all during supper I couldn’t
get a single solitary civil word out of him. It made me awfully
embarrassed, sitting at the table with the other people all chatting
away and him acting like that! Never once opening his mouth except to
shovel in food.”

“Disgusting!” I agreed.

“Well right after supper I went upstairs to get me a heavy sweater
because I knew if I’d got to sit up all night out in your yard I’d need
it. Well I was rummaging in the closet when I heard the door close very
softly and locked from the outside! Can you imagine! The ingrate had
followed me upstairs, waited till my back was turned and then turned
the key.”

“But how did you get out?” I asked, stifling a desire to giggle. “Did
the ingrate return?”

“I suppose he must have,” she answered indifferently. “The door was
unlocked this morning. He didn’t appear at breakfast so I suppose he’s
asleep.”

“I know how you must feel, Hattie May,” said Eve sympathetically. “But
I suppose Hamish felt that what he had to do was a man’s job——”

“Man’s job!” she interrupted, with a scornful snort.

“Well he felt that girls around would sort of gum things up. He sent us
packing in pretty short order.”

“Then he came?” she asked with curiosity. “Did anything happen?”

I told her about Aunt Cal’s interruption of the vigil and then about
the departure of the mysterious stranger from the house next door.

“My goodness,” she exclaimed when I had finished. “Then there is
something to it. The man’s a crook or he wouldn’t sneak off like that
in the dead of night. I certainly am glad Hamish wasn’t there to see
him, though. Why he might have been trailing the man yet, he might even
have followed him onto a ship and gone to sea!”

“Well, you know persistence is a fine quality,” I remarked.

“Oh, yes, it’s all very well for you to stand up for him but you didn’t
spend the night under lock and key. I kept waking up and thinking what
I would do if there was a fire, and I thought how Hamish would feel
when he gazed at my charred body!”

“Oh, well, there wasn’t any fire and you spent a comfortable night in
bed instead of on the damp ground,” Eve said soothingly.

Hattie May seemed to be thinking. “I do think it’s a crime that a man
like that should be allowed to escape,” she said at last. “I wonder if
Hamish knows about it?”

“Well, since you’re not on speaking terms with him,” I giggled, “I
don’t see how you’re going to find out. Besides if you’re leaving on
the afternoon train——”

“Oh, I suppose I’d better stick around,” Hattie May said. “We can’t be
sure that the fellow has gone back to sea and—there’s the key!”

But for all Hattie May’s sticking around, no more was seen of Captain
Trout’s mysterious visitor. Aunt Cal reported to the local constable
that a tramp attempted to pass the night in her yard and the following
evening we saw a uniformed figure peering over our hedge just after
dusk. But apparently discouraged by his failure to round up anything
more criminal than Daisy June chasing fireflies, he soon abandoned the
pursuit and retired—we guessed—along with other respectable citizens
to the shelter of his own roof.

So much for the tramp! As for Captain Trout—whom Hattie May now dubbed
our perfidious neighbor—nothing much was to be got out of him. A
guarded reference on Eve’s part to his late guest elicited merely the
statement that he, the Captain, couldn’t stomach so much fried food and
had sent the fellow packing.

It was one day after dinner, the following week, that Aunt Cal, who had
spent the morning baking, said she had made a little spice cake for
Mrs. Viner. “I was expecting to take it out to her this afternoon,” she
remarked, “but Rose has called a meeting of the Civic Betterment to see
about those folks burning rubbish in the lot beyond the millpond. Of
course the cake will keep——”

“Oh, do let us take it out, Aunt Cal?” I begged. “We’d just love to.”

“I don’t know about that,” she shook her head doubtfully. “After what
happened to my dandelion wine——”

“Oh, please don’t hold that up against us,” Eve pleaded. “You must
admit the circumstances that time were unusual. Hamish isn’t likely to
fall into another well—at least I hope not!”

No one can resist Eve for long. And so in the end, Aunt Cal packed the
cake in a basket and entrusted it to our keeping. “Tell Mrs. Viner I’ll
be out to see her in a few days,” she said. “That is, if you see her!”
she added dryly.

I took the basket. “Aunt Cal,” I said, “this day will vindicate our
reputation, you can depend upon it!” I blew a kiss toward her as I
opened the door.

“Well, if you take my advice,” she sent a parting shot after us, “you
won’t make any stops on the way.”

We decided to walk down the shore road and call for Hattie May. She had
been so disappointed at our failure to take her to Millport on
Michael’s affair that we were anxious not to seem to slight her again.
“But I’m not at all sure she’ll be good for the invalid,” Eve remarked.
“She’s quite as likely as not to tell her she’s looking poorly or start
talking about some lovely funeral she went to!”

We found her alone. “I’ve just finished a letter to Mother,” she said,
“and I guess Hamish’ll be hearing from Dad before long!”

“You don’t mean he’s still acting strangely?”

“My dear, I scarcely see him at all except at meals and he won’t tell
me a solitary thing!”

We caught the two o’clock bus from the square and at a little before
three were opening the gate of the big stone house which Aunt Cal had
described to us. Somewhat to my relief, we found the invalid much
improved and sitting out in the sun. She welcomed us cordially and I
guessed that she was pleased enough to have some one new to talk to. We
chattered on, telling her about school, about Hamish’s fall into the
well and about our discovery of the statue of Circe at the bottom of it.

“Dear me,” she exclaimed, “what a terrible experience for the poor boy.
I wonder that he retained his reason, I’m sure I shouldn’t have!”

“I’m not a bit sure that he has,” Hattie May said feelingly, “at least
not all of it. The way he acts!”

We laughed and Mrs. Viner said, “I remember so well when the old
Captain—as we used to call him—first set up those statues in his
garden. My, what a lot of talk it made!”

“You knew Aunt Cal when she was a girl, I suppose?” I said.

“Oh, dear, yes, we went to school together. At the old district school
that was torn down when they put the state road through.”

“Did you know my uncle, Tom Poole, too?” I asked.

“Yes. Cal and Tom were married the year before the old Captain died.
When she came back from the West, I hoped I would have her for a
neighbor but—well, things turned out differently,” she added
discreetly.

We talked on till suddenly Eve jumped up. “We were cautioned the other
time we started to call on you not to stay more than ten minutes,” she
said, “and not to talk any nonsense. I’m afraid we’ve broken both
rules.”

“The idea!” Mrs. Viner laughed. “You mustn’t take your Aunt too
seriously.”

“But we really must go now,” I agreed. “You see our reputation is at
stake today. Aunt Cal doesn’t really trust us out of her sight any
more.”

“Cal’s bark is a lot worse than her bite,” Mrs. Viner returned. “And
you’re to tell her from me that I’m feeling much better for your visit.”

A short distance beyond Mrs. Viner’s gate, Eve stopped suddenly. “If
there was any other way to go home,” she said, “I’d be in favor of
taking it.”

“Well there isn’t,” I retorted. “And if you find that old house so
enticing that you can’t even walk by it, it’s just too bad! For my part
I wouldn’t care if I never saw it again.”

“Just the same let’s—well, let’s rest a minute,” she said. “Here on
the wall.”

“Rest? Gracious we’ve just started!”

Eve sat down. “I just happened to think,” she said carelessly, “that
it’s about time for Michael to come along.”

“Huh!” I retorted. “I’ll bet you’ve been planning to wait for him all
the afternoon. I think you’re a shameless hussy!”

Hattie May giggled. “I don’t see why we shouldn’t wait for him,” she
said. “If he has his wagon he’ll give us a lift.”

“Yes, and if he’s on his bicycle, he’ll wave his hand and go sailing
by. And we’ll miss the bus!”

We were still arguing when the faint rattle of a wagon fell on our ears
and a moment later, Michael’s blue shirt and brown head appeared above
the brow of the hill. “Hello,” he called as he drew alongside of us,
“waiting for some one?”

“Just resting,” Eve told him with a twinkle.

“Don’t want a lift then?” he grinned.

“Well perhaps we might—what d’you think, girls?”

But Hattie May was already in the front seat and Eve and I climbed into
the rear as we had done that first day when we had fairly to beg for a
ride.

“Anything new in the mystery line?” Michael inquired with a slap of the
reins.

“Well,” said Eve between jolts, “your friend Captain Trout has been
harboring a visitor—a kind of cooking recluse, if you know what I
mean. But he left in the dead of night arrayed in white trousers and a
visored cap.”

Michael did not seem greatly impressed by these revelations. “The
Captain knows a lot of seafaring birds,” he said. “Very likely the
fellow blew in between sailings.”

“Then you don’t think it was Bangs?” I asked.

“How should I know. But there’s something else you might be interested
in—somebody’s been digging up that old garden again.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                  XXIV

                                It Fits!


AT these words my heart sank. “There goes all our good resolutions and
promises!” I thought. For of course I knew that we’d never go straight
home now!

“Digging up the garden!” cried Eve. “How d’you know?”

“I saw it this morning when I stopped to have a look for my flashlight
which I mislaid the night I was—ah—pinched! The door was locked, and
I couldn’t get into the house. On my way out I noticed that somebody’d
been at work in the garden in a new place.”

“Then that creature hasn’t left the country at all,” Hattie May cried.
“It’s just as I suspected, he’s still after the treasure!”

We were approaching the house. “Want to stop and have a look?” Michael
inquired teasingly. “Might pick up a clue—collar button or whatnot!
Don’t you think?”

“Oh, no, I don’t think we’d better,” I began hurriedly, though I knew
as I said it that it was useless.

“Of course we must stop,” Hattie May declared. “Hamish would never
forgive me if I neglected a single clue!”

“We-ll,” said Eve doubtfully, “I don’t suppose it would really do any
harm just to run in for a minute. So long as we don’t have to catch the
bus,” she glanced doubtfully at me.

I shrugged. “Do just as you like,” I said, “but don’t expect me to
explain things to Aunt Cal!”

“Leave Aunt Cal to me!” Eve laughed lightly and began to climb down
from the wagon. Without enthusiasm I followed her and once more found
myself making my way over the wall, across the yard toward the tangled
garden. It was getting to be a habit, I reflected. It almost seemed as
if some unknown force kept drawing us back to the old house and its
secrets.

Michael pointed out the place where a new hole had been dug nearby
where we had discovered the first one, and apparently hastily filled in
again. Could it be that Bangs had returned?

“You’d hardly think he’d dare hang around,” Eve said thoughtfully.

“It just shows how badly he wants that treasure,” Hattie May cried.
“He’s willing to take any risk.”

“Wish I could think of a way to get my flashlight,” Michael said,
glancing toward the house. “I think I’ll just have a try at those
cellar windows on a chance,” he added. “Be right back.”

“They’re all nailed fast,” Eve called after him. But he strode on.

We sat down on the edge of the fountain. The statue of Circe still lay
where we had left it, reclining in the leaf strewn bowl. Hattie May
began poking with a stick in the newly filled hole. Several minutes
went by and Michael did not return. “He must have got in after all,”
Eve said, glancing a little apprehensively I thought, toward the thick
growth of bushes that obscured our view of the rear of the house.

As she spoke our attention was caught by the sound of a car coming up
the hill. Automobiles passed that way so seldom that we all jumped up
instinctively. To our surprise it appeared to be slowing down in front
of the house. Then suddenly I recognized Miss Blossom’s little coupe
and saw that lady’s ample bulk at the wheel. A woman beside her was
leaning over and peering out.

I groaned as I looked. “Aunt Cal! If that isn’t just our luck!”

Hattie May giggled. “Look, the fat lady is waving!”

“Come on,” Eve started for the wall. “I’ll explain everything
satisfactorily to Aunt Cal.”

We climbed back over the wall. Miss Blossom beamed upon us. “We’re out
joy riding,” she explained. “I told Cal she needed a little relaxation
from her responsibilities. We’ve been doing forty miles an hour before
we struck the hill!”

“We thought,” Aunt Cal remarked pointedly, “that we might meet you
coming home!”

“Oh,” I said confusedly, “we are—I mean we’re going on directly—we’re
just waiting for Michael.”

But Aunt Cal did not seem to be listening to my halting excuses.
Instead, I saw that her eyes—and her thoughts with them, I
guessed—had strayed beyond me toward the house dreaming there in the
soft sunset light.

“My, how sweet it smells!” exclaimed Miss Blossom. “I wonder if those
tea roses are still blooming? Do you remember them, Cal? They were the
sweetest ones I ever knew! What d’you say we take a peek around?”

Aunt Cal seemed to come back with a start. “Get out if you wish, Rose,”
she said. “I hardly think I care to do so.”

“Oh, come on,” Miss Blossom urged. “Stretch your legs a little.” She
began, as she spoke, lowering her massive bulk onto the running board.
We gave her a hand over the wall, though she was surprisingly agile for
one of her size. The tall grass fell away before her as at the advance
of a steam roller. “My,” she exclaimed, “what a jungle!” She turned
again, “Come on, Cal,” she urged.

Aunt Cal seemed to hesitate. And then I saw that she, too, was getting
out of the car. We came, all five of us, back to the garden. Michael
was still absent. Miss Blossom sank panting on the edge of the
fountain. “My land! It’s just a crime to let a place run down like
this!” she commented. “’Member the time we went wading in this
fountain, Cal?”

But Aunt Cal, if she remembered, did not say so. She was standing
erect, gazing about her. And it was not so much sorrow at the sight of
the neglect and decay that I read in her face as regret for something
that is past and gone forever.

Suddenly Michael came advancing toward us. “Hullo, there,” Miss Blossom
called. “Is the house unlocked? Could we go inside?”

To my amazement Michael nodded. “Yes,” he said, “it’s unlocked.”

“But I thought you said,” Eve began and then stopped.

“Good!” said Miss Blossom. “Then we can take a look around.”

“Oh, no, Rose!” Aunt Cal spoke up sharply. “Not inside!”

“But why not?” returned the other matter-of-factly. “If the agent’s so
careless as to leave the place unlocked, he couldn’t object to our
going in. I’d just love to see how the old place looks—I hear it’s
just about as Carter left it.”

“It isn’t much to see,” Michael remarked. “Just a musty old place.”

“Michael Gilpatrick,” Miss Blossom demanded accusingly, “is there some
reason why you don’t want us to go in. Out with it—what mischief have
you been up to?”

Michael’s brown face reddened at the memory of last Saturday night. “I
only went after my flashlight,” he said a trifle lamely. “I left it
somewhere around——”

Miss Blossom jumped up spryly. “Well, anyway, I’m going in,” she
declared. “Come on, Cal, don’t be sentimental!”

I got up too. I found myself suddenly sharing Miss Blossom’s curiosity.
Eve and Hattie May followed us and, as we reached the door, I saw Aunt
Cal and Michael reluctantly bringing up the rear. Aunt Cal wore a
strange expression as if some inner force were compelling her against
her will.

Miss Blossom pushed open the door and advanced into the kitchen. “My,”
she snorted, “what a stuffy place! What this house needs is a good
airing and”—she glanced sharply around—“a good scrubbing with strong
soap and plenty of elbow grease. Look at that range, Cal!”

But Aunt Cal did not look at the range. She was staring ahead at the
open door and at the wide hall beyond it. It was as if she expected to
see someone advancing out of the shadows.

Then Hattie May’s high-pitched voice broke in. “Listen,” she said,
“what’s that noise!”

“I don’t hear anything,” I said. “And I guess you don’t either, it’s
just your imagination.”

“But I did, I tell you. There! There it is again!”

For an instant we all stood listening. And sure enough, there was
something, a gentle tapping noise coming from far down the hall. “My
land, the place is haunted!” Miss Blossom giggled nervously. “Oh,
girls, I’m scared!”

Eve looked at Michael. “Do you know what it is?” she demanded.

He shook his head. “No, but I think it’s time I found out!” He walked
toward the open hall door as he spoke.

To my amazement, Aunt Cal hurried after him. She was just behind him as
he put out his hand for the handle of the parlor door. “Be careful,
Cal!” Miss Blossom called in a whisper. “I wouldn’t——”

Aunt Cal paid no heed. And as Michael opened the door she advanced with
him across the threshold. From where we stood in the middle of the hall
we heard a startled exclamation. Then suddenly, like a breath of fresh
air, came Michael’s clear ringing voice breaking from surprise into
laughter. “Hamish! What on earth——?”

We all crowded forward. In the middle of the shuttered parlor stood
Hamish, looking very much like a small boy caught stealing jam. His
face was flushed, his shirt rumpled and I noticed a filigree of cobweb
clinging to his hair. “Just a little private investigating I been
doin’,” he offered the explanation sullenly as we all clustered
wonderingly about him. “But of course,” he added petulantly, “I can’t
get anywhere with a lot of folks bustin’ in on me!”

“Hamish Lewis, what are you doing in this house?” Hattie May demanded
shrilly. “Look at your shirt and that tear in your trousers!”

Hamish regarded his sister coldly. “All a girl thinks about is
clothes,” he muttered.

I was scarcely listening to this interchange. Ever since I had entered
the room I had been conscious of something which had not been there
before. This was a curious odor, a heavy, sweet aromatic smell. A smell
which reminded me of the East and vaguely, too, of something else, that
awakened a hazy memory.

“Mercy, what smells so funny!” Miss Blossom was sniffing the air.

“Guess you mean that jar that got spilled.” Hamish, still with a highly
injured air, pointed to where a small bronze jar lay overturned in
front of the fireplace. “I moved that cabinet a little,” he added, “and
that jar fell out and spilled. It had that funny smelling stuff inside.”

Aunt Cal went over to where the jar lay and, stooping, began gathering
up the scattering of dried brown particles and stuffing them back.
“It’s the jar of myrrh,” she murmured, “that Uncle Judd brought back
from Arabia.”

It was then that I suddenly found myself saying a thing for which I was
totally unable to account. The words seemed to come out of themselves,
almost as if another person had spoken them. “The cabinet,” I said,
“doesn’t belong there anyway.” And I added inconsequentially, “It’s
right in the way of the cupboard.”

“Cupboard?” Eve looked at me strangely. And Hattie May said, “I don’t
see any cupboard. What on earth are you talking about?”

“The cupboard there by the fireplace,” I insisted.

“Sandy,” said Eve anxiously, “what’s the matter with you? There isn’t
any cupboard. You can see that.”

“Yes there is,” I returned positively. “It’s where they kept the china
duck.”

Of course they were all staring at me now as if they thought I had
become light-headed. “It’s very close in here,” I heard Miss Blossom
murmur. “Don’t any of these windows open?” And Eve asked, “Do you feel
all right, Sandy?”

Then Aunt Cal said a surprising thing. “I do seem to recall a cupboard
there at the right of the fireplace,” she said slowly. “I had forgotten
it entirely,” she looked at me oddly. “I can’t think how you knew,” she
added.

Hamish, saying nothing, now walked over to the fireplace and began
feeling along the pink rosebud wallpaper which edged it. Suddenly he
began to tear at it. “Sufferin’ sunfish! I b’lieve you’re right, Sandy!
I believe there is a cupboard there—see, there’s the edge of the door!
And me lookin’ in the chimney!”

“Looking for what?” Eve demanded. But Hamish did not answer her. He was
too busy tearing away strip after strip of the rosebuds. We all
gathered around to watch. Nobody seemed to care at all that the
wallpaper was being ruined.

As for me, my heart was beating strangely as the outline of the
cupboard came into view. Inch by inch it was revealed. But how had I
known?

At last the paper was all off and we were gazing at a good sized door
set in the wall about four feet above the floor. There was no handle or
knob, that had evidently been removed when the paper was put on. Hamish
took out his knife and thrust it into the keyhole. “Locked,” he
announced.

“Well don’t that just beat all!” Miss Blossom cried. “How long do you
calculate it’s been covered up, Cal?”

Aunt Cal shook her head. “It must have been done after Uncle Judd
died,” she said. “I remember hearing that Carter had some of the rooms
papered before he went away.”

Miss Blossom nodded. “Like as not the paper hanger did it himself
without consulting anybody. If it was that Jed Button from Millport I
wouldn’t put it past him! I remember the time he did ma’s room——”

But no one seemed to be listening to Miss Blossom. We were all intent
on watching Michael as he tinkered with the lock. “Guess it’s no use
botherin’ with it,” Hamish remarked. “I guess it’s getting pretty
late.” He took out his watch.

Michael looked at him suspiciously and went on tinkering. Then suddenly
Eve gave a gasp. “Why,” she cried, “the key! Where’s the key? The one
we found in the tobacco tin?”

“Why of course,” almost screamed Hattie May. “Why didn’t we think of it
before? Hamish, you’re the one who took it! Where is it?” Then
accusingly, “You’ve been keeping it back on purpose, you wanted to wait
till we were gone!”

To this accusation Hamish’s only answer was a shrug and a sigh as he
plunged his hand into his trousers’ pocket and drew out the key. With a
grin Michael took it and thrust it into the keyhole. There was a click
and Hattie May gave another scream. “It fits!” she cried. “It fits!”

But the lock was rusty and the key refused to turn. “Needs oiling,”
Michael remarked.

“There’s an oil can in my car,” Miss Blossom suggested. “We’ve just got
to get this cupboard open before we go! Like as not we’ll find the
family skeleton in it or something!” she added with a laughing glance
toward Aunt Cal. Aunt Cal did not say a word.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                  XXV

                                 Gopher


I DON’T know what I expected when I heard that key turn in the lock and
knew that Hamish had at last succeeded in opening the door of the
hidden cupboard. I felt as I had ever since entering the room,
breathless and strangely excited. Of course Miss Rose’s remark about
the family skeleton had been just a joke. I did not expect to hear the
rattle of bones as the door swung outward and see a cadaverous figure
tumble onto the floor. But still I did expect something.

The door squeaked protestingly on its hinges as Hamish pulled it wide.
The room was utterly silent as we all gazed blankly on three wide
vacant shelves. Empty!

The silence was broken by a scream. It was Hattie May again. “Look!”
she cried. “It’s m-moving—the bottom—look!”

She was right. Slowly before our fascinated eyes, the board which
formed the base of the cupboard was lifting like the lid of a box.
Slowly from under it there was emerging—not a bony grinning skull—but
a face of flesh and blood. A head, nearly bald and a lined, leathery
face in which little beady eyes gleamed with mingled astonishment and
fury.

Hamish seemed to be the only one of us sufficiently in possession of
his senses to speak. “Well,” he said triumphantly, “got you at last,
didn’t I—you double-crossin’ rat!”

Then came Aunt Cal’s voice. “Gopher!” she cried, her tone odd and
uncontrolled.

The man did not answer. He was engaged in raising himself stiffly out
of the hole. He was dressed in sailor trousers and a sleeveless shirt.
As the bottom of the cupboard fell back into place he turned and glared
at Hamish. “So you’re the guy that’s been playin’ them smart tricks!”
he snarled.

“If you mean locking you in the cellar,” Hamish returned, “I figured
you’d be some annoyed. But the next time you peddle fake hair tonic——”

“It’s a good tonic,” snapped the little man. “I made it myself in
Brazil from a native receipt.”

“Yeah, but you had to get yourself a supply of wigs to make folks fall
for it!”

This exchange of repartee was interrupted by Michael. “Look here,” he
demanded, “what are you hiding in this house for? What are you after?”

The man turned on him sourly. “What business is that of yourn?”

“It’s my business!” Aunt Cal’s voice had regained its customary
authority. She had dropped onto one of the straight horsehair covered
chairs and was regarding the man with a strange tense look. “Where,”
she demanded, “is Carter Craven?”

Mr. Bangs—for of course it was he—seemed to notice her for the first
time. And there was recognition in his glance as he answered more
respectfully than he had yet spoken.

“Craven’s gone. Died in the Argentine last winter.”

There was a moment’s silence and then Aunt Cal asked tremulously, “You
were with him when he died?”

The other nodded. “And that reminds me,” he said, “he sent you a
message, said I was to come back and give it to you myself. Or if you
wasn’t here to get your address and mail it to you.” He began feeling
in the pocket of his trousers, presently bringing out a dog-eared bill
folder from which he extracted a dirty envelope.

“And why have you not given me this before?” Aunt Cal inquired as she
took the letter from the man’s hand.

He shrugged. “All in good time. I says to myself I’ll just take a look
round first and get the lay of the land like.”

Hamish eyed him fiercely. “So you opened the letter,” he accused “and
took out the part you thought interesting—the sheet that had those
measurements on it!”

Mr. Bangs shook his head. “Naw, Mr. Detective, you got me wrong. I
never opened the letter. I found that there paper—since you’re so
interested—with Carter Craven’s things after he died.”

“And that’s where you got the key to the house too, I suppose,” Michael
put in.

“Right, Buddy.”

“Anyway,” Hamish persisted, “you thought you were going to dig up a
neat little fortune out there in the garden, didn’t you? Well, you
jolly well got fooled!” He turned to the cupboard and drew out the key.
“If you’d dug in the right place—which you didn’t ’cause you were too
stupid—that was all you’d have found.”

Mechanically the man’s clawlike fingers reached out and took the key.
His glance strayed from it to Michael’s honest gray eyes. “Say,” he
asked wonderingly, “is this on the level?”

“That’s right,” Michael told him. “That’s all we found.”

“I suppose,” Hattie May spoke up pertly, “you expected to dig up the
blue emerald didn’t you?”

“What’s that?” He turned and looked at her. “No, sister,” he said
slowly, “I had all I wanted of the Blue Emerald!”

“What, you found it? You——”

The man nodded grimly. “Yeah, sister, we found the Blue Emerald—me and
Carter together. It was there just where the map said.”

“What map?” demanded Hamish.

Mr. Bangs shrugged. “Say, what is this?” he demanded truculently. “A
third degree or sunthin’?”

Aunt Cal, still clutching the unopened envelope close to her side,
spoke again unexpectedly. “The Blue Emerald was the gold mine I
suppose, the one Carter went to find after his father died?”

Mr. Bangs nodded. “Yeah, he found the map among the old man’s papers.
He put all he had or could borrow into her but”—he shrugged again—“he
might as well have thrown the money over the ship’s rail and it would
have saved us both a good sight of sufferin’.”

“A mine!” Hattie May said wonderingly. “The Blue Emerald was the name
of a gold mine! But—then—what _were_ you after? Why were you digging
up the garden?”

For a minute it seemed as if he were not going to answer. But Eve spoke
up quietly, “You were measuring the ground the very first day we came
here.”

“Well what if I was?” he snapped. “I figured a man don’t set down
measurements on paper unless they mean somethin’.”

“Carter’s mind was always running on buried treasure,” Miss Blossom,
seated comfortably on the old sofa behind him, put in. “It was kind of
an obsession as you might say. I calculate he buried that key hoping to
fool somebody the way he’d been fooled so often.”

“But that doesn’t explain about the cupboard,” I cried. “If it was just
a—a joke, why did he have the cupboard covered up?”

Mr. Bangs honored me with a glance. Then turning to the spot from which
he had so recently emerged, he lifted up the false bottom again and
began fumbling about below. At last he drew out a long dusty brown
envelope, tied with red cord. “Reckon that’s the answer,” he said
tossing it across to Aunt Cal. “Guess Carter didn’t want that will to
be found till he was good and ready. He figured on comin’ back a rich
man!” He laughed hoarsely.

“If that wasn’t just like him!” Miss Blossom exclaimed. “I always said
he never destroyed that will!”

Aunt Cal was untying the envelope with unsteady fingers. Inside was a
sealed one. “Yes,” she said, “it is Uncle Judd’s will!”

“And Craven House is yours at last,” Miss Blossom gave a vast sigh of
satisfaction. “I always knew you’d get it some day but I was afraid it
might come too late for you to enjoy it. Dear me, if these children
hadn’t found that key and all——”

Hattie May, too excited to remember her manners, burst in here. “But I
don’t understand yet! I mean how Mr. Bangs—or whatever his name
is—how he happened to come popping out just at the moment Hamish
opened the door? Why, it was exactly like a jack-in-the-box!”

This characterization of his appearance in our midst seemed to tickle
Mr. Bangs for he grinned for the first time. “Yeah,” he agreed, “reckon
it did give you kind of a surprise. I’d been a-poundin’ on that trap
door for quite a spell after this smart detective guy locked the cellar
door on me.”

“Hamish dotes on locking doors on people,” his sister remarked. “It’s
one of his pet tricks!”

“The cupboard must open into that underground passage that Uncle Judd
had walled up years ago,” Aunt Cal remarked thoughtfully.

The man nodded. “Yeah, I remembered hearin’ talk of it. I poked around
and found the entrance to it under the cellar stairs, and this here
ladder between the floors. But it was dark as a ship’s hold down there
and I couldn’t get the trap door open. Then you opened the cupboard and
let in some light through the crack and I see where she was hooked
down. I reckoned I could manage this smart guy here without much
trouble—I didn’t figure on runnin’ into a whole tea party!” he
finished with a cackle.

“I suppose that was the passage you were hiding in the night the cops
searched the house for you?” Michael remarked.

The man shot him a sardonic glance but did not answer.

Aunt Cal got up. “I really think, Rose,” she said, “we should be
starting for home. It’s growing dark and we’ve had quite enough
excitement for one day.” She turned to the sailor and fixed him with a
stern glance. “I sincerely trust, Gopher,” she said, “that you will not
leave the neighborhood until I’ve had a further talk with you. I—I
naturally wish to hear more details of my cousin’s last days.”

The man did not answer for a moment. But there was an insistence in
Aunt Cal’s tone that was not to be disregarded. Perhaps he thought
that, since the game was up in any case, his best chance lay in
compliance. “Okay,” he said with another lift of his bony shoulders.
“I’ll hang round for a spell.”

As Miss Blossom’s little car rolled away down the hill, no one spoke
for a time. Eve and I were in the rear seat. Hattie May had gone with
Hamish in his car. It was with some difficulty that we had succeeded in
prying the latter loose from the man whom he considered his lawful
prisoner. What was the use, he insisted, of pulling off a capture if
you had to turn the fellow loose again?

But Aunt Cal’s wishes of course had prevailed and Hamish, still
grumbling, had been obliged to depart and leave the villain, as he
dubbed him, to his own devices.

As we turned into the main highway at The Corners, Miss Rose settled
back. “Well, it does beat all,” she said, “the mysterious ways
Providence does work. To think of that rascal Carter sealing up that
old cupboard with the will in it and going off to the ends of the
earth!”

“No, Rose, not a rascal,” Aunt Cal returned, “you mustn’t think of him
like that. It was just a—a kind of prank. He never meant to keep the
house from me for long, he says so in this note. You see I—I was away
out West at the time he left. I think it was just as Gopher said, he
wanted to come back a rich man——”

“And make you sorry you’d married Tom Poole instead of him,” put in
Miss Rose calmly. “That was just like him, always believing that money
was all that counted even in a love affair.”

“He says,” said Aunt Cal softly, “that he hopes I will forgive him
everything. I believe he realized—at the end—the mistakes he’d made.”

Miss Rose nodded. “Yes, Carter wasn’t a bad fellow at heart,” she said.

“And Mr. Bangs?” Eve asked hesitantly, “you knew him before, Aunt Cal?”

“Oh, yes. His real name is Gopher—Harry Gopher. He shipped as cook
with Uncle Judd for years and used often to be around town between
voyages. Uncle always said he was a rascal but he had a fondness for
him too. I shall have to see what can be done for him.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                  XXVI

                             The Unveiling


A MONTH had gone by. August was already drifting into September. School
loomed ahead but we hardly gave it a thought. Each day as it came along
was too absorbing, for Eve and I agreed that the business of making an
old house come to life again was about the most thrilling experience in
the world.

Yes, Aunt Cal had really moved into Craven House. After much
deliberation and lengthy conferences with her lawyer, she had at last
yielded to the combined persuasion of Miss Blossom, Mrs. Viner, Eve and
myself and decided to give up the little cottage in Fishers Haven and
make the old place she had loved as a child her permanent home. So the
first of August had seen us established. Painters, plumbers and paper
hangers had overrun the place. Miss Blossom had closed her own house in
the village for the time being in order to help get things going. And
from the day when she and Aunt Cal had gone to work with broom and
scrub brush, all the latter’s doubts and misgivings seemed magically to
disappear. It was as if, with the vanquishing of dust and cobwebs,
something equally oppressive had vanished from Aunt Cal’s mind. Her
figure seemed actually to grow more erect and her eyes to grow brighter.

Today we were waiting for Michael to come. He’d formed the habit of
stopping on his way down from the farm. Sometimes it was his advice
Aunt Cal wanted about grading the lawn or the laying out of paths or
flowerbeds. Sometimes he was needed to bolster up the flagging energies
of our man of all work. For Gopher, though freed of the charge hanging
over him through the intervention of Mr. Templeton and Captain Trout,
did not take kindly to the job with which Aunt Cal had provided him.
“Tillin’ the soil” he stated was out of his line as, I strongly
suspected, was labor of any sort. But with Aunt Cal’s sharp eyes never
long withdrawn and the knowledge that but for her he would now be
sojourning in a far less pleasant place, he kept grimly at it. I used
to feel sorry for him sometimes as I saw him stop to wipe his seamed,
weatherbeaten face and gaze sadly down the road. And some fine morning,
I felt sure, when the wind blew from the sea, Aunt Cal would come out
to give directions for the day’s work and he just wouldn’t be there.

“Well, here’s your letter at last!” Eve came up the newly graveled
path. She’d been to town with Miss Rose to do some errands and get the
mail. My heart gave the little leap that it always does at the sight of
the thin paper envelope, bearing the Chinese stamp. Aunt Cal came out
to listen as I read it aloud:


  “My dear daughter:

  Your account of your adventures at Craven House gave us quite as
  much of a thrill as they must have given you. I am immensely
  pleased that Calliope has decided to move into the old place. I
  remember it well. Your mother and I stopped there with you when you
  were three years old, and your curious recollection of the cupboard
  by the fireplace undoubtedly dates from that visit.

  Your mother had come down for a last visit with your grandmother
  Poole before we sailed for the East. It was just after your Aunt
  Cal had married and gone West to live. We stopped for a call on
  Captain Judd Craven, a fine old man of the best seafaring
  traditions. We were grieved to get the news of his death the
  following year.

  I recall the big front parlor and the jar of some sort of incense
  on the cabinet. Very likely you got a good whiff of it, one that
  your sensitive nerves of smell have never forgotten. The
  associative power of odors is well known, and so the cupboard and
  particularly the china duck which you say it contained became
  associated in your mind with the strange new smell. Thus when you
  smelled it again, even after the lapse of thirteen years, the
  particular brain cells into which the memory had been packed away
  released the recollection. I have heard of many similar instances,
  but few which have led to so dramatic a development as in your
  case.”


“Well, well, that does beat all!” exclaimed Aunt Cal. “And to think of
your being only three at the time!”

“I think it’s perfectly weird!” said Eve.

“Not weird at all,” I said. “Just perfectly normal and scientific as
Dad explains. And I must say I’m glad to have it established that I’m
not subject to trances or—what was it—cataleptic fits as Hamish so
darkly hinted!”

“There’s Michael, and in a clean shirt too, if my eyes do not deceive
me! Let’s go tell him about it, he’ll be frightfully interested.”

Hurriedly skimming through the rest of my letter—leaving the real
reading of it till bedtime—I followed Eve across the yard. Aunt Cal
went inside again to superintend the cutting of the cake, leaving the
big front door wide open as it stood most of the time nowadays. This
was against all the conventions of Old Beecham, but Aunt Cal was too
busy just now to give much thought to the conventions.

Today we had been working from early dawn, getting ready for our first
social event. It was to be—somewhat to Aunt Cal’s dismay—a garden
party.

We found Michael standing in the middle of the garden, surveying the
arrangements. “Well,” inquired Eve, “is your Majesty pleased?”

He grinned at her. “Say,” he said, “am I going to be the only man at
this party?”

“No, don’t worry. Captain Trout’s coming and perhaps Mr. Templeton and
Hattie May wrote that she and Hamish would drive down if she could
possibly manage it. But listen to the explanation Sandy’s just had of
her vision the day we discovered the cupboard!”

“I object to having it called a vision!” I said. “It was just a
memory—coming out.”

When I had finished reading him what Father had written, Michael said,
“That’s mighty interesting! And what a piece of luck that you happened
to make that visit here when you were a kid.”

“I suppose it wouldn’t have mattered really,” I said. “Aunt Cal has
never told us just what Carter Craven said in that note he sent her but
I think he must have told her where the will was, at least he gave her
a clue.”

“Yes,” put in Eve, “but how do we know that Gopher would ever have
given her the note at all if we hadn’t cornered him like a rat in a
hole. Just like it to slip his mind—he’s got about the slipperiest
mind I ever had the pleasure to deal with.”

“He hasn’t done so badly with this garden though,” Michael observed.

“Would you ever have believed it could look so lovely!” Eve asked.

“Yes. You can do most anything with land if you put enough time and
patience into it, providing of course the soil’s fairly good. Next
year, I hope it will look even better.”

“In the spring!” Eve said, her eyes shining a little. “Oh, I do hope I
shall see it in the spring when the daffodils and tulips first come up!”

“And I’ll probably be grubbing for exams about that time!” Michael
said. “But maybe I can get away for a week-end. I’d like to see how
those bulbs come up.”

“And us and Circe?” Eve asked teasingly. “Shan’t you want to see us?”

“I hope the frost next winter doesn’t crack that new arm I made for
her,” he answered, ignoring the question and looking across to where,
above the clean bowl of the fountain, the restored statue stood, veiled
today in white cheesecloth.

Miss Rose drove up just then with Mrs. Viner and we hurried out to
greet our first guest. “My, how pretty everything looks!” she murmured
as we escorted her to a seat. “Seems ’sif that golden glow there by the
wall sort of lights up the whole place! And how that larkspur by the
fountain has come on! What pride Emily Craven used to take in her
larkspur.”

“Next year,” remarked Aunt Cal, coming up, “I shall have asters and
mignonette in that bed too.”

“There comes a car up the hill,” I cried. “Maybe it’s Hattie May and
Hamish!”

“No,” Michael shook his head. “It’s Captain Trout in Fishers Haven’s
one and only taxicab.”

Just behind came a string of other cars, bearing the members of the
Ladies Civic Betterment Society.

Miss Rose in a large flowered muslin, which made her look for all the
world like a mammoth piece of upholstery, moved among the guests,
banishing all vestige of stiffness with her good natured small talk and
banter.

“Bless my boots, what a transformation!” exclaimed Captain Trout. “How
delighted the old Cap’n would be if he could see it!” he added, turning
to Aunt Cal.

“Yes,” she agreed simply, “I think he would approve of what we have
done.”

“How is Daisy June getting along?” I asked. “Do you think she misses us
any?”

“Well, now I can’t say that I’ve noticed her a-pinin’,” he chuckled.
“She’s still able to take a running jump at my back when I ain’t
looking.”

“Adam loves it here,” I said. “You ought to see him walk down the hall,
waving his tail, as if he were the lost heir restored to his patrimony.”

“Yeah, that’s like him—Caliph always did put on airs!” The Captain
chuckled at his own wit.

Gopher dressed in his borrowed white trousers appeared awkwardly
carrying a tray. “Hi, Biscuits, what you got here?” Captain Trout
demanded.

The sailor set down the cups of raspberry sherbet with an apologetic
grin. “Say, Skipper,” he whispered hoarsely, “like to have me stir you
up a batch of flapjacks ’fore you go?”

“No, no, certainly not!” Captain Trout took one of the pink filled
glasses and passed it to Mrs. Viner. He helped himself to another.

At last came the moment when the sun touched the top of the
fountain—the moment I had been waiting for. At a nod from Aunt Cal,
Michael disappeared into the house. A moment later I got his signal
from the cellar window. Everybody stopped talking as I advanced to the
fountain and, reaching up, pulled the cord which held the veil about
the statue.

At the same instant, Michael turned the tap in the cellar and the water
gushed forth in a myriad sparkling rainbow streams. Everybody clapped!
It was exactly as if the delicate figure of the Enchantress poised
there had really waved her wand and performed a miracle!

A belated car came puffing up the hill, a green roadster covered with
dust. From the seat Hattie May waved frantically. Eve flew down the
path, I after her. Hamish peered out at the group about the fountain.
“Say,” he demanded, “we ain’t too late for the refreshments are we?”

“No, indeed, there’s lots left,” I told him laughing.

“We had a blow-out of course,” Hattie May said as she climbed out. “My
how pretty everything looks!”

As we came up the path Hamish caught sight of Gopher collecting plates.
“My aunt!” he exclaimed, “Mean to say you let that fellow go round
loose?”

“Oh,” giggled Eve. “he’s quite tame now really—just like the garden.
You’d be surprised!”

Eve came out with a heaping tray. “Hasn’t anything more queer been
happenin’, I suppose?” Hamish inquired hopefully between mouthfuls.

“No, I’m afraid not,” I answered. “No more mysteries—except of course
what became of the china duck. And I’m afraid that’ll never be solved.”

Hamish set down his empty plate regretfully. “By the way,” he remarked,
“I brought along a few little souvenirs I picked up on the way. They’re
out in the car.”

“More gifts! Oh, Hamish!”

After the other guests had departed Hamish distributed his presents.
There was a vanity case for Aunt Cal whose countenance to date has been
innocent of make-up; shell-covered workboxes for Eve and me; a
combination pocket knife and can opener for Michael and a huge
heart-shaped box of chocolates for Miss Rose.

“Oh, you cruel boy,” Miss Rose cried, “to tempt me so!” She selected a
plump one before passing the box.

As Aunt Cal turned to walk with Mr. Templeton to his car Hattie May
whispered quite loudly, “I must say, Sandy, that your aunt has changed.
Why she’s like a different person almost.”

“Hush!” I warned, “It’s all Circe’s doing! Magic, you know!”

“I guess more likely it’s two living Circes that have done the trick,”
said Miss Rose slyly, selecting another chocolate.

“Oh, you mean you and—and Gopher?” Eve inquired mischievously.

Miss Rose giggled. “Fancy me on a fountain! No, it’s a fact, Cal told
me so herself, that she’d never have had the gumption to go ahead with
everything if it hadn’t been for you girls. She said she wanted Sandra
to have a place to come to that she’d feel was a real home.”

“Oh, Miss Rose,” I cried, “did she really say that?”

Aunt Cal came back down the path, Adam at her heels. “Well now that
that’s over,” she said, “we’ll be able to settle down to normal living
again! Michael thinks I should put that south pasture into potatoes
next year. What do you think, Rose?”

“Farmer Gilpatrick advises!” Eve twinkled at him.

“Well?” he inquired challengingly, “what’s the matter with that?
Suppose I should turn into a farmer, what then?”

“Why, then,” she returned, “you’ll buy a farm next to ours—next to
Craven House I mean—and make it the very finest, most scientific,
up-to-date farm in the whole countryside.”

“Well, you might do worse,” Hamish remarked solemnly. “I read the other
day where a fellow was out plowin’ up a field and what d’you s’pose he
turned up? An old gold piece, yes sir! And come to find out when he dug
down there was a whole lot of ’em buried where some early settler
fellow had hid ’em when the Indians was comin’. What d’you think of
that!”

“That settles it!” laughed Michael. “I shall become a farmer.”

                                THE END

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                           Transcriber’s Note


Italicized words and phrases are indicated by _surrounding underscores_.

Some presumed printers’ errors have been corrected, including
normalizing punctuation.

The following specific corrections have been made:

XII. OVER THE BANNISTER =>  XII. OVER THE BANISTER {Table of Contents}

also carred a cargo of hair tonic => also carried a cargo of hair tonic
{P. 129}

“We won’t half to, silly,” => “We won’t have to, silly,” {P. 172}





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