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Title: Patsy Carroll Under Southern Skies
Author: Chase, Josephine
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: Something suddenly shot out from the table end.]



                            _Patsy Carroll
                                 Under
                            Southern Skies_

                                  _By
                             Grace Gordon_

                            _Illustrated by
                            R. Emmet Owen_

                              _New York_
                       _Cupples & Leon Company_



                         PATSY CARROLL SERIES
                            BY GRACE GORDON

                  PATSY CARROLL AT WILDERNESS LODGE
                  PATSY CARROLL UNDER SOUTHERN SKIES

                    _Other Volumes in Preparation_

                   CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY, New York

                          COPYRIGHT, 1918, BY
                        CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY

                  Patsy Carroll Under Southern Skies

                          Printed in U. S. A.



CONTENTS


    CHAPTER                                       PAGE

          I TIME TO GO WAYFARING AGAIN               1

         II A HARD-HEARTED REGISTRAR                11

        III NO LOSS WITHOUT GAIN                    20

         IV GLORIOUS NEWS                           29

          V THE LAND OF FLOWERS                     43

         VI THE BEGINNING OF NEW ADVENTURE          58

        VII THE COTTAGE IN THE PALM GROVE           72

       VIII PATSY SCENTS A MYSTERY                  82

         IX THE WOOD NYMPH                          93

          X GETTING ACQUAINTED WITH OLD OCEAN      105

         XI A TIMID CALLER                         113

        XII INTERVIEWING CARLOS                    122

       XIII TWO LETTERS                            134

        XIV A REAL ADVENTURE                       146

         XV DOLORES                                157

        XVI NOTHING OR SOMETHING?                  166

       XVII PUZZLING OVER THE PUZZLE               179

      XVIII SOMETHING!                             190

        XIX PATSY’S SCHEME                         204

         XX THE WAY THE SCHEME WORKED OUT          217

        XXI THE GHOST                              227

       XXII THE RETURN OF DOLORES                  237

      XXIII THE MEMENTO                            244

       XXIV THE SECRET DRAWER                      252

        XXV WHAT THE SECRET DRAWER HELD            261

       XXVI “THE TRUE SIGN OF THE ‘DRAGON’”        286

      XXVII THE TREASURE OF LAS GOLONDRINAS        299



_Patsy Carroll Under Southern Skies_



CHAPTER I

TIME TO GO WAYFARING AGAIN


“Oh, dear!” loudly sighed Patsy Carroll.

The regretful exclamation was accompanied by the energetic banging of
Patsy’s French grammar upon the table.

“Stay there, tiresome old thing!” she emphasized. “I’ve had enough of
you for one evening.”

“What’s the matter, Patsy?”

Beatrice Forbes raised mildly inquiring eyes from the theme she was
industriously engaged in writing.

“Lots of things. I hate French verbs. The crazy old irregular ones most
of all. They start out one thing and by the time you get to the future
tense they’re something entirely different.”

“Is that all?” smiled Beatrice. “You ought to be used to them by this
time.”

“That’s only one of my troubles,” frowned Patsy. “There are others
a great deal worse. One of them is this Easter vacation business. I
thought we’d surely have three weeks. It’s always been so at Yardley
until this year. Two weeks is no vacation worth mentioning.”

“Well, that’s plenty of time to go home in and stay at home and see the
folks for a while, isn’t it?” asked Beatrice.

“But we didn’t intend going _home_,” protested Patsy.

“Didn’t intend going home?” repeated Beatrice wonderingly. “_What_ are
you talking about, Patsy Carroll? _I_ certainly expect to go home for
Easter.”

“You only think you do,” Patsy assured, her troubled face relaxing into
a mischievous grin. “Maybe you will, though. I don’t know. It depends
upon what kind of scheme my gigantic brain can think up.

“It’s like this, Bee,” she continued, noting her friend’s expression of
mystification. “Father and I made a peach of a plan. Excuse my slang,
but ‘peach of a plan’ just expresses it. Well, when I was at home over
Christmas, Father promised me that the Wayfarers should join him and
Aunt Martha at Palm Beach for the Easter vacation. He bought some land
down in Florida last fall. Orange groves and all that, you know. This
land isn’t so very far from Palm Beach. He was going down there right
after Christmas, but a lot of business prevented him from going. He’s
down there now, though, and----”

“You’ve been keeping all this a dead secret from your little chums,”
finished Beatrice with pretended reproach.

“Of course I have,” calmly asserted Patsy. “That was to be part of the
fun. I meant to spring a fine surprise on you girls. Your mother knows
all about it. So does Mrs. Perry. I went around and asked them if you
and Mab and Nellie could go while I was at home during the Christmas
holidays. Aunt Martha liked my plan, too. Now we’ll have to give it up
and go somewhere nearer home. We’d hardly get settled at Palm Beach
when we’d have to come right home again. One more week’s vacation would
make a lot of difference. And we can’t have it! It’s simply too mean
for anything!”

“It would be wonderful to go to Palm Beach,” mused Beatrice. “It would
be to me, anyway. You know I’ve never traveled as you have, Patsy.
Going to the Adirondacks last summer was my first real trip away from
home. Going to Florida would seem like going to fairy land.”

Readers of “PATSY CARROLL AT WILDERNESS LODGE,” are already well
acquainted, not only with Patsy Carroll and Beatrice Forbes, but also
with their chums, Mabel and Eleanor Perry. In this story was narrated
the adventures of the four young girls, who, chaperoned by Patsy’s
stately aunt, Miss Martha Carroll, spent a summer together in the
Adirondacks.

Wilderness Lodge, the luxurious “camp” leased by Mr. Carroll for the
summer, had formerly belonged to an eccentric old man, Ebeneezer
Wellington. Having died intestate the previous spring, his property
and money had passed into the hands of Rupert Grandin, his worthless
nephew, leaving his foster-daughter, Cecil Vane, penniless.

Hardly were the Wayfarers, as the four girls had named themselves,
established at the Lodge when its owner decided, for reasons of his
own, to oust them from his property. A chance meeting between Beatrice
and Cecil Vane revealed the knowledge that the latter had been
defrauded of her rights and was firm in the belief that her late uncle
had made a will in her favor, which was tucked away in some corner of
the Lodge.

The long-continued hunt for the missing will and the strange
circumstances which attended the finding of it furnished the Wayfarers
with a new kind of excitement, quite apart from other memorable
incidents and adventures which crowded the summer.

In the end, Cecil came into her own, and the Wayfarers returned to
Morton, their home town, to make ready to enter Yardley, a preparatory
school, in which Mabel, Eleanor and Patsy were to put in another year
of study before entering college.

When Beatrice Forbes had joined the chums on the eventful vacation in
the mountains, she had fully expected on her return to Morton to become
a teacher in one of the grade schools. Fortune, however, had smiled
kindly on her. Her great-aunt, whom her mother had visited that summer
for the first time, had exhibited a lively interest in the great-niece
whom she had never seen.

Learning from Mrs. Forbes, Beatrice’s longing ambition to obtain a
college education, she had privately decided to accompany Beatrice’s
mother to the latter’s home when her visit was ended, and thus view
her ambitious young relative at close range.

This she had done. She had found Beatrice quite up to her expectations.
She had also met Patsy Carroll and promptly fallen into the toils
of that most fascinating young person. Patsy had privately advanced
Beatrice’s cause to so great an extent that it was not long until
Beatrice was making joyful preparations to accompany Mabel, Eleanor and
Patsy to Yardley, as a result of her aunt’s generosity.

So it was that the congenial quartette of Wayfarers had settled down
together at Yardley for a year of conscientious study. It now lacked
but ten days until the beginning of the Easter vacation and, as usual,
energetic Patsy was deeply concerned in the problem of how to make the
best of only two weeks’ recreation when she had fondly looked forward
to three.

“It wouldn’t do us a bit of good to ask for an extra week,” mourned
Patsy. “Three girls I know have tried it and been snubbed for their
pains. What we must do is to get together and plan some sort of outing
that won’t take us so far away from here. Of course we can’t be sure
of anything unless Aunt Martha approves. She’ll be disappointed about
not going to Palm Beach. She just loves to travel around with the
Wayfarers, only she won’t say so right out. Come on, Bee. Let’s go and
see the girls. Now that the great secret has all flattened out, like a
punctured tire on my good old car, I might as well tell Mab and Nellie
the sad tale.”

“You go, Patsy. I must finish this theme.” Beatrice cast a guilty
glance at the half-finished work on the table. “I must hand it in at
first recitation to-morrow and it’s a long way from being finished.”

“Oh, bother your theme! You can finish it later. It’s only eight
o’clock. We’ll stay just a few minutes.”

“Hello, Perry children!” greeted Patsy, when five minutes afterward she
and Beatrice broke in upon their chums, who roomed on the floor above
Patsy and Beatrice.

“Hello, yourself,” amiably responded Mabel, as she ushered them into
the room. “Of course you can’t read or you would have seen the ‘Busy’
sign on the door.”

“Pleasure before business,” retorted Patsy. “Kindly ask us to sit down,
but not on your bed. I want a chair with a back to it. It’s strictly
necessary to my comfort.”

“Help yourself.”

This from Eleanor who had laid aside her book and come forward.

“What’s on your mind, Patsy?” asked Mabel curiously. “Something’s
happened. I can tell that by the way you look.”

“I have a heavy load on my mind,” declared Patsy with deep
impressiveness.

Dramatically striking her forehead, she cried, “Ouch! That hurt!”
giggled and dropped down into a nearby chair.

“You almost knocked it off,” chuckled Beatrice, seating herself on the
edge of Mabel’s bed. “The load, I mean.”

“I did not. I almost knocked my forehead off. The load is still there.
Now to get rid of it.”

Whereupon Patsy plunged into the subject of the great secret.

“And Mother said we could go?” asked Eleanor eagerly when Patsy had
finished speaking.

“Certainly, but the powers that be, here at Yardley, say you can’t,”
reminded Patsy. “Palm Beach is not for us this Easter. I’m so disgusted
over this vacation business!”

“It’s a shame!” exclaimed Mabel. “I don’t want to go any place else.
Why can’t we go there, anyway? It would take us two or three days to go
and the same length of time to come back. We’d have a week there. That
would be better than nothing.”

“I suppose it would,” concurred Patsy rather reluctantly. “It’s only
that I hate being torn up by the roots and hustled back here just the
very minute I’m getting used to things at the Beach. There is so much
to see there. Besides, I’m simply crazy to go to the Everglades. Father
promised that he’d hire a real Indian guide, to take us there on an
expedition.”

“Let’s write to our people and tell them to write to the registrar,
asking if we can’t have that extra week,” proposed Eleanor eagerly. “If
your Aunt Martha, our mother and Bee’s mother would all write to her,
it might do some good.”

“We can try it. I doubt whether it will help much,” Patsy said
gloomily. “Miss Osgood is so awfully strict, you know. It’s our only
chance and a slim one. I’m going straight to my room and write to Aunt
Martha. Bee can write to her mother as soon as she finishes a theme
she’s toiling over. You’d better write to-night, too. The sooner we
find out the best or the worst, the sooner we’ll knew what to do about
Easter. If we can only have two weeks, Aunt Martha may want to do the
Beach anyway. If she doesn’t--well, we’ll have to think up some place
nearer Yardley to go to. I’m determined to have some kind of trip, if
it’s only to Old Point Comfort. The Wayfarers have been cooped up all
winter. It’s time they went wayfaring again.”



CHAPTER II

A HARD-HEARTED REGISTRAR


“If I were a registrar, I’d not be so horrid as Miss Osgood,”
wrathfully exclaimed Patsy Carroll.

Four days had passed since the Wayfarers had despatched their letters
to their home allies. The quartette were emerging from Yardley Hall as
Patsy flung forth her disgruntled opinion of Miss Osgood.

They had been summoned to the registrar’s office after classes that
afternoon, there to be stiffly informed by Miss Osgood that she saw no
convincing reason for granting them the privilege of an extra week’s
vacation.

“You wish this extra week merely on account of a pleasure trip you
have planned,” she had coldly pointed out. “I have been besieged by a
dozen others with similar requests, none of which I have granted. I
have replied to the letters which I have received from Miss Carroll,
Mrs. Forbes and Mrs. Perry, stating that it is impossible to make any
exception in favor of you girls. I sent for you to come here merely to
impress upon you that I shall expect you to return to Yardley, from
your Easter vacation, _on time_. Any delay on your part will constitute
a direct defiance of my wishes. Kindly remember this and govern
yourselves accordingly.”

Such was the chilly ultimatum that had aroused Patsy’s ire.

“It’s too mean for anything,” she sputtered, as the four started across
the campus. “Aunt Martha says in the letter I received from her this
morning that unless we can have the extra week’s vacation it’s not
worth while making the trip to Palm Beach. We can’t have it, so that
settles our grand Florida expedition. If we could go down there in
summer it wouldn’t matter so much about losing this trip. But we can’t.
It’s too hot down there in summer time for comfort. We’ll never have a
chance to go there until we are graduated from college. We’ll be old
ladies then and have to go around in wheel chairs,” she ended ruefully.

“Oh, that’s only four years off. We may still be able to totter about
with canes,” giggled Eleanor. “Of course, we’ll have snow-white hair
and wrinkles, but then, never mind. We can sit and do embroidery or
tatting and talk of the happy past when we were young and----”

“Stop making fun of me, Nellie,” ordered Patsy severely. Nevertheless
she echoed Eleanor’s giggle.

“Let’s hustle for the dormitory,” suggested practical Beatrice. “This
wind is altogether too frisky to suit me. I’ve had to hang onto my hat
every second since we left the Hall.”

“It’s blowing harder every minute,” panted Mabel, as a fresh gust
swept whistling across the campus, caught the four girls and roughly
endeavored to jerk them off their feet.

“It’s going to snow, I guess. It’s too cold for rain,” remarked Patsy,
squinting up at the sky. “Easter comes awfully early this year, doesn’t
it? I can’t remember when it’s ever before been in March. That’s
another reason why it would be fine to spend it at Palm Beach. The
weather there would be perfect.”

“Oh, well, what’s the use in thinking about it,” said Eleanor. “We
might as well make the best of things and plan something else.”

“I’m going to write to Auntie the minute I get to my room,” announced
Patsy, “and ask her where she thinks it would be nice for us to go for
Easter. I’d like it to be near the ocean, though; Old Point Comfort,
Cape May, Atlantic City, or some beach resort.”

“I hate to give up the Palm Beach plan. Still, wherever we go, well be
together,” reminded Mabel. “You can’t down a strong combination like
the Wayfarers.”

It being but a short walk from Yardley Hall to the large dormitory
where the students of Yardley lived, the four girls were soon running
up the broad stone steps, glad to reach shelter from the wind’s
ungentle tactics.

As a preparatory school, Yardley was famed for its excellence. It
registered, however, but a limited number of pupils. These lived in one
large dormitory, there being no campus houses for their accommodation.

Yardley had been at one time a select boarding school for girls. Later
it had become a preparatory school to college, and had earned the
reputation of being one of the best of its kind.

As the high school course which the Wayfarers had completed was not
sufficiently advanced to carry them into college without additional
preparation, they had, after much discussion, chosen to enter Yardley.
A year of study there would fit them for entrance into any college
which they might select as their Alma Mater.

The fact that Yardley occupied a somewhat isolated position of its
own, the nearest town, Alden, being five miles away, did not trouble
the Wayfarers. Being true Nature lovers they were never at a loss for
amusement during their leisure hours. They found far greater pleasure
in tramping the steep hills which rose behind Yardley than making
decorous little trips to Alden in Patsy’s car.

Though friendly with their classmates, the Wayfarers nevertheless
hung together loyally. They were, as Patsy often declared, “a close
corporation” and quite sufficient unto themselves.

As the little band entered the dormitory that blustering afternoon,
they were feeling keenly the disappointment so recently meted out to
them. It was decidedly hard to put away the rosy visions of Palm Beach
that each girl had conjured up in her own mind.

“Come on up to our room, girls, and we’ll make chocolate,” proposed
Patsy. “It will probably take away our appetites for dinner, but who
cares? I don’t believe I’d have much appetite, anyhow. I’m all upset
about this vacation business.”

Seated about the writing table which Patsy had cleared for the
occasion, the Wayfarers were presently sipping hot chocolate and
devouring sweet crackers to the accompaniment of a mournful discussion
of the situation.

As a result none of them had any enthusiasm for either dinner or
study that evening. Dinner over they gathered once more in Patsy’s
room, still too full of their recent disappointment to banish it from
conversation.

“We can’t make a single plan until we know what Aunt Martha wants to
do,” asserted Patsy with a sigh. “Oh, I forgot to write to her before
dinner! I must do it now. Excuse me, Perry children. Bee will amuse
you. Bee, entertain the young ladies. I’m going to be busy for a little
while.”

“We must go,” declared Eleanor, rising. “It’s half-past eight. I really
ought to study a little bit. Mab, you’ve a whole page in Spanish to
translate. You’d better come along.”

“All right. Just listen to the wind!” Mabel held up her hand. “How it
shrieks and whistles and wails! The banshees are out, sailing around in
the air to-night, I imagine.”

“I’m glad we’re not out, sailing around the campus,” commented
Beatrice. “We’d certainly sail. We couldn’t keep our feet on the
ground. We’d be blown about like leaves.”

“I think I’d like to go out and fight with the wind,” announced valiant
Patsy. “As soon as I write my letter I’m going to take it out to the
mail box.”

“Good-bye, then. I may never see you again,” laughed Eleanor, her hand
on the door. “You’ll be blown into the next county if you venture out
to-night.”

“Then I’ll turn around and let the wind blow me back again,” retorted
Patsy, undismayed by Eleanor’s warning.

The two Perrys having bade their chums good night and departed for
their own room, Patsy settled down to the writing of her letter. Though
her fountain pen fled over the paper at rapid speed, it was half-past
nine when she committed the product of her industry to an envelope.

“There!” she said, as she finished writing the address and affixed a
stamp. “I’m going to put on my fur coat and go out to the mail box with
this.”

“Why don’t you mail it in the morning?” Beatrice advised. “I wouldn’t
go out in that wind if I were you.”

“But you’re not Patsy Carroll,” laughed Patsy. “You’re ever so much
nicer than she is, but not half so reckless.”

“All right,” smiled Beatrice. “Go ahead and be whisked into the next
county. I’ll send a search party after you in the morning.”

“Farewell, farewell!” declaimed Patsy, as she dived into a closet for
her fur coat. “I sha’n’t wear a hat. The wind can’t rip off my auburn
locks no matter how hard it may try.”

Once out of the dormitory, Patsy had not gone six yards before she
realized that Eleanor’s prediction was likely to be fulfilled. The
gale swept her along as if a great hand were at her back, forcing her
relentlessly forward.

“It’s going to be worse coming back,” she muttered, when at last she
had reached the mail box and dropped her letter into it. “I’m certainly
going to have a real fight with this rough old wind.”

Turning, she started defiantly toward the dormitory, forging stolidly
along in the teeth of the blast.

Crossing the campus diagonally she was over half way to the dormitory
when of a sudden she cried out in alarm. At the shadowed rear of
the building she had glimpsed something calculated to inspire fear.
Rising from the structure was a thick cloud, unmistakably smoke. As
she hurried on, her heart pounding wildly, she saw that which fully
confirmed her fears. A long yellow tongue of flame pierced the smoke
cloud and shot high above it. The dormitory was on fire!



CHAPTER III

NO LOSS WITHOUT GAIN


The few rods that lay between Patsy and the dormitory seemed miles.
Flinging open the massive front door at last, she bounded into the
corridor. To her dismay, no sounds of excited voices or running feet
were to be heard. She could not even smell smoke.

Stopping only long enough to peer into the big living room which was
deserted of occupants, she dashed down the long corridor to the heavy
double doors leading into the dining room. As she swung one of them
open and darted through, a strong smell of burning wood assailed her
nostrils.

Instantly she turned and fled back to the corridor. Under the stairs
hung a large gong. Next second it was clanging out its harsh command to
fire drill. Like every other modern institution of learning, Yardley
had its fire drill in which every person in the dormitory was obliged
to take part.

[Illustration: “We--can’t--go--that--way,” declared the matron in a
choking voice.]

Patsy’s next act was to dart to the telephone. Though her voice
quivered with excitement, as she asked Central to turn in the fire
alarm, her head was clear and her mind in good working order. She hoped
her classmates would show no signs of panic.

Soon the steady tramp, tramp of feet announced that the fire drill
was in progress. Down the stairs and into the main corridor filed a
procession of girls, some fully dressed, others with long coats thrown
on over half-fitted negligees. Though a buzz of voices filled the air,
the girls lined up on each side of the corridor in orderly fashion to
await further developments.

By this time the matron, Mrs. Ainslee, had gained the corridor and had
promptly taken charge of the situation.

“The back of the dormitory is on fire!” were Patsy’s first words to the
matron. “I saw it from the campus. I had gone out to mail a letter.
I rang the gong and turned in an alarm to Central. It’s very serious
on account of the way the wind’s blowing. If the Alden Hose Company
doesn’t get here quick the fire will spread so fast that nothing can
stop it. I think we ought to get together all the buckets we can and
fight it until the fire engines get here.”

“A good plan,” approved Mrs. Ainslee. “Girls,” she called out in a
clear, resonant voice, “the rear of the dormitory is on fire. First
I’m going to call the roll to be sure you are all here. Next I need
twenty-four girls, eight to each floor, to go after the fire buckets. I
will ask the first twelve on each side at this end of the lines to go.
Stop at the second floor bath room and fill up the buckets. We may be
unable to get to the kitchen faucets. As soon as the buckets are filled
report here for duty. The rest of you will wait until these girls have
started upstairs, then file out of the house and onto the lawn.”

Turning to Patsy she said: “Stay here with me, Miss Carroll. I need you
for another purpose.”

With this she hurried to her office on the same floor, returning with
her register. The roll called and everyone responding, she directed her
attention to the bucket brigade. They were soon started in good order
for the stairs. As soon as the last girl had set foot on the stairs,
the two lines began to move toward the door. Following, Mrs. Ainslee
watched them safely outside, then returned to where Patsy stood
waiting.

“You and I will investigate the fire and see what can be done,” she
said briefly, and started down the corridor toward the dining room. In
spite of the heavy doors the smoke had now become noticeable even in
the corridor. Throwing open one of the double doors, a dense cloud of
smoke poured over both women, causing them to draw back in a hurry,
eyes and throats smarting.

“We--can’t--go--that--way,” declared the matron in a choking voice,
as she swung the door shut. “We’ll have to fight the fire from the
outside. I’m afraid we can’t do much. It seems to have gained a good
deal of headway in a very short time. I am going to ask you to stand
in the corridor, Miss Carroll, while I go outside. As the girls come
downstairs with the buckets, count them. Send them out doors and to the
rear of the dormitory. I shall be there to tell them what to do. When
the last one is safely out, then join me.”

Left briefly to herself, Patsy wondered what her chums thought of her
in her new position as assistant fire chief. She had seen them in the
line, but had had no chance to exchange a word with them. She knew
Beatrice to be one of the bucket brigade, and so waited impatiently
for her return.

“Oh, Patsy, it’s terrible!” Beatrice called down to her chum, as she
began the descent of the lower flight of stairs, bucket in hand. “I
got this bucket at the end of the hall near a window. I looked out
and saw the back of the dormitory. It’s a mass of flames! Unless the
fire company comes soon the whole place will go and we’ll lose all our
clothes and belongings. I managed to snatch my handbag and yours from
the chiffonier. One of the girls outside is keeping them for me.”

“You dear, thoughtful thing!”

Bee had now reached the foot of the stairs. Setting down the heavy
bucket, she paused just long enough to return the hug Patsy gave her.
Then she picked up her bucket and hurried on.

One by one the bucket brigade appeared, only to disappear out the
front door. Patsy kept careful watch until the twenty-fourth girl had
vanished. By this time the smoke in the corridor was steadily growing
more dense. She doubted if the brigade would be able to return for a
second supply of water. It was high time for her to be moving on, she
decided.

As she ran down the front steps of the dormitory and around the corner
of the building toward its rear, she could well understand why the
corridor had begun to fill with smoke. The rear of the dormitory was
now wrapped in flames.

Lined up as close to the fiercely blazing structure as they dared
stand, the members of the brigade were rapidly passing their buckets
on to half a dozen girls who, under Mrs. Ainslee’s direction, were
valiantly throwing the contents of the buckets on the flames.

The burning section of the dormitory was much lower than the main part
of the building, being only two stories high. It might as well have
been four stories for all the impression that the amateur fire fighters
could make on the flames. Endeavoring to dash the water upon the
conflagration from a safe distance, a large portion of it fell on the
ground.

While they toiled desperately at their hopeless task, the welcome
clanging of bells and the chug-chug of motors announced the arrival of
the Alden Hose Company on the scene.

With thankful hearts, the bucket brigade promptly vacated their posts
to make way for the firemen, who soon had a hose connected with the
nearest water main and playing vigorously upon the flames.

Despite their gallant efforts, the wind was against them and the
fire had gained too much headway prior to their arrival to be easily
quenched.

None of the Yardley girls ever forgot that night. Drawn up in a body
at one side of the campus they watched in terrified fascination the
conflict raging between fire and water.

It was between half-past nine and ten o’clock when Patsy discovered the
fire. It was after one in the morning when water finally reduced the
fire to a state of inactivity. At least two-thirds of the dormitory had
been demolished, leaving only the charred rafters. The front part was
still intact, due to the unceasing toil of the gallant fire fighters.
They would stick to their posts until there remained no further
possibility of the fire taking on a new lease of life.

Over in Yardley Hall a weary company of homeless girls were endeavoring
to make themselves comfortable for the rest of the night. Aside from
money and small valuables, which the majority had had forethought
enough to hastily snatch up when the gong had sounded, everything
belonging to them had gone up in smoke.

The pecuniary side of their losses was not troubling them. There was
hardly a girl at Yardley who had not come from a home of affluence. The
discomfort they were temporarily obliged to endure was another matter.
There was also much wild conjecturing going on among the castaways as
to what effect the disaster would have upon the school’s routine of
study.

Lounging wearily on a long oak bench in the corridor, the Wayfarers
were discussing the situation amid frequent yawns.

“I guess we’ll just have to stay here until morning,” Patsy was
ruefully informing her chums. “It’s after two now and we’ve no other
place to go. I’m awfully sleepy, too, but this bench is no place to
sleep.”

“Some of the girls have stretched out on the benches in the
class-rooms,” declared Mabel. “We might as well do the same. Where do
you suppose we’re going to eat breakfast? I’m hungry now.”

“We’re going to eat it in Alden,” announced Patsy positively. “The
minute daylight comes we’ll hop into my car and drive to the village.
I’m hungry, too. Wish it was morning now.”

“This is going to make a big difference in our Easter vacation,”
reflectively remarked Beatrice. “We’ll probably be allowed to go home
to-morrow. With the dormitory gone there’s no other place for us to
stay until it’s rebuilt. Of course it will be, and it won’t take very
long to do it. It isn’t as though it had been burned to the ground. The
frame work’s there and the front of it is all right.”

“How long do you suppose it will take to rebuild it?” asked Patsy
eagerly. Bee’s remarks had set her to thinking.

“Oh, five or six weeks,” hazarded Beatrice. “A gang of skilled workmen
can rebuild it very quickly.”

“Five or six weeks,” mused Patsy.

Of a sudden she straightened up from her lounging attitude, her gray
eyes very bright.

“Girls,” she said impressively, “do you know what this means to us?
It means Palm Beach after all. Miss Osgood has been foiled by fire.
Doesn’t that sound exactly like a movie title? Anyway, there’s no loss
without some gain. It’s not very pleasant to be driven from home in the
middle of the night and have all one’s clothes vanish into smoke. I’m
sorry it happened, of course. But since it _did_ happen, it certainly
didn’t happen for the worst, so far as the Wayfarers are concerned.”



CHAPTER IV

GLORIOUS NEWS


Beatrice’s prediction that the night’s disaster would hasten by several
days the beginning of a prolonged Easter vacation proved accurate. The
day following the fire was a busy one for all who had suffered from
the dire calamity. At a meeting held in the chapel at two o’clock on
the following afternoon, Miss Osgood announced that a six weeks’ leave
of absence would be granted the pupils of Yardley. Those who were
sufficiently provided with clothing and funds to go to their homes
at once were requested to repair to her office immediately after the
meeting. Those who were not were requested to meet her there at four
o’clock to discuss ways and means.

As it happened, the Wayfarers were not only ready to go home, but
wildly impatient to go. Early that morning they had driven to Alden in
Patsy’s car to purchase the few things needful for the journey. Luckily
for them they had been fully dressed when the fire alarm had sounded.
Beatrice, Mabel and Eleanor had wisely donned hats and coats before
leaving their rooms. Patsy had put on her fur coat when she had gone
out to mail a letter. She was therefore minus a hat only. An hour’s
shopping in the village provided the four girls with handkerchiefs,
gloves and the few other articles which they required.

Four o’clock that afternoon saw them at the railway station at Alden,
waiting for the four-thirty west-bound train which would land them in
Morton shortly after ten o’clock that evening. Patsy had already sent
her aunt a lengthy telegram, informing Miss Carroll of the fire and
that the four girls would arrive in Morton that night.

Though the journey home was not a long one, it seemed interminable to
the travelers. Patsy was burning to impart the glorious news to her
aunt. She was very sure that Aunt Martha would reconsider her decision
not to go to Palm Beach as soon as she had been informed of the new
turn in the girls’ affairs.

“Morton at last!” sighed Mabel thankfully, when at five minutes to
ten that evening the scattered lights of the city’s suburbs began to
spring up in the darkness. “Our train is exactly on time.”

“I hope Auntie will meet us,” Patsy said. “Maybe your mother will
be there, too, Perry children; and yours, Bee. I told Auntie in my
telegram to send them word. I guess they’ll be there, all right enough.”

“It seems queer not to have any luggage, doesn’t it?” remarked Eleanor.

The four girls had now begun putting on their coats, preparatory to
leaving the train, which was gradually slowing down as it neared the
station.

“We’re lucky to be here ourselves,” returned Bee seriously. “If that
fire had started at dead of night it would have been a good deal worse
for us.”

When the train pulled into the station, however, the Wayfarers were
doomed to disappointment. No friendly faces greeted their sight as they
stepped from the train.

“Auntie didn’t get my telegram! I just know she didn’t!” Patsy cried
out disappointedly. “If she’s read about the fire in the evening
papers, I can imagine how worried she must be by this time. It’s
probably the fault of the operator at Alden. He looked like a sleepy
old stupid. We’d better take a taxi, children. The sooner we get home
the better it will be for our worried folks.”

Hailing a taxicab the Wayfarers were soon driving through the quiet
streets of the little city toward the beautiful suburb in which they
lived. Beatrice was the first to alight in front of the Forbes’
unpretentious home. Promising to run over to see Patsy the first thing
the next morning, she said “good night” and hurried up the walk.

“Coming in, girls?” asked Patsy as the taxicab finally stopped in front
of the high, ornamental iron fence which enclosed the beautiful grounds
of the Carroll estate.

“Not to-night. We must hustle into our own house and surprise Mother,”
returned Eleanor.

“Good-night, then. See you in the morning. I’ll pay the driver.”

Patsy hopped nimbly out of the taxicab, handed the driver his fare with
an additional coin for good measure, then swung open the big gate and
raced up the driveway to the house.

Three sharp, successive rings of the electric bell had a potent effect
upon a stately, white-haired matron who sat in the living room, making
a half-hearted attempt to read. Miss Martha Carroll sprang to her feet
as the sound fell upon her ears and started for the hall at a most
undignified pace. There was but one person who rang the Carrolls’ bell
in that fashion.

Long before the maid had time to reach the door Miss Martha had opened
it and thrown her arms about the merry-faced, auburn-haired girl on the
threshold.

“Patsy Carroll, you bad child!” she exclaimed as she gathered her niece
closer to her. “Why didn’t you telegraph me that you were all right and
coming home?”

“But I did, Auntie,” protested Patsy, as she energetically hugged her
relieved relative. “I telegraphed this morning. I knew you hadn’t
received the telegram the minute I got into the station. In it I asked
you to meet me.”

“I never received it. Of course it will be delivered _to-morrow_,”
emphasized Miss Martha disgustedly. “I sent one to you directly after I
read the account of the fire in the evening paper. My nerves have been
keyed up to a high pitch, waiting for a reply to it.”

“Poor, dear Auntie,” cooed Patsy. “It’s a shame. Never mind. I’m home
now, so everything’s lovely again. Let’s go into the living room and
I’ll tell you all about the fire and how I happened to come home
to-night. Bee and Mab and Nellie came home with me. They’ll be over to
see you in the morning.”

“Are you hungry, Patsy?” was her aunt’s solicitous question as the two
walked slowly into the living room, arms twined about each other’s
waists.

“No, Auntie. We had dinner on the train. I’m just crazy to talk. I’ve
some glorious news to tell you. Let’s sit on the davenport and have a
grand old talking bee.”

“To know you are safe is sufficiently good news,” tenderly rejoiced
Miss Martha. “Really, Patricia, I am still trembling from the shock I
received when I opened the newspaper and saw the headline, ‘Fire Sweeps
Away Dormitory at Yardley.’”

“Well, it didn’t sweep me away,” laughed Patsy, snuggling into the
circle of her aunt’s arm. The two had now seated themselves on the big
leather davenport. “Part of the dormitory is still there. We lost all
our stuff except the clothing we were wearing when the fire broke out.”

“What started it?” questioned Miss Martha rather severely. “The paper
didn’t state the cause. A dormitory like the one at Yardley ought to
be fireproof. I am sorry that I did not visit Yardley before allowing
you to enter the school. I should certainly never countenance your
living in a place that in any way looked like a fire-trap.”

“The fire started in the basement. The regular janitor was sick and
a new one took his place. They say it was through his carelessness
that it started. He was seen to go into the basement smoking a pipe.
Something he’d been forbidden to do. Of course, no one can be really
sure that it was his fault, though. I was the one who gave the alarm.”

Patsy went on to recount the incidents of the eventful night.

“Not a single girl acted scared or panicky,” she proudly boasted. “We’d
had fire drill so often that we knew just what to do when the fire
really came. But I haven’t told you the glorious news yet. We’re going
to have _six_ weeks’ vacation. Just think of it, Aunt Martha! Isn’t
that perfectly gorgeous? Now we can go to Palm Beach, can’t we?”

“So that is the glorious news,” commented Miss Carroll.

For an instant she silently surveyed Patsy, a half-smile touching her
firm lips.

“What is it, Auntie?”

Patsy was not slow to read peculiar significance in both tone and
smile. Something unusual was in the wind.

“Would you care very much if we didn’t go to Palm Beach?” was Miss
Martha’s enigmatic question.

“Of course I should,” Patsy cried out, her bright face clouding over.
“You’re not going to say that we can’t! You mustn’t! I’ve set my heart
on the Florida trip. All the way home I’ve been planning for it.”

“I received a letter from your father this morning,” pursued Miss
Carroll, ignoring Patsy’s protest. “I also received another from Miss
Osgood in which she refused my request for the extra week of vacation.
I had written your father several days ago regarding the making of
arrangements for us to go to Palm Beach. You can read for yourself what
he has to say.”

Rising, Miss Martha went over to a small mahogany writing desk. Opening
it she took a letter from one of the pigeon holes.

“Here is Robert’s letter,” she said. Handing it to her niece she
reseated herself beside the latter.

Very eagerly Patsy took it from its envelope and read:

    “DEAR MARTHA:

    “Your letter came to me this morning and I would be quick to
    reserve rooms for yourself and the girls at one of the Palm
    Beach hotels, except that I have a better plan. How would you
    like to spend three weeks in a real southern mansion? There is
    such a house on the estate I recently bought.

    “It is a curiously beautiful house, built after the Spanish
    style of architecture, with an inner court and many balconies.
    The agent from whom I purchased it informs me that it was
    formerly the property of an elderly Spaniard, Manuel de Fereda.
    After his death, several months ago, the property descended to
    his granddaughter, who was anxious to sell it.

    “It is completely furnished, much in the fashion of houses I
    saw when in Mexico. The girls will rave over it and I am very
    anxious that they shall spend their holiday in it. It is not
    many miles from Palm Beach and I have found a good Indian guide
    who will take us on the Everglades expedition which Patsy has
    set her mind on making.

    “Of course, if you prefer Palm Beach for the girls, then so
    be it. If you come to Las Golondrinas (The Swallows), that is
    the name of the old house, you will not need to bring so many
    trunks, as you will see very little of society, except when you
    make an occasional trip to the Beach. I can secure a good car
    for your use while here which Patsy can drive to her heart’s
    content.

    “Let me know at once what you think of my plan. If you decide
    immediately to take it up, wire me and I will be on the lookout
    for you. I believe you will enjoy this little adventure as much
    as I shall. I know now what Patsy will say. As the girls are
    to have only three weeks’ vacation, better arrange to start as
    soon as possible.

                           “Affectionately,

                                                          “ROBERT.”

“Aunt Martha, the Wayfarers are the luckiest girls in the whole world,”
was Patsy’s solemn assertion as she looked up from the letter. “First
they go through a fire and come out as safely as can be. Next they get
six weeks’ vacation. After that, Daddy plays good fairy, and finds
them a wonderful palace in the land of flowers. All they have to do
is to hurry up and take possession. _When_ are we going to start for
Florida?”

“As soon as we can make ready,” was the prompt reply. “Since your
father seems very anxious for us to take this trip, I feel that we
ought not disappoint him. I dare say we may find this old house he
describes somewhat interesting.”

This calm statement filled Patsy with inward amusement. She knew it to
be an indirect admission that her aunt was as anxious as she to carry
out the plan her father had made for them.

“We won’t need a lot of new gowns,” argued Patsy. “We all have evening
frocks and plenty of wash dresses from last summer. We can wear our
corduroy suits and high boots to tramp around in. We ought to have some
of those Palm Beach hats the stores are showing, and new white shoes,
and a few other things. It isn’t as if we were going to stay at a large
hotel. We’ll be away from society and living outdoors most of the
time. This is Friday. I think we ought to start south not later than
next Wednesday morning. We can’t afford to use up more than one of our
precious weeks in getting ready and going down to Las--Las----What’s
the name of our new home?”

Patsy hastily consulted her father’s letter.

“Las Gol-on-drinas,” she pronounced slowly. “I suppose that’s not
the way to pronounce it. I’ll have to ask Mab about it. She’s taking
Spanish this year. It’s very necessary to know how to say the name of
our new southern home,” she added with a chuckle. “Won’t the girls be
surprised when they hear about this splendid plan of Father’s? Have you
spoken to Mrs. Perry about it yet, Auntie?”

“No, my dear. You must remember that I received Miss Osgood’s letter,
refusing my request at the same time that I received your father’s
letter. They arrived in the first mail this morning. I intended writing
Robert this evening, explaining that it would be impossible for us
to go to Florida. Then I read about the fire in the paper and it
completely upset my nerves. I will call on the Perrys to-morrow morning
to talk things over. We must also call on Mrs. Forbes.”

“Bee isn’t sure that her mother will let her accept another trip from
us,” confided Patsy. “That’s the only thing I worried about after I
knew we were to have the six weeks’ vacation. She said she was sure
her mother wouldn’t feel right about letting us pay her expenses at a
fashionable resort like Palm Beach. But it’s all different now. Mrs.
Forbes can’t very well refuse to let Bee accept an invitation to a
house party, can she? You must make her see it in that light, Aunt
Martha, or she won’t let Bee go with us. She’s awfully proud, you know.
We simply must have Bee along. I wouldn’t care much about the trip if
she had to stay at home.”

“Beatrice will go with us,” assured Miss Martha in a tone that
indicated the intention to have her own way in the matter. Patsy knew
from long experience that her dignified aunt was a person not to be
easily overruled, and rejoiced accordingly.

“I told Bee that I knew you could fix things beautifully with her
mother,” she declared happily. “We’re going to have a wonderful time in
that quaint old house. Wouldn’t it be great if it were haunted, or had
some kind of a mystery about it? I’ve read lots of queer stories about
those old southern mansions.”

“Now, Patsy,” Miss Martha made an attempt at looking extremely severe,
“once and for all you may put such foolish notions out of your head.
That affair of the missing will at Wilderness Lodge was, of course,
quite remarkable. Nevertheless, it was very annoying in many respects.”

Miss Martha had not forgotten her enforced hike over hill and dale on
the memorable afternoon when John, the rascally chauffeur, had set her
down in an unfamiliar territory and left her to return to the Lodge as
best she might.

“We are going down South for recreation. Bear that in mind,” she
continued. “The majority of these tales about haunted houses down there
originate with the negroes, who are very ignorant and superstitious.
There is no such thing as a _haunted_ house. I have never yet met a
person who had actually _seen_ a ghost. Undoubtedly we shall hear a
number of such silly tales while we are in Florida. I am told that the
natives are very fond of relating such yarns. You girls may listen to
them if you like, but you must not take them seriously. You are not apt
ever again to run into another mystery like that of Wilderness Lodge.”



CHAPTER V

THE LAND OF FLOWERS


“No wonder the Spaniards named this beautiful land ‘Florida’!”
rapturously exclaimed Beatrice Forbes. “I never dreamed it _could_ be
quite so wonderful as this.”

“I suppose when first they saw it, they must have felt about it as we
do now,” returned Eleanor. “According to history they landed here on
Easter Sunday. We’re seeing Florida at about the same time of year as
they first saw it. It’s almost as wonderful to us as it was to them.
Not quite, of course, because they underwent all sorts of hardships
before they landed here. So they must have thought it like Heaven.”

Exactly one week had elapsed since the Wayfarers had arrived in Morton
with the pleasing prospect ahead of them of a six weeks’ vacation.
Three days of hurried preparation had followed. Then had come the
long, rather tiresome railway journey to Florida. They had arrived at
Palm Beach late in the afternoon of the sixth day, had been met by Mr.
Carroll and had spent the night at one of Palm Beach’s most fashionable
hotels.

Weary from the long railway trip, the travelers had resisted the lure
of a water fête, to be given that evening on Lake Worth, and retired
early.

“I can secure a boat, if you girls are anxious to take in the fête,”
Mr. Carroll had informed his flock at dinner that evening. “This fête
will be nothing very remarkable, however. Later on, I understand, a
big Venetian fête is to be given. Why not wait and go to that? We can
easily run up to the Beach in the car from Las Golondrinas. I would
suggest going to bed in good season to-night. Then we can make an early
start in the morning for our new home.”

This program being approved by all, the Wayfarers had dutifully settled
down early for the night. It was now a little after ten o’clock on the
following morning and the big touring car, driven by Mr. Carroll, was
bowling due south over a palm-lined country road, toward its objective,
Las Golondrinas.

It was a particularly balmy morning, even for southern Florida, where
a perpetual state of fine weather may be expected to hold sway during
the winter months. Southward under tall palms, past villa after villa,
embowered in gorgeously colored, flowering vines, the touring car
glided with its load of enthusiastic beauty-worshippers.

Seated between Miss Martha and Eleanor in the tonneau of the machine,
Beatrice was perhaps the most ardent worshipper of them all. Love of
Nature was almost a religion with her. She was a true child of the
great outdoors.

“It’s so beautiful it makes me feel almost like crying,” she confided
to her companions as she drew in a deep breath of the exquisitely
scented morning air. “It’s so different from the Adirondacks. Up there
I felt exhilarated; as though I’d like to stand up and sing an anthem
to the mountains. But all this fragrance and color and sunlight and
warm, sweet air makes me feel--well--sentimental,” finished Bee rather
timidly.

“It seems more like an enchanted land out of a fairy-tale than a real
one,” mused Eleanor. “No wonder the birds begin to fly south the minute
it grows chilly up north. They know what’s waiting for them down here.”

“That’s more than we know,” smiled Beatrice, her brown eyes dreamy.
“We’re explorers, once more, setting foot in a strange, new country.
Something perfectly amazing may be waiting for us just around the
corner.”

“I hope it won’t be a horrid big snake,” shuddered practical Mabel,
who sat opposite the trio on one of the small seats. “There are plenty
of poisonous snakes down here, you know. Moccasins and diamond-back
rattlers, coral snakes and a good many other varieties that aren’t
poisonous, but horrible, just the same.”

“Why break the spell by mentioning anything so disagreeable as snakes,
Mab?” asked Eleanor reproachfully. “I’d forgotten that there were such
hateful, wriggly things. How do you happen to be so well up on the
snakology of Florida?”

“There’s no such word as snakology,” retorted Mabel. “You mean
_herpetology_.”

“Snakology’s a fine word, even if old Noah Webster did forget to put it
in the dictionary,” laughed Eleanor. “Isn’t it, Miss Martha?”

“I can’t say that I specially admire any word pertaining to snakes,”
dryly answered Miss Carroll. “While we are on the subject, however,
I may as well say that nothing can induce me to go on any wild
expeditions into these swamps down here. I daresay these jungles are
full of poisonous snakes. I greatly doubt the advisability of allowing
you girls to trail around in such dangerous places.”

“Oh, we’ll be all right with a real Indian guide to show us the way,”
declared Beatrice confidently. “White Heron is the name of our Indian
guide. Mr. Carroll was telling me about him last night. He is a
Seminole and a great hunter.”

“I have no confidence in Indians,” disparaged Miss Martha. “I sincerely
hope Robert is not mistaken in this one. I shall have to see him for
myself in order to judge whether he is a fit person to act as guide on
this foolhardy expedition that Patsy is so set on making.”

This dampening assertion warned the trio of girls that it was high time
to discuss something else. They remembered Patsy’s difficulties of the
previous summer in wringing a reluctant permission from Miss Martha to
go camping in the mountains. Now it seemed she had again posted herself
on the wrong side of the fence. It therefore behooved them to drop the
subject where it stood, leaving the winning over of Miss Martha to wily
Patsy and her father.

Seated beside her father, who, knowing the road to Las Golondrinas,
was driving the car, Patsy was keeping up a running fire of delighted
exclamation over the tropical beauty of the country through which they
were passing.

“I’m so glad you bought this splendid place, Dad,” she rattled along in
her quick, eager fashion. “After I’m through college maybe we can come
down to Florida and spend a whole winter.”

“I had that idea in mind when I bought it,” returned her father. “It
will take considerable time to put Las Golondrinas in good condition
again. Old Fereda let it run down. There are some fine orange groves on
the estate, but they need attention. The house is in good condition.
It’s one of those old-timers and solidly built. The grounds were in bad
shape, though. I’ve had a gang of darkies working on them ever since
I bought the place. They’re a lazy lot. Still they’ve done quite a
little toward getting the lawns smooth again and thinning the trees and
shrubs.”

“Who was this Manuel de Fereda, anyway?” questioned Patsy curiously. “I
know he was Spanish and died, and that’s all.”

“I know very little about him, my dear. Mr. Haynes, the agent who sold
me the property, had never seen him. In fact, had never heard of him
until Fereda’s granddaughter put the place in his hands for sale. She
told Haynes that her grandfather was crazy. Haynes said she seemed
very anxious to get rid of the property and get away from it.”

“There’s just enough about the whole thing to arouse one’s curiosity,”
sighed Patsy. “I’d love to know more about this queer, crazy old
Spaniard. Maybe we’ll meet some people living near the estate who will
be able to tell us more about him.”

“Oh, you’ll probably run across someone who knows the history of the
Feredas,” lightly assured her father. “Neither the old mammy I engaged
as cook, nor the two maids can help you out, though. They come from
Miami and know no one in the vicinity. I’m still hunting for a good,
trustworthy man for general work. We shall need one while we’re here,
to run errands, see to the horses and make himself useful.”

“You must have worked awfully hard to get things ready for us, Dad.”

Patsy slipped an affectionately grateful hand into her father’s arm.

“I could have done better if I had known from the start that you were
really coming,” he returned. “I had to hustle around considerably. At
least you’re here now and your aunt can be depended upon to do the
rest. I hope she will get along nicely with her darkie help. They’re
usually as hard to manage as a lot of unruly children.”

“Oh, she will,” predicted Patsy. “She always makes everybody except
Patsy do as she says. Patsy likes to have her own way, you know.”

“So I’ve understood,” smiled Mr. Carroll. “Patsy usually gets it, too,
I’m sorry to say.”

“You’re not a bit sorry and you know it,” flatly contradicted Patsy.
“You’d hate to have me for a daughter if I were a meek, quiet Patsy who
never had an opinion of her own.”

“I can’t imagine such a thing,” laughed her father. “I’m so used to
being bullied by a certain self-willed young person that I rather like
it.”

“You’re a dear,” gaily approved Patsy. “I don’t ever really bully you,
you know. I just tell you what you have to do and then you go and do
it. That’s not bullying, is it?”

“Not in our family,” satirically assured Mr. Carroll.

Whereupon they both laughed.

Meanwhile, as they continued to talk in the half-jesting, intimate
fashion of two persons who thoroughly understand each other, the
big black car ate up the miles that lay between Palm Beach and Las
Golondrinas. As the party drew nearer their destination the highly
ornamental villas which had lined both sides of the road began to grow
fewer and farther apart. They saw less of color and riotous bloom and
more of the vivid but monotonous green of the tropics.

They turned at last from the main highway and due east into a white
sandy road which ran through a natural park of stately green pines.
Under the shadow of the pines the car continued for a mile or so, then
broke out into the open and the sunlight again.

“Oh, look!”

Half rising in the seat, Patsy pointed. Ahead of them and dazzlingly
blue in the morning sunshine lay the sea.

“How near is our new home to the ocean, Dad?” she asked eagerly.

“There it is yonder.”

Taking a hand briefly from the wheel, Mr. Carroll indicated a point
some distance ahead and to the right where the red-tiled roof of a
house showed in patches among the wealth of surrounding greenery.

“Why, it’s only a little way from the sea!” Patsy cried out. “Not more
than half a mile, I should judge.”

“About three quarters,” corrected her father. “The bathing beach is
excellent and there’s an old boathouse, too.”

“Are there any boats?” was the quick question.

“A couple of dinghys. Both leaky. I gave them to one of my black
fellows. Old Fereda was evidently not a sea dog. The boathouse was full
of odds and ends of rubbish. I had it cleared up and repainted inside
and out. It will make you a good bath house. It’s a trim looking little
shack now.”

Presently rounding a curve in the white, ribbon-like road, the
travelers found themselves again riding southward. To their left,
picturesque masses of jungle sloped down to the ocean below.

Soon to their right, however, a high iron fence appeared, running
parallel with the road. It formed the eastern boundary of Las
Golondrinas. Behind it lay the estate itself, stretching levelly toward
the red-roofed house in the distance. Long neglected by its former
owner, the once carefully kept lawns and hedges had put forth rank,
jungle-like growth. Broad-fronded palms and palmettos drooped graceful
leaves over seemingly impenetrable thickets of tangled green. Bush and
hedge, once carefully pruned, now flung forth riotous untamed masses
of gorgeous bloom.

“It looks more like a wilderness than a private estate,” was Patsy’s
opinion as her quick eyes roved from point to point in passing.

“It looked a good deal more like a jungle a few weeks ago,” returned
Mr. Carroll. “Wait until you pass the gates; then you’ll begin to
notice a difference. The improvements my black boys have made don’t
show from the road.”

For a distance of half a mile, the car continued on the sandy highway.
At last Mr. Carroll brought it to a stop before the tall, wrought-iron
gates of the main entrance to the estate. Springing from the
automobile, he went forward to open them.

“Every man his own gate-opener,” he called out jovially. “Drive ahead,
Patsy girl.”

Patsy had already slipped into the driver’s seat, hands on the wheel.
Immediately her father called out, she drove the machine slowly forward
and through the now wide-open gateway.

“Do let me drive the rest of the way, Dad,” she implored as Mr. Carroll
regained the car.

“All right. Follow this trail wherever it goes and you’ll finally bring
up at the house,” was the good-humored injunction.

By “trail” Mr. Carroll meant the drive, which, flanked by hedges of
perfumed oleander, wound through the grounds, describing a sweeping
curve as it approached the quaint, grayish-white building that had for
generations sheltered the Feredas. A little beyond the house and to its
rear, they glimpsed rank upon rank of orange trees, on which golden
fruit and creamy blossoms hung together amongst the glossy green of
foliage.

A light land breeze, freighted with the fragrance of many flowers, blew
softly upon the Wayfarers. Its scented sweetness filled them with fresh
delight and appreciation of their new home.

Patsy brought the car to a stop on the drive, directly in front of
an arched doorway, situated at the center of the facade. Before the
travelers had time to step out of the automobile the massive double
doors were swung open by a stout, turbaned mammy, the true southern
type of negro, fast vanishing from the latter day, modernized South.
Her fat, black face radiant with good will, she showed two rows of
strong white teeth in a broad smile. Beside her stood two young colored
girls who stared rather shyly at the newcomers.

“I done see yoh comin’, Massa Carroll!” she exclaimed. “I see yoh way
down de road. So I done tell Celia an’ Em’ly here, y’all come along
now, right smart, an’ show Massa Carroll’s folks yoh got some manners.’”

“Thank you, Mammy Luce,” gallantly responded Mr. Carroll, his blue eyes
twinkling with amusement. Whereupon he gravely presented the gratified
old servant to his “folks.” A courtesy which she acknowledged with an
even greater display of teeth and many bobbing bows.

Headed by Mr. Carroll, the travelers stepped over the threshold of Las
Golondrinas and into the coolness of a short stone passageway which
ended in the patio or square stone court, common to houses of Spanish
architecture.

In the center of the court a fountain sent up graceful sprays of water,
which fell sparkling into the ancient stone bowl built to receive the
silvery deluge. Above the court on three sides ranged the inevitable
balconies. Looking far upward one glimpsed, through the square opening,
a patch of blue sunlit sky.

“Welcome to Las Golondrinas, girls! It’s rather different from anything
you’ve ever seen before, now isn’t it?”

Mr. Carroll addressed the question to his flock in general, who
had stopped in the center of the court to take stock of their new
environment.

“It’s positively romantic!” declared Patsy fervently. “I feel as
though I’d stepped into the middle of an old Spanish tale. I’m sure
Las Golondrinas must have a wonderful history of its own. When you
stop to remember how many different Feredas have lived here, you can’t
help feeling that a lot of interesting, perhaps tragic things may have
happened to them. I only wish I knew more about them.”

“Let the poor dead and gone Feredas rest in peace, Patsy,” laughingly
admonished Eleanor. “We came down here to enjoy ourselves, not to dig
up the tragic history of a lot of Spanish Dons and Donnas.”

“A very sensible remark, Eleanor,” broke in Miss Martha emphatically.
“There is no reason that I can see why you, Patsy, should immediately
jump to the conclusion that this old house has a tragic history. It’s
pure nonsense, and I don’t approve of your filling your head with such
ideas. I dare say the history of these Feredas contains nothing either
startling or tragic. Don’t let such ridiculous notions influence you
to spend what ought to be a pleasant period of relaxation in trying to
conjure up a mystery that never existed.”

“Now, Auntie, you know perfectly well that if we happened to stumble
upon something simply amazing in this curious old house, you’d be just
as excited over it as any of us,” gaily declared Patsy.

“‘Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof,’” loftily quoted Miss
Martha, refusing to commit herself. “It will take something very
amazing indeed to impress me.”



CHAPTER VI

THE BEGINNING OF ADVENTURE


“The time has come, O Wayfarers, to think of many things,” gaily
declaimed Patsy, bursting into the somber, high-ceilinged, dark-paneled
sitting-room where Miss Martha, Beatrice, Mabel and Eleanor sat around
a massive mahogany table, busily engaged in writing letters.

“Go away, Patsy,” laughingly admonished Mabel, pen suspended in mid-air
over her note paper. “You’re a disturber. You’ve made me forget what I
was going to write next. If you won’t be a letter-writer, don’t be a
nuisance.”

“I can’t be what I never have been and could never possibly become,”
retorted Patsy. “I’ll promise to keep quiet, though, if you’ll all
hustle and finish your letters. I’m dying to go over to the orange
groves and it’s no fun going alone. Any old person will do for
company.”

“Then we _won’t_ do,” emphasized Beatrice. “We are very distinguished
persons who don’t belong in the ‘any old’ class.”

“Glad you told me,” chuckled Patsy. “I’ll give you ten minutes to
wind up your letters. If you’re not done then--well--I’ll give you
ten more. I am always considerate. I’m going to leave you now, but I
shall return. I’ll come buzzing around again, like a pestiferous fly,
in exactly ten minutes by my wrist watch. I’m only going as far as the
gallery to pay my respects to the dead and gone Feredas.”

With this announcement Patsy turned and strolled from the room. The
gallery to which she referred was in the nature of a short corridor,
extending between the second-floor sitting-room and ending at the
corridor on which were situated sleeping rooms which the Wayfarers
occupied. It had evidently served as a picture gallery for several
generations of Feredas. Its walls were lined with a heterogeneous
collection of oil paintings, largely landscape and studies in still
life. At least half of one side of it, however, was devoted strictly to
portraits. It was before this particular section that Patsy halted.

Two days had elapsed since the Wayfarers had made port at Las
Golondrinas. On the evening of their arrival, a storm had come up,
bursting over the old house in all its tropical fury. Following it,
rain had set in and for two days had continued to fall in a steady,
discouraging downpour that made out-door excursions impossible for the
time being.

Now, on the third morning since their arrival, the sun again shone
gloriously, in skies of cerulean blue, and the air was heavy with the
sweetness of rain-washed blossoms. It was an ideal morning to spend out
of doors, and Patsy was impatient to start on an exploring tour of the
estate.

During the two days in which the Wayfarers had been kept indoors by
the rain, they had become thoroughly acquainted with the old house.
They had wandered about it from cellar to roof, marveling at its utter
unlikeness to any other house in which they had ever set foot. Its
somber, spacious rooms with their highly polished floors and queer,
elaborately carved, foreign-looking furniture of a by-gone period,
evoked volleys of wondering comment and speculation. The cool patio
with its silver-spraying fountain, the long windows opening out onto
picturesque balconies and the dim stone corridors, all held for them
the very acme of romance. It was like being set down in a world which
they had known only in fiction.

Each girl had found some one particular object on which to fix
her special admiration. Eleanor went into ecstasies over a huge,
carved-leather chest that stood in the sitting-room. Beatrice was
enthusiastic over a heavy mahogany book-case filled with old Spanish
volumes, bound in boards and parchment. She loudly deplored her
inability to read Spanish and announced her intention of tackling the
fascinating volumes with the aid of a Spanish-English dictionary which
Mabel had brought along. Mabel was vastly impressed by a high, frowning
old desk with many drawers and pigeon-holes. She was perfectly sure,
she declared, that it must contain a secret drawer, and in consequence
spent the great part of an afternoon in an unavailing hunt for it.

Patsy found unending delight in the portrait section of the picture
gallery. The dark-eyed, tight-lipped men and women who stared down at
her from the wall filled her with an intense curiosity regarding who
they were and how long it had been since they had lived and played
their parts in the history of the Feredas.

Undoubtedly they were all Feredas. Of unmistakably Spanish cast of
countenance, they bore a decided family resemblance to one another.
The difference in the style of dress worn by the pictured folk
proclaimed them to be of many generations. How far removed from the
present day, she did not know. She was of the opinion that some of them
must have lived at least two hundred years ago. She was very sure that
one portrait, that of a man, must have been painted even earlier than
that.

It was this portrait in particular which most fascinated her. Hung in
the center of the section and framed in tarnished gilt, it depicted the
full length figure of a Spanish cavalier. Patsy thought he might easily
have been one of the intrepid, Latin adventurers who accompanied Ponce
de Leon on his unsuccessful quest into Florida for the fabled Fountain
of Youth.

As a gallant of long ago, the man in the picture instantly arrested her
attention. The thin, sinister face above the high Spanish ruff repelled
her, however. The bright, bird-like eyes, the long, aquiline nose and
the narrow lips, touched with a mocking smile, combined to make a
countenance of such intense cruelty as filled her with a curious sense
of terror. It was as if the sharp, black eyes followed her, as she
moved along from picture to picture. There was a peculiar, life-like
quality about the painting which gave her the uncomfortable feeling
that the sinister cavalier might step down from the canvas at any
moment.

Nevertheless she could not refrain from stopping to look at him every
time she passed through the corridor. She was convinced that he must
have been the first Fereda who landed in the New World and that he
had a record which might well match his malevolently smiling face. It
piqued her not a little to reflect, that, who he was and what he had
been would in all probability ever remain a mystery to her.

Strolling into the corridor that morning to study again the provoking
object of her curiosity, Patsy wondered how the granddaughter of old
Manuel de Fereda could ever have been content to turn over the contents
of Las Golondrinas to strangers. She wondered what had become of her.
She was undoubtedly the only one who knew the identity of the painted
cavalier. Patsy decided that she would ask her father to write Mr.
Haynes, the agent, from whom he had purchased the property, asking him
for Eulalie Fereda’s address. Once she had obtained it, Patsy fully
intended to write to the Spanish girl for information concerning the
painted cavalier.

Wrapped in meditation, she did not hear Beatrice’s light approaching
footsteps until her friend had traversed half of the corridor.

“Oh, Bee!” she hailed, as the latter paused beside her. “I’m going to
try to get Eulalie Fereda’s address from Mr. Haynes, and then write her
about this picture. It seems queer that she allowed all these portraits
of her family to be sold with the house, now doesn’t it? I certainly
shouldn’t care to see the pictures of my respected ancestors pass into
the hands of strangers.”

“Perhaps she’d lived here so long with her grandfather that she’d grown
tired of him and all the rest of the Fereda tribe,” hazarded Bee.
“Imagine how lonely it would be for a young girl in this gloomy old
house. It _is_ gloomy, you know. We don’t mind it because there are a
crowd of us. It all seems just quaint and romantic to us.”

“All except Auntie,” reminded Patsy, smiling. “She says that the whole
house ought to be done over from top to bottom and that she intends to
come down here next fall and see to it herself. I think she only half
means it, though. She likes it the way it is, just as much as we do,
but she won’t admit it. Aunt Martha has a real love for the romantic,
but she tries hard not to let any one know it.”

“The furniture in this house must be really valuable,” Bee said
seriously. “Most of it is antique. Goodness knows how old that desk in
the sitting-room is; and that carved-leather chest and the book-case.
Why, those books alone must be worth a good deal. A book collector
would rave over them. I wish I knew something about rare volumes and
first editions. If I were your father I’d send for an expert and have
the collection valued.”

“I’ll tell him about it,” nodded Patsy. “Only he won’t bother to do
it while we’re here. He’s more interested in having the grounds put
in order than anything else. He says the orange groves are not worth
much because they’ve been neglected for so long. With care, he thinks
they’ll do better next year. We’ve come down here too late for the real
fruit season, you know. We should have been here in January or February
for that. Anyway, he didn’t buy this place as a money-making venture.
He thought it would be a nice winter home for us.”

“I’m lucky to have the chance to see it,” congratulated Beatrice. “If
ever I become a writer, I shall put Las Golondrinas into a story.
That’s a pretty name; Las Golondrinas.”

“Isn’t it, though. I suppose it was named on account of the tree
swallows,” mused Patsy. “Dad says there are flocks of them here. They
have blue backs and white breasts. I’m sure I saw some this morning.
Oh, dear! I wish the girls would hurry. I want to start out and see the
sights. Come on. Let’s remind them that time is flying.”

Catching Bee by the hand, Patsy pulled her, a willing captive, toward
the sitting-room.

“Time’s up and more than up!” she announced, poking her auburn head
into the big room.

“I’m ready,” responded Eleanor, rising from her chair.

“So am I--in another minute.”

Hastily addressing an envelope to her mother, Mabel tucked her letter
into it, sealed and stamped it.

“There!” she ejaculated as she laid it on the little pile of letters
which represented the fruits of the morning’s labor. “That’s off my
mind.”

“What about you, Auntie?” questioned Patsy, noting that her dignified
relative was still engaged in letter-writing. “Don’t you want to join
the explorers?”

“You girls can get along very well without me,” placidly returned Miss
Carroll. “I am not through with my writing. Besides, I don’t feel
inclined to go exploring this morning. I warn all of you to be careful
where you set foot. This old place may be infested with snakes.”

“Oh, we’ll be careful. We’ll each carry a good stout stick,” assured
Beatrice. “That’s the way tourists do in the tropics, you know. On some
of the South Sea Islands, I’ve read that tourists always carry what
they call ‘snake sticks’ when they go calling. At night the coolies go
ahead of a calling party and beat the long grass aside.”

“Very fine, Bee. I hereby appoint you chief grass-beater of the realm,”
teased Mabel.

“I decline the high office,” retorted Bee. “Every Wayfarer will have
to do her own bit of trail beating. As I am _very_ brave, I don’t mind
walking ahead, though.”

“I will walk with you, Bee,” graciously offered Patsy. “Woe be to the
wriggly, jiggly sarpint that crosses our path.”

In this light strain the four girls left Miss Martha to her writing
and sallied forth from the coolness of the old house into the bright
sunlight.

“Where shall we go first?” queried Patsy, as they paused on the drive
in front of the house. “Shall we get acquainted with our numerous acres
of front yard, or shall we make a bee-line for the orange groves?”

“Let’s do the groves first,” suggested Eleanor. “I’m awfully anxious to
get close to real orange trees with real oranges growing on them.”

“Come on, then.”

Seizing Beatrice by the arm, Patsy piloted her around a corner of the
house, Mabel and Eleanor following.

Crossing a comparatively smooth bit of lawn, at the rear of the house,
the Wayfarers halted by common consent before proceeding further.
Between them and the orange groves lay a wide stretch of ground, fairly
overrun with tangled bush and vine. Magnificent live oak, cedar and
palmetto trees, spread their noble branches over thickets of bright
bloom and living green. It was extremely picturesque, but “very snaky,”
as Mabel declared with a little shudder.

“There’s a darkie over yonder, clipping away that thicket!” Eleanor
pointed to where an ancient, bare-footed, overalled African, wearing
a huge, tattered straw hat, was industriously cutting away at a thick
patch of sprawling green growth.

“Hey, there, Uncle!” called out undignified Patsy. “Come here a minute,
please.”

The old man straightened up at the hail and looked rather blankly about
him. Catching sight of the group of white-clad girls, he ambled slowly
toward them through the long grass.

“Mornin’, young ladies,” he saluted, pulling off his ragged headgear
and disclosing a thick crop of snow-white wool. “Ah reckin mebbe yoh
wants Uncle Jemmy t’ tell yoh suthin’?”

“Yes, we do, Uncle,” beamed Patsy. “We wish you’d show us a path to
the orange groves, if there is one. We’d like to have some good, stout
sticks, too, in case we see any snakes. Aren’t you afraid to walk
around in that jungle in your bare feet?”

“Laws, Missie, I’se used toh it, I is. Th’ ain’t no snaikes round heah
what mounts toh much. I done see a big black snaike this mohnin’, but
that fella ain’t out toh do me no damage. He am a useful snaike, he am.”

“We’ll be just as well satisfied not to meet his snakeship, even if he
is so useful,” muttered Eleanor in Patsy’s ear.

“Ef yoh all young ladies’ll come along now, I’se gwine toh show yoh the
way toh git toh the orange groves,” continued Uncle Jemmy. “There am a
path ovah heah.”

So saying, the old man took the lead and trotted along the clipped
lawn where it skirted the high grass for a distance of perhaps twenty
yards. The girls followed him, single file, every pair of bright eyes
intent on trying to catch a glimpse of the path.

Pausing at last, Uncle Jemmy proceeded to lop off several low-growing
branches from a nearby tree. These he deftly stripped clear of twigs
and foliage and, trimming them smooth with a huge, sharp-bladed pocket
knife, presented one to each of the four explorers.

“Heah am yoh snaike sticks, young ladies,” he declared, showing a vast
expanse of white teeth in a genial grin. “Now I’se gwine to take yoh a
little furder an’ yoh’ll see de path.”

A few steps and they came abreast of a giant oak tree and here the path
began, a narrow trail, but beaten hard by the passing of countless feet.

“Yoh jes’ follow de path whereber he goes and yoh-all gwine come af’er
while toh de groves,” he directed.

“Thank you, Uncle Jemmy.” Patsy nodded radiant thanks. Seized by a
sudden thought she asked: “Do you live around here?”

“No, Missie. I comes from Tampa, I does. Soon’s I git through this job
foh Massa Carroll I gwine toh git right back toh Tampa again. It am de
bes’ place fo’ Uncle Jemmy.”

“Oh!” Patsy’s face fell. Then she tried again. “Do any of these boys
working with you live around here?”

“No, Missie. They done come from Miami. We am all strangahs heah.”

“I see. Thank you ever so much for helping us.”

With a kindly nod to the old man, Patsy turned to her chums who had
stood listening in silence to the questions she had asked.

“Are you ready for the great adventure?” she queried. “Come along,
then. One, two, three and away we go, Indian fashion!”

Bidding a smiling good-bye to Uncle Jemmy, who had now turned to go,
the three girls filed into the trail behind their energetic leader. And
thus the Wayfarers started off on what really was the beginning of a
greater adventure than they dreamed.



CHAPTER VII

THE COTTAGE IN THE PALM GROVE


Greatly to their relief, the Wayfarers were not called upon to do
battle with their stout snake sticks. For a quarter of a mile they
followed the narrow path. It wound in and out of the tall, coarse grass
and around wide-spreading trees and ragged clumps of bushes. At length
they reached the point for which they had been aiming.

“It’s simply splendiferous!” exclaimed Eleanor, as the quartette halted
well inside the first grove to breathe in the fragrance of orange
blossoms and feast their eyes on the beauty of the tropical scene
spread out before them.

“Why, it isn’t just an orange grove!” Beatrice cried out. “Look, girls!
There are _lemons_ on that tree over yonder!”

“Yes, and see the tangerines!” Patsy pointed out. “Those stiff, funny
bushes there have kumquats on them. And I do believe--yes, sir--that
ragged old tree there is a banana tree. This is what I call a mixed-up
old grove. I supposed oranges grew in one grove and lemons in another,
etc., etc.”

“I guess we don’t know very much about it,” laughed Eleanor. “We’ll
have to get busy and learn what’s what and why. Let’s walk on through
this grove and see what’s in the next one. There seems to be a pretty
good path down through it.”

Amid many admiring exclamations, the Wayfarers strolled on, seeing
new wonders with every step they took. The brown, woody litter which
covered the ground under the trees was plentifully starred with the
white of fallen blossoms. To quote Mabel, “Why, we’re actually walking
on flowers!”

Late in the season as it was they found considerable fruit growing
within easy reach of their hands. Eager to avail themselves of the
pleasure of “actually picking oranges from the trees,” the girls
gathered a modest quantity of oranges and tangerines.

Warned by Mr. Carroll always to be on the watch for spiders, scorpions
and wood-ticks before sitting down on the ground, Beatrice and Patsy
energetically swept a place clear with a huge fallen palmetto leaf, and
the four seated themselves on the dry, clean-swept space to enjoy their
spoils.

All of them had yet to become adepts in the art of out-door orange
eating as it is done in Florida. In consequence, they had a very
delightful but exceedingly messy feast. Picking oranges at random also
resulted in their finding some of the fruit sour enough to set their
teeth on edge. These they promptly flung from them and went on to
others more palatable.

“No more oranges for me this morning,” finally declared Eleanor,
pitching the half-eaten one in her hand across the grove. “I’m soaked
in juice from head to foot. Look at my skirt.”

“I’ve had enough.” Bee sprang to her feet, drying her hands on her
handkerchief. “We ought to pick a few oranges to take to Miss Martha.”

“Let’s get them when we come back,” proposed Patsy. “What’s the use in
lugging them around with us. I want to walk all the way through these
groves to the end of the estate. Dad says it’s not more than a mile
from the house to the west end of Las Golondrinas.”

“All right. Lead on, my dear Miss Carroll,” agreed Bee with a low bow.
“Be sure you know where you’re going, though.”

“I know just as much about where I’m going as you do,” merrily flung
back Patsy over her shoulder.

Headed by their intrepid leader, the little procession once more took
the trail, wandering happily along under the scented sweetness of the
orange trees. Overhead, bright-plumaged birds flew about among the
gently stirring foliage. Huge golden and black butterflies fluttered
past them. Among the white and gold of blossom, bees hummed a deep,
steady song as they pursued their endless task of honey-gathering.

On and on they went, passing through one grove after another until they
glimpsed ahead the high, wrought-iron fence which shut in the estate on
all four sides. Reaching it, they could look through to a small grassy
open space beyond. Behind it rose a natural grove of tall palms. Set
down fairly in the middle of the grove was a squat, weather-stained
cottage of grayish stone.

“Oh, see that funny little house!” was Mabel’s interested exclamation.
“I wonder whom it belongs to!”

“Let’s go over and pay it a visit,” instantly proposed Patsy. “Perhaps
someone lives there who can tell us about old Manuel Fereda and
Eulalie, his granddaughter. It doesn’t look as though darkies lived
there. Their houses are mostly tumble-down wooden shacks. Still it may
be deserted. Anyway, we might as well go over and take a look at it.”

“How are we going to get out of here?” asked Eleanor. “I don’t see a
gate.”

“There must be one somewhere along the west end,” declared Bee. “Let’s
start here and follow the fence. Maybe we’ll come to one.”

“We’d better walk north through the grove then. There’s no path close
to the fence and that grass is too high and jungly looking to suit me,”
demurred Eleanor.

Traveling northward through the grove, their eyes fixed on the fence in
the hope of spying a gate, the explorers walked some distance, but saw
no sign of one. Finally retracing their steps to their starting point,
they headed south and eventually discovered, not a gate, but a gap in
the fence where the lower part of several iron palings had been broken
away, leaving an aperture large enough for a man to crawl through.

“This means us,” called Patsy and ran toward it.

Energetically beating down the grass under it with the stick she
carried, she stooped and scrambled through to the other side, emitting
a little whoop of triumph as she stood erect.

One by one her three companions followed suit until the four girls were
standing on the grassy clearing, which, a few rods farther on, merged
levelly into the grove of palms surrounding the low stone cottage.

From the point at which they now halted they could obtain only a side
view of it among the trees.

“Judging from the big cobweb on one of those windows, I should say no
one lives there,” commented Eleanor.

“It _does_ look deserted. Let’s go around to the front of it. Then we
can tell more about it,” suggested Patsy.

Crossing the grassy space, the quartette entered the shady grove. A few
steps brought them abreast of the front of the cottage.

“The door’s wide open! I wonder----”

Patsy broke off abruptly, her gray eyes focussing themselves upon
the open doorway. In it had suddenly appeared a woman, so tall that
her head missed but a little of touching the top of the rather low
aperture. For an instant she stood there, motionless, staring or rather
glaring at her uninvited visitors out of a pair of wild black eyes.
The Wayfarers were staring equally hard at her, fascinated by this
strange apparition.

What they saw was a fierce, swarthy countenance, broad and deeply
lined. The woman’s massive head was crowned by a mop of snow-white hair
that stood out in a brush above her terrifying features. A beak-like
nose, a mouth that was merely a hard line set above a long, pointed
chin, gave her the exact look of the proverbial old witch. Over the
shoulders of a shapeless, grayish dress, which fell in straight
ugly folds to her feet, she wore a bright scarlet shawl. It merely
accentuated the witch-like effect.

In sinister silence she took the one stone step to the ground and began
to move slowly forward toward the group of girls, a deep scowl drawing
her bushy white brows together until they met.

“She’s crazy!” came from Mabel, in a terrified whisper. “Let’s run.”

“I will _not_,” muttered Patsy. “I’m going to speak to her.”

Stepping boldly forward to meet the advancing figure, Patsy smiled
winningly, and said: “Good-morning.”

“What you want?” demanded a harsh voice.

Ignoring Patsy’s polite salutation, the fearsome old woman continued
to advance, halting within four or five feet of the group of girls.

“Oh, we were just taking a walk,” Patsy brightly assured. “We saw this
cottage and thought we’d like to see who lived here. We----”

“Where you live?” sharply cut in the woman.

“We are staying at Las Golondrinas. My father owns the property now.
I am Patricia Carroll and these three girls are my chums,” amiably
explained Patsy. “We are anxious to find someone who can tell us
something about the Feredas. We are looking for----”

“You will never find!” was the shrieking interruption. “It is not for
you, white-faced thieves! _Madre de Dios!_ Old Camillo has hidden it
too well. Away with you! Go, and return no more!”

This tempestuous invitation to begone was accompanied by a wild waving
of the woman’s long arms. The gold hoop rings in her ears shook and
swayed as she wagged a menacing head at the intruders.

“Just a minute and we will go.”

Undismayed by the unexpected burst of fury on the part of the
disagreeable old woman, Patsy stood her ground unflinchingly. There was
an angry sparkle in her gray eyes, however, and her voice quivered
with resentment as she continued hotly:

“I want you distinctly to understand that we are _not_ thieves, even
though we happen to be trespassers. When we saw this cottage we thought
it might belong to some one who had lived here a long time and had been
well acquainted with Manuel Fereda and his granddaughter, Eulalie----”

“Eulalie! Ah-h! _Ingrata!_ May she never rest! May the spirit of old
Camillo give her no peace!”

Here the strange, fierce old creature broke into a torrent of Spanish,
her voice gathering shrillness with every word. She appeared to have
forgotten the presence of the Wayfarers and directed her tirade at the
absent Eulalie, who was evidently very much in her bad graces.

“Come on. Let her rave. She surely is crazy. She may try to hurt us,”
murmured Eleanor in Patsy’s ear.

“All right. Come on, girls.”

Tucking her arm in Eleanor’s, Patsy turned abruptly away from the
ancient belligerent who was still waving her arms and sputtering
unintelligibly.

Without a word the quartette hurried out of the palm grove, across the
grassy space and made safe port on their own territory, through the gap
in the fence. This accomplished, curiosity impelled each girl to peer
through the palings for a last glimpse at the tempestuous cottager.

She had not been too busy anathematizing the unlucky Eulalie to be
unaware of the hasty retreat of her unwelcome visitors. She had now
stopped flapping her arms and was bending far forward, her fierce old
eyes directed to where the Wayfarers had taken prudent refuge. Noting
that they were watching her, she shook a fist savagely at them, threw
up both arms menacingly as though imploring some unseen force to visit
vengeance upon them, and bolted for the cottage.



CHAPTER VIII

PATSY SCENTS A MYSTERY


“Now _who_ do you suppose _she_ is?” broke from Bee, as the old woman
disappeared.

“Ask me something easier,” shrugged Patsy. “She’s a regular old witch,
isn’t she? Dad must know who she is. Funny he never said anything about
her to us. Suppose we trot back to the house and watch for him. He
promised, you know, at breakfast, to be back from Palm Beach in time
for luncheon so as to take us down to the boathouse this afternoon.
He had a business appointment with a man at the Beach. That’s why he
hurried away so fast this morning.”

Suiting the action to the word, the Wayfarers started back through the
orange groves, discussing with animation the little adventure with
which they had recently met.

“That woman was Spanish, of course,” declared Beatrice. “Could you
understand her, Mab, when she trailed off into Spanish, all of a
sudden? She said ‘ingrata.’ I caught that much. What does it mean?”

“It means ‘the ungrateful one,’” Mabel answered. “I couldn’t understand
much of what she said. I caught the words, ‘Camillo, Manuel, Eulalie,’
and something about a spirit torturing somebody--Eulalie, I suppose she
meant. ‘Madre de Dios’ means ‘Mother of God,’ or ‘Holy Mother.’ It’s a
very common form of expression among the Mexicans. I believe this woman
is a Mexican.”

“We know who Eulalie is. By Manuel she must have meant the Manuel
Fereda who died just a little while ago,” said Bee reflectively. “But
who in the world is or was old Camillo? And what did he hide? What made
her call us ‘white-faced thieves’? What is it that we’ll never find?
Will somebody please answer these simple questions?”

“Answer them yourself,” challenged Patsy gaily. “We’ll be delighted to
have you do it. You know you are fond of puzzling things out.”

“It sounds--well----” Bee laughed, hesitated, then added: “Mysterious.”

“Exactly,” warmly concurred Patsy. “We’ve actually stumbled upon
something mysterious the very first thing. I knew, all the time, that
we were going to find something queer about this old place.”

“I don’t think there’s anything very mysterious about a tousle-headed
old crazy woman,” sniffed Mabel. “She certainly didn’t act like a sane
person. Maybe she had delusions or something of the sort.”

“Perhaps _her_ name is Camillo,” suggested Bee, her mind still occupied
with trying to figure out to whom the name belonged.

“No.” Mabel shook her head. “Camillo is a _man’s_ name, not a woman’s.
She might have meant her husband or her brother. Goodness knows whom
she meant. I tell you, she’s a lunatic and that’s all there is to it.
If we hadn’t been armed with four big sticks she might have laid hands
on us.”

“Well, Uncle Jemmy’s snake sticks were some protection, anyhow,”
laughed Eleanor. “I’m going to keep mine and lug it around with me
wherever I go. I may----”

A wild shriek from Mabel left the sentence unfinished. Walking a pace
or two ahead of the others, Mabel had almost stumbled upon a huge
black snake, coiled in a sunny spot between the trees. Quite as much
startled as she, the big, harmless reptile uncoiled his shining black
folds in a hurry and slid for cover.

“Oh!” she gasped. “Did you _see_ him? He was a whopper! And I almost
stepped on him! He might have bitten me.”

“Black snakes don’t bite, you goose,” reassured intrepid Patsy. “He was
probably more scared at the yell you gave than you were to see him. He
must be the same one Uncle Jemmy saw this morning.”

“Maybe he’s been raised a pet,” giggled Eleanor. “We may get to know
him well enough to speak to when we fall over him coiled up on various
parts of the estate. If you ever get really well acquainted with him,
Mab, you can apologize to him for yelling in his ears.”

“First find his ears,” jeered Mabel, who had sufficiently recovered
from the scare to retaliate.

“Our second adventure,” commented Beatrice. “Wonder what the next will
be.”

“Nothing more weird or exciting than luncheon, I guess,” said Patsy.
“There! We forgot to pick those oranges we were going to take to
Auntie.”

“Let’s go back and get them,” proposed Eleanor.

“Oh, never mind. I dare say there are plenty of oranges at the house,”
returned Patsy. “Auntie won’t mind. We’ll go down to the grove
to-morrow and pick a whole basketful for her.”

By this time the Wayfarers were nearing the house. Rounding a corner
of the building they spied Mr. Carroll some distance down the drive.
He was sitting in his car engaged in conversation with a white man who
stood beside it. Both men were too far away from the girls for them to
be able to make out plainly the stranger’s features. They could tell
little about him save that he was tall, slim, dark and roughly dressed.

“That must be the new man,” instantly surmised Patsy.

Pausing, she shaded her eyes with one hand, to shut out the glaring
sunlight, and stared curiously at the stranger.

“Can’t tell much about him,” she remarked. “There; he’s started down
the drive. Now we’ll find out from Dad who he is.”

The stranger, having turned away, Mr. Carroll had started the car and
was coming slowly up the drive. Sighting the group of white-clad girls
he waved to them.

“Hello, children!” he saluted, as he stopped the car within a few feet
of them. “Where have you been spending the morning? Want to ride up to
the house?”

“No, thank you,” was the answering chorus, as the girls gathered about
the automobile.

“We’ve been exploring, Dad,” informed Patsy. “Is that the new man? I
mean the one you were just talking to.”

“Yes. I met him at the gate. He had been up to the house looking for
me. His name is Crespo; Carlos Crespo. He’s a Mexican. He tells me he
used to work for old Fereda. That he was practically brought up on the
estate.”

“Then he’s the very man we want!” exclaimed Beatrice eagerly. “He’ll be
able to tell us about the Feredas.”

“I doubt your getting much information from him,” returned Mr. Carroll.
“He seems to be a taciturn fellow. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t very
favorably impressed by him. He acted sulky, it seemed to me. I’m going
to give him a trial, because it’s so hard to get a white man for the
job. I can’t afford to let this one slip without giving him a chance.
If I find him balky, and ungracious to your aunt and you girls, I’ll
let him go. He says he knows nothing about automobiles, but a great
deal about horses.”

“Oh, well, we don’t want him as chauffeur, anyway,” declared Patsy.
“You and I can do all the driving. He’ll be handy when we go on our
trip into the jungle. He can attend to the horses. Very likely, when he
gets used to us, he’ll be fairly amiable. He can’t be any more snippy
and disobliging than John was last summer while we were at Wilderness
Lodge. He was positively _hateful_ to us. Of course, that was all on
account of his loyalty to that horrid Rupert Grandin. If this Carlos
man proves honest and dependable, we sha’n’t mind if he sulks at first.
He’ll probably get over it as he comes to know us better. We had an
adventure this morning, Dad.”

Patsy straightway left the subject of the new man and plunged into a
colorful account of their meeting with the strange old woman.

“Do you know who she is, Mr. Carroll? Did you ever see her?” questioned
Mabel eagerly.

“No.” Mr. Carroll shook his head. “She must be the woman one of my
colored boys was trying to tell me about the other day. He described
the cottage you’ve just mentioned and said a ‘voodoo’ woman lived there
who was ‘a heap sight crazy.’ He claimed he saw her out in her yard
late one night ‘making spells.’ I didn’t pay much attention to him, for
these darkies are full of superstitions and weird yarns.”

“We’ll ask Carlos about her,” decided Patsy. “That makes two things
we’re going to quiz him about; the ‘voodoo’ lady and the Feredas. When
is he to begin working for you, Dad?”

“He’ll be back this afternoon. I’m going to set him to work at clearing
up the stable. It’s a regular rubbish shack. I’ll give him a gang of
black boys to help him. I’m anxious to have it put in trim as soon as
possible. To-morrow I must go over to the stock farm and see about
getting some horses for our use while here. I’ll take Carlos with me
and then we’ll see how much he knows about horses.”

“We’d better be moving along. We promised Miss Martha to be back in
plenty of time for luncheon,” reminded Mabel.

“I’ll see you girls at the house,” Mr. Carroll said. “I’m going to
take the car to the garage. We’ll hardly need it this afternoon. The
Wayfarers are such famous hikers, they’ll scorn riding to the beach,”
he slyly added.

“Of course we are famous hikers. Certainly we intend to walk to the
beach,” sturdily concurred Patsy.

“Scatter then, and give me the road,” playfully ordered her father.

Moving briskly out of the way of the big machine, the chums followed
it up the drive at a leisurely pace.

“Well have to change our gowns before luncheon.”

Eleanor ruefully inspected her crumpled white linen skirt, plentifully
stained with orange juice.

The others agreeing, they quickened their pace and reaching the house
hurriedly ascended to their rooms to make the desired change. As usual
Mabel and Eleanor were rooming together. Patsy and Bee shared a large
airy room next to that occupied by the two Perry girls. Miss Martha
roomed in lonely state in a huge, high-ceilinged chamber across the
corridor from the rooms of her flock.

“I don’t care whether or not this Carlos man acts sulky,” confided
Patsy to Bee when the two girls were by themselves in their own room.
“I’m going to beam on him like a real Cheshire cat. He’ll be so
impressed by my vast amiability that he’ll be telling me all about the
Feredas before you can say Jack Robinson. I’m awfully interested in
this queer family and I simply must satisfy my curiosity. Do you really
believe, Bee, that there _is_ a mystery about them?”

“I don’t know whether there’s any mystery about the Feredas
themselves,” Bee said slowly. “That old woman may or may not be crazy.
I was watching her closely all the time we stood there. At first she
was just suspicious of us as being strangers. It was your saying that
we were living at Las Golondrinas and that your father owned the
property that made her so furious. She had some strong reason of her
own for being so upset at hearing that.”

“Maybe she used to be a servant in the Fereda family and on that
account can’t bear to see strangers living here in their place,” Patsy
hazarded.

“I thought of that, too. It would account for her tirade against
Eulalie. I believe there’s more to it than that, though, else why
should she call us thieves and go on as she did?”

Bee reflectively repeated the question she had earlier propounded.

“That’s precisely what we are going to find out,” Patsy said with
determination.

“But you know what your aunt said,” Bee dubiously reminded.

“Don’t you worry about Auntie,” smiled Patsy. “When we tell her at
luncheon about our adventure she’ll probably say we had no business
to trespass. You let me do the talking. I sha’n’t mention the word
‘mystery.’ I’ll just innocently ask her what she thinks the old witch
woman could have meant. She’ll be interested, even if she pretends that
she isn’t. Last summer, at Wilderness Lodge, she was as anxious as we
for the missing will to be found. If there is truly a mystery about
Las Golondrinas, Aunt Martha will soon be on the trail of it with the
Wayfarers. Take my word for it.”



CHAPTER IX

THE WOOD NYMPH


Invited by guileful Patsy at luncheon that day to advance an opinion
regarding the “witch woman” of the morning’s adventure, Miss Martha
said precisely what her niece had prophesied she would say. She added
something, however, which Patsy had not anticipated.

“You girls should have known better than trespass on private property,”
she rebuked. “As for that woman, I should say she was mentally
unbalanced. Don’t any of you go near that cottage again. I will not
have you risking your lives in the vicinity of a lunatic. You had best
make inquiry about her, Robert,” she continued, turning to her brother.

“I intend to,” was the reply. “This new man, Crespo, may know her
history. Very likely she is one of those queer but harmless characters
that one happens on occasionally down here. I hardly think there is
any cause for alarm, Martha. Still, it will be just as well for the
girls to steer clear of her.”

“I know I don’t want to go near her again,” Mabel said with a slight
shudder. “She was positively savage.”

“One call is enough for me, thank you,” smiled Eleanor.

Patsy and Beatrice exchanged significant glances but said nothing.
Each knew the other’s thought. Both had a valiant hankering to try
their luck at a second interview with the witch woman. Unfortunately
for them, Miss Martha’s stern mandate forbade further venturesome
investigation.

Patsy’s carefully prepared question concerning the strange old woman
Miss Martha replied to with a touch of impatience:

“My dear child, you can hardly expect me to be able to find meaning in
the ravings of a lunatic. I have only one thing to say on the subject.
I have said it before and I repeat it. You are all to keep away from
that cottage.”

This emphatic repetition put a quietus to Patsy’s hopes of awakening
her aunt’s interest in what she and Bee had already decided was a real
mystery. Miss Martha’s one thought on the subject seemed to be that
the society of an insane woman should be shunned rather than courted.

“My little scheme turned out all wrong,” Patsy admitted ruefully to
Beatrice, as the two strolled into the patio after luncheon and seated
themselves on the edge of the fountain’s time-worn stone basin. “I
wanted to go to that cottage again, too.”

“So did I,” confessed Bee. “I was sure your aunt would say we mustn’t.”

“I’m going to make Dad take us there some day,” planned resourceful
Patsy. “He’ll be willing to, I know. Then Auntie can’t say a word.”

“Hey, there!” suddenly called a gay voice from the balcony.

Both Bee and Patsy cast a quick glance upward to see Mabel leaning over
the balcony rail.

“Are we going to the beach, or not?” she inquired. “If we are, you’d
better leave off languishing beside the fountain and hurry up. We ought
to start before sunset, you know,” she added satirically.

“It’s only one-thirty by my little watch,” calmly informed Patsy. “It’s
a long time yet until sunset, Mabsie. Didn’t you know that?”

“What about taking our bathing suits?” demanded Mabel, ignoring Patsy’s
playful thrust.

“Just as you like. If you and Nellie want to go bathing, then so do we.”

“I’d rather not,” returned Mabel. “I’d rather just poke around down on
the beach and in the boat house. I think it would be more fun to get up
early to-morrow morning and go bathing.”

“Those are golden words, my child,” grinned Patsy. “I was of the same
mind, but too polite to say so. We can prowl around the boat house
this afternoon and find out what we need to take down there in the
way of bathing comforts. Dad says we’ll have to add the final touches
ourselves. We’ll be up in a minute, Mabsie.”

“All right.”

Mabel promptly disappeared from the balcony. Patsy and Bee rose.
Leaving the patio they went upstairs to their room.

A few minutes later the Wayfarers and Mr. Carroll were swinging down
the oleander drive toward the highway. Miss Martha had declined to
join the expedition. Following the highway north for about an eighth
of a mile, they turned at last into a narrow white road hedged in by
vermilion hibiscus growing rank and wild for lack of care. The road
was shaded for some distance by double rows of palms, which had been
planted on each side. Presently it entered the stretch of jungle lying
above the beach and continued almost straight ahead through the bit of
wilderness.

“Some of the Feredas must have liked to go bathing or they never would
have had this dandy road cut through to the beach,” was Beatrice’s
opinion, as the party came at last to the end of the tropical road and
out onto the warm white sands.

The beach itself curved inward like a new moon to meet the jungle which
surrounded it on three sides. At the left, near the water’s edge, stood
the once dilapidated boat house. It now looked very trim in its new
coat of white paint.

The jungle road ended almost at the middle of the new moon. Emerging
from it and walking a few steps across the sands, the Wayfarers paused,
by common consent, to gaze admiringly out on the glorious expanse of
dazzlingly blue sea that lay only the breadth of the curving beach
beyond them.

“This is the nicest bathing beach I ever saw!” exclaimed Patsy. “The
beauty of it is that it’s our very own. We’re sole proprietors of this
bit of sand and sea.”

“It’s the first one _I_ ever saw,” laughed Bee. “You must remember
that I never saw the Atlantic Ocean until I came down here. It seems
thrilling to be so near to it.”

“Wait until to-morrow morning and I’ll give you a good salt-water
ducking,” promised Patsy. “Won’t that be nice and thrilling?”

“Try it if you dare,” challenged Bee, “and see who gets the ducking.”

“I’m sorry now that we didn’t bring our bathing suits along,” lamented
Eleanor. “I’d love to have a swim in that nice blue water. It looks
fairly shallow, too.”

“At most of these lonely beaches along the coast, I imagine the water
must be too deep for safety. This place looks safe enough,” agreed
Mabel enthusiastically.

“We can’t tell much about it until we try it out for ourselves,”
returned Patsy. “Sometimes shallows stop all of a sudden and you get
into very deep water before you know it. I found that out once when we
were spending the summer at Wildwood. Our cottage was quite a way up
the beach. I started to wade into the surf one morning, and all at once
I felt myself going down, down, down. I had sense enough to strike out
and swim, or I wouldn’t be here now.”

“I don’t believe the water is very deep here.”

Mr. Carroll now broke into the conversation. He had been silently
listening to his charges, an amused smile touching his firm lips.

“You mustn’t venture too far out, though,” he cautioned. “Remember,
there are no guards about to keep tabs on you. Besides, the mists down
here often creep up very suddenly over the sea. If you happened to
venture too far out and were caught in one, your chance of regaining
the shore would be slim. I can’t always be depended upon to be on hand
to look out for you, so you’ll have to be good children and not run any
needless risks.”

“We’ll be as good as gold and as careful as can be,” lightly promised
Patsy. “Now take us over to the boat house. We’d like to see how it
looks inside.”

Conducted by Mr. Carroll to the trim little house, the Wayfarers
found it as completely renovated inside as out. Mr. Carroll had gone
to considerable pains to transform the former boat house into a
comfortable bath house. Wooden benches had been built along two sides
of it. Plenty of towel racks and hooks on which to hang clothing were
in evidence. A good-sized mirror had been hung on one of the end walls.
There was also a tall rack designed to hold wet bathing suits and
numerous other minor details had been added in the way of conveniences
for bathers.

“Why, it’s all ready for us!” exulted Patsy. “You’ve thought of almost
everything we’d need, Dad. You’re a dear.”

“I had it fixed up as nearly like the one we had at Wildwood as I could
recall,” returned her father. “You girls will have to add the finishing
touches. Sorry there isn’t a shower bath. I intend to put one in later
when I have time to see to the piping for it.”

“Oh, we can get along beautifully without it,” Patsy assured. “It’s
ever so much nicer than I thought it would be. You’ve done wonders to
get it ready for us on such short notice.”

The other three girls were quick to concur with Patsy in this opinion.

“Here’s the key.” Mr. Carroll handed it to his daughter. “I now declare
you Chief Custodian of the Bath!”

“I accept the high office. May I be ever faithful to my trust,”
declaimed Patsy merrily as she took the proffered key, a small brass
affair on a ring.

“The first thing we ought to do is to sit down and make a list of the
things we will have to bring from the house,” suggested practical
Beatrice. “I brought along a little memorandum pad and a pencil.”

Extracting them from the breast pocket of her white middy blouse, Bee
offered them to Patsy.

“You may do the writing, Bee.” Patsy declined the proffered pad
and pencil. “I’ll tell you what we’ll have to have. Any valuable
suggestions from the illustrious Perry sisters will be respectfully
received.”

“While this important consultation is in full swing, I believe I’ll
take a walk up the beach,” announced Mr. Carroll. “My black boys tell
me there’s an old fisherman living not far above here who owns several
boats. I’m anxious to get in touch with him and, if possible, arrange a
fishing trip for us while we’re here.”

“Go ahead, Dad. You have my permission,” saucily replied Patsy. “After
we’ve made our list, we’ll lock up the bath house and play around on
the beach until you come back.”

The list having been finally completed, to the Wayfarers’ mutual
satisfaction, the quartette left the bath house. Up and down the white
stretch of beach they strolled for a little, enjoying the fresh sea
breeze. Finally they seated themselves on the warm sands to talk and
watch the incoming tide, interestedly trying to calculate how long it
would be before they would have to move further back to escape its slow
but steady advance.

“It’s coming nearer and nearer,” remarked Bee, as she fascinatedly
watched the endless succession of waves break on the sand, each a
trifle higher up the beach than the preceding one.

“I move that we move.”

Eleanor rose, shaking the sand from her white linen skirt. Patsy and
Beatrice also got to their feet.

“I hate to move. I’m so comfy.”

Stretched at full length in the sand, Mabel made no attempt to follow
her companions’ example.

“Stay where you are then and get your feet wet,” laughed Eleanor.
“There’s a good-sized wave heading straight for you now.”

This information caused Mabel hastily to draw up her feet. Next moment
she was standing erect beside Eleanor.

“Dad ought to be back before long.”

Patsy stood gazing up the beach in the direction Mr. Carroll had taken.

“Oh, look!”

The sudden ringing cry issued from Beatrice’s lips. Her back to the
sea, she had been dreamily staring into the green depths of the jungle.
Now she was pointing excitedly toward a tangled thicket of briar
bushes and flowering vines.

“Where? I don’t see anything! What is it, Bee?” instantly went up from
Mabel.

“She’s gone.” Bee’s arm dropped to her side. “We scared her away. She
ducked and ran.”

“Who ducked and ran? What are you talking about, Bee?”

It was Patsy who now impatiently put these questions.

“A wood nymph,” smiled Beatrice. “I was looking at that thicket up
there and all of a sudden I saw her. She stood between two bushes
watching us. Such a pretty little thing, with big black eyes and long
black hair hanging about her face. I had just caught a glimpse of her
when I called out to you. The minute she knew I’d seen her she turned
and ran off through the green. I saw her black head bobbing in and out
among the bushes; then I lost sight of her.”

“You certainly saw more than we did,” Patsy said ruefully. “I didn’t
see anyone. Was she--well--a white person, Bee?”

“Oh, yes. As white as you or I, and about as tall as Mab, I think,”
replied Beatrice. “She had a beautiful little face. She was wearing a
faded brown dress or apron. I couldn’t tell which. It startled me to
see her there, all of a sudden. She looked so wild and shy and pretty.
Exactly like a wood nymph. I couldn’t help calling out.”

“Too bad we missed seeing her,” deplored Eleanor. “Maybe we’ll run
across her some other day. She must live in this vicinity or she
wouldn’t have been roaming around in the jungle. She certainly can’t be
afraid of snakes. I wouldn’t care to go dashing recklessly through that
wilderness.”

“That’s only because you’re not used to the idea,” declared Patsy. “By
the time we’ve been here a couple of weeks, we’ll probably go tramping
around in that bit of jungle without being in the least afraid of
snakes.”

“Never,” was Mabel’s discouraging ultimatum.

The appearance of Mr. Carroll some distance up the beach diverted the
minds of the quartette from the shy little apparition Beatrice had
seen. With one accord the four set off on the run to meet him.

Nor had the Wayfarers the remotest idea that, from a concealing
thicket of living green, a few yards above the spot where they had
been standing, a pair of bright, black eyes wistfully and wonderingly
watched them as they scampered across the sands toward Mr. Carroll.



CHAPTER X

GETTING ACQUAINTED WITH OLD OCEAN


“Isn’t there a road to this beach wide enough for the automobile to run
on?” Miss Martha inquired of her brother at breakfast the next morning,
in a tone of long-suffering patience.

“None that I know of,” was the discouraging reply. “That stretch of
jungle above the beach extends for miles along the coast. The only road
to the sea in this vicinity is the one cut through the woods by old
Fereda. It’s hardly more than a path. Too bad you don’t ride, Martha.
You could make it easily on horseback.”

“Never,” was the firm assertion. “I wouldn’t trust myself to the best
behaved horse that ever lived. I suppose I shall have to resign myself
to walking.”

“You needn’t go with us, if you’d rather not, Auntie,” broke in Patsy.
“Dad says it’s perfectly safe for us to go alone. We’re on our own
property all the way to the beach, you know.”

“That is not the point,” calmly disagreed Miss Carroll. “I feel it my
duty to accompany you whenever your father is unable to do so. I dare
say the sea breeze will benefit me. I merely dislike the idea of this
tramp through the brush and weeds.”

“Oh, the road’s as smooth as can be,” hastily assured Beatrice. “It’s
only narrow, that’s all. It’s really a beautiful walk, Miss Martha. I
am sure you will like it.”

“I doubt it,” was the pessimistic response. “Nevertheless I shall go.”

Half an hour after breakfast a luggage-laden procession set off
beachwards. Miss Martha brought up the rear with Mabel, eye-glasses
firmly astride her nose, a book in one hand, her white parasol held
over her head at a dignified angle. Beatrice and Eleanor walked just
ahead, while Patsy buoyantly led the van, calling continually back over
her shoulder to her companions with every fresh feature of interest her
bright eyes picked up along the way.

“I must say the walking is better than I had expected to find it,” was
Miss Carroll’s grudging opinion as the party at length emerged from
the woods onto the sands. “Walking, as an exercise, has never appealed
to me, however.”

“If you walk down to the beach and back with us every day, Auntie,
you’ll soon become a champion walker,” Patsy said lightly.

“I have no such ambition,” was her aunt’s dry answer. “Further, I don’t
intend to come down here every day. On occasions when Robert is busy,
and I do not feel inclined to take this walk, you will have to forego
sea-bathing.”

“Come on over and see the bath house, Auntie.”

Patsy slipped an arm through that of her apparently disobliging
relative. She was well aware of the fact that her aunt’s bark was worse
than her bite.

Escorted by Patsy to the little bath house, Miss Martha critically
inspected its interior and set upon it her seal of placid approval.
For a half hour the four girls busied themselves with unpacking and
arranging the various articles they had brought with them as final
furnishing touches. This done to their mutual satisfaction, they
gleefully began preparations for their swim. In an incredibly short
time they had donned their bathing suits and were ready for their
morning dip.

“My first appearance as a deep sea swimmer,” proudly announced Bee,
making a low bow to Patsy.

“You look sweet, Bee. That dark red suit is awfully becoming,” praised
Eleanor. “Pull your cap down well over your head. Salt water makes
one’s hair so horrid and sticky.”

“Come on! The water’s fine! Hurrah for old Ocean!”

Patsy held out an inviting hand to Beatrice. Attired in a sleeveless
suit of white flannel, with pale blue trimmings, one auburn curl
escaping from under her white rubber cap, her gray eyes dancing, cheeks
pink with excitement, Patsy was the embodiment of girlish prettiness
and radiant health.

The Wayfarers made a charming picture as they caught hands and ran
down the beach and into the water four abreast. There was a pleasant
light in Miss Martha’s blue eyes as she stood watching them and heard
the concerted shout of glee that arose as they struck the water and
Patsy immediately proceeded to administer the ducking she had promised
Beatrice.

Being a very sturdy young person, Bee had a will of her own. In
consequence a battle royal ensued in the water, punctuated by shouts of
laughter. It ended by both combatants losing their footing and sitting
down violently in the water, to the great joy of Mabel and Eleanor,
who seized the opportunity to fall upon Patsy and Bee and duck them
thoroughly on their own account. Whereupon a good-natured, free-for-all
combat waged.

Their first exuberance subsiding the bathers settled themselves to
enjoy their swim in the buoyant salt water. Accustomed from childhood
to sea-bathing, Patsy was an expert swimmer. Bee, who had learned to
swim in fresh water, did fairly well, however. Mabel and Eleanor were
indifferent swimmers. To quote Mabel: “We can swim and that’s about
all.”

Having watched her flock make a noisy acquaintance with old Ocean, Miss
Martha retired to a spot on the sands shaded by the overhanging palms
where beach and jungle met. Seating herself on the clean, warm sand,
she opened the novel she had brought with her and devoted herself to
its pages.

Oblivious for the time being to the merry voices of her charges, she
was finally startled by a piercing shriek of pain. As a result of going
bathing bare-footed, one Wayfarer, at least, had met with disaster.
Eleanor had had the misfortune to run afoul of a most ungracious crab,
which had promptly shown displeasure of the intrusion by taking hold
and pinching.

By the time Miss Martha had dropped parasol and book to rush to the
water’s edge, Eleanor had won free of her tormentor and was limping for
land.

“What’s the matter, Eleanor?” Miss Carroll cried out concernedly.

“A horrid crab pinched my foot,” was the doleful response. “I thought
it would never let go. I was wading near the shore and stepped on it.
My, but my foot hurts!”

Emerging from the shallows, Eleanor dropped down on the sand and began
tenderly nursing her injured foot.

“You should have worn bathing slippers and stockings,” was the doubtful
consolation. “They not only look well but are also a protection.”

“But this is a private beach and it’s ever so much more fun not to wear
them, Miss Martha. I’m not really hurt much. My foot feels all right
now,” Eleanor hastily assured. “It hardly pains me at all.”

“Oh, I sha’n’t insist on your wearing them,” Miss Martha smiled grimly
at Eleanor’s miraculous recovery. “I merely expressed my opinion.”

By this time, Mabel, who had been some distance away from her sister
when the latter cried out, now appeared beside her.

“What happened to you, Nellie?” she asked. “I heard you yell and came
as fast as I could.”

“Oh, a hateful old crab pinched my foot. It wasn’t anything. I was
silly to make a fuss about it. I frightened Miss Martha and I’ve
spoiled Bee’s and Patsy’s sport. They’d started to race as far as that
upper curve of the beach. Now they’re coming back.”

“It’s just as well.” Miss Martha consulted her wrist watch. “You girls
have been in the water over an hour. That is long enough for your first
day’s bathing.”

Patsy and Bee presently arriving on the scene with solicitous
inquiries, they were promptly informed of Eleanor’s mishap by the
sufferer herself.

“Poor ’ittle Nellie! Did a nasty, naughty old crab nip her
tootsey-ootsey?” deplored Patsy. “Show Patsy that wicked crabby an’
her’ll kill him wight down dead.”

“Oh, stop, you goose,” giggled Eleanor. “You make me feel as though I
were about three years old.”

“That’s the way she appreciates my sympathy,” grinned Patsy. “Never
mind, Nellie. I forgive you, even if you did interrupt the grand race.
Bee was gaining on me, anyway. She might possibly have beaten me. Want
to try it over again, Bee?”

“Not to-day, Patsy,” objected her aunt. “You’ve been in the water long
enough. By the time you girls are ready to go back to the house it will
be nearly noon. I ordered luncheon at one o’clock, as usual. It will be
one before we reach the house.”

“All right, Auntie. We’ll postpone the great race until to-morrow.”

As she spoke, Patsy began energetically to wring the salt water from
the skirt of her bathing suit, preparatory to retiring into the bath
house.

Her companions following Patsy’s example, Miss Carroll strolled back
to the spot where she had left book and parasol. The white parasol
lay precisely where she had cast it aside in her hurried dash to
Eleanor’s rescue. The book----Miss Martha stared down at the sand in
sheer amazement. The red, cloth-bound volume she had been reading had
disappeared as utterly as though the earth had suddenly opened and
swallowed it.



CHAPTER XI

A TIMID CALLER


“My book! Where is it?”

Miss Martha continued to stare severely at the spot where her book had
so lately lain.

“I saw you sitting there reading it,” affirmed Eleanor positively. “I
remember looking up toward you just before that cranky old crab nipped
my foot.”

“Certainly I was reading it. I laid it down beside my parasol. It never
walked away by itself. Someone stole it. This is very unpleasant. I
don’t like it at all. It simply goes to show that I was right in not
allowing you girls to come down here alone. Some unknown person has
evidently been hidden back there in those woods watching us.”

Miss Martha shook a dramatic finger toward the jungle.

“Oh!” Bee gave a quick, startled gasp. “I wonder----”

“What is it, Beatrice? Tell me instantly,” commanded Miss Carroll.

“Why--nothing--only----” Bee hesitated. “Yesterday when we were down
here,” she continued, “I saw a--a young girl standing back in a thicket
watching us. She might be the one----”

“She might indeed,” grimly concurred Miss Martha. “I haven’t the least
doubt but that she appropriated it. I have been told that the negroes
down here are a thieving lot. Strange she didn’t take my parasol.”

“But this girl I saw was as white as Patsy or I,” protested Bee. “She
was so pretty. I don’t believe----”

“I would far rather lay the loss of my book to her than to some
prowling tramp,” retorted Miss Martha.

“A person who would take an ordinary cloth-bound book and not an
expensive white silk parasol can’t be a very desperate character,”
surmised Patsy gaily. “I guess there’s really nothing to worry about.
Perhaps this wood nymph of Bee’s is fond of reading.”

“I am not inclined to pass over the incident so lightly,” disagreed
her aunt. “I shall insist on Robert’s finding out who this girl is and
all about her.”

Some further discussion of the affair ensued during which Miss Carroll
again repeated her stern injunction: “You must never come down here
to bathe unless either my brother or I are with you. It strikes me
that this community is entirely too full of thieves and lunatics for
comfort.”

“I’m pretty sure that it was our wood nymph who made off with Aunt
Martha’s book,” confided Patsy to Bee as they finally started for the
bath house. “I have a scheme of my own that I’m going to carry out. If
it works--well, just watch me to-morrow and see. I’m not going to tell
you about it now, so don’t ask me.”

“All right, keep it to yourself. I’d rather not hear it, anyway,”
amiably responded Bee. “It will be more fun just to watch your
mysterious movements and----”

“Bee,” interrupted Patsy, “things _are_ really a little mysterious,
aren’t they? First we run across that queer, terrible old woman who
talks in riddles about Eulalie and Camillo and our being thieves, etc.
Then you see a wood nymph, and next day Auntie’s book vanishes into
thin air. We simply must find someone who can tell us something about
who’s who at Las Golondrinas. The minute I get back to the house I’m
going to hunt up Dad’s new man, Carlos, and quiz him. He must certainly
know a little about things around here.”

It being after one o’clock when the party returned to the house,
luncheon immediately claimed Patsy’s attention. Inquiry of her father
as to where she might find Carlos resulted in the disappointing
information that he had ridden out to the stock farm early that morning
and would not return until late in the evening.

Mr. Carroll appeared somewhat concerned over his sister’s account
of the sudden disappearance of her book. Informed of the young girl
Beatrice had spied watching the Wayfarers from the bushes on the
previous day, a light of sudden recollection leaped into his eyes.

“Was the girl you saw a black-eyed, elfish-looking youngster with long
black hair hanging about her face?” he asked Beatrice.

“Yes,” nodded Beatrice. “You must have seen her, too,” she added with
quick interest.

“Where did you see her, Dad?” demanded Patsy excitedly.

“Uncle Jemmy and I surprised her the other day in the orange grove
nearest to the lower end of the estate. She was sitting under a
palmetto tree, singing to herself. She had a wreath of white flowers on
her head and looked for all the world like a mischievous wood sprite.”
Mr. Carroll smiled reminiscently. “The moment she caught sight of us
she jumped up from the ground and was off like the wind through the
grove. I haven’t the least idea where she went. I asked old Jemmy about
her, but he’d never seen her before. He’s not familiar with this part
of the country, you know.”

“As I remarked this morning to the girls, there seem to be altogether
too many queer persons in this vicinity for comfort,” Miss Martha
commented in a displeased tone. “Have you made inquiry yet, Robert, of
your new man regarding that demented old woman?”

“No; I forgot all about her,” Mr. Carroll admitted rather sheepishly.
“I’ll make it a point to do so to-morrow.”

“You might inquire about this girl at the same time,” pursued his
sister. “It is very necessary that we should know exactly who these
persons are and what we may expect from them.”

“This little girl may be the daughter of one of the fishermen. There
are a few families of fisher-folk living in shacks farther up the
beach. I noticed half a dozen bare-footed youngsters playing on the
sands when I called on old Nathan, the fisherman, yesterday.”

“It is unfortunate that this property of yours happens to be so
isolated,” deplored Miss Carroll. “Our only neighbors are, apparently,
fisher-folk, one lunatic and a few negroes.”

“Never mind, Auntie. The Wayfarers are sufficient unto themselves,”
consoled Patsy. “We can get along beautifully without neighbors.”

“If you feel uneasy about staying here, Martha, then I’ll make
arrangements for you and the girls at one of the Beach hotels,” offered
Mr. Carroll solicitously.

“I’m not in the least uneasy,” calmly assured Miss Martha. “I rather
enjoy the novelty of this old place. Certainly I would not care to
leave it now, since you have gone to so much trouble to get it ready
for us. I merely wish to be sure that we shall not be annoyed by
irresponsible or dangerous characters. The very fact that we have no
near neighbors of our own class makes it necessary for us to protect
ourselves against unpleasant intruders.”

The Wayfarers had awaited Miss Carroll’s reply to her brother’s
offer with bated breath. When it came, each girlish face expressed
unmistakable relief. The charm of Las Golondrinas had taken hold of
them. Patsy, in particular, felt that to be torn away from it now and
returned to the artificiality of hotel life would be a cross indeed.
She was anxious to discover if the old house really held a mystery.

“I hardly believe you will be,” responded Mr. Carroll. “A few days and
I shall have my affairs arranged so as to be with you on most of your
jaunts. Then we shall be able to find out a good deal more about Las
Golondrinas and its environments than I’ve had time, thus far, to look
into.”

“I hope so, I’m sure,” Miss Martha replied in a tone which implied
anything but hope.

“How would you like to drive to Palm Beach this afternoon, stop at the
Cocoanut Grove for tea and later take dinner at one of the hotels?”
proposed Mr. Carroll, with diplomatic intent to change the subject.

This proposal met with instant enthusiastic response from the girls.
Even Miss Carroll graciously admitted that it would be pleasant.

Luncheon over, the Wayfarers promptly scurried upstairs to decide
the momentous questions of gowns. To go to Palm Beach merely for an
afternoon and evening’s outing was an entirely different matter from
going there for the remainder of their vacation. Tea in the Cocoanut
Grove promised to be interesting.

When, at three o’clock that afternoon, the automobile sped down the
oleander drive laden with its freight of daintily gowned girls, Miss
Martha’s equanimity had quite returned. Seated in the tonneau between
Mabel and Eleanor, she looked very stately and imposing in a smart
frock of heavy wistaria silk, a plumed hat to match setting off to
perfection her thick snowy hair and patrician features.

Bee was wearing her best gown, a becoming affair of pale pink taffeta
which had been fashioned by her mother’s clever fingers. Mabel had
chosen a dainty little dress of pale green jersey silk, embroidered
with white daisies. Eleanor wore a fluffy blue chiffon creation, while
Patsy was radiantly pretty in white net over white taffeta.

That the Wayfarers presented a charming appearance in their
delicately-hued finery at least one spectator to their departure could
testify. As the car swept through the gateway and onto the white public
road, from behind a flower-laden bush situated just inside the gates,
a black-haired, bare-footed girl emerged and peered wistfully through
the iron palings after the fast vanishing automobile.

When it had entirely disappeared from view, the elfish little watcher
turned and threw herself face downward in the tangled grass and began
a low disconsolate wailing, her thin shoulders shaking with convulsive
sobs. There she continued to lie, beating the long grass with two small
brown clenched hands.

Her emotion having finally spent itself she slowly dragged herself to
her feet, tossed her long heavy black hair out of her eyes, and sped
like a fawn across the lawn. Coming at last to a clump of low growing
bushes, she dived in under them and reappeared, holding something in
her hand. Then she was off again, this time toward the house. Slipping
through the oleander hedge with the ease of a wood sprite, she made
final port at the entrance to the patio.

The doors stood open. Like a shadow she flitted through the doorway and
into the patio beyond. On a rustic seat near the fountain, she laid the
object which she carried in one thin brown hand. Then she turned and
ran in the direction from which she had come like a timid, hunted young
animal.



CHAPTER XII

INTERVIEWING CARLOS


Strolling into the patio with Eleanor next morning, Miss Martha Carroll
was treated to a surprise. Passing one of the rustic seats set at
intervals about the patio, her eyes chanced to come to rest on an
astonishingly familiar object. It was nothing more nor less than a fat,
red-covered volume lying on the seat before which she had paused in
sheer amazement.

“Why--where----” she stammered, adjusting her eye-glasses and staring
hard at the gilt-lettered title, “The Interrupted Quest,” which
conspicuously adorned the book’s front cover.

“This is really amazing!” she exclaimed, addressing Eleanor, who had
halted beside her.

“What is it, Miss Martha?”

Eleanor looked wonderingly curious. She had not the remotest idea of
the cause of Miss Martha’s agitation.

“_This_ is the book that disappeared from the beach yesterday morning,”
emphasized Miss Carroll. “_How_, I should like to know, does it happen
to be here?”

“Why!” Eleanor’s blue eyes grew round with surprise. “That’s queer,
isn’t it?”

“Too queer by far,” was the displeased answer.

“Oh, look!”

Eleanor had picked up the book from the seat. As she raised it, a slip
of paper fluttered to the stone floor of the patio. Stooping, she
gathered it in. Written on it in pencil was the single word: “Gracias.”

“It’s meant for ‘gracious,’ I guess,” puzzled Eleanor, “only it isn’t
spelled correctly. I really believe it must have been that queer girl
Bee saw who took the book. She’s honest, at least. She returned it. But
why in the world did she write ‘gracious’ on that slip of paper? Here
come the girls. May I tell them, Miss Martha?”

“Of course.”

Miss Carroll had seated herself on the bench, a decided frown between
her brows. She did not in the least relish this latest performance on
the part of the elflike stranger. The unexpected return of the book
indicated that the odd little prowler was evidently, as Eleanor said,
honest. Yet the fact remained that she _was_ a prowler, which annoyed
Miss Martha considerably.

“The lost is found!” Eleanor called triumphantly across the patio to
the approaching trio of girls. “What do you think of this?”

She held up the book for them to see.

“Why, it _is_ Auntie’s lost book, isn’t it? Where did it come from,
Nellie?”

Patsy’s face registered a mystified surprise which was also reflected
on the features of her companions.

“We found it lying on that seat,” explained Eleanor. “This slip of
paper was tucked into it.”

Patsy took the bit of paper which Eleanor proffered. Mabel and Bee
eagerly peered at it over her shoulder as she held it up and inspected
the one word written on it. Her brows contracted in a puzzled frown.

“Humph!” she ejaculated. “I don’t see---”

“I do,” interrupted Mabel with a little laugh. “That word ‘gracias’ is
Spanish for ‘thank you.’”

“Then my wood nymph is _Spanish_!” Bee cried out. “It was she who took
the book. The whole thing is as plain as daylight. She only borrowed
it over night to _read_. Miss Martha’s pretty white parasol didn’t
interest her at all. It was the book that took her eye. And why?
Because she wanted to read it, of course.”

“Go ahead, Sherlock,” teased Patsy. “What next?”

“Well----” Bee laughed and looked slightly confused. “We know, too,
that she is honest, or----”

“That’s just what I said,” interposed Eleanor.

“Really, Beatrice, I can hardly imagine a wild-looking girl such as you
have described as having literary tastes,” broke in Miss Martha drily.
“It is far more reasonable to assume that the bright color of my book
caught her eye. She may have thought it a picture book. Finding out
that it was not, some strange impulse of her own caused her to return
it. Her methods seem to me decidedly primitive. Why doesn’t she come
out and show herself openly, instead of dodging about under cover like
a young savage?”

“She is probably just awfully shy,” staunchly defended Patsy. “She
can’t really be quite a savage. She wrote ‘thank you’ on that bit of
paper. That proves two things. She knows how to write and is not too
ignorant to be polite.”

“I don’t consider prowling about in the bushes and spying upon
strangers marked indications of politeness,” was Miss Carroll’s
satirical return. “I can’t say I relish the prospect of having this
young imp bob up at us unexpectedly at every turn we make.”

The Wayfarers giggled in unison at this remark. Miss Martha did not
resent their mirth. She even smiled a little herself, a fact which
Patsy shrewdly noted. It informed her that her aunt was not seriously
prejudiced against the will-o’-the-wisp little stranger. Like
everything else at Las Golondrinas, this new feature of mystery made
strong appeal to Patsy. She was inwardly resolved eventually to hunt
down the elusive, black-eyed sprite and make her acquaintance.

With this idea in mind she now made energetic announcement:

“I’m going to interview Carlos this minute and learn a few things
about the natives. Anybody who wants to come along has my gracious
permission. If nobody wants to, then I’m going just the same. He’s down
at the stable this morning. Dad said so.”

“I’ll go,” accepted Bee. “I have almost as much curiosity as you.”

“I don’t feel like going out in the hot sun,” Eleanor said. “It’s so
nice and cool here in the patio. I have no curiosity.”

“You mean energy,” corrected Bee.

“I have neither,” beamed Eleanor, “so just run along without me. You
can tell me all about what Carlos said when you come back. I’ll be
right here waiting for you.”

“You may wait a long while,” jeered Mabel. “I’m not so lazy as you. I’m
going with the girls and practice my Spanish on Carlos.”

“I hope he’ll survive it,” retaliated Eleanor.

“You should worry. _Adios._”

Mabel waved a derisive farewell to her sister as she turned to follow
Patsy and Bee, who had already started for the main exit to the patio,
which opened onto the driveway.

Arm in arm, the trio followed the drive, coming at last to the stable,
a rambling stone structure situated at some distance below the house.

“There’s Carlos now! He looks like a cowboy, doesn’t he?”

Patsy had spied her father’s new man standing in front of the stable
engaged in lighting a cigarette. Attired in an open-necked flannel
shirt, brown corduroy trousers and a weather-stained sombrero, the
Mexican presented a rather picturesque appearance, or so the Wayfarers
thought.

Immediately he caught sight of the three girls, the man’s dark features
grew lowering. He made a move as though to enter the stable door, then
stood still, regarding his advancing visitors with sullen indifference.

“You speak to him, Mab,” urged Patsy in an undertone. “Say something to
him in Spanish.”

“Oh, I can’t,” demurred Mabel. “What shall I say?”

“Say ‘good-day’ in Spanish,” prompted Patsy. “Go ahead.”

Raising her voice, Mabel called out politely: “_Buenos dias, señor._”

The man made no effort to doff his sombrero in response to this hail.
Neither did he leave off smoking his cigarette.

“I spik English,” he announced in a sulky tone that suggested affront
rather than appreciation of being thus addressed in his native tongue.

“So much the better for us then.”

Patsy now became spokesman. There was a gleam of lively resentment in
her gray eyes, born of the man’s ungracious behavior.

For an instant the two regarded each other steadily. Something in the
girl’s resolute, unflinching gaze caused the man’s small black eyes to
waver. He glimpsed in that direct glance the same determined will he
had already discovered the “Señor Carroll” possessed.

As if unwillingly impelled to break the silence he mumbled sulkily:
“What do you desire?”

“To ask you a few questions,” tersely returned Patsy. “My father tells
me that you used to work for Mr. Fereda, the old Spanish gentleman who
once owned this estate. So you must know something of the Feredas, and
also of the few persons who live in this vicinity.”

Patsy’s former intent to be affable had completely vanished. Decidedly
miffed by the man’s too evident surliness, she spoke almost imperiously.

“Las Golondrinas covers much ground. I know a little; not much,” was
the evasive answer.

“I am sure you must know something of the queer old woman who lives
in a little cottage outside the estate, and just beyond the orange
groves,” Patsy coolly challenged. “Who is she and how long has she
lived there?”

“Ah, yes, I know.”

Carlos blew a cloud of cigarette smoke into the air and indifferently
watched it drift away.

“She is Rosita,” he shrugged. “Always she has lived there. As children
she and old Manuel played together. Her father was the servant of his
father, Enrico Fereda. Rosita is the widow for many years.”

Three pairs of alert ears avidly picked up the name “Enrico.” Here it
seemed was still another member of the Fereda family.

“Is she crazy?”

It was Mabel who now tactlessly interposed with this blunt question.

It had an electrical effect upon Carlos. His attitude of bored
indifference left him. His lax shoulders straightened with an angry
jerk. His black eyes narrowed in sinister fashion.

“You spik of my grandmother, _señorita_!” he rebuked, drawing himself
up with an air of offended dignity.

“I beg your pardon,” Mabel said hastily, her color rising.

In spite of her embarrassment she was seized with an irresistible
desire to laugh. Realizing that laughter was imminent, she turned to
Patsy with: “I’m going back to the house. I’ll see you later,” and
ingloriously retired from the scene, leaving Patsy and Bee to conduct
the remainder of the interview.

“Why the _señorita_ so spik of my grandmother? You have seen her?”

Carlos threw away his cigarette and appeared for the first time to
take an interest in things. Bee thought she detected a faint note
of concern in his voice. She had been watching him closely and had
already decided that he knew a great deal more about Las Golondrinas
and its environments than he pretended to know.

“We saw your grandmother’s cottage the other day from the orange
groves. We walked over to it. Your grandmother came out of the cottage
and asked us who we were. When we told her and tried to ask her some
questions about the Fereda family, she screamed and raved at us and
ordered us to go away and not come back. She behaved and talked very
much like a crazy person.”

It was Bee who purposely made this somewhat full explanation. She had a
curious conviction that her recital of old Rosita’s wild outburst was a
piece of news to Carlos, and that it did not please him.

“Rosita is not _loco_,” Carlos shook his head in sullen contradiction.
“What you want know ’bout the family de Fereda? Why you want know?”

As Patsy’s original intention had been to quiz Carlos about the
Feredas, she now hailed the opportunity. The identity of Rosita having
been established and her sanity vouched for by her grandson, at least,
Patsy was eager to go on to the Feredas themselves. Carlos appeared,
too, to be thawing out a trifle. She had, at least, aroused his
curiosity.

“We would like to know the history of the Feredas because we think it
would be interesting. We know by the portraits in the picture gallery
that they were a very old family,” she began eagerly. “Do you know
anything about those portraits? Have you ever been in the gallery?”

“I have been; remember nothing,” was the discouraging response. “Of the
history this family know nothing.”

Carlos’ face had resumed its mask of indifference. Only his black eyes
held a curiously alert expression which watchful Bee did not fail to
note.

Patsy looked her disappointment. She had hoped to extract from Carlos
some information not only about the Feredas but also concerning the
portrait which so greatly interested her. Failing, she next bethought
herself of the mysterious wood nymph.

“The other day my father saw a pretty young girl with black eyes and
long black hair in our orange groves,” she began afresh. “My friend,
Miss Forbes,” Patsy indicated Bee, “also saw her in the woods near our
bathing beach. Can you tell me who she is? She certainly must live not
far from here.”

A swift flash of anger flitted across the Mexican’s face. It was gone
almost instantly.

“I have not seen,” he denied. “Now I go. I have the work to do.”

Wheeling abruptly he started off across the grass, almost on the run,
and was soon lost to view among the trees.



CHAPTER XIII

TWO LETTERS


“Did you ever try to talk to a more aggravating person?” Patsy cried
out vexedly to Bee. “Does he know anything, or doesn’t he?”

“He knows a good deal, but he won’t tell it,” returned Bee shrewdly.
“For one thing he knows who our wood nymph is. He looked awfully black
when you mentioned her. I wonder why?”

“She may be a relative,” surmised Patsy. “She’s Spanish or Mexican, I’m
sure.”

“I hadn’t thought of that. You’re a better deducer than I,” laughed Bee.

“Thank you, thank you!” Patsy bowed exaggerated gratitude.

“If this Rosita is really Carlos’ grandmother, as he says she is,
she certainly never told him about our going to the cottage that
day,” declared Beatrice. “He pretended to be indifferent, but he was
surprised. I read it in his eyes. Now why didn’t she tell him?”

“I give it up. I give the whole thing up. Every time we try to find out
anything about these Feredas we bump up against a lot of questions that
we can’t answer,” sighed Patsy. “We might better forget the whole thing
and just enjoy ourselves.”

“Let’s go back to the house,” proposed Beatrice, “and tell that
faithless Mab what we think of her for beating it off in such a hurry.”

“She knew she was going to laugh. I could hardly keep my face straight.
Carlos straightened up and looked so injured. I don’t see, though, why
he should call his grandmother Rosita. I never called _my_ grandmother,
Priscilla, I’m sure, even in my ignorant infancy,” giggled Patsy.

“It would have sounded rather disrespectful,” agreed Bee, echoing the
giggle. “I can’t say much for Carlos’ manners. He never raised his hat
to us at all, but stood there and blew smoke right in our faces.”

“Dad would be awfully cross if he knew that. I’m not going to tell
him. He’s had so much trouble hiring a man for this place. He’d go to
Carlos and reprimand him and Carlos would leave and----Oh, what’s the
use? We won’t bother with Carlos again, anyway. He’d never tell us
anything. I’m going to write a letter to-day to Eulalie Fereda and have
Mr. Haynes, the agent, forward it. I simply must learn the history of
that dark, wicked-looking cavalier in the picture gallery. Of course
she may not answer it, but then, she may. It’s worth trying, anyway.”

Entering the patio and finding it deserted, Bee and Patsy passed
through it and on up stairs in search of Mabel. They finally found her
in the big, somber sitting room, engaged in her favorite occupation of
hunting for the secret drawer which she stoutly insisted the quaint
walnut desk contained. This idea having become firmly fixed in her
mind she derived signal amusement in searching for the mythical secret
drawer.

“Is she crazy?” jeered Patsy, pointing to Mabel, who was kneeling
before the massive piece of furniture, her exploring fingers carefully
going over every inch of the elaborately carved solid front of the desk.

“Oh, so you’ve come back!” Mabel sprang to her feet, laughing. “I had
to run away,” she apologized. “I felt so silly. I didn’t want to laugh
in his very face. How was I to know that the witch woman was Carlos’
grandmother? Did you find out anything?”

“No.” Bee shook her head. “Carlos will never set the world on fire
as an information bureau. According to his own statements, he sees
nothing, knows nothing and remembers nothing. He is a positive clam!”

“I’m going to write to Eulalie _now_, while it’s on my mind,” announced
Patsy. “Bee, you may play around with Mab while I’m writing. You may
both hunt for the secret drawer. When I finish my letter, I’ll read
it to you. Then I’m going to write another. When that’s done we are
all going down to the beach. A great scheme is seething in my fertile
brain. Where’s Nellie?”

“In our room, overhauling her trunk,” informed Mabel. “We can’t go to
the beach without Miss Martha, and she said she wouldn’t go to-day.”

“Leave that to me,” retorted Patsy. “I know what I’m doing, even if you
don’t.”

For the next half-hour, comparative quiet reigned in the big room,
broken only by an occasional remark or giggle from Bee and Mabel as
they pursued their fruitless search.

“There!” cried Patsy at last as she signed her name to the letter she
had just finished writing.

“Listen to this:

    “‘DEAR MISS FEREDA:

    “‘I have heard of you from Mr. Haynes, the agent, from whom my
    father, Robert Carroll, purchased Las Golondrinas. My aunt, my
    father, three of my friends and myself are at present spending
    a few weeks’ vacation at Las Golondrinas. We are greatly
    interested in the portrait gallery and should appreciate it
    if you would tell us something of the large portrait of the
    Spanish cavalier which hangs in the center of the gallery.
    He is a most romantic-looking person and must surely have an
    interesting history. We are very curious about him.

    “‘We have wondered that you did not reserve the collection of
    family portraits before selling the estate. If you would like
    to have them they are at your disposal. My father and I both
    feel that you have first right to them.

    “‘Las Golondrinas is an ideal place in which to spend a
    vacation. We are quite in love with this quaint old house and
    its furnishings. Would you object to telling us when the house
    was built and how many generations of Feredas have lived in it?
    Judging from the many antiques it contained and its general
    plan, it must be very old indeed.

    “‘We are sorry not to have met you personally and hope some
    day to have that pleasure. I understand that you are a young
    girl of about my own age. No doubt we should find that we had
    many interests in common. It would be a pleasure to have you
    visit me while we are here and meet my father, my aunt and my
    friends. Could you not arrange to pay us a visit?

    “‘I shall hope to hear from you and that we may become better
    acquainted in the near future.

                          “‘Yours sincerely,

                                               “‘PATRICIA CARROLL.’

“How is that for a nice, polite letter to Eulalie?” Patsy inquired.
“Any criticisms? If so, out with them now. If not, into an envelope it
goes and on its way to the last of the Feredas, wherever she may happen
to be. I’m not really counting much on an answer. I haven’t the least
idea in the world what sort of girl this Eulalie is. Anyway it will do
no harm to write her. If she should answer and we became acquainted and
she paid us a visit, it would be splendid.”

“I think it’s a nice letter,” praised Mabel. “Go ahead and send it,
Patsy.”

“I am sure she’ll like it,” approved Bee. “It’s thoughtful in your
father to offer her the collection of portraits.”

“It seems funny to me that she didn’t reserve them. Maybe she didn’t
want them. She might have grown tired of seeing them every day
for so many years,” speculated Mabel. “They aren’t a particularly
cheerful-looking lot of ladies and gentlemen. They all look so cold and
stern and tragic.”

“Auntie says they gave her the horrors,” chuckled Patsy. “When I told
her that Dad said I could write to Eulalie and ask her if she wanted
the collection, Auntie said: ‘A very sensible idea. She is welcome to
them. If she doesn’t want them I shall have the gallery cleared out
before we come down here next season.”

“If Eulalie doesn’t want them, what will become of them?” Bee asked
thoughtfully. “Would your father sell them? Suppose you were to find
that some of them had been painted by famous artists? Then they’d be
very valuable.”

“I don’t know what Dad would do in that case. He spoke of having an art
collector come down here and look them over, you know. Of course, if
Eulalie sends for them, that’s the end of it. If she doesn’t, Auntie
will have them taken down. I know one thing. She hates the sight of
them. Now I must write another letter. I hope I sha’n’t be disturbed
while I’m writing it.”

Patsy beamed on her chums with owlish significance.

“Isn’t she snippy?” sniffed Mabel. “Come on, Bee, we’ve got to find
that secret drawer. I hope we sha’n’t be disturbed while we’re hunting
for it.”

Patsy merely grinned amiably at this thrust and settled herself to the
writing of her letter. A little smile curved her red lips as the pen
fled over the paper.

For ten minutes she continued to write, then called out:

“Come here, children, and sign this letter.”

“Never put your signature to a paper until you know what it’s all
about,” Bee warned Mabel.

“Oh, you needn’t be so cautious. I was going to let you see what I
wrote. Here!”

Patsy handed the letter to Bee.

Heads together, Mabel and Bee proceeded to read that which made them
smile.

    “DEAR WOOD NYMPH,” the letter said. “Why won’t you come and
    play with us, instead of hiding away in the thickets? We are
    just four young girls like yourself, so you need not be afraid
    of us. We found the red book in the patio, so we know that you
    must have paid us a call yesterday while we were away from Las
    Golondrinas.

    “Why don’t you come and see us when we are at home? We’d love
    to have you. The next time you see us at the bathing-beach
    please come out of the woods and show us that you are not a
    tricksy sprite but a real live girl like ourselves.

    “We are placing this note in a book which we are sure you will
    like to read. We are going to leave the book on the sands just
    where you found the red book. After you have read it, won’t you
    bring it straight to us and get acquainted?

                            “Your friends,

                                                   “THE WAYFARERS.”

Below “The Wayfarers” Patsy had signed her own name, allowing
sufficient space on the page for the names of her friends.

“That’s sweet in you, Patsy,” lauded Mabel. “Give me your pen. I’ll
sign my name in a hurry.”

Mabel promptly affixed her name to the letter, Beatrice following suit.

“We must get Nellie to sign it, too. You and Bee take it to her, Mab,”
Patsy requested. “I’m going to ask Auntie if we can’t walk down to
the beach, for once, without an escort. It’s not as if we were going
bathing. We’ll just leave the book and come straight back. We won’t be
in any danger.”

“Where’s the book?” inquired Bee.

“In my room. I’m going to put the letter in that book we read on the
train when we were coming down here. You remember. It was ‘The Oriole.’
It’s such a pretty story and not too grown-up for our wood nymph. I’ll
meet you girls in the patio.”

While Bee and Mabel went to inform Eleanor of the proposed expedition
and obtain her signature to the letter, Patsy took upon herself the
delicate task of interviewing her aunt.

She found Miss Martha on one of the balconies which overlooked the
patio, a bit of embroidery in her hands, a book open on one knee. Miss
Carroll had triumphantly mastered the difficult art of reading and
embroidering at the same time.

Having come to the belief that it was really the girls’ wood nymph
who had taken and subsequently returned her book, Miss Martha was now
inclined to lay less stress on the incident. Her theory of tramps
having been shaken, she demurred a little, then gave a somewhat
reluctant consent to Patsy’s plea.

“You may go this once, but be sure you keep together and don’t loiter
down there at the beach. I can’t say I specially approve of your trying
to make friends with this young heathen. Once you come to know her you
may find her very troublesome. However, you may be able to help her in
some way. Your motive is good. That’s really the only reason I can give
for allowing you to carry out your plan. Be sure you come back in time
for luncheon.”

“You’re as good as gold, Auntie, dear.” Patsy tumultuously embraced
Miss Martha.

“Really, Patsy, you fairly pull one to pieces,” grumbled Miss Carroll,
grabbing ineffectually for embroidery and book as she emerged from that
bear-like embrace.

“You like it, though.” Patsy deftly garnered book and embroidery from
the balcony floor and restored them to Miss Carroll’s lap. Dropping a
kiss on her aunt’s snowy hair she light-heartedly left the balcony to
go to her own room for the book which was to play an important part in
her kindly little plan.

Hastily securing the book, Patsy set her broad-brimmed Panama on her
auburn head at a rakish angle and dashed from the room in her usual
whirlwind fashion, banging the door behind her.

A few steps and she had entered the picture gallery through which she
intended to pass on her way to the stairs. As she entered it a faint
sound assailed her ears. She could not place in her own mind the nature
of the sound, yet it startled her, simply because it had proceeded from
the very center of the gallery.

An unbidden impulse caused her to direct her eyes toward the portrait
cavalier. She caught her breath sharply. A curious chill crept up
and down her spine. Was she dreaming, or had the man in the picture
actually moved? With a little gasp of terror Patsy fled for the stairs
and clattered down them, feeling as though the sinister cavalier was
directly at her heels.



CHAPTER XIV

A REAL ADVENTURE


“What on earth is the matter?”

Seated on a bench beside Mabel and Eleanor, Bee sprang up in alarm as
Patsy fairly tore into the patio and dropped limply upon another seat.

“Oh, girls, the picture!” she exclaimed. “That cavalier! He _moved_!
I’m sure he did! It gave me the creeps! I was hustling through the
gallery and I heard a faint, queer noise. I can’t describe it. It
seemed to come right from the middle of the gallery. I looked toward
that picture and it moved, or else the cavalier moved. I don’t know
which.”

“You just thought you saw something move,” soothed Bee, sitting down
beside her chum and patting her hand. “It was probably the way the
light happened to strike on the picture that made it seem so. As for a
queer sound! Every sound echoes and re-echoes in these old corridors.
We heard you bang your door clear down here. You must have heard an
echo of that bang in the gallery.”

“I’m a goose, I guess.” Patsy sheepishly ducked her head. “I never
thought of the light falling like that on the picture. That’s what I
saw, I suppose.”

“What has happened, Patsy?” called a dignified but anxious voice from
the balcony. Miss Martha stood leaning over the rail looking down
concernedly at her niece.

“Nothing, Auntie, dear. I heard a queer noise in the gallery and it
startled me. Bee says it was only the echo from the bang I gave my
door. I’m all right,” Patsy sturdily insisted, rising from the seat and
blowing a gay little kiss to her aunt.

“I _heard_ you bang your door,” was the significant response. “When you
come back from your walk you must take one of those capsules that Dr.
Hilliard prescribed for my nerves.”

“All right,” Patsy dutifully agreed. “Good-bye, Auntie. We’re going
now.”

“Good-bye. Remember to be back by one o’clock.”

The three other girls calling a blithe good-bye to Miss Carroll,
the quartette left the patio with an alacrity that betokened their
eagerness for the proposed walk.

“I didn’t care to tell her about thinking I saw the picture move,”
confessed Patsy. “As it is I’m in for swallowing one of those fat nerve
capsules that Auntie always keeps on hand. I need it about as much as
a bird needs a hat. We’ll have to walk fairly fast to get to the beach
and back by luncheon time, girls. We’ll lay the book on the sand, then
watch from the bath house windows to see what happens.”

“I hope our wood nymph comes along and finds it to-day,” commented
Mabel. “Still she might not go near the beach for several days. After
all, there’s only a chance that she’ll see it and pick it up.”

“I have an idea she goes to the beach every day,” said Beatrice. “She
may be as curious about us as we are about her. She may be so shy,
though, that she won’t come near us, even if she does read our note.”

Thus discussing the object of their little scheme, the Wayfarers forged
ahead at a swinging pace. Soon they had left the highway and were on
the narrow, white, palm-lined road to the beach, talking busily as they
went. Once in the jungle four pairs of eyes kept up an alert watch on
both sides of the road in the hope of spying the elusive wood nymph.

[Illustration: She caught her breath sharply, … had the man in the
picture actually moved?]

They came at last to the beach, however, without having seen any signs
of their quarry. After they had gone through the little ceremony of
placing the book on the spot on the sands from which the other book had
disappeared, they went over to the bath house and, entering, eagerly
watched from one of its windows.

After lingering there for half an hour, during which period the fateful
book remained exactly where it had been laid, they gave up the vigil
for that day and reluctantly started on the homeward hike.

“Of course we couldn’t really expect anything would happen just because
we wanted it to,” declared Eleanor.

“Of course not,” her chums concurred. In her heart, however, each girl
had been secretly hoping that something _would_ happen.

The following morning saw the Wayfarers again on the sands. This time,
however, they had come down to the beach for a swim, Miss Martha
dutifully accompanying them.

Almost the first object which met their gaze when they reached the
sands was the book. It still lay exactly where Patsy had deposited it,
the white edge of the letter showing above the book’s blue binding.

“She hasn’t been here!” Patsy cried out disappointedly. “I guess our
plan isn’t going to amount to much after all.”

“Oh, don’t be discouraged,” smiled Eleanor. “Give her time.”

“Let’s forget all about it,” suggested Bee. “Nothing ever happens when
one’s awfully anxious for it to happen. It generally happens after one
has stopped thinking about it and gone on to something else. It’s a
glorious morning for a swim. Let’s hurry into our bathing suits and
take advantage of it.”

This wise view of the matter appealing to the disappointed authors of
the little plot, the four girls betook themselves to the bath house to
get ready for their morning dip in the ocean.

Having now become mildly interested in Patsy’s scheme to catch a wood
nymph, Miss Martha took pains to further it by establishing herself on
the sands at a point on the far side of the bath house. From there she
could neither see the spot where the book lay, nor could anyone who
might chance to approach it see her. This maneuver was not lost on her
charges, who agreed with Patsy’s gleeful assertion that Auntie was
just as anxious for “something to happen” as they were.

Soon engrossed in the fun of splashing and swimming about in the
sun-warmed salt water, the Wayfarers forgot everything that did not
pertain to the enjoyment of the moment.

True, on first entering the surf Patsy cast an occasional glance
beachward. Bee’s merry challenge, “I’ll race you again to-day as far as
the bend and back,” was the last touch needed to drive all thought of
the mysterious wood nymph from Patsy’s mind.

Sturdy Bee proved herself no mean antagonist. When Patsy finally
arrived at the starting point only a yard ahead of her chum, she was
ready to throw herself down on the sands and rest after her strenuous
swim. Bee, however, showed no sign of fatigue.

“You beat me, but only by a yard. To-morrow I’ll beat you.” Bee stood
over Patsy, flushed and laughing.

“I don’t doubt it.” Patsy glanced admiringly up at her chum. “You’re a
stronger swimmer than I, Bee. With a little more practice you’ll be a
wonder. Here I am resting. You look ready to start out all over again.”

“I’m not a bit tired,” Bee said with a little air of pride. “I’ll
prove it by swimming out there where Mabel and Nellie are.”

Stretched full length in the sand, Patsy lazily sat up and watched her
chum as Bee waded out in the surf, reached swimming depth and struck
out for a point not far ahead where Mabel and Eleanor were placidly
swimming about.

Indolently content to remain inactive, Patsy continued to watch her
three friends for a little, then lay down again, one arm thrown across
her eyes to shut out the sun.

While she lay there, enjoying the luxury of thinking about nothing in
particular, tardy recollection of the blue book suddenly crossed her
brain. It impelled her to sit up again with a jerk and cast a quick
glance toward the object of her thoughts.

Next instant a bare-footed figure in a white bathing suit flashed
across the sands toward the jungle on a wild run. In that one glance
Patsy had seen more than the blue book. She had seen a slim young girl,
her small, beautiful face framed in masses of midnight black hair, flit
suddenly out of the jungle, eagerly snatch up the book and dart off
with it.

First sight of the strange girl and Patsy’s original intention to await
developments flew to the winds. Obeying a mad impulse to pursue the
vanishing wood nymph, Patsy plunged into the jungle after her, crying
out loudly: “Wait a minute! I want to talk to you.”

At sound of the clear, high voice the black-haired girl ahead halted
briefly. Through the open screen of green, Patsy could see her quite
plainly. She was looking over her shoulder at her pursuer as though
undetermined whether to stand her ground or continue her flight.

“Don’t be afraid,” Patsy called out encouragingly. “Please don’t run
away.”

As she spoke she started quickly forward. Her eyes fixed on the girl,
her runaway feet plunged themselves into a mass of tangled green vines.
With a sharp, “Oh!” she pitched headlong into a thicket of low-growing
bushes.

As she scrambled to her feet she became aware of a loud, metallic
buzzing in her ears. Then she felt herself being jerked out of the
thicket by a pair of strong arms and hauled to a bit of dear space
beyond.

“Stay where you are, _señorita_,” commanded a warning, imperative
voice. “Move not, I entreat you!”

Bewildered by the suddenness with which things had happened, Patsy
stood perfectly still, her eyes following the movements of a lithe
figure, darting this way and that, as though in search of something.

Still in a daze she heard the voice that had addressed her utter a
low murmur of satisfaction, as its owner stooped and picked up a dead
branch from under a huge live oak. Two little brown hands played like
lightning over the thick branch, ripping off the clinging dead twigs.
Next the denuded branch was thwacked vigorously against the parent oak.

“It is strong enough,” announced a calm voice. “Now we shall see.”

Fascinated, Patsy watched breathlessly. She now understood the
situation. Her headlong crash into the thicket had stirred up a drowsy
rattler. The prompt action of her little wood nymph had saved her from
being bitten by the snake. Now the girl intended to hunt it down and
kill it. She looked so small and slender. It seemed too dangerous a
task for her to undertake.

“Oh, please let it alone! It might bite you!” Patsy found herself
faltering out. “A rattle-snake’s bite is deadly.”

“I have killed many. I am not afraid. Always one must kill the snake.
It is the sign of the enemy. One kills; so one conquers. _Comprende?_”

The girl shook back her black hair, her red lips parting in a smile
that lighted her somber face into sunshine. Patsy thought it quite the
prettiest thing she had ever seen.

Very cautiously the intrepid little hunter began to circle the thicket,
poking her impromptu weapon into it with every step she took.

“Ah!”

She uttered a shout of triumph as the sinister, buzzing sound Patsy had
so lately heard began again.

Having located her quarry, the girl proceeded to dispatch it with the
fearlessness of those long used to the wilds. Her weapon firmly grasped
in determined hands she rained a fury of strong, steady blows upon the
rattler. Finally they ceased. Giving his snakeship a final contemptuous
prod with the branch, she called across the thicket to Patsy:

“Come. You wish to see. He is a very large one. Of a length of eight
feet, _quisas_. Wait; I will lay him straight on the earth.”

Approaching, Patsy shuddered as her rescuer obligingly poked the dead
reptile from the spot where it had made its last stand. She shuddered
again as a small brown hand grasped the still twitching tail and
straightened the snake out.

“It is the diamond back,” the girl calmly informed. “See.” She pointed
with the branch, which she still held, to the diamond-shaped markings
on the snake’s back. “He carried the death in his sting. So we shall
bury the head, for the sting of a dead snake such as this is safer
covered.”

“It’s horrible!” shivered Patsy. “It was coiled up in the thicket. I
must have disturbed it when I fell. I don’t see how I escaped being
bitten.”

“He was resting at the edge of the thicket, _señorita_,” corrected the
girl. “Always such as he keep near the edge so that it becomes for them
thus easy to strike the small creatures they hunt. So you missed him
and he sang the song of death. I heard that song and came. He had eaten
not long ago, I believe, and was lazy. So he did not try to go away.
Now he is dead. So if the enemy comes to me, I must conquer. This is a
true saying.”



CHAPTER XV

DOLORES


A sudden silence fell upon the two girls as the picturesque little
stranger made this solemn announcement. Now that the excitement was
over the wood nymph began to show signs of returning shyness.

Fearing that she might turn and run away, Patsy stretched forth a slim
white hand and said winningly:

“I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am for what you did. You were
very brave, I think. I’m ever so glad to know you. Can’t we be friends?”

The girl hesitated, a wistful look in her large dark eyes. Very slowly
she put her small brown hand into Patsy’s extended one.

“I will give you the hand because already I like you,” she said. “I
cannot be your friend because I am too poor. Always I must wear the
old ugly dress. Always I must go with the feet bare.”

“That has nothing to do with our being friends,” was Patsy’s gentle
assurance. “I’m bare-footed, too.” She laughed and thrust forward one
pink, bare foot. “Just look at my bathing suit. It was wet when I
started after you. Falling down didn’t improve it.”

“Ah, but your feet are bare because you wish it,” reminded the girl
sadly. “Never I wish the bare feet, but always it must be. I have seen
you the other day in the automobile. You and your friends I saw. _Mi
madre_ you were most wonderful! You were _linda_; _hermosa_!”

The girl clasped her brown hands in a fervent gesture as she relapsed
into Spanish by way of emphasizing her ardent admiration.

“I was behind the hedge and saw you go,” she continued apologetically.
“With me was the red book, I would to bring it back. Was it wrong to
take it for one day? I desired it much.”

“You were very welcome to it,” smiled Patsy. “We found it in the patio
with your thank you. Did you read it?”

“_Si_; but not all. It was long, with such hard words. _No comprendia_
all. It told of the _amor_. That is the love, you know. Yet _amor_
is the more sweet word. It is the Spanish. You must know that I am
Spanish, but I speak the English quite well, though for a long time I
have spoken it little.”

“I should say you did speak it well!” emphasized Patsy.

As it happened, Patsy was already decidedly amazed at this fact. Though
the girl’s phraseology was a trifle clumsy at times, in the main her
English was grammatical. To Patsy she was a bewildering combination of
childish frankness, sturdy independence, shy humility and quaint charm.
Above all, there hung over her that curious air of mystery which wholly
fascinated Patsy.

“You have said you desire to be to me the friend. So I shall tell you
why I speak the English,” pursued the wood nymph in a sudden burst of
confidence. “First, we must bury the head of this,” she pointed to the
dead snake, “then I will show you the place under the tree where we may
sit for a little.”

“I’d love to,” eagerly responded Patsy.

Completely wrapped up in the adventure, impetuous Patsy had entirely
forgotten the passing of time. The effect her disappearance would have
on her friends had not yet occurred to her. Her mind was centered on
her new acquaintance, who was now busily engaged in digging a hole in
the soft earth with a sharp stone she had picked up.

“It is done,” she announced, when the crushed, ugly head of the reptile
was hidden from view and the earth pounded down over it. “Come now. I
will show you. Follow me and fear not. We shall not see another such
snake, I believe.”

Following her lively companion for a few yards of comparatively easy
going, the two came to a wide-spreading palmetto under which was a
space clear of vines and bushes. Only the short green grass grew
luxuriantly there.

“This place I love. I have myself made it free of the vines and weeds.
Here I love to lie and look up through the trees at the sky. Sit you
down and we will talk.”

Only too willing to “talk,” Patsy obeyed with alacrity. The wood nymph
seated herself beside Patsy, endeavoring to cover her bare feet and
limbs with her faded brown cotton skirt. Slim hands clasped about her
knees, she stared solemnly at the white-clad girl beside her.

“I am Dolores,” she began. “That means the sadness. I have lived here
long, but before that I lived with my father in Miami. My mother I
never knew. I was the little baby when she died. So I went to a school
and learned English. Now I have seventeen years, but in Miami, when I
was of an age of twelve years, my father, who did the work every day of
the _carpintero_, became very sick. So he died, but before he died he
wrote the letter to his friend who came for me and brought me here. So
never more I went to school but had always the hard work to do.”

“You poor little thing!” exclaimed Patsy, her ready sympathies touched
by the wistfulness of the girl’s tones as she related her sad little
story. “Where do you live now, and why do you have to work so hard?”

“These things I cannot tell you. It is forbidden.” The girl mournfully
shook her head. “So it is true also that I cannot be your friend.
But if you will come here sometimes, I will see you,” she added, her
lovely, somber features brightening.

“Of course I will, and bring my friends with me. They are dandy girls,
ever so much nicer than I. My name is Patricia Carroll, but everyone
calls me ‘Patsy.’ Why can’t you come to Las Golondrinas to see us?”

“It is forbidden. _Never_ I can go there again. I am sorry.”

The brightness faded from the stranger’s beautiful face, leaving it
more melancholy than before.

Patsy looked briefly baffled, then tried again with:

“Come down to the beach with me now and meet them and my aunt.” Sudden
remembrance of Miss Martha caused her to exclaim: “Good gracious! I
wonder what time it is! None of my friends knows where I went. They’ll
be terribly worried.”

Patsy sprang to her feet in dismay. She wondered if she had really been
away from the beach so very long. She was of the rueful conviction that
she had.

“I would go, but I am afraid. If she saw me she would be angry and shut
me up for many days. So she has said.”

This was even more amazing to Patsy. She longed to ask this strange
girl all sorts of questions. Courtesy forbade her to do so. She also
had a vague idea that it would be of no use. Fear of the person she had
referred to as “she” had evidently tied the wood nymph’s tongue.

“I’d love to have you come with me,” Patsy said warmly. “But I wouldn’t
want you to do anything that might bring trouble upon yourself. Is it
right that you should obey this--this person?”

“No; never it is right!” The answer came in bitter, resentful tones.
“Often I think to run away from here, never to return. Only I have the
no place to go. I am truly the poor one. Dolores!” She made a little
despairing gesture. “_Si_, it is the true name for me.”

“Then if you feel that it is not right to obey a person who is treating
you unjustly, don’t do it,” was Patsy’s bold counsel. “I wish you would
tell me your trouble. Perhaps I could help you. Won’t you trust me and
tell me about it?”

“I am afraid,” was the mournful repetition. “Not afraid of you. Oh,
never that! Already I have for you the _amor_. You are _simpatica_. I
would to go to the sands with you now and meet your friends. I cannot.
I will show you the way to the road. So you can walk more quickly to
the sands. I will try to come to this place to-morrow at this time and
wait for you.”

“May I bring the girls with me?” petitioned Patsy. “My chum, Beatrice,
saw you in the thicket the first time we came to the beach. She is
longing to know you.”

“Beatrice; it is the pretty name. She is perhaps that one with the true
face and the brown curls. I saw her look at me that day. She is not so
pretty as you; yet she is pretty. So, also, are those other two girls
who look alike and still not alike.”

“They are sisters; Mabel and Eleanor,” informed Patsy. “At home, away
up North, they live next door to me. When I come here to-morrow I will
tell you more about myself. I must go now. You haven’t said yet whether
I might bring my chums with me to-morrow.”

“I wish it,” was the brief consent. “Now I will show you the way.”

It was not as far as Patsy had thought to the sandy road. Guided by
Dolores, who knew her ground thoroughly, Patsy found jungle travel
easy, even in her bare feet. The two girls finally came out on the road
about an eighth of a mile above the beach.

“Thank you ever so much for showing me the way.”

Patsy paused in the middle of the road, her hand extended. Impulsively
she leaned forward and lightly kissed Dolores.

The vivid color in the girl’s cheeks deepened at the unexpected caress.
A mist sprang to her glorious dark eyes. She caught Patsy’s hand in
both her own. Bending, she touched her lips to it. “Oh, you are most
_simpatica_!” she murmured, then turned and darted away, leaving Patsy
standing in the middle of the white, sandy road, looking tenderly after
the lithe, fleeing form until a tangle of green hid it entirely from
her view.



CHAPTER XVI

NOTHING OR SOMETHING?


Meanwhile, down on the sands, three anxious-eyed girls were holding
counsel with an equally disturbed matron.

“When did you see Patsy last?” Miss Martha was inquiring in lively
alarm.

“She was lying in the sand when I started to swim out to Mab and
Nellie,” replied Bee. “When I got to them, Mab began splashing water on
me and we had a busy time for a few minutes just teasing each other.
Then I looked toward the beach. I was going to call out to Patsy to
come on in, but she wasn’t there. I supposed, of course, she’d gone up
to the bath house to take off her bathing suit and dress again. She had
said she was tired.”

“How long ago was that?” Miss Martha asked huskily.

“An hour, I’m afraid; perhaps longer,” faltered Bee. “We’ve looked all
along the beach and called to her. We looked in the bath house first
before we told you, Miss Martha. We hated to frighten you. We kept
expecting she’d come back. We thought maybe she was hiding from us just
for fun and would pounce out on us all of a sudden.”

“You should have told me at once, Beatrice.”

Worry over her niece’s strange disappearance lent undue sternness to
Miss Carroll’s voice.

“I--I--am--sorry.”

Bee was now on the verge of tears.

“So am I,” was the grim concurrence. “At all events, Patsy must be
found and immediately. I shall not wait for you girls to change your
bathing suits. I shall walk back to the house at once. You are to go
into the bath house and stay there until my brother comes for you. He
will bring men with him who will search the woods behind the beach.”

“Won’t you let me try again along the edge of jungle, Miss Martha,”
pleaded Bee. “I won’t go far into it. I’ll just skirt it and keep
calling out----”

“Who-oo!” suddenly supplemented a clear, high voice.

It had an electrical effect upon the dismayed group. Out from the
jungle and onto the beach darted a small, bare-footed, white-clad
figure and straight into the midst of a most relieved company.

“Patricia Carroll, _where_ have you been?” demanded Miss Martha
sternly. “No; don’t try to smooth things over by hugging me. I am
_very_ angry with you for disobeying me.”

Nevertheless, Miss Martha made only a feeble attempt to disengage
herself from Patsy’s coaxing arms.

“Now, Auntie, don’t be cross. A Patsy in hand is worth two in the
jungle,” saucily paraphrased the unabashed culprit. “I’ve been as safe
as safe could be. I’ve really had a wonderful time. I was so interested
I forgot that very likely you might miss me and be a little worried.”

“_A little worried!_”

Miss Martha raised two plump hands in a despairing gesture.

“Why, yes. I----”

“Do you know how long you’ve been gone?” was the severe question. “Long
enough to set us all nearly distracted wondering what had become of
you. Really, Patsy, I think you’ve behaved very inconsiderately.”

“I’m sorry, dearest Auntie; truly I am. I didn’t mean to be gone so
long. I saw her and before I knew it I was following her as fast as I
could run. She came out of the jungle after the book.”

“Saw her? Do you mean our----” Mabel began excitedly.

“Wood nymph,” Patsy finished triumphantly. “I surely do. I not only
_saw_ her. I talked with her.”

“I might have known it,” came disapprovingly from Miss Carroll. “I
should have set my foot down firmly in the first place about this girl.
I thought you too sensible by far to race off into a snake-infested
jungle, bare-footed, at that, after this young savage. I see I was
mistaken.”

“She’s not a savage, Aunt Martha.” Patsy rallied to defense of her new
friend. “She’s a perfect darling. She’s Spanish, but she speaks really
good English in such a quaint, pretty way. She likes me and I like her,
and we’re friends. We’ve shaken hands on that.”

“What is her name, Patsy, and where does she live?” eagerly asked
Eleanor.

“Her name is Dolores. I don’t know where she lives,” confessed Patsy.
“I asked her but she wouldn’t tell me. She said it was forbidden. I
asked her to come to Las Golondrinas to see us, but she said that was
forbidden, too. She read your book, Auntie. I told you she wasn’t
ignorant.”

“What did she say about the ‘Oriole’?” interposed Bee, before
Miss Carroll could frame an adequate reply to Patsy’s astounding
announcement.

“I----Why, the idea! I forgot to ask her,” stammered Patsy. “I saw her
pick up the book and run away with it. I started after her. Then I fell
almost on that horrible snake and----”

“Snake!” went up in shocked unison from four throats.

“Why, yes.” Patsy colored, then grinned boyishly. “I was going to tell
you about it in a minute. I caught my foot in some vines and pitched
into the bushes. I stirred up a rattler. It began to sing and Dolores
ran to me and dragged me away from the place before it had time to bite
me. Then she killed it. It was as thick as my wrist and eight feet
long. She said it was a diamond----”

“I must say you have very peculiar ideas of safety,” interrupted her
aunt.

Despite the dry satire of her tones, Miss Martha was feeling rather
sick over Patsy’s near disaster. In consequence, she was inclined
toward tardy appreciation of the “young savage.”

“This girl,” she continued in a dignified but decidedly mollified
voice. “I feel that we ought to do something for her. You say she
insists that it is forbidden her to come to Las Golondrinas. Did she
explain why?”

“No. I wanted awfully to ask her, but I felt sure that she wouldn’t
tell me a thing. There’s a mystery connected with her. I know there is.”

“Nonsense!” Miss Martha showed instant annoyance at this theory. “I
dare say her parents have merely forbidden her to trespass upon the
property of strangers. I have been told that these persons known down
South as ‘poor whites’ still feel very resentful toward Northerners on
account of the Civil War. The old folks have handed down this hatred to
the younger generations. This girl’s parents have no doubt learned that
we are from the North.”

“But such people as these poor whites are Americans with American
ancestors. Dolores is Spanish. Besides, her father and mother are dead.
She said so.”

Patsy went on to repeat the meager account Dolores had given of
herself, ending with the girl’s allusion to the mysterious “she” of
whom she appeared to stand in such lively dread.

“Very unsatisfactory,” commented her aunt when Patsy had finished her
narration. “Understand, Patsy, I am grateful to this girl for the
service she did you. As for the girl herself----”

Miss Martha’s pause was eloquent of doubt.

“She’s perfectly sweet,” insisted Patsy with some warmth.

“Nevertheless, you know nothing of her beyond what she has chosen
to tell you,” firmly maintained Miss Carroll. “I don’t approve of
her dodging about in the woods like a wild young animal. For all you
know this ‘she’ may have been put to a great deal of uneasiness by
the girl’s will-o’-the-wisp behavior. She may be so headstrong and
disobedient as to require the adoption of strong measures.”

“She’s not that sort of girl,” Patsy again defended. “She’s gentle and
dear and lovable. When she smiles her face lights up just beautifully.
Mostly, though, she’s terribly sober. Her voice is so soft and sweet.
Only it makes one feel like crying.”

“Hmm!” The ejaculation was slightly skeptical. “She seems to have
completely turned your head, Patricia. I suppose you will give me no
peace until I have seen her for myself. I am a fairly good judge of
character, however. It will not take me long to decide whether she is a
proper person for you to cultivate.”

“Then come with me into the woods to-morrow,” eagerly challenged Patsy.
“I promised to meet her there, at a certain place, and bring the girls.
I’m not the least bit afraid you won’t like Dolores. I know that you
will.”

“What! flounder through that jungle and risk snake bite? No, indeed!
Furthermore, I forbid you girls to do so.”

“Then we can’t see her!” Patsy cried out disappointedly. “I told you
she said she was afraid to meet us on the beach. Listen, dearest and
bestest Auntie. As we go back over the road to the house, I’ll show
you the place where Dolores wants us to meet her. It’s only a little
way off the road and easy to reach. There isn’t the least bit of
danger from snakes. There’s a kind of natural aisle between the trees
that leads to it. Dolores brought me back over it, so I know what I’m
talking about.”

“You may point it out to me as we go back to the house,” was the
nearest approach to consent which Miss Carroll would give. “Now all of
you must hurry to the bath house and make up for lost time. It will be
at least two o’clock before we reach home. I will wait for you here.
Don’t stop to talk, but hurry.”

Once in the bath house, however, the Wayfarers’ tongues wagged
incessantly as they speedily prepared for the homeward hike.

Very naturally the conversation centered on Dolores, of whom Patsy
continued to hold forth in glowing terms.

“Wait until Aunt Martha sees her,” she confidently predicted. “She
can’t help liking our wood nymph. She was a tiny bit peeved when I
said that I knew there was a mystery about Dolores. There is, too. I’m
sure of it. She’s not headstrong or disobedient, but she _is_ terribly
unhappy. The person she lives with, that horrible ‘she,’ I suppose,
must be awfully hateful to her.”

“Do you think we could find out for ourselves where she lives?” Bee
asked earnestly. “Then we might be able to help her. She may need
help very badly. Your father said that she might be the daughter of a
fisherman.”

“We’ll try to find out.” Patsy spoke with quick decision. “Day after
to-morrow we’ll make Dad take us to where those fisher folks live.
Maybe we’ll find her there. Don’t say a word about it when you meet her
to-morrow. We’ll just keep it dark and do a little sleuthing of our
own.”

Her companions agreeing with Patsy that this would be an excellent
plan, the quartette rapidly finished dressing, locked the door of the
bath house behind them and joined Miss Carroll on the beach.

“There’s the place where we are to meet Dolores, Auntie,” informed
Patsy when the party reached the point on the road where she had left
her new friend. “It’s right beyond those oaks. You can see for yourself
that the walking is good.”

“It isn’t quite so bad as I had expected,” Miss Martha grudgingly
admitted. “Since you are so determined to introduce this girl to me, I
may as well resign myself to taking this walk with you to-morrow.”

This being as good as a promise, wily Patsy accepted it as such and
said no more on the subject. Added discussion of it might result in a
change of mind on her aunt’s part.

Reaching the house, however, a most unpleasant surprise lay in wait
for the party. To see Mammy Luce standing in the entrance to the patio
was not an unusual sight. To see her stationed there, however, her
bulky form swathed in an ancient linen duster, a shapeless black hat,
decorated with a depressed-looking ostrich plume jammed down upon her
gray wool, was another matter. More, in one hand was a section of a
turkey red tablecloth, tied together at the four corners and bulging
with her personal belongings. In the other hand she held a green
cotton umbrella which she raised in a kind of fantastic salute as the
Wayfarers approached the entrance.

“I’se gwine away fum here, I is,” she rumbled. “I ain’t gwine stay in
no house where sperrits come sneakin’ aroun’. I done seen one this
mawnin’.”

“What does this mean, Mammy Luce?” Miss Martha took majestic command of
the situation. “You have no right to leave me like this without giving
notice. Now tell me exactly what the trouble is.”

“I done tell yoh a’ready, Missis. I done seen a sperrit. I wuz bakin’
a cake, I wuz, in de kitchen. I done looks up from de oben an’ I seen
a long, tall, ole white sperrit a-sneakin’ for de back stairs. I near
fell daid, I did. When I come to, I wuz shakin’ like a leaf. So I jes’
put mah traps togedder quick an’ now I’se gwine. I’se been awaitin’ to
tell yoh an ax yoh fer mah wages.”

“There are no such things as ‘spirits,’ Mammy Luce,” Miss Carroll
informed the frightened servant. “You only thought you saw one.”

Alarmed at the prospect of losing an excellent cook, Miss Martha
proceeded to do her utmost to convince the old woman that her visitant,
provided she really had seen an apparition, was not supernatural.

“I seen it. I ain’t blind. I seen it,” Mammy Luce doggedly reiterated.
“Yoh cain’t tell this niggah it wuzn’t no sperrit, ’cause it wuz.”

“Much more likely it was one of the maids who dressed up in a sheet
on purpose to frighten you,” was Miss Martha’s practical view of the
matter. “Where are Celia and Emily?”

“Em’ly she am upstaihs somewhar. She don’t know nuffin’ ’bout it, an’
this am Celia’s day off. Dey am good girls an’ don’t go for to skair
ole Mammy Luce. ’Sides, this yeah sperrit wuz ’bout seben foot high. It
wuzn’t no _pusson_. It ain’t no use talkin’, Mis’ Carroll, ’cause I’se
gwine ter git out fore dat sperrit gits after this niggah. It ain’t no
fun to be daid an’ I ain’t gwine to be it.”

Further argument on the part of not only Miss Martha but the girls as
well proved futile. Mammy Luce had but one thought. That thought was
to put distance between herself and Las Golondrinas. The substantial
increase of wages Miss Carroll felt impelled to offer her did not
interest the superstitious old woman.

“I jes’ want what’s acomin’ to muh an’ git out,” she declared with
finality. “I’se gwine ober yander ’bout three mile toh see mah brudder.
He’ll hitch up his ole yaller mule an’ tote ole Luce toh the station.”

“Go upstairs, Patsy, to my room and bring me my handbag. It is in the
tray of my trunk. Here is the key.”

From the white crocheted bag swinging from one arm, Miss Carroll took a
small brass key which she handed to Patsy.

As she passed through the patio and thence on upstairs, recollection of
the curious impression she had received that morning in walking through
the portrait gallery came back to Patsy.

She had been absolutely sure at the moment that the pictured cavalier
had moved. Mammy Luce, it seemed, was equally sure that she had seen a
“sperrit.” The question that now obtruded itself in Patsy’s mind was,
had she and Mammy Luce seen _nothing_, or had both of them really seen
_something_?



CHAPTER XVII

PUZZLING OVER THE PUZZLE


Now minus a cook, it remained to the Wayfarers to prepare their own
luncheon. Not stopping to bewail their cookless state, the four girls,
under the direction of Miss Martha, attacked the task with the utmost
good humor.

Miss Carroll, however, was not so optimistically inclined. Mammy Luce’s
sudden departure had deprived her of a skilled cook, whom she could not
easily replace. She was thankful that the panic had not extended to the
maids. Providentially, Celia was absent for the day. According to Mammy
Luce, Emily was still in ignorance of the “sperrit’s” visitation. She
had eaten her noonday meal and gone back to her upstairs work before
Mammy Luce had seen the dread apparition.

In the midst of preparations for the belated luncheon, she appeared
in the kitchen, broom and duster in hand, her black eyes round with
curiosity at the unusual sight which met them.

In as casual a tone as she could muster, Miss Carroll informed the girl
that Mammy Luce had left Las Golondrinas. This news appeared not to
surprise Emily so much as had the sight of the “young ladies an’ the
Missis aworkin’ in de kitchen.”

“Huh!” was her scornful ejaculation. “I guess ole Luce done got skairt
’bout dat ere ghos’. Carlos wuz tellin’ her ’bout it t’other day. That
Spanish fellah in the queer duds up thar in the pitcher gallery done
walk aroun’ this house. He go fer to say he’s seen it. He am a liar.
They ain’t no sech things ’s ghos’es, I says, but Luce, she says they
is. She wuz ’fraid she’d see it.”

“Certainly there are no such things as ghosts, Emily,” Miss Martha made
haste to agree. “I am glad to find you so sensible on the subject.
Since you have mentioned it, I might as well say that it was this ghost
idea which caused Mammy Luce to leave us.”

Miss Martha diplomatically avoided making a direct explanation of
the affair. Once Emily learned Mammy Luce had insisted that she had
actually _seen_ a ghost, she might not remain firm in her conviction
that there were “no sech things.”

“I hope Celia has no such foolish ideas about ghosts as Mammy Luce,”
Miss Carroll continued inquiringly.

“Celie, she’s ’bout half an’ half. She says as thar might be or
mightn’t. Only she says she ain’t gwine to git skairt ’less she sees
one. Celie’n me, we don’t take no stock in that good-fer-nuffin’
Carlos. He am a sorehead, he am. Ef it’s ’greeable, Mis’ Carroll, I
reckon I ain’t sech a bad cook. Leastways, I don’ mind tryin’. Ef yoh
likes mah cookin’ mebbe I can git mah sister t’ come an’ do mah work.”

This was joyful news indeed. Needless to mention, Miss Carroll was not
slow to take good-natured Emily at her word.

“I shall be very glad to have you try, Emily,” she said. “If you can
get along with the cooking it will save us the trouble of sending
to Miami for another cook. Where does your sister live? Perhaps she
wouldn’t care to come here for so short a time.”

“She lives home with mah mudder, Mis’ Carroll. Jes’ a little ways from
Miami. She am only fifteen, but she am right smaht. I done gwine t’
write her t’night,” assured Emily, showing her white teeth in a wide
grin.

“Do so, Emily. To have your sister come here will simplify matters
wonderfully.”

Miss Martha looked her relief at this unexpected solution of the
domestic problem.

With the deft assistance of Emily, the luncheon which the Wayfarers had
busied themselves in preparing was soon on the dining-room table. It
consisted of bread and butter, bacon, an omelet, and a salad, composed
of tomatoes, green sweet peppers and lettuce, with French dressing. The
fateful cake which Mammy Luce was removing from the oven when she saw
the “sperrit” now figured as dessert along with oranges which Patsy had
painstakingly sliced and sugared.

Previous to Emily’s disappearance, the preparation of luncheon had been
accompanied by much talk and laughter on the part of the Wayfarers.
Presently seated at table, they had considerably less to say. Emily’s
revelation concerning Carlos had set them all to wondering and
speculating.

“It strikes me that this Carlos has very little good sense,” Miss
Martha criticized the moment Emily had left the dining-room. “He should
have known better than tell such a tale to old Mammy Luce. I shall
speak to your father about him, Patsy.”

“When we asked him about the portrait gallery he said he didn’t know a
thing,” Patsy replied with a puzzled frown. “Do you suppose he really
told Mammy Luce about the picture and the ghost? If he did, that proves
he wasn’t telling us the truth. Now why should he lie to us?”

“Very likely to get rid of answering your questions,” responded her
aunt. “Undoubtedly he knew better than to tell you girls such a silly
story. He knew you would refer to it to your father and that Robert
would be displeased. I believe Emily, of course. As to Mammy Luce, I
don’t know. It is exactly the sort of foolish yarn that I warned you we
were likely to hear down South. I am sorry that it should have cost us
our cook.”

The tale of the ghostly cavalier was not disturbing Miss Carroll in the
least. The loss of a cook was of far greater importance to her.

The Wayfarers, however, were more impressed by Mammy Luce’s ghost than
they dared allow Miss Carroll to guess. During luncheon four pairs
of bright eyes continually exchanged significant glances. They were
burning to talk things over among themselves.

Miss Carroll’s announcement that she intended to take a nap directly
after luncheon gave them the longed-for opportunity. Patsy’s demure
invitation, “Come on into Bee’s and my room, Perry children,” held
untold meaning.

“Girls,” began Patsy solemnly, the instant the door of the room closed
behind the quartette, “there’s something queer about this old house.
There’s something queer about that picture. Carlos knows more than he
pretended to know. I wouldn’t feel so--well, so funny about it if I
hadn’t thought I saw that cavalier in the picture move. It gives me the
shivers. Do you suppose there is----Oh, there simply can’t be a _ghost_
in this house!”

“Of course there isn’t,” smiled Bee. “Brace up, Patsy. You’re just
nervous over that picture business this morning. I think perhaps Carlos
told Mammy Luce that story just to be malicious and scare her. He
looks like that sort of person. Maybe he dislikes us as much as his
grandmother appeared to, and just because we live in the house that
belonged to his former employer.”

“If that’s the case, he may have told the yarn to Mammy Luce on purpose
to get her to leave, and so inconvenience us,” suggested Eleanor. “He
may have thought she’d leave in a hurry without telling us why she was
going.”

“Let’s begin at the beginning and see what we know,” proposed Bee.
“First, there’s crazy old Rosita who called us thieves and said we’d
never find something or other that Camillo, whoever he is or was, had
hidden. Second, there’s Carlos, who turned out to be the grandson
of Rosita, who said she was not crazy but pretended to know nothing
else about anything here. Third, there’s Mammy Luce, who went off and
left us because she saw, or thought she saw, a ghost. Fourth, there’s
Emily, who said Carlos told Mammy Luce that the ghost of the cavalier
in the picture gallery walked about this house. Fifth, there’s Patsy,
who heard an odd noise in the gallery and saw, or thought she saw, the
cavalier picture move. Put it all together. Does it mean something or
nothing?”

“No one except Carlos can answer that question. The whole thing, except
Patsy’s scare, centers on him,” declared Mabel.

“I’m going to have a private talk with Dad,” announced Patsy. “I’m
going to ask him not to speak to Carlos about the ghost story, but to
let him alone and see what happens next. If he really has a grudge
against us he’ll be sure to do something else to bother us. We’ll be on
the watch and in that way we’ll catch him at it. Then maybe Dad can
make him tell what he wouldn’t tell us.”

“But what about your aunt, Patsy?” conscientiously reminded Eleanor.
“She’s going to ask your father to speak to Carlos, you know.”

“I’ll see Dad first and explain things. I’ll ask him to tell Auntie,
when she mentions Carlos to him, that he thinks it would be a good idea
to let Carlos alone for the present and watch him. It _is_ a good idea,
and I know Dad will agree with me. I’d say so to Auntie myself if I
were sure she wouldn’t mind. She would, though, because she’s not in
sympathy with us when it comes to mysteries.”

“If any more queer things happen, Miss Martha will have to admit that
there _is_ a mystery hanging over Las Golondrinas,” Bee predicted. “I
forgot to add Dolores to the list. She’s another mystery.”

“She surely is, but she doesn’t belong to the Carlos puzzle,” returned
Patsy. “Never mind, give us time and we’ll put all the pieces of all
the puzzles together. We’re determined to do it. That’s half the
battle.”

“We may even find the secret drawer,” supplemented Mabel hopefully.

This remark was received with derisive chuckles. Her companions had
come to regard the mythical secret drawer as a huge joke.

“Laugh at me if you want to. When I find it, then it will be _my_ turn
to laugh at _you_,” Mabel emphasized.

“_When_ you do, we’ll stand in line and let you laugh at us,” jeered
Eleanor.

“I’ll remember that,” retorted her sister. “I’m going to the
sitting-room now to patiently pursue my indefatigable investigations.
Ahem! ‘Never despair’ is my motto.”

“‘Sleep, sweetly sleep,’ is going to be mine,” yawned Eleanor. “I’m
going to take a nap.”

“I’d _like_ to go down to the orange groves.” Patsy beamed
significantly upon Beatrice. “I’m not supposed to trail around this
vast tract of terrestrial territory alone. If some one will kindly
volunteer----”

“I’ll take pity on you,” laughed Bee. “Come on. While we’re about it we
might as well lug a basket along and fill it with oranges. ‘Try to be
useful as well as ornamental.’ That’s _my_ motto.”

“Mine is: ‘Be thankful for small favors,’” retaliated Patsy with an
impish grin. “Allow me to escort you to the kitchen for the basket.
Good-bye, Perry children. We’ll see you later.”

Patsy offered her arm to Bee with an extravagant flourish and the two
girls left the room laughing. Mabel promptly made a bee-line for the
sitting-room, while Eleanor went to her own room for her nap.

Bee and Patsy spent an enjoyable but uneventful hour in the orange
groves, returning with their basket piled high with luscious fruit.
Mindful of her intent to have first audience with her father on his
return that afternoon, Patsy posted herself on a balcony overlooking
the drive to watch for him.

When, at five o’clock, he drove the car up the drive, he was met
halfway to the house by his daughter who imperiously demanded a ride to
the garage.

Informed of all that had recently occurred and the course of action
Patsy had laid out for him, Mr. Carroll looked decidedly grave.

“I’m sorry to hear this of Carlos,” he said. “So far as work goes,
he’s an excellent man. I’m going to adopt your suggestion, Patsy, to
say nothing to him at present about this ghost business. I’ll explain
to your Aunt Martha so that she’ll be satisfied to let matters stand
as they are. Of course, if he continues to stir up trouble among the
maids or my black boys by frightening them with ridiculous yarns about
ghosts, then I shall feel obliged to come down on him for it.”

“Have you asked him yet about either old Rosita or Dolores?”

Having related to her father all she knew of both, Patsy now referred
to them by name.

“Yes.” Mr. Carroll smiled. “I described them to him this morning and
inquired about them. He had nothing to say beyond that this Rosita was
his grandmother and not insane. He swears that he never saw this girl
Dolores.”

“I don’t believe him,” Patsy said with a vigorous shake of her auburn
head. “She has lived in this neighborhood several years. She told
me so. He was brought up here. He must have seen her often. He’s a
Spanish-speaking Mexican and she’s Spanish. He must certainly know who
she is. Why he should deny knowing her I can’t imagine. Just the same,
it’s something I intend to find out, if only for my own satisfaction.”



CHAPTER XVIII

SOMETHING!


“There’s to be a Venetian fête on Lake Worth on Thursday evening. Would
you like to attend it?”

Mr. Carroll made this announcement at the breakfast table one Monday
morning to an interested group of listeners. A week had elapsed
since the eventful morning on which Patsy had made the acquaintance
of Dolores and the Wayfarers had returned from the beach in time to
witness the departure of ghost-ridden Mammy Luce.

On the following morning they had gone, accompanied by Miss Carroll,
to keep tryst with their wood nymph at the spot she had designated. As
Patsy had predicted, her chums immediately succumbed to the charm of
the little Spanish girl.

Even Miss Martha had no fault to find with her so far as behavior
went. She found the young girl neither ill-bred nor uncouth. Instead,
Dolores exhibited toward stately Miss Carroll a shy deference that
would have impressed in her favor a far more critical judge.

What Miss Martha did not quite like, however, was Dolores’ wistful but
absolutely firm refusal to reveal where she lived or with whom she
lived.

“I would to answer and thus please you,” she had sadly said, lifting
bright, brave eyes to meet squarely those of her dignified questioner.
“I would to make you the visit to Las Golondrinas and thus be made so
happy. I cannot. It is forbidden.”

At the conclusion of the interview they had left her standing under the
fronded green of the palmettos, hands crossed over her breast, dark
eyes eloquent with longing. Before they parted from her, however, Patsy
obtained her reluctant promise to come to them on the beach for a few
minutes, at least, whenever she chanced to see the Wayfarers bathing
there.

Two mornings afterward she had kept her word. With her she had brought
the blue book, voicing eager praise of the “very sweet story” and her
thanks for the “_simpatica_” letter. Though the Wayfarers had pressed
her to stay, she remained with them but a few moments. During that
time she had cast frequent timid glances toward the jungle as though in
lively fear of something or someone known to herself alone.

Unable to withstand Patsy’s coaxing plea of: “Come again to-morrow
morning and I’ll have another nice story book here for you,” she had
paid them a brief call on the next day. Since that time she had not
again appeared on the beach at their bathing hour, and the Wayfarers
did considerable wondering as to what had become of her.

The past three days having, therefore, been particularly uneventful
beyond the healthy pleasures of outdoors, the four girls now hailed Mr.
Carroll’s proposal with acclamation.

“What is a Venetian fête?” inquired Bee. “It’s held on the water. I
know that much. What do we have to do? Do we dress in fancy costumes?”

“Only the boats dress up in fancy costumes at Venetian fêtes, Bee,”
informed Patsy, laughing. “We wear our best bib and tucker, of course,
and sail around in a motor launch or some kind of boat that’s all
decorated with Chinese lanterns, colored lights, etc. Am I right, Dad?”

“Right-o,” smiled Mr. Carroll. “As it happens, your fairy bark awaits
you. I’ve engaged a power boat for the evening. Had a hard time
getting hold of it, too. We’ll run the car down to the beach during the
afternoon of Thursday. I’ll have the lanterns and festoonings aboard
the launch and you girls can spend the time before dinner decorating
it. How will that suit you?”

The loud babble of appreciation that arose caused Mr. Carroll playfully
to put his hands over his ears.

“My, what a noisy crowd!” he exclaimed.

“We’re only trying to express our all-around joyfulness,” Patsy
defended. “You wouldn’t have liked it a bit if we had just said primly,
‘How nice!’ We believe in noise and lots of it.”

“So I’ve noticed,” was the pertinent retort. “Well, I’m glad you’re
pleased. You’ll have to excuse me now. I’ve an engagement with a man at
ten at the Ponciana. I must be hiking.”

“Really, Robert, I haven’t had a chance to utter a sound since you told
us about the fête,” came plaintively from Miss Martha, though her eyes
twinkled. As a matter of fact she had purposely kept silent, allowing
the Wayfarers to bubble forth their jubilation uninterrupted. “Do you
consider this boat you’ve engaged perfectly safe? I hope you know how
to run it.”

“Oh, I sha’n’t run it. The man from whom I rented it will be on hand
to do that. It’s absolutely safe, so don’t worry, Martha, but make up
your mind to enjoy yourself.”

With this assurance, Mr. Carroll hastily departed. After he had gone
the others lingered at table, further to discuss the prospective
pleasure in store for them.

“I wish we could take Dolores with us,” Patsy said generously. “She’d
love the fête. If only we could coax her to go she could wear one of my
gowns. Maybe she’ll be at the beach this morning. If she is, I’m going
to tease her good and hard to go with us. You wouldn’t mind, would you,
Auntie?”

“No. Invite her if you choose. I don’t doubt she would behave as well
as the rest of you,” Miss Carroll placidly opined. “If she should
accept (I doubt it), you must make her understand, Patsy, that she will
have to appear in one of your gowns, not to mention pumps and hose. We
shall probably meet a number of persons we know at Palm Beach.”

“Oh, that part of it will be all right,” Patsy answered with the
supreme confidence of one who can remove mountains. “It’s whether
she’ll promise to go that’s bothering me.”

Greatly to the disappointment of the Wayfarers, Dolores did not appear
on the beach that morning. Nor did they see any signs of her on the
next day or the next. Thursday morning did not bring her to the sands.

On the way back to the house from the beach the party even went so far
as to visit the spot in the jungle which Dolores had claimed as her own
special nook. But she was not there. Though the girls called out her
name repeatedly in their fresh young voices, only the twitter of the
birds and the sighing of the light breeze among the leaves answered
them. Dolores had evidently forsaken her forest haunt for a time at
least.

“Very likely that horrible ‘she’ is keeping Dolores in and making her
work,” grumbled Patsy to Bee when the party finally returned to the
road and started for the house. “You know, Dolores told me that she had
had to do very hard work ever since she came here to live after her
father died. It’s too bad Dad has been so busy lately. We can’t go to
see those fisher folks until he can find time to go with us. I do wish
Auntie would allow us to go there by ourselves. We could walk straight
up the beach and never come to a bit of harm.”

“Well, she won’t, so we might as well be resigned,” replied Bee
ruefully. “She’s right, of course. My mother would feel the same about
it; so would Mrs. Perry.”

“I know it. I’m not complaining of Aunt Martha. She’s as good as gold.
She’s been perfectly angelic about Dolores. Auntie isn’t the least tiny
bit snobbish. She and Dad are alike in that.”

Returned to the house before noon the Wayfarers lunched early. Luncheon
over, they dutifully obeyed Miss Carroll’s mandate to retire to their
rooms for a brief siesta before dressing for the fête. Mr. Carroll’s
parting injunction to them that morning had been:

“I’ll have the car at the door at three-thirty sharp. Be ready to hop
into it, girls. The earlier we arrive at Palm Beach, the more time
you’ll have before dinner to decorate the launch.”

Three-thirty not only found the car on the drive at the entrance to the
patio, it also saw Miss Martha being helped into it by her brother.
She was followed by the Wayfarers, all looking their best in their
smart summer finery. The four girls were in exuberant spirits as one
after another they skipped nimbly into the automobile. The Venetian
fête promised to be an item of pleasant variation on their program of
enjoyment.

The drive to Palm Beach was, as always, a delightful one. Coming at
last to the famous shell road the car followed it for a short distance.
Presently the yachting party arrived at the point on the lagoon where
their boat was docked.

Boarding it in a flutter of happy anticipation, the Wayfarers
temporarily hid the glory of their dainty frocks under substantial
gingham pinafores which they had purposely brought along.

Then the engrossing occupation of dressing-up their boat began. What
seemed to the girls an unlimited supply of gay Chinese lanterns and
bright-hued bunting had been brought aboard for them to dispose as they
fancied. Fore and aft the enthusiastic toilers strung the lanterns, and
hung the bunting in graceful festoons, until the trim craft blossomed
into a rainbow of color.

“I can hardly wait for it to get dark!” exclaimed Mabel. “With all
these lanterns glowing and those strings of little electric lights
winking all colors, our boat’s going to be simply gorgeous.”

“I hope we’ll have some simply gorgeous eats for dinner,” was Patsy’s
unaesthetic but heartfelt yearning. “I’m terribly hungry. I hope, too,
that we sha’n’t bump against a lot of people Auntie and I know the
minute we walk into the hotel. I want to gobble my dinner in a hurry
and get back here before dark so as to see everything that goes on.”

Patsy’s fervent hopes met with a realization that pleased her not a
little. The “eats,” which consisted in an elaborate course dinner,
were quite “gorgeous” enough to evoke her pronounced approval. More,
the diners encountered none they knew among the endless succession
of people strolling in and out of the vast dining-room. Neither in
the imposing foyer of the great hotel, on the veranda or under the
colonnade did they spy a single familiar face. It was as though
they had stepped into a world of easy-going strangers, all bent on
extracting the same amount of pleasure out of life as themselves.

Dinner eaten they lingered for a while on one of the hotel’s many
verandas which overlooked magnificent gardens, aglow with fragrant
tropical blooms.

Just before dark they drove again to the lagoon and were presently
aboard their launch, watching with eager eyes the beauty of the scene.
Everywhere the scented dusk was pierced by winking, multi-colored
lights. They dotted the wall of the lagoon and sprang up from hundreds
of craft, large and small, which plied the lake’s placid waters.

From off shore came the singing overtones of violins, proceeding from
an orchestra stationed under the colonnade of a not far distant hotel.
Now and then their ears caught the tinkle of mandolins mingled with
care-free voices raised in song. Across the still waters occasional
shouts rose above the harmony of sound, as gay occupants of boats
hailed passing craft and were hailed in return.

As it grew darker, rockets began to hiss skyward, lighting up the
lagoon into greater beauty and revealing white-clad groups of
spectators sauntering along the shell road or resting on the sea wall.

With the ascent of the first rocket, boat after boat rushed off across
the water to join the rapidly forming carnival procession which would,
when completely formed, circle the lake. Presently came a fan-fare of
trumpets, a burst of music from many bands playing in unison, and the
procession started on its way around the lake, gliding along like a
huge, glowing serpent.

The Wayfarers thought it great fun to be an actual part of that
fairy-like pageant. As the majority of the occupants of other boats
were lifting up their voices in song, the four girls sang, too.
Patsy’s clear, high soprano voice led off in a boat song with which her
companions were familiar. After that they sang everything they could
remember from “Sailing” to “Auld Lang Syne.”

Later, when the boats began dropping out of line, their launch also
left the procession and scudded farther out on the lake to a point from
where its lively passengers could obtain a more satisfying view of the
gorgeous spectacle.

There they lingered for some time, well content to breathe in the
flower-perfumed night air, listen to the frequent bursts of harmonious
sound that drifted to their ears, and watch the firefly boats as they
darted here and there on the bosom of fair Lake Worth.

It was well toward eleven o’clock when the launch docked at her pier
and the voyagers went ashore to where their automobile awaited them.
Followed a short drive to one of the great hotels, where the party
stopped for a late supper, then took the homeward road through the
balmy darkness of the tropical night.

Midnight came and went and one o’clock drew on before a happy but
sleepy company made port at Las Golondrinas.

“Go straight to bed, girls,” commanded Miss Martha as she marshalled
the small procession of drowsy revelers down the echoing corridors to
their rooms. “Don’t sit up to talk. You can do that to-morrow morning.”

“I don’t want to talk. I want to sleep,” assured Eleanor with a yawn.
“If Mab tries to talk to me after I’m in bed, I’ll rise in my might and
put her out of the room.”

“See that _you_ don’t talk to _me_,” warned Mabel. “If you do, _you_
may find yourself wandering around in the corridor until morning.”

“Glad we’re of the same mind,” giggled Eleanor. “Our chances for sleep
seem to be good.”

“Don’t worry about _me_, Aunt Martha,” Patsy declared, as, her arm in
Bee’s, the two girls halted at the door of their room. “You won’t hear
a sound from Bee or me after we’ve put out our light. Here’s my very
nicest good-night kiss, dear. We’ve all had a wonderful evening and
we’re ready to subside until morning without a murmur.”

Shut in their room, Patsy and Bee beamed sleepily at each other and
went about their preparations for bed in commendable silence, broken
now and then by a soft exchange of remarks pertaining to the evening’s
entertainment.

Lights out shortly became the order of things with them. Almost as soon
as their heads touched the pillow they were off and away to dreamland.

       *       *       *       *       *

There comes sometimes to a peaceful dreamer a curious sense of
impending danger which breaks through the curtain of slumber and
arouses the sleep-drugged faculties to alert wakefulness.

Just how long she had slept, Patsy had no definite idea. She knew
only that she was sitting up in bed, broad awake, her horrified eyes
staring at something tall and white which stood in the center of the
moonlight-flooded room.

She tried to cry out, but her voice was gone. She could only gaze, half
paralyzed with terror, at the fearsome white shape. For a moment it
remained there, a shapeless, immovable thing of dread.

Suddenly, it raised a long, white-swathed arm in a menacing gesture
toward the trembling girl in the big four-poster bed. It took one
sliding step forward.

Patsy succeeded in uttering a desperate, choking sound, intended for a
shout. One groping hand reached over and found Bee.

The dread apparition came no nearer the bed than the length of that
one sliding step. It halted briefly, turned, then glided to the
half-opened door and vanished into the corridor.



CHAPTER XIX

PATSY’S SCHEME


“Bee, wake up! Oh, please wake up!”

Patsy had not only regained her voice, but the use of her arms as well.
Hands on Bee’s shoulders, she now shook her companion gently in an
effort to waken her.

“What--y-e-s,” Bee mumbled, then opened her eyes.

In the moonlight she could see Patsy quite clearly as her chum sat
crouched at her side. Blinking wonderingly up at Patsy, Bee began dimly
to realize that something unusual must have happened.

“What is it, Patsy? Are you sick?” she anxiously questioned, sitting up
in bed with apprehensive energy.

“No; I’m not sick. I’m scared. I saw it, Bee. I woke up all of a sudden
and saw it standing in the middle of the room.”

“Saw what?”

“The ghost; Mammy Luce’s ‘sperrit,’” Patsy returned solemnly.

“You’ve been dreaming, Patsy, dear.” Beatrice dropped a reassuring arm
about Patsy’s shoulders.

“No, Bee. I wasn’t dreaming. I was as wide awake as I am now when I
saw it. I tell you it woke me from a sound sleep. It didn’t make a
sound. Just the same it woke me. I wish now that I’d been brave enough
to climb out of bed and follow it. But I wasn’t. It frightened me so I
couldn’t move or speak.”

“What was it? What did you see?”

Bee had now become convinced that Patsy had not been dreaming.

“I saw a figure standing right there,” Patsy pointed. “I can’t tell you
what it looked like except that it was just an enormous white shape. I
tried to call you, but I couldn’t. I did manage to sit up in bed. It
raised a long, white arm and started toward me. Then I tried again and
made a sort of sound and reached out to you. It didn’t come any nearer.
It turned and went out the door. It must have come in that way, for the
door stood half open. It was closed when we went to bed. You remember
that. Now I believe that Mammy Luce saw what I saw. No wonder it
frightened her. It frightened me, too, and I don’t believe in ghosts.”

“Well,” Bee drew a long, sighing breath, “whatever you and Mammy Luce
saw was not a _ghost_. Make up your mind to that. It was a real, live
person _playing_ ghost. You and I, Patsy, must find out who it is and
why the person is doing it. This ghost business has begun, all of a
sudden. Nothing of the kind appeared when we first came here. There’s a
motive behind it that we’ve got to discover.”

“What can it be?” wondered Patsy. Her brief terror had now given place
to curiosity. “Someone might be trying to play a practical joke on us.
But who? Not the maids or Dad’s black boys or----” Patsy stopped. “Bee,
do you suppose it could be--_Carlos_?” she asked with a little gasp.
“The figure looked too tall and broad to be _him_.”

“Still it might be.” Bee had avidly seized upon Patsy’s sudden
inspiration. “Draped in a sheet, he’d look ever so much taller and
bigger. It was he who told Mammy Luce about the ghost, you know.”

“But why should Carlos want to do such a despicable thing? We’ve never
done him an injury. Why, we never even _spoke_ to him except on that
one morning when we tried to get him to tell us about Las Golondrinas.”

“We can’t possibly know _yet_ what his object may be. We may be doing
him a wrong by suspecting him. Just the same, he’s the only person we
have any reason to suspect.”

“He might have done it to get even with us because Mab asked him if
Rosita was crazy. I’ve always heard that Latins are very vengeful.”

Racking her agile brain for a motive, Patsy now advanced this theory.

“Let’s go back a little farther,” replied Bee. “Carlos is old Rosita’s
grandson. Rosita must hate us or she wouldn’t have called us names and
treated us as she did. Granted, _she_ hates us. Maybe Carlos hates
us, too. We know he doesn’t like us. He showed us that much and very
plainly.”

Bee paused, mentally trying to fit Patsy’s theory to her own.

“There’s more to it than spite because Mab asked Carlos whether Rosita
was crazy,” she continued reflectively. “Now I believe I begin to see.
Neither Carlos nor Rosita wants us to live here. Why wouldn’t that
account for this ghost affair? Carlos might have done it to scare us,
believing we wouldn’t stay in a haunted house. He frightened Mammy Luce
out of here. I’m sure if Emily or Celia had seen----”

Bee’s low-toned discourse was suddenly interrupted by a wild shriek of
mortal terror from somewhere below stairs. It floated up to the two
girls through the half-open door, echoing and re-echoing through the
corridors. It was followed by a succession of shrieks, each rising a
trifle higher than the preceding one.

“Come on.”

Leaping out of bed, Bee snatched her kimono from a nearby chair,
slipped her arms into it and darted, bare-footed, from the room.

Patsy was only an instant behind her. As the two dashed madly along
the corridor and downstairs, the sound of opening doors and alarmed
voices was heard. That eerie, piercing scream could hardly have failed
to rouse the entire household. By the time three frightened women and
one considerably startled man had reached their doors and opened them,
Patsy and Bee were out of sight.

Straight for the servants’ quarters at the rear of the house the
valiant runners headed. Their mad dash received a most unexpected
check. A door suddenly opened. A figure bounced into the narrow
hallway just in time to collide violently with the advancing duo. A new
succession of frenzied yells rent the air, accompanied by a resounding
thump as rescuers and rescued went down in a heap.

“Oh, lawsy, lawsy!” moaned a voice. “Oh, please, Massa ghos’, I ain’t
done nothin’.”

A prostrate form swathed in a brilliant pink calico night gown writhed
on the floor. Above it, Bee and Patsy, now on their feet, stood
clinging to each other, speechless with laughter.

“Get--up--Celia!” gasped Patsy. “We--we--aren’t--ghosts. Oh, Bee!”

Patsy went off into another fit of laughter.

Somewhat calmed by the sound of a familiar voice, Celia raised her
head. In the pale light shed by a bracket lamp she now recognized
“Missie Patsy.” Very slowly, and a trifle sheepishly, she scrambled to
her feet.

By this time Mr. Carroll, Miss Martha, Mab and Eleanor had reached the
scene of action.

“What on earth is the matter, Celia?” demanded Mr. Carroll. “Was that
you we heard screaming? What’s happened to you?”

“I done gwine t’ tell yoh in a minute.”

Overcome by the awful realization that she was not suitably clothed for
the occasion, Celia made a wild dive into her room and banged the door.

Meanwhile the door of the next room had opened just enough to allow a
chocolate-colored head to peer forth.

“Celie she done see the ghos’,” explained Emily. “I jes’ lock myself in
so I done be safe. It am gone now.”

“Naturally. No self-respecting ghost could stand such a racket as I
heard,” dryly declared Mr. Carroll. “Now tell me about this so-called
ghost. What does Celia think she saw?”

“I done _seen_ it!”

Celia now reappeared, wrapped from chin to toes in the ample folds of a
striped summer blanket. Not being the proud possessor of a kimono, she
had chosen the blanket as most highly suitable to her present needs.

“I was dreaming nice as anything’, ’bout a gran’ ball I was gittin’
ready foah,” she blurted forth. “Suddin’ like I wakes up ’case I done
feel suthin’ cold on my face. It war an ole cold dead hand and a
whoppin’ big white ghos’ was bendin’ over me. I lets out a yell, ’case
I was skairt to die an’ it jes’ laffs terrible like an’ floats right
out the doah. I’m gwine away from heah the minute it gits daylight. I
ain’t gwine to live no moah in this place. I reckon I know now what was
ailin’ Mammy Luce. She done seen it, too, same’s me.”

Celia having thus put two and two together and announced her departure,
it became Miss Martha’s task to endeavor to soothe and cajole the
badly-scared maid to reconsider her decision. Her efforts were not
a success. Neither did the added coaxing of the Wayfarers have any
effect. Celia remained firm in her resolve. Emily, however, was made of
firmer stuff. She stoutly reiterated her disbelief in “ghos’es” and,
much to Miss Martha’s relief, declared her intent to “stick it out,
’case no ghos’ ain’t gwine to git me.”

In the end, a much disturbed party, consisting of five women and one
man, repaired to the sitting-room for a consultation.

During the excitement both Beatrice and Patsy had deemed it wise to say
nothing, while in the presence of the maids, of what Patsy herself had
seen.

As they were about to go upstairs, Patsy whispered to Bee: “Don’t say a
word about--well, you know. I’ll tell you why, later.”

“Robert,” began Miss Martha severely, when the little company had
settled themselves in the sitting-room, “I insist now on your speaking
to that Carlos man of yours about this ghost story he told Mammy Luce.
Someone is evidently trying to play practical jokes upon the servants.
I believe he knows something about it. It may be he who is doing it.”

“That can’t be. Only yesterday morning Carlos asked me for two days
off. His brother, in Miami, died and he felt it his duty to go there to
console the family and attend the funeral. So you see he had nothing to
do with to-night’s affair. It’s more likely one of my black boys has
done a little ghost walking just to be funny. You notice that no one
except the servants has been visited by apparitions.”

“There is no telling how soon the rest of us may be startled half out
of our senses,” acidly reminded Miss Martha. “You had better hire a
guard to patrol the grounds around the house at night. He ought to be
able to catch this scamp who has frightened the servants.”

“I’ll do it,” promised Mr. Carroll. “I’ll have a plain clothes man from
Palm Beach up here to-morrow evening. He’ll stay here, too, until we
catch the rascal who is causing all this commotion.”

“And will you speak to Carlos?” persisted Miss Carroll. “I am more
suspicious of him than of your blacks.”

“As soon as he comes back,” reassured her brother.

The serious part of the discussion having come to an end, Mabel and
Eleanor hurled a volley of eager questions at Bee and Patsy concerning
what had happened before they reached the hallway. Patsy therewith
proceeded to convulse her hearers with a description of Bee’s and
her own untimely collision with Celia. Mabel giggled herself almost
hysterical and had to be playfully shaken into sobriety by Eleanor, who
declared that the ghost walk had gone to Mab’s head.

The will to sleep overcoming their dread of living midnight visitants
in ghostly garments, the ways and means committee adjourned in favor of
rest. As a last word, Miss Martha cautioned the Wayfarers to lock their
doors, which had hitherto been allowed to remain unlocked.

“I don’t know whether it was exactly fair not to tell Auntie about
my seeing the ghost,” was Patsy’s first remark to Bee after they had
regained their room. “It’s like this, Bee. I’ve thought of a plan I’d
like to try. I have an idea the ghost will come back and I’m going
to be ready for it. If Auntie knew that I’d actually seen it, she’d
probably have our bed moved into her room. Mab and Nellie’s room is
almost across the corridor from hers, you know. We’re farther away, so
she’d worry if she knew what we know. I’m going to tell her sometime,
of course, but not now. Will you stand by me, Bee, and help me catch
the ghost?”

“I will,” vowed Beatrice, too much carried away by the scheme to
reflect that she and Patsy were perhaps pitting themselves against a
dangerous opponent. “Do you believe, Patsy, that Carlos really has gone
away?”

“No; I don’t. I think Carlos is the ghost,” calmly asserted Patsy.
“Furthermore, he knows a way to get into this house that we don’t.
All the men in Florida sent to guard Las Golondrinas won’t catch him.
When Dad spoke of getting a guard, I had half a mind to speak up about
seeing the ghost. Then I decided not to. I wanted to see what we could
do by ourselves.”

“What _are_ we going to do? You said you had a plan.”

“I have. I’m going to lasso the ghost,” Patsy announced with a boyish
grin. “I learned to handle a lariat when I was out West three years ago
visiting Pauline Barry. One of the cowboys on her father’s ranch taught
me the way to do it. There’s a coil of light, thin, tough rope in the
stable. I saw it the other day. That’s going to be my lariat. I’ll
smuggle it up here and practice with it. This is such a big room I can
swing it easily in here.”

“I don’t see how you can carry out that plan,” was Bee’s doubting
answer. “How can you possibly know when the ghost is going to appear?
Besides, you mayn’t have time, perhaps, or a chance to do any lassoing.”

“That’s the only hard part of it. You and I will have to take turns
sitting up and watching, Bee. Suppose we go to bed at eleven o’clock,
as we usually do. Well, from eleven until two I’ll sit up and watch.
From two until five it will be your turn. After five no ghost will be
silly enough to walk. I’ll take the part of the night when it’s more
likely to appear, because I know how to swing the lariat. If it appears
during your watch----Let me see. I guess I’d better teach you how to
lasso. No; that won’t do. It takes a long time to learn the trick.
You’d be apt to miss the ghost. Then we’d never catch it.”

“I think we’d both better sit up until a little after two for a few
nights,” proposed Bee. “If we’re sleepy the next day we can take a nap.
It was just about two this morning when the ghost came. If Carlos _is_
the ghost, he may appear to your aunt or Mab and Nellie another time
and not come near us. If he’s trying to scare us away from here, that’s
what he’d be apt to do.”

“He may have wandered into their rooms, too, for all we know, only they
didn’t happen to wake up and see him,” surmised Patsy. “There’s only
a bare chance that anything will come of it, but it will be exciting
to try out our plan for a few nights while it’s bright moonlight. Our
scheme wouldn’t work during the dark of the moon. Now while the moon’s
full you can see for yourself how light it makes this room. Then, too,
a big white ghost is an easy mark,” finished Patsy with a giggle.

“All right, Patsy. I pledge myself to become a valiant ghost catcher,”
laughed Bee. “Now let’s go bye-bye or we’ll never be able to sit up
to-morrow night. The only thing that bothers me is not telling your
aunt.”

Bee had begun to feel a belated twinge of conscience.

“It bothers me, too,” admitted Patsy, “but I’m going to stifle my
conscience for a few days. If nothing remarkable happens, then we’ll go
to Auntie and confess and let her scold us as much as she pleases.”



CHAPTER XX

THE WAY THE SCHEME WORKED OUT


The next morning witnessed the departure of Celia, bag and baggage.
Aside from that one item of interest, nothing occurred that day to
disturb the peace of the household of Las Golondrinas. With Emily now
installed as cook and a very good cook, at that, the loss of Celia’s
services was not so vital, particularly as Emily’s sister, Jennie, had
promised her services the following week.

What signally worried and annoyed Miss Martha, however, was Mr.
Carroll’s regretful announcement at dinner that evening to the effect
that he would not be able to obtain the services of a guard for at
least three days. An unusually large number of private details had
rendered headquarters short of men used for such duty, he explained.

“I’m sorry, Martha, but it can’t be helped,” he consoled. “I’d turn
the job over to one of my black boys, but it wouldn’t be advisable. If
one of them has really been playing ghost, depend upon it, the others
know it. Result, the ghost wouldn’t appear. He’d be warned to lie
low. I’ll stay up myself to-night and watch, if you feel in the least
afraid. Say the word and I’ll stand guard.”

“Certainly not,” promptly vetoed his sister. “I’m not _afraid_. I
merely wish this disagreeable foolishness stopped. We will lock our
doors and barricade them, if necessary. As for the windows opening onto
the patio, I hardly know what to do. It’s not healthful to sleep with
closed windows. They are so high from the floor of the patio, a ghost,
or rather this idiotic person who is playing ghost, would find it hard
work to climb up to them. We may as well leave them open.”

“We can set rows of tinware on the inner edge of the window sills in
such a way that a touch would upset the whole business. If anyone tries
to climb in a window, all the pots and pans will fall into the room
with a grand crash and wake us up,” proposed Mabel. “Besides, the ghost
won’t linger after such a rattle and bang.”

“A good idea,” approved Miss Carroll solemnly.

Eleanor, Bee and Patsy received it with laughter in which Mr. Carroll
joined.

“We’d better make a raid on the kitchen and select our tinware,” said
Eleanor gaily. “I’m proud to have such a resourceful sister. There’s
nothing like getting ready for his ghostship.”

“I don’t imagine you’ll be troubled to-night by spectral intruders,”
Mr. Carroll said seriously. “Such a thing is hardly likely to occur two
nights in succession.”

“Emily’s not afraid, that’s certain,” declared Beatrice. “She’s going
to sleep all alone downstairs to-night. She says she’s ‘not gwine to
git skairt of no ghos’.’”

“I told her she might sleep in that little room at the end of the
portrait gallery, but she said she preferred her own room,” commented
Miss Martha. “I am agreeably surprised to find her not in the least
cowardly or superstitious. It’s fortunate for us.”

“She told me she was going to lock her door and her windows and sleep
with a club and a big bottle of ammonia beside her bed,” informed
Patsy. “If the ghost comes she’s going to give him a warm reception.”

“We all seem to be planning for the ghost’s welfare,” chuckled Mabel.
“Poor ghost. If he knows when he’s well off he’ll stay away from here
to-night.”

Much open discussion of the spectral visitor had served to rob the idea
of its original horror. Instead of a serious menace to tranquillity the
ghost was rapidly becoming a joke.

“We’ve done a little secret preparing of our own,” boasted Patsy in a
whisper to Bee as they strolled out of the dining room, arms twined
about each other’s waists.

True to her determination, Patsy had slipped down to the stable that
morning, commandeered the desired coil of rope and successfully
smuggled it into her room. That afternoon, while Mabel and Eleanor were
taking a walk about the grounds with Miss Carroll, the two conspirators
locked their door and proceeded to test out the most important feature
of their plan.

Patsy found the thin, tough rope admirable for her purpose. The
sleeping room, spacious and square, also lent itself to her plan. The
bed being in one corner left ample room for a free casting of the
lariat. With the quaint mahogany center table moved back against the
wall, she had a clear field.

For an hour Bee patiently allowed herself to be lassoed, moving from
point to point, thereby to test Patsy’s skill. She soon discovered
that her chum was an adept at the art. Wonderfully quick of movement
and sure of aim, Patsy never failed to land the noose over her head,
letting it drop below her shoulders and drawing it taut about her arms
with almost incredible swiftness. At the conclusion of the practice
both agreed that the ghost’s chances were small against “Lariat Patsy,”
as Bee laughingly nicknamed her.

Despite their numerous jests concerning the ghost, the Wayfarers’
hearts beat a trifle faster that night as they went to their rooms.
Earlier in the evening the kitchen had been raided and amid much
mirthful comment a goodly supply of tin and agate ware had been
selected and carried upstairs for window decorations.

Patsy and Bee took part in these preparations merely, as Patsy confided
to her chum, “for the looks of things.” Both considered their own
private scheme as much more likely to bear fruit.

On retiring to their room for the night the door was dutifully locked.
For half an hour the two sat talking with the lamps burning, waiting
for the house to grow absolutely quiet. At ten minutes to twelve, Patsy
brought forth the lariat from its hiding place in her trunk. Next,
both girls slipped out of their white frocks only to don dark gowns
which would not betray their presence in the room to the nocturnal
intruder they were planning to receive.

“Shall I put out the lights?” whispered Bee.

“Yes. Then stand in that space opposite the door and see if I can rope
you,” breathed Patsy.

Quickly Bee extinguished the two oil bracket lamps and a large oil
lamp that stood on a pedestal in a corner. Into the room the moonlight
poured whitely, lighting it fairly well except in the corners.

“All ready?” softly questioned Patsy, moving back toward the end of the
room farthest from the door.

“Yes,” came the sibilant whisper.

An instant and Patsy had made a successful cast.

“It works splendidly,” she softly exulted. “Lets try it again.”

A few more trials of her prowess and she was satisfied to recoil the
rope and sit down on the bed beside Bee.

“It’s time to unlock the door, Bee,” she murmured as the chime of
midnight rang faintly on their ears from a tall clock at the end of the
corridor.

“All right.”

Bee rose, tiptoed softly to the door and turned the key. Stealing back
across the room she took up her position of vigilance a few feet from
Patsy, seating herself upon a little low stool.

Patsy had posted herself on the edge of her trunk, lariat coiled, ready
to spring into action at a moments notice. Over the house now hung the
uncanny silence of midnight, so tense in its stillness that the two
watchers could hear each other breathe.

For the first half hour neither experienced any Special discomfort. By
the time that one o’clock had come and gone, both were beginning to
feel the strain of sitting absolutely still in one position.

The distant note of the half hour found them weary, but holding their
ground. Patsy was worse off than Bee. Bee could relax, at least
a little, while she had to sit on the extreme edge of her trunk,
constantly on the alert. Should their expected visitor enter the room,
she must act with the swiftness of lightning or all their patient
watching would have been in vain.

As she sat there it suddenly occurred to her how horrified her aunt
would be, could she know what was going on only a few yards from where
she slumbered so peacefully. Patsy could not resist giving a soft
little chuckle.

“What is it?” whispered Bee.

“Nothing. Tell you to-morrow. I guess we can go to bed soon.”

“I guess so. It’s almost two o’clock.”

Silence again descended. The clock chimed three-quarters of the hour.
Its plaintive voice ceased and the hush deepened until it seemed to
Patsy almost too profound for endurance. And then it was broken by a
sound, as of a door being softly opened.

Bee’s heart nearly skipped a beat as she listened. Patsy felt the cold
chills race up and down her spine. Two pairs of eyes were now fastened
in strained attention on the door. Was it opening? Yes, it surely was;
slowly, very slowly. It was open at last! A huge white shape stood
poised on the threshold. It moved forward with infinite caution. It had
halted now, exactly on the spot where Bee had lately stood while Patsy
tried out her prowess with the lariat.

Over in the corner Patsy was gathering herself together for the fateful
cast. Up from the trunk she now shot like a steel spring. Through the
air with a faint swishing sound the lariat sped. She pulled it taut
to an accompaniment of the most blood-curdling shrieks she had ever
heard. Next instant she felt herself being jerked violently forward.

“Bee!” she shouted desperately. “Take hold. I’m going!”

Bee sprang for the rope and missed it. Patsy shot past her across the
room, headed for the door. Stubbornly clinging to the rope, she was
bumped violently against the door casing, dragged through the doorway
and on into the corridor.

As she shot down the stone passageway she was dimly conscious of doors
opening along it and voices crying out in alarm. On she went, propelled
by that sinister, terrible force ahead. Now she had bumped around
another corner and was entering the picture gallery. At the ends and in
the center of it bracket lamps burned dimly.

She could see the enormous white shape. It had paused in the center of
the gallery. The relentless force had slackened. The rope now lay in
loose coils along the gallery. And then something happened which nearly
took Patsy’s breath.

Even in that faint light she saw the picture of the cavalier move
forward. The huge white shape leaped straight to meet it. The rope
began to move along the floor again. Patsy braced herself and tightened
her grasp on the end she still held. Wonder of wonders! The apparition
had disappeared.

Patsy heard an oddly familiar sound. Next she realized that the savage
jerking of the rope had not begun again. As she stood staring at it,
still clutching it tightly, there began again those same awful shrieks,
mingled with snarls such as a cornered wild beast might utter.

In the midst of them she was suddenly surrounded by a frantic little
group of persons. She heard her father saying: “Thank God, she’s safe!”
She felt consciousness slipping from her like a cloak.

“The rope--hold the rope,” she mumbled, and pitched forward into a pair
of extended arms.



CHAPTER XXI

THE GHOST


When Patsy came to herself she was still in the picture gallery. She
was leaning against Miss Martha, who was engaged in holding smelling
salts to her niece’s nose. To her right clustered Bee, Mabel and
Eleanor, anxious, horror-filled faces fixed upon her. Back of them
stood Emily, her black eyes rolling, her chocolate-colored features
seeming almost pale in the brighter light the lamps now gave.

As Patsy’s gray eyes roved dully from one face to another, she became
again alive to sounds which had assailed her ears at the moment when
consciousness had briefly fled. She was still hearing those demoniac
shrieks, mingled with savage snarls. Now there was something vaguely
familiar about them. But what? Patsy could not think.

“What--is it?” she stammered. “Where--is--it?”

She had begun to realize that the horror she glimpsed in her
companions’ faces had to do with those same shrieks rather than her own
momentary swoon.

“It’s behind this picture.”

It was her father’s voice that grimly answered her. He stood at one
side of the tarnished gilt frame, examining a rope. The rope appeared
to spring from halfway down the frame, between the canvas and the
frame itself. It ended in loose coils, which lay upon the floor of the
gallery.

Patsy stared at the picture, from behind which rose the tumult of
horrid sound. For an instant she listened intently.

“Why--why--I know _who_ it is! It’s old _Rosita_. I’m _sure_ that’s her
voice.”

“So the girls here think,” replied her father. “Bee tells me _you_
lassoed her.”

Mr. Carroll’s tones conveyed active disapproval of his daughter’s
foolhardy exploit.

“I--I----” began Patsy, then became silent.

“Well, this is not the time to discuss that side of the affair,” her
father continued. “There’s a secret room or cubby-hole, I don’t know
which, behind the picture. Rosita is in there and can’t get out. You
attended to her arms, I judge. That’s the reason for those frenzied
howls. Undoubtedly she’s insane. You’ve had a very narrow escape.”

“How could she get behind the picture without the use of her arms?”
broke in Bee. “There’s a secret lever to the picture, of course.”

“She may have been able to work it with her foot,” surmised Mr.
Carroll. “Again, she may have purposely left the door open. There may
be another way out of the place besides this one. She can’t take it as
long as the rope holds. When the door closed, the rope caught. It’s
tough, but then, the door must have closed with a good deal of force
or it could never have shut on the rope. She’s trying to break it and
can’t. That’s why she’s in such a rage. We’ve got her, but we must act
quickly. I hate to leave you folks alone here. Still, I must go for
help. I can bring half a dozen of my black boys here in twenty minutes.
If I could be sure she’d stay as she is now until I came back----”

Mr. Carroll paused, uncertain where his strongest duty lay.

“I will go for the help, _señor_,” suddenly announced a soft voice.

Absorbed in contemplation of the problem which confronted them, no
one of the little company had heard the noiseless approach down the
gallery of a black-haired, bare-footed girl. She had come within a few
feet of the group when her musical tones fell upon their amazed ears.

“_Dolores!_” exclaimed Patsy and sprang forward with extended hands.
“How came _you_ here?”

Immediately Mab, Bee and Nellie gathered around the girl with little
astonished cries.

“Soon I will tell all. Now is the hurry.”

Turning to Mr. Carroll, whose fine face mirrored his astonishment at
this sudden new addition to the night’s eventful happenings, she said
earnestly:

“I stood in the shadow and heard your speech, _señor_. There is but one
way into the secret place. It is there.” She pointed to the picture.
“I bid you watch it well. She is most strong. She has the madness.
Thus her strength is greater than that of three men. If you have the
firearm, _señor_, I entreat you, go for it, and also send these you
love to the safe room. Should she break the rope of which you have
spoken she will come forth from behind the picture and kill. Now I will
go and return soon with the men. You may trust me, for I will bring
them. Have no fear for me, for I shall be safe.”

Without waiting for a response from Mr. Carroll, Dolores turned and
darted up the gallery. An instant and she had disappeared into the
adjoining corridor.

“Dolores is right,” declared Mr. Carroll. “Martha, take our girls and
Emily into your room. Lock the door and stay there until I come for
you. I don’t like the idea of this child, Dolores, going off into the
night alone, but she went before I could stop her.”

“Oh, Dad, why can’t we stay here with you?” burst disappointedly from
Patsy.

Patsy had quite recovered from her momentary mishap and was now anxious
to see the exciting affair through to the end.

“That’s why.”

Mr. Carroll made a stern gesture toward the picture. From behind it now
issued a fresh succession of hair-raising screams interspersed with
furious repetitions of the name, “Dolores.” It was evident that Rosita
had heard Dolores’ voice and, demented though she was, recognized it.

“Come with us this instant, Patsy. You have already run more than
enough risks to-night.”

Miss Martha’s intonation was such as to indicate that she, too, was yet
to be reckoned with.

“We’re in for it,” breathed Bee to Patsy as the two girls followed
Miss Carroll, and the Perry girls out of the gallery and into the
corridor which led to Miss Martha’s room. Emily, however, had declared
herself as “daid sleepy” and asked permission to return to her own room
instead of accepting the refuge of Miss Carroll’s.

“I don’t care,” Patsy returned in a defiant whisper. “Our plan worked.
We caught the ghost. And that’s not all. What about Dolores? Did
you ever bump up against anything so amazing? Now we know who the
mysterious ‘she’ is. No wonder poor Dolores was afraid of her.”

Now arrived at Miss Carroll’s door, the chums had no time for further
confidences. Miss Martha hustled them inside the room, hastily closed
the door and turned the key.

That worthy but highly displeased woman’s next act was to sink into an
easy chair and in the voice of a stern judge order Bee and Patsy to
take chairs opposite her own.

“Now, Patsy, will you kindly tell me why I was not taken into your
confidence regarding yours and Beatrice’s presumptuous plans? Do you
realize that both of you might have been killed? What possessed you
to do such a thing? I _know_ that you are far more to blame than
Beatrice, even though she insisted to me that she was equally concerned
in your scheme. She merely followed your lead.”

“I’m to blame. I planned the whole thing,” Patsy frankly confessed.
“I don’t know how much Bee has told you, but this is the story from
beginning to end.”

Without endeavoring to spare herself in the least, Patsy began with
an account of the fearsome apparition she had seen on the previous
night and went bravely on to the moment when she had seen old Rosita
disappear behind the picture.

“I shall never trust either of you again,” was Miss Carroll’s succinct
condemnation when Patsy had finished.

“But, Auntie----”

“Don’t Auntie me,” retorted Miss Martha. “The thought of what might
have happened to you both makes me fairly sick. I sha’n’t recover from
the shock for a week. The best thing we can do is to pack up and go to
Palm Beach. I’ve had enough of this house of horrors. Who knows what
may happen next. Just listen to that!”

Briefly silent, the imprisoned lunatic had again begun to send forth
long, piercing screams. For a little, painful quiet settled down on
the occupants of Miss Carroll’s room. At last Eleanor spoke.

“I don’t believe anything else that’s bad will happen here, Miss
Martha.”

Eleanor had come nobly forward to Patsy’s aid. Standing behind Miss
Carroll’s chair, she laid a gentle hand on the irate matron’s plump
shoulder. Eleanor could usually be depended upon to pour oil on
troubled waters.

“Nothing further of an unpleasant nature will have _time_ to happen
here,” was the significant response.

“But nothing _bad_ has really happened,” persisted Eleanor. “Patsy
captured the ghost, who turned out to be old Rosita. Pretty soon she’ll
be taken away where she can’t harm anyone. If Patsy and Bee hadn’t been
awake and on the watch to-night she might have slipped in and murdered
them and us.”

“Not with our doors locked and the keys in them,” calmly refuted Miss
Carroll. “True, Patsy and Beatrice might have been murdered. _They_
disobeyed me and left _their_ door _unlocked_.”

This emphatic thrust had its effect on the culprits. They blushed
deeply and looked exceedingly uncomfortable.

“Well, she might have gone slipping about the house in the daytime and
pounced upon some of us.” Mabel now rallied to the defense. “Didn’t
Mammy Luce see her cross the kitchen and disappear up the back stairs
right in the middle of the day? That proves she came here in the
daytime too. By those yells we just heard you can imagine how much of
a chance we would have had if we’d happened to meet her roaming around
the house.”

Patsy took heart at this brilliant effort on her behalf.

“That’s why I saw the cavalier picture move the other day,” she said
eagerly. “Rosita had just disappeared behind it. That’s another proof
she came here in the daytime.”

“Hmph! Here is something else I seem to have missed hearing,”
satirically commented Miss Carroll.

“I would have told you _that_, truly I would have, Auntie, but I didn’t
want to worry you. I thought I must have been mistaken about it at the
time and so didn’t say anything. It was the day we found the book in
the patio and you asked me what was the matter,” Patsy explained very
humbly.

Something in the two pleading gray eyes fixed so penitently upon her,
moved Miss Martha to relent a trifle. She considered herself a great
deal harder-hearted than she really was.

“My dear, you and Beatrice did very wrong to conceal these things and
attempt to take matters into your own hands. You are two extremely rash
venturesome young girls. You are altogether too fond of leaping first
and looking afterward. I must say that----”

“They’re coming!” Mabel suddenly held up her hand in a listening
gesture.

Even through the closed door the tramp of heavy footsteps and the deep
bass of masculine voices came distinctly to the ears of the attentive
listeners. Shut in as they were, they could glean by sound alone an
idea of what was transpiring in the gallery.

Soon, above the growing hum of voices, came a crashing, splintering
sound, accompanied by the most ear-piercing shrieks they had yet heard.
A babble of shouts arose, above which that high, piercing wail held
its own. Again the tramping of feet began. The frenzied wailing grew
even higher. The footsteps began to die out; the cries grew fainter and
yet fainter. An almost painful silence suddenly settled down over the
house.



CHAPTER XXII

THE RETURN OF DOLORES


It was shattered by a gentle knock at Miss Carroll’s door. Light as was
the rapping, it caused the occupants of the room to start nervously.

“It’s Dad.”

Patsy ran to the door, turned the key and opened it.

It was not Mr. Carroll, however, who had rapped. Instead a shy little
figure stood in the corridor. Patsy promptly reached out and hauled the
newcomer into the room with two affectionate arms.

“Dolores, you brave little thing!” she cried out admiringly. “You went
all the way in the dark alone for help. Come over here, dear, and sit
down by Auntie. You must be all tired out.”

Patsy led Dolores to a deep chair beside Miss Martha and pushed her
gently into it. The girl leaned wearily back in it. For a moment
she sat thus, eyes closed, her long black lashes sweeping her tanned
cheeks. Then she opened her eyes, looked straight up at Miss Martha and
smiled.

“It is the heaven,” she said solemnly.

“You poor, dear child.”

Miss Martha reached over and took one of the girl’s small, brown hands
in both her own. The Wayfarers had gathered about Dolores looking down
at her with loving, friendly faces. She was, to use her own expression,
so “_simpatica_.” Their girlish affections went out to her.

“There is much to tell,” she said, straightening up in her chair, her
soft eyes roving from face to face.

“We’d love to hear it if you aren’t too tired to tell us,” assured
Patsy eagerly. “Where is my father, Dolores? Did he go with the men who
took Rosita away?”

“Yes. First the _señor_ showed me the way here. He gave me the message.
He will take Rosita away in the automobile. So it may be long before he
returns. With him went three black men and Carlos.”

“Carlos!” went up the astonished cry.

“Yes. You must know it was for Carlos I went as well as the others. I
had said to him many times that Rosita was mad. He would not believe.
It was Carlos who brought me to the house of Rosita when my father had
the death. Rosita had always for me the hate and abused me much. Carlos
cared not. Perhaps he had for me the hate, too. I believe it.

“I have not come to the beach to have the talk with you because of
Rosita. She watched me too much of late,” Dolores went on. “She had
the hate for you because you came to Las Golondrinas. She was afraid I
would see you and tell you she had the hate. She was mad, but yet most
cunning.”

“But why did she hate us, Dolores?” questioned Bee.

The Wayfarers had now drawn up chairs and seated themselves in a half
circle, facing the little Spanish girl.

“Soon I will tell you. First I must tell you that two days ago Carlos
went away. Then Rosita shut me in the cellar. Ah, I knew she had
the wickedness planned! All the day I heard her above me, speaking,
speaking to herself. Sometimes she laughed and shouted most loud. Then
I could hear her words. She cried out often of Las Golondrinas and
Eulalie and old Manuel. So I knew what was in her mind.”

“Then perhaps _you_ can tell us who Camillo is or was!” exclaimed
Patsy. “You seem to know a good deal about the Feredas.”

“How knew you _his_ name?” Dolores turned startled eyes on Patsy.

Briefly Patsy related the Wayfarers’ one conversation with Rosita.

“I never knew.” Dolores shook her black head. “_Comprendo mucho._”

Unconsciously she had dropped into Spanish.

“_We_ don’t understand,” smiled Mabel.

“Ah, but you shall soon know. Now I must speak again of myself. In
the cellar I remained until this night. But on the night before this,
Rosita went away. She came not back. This night late came Carlos home.
I cried out to him and so he released me. He was very tired and would
sleep. So he slept and I came here, because I had the fear that Rosita
was hiding in the secret place to do you the harm. She had known of it
long. Yet she knew not that I knew it, too. It was Eulalie who showed
me, once when I came here to see her. We were friends. Rosita was the
nurse of Eulalie in her childhood. Eulalie was _simpatica_, but she was
most unhappy. Her grandfather was the cross, terrible old one. He, too,
had the madness. He was _loco_.”

Dolores nodded emphatic conviction of her belief that Manuel de Fereda
had been insane.

“It was the midnight when I came here,” she resumed. “I lay in the
long grass to listen, but heard nothing. So my thought was that Rosita
might be far away and not in the house. I wished it to be thus, for I
had the shame to knock on the doors late and say, ‘Beware of Rosita who
is mad.’ I knew that in the daylight I should do that and tell you all
before harm came. So I lay still and watched the house where all was
dark and quiet. Then I heard the voice of Rosita as I have heard it
never before. I knew not what had come to her, but I wished to see and
give you the help such as I could give.”

“But how did you get into the house, Dolores?” questioned Patsy. “All
the doors were locked.”

“I climbed the vines, which grow upward to the small balcony on the
western side,” Dolores said simply. “The window stood open and thus I
came in the time to help.”

“You certainly did, little wood nymph,” declared Patsy affectionately.
“What happened when you came back with the men? We’re crazy to know.”

“The _señor_ asked Carlos of the secret door. Was it the true door, or
but the canvas? Carlos knew not. Of the door he knew from Rosita, but
not the secret. Never had he passed through it. But I knew that it was
the true door with strong wood behind the canvas. So the picture door
must be shattered by blows. Thus was loosed the rope which had shut in
the door and held Rosita fast so that she could move but a little. It
was the surprise when I saw her wrapped in the white sheets. On the
floor I saw her long black cloak. I understood all.”

Dolores’ sweeping gesture indicated her complete comprehension of a
situation which still baffled her audience not a little.

“How did they get her out of this cubby-hole?” inquired Miss Carroll
interestedly.

Fortunately for Patsy, the arrival of Dolores had turned her aunt’s
attention temporarily from her reckless niece’s transgressions.
Practical Miss Martha was of the private opinion that she had been
living through a night of adventure far stranger than fiction. The
thought gave her an undeniable thrill.

“She herself leaped out like the wild beast,” Dolores answered. “She
sprang at Carlos, but he was ready. The wise _señor_ had said she would
do this, because the mad turn fiercest against those they love. The
_señor_ and the black men caught her and the _señor_ wound the rope
round and round her body. Then they carried her down the stairs and
held her fast, while the _señor_ went for the automobile. The _señor_
said she must go to the police station at Miami. Carlos was sad for
Rosita had loved him much. He had not believed she was mad.”

“I don’t see how he could _help_ knowing it!” cried Patsy. “Why, we
thought her crazy the first time we ever saw her! Mabel asked Carlos
about her. It made him angry. I guess he knew it then, but wouldn’t
admit it. I’m sure he must have told Rosita about us. That must have
been one reason why she forbade you to come near us. Please tell us,
Dolores, why she hated us. You promised you would.”

“It was because of the treasure of Las Golondrinas.” Dolores lifted
solemn eyes to Patsy.



CHAPTER XXIII

THE MEMENTO


“The _treasure_!” rose in an incredulous chorus.

“Do you mean that there’s a treasure hidden somewhere about Las
Golondrinas?” almost shouted Patsy.

“It is truth,” the girl affirmed. “All his life old Manuel sought but
never found. He had the despair, so he was most cruel to Eulalie,
_pobrecita_. How she hated that treasure!”

“Now we know what Rosita meant that day,” put in Bee. “When she said
old Camillo had hidden it well. Was Camillo a Fereda?”

“_Si; el caballero Camillo de Fereda_,” nodded Dolores, then laughed.
“Always I think of Camillo in Spanish,” she apologized. “I would say in
English: ‘Yes, the gentleman, Camillo de Fereda.’ He lived long long
ago. He was _el caballero_ of the painting this night destroyed. I am
glad he is gone. He had the wicked face. He _was_ wicked; the pirate
and the murderer. Eulalie has told me of him.”

“Then he must have been one of those Spanish buccaneers who sailed
the seas and attacked English ships about the time when Ponce de Leon
landed here in Florida,” declared Beatrice.

“But that was away back in fifteen something or other,” objected
Eleanor. “Las Golondrinas hasn’t been the home of the Feredas nearly
so long as that. In those days there was nothing here but swamps and
wilderness. Do you happen to know just how old this house is, Dolores?”

“Eulalie has said that many, many Feredas have lived here,” Dolores
replied. “All knew of the treasure but could not find. It was the
secret which passed from the father to the son. Manuel knew it, but
he would never tell Eulalie because she was not the son. She knew
only from him that there was the treasure for which old Manuel always
searched. She had not the belief in it.”

“Then how did Rosita come to learn of it?” interrupted Bee quickly.

“I heard her tell Carlos that long ago she spied upon Manuel. Once,
while he wandered in the woods looking for the treasure, she followed
him all the day. He lay down under the trees to sleep. While he slept
she crept to him and took from his pocket the letter and the small
paper. What was written on the small paper she could not understand,
for it was not the Spanish. The letter was the Spanish. For the many
long words she could not read it well. So she put them again in
Manuel’s pocket. But she swore to Carlos that old Camillo wrote the
letter and that he wrote of the treasure which he had hidden.”

“Did you tell Eulalie what Rosita said?” pursued Bee with lawyer-like
persistence.

“I dared not. I had the fear she might question Manuel. Then he would
have had the great anger against Rosita. Then Rosita would have killed
me. When Eulalie was the small child, Rosita was the nurse and lived
in Las Golondrinas. It was then that she followed Manuel and read the
letter. When Eulalie had the age of fourteen years, Manuel sent Rosita
away to the cottage to live. Soon after I came here.”

“Rosita couldn’t have liked Eulalie very well. When we asked her about
Eulalie that day she raved and shrieked ‘_ingrata_’ and goodness knows
what else,” related Mabel. “I can understand enough Spanish to know
that she was down on Eulalie.”

“She had the anger because Eulalie wished Las Golondrinas to be sold.
While Manuel lived Rosita dared not look here for the treasure. When
he died she was glad. She wished Eulalie to let her come here again to
live. Eulalie was weary of this place of sorrow. She cared not that
she was the Fereda. So she sold Las Golondrinas to the _señor_, your
father.”

Dolores inclined her head toward Patsy.

“Now I begin to see why Rosita had no use for us,” smiled Patsy. “She
must have had a fine time hunting the treasure before we came down here
and spoiled sport.”

“It is truth,” concurred Dolores. “All the day and often in the night
she searched everywhere. She had the keys to this house. She came here
much while it was empty. It was then, I believe, that the greatest
madness fell upon her. She knew nothing that Eulalie had sold Las
Golondrinas to the _señor_ until he came here to live. I remember how
angry she was. Still she watched and went to the house when the _señor_
was not there.”

“I have no doubt she was tucked away somewhere in the grounds watching
when we arrived,” frowned Miss Martha. “We have had a narrow escape.”

“She saw you,” instantly affirmed Dolores. “It was the surprise. She
thought the _señor_ would live here alone. Then fell the rain and for
two days she went not out of the cottage. I, also, went not out until
the sunshine returned. Then I ran away into the woods. So you came to
the cottage and I never knew.”

“It’s strange she never said a word to you about it,” mused Beatrice.

“Ah, no! She spoke to me but little; only the harsh words. It was to
Carlos she would talk, but not before me. Now I understand why she was
in the great rage when I returned to the cottage on that morning when
you had been there. You had spoken of these Feredas and Eulalie. She
was afraid you had come here to hunt for the treasure. She wished to
frighten you away.”

“Our theory was not as wild as it might have been, Patsy,” smiled Bee.

“I suppose Carlos was hunting for the treasure, too, and so helped
along this lunatic’s plans to play ghost. She could never have thought
out the idea herself. I shall have Carlos arrested and locked up as a
dangerous character,” announced Miss Carroll with stern determination.

“Carlos has no belief in the treasure.” Dolores paused uncertainly.
“I will tell you the truth. Carlos will not return. He will slip away
from the _señor_ at Miami. So he called out to me in Spanish when he
went away with Rosita. He had no plans with Rosita to play the ghost.
She only had that thought.”

“Then why did he allow her to do so?” asked Miss Carroll severely. “He
knew it. He warned our cook to beware of a ghost that walked here.”

“Carlos hates the _Americanos_. Once he was to marry the Mexican
_señorita_. She left him and married the _Americano_. Now he hates them
all. Thus he was glad to have Rosita make the trouble. He believed it
was for the sake of him more than the treasure. She told him this. She
was mad, but cunning. She deceived him. He is most stupid and easy to
deceive. He did not believe she would harm anyone. He thought she had
the malice; not the madness. Now he knows, because she sprang at him.”

“Well, I must say it’s the most preposterous affair all around that
I’ve ever heard of,” sharply opined Miss Carroll. “To come to Florida
for a vacation and be picked out as victims by a vengeful Mexican and a
lunatic! It’s simply appalling.”

“Oh, look!”

Patsy had risen and was pointing toward a window.

“What is it?” burst simultaneously from Bee, Mabel and Eleanor. Miss
Martha was sitting bolt upright in her chair as though preparing to
face the worst.

Dolores, alone, did not stir. She lay back in her chair, eyes closed.
Her strenuous watch on the house, her brave run for help through the
darkness and the fact that she had never before in her life talked
so much at one time, had combined to reduce her to a state of utter
exhaustion. All in a minute she had dropped fast asleep. She had not
even heard Patsy cry out.

“Why--did you ever! See! It’s _daylight_!”

Patsy’s voice had risen to a little wondering squeal on the last word.

Daylight it surely was. Through the windows the soft rays of dawn were
stealing, heralding the fact that day was breaking upon a company of
persons who had been too much occupied to notice the flight of time.

“Look at that child!” Miss Martha dramatically indicated the slumbering
wood nymph. “I should have put her to bed the instant she stepped
into this room, instead of allowing her to tell that long story. I am
ashamed of my lack of judgment.”

“She wanted to tell it, and we wanted to hear it,” Patsy said. “It’s
been a weird night, hasn’t it?”

“Weird, yes; altogether too weird. Go to bed every one of you, and
_lock your doors_!”

“Where will Dolores sleep, Auntie? She can’t go home. She hasn’t any
home now. She’ll have to stay with us. Won’t that be fine?” exulted
Patsy.

“Dolores will remain here with me. We’ll discuss her future later. This
is certainly not the time to discuss it. Good night, or, rather, good
morning. Off to bed, all of you.”

Miss Martha fairly shooed her flock out of the room. They departed
with laughter, their cheerful voices echoing through a corridor lately
filled with sounds of an entirely different nature.

“Enter without fear, my dear Miss Forbes,” salaamed Patsy, bowing Bee
into the room in which had been staged the first act of the night’s
drama. “The ghost is forever laid.”

Laughing, Bee stepped over the threshold. The laugh suddenly trailed
into a gasp. At the precise spot where Patsy had lassoed Rosita lay a
sinister memento of the mad “ghost.” It was a long, sharp, two-edged
knife.



CHAPTER XXIV

THE SECRET DRAWER


Instead of a one o’clock luncheon that day the Wayfarers sat down to
a one o’clock breakfast. It was noon before they awoke from the sound
sleep they were so much in need of after their all-night vigil.

That day there was a new face at the breakfast table. It was a vividly
beautiful face lighted by a pair of soulful, dark eyes. Dolores, the
wood nymph, had been transformed over night into Dolores, the young
woman. Dressed in one of Patsy’s white morning frocks, her heavy black
hair rolled into a graceful knot at the nape of her neck, Dolores bore
small resemblance to the ragged, bare-footed waif of the night before.

Now those small bare feet which had sped so swiftly through the
darkness for help were for the first time in years covered by
slippers and stockings. Though Dolores was too shy to say it this
one particular feature of the transformation seemed to her the most
wonderful of all. “To go always with the feet bare” had been her
greatest cross.

Seated between Bee and Patsy at table her gaze wandered questioningly
from one to another of the Wayfarers, as though unable to credit the
evidence of her own eyes. She could hardly believe that she was in the
midst of reality. It all seemed like a dear dream from which she would
soon awaken, only to find again the old life of poverty, harsh words
and blows.

Naturally, the Wayfarers had a good deal to say. They were still
brimming over with the excitement of the night’s events, the final
touch of melodrama having been furnished by the finding of the knife on
the floor of Patsy’s and Bee’s room.

Recovered from the momentary shock sight of the murderous weapon had
given them, the finders had agreed that there was no use in exhibiting
it to the others just then and stirring up fresh excitement.

Patsy reserved it as a breakfast surprise. She created not a little
commotion when she produced it at the table for her companions’
inspection, coolly announcing that Rosita had left her a keepsake.
The weapon went the round of the table to the tune of much horrified
exclamation, as its formidable, razor-like double edge was shudderingly
noted.

“I can’t imagine why your father hasn’t returned, Patsy,” remarked Miss
Carroll for the fifth time since they had sat down to breakfast. “I am
beginning to feel very uneasy over his continued absence.”

“I don’t believe we’ll see him until evening,” returned Patsy. “It must
have been daylight before he got through with Rosita’s case. He had two
business engagements in Miami to-day. Don’t you remember? He mentioned
them to us at dinner last night?”

“I had forgotten that,” admitted Miss Carroll. “It’s hardly to be
wondered at. I wish he would come home. I am all at sea about what we
ought to do. Now that this horrible lunatic has been removed from here
and her villainous grandson has decamped, it is just possible we may
have a little peace and quiet. Do you think this rascal Carlos meant
what he said to you, Dolores?”

“Yes, Señora Martha. He will never return,” Dolores assured. “He will
sell the cottage which old Manuel gave to Rosita and never come here
more. I am glad. Now I shall go myself soon to Miami and find the work
to do. I am strong and not afraid of the work.”

“My dear child, you will do nothing of the sort,” contradicted Miss
Carroll. “You will stay with us for the present.”

“And when we go north, Dolores, you’re going too,” broke in Patsy. “You
haven’t any folks now, except us, so you’ve just got to be good and
hang around with the crowd.”

“It is too much,” Dolores protested. “I will stay for a little because
you wish it. I wish it, also,” she added with shy honesty. “Soon I must
go away. I am not the burden.”

“Of course you aren’t. You don’t look a bit like a burden,” gaily
retorted Patsy. “Let’s not talk about your going away. Let’s talk about
the treasure of Las Golondrinas. Do you suppose there really _is_ a
treasure?”

“_Quien sabe?_” shrugged Dolores.

“That means literally, ‘Who knows?’” translated Mabel, smiling at
Dolores. “But _you_ really mean, ‘I doubt it.’”

“I have little belief,” confessed Dolores. “Many Feredas have searched
but never found. Perhaps, then, there is none to find.”

“I wish we knew something of its history,” sighed Bee. “What do you
suppose old Manuel did with the letter and the paper that Rosita took
from him while he was asleep?”

“Very likely he put them in the secret drawer,” chuckled Eleanor,
casting a teasing glance at Mabel.

“Well, he might have,” stoutly defended Mabel. “I guess I’ll have
another try at the old desk this afternoon. If there’s a treasure in
this house we must do our best to find it.”

“You girls had best stay quietly indoors to-day.” admonished Miss
Carroll. “None of you are half rested from last night.”

“Señora Martha, I have the wish to go to the cottage,” requested
Dolores timidly. “I have there the few things which were my father’s. I
desire them. When I have them I will go to that cottage no more.”

“My dear, you must feel that you are free to go and come as you
choose,” returned Miss Carroll, “except that I would prefer, while you
are here with us, that you let me know beforehand where you intend to
go. I wish you to feel that I have the same interest in you that I have
in Patsy’s friends, Bee, Mabel and Eleanor. If you were to go away
without telling anyone where you were going we would be uneasy until
you returned.”

“I _desire_ to give the obedience to you, Señora Martha! It will be
most beautiful,” Dolores made fervent response.

“I wish others felt the same about it,” commented Miss Carroll
pointedly, yet with a smile, as she rose from the table.

Patsy merely laughed, though she colored slightly at the roundabout
rebuke.

“It’s too late for regrets, Auntie,” she declared. “I promise to do
better in future. May Bee and I go to the cottage with Dolores?”

Miss Martha, having demurred a little, finally gave a reluctant
consent. Patsy and Bee ran upstairs for their hats. Having gone hatless
for years, Dolores had declined Patsy’s offer of one of her own.

Presently the three girls left the house and took the path to the
orange groves through which they must pass in order to reach old
Rosita’s cottage.

Coming at last to the cottage, they saw that the door stood wide open.
The two Wayfarers experienced a sense of dread as they followed Dolores
across the stone threshold into a big, cheerless room which occupied
the greater part of the ground floor. Both had an uncomfortable
feeling that Rosita might suddenly appear and pounce upon them. They
were surprised to find extreme neatness where they had expected to
view disorder. The floor was immaculately clean and the few pieces of
old-fashioned furniture stood stiffly in place.

“I had an idea we’d find everything upside down,” Patsy remarked.
“Rosita was a good housekeeper even if she was crazy.”

“Ah, but it was I who must do the work,” sighed Dolores. “All must
be clean save the windows. These Rosita purposely kept dark with the
cobwebs so that strangers might not see into the room. Of herself she
did nothing, yet she made me to do all. She was indeed mad for long.
Always she feared strangers, but none ever came. It is past. I am glad.
Wait here for me. I must go up the stairs to the place where I slept.
There I have the few things I wish to take away.”

With this Dolores disappeared up a short staircase which opened into
the rear wall of the room and led to a loft. As there was nothing in
the ugly bare-walled room to attract their interest, Bee and Patsy
presently sat down on a wooden bench outside the house to await
Dolores’ return.

She soon appeared, carrying an antiquated canvas telescope which she
proudly assured them had belonged to her father.

“When we return to Las Golondrinas I will show you the picture of my
father,” she promised. “He was the good man and loved me much. Now we
shall leave this place. I have the hope never to enter it again.”

Dolores raised her hand in a solemn gesture toward the sky.

“The God in the Heaven heard me pray,” she said, then reverently
crossed herself. “He has given me the freedom.”

The trio were rather silent on the walk back to Las Golondrinas.
Dolores’ thoughts were upon the great change that had come to her.
Patsy and Bee had been deeply impressed by her little act of reverence
and divine faith toward the Almighty. In consequence, they, too, were
absorbed in thought.

Accompanying Dolores to the room which Miss Martha had that day given
the little girl for her own, they watched her unpack the satchel and
showed kindly interest in the few keepsakes she possessed, which had
belonged to her father. Viewing the faded photograph of the latter,
they could trace in Dolores’ beautiful face a distinct likeness to the
handsome photographed features.

“Old Rosita could teach us a lesson in neatness,” Patsy said to Bee as
they entered their own room. “Emily was so busy, I told her we’d fix up
our room to-day. We might as well move the table back to the center of
the room. The ghost won’t walk ever again.”

“Come on, then. I’ll help you.”

Tossing her hat on the bed, Bee crossed the room and took hold with
both hands of one end of the heavy mahogany center table. As she stood
waiting for Patsy to come to her, her hands played absently along the
table’s edge.

“Coming in a minute,” called Patsy, who had stopped to retie her white
buckskin Oxford.

“Oh!”

Bee gave a sharp little scream. She had felt the wood move under her
straying fingers. Something suddenly shot out from the table end. Sheer
surprise caused her to take a stumbling backward step.

“Patsy, look here!” she cried out shrilly.

Instantly Patsy left off tying her shoelace and obeyed the call in a
hurry. What she saw was sufficiently amazing to warrant her haste.

While Mabel had spent long hours of patient search for a secret drawer
in the old desk, Bee had come upon one unawares.



CHAPTER XXV

WHAT THE SECRET DRAWER HELD


The secret drawer, which Bee’s straying fingers had unwittingly
released from its hiding place, projected about six inches from the
table end. It measured perhaps eight inches across and two in depth.
When closed its front formed one of the carved oblong designs which
repeated itself at intervals of two inches apart on the overhanging
mahogany strips constituting the two ends of the table. The oblong
which masked the secret drawer was the last to the left on the end
on which Bee had taken hold when about to move the table back to its
original place.

These facts relative to the secret drawer were, for the time being,
lost on the two girls. Heads together, they were wonderingly examining
a square, thin little book, bound in stained sheepskin, which Bee had
snatched from the drawer.

“‘The Private and Personal Diary of one Sir John Holden, Passenger on
His Majesty’s Ship _Dragon_,’” Bee was reading aloud from the book’s
first page. The words were inscribed in faded ink in a fine running
hand.

“Why, this is a _real_ diary!” she exclaimed. “It was kept by an
_Englishman_! It must be awfully old!”

“Turn over to the next page,” eagerly commanded Patsy, “and let’s see
what it’s all about.”

Holding the book in both hands, Bee let go of it with her right and
started to turn the first leaf. As she did so a folded paper slid from
the back of the book to the floor.

Patsy made a quick dive for it and picked it up with: “It’s a letter, I
guess. Shall we look at it first or go on with the diary?”

“Let’s not look at either, just yet. Let’s call the folks in here and
read the diary and the letter when we’re all together,” proposed Bee
generously. “It will be more fun. They’ll be awfully surprised to see
the secret drawer; Mab especially.”

“All right,” amiably agreed Patsy. “You go for Mab, Eleanor and
Dolores. I’ll see if Auntie has had her nap and is awake. If she’s
sleeping I won’t disturb her. We may find nothing very interesting,
after all, in this old diary. Anyhow we can show it to her afterward.”

Carefully laying letter and diary on the table from which both had
emanated, the two Wayfarers sped from the room on their respective
errands.

Patsy returned first and without her aunt. Finding Miss Martha sleeping
peacefully, she had foreborne to disturb her.

When Beatrice presently appeared in company with the three others, they
found Patsy busily examining the secret drawer which still stood open.

“You were on the wrong trail, Mab,” she laughingly greeted. “Bee beat
you to it after all.”

“So I hear. Lets see your wonderful find.”

The newcomers crowded about the drawer, exclaiming over it, girl
fashion. They were also duly impressed by the sheepskin book and the
letter which, Patsy informed them, had been tucked away in the drawer.
Mabel, however, was more interested in the drawer itself.

“It takes up exactly the same amount of space as one of those oblongs,”
she cried out, as her observing eyes traveled the length of the
table end. Having spent so much time on the antiquated desk she was
naturally much interested in the mechanics of the secret drawer Bee had
discovered.

“Never mind the drawer now, Mab. You can play with it later. We’ll
leave it open. If we were to shut it, very likely we couldn’t open it
again.”

This from Patsy, who was impatiently longing to start a reading of the
old diary.

“Be seated, ladies,” she merrily ordered. “Miss Patricia Carroll has
kindly consented to read you a few interesting excerpts from the diary
of one Sir John Holden. Goodness knows who he was. We’ll know more
about him after we’ve read what he’s written about himself.”

“I thought you told us you two hadn’t read the diary,” playfully
accused Eleanor. “You seem to know all about it.”

“We read only the first page,” Bee explained. “We didn’t go on with it
because we wanted you girls to be in on it, too. There’s nothing stingy
about us.”

“So I observe. We are nothing if not appreciative.”

“This was the room of old Manuel,” irrelevantly remarked Dolores. She
had been silently listening to the girls’ lively chatter, her great
dark eyes roving curiously about the spacious room.

“It _was_!” Bee exclaimed. “That’s interesting to know. It explains why
Rosita paid us those two midnight visits. She may have thought Manuel
de Fereda had found the treasure and tucked it away in his room. Are
you sure this was _his_ room, Dolores?”

“_Si._” Dolores wagged an emphatic head. “Once Eulalie showed it to me.
We came only to the door. Still I remember. It was truly his room.”

“Then Manuel must have put this book in the drawer,” declared Patsy.
“Well, let’s find out what an English passenger on ‘His Majesty’s Ship
_Dragon_’ had to do with the Feredas.”

Her companions having drawn up chairs and seated themselves in a half
circle, Patsy picked up the little sheepskin book and eagerly turned to
the second page.

“‘August the fifth,’” she began, then gave a little amazed gasp.
“Girls,” she said in awed tones, “this date is ‘_sixteen_ hundred and
eighteen!’”

A murmur of surprise ascended at this announcement.

“Go on, Patsy,” urged Bee. “What happened on August the fifth, sixteen
hundred and eighteen?”

“‘One hour after sunrise,’” Patsy resumed, “‘we weighed anchor and
blessed by a fair wind we set sail from the port of Southampton, bound
for Virginia, His Most Gracious Majesty’s colony in the New World,
which, by the aid and mercy of God, we hope to reach in safety and
before many weeks have elapsed. It is now evening and the good wind
still continues to fill the _Dragon’s_ sails. I shall retire at once as
the events of the day have been somewhat fatiguing.’”

“That’s all for August the fifth,” she said. “The next is August the
tenth, so it’s really a journal instead of a diary.”

“This John Holden probably intended to keep a diary and then didn’t,”
surmised Bee.

“How funny!” ejaculated Patsy. “That’s almost exactly what he’s
written. Listen:

“‘My original intention consisted in the resolve to chronicle
faithfully the events of each day. I am deeply regretful that divers
matters have completely engaged my attention which have thus caused
it to be impossible for me to perform this duty which I laid upon
myself. Thus far the Almighty hath indeed favored us. We were for a
day becalmed, but since that time we have encountered exceptionally
favoring winds, which have steadily furthered us on our course. If
Providence wills a continuation of this remarkably fine weather we
shall accomplish the voyage sooner, perhaps, than we had the temerity
to hope.’”

“He certainly used a lot of words to express himself,” smiled Eleanor.

“Long words and lots of them were the fashion in those days,” commented
Bee. “Go on, Patsy.”

“‘August the twelfth. The fine weather still prevails. We are inspired
to believe that God is with us. Among the hundred and ten males on
board our good ship, not one now suffereth the slightest indisposition.
During the first three days of the voyage a small number were afflicted
with the malady of seasickness, which is grievously unpleasant in
that it is attended by extreme nauseation of the stomach. Fortunately
this annoying complaint is always of short duration. All those thus
distressed have recovered and appear to be in better health than ever.
I trust that this felicitous state of affairs may continue.

“‘August the twentieth: This day a sad accident occurred. By some dire
mischance one of our crew, a faithful fellow but one whose clumsiness
I have frequently noted, fell overboard. Immediately our captain
bestirred himself to accomplish his rescue, but in vain. Being a poor
swimmer, the unfortunate fellow was unable to sustain himself above
the waves until succor came, and thus perished in the sea before our
very eyes. I trust that this distressing event is not a forerunner of
greater disaster. The crew, who are inclined somewhat toward silly
superstition, appear to regard it as an ill omen.

“‘August the twenty-ninth: Our favoring winds have ceased to blow. This
day we have made no progress worth recording. As I gazed out over the
vast expanse of ocean this evening, during the setting of the sun, I
was reminded of the words of the beloved Apostle John: “And I saw a sea
of glass mingled with fire.” We should give thanks devoutly, inasmuch
as while we are thus irritatingly becalmed, such a condition is to be
preferred to foul weather and heavy seas.

“‘September the fourth: After five days of such feeble progress
as maketh the heart sick, we are speeding forward once more under
billowing sails. On board ship all are in excellent spirits at this
welcome dispensation of divine Providence. We now entertain high hopes
of reaching our destination ere the coming of the dreaded equinoctial
gales which are well able to send the stoutest ship to the bottom of
the sea.

“‘I fear these tempests far more than the possibility that we may be
attacked by the Spanish. We are, I believe, well prepared to meet the
Spanish villains and worst them, should they appear against us. We have
on board the _Dragon_ no mean defense in the way of cannon, powder,
some hundred rounds of great artillery and divers small armament. All
this, of course, being vitally necessary, inasmuch as among us we are
possessed of enough in the way of gold, silver and precious stones to
excite the greed of these inhuman cut-throats should they get wind of
our coming.’”

“This is getting wildly interesting!” exclaimed Bee. “At last we
have with us a _treasure_. I believe it must be the treasure of Las
Golondrinas, else why would old Manuel have kept this diary hidden
away?”

“But this ship, the _Dragon_, was bound for Virginia, not Florida,”
reminded Mabel. “I don’t see much connection between this John Holden’s
diary and Las Golondrinas. Besides, there couldn’t have been such a
place as Las Golondrinas at the time he made this voyage.”

“Stop interrupting me and maybe we’ll find out something more about
things,” laughingly rebuked Patsy. “The next entry is as follows:

“‘September the fifteenth: Until yesterday all progressed with such
remarkable serenity that I had nothing of import to inscribe upon the
pages of this book. Last evening at sunset we encountered a small
Spanish galleon which villainously opened fire upon us, killing two
of our crew and slightly wounding four others. Our master gunner
immediately retaliated with a fierceness of fire which presently caused
our enemy to abandon the attack and sail away with all speed. When the
retreating galleon had become but a distant speck on the wide sea we
gathered on deck and offered our profound thanks to God for his mercy
in thus preserving us from our enemies. May He continue thus to bestow
his favor upon us.

“‘September the sixteenth: This day we committed to the depths of
the ocean the bodies of the two poor fellows, slain by the dastardly
Spanish. We buried them with such honors and reverence as befitted
the brave death which they had suffered. I have hopes that those who
received wounds will quickly recover. Our hearts are exceedingly heavy
over the loss of two excellent men, both having ever been sober,
industrious, God-fearing fellows.

“‘September the twentieth: According to the reckonings, which, for
my own satisfaction, I have computed privately with the utmost
carefulness, we are still many hundred miles from land. Since morning
the wind hath risen to a considerable strength and velocity. The sky
to-night presents a lowering aspect, thus causing us to entertain dark
misgivings. The sea is becoming tumultuous and the height of the waves
is greater than at any time since we embarked upon this voyage. I fear
that we shall yet taste the fury of the equinoctial gales. I believe
to-day’s change but heralds the commencement of this trial. We must be
of stout heart and ready arm, placing our trust in the Almighty who
hath thus far so abundantly safeguarded us.

“‘September the thirtieth: We have fallen upon evil days. I sadly
mistrust that it will be long ere our eyes behold the goodly colony of
Virginia. On the night of September the twenty-first the storm, which I
had rightly predicted, burst fiercely upon us. Against the fury of the
blast and the seas which rose mountain-high to engulf us, the _Dragon_
prevailed only by a miracle wrought by Providence.

“‘For three days we labored in the teeth of the tempest, which ripped
bare certain of our masts and flung us far off our course. Since then
the wind hath continued to blow with exceeding roughness, and the waves
yet remain of unpleasant height. Day upon day hath seen our ship tossed
about like a cork on the waters.

“‘My private computations lead me to entertain the dismaying
apprehension that we must be very far south of Virginia. Ere long I
fear we shall see the coast of that debatable land, Florida, which
harboreth the inhuman Spaniard. Should this misfortune encompass us we
shall find ourselves hard put to escape falling into their clutches,
for their pirate ships continually scour the southern waters in quest
of rich booty.

“‘October the fourth: This morning we sighted land and were concerned
altogether as to what should be our course of action. A fairly
stiff breeze drove us steadily toward shore until we could plainly
distinguish white sands and a profuseness of tropical vegetation that
accordeth well with the faithful description of Florida made public by
that gallant knight, Sir Walter Raleigh, whom His Majesty hath so illy
recompensed for his great services. The warmth of the atmosphere also
tended to confirm our judgment.

“‘Whereas our good ship had suffered hard buffeting by wind and sea,
we took counsel together and were of one mind that we should proceed
toward shore and drop anchor until we could encompass such labor as was
needful to render the ship seaworthy once more. For we were desirous of
turning the _Dragon_ about in order to pursue a course due north which
would, after many days, bring us to Virginia. And we weighed carefully
the peril in which we stood that we might at any hour be attacked by
hostile galleons and mayhap find ourselves overwhelmed and delivered
into the cruel and merciless hands of the Spaniard. Yet we knew that we
had no choice save to incur this hazard. Now it draweth toward sunset.
This day we have labored diligently and accomplished much. Neither have
we been molested.’”

“The next entry is so dim I can hardly make it out,” Patsy announced.
“It looks as though it might have been written in pencil. I didn’t know
there were any lead pencils as early as 1618.”

“There were, though,” Bee affirmed. “I remember reading in a magazine
awhile ago that the first lead pencils were made in fifteen hundred and
something. I can’t recall the exact date.”

“Well, I’m sure this was written in pencil,” returned Patsy. “Don’t be
impatient if I stumble a little in reading the entry for it’s awfully
dim.”

“Do go on,” implored Eleanor. “We’re keyed up to a high pitch of
suspense to hear what happened next.”

“‘October the fifth,’” Patsy obediently resumed. “‘This morning at
sunrise we were attacked by a Spanish galleon which inflicted sore
injuries to our good ship. Yet we rendered such sturdy account of
ourselves as to force our enemy to draw off and speed away, I doubted
not in order to bring other galleons against us. All that which we
accomplished yesterday hath been undone by the divers volleys of shots
which the enemy hurled against us.

“‘The galleon having been put to flight we again took counsel. Rather
than permit the passing of such valuables as each of us possessed into
the greedy fingers of the Spaniard, we made haste to place all together
in a strong chest. Each man attended to the gathering of his gold,
silver and jewels into a small bag, his name being written upon paper
and placed within the bag on top of his wealth. These bags we placed in
the seaman’s chest together with a fine gold service which His Majesty
had entrusted to our captain, to be delivered to a certain knight in
Virginia.

“‘When all was done the weight of the box was so great six men could
scarcely bear it to the ship’s boat. To me was intrusted the command of
these men, who were ordered to row to shore and there bury the box in
the earth against the time when we might be able to return for it. This
we did and found for the treasure a secure hiding place and buried it
at the true sign of the _Dragon_, which was also His Majesty’s ship,
sunk this day, so that we could not mistake it on our return. Our
interest was then to proceed speedily to the ship, for we had agreed to
weigh anchor and sail away, crippled though we were.

“‘Yet while we floundered our way back to the shore, through well-nigh
impassable green growths, infested with loathsome serpents which we
slaughtered in numbers, we heard shots and knew that disaster had
come upon our ship. So we made haste to gain the shore, but bethought
ourselves to hide at the edge of the jungle rather than show ourselves
before we had learned the cause of the firing. And we saw a mighty
Spanish galleon bearing down on the _Dragon_ and knowing that we could
do nothing were compelled to lie where we were and watch the unequal
fight between our gallant ship and the great, high-built galleon.

“‘But the _Dragon_ fought on until her masts were beaten overboard
and all her tackle cut asunder and her upper work altogether razed,
until, in effect, she evened with the water, nothing of her being left
overhead either for flight or defense.

“‘Then our captain, who well knew what torture awaited those on board
the _Dragon_ when the Spaniard should set foot upon her, must surely
have ordered the master gunner to split and sink the ship. This I
believe, because suddenly on board the _Dragon_ a terrific explosion
took place and she broke in two and sank with all her crew and
passengers.

“‘Then those of us who survived because of our errand on shore took
counsel among ourselves and there seemed naught to be done save to go
deeper into the jungle and hide ourselves until such time as we might
be safe to come forth and trust ourselves to the mercy of the sea
in our frail boat. For we had bethought ourselves when we landed to
carry our boat across the sands and conceal it in the bushes. We were
convinced that of the two the sea was possessed of more mercy than the
Spaniard.

“‘So we lay for a little and watched the galleon which went not away
but hovered near where our ill-fated ship had disappeared beneath the
waters. Presently we saw that which gave us sore alarm. We observed
the putting down of a boat from the galleon’s side, and we counted ten
men, all stoutly armed, who quickly betook themselves over the side and
manned this boat as soon as it rode the waters. Then we were of the
belief that this galleon had been lurking in the waters behind a small
but thickly wooded tongue of land to the north of us, this tongue of
land forming one end of a curve in the sands which in shape bore the
likeness to a new moon.

“‘We doubted not that the first galleon which we had worsted was in
complicity with this second. We were convinced that both these had
stolen upon us in the night. Whereas the first had been driven off by
us, but with dear loss to ourselves. Those on board the second galleon
must surely have observed our plight and thus bided their hour to
attack us and complete our destruction. And while they thus waited it
is certain they must in some manner have become aware of the lowering
of the strong box into our boat and this same boat putting off to shore.

“‘And we knew that we were undone and must seek such refuge as we
might find in the jungle. Thereupon we set off in great haste, this
time paying no heed to the disgusting serpents which frequently
wriggled under our feet and hissed their displeasure of us, though by
miracle we were stung by none of them.

“‘Thus we continued to struggle deeper into the jungle with as much
speed as we could, and we marveled that we had not yet heard our
pursuers behind us. For we were determined to push ever forward until
we discovered a fitting place of concealment in the hope that there we
might escape being hunted out by them. We were resolved, should they
discover us, to fight to the death, for we were well armed.

“‘And after much painful wandering we came into a ravine and found a
natural cavern the mouth of which was so overhung with broad-leaved
green vines and obscured by bushes as to deceive us at first that aught
of a cave was there. And we were overjoyed at this unexpected gain, for
we reckoned that even as it had deceived us so it might deceive the
Spaniard. Whereupon we severed with exceeding care enough of the vines
as would permit us room to pass into the cavern and crept therein, one
after another. And by good fortune one of the men had with him a bit
of wax candle which we lighted by means of a flint and steel. And we
were relieved to find the cave dry and free from scorpions and serpents.

“It is now well past midday and still we are undiscovered. Having
naught else to do I have taken my book, which never leaveth my person,
and inscribed these facts therein by such dim light as filtereth
through a little between our sheltering curtain of vines. If, by the
grace of God, I survive this trial I shall ever regard this record as
of higher interest than those which I have on divers occasions previous
to this derived pleasure in inscribing herein. Should we escape the
Spaniard we shall be still in an evil case to procure food, and defend
ourselves against wild beasts and savages. These last we have not yet
seen, yet I doubt not their presence in this untamed wilderness which
now encompasseth us. We are resolved to be of steady courage and good
cheer. Our faith reposeth in the Almighty who holdeth us in the hollow
of His hand and who will deal with us as He deemeth best. We hold----’”

Patsy suddenly stopped reading.

“That’s all!” she exclaimed disappointedly. “It breaks off at ‘We
hold’ with a long scrawl of the ‘d’ as though Sir John Holden had been
suddenly interrupted.”

“It’s wonderful!” Bee drew a long breath. “While Patsy was reading
that last entry I imagined I could see those poor men fleeing for
their lives through the jungle. The queer part of it is that it must
be _true_. It’s almost as though this Sir John Holden, who lived three
hundred years ago, had suddenly come back and spoken to us.”

“Do you suppose the Spaniards found their hiding place and killed
them?” asked Eleanor. “Do let me look at the ending of that last entry,
Patsy.”

Patsy handed the open book to Eleanor. Peering over her shoulder,
Bee, Dolores and Mabel scrutinized it with her. For a time a lively
discussion went on among the five girls concerning the book and the
amazing narrative it contained. Its abrupt ending pointed to disaster
to the fugitive Englishmen.

“I believe the strong box these men buried was the treasure that old
Manuel Fereda spent his life hunting for,” finally asserted Bee.
“According to description, the place where they went ashore corresponds
to the new moon curve of our bathing beach. Don’t you remember how the
north end of the curve runs out to a point? The beach goes deep in
above there in another shorter curve that makes a natural harbor. I
noticed it the other day when we had the race. We swam just a little
way past that point.”

“I remember it now,” Patsy looked up, an almost startled expression in
her eyes. “It doesn’t seem possible that all this I’ve been reading
about ever happened on the very shore we’ve been using for a bathing
beach. If it did happen there, then they buried the treasure somewhere
in the woods back of it. How did Manuel come by this journal? That’s
what I’d like to know.”

“This journal has been handed down from one generation of Feredas to
another,” returned Bee promptly. “What about Camillo de Fereda, the
portrait cavalier? Judging from his costume in the picture he must
have lived at about the same time as this journal was written. Eulalie
told Dolores that he was a pirate and a murderer. He might have been
on the very galleon that fought the _Dragon_. He might have been among
the Spaniards who went ashore after Sir John and his men. Maybe the
Spaniards found them and killed them all and brought back this book to
the galleon. I’ve been trying to figure it out and that’s the way I
think it was.”

“It sounds very plausible,” agreed Patsy, much impressed. “Isn’t it
maddening to find out this much only to realize that we’ll never know
the rest? If there’s a treasure no wonder the Feredas could never find
it. All Sir John says about it is that they buried it at the true sign
of the _Dragon_. Now what did he mean by that?”

“Well never know, nor will anyone else. If there’s really a treasure
buried in the woods behind the beach it will probably stay there
forever,” predicted Mabel.

“I guess it will,” agreed Patsy. “I know we’ll never hunt for it. I can
imagine Auntie’s face if I proposed digging up those woods to find it.
I wonder what she’ll say about this journal? It’s a treasure in itself.
It really belongs to you, Bee. You found it.”

“Yes; but in your room,” reminded Beatrice.

Nevertheless she looked rather wistfully at the little
sheepskin-covered book. It was indeed a treasure worth having.

“I’ll offer it to Auntie, Bee,” Patsy replied, noting the wistful look
in Bee’s eyes. “We ought to consider her first. If she doesn’t care for
it, it’s yours.”

“Oh, no, _you_ keep it,” protested Bee. “I couldn’t accept it, really.”

“We’ll settle that later. Oh, I forgot! We haven’t looked at the folded
paper yet that fell out of the book.”

Patsy turned to the table and picked up the forgotten paper.

“It’s a letter,” she informed. Then her face clouded. “It’s written in
Spanish,” she added disgustedly. “You can read it, Mab, I suppose.”

“Patsy, _querida_, give me the letter,” eagerly begged Dolores, who as
usual had played the silent but always avidly interested listener. “I
would read it for you.”

“Why, that’s so! I forgot all about your being Spanish, Dolores,”
smiled Patsy.

“Let Dolores read it,” urged Mabel. “She can make a much better
translation of it than I.”

“Go ahead, Dolores,” Patsy handed her the letter. Eleanor and Bee also
echoed the request.

Shyly delighted at being thus importuned by the girls she so greatly
loved and admired, Dolores took the letter and scanned it with knitted
brows:

“‘_Mi querido hijo_,’” she read aloud. “That means, ‘My dear son.’ I
will not read more of this in the Spanish, but try to tell you of it in
the English as I read it in my own language. This it says:

    “‘It is long since I have written to you. I have waited for
    you to come to me, but you have not come. I grow old and but
    last month I received the wound in the side from an accursed
    English captain whose ship we set upon and captured. But he
    paid dearly for this outrage to my person. We put him and all
    on board to the torture.

    “‘But my wound heals not and promises yet to prove my death.
    Therefore I charge you to continue to search for the treasure
    which the accursed English brought ashore and buried on
    the morning when my galleon fought them and caused their
    destruction. You know well how we hunted down those who
    concealed the treasure and put them to torture. Stubborn pigs
    that they were, they perished, unconfessed.

    “‘Since that time I have searched long and frequently for this
    box which I doubt not to be filled with gold. I have wasted
    many hours over the stupid book, but understand not at all.
    Neither dare I give it to any who have knowledge of English
    lest the secret hiding place of the treasure thus become known
    to him who reads.

    “‘Therefore I charge you to come to me soon in order that I may
    deliver this book into your hands with such instructions as
    I have for you. For I am unable to come to you. When I shall
    have passed out of this life and into the eternal darkness, as
    I must surely do, since I have no belief in life after death,
    cease not to search for the treasure. From His Majesty I have
    received full title to the portion of land we marked off for
    our own. Thus it becomes yours when I have finished with it.
    Delay not, but come speedily if you would see your father once
    more.

                                         “‘DON CAMILLO DE FEREDA.’”

“It’s the one thing we needed to complete our case.”

It was Bee who shattered the hush that had fallen upon the group.

“Yes. We know now that Don Camillo de Fereda _was_ really a pirate.
That he commanded the galleon that finished the _Dragon_. We know what
happened to Sir John Holden and his men and how the book came into the
possession of the Feredas,” enumerated Patsy. “The letter and the book
have been handed down from generation to generation because none of the
Feredas ever found the treasure of Las Golondrinas.”

“That was because of the wickedness of Don Camillo de Fereda,” asserted
Dolores. “It was not intended that either he or any of this family
should find. Because of it old Manuel died bitter and without faith.
To Rosita it brought the madness. I believe that it has the curse laid
upon it.”



CHAPTER XXVI

“THE TRUE SIGN OF THE ‘DRAGON’”


The story of the treasure of Las Golondrinas was not to be thus
easily dismissed from the minds of the Wayfarers. Quite the contrary,
it became paramount as a topic of conversation. The journal of the
unfortunate Englishman, Sir John Holden, and the letter written by Don
Camillo de Fereda were duly exhibited to and read by Miss Martha and
Mr. Carroll.

Though both were considerably impressed by the girls’ find neither was
in sympathy with Patsy’s half-jesting, half-earnest assertion: “It
would be fun to poke around in the woods a little and hunt for the
treasure, if we had the least bit of an idea what ‘the sign of the
_Dragon_’ was.”

Miss Carroll had promptly vetoed the “poking around in the woods”
plan, appealing to Mr. Carroll to support her in prohibiting such a
proceeding. He had been equally ready on his own account, however, to
decry Patsy’s proposal.

“Don’t allow this treasure story to take hold on your minds,” he had
discouraged. “It’s highly interesting, of course, but that’s all.
You’re not apt to discover a treasure that generations of Feredas
failed to locate. They knew the ground thoroughly and failed. You know
nothing of that jungle behind the beach.”

With no one save Bee as an ally, Patsy’s ambition saw no prospect of
realization. Still the treasure story remained uppermost in her mind.
It haunted her, particularly during the morning excursions to and from
the bathing beach. The portion of jungle through which the white, sandy
beach-road ran became invested with new interest. Its green depths
concealed a treasure, once the treasure of the Dragon, now the treasure
of Las Golondrinas.

“Do you suppose this part of the coast has changed very much since
1618?” Patsy reflectively questioned one morning, as she and Bee lay on
the warm sands sunning themselves after a long swim.

“I don’t know.” Bee was gazing absently seaward. “You’re thinking about
the treasure, of course,” she added with a smile.

“Yes,” Patsy admitted. “Too bad Sir John wasn’t captain of the
_Dragon_. He’d have kept a log instead of a journal, and in it he would
have set down the ship’s exact position. How far it was from shore, I
mean, and all that.”

“I have an idea that the _Dragon_ anchored quite a way below this part
of the beach,” declared Beatrice, “and not so very far from land. It’s
just as Sir John said, the beach along here curves a little like a new
moon. The upper end of the curve runs farther out into the water than
the lower end. Above the upper end is the little bay where the galleons
must have anchored in the night. You know how deep the water is there.
If the _Dragon_ had been directly opposite this curve, those on board
would have probably sighted the galleons and the captain would have
tried to get away when the first one attacked him. They’d been fixing
up the ship all that day, you know.”

“Yes, that’s so,” nodded Patsy. “But where do you think the men landed
who went ashore in the row-boat?”

“That’s hard to guess,” returned Bee. “If the ship were anchored down
there, they might have rowed in a straight line to land without being
seen by the Spaniards. If the beach was then just as it is now, right
along here would have been a better place for them to land than down
there. Maybe the Spaniards had a lookout posted in the woods watching
them.”

“If they had, it’s funny that Don Camillo didn’t send some of his men
to follow them right then, instead of waiting until after the attack,”
argued Patsy.

“I suppose he thought he had those poor Englishmen just where he wanted
them,” replied Bee. “He knew that they couldn’t escape him. He thought,
perhaps, that it would be easy to make them confess where they’d buried
the box. You know history says that the Spanish adventurers who first
came over here made a practice of torturing the Indians to find out
where they kept their gold. Sir John and his men knew they’d be killed
by Don Camillo even if they confessed, so they preferred to die by
torture rather than tell the secret.”

“It’s horrible to think of, isn’t it?” shuddered Patsy. “I’m glad we
were born three hundred years later than those dangerous times. No
one’s life was safe then. Say, Bee,” Patsy sat up with sudden energy.
“I’m going to ask Auntie if we can’t walk a little way down the beach
this morning. If she says ‘yes’ we’ll change our bathing suits and ask
Dolores to go with us. I’m anxious to see how it looks down there at
that lower end of the curve. Come on.”

Springing to her feet, Patsy raced across the sands to where her aunt
and Dolores were quietly sitting, each absorbed in a book. Dolores’
fondness for Nature did not include any desire whatever for a close
acquaintance with the ocean. No amount of persuasion on the part of the
Wayfarers could induce her to go bathing with them.

“Auntie, dear,” began Patsy in coaxing tones, as she and Bee came to
a pause before the two on the sands, “do you care if we change our
bathing suits and go for a little walk down the beach? We want you to
go with us, Dolores. We won’t go far, Aunt Martha, and will be back in
just a little while.”

“Very well.” Miss Carroll looked up placidly from her reading. “I trust
you, Dolores, to keep these two reckless girls out of mischief,” she
added, turning to her companion.

Dolores laid her book aside and rose in instant acquiescence to Patsy’s
plea.

“Surely, I will go with you, Patsy, _querida_,” she said in her soft
voice. “Have no fear, Señora Martha, that I shall not keep the very
stern eyes upon these two,” she mischievously assured Miss Carroll.

“Wait a minute till I see if Mab and Nellie want to go,” Patsy said.
Running down to the water’s edge, she called out her invitation to the
Perry girls, who were industriously practising a new swimming stroke
which Mr. Carroll had taught them on the previous day.

“No, we don’t want to go,” declined Mabel. “We’re just beginning to get
this stroke down fine. Go away, Patsy Carroll.”

“Come along, Bee. The Perry children don’t appreciate us,” Patsy
commented satirically.

A little later, Bee and Patsy emerged from the bath house, ready for
their walk. Accompanied by Dolores the trio started off down the beach.

“We’ve been quite a little way up the beach, Dolores, but we’ve never
gone a dozen yards down it,” remarked Patsy, as they strolled along in
the sunshine. “We’re going as far as that point down there and maybe
farther. We want to see how it looks on the other side of it. We were
talking about the _Dragon_ this morning and----”

“I beg of you, Patsy, _querida_, think no more of that horrible
treasure.” Dolores had stopped short, her dark eyes full of distress.
“It is forbidden by the _señora_ that you should walk in the jungle. I
have given the promise to keep the care of you. So must I----”

“Come along, goosie, dear.” Patsy laid gentle hold on Dolores’ arm.
“We’re not going into the jungle to hunt for the stupid old treasure.
We just want to go a little way and see things. Bee and I have an idea
that the men from the _Dragon_ might have touched shore on the other
side of the point when they rowed to land. We only want to see how it
looks there.”

“It is not so different from this,” Dolores declared, “except that
beyond the point is the small inlet.”

“Is that so?” Bee remarked in surprise. “I supposed that beyond the
point was only a little bay. The beach is narrow at the point on
account of the woods coming down so close to the water. That’s the way
it is with the upper end of the curve, you know. Can we walk around
the point and along the shore of the inlet for a little way without
actually getting into the jungle?”

“_Si_,” returned Dolores, “but not very far.”

“Then let’s go as far as we dare,” proposed intrepid Patsy. “You lead
the way, Dolores.”

Presently arriving at the place where the beach itself was merely a
strip of sand extending out into the water, the three girls rounded
the point and walked along the sandy shore of the inlet.

They had gone only a few steps when Bee stopped short and pointed out
to sea.

“The _Dragon_ might have been anchored right over there, Patsy,” she
asserted. “This would have been a splendid place for the men in the
row-boat to land.”

“Maybe they did land here, and struck off into the jungle, right there,
where the inlet begins,” surmised Patsy. “Let’s follow the shore of the
inlet. It’s almost as wide as this bit of beach and doesn’t look snaky.
As long as we don’t get into the jungly part of the jungle we’re safe
enough.”

“I think it will be all right for us to go up it a few rods if we stick
to the shore,” decided Bee. “It looks so pretty up there under those
trees that hang over the water. Truly, Dolores, we’re not thinking
about the treasure now. It certainly wasn’t buried along the shore of
the inlet. Why, the journal never mentioned an inlet. You go ahead and
we’ll follow. You know the ground.”

Reassured by Bee’s words, Dolores first hunted about for a good-sized
snake stick, then reluctantly took the lead. The trio soon reached
the mouth of the inlet and continued up one side of it for a short
distance. The farther they went the narrower grew the sandy shore,
lying even with the jungle itself. Over the inlet hung a kind of white
haze, appearing to rise from the water.

“We’re in the jungle and yet not in it,” cheerfully commented Patsy.
“How misty that water looks.”

She had hardly spoken when Bee uttered a sharp exclamatory “Oh!”

Walking ahead, Dolores had come upon a noisy puff adder curled up on
the shore. While it puffed its resentment at being disturbed, she
deftly caught it up on the end of the stick and tossed it, hissing,
into the water.

“It is not harmful,” she explained, “yet I have the sorrow to see it,
because it is the snake, and all snakes are the sign of evil. Now we
should perhaps turn back. You have seen----”

Her low, musical voice suddenly trailed off into a horrified gasp.
Simultaneously three pairs of eyes had glimpsed a terrifying something
rising up through the mist from the inlet’s quiet waters. As it
continued to rise they caught a fleeting impression of a grotesque,
flat, wrinkled head, composed chiefly of a heavy upper lip from which
depended a long trail of green. In its flipper-like arms the ugly
monster held a grayish object, clasped close to its vast, shapeless
body.

“It is an evil thing!” shrieked Dolores. Panic-stricken, she reverted
to her old wood nymph tactics and bolted straight into the jungle,
Patsy and Beatrice following wildly after.

“Dolores!” at last screamed Bee in desperation. “Wait for us!”

The shrill appeal checked the badly scared wood nymph’s headlong flight
long enough for Bee and Patsy to come up with her. Breathless though
she was, Bee’s brief terror had apparently taken wing. She was now
smiling broadly.

“We’re a set of geese!” she exclaimed. “Do you know what our horrible
monster is? I do. It’s nothing but a meek, harmless manatee!”

“What, then, is a manatee?” inquired Dolores, in tones that indicated
doubt that so terrible a monster as she had just seen could possibly be
harmless.

“Oh, it’s an animal something like a seal, only a lot larger, that
lives in the sea. It eats nothing but plants and grass and is as
harmless as a kitten. I’ve seen pictures of manatees, but never saw a
real one before,” explained Bee. “The minute after we started to run,
I guessed what it was we’d seen. They live in lagoons and the mouths
of rivers that run into the sea and inlets like this. The poor thing
was holding up its baby manatee for us to see and we never stopped to
admire it!”

“Let’s go back and look at it,” said Patsy. “We’ve got to get out of
this jungle as soon as ever we can. We’ll have to go back the way we
came, I suppose. Auntie will be awfully cross with me for this. She’ll
blame me for the whole business.”

“From here it is not so far to the jungle road,” informed Dolores.
“I know the little path to it. That will be best for us to take, I
believe.”

“All right,” acquiesced Bee, “only do let’s stop and rest a little
first. That wild run of ours took most of my breath. There’s a nice,
clean place under that big tree. A five-minutes’ stop there won’t do us
any harm.”

Pausing only to break off a leafy branch from a stunted sapling, Bee
walked over to the spot she had designated and energetically swept it,
a precautionary measure against lurking wood-ticks and scorpions. Then
she dropped down on the dry ground with a little sigh of relief.

Dolores seated herself beside Bee. Patsy, however, made no move to sit
down. Instead, she stopped half way to the tree and gazed about her
with alert, interested eyes.

“Look at that dandy big rock!” she exclaimed, pointing to a huge
boulder a little to the left of where she was standing. “I can climb
up on it as easy as anything. It will be a fine perch. No snakes or
scorpions or horrid old wood-ticks can get me up there.”

The rock on which Patsy proposed to perch was perhaps five feet high
and correspondingly thick through. It measured at least eight feet
across. One end of it tapered down to a blunt point, thereby furnishing
Patsy an easy means of reaching its rather flat top.

“Hurray!” was her jubilant exclamation when a moment later she stood on
top of the boulder and waved a triumphant hand to her companions. “The
world is mine!”

Patsy made an elaborate bow, first to the right, then to the left. Her
eyes coming to rest on the pointed end of the boulder she called out:

“What does this end of the rock make you think of?”

“It reminds me of a rock,” jibed Bee. “I can’t see that it looks like
anything else.”

“That’s because you’re not up here,” retorted Patsy. “Standing on the
top, looking down, this end is like an alligator’s head. No it isn’t,
either. It’s more like the head of a queer, prehistoric monster. Why,
girls!” Patsy’s voice suddenly rose to an excited squeal. “Come up
here, quick! I want to _show_ you something!”

Quite in the dark regarding the cause of Patsy’s agitation, Bee and
Dolores lost no time, however, in scrambling up on the boulder.

“Look!” Patsy pointed a shaking finger downward. “Can’t you see it?
Don’t you know what it’s like?”

“It does look a little like one of those prehistoric monster’s heads,”
agreed Bee.

“It looks like more than that. It looks like a _dragon’s_ head. Now
I know what Sir John Holden meant when he wrote, ‘And we buried the
treasure at the true sign of the Dragon, which was also His Majesty’s
ship sunk this day.’ He and his men came here with the box and
found this rock. He must have climbed to the top of it to take an
observation. He must have seen the queer resemblance of this end of the
rock to a dragon’s head. He thought it would be a good thing to bury
the box near it, because then they couldn’t mistake the place if they
came back again. I truly believe that somewhere in the ground around
this rock and close to it is the treasure of Las Golondrinas!”



CHAPTER XXVII

THE TREASURE OF LAS GOLONDRINAS


Two mornings after Patsy’s amazing discovery of what she believed to
be the place where Sir John Holden had buried the treasure box, an
interested but not entirely credulous delegation set out for the jungle.

It consisted of the Wayfarers, Dolores, Mr. and Miss Carroll, Uncle
Jemmy and two negro laborers. These last were laden with picks and
shovels. It had taken lengthy and insistent pleading on Patsy’s part to
bring about this much-desired state of affairs.

Despite the fact that she had been soundly taken to task by her aunt
and her father for disobedience of orders, her reiterated plea was:
“You may scold me as much as you like, Dad, if only you’ll send
somebody to dig up the earth around Dragon Rock.” Thus Patsy had named
the big boulder. She was firmly convinced that her theory concerning
the location of the treasure would prove correct, if investigated
thoroughly.

Demurring at first, the fascination of treasure hunting had finally
laid sufficient hold on Mr. Carroll to the point of consenting to humor
Patsy’s belief. Hence the party that, guided by Dolores, was now on its
way to Dragon Rock.

To the Wayfarers it was the great hour of their young lives. They
regarded the expedition as the very height of adventure. Miss Martha
was also rather stirred up over it, though she maintained her usual
lofty attitude of pretending she was not. Dolores was solemnly
superstitious lest evil might overtake the whole party. Mr. Carroll
was frankly sceptical. As for the darkies, they had no inkling of what
it was all about. Neither were they in the least concerned. Sufficient
that Massa Carroll “wanted dem woods dug up.”

Finally arrived at Dragon Rock, Patsy constituted herself master of
ceremonies, gravely escorting her father to the top of the boulder to
show him the dragon’s head. Mabel and Eleanor also clambered up to see
and were duly impressed. Miss Martha, however, had too much dignity for
rock climbing.

[Illustration: “Look!” Patsy pointed a shaking finger downward. “Can’t
you see it?”]

“Well, Patsy, I guess the boys might as well start digging,” was Mr.
Carroll’s opinion after a brief inspection of the ground around the
boulder. “Better stand well back, all of you. I’m going to have a
circular ditch dug around the rock, say about four feet wide and four
deep. If there is really a box buried there, it is probably buried
close to the rock. That’s the theory I’m going to proceed on.”

With this, Mr. Carroll left her and went over to where Uncle Jemmy and
his two assistants stood leaning on their picks, indolently awaiting
his orders. Instructing them as to the width and depth of the ditch he
purposed they should dig, he set them to work and stood watching them
for a moment, a half-amused smile on his face.

“We never thought we’d ever go treasure-hunting, did we, Martha?” he
remarked as he joined the interested group of spectators, drawn up a
little to the left of the rock. “It takes me back to the days when we
were youngsters and read dozens of treasure stories and wondered if we
should ever be lucky enough to stumble upon a real treasure.”

“Judging from appearances, I should say our ideas haven’t changed
much,” dryly returned his sister. “We are as deep in the mud as Patsy
is in the mire.”

“What are you going to do with this great treasure, when we find it,
Patsy?” humorously questioned her father.

“Give half of it to Dolores, and then we’ll divide the other half among
us,” returned Patsy.

This immediately evoked a chorus of laughing approval on the part of
everyone save Dolores, who protested stoutly against any such division.

Meanwhile the three darkies had proceeded stolidly with their task.
The loose sandy soil made digging comparatively easy and before long a
shallow ditch circled the rock. As they continued to work at deepening
it, conversation among the watchers died out and a curious hush fell
upon the group, broken only by the forest sounds around them and the
dull grating of pick and shovel coming in contact with the sand.

Patsy, however, could not resist going over to the ditch from time to
time for a close-up view of it. She was beginning to feel a keen sense
of disappointment. It looked as though her wonderful treasure theory
was about to tumble down.

“I guess I was away off on my sign of the Dragon,” she ruefully
admitted, as she returned to her friends after a gloomy inspection of
the sandy ditch. “Where Uncle Jemmy’s digging, he’s got down at least
three feet and there’s not a sign of----”

Patsy did not finish. A sudden hail from Uncle Jemmy of: “Ah reckon,
Massa Carroll, dey am suthin’ heah ’sides dirt!” caused her to dash
back to the ditch. Immediately the others hurried after her to the spot.

Standing in the ditch the old man was tapping lightly with his shovel
on a partially uncovered oblong of wood that appeared to form the top
of a box or casket. As nearly as could be seen it was about three feet
long and eighteen inches wide.

“Oh, Uncle Jemmy, do please hurry and dig it out!” implored Patsy,
almost tumbling into the ditch in her excitement. “It’s the treasure
box! It truly is! I was right after all about the sign of the Dragon!”

“Move back, girls,” ordered Mr. Carroll. “Give Jemmy room to get at the
thing. This certainly dashes me.”

Amid a babble of excited comment, the party moved back from the
opening, breathlessly watching Uncle Jemmy as he loosened the earth
around the box. It was so tightly packed as to suggest the labor of
purposeful hands. It needed but a little more effort on the part of the
old man to reveal what was undoubtedly a seaman’s chest, belonging to a
remote period.

Next instant Mr. Carroll had stepped into the ditch beside the old man
and was bending over the old chest. Above, a circle of eager faces
peered down at him. The other two darkies had also dropped shovels and
rushed to the scene, mouths agape with curiosity, eyes wildly rolling.

Grasping one end of the chest with both hands, Mr. Carroll received
a surprise. The lid of the chest moved under his hands. A concerted
murmur came from above as he lifted it free. Then the murmur welled to
a united shout. What the watchers had expected to see, none of them had
been prepared to state. What they really saw was something entirely
different from any idea each might have formed of the lost treasure of
Las Golondrinas.

Following the shout that had ascended, came an instant of silence. It
was Patsy who first spoke.

“Lift the box out of there, Dad,” she said in a rather unsteady tone.
“Let us have it up where we can get a good look at the wonderful
treasure.”

Suddenly she burst into a peal of high, clear laughter which went the
rounds of the amazed treasure-seekers. Amid almost hysterical mirth the
chest was raised from its resting place.

“It’s ready to fall to pieces,” commented Mr. Carroll, as he carefully
set the box on the ground. “It’s made of good tough wood or it wouldn’t
have held together all these years. Well, Patsy, what do you think of
your treasure now?”

“Not much, except that Sir John Holden never put that stuff in there.
It tells its own story, though.”

Kneeling beside the chest she reached into it and fished up a rudely
fashioned tomahawk, the blade of which was merely a sharp stone.

“This, and this,” she again reached down and added a long,
wicked-looking arrow-head to the tomahawk, “tell me that the people who
really found the treasure were the Indians. Don’t you remember that Sir
John wrote in the journal that he didn’t doubt that there were Indians
lurking about in this jungle? They were watching when Sir John and his
men buried the treasure. After they’d gone, the Indians came here and
dug it up.”

“It seems queer that they didn’t just throw the chest away instead of
burying it again with those queer weapons in it,” declared Mabel.

The Wayfarers were now down on their knees in a little circle about the
chest, interestedly lifting and inspecting the few articles it still
contained. There was another tomahawk, a murderous-looking mace and
a number of stone arrow-heads of various sizes. This, then, was the
treasure of Las Golondrinas. For it, one Fereda had taken many lives,
and because of it, his descendants had wasted long years of bitter,
unavailing search.

“It strikes me that the Indians of three hundred years ago liked to
play jokes,” was Mr. Carroll’s opinion. “That seems to be about the
only explanation of this stuff being here in the box. They took the
treasure and decided to leave a grim message for the other fellows if
they ever came back for their valuables. It was their way of saying
‘Stung!’ I guess.”

“We’ve all been _stung_,” giggled Patsy.

“Too bad it wasn’t that wicked old Camillo instead of nice harmless
people like us,” said Bee.

“And we were going to give Dolores half of it,” mourned Patsy. “Now
we’ve nothing to give her except a war-club and a couple of old
tomahawks which she certainly won’t have any use for.”

This raised a laugh in which even Dolores joined. She had looked unduly
solemn since the beginning of the expedition. Now for the first time
her sober face lighted into its wonderful radiant beauty.

“For this I am glad,” she declared earnestly. “To find in this box gold
and jewels would have been the sorrow, because such treasure cost some
lives. So it was surely evil. Now we know all and thus Las Golondrinas
which was always the unlucky place becomes the lucky. So shall good
fortune stay here now, for always.

“I have read in the books the stories of the princesses who, because
they were good and lovely, broke the wicked spells of the bad ones.
So is _querida_ Patsy, the dear princess, who because she would not
give up seeking the treasure, broke the spell and made all good again
here. There is now no more of mystery, so there will be no more of the
unhappiness. _Querida_ princess, I kiss your hand.”

Carried away by her own fanciful comparisons, Dolores caught Patsy’s
hand and kissed it.

“You’re the sweetest old dear alive.” Patsy wound her arms about
Dolores. “Since you will have it that I am a princess, I’ll add a
little more to the tale. Princess Patsy freed a wood nymph from a
wicked witch. Then the wood nymph was so grateful to the princess that
she promised never to go away from her. She said, ‘I will go to the far
North with you and the Señora Martha and the Señor Carroll and live in
your house and become your very own sister.’ Isn’t that what she said,
Dolores?”

A flood of color rushed to Dolores’ cheeks. Her great dark eyes grew
misty. For a moment she stood silent, fighting for self-control. Then
she raised her eyes timidly to Miss Martha’s dignified countenance. It
was a smiling face now and very tender. Next her glance wandered to
Mr. Carroll as though in question. What she saw in his face was also
reassuring.

“Isn’t that what she said, Dolores?” repeated Patsy encouragingly.

“_Si_,” was the soft answer.

And thus the future of Dolores the wood nymph was settled, thereby
proving that for her at least the era of good fortune had begun.

“Dad,” began Patsy that evening at dinner, “when are we going on that
expedition into the Everglades? We’ve only two more weeks’ vacation,
you know.”

“We can go next week, if you like,” amiably responded her father.

“I was in hopes you had forgotten all about that, Patsy,” complained
her aunt. “Haven’t you had enough excitement? Why not settle down
quietly for the rest of the time we are to be here? I can’t say I enjoy
the prospect of such a jaunt.”

“Why, Auntie!” Patsy stared across the table at Miss Martha in beaming
amazement. “Are _you_ really going with us? I thought you said----”

“So I did,” cut off her aunt, “but I have changed my mind. I’ve
discovered that I can walk around in a jungle as well as the rest of
you. In fact, I prefer it to staying alone in this house. I shall never
feel easy until that hobgoblin collection of portraits is cleared out
of the gallery and the whole place renovated.”

“That reminds me, Eulalie never answered our letter,” commented
Beatrice.

“Well, we don’t care now. We solved all the mysteries of Las
Golondrinas for ourselves,” asserted Patsy. “We know all about the
painted cavalier, we captured the ghost, found a secret door, a secret
drawer and the treasure of Las Golondrinas. We’ve got the journal of
Sir John Holden. It’s a perfect jewel in itself, and I’ve found a
foster-sister. Can you beat it?”

She cast a roguish glance at her aunt as she perpetrated this slangy
offense.

“Our vacation’s almost over, but we’ve another one coming next summer,”
she continued. “We’re five Wayfarers now, and we’ll wayfare into
strange lands and find new and curious things. The Wayfarers can’t be
like other people, you know. They just have to do startling things
and live in startling places. They’ve proved that twice--and oh, joy!
Summer’s coming. When it does come and the Wayfarers take the road
again, who knows what wonderful things may happen to them?”

How the Wayfarers spent the summer vacation, to which Patsy was already
looking forward with eager zest, will be told in the third volume of
this series entitled, “PATSY CARROLL IN THE GOLDEN WEST.”

THE END



THE JANE ALLEN COLLEGE SERIES

BY EDITH BANCROFT

_12mo. Illustrated. With cover inlay and jacket in colors_

_Price per volume, $1.00_

[Illustration]

_This series is a decided departure from the stories usually written of
life in the modern college for young women. An authoritative account of
the life of the college girl as it is lived today._

1. JANE ALLEN OF THE SUB TEAM

When Jane Allen left her home in Montana, to go East to Wellington
College, she was sure that she could never learn to endure the
restrictions of college life.

2. JANE ALLEN: RIGHT GUARD

Jane Allen becomes a sophomore at Wellington College, but she has to
face a severe trial that requires all her courage and character. The
result is a triumph for being faithful to an ideal.

3. JANE ALLEN: CENTER

Lovable Jane Allen as Junior experiences delightful days of work and
play. Jane, and her chum, Judith, win leadership in class office,
social and athletic circles of Sophs and Juniors.

4. JANE ALLEN: JUNIOR

Jane Allen’s college experiences, as continued in “Jane Allen, Junior,”
afford the chance for a brilliant story. A rude, country girl forces
her way into Wellington under false pretenses.

5. JANE ALLEN: SENIOR

Jane and Judith undertake Social Service, wherein they find actual
problems more thrilling than were those of the “indoor sports.”

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THE PATSY CARROLL SERIES

BY GRACE GORDON

_12mo. Illustrated. With cover inlay and jacket in colors_

_Price per volume, $1.00_

[Illustration]

_This fascinating series is permeated with the vibrant atmosphere
of the great outdoors. The vacations spent by Patsy Carroll and her
chums, the girl Wayfarers, in the north, east, south and west of the
wonderland of our country, comprise a succession of tales unsurpassed
in plot and action._

PATSY CARROLL AT WILDERNESS LODGE

Patsy Carroll succeeds in coaxing her father to lease one of the
luxurious camps at Lake Placid, for the summer. Established at
Wilderness Lodge, the Wayfarers, as they call themselves, find they are
the center of a mystery which revolves about a missing will. How the
girls solve the mystery makes a splendid story.

PATSY CARROLL UNDER SOUTHERN SKIES

Patsy Carroll and her three chums spend their Easter vacation in an
old mansion in Florida. An exciting mystery develops. It is solved by
a curious acrostic found by Patsy. This leads to very exciting and
satisfactory results, making a capital story.

PATSY CARROLL IN THE GOLDEN WEST

The Wayfarers journey to the dream city of the Movie World in the
Golden West, and there become a part of a famous film drama.

PATSY CARROLL IN OLD NEW ENGLAND

Set in the background of the Tercentenary of the landing of the
Pilgrims, celebrated in the year 1920, the story of Patsy Carroll
in Old New England offers a correct word picture of this historical
event and into it is woven a fascinating tale of the adventures of the
Wayfarers.

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    _or Held by the Gypsies_

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    _or The Waif from the Sea_

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    8. RUTH FIELDING AND THE GYPSIES
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    10. RUTH FIELDING DOWN IN DIXIE
    11. RUTH FIELDING AT COLLEGE
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    13. RUTH FIELDING IN THE RED CROSS
    14. RUTH FIELDING AT THE WAR FRONT
    15. RUTH FIELDING HOMEWARD BOUND
    16. RUTH FIELDING DOWN EAST
    17. RUTH FIELDING IN THE GREAT NORTHWEST
    18. RUTH FIELDING ON THE ST. LAWRENCE
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     _or The Treasure of Indian Chasm_

        Seeking treasures of Indian Chasm makes interesting reading.

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        At Mountain Camp Betty found herself in the midst of a
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     _or School Chums on the Boardwalk_

        A glorious outing that Betty and her chums never forgot.

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     _or Bringing the Rebels to Terms_

        Rebellious students, disliked teachers and mysterious
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     _or Cowboy Joe’s Secret_

        Betty and her chums have a grand time in the saddle.

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     _or The Secret of the Mountains_

        Betty receives a fake telegram and finds both Bob and
        herself held for ransom in a mountain cave.

  10. BETTY GORDON AND THE LOST PEARL
      _or A Mystery of the Seaside_

        Betty and her chums go to the ocean shore for a vacation
        and there Betty becomes involved in the disappearance of a
        string of pearls worth a fortune.

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to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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