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Title: The Daring Twins - A Story for Young Folk
Author: Baum, L. Frank (Lyman Frank)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Daring Twins - A Story for Young Folk" ***

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The Daring Twins



_Best Books for Young Folk_


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By EDITH VAN DYNE

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_Illustrated 12mos. Uniform cloth binding, stamped in colors, with
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_12mo. Dainty cloth binding, with inlaid design and six duotone
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_Price 60 cents_



[Illustration: “YOU’RE ELECTED LITTLE MOTHER.” (_See Page 104._)]



The Daring Twins

A Story for Young Folk

  By
  L. Frank Baum

  Author of The Oz Books, The Sea Fairies
  and Other Tales

  [Illustration]

  Illustrated by Pauline M. Batchelder

  Publishers
  The Reilly & Britton Co.
  Chicago



  COPYRIGHT, 1911
  by
  The Reilly & Britton Co.

  THE DARING TWINS



CONTENTS


   CHAPTER                              PAGE

      I INTRODUCING THE DARINGS            9

     II PHIL INTERVIEWS THE LAWYER        17

    III BECKY GETS ACQUAINTED             32

     IV PHŒBE’S SECRET                    46

      V A MATCH GAME                      54

     VI HUNTING A JOB                     63

    VII THE COMING OF COUSIN JUDITH       74

   VIII THE “ARTICLES OF ADOPTION”        94

     IX PHŒBE HAS AN ADVENTURE           109

      X A DEPRESSING INTERVIEW           121

     XI GETTING REGULATED                127

    XII A BATTLE ROYAL                   145

   XIII PHIL MAKES A DISCOVERY           153

    XIV THE FOLLY OF GRAN’PA ELIOT       166

     XV SUE GETS A DIVORCE               173

    XVI THE BOAT RACE                    188

   XVII IN THE TOILS                     195

  XVIII A SISTER’S LOVE                  215

    XIX THE WAY OF THE TRANSGRESSOR      232

     XX ACCUSED                          242

    XXI SHIFTING THE BURDEN              251

   XXII MARION’S GHOST STORY             261

  XXIII TWO AND TWO MAKE FOUR            276

   XXIV TOBY CLARK’S HEROISM             290

    XXV FATHER AND SON                   298

   XXVI THE WATERMARK                    309



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


  “YOU’RE ELECTED ‘LITTLE MOTHER’”      _Frontispiece_

  SHE EAGERLY COUNTED THE GOLD                     166

  PHŒBE GLANCED AT HER CALMLY                      245

  “I HAVE A STORY TO RELATE,” SAID THE BANKER      302



The Daring Twins

CHAPTER I

INTRODUCING THE DARINGS


“Now you-all stop dat a-foolin’ an’ eat yo’ brekfas’ like sens’ble
chill’ns,” said Aunt Hyacinth, coming in with a plate of smoking cakes.
“Ef yo’ don’, yo’ done be late fo’ school, shore ’nuff.”

A ripple of laughter went around the group of five young Darings as a
scramble was made for the cakes.

“I don’t b’lieve I’ll go to school to-day, Auntie,” said Sue, a demure
little miss at the lower end of the table.

“Yes yo’ will, honey,” retorted the black mammy, in a voice she meant
to be severe. “Yo’ ’s goin’ to school, all of yo’, an’ I don’t ’tend
yous’ll be late, nuther.”

“I’m not going, for one,” declared Don, his mouth too full to speak
properly.

“Get some more cakes; will you, Aunt Hy?” requested Becky, in a
plaintive tone. “They snapped those up so quick I couldn’t harpoon a
single one.”

The faithful old servant pattered back to the kitchen, slid more
cakes from the griddle to her plate, poured on fresh batter and came
pattering back again.

“Yo’, now, Miss Sue; what’s dat I heah ’bout stayin’ home f’m school?”
she demanded, a frown wrinkling her ebony brow.

“That’s it, Auntie; no school for me,” said Sue, grabbing a cake with
her fork before Phœbe could reach the plate.

“But yo’ mus’, chile; yo’ ain’t sick. Yo’ _mus’_ go to school.”

“Not to-day. I jus’ won’t, Auntie.”

“Yes yo’ will, Miss Sue! yo’ ’ll go ef I has to lead yo’ dere by de ear
o’ you.”

Even Phil joined the laughter now, and he said in his grave yet
pleasant way:

“You’ll have to lead us all, then, Auntie, and there are more ears than
you have hands.”

Aunt Hyacinth seemed bewildered. She looked around the table, from
one to another of the bright, laughing faces, and shook her head
reproachfully.

Then Sue, having consumed the cake, leaned back in her chair, shook the
tangled brown curls from her face and slowly raised her long curling
lashes, until the mischievous eyes were unveiled and sent a challenge
to Auntie’s startled ones.

“We’re misbehavin’ _drea_’fully; ain’t we? But a fact’s a fact, Auntie.
We’re none of us goin’ to school--so there, now!”

“W’y, yo’--yo’--yo’--”

Sue sprang upon her chair and threw both arms around old Hyacinth’s
neck, giving the black cheek a smacking kiss.

“You big goose!” said she; “don’t you know it’s Sat’day? There _be_ n’t
no school.”

“Wha’ ’s ’at?” cried Auntie, striving to cover her humiliation at being
caught in such a foolish error. “Is dat a proper speechifyin’ to say
dere ‘_be_ n’t no school’? Where’s yo’ grammeh, Miss Sue? Don’ let me
heah yo’ say ‘be n’t’ agin. Say, ‘dere _hain’t_ no school.’”

Phœbe led the laughter this time; but, when it had subsided she said
to the indignant servant:

“She certainly does use awfully bad grammar, Auntie, and you’re quite
right to correct her. But, I’m positive that something’s burning in the
kitchen.”

Aunt Hyacinth made a dive for the door and let in a strong odor of
charred cakes as she passed through.

Phœbe got up from her place and walked to the latticed window.
Something attracted her attention outside, for she gave a little
start. Phil joined her just then and slipped his arm around her slim
waist. They were twins, these two, and the eldest of the five Darings.

“What is it, dear?” he asked.

“The people are moving in, across the way,” she said, rather sadly. “I
didn’t know they were expected so soon.”

There was a rush for the window, at this, but five heads were too many
for the space and the outlook was hindered by a mass of climbing ivy.
Don made for the porch, and the others followed him into the fresh
morning air.

For a while they all gazed silently at the great mansion across the
way, set in the midst of an emerald lawn. Men were carrying trunks in
at the side entrance. Before the door stood a carriage from which a
woman, a man, a girl and a boy had alighted. They were gazing around
them with some curiosity, for the scene was all new to them.

“Isn’t it funny,” whispered Becky, softly, “to think of other folks
living in our old home?”

“It isn’t ours, now,” said Don, testily; “so, what’s the odds?”

“It was sold last fall, soon after papa died,” remarked Phœbe, “and
this Mr. Randolph bought it. I suppose that’s him strutting across the
lawn--the stout gentleman with the cane.”

“The grounds seem more of an attraction to them than the house,”
remarked Phil.

“Yes, they’re fresh from the city,” answered his twin. “I’m rather
surprised they haven’t come to Riverdale before, to occupy their new
home.”

“Our house was sold ’cause we were poor, wasn’t it?” asked Sue.

“Yes, dear. We couldn’t afford to keep it, because poor papa left a
lot of debts that had to be paid. So we moved over here, to Gran’pa
Eliot’s.”

“Don’t like this place,” observed Don, his hands thrust deep in his
pockets, as he stared across the street. “It isn’t half as fine or cosy
as our old home.”

“It’s lucky for us that Gran’pa Eliot had a house,” returned Phil,
gravely. “And it’s lucky Mr. Ferguson induced him to let us live in it.”

“Guess gran’pa couldn’t help himself, being paralyzed like he is,” said
Becky.

“It’s the first thing he ever did for us, anyhow,” added Don,
grumblingly. “And he sticks to his room upstairs and won’t let us come
near him.”

“Do you want to visit gran’pa?” asked Phœbe, turning to her younger
brother.

“No.”

“Then don’t complain, dear, if he doesn’t want you. He’s old and
helpless; and as for helping us, I’m afraid gran’pa is almost as
poor as we are,” she said, her eyes still regarding, with wistful
earnestness, the scene across the street.

“Poor! Gran’pa Eliot poor, with this big house?” exclaimed Sue,
incredulously.

“I think so; I’m sure it’s so,” answered Phœbe. “Old Miss Halliday
asked me to keep you all from picking the fruit in the garden, when it
ripens; because, she says gran’pa has to sell it to get enough money to
pay taxes and his living expenses. And she gathers all the eggs from
the chickens and sells them to Mr. Wyatt, the grocer. That must mean
gran’pa’s pretty poor, you know.”

“Is old Miss Halliday any relation to us?” asked Don.

“No; she was an old servant of grandmother’s, before she died--her
housekeeper, I believe; and afterward, when gran’pa became paralyzed,
she took care of him.”

“She seems to run everything around this place as if she owned it,”
muttered the boy.

“She’s a very faithful woman,” observed Phil; “and a very disagreeable
one. I don’t know what gran’pa would have done without her. She gets
his meals and waits on him night and day.”

“Somehow,” said Becky, “I sort o’ hate her. She won’t let us into
any of the back rooms upstairs, though she and gran’pa can’t use all
of ’em; and she never comes near us unless she wants to jaw about
something we’ve done. I run a clothesline through the grass yesterday,
and tripped old Halliday up when she went to feed the chickens, and she
was as mad as anything.”

“I think she doesn’t care much for young people,” admitted Phœbe;
“and as none of us cares for her it’s just as well that we should live
apart--even if we occupy the same house. After all, my dears, we should
be grateful for being allowed so much room in this comfortable old
shack. We had no other place to go after our own home was sold.”

There was silence in the little group for a moment. Then Becky asked,
curiously:

“Where do we get the money to live on? We have to pay our own grocery
bills, don’t we?”

Phil started and looked upon his younger sister wonderingly, as if she
had suggested a new thought to him. Then he turned to Phœbe.

“There must have been a little money left,” he said. “It never occurred
to me before. I must ask Mr. Ferguson about it.”

Phœbe flushed a trifle, but looked down instead of meeting her
twin’s earnest gaze.

“_I’ve_ thought of it, Phil,” she replied, softly. “Whatever was left
after paying papa’s debts must have been little enough, and can’t last
forever. And then--”

Phil was regarding her with serious eyes. He glanced at the younger
ones and said quickly:

“Never mind. We haven’t suffered from poverty so far, have we? And
we won’t. We’ve Daring blood in our veins, and that means we can
accomplish anything we set out to do.”

Phœbe smiled and turned to reënter the house.

“Saturday is my busy day,” she remarked brightly. “I suppose you’re
going to practice for the baseball match, Phil?”

“Yes,” he said, “I promised the boys--” Then he stopped and shook his
head. “I don’t know yet what I’ll do, Phœbe,” he added. “Just now
I’ve an errand down town.”

He caught up his cap, kissed his twin and strode down the walk to
the gate. Phœbe cautioned the younger ones not to raise a racket
under Gran’pa Eliot’s window, but to keep in the front yard if they
were going to play. Then she stole softly away to her own little room
upstairs and locked herself in so as not to be disturbed.



CHAPTER II

PHIL INTERVIEWS THE LAWYER


Phil Daring walked toward the village with uneasy, nervous strides.
There was an anxious expression upon his usually placid face.

“Queer,” he muttered to himself, “that I never thought to ask how we’re
able to live. It costs money to feed five hungry youngsters; and where
does it come from, I wonder?”

The Eliot house was on the brow of a knoll and the street sloped
downward to the little village where the “business center” clustered
around the railway station. The river was just beyond, flowing sleepily
on its way to the gulf, and at Riverdale a long wooden bridge spanned
the murky water. It was a quiet, pretty little town, but had such a
limited population that every resident knew nearly everyone else who
lived there and kept fairly well posted on the private affairs of each
member of the community.

Wallace Daring, the father of the twins, had been the big man of
Riverdale before he died a few months ago. He had come to the town
many years before, when he was a young man, and built the great beet
sugar factory that had made all the farmers around so prosperous,
growing crops to supply it. Mr. Daring must have made money from the
business, for he married Jonathan Eliot’s daughter and established a
cosy home where Phil and Phœbe, and Donald and Becky were born.
Afterward he erected a splendid mansion that was the wonder and
admiration of all Riverdale. But no one envied Wallace Daring his
success, for the kindly, energetic man was everybody’s friend and very
popular with his neighbors.

Then began reverses. His well-beloved wife, the mother of his children,
was taken away from him and left him a lonely and changed man. He tried
to seek consolation in the society of his little ones; but in a brief
four years he himself met a sudden death in a railway wreck. Then, to
the amazement of all who knew him, it was discovered that his vast
fortune had been swept away and he was heavily in debt.

Judge Ferguson, his lawyer, was made his executor by the court and
proceeded to settle the estate as advantageously as he could; but
the fine mansion had to be sold. The five orphaned children lived in
their old home, cared for by honest, faithful Aunt Hyacinth, until two
months before the time this story begins, when a man from the East
named Randolph bought the place and the Darings moved over to their
grandfather’s old-fashioned but roomy and comfortable house across the
way.

Phil walked more slowly as he approached the business district. The
task he had set himself was an unpleasant one, but he felt that he must
face it courageously.

The boy’s father had been so invariably indulgent that Phil, although
now sixteen years of age, had never been obliged to think of financial
matters in any way. He was full of life and healthful vitality, and his
one great ambition was to prepare himself for college. His father’s
sudden death stunned him for a time, but he picked up the trend of
his studies again, after a little, and applied himself to work harder
than ever. Vaguely he realized that he must make a name and a fortune
for himself after graduating from college; but so far he had not been
called upon to consider the resources of the family. Mr. Ferguson had
attended to the settlement of his father’s estate, of which the boy
knew nothing whatever, and Aunt Hyacinth had cared for the house, and
got the meals and sent her five charges to school each day in ample
season. The lives of the young Darings had scarcely been interrupted
as yet by the loss of their father; although with him vanished every
tangible means of support. A chance word this morning, however, had
caused Phil to realize for the first time the fact that they were
really poor and dependent; and he knew it was his duty, as the eldest
of the family to find out what their exact circumstances were. In
reality he was not the eldest, for his twin sister, Phœbe, was five
minutes his senior; but Phil was a boy, and in his estimation that more
than made up for the five minutes’ difference in age and established
him as the natural protector of Phœbe, as well as of the other
children.

Down at “The Corners” the main residence street entered the one lying
parallel with the river, and around this junction the business center
of Riverdale was clustered, extending some two or more blocks either
way. The hotel was on one corner and Bennett’s general store on
another, while the opposite corners were occupied by the druggist and
the hardware store. Bennett’s was a brick structure and all the others
were frame, except Spaythe’s Bank, a block up the street. Between them
were rambling one story and two story wooden buildings, mostly old and
weather-beaten, devoted to those minor businesses that make up a town
and are required to supply the wants of the inhabitants, or of the
farmers who “came to town” to trade.

Between the post office and the hardware store was a flight of stairs
leading to offices on the second floor. These stairs Phil ascended and
knocked at a door bearing a small painted sign, the letters of which
were almost effaced by time, with the words: “P. Ferguson; Lawyer.”

No one answered the knock, so Phil opened the door and walked softly in.

It was a bare looking room. A few maps and a print of Abraham Lincoln
hung upon the cracked and discolored plaster of the walls. At one side
was a shelf of sheep-covered law books; in the center stood a big,
square table; beyond that, facing the window, was an old-fashioned desk
at which sat a man engaged in writing. His back was toward Phil; but
from the tousled snow white locks and broad, spreading ears the boy
knew he stood in the presence of his father’s old friend and confidant,
Judge Ferguson. His title of “Judge” was derived from his having been
for some years a Justice of the Peace, and it was, therefore, more
complimentary than official.

As Phil closed the door and stood hesitating, a voice said: “Sit down.”
The tone was quiet and evenly modulated, but it carried the effect of a
command.

Phil sat down. There was a little room connected with the big office,
in which sat a tow-headed clerk copying paragraphs from a law book.
This boy glanced up and, seeing who his master’s visitor was, rose and
carefully closed the door between them. Mr. Ferguson continued writing.
He had no idea who had called upon him, for he did not turn around
until he had leisurely completed his task, when a deliberate whirl of
his revolving office chair brought him face to face with the boy.

“Well, Phil?” said he, shooting from beneath the bushy overhanging
eyebrows a keen glance of inquiry.

“I--I wanted to have a little talk with you, sir,” returned Phil, a bit
embarrassed. “Are you very busy?”

“No. Fire ahead, my lad.”

“It’s about our--our family affairs,” continued the visitor, haltingly.

“What about them, Phil?”

“Why, I know nothing as to how we stand, sir. No one has told me
anything and I’ve been too thoughtless to inquire. But, I ought to
know, Mr. Ferguson--oughtn’t I?”

The judge nodded.

“You ought, Phil. I’ve been going to speak of it, myself, but waited to
see if you wouldn’t come here of your own accord. You, or Phœbe. In
fact, I rather expected Phœbe.”

“Why, sir?”

“You’re not a very practical youth, Phil. They say you’re a student,
and are trying for honors at the high school graduation next month.
Also, you’re the pitcher of the baseball team, and stroke oar for the
river crew. These things occupy all your time, it seems, as well they
may.”

Phil flushed red. There was an implied reproach in the old man’s words.

“Now, Phœbe is different,” continued the lawyer, leaning back in
his chair with his elbows on the arms and joining the tips of his
fingers together--a characteristic attitude. “Phœbe has a shrewd
little head, full of worldly common sense and practical, if womanly,
ideas. I’d a notion Phœbe would come to me to make these necessary
inquiries.”

Phil slowly rose. His face was now white with anger, yet his voice
scarcely trembled, as he said:

“Then, I’ll let her come to you. Good morning, sir.”

Mr. Ferguson nodded again.

“Yes,” he remarked, without altering his position, “my judgment of you
was correct. You’ll be a man some day, Phil, and a good one; but, just
now, you’re merely a stubborn, unformed boy.”

Phil paused with his hand on the knob of the door. To leave the office
at this juncture would be humiliating and unsatisfactory. His nature
was usually calm and repressed, and under excitement he had a way
of growing more quiet and thinking more clearly, which is exactly
the opposite of the usual formula with boys of his age. His strong
resentment at the frank speech of the old lawyer did not abate, but he
began to reason that a quarrel would be foolish, and if he intended to
satisfy the doubts that worried him he must ignore the slight cast upon
his character.

He laid down his hat and resumed his chair.

“After all, sir,” he said, “I’m the eldest boy and the head of the
family. It is my duty to find out how we stand in the world, and what
is necessary to be done to protect and care for my brother and sisters.”

“True enough, my lad,” rejoined the lawyer, in a hearty tone. “I’ll
help you all I can, Phil, for your father’s sake.”

“You administered the estate,” said the boy, “and you are still my
guardian, I believe.”

“Yes. Your father left no will, and the court appointed me administrator
and guardian. I’ve done the best I could to untangle the snarl Wallace
Daring left his business in, and the affairs of the estate are now
closed and the administrator discharged.”

“Was--was there anything left?” inquired Phil, anxiously.

“Your father was a wonderful man, Phil,” resumed the lawyer, with calm
deliberation, “and no doubt he made a lot of money in his day. But he
had one fault as a financier--he was too conscientious. I knew Wallace
Daring intimately, from the time he came to this town twenty years ago,
and he never was guilty of a crooked or dishonest act.”

Phil’s face brightened at this praise of his father and he straightened
up and returned the lawyer’s look with interest.

“Then there was nothing disgraceful in his failure, sir?”

“No hint of disgrace,” was the positive reply. “Daring made a fortune
from his sugar factory, and made it honestly. But three years ago all
the beet sugar industries of the country pooled their interests--formed
a trust, in other words--and invited your father to join them. He
refused, believing such a trust unjust and morally unlawful. They
threatened him, but still he held out, claiming this to be a free
country wherein every man has the right to conduct his business as he
pleases. I told him he was a fool; but I liked his sterling honesty.

“The opposition determined to ruin him, and finally succeeded. Mind
you, Phil, I don’t say Wallace Daring wouldn’t have won the fight had
he lived, for he was in the right and had a host of friends to back
him up; but his accidental death left his affairs in chaos. I had hard
work, as administrator, to make the assets meet the indebtedness. By
selling the sugar factory to the trust at a big figure and disposing of
your old home quite advantageously, I managed to clear up the estate
and get my discharge from the courts. But the surplus, I confess, was
practically nothing.”

Phil’s heart sank. He thought earnestly over this statement for a time.

“We--we’re pretty poor, then, I take it, sir?”

“Pretty poor, Phil. And it’s hard to be poor, after having enjoyed
plenty.”

“I can’t see that there’s any college career ahead of me, Mr.
Ferguson,” said the boy, trying to keep back the tears that rushed
unbidden to his eyes.

“Nor I, Phil. College is a fine thing for a young fellow, but under
some circumstances work is better.”

“Why didn’t you tell me this before, then?” demanded the boy,
indignantly.

“There was no use in discouraging you, or interrupting your work
at high school. I consider it is best for you to graduate there,
especially as that is liable to end your scholastic education. The
time is so near--less than three months--that to continue your studies
would make little difference in deciding your future, and the diploma
will be valuable to you.”

No one but Phil will ever know what a terrible disappointment he now
faced. For years his ambition, fostered by his father, had been to
attend college. All his boyish dreams had centered around making a
record there. Phil was a student, but not one of the self-engrossed,
namby-pamby kind. He was an athlete as well as a scholar, and led his
high school class in all manly sports. At college he had determined
to excel, both as a student and an athlete, and never had he dreamed,
until now, that a college career would be denied him.

It took him a few minutes to crowd this intense disappointment into
a far corner of his heart and resume the conversation. The lawyer
silently watched him, his keen gray eyes noting every expression that
flitted over the boy’s mobile features. Finally, Phil asked:

“Would you mind telling me just how much money was left, Mr. Ferguson?”

“The court costs in such cases are extremely high,” was the evasive
reply. The lawyer did not seem to wish to be explicit, yet Phil felt he
had the right to know.

“And there were your own fees to come out of it,” he suggested.

“My fees? I didn’t exact any, my lad. Your father was the best and
truest friend I ever had. I am glad I could do something to assist his
orphaned children. And, to be frank with you, Phil, I couldn’t have
squared the debts and collected legal fees at the same time, if I’d
wanted to.”

“I see,” returned Phil, sadly. “You have been very kind, Mr. Ferguson,
and we are all grateful to you, I assure you. But will you please tell
me how we have managed to live for the past eight months, since there
was nothing left from father’s estate?”

It was the lawyer’s turn to look embarrassed then. He rubbed his hooked
nose with one finger and ran the other hand through the thick mat of
white hair.

“Wallace Daring’s children,” said he, “had trouble enough, poor things,
without my adding to it just then. I’ve a high respect for old black
Hyacinth, Phil. The faithful soul would die for any one of you, if
need be. She belongs to the Daring tribe, mind you; not to the Eliots.
Your father brought her here when he was first married, and I think
she nursed him when he was a baby, as she has all his children. So I
took Aunt Hyacinth into my confidence, and let her manage the household
finances. A month ago, when the final settlement of the estate was
made, I turned over to her all the surplus. That’s what you’ve been
living on, I suppose.”

“How much was it?” asked the boy, bent on running down the fact.

“Forty dollars.”

“Forty dollars! For all our expenses! Why, that won’t last us till I
graduate--till I can work and earn more.”

“Perhaps not,” agreed the attorney, drily.

Phil stared at him.

“What ought I to do, sir? Quit school at once?”

“No. Don’t do that. Get your diploma. You’ll regret it in after life if
you don’t.”

“But--there are five of us, sir. The youngsters are hearty eaters, you
know; and the girls must have clothes and things. Forty dollars! Why,
it must have all been spent long ago--and more.”

Mr. Ferguson said nothing to this. He was watching Phil’s face again.

“It’s all so--so--sudden, sir; and so unexpected. I--I--” he choked
down a sob and continued bravely: “I’m not able to think clearly yet.”

“Take your time,” advised the lawyer. “There’s no rush. And don’t get
discouraged, Phil. Remember, you’re the head of the family. Remember,
there’s no earthly battle that can’t be won by a brave and steadfast
heart. Think it all over at your leisure, and consider what your father
might have done, had some whim of fortune placed him in your position.
Confide in Phœbe, if you like, but don’t worry the little ones. Keep
a stiff upper lip with your friends and playmates, and never let them
suspect you’re in trouble. The world looks with contempt on a fellow
who shows he’s downed. If he doesn’t show it, he _isn’t_ downed. Just
bear that in mind, Phil. And now run along, for I’ve a case to try in
half an hour, at the courthouse. If you need any help or advice, lad,”
he added, with gentle kindliness, “come to me. I was your father’s
friend, and I’m your legal guardian.”

Phil went away staggering like a man in a dream. His brain seemed in a
whirl, and somehow he couldn’t control it and make it think logically.
As he reached the sidewalk Al Hayden and Eric Spaythe ran up to him.

“We’ve been waiting for you, Phil,” said one. “Saw you go up to the
judge’s office.”

“Let’s hurry over to the practice field,” suggested the other, eagerly.
“The rest of our nine is there by this time, and we’ve got to get in
trim for the match this afternoon.”

Phil stared, first at one face and then the other, trying to
understand what they were talking about.

“If we’re beaten by Exeter to-day,” continued Al, “we’ll lose the
series; but we won’t let ’em beat us, Phil. Their pitcher can’t hold a
candle to you, and we’ve got Eric for shortstop.”

“How’s your arm, Phil?” demanded Eric.

They had started down the street as they talked, and Phil walked with
them. Gradually, the mist began to fade from his mind and he came back
to the practical things of life. “If a fellow doesn’t show it, he
_isn’t_ downed,” the shrewd old lawyer had said, and Phil knew it was
true.

“My arm?” he replied, with a return of his usual quiet, confident
manner; “it’s fit as anything, boys. We’ll beat Exeter to-day as sure
as my name’s Phil Daring.”



CHAPTER III

BECKY GETS ACQUAINTED


Meantime Becky, Donald and Sue had maintained their interest in the new
neighbors, and partly concealed by the vines that covered the porch
were able to watch every movement across the way.

“Isn’t it a shame,” said Don, “to have them walk into our old home that
father built, and use the pretty furniture that mother bought in the
city, and have all the good things that _we_ used to have?”

“Wonder who’s got my room,” mused Sue. “If it’s that yellow haired girl
yonder, I could scratch her eyes out.”

“She’s about my age,” asserted Becky, gazing hard at the fairylike form
of the new arrival. “I hope she’s ’spectable an’ decent, an’ won’t try
to be bossy.”

“They’re from New York,” added Sue. “I jus’ hate New York folks.”

“How do you know they’re from New York?” demanded Don.

“Somebody said so. Oh, it was Lil Harrington; her father once knew ’em.”

The elders had entered the house by this time, and the carriage and
baggage wagon had driven away. The girl and boy, about fourteen and
twelve years of age, were walking with mincing steps about the grounds,
examining the shrubbery and flowers and, as Don said, evidently “taking
stock” of their new possessions.

“That fellow,” Don added, “is a snob. I can see that from here. He
wears a velvet suit, and it’s _braided_. Think of that, girls!”

“Let’s go over and talk to ’em,” suggested Becky. “We can show ’em the
stables, an’ where we kept the rabbits an’ guinea pigs, an’ how to
climb the pear-tree.”

“Not me!” exclaimed Don, scornfully.

“We’ve got to know ’em sometime,” retorted his sister, “bein’ as we’re
next door neighbors. And it’s polite for us to make the first call.”

“They’re usurpers,” declared Don. “What right had they to buy our old
house? They’ll get no politeness out o’ me, Beck, if they live here a
thousand years.”

The boy and girl opposite came down the lawn and stood at the entrance
of the driveway, looking curiously down the wide village street, shaded
with its avenue of spreading trees.

“Come on, Sue,” said Becky. “Don’t be cross to-day, anyhow. Let’s go
and talk to our neighbors.”

But Sue drew back, shaking her curls, positively.

“I don’t like ’em, Becky. They--they’re not our style, I’m ’fraid. You
can go--if you dare.”

One thing Becky couldn’t do, was to “take a dare.” She was not really
anxious to make the pilgrimage alone, but having suggested it, she
turned a comical look upon the others and said:

“All right. Here goes.”

Don gave a snort of disdain and Sue laughed. It would be fun to watch
their reckless sister and see what she did.

Becky Daring was not the beauty of the family, by any means. Her hair
was a glaring, painful red; her face long, thin and freckled; her nose
inclined to turn upward. But Becky’s hazel eyes were splendid and
sparkled so continuously with humor and mischief that they won for her
more smiles and friendly words than she really deserved. Auntie had
despaired long ago of trying to make Becky look neat and tidy, and at
fourteen she was growing so fast that she shot out of her gowns as if
by magic, and you could always see more of her slim legs and sunburned
wrists than was originally intended. She was not dainty, like little
Sue, nor calm and composed like beautiful Phœbe; but Becky enjoyed
life, nevertheless, and had a host of friends.

One of her shoes became untied as she crossed the road to where the
Randolph children stood. She placed her foot on the stone coping at the
sidewalk and, as she fastened the knot, said with her slow Southern
drawl:

“Good mawnin’. I s’pose you’re our new neighbors.”

The boy and girl, standing side by side, looked at her solemnly.

“Come to stay, I guess, haven’t you?” continued Becky, inspecting them
carefully at close range.

“Come away, Doris,” said the boy, taking his sister’s hand. “It is some
common village child. I am sure mamma won’t care to have us know her.”

Becky threw back her head with a merry laugh.

“Don was right, you know,” she said, nodding. “He sized you up in a
jiffy, an’ from ’way over there, too,” indicating the porch from whence
she had come.

“Who is Don, pray?” asked Doris, in quiet, ladylike tones; “and in what
way was he right?”

“Don’s my brother,” was the reply; “an’ he jus’ gave one squint at
_your_ brother an’ said he was a snob.”

“Me--a snob!” cried the boy, indignantly.

“That’s what he said. Funny how he spotted you so quick, isn’t it?”

“Come, Doris. It is an insult,” he said, his face growing red as he
tugged at Doris’ hand.

“Wait a moment, Allerton; we must return good for evil. Evidently the
poor child does not know she has been rude,” remarked the girl, primly.

Becky gave a gasp of astonishment.

“Child!” she echoed. “I’m as old as you are, I’ll bet a cookie.”

“In years, perhaps,” answered Doris. “But, permit me to state that
your brother was wrong. Having been bred in this simple, out of the
way village, he does not understand the difference between a gentleman
and a snob. Nor do you realize the rudeness of accosting strangers
without a proper introduction, repeating words designed to injure their
feelings. I am not blaming you for what you do not know, little girl; I
am merely trying to point out to you your error.”

Becky sat plump down upon the sidewalk and stared until her great eyes
seemed likely to pop out of their sockets. Then, suddenly seeing the
humor of the situation, she smiled her sunny, amiable smile and hugging
her knees with both arms said:

“I got it that time--right in the Adam’s apple, where it belonged. My
compliments to Miss Doris Randolph,” rising to drop a mock curtsy.
“I’ve mislaid my cardcase somewhere, but allow me to present Miss
Rebecca Daring, of Riverdale, who resides on the opposite corner. When
you return my call I hope you’ll find me out.”

“Wait!” cried Doris, as Becky turned to fly. “Did you say Daring?”

“I said Daring, my child,” with great condescension.

“The Daring family that used to live here, in this place?”

“The same Darings, little girl.”

“Forgive me if I seemed supercilious,” said Doris, earnestly. “I--I
mistook you for a common waif of the village, you know. But mamma says
the Darings are an excellent family.”

“Score one for mamma, then. She hit the bull’s-eye,” returned Becky,
lightly. But, the recognition of her social position was too flattering
to be ignored.

Said Allerton, rather sourly:

“Is that fellow who called me a snob a Daring, too?”

“He is Donald Ellsworth Daring,” replied Becky, with pride. “But he may
have been wrong, you know. You’ll have a chance to prove it when we
know you better.”

That gracious admission mollified the boy, somewhat.

“You see,” continued Becky in a more genial tone, “I can’t stay dressed
up all the time, ’cause we’re slightly impecunious--which means shy
of money. If it hadn’t been for that we’d not have sold our house and
moved over to Gran’pa Eliot’s. In that case, you’d never have had the
pleasure of my acquaintance.”

Doris looked across the street to the rambling old mansion half hid by
its trees and vines. In front were great fluted pillars that reached
beyond the second story, and supported a porch and an upper balcony.

“You live in a much more beautiful house than the one papa has bought,”
she said, rather enviously.

“What! that old shack?” cried Becky, amazed.

“Yes. Mamma and I hunted all over this part of the state to find one
of those old Colonial homesteads; but none was for sale. So, we were
obliged to take this modern affair,” tossing a thumb over her shoulder.

“Modern affair! By cracky, I should think it was,” retorted Miss
Daring, indignantly. “It cost a lot more money than Gran’pa Eliot’s
place ever did.”

“Of course,” agreed Doris, with a slight smile. “The accident of
wealth will enable anyone to build a much more palatial house than
this. But only the accident of birth, it seems, enables one to occupy a
splendid old Southern homestead.”

Becky regarded the speaker with wonder.

“You’re from the No’th?” she inquired.

“Yes. Our family is old, too; perhaps as aristocratic as that of your
Grandfather Eliot. We are from Boston.”

“L-a-w--zee! I believe you are,” declared Becky. “I knew a Boston girl
once, who was even more proper an’ ridic’lous in her ways than you are;
but she died of a cold in the head, poor thing.”

“A cold?”

“Yes. Mortification set in, ’cause she couldn’t pronounce all the big
words proper, on account o’ the cold.” Noticing a resentful look creep
over Doris’ face, she hastened to add: “But that don’t count, you know.
What really s’prises me is that you think Gran’pa Eliot’s shack is
finer than our beautiful old home. I guess that as soon as Noah’s flood
faded away Gran’pa Eliot’s house was built, it’s so blamed old.”

“Dear me!” said Doris, in seeming distress, “I wish you wouldn’t speak
disrespectfully of Bible history.”

“What’s Bible history?” asked the astonished Becky.

“The flood God sent to punish a wicked world.”

“Oh, _that_;” with much relief. “I thought you were in earnest, at
first.”

“My sister,” explained Allerton Randolph, with dignity, “is very
religiously inclined.”

“Are you?” asked Becky, curiously.

“Yes, dear. I am trying to live my daily life in conformance with the
highest religious principles. So it hurts me to hear sacred things
spoken of lightly.”

Becky regarded this prim young lady with a sudden access of shyness.
She felt that a gulf had opened between them that never could be
bridged. Allerton, studying her face, saw the effect of his sister’s
announcement and said in his serious way:

“Doris takes her religious ideas from our mother, who is interested
in charities and foreign missions. She has exhausted her strength and
undermined her health in this unselfish work, and that is why we have
come to the country to live. Neither father nor I have much religious
inclination.”

“Oh, Allerton!”

“It’s true, Doris. Father detests it with all his heart, and says our
mother has ruined his home for a lot of naked niggers in Africa; but
I’m more--more--”

“Tolerant, I suppose you mean. But you must not convey a wrong
impression of our father to Miss Daring. He merely regrets our mother’s
excessive devotion to the cause. He does not hate religion, in the
abstract.”

Becky had never been so astonished in her life. Here was a boy of
Don’s age and a girl of about her own years discussing religion with
the utmost gravity, and using such “nifty” language that it positively
shocked her. Again she realized that there could be nothing in common
between the youthful Randolphs and the tribe of Daring; but, she had
determined to be gracious to these strangers and so she stifled a sigh
of regret and said:

“If you like, I’ll show you over the stables, and where we played
circus back of the harness room, and Phil’s rabbit warren, and how to
climb the pear-tree in the garden without breaking your neck, and--”

“Thank you very much,” interrupted Doris; “but, we are not interested
in vulgar romps of that character; are we, Allerton?”

“They--they sound rather interesting,” he submitted, eyeing Becky a
little wistfully.

“Perhaps, for village children,” returned the girl, haughtily. “But
although we are now living in the country we should remember our
breeding and try to instill some of our native culture into these
primitive surroundings, rather than sink our refinement to the level of
the community.”

“L-a-w--zee!” cried Becky, again. Then, in spite of her effort to be
“good” she laughed in Doris’ face, bobbing her frouzled red head up and
down as peal after peal of genuine merriment burst from her slim throat.

Allerton frowned and Doris looked grieved and sad. Positively, this
country girl was laughing at their expense.

“I--I can’t help it!” chuckled Becky, trying to control herself.
“It’s--it’s too good to keep. I must go an’ tell the kids before I--I
bust with it all! Bye-bye, Doris. See you again soon. ‘Or river,’
Allerton! Guess I’ll call you Al. Come over an’ get acquainted.”

She had backed away one step at a time, still bubbling with hysterical
laughter that she could not control, and at the final words turned and
dashed across the street like mad, her thin legs twinkling beneath her
short skirts.

“Well,” said Don, as Becky threw herself down upon the porch and shook
with an abandon of glee; “tell us the joke, Beck. What’s happened?”

“Oh, dear! oh, dear!” was all the reply.

“Are they nice?” inquired Sue, squatting in a rustic chair and
swinging her legs, as she calmly surveyed her sister.

“Nice? Sue, they’re the funniest kids you ever heard of,” gasped Becky,
her eagerness to talk stifling the spasms of merriment. “They ain’t New
Yorkers--not a bit--they’re Bostoners! Think of that. It would kill you
to hear ’em talk. They’re as full of culture as an egg is of meat; an’
_langwidge!_--say, folks, it’s something awful.”

“I guessed as much,” said Don, with a grin. “But, I’m glad they’re not
our kind. I wouldn’t care to go over to our old house and play with the
usurpers. Let’s shut ’em out, for good and all.”

“Oh, they’ll shut us out, I s’pect,” remarked Becky, wiping her eyes on
her gingham sleeve. “You ought to have seen ’em stick up their noses at
me till they found out I was a Daring. Then they put on so many airs it
was disgust’n’.”

“Seems to me,” said Sue, shaking away her troublesome curls and looking
thoughtfully at her sprawling, ungainly sister, “they’re ’zactly the
sort we ought to ’sociate with. If you could rub a little culture off’n
’em, dear, it wouldn’t hurt you a bit.”

“Nor you, either, Sue,” laughed Don. “If you pronounced English that
way in Boston, they’d jail you.”

“_Now_ who’s a snob, Don?” asked Sue, indignantly. “No one’s s’posed to
pernounce ev’ry measley letter the dicsh’naries chuck into a word, is
they?”

“Oh, Sue!” said Becky; “your grammar is as bad as your pernunciation.
I mus’ look afteh your education, myself. Those Randolph kids are a
revelation to me; and, honest injun, I’m somewhat ashamed of myself.
We’re going wrong, all of us, since mother died,” with a sigh and a
catch in her voice, “an’ need to be jerked into line.”

She said this in sober earnestness, remembering the sweet, gentle
mother who had labored so hard to keep her flock from straying, and
whose loss had permitted them to wander as their natural, untamed
instincts dictated.

“Mother,” said Don in tender accents, “was a lady to her finger tips,
and wanted her girls and boys to grow up to be ladies and gentlemen. I
try to do as she’d like to have me, whenever I think of it; but, that
isn’t very often.”

“You’re a cross-patch,” asserted Sue; “and I’ve heard teacher say that
you’re the worst scholar in the school. You don’t mind Phœbe any
more’n a fly minds sugar.”

“Phœbe isn’t my boss,” retorted Don, resentfully. But, the next
moment his frown softened, and he added: “Anyhow, I try to be decent,
and that’s more than some of the family do.”

“Meanin’ me?” asked Becky, defiantly.

“You’re fourteen, and almost a woman; yet you act like a kindergarten
kid. I’ll leave it to anyone if I’m not more dignified ’n’ respectable
than you are; and I won’t be thirteen ’til next month.”

“You’re old for your years, Don; and it’s lucky that you can find any
good in yourself, for nobody else can!” remarked Becky, complacently.



CHAPTER IV

PHŒBE’S SECRET


“Let’s get some pails and go to the woods for blackberries,” suggested
Sue, posing as peacemaker. “P’raps Auntie’ll make us a pie for dinner.”

“Can’t,” said Don. “I promised old Miss Halliday I’d make her a chicken
coop. Another hen is hatching out and there’s no coop to put her in.”

“All right, I’ll help you,” exclaimed Becky, jumping up. “You saw the
boards, Don, and I’ll hammer the nails.”

“Can’t you saw?”

“Not straight; but, I’m game to try it.”

A rush was made for the back yard, and Don searched the shed for some
old boards to use in making the coop for the expected flock. When the
saw and hammer began to be heard Miss Halliday came down from Gran’pa
Eliot’s room and stood watching them, her finger on her lips to caution
them to be as quiet as possible.

She was old and withered, lean and bent; but her small black eyes
still twinkled brightly. Miss Halliday seldom spoke to the Daring
children and had as little to do with them as possible. She was
virtually the autocrat of the establishment, for old Mr. Eliot was
paralyzed and almost speechless. It is true he could mumble a few
words at times, but no one seemed able to understand them, except his
constant nurse and attendant.

Miss Halliday had been with the Eliots since she was a young woman. She
was Gran’ma Eliot’s maid, at first, then the housekeeper, and after
Mrs. Eliot’s death and her master’s paralytic stroke, the sole manager
of the establishment and a most devoted servant. In person she was
exceedingly neat, although she dressed very simply. She was noted in
Riverdale for her thrift and shrewd bargaining. They called her miserly
until it came to be generally understood that Mr. Eliot’s money was
gone; then the merchants respected her careful management of the old
man’s finances.

Why Elaine Halliday stuck to her post, under such unpleasant
conditions, had puzzled more than one wise head in the village. Some
said that Jonathan Eliot had willed her the homestead in return for her
services; others, that the frugal stewardess was able to save more than
her wages from the reputed wreck of the Eliot fortunes, which had once
been considered of enormous extent. Only a very few credited her with
an unselfish devotion to her old master.

After the death of his daughter, Mrs. Daring, and just before his
own paralytic stroke, Mr. Eliot had had a stormy interview with his
son-in-law, Wallace Daring; but, no one except Elaine Halliday knew
what it was about. Twenty-four hours later the irascible old man was
helpless, and when Phœbe hurried over to assist him he refused to
see her or any of his grandchildren. Mr. Daring, a kindly, warm-hearted
man, had been so strongly incensed against his father-in-law that
he held aloof in this crisis, knowing old Elaine would care for the
stricken man’s wants. All this seemed to indicate that the rupture
between the two men could never be healed.

After the Daring children had been left orphans and reduced to poverty,
Judge Ferguson went to Miss Halliday and pleaded with her to intercede
with Jonathan Eliot to give the outcasts a home. The big house was then
closed except for a few rooms on the second floor, where the invalid
lay awaiting his final summons. There was more than enough room for the
Darings, without disturbing the invalid in the least.

At first, the old woman declared such an arrangement impossible; but,
Mr. Ferguson would not be denied. He had been Mr. Eliot’s lawyer, and
was the guardian of the Darings. If anyone knew the inner history
of this peculiar family it was Peter Ferguson. For some reason Miss
Halliday had been forced to withdraw her objections; she even gained
the morose invalid’s consent to “turn his house into an orphan asylum,”
as she bitterly expressed it. The Darings were to be allowed the entire
lower floor and the two front bedrooms upstairs; but they were required
to pay their own expenses. Elaine declared that it was all she could do
to find money enough to feed Gran’pa Eliot his gruel and pay the taxes
on the place.

A powerful antipathy, dating back many years, existed between Miss
Halliday and the Darings’ black servant, Aunt Hyacinth. During the
two months since the Darings had found refuge in the old house not a
word had been exchanged between them. But the black mammy, as much
the protector of the orphans as Miss Halliday was of their grandsire,
strove to avoid trouble and constantly cautioned her flock not to
“raise a racket an’ ’sturb poeh gran’pa.” As for the children, they
stood so much in awe of the invalid that they obeyed the injunction
with great care.

It was not often that Miss Halliday asked the boys to assist her in
any way; but, occasionally Phil or Don would offer to do odd jobs about
the place when they were not in school.

“It seems like helping to pay the rent,” said Phil, with a laugh, “and
as gran’pa quarreled with father I hate to be under obligations to him.
So, let’s do all we can to help old Miss Halliday. She has enough to
worry her, I’m sure.”

That was why Don set about making the chicken coop this Saturday
morning, as he had promised to do, and why Becky and Sue were eager to
assist him. The saw was dull, and that made the sawing the hard part
of the work until Becky declared she could handle the tool much better
than her brother--even if she couldn’t manage to keep on the marked
line. He let her try, and then scolded her--and jeered her attempts. A
row started very promptly and a struggle began for the possession of
the saw, ending by Don’s snatching it away and drawing the jagged teeth
across the palm of Becky’s hand. She let go with a scream of pain and
the blood spurted forth in a manner to frighten them all.

Don tried to tie his handkerchief over the wound, but with a wail of
anguish Becky turned and fled into the house and up the front stairway
to the door of Phœbe’s room, leaving a red trail behind her as she
went.

“Quick, Phœbe--I’m murdered! Let me in before I die,” she shouted,
kicking at the door as she squeezed the wounded hand with the other.

A key turned in the lock and the door flew open.

Phœbe stared a moment at her sister’s white face and noted the
stream of blood. Then she drew Becky into the room without a word and
led her to the washbasin. She bathed the wound freely with cold water,
applied a healing lotion and bandaged the hand, neatly. It was a broad,
jagged cut, but not deep. Phœbe knew that it was not a serious
wound, but it would be very sore and lame for several days to come.

Becky, trembling with nervousness and weak from fright and the sight of
blood, tottered to a lounge and sank down among the cushions.

“How did it happen, dear?” Phœbe now asked.

Becky related the incident with dramatic details until her eyes fell
upon a table drawn before the window and covered with papers, among
which rested an imposing looking machine.

“Jumpin’ jooks, Phœbe!” she exclaimed; “it’s a typewriter. Where on
earth did it come from?”

Phœbe flushed and for a moment looked distressed.

“I rented it,” she replied. “It’s a great secret, Becky, and you must
promise not to tell anyone.”

“Can you run it? Have you had lessons?” asked the younger girl, sitting
up in her eagerness and forgetting her affliction for a time.

“I’ve taught myself,” said Phœbe. “It is not very hard to learn. At
first, you know, I made lots of mistakes; but, now I do very well. I’ve
had it almost six months, and every Saturday I typewrite all day.”

“But why? What are you copying?” demanded Becky, going to the table and
looking down at the piles of manuscript.

“It is a book of sermons that Doctor Huntley is preparing for a
publisher. He is too busy to do it himself, so he gave me the job.
I get ten cents a page, and I’ve copied nearly four hundred pages
already.”

“My!” cried Becky; “what a lot of money! Whatever will you do with it,
dear?”

Phœbe smiled a little sadly, but put her arm around her sister and
kissed her, affectionately.

“That’s a part of my secret, dear, and you mustn’t ask me. You’ll not
mention the typewriter, Becky--nor anything I’ve told you? I don’t want
Phil or the children to know.”

“Trust me!” returned Becky, delighted to share so important a secret
with her elder. Then, she remembered her sore hand and lay down upon
the couch again, while Phœbe, having once more locked the door,
resumed her work.

It was dinner time when Don finished the chicken coop and helped Miss
Halliday to move the hen and her newly hatched brood into it. There had
been sundry quarrels between him and Sue, who accused him of “spilling
Becky’s heart’s blood,” but now the girl was so fascinated by the fuzzy
chicks that she was loth to leave them, when Auntie called her to the
midday meal.

Phil came in, flushed with his exertions on the ball field, but
unusually glum and serious. He found no time for his proposed talk with
Phœbe then, for as soon as dinner was over he was obliged to put on
his baseball uniform and hurry to the ground, where the important match
game with the Exeter nine was to take place.

“Any of you coming to the game?” he inquired.

“We’re all coming,” declared Becky, who now posed as a heroine because
of her hurt. But, Phœbe shook her head and smiled.

“I shall be too busy at home, Phil,” she said; “but the others may go.”

He gave her a quick, curious look, but said nothing more.



CHAPTER V

A MATCH GAME


For a long time there had been great rivalry between the ball teams of
Riverdale and Exeter; the latter, a small town lying five miles inland,
where there was a boys’ preparatory school. This year each had won five
games out of a series of ten, and the extra game to be played to-day
was to decide the championship. The Riverdale high school captain, Al
Hayden, the druggist’s son, had picked his team with great care for
this important occasion, and Phil had been chosen pitcher.

The ball grounds were just outside of the village, and not only were
the people of Riverdale there in large numbers, but the crowd was
augmented by farmers from the surrounding country who had come in
for their Saturday trading and took advantage of the opportunity to
see a good ball game. Several wagon loads of “fans” from Exeter also
rode over in the wake of the bus that carried their ball players, to
participate in the fun and excitement.

All classes of people occupied the “bleachers.” Merchants, lawyers and
even two liberal minded ministers of the gospel were among them, while
Judge Ferguson strolled over as the game commenced, accompanied by his
pretty daughter, Janet, to see how Phil conducted himself. The Randolph
children were plebeian enough to attend; the manager of the mill was
there, and all the small Darings, except Phœbe, eagerly awaited the
contest.

There was a stand where red lemonade was sold, and boys carried around
baskets of peanuts and popcorn to refresh the audience. Nearly every
high school in town had thought it her duty to be present, and their
bright ribbons and dresses added a picturesque element to the scene.

Phil Daring appeared as composed as ever, when he entered the arena
with his comrades; but, never for a moment, since his interview with
Mr. Ferguson had his mind been free from grief, humiliation and bitter
disappointment. He nodded and smiled as the throng greeted him with
hearty cheers; yet all the time he was thinking to himself: “My days of
fun and freedom are nearly over now. I must give up college, for good
and all, and settle down somewhere to make a living and help support
the children. I don’t know what I can do, I’m sure, that will earn the
needed money. No one in Riverdale needs any help such as I can give,
and I’m not experienced enough to be of much service in a big city. It
will be a hard fight, with all the chances against me; but I’ve got to
undertake it and make a go of it.”

These and similar thoughts flooded his mind to the exclusion of all
else. Mechanically, he tossed the ball in practice, and when time
was called he took his position in the pitcher’s box with scarcely a
realization of what he was doing.

A sudden silence fell upon the throng as Phil pressed the new ball into
his palm, drew back with his well-known easy swing and sent the sphere
flying through the air. There followed a low murmur that sounded like
a groan as the ball flew wide and smashed against the back-stop. Some
of the Exeter people laughed. But Phil was unaware of either moans or
laughter. He was thinking of something else more important. Getting
the ball again, he made another toss and the batter caught it with a
full blow and sent it flying into the field for a two-bagger. Al Hayden
looked grave at this but said nothing. Phil was Riverdale’s crack
pitcher, as a rule; but, perhaps he hadn’t his hand in yet.

As the game progressed, however, it was evident to all that Phil Daring
had “fallen down” and was pitching a miserable game. The Exeters
had six runs to the best of it at the end of the sixth inning and
the prospects for the Riverdale nine’s being able to even the score
were decidedly gloomy. Phil had been equally unsuccessful at the bat,
“fanning out” whenever his turn came.

It was unwise to risk the winning of the game by allowing Daring to
play any longer. Al Hayden hurriedly consulted with his mates and then
called Phil aside.

“I’m sorry, old man,” he said; “but, you don’t seem fit, to-day, and
we’re bound to lose unless we make a desperate effort. Take the bench,
and I’ll put Eric in to pitch--and Jed Hopkins in Eric’s place.”

Phil gave a sudden start and drew his hand across his forehead, as
the full import of the words was understood. Retired? Retired and
discredited at this important juncture! Why, he never would be able to
hold up his head in Riverdale again, and all the honors he had formerly
won on the field would be wiped away by this disgrace.

“What’s wrong with me, Al?” he asked, anxiously.

“I don’t know, Phil; but something’s wrong. Look at that score--eight
to two!--and only three more innings to play. You are usually our
stand-by, old fellow; but, to-day you’re the only one of the nine who
hasn’t been up to scratch, and fighting to win. I’ve been watching you,
and you seem dazed, somehow. Have the Exeter fellows scared you?”

“No,” was the reply. The score, now noticed for the first time,
positively startled him. Aroused from his dreams at last he begged Al
to try him for another inning.

“Just one,” he pleaded. “Eric can’t pitch as well as I can, I’m sure,
and if I don’t make good you can pull me out any time.”

Al hesitated, sighed, and then consented. He really despaired now of
winning the game and was so fond of Phil that he hated to humiliate him.

But the conference had been noted by the discontented Riverdale
audience and people began to shout: “Take him out!” “Put Daring on the
shelf!” “Phil’s gone bad to-day!” and other similar remarks that made
Phil straighten up and walk to his station with an air of resolve.

Groans and hoots greeted him, but he never wavered. The first batter to
face him, one of the crack Exeter players, struck out, and the crowd
ceased their jibes. The next man made a “pop-up” which Phil cleverly
caught, and a gentle murmur of applause, mostly from the women,
rewarded him. The third man also struck out, and then the crowd forgot
its grievance against the young pitcher and gave a hearty cheer.

“Why didn’t he do that, before?” grumbled Judge Ferguson, who had been
greatly annoyed at Phil’s poor showing.

“He hasn’t seemed himself, to-day,” replied Janet, with friendly
generosity. “It occurred to me that he had heard bad news, or perhaps
is not well. Really, papa, I’m not sure that Phil knew he was playing
ball, till just now.”

The old lawyer nodded. He knew very well, now that Janet shrewdly
called his attention to it, what had doubtless depressed his young
friend, and occupied his mind.

“He seems all right now,” he remarked with a sympathetic sigh. “That
last inning he played all by himself.”

Indeed, Phil’s record of three “put-outs” unassisted, inspired his
fellows with renewed confidence in him. Al Hayden went to bat and made
a two-bagger. Toby Clark, Mr. Ferguson’s office clerk, got first base
on balls. The next batter struck out, but the one following stepped up
to the plate and pounded out a clean hit that filled the bases. It was
Phil’s turn now, and he realized the full importance of the crisis.
Usually a pitcher is not a very good batter; yet, until to-day Phil
had been considered an exception to this rule. So far in the game,
however, his bat had never once touched a ball.

The spectators were thrilled by the excitement of the moment, but
expected young Daring to strike out and let the next man, a reliable
player, bring in some of the men on bases.

But Phil’s face was set and determined. He had not yet redeemed
himself. Having well-nigh lost the game for his team by his poor
showing, it now behooved him to save the day if he could. No thought
now engaged his mind, but this; he was living in the present--not in
the future. With watchful eye he followed the approaching ball on its
course, and at the proper time struck shrewdly with might and main.

High in the air rose the sphere, describing a perfect arch. With one
accord the spectators rose in their seats to watch the ball as it
sailed over the back fence, giving the batter a home run and bringing
in the three other men.

When the mighty cheer that rent the air had subsided the score was six
to eight, instead of eight to two.

In the eighth and ninth innings Phil pitched so well that no runs were
added by the Exeter team, while the Riverdales made one tally in each
inning and tied the score.

The excitement was now intense. Each team formerly had five games to
its credit, and in the present decisive game each side had scored eight
runs. An extra inning must be played to determine the championship.

The boys on both sides settled down to do their level best. Phil was
perfectly calm and confident. He struck out two and Al caught a long,
high fly that retired Exeter with a “goose-egg.” Then the Riverdale
team came to bat and the first two--poor Al one of them--went out in
short order. But when Phil again came to bat the opposing pitcher lost
his nerve, remembering that famous home run. The result was a long
drive that landed Daring on third, and the next batter, Jed Hopkins,
brought him home, winning the game and the series.

The Riverdale crowd was in an ecstasy of delight and cheered until it
was hoarse. Phil’s wonderful playing during the final three innings had
fully redeemed him in the eyes of his friends and a dozen young fellows
leaped into the arena and hoisted him upon their shoulders, carrying
him from the field in triumph. Even the defeated Exeters good-naturedly
joined in the applause, while Becky and Sue sobbed with joy at the
honors being showered upon their big brother.

“Wasn’t Phil splendid?” exclaimed Janet, as she followed her father
from the grand stand.

The old lawyer nodded thoughtfully.

“Yes,” said he, “the lad has a wonderful amount of reserve force, which
makes him a good uphill fighter. He reminded me of his father, during
that last rally. If Phil Daring has only half the pluck and backbone
that Wallace Daring possessed, I predict he’ll some day make his mark
in the world.”

“Yet Mr. Daring died poor,” suggested Janet.

“True, my dear; and that was because he died. Had he lived, it would
have been a different story.”



CHAPTER VI

HUNTING A JOB


When Phil managed to shake off his enthusiastic friends and return to
his home, he found that Phœbe had gone out. Entering the kitchen
to ask Aunt Hyacinth where his sister was, he found the black mammy
preparing the supper.

“Don’ know whar she am, Marse Phil, I’se shuah,” she said. “But Miss
Phœbe’s sartin to be back ’fo’ long.”

Phil turned to go; then he paused, and after a moment’s thought
inquired:

“Auntie, who pays our grocery bills?”

“I do, chile,” she answered, giving him an odd look.

“And where do you get the money?” he continued.

Auntie was beating eggs for a custard. She pretended not to hear him.
Phil repeated the question.

“Marse Ferg’son done gi’ me a lot,” said she, in a matter of course
way.

“Forty dollars, I believe,” the boy rejoined, rather bitterly.

“Mo’ ’n dat, honey; lots mo’.”

“When?”

“’Fore we shifted oveh to dis yeah house. Den he done guv me fohty
dollehs mo’, an’ said dat were all dere was left. But I guess it’ll do,
all right.”

“Auntie,” said Phil, taking both her hands and looking her squarely in
the eyes, “tell me truly; is any of that last forty dollars left?”

A look of genuine distress crossed her honest face.

“No, honey,” she admitted, in a low voice.

“Then, where does the money come from that we’re living on now?”

“H--m. Miss Phœbe done guv it to me.”

“Phœbe!”

“Miss Phœbe; shuah.”

“Where could Phœbe get any money?” he inquired, wonderingly.

“Yo’ haf to ask heh, I guess, Marse Phil.”

He reflected a moment.

“Auntie, you’re keeping something from me; something I ought to know;
and it isn’t right to treat me so,” he declared.

She made no reply to this.

“Phœbe hasn’t any money; or, if she’s been trying to earn some, it
must be mighty little. See here: I’ll finish school next week, and then
I’m going to take care of the family myself, and look after things.
Don’t you know I’m the head of the Darings, Auntie, and entitled to
know all about our affairs? So tell me, where does all the money come
from to pay the grocer, and the butcher, and all the rest?”

“Miss Phœbe done guv me some,” she persisted, half frightened at his
earnestness.

“And the rest, Auntie?”

She twisted her apron in her hands and cast an appealing glance into
his stern face.

“Tell me, Auntie!”

“Well, yo’ see, Marse Phil,” she began, slowly, “I’ve got a little
money what useter b’long to yo’ dead papa.”

“My father!”

“Dat’s a fac’, honey. Ol’ Marse allus done pay me mo’ wages’n I could
earn, nohow. I kep’ sayin’ I didn’ want no money; but he insis’,
chile; dat ol’ Marse Wallace insis’ I take all he guv me. Law sakes, I
don’ neveh need no money, Marse Phil. What ’n a world _I_ need money
fo’--now yo’ tell me, ef yo’ can! But I gotter take it, or make Marse
Wallace mad. So, I put it in de bank fo’ safe keepin’, an’ jus’ bided
mah time to git even. ’Twan’t mine, honey, shuah ’nuff; but I jes’ let
it stay in de bank fo’ ’mehgencies.”

Phil’s face was a study. It grew red and white, stern and dismayed
by turns. It was not that he resented accepting assistance from Aunt
Hy; she seemed one of the family; but that the Darings should be so
miserably poor as to be dependent upon the services of their black
mammy for support was so shameful that he could scarcely bear the
thought.

“I’m an able-bodied young man,” said he to Phœbe a little later,
when the girl had returned from her errand, “and, instead of wasting my
muscles and energies on athletic games, all these months, I should have
been at work for the family.”

“You didn’t know, dear.”

“I _ought_ to have known, Phœbe. That’s no excuse.”

“I’m sure that everything has happened for the best, Phil,” she
replied, tenderly. “We’ve gone along, somehow, and I was anxious that
we should both be able to complete our high school course. It’s so near
the end, now, that we’d better stick it out.”

“Do you know that Auntie has been spending her savings to buy food for
us?”

“Yes; but she doesn’t need the money just now and we will pay her back
some time.”

“She says that you have given her money, too.”

“Just a trifle, Phil,” she replied, after a brief hesitation.

“Where did it come from, Phœbe?”

“I--I earned it.”

“How?”

She unclasped her hand and showed him a bright five-dollar gold piece.

“That’s my last week’s wage--as an amateur typist. I’ve been copying
manuscript for Reverend Doctor Huntley.”

Phil couldn’t help it; he gathered his twin into his arms and cried
like a baby, while Phœbe sobbed on his shoulder and was glad the
secret was out at last. There were not many secrets between these two.

Finally, when they had quieted down and could smile into each other’s
eyes again, the girl explained how she had found the work and how the
kindly clergyman had secured a typewriter for her and been very patient
with her mistakes until she had thoroughly mastered it.

“He said, to-day, that it was the neatest and most correct copying he
had ever seen,” she added, proudly.

The discovery that Phœbe had been working while he played added fuel
to Phil’s remorse. He wanted to quit school at once and seek work, but
Phœbe argued long and patiently and at last prevailed upon him to
complete his course. It would only require a couple of weeks more to do
this, and meantime he could be inquiring for work in the village.

“I’ll not be likely to find it, though,” he predicted. “Riverdale is a
dull place, and I’m afraid I’ll have to go to the city.”

“Oh, no!” she exclaimed, for the twins had never been parted in their
lives, and she could not endure the thought. “I’m sure that some
position may be found here, and although the pay will not be as liberal
as in the city, your expenses will be much less. And, above all, we can
then remain together.”

“I’ll see what can be done,” he promised, kissing her affectionately;
and then the younger ones came trooping in to end their conversation.

For several days it seemed as if Phil’s prediction would be fulfilled.
No position was offered him, although the entire village was canvassed.
Many of the graduating class were sons of merchants, who intended
taking them into their stores. For that reason it was a bad time of the
year to seek for work.

Phil went to Mr. Ferguson and asked if it would be right for him to
apply at the sugar factory for a job. He did not know his father’s
successor, a stern looking man who had been sent by the syndicate to
manage the plant, and who was a stranger to Riverdale.

“I’ll see him myself, lad,” decided the lawyer. “I’ve met Mr. Atkins in
business ways, and believe I would have more influence with him than
you. Come and see me again to-morrow and I’ll report results.”

After school the next day Phil kept the appointment, trying hard to
hope that Mr. Ferguson had succeeded. But the old lawyer shook his
head, gravely.

“Nothing there for you, Phil,” he said. “Atkins claims it’s his dull
season, but I know better. No doubt the man could give you employment,
if he chose, but he doesn’t care to have a Daring in the office. An old
prejudice against your father for fighting the trust so long.”

“You haven’t thought of any other opening, sir, have you?”

“Not just yet. But, I’ll keep my eye open for you, Phil, and let you
know if anything offers. Keep your courage, lad. There’s something for
everybody in this world.”

This bit of philosophy fell upon deaf ears. Phil was quite discouraged
as he went slowly down the stairs to the street. In the doorway he
paused, for Ned Thurber had halted before him. Ned was the clerk in
Spaythe’s Bank.

“Congratulate me, Phil,” he said. “I’ve an offer to go to St. Louis, at
a big salary.”

Phil shook his hand.

“Are you going, Ned?” he asked eagerly.

“Of course. I’ll be assistant teller in one of the biggest banks there.”

“Who will take your place at Spaythe’s?”

“I don’t know yet. Just got the offer this morning, you see; but I’ve
talked with Mr. Spaythe and promised him that I’d stay until he can get
someone to take my place. That won’t be easy, though--unless he imports
someone.”

“Couldn’t I fill the place, Ned?”

“You! I thought you were going to college.”

“I--I’ve decided not to,” replied Phil.

“But you’ve no experience in banking.”

“No other young fellow in town has, for that matter.”

“That’s true,” said the other, thoughtfully.

“I’d like the job, Ned,” pleaded Phil.

“In that case I’ll speak to the old man about you. I’ve an idea you
could fill Eric’s place, while Eric could climb to my position as head
bookkeeper. His father ought not to object to that, and I’m sure you
could do Eric’s work easily. Another thing is in your favor, Phil. The
Daring name is rather popular around here, especially with the farmers,
and that counts with a man like Spaythe. The more I think of it, the
more I believe we’ve hit the right combination. Trust me to help work
it out, for I want to get away as soon as possible.”

Phil did not leave this unexpected chance wholly to Ned’s management,
however. He went back and told Judge Ferguson about it, and then he met
Eric, the banker’s only son and Phil’s friend. Eric was also employed
at the bank and he was astonished and delighted when Phil proposed
taking Eric’s place--thus advancing him to the more important post of
bookkeeper, to be vacated by Ned Thurber.

“I’ll go and talk to father about it at once,” he said.

That same day Mr. Spaythe was approached by no less than four people in
the interests of Phil Daring. First, came his son Eric, who told him
Phil was a prince of good fellows. Then Ned Thurber pointed out the
fact that the popularity of the Darings would add prestige to the bank.
Presently, Judge Ferguson walked in and vouched for Phil’s character
and ability, offering to stand sponsor for the boy, if he was given the
place. Finally, Phœbe Daring stole into the bank and timidly asked
to see Mr. Spaythe.

He looked at her curiously as she entered his private room; a pretty
and modest young girl, he thought.

“I met Mr. Thurber a little while ago, and he says that he is going
away to St. Louis,” she began. “So I thought I would come here and ask
if you won’t take brother Phil in his place. I’m Phœbe Daring, you
know.”

Mr. Spaythe nodded.

“I know. You’ve often been here with your father, in the old days. But
you’re growing fast now, Miss Phœbe.”

“I need to grow, sir, for I must mother the other children. Of course
you know how poor we are. Father always banked here, I remember; so you
know, perhaps better than I do, our present circumstances.”

“How old is Phil now?”

“Sixteen, sir.”

“H--m. That is rather young.”

“But he is big for his age, Mr. Spaythe. He’s nearly six feet tall, and
as strong as anything.”

“Do you think we bank by main strength, Miss Daring?”

“Phil will graduate next week, at High. He hopes to be at the head of
his class.”

Mr. Spaythe drummed thoughtfully on the desk with his fingers.

“I’m going to consider your application, my dear,” he said, quite
genially for him. “Ask your brother to come and see me.”

Phœbe hurried away, overjoyed at her success. She astonished Phil
that evening by saying that she had made an appointment for him to see
Mr. Spaythe. He tore up the little note that he had intended to mail
to the banker, then kissed his twin sister and thanked her for her
assistance. Only Mr. Spaythe knew whose influence had induced him to
consider giving the position to an inexperienced, untried youth, fresh
from high school. Perhaps, after all, it was the remembrance of his old
friendship for the elder Daring.

Anyhow, Phil had a long interview with the old banker and came away
engaged to fill the vacancy made by Ned Thurber’s withdrawal. As soon
as school closed he was to begin work.

There was great rejoicing among the Darings that evening. Aunt Hyacinth
made them one of her famous shortcakes for supper, to celebrate the
occasion, and Phil became a hero to his younger brother and sisters,
because he was about to step from youth to manhood and become a
breadwinner.



CHAPTER VII

THE COMING OF COUSIN JUDITH


Next morning while they were at breakfast, the doorbell rang and Auntie
answered it. A moment later a comely young woman entered the room,
gazed smilingly at the circle of young faces and advanced to kiss
Phœbe, as the eldest, first of all.

“Don’t you remember me?” she asked. “I’m your Cousin Judith.”

“Cousin Judith Eliot!” cried Phœbe, delightedly. And then there was
a rush to greet this newly found relative, all the Darings crowding
around her in a mob.

“I thought you were still in Europe, Cousin Judith,” said Phil. “Have
you been long in America?”

“Just four days,” she replied, throwing off her wrap and sitting down
in the place Aunt Hyacinth had prepared for her. “I hurried here as
soon after landing as possible.”

“But what good fortune brought you to Riverdale?” inquired Phœbe,
looking with pleasure at the beautiful, refined face of the elder
woman and noting the daintiness of her attire--dainty and fresh,
although she was just out of a sleeping coach, after a long journey.

Cousin Judith, although almost the only relative which the Darings
possessed, and familiar to them by name since their infancy, was
nevertheless almost a stranger to them all. She was their mother’s
cousin and, although much younger, had always been Mrs. Daring’s
closest and warmest friend. For years past, however, she had resided
in some small European town, studying art while she painted portraits
and copies of the Madonna on porcelain. She had never married; dimly,
Phœbe remembered hearing of some tragedy in Cousin Judith’s life
when her fiancé had died on the eve of their approaching marriage. She
was now but twenty-four; although, in the eyes of her young cousins,
she appeared very mature indeed.

“I came here,” said Cousin Judith, smilingly, yet with a serious ring
in her sweet-toned voice, “at the call of duty. I wanted to come to
you the moment I heard of your dear father’s death, but it takes some
little time to break up an establishment even as modest as mine, when
it is in far-away Italy. But here I am, at last.”

“Going to stay?” asked Sue, softly.

“I think so. Is there any room for me, here?”

“Plenty, Cousin Judith!” cried five voices.

“Then, while I drink my coffee, tell me all the news about yourselves.
How is Gran’pa Eliot?--he’s my uncle, you know--and who takes care of
him?”

Becky began the story, but talked so excitedly that she made a sad
jumble of it. Then Phil picked up the narrative, telling the simple
facts that Cousin Judith might be interested in, and Phœbe concluded
the recital.

“I remember Elaine Halliday,” said the new arrival, musingly. “She
was Aunt Eliot’s maid when I was a young girl, and whenever I visited
here I used to fight with the woman continually. She had a rather sour
disposition, then.”

“It’s worse now,” declared Becky. “She’s a reg’lar Tartar; and a--a--an
autocrat, and an anarchist and traitor, and--”

“Afterward, she was housekeeper,” continued Judith. “I saw her more
seldom, then, but she ran the household in an able manner while Aunt
Eliot was so much of an invalid.”

“She has been a faithful servant, I’m sure,” said Phœbe, “and if she
happens to be a bit cranky with us at times we ought to put up with it.
I don’t know what gran’pa would do without her. She’s the only one who
can understand him, and she attends to him and all his affairs--cooks
the things he can eat--feeds him with a spoon, and all that.”

“Don’t you all live together, then?” asked Miss Eliot.

“No,” replied Phœbe. “We’ve been given a certain part of the house,
and run our own establishment, while Miss Halliday runs her part.
We are ordered not to go near gran’pa’s rooms, or pick the fruit or
berries--or steal the hen’s eggs. If we behave, she will let us stay
here, rent free; but if we don’t mind her, or dare to intrude on
gran’pa, out we go, neck and crop.”

Judith Eliot looked thoughtful. But she avoided carrying the
conversation farther in the presence of the younger children. There
was little time, indeed, to talk much with any of them, as they were
obliged to run off to school. It was Friday, fortunately, and to-morrow
would be a holiday, when they could “visit” to their hearts’ content.

As they said good-by to their new cousin the drayman was carrying in
two big trunks and some portmanteaus.

“By jooks! I’m glad she’s come,” cried Becky. “It almost seems like
having mother back. Don’t you think they look alike?”

“She’s a dandy, all right,” commented Don. “I’m glad she’s going to
stay.”

“Isn’t she _beau_tiful?” chimed in little Sue, tossing her curls
ecstatically. “And only to think she’s lived in Europe! Won’t she have
some nibsy stories to tell us, though?”

Meantime, Cousin Judith was sitting face to face with Aunt Hyacinth in
the kitchen, and listening to the story that the old mammy was telling
of the trials and tribulations her poor children had suffered.

First, there was the mother’s death. That was indeed a serious
misfortune, for Mrs. Daring had looked after her young flock with
tender care and taught them to adopt the manners of ladies and
gentlemen. After her death there was only the old black mammy to cope
with the situation. Mr. Daring proved a loving and devoted father to
his motherless ones, but he was too indulgent to correct their ways and
manners and the younger ones, especially, soon lapsed into the wild and
untamed ways of young savages. Mr. Daring realized this, and wrote an
account of his doubts and fears for their future to Judith, asking her
if she would not come back to America and make her future home with
them.

The young woman refused the invitation at that time. She could not
leave her studies, or her work, without ruining all her plans. She
wrote him to get a governess to look after the accomplishments of the
children. Aunt Hyacinth would be sure to take care of their physical
requirements. And, having proffered this advice, she dismissed the
subject from her mind.

Last fall, when news of Mr. Daring’s death and his bankruptcy reached
her, Judith had been much distressed. Duty called her to far away
Riverdale, to look after Mollie Eliot’s orphaned little ones. She wrote
to Lawyer Ferguson for particulars and he frankly informed her of the
unfortunate condition of the young Darings. So she “broke camp,” as
she said, and as soon as she could complete and deliver the miniatures
which she had contracted to paint for a wealthy Englishman, the
successful artist abandoned her brilliant career and departed, bag and
baggage, for America.

“So they’re pretty wild, are they?” she asked Aunt Hy.

“Wild ’s hawks, Miss Judy, I’s sorrerful to remahk. Marse Phil an’ Miss
Phœbe ain’t so bad, kase dey’s old ’nuff to ’member what ther pore
deah ma done tell ’em. But Miss Sue uses jus’ drea’fu’ grammer, an’
she dat stubbo’n ’twould make a mule blush. Marse Don, he’s got a good
heart, but he can’t ’member jus’ whar it’s locationed, an’ he plagues
ever’body mos’ alarmin’. As fer dat flyaway Becky, ’tain’t jus’ no use
triflin’ wid her; she kain’t be brung up proper, nohow.”

“Becky is at a difficult age, just now,” mused Judith, smiling at the
eloquent old servant.

“All her ages done ben diff’cult, Miss Judy--shuah’s yo’ bohn. Miss
Becky don’ seem like a Daring a’ tall. She’s mo’ like dat Topsy in Unc’
Tom’s Cab’n; ’cept’ she ain’t black.”

Then came the subject of finances, wherein Aunt Hyacinth was able to
give definite and fairly lucid information. She had managed to feed
her flock so far, but the future contained an alarming menace unless
more money was forthcoming. When Aunt Hyacinth’s savings were gone,
starvation might stare the Darings in the face. It is true both Phil
and Phœbe planned to make some money, “but what’s dem helpless
chill’ns know ’bout de expensiveness of livin’?” inquired the old
mammy, hopelessly.

Judith looked grave, but she was not greatly surprised.

“Miss Phœbe’s ben workin’ right ’long, ev’ry minute she’s out ’n
school,” reported Auntie; “but it ain’t sech work as’ll last long.
An’ Marse Phil’s goin’ take a place in de bank, when he’s got his
schoolin’--’twere all decided no more’n yist’day. But ten dollahs a
week ain’t no great ’mount to fill all dem moufs. Lucky we don’ haf to
pay rent.”

“I have always thought my uncle--their Grandfather Eliot--a rich man,”
remarked Judith, more to herself than to old Hyacinth. “In my girlhood
days he was said to be the largest property owner in the county.”

“So he were, Miss Judy. Don’ I ’member when Marse Daring fus’ brung me
heah, how Misteh Jonat’n Eliot was de big rich man o’ Riverdale? But he
done sold off de hull estate, piece by piece, ’til nuthin’s lef’ but
dis yere ol’ house an’ de gahden.”

“But what became of all the money he received for the land?”

“Dunno, honey. Dat’s what Marse Wallace done fight wid him about, years
ago. He say ol’ Marse Eliot done sell his land an’ squander de money,
what oughter go to Miss Molly an’ her chiluns; an’ ol’ Marse Eliot done
tell him min’ his own business. Miss Molly were he on’y chile, an’ she
done fit wi’ de ol’ man, too; so we uns didn’t hev no truck wi’ dey
uns fer a long time. When Miss Molly died, Marse Wallace try to patch
up t’ings, but ol’ Marse Eliot got de stroke what mumbled him, an’ it
turned out he’s pore like Job’s turkey.”

“How does he live, then?” asked Judith.

“It don’ take much to feed his gruel to him, an’ ol’ Miss Halliday’s
dat pars’monius she don’ eat decent cookin’ herself. She sell de aigs
’n’ chickens, an’ de fruit an’ sich, an’ she bargains at de groc’ry fer
de cheapes’ stuff dey got. So dey somehow gits along--don’ ask me how,
honey.”

“Well,” said Judith, rising with a sigh, “I see that I’m needed here,
in more ways than one. Where may I locate my room, Aunt Hyacinth?”

This puzzled Mammy for a time. The old mansion had been built on a
queer plan. Upstairs there were four bedrooms in the front of the house
and four in the rear. Of these last the two at the back end overlooked
the mountains and the valleys and were the most pleasantly situated
of any in the house. Mr. Eliot had therefore chosen them for his own,
and now he sat in a chair all day looking out of a window over the
broad stretch of land he had always loved. It was a peaceful, quiet
scene. Behind the house the streets were merely green lanes, with a few
scattered habitations here and there. A little to the right, but in
plain sight of this second-floor window, stretched the old-fashioned
country graveyard--not yet sufficiently dignified to be called a
“cemetery”--and Mr. Eliot’s eyes might clearly see a white mausoleum,
which he had built years before, to contain his body when he had passed
from life.

Everyone had thought this an eccentric thing for Jonathan Eliot to
do; some of the neighbors shuddered at the idea of a live, healthy
man preparing his own tomb. But there it was, scarcely a quarter of a
mile distant from his dwelling; and, as he now sat paralyzed before
the broad window, perhaps his glassy eyes rested more often upon that
ghostly tomb than upon the charming landscape of hill and dale, that
extended far into the distance toward Exeter.

Opening from this room was a balcony with outside stairs leading to
the garden. Adjoining the two large rear rooms were a couple of small
chambers opening into a hallway. The hall originally ran to the front
of the house, but directly in the center of the passage had been placed
a stout door, separating the upper part of the house into two distinct
parts, each containing four chambers. Miss Halliday, in reserving the
four rear rooms, had fitted up one of the hall chambers as a kitchen
and retained the other for her own sleeping apartment. Of the two more
spacious rear rooms, one was old Mr. Eliot’s bedroom and the other his
living room. These four rooms satisfied all the requirements of the
paralytic and his nurse, and so the balance of the house was turned
over, somewhat grudgingly, to the orphaned Darings.

But in this arrangement Elaine Halliday made one curious stipulation.
The two hall rooms were never to be used by the Darings, for any
purpose. They might occupy the front bedrooms, but under the plea that
the children might disturb their invalid grandfather, the hall rooms
must remain vacant.

Phœbe had accordingly taken possession of one of the front chambers,
and Phil and Don shared the other. Downstairs the house had a big
parlor, or drawing-room--a ghostly, primly furnished apartment that
all the Darings abhorred--a large dining room with a side porch, an
ample hall with a spiral staircase, pantries and kitchen and two
small chambers opening out of the dining room. Becky and Sue together
occupied one of these little rooms, while the other, which had a door
into the kitchen and was little more than a “cubbyhole,” was Aunt
Hyacinth’s own room.

Unless Judith Eliot took possession of one of the forbidden hall
bedrooms upstairs, there was really no place for her in all the big
house. When this was explained to her she promptly started to visit
her uncle and Miss Halliday. She mounted the outside stairway from the
garden and at the top was confronted by the thin-visaged guardian of
the place.

“Go away!” said Miss Halliday, sternly. “Don’t you understand that no
one is allowed on these premises?”

“I am Judith Eliot,” was the calm reply. “Don’t you remember me,
Elaine?”

The stern face hardened still more.

“What are you doing here, Judith Eliot?” demanded the woman.

“Why, Elaine, if you will move aside and allow me to sit down I shall
be able to explain my presence. Do you expect me to stand on this
landing all day? How is my uncle?”

“He can’t see you,” said old Elaine, firmly. “Go back, and I’ll come
and talk to you presently.”

Judith had learned self restraint in her years of buffeting with the
big world, but never had she had such cause for indignation in all
her experience. The old woman’s insulting attitude and words and her
assumption of authority were not to be endured. With flashing eyes Miss
Eliot advanced and thrust the frail form from the doorway, entering the
room before old Elaine was well aware of her purpose.

Before a broad window her uncle was propped up in his chair, staring
listlessly across the valley to the mountains beyond. She approached
him and said softly:

“Uncle! Here is Judith come to see you.”

There was no reply, no movement to indicate that he had even heard her.
She stooped to his ear and spoke louder.

“Uncle! Uncle Eliot! I am Judith--your niece. I have come to see you,
Uncle! Do you not know me?”

The withered, pallid countenance never changed. The expressionless gaze
was fixed as ever. He might have been a dummy of a man except for the
slight rise and fall of his chest as he breathed.

Judith glanced around and found Miss Halliday standing near with a
sneering smile upon her face.

“He’s mighty glad to see you, isn’t he?” she asked.

The girl did not reply. It was quite evident that Gran’pa Eliot was
entirely helpless; that he was all unaware of her presence. She looked
at the old man attentively, thinking he was far more dead than alive.
His cheeks were hollow and sunken, his skin like ancient parchment.
The hands that lay extended upon his knees were withered and bony; the
wisp of white hair upon his head was carefully brushed; he wore a neat
dressing gown. Propped among his pillows he seemed to be as comfortable
as was possible for one in his condition.

Letting her eyes roam around the room, Judith saw that it was neat and
well cared for. Elaine, always an excellent housekeeper, could not be
criticised for any undue laxness.

Judith turned to her.

“I did not realize he was so helpless,” she said. “Does he recognize no
one at all?”

“Only one,” replied Elaine, grimly triumphant. “But strangers are
sure to make him nervous. He’ll have a bad time, after your foolish
intrusion. I can tell by his face that he knows something is wrong;
that he’s been disturbed. He don’t know you’re here, perhaps; but he
senses something different. I advise you to go before he is upset
entirely--a shock of this sort might kill him.”

Judith looked at her uncle again. His dull, apathetic expression had
not altered a particle, so far as she could discover. The idea of
disturbing this half-dead man seemed absurd. Yet the old woman who
attended him constantly might be right, after all, and certainly there
was no prospect of being able to arouse him sufficiently to recognize
his niece.

“Follow me, Elaine,” she commanded, with a trace of haughtiness due to
the servant’s defiant attitude.

At the foot of the stairs stood an old garden bench. Judith seated
herself and waited until the old woman joined her. Then she said:

“How long do you expect my uncle to live?”

Elaine started to sit down beside her.

“You may stand, if you please,” said Judith; and old Miss Halliday
stood, although her eyes had a resentful look in them at thus being
assigned to her true station. In the old days she had been considered
a privileged servant, it is true; yet, even then, she would not have
dared to seat herself in the presence of an Eliot.

“I don’t know,” she returned. “He has been like this for three years.
He may live a dozen more--if I can manage to keep his body and soul
together.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Why, there isn’t much to eat here, if you want the truth; and so it’s
lucky Mr. Eliot doesn’t require much food. The wine is the hardest
thing to get. It’s mighty expensive; but he must have it, Dr. Jenkins
says.”

“Is the doctor attending him?”

“Not now; we can’t pay the bills. But there’s nothing a doctor can do
more than I am doing myself.”

“What has become of my uncle’s money, Elaine?” she asked, regarding the
woman attentively.

Elaine flushed, but shook her head.

“I don’t know,” she said.

“He was never a spendthrift, nor a gambler,” continued Judith. “On the
contrary, I knew him as a wealthy man who was so penurious that he
guarded every expenditure with great care.”

The woman made no reply.

“What do you suppose became of the money?” Judith pointedly inquired.
“He sold off his property at fair prices. I’m sure that he didn’t
speculate. Then what has become of it?”

“I only know,” said Elaine, “that when he was took with this stroke
there wasn’t a dollar to be found anywhere. He wasn’t a miser, for
I’ve ransacked every corner of this house. There wasn’t anything in
the bank, either, for I inquired there. I’ve looked over all of his
papers--with Judge Ferguson to help me--and Mr. Eliot hadn’t any
investments or stocks. His money was gone, somehow, and we don’t know
where because he can’t tell.”

Judith thought it over. It was a perplexing thing, indeed.

“Why do you stay here?” she asked. “You are not obligated to devote
your life to my bankrupt uncle--a helpless invalid who does not
appreciate your services.”

Elaine hesitated, clasping her thin hands and looking down as if
endeavoring to find proper words in which to express herself.

“I’m old, Miss Judith; too old to find work elsewhere. And I’m as poor
as Mr. Eliot is. All I can expect at my age is a home, and the work
is very little, now that the Darings have most of the house. Besides,
I’ve been with the Eliot family so long--forty odd years--that my place
seems here, now. I won’t say anything about duty, or my affection for
my old master. He was a hard man with others, I know; but I always
understood him better than anyone else, and he liked me. When he was
taken with paralysis, just after his daughter’s death, there was no one
in the world to care for him but me. Even Wallace Daring had quarreled
with Mr. Eliot and insulted him. Not a single neighbor offered any
assistance, or came near my stricken master. So I stayed.”

It was a fair explanation, Judith considered, and betokened more heart
in the old woman than she had been credited with.

“That reminds me, Elaine,” she said, turning the subject abruptly; “I
am going to live with the Darings hereafter, and take care of Cousin
Molly’s children. I must have one of those vacant rooms off the hall
which you have reserved.”

A look of anger and fear swept over old Elaine’s face.

“It won’t do, Miss Judith,” she said positively; “it won’t do at all. I
can’t have Mr. Eliot disturbed. I allowed the Darings to live here if
they’d promise to keep quiet, but--”

“_You_ allowed!” interrupted Judith, meaningly. “Isn’t that rather
impertinent, Elaine?”

“There’s no one to run your uncle’s affairs, but me,” she retorted,
unabashed. “I’ve got to protect him in his helpless condition, and I’m
going to do it, too!”

“This is nonsense,” returned Judith impatiently. “Nothing that occurs
in that part of the house can disturb Uncle Eliot, as you very well
know. I shall occupy one of those rooms.”

“I forbid it,” said the woman, her eyes cold and hard, her jaws set and
determined.

“Has it ever occurred to you,” suggested Judith quietly, “that there
is such a thing as law, and that the law will take the conduct of my
uncle’s affairs out of your hands, if I appeal to it? If you really
wish a home in your old age, Elaine, you must give up your autocratic
ideas. The Darings are the natural inheritors of this homestead, and
you have no personal rights here except as a servant.”

“I’m entitled to my wages, then,” snapped Elaine. “They haven’t been
paid for years.”

Judith regarded her thoughtfully. In spite of the peculiar temperament
of this poor creature she was doubtless of inestimable worth to Mr.
Eliot at this juncture. No one else could or would care for the
helpless invalid, half so well. And there was little to advance
against that argument of unpaid wages. Perhaps, after all, it might be
better to compromise with Elaine Halliday.

“I am willing to admit your responsible position here,” she said,
“provided you do not attempt to dictate too far. Live your life in your
own way, but do not attempt to interfere with us. I am now going to
establish myself in one of those hall rooms.”

She rose.

“Take the west room, then,” suggested Elaine, eagerly. “It’s bigger,
and the east room is cluttered with old furniture.”

Judith walked away without reply, content with her victory but filled
with many perplexing thoughts. The interview had somewhat astonished
her.

Elaine watched her go, and when Judith had turned the corner of the
house the old woman stamped her foot furiously.

“Drat the law!” she muttered. “Ferguson swore he’d turn me out if I
didn’t let the Darings in, and now this girl threatens the law if
I won’t let her have that room. Law! What mischief-makers invented
the law, I’d like to know--to rob a poor woman and beat her out of
her just dues? But there’s two kinds of law in this world--the laws
others make, and the laws we make, ourselves. I guess the law of Elaine
Halliday will win out in the long run, because my law’s my secret, and
they’ve only got their own to go by.”

With this somewhat ambiguous tirade she turned and slowly mounted the
stairs. Gran’pa Eliot sat exactly as he had before, staring vacantly
through the window.



CHAPTER VIII

THE “ARTICLES OF ADOPTION”


Judith Eliot had been accustomed to act upon her judgment; and to act
quickly, and with decision. Aunt Hyacinth was half frightened when
the young lady returned and said that Elaine had attempted to bar her
out of the vacant rooms, but she was going to occupy one of them,
nevertheless. The black mammy was a Daring servant, having followed her
nursling Wallace when he married and set up housekeeping at Riverdale.
She had nursed, in turn, each of the Daring children and, therefore,
was devoted to them and their interests. But Auntie could never
understand the favored servant of the Eliots, and through all the years
she had known Elaine had seldom exchanged a word with the white woman.
Why a housekeeper should be called “Miss” Halliday and allowed to
assume airs of superiority was far beyond old Hyacinth’s comprehension.
But the fact impressed her with a sense of awe of Elaine which time had
never dissipated.

Since the Darings had come to this house to live the two serving women
had held aloof from one another as before, and the aggressive, dominant
attitude of Miss Halliday held Auntie in sure subjection to her will.
She never doubted that Elaine had the power to turn her precious flock
out in the cold world, if she chose, and therefore took great care not
to annoy her in any way.

It was not clear to her, at this juncture, whether she ought to applaud
or deplore Miss Judith’s defiance of the hitherto supreme power of “ol’
Miss Hall’day,” but she willingly followed the energetic young lady up
the spiral staircase to show her the vacant rooms.

The east room was sunny and bright, but poorly furnished. In one corner
stood several decrepit and damaged chairs, a few old pictures and
some bundles of matting. A door, closed and locked, communicated with
the room back of it--the room Miss Halliday herself occupied. Aunt
Hyacinth, in a whisper, called Judith’s attention to this door.

Perhaps that accounted for the desire of the old woman that Miss Eliot
take the west room, which was not nearly so pleasantly situated; but
the young lady promptly decided that the east room suited her best.
She was accustomed to doing things for herself, and with Auntie’s help
dragged the cast-off chairs and other lumber into the west room and
made a selection of the best furniture from the two.

Also, she robbed the stately parlor downstairs of a comfortable rocker
and the hall of a small stand. When the east room had been swept,
dusted and cleaned, it appeared to be quite livable, although Aunt Hy
shook her head gravely and declared that it was not nearly as good as
the front rooms. In fact, she confided to Judith that the east room
“wasn’t fit fo’ ’spectible comp’ny.”

“When Phil and Don come home to lunch,” said Judith, “I’ll get them to
help me up with the trunks and bags, and then I’ll unpack and settle.”

At noontime, however, when the children came home from school, Phœbe
vetoed the entire carefully planned arrangement. Cousin Judith mustn’t
be tucked into that cheerless east room on any account, but should have
Phœbe’s own pretty room at the front, with its balcony overlooking
the village and the river.

“I’m seldom in my room,” said the girl, “while you, Cousin Judith, will
often shut yourself up to paint or write. So, I’ll move into the east
room in a jiffy, and rid up the front room so you can take possession.”

Miss Eliot protested against this change, but Phœbe had a will
of her own and moreover, was right in her argument. Everyone
energetically assisted in transferring Phœbe’s “traps” across the
hall, and before school time arrived Cousin Judith’s baggage had all
been carried to the big front room and deposited there.

That afternoon Phœbe “settled” her new quarters in five minutes’
time, for she was not very particular about appearances and had the
true Southern disposition to leave any article wherever it happened
to be. Order was not one of her characteristics, but Phœbe always
claimed she could find anything she wanted, just as quickly as those
who put them properly away.

Cousin Judith, although an artist, had an inherent aversion to
disorder. She wanted her surroundings to look pretty at all times, and
a tasteful arrangement of her possessions meant a place for everything
and everything in its place. Phœbe was astonished when she came
home that afternoon at the transformation effected in her old room. A
hundred pretty knickknacks and articles of virtu, brought from foreign
parts, had been arranged most effectively. Some choice prints from
Paris and Dresden were on the walls; a small bust of Psyche in pure
Carrara stood on the mantel. Judith’s well-worn easel was inscribed on
every inch of its wooden surface with autographs of more or less famous
artists and litterateurs who had visited her studio.

With all this the place looked as cosy and homelike as it was
attractive, and thereafter the greatest joy of a Daring, big or little,
was to pass an hour in Cousin Judith’s room.

Phœbe’s sleep in the east hall room was as sound and peaceful
that night, as it had been before she moved from her more commodious
quarters. She glanced more than once at the connecting door, as she
undressed, but no sound came from old Miss Halliday’s room on the
other side. There was a transom over the door, but probably the glass
had long since been broken or removed, for a thin board now covered
it, tacked to the frame from Phœbe’s side. There was no ready
communication to be had between the two sides of the house, and as far
as Phœbe was concerned she was well pleased that this was so.

That Saturday was a great day for the Darings.

“We’re going to have a good long talk together,” announced Cousin
Judith at breakfast. “Just as soon as I get my room in order and
Phœbe makes your beds we will get together in the parlor and begin
to get acquainted.”

“Oh, not the parlor, please,” protested Don. “It’s so gloomy there.”

“The pahlah will spoil all our fun,” added Sue.

“Then you must come to my own room,” decided Cousin Judith.

Becky went out on the porch while the preparations were pending and saw
the Randolph children, faultlessly attired, standing hand in hand just
across the street.

“Hello, Becky!” shouted Allerton. “Come on over.”

Doris turned to him reprovingly. Then she raised her voice to Becky and
said:

“My brother wishes to invite you to join us.”

“Can’t go you,” returned Becky, carelessly. “My Cousin Judith’s come,
an’ we’re goin’ to have some chin music.”

“May I inquire what sort of an entertainment you refer to?” asked
Doris, coming a little nearer.

“You may,” said Becky, graciously.

Doris waited, still holding her brother’s hand. To Becky it seemed
absurd that such a big boy and girl should act so much like infants.
So far, her acquaintance with the Randolphs had only interested her
because she could “guy them” unmercifully, without their discovering it.

Allerton’s patience was not equal to that of his demure sister.

“Please tell us,” he pleaded.

“If you had a good chance, Al, you’d soon blossom into a boy--quite a
decent boy,” remarked Becky, reflectively. “The trouble is, you’ll
never get a chance in that stuck-up crowd you train with. Why don’t you
run away and be a man?”

“I am scarcely old enough, I fear,” he sighed.

“Then be a bootblack, or a chimney sweep, or a robber,
or--or--_any_thing!”

“Oh, Rebecca!” wailed Doris, greatly shocked. “How sadly the lightness
of your mind is reflected in your words!”

“By cracky, you’ve got _me_ going,” returned Becky, despondently. “What
does it, Doris; religion, or Boston kindergartens?”

“You have not yet told us what ‘chin music’ means,” suggested Allerton,
with much interest. “It is a new term to us.”

“It means a confab, that’s all.”

“You must pardon our ignorance,” Doris observed, in her most proper
manner. “Our vocabulary, you know, is limited to authorized words; yet
with you the English language seems to have been amplified, and the
grammatical construction of many sentences altered. Is it an idiom
peculiar to this section of the country, or have you authority for the
use of such unusual expressions?”

Somehow, Becky felt distinctly abashed. She might laugh at the proper
speech of Doris Randolph and regard it in the light of a good joke;
but, after all, she experienced a humiliating sense of her own
crudeness and lack of refinement whenever the new neighbors engaged her
in conversation.

Of course she resented this feeling, which intruded itself, unasked.
The Darings were as good as the Randolphs, any day, she mentally
declared, knowing all the time the thought was an admission of
inferiority. Becky had had careful training once upon a time, and
her dead mother’s injunction never to forget her personal dignity,
nor give to others an opportunity to disparage it, was not wholly
forgotten by the girl. She well knew that she had cultivated the slang
of the streets and their rabble because some of her village associates
considered it amusing and had encouraged her by their laughter. So,
although the reproaches of the carefully trained Randolph children were
only implied, through their complete ignorance of such phrases, the
girl felt them nevertheless, and this made her bitter and more reckless
than ever.

Fortunately, Phœbe called to her just then and with a shout of “So
long, bully Bostoners!” she ran in to attend the gathering in Cousin
Judith’s room.

Now it chanced that Miss Eliot had overheard, through her open window,
the conversation exchanged across the street by Becky and her
neighbors, and her sweet face flushed painfully while she listened.
That a daughter of gentle, refined Molly Eliot should exhibit
coarseness and vulgarity amazed and annoyed her. More than once during
the brief day since her arrival she had winced at the rude sallies of
Becky and Don, and even little Sue had sometimes offended her sensitive
ears.

“There are many difficulties to be surmounted and plenty of hard work
ahead of me, I fear,” she thought, with a sigh of regret. “But my duty
to these waifs is plain, and I must pray for strength and wisdom to
accomplish it.”

Then she turned and showed a smiling face as the Darings trooped in, an
eager group. Many were their exclamations of pleasure as they examined
Cousin Judith’s “pretty things,” and even Becky was so thoroughly
delighted and turned her clear hazel eyes so adoringly upon her cousin
that her recent rudeness was almost condoned.

Judith began with a relation of her own history, including many
incidents of her life abroad and the hard struggle she had faced to win
recognition as an artist. Then she told them of the deep affection that
had always existed between her and “Cousin Molly,” the mother of the
absorbed audience. She had been deeply pained at Molly’s death, and
when, three years later, Molly’s children lost their father--their only
natural protector--Judith had remembered that she was their nearest
relative, next to Gran’pa Eliot, and it seemed her duty to go to them
and help them to face the world and become the noble men and women
their dear mother so fondly wished them to be.

The Darings were duly impressed and affected. Sue and Phœbe sobbed
a little, and Phil wiped his eyes more than once. Donald was not so
emotional but looked grave and thoughtful, while Becky’s face was white
and set as she realized how little credit she had thus far reflected on
the sweet, gentle mother who had been prematurely taken from them.

“What I wish,” said Judith, wistfully, “is to become a second mother
to dear Molly’s children; to do for them what I think Molly would have
done, had she lived. But I cannot acquire such a proud position, my
dears, without your full and free consent. You must talk this over
among yourselves and decide if you are willing to adopt me.”

Phœbe wrapped her arms around the speaker and kissed her cheek,
while tears trembled on her dark lashes.

“Oh, Cousin Judith!” she said; “we’re so happy, and so grateful!”

Becky knelt at Judith’s feet and buried her head in her lap. Sue came
like a dainty fairy to find a refuge in Judith’s embrace.

“I’d like another mamma--awful well!” she whispered; “and I couldn’t
find a lovelier one than you, Cousin Judith.”

“You’ve given up a good deal for us,” Phil remarked in a husky voice,
“and I’m afraid we’re not worth it, at all. But the--the youngsters
need some sort of a mother, Cousin, and Phœbe and I need some one
to advise us and help us in our times of trouble and worry. So we--we
haven’t the courage to refuse your generous offer.”

“It won’t need a vote,” asserted Don, scowling darkly to keep from
crying. “You’re elected unanimous, Little Mother; an’ that settles it.”

Judith smiled and kissed them all in turn, big and little. Then she
said, very seriously:

“This alliance, my dears, means a good deal to all of us, and must not
be undertaken lightly. We must have a fair and square agreement, on
both sides, setting forth and defining what we have undertaken.”

They were very attentive, at this.

“First,” she continued, “I want to tell you that I am going to love
each one of you, dearly, and I want you to promise you will try to love
me in return.”

“Why, we do already!” exclaimed Sue, and Judith felt that she answered
for all.

“The duty of a mother,” she explained, “is not only to love her
children, but to train them properly. She must correct their faults,
direct their amusements, attend to their deportment, laugh when they
are glad and grieve over their sorrows. And they, in turn, must be
content to be guided by her larger experience in life and willing to
obey her in everything.”

“Of course,” said Becky, nodding. “We’ll agree to all that, Cousin
Judith.”

“I long to have you grow up to be admired and respected by all you
meet, as your father and mother were. Do you realize how proud a thing
it is to be a Daring? You bear an honored name, my dears--a name that
has always stood for nobility, truth, generosity and culture. You must
guard that name, jealously, so as not only to reflect credit upon your
parentage, but to win for yourselves the approval of the world.”

The awed silence that greeted this speech was broken by Donald. Perhaps
he was really more affected than any of the others; I think his very
soul was stirred by a desire to be a credit to his name and to
himself. But he said bluntly and with a mischievous grin:

“You girls needn’t worry. You’ll change your names some day--if you’re
lucky!”

It relieved the tense situation and they all laughed, including Judith.
But she meant the lesson to be impressive and not easily forgotten, so
she hailed a suggestion from Becky, which was perhaps intended to be as
flippant as Donald’s remark.

“Let’s draw up an agreement, and all sign it,” cried the girl.
“Phœbe has a typewriter, and we won’t need any lawyer.”

“A good idea,” said Miss Eliot. “Phœbe and I will go to her room and
draw up the Articles of Adoption.”

This was done, and the others waited restlessly enough for a full
hour for them to return, although Phil took occasion to point out how
fortunate they all were to secure a friend and protector in this, their
hour of greatest need.

After all, the Articles of Adoption proved quite simple and brief,
although they had taken so long to prepare. Most of the paper was
devoted to Cousin Judith’s agreement to love and watch over the five
Darings, to correct their errors, promote their happiness and fill the
place of a real mother to them, so far as she was able. The Darings,
for their part, merely agreed to obey her as they would have done
their natural parents. But at the last was a little clause that was
destined to prove very important--more important than it then seemed.
It stipulated that if any of the signers revolted from the letter or
spirit of the agreement, or in other words broke the contract, the
culprit should submit the case to any two of the others he or she might
select; and, if they decided the offender was wrong, then he or she
must either accept proper punishment, or become divorced from these
Articles of Adoption.

The Darings signed the papers with enthusiastic glee; Phœbe first,
because she was five minutes older than her twin; then Phil and Becky,
and Don and Sue. Two copies had been made, one for Phœbe to keep and
one for Cousin Judith; and to make it appear more legal and binding,
Aunt Hyacinth was called in as a witness and made an inky impression of
her thumb on both documents by way of signature.

By this time dinner was ready, for the Darings ate their heartiest meal
in the middle of the day, in good Southern fashion.

While they dined, Cousin Judith said she would devote the afternoon to
long private talks with each of her adopted children. She wanted them
to tell her all about themselves, their hopes and trials and longings,
and then she would be able to help them, individually, to better
advantage.

Sue was closeted with the Little Mother first, because she was the
youngest and most impatient. She emerged from Cousin Judith’s room
bright-eyed and smiling, and then Don went in. One by one they had
heart to heart talks with their newly adopted counsellor, the sessions
of Phil and Phœbe being much the longest because they were older and
had more to explain. When the conferences finally ended, Judith had
gleaned much valuable information concerning the Daring household, and
was prepared to assume her new duties with proper intelligence.



CHAPTER IX

PHŒBE HAS AN ADVENTURE


Perhaps no one was so greatly relieved by the advent of Cousin Judith
as Phœbe Daring. The girl had keenly felt her responsibilities
during the troubled months since her father’s death, and her days and
nights had been filled with anxieties. Now, however, she could cast all
worry to the winds, for the new head of the household, albeit gentle of
demeanor, low voiced and cheery, had nevertheless a reserve force and
power of command that inspired confidence, being in sharp contrast to
Phœbe’s own inexperience and lack of self reliance.

Aunt Hyacinth also felt relief. She had not worried much, at any time;
it wasn’t her way. But Phœbe’s girlish responsibilities were as
nothing compared to those of the black mammy whose tenderly reared
brood seemed, in these adverse times, to have become neglected and
forsaken by all the world. She hailed Miss Eliot’s coming with joy and
unfeigned gratitude, and when she understood that “Miss Judy,” as she
called her in the old days, was to take charge of the household, she
felt a great weight lifted from her brave old shoulders.

“I knows dem chill’ns ben runnin’ wild, Miss Judy,” she said earnestly,
“but I ain’t got de eddication, ner de arg’mentation to keep ’em toein’
de chalk mark. It needs mo’ brains ner Aunt Hy’cinth’s got.”

One night, when Phœbe had been asleep for some time, she was
roused by a peculiar sound in the next room--the room back of her
own--occupied by old Miss Halliday. It was a faint but persistent
sound, as of something sliding softly over a wooden surface, and now
and then it was accompanied by the crooning voice of the housekeeper.
She did not speak, at these times, but droned a long, sighing
“m-m-m-m-m” that denoted both ecstasy and intense excitement. The
sounds were all subdued and stealthy, but in the dead of night they
were clearly heard by the girl, who became half frightened, wondering
if old Elaine had gone mad.

While she lay in her bed listening, a sudden silence fell, followed
by several gentle thumps which she could not explain. Then a chair
was pushed back; Miss Halliday pattered softly across the floor--and
perfect silence ensued.

Phœbe lay a long time afterward listening for a recurrence of the
mysterious sounds, but they did not mature and presently the girl fell
asleep again.

Next morning the recollection of the occurrence was rather dim in her
mind. She remembered her midnight fears and considered them rather
soberly while dressing; but afterward, when she saw Miss Halliday
feeding her chickens and looking after the garden in her accustomed
manner, alert, composed and engrossed in her work, Phœbe dismissed
any idea of the old woman’s being insane and soon forgot all about the
incident.

This was commencement week, and Phil and Phœbe both graduated. The
twins were not on a par as far as scholarship was concerned, for the
girl barely passed her examinations. Phil was at the head of his class,
as he had hoped to be, but he was obliged to share that honor with one
other. Janet Ferguson had pressed him hard for first place all the
term, and at last she stood equal to Phil in all classes. With manly
generosity he was the first to congratulate her, for he liked Janet.
She was a modest, quiet girl who had a smile and a pleasant word for
everyone.

Old Judge Ferguson was mightily pleased. He slapped Phil on the back
and said approvingly: “If you can keep step with my Janet, Phil, you’ve
something to be proud of, I assure you.”

Phil _was_ proud, and so was Phœbe. She had not expected honors,
herself, but that her twin should do so well was certainly a source of
pride to her. She fairly reveled in her brother’s reflected glory.

Cousin Judith gave Phil a scarf pin from Paris and Phœbe an oriental
bracelet of unique design. Nor did she forget the daughter of her old
friend Judge Ferguson, for Janet received from her, as a graduation
gift, a silver brooch brought from Venice.

That evening was a joyous one in the Daring household. The younger
children realized that a long vacation was ahead of them. Phœbe was
now at liberty to begin life in earnest, and Phil was about to take his
place in Spaythe’s Bank. Aunt Hy, well knowing this to be a festive
occasion, prepared an elaborate supper, and afterward they all gathered
in an end of the big parlor, which Judith’s deft hand had by this time
rendered more cosy, and spent the evening listening to their Little
Mother’s fascinating stories of Italian life.

It was late when they retired for the night, and Phœbe was tired.
She was soon in bed, but the day’s excitement was yet upon her and she
could not readily compose herself to sleep. Thoughts of the future and
her ambitious plans for it obtruded themselves persistently, and she
was wide-eyed when the ormolu clock, in Cousin Judith’s room opposite,
chimed the hour of midnight.

Soon after her ear caught another sound--the gentle, stealthy
sliding--sliding--sliding of some hard substance across a table-top. It
came from Miss Halliday’s room, and was exactly the same sound she had
heard several nights before.

Presently the old woman began her droning again: “M-m-m-m-m!”--a croon
of the most beatific joy and exaltation. She evidently desired to
suppress the murmur, for fear of being overheard, so that at first it
barely reached Phœbe’s listening ears. But now and then her ecstasy
led her to forget caution and raise the croon to a higher key.

It was all so uncanny, so strange and inexplicable, that the girl
was more startled than she had been before. Yet she did not feel so
alarmed, this time, as she was curious.

Softly throwing back the coverlet she tiptoed to the connecting door
and crouched down to look through the keyhole. Only blackness rewarded
the attempt. Then she placed her ear to the panel, but found she could
not hear much more distinctly than when lying in bed. Shivering a
little in the night air Phœbe was about to retreat when suddenly the
thumps began, and between them Elaine spoke.

“Mine!” she said, muttered low but quite distinct. Then came a thump.
“Mine!” she repeated. Another thump. “Mine!” she said, again; and so
the word and the thump followed each other several times. Afterward, a
brief silence and shuffle of the woman’s feet across the room. Then, as
before, all sounds ceased.

Phœbe went back to bed thoughtful and perplexed. Surely there was
some mystery about this queer performance. She remembered how unwilling
Miss Halliday had been to have any of the Darings occupy the hall
bedrooms, and it seemed there must be some connection between this
reluctance and the strange sounds she had twice heard.

For some indefinite reason which she could not have explained Phœbe
said nothing about these experiences, either to the Little Mother or
to her brothers or sisters. The girl was inclined, at times, to dream
wonderful daydreams when those about her thought her absorbed in humble
occupations. Looking upon the world with clear, calm eyes, Phœbe
found it essentially practical and commonplace, and accepted it as she
found it, striving to do her duty at all times. But the fascinating
dreams would not be denied, and one of her secret pleasures was to
allow them full play in her mind when her hands were engaged in some
unimportant matter. She never confided them even to her beloved twin;
they were sacred to herself alone, and any exposure of them would have
shamed her terribly.

They were healthy dreams, if inherently romantic and unreal. There was
nothing morbid about Phœbe, although it must be admitted she had
some queer characteristics that might be called faults. Cousin Judith
thought she was more like her mother than any of the other children,
yet her shrewd eyes marked the girl’s frequent abstraction and knew her
thoughts were often far away from her material surroundings.

Phœbe scented a mystery. That old Miss Halliday possessed some
secret which she dreaded to have revealed was quite evident to her,
judging from what she had overheard. It would be difficult to explain
to others, those peculiar sounds. Perhaps, she would be laughed at if
she attempted it. She resolved, therefore, to keep her own counsel and
watch Elaine carefully. If she discovered the secret it would then be
time enough to make it known; meantime, she could enjoy the suggestion
of a mystery without interference.

Practical, everyday life is apt to dispel visionary dreams. Phœbe
leaned from her window the next morning and watched Cousin Judith
bargaining with Miss Halliday for a dozen of fresh eggs.

“The Randolphs, across the road, pay me twenty cents a dozen,” said
Elaine, gruffly. “You can buy eggs from the grocer for eighteen.
There’s no need to waste your money on me.”

“Do the Randolphs take all you have?” asked Judith.

“Yes; and cry for more.”

“Then I will not urge you,” replied Miss Eliot, “although I would be
willing to pay you twenty cents, myself. I know your eggs are quite
fresh, which is not always the case with those obtained from the
grocer.”

“I don’t want your money,” observed the woman, in a disagreeable tone.
“I won’t touch your money. Mr. Eliot allows you house room out of
charity, but he desires no communication, of any sort, between the two
families.”

“How do you know that?” inquired Judith, looking at the old servant,
steadily.

“He has told me so.”

“You know very well that he is incapable of speech.”

“Do I? That shows your ignorance, Judith Eliot. Your uncle can speak
when he wants to, and speak to some purpose. His mind isn’t paralyzed,
I assure you, and he is competent to direct his own affairs.”

“I cannot believe it,” persisted Judith.

The woman looked at her defiantly.

“Call in the law, if you want to,” she said; “I’d be glad to have you
do it. Mr. Eliot can prove his mental condition in court, and his right
to manage his own property. But if you put him to that trouble he’ll
turn out the whole tribe of you, as sure as my name’s Elaine Halliday!”

Judith turned away without further remark. The shrewdness of the woman
astonished and perplexed her. Possibly old Elaine was right, and could,
if she chose, induce Uncle Eliot to speak. Otherwise she would scarcely
have dared to thus defy all interference with her autocratic whims. It
was also possible that the paralytic old man was so completely under
Elaine’s influence that he would readily follow her suggestions.

Jonathan Eliot had always been a hard, stubborn man, even to his
sweet, beautiful daughter Molly. As Judith remembered him, sitting
stolidly in his chair that morning when she had forced herself upon his
presence, he appeared a living mummy, lost to all recognition of his
surroundings. Yet, if Elaine could arouse him at will, and his mind
retained its natural poise, there was really danger that he might turn
the Darings out of their refuge. Judith would not employ the law; she
dared not; but she resolved to consult Judge Ferguson.

Acting upon this determination she at once put on her hat and started
for the lawyer’s office.

Phœbe, seeing Miss Halliday busy in the hen-house, left her window
and turned to examine the mysterious connecting door between her room
and that of the housekeeper. In broad daylight it did not appear
especially interesting. It was a heavy, old-fashioned door with a big
keyhole in the lock. But when Phœbe stooped down she discovered a
thick cloth had been placed on the opposite side, which effectually
prevented her from examining the next room. She pushed a long hat-pin
through the hole but failed to dislodge the cloth.

Next, she turned her attention to the transom above the door. It had
once been made to swing open, but was now tightly nailed shut. Over the
glass had been nailed a thin board, which fully covered it; but it was
nailed to Phœbe’s side of the transom and the girl at once decided
that here might be a way to discover what those mysterious midnight
sounds meant.

She went into Phil’s room and searched in his tool chest for some
instrument with which to remove the board from the transom. Just then
Cousin Judith passed out of the front gate on her way down town, and
Phœbe was all alone in the upper part of the house--except, of
course, gran’pa, who could not interfere.

She selected a chisel and a hammer, and returned to her room. She drew
her stand before the door and by means of a chair mounted to its top.
From this elevation her head almost reached the ceiling, and she was
able to work comfortably. Quickly prying the nails from the board with
the chisel, Phœbe removed it and found a pane of clear glass behind.
It was dingy with dust; but by rubbing clear one corner she found
herself looking into Elaine’s room.

It was much like her own room, yet even more poorly furnished. A big,
broad oaken table stood in the center--a heavily constructed affair
that seemed out of place in a bedchamber. It was bare of even a cloth.
A small dresser stood at one side; a bed was in the opposite corner;
two stiff chairs and a rag carpet completed the furniture of the room,
which denoted extreme neatness and cleanliness. Really, there was
nothing here pertaining to the mysterious or unusual.

But Phœbe was not satisfied. Those sliding sounds, the old woman’s
ecstatic murmurings, must be explained. After a moment’s thought, the
girl climbed down from the table and with the chisel managed to cut a
square corner out of the thin board. Then she replaced it as it had
been before, putting one nail loosely into the corner she had removed,
so that while the board over the transom appeared to be intact and
undisturbed she could easily slide the corner from its place and so
obtain a “peephole.”

Observing her work critically from the floor she decided no one would
ever notice that the board had been tampered with. So she returned the
tools to Phil’s chest, rearranged her room, and with the complacent
idea that she had accomplished a clever feat awaited the moment when
she might make an important discovery.



CHAPTER X

A DEPRESSING INTERVIEW


Judith found Mr. Ferguson alone in his office. With an air of much
pride she produced the Articles of Adoption and asked him to read the
document.

“Don’t pick flaws in its legality, please,” she said with twinkling
eyes.

The lawyer read the agreement through very soberly. Then he reached out
both his hands and took those of Judith in their firm clasp.

“My dear, you are a noble woman,” he said. “I am almost as grateful to
you as if the Darings were my own children. They need a mother, Judith,
and the poor things couldn’t have fallen into greater luck than being
adopted by you.”

She was a little embarrassed by this praise.

“Tell me what you know about Uncle Jonathan,” she asked, to change the
subject.

He gave her an amused glance from beneath his bushy eyebrows.

“Of course the old man would interest you,” he replied. “Curious
situation, isn’t it, Judith? Have you seen him?”

“Yes; for a moment.”

“It’s a wonder his grim guardian allowed it.”

“I forced myself into his room, in spite of Elaine.”

“Did you? And found your uncle deaf, dumb and blind, I suppose.”

“Yes,” she returned. “Is he always like that?”

“Always. Unless Elaine Halliday chooses to waken him. Then he comes to
life.”

“I did not believe it possible!”

“Nor I,” agreed the lawyer, “until I had experience with the fact.
You’ve no idea, Judith, what a time I had to obtain a refuge for the
Darings in that household. Elaine stubbornly refused to admit them,
claiming that Mr. Eliot was oblivious to all the world and she had
received positive instructions never to permit a Daring to enter the
house while he lived. I told her frankly that in such a case it was my
duty to apply to the law and have a legal guardian appointed to look
after her master and his property. This threat alone prevailed upon
her. She decided to grant me an interview, and in some way I cannot
understand, she whispered into the old man’s ear until he quickened to
life far enough to speak. The words were not very distinct and were
slowly muttered, for his tongue is partially paralyzed; but I found
his intellect was as keen as ever. I explained the unhappy situation
of his grandchildren and asked him to help them. He told me he hadn’t
a penny to give them, that his money was gone and his fortunes
practically ruined.”

“Do you believe that?” asked Judith.

“Yes; I think it is true, my dear. I told him that I did not ask for
money for the Darings; I only demanded a shelter for them in his big,
unoccupied house; and, although Elaine tried to induce him not to
consent, the old fellow silenced her and told me the Darings might
occupy all the house, except the four rooms reserved for his own use
and that of his servant. So I won the battle, after all.”

Judith considered this thoughtfully.

“What became of his money?” she asked.

“Years ago,” replied Mr. Ferguson, slowly, “I was employed as Jonathan
Eliot’s trusted advisor. That was when he owned a large estate and
commanded ample means. He was not a generous man, in those days, but
grudged every necessary expenditure his family made. After his wife’s
death and Molly’s marriage, he came to me one day and said that all his
money had been swept away in an unlucky speculation, and he would no
longer be able to employ me. He refused to answer any questions as to
the manner of his loss. Mr. Spaythe told me, about that time, that Mr.
Eliot had drawn all his money from the bank, taking it in gold coin.
Your uncle discharged all the servants except Elaine, shut up most of
the house, and offered his estate for sale. He lived quite frugally, I
learned, and was doubtless very poor. Bit by bit he sold off the lands,
until only the house and its garden remained. There is no mortgage on
the place, however. Wallace Daring offered to assist his father-in-law,
but Eliot irritably refused. They quarrelled soon afterward, as you
perhaps know.”

“But I don’t quite understand,” said Judith. “Even if he lost all his
ready money, the land must have brought a large sum. What became of
that?”

“It squared his debts, I suppose. The old man confided his affairs
to no one. He was suspicious of even his own daughter. Then suddenly
he became paralyzed, and I went to see if I could be of any help to
my old client. Elaine told me she had searched everywhere, without
finding a dollar. Until then I had harbored the thought that your
uncle had become a miser, for his nature inclined that way; so I
examined the house myself, looking high and low in every possible place
for any secreted cash or securities, or even for papers that would
explain what had become of his money, or account for his impoverished
condition. But there was nothing of the sort to be discovered. I am
thoroughly satisfied that Jonathan Eliot is as poor as he claims to be.”

Judith sighed.

“The house and lot must be worth considerable,” she said, hesitatingly.

“It might bring a fair price if offered for sale,” said he, “but it
would not be advisable to dispose of the place until the Darings grow
to maturity. Before that time arrives it is probable old Jonathan
Eliot will have passed away and be laid in that ridiculous big white
mausoleum he once constructed. Then his grandchildren will inherit the
property. While he lives, moreover, we could not sell the place if we
desired to, unless we managed to prove Mr. Eliot mentally deficient.”

“Isn’t he?”

“No; not in the eye of the law. Elaine can arouse him whenever she
pleases. Indeed, we must consider it fortunate, Judith, that this
strange woman is content to care for him. I am sure she makes him as
comfortable as is possible.”

“That is true,” admitted the girl.

“By the way,” said the lawyer, “how are you going to manage about
money?”

“I have, as you know, an income of fifty dollars a month,” she
replied. “With this, added to what Phil earns, we shall be rich. I have
also saved, from the sales of my pictures, about two hundred dollars,
a part of which I am going to expend at once for new clothing for the
children. The poor things need it badly, for Sue, Donald and Becky are
growing rapidly and have scarcely a decent garment to put on.”

“You’re a fairy godmother, Judith,” he observed, regarding her with
evident approval. “I feel easier about the Darings now; but there’s a
fight ahead, my dear, for all of you. Don’t fail to come to me if you
need advice or assistance, for I’m the legal guardian of the young
brood, remember, and I’m willing to do my duty by them.”

Judith went away feeling much depressed in spirit. The lawyer’s
explanation had been so clear that it destroyed all her suspicions
of both Elaine and her paralyzed uncle. The matter proved to be very
simple, after all, and contained no element of mystery.



CHAPTER XI

GETTING REGULATED


Monday morning Phil went to work at the bank. As Riverdale was a small
town, Spaythe’s Bank might be expected to be a small institution, but
it was more important than the size of the town really warranted. The
beet sugar factory drew many farmers to Riverdale, who deposited the
money received for their beets with Mr. Spaythe. The factory itself
had large deposits in the bank and the town merchants did a thriving
business. Aside from this there were many prosperous plantations and
wealthy country gentlemen in the neighborhood, all of which contributed
to the importance and prosperity of Spaythe’s Bank.

Three assistants, or clerks, were employed, and Mr. Spaythe directed
them in person. The cashier and paying teller was an elderly, quiet man
named Boothe. Eric Spaythe told Phil that Boothe was a mere machine,
and had not a single thought or idea beyond his duties at the bank. Ned
Thurber had held the position of head bookkeeper, but on his withdrawal
Eric was promoted to that important position and Phil became his
assistant.

Eric was Mr. Spaythe’s only child and it was the banker’s earnest
hope that the boy would, one day, succeed him. As is often the case,
however, father and son were totally unlike in disposition and
character, and those who knew them best were disposed to doubt Eric’s
ability to step into his father’s shoes. He was a jolly, pleasure
loving young fellow, now in his twentieth year, and Phil liked him and
had always found him to be a congenial companion. Short and stout,
with a round pink face and merry blue eyes, Eric Spaythe was a general
favorite at Riverdale, especially with the women and girls. His one
defect seemed to be that he was wholly irresponsible, and never
serious. At school he had proved a bad scholar, although the boy was
bright enough in other ways, and two years ago his father had taken him
from High and placed him in the bank to learn the business.

The most important point of difference between Eric and his father
was that the young man was a natural spendthrift, whereas Mr. Spaythe
had always been frugal with his money. We may well suppose that
this characteristic of Eric was a thorn in the banker’s flesh; but
he realized that the boy was young and so did not despair of being
able to instill in him a knowledge of the importance of husbanding
his means. For this reason he allowed Eric a very small salary, and
wondered how the boy could purchase so many fine clothes and articles
of fashionable attire with so little money. The tradesmen knew, of
course, but considered the banker’s son well entitled to credit.

Phil was accorded a kindly reception at the bank. Mr. Boothe turned
his expressionless eyes full upon the new clerk and shook his hand
automatically. Eric was delighted to have his old friend associated
with him, and elated, as well, by his own promotion to be head
bookkeeper. Mr. Spaythe, keenly interested in the important changes
in his force of employees, left his private office to overlook the
counting room and satisfy himself that the boys understood their
duties. Eric protested that he was quite competent to fill Ned
Thurber’s place, having been his assistant for the past two years;
and, indeed, the banker’s son seemed adequately able in business ways,
if he could be induced to keep his mind on his work. After inspecting
his entries now and then Mr. Spaythe seemed satisfied with his son’s
ability and turned his attention to Phil, who really needed a guiding
hand. His extra course in bookkeeping at the high school now stood
him in good stead, and he was intelligent enough to quickly grasp his
instructions.

“If at any time you are in doubt, Eric will post you,” said the
banker; but for several days he made it a point to frequently
examine the ledgers and assure himself that the work was progressing
satisfactorily. Afterward, so well did both Eric and Phil accomplish
their tasks, that Mr. Spaythe left them much to their own devices and
kept himself shut up in his private office, as formerly.

The mechanical cashier was not an especially companionable man. Mr.
Boothe began each day with a “good morning” to his fellow employees and
ended it with a brief “good night.” During the day he said nothing,
unless required to answer the questions of the bank’s customers. His
accounts were always absolutely accurate, and Mr. Spaythe knew he was
justified in relying implicitly upon his cashier to do his duty.

That was a happy Saturday afternoon for Phil when he brought home his
first week’s wages and deposited the new ten dollar gold-piece in
Cousin Judith’s hand.

“That will help some, won’t it?” he inquired, anxiously.

“It will help a great deal,” was the reply.

About this time Marion Randolph came home from college for the long
vacation. She was the eldest daughter of the house, and about the same
age as Phil and Phœbe. Judith, looking from her window, saw Marion
on the lawn the morning after her arrival and noted her slender,
angular form, her delicate, refined face and well-bred poise. She at
once decided Marion would be a valuable acquaintance for Phœbe, and
decided to bring the two girls together.

“Let us call on the Randolphs this afternoon,” she suggested to
Phœbe. “Since they are recent arrivals at Riverdale it is really
our duty to call upon them formally. They are likely to prove pleasant
acquaintances.”

“I’ve really nothing fit to wear, Cousin Judith,” replied the girl.

The Little Mother examined Phœbe’s wardrobe and selected a simple,
white gown. It needed mending in places, but Judith caught up the
rents with her deft needle and added some pretty ribbons of her own to
the costume. A season of dressmaking had already begun in the house,
but Sue and Becky were most in need of respectable raiment, and so
Phœbe’s turn had not yet arrived.

When, late in the afternoon, Miss Eliot and Phœbe Daring set out to
make their call, there was nothing that the most critical could find
fault with in their personal appearance. Phœbe had the reputation of
being “the prettiest girl in Riverdale,” and seemed justly entitled to
it that day, while Cousin Judith’s sweet face was sure to win approval
anywhere.

Mrs. Randolph and her daughter Marion received their neighbors very
graciously. The former was a languid, weary looking woman who had
secluded herself in this little village in order to escape the demands
of society and organized charities, which had nearly reduced her to a
state of nervous prostration. Marion was an intelligent, active girl,
with none of her younger sister’s assumption of airs and graces. She
seemed to Phœbe to be perfectly frank and natural in her ways,
possessing ideas that were healthy, broad and progressive. During the
interview, Marion developed a liking for Phœbe that pleased Miss
Eliot greatly.

“Come and see me,” said Phœbe, shyly, when about to depart. “We are
such near neighbors that you can run in at any time.”

“I will, indeed,” was the ready promise, and Marion kept it faithfully.

Thereafter, there was seldom a day when the two girls were not
together. Marion came most frequently to see Phœbe, for there was a
certain air of conventional stiffness about the great house that both
the girls felt and objected to. Sometimes, Doris came with her sister,
and was turned over to the tender mercies of mischievous Becky, who
teased her visitor in a shameful manner. Usually Doris was all unaware
that she was being ridiculed for her primness and stilted expressions,
but Cousin Judith was quick to comprehend the situation and took Becky
to task for her impoliteness. With all her graceless ways the child
was warm-hearted and easily influenced, for good as well as for evil,
and she promised the Little Mother to treat Doris nicely and avoid
offending her ears by using slangy expressions. Becky intended to keep
her word thus given, but at times lapsed irrepressibly into the old
ways, so that she was a source of constant anxiety to Judith.

Since Phœbe had chosen to make a friend of Marion, her twin was
bound to follow her lead. Phil found the college girl a delightful
comrade. He did not care much for girls, as a rule, excepting of course
his own sisters, but Marion proved as frank and as keenly intelligent
as any boy. She knew all about modern athletics, although too frail of
physique to indulge in such sports herself. Likewise she had a fairly
practical knowledge of business methods, politics, public institutions
and reform movements, and talked well and interestingly upon all
subjects of the day. Aspiring to become a poet, she read bits of
original verse to her new friends which they considered so remarkable
that it was a marvel to them she was not already famous.

“There is only one thing lacking about Marion,” Phil confided to his
twin; “she lacks any sense of humor. Seems to me she can’t appreciate
anything funny, at all. The only things she laughs at are the mistakes
of other people. Isn’t it queer, when she’s so bright in all other
ways?”

“I think,” returned Phœbe, musingly, “that is a characteristic
of all the Randolphs. Doris and Allerton are the same way, and I’ve
wondered if Mrs. Randolph was ever in her life amused enough to laugh
aloud.”

“Marion is good company, though,” added Phil, “and I like her.”

“She’s splendid!” agreed Phœbe; “and her poetry reminds me so much
of Mrs. Browning.”

“Me too,” he said, laughing. “I never can understand a word of it.”

Others called on Marion and she soon became a popular favorite in the
village. Especially, was she attracted to Janet Ferguson, and as Janet
was a warm friend of the Darings, this made it pleasant for all the
young people. When the famous lawn party was given at the Randolph
residence the occasion was one long remembered, for no such elaborate
entertainment was ever before known in Riverdale.

The festivity was designed to celebrate Marion’s birthday, as well as
to introduce her socially to the young folks of the town.

“Of course it cannot be very exclusive,” observed her mother, when the
invitation list was being prepared; “otherwise you would have but a
mere handful.”

“I do not wish to be exclusive here,” returned Marion, gravely. “My
desire is to study character and human nature, to assist me in my
literary work. One cannot write of humanity without knowing something
of the rank and file, you see; and there are many respectable, if
humble, families in Riverdale.”

Mrs. Randolph scanned the list critically.

“Is it possible that you intend to ask the entire family of Darings?”
she inquired.

“Yes, dear. I am inviting Rebecca and Donald for Doris and Allerton,
you see, and I cannot well leave out that little fairy elf, Sue. So
they must all come.”

“Do you know, Marion, those Darings--the younger ones, I refer to--are
very ill-bred children?”

“Their manners are not strictly conventional, I believe.”

“And their language is that of the slums.”

“But they have had no mother to guide them, poor things,” explained
Marion. “At times they are very winning and companionable, and I am
sure they will behave nicely at my lawn fête.”

“Very well, dear,” sighed the lady; “invite them if you wish to. This
was once their home, you remember. After all, it would not be quite
right to exclude the Darings from your little affair.”

It may have seemed a “little affair” in the eyes of the blasé society
woman, but it was not so to the people of Riverdale, by any means. A
brass band of fifteen pieces came from the city by the noon train, and
their uniforms were so gorgeous as to create tremendous excitement.
Tents had been erected upon the lawn and a force of extra servants
employed to prepare and serve the refreshments. The ample grounds were
crossed in every direction by strings of unique Japanese lanterns, and
in the early evening there was to be dancing to the music of the band.

It was but natural that every young person in town who had received an
invitation was filled with joyful anticipation. “From five until nine,”
the cards read, and it was hard work for Cousin Judith to control the
younger Darings until the hour arrived. Sue insisted upon being dressed
directly after dinner, and when arrayed in her new muslin with the
cherry ribbons she found such difficulty in keeping still that Judith
was fearful Sue would ruin the frock before five o’clock. Rebecca had
a new gown, too, and Donald a new suit of clothes. When, finally,
the children observed several arrivals at the reception tent on the
lawn opposite, which they had carefully watched all afternoon from
the dining room window, Miss Eliot felt that she could restrain their
impatience no longer and away they trooped across the road.

Marion had asked Phœbe and Janet to assist her to receive, for she
did not know personally all whom she had invited, while the other girls
were of course familiar with every young person in the village. There
were no “regrets” that day, you may be sure, for the unusual occasion
could not well be disregarded. Eric Spaythe came early, in an elaborate
costume fresh from the tailor, and he paid especial attention to Marion
whenever her duties left her disengaged. Al Hayden, Toby Clarke, Jed
Hopkins and, in fact, every eligible youth in the village, assembled
in bashful groups and looked nervously at the bevies of girls and upon
their bewildering surroundings. In order to help Marion, Phil tried to
“break the ice,” as he said, by bringing the boys and girls together,
and when the band struck up a spirited twostep it relieved the strain
to a wonderful degree.

Mrs. Randolph kept out of sight, indulgently viewing the scene from a
window. Mr. Randolph had not appeared in Riverdale since he brought
his family there and settled them in their new home. He was a busy man,
with many extensive financial interests, and could not be away from
Boston for very long at a time.

Donald, Becky and Sue had promptly joined Doris and Allerton, and as
they were a little younger than the majority of Marion’s guests they
formed a group of their own.

“It distresses me,” said Doris, plaintively, “to realize how many poor
people are suffering, while we revel at this fête; and I cannot help
thinking how many deserving families might be relieved from want by
means of the money we are squandering to-day upon useless luxuries.”

“Aw, cut it out!” cried Becky, indignantly. “Do you want to spoil all
our fun?”

“My sister is religiously inclined,” observed Allerton; “yet there is a
place for everything, and this is not a funeral.”

“Oh, Allerton--how shocking!” exclaimed the girl.

“I don’t believe,” said Don, “you Randolphs would have spent a penny on
the poor if you hadn’t given this party; so what’s the odds?”

It suddenly occurred to Becky that this wasn’t a proper topic of
conversation under the circumstances, and might lead to a quarrel; so
she turned the subject by asking:

“What’s in that red-and-white striped tent?”

“Lemonade and ices,” said Allerton. “Will you have some?”

“Sure thing!” was the reply, and away they went, to be served by a maid
in a white cap and apron.

“Doesn’t it cost us anything?” inquired Sue, who found the lemonade
extremely good.

“Course not,” returned Becky, helping herself again from the big bowl
when the maid was not looking. “But if Doris had her way they’d collect
a nickel a glass for charity,--the kind of charity that doesn’t help
the poor a bit.”

“Let us go to the long tent, over there,” said Allerton, with eager
patronage. “I’ll show you the big birthday cake and the tables all laid
with favors and things. If we go in the back way no one will see us.”

Doris was not sure they were doing right to peep at the tables in
advance, but as none of the others hesitated to follow her brother she
decided to trail along after them.

It was, indeed, a pretty sight, and the Darings were awe-struck.

“When do we feed?” asked Don, hungrily.

“The collation is at half past six, I believe.”

“The what?”

“The collation.”

“Can’t you speak United States?” asked Don, indignantly; “or are you
trying to poke fun at me?”

“If you are too ignorant to understand simple language,” retorted
Allerton angrily, “you become an object of derision.”

Don glared at him.

“Take that back, you mollycoddle!” he cried, “or I’ll punch your head.”

“Better not,” warned Becky, composedly. “It isn’t polite at a party.”

“Take back your own words!” shouted Allerton, white with rage. “I’m no
mollycoddle, and I’ll fight you now, or any time.”

But Doris, startled and dismayed at this disgraceful scene, put her
hand on her brother’s arm and drew him away.

“Come, Allerton,” she said, with such dignity as she could command.
“You forget yourself.”

“I won’t forget him, if he does,” promised Don.

“Don’t,” answered Allerton, moving away but still furious; “I’ll settle
this with you some other time, when you are not my sister’s guest.”

Becky laughed and followed Doris, but outside the tent Allerton broke
away from the group and went to nurse his grievances alone. Don was
trying to think of a way to apologize to Doris when the girl gave him
such a look of mingled scorn and reproach that he turned away, thrust
his hands in his pockets and walked across the lawn whistling softly to
himself.

“Never mind,” said Becky, with cheerfulness, “they’ll get over it in a
minute. It isn’t any of our bread-and-cheese, anyhow.”

The incident, however, had disturbed gentle Doris greatly, and she was
so silent and reserved that Becky and Sue soon left her to her own
devices and set out to amuse themselves in any manner that might offer.

The band played stirring marches and gavottes. Laughter and merriment
were everywhere. All stiffness among the guests seemed to have
disappeared, for there were games of archery, lawn ten-pins, quoits and
various other devices for the amusement of those assembled. Some of
the girls had their fortunes told in the tent of a gypsy, while others
watched a big paper balloon that was being sent up.

It was nearly seven o’clock when Marion gathered her guests in the
banquet tent, and nearly all had found their places and were seated
when in rushed Sue Daring, her white gown streaming all down the front
with a sticky pink compound, and gasping with horror and despair she
flew to her sister Phœbe, who stared in amazement.

“Keep off, Sue--keep off! Good gracious, what has happened to you?”
Phœbe asked.

“I w-w-was helping myself to some l-l-l-lemonade, when the b-bowl
tipped over an’ ducked me,” was the wailing reply, while Phœbe held
her sister at arms’ length to protect her own dress.

There was a shout of laughter, at this, and poor Sue broke down and
began to cry.

“I’ll take her home,” whispered Phœbe to Marion.

“Come straight back, then,” pleaded the hostess; “and have Sue come,
too, as soon as she has changed her gown. There has been no harm done,
except to the poor thing’s own clothing.”

“Yes, there has,” sobbed Sue. “I b-b-broke the bowl!”

Phœbe led her away, and soon Judith was exclaiming at the child’s
dreadful plight. It was useless to think of her rejoining the party,
however, for there was not another dress in her limited wardrobe that
was proper for the occasion.

“Run back, dear,” said Cousin Judith to Phœbe; “your pleasure must
not be spoiled, and I’ll look after Sue and comfort her.”

That was not so easy, for Sue’s disappointment was very poignant
indeed. She knew it was her own fault, but that did not comfort her
for missing the supper and the dance. However, Judith assisted her
to exchange her sticky costume for a common gingham, and to wash
all traces of the deluge of lemonade from her face and hands. Then
she sat in the Little Mother’s window and listened to the shouts of
laughter and the music of the band and gazed at the myriad of twinkling
lanterns--and was more miserable than she had ever been before in all
her life.

Phœbe had soon rejoined the company and was now participating in
the fun. Sue’s accident had rather tended to increase the jollity
than otherwise, and was soon forgotten. There were pretty favors for
each guest, and as a finale to the delicious supper they all ate some
of Marion’s birthday cake and wished her many happy returns of the
day. Eric made a little speech which was witty enough to set them all
laughing, and Marion thanked the company very modestly for their kind
expressions of good will.

Donald sat opposite Allerton at the feast, and the two glared at one
another viciously, to Becky’s secret delight.

“Al’s getting to be quite decent,” she whispered to her brother. “I
wouldn’t be s’prised if he’d really fight.”

After the banquet came the dancing, and when the guests left the tent
to indulge in this amusement they found themselves in a veritable
fairyland. For the lanterns had all been lighted while they feasted,
and the scene was beautiful beyond anything they had ever before
witnessed.

The cards had said: “until nine,” but it was quite ten o’clock when
the Darings returned home, eager and excited, and breathlessly recited
their experiences to their smiling Little Mother. Sue had insisted on
sitting up to hear all about the affair, and the glowing reports made
her more miserable than ever.

“Did you have a good time, Don?” she asked, wistfully.

“Oh, so-so,” he replied. “It was a pretty fair show after I got rid of
the mollycoddle.”

“That’s the biggest word Don knows,” laughed Becky; but neither she nor
Sue betrayed the boy’s quarrel with Allerton.



CHAPTER XII

A BATTLE ROYAL


That night was another wakeful one for Phœbe. She had thoroughly
enjoyed the lawn fête, but it left her too nervous for peaceful slumber
until her pulses had calmed down and she was enabled to regain her
accustomed composure. She went to bed, but not to sleep, and after the
house became quiet she lay thinking over the incidents of the evening.

Gradually peace came to her. She was really tired, and the somnolent
thrall of midnight was making her drowsy when she was roused by the
movements of old Elaine in the next room.

It had been nearly a week since she had removed the board over the
transom and prepared her peephole, but during that time the housekeeper
had remained quiet, or at least Phœbe had not heard her. To-night
the stealthy sounds began again, and after listening a few moments the
girl softly arose, drew the table to a position before the door and
mounted upon it.

She tried to be quiet, but probably she made some sound in these
preparations, for scarcely had she slid the corner of the board away,
to look into the next room, when the light which faintly illumined it
was suddenly extinguished.

Phœbe stood motionless, waiting. Elaine, doubtless alarmed, did not
stir for a long time. The old woman may have scented danger without
realizing in what manner it threatened her, but her caution was
excessive. At last, Phœbe heard her breathe a low sigh and then
patter softly across the room to her bed and lie down.

The seance was over for to-night, without doubt. Exercising great care,
the girl noiselessly descended from her perch and, tiptoeing to bed,
composed herself to slumber.

Next morning, in considering the night’s occurrence, she decided to
leave the table where it stood--before the door--and to place a chair
beside it so she could mount noiselessly at any moment. It was several
days, however, before Elaine recovered from her fright or suspicions,
and during that time no unusual sounds came from her room.

It rained the morning after Marion’s party, and Phœbe was curious
to know if all the pretty lanterns had been wetted and destroyed. But,
on looking across at the lawn she discovered that every trace of last
night’s festivities had been removed by the servants. Tents, lanterns,
band stand, all had been taken away as soon as the guests had departed,
and the Randolph grounds were as trim and orderly as before.

The children resented the rain, for it kept all of them except Phil,
who was at work, cooped up in the house until after dinner. Judith
found time, during the dreary forenoon, to tell them some stories and
to talk over with them once again the adventures of the lawn fête,
which still occupied their minds.

When, at last, the rain ceased and the bright July sun came out of the
clouds, they greeted it with genuine relief and joyously scattered in
all directions.

Don, deserted by Becky, who had to go to Miss Gray’s for her music
lesson, walked out to the street and found Allerton promenading up and
down the opposite sidewalk, his head bowed and his hands clasped behind
his back--as an old man might have strutted. The sight awakened Don’s
slumbering wrath and he called out:

“Hello, mollycoddle! What are you up to?”

Allerton straightened up and glanced across the street.

“Oh, it’s you,” he said. “Are you ready for your thrashing?”

“Yes. I dare you to come over here,” responded Don, promptly.

“If you want your punishment, come and get it!”

“You’re afraid,” sneered Don.

“It isn’t that,” replied Allerton. “I haven’t my gloves here, and I
dislike to soil my hands.”

Don glared at his neighbor’s spick and span apparel, and the sight of
the “dandy” made him still more combative. Allerton was the biggest and
strongest, perhaps; but he was nearly a year younger than Don, who had
no thought of his own disadvantage. In that mood he would willingly
have fought a giant.

“I dare you to come half way,” he challenged, and as the other boy
hesitated, Don advanced along the muddy crossing at the corner until he
was at about the middle of it. It was an old board crosswalk, and just
beyond where Don stood it was so low that the thin mud of the street
had spread a layer over it.

This it was that caused Allerton to hesitate. He had a natural regard
for his polished shoes and carefully brushed clothes and, while fully
as eager for the fray as Donald, he would have preferred a more
suitable place to fight.

The taunts of young Daring, however, were not to be endured. It was
really necessary to teach impolite Donald a lesson he would remember.
So Allerton attempted the crossing.

When he came to the muddy section he halted.

“Come on, then!” he exclaimed.

“This is half way,” said Don. “Come on yourself.”

“You back down, do you?”

“No, I don’t back down. You’re the coward, Al.”

“Coward!”

“That’s what I said.”

It was too great an insult for Allerton to brook. With doubled fists he
advanced upon the eager, slender boy awaiting him. Don staggered under
a heavy blow received full upon the chin, and then his own fist shot
out and struck Allerton’s chest.

To his amazement it was “a knockdown.” Young Randolph’s feet slipped on
the slimy crossing and he fell backward full length in the soft mud of
the road.

With a roar of rage and chagrin he scrambled to his feet, and Don
planted another blow that sent him to the mud again. It was not a hard
blow, by any means. It seemed as though a mere touch was sufficient,
for Allerton’s feet were now so covered with mud that he could scarcely
stand upon them. A push from Don sufficed to upset him, and observing
the ease of the operation Don repeated his blow each time that Allerton
arose, laughing gleefully at the result of his own prowess. In the
heat of the encounter, however, he neglected to keep his own footing
on the cleaner and safer portion of the boards, so that in one of
Allerton’s falls his arm struck Don and sent him likewise sprawling in
the sticky mud.

They sat up and looked at each other in bewilderment. Allerton had
never been so astonished in his life as at his present misadventure,
and now, as he saw one side of Don’s head plastered with mud, which
filled an ear and an eye, he burst into a hearty laugh.

Don scraped the mud out of his eye, blinked at his antagonist, and
laughed too.

“Guess honors are about even, Al,” he said. “I’ve had enough. Have you?”

“Plenty,” declared Allerton, making an effort to rise from the puddle.
Don managed to find his feet after a severe struggle.

“My, but you’re a sight!” he exclaimed.

“So are you,” replied Allerton, cheerfully. “We both ought to be
ashamed of ourselves.”

“I--I’m afraid Cousin Judith will scold.”

“Well, I’m certain to catch it, all right. So long, Don.”

“So long, Al. Let’s go down town, after we’ve dressed.”

“All right.”

Thus the fight resulted in amity; but Don was dreadfully humiliated
when he had to face the Little Mother in all that mess. He took off
his shoes on the porch and humbly made his way up stairs to knock at
Judith’s door.

“I--I’ve fallen down in the mud,” he called to her. “May I put on my
best suit?”

Miss Eliot had been a witness of the entire scrimmage from her window,
and had even overheard the words that had preceded and provoked the
fight. She had decided not to interfere, but now she answered in a
frigid voice through the closed door:

“No, Donald. I cannot have your best suit ruined.”

“But what shall I do, Cousin Judith?”

“You must go to bed until the mud on your clothes dries and they can be
properly cleaned.”

Donald stood silently in the hall, his face flushed red with
humiliation. He waited a long while for Cousin Judith to speak again,
but she remained silent. At last he crept away to his own room, removed
the disreputable garments and examined them dolefully. Coat, trousers,
shirt, stockings--all were alike plastered with thick layers of fresh
mud. It would take them a long time to dry, he feared.

With a sinking heart he put on his pajamas, having first washed himself
clean, and then sat down to consider his dismal fate.

“It was a pretty good fight,” he mused; “but fighting don’t seem
to pay, somehow. I wish I had let Al alone. He isn’t so much of a
mollycoddle, after all.”

Finally, he thought of Aunt Hyacinth, and resolving to appeal to that
faithful friend he crept down into the kitchen and begged her to help
him. Aunty looked the clothes over in dismay, saying:

“’Tain’t no use, Marse Don. Dat ’ar mud won’t dry ’fore mawnin’, nohow.
I’ll do mah bes’, honey; but I neveh seen sich a mess in all mah bohn
days!”

With this verdict Don was forced to be content. He had a notion to
appeal to Cousin Judith again, but could not muster the courage. So he
got a book, lay down upon his bed and passed the rest of the afternoon
in abject misery.



CHAPTER XIII

PHIL MAKES A DISCOVERY


Eric came to the bank a little late on the morning following the party,
but as soon as he had joined Phil at the high desk which they used in
common he began to sing the praises of Marion Randolph.

“She isn’t a raving beauty, Phil,” he said, “and until now I’ve
always hated the sight of any girl that wears glasses; but Marion’s a
crackerjack in some ways. She’s got a wad of money, for one thing--or
her old man has, and that’s just the same.”

“I suppose Mr. Randolph is a very wealthy man,” remarked Phil, who
disliked to discuss Marion with his friend.

“Wealthy!” cried Eric; “why, Randolph’s the head of the big Boston bond
syndicate. He’s one of the slickest financiers in this country. Look
here, Phil,” turning to a page in the ledger; “just notice this entry.
When Mr. Randolph came here with the family, he deposited in our bank
ten thousand in cold cash. He and Mrs. Randolph may both check against
the account, but you see she’s only drawn a little over a thousand
dollars, so far. That’s the sort of a customer we like, and if Mr.
Randolph can let ten thousand lie idle in a country bank he must have
scads of money.”

Then Eric discussed the elaborate entertainment of yesterday and dwelt
perpetually upon the money the Randolphs must be possessed of, until
Phil was thoroughly annoyed.

“What does it matter, Eric?” he said. “Money can’t buy everything, in
this world.”

“What can’t it buy?” demanded Eric, astonished.

“It can’t buy happiness, or health, or--”

“That’s rubbish, Phil. Give a fellow plenty of money and he’s bound
to be happy; he can’t help it. And as for health, money gets the best
and most skillful doctors and surgeons in the land, and they’ll cure a
rich man where a poor man will die. There isn’t anything, old man, that
money won’t do.”

“Then you ought to be satisfied, Eric. Your father is the richest man
in Riverdale, except perhaps Mr. Randolph, and you are his only child.”

“Oh, it’ll come to me in time, I guess,” returned Eric, carelessly;
“but just now the gov’nor holds me in pretty tight lines. How in
blazes can he expect a young fellow to live on my salary? Why, it’s
preposterous!”

Phil did not reply to this. It was none of his business.

In some ways this association with Eric was not of the most pleasant
description. The two boys had grown up together in the village and had
always been friends in a way; but now that Phil was thrown more closely
into Eric’s companionship he discovered many traits in his nature that
did not seem wholly admirable.

The older boy was a persistent cigarette smoker, and laughed at Phil
for refusing to imitate him.

“I’ve tried it,” said Phil, quietly, “but I don’t like the things. To
me there’s no fun in smoking.”

After office hours Eric often pleaded with Phil to go to the hotel
and play pool with him. Mr. Daring had always had a pool and billiard
table in a large room in the attic of his house, and he had taught all
his children to play. None of them, however, cared especially for the
amusement, and his father’s wisdom was evident when Phil now revolted
from a game at the hotel.

“I’m not a good player, Eric,” he said, “and I can’t imagine anyone
loafing in that grimy, smoky room just to play a game of pool. What’s
the fun in it?”

Mr. Spaythe strongly objected to billiards and pool. He had even
reproved Wallace Daring, at times, for having a table in his house.
Eric had been sternly forbidden to play, and for that reason those
stealthy games at the hotel possessed for the young man the attraction
of forbidden fruit.

“Fun!” he retorted; “why, there’s lots of fun in pool. We play for the
drinks, you know, and I can beat nearly every fellow in the village.
When the farmers’ sons come in, they’re dead easy; there are always
some of them around the hotel, and they’re proud to play with me
because I’m the banker’s son.”

“Then play with them,” advised Phil. “I don’t drink, as you know, and
I’d be poor company for you.”

Eric shook his head sadly.

“You’ll never amount to much in the world, Phil, with those namby-pamby
ideas of yours.”

“I don’t consider them namby-pamby ideas, Eric; I simply don’t care for
the things you do.”

“The good die young.”

“Oh, I’m not so good as to be in any danger,” laughed Phil. “I imagine
I’m pretty full of faults, Eric, and you mustn’t quarrel with me
because my faults are not the same as your own.”

After a time young Spaythe refrained from urging Phil to join in his
amusements; but he seemed not to be offended and proved genial enough
as they worked together at the bank. The two young men occupied a
large room at the rear of the neat, one-story brick building. They
worked perched upon high stools at a big double desk, where the books
were spread out. Behind them was the grim, austere safe which was the
repository of so much specie that Phil’s brain sometimes whirled at
sight of the heaps of gold and bank notes. Mr. Spaythe’s private office
was in front, and beside it was the brass-railed coop where Mr. Boothe
sat all day dispensing or receiving money according to the requirements
of the customers.

The cashier could not overhear their conversation, if the boys spoke
moderately low, and he paid no attention to them, anyway, and seldom
even glanced toward them.

“I’ve invited Marion to the boat race,” said Eric one day, soon after
the party. “Are you going to pull stroke for our crew, Phil?”

“I suppose so.”

“Do your best, then, old man. I’m going to bet heavily on our crew.”

“I wouldn’t, Eric.”

“Why not?”

“The least little accident decides a boat race.”

“I’ll risk it. We’ve defeated Bayport two years running, and we’re due
for a third victory. As a matter of fact, I’m just forced to tie to
this race, Phil, and win some necessary money. I owe about everybody
in the town, and some of them are getting impatient to see the color of
my money.”

Phil knew this was true, and did not care to reply. After working
silently for a time he said:

“Eric, didn’t Samuel P. Martin deposit $380 yesterday?”

“No. It was $280.”

“Where’s the slip?”

“Put away, somewhere.”

“But, I’m sure it was three-eighty. I heard him say he wanted four
hundred for his team, and threw off twenty dollars in order to make the
deal.”

Eric looked a little annoyed.

“I entered two-eighty on the books, didn’t I?” he asked, scowling.

“Yes; that’s what surprised me.”

“Well, then the entry must be correct.”

“I’ll ask Mr. Boothe.”

“Let him alone. It’s my affair.”

Phil said no more, but was still puzzled. When he came back to the bank
after dinner he saw that Eric had laid a deposit slip on his desk. It
showed that Samuel P. Martin had deposited $280 in Spaythe’s Bank. Phil
thought the ink appeared to be quite fresh.

“You see I was right, after all,” observed Eric, glancing at Phil
a little anxiously. “After you left I hunted up the deposit slip.
Old Martin may have sold his team for three-eighty, but he only put
two-eighty in the bank.”

A few days later Phil had occasion to ask:

“Where is the check for two hundred, drawn by Mrs. Randolph?”

“When did she draw it?” inquired Eric.

“This morning, according to the entry. And just now she has presented
another check for fifty. I’ve just taken it from Mr. Boothe’s spindle.”

“Probably she didn’t get enough the first time,” remarked Eric, lazily
puffing his cigarette, for his father was away from the office just
then and he could stealthily indulge in his pet vice.

“I must have that check to file--the one for two hundred--and it isn’t
here,” persisted Phil, who had no intention of neglecting any part of
his duty.

Eric stared at him, a moment.

“Hand me that bunch of canceled checks,” he said; “I’ll find it.”

Phil passed the bundle across the desk, and while Eric slowly turned
over the paid checks and seemed to examine them carefully the other
bent his eyes upon the books and continued his work. After a time, the
banker’s son handed back the checks.

“There it is, Phil. I’ve placed it on top.”

Yes, there it was, sure enough, although Phil was positive it had not
been in the lot before. He did not refer to the subject again, but went
on with his task, feeling miserable and dispirited at the thoughts that
intruded themselves upon his mind.

Eric left early that afternoon, when Phil took occasion to carefully
compare the two checks issued by Mrs. Randolph. That for two hundred
was not numbered and seemed to have been very hastily written.

There was a dull ache in young Daring’s heart as he put away the books
and papers and prepared to go home. An odd suspicion had forced itself
upon him--a suspicion so cruel and deplorable that the boy reproached
himself for harboring it for even a moment.

That evening he had a long talk with Phœbe, his only confidant.
After relating to his twin the circumstances of Martin’s deposit and
Mrs. Randolph’s curious check he said:

“I know I am wrong to be mistrustful, for Eric is Mr. Spaythe’s only
son, and would not, of course, attempt to rob his father. But when
Martin pushed his money over the counter to Mr. Boothe he said in a
loud voice: ‘There’s three hundred and eighty dollars more toward my
savings’; so, in spite of that deposit slip, I am almost sure he
banked the entire amount.”

“Can Eric get into the safe, where the money is kept?” asked Phœbe,
after some thought.

“Of course. He has to put away the books, and often we are not through
with our work upon them until after Mr. Boothe has gone. They both have
the combination of the safe and the keys to the bank. Naturally, I have
not been entrusted with either, as yet.”

Phœbe took time to consider this.

“I suppose,” she finally said, “it would be quite possible for Eric to
take a hundred dollars from the safe and then make the entry of Mr.
Martin’s deposit a hundred dollars less than it actually was.”

“Yes.”

“Then no one would suspect what Eric had done.”

“Why, the books would not show the theft, of course; but in time Mr.
Martin will be sure to discover that he has not been credited with that
hundred dollars, and that will lead to an investigation. It’s the same
way with Mrs. Randolph’s check,” added Phil, regretfully. “She has a
large amount on deposit, and may not discover for a long time that her
account is two hundred dollars short.”

“Are you sure she did not sign that check?” asked Phœbe.

“No; I cannot be positive. Mrs. Randolph is in the habit of drawing
money from the bank but once a week. She writes neatly and numbers all
her checks. To-day I found an entry that Eric had made in the book
showing she had drawn two hundred, and the check itself, which should
have been among those Mr. Boothe had cashed and turned over to me, was
missing. Almost immediately came in the usual check for fifty, made out
in Mrs. Randolph’s neat and careful way. Naturally, I was puzzled. When
Eric finally found the two hundred dollar check, it was not like Mrs.
Randolph’s checks at all, although the handwriting was similar.”

“Have you noticed any other suspicions things?” the girl inquired.

“Several,” replied Phil, after a brief hesitation. “But, I’ve never
even dared to suspect Eric before. I hope I’m wrong; indeed, I _must_
be wrong!”

They were walking along a country lane in the twilight. Phil’s arm was
around his twin’s waist; the scent of new mown hay came to them from
the neighboring fields.

“I do not think you are justified in accusing Eric to his father,”
said Phœbe, musingly. “It will be better to keep your suspicions to
yourself.”

“That is my idea. I’m not hired as a detective; I’m merely a
bookkeeper.”

“Still,” she said, “you owe a certain loyalty to Mr. Spaythe. If an
employee discovers the bank being robbed it is his duty to speak;
unless--”

“Unless the robber is the banker’s own son,” added Phil; “in which case
it would be a kindness to keep the knowledge from him.”

Phœbe sighed.

“Eric has a good heart,” she observed, “and I’m sure he’d never think
of taking money from anyone but his father. He isn’t robbing the
customers of the bank by these acts, you know.”

“That is true, for the false entries are certain to be discovered, when
the bank will be obliged to make good the deficiencies. Eric realizes
this, I suppose. He has been very extravagant lately, and his father
keeps him on a very small salary. So, it seems to me, he has been
tempted to take what doesn’t belong to him.”

“I’m awfully sorry,” said the girl. “It’s a dreadful thing, Phil, any
way you look at it. But I do not think it is your place to interfere.
Fate will take care of the problem, and Eric’s final downfall is
certain.”

“Would you advise me to have a private talk with him, and tell him what
I know?” asked Phil.

“What’s the use? He cannot put back the money he has taken. Better let
the thing run its course, Phil, and keep out of it yourself in every
way.”

“I will,” said Phil, with decision.

But Eric was not long in discovering a change in Phil’s attitude
toward him. The young man did not mean to alter his manner toward his
old friend, but their former congenial relations were rather abruptly
broken off, much to Eric’s surprise. Then the latter became suspicious,
and while he spoke to his colleague as cheerfully as of old, Phil
frequently caught Eric watching him with a sly, searching glance that
had a trace of fear in it. This mistrust gradually wore away when the
banker’s son found he had not been betrayed, or even questioned. If
Phil found any entries in the books that did not look exactly right
to him, he passed them over and said nothing. This served to restore
Eric’s confidence in him, and the two boys continued to work together
in perfect harmony.

Phœbe was very miserable over Phil’s discovery of Eric’s
irregularities. It was the first time any disgraceful or criminal act
had been brought close to her knowledge, and she became nervous for
fear her twin might, in some way, become implicated in the terrible
affair. The girl was sorry for Eric, and grieved over him with all her
kindly heart. It seemed so sad that a bright young fellow with such
splendid prospects should go wrong and foolishly ruin all his future
life. She knew Mr. Spaythe well enough to believe he would cast off
Eric without mercy when he learned the fact that his son was a thief.
For this reason she sincerely hoped the banker would never make the
discovery.



CHAPTER XIV

THE FOLLY OF GRAN’PA ELIOT


That night Phœbe was again aroused by the peculiar sliding noise
in the next room. She had been awaiting it for so long that she was
alert to the slightest sound Elaine made, and now she lost no time
in silently mounting upon the table and opening the peephole she had
prepared. Her own room was shrouded in gloom, but the housekeeper had
placed a lighted candle upon her table, before which she was seated in
her white nightrobe.

When Phœbe first observed her, old Elaine was tying the mouth of a
stout canvas bag that was full of some irregular, lumpy material. Then
she drew another bag toward her--there were several standing upon the
broad table--and unfastened the cord that bound it while it was lying
upon its side. At once a shower of gold burst forth, and with her long
bony fingers the woman slid each piece of money across the table, at
the same time eagerly counting it in the low, mumbling tone Phœbe
had so often heard but could not before explain.

[Illustration: SHE EAGERLY COUNTED THE GOLD.]

From her perch of observation the girl counted them with her. There
were exactly two hundred and fifty twenty-dollar gold pieces in the
bag--a sum amounting to five thousand dollars.

Elaine cautiously replaced the hoard and firmly secured the mouth
of the sack. Another bag was opened. It contained smaller coins,
ten-dollar pieces, and there were three hundred of them.

The woman did not hurry, although her every movement denoted fervent
excitement. Bending over the table, she slowly slid piece after piece
from one pile to another until all had been counted. The sacks were old
and soiled. How many times, Phœbe wondered, had their contents been
counted and gloated over? Five separate sacks old Elaine unfastened,
counted, and tied up again, and all were filled with yellow gold. Then
she twined her arms around the bulging bags and began kissing them
ecstatically. “Mine!” she said in a hoarse whisper. “Mine--mine!” Then
she reached down and raised a trap in the floor, disclosing a cavity
between the joists into which she lowered a sack. It was a familiar
“thump” to Phœbe’s ears, the puzzling mystery of which was now
explained. With each sack she deposited she repeated: “Mine!” in so
weird a tone that it sent the chills coursing down the back of the
startled and amazed girl.

Now Elaine replaced the trap, drew the rag carpet over it and stood
upright. She cast an undecided glance around and walked to the
old-fashioned mantel that stood against the opposite wall. It was made
of some dark wood, and had been quite cleverly carved. Nearly every bed
chamber in the house had a similar mantel and fireplace.

Elaine put her hand to one corner and the entire woodwork swung outward
on hinges, showing a deep cavity which was lined with narrow shelves.
Except as the woman herself obstructed the view, Phœbe could clearly
see the whole of this secret cupboard, which had been ingeniously built
into the chimney. The shelves were covered with stacks of silver coins
and thick packages of bills. The silver Elaine merely glanced at, but
the packets of paper money she piled into her loose robe, gathered into
a sack, and carried it to the table, where she proceeded methodically
to count it. The eagerness she had displayed while counting the gold
was now lacking in her manner. She was intent enough upon her task, and
handled each bill with loving care; but only the hard yellow gold had
seemed to enrapture her.

Phœbe’s limbs were getting numb and her knees knocked together
tremblingly; but she stuck obstinately to her post of observation until
Elaine had finished her self imposed task and replaced the money. This
accomplished, the woman swung the mantel into place and with a leer of
cunning and contentment still lingering upon her wrinkled features blew
out her candle and went to bed.

Phœbe closed the slide and managed to climb down and creep into her
own bed, without making a noise. Then she lay shivering with nervous
chills, induced by the astonishing discovery she had made.

There was no sleep for the girl that night. At first, a supreme
bewilderment prevented her from thinking clearly; but, after a time,
she grew more composed and began to marshall her thoughts into some
sort of order.

It was not Elaine’s money, this secret hoard; that was certain.
Therefore it must belong to Gran’pa Eliot. Phœbe remembered that
always while he was in health and able to be around he had personally
occupied these rooms--the one Elaine now slept in, and the big front
room opening out of it, where he now sat propped up in helpless
oblivion of all earthly treasure.

There was no longer any doubt that Gran’pa Eliot had long been a miser
and cunningly secreted his wealth. He had caused the trap to be made
in the floor and the cupboard built behind the mantel. With years the
passion for saving had grown upon him, and after his wife’s death and
his daughter’s marriage he gave free rein to his hobby and converted
all his land into ready money. To avoid suspicion he had spread the
report of his financial failure and claimed he was reduced to poverty.

So much Phœbe had no difficulty in comprehending. In what way the
old housekeeper had discovered her master’s secret was not clear, but
Elaine’s resolve not to desert Mr. Eliot was obviously due to her
knowledge of his vast hoard. When he became paralyzed and helpless
she realized that the fortune, unsuspected by all others, was now
safely within her own grasp. Phœbe decided, shuddering the while,
that the woman was a greater slave to that secret hoard than ever her
grandfather had been.

When daybreak came the girl arose and quietly dressed herself. Then
she softly slipped out of the house and started for a walk through the
valley, hoping the morning air would cool her throbbing brain. Here,
amid a silence scarcely broken by the low mooing of the cows and the
crowing of the distant cocks, she began to doubt the evidence of her
own senses. It was all so wonderful and unreal that she could barely
admit the truth of it; and yet--and yet--. Often before she had heard
the sound of the gold being slid across the table: so often, indeed,
that she well knew her eyes had not deceived her when, at last, they
revealed to her the explanation of the puzzling sounds.

And now the question arose, what should she do? How should she act,
now that she had discovered this terrible secret? The knowledge of
her grandfather’s wealth in no way elated her; rather did she feel
scorn and resentment at his despicable weakness. It hurt her to think
that her mother’s father could be guilty of such folly and pitiful
sordidness. It was too soon for her to reflect that this money might
easily affect the fortunes of her brothers and sisters and herself;
all she thought of was the shame of the thing, that her grandfather
could become a miser and gloat in secret over the dross of gold and
silver--and soiled bank notes. What an abominable, inhuman passion it
was--a passion shared by old Elaine Halliday, a creature Phœbe had
always despised intuitively.

During an hour’s brisk walk she became sorry that her curiosity had led
her to discover this horrid secret. But she resolved to keep her own
counsel and tell no one what she had seen. Even Phil must be spared
this humiliation, for the poor boy had quite enough to worry him
already.

Phœbe returned to the house with glowing cheeks and bright eyes, in
spite of her sleepless night and mental perturbation. She greeted the
family cheerfully and took her seat at the breakfast table with her
native composure fully regained.

“When is the boat race, Phil?” asked Miss Eliot.

“A week from Saturday,” he said. “I’ve got to practice with the boys
every evening, from now on. I wanted them to let me out, this year, but
they foolishly insist on my pulling stroke.”

“Why foolishly?” inquired Becky.

“Because, I’m working for a living, now, and can’t devote much time to
getting into condition. Those Bayport fellows are out every day, and
mean to win if they can.”

“I must see that boat race,” said Cousin Judith. “Boating has always
been one of my favorite sports. I hope you’ll do well, Phil; but, of
course, you can’t neglect business for pleasure.”



CHAPTER XV

SUE GETS A DIVORCE


After breakfast Sue wandered out and found Doris upon the lawn. The
youngest of the Darings was now nearly twelve years old and had
associated so constantly with her elders that she considered herself
quite “grown up” and in no way inferior to Doris Randolph, who, having
an advantage in years, assumed toward Sue the airs of a young lady.

Since she had tipped over the punch bowl and taken a lemonade bath a
good deal of fun had been poked at poor Sue, which she deeply resented.
It was bad enough to have lost all the joy of the party, without being
twitted afterward about her misfortune.

Doris was surely too sedate and practical minded to wish to tease Sue,
so her greeting was wholly innocent when she said:

“Good morning. Is that the lemonade dress which you are wearing?”

“No,” retorted Sue, flushing; “is that the hypocrite’s dress which you
are wearing, Miss Religion?”

Doris was provoked, and with good reason, for she was sincere enough
in her religious sentiments. Also, she was still worldly minded to the
extent of becoming angry. After a cold, stony look at Sue, she said:

“I have submitted to the insolence of you Darings long enough, and
hereafter I forbid you to address me, for I shall not recognize you as
an acquaintance.”

At this instant Cousin Judith appeared upon the scene and hearing
Doris’ speech stopped short in surprise.

“Why, what is the trouble, my dears?” she asked.

“This child, madam,” returned Doris, stiffly, “is still a barbarian,
and unfit to associate with civilized beings.”

“I called her a hypocrite,” flashed Sue, defiantly; “and she is one.”

Miss Eliot was shocked.

“I am surprised, Sue dear; surprised and grieved. You have treated
Doris very badly, and I want you to apologize to her for your rudeness.”

“I won’t!” said Sue, stamping her foot. “I’ll _die_ rather than beg
pardon of Miss Nancy Hypocrite!”

Judith looked at her in amazement.

“Go into the house, my dear,” she said, rather sternly; “I’ll join you
there presently.”

Sue raised her long lashes and swept one rebellious look at the Little
Mother. Doris’ face had a slight sneer upon it, and the angry child
noted it. Turning squarely about she ignored Cousin Judith’s command
and marched down the street toward the village.

Doris gave a little laugh.

“A pleasant mannered young lady, I must say, Miss Eliot,” she tittered.
“But, I assure you I meant what I said. I shall never speak to her
again, unless she apologizes.”

“An apology is your due, I think,” Miss Eliot said soberly, and then
without further remark she continued on her way to the Randolph house
to see Marion, with whom she had an engagement.

At noon Sue did not return to dinner. She had called upon Nannette
Bennett, who was about her own age, and driven with her to a farm out
on the Exeter road.

“Can you stay here to dinner?” asked Nannette.

“Of course,” replied Sue, readily. “There’s no one at home who has the
right to give me orders.”

Nannette did not understand this strange speech, but let it pass
without remark. The two girls spent all day at the farm, although I
am not sure Sue was enjoying herself for a single moment. She did not
reach home until the family was seated at the supper table.

Phil had inquired anxiously for his sister, and Judith quietly
explained that Sue had called Doris bad names and refused to apologize.

“When I asked her to return to the house, where I hoped to be able to
reason with her,” she added, “Sue refused to obey my request and walked
down the street instead. I do not know where she is, now.”

Phil was worried, and even Don looked grave.

“I had intended to practice this evening with the boat crew,” said the
elder brother, “but I think I ought to hunt for Sue instead. She has
been bad and rebellious, I know; but she’s our little sister, just the
same, and I’m afraid something has happened to her.”

Cousin Judith made no reply and the meal was progressing in gloomy
silence when Sue walked in, threw down her hat and quietly took her
seat at the table. She did not look at the Little Mother, nor at anyone
else directly, but helped herself to food and with an assumption of
composure began to eat.

No one spoke. The others had glanced inquiringly at Cousin Judith,
whose face was pale and unrelenting. She did not ask Sue where she had
been, nor chide her for disobedience; but she passed the plate of cold
meat to her and asked Auntie to bring in Miss Sue’s chocolate.

This condition of affairs was so unusual with the Darings that they
were uncertain how to act. Even Becky looked askance at her small
sister, as if she were some strange, untamed animal, and Don told
himself this escapade deserved a worse punishment than fighting in the
mud. He had “taken his own medicine” with frank courage, knowing he
deserved the Little Mother’s rebuke and telling her he was truly sorry
he had hurt her feelings. But here was little Sue developing a spirit
of defiance hitherto unknown in the Daring family circle. Phil was hurt
and Phœbe distressed, but both voluntarily left the matter in Miss
Eliot’s hands for adjustment.

After supper Cousin Judith said to the culprit in a kindly tone: “Come
to my room, Sue. I wish to have a little talk with you.”

“I’ve nothing to talk about,” replied Sue, sullenly.

Phil went away to his practice on the river and Sue followed her
sisters out upon the porch. Cousin Judith, perhaps hoping the girl
would change her mind, had gone directly to her room.

“You’re acting like a little fool, Sue,” observed Becky. “I’m surprised
at you.”

Sue colored, but did not reply. Presently she went to her room and shut
herself in until bedtime.

At breakfast next morning Cousin Judith said, addressing all the five
Darings, impartially:

“Our contract, the Articles of Adoption, states that if any one of
you proves rebellious to my authority the rebel is to be tried by a
committee of two, and must abide by the committee’s decision. Is it not
so?”

“That’s a fact, Little Mother,” replied Phil, seriously.

“In the case we have now to consider, Sue has disobeyed me more than
once,” continued Miss Eliot. “I, therefore charge her with rebellion,
and it becomes proper for her to select two of you to try her case. If
I am found to be wrong I will ask her pardon and try to make amends.
If she is wrong she must ask my pardon and submit to any penalty I may
impose.”

Sue paled and then flushed. She cast a furtive glance around the table
and then said, in a hard, unyielding tone:

“I’m willing. I choose Phœbe and Don.”

“Very well,” returned Cousin Judith. “The trial shall take place at
once.”

None of them saw anything humorous in the situation. As a rule the
Darings were merry hearted boys and girls, full of fun and good
spirits; but, these Articles of Adoption were regarded by them all as
sacred. Each realized to an extent what a blessing the Little Mother
had already been to them, and was determined to uphold her authority.
For her coming had virtually revolutionized the household and given
them a happy home and a sympathetic, generous friend.

Sue, however, marched into the parlor with her stubborn spirit
unconquered by any feeling of gratitude, and Phœbe and Donald
gravely followed her.

“Tell us the beginning of the trouble, dear,” urged the elder sister.

Sue related her conversation with Doris.

“I’ve put up with her slurs ’n’ sarcasms long enough,” she said. “If
she’s so blessed religious as she tries to make out, why does she pick
on me ev’ry minute? I’m glad I called her a hypocrite, an’ I won’t take
it back--not for a second!”

“Perhaps she did not mean to offend you by speaking of the ‘lemonade
dress’,” suggested Phœbe. “I’ve always found her a good-hearted girl
and quite ladylike.”

“That’s what I object to,” was the answer. “I won’t stand for her
ladylike airs, Phœbe, an’ that’s all there is to it.”

“Sometimes our judgment proves to be wrong,” said Phœbe. “Anyhow,
Cousin Judith knows best.”

“There’s another thing that makes me mad,” cried Sue. “Cousin Judith
takes Doris’ part against me. Isn’t she supposed to stand up for her
own adopted children?”

“Not when they’re wrong, sis,” said Don stoutly.

“Who’s to say whether they’re wrong or not?” Sue demanded.

“She is, of course. She’s older, and knows more.”

“Cousin Judith,” added Phœbe, “tries to be always right and just.
She thought you were impudent to Doris, who is our neighbor and has
been kind to us all, and so she asked you to apologize.”

“I _won’t_ apologize to that stuck-up thing--anyhow, not till she
apologizes for speaking of my lemonade dress.”

“Now, that’s the real question before the board,” asserted Don. “You’re
under trial, Sue, and if we decide you’re in the wrong, and you don’t
apologize to Doris and do as Cousin Judith says, you’ll be divorced
from our Articles of Adoption.”

Sue was white and frightened, but she held her ground.

“All right,” she said. “It’s up to you. I don’t want any adoption by
anyone who won’t stand by me in a fight. And I’ll never--_never_--beg
Doris’ pardon!”

They tried to argue with her, and explained the disgrace of being
divorced and having no Little Mother. The divorce would separate her
not only from association with Cousin Judith, but from that of her
brothers and sisters, who would all hold strictly to the letter of the
agreement they had signed.

Sue listened to it all and remained obstinate.

“It’s for you to say whether I’m right or wrong,” she avowed at the
last, “and if I’m divorced I don’t care a rap. I won’t stand for any
adoption that makes me apologize to a silly fool like Doris Randolph.”

Donald and Phœbe withdrew from the conference and talked it over
between themselves. They decided that Sue, having defied Cousin
Judith’s authority and broken the signed agreement, must submit to the
penalty of divorce.

Phœbe drew up the paper and made an imposing looking copy on her
typewriter. It read as follows:

“Whereas Sue Daring signed, under date of June 14th, 1908, a document
known as the ARTICLES OF ADOPTION, whereby she promised and
covenanted to support and acknowledge the authority of MISS JUDITH
ELIOT and to Adopt her as a Mother, and Whereas the said Sue
Daring has broken that covenant and agreement and refuses longer to
abide by it, THEREFORE the undersigned, chosen by her as a
Committee to decide her case, hereby declares the said Sue Daring has
been guilty of a violation of the terms of the said signed agreement
and is therefore released from all its pledges and DIVORCED
from any further participation in its benefits. Signed this 12th day of
July, 1908.

                                                      PHŒBE DARING,
                                                     DONALD DARING,
                                                       _Committee_.”

This paper was made out in duplicate and a copy given to Sue and one to
Cousin Judith. Sue promptly tore up her paper and scattered the pieces
over the hall floor. Then she left the house and went away to play with
some of her girl friends.

Cousin Judith asked the others not to taunt or reproach the girl, but
to treat her as pleasantly and cordially as before. After supper that
evening, they all strolled down to the river to watch the boat crew
practice; but Sue was not asked to accompany them. On their return Don
told the divorced one of the jolly time they had had, and how Cousin
Judith bought them each an ice cream soda at the drug store; but Sue
made no reply. When she went to bed she did not, like the others, go
to the Little Mother for a good night kiss. In her room she noticed
that the covers of her bed had not been turned down, as usual, or her
night robe laid out. Becky’s bed, across the room, had been remembered
with loving care by Judith, but Sue was no longer her adopted daughter.

This little lack of attention sent the first real pang to the girl’s
heart. Silently, she got down her gown from the closet and turned back
the covers of her own bed. In the morning she was about to call to
Cousin Judith to ask what dress to put on, but remembered in time that
she must now choose for herself.

The dressmaker still came to the house every day to sew busily for the
needy family. Judith was paying for all the new things with her own
money, which she had saved from the sale of her pictures, and therefore
Sue was not surprised when her pretty pink challis was laid aside and
put into a drawer unfinished, while a gown of Becky’s was brought out
and given the dressmaker to work upon. Sue told herself she must expect
such things to happen under the new order of things; only--only she
_would_ have liked that pink dress; it was so soft and pretty.

The divorced one made no complaint, however she might feel the
difference between her position and that of her brothers and sisters.
Sue was old enough to understand that she must pay the penalty for
her rebellion, and if at times she repented her stubbornness it was in
secret and no word of regret passed her lips. Judith spoke to her with
uniform kindliness and so did the other members of the family; yet Sue
realized she was an outcast, and no longer entitled to a place in the
inner circle.

This ostracism was more acutely defined when the Little Mother one
morning called her flock into her room for a conference. Sue stayed
away, being an outsider, and listened to the merry laughter that at
times penetrated the closed doors and saluted her ears. Undoubtedly
it was a trial to the younger girl to be debarred from such good
fellowship, and as she sat in her lonely corner she sadly recalled the
jolly times she had once had in Cousin Judith’s pleasant room.

“So you’s a orfin ag’in, is yo’?” remarked Aunt Hyacinth, coming upon
her as Sue sat nursing her gloomy thoughts. “Ain’t yo’ got no sense
a’tall, Miss Sue, to go a-flyin’ in de face o’ Prov’dence dis a-way?”

“You mind your own business, Aunt Hy.”

“Dat’s what I’m doin’, honey. Mah bus’ness is to see you all happy, an’
here yo’ goes an’ makes yo’se’f a outcast an’ a orfin, when yo’ had a
good Li’l Motheh to tek care o’ yo’. Ain’ dere no way to divohce dat
divohce, an’ git back in de sunshine ag’in’?”

Sue sulked and did not reply. That suggestion of getting back into the
fold again had already occurred to her, but the Articles of Adoption
had made no provision for such a thing. Much of the child’s stubborn
mood had vanished by this time, but there seemed no way of retreat
open. She began to wonder if she must pass all her life an “outcast an’
a orfin,” as Aunty had tersely described it.

Judith, who had a shrewd idea of what was passing in the girl’s mind,
was content to let matters take their course. Often she longed to take
Sue in her arms and comfort her, but dared not. Judith Eliot was only
a young girl herself, loving and tender hearted, but she was rarely
sagacious in her understanding of human nature and believed that Sue’s
divorce would tend to benefit all her charges, and finally strengthen
her own position. One gains experience not only personally, but from
the experiences of others, and it was noticeable that both Becky and
Don had been unusually meek and circumspect since Sue’s rebellion.

Becky, indeed, did a queer thing. Going to the Little Mother privately
she said in her earnest way:

“I’d like to get halter-broke, Cousin Judith, and I wish you’d help me.
Whenever I buck the rules of propriety and cease to be a lady, you just
step on my corns an’ yell ‘time.’ I know I’m awful slangy sometimes,
but by jooks I’ll cure myself of the habit if I bu’st a surcingle!”

Judith smiled and kissed her.

“I wonder where you pick up such expressions,” she said. “But I assure
you, Becky dear, it won’t be at all difficult to cultivate a choicer
language, if you make the attempt. Pay attention to the conversation of
Phœbe and Marion, and listen to your Little Mother’s mode of speech.
I assure you there is nothing either winning or clever in the use of
slang phrases. A street gamin is able to employ them as readily as you
do, yet may never aspire to refined speech. To cast your lot with the
ignorant and uncultured, rather than with those of your own class, is
to abandon the advantages of birth and refined associations.”

“I used to think it was smart,” admitted Becky, gloomily; “but now
I see I was off my base and shinning up the wrong tree. But I’ll be
careful, after this, Cousin Judith; see if I’m not. And I hope you’ll
call me down if I forget I’m a lady and talk like a female she.”

It was well-nigh impossible to cure herself of vulgar expressions
all at once; but Becky sincerely tried to improve, and met with a
measure of success. Judith never reproached her if at times she lapsed
unwittingly into slang, for Becky was quick to realize her fault and a
sudden flush of shame would often suffuse her face before the unseemly
words were well out of her mouth.

Don and Allerton had now become fast friends, being together much of
the time. Don, as well as Becky, had softened perceptibly since the
advent of Cousin Judith, and having acquired a hearty respect for
Allerton, who had proved no “mollycoddle,” the boys became congenial
associates.

The coming boat race had by this time begun to excite the good people
of Riverdale and was a general topic of conversation among the
villagers. Nearly every town on the river bank had a boat crew, and a
sharp rivalry had for some years been maintained between Bayport, nine
miles away, and Riverdale. For many seasons Bayport had won the prize,
being practically invincible, but for the last two years fortune had
deserted them and their crew lost to Riverdale. Bayport was naturally
eager to regain its lost prestige, and its adversary was equally
anxious to retain the honors so hardily won. Therefore, an exciting
race was in prospect.



CHAPTER XVI

THE BOAT RACE


Phil had pulled an oar with the winning crew the year before, and
was to be stroke oar this year, a position requiring nice judgment
as well as consummate skill. Although he had now been working at the
bank for more than three weeks, the young fellow was in prime physical
condition, and the week’s practice with the crew renewed the hopes of
the ardent admirers of the Riverdale boys.

Eric came down nearly every evening to see them pull the scull over
the smooth stretch of water above the bridge, and he told Phil several
times that he had “laid some pretty stiff wagers” on his crew.

Young Daring did not approve of this, and frankly said so.

“We’ve three new men in our eight,” he said, “and the Bayport crew
is almost entirely new blood. No one can judge our respective merits
till we get together, and while I hope we shall win I would not risk a
dollar on such a doubtful chance.”

Eric was unconvinced, and merely laughed at him; yet Phil felt that he
had done his duty and said all that was required. Thereafter he held
his peace.

The race was held at Bayport this year, which was in that crew’s favor,
although Phil and most of his eight were nearly as familiar with the
Bayport course as with their own. When Saturday arrived there was a
general exodus from Riverdale to the scene of the race.

Judith had engaged a three-seated wagon to convey the Darings and
herself. With all the talk about the race not a word had been said
to Sue about her going to Bayport with them. Silently the “outcast”
listened to the plans for the excursion, believing she was destined to
remain at home. She had a great longing to go, for such diversions were
few in their quiet lives, but by her own act she had withdrawn from the
inner circle and with stolid resolve she determined none should guess
her disappointment or remorse.

There was an early dinner this Saturday noon, and when the wagon drew
up at the door and the Darings were hurrying to get their hats and
wraps, Cousin Judith said to Sue, who sat soberly in a corner:

“Won’t you go with us, dear? There is plenty of room.”

Sue gave a gasp of amazement.

“But, I--I’m out of it, you know, Cousin Judith. I--I’m not one of your
children,” she stammered.

“Come as my guest, then. Do you suppose I have ceased to love you,
Sue? I’m not your Little Mother any more--more’s the pity--but I shall
always remain your affectionate Cousin Judith. It would please me to
have you come with us to-day, and enjoy yourself.”

Sue’s eyes were sparkling. Without a word, except a murmured “thank
you, Cousin Judith!” she rushed for her hat and joined the others in
the wagon.

It was a great day for the Darings and proved a delightful outing,
although alas, the Riverdale crew went down to defeat.

An accident caused it, of course; otherwise, the race was surely
Riverdale’s.

Phil led his crew over the course with masterful generalship, starting
with slow, steady strokes, without regard for the lead of Bayport,
and then gradually increasing the count until near the end Riverdale
overtook their opponents and shot irresistibly into the lead. They
were two boat lengths ahead and still gaining when one of the new men
“caught a crab” and threw the entire crew into confusion. The scull
swung half around and before headway could be recovered Bayport passed
them and won the race.

Riverdale people had been lustily cheering when they saw their boat
surely forging to the front and a certain winner, as they thought; but
now a groan of dismay went up that was drowned by the cheers of the
exultant Bayporters.

Phœbe was nearly ready to cry, while Becky and Don were savage with
grief.

“Never mind, my dears,” said Cousin Judith, cheerfully. “There is no
dishonor in such a defeat and Phil certainly did his part splendidly.”

That was the general verdict, and Riverdale spectators crowded around
Phil and congratulated him on the fine showing he had made.

In a shiny top-buggy Eric Spaythe had sat beside Marion Randolph, at
a point overlooking the entire river. He had proved very agreeable
company up to the finish of the race, laughing and joking in his cheery
way and assuring Marion time and again that Riverdale was sure to win.
At the final catastrophe he seemed overcome by horror. His eyes bulged;
his lips trembled; he fell silent and moody.

“Come; let’s get home!” he suddenly exclaimed, and without awaiting
reply he whipped up the nag and dashed away at a break-neck speed that
made everyone who saw him wonder what was the matter. Marion, greatly
annoyed by this churlish proceeding on the part of her escort, refused
to make any comment. Eric scarcely spoke a pleasant word to her all
the way back to Riverdale. However, as they drove up the street to her
house he suddenly seemed to remember that he had acted like a boor and
said apologetically:

“Don’t think me rude, please. My whole heart was set on Riverdale
winning that race, and I guess my disappointment made me forget myself.
You won’t bear any grudge against me, will you?” he continued, a little
anxiously.

“Most certainly not,” answered Marion coldly. “I thank you for the
courtesy shown me--before you forgot yourself.”

Then she hurried into the house, leaving Eric staring agape and
wondering if he had made a fool of himself and lost more than his bets
on the race.

Cousin Judith did not hurry her brood home, for it was still early.
She carried the Darings to a cool little restaurant where they feasted
on ice cream and cakes to their hearts’ content and soon forgot the
humiliation of their brother’s defeat.

Judith placed little Sue by her side and saw she was as liberally
served as the others. The girl was unusually silent, however, and once
Miss Eliot noticed that her dark eyes were flooded with tears.

On her way home Sue laid her head on the Little Mother’s lap and began
to sob, gently at first but with increasing bitterness, while her
brothers and sisters regarded her with unfeigned amazement.

Judith stroked the soft hair and let the burst of grief exhaust itself.

“You--you’ve been so kind to me,” whispered Sue, raising her
tear-stained face to look appealingly into the gentle countenance above
her, “that I--I--I’m _drea_’fully ’shamed of myself! Don’t you s’pose
you--could--adopt me again?”

“I think so,” said the Little Mother gravely.

The clouds cleared then and Sue was presently smiling again. As soon as
they reached home she marched directly over to the Randolph mansion and
found Doris. When she returned she said shyly, in the presence of the
entire family:

“I’ve ’pologized to Doris an’ told her she isn’t a hypocrite; and
I’m sorry--drea’fully sorry--I disobeyed Cousin Judith and acted so
naughty.”

“Good for you, Puss!” cried Phil, who had just come in. “Why, this
consoles me for the loss of the race!”

Sue beamed with pleasure and Judith gathered the girl in her arms and
kissed her.

“I call you all to witness,” she said, “that this is the child of my
adoption. We won’t need to sign papers this time, because you will all
know that Sue and I belong to each other hereafter and can never be
divorced. Is it not so, my dear?”

“Yes, indeed, Little Mother!” replied Sue, smiling happily.



CHAPTER XVII

IN THE TOILS


When Eric and Phil met at their desks on Monday morning the banker’s
son was “savage as a meat-ax.” He scowled and muttered over his work
and slammed the big books here and there as if he owed them a grudge.

Phil paid no attention to this exhibition of temper, which he believed
due to the failure of Riverdale to win the boat race. He knew that Eric
had been betting heavily with his cronies and the Bayport people, and
since the young man was already deeply in debt these added losses might
affect him, seriously. So Phil devoted himself quietly to work and let
Eric rave.

Gradually the young fellow quieted down. He was in no mood for work
that day, and paid little attention to the books. But he smoked so many
cigarettes, one after another, that the air was blue, and Mr. Boothe
left his coop long enough to request Eric to desist from choking him
with the offensive fumes.

“I am not well,” added the cashier; “so I ask you to be considerate.”

Eric tossed his cigarette away and Mr. Boothe returned to his coop.

“Phil,” said Eric, abruptly, “do you know where I can borrow some
money?”

“Perhaps your father will let you have it,” was the reply.

“The gov’nor! Never. He’d haul me over the coals if he knew I was hard
up on my princely salary of eighteen a week.”

Phil made no comment. Said Eric, after a period of thought:

“I’m told the loan-sharks in St. Louis will advance a fellow money on
his prospects. I wonder if they’d help me out of this hole. I’m the
only son of a well-to-do banker, and will inherit a respectable lump of
money, some day. Do you suppose they’d help me, Phil?”

“I don’t know, Eric. Such money lenders would be sure to demand a heavy
interest.”

“That’s all right. It’s worth something to get my fist on the money
when I want it.”

“What is it for?” asked Daring. “Why do you need this money?”

“To pay some of those infernal debts.”

“How much better off will you be afterward, Eric? Wouldn’t you contract
more debts right away?”

“That’s _my_ business,” growled the other. “Don’t you begin preaching
to me, Phil Daring, for I won’t stand for it,” he added, glaring
angrily at his fellow clerk.

Phil said no more, but he was sad and ill at ease. Eric was no longer
the genial, winning fellow of former days. Since he had begun to spend
money so recklessly and to run into debt, his character and disposition
seemed to have altered for the worse. The thing Phil dreaded more than
anything else was another raid on the bank money, with more of those
audacious false records to cover up the defalcations. He was helpless
to interfere, but none the less was he sincerely sorry for both Eric
and his father, knowing that exposure was bound to follow sooner or
later.

Singularly enough, Mr. Spaythe seemed blind to his son’s reckless
extravagance. A thoughtful man, intent upon the intricate details
of his banking business and absorbed in loans, notes and discounts,
interests and important matters of a like character, the banker seemed
not to notice Eric’s elaborate costumes or the fact that he passed much
of his spare time in association with the fast set of the village,
whose rendezvous was the hotel bar. On the contrary, Mr. Spaythe seemed
contented with the thought that his son and heir was connected with his
business and apparently doing his work faithfully and well.

On Wednesday Mr. Boothe was suffering from a bad headache when he came
to work. It soon became so much worse that Phil had to assist him to
reach his home--a little cottage not far away--where the cashier lived
with a maiden sister.

When Phil came back he went into the private office and reported the
matter to Mr. Spaythe. The banker at once telephoned Dr. Jenkins to
attend Mr. Boothe, and then in person took his cashier’s place in the
teller’s “cage.”

Next day Mr. Boothe was still too ill to appear at the bank. Dr.
Jenkins said it would be lucky if he managed to break up the fever,
but in any event his patient could not resume his duties before the
following Monday morning.

While his father was taking the cashier’s place Eric was silent and
attentive to his work. But, Mr. Spaythe could ill afford to devote
his entire time to the counting room, so he often called his son to
assist in cashing checks and receiving deposits. Eric attended to these
details so intelligently that on Friday Mr. Spaythe gave him complete
charge of that important department, thus gaining for himself the
liberty of devoting his attention to other pressing matters that had
accumulated on his own desk.

That same afternoon, when the banker stepped into the counting room to
secure a memorandum, Eric said to him:

“Wouldn’t it be a good idea, sir, to give Phil the combination of the
safe? We’re behind with the books, and he’ll have to come down nights
and catch up with the work--at least until Boothe gets back into
harness.”

“Yes,” said Mr. Spaythe; “you may give Daring the combination. Here is
an extra key to the side door, also.” Then, he turned to his youthful
clerk and nodded kindly. “I’m sorry to force this extra work upon you,
Phil, but Mr. Boothe’s illness leaves us very short-handed, and you may
expect compensation for your extra hours.”

Phil was not only annoyed at this, but positively frightened. He had
surprised a curious look upon Eric’s face when he asked his father to
give Phil the secret combination of the safe. In a small establishment
like Spaythe’s Bank both the books and the supply of currency were
kept in the one big safe. At this juncture, when many uncomfortable
suspicions were rife in his brain, Phil much preferred not to have such
responsibility thrust upon him.

“I’d rather not know the combination, sir,” he ventured to say, knowing
he appeared confused and embarrassed.

Mr. Spaythe was plainly surprised and gave him a hard look.

“Why not!” he asked.

“It is a--a--great responsibility, sir,” the young man explained.

“Nonsense, Daring. I trust you, fully. As fully as I do Eric or Mr.
Boothe.”

“Can’t I make up the work on the books some other way--during the noon
hour?”

“You’re silly, Phil,” declared Eric, sharply. “Better come down here
quietly after supper and do the work in an easy and proper way. It
isn’t likely to last but a night or two.”

“I think Mr. Boothe will be able to resume his duties by Monday
morning,” added Mr. Spaythe; and then, as if the matter was settled, he
walked into his room.

Phil resumed his work with an uneasy sense of impending misfortune.
After banking hours Eric made up the teller’s account of receipts and
disbursements and gave Phil a copy that he might enter the items on the
books in detail. Then he counted the cash and put it away in the safe,
explaining to his unwilling colleague the way to work the combination.
After this Eric departed, leaving Phil alone in the bank, where he
worked steadily until time for supper.

When he went home he confided to Phœbe this new complication that
had arisen.

“I’m almost certain that Eric has some desperate scheme in his head,”
said he. “He needs money badly to pay his gambling debts, and I’m
afraid he will try to get it in such a way as to implicate me and
divert suspicion from himself.”

“Why do you imagine that?” inquired his twin.

“Because he was so anxious that I should know the combination and have
a key to the bank. What ought I to do, dear?”

“Your simple duty,” said Phœbe positively. “Why, Phil, no harm can
possibly come to an honest fellow who does his duty! Don’t worry about
Eric and his deeds. He could not injure you if he tried, and really, I
don’t believe he will try. Eric has a kindly heart, and his main fault
is that he has become a bit wild and reckless.”

“He’s changed a good deal lately, Phœbe,” was the quiet answer.

Phil promptly returned to the bank, let himself in by the side door,
opened the safe and took out the books. For two hours he worked under
the glare of the electric light, before his task was finished. No
one came near to interrupt him. As he slid the big books into the
compartment of the safe reserved for them he glanced at the neat piles
of bills and bags of gold and an involuntary shiver of fear swept over
him.

Saturday morning the bank was very busy. Eric sat in Mr. Boothe’s cage
and waited upon the customers in a very business-like manner. He was
so quick and accurate in handling the money, with a pleasant word for
each one who approached his wicket, that when Mr. Spaythe came in now
and then to see that everything was progressing properly the boy won
his father’s gratified praise.

At one o’clock they closed the doors, as was usual on Saturdays, and it
did not take Eric long to arrange his cash, pile it away in the safe
and turn his statement of the day’s transactions over to Phil.

“What, through already?” asked his father, coming in at that moment.

“Yes, sir. Here’s the balance sheet you asked for, all made out
correctly. I’m in a bit of a hurry, as I’ve arranged to go to St. Louis
for over Sunday.”

Mr. Spaythe frowned.

“I did not know of this plan,” he said curtly. “Why are you making the
trip, Eric?”

“To visit Ned Thurber. He has invited me to stay with him, so it will
only cost me railroad fares. I’ll be back in time for work on Monday,
sir,” he added carelessly.

Mr. Spaythe stood regarding his son silently for a moment. He reflected
that the boy had behaved admirably these past few days, filling Mr.
Boothe’s place quite effectively. The banker was also engaged with
other matters that required his immediate attention. So he said:

“Very well. Go, if you wish to.”

Eric accompanied his father into the private office, merely bestowing
upon Phil a nod of farewell. It was rather mean of him to take a
vacation and throw all the work of bookkeeping upon young Daring, but
Eric was not noted for his consideration to others.

Pausing before his father’s desk he said in a hesitating way:

“I suppose it’s all right to leave Phil in charge of the cash?”

Mr. Spaythe turned upon him, sharply.

“Why not?” he said. “The Darings are honest enough. I would have
trusted his father with every penny I owned, at any time.”

“Oh, I suppose Phil’s safe,” returned Eric, carelessly. “But he’s a new
clerk, and there’s a lot of currency on hand to carry over Sunday. So
the thought struck me--”

He paused, for his father was paying no attention to what he said.
Instead, his practiced eye was shrewdly scanning the balance sheet. It
told the amount of cash on hand in bills, gold and silver, and recorded
all checks, drafts and notes deposited during the day. Finding the
tally correct Mr. Spaythe laid down the paper and turned again to his
son.

“I’ll trust Phil,” he said.

Eric went away, smiling to himself. “Just what I wanted,” he muttered.
“The gov’nor will remember this conversation afterward.”

Passing down the street he told every acquaintance he met that he was
off for St. Louis by the four o’clock train. At the station he made his
journey known to the group of loungers and shouted a rather boisterous
good-by when the train drew in and he boarded it. He even waved his hat
from the back platform until he had passed out of sight. Among those
who thus watched Eric’s departure was Donald Daring, who announced the
fact at supper that Eric Spaythe had gone to St. Louis by the four
o’clock train.

“Must you work at those dreadful books to-night, Phil?” asked Phœbe.

“Only for an hour or so, dear. I put in such steady work this afternoon
that a little more will get things in shape.”

“I’ll go down with you, then, and keep you company,” she announced.

As they walked along the street together in the cool of early evening
Phil was very thoughtful. Finally, he said to the girl:

“I don’t believe Eric has gone to St. Louis, Phœbe.”

“Why, he must have gone!” she exclaimed. “Don saw him on board the
train.”

“I know; but in spite of that I’ve a queer feeling--a sort of
suspicion--that he’s playing us a trick.”

“Have you, Phil? But why?”

“I can’t explain it. You see, since Boothe has been away Eric has been
free to do as he pleased. He’s in desperate need of money, just now;
but, although I’ve been on the watch, not a single crooked transaction
have I been able to discover--except one.”

“What was that?”

“I found on his desk yesterday a scrap of paper with my name scribbled
over it in many styles of handwriting. Anyone seeing it would have
thought I had been trying to create a lot of different signatures.
I tore the paper in two, crumpled it up, and tossed it in the waste
basket. But, afterward, I decided the thing ought to be burnt, and
searched for the scraps. They weren’t among the other papers, for I
went through the entire contents of the basket. Some one had taken
them, and it could be no one but Eric.”

Phœbe looked grave at this.

“What does it mean, Phil?”

“I’ve tried to think. I know of two or three forged deposit slips,
aside from that one of Mr. Martin’s. Then there was the forged check of
Mrs. Randolph--I’m positive it was forged. These things are sure to be
discovered some day, and then the charge of forgery and embezzlement
will lie between Eric and me.”

“Oh, Phil!”

“As Eric is Mr. Spaythe’s own son it will be easy for him to accuse me.
If I tell Mr. Spaythe what I know he will ask why I didn’t report it
at the time. I’m in a net, Phœbe, and Eric knows it. If he can save
himself at my expense, he won’t hesitate.”

“I see!” she cried, clasping her hands tightly. “Isn’t it dreadful,
Phil?”

“That is why I now suspect that Eric is up to mischief. It surprised
me that he told his father so bluntly he was going to St. Louis. It
would be better policy for him to keep quiet about the trip; but he
risked Mr. Spaythe’s anger with unusual boldness. And he took pains to
advertise his going to the whole town--even to let people see him ride
away in the train.”

“What could be his object?” inquired Phœbe, much perplexed.

“To be able to prove an alibi, I imagine.”

The twins walked on in silence for a time and were just passing the
railway station when Phil had an idea.

“Come in with me,” he whispered, and followed by Phœbe he walked
calmly up to the agent’s window. The man was not busy, as no trains
were due at this time.

“Hello, Wakefield,” called Phil, genially.

“Hello, Phil. Good evening, Miss Daring,” responded the agent,
recognizing them.

“I came in to pay for Eric’s ticket to St. Louis. He happened to be
short of currency, but said you’d let him have the ticket, and I could
drop in and settle for it to-night.”

Wakefield seemed surprised.

“Mr. Spaythe didn’t buy a through ticket,” he explained. “He only took
one to Canton. Said he’d buy his ticket and sleeper from there on. I
remember thinking that was a queer way to do. If he was short of money,
Eric knew I’d help him out.”

Phœbe trembled as she pressed Phil’s arm.

“Why, it’s all right, then, Wakefield,” said Daring, calmly. “Probably
he changed his mind, and in that case I don’t owe you anything.”

“Not a cent. Good night, Phil. Good night, Miss Daring.”

“Good night,” they answered and walked away.

“You see, I was right,” said the boy, when they were on the street
again. “Canton is only ten miles away, and Eric plans to leave the
train there and come back.”

“When?”

“Some time to-night. He means to rob the safe and get away with the
money. That will implicate me, you see, as I’m the only one except Mr.
Spaythe and Boothe that knows the combination--and the cashier is sick
in bed.”

“Oh, Phil! I’m sure your suspicion is too horrible to be true.”

“Why, it’s so simple that it _must_ be true. Under the circumstances it
is the natural thing for Eric to do. He isn’t so very clever, although
perhaps he thinks he has laid a deep plot to ruin me. The queer thing
about it is that it’s liable to succeed.”

They had reached the bank now. Phil opened the side door and ushered
Phœbe into the large back room where he did his work. He turned on
the electric lights, pulled down the shades to all the windows and then
opened the safe and got out the books. Phœbe, perched upon Eric’s
vacant stool, watched him thoughtfully. Her face was pale as wax and
she had nervous, trembling fits that she could not control.

“I’m glad I am with you,” said she, presently. “If you are accused, I
can swear you did not touch the money.”

Phil bent over and kissed her, but made no reply. Putting all his mind
upon the books he methodically pursued his work for an hour or so,
until all the entries had been made and his task finished. Then he
closed the ledgers with a sigh of relief, put them away, and locked the
safe.

“Who knows,” he said, turning to Phœbe with a wan smile, “but
that this is the last bit of work I shall do for Spaythe’s Bank? If
my suspicions are correct, on Monday morning the safe will be found
to have been robbed, and then I must face accusations and probable
disgrace.”

By this time the girl had recovered most of her composure. She was
still pale, but had been busily thinking during that tedious hour,
trying to find some way to save her twin brother.

“Do you know exactly how much cash is in that safe now?” she asked.

“Of course, Phœbe. It is all entered upon the books, in black and
white, and Mr. Spaythe has a copy of the amounts, besides.”

She looked carefully around the room. At the very back of the building,
facing the safe, was one window which opened upon an unused yard at the
rear. The window was just then covered with a thick shade. Phœbe
took the desk shears, walked deliberately to this window, and punched
two small holes in the shade.

“What on earth are you doing?” asked her brother, in amazement.

“Phil, we’re going to play we’re detectives, you and I. Go outside, and
around to this window, and find out if you can see the safe through the
holes I have made. If not, I must make them larger.”

Phil obeyed, still puzzled as to her meaning. When he returned to her,
he reported that the holes were about on a level with his eyes, when he
stood in the back yard, and that the safe was plainly visible through
the tiny openings if one stood with an eye close to the windowpane.

“Very well,” said she, nodding with satisfaction. “What time is it now?”

“Nearly ten.”

“We shall have a long wait, but we mustn’t mind that. Let us go, now.”

Phil waited until she reached the door; then he put out the lights and
joined her. As they passed out he locked the door and put the key away
in his pocket.

“What now?” he asked.

“Let us take a walk up the street, for a block or two,” she replied,
in a whisper; and he followed her obediently. Although it was Saturday
night, this part of the town was practically deserted. There was a
light in the laundry office across the way and a girl stood in the
door of a candy shop and nodded to the twins vacantly. Half a block
up the street was the printing office, but the lights in it went out
before they reached it, and Mr. Fellows, the editor, gave the Darings a
pleasant “Good night!” as they passed by while he was locking the door.

Phœbe crossed over into the next street, which was merely a lane,
and turning about began to retrace her steps. Phil clung to her arm
and let her lead him. Here there was no light to guide them save the
dim glow of the stars. The moon would not be up for some hours yet.
They had to feel their way carefully for a time, but ere long they had
reached a position in the rear of the bank and entered the unused yard.
From a pile of boxes dumped behind a neighboring grocery Phil brought
two to serve as seats, for now he guessed Phœbe’s purpose and fully
approved the venturesome undertaking.

They sat in silence for a time, their backs against the brick wall of
the bank.

“How will Eric get back from Canton?” the girl inquired, musingly.

“I don’t know. He might drive over, and return the same way. Let me
see; there’s another train to St. Louis that passes here at one-thirty.
It doesn’t stop at Riverdale, but it does at Canton.”

“That’s it!” she exclaimed, eagerly. “That’s his plan, Phil, I’m sure.
Eric will get a livery horse at Canton, drive over here, and return in
time to catch the one-thirty flyer for St. Louis. It will be due at
Canton at about two o’clock, won’t it?”

“Sooner than that. The flyer will make the ten miles in fifteen
minutes, easily.”

“But it will take Eric an hour and a half to drive it, in the night.
That means he must get here, do what he has to do, and leave by twelve
o’clock--or soon after. Why, we won’t have long to wait, after all.”

“Not if we are figuring right, Phœbe. After all, this is only
guesswork on our part.”

“I’m sure we are right, Phil. As you say, the natural thing for one
in Eric’s position to do is just what we expect he will do. Let us
be patient, and we will soon know the truth. If nothing happens by
half-past twelve, then we may go home and go to bed.”

“And rest in peace,” he added, with a light laugh that was not
mirthful. “I hope that will be our fate.”

“So do I, Phil--with all my heart.”

It was a tedious wait, however, for they were keyed up to a high pitch
of excitement and the minutes seemed to drag with teazing languidness.
But suddenly, as they talked together in soft whispers, Phœbe
glanced around toward the window and then seized Phil’s arm in a
warning grasp. The back room of the bank was lighted.

The girl put her eye to one peephole and the boy looked through the
other. They saw Eric standing in the room and glancing about him with
fearful, yet keenly observant eyes. The inspection seemed to satisfy
him, for after tying his handkerchief over the one electric light
globe which he had ventured to turn on, in order to dim the strength
of its rays, he went straight to the safe and began to fumble with the
combination. A few moments later the heavy door swung open.

Again Eric glanced around, but could not know that two intent eyes were
regarding his slightest movement. He hastily turned over the packets of
bills until he found the one he desired, which he thrust into an inner
pocket. Then he took a canvas sack, filled with gold, and this filled
his coat pocket completely and had to be crowded in. The next moment he
closed the door and set the lock.

It was all done so quickly that Phœbe found she had held her breath
during the entire scene. While she panted with excitement and her heart
fluttered wildly, Eric removed his handkerchief from the globe and
turned off the light.

They both listened eagerly now, but so stealthy were the young man’s
movements that no further sound reached their ears. He must have
effected his escape from the bank a long time before the twins ventured
to stir.

“Phœbe,” said Phil bitterly, “it is evident that I’ve stolen a stack
of bills and a bag of gold. The fact can easily be proven against me,
anyhow.”

“Not yet,” returned the girl, in a firm, decided tone. “Come with me,
Phil.”

She began to make her way around the building to the side door.

“What are you going to do?” he asked.

“I’m going to block Eric’s wicked conspiracy and save you,” she
replied. “Open that door, and let us go in.”



CHAPTER XVIII

A SISTER’S LOVE


Phil looked up and down the dark, deserted street. Eric had made off so
quietly that not a footfall had been heard. But no one was abroad to
see him, however much noise he might have made.

The back room of Spaythe’s Bank was witnessing a succession of curious
scenes this eventful night. Phil had opened the safe again and was
counting the money. It was a long count, and must needs be accurate;
but Phœbe, now cool as ice, helped him in her methodical way and it
was not necessary to inspect more of the currency than the packets of
bank notes and the gold.

“Whew!” whistled Phil, when the final figures had been made. “Eric
wasn’t at all bashful, was he? He grabbed more than three thousand
dollars!”

“Three thousand, three hundred and ninety,” repeated Phœbe, jotting
down the exact amount on a slip of paper. “All right, Phil; that is
what we wanted to know. Now, put this dreadful stuff away.”

He complied. There was a queer feeling in the young fellow’s chest,
as if iron fingers were gripping his heart. His worst fears had been
realized and he had become the innocent victim of his former friend’s
diabolical scheming.

As the Daring twins walked home together through the still night, arm
in arm, they exchanged few words. Phil reflected that his business
career was practically ruined. Here in Riverdale, his old home, he
would be scorned and reviled as a common thief, and wherever he might
go in the big outside world his disgrace would be sure to follow him.
And what of Eric Spaythe, the false friend who had planned his downfall
and would profit by it? With means to pay his debts, and so prevent his
father’s knowledge of his past extravagance, Eric would doubtless be
more cautious in the future. In time he might become the proprietor of
the bank he had to-night so cleverly robbed. As for the false entries
on the books, made to cover the minor thefts that had preceded this
coup, all evidence would point conclusively to Phil Daring as the
culprit. That poor and struggling youth was to become the scapegoat to
shield Eric Spaythe, the rich banker’s son.

Phil groaned in spirit, but believed himself to be absolutely helpless.

Phœbe, on the contrary, had recovered her cheerfulness, and as she
kissed her twin good night in the hall she whispered:

“Forget about Eric, dear. There’s nothing to worry about, so try to get
some sleep. Now that we know the truth, and just what to expect, it
will be easy to save you from this contemptible plot.”

Phil clasped the girl close in his arms. It was good to feel that
Phœbe, the one person he loved most in all the world, knew his
innocence and believed in him. He must be brave and face the future
calmly, for her sweet sake.

In his room he looked at his watch. Two o’clock. By this time Eric was
well on his way to St. Louis. Phil sighed, went to bed, and having a
clear conscience was presently sound asleep.

Phœbe pleaded a headache next morning and did not go to church with
the others. Phil, solemn eyed and with careworn features, accompanied
Cousin Judith and the children and did his best to keep his thoughts on
the sermon.

From her window Phœbe endeavored to watch the movements of old
Miss Halliday, but found the woman keeping close to the room in which
Gran’pa Eliot was confined. Perhaps she was engaged in her morning’s
work, but strangely enough the chickens had been neglected and were
plainly calling for food and water.

In order to ease the nervous strain of waiting Phœbe moved softly
around the rooms occupied by the Darings and removed all the keys she
found in the locks. Having carried these to her room she began trying
them in the lock of the door that connected old Elaine’s chamber with
her own. She moved carefully and silently, but to her despair none
of the keys would fit. A second time she tried them, with no better
success. While engaged in replacing the borrowed keys she happened to
think of a big bunch of old keys hanging in the closet of the room
occupied by Sue and Becky. She readily found this bunch, and with
it hurried back to her chamber. One by one the keys were tried and
gradually her heart sank as they proved to be too large or too small.
There were now but three left on the bunch and she was crouching on her
knees before the door when suddenly she heard Elaine enter the other
room.

To her astonishment the woman was sobbing and muttering in the same
breath, and seemed to be laboring under great excitement.

“It can’t be!” Phœbe heard her say again and again. “It can’t be.
No, no, no!--it can’t be.”

Up and down she paced, and finally the girl heard her throw herself
upon the bed and give way to a violent outburst of sobbing.

Phœbe dared not move. Her limbs were cramped and numb, but she sat
crouching beside the door until gradually Miss Halliday became more
quiet and rose from the bed.

“One thing is certain,” muttered the woman in a firmer tone. “No one
shall know!”

Again she paced the floor, by degrees recovering her wonted composure.
The sobs and mutterings ceased. At last she left the room, and Phœbe
breathed freely once more. Then the girl glanced at the bunch of keys
she held. With those three that still remained untried lay her sole
chance of saving Phil’s honor.

The first was rusty and too big for the lock. The second turned easily,
and with a sharp click the bolt flew back. Then Phœbe dropped her
head in her hands and began to cry. The transition from despair to joy
had been so sharp that it unnerved her; but now she was free to carry
out her plans.

Wiping the tears from her eyes she sighed deeply and rose to her feet.
On turning the handle of the door, very softly, she found that it
would open with perfect freedom. She put her head within the room a
moment--just long enough to note that Elaine had left it in perfect
order--and then she closed the door again.

Would it be wiser to act at once, or to wait?

Her own anxiety and excitement had, until now, prevented her from
appreciating the evident fact that something unusual had occurred in
the other part of the house which the old woman regarded as serious.
The housekeeper was not prone to give way to violent outbursts of
grief. “It can’t be!” she had exclaimed. What couldn’t be? “No one
shall know!” Elaine had cried. What could have happened that must be
kept a secret? The girl’s first thought was that in some way Elaine had
been robbed of the treasure, and Phœbe’s heart stood still as she
contemplated that awful suggestion. But perhaps it was some personal
matter not connected with Gran’pa Eliot’s hidden hoard.

Going to her window she watched in vain for the housekeeper to appear
in the garden; then, unable to restrain her impatience, she ran
downstairs and around the corner until she came to the lane at the
back. Pausing beside the big maple she looked around at the house and
from her position saw Gran’pa Eliot propped up in his chair before the
window, his lusterless eyes fixedly regarding the landscape spread out
before him.

The window of the next room, where he slept, was open, too. Phœbe
could see the housekeeper making the bed and straightening the
furniture.

Presently, Elaine came to the window and stood motionless, staring
across the fields as if in deep thought. Phœbe shrank back into the
shade of the maple.

Now the woman left the window, emerged from the door at the head of the
outside stairs, and quietly descended to the yard. Phœbe quitted her
post at once and fairly flew back to the house, never pausing until she
had regained her own room. Breathless from her run, she paused to peer
from the window. Elaine was mixing food for her chickens.

In a moment Phœbe was in the forbidden room. She went straight to
the mantel and tried to pull it outward, as she had seen Elaine do;
but it refused to move. With a growing fear at her heart she examined
closely the framework and finally noticed that one part of the carving
was discolored more deeply than the rest, as if with constant handling.
Pressing hard against this place, Phœbe desperately dragged the
mantel toward her, and this time it swung free of the wall and
disclosed the secret cupboard.

Elaine had not been robbed. There were the neat piles of money, just as
she had seen them from her peephole.

Phœbe hesitated a moment. She wanted a certain sum in bills, and
another in gold, but it would be dangerous to count the money there.
So she took several packets of bills and ran with them to her room.
Returning quickly, she pushed the mantel into place and proceeded to
pull up a section of the rag carpet. A small iron ring enabled her
to lift the trap, and a moment later she had carried a sack of gold
through the connecting doorway and dumped it upon her bed.

A swift look through the window showed that Elaine was preparing
to ascend the stairs again; so Phœbe ran into the housekeeper’s
chamber, let down the trap and rearranged the carpet. Then she softly
retreated and closed the door after her.

She breathed more freely now, but her task was not yet accomplished and
the family might return from church at any moment.

Opening the packets of bills she began carefully counting them. The
first lot proved of small denominations and totalled so insignificant a
sum that the girl was panic-stricken for fear there would not be enough
paper money for her purpose. But the next packet proved to be all
fifties and one-hundreds, and less than half its bulk sufficed to make
up the amount of bills that Eric had abstracted from the safe.

She counted out the gold next, and as this sack chanced to contain only
pieces of twenty dollars each there was much more than she required. At
the bank, while Phil was discovering the extent of Eric’s theft--when
the vague idea of saving him first began to dawn in her mind--Phœbe
had seen a pile of canvas bags, used to contain gold, lying upon a
shelf. One of these she had quietly abstracted, for on it was printed
in black letters: “Spaythe’s Bank of Riverdale.” It was a similarly
marked sack which Eric had taken, and now the girl brought out the bag,
placed the proper amount of gold in it, and neatly tied it up. Then she
made a package containing both the gold and the bills and after winding
it securely with cord placed it in a drawer of her bureau.

This much being accomplished she breathed easier; but it was necessary
to replace the surplus gold and bills in the hiding places from whence
she had taken it. She felt no hesitation in employing a portion of
Gran’pa Eliot’s hoarded wealth to save her brother from an unjust
accusation. It seemed to her quite a proper thing to do, for the
family honor was at stake. Gran’pa could never use the money, and his
granddaughter was defiant of old Elaine’s self imposed watch upon
the treasure. Yet Phœbe would not touch a penny more than stern
necessity compelled her to.

Her heart bounded and then stopped beating as the housekeeper was heard
to enter the next room and renew her nervous pacing up and down--up and
down. Elaine was not likely to discover her loss, just yet; only at
dead of night was she accustomed to pander to her miserly instincts by
counting over the money. So Phœbe took courage.

A long time the girl sat silently awaiting an opportunity to restore
the balance of the treasure. Meantime, she wondered again what had come
over the usually methodical, self-possessed housekeeper to make her act
in so queer a manner. No doubt some important event had occurred in her
life; but what could it be?

A chorus of merry voices announced the return of Cousin Judith with
her brothers and sisters. She hesitated, half expecting Elaine would
now leave her room, but the woman wholly disregarded the Darings and
continued her monotonous pacing. So Phœbe concealed the money under
her pillows and noiselessly quitting the room went down to meet the
family.

The sense of triumph now experienced by the girl made her regard Phil’s
gloomy looks with complacency, if not with cheerfulness. She bustled
about, helping Auntie to set the table for dinner and listening to the
chatter of the children, and all the time the warm glow in her heart
was reflected in her sparkling eyes and rosy cheeks.

Phil looked at his sister astonished and somewhat reproachful. Her
glad laughter and flippant remarks made him feel that his twin was
forgetting the terrible fate that menaced him. Over the boy’s devoted
head hung a veritable Sword of Damocles, and it was destined to fall
as soon as the bank was opened Monday morning. Yet here was Phœbe,
merry and eager, joking with Becky and Don as she flitted through the
rooms, and seemingly as unconscious of trouble as a dancing sunbeam.

Judith, a little surprised at the girl’s high spirits, kissed her
affectionately as she came in to dinner. She thought Phœbe had
never looked more lovely than she did to-day. Phil remarked that fact,
too. “The Belle of Riverdale,” as she was often called, was really a
beautiful girl; yet, those who knew Phœbe best recognized the fact
that her chief charm lay not in her fascinating smile, her dainty
complexion, nor her magnificent eyes, but in the kindly, sympathetic
heart that had never yet failed to respond to the demands of friendship.

After dinner they were all seated on the front lawn in the shade of the
big oaks, when Phœbe noticed old Elaine standing motionless in the
back yard, grimly watching the group. The girl seized the opportunity
to run to her room, grab the money from beneath her pillows and replace
the bills in the cupboard back of the mantel and the remainder of
the gold beneath the trap in the floor. She acted with breathless
haste, not knowing how much time would be allowed her; but she soon
found there was no need of hurry. Returning to the lawn she saw that
Cousin Judith had gone to the housekeeper and was engaging Elaine in
conversation.

“My uncle is better, you say?” asked Miss Eliot.

“I did not say that,” retorted the woman. “I merely stated that he
suffers no pain.”

“Is his mind still befogged, as when I last saw him?” continued Judith.

“His mind has never been befogged,” said Elaine, with unnecessary
anger. “You will find he is clear-headed enough to defend himself from
annoyances, if intruded upon.”

Judith sighed. This creature was absolutely impossible to conciliate.
She turned away without further remark and preferred not to see the
half sneering, half triumphant leer on Elaine’s pinched features.
Phœbe put her arms around the Little Mother and said:

“Never mind, dear. She’s old and unreasonable; but she takes good care
of gran’pa, so we needn’t mind her uncivil ways.”

“Koots! I’m half afraid of her,” remarked Becky, making a face at the
thin figure of the housekeeper.

“I’m not,” declared Phœbe, laughing at the recollection of her late
audacity. “Miss Halliday is nothing more than a favored servant, who
has forgotten her proper place. There’s nothing fearsome about her, I’m
sure.”

Toward evening the girl’s high spirits began to falter and she wandered
about the house in an uneasy mood. Perhaps Phil’s dismal looks--for he
could not force his countenance to seem pleasant while his heart was
breaking--had something to do with his twin’s growing depression. Even
Sue accused Phœbe of being cross when she sent her small sister to
bed somewhat earlier than usual.

When all the household had retired except the twins and Judith, they
sat on the porch conversing until Miss Eliot noticed for the first
time an air of restraint that was unusual. Fearing she might herself
be responsible for this she pleaded some letters to be written as an
excuse to go to her room, and bade them good night.

“Cheer up, dear,” said Phœbe, when their cousin had gone in. “Didn’t
I promise to save you?”

“Yes; but you can’t do that, little sister. No one can save me.”

“There is one way,” announced the girl, decidedly.

Phil sat thinking.

“Yes,” he said; “if Eric would confess, that would end it all. Do you
imagine he will?”

“No, indeed.”

“Nor I. I have thought of everything; but the snare is too strong to be
broken.”

Phœbe did not reply at once. She sat looking out into the night,
lost in thought. Presently she roused herself and whispered:

“Phil, will you take a little walk with me?”

“I don’t mind. I’m not liable to sleep much to-night, so there’s little
use in going to bed.”

“Wait for me a moment,” she said.

Phil waited. She soon returned with a bulky newspaper packet partly
concealed beneath her cloak.

Together they strolled down the street toward the town. It was after
ten o’clock, and on Sunday evening Riverdale was like a deserted
village.

“We’re getting to be regular night owls, aren’t we?” asked Phœbe,
with a nervous tremor in her voice.

“Yes, indeed. But why are we prowling around town to-night? Wouldn’t it
be more pleasant to walk in the lanes?”

“We’re going to the bank,” said the girl.

Phil stopped short to look at her, but the overhanging branches of a
tree hid her face. With a sigh he walked on, deciding to let her have
her way. But he could think of no good reason for this absurd whim.

When they reached the bank Phœbe said:

“We will go in, Phil. Unlock the door.”

Mechanically he obeyed. Dully be wondered what she was going to do. But
it did not matter, and he would soon know.

“Now,” continued the girl, when they were inside, “open the safe.”

“Why, Phœbe!” he gasped, glancing at her fearfully. “You’re not
going to--”

“No; I’m not going to rob Mr. Spaythe. Open the safe, Phil--quick!”

He leaned over and set the combination. Then slowly the heavy door
swung open.

Phœbe breathed a sigh of relief. Hastily unwrapping her bundle she
placed a bag of gold on one shelf and a thick packet of bank bills on
another--in just the places from whence Eric had abstracted the money
the night before.

“All right, dear; you may lock the safe now.”

Phil was bewildered. His eyes roamed from his sister’s smiling face to
the safe, and back again.

“Wha--what have you done?” he stammered.

“I’ve restored the missing cash. Lock the safe, Phil, before it’s
robbed again.”

“Phœbe!”

“Don’t look so wild, dear. Can’t you understand you are saved--that
there will be no exposure of a theft to-morrow morning? Lock the safe,
and let us go home.”

He could not realize it, even yet. Still dazed and wondering he locked
the safe and followed Phœbe into the street. They were halfway home
before he asked:

“Where did you find Eric?”

“I haven’t seen Eric,” she replied.

“Then where did the money come from?”

“It’s my secret, Phil; you mustn’t ask.”

“But I must know, Phœbe. Why, it’s--it’s amazing!”

“Seems so, doesn’t it?”

“It’s impossible! Three thousand--”

“--Three hundred and ninety dollars,” she interrupted, with a laugh.
“It’s all there, dear; all back in the safe.”

“It’s a fortune! Where did you get it?” he persisted.

“Now, Phil, I’ve forbidden you to ask questions, and I mean it,” she
declared, very seriously. “It is a secret which I can’t reveal. Not
now, anyway.”

“Did Cousin Judith--”

“It’s no use, dear; I won’t tell.”

He strode along in silence, wondering if it were really true. They were
dreadfully poor, he knew, and Cousin Judith’s money was tied up in an
annuity. Where could Phœbe obtain three thousand, three hundred and
ninety dollars in currency?--and on Sunday, too! Suddenly a thought
caused him to start.

“You haven’t borrowed it of the Randolphs?” he demanded in a horrified
tone.

The suggestion made Phœbe laugh again.

“Guess away!” she said, lightly.

“We would never be able to repay such a loan--not for years and years,
if at all,” he said miserably.

“That need not worry you,” she observed. “Why don’t you give it up,
Phil? Be content until the time comes when I can tell you everything.
It’s the best way. Can’t you trust me--Phœbe--your twin?”

He caught her in his arms and kissed her tenderly, while the first
sense of freedom he had experienced since the robbery swept over him.

“Trust you? Of course I can, my darling!” he said.



CHAPTER XIX

THE WAY OF THE TRANSGRESSOR


Phil had a restless night; but he slept a little, nevertheless. His
chief source of worry had been removed by his sister’s mysterious
action, yet the wonderment of it all remained, carrying with it an
intense excitement whenever he thought of the probable outcome of this
strange adventure.

On Monday morning he was up bright and early, anxiously awaiting the
time to go to work. Phœbe, looking at him with wistful eyes, kissed
her brother good-by and said:

“Good luck, Phil. Whatever happens, remember that I, and all who love
you, will stand by you to the end.”

But nothing exceptional happened at the bank.

Mr. Boothe, looking a little more pale and worn than usual, arrived at
the same time Phil did, and while he was carrying the cash from the
safe to his cage, preparatory to counting it, Eric sauntered in and
took his seat at the desk.

He gave his fellow clerk a brief nod and looked curiously at Mr.
Boothe. Said Phil, attempting to be cordial:

“Back from St. Louis already, Eric?”

“Yes.”

“How did you find Ned Thurber?”

“Oh, Ned’s all right.”

“When did you get home?”

“Six, this morning.”

Usually talkative, Eric seemed determined to be chary of speech on this
occasion; but perhaps he was absorbed in watching Boothe count the
money, for he never took his eyes off the cashier.

In his usual careful, painstaking manner, Boothe first counted the
checks, drafts, and other notes of exchange, checking them off on the
tally sheet beside him. Then he began on the currency. As packet after
packet of the bank bills was counted and laid aside Eric grew nervous
and his breath came in short gasps. He pretended to be bending over his
books, but Phil saw the exhibition of nervous fear and was not without
a share of excitement himself.

Check!

Eric grew pale and then red. He was astounded. Mr. Boothe rapidly
counted the gold contained in the four sacks--positively, there were
four, Eric noted with dismay, and there should have been but three. He
saw the cashier pick up his pencil, glance at the tally sheet and check
the amount as correct.

Eric swayed and almost fell from his stool. Great beads of perspiration
stood upon his brow.

“Everything seems to check up all right,” called the cashier from his
cage, speaking in a calm voice. “You’ve kept things pretty straight,
Eric.”

“Good; very good!” cried a deep voice, and the two clerks were for the
first time aware that Mr. Spaythe stood in the open door of his office
watching the scene.

“Seems as if you could almost get on without me, sir,” said the
cashier, apologetically.

“No,” answered the banker, “your absence caused us all a lot of extra
work and worry--especially Phil.” He came around to young Daring’s
side, put on his glasses and began a calm but thorough examination
of the ledgers. “Feeling better this morning, Mr. Boothe?” he asked,
without looking at the man.

“Quite myself again, sir.”

Phil stood aside, for it was evident Mr. Spaythe wished to carefully
compare the books. Daring had been obliged to make entries in both his
own set and Eric’s during the past few days; but there was little to
criticise, he felt, and he welcomed the examination.

Meantime Eric sat as if turned to stone, pale and red by turns, the
perspiration oozing from every pore. His eyes, as they fell upon
his father, were full of terror; when he looked at Phil it was with
suspicion and fear combined. For a moment’s thought had convinced Eric
that his theft had been discovered. How, or in what way, he had not the
faintest idea. Until now, he had confidently believed he had covered
up every trace of the crime with supreme cleverness. Yet in his brief
absence someone had detected the robbery and replaced the money in the
safe so that Mr. Boothe would find the bank’s accounts correct.

There was only one person able to do this--his father. For it was not
to be supposed for an instant that Phil Daring, or any of his friends,
could raise so large a sum without recourse to the bank itself.

Then came the thought that if Mr. Spaythe was aware of his son’s
embezzlement, someone had betrayed Eric to him. The traitor could be
none other than Phil Daring, the one he had naturally expected would be
accused of the crime.

Hardly knowing which way to turn or what to do or say, reading
condemnation in every face and fearing exposure at any moment, Eric
Spaythe was indeed in a pitiable plight. Why was his father inspecting
the books so carefully? It could not be that he mistrusted Phil. Was
he then looking for those former defalcations of which his son had
been guilty? Eric had intended to accuse Phil of those things, when the
logical time came. Perhaps Phil knew that, and had saved himself by
denouncing Eric.

There was nothing to be learned from Daring’s face. It was grave and
serene, as if he had the situation well in hand. Mr. Spaythe seemed
stern and vigilant, his practised eye running up and down the entries,
observing every item with intelligent care. Boothe was imperturbable as
ever and paid no attention to the group in the back room.

Eric writhed on his stool and kept silent. He was fully prepared for
the impending denunciation and intended to deny everything and stick to
the lie to the last. But no denunciation came.

Mr. Spaythe finished his examination and then turned to Phil with a
satisfied nod.

“Daring,” said he, “you have done well--very well indeed, considering
your brief experience. I believe you are destined to prove of
considerable future value to this bank, and hereafter your salary will
be fifteen dollars a week.”

Without a word or a look toward his son he reëntered his office and
closed the door. He was still angry with Eric for foolishly making that
long and expensive trip to St. Louis for a day’s stay, and moreover he
resented the unkind insinuations his son had made about young Daring’s
honesty. But Eric attributed his father’s displeasure to entirely
different causes.

Phil resumed his work, paying no attention to his companion. Eric
waited for a while for him to speak, and then grew savage.

“Think you’ve caught me at it, I suppose?” he growled, with reckless
disregard of the fact that he had betrayed himself. The restoration of
the money was evidence enough that the cat was out of the bag.

“You are caught, Eric,” was the quiet answer. “There is no need for me
to assure you of that.”

Eric glared.

“Where’s the proof?” he demanded, uneasily.

Phil looked up with a smile.

“Has it never occurred to you that money may be marked, and also a
record kept of the numbers of bank notes?”

“Oh, that was it, was it?” returned the other, plainly discomfited by
the suggestion, which had been hazarded merely to tease him. “Then
you’ve been trying to trap me for a long time, it seems. Grateful
return for my getting you the job here, isn’t it?”

“I haven’t trapped you at all, Eric. The fault is your own from
beginning to end,” said Phil, seriously.

Eric walked to the window and stood looking out. He was trying to
understand why his father had not frankly accused him of stealing the
money. The banker’s reticence was vastly more terrifying to the boy
than prompt exposure and denunciation would have been. Perhaps he had
hesitated to let the world know that his only son was a thief. Yes;
that must be the explanation. Therefore, Eric was destined to receive
his scourging in the private office, and he experienced a distinct
sense of relief at this thought, for he could stand any paternal
tongue-lashing if his disgrace was but kept from the knowledge of his
fellows. Eric’s disgrace would mean to an extent his father’s disgrace.
Come to think of it, he had no great cause to worry, in any event. His
protection lay in his father’s regard for his own good name.

Following this clue, Eric decided that Phil Daring’s raise of
salary was merely a bribe not to expose the secret. But the
culprit’s momentary satisfaction in this solution of the problem
was promptly dampened when he remembered another of Mr. Spaythe’s
characteristics--to let no fault go unpunished. He well knew his
father’s stern nature, and shuddered a little as he wondered what
punishment would be decreed for so grave an offense.

“What’s the program, Phil?” he inquired, coming back to the desk.

“I don’t know.”

“Not in the gov’nor’s confidence, eh?”

“Not entirely, I imagine.”

Eric stared at him thoughtfully. Strangely enough, Daring had not
reproached him or gloated over his downfall. Daring had always been a
very decent fellow. Perhaps he would prove a friend, even yet. Eric’s
attitude changed from one of defiance to that of entreaty.

“We’ve always been pretty good chums, Phil,” he said, in a hesitating
tone. “Tell me what to do, there’s a good fellow.”

Phil reflected.

“You might help yourself in one way,” he suggested.

“What is it?”

“Have you any of that money left?”

Eric nodded, trying to read the other’s solemn face.

“Then I advise you to fix up those little irregularities in the books.”

“What irregularities?”

“That check of Mrs. Randolph’s, for instance. It will be sent to her
the first of the month, and she will claim it’s a forgery. Then,
there’s that deposit of Martin’s, and several other little things. It
would be policy for you to straighten out those tangles at once, Eric,
before you are made to do it.”

Eric pondered a while, then drew a sheet of paper toward him and began
to figure. He seemed pleased with the results and at once set to work
to correct the books. It took him until noon to finish his task, for he
had undertaken a delicate matter, and some transactions were difficult
to cover up or gloss over.

While Mr. Boothe was at dinner Eric took occasion to make the cash
straight, in such a way that it would not arouse the cashier’s
suspicion. Phil took no part in the matter and let Eric make
restitution in his own way.

“I’ve made good, Phil,” the young culprit whispered, eagerly. “Every
customer’s account is now as square as a die, as far as I know, and
I’ve charged my own account with some of the withdrawals and credited
it with the money I’ve just turned over to the bank.”

“I’m glad of that,” said Phil, greatly relieved. But he spoke coldly,
for he knew the banker’s son had acted only from fear, and not because
it was the right thing to do. Involuntarily, however, Eric had saved
Phil Daring from the possibility of being accused of those dangerous
defalcations.

During the afternoon Eric glanced continually at the door of his
father’s office, expecting any moment a summons into that stern
presence. The strain upon his nerves was terrible, and Phil knew that
he was already beginning to suffer punishment. At one time Eric asked
anxiously:

“What ought I to do with the rest of the money, Phil?”

“I don’t know,” was the reply; for Phil thought of Phœbe and her
secret and was unable to advise Eric because he had no idea where the
money had come from that his sister had put in the safe.



CHAPTER XX

ACCUSED


Phœbe had been watching impatiently for her brother’s return and
ran to meet him. He told her of the scene at the bank--of Eric’s
astonishment and terror, and how Mr. Spaythe had raised Phil’s salary
quite materially. Then he related the manner in which he had worked
upon the culprit’s fears and induced him to apply a part of the stolen
money to replacing his former embezzlements, thus saving Phil from the
possibilities of future complications.

Tears stood in Phœbe’s eyes as she murmured: “I’m so glad. Oh, I’m
so glad!”

“But the greatest mystery is not yet cleared up,” said her brother.
“I’m as much as ever in the dark concerning your own share in this
puzzling affair. Phœbe, where did that money come from?”

She shook her head, smiling through her tears, and accompanied him
to dinner. But afterward, when Phil had gone back to work, the girl
sat in her room facing the consequences of her act. Conscience
stirred at last and gained control of her and its vivid accusations
made her cringe. Her dearly beloved brother, her twin, had been saved
from impending disgrace, but in saving him Phœbe had herself been
guilty of a theft equal to that of Eric Spaythe. She had robbed her
grandfather in exactly the same way that he had robbed his father, and
if Eric had earned such bitter condemnation, Phœbe could not expect
to escape censure. True, their motives were different. Eric stole for
selfish reasons; Phœbe, to save her twin from unmerited obloquy.

Searching her heart with candid inquiry, she wondered if she were
really guilty of a crime. Civil laws might condemn her, but would not
the great moral laws of humanity uphold her for what she had done?

“I’m not wicked, I know,” she told herself, positively. “I have wronged
no one by my act. There is more than enough of Gran’pa Eliot’s hoard
remaining to last him during his brief lifetime. And what better use
could a share of that idle money be put to than saving his grandson
from humiliation and shame?”

But, Phœbe’s obdurate conscience was not to be appeased by such
sophistry as this. “What right had you to take that money?--what right
had you?” the small voice constantly asked, and at last she grew
distressed by the vague, yet persistent fear that she had done an evil
deed that good might come of it. Was that a sufficient excuse? she
asked herself, and feared it was not.

“But, I’d do it again!” she declared, pressing her lips firmly together
as she thought of Phil. “I’d do it again this moment, if it were
necessary.”

While the girl thus fought with an accusing conscience she heard
Elaine come into her room. At once the spirit of antagonism toward
this dragon, who guarded Gran’pa Eliot’s treasure, hardened her into a
belief that she was fully justified in what she had done.

Drawing her darning basket toward her she began mending some of the
family stockings, and from her seat by the window listened to the
sounds made by the old housekeeper, as she moved about in the next room.

Suddenly there was a sharp cry, followed by a fall. Phœbe was
startled for a moment. Then she realized it was not Elaine who had
fallen, but that the trap door in the floor had been carelessly dropped
into place. Her heart beat a little faster then, but she kept her seat
and even attempted to thread a needle. Her alert ears heard Elaine run
to the mantel. There was a long pause; then a wailing cry of distress.

[Illustration: PHŒBE GLANCED AT HER CALMLY.]

Phœbe smiled grimly and went on with her work. The discovery had
come a little sooner than she had expected. What curious whim could
have urged Elaine to examine the treasure now, in the middle of the
afternoon? She had never done this before, reflected Phœbe.

In the adjoining room a dead silence prevailed. “She’s counting,” mused
the girl. “She’s trying to find out how much is gone, and who took it.
Perhaps she’ll lay it to ghosts. Anyhow, she won’t have the slightest
idea that I know her secret.”

Then something happened that gave her a shock. Without warning the
handle of the connecting door turned and the next moment Elaine stood
on the threshold confronting her.

The woman’s face was dark and contorted with rage. She clasped and
unclasped her talon-like fingers spasmodically, as if longing to take
the girl by the throat and strangle her then and there.

Phœbe glanced at her, frowned, and calmly bit off her thread of
darning cotton.

“What are you doing in this room, Miss Halliday?” she asked, not even a
tremor in her voice.

For a moment Elaine was daunted. Then she recovered, and advancing a
pace toward Phœbe cried in tones of concentrated fury:

“I want my money!”

“Do I owe you anything?” was the stern demand.

The woman’s glaring eyes were fixed upon Phœbe’s upturned face,
trying to read her inmost thoughts. The girl dropped her lashes a bit,
examining her work, and a slight flush stole into her cheeks in spite
of her efforts to appear composed. In a flash the woman detected these
signs, and her confidence was instantly restored.

“You can’t fool me, Phœbe Daring!” she exclaimed harshly. “You
unlocked that door--the door I had forbidden you to open.”

“Miss Halliday! you forget yourself. My grandfather’s servant has no
right to dictate in this house,” said the girl, haughtily.

Elaine gave a short laugh, full of venom and disdain.

“Servant, eh?” she retorted. “And whose house do you suppose this is?”

The challenge roused Phoebe to anger and swept away the last vestige of
her composure.

“It belongs to Jonathan Eliot, my grandfather; and everything in
it--money and all--belongs to him!” she asserted with pride. “As for
you, Elaine Halliday, we have submitted to your insufferable insolence
long enough--but only because you understood gran’pa, and were good to
him, were you allowed to remain. Your temper and your airs have become
unbearable, however, and we will at once secure another servant to take
your place.”

The housekeeper stared at her as if she could not believe the evidence
of her own ears. Then she laughed--a hard, cackling laugh that was
horrible to hear.

“I’ll not be turned out, my girl,” she said scornfully; “but you
Darings will get out of here, neck and crop, or I’ll call in the law to
help me.”

“The law, Elaine?”

“Yes; the law! This house is mine. It does not belong to Jonathan
Eliot. And all its contents are mine, deeded to me in black and white
as the reward of my faithful services. The money you have stolen, thief
that you are, is mine, too, and unless you return every penny of it
you’ll go to jail, Phœbe Daring.”

It was Phœbe’s turn to stare. Could the woman be speaking the truth?

“Where is the proof of your statement?” she asked.

Without a word Elaine turned and reëntered her room. A few minutes
later she came back with a paper--a dreadful, legal-looking
document--which she unfolded and held before Phœbe’s face for her to
read, grasping it tightly the while and prepared to snatch it away if
the girl made any movement to secure it.

Phœbe, frightened and horrified, made an effort to read the writing.
It was not very distinct, but seemed to state in legal jargon that
Jonathan Eliot, being of sound mind and owing no person a debt of any
sort, did of his own free will and accord give and transfer to Elaine
Halliday all his worldly possessions, including his residence in
Riverdale and all its contents of whatsoever kind or description, in
return for faithful service rendered him and duly acknowledged.

“Have you read it?” asked the woman, hoarsely.

“I--I think so!” gasped Phœbe.

“Look at the signature.”

Phœbe looked. The paper was signed “Jonathan Eliot” in a crabbed,
stiff hand. She could not tell whether it was her grandfather’s writing
or not; she was not familiar with it. But, the dreadful truth was
forced upon her at last, and Elaine’s scornful assurance was fully
explained. She owned the house; she owned that secret hoard. Phœbe
had not stolen from her grandfather, as she had supposed, but from
Elaine Halliday!

The old woman noted her blanched cheeks and smiled with ruthless joy.
Carefully refolding the paper she said:

“I’ve been robbed, and by you. There’s no use denying it, for I’ve got
proof in that unlocked door. But I don’t care to send you to prison.
I’d rather get my money back.”

“I haven’t it,” murmured Phœbe, staring fearfully into the other’s
pitiless face.

Elaine scowled and shrugged her shoulders.

“That’s all nonsense, girl! Give it up,” she advised.

“I can’t; I haven’t it.”

“You’re lying. You took the money yesterday. You can’t have spent it
already. Give it up!”

Phœbe was silent. She sat staring helplessly at her tormentor.

“A liar and a thief! You’ll spend your life in prison for this,
Phœbe Daring, unless you come to your senses and return my money.”

Phœbe answered not a word. There was nothing to be said. Elaine
waited impatiently. Don was calling loudly for Phœbe from some of
the lower rooms. Perhaps he would come here in a few minutes.

“See here,” said the housekeeper, suddenly, “I’ll give you till
to-morrow--at noon--to bring me that money. Unless I get it--every
penny, mind you--I’ll send the constable for you and have you arrested
and jailed.”

With this threat she walked into her own room, closing and securing the
door after her. Phœbe sat in a stupor. Her mind refused to dwell
upon this amazing discovery. She was glad Don had ceased calling to her
and vaguely wondered what he had wanted. The stockings must be darned;
but really there was no hurry about it; they would not be needed for a
day or two.

A sharp blow upon the door startled her out of this rambling reverie.
Elaine was driving nails. Viciously she pounded them into the door with
her hammer, utterly regardless of the certainty of disturbing Gran’pa
Eliot. She intended to assure herself that Phœbe would be unable to
get at the hidden treasure again.

And now the full horror of the situation burst upon the girl’s mental
vision, making her cringe and wince as if in bodily pain. Jail! Jail
for helping Phil! Well, it was far better that she should suffer than
her twin--a boy whose honor was all in all to him. She would try to be
brave and pay the penalty for Phil’s salvation unflinchingly.

For a while the poor girl sat cowering in the depths of despair. What
could she do? where could she turn for help? Then a sudden thought came
to her like an inspiration. Judge Ferguson had once made her promise
to come to him if she was in any trouble. Of course. Judge Ferguson
was her father’s old friend. She would see him at once, and perhaps he
would be able to advise her in this grave emergency.



CHAPTER XXI

SHIFTING THE BURDEN


Watching her opportunity Phœbe slipped out of the house unseen and
hastened down town to Lawyer Ferguson’s office. The old man was just
putting on his hat to go out when the girl’s anxious, pleading face
confronted him.

“Are you busy, sir?” she asked, with hesitation.

“Very, my dear. I’m due at an important meeting within five minutes.”

Phœbe’s face fell.

“Anything wrong?” inquired the lawyer in a kindly tone. Phœbe was
one of his favorites.

“Oh, a great deal is wrong, sir!” she exclaimed, excitedly. “I’m in
great distress, and I’ve--I’ve come to you--for help.”

Judge Ferguson hung his hat on the peg again and went to the door of an
inner room.

“Toby!” he called.

“Yes, sir.”

Toby Clark appeared: a frowsy-headed, much freckled youth who served as
the lawyer’s clerk. He nodded to Phœbe and looked inquiringly at his
master.

“Go to Mr. Wells at the insurance office and tell him I cannot attend
the meeting to-day. Have it postponed until to-morrow,” said the judge.

“Yes, sir.”

“And, Toby, when you return stand guard over the private room and see
that I’m not disturbed.”

“Yes, sir.”

The youth vanished instantly and with a courteous gesture Mr. Ferguson
motioned Phœbe to enter his sanctum. Evidently, he had shrewdly read
her face and knew that something very unusual had happened to his ward.

“Now, then, explain yourself, my dear,” he said when they were seated.

Phœbe looked earnestly into the kind old face.

“I want to make a full confession of everything,” she began. “I want
you to understand me, and--and know just as much as I do.”

“That is a wise resolve, when you are dealing with a lawyer,” he
responded, smiling at her anxious look.

So she first told him of how she had discovered old Miss Halliday
counting the secret hoard, and of her reasons for keeping the knowledge
to herself. Next, she related Phil’s experiences at the bank, his
suspicions of Eric and the midnight adventure when together the twins
watched the banker’s son robbing the safe. All the details of Eric’s
plan to implicate Phil had been carefully treasured in the girl’s
memory, and she now related them simply, but convincingly, to the
lawyer.

It was more difficult to confess the rest, but Phœbe did not falter
nor spare herself. A way to save Phil had been suggested to her by
the discovery of her grandfather’s hoarded money--for she naturally
supposed it was his. Her description of the manner in which she had
secured exactly the same amount Eric had taken was dramatic enough
to hold her listener spellbound, and he even smiled when she related
Eric’s confusion at finding the money restored, and how he had eagerly
made restitution of the minor sums he had embezzled by “fixing” the
books.

Perhaps Judge Ferguson had never been so astonished and startled in
all his long experience as he was by Phœbe’s story. The thing that
really amazed him was Jonathan Eliot’s secret store of money. He had
not been without suspicion that the old man had grown miserly, but
so cleverly had the treasure been concealed that when Mr. Ferguson
searched the house--under the cunning guidance of Elaine, of course--he
had found nothing at all to justify that suspicion.

When, in conclusion, Phœbe told of her late interview with the old
housekeeper and recited as well as she could remember the terms of the
deed of gift from Mr. Eliot to Elaine Halliday, Judge Ferguson became
visibly excited.

“Was it really your grandfather’s signature?” he inquired.

“I cannot say, sir, for I have seldom seen his signature,” she replied.

“Were the names of any witnesses affixed to the document?”

“I did not notice any.”

“H-m. What then?”

“Then she threatened to put me in prison unless I returned the money,
and of course I cannot do that,” said Phœbe, plaintively. “She has
given me until to-morrow noon, and then I must go to jail.”

The lawyer sat for some time staring at a penholder which he tried to
balance upon his middle finger. He was very intent upon this matter
until a long-drawn sigh from Phœbe aroused him. Then he leaned back
in his chair, thrust his hands deep in his pockets and bobbed his head
at her reassuringly.

“We’ll not let you go to jail, Phœbe,” he asserted, in a tone that
carried conviction.

“But I--I’ve stolen her money!” she moaned.

“I don’t believe it. I know Jonathan Eliot. And I’ve known other misers
before him. Not one of them would ever give up a dollar of their
beloved accumulation as long as a spark of life remained in their
bodies--your grandfather, least of all. And to his housekeeper! Why
should he resign it to her, I’d like to know?”

“She seems to have a powerful influence over him,” remarked Phœbe,
thoughtfully. “She alone is able to communicate with him now, or make
him understand. She alone cares for him while he is helpless as a baby,
and he depends upon her promise to see that his body is finally laid
in the queer tomb he once built. Perhaps she obliged him to give her
everything, by threatening to leave him to die alone.”

“Don’t believe a word of it, my dear!” exclaimed the lawyer, pounding
his fist on the table for emphasis. “If Jonathan Eliot is clear-headed
enough to dictate that deed of gift, or to sign it, he is still shrewd
enough not to part with his money. Deeds of gift executed under
compulsion are illegal, too. But I believe this paper to be nothing
more than a rank forgery.”

Phœbe stared at him with wide open eyes.

“You do, sir?”

“I certainly do. Elaine is bluffing, and the bluff might succeed if she
had only a girl like you to deal with. You were quite right to come to
me, Phœbe. I’ll agree to settle this controversy with Elaine.”

“How?” she asked, feeling much encouraged by his confident tone.

“H-m. I cannot say, as yet. I must have time to think. Why, it’s five
o’clock,” looking at his watch. “Sit still! Don’t be in a hurry. Let’s
figure a little; let’s--figure.”

He was balancing the penholder again. Phœbe watched him with dreamy
curiosity. It was a distinct relief to shift the burden to other
shoulders.

After a while she said softly:

“Do you think I’ve been so--so _very_ wicked, Judge?”

Slowly he rose from his chair, came over to her and kissed her cheek.

“_Very_ wicked, Phœbe. All good, true women may be just as wicked,
to help those they love. God bless ’em!”

He turned away to face an old print of Abraham Lincoln that hung on the
wall, and seemed to study it intently.

“How is your grandfather’s health, lately?” he abruptly inquired.

“I saw him through the window yesterday. He seemed the same as usual.”

“A live carcass. An active mind in a dead body. If Elaine can rouse
that mind, can communicate with him, others may do the same.”

He seemed to be speaking to himself. Phœbe sat quietly and did not
interrupt his thoughts.

“So you counted the gold with Elaine. Are you sure of the sums you
mentioned? Could you see clearly through that peephole?”

“I may have made a mistake, of course,” she answered. “But I am almost
sure I counted right.”

“You took three thousand, three hundred and ninety dollars?”

“Yes, sir. Fifteen hundred in gold and eighteen hundred and ninety, in
bills.”

“H-m. H--m--! We must return that money, Phœbe.”

“Return it! Why, how can I, Judge?”

“You can’t, my dear; but I can. Let’s see. She has given you until
to-morrow noon--All right.”

Phœbe drew a long breath.

“Meet me here at ten o’clock in the morning,” he added.

“Very well, sir.”

She started to rise, but he motioned her to retain her seat.

“Can you give up your room for to-night, Phœbe--perhaps for a couple
of nights?”

“Why, I think so,” she said, astonished. “Perhaps I can sleep with
Cousin Judith; but--”

“We’re going to play a little game, Phœbe; but, in order to win we
must keep our secret. Tell no one at home the story you have told me.
Keep away from Elaine for to-night. Perhaps you’d better come over to
our house and stay with Janet--Yes; do that. It will lull suspicion.”

“Are you intending to use my room, yourself?” inquired Phœbe.

“No. I want to put a detective there. I’m almost sure there will be
something to see through that peephole to-night.”

“A detective!”

“A private detective; meaning Toby Clark.”

Phœbe stared at him. She had never imagined Toby could be a
detective.

“And now,” continued the lawyer, briskly, “it’s all settled, cut and
dried. You may go home to supper without a single worry. I’ll send
Janet after you with an invitation to spend the night at our house, and
Toby will take your place at home. You’ve given me proof that you’re
not a bad conspirator, Phœbe, so I depend upon your wit to get Toby
into your room unobserved.”

“I’ll try, sir,” she said.

“Don’t fret, my dear. We’ve got everything planned, now, and you have
nothing further to fear from this strange complication.”

She could not quite understand how that might be. Whatever plans Judge
Ferguson had evolved he kept closely guarded in his own bosom. But
Phœbe knew she might trust him, and carried away with her a much
lighter heart than the one she had brought to the lawyer’s office.

When she had gone Mr. Ferguson called Toby Clark into his private room
and talked with the young man long and earnestly.

Toby was considered one of the Riverdale “characters.” He had been
born in a shanty on the bank of the river, where his father had been a
fisherman and his mother had helped to eke out their simple livelihood
by washing for the ladies in the village. Both had died when Toby was
a small boy, and for a time he did odd jobs for the storekeepers and
managed in some way to keep body and soul together. He was a little
fellow, even now, when he was nineteen years old. His unruly hair was a
mop of tow color, and his form was not very sightly because his hands
and feet seemed overgrown. Out of his whimsical, freckled face peered
a pair of small, twinkling eyes, so good-humored in their expression
that the boy was a general favorite. But he never had much to say for
himself, although he was a keen observer and listened intently to the
conversation of others.

Some years ago Judge Ferguson had taken Toby Clark into his employ,
recognizing a shrewd wit and exceptional intelligence hidden beneath
his unprepossessing exterior. At first, the boy went to school and
took care of the judge’s furnace in winter, and his lawn and flower
beds in summer. Then he was taken into the office, where he was now
studying law. No one had really understood Toby except the old lawyer,
and the youth was grateful and wholly devoted to his patron.

In this interview the judge told Toby exactly what he was expected
to do after Phœbe had secretly introduced him into the Daring
household. The entire situation was explained to him with such
clearness that the amateur detective had no difficulty in understanding
what was required of him.

He asked no questions, but nodded his head to show that he comprehended
the situation.

“Above all,” was the final injunction, “do not lose sight of Miss
Halliday. Stick to her like a burr, whatever happens; but do not let
her know you are watching her. Is it all clear to you, Toby?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then run along, and be prepared to meet Phœbe at the house when
Janet calls for her.”



CHAPTER XXII

MARION’S GHOST STORY


When Janet Ferguson arrived at the Eliot homestead that evening she was
greeted by enthusiastic shouts from the younger Darings, with whom she
was a great favorite. They surrounded her in a group before she could
reach the house, while Phil came across the lawn to meet her and shake
hands cordially.

Phœbe, glancing sharply around, saw Toby Clark leaning against a
column of the dining room porch, where he was half hidden by the vines.

“Come!” she whispered, and led the way into the house. Halfway up the
stairs she paused to look back, not hearing his footsteps; but he was
so close behind that he startled her and soon she had ushered him into
her own little room.

“Lock the door behind you,” said she, “and pay no attention if anyone
knocks or tries to get in.”

Toby merely nodded as he shut himself in. Phœbe hurried down to join
Janet, carrying a little handbag that contained the things she needed
for the night.

“Why, Phœbe! where are you going?” asked Sue, seeing the bag.

“To stay with Janet. Where is Cousin Judith?”

“Over at the Randolphs.”

“Then let us go that way,” said Phœbe to Janet. “I must tell her my
plans, for otherwise the Little Mother might worry.” Passing close to
Phil she whispered: “Is everything all right?”

“Everything is right so far,” he replied. “But how is it with you, and
why are you going away to-night?”

“Just for a little excitement,” she laughed.

“You seem nervous and excited, now,” said her brother, looking at her
closely. “Anything new turned up to annoy you, Phœbe?”

“I’m quite contented to-night, Phil, dear.” And then she ran away
before he could question her, further.

They met Cousin Judith just leaving the Randolph’s house, and Marion
was with her. Miss Eliot at once approved Phœbe’s plan to stay with
Janet for the night. She thought the girl had seemed unnerved and ill
at ease lately and believed the change of environment would do her good.

When Judith had bade them good night and started across the street to
rejoin her flock, Marion said:

“I’ll walk with you a little way, if you don’t mind. It’s such a lovely
evening, and I’ve a mystery to disclose, besides.”

“A mystery--oh, Marion!” exclaimed Janet.

“Why are you so astonished?” asked Marion, as the three girls locked
arms and sauntered up the street.

“Because I cannot imagine a mystery connected with such a very
practical person as yourself,” returned Janet.

“Tell us what it is,” urged Phœbe, “for then it will remain a
mystery no longer.”

“Oh, yes it will,” declared Marion, rather soberly. “I’ve no solution
to offer. All I can do is tell you what I saw, and allow you to solve
the mystery yourselves.”

“What did you see, then?” inquired Janet, curiously.

“A ghost.”

“A ghost! Why, Marion!”

“Of course, my dears, there is no such thing as a ghost, although,
as I say, I saw it plainly. Otherwise I should have called it an
‘apparition’ instead of a ‘mystery’.”

“To be sure.”

“But if I saw a ghost, and ghosts are impossible, then I am in touch
with a mystery,” she continued. “Do you follow my logic, girls?”

Janet gave a careless laugh.

“I thought at first you were in earnest,” she said.

But Phœbe had lived in romance during the past few days and no
element of mystery now seemed absurd to her. Indeed, she began to feel
slightly uneasy, without knowing why.

“Where did you see your ghost, Marion?” she asked.

“In its proper place--the graveyard.”

“Oh!” said Janet and Phœbe together, for their companion had spoken
seriously and with a slight shudder. Moreover, the graveyard was at
that moment a short block to their left, and twilight had already
fallen. Beneath the rows of maples and chestnuts that lined the road
the shadows were quite deep.

“I am troubled with insomnia,” explained Marion. “The doctors say I
have studied too hard and my nerves are affected. At any rate I am very
wakeful, and sometimes do not go to bed until two or three o’clock in
the morning, knowing I could not sleep if I tried. Last evening I was
especially restless. It was a beautiful starlit night, so after the
family had all retired I slipped out of doors and started for a walk
through the lanes. I have often done this before, since I came here,
and it is not unusual for me to visit the old graveyard; not because I
am morbid, but for the reason that it seems so restful and quiet there.”

“Naturally, dear,” murmured Janet.

“Last night my walk took me that way. I passed through the turnstile
and wandered among the graves to the far end. It must have been long
after midnight, but I had not a particle of fear, believe me, girls. I
was not even thinking of such preposterous things as ghosts.

“By and by I retraced my steps and sat down on a fallen slab of stone
to indulge in reverie. From my position I faced that ugly square
mausoleum Phœbe’s grandfather once built. There is an iron grating
around it, you remember, and a marble door to the tomb itself, with
bronze hinges and a bronze catch. By the way, isn’t that tomb supposed
to be vacant?”

“Yes,” answered Phœbe, strangely excited. “Gran’ma Eliot and my
father and mother occupy graves just beside it, for gran’pa built the
big tomb just for himself.”

“Not a very generous thing to do,” added Janet; “but Mr. Eliot has
always been a queer man, and done queer things.”

“Well,” continued Marion, “I sat facing the tomb, as I said, when
slowly and without sound the marble door opened and a ghostly figure
emerged. I won’t assert it was a spirit from the other world, nor will
I claim it was some person dressed in a sheet; but I am positive it was
no vision of my imagination. So let us call it the Ghostly Mystery.”

“Was it a man or a woman?” asked Phœbe, breathlessly.

“It failed to disclose its sex, my dear. The door seemed to swing shut
behind it; but the ghostly one was obliged to put out an arm to raise
the latch of the iron gate. It passed through and I heard the click of
the latch as it again fell into place. Then the apparition--”

“The Ghostly Mystery, Marion!”

“Oh, yes; the Ghostly Mystery glided out of sight while I sat
listlessly wondering what it could be. I was not frightened, but I
failed to act promptly; so, when I arose to follow it, the thing or
person--or whatever it was--had disappeared for good and all.”

The three strolled on in silence for a while. Then Phœbe asked:

“What time was it?”

“Perhaps one o’clock. It was nearly two when I got home; but I had
walked quite a way before I decided to enter the house.”

“And have you no idea who it might be?” questioned Janet, who had now
grown thoughtful.

“Not the slightest.”

“I wish I had seen it,” said Phœbe, softly.

“Oh, do you like ghosts? Well, then, I’ll take you with me on my next
midnight ramble,” laughed Marion.

“Why not go to-night?” suggested Janet. “Phœbe is going to stay
with me, and you may come too, Marion. Our house is even nearer to the
graveyard than your own, and at dead of night we’ll all steal out and
waylay his ghostship. What do you say?”

“I am willing,” declared Marion. “Are you sure you will not be
frightened?”

“I may be,” admitted Janet, honestly; “but I’m willing to risk it.”

“So am I!” echoed Phœbe, eagerly.

“Then it is decided,” said Marion. “I frankly acknowledge, girls, that
while we are living in an eminently practical and scientific age, these
romantic adventures still prove fascinating. Let us hope we shall
discover the ghost, and that the apparition will be of a quality to
thrill our stagnant blood.”

“Must you go home first?” inquired Janet.

“Not if you’ll lend me a night robe. No one at home pays any attention
to my wanderings, so I shall not be missed.”

They soon arrived at Judge Ferguson’s comfortable residence, which
was a little beyond the outskirts of the village and delightfully
situated on a slight eminence. Mrs. Ferguson, an alert, pleasant-faced
little woman, welcomed the girls cordially and they passed the evening
chatting together and discussing recent events in which all were
alike interested. Phœbe was a bit distrait, for she could not help
wondering what was happening in her room at home, where Toby Clark was
keeping watch over the movements of old Elaine; but no one appeared to
notice her abstraction.

Later in the evening the judge came in, and smiled cheerily upon the
three young girls.

“You’ve quite a house-party to-night, Janet,” he said. “I wish you
might keep this bevy with you for a month.”

Neither by glance nor word did he remind Phœbe of their conversation
of the afternoon, and when they prepared to go upstairs he kissed all
three impartially.

“What, to bed already?” he cried. “But run along and get your beauty
sleep. Why should you wish to sit up with an old fossil like me?”

“Who has deserted us nearly the whole evening,” pouted Janet.

“True; I am to blame,” he admitted. “But a lawyer is never his own
master, and to-night business kept me in the town.”

Phœbe thought she knew what had occupied him, but said nothing.

In their rooms the girls sat and discussed their plans, waiting for the
judge and Mrs. Ferguson to get to bed and for the arrival of the hour
when they might venture forth. It was demure little Janet who suggested
they all wear sheets on their midnight stroll.

“We can carry them over our arms until we get to the graveyard,” she
said, “and then wrap ourselves in the white folds. If the ghost appears
we’ll show him that others are able to play the same trick.”

“But we might frighten him,” laughed Marion.

“Whoever is playing ghost must be trying to frighten others,” returned
Janet; “for, as you say, actual really-truly ghosts do not exist. I
think it would be fun to turn the tables on the impostor.”

“Perhaps so. What do you think, Phœbe?”

“It may be a good idea,” she said, rather reluctantly, for somehow
she regarded this matter far more seriously than did the others. The
ghost was using her grandfather’s tomb for its headquarters, according
to Marion’s report, and that gave Phœbe a personal interest in the
affair.

At last the clock warned them it was nearly twelve o’clock; so they
gathered up the sheets Janet had provided and stole noiselessly from
the house. The graveyard was only a short distance away and they
reached it about midnight, taking their position in a dark corner near
the Eliot mausoleum. They assisted one another to drape the sheets
effectually and then sat down upon the ground, huddled close together,
to await the advent of the ghost.

“Perhaps it won’t come to-night,” whispered Janet, with a suspicion of
hopefulness in her voice.

“True; we must be prepared for that disappointment,” replied Marion,
soberly.

“Do you feel at all creepy, girls?” asked Phœbe, who caught herself
indulging in nervous shivers at times, despite the fact that the night
was warm and sultry.

“For my part,” said Marion, “I have no silly fears when in a graveyard.
I find the place serenely restful, and therefore enjoy it.”

“I wouldn’t care to be here alone,” admitted Janet; “but, as we’re all
together I--I don’t--think I shall mind it--even if the Ghostly Mystery
materializes.”

It was a long wait, and the three girls beguiled it at times by
whispering together, more through desire to hear the sound of their own
voices than because they had anything important to say. One o’clock
arrived at last. Marion could read the face of her watch under the
starlight. Another half hour dragged wearily away.

“I fear we shall encounter no adventure to-night,” Marion was saying,
when Phœbe seized her arm and drew her back into the shadow.

“Hush!” she murmured, and pointed an arm toward the turnstile.

Two hearts, at least, were beating very fast now, for the long-expected
ghost was at last in sight, gliding silently past the turnstile. Well,
not exactly “gliding,” they decided, watching intently. It was not a
very healthy looking ghost, and to their astonishment was entering
the graveyard with shuffling, uneven steps. Of course it should have
suddenly appeared from some tomb, as every well regulated ghost is
supposed to do.

“The Mystery seems rather clumsy, Marion,” said Janet in an excited
whisper.

“Isn’t it carrying something?” asked Phœbe.

“Yes; a weight of some sort in each hand,” was Marion’s composed reply.
“The weights are as white as the ghost itself. Queer; isn’t it, girls?”

Glancing neither to right nor left the apparition slowly made its way
into the graveyard and advanced to the big square mausoleum erected
as the future abiding place of Jonathan Eliot. The white-robed figure
seemed bent and feeble.

“Come!” said Marion; “let us surround it and play ghost ourselves.”

She glided swiftly out into the starlight, wrapping her sheet closely
about her, and gained a position behind the tomb. Phœbe and Janet
followed, spurred on by Marion’s fearless action. One passed to the
right and the other to the left.

Singularly enough, the bent figure did not observe their presence until
the tomb was nearly reached, when Marion circled around the railing and
confronted the mysterious visitant. At the same time Janet and Phœbe
advanced and all three slowly raised their white-draped arms above
their heads.

“Woo-oo-oo!” wailed Marion.

With a shriek that pierced the night air far and wide the ghost
staggered backward and toppled to the ground, lying still as death.

Startled though she was, Phœbe sprang forward and peered into the
upturned face.

“Why--it’s Elaine!” she cried aloud.

“Yes,” said a quiet voice beside her. “And you’ve raised the very
mischief by this mad prank, Phœbe Daring.”

It was Toby Clark, who gazed down at the still figure and wagged his
tow head, mournfully.

“Is she dead, Toby?” asked Janet, in a hushed, frightened tone.

“I think not. Probably, she’s fainted.”

“And what was she carrying?” inquired Marion, seeming unmoved by the
tragic occurrence.

Phœbe knew; they were two canvas bags of gold; but she said nothing.

“See here,” cried Toby abruptly, “it’s possible you crazy females have
not spoiled the game, after all. Make tracks--will you, girls?--get
away, out of sight; run home, so she won’t see you when she comes to.”

“But--I don’t understand,” began Janet, timidly.

“You’re not supposed to,” retorted Toby, more gruffly than he had ever
spoken to her before.

“Toby is right, girls--I know he is right. Come--_please_ come!”
pleaded Phœbe, anxiously.

Thoroughly bewildered, Janet and Marion suffered her to lead them away,
and when they had passed the turnstile and were out of sight Toby
retreated and hid behind a gravestone.

Elaine did not recover at once, for her terror had been great and her
faint was proportionately deep and lasting. But finally, when Toby was
about to steal out again and see if she were dead, the old woman moved
uneasily and moaned. A little later she sat up, placing her hands to
her head. Then she seemed to remember the cause of her fright, for she
cast fearful glances around her.

Apparently reassured, she presently tried to rise, and after several
attempts regained her feet. The bags of gold still lay where she had
dropped them and after another suspicious look around the graveyard
she stooped and picked them up.

For several moments the woman stood motionless in that silent city of
the dead, pondering on the forms she had seen and trying to decide
whether her imagination had played her a trick, or she had really
beheld the spirits of those gone before. The fact that she had not been
robbed led her to dismiss any idea that the forms were mortal. Whatever
the explanation might be, she reflected that she was now alone and had
a purpose to accomplish.

She carried her load to the iron grating, unlocked the gate and passed
through. The marble door of the mausoleum worked with a secret spring.
Toby’s sharp eyes carefully marked the manner in which she released
this spring and permitted the heavy marble block to swing noiselessly
outward.

Elaine only lingered long enough to place the bags of gold inside. Then
she closed the door of the tomb, let herself out at the iron gate and
after one more shrewd inspection of the silent place made her way out
of the graveyard and took the path that led back to her home.

Far behind her Toby followed like a shadow.

In half an hour she returned to the vault again, laden as before. For
an old woman, and one who had just received a nervous shock, Elaine
Halliday showed remarkable vitality. Her body appeared frail and weak,
but an indomitable spirit urged it to perform its tasks.



CHAPTER XXIII

TWO AND TWO MAKE FOUR


When Judge Ferguson arrived at his office the next morning he found
Toby Clark awaiting him.

“What! You’ve not let Miss Halliday escape?” he exclaimed.

“Miss Phœbe is watching her,” returned Toby. “I felt it was
important for me to come here to report.”

“Very well; sit down and tell me what you have to say.”

“Early last evening,” began the youth, “I heard the woman in her room.
I watched her through the peephole Miss Daring had prepared. She was
gathering all the money from the hiding places. The bills and small
change she made into packages; the gold she left in the bags. Then she
went into another room--the room occupied by Mr. Eliot--and returned
with an armful of papers.”

“What sort of papers?” inquired the lawyer.

“They looked like legal documents, bonds, deeds and such things, sir.
All were neatly folded and tied in packages.”

“Ah! I wonder where they could have been hidden.”

“No telling, sir. They’ve been mighty clever, haven’t they? Well, sir,
she made those papers into two separate parcels. Then she wrapped
herself in a sheet which she took from her bed, hid the parcels under
it, and left the house.”

“She took only the papers?”

“Only the papers that time, sir. I tried to follow her, but the only
way I could get out of the house without noise was through the window.
I tied some sheets and blankets together and let myself down that way;
but I was too late. The woman had disappeared, and I could not tell in
what direction.”

“Too bad, Toby.”

“But I knew she would return, for there was the money to be lugged
away. So I hid by a hedge and waited till she came back. She went into
the house by the outside stair and soon brought out two bags of gold,
one in each hand. This time, I followed her. She went to the graveyard,
and I knew why she had draped herself in the sheet.”

“Why?”

“So, if anyone chanced to see her there, they would take her for
a ghost. Some one did see her there--three girls, also dressed in
sheets--your daughter, Phœbe Daring and Marion Randolph.”

“Well, I declare!” ejaculated the lawyer.

Toby told of the incident in the graveyard, and how Miss Halliday had
afterward made still another trip with the balance of the money.

“Did she put it all into the vault?” asked the judge.

“Yes, sir; and so I suppose she put the papers there, too. But I cannot
be positive of that.”

“But--good gracious, Toby!--what possessed the woman to hide all that
plunder in a vault?”

“She is quite clever, sir. The other hiding place had been discovered
by Phœbe; some of the money had been taken; it was best to hide it
elsewhere. Who would ever think of searching a graveyard for it?”

“You’re right, Toby. But what happened afterward?”

“Very little, sir. Miss Halliday went to bed and slept soundly, for I
heard her snore.”

“You climbed in at the window again?”

“Yes, sir; and had some sleep myself.”

“What a wonderful woman Elaine is!”

“I can’t help admiring her, sir.”

“And what about Mr. Eliot, Toby?”

“While waiting for the woman, when she escaped me the first time, I
stole up the stairs and looked in. Mr. Eliot was sitting quietly in his
chair, in the dark.”

“She left him there all night!” cried the judge, horrified.

“It seems so, sir.”

“That is cruelty. Even his helpless body must tire with remaining in
one position so long. Usually Elaine has taken better care of him than
that,” said Mr. Ferguson, indignantly.

“She was much excited last night; and the poor man can’t complain, you
know,” returned Toby, with a shrug.

“What did Miss Halliday do this morning?” asked the lawyer, after a
moment’s thought.

“She rose early and got her breakfast. I heard her walking around the
front rooms, putting them in order and waiting on Mr. Eliot. She seemed
quite composed this morning, and that may be due to the thought that
her money is now safe from discovery. When Miss Phœbe came home from
your house, Miss Halliday met her and handed her this note.”

Judge Ferguson took the paper. On it were scrawled the words: “At
twelve o’clock I will keep my word.”

“Miss Phœbe is very anxious, sir,” continued Toby. “So I thought it
best to come to you and report.”

The lawyer looked at his clerk, reflectively. Old Miss Halliday’s
persistent threat to prosecute Phœbe impressed him strongly. For,
had she not been able to prove her right to this secret hoard, the
woman would never dare to expose the affair to public notice. Mr.
Ferguson was quite positive that no such paper as Elaine had displayed
to Phœbe would hold good in a court of law; but the woman might
have other proofs that she was entitled to the property she claimed.
In any event the judge did not wish to be forced to act hastily in so
important a matter. Time was necessary.

Half an hour later he entered Mr. Spaythe’s private office at the bank
and said:

“Spaythe, I want to borrow three thousand, three hundred and ninety
dollars--and I want the money now.”

Mr. Spaythe gave a perceptible start, passed his hand over his
forehead, and cast a perplexed and annoyed glance at the lawyer.

“May I have it?” demanded the judge.

Eric had entered in time to hear this demand, and the sum mentioned
sent his face white and made his knees knock together. In his hand
was a paper he had intended asking his father to indorse, but it was
all forgotten as the boy stared blankly at Judge Ferguson. Did the
lawyer know? Then how many others knew? Eric had not yet recovered
from his fright, and his great fear was of his father’s anger. Why
had Mr. Spaythe said nothing to his son about the stolen money, and
what punishment was he planning? The son of the strict, inflexible
banker well knew the fault would not be forgiven nor condoned, and the
uncertainty of his position was becoming unbearable.

“Certainly you may have the money, Judge,” was Mr. Spaythe’s slow
reply. “For how long do you require the loan?”

“Perhaps only for a few days.”

“Then I’ll give you my personal check, and make no other record of the
transaction.”

As he drew his check book toward him Eric slipped back into the bank
and resumed his stool. He was trembling as with an ague.

Presently Mr. Ferguson came to the window and asked Mr. Boothe to give
him currency for the check. He spoke loudly enough for both Eric and
Phil to overhear him.

“How will you have it, sir?” asked the cashier.

“Fifteen hundred in gold and eighteen hundred and ninety in bills.”

Eric nearly fell off his stool, and Phil looked up with a start. The
effect upon the two boys was entirely different, however, for Daring
had nothing to fear. So Phœbe’s secret was out, thought Phil, and
Judge Ferguson was the person who had given her the money. But, in
that case, why was the judge now asking for a similar sum, and in the
same sort of money? The mystery was certainly beyond Phil Daring’s
ability to solve. He gravely continued his work, feeling certain that
everything would come right in the end. It hurt him, though, to feel he
was not in his twin’s confidence.

Mr. Ferguson took his money and departed. When he reached his office he
said to Toby Clark:

“Go back to the Eliot house and send Phœbe to me. You must remain to
watch Miss Halliday, but you can do that from the lane, or from some
other point of vantage. I don’t much care what the woman does while
she is at home, but if she attempts to leave the place be prepared to
follow her.”

“All right, sir.”

Phœbe came for the money and found it ready for her, tied in a neat
parcel.

“Don’t answer any questions during your interview with Elaine,” he
advised. “And take care to ask none. Above all, don’t let her suspect
you were playing ghost in the graveyard last night.”

Phœbe promised and went home again. At twelve o’clock she carried
the package around to the rear stairs, which she was about to mount
when Elaine appeared in the doorway above her.

“Stay where you are!” was the harsh command.

The girl resented the words and the tone, so with determination she
mounted the stairs. Elaine barred her way.

“You must count the money and give me a receipt,” said Phœbe.

“I’ll count it; but you’ll get no receipt, for you gave none, you
miserable little thief!” snarled the woman, rudely snatching the parcel.

“Then, I’ll wait here until you count it.”

“No you won’t. Go down--instantly! And if the money is not all here, to
jail you go.”

“I think I’ll see my grandfather,” asserted the girl, more to annoy
Elaine than because she wished to visit the helpless old man.

For answer Miss Halliday slammed the door in her face and locked it.
Phœbe slowly retreated and descended to the yard. There the thought
occurred to her that she might watch Elaine through the rear windows,
for she was curious to see how she acted when she found the money all
restored. So she slipped away into the lane, which being slightly
elevated enabled her to peer into the second story windows. There she
bumped against Toby Clark, who was standing half hidden by a clump of
bushes.

“Oh! You here?” she exclaimed.

“Yes. Anything up?” he inquired.

“I’ve just given Elaine the money, and she impudently locked me out. So
I thought I’d come here and watch the windows.”

“That’s what I’ve been doing. Stand back here in the shade, Miss
Daring, so you won’t be seen. That’s it. Now look at that window. What
do you see?”

“Only gran’pa sitting in his chair.”

“Oh. Is that your grandfather!”

“Of course,” said Phœbe. “He sits there all day long, looking over
the country. Once, you know, he owned all the land as far as he can now
see.”

“And does he sit there all night, too?”

“No, indeed; Elaine puts him to bed at night.”

“Last night,” said Toby, reflectively, “she left him in his chair,
instead of putting him to bed. I saw him. The room was dark, but he was
so close to the window that the stars showed his form distinctly.”

“Then Elaine is neglecting poor gran’pa!” cried Phœbe, indignantly.
“And he is so dependent on her kindness, too!”

Toby gave a low, apologetic cough.

“Your eyes are good, Miss Daring?”

“Yes,” she replied.

“Then look again, and carefully. Is that indeed your grandfather--is it
really Mr. Eliot in the chair?”

Phœbe was surprised at the question, but she looked carefully.

“Of course. I’ve seen him sitting that way every day, for months past.”

“Can you see his face?”

“Not very well, from here. It is muffled up in his dressing gown, you
know, so he won’t take cold.”

“It’s pretty warm to-day,” observed the lawyer’s clerk.

“But Gran’pa Eliot is paralyzed, and his blood doesn’t circulate
freely. He is always well wrapped up, whatever the weather.”

Toby whistled softly and looked down at the ground, where he was
digging up the earth with the toe of his shoe.

“It must be dinner time,” said Phœbe, suddenly remembering the fact.
“Phil will be coming home and I must go in.”

“Will you be very busy this afternoon, Miss Daring?”

“I think not. Why?”

“Can you come here for a half hour or so?”

“Yes, Toby, if I can be of any service.”

“I think you can. This is a queer affair, isn’t it?”

“It’s very queer, Toby.”

“Then I shall expect you,” he said with a sudden change of tone.

Phœbe went in, thinking the while how odd this boy was. She wondered
casually why Judge Ferguson had placed so much confidence in him. There
was still a good deal of mystery about this affair and Phœbe did
not yet know what the lawyer intended to do to checkmate old Elaine.
However, she was content to trust her father’s friend, and greatly
relieved to be able to return that dreadful money to the covetous woman.

After dinner she walked with Phil to the gate. Said he:

“Have you anything to tell me?”

“Not yet, Phil,” she answered softly. “Try to be patient, for all is
well, I’m sure, and we’re going to be very happy when these troubled
days are over.”

He said no more, but bent and kissed her and went on his way.

After accomplishing a few household duties and bandaging a cut on
Becky’s arm--it seemed the girl was always hurting herself--and helping
Don find his cap, which he always mislaid when he came in, Phœbe
remembered her promise to Toby Clark and slipped away unobserved to his
station in the lane.

She found the little clerk staring fixedly at the window where Gran’pa
Eliot sat. He gave a start as the girl approached, and then his
freckled face lit up with a smile.

“I want you to watch Miss Halliday for me, for half an hour,” he said.

“Where is she?”

“Somewhere in those upper rooms. She has just passed the window to
the left. But, although I’ve watched her for hours, she has never once
stopped at your grandfather’s side to do anything for him.”

“Poor gran’pa!”

“Now, listen, Miss Phœbe. The judge told me not to lose sight of
that woman. If she tries to leave the house I am to follow her. But I
want to get away, for just a little while, and I’d like you to watch in
my place.”

“But, what shall I do if she goes away?”

“Follow her, and I’ll find you both. But she won’t leave the house
to-day, I’m sure.”

“Very well; I’ll do the best I can, Toby.”

He nodded and walked away, going straight to the graveyard. When he
reached there he climbed nimbly over the high iron rail, at the risk of
breaking a limb, and faced the Eliot mausoleum. Pressing the spring, as
he had seen Elaine do, he opened the marble door and passed into the
tomb.

A few moments later he came out with a pale, startled face and closed
the door. A while he stood lost in reverie; then he clambered over the
railing again and went to relieve Phœbe.

“Thank you, Miss Daring,” he said quietly. “You may go, now. Anything
to report?”

“Why, a minute ago Elaine came to the window where gran’pa sits, and
after staring out, as if she suspected I was watching her, she turned
and shook up gran’pa’s pillows, and moved his chair back a little. So
you see we were wrong, and she is not really neglecting him.”

Toby chuckled.

“She’s a slick one, is Miss Halliday!” he murmured. “But I’ll keep an
eye on her now.”

“Aren’t you hungry?” asked Phœbe, remembering he had been on duty
since the evening before.

He shook his head.

“Brought some bread and cheese with me, Miss Daring. Good-by.”

“Good-by, Toby.”

The afternoon passed slowly for Phœbe. She was still wrought up over
the exciting events of the past few days and felt that she was almost
as much in the dark concerning Judge Ferguson’s intentions as was
Phil. She tried to copy some manuscript on her typewriter, for she had
been neglecting the work lately, but somehow the girl had conceived an
undefined horror of her room. So she went to sit with Cousin Judith,
while she finished darning her stockings.

“Phœbe, dear,” said Miss Eliot, “there’s something mysterious going
on in this house.”

“Is there?” asked Phœbe, with downcast eyes.

“I think so. Phil has not been himself, lately. I’m sure he is worrying
dreadfully over something. Is anything wrong at the bank?”

“No, Cousin Judith. Phil is all right. He’s doing splendid work, as you
may know from the fact that Mr. Spaythe has raised his salary.”

“But the boy is unhappy, nevertheless,” persisted the Little Mother,
musingly.

Phœbe sighed. She knew it was true.

“As for you, my dear,” continued Judith, “you are a mere bundle of
nerves lately, and start and grow pale if anyone speaks to you. What
has happened, Phœbe?”

The girl darned industriously for a time. Then she said earnestly:

“You trust me, Cousin Judith, do you not?”

“You know I do, Phœbe.”

“Then please do not question me to-day. I don’t want to mislead you,
or deceive you, and Judge Ferguson has asked me not to confide in
anyone--not even you.”

“Judge Ferguson!” exclaimed Judith, relieved. “Is it his secret, then?”

“Just now it is,” answered Phœbe. “But there is nothing to worry
about, dear. That’s what I told Phil, just after dinner.”

Miss Eliot was really puzzled, but she felt it would be unkind to press
Phœbe further.

“Becky, Don and Sue know nothing of the matter, at least,” she
observed, after a moment’s reflection.

“No, indeed,” said Phœbe.



CHAPTER XXIV

TOBY CLARK’S HEROISM


Late that night Toby Clark heard a man pacing slowly up and down the
street, passing the Eliot house each time. Peering through the shadows
the boy thought he recognized the straight, erect figure. Creeping
close to a hedge that bordered the highway he whispered:

“Mr. Ferguson!”

“Yes, Toby. I’ve been looking for you,” replied the judge in a low
voice, as he paused beside the hedge.

“Something’s going to happen to-night, sir.”

“So I suspected. What is it?”

“Miss Halliday’s getting ready to flit, sir.”

“Are you sure?”

“She’s been packing up for the last hour, sir.”

“And intends to leave poor Mr. Eliot alone! How dreadful!”

“Would you mind going for Sam Parsons, Mr. Ferguson?”

The lawyer gave a start. Parsons was the village constable.

“Parsons! Dear me; do you think he’s needed, Toby?”

“Better have everything ship-shape, sir.”

The judge reflected. Had he a right to arrest Elaine? She was merely
a servant, after all, and it was not a felony to throw up such a
position. But, there was the money--that secret hoard which she had
claimed as her own and hidden away in the tomb. She had claimed to own
the property, as well, yet was voluntarily preparing to leave it--a
circumstance which led the shrewd lawyer to suspect that she knew her
claim to be illegal. Had she, then, any better right to the money, the
bonds and papers? Judge Ferguson decided he would get the constable.

“There is no time to be lost, sir,” suggested Toby Clark, uneasily.

“I’ll meet you here shortly. Sam doesn’t live far away, and he’ll be at
home now; probably in bed and asleep.”

“I’d like you to hurry, if you please. And if I’m not here when you
return, come to the graveyard.”

“The graveyard!”

“She’ll want to put away the money that Miss Phœbe gave her to-day,
you know.”

“Of course, Toby. I’ll hurry.”

He turned and walked swiftly away, while the clerk went back to his
post of observation. A candle was burning in one of the upper rooms and
it dimly lighted the form of Jonathan Eliot, seated beside his favorite
window. Now and then Miss Halliday passed one of the windows. She had
on a shawl and bonnet.

The judge was prompt. He encountered the constable just coming home
from town, and immediately dragged him away, explaining the case as
they walked.

Sam Parsons was a man of few words and he knew Judge Ferguson. He asked
no questions, understanding he was merely to arrest old Miss Halliday
if she tried to get away. The judge knew the reason for this action,
and that was all that was necessary, for the time being.

Toby met them and posted them beside the path Elaine must take to get
to the tomb. From their cover they gazed curiously at the muffled form
of old Jonathan Eliot; but the examination was brief, for suddenly the
light went out.

“She’s coming!” whispered Toby. “I’ll follow her first, and then you
must follow me at a safe distance.”

“Why not arrest her now?” asked the lawyer.

“Oh, no--not now, sir!” protested Toby in an eager voice. “Wait, sir;
wait.”

He could say no more, for they discerned Elaine’s angular form coming
down the stairway. In one hand she carried an old-fashioned satchel.
Under the other arm was the package of money which Phœbe had
returned to her.

Pausing at the foot of the stairs the woman cast penetrating glances in
every direction. Then, evidently reassured, she stealthily traversed
the back yard and passed through the gate into the lane. It was quite
dark under the shadow of the trees, and Elaine had no suspicion that
three silent watchers stood almost within arm’s reach as she hurried
along the well-known path. Presently Toby Clark glided away in her
wake, and before his dim form became wholly invisible the constable and
the lawyer started after him.

Thus the extraordinary procession advanced to the very borders of the
graveyard. Once or twice Toby halted suddenly, and the others perforce
followed suit; but that was only when Elaine paused to shift her
luggage from one hand to the other; then they all resumed the silent
march.

When she unlocked the gate of the iron grating surrounding the tomb she
did not wait to fasten it behind her; so, as soon as she had entered
the mausoleum Toby slipped inside the railing and signaled the others
to follow him. The three being now within the enclosure, the young man
closed the gate and turned the key in the lock just as Elaine again
appeared.

The starlight rendered the three forms clearly visible.

The woman gave a low cry and rushed to the grating, which she shook
with impotent rage. Then, turning to confront her captors, she
exclaimed:

“Who are you? How dare you come here?”

“A graveyard is not private property,” said the judge.

“Mr. Ferguson!”

“Yes, Miss Halliday. Let me return your question: why are you here?”

She glanced at the door of the mausoleum, which she had left ajar
in her first panic at being discovered. Then her eyes fell upon the
satchel she had left beside the gate. These people had surprised her,
but she reflected that they could know nothing of her secret, or of
her present purpose. All she needed was to gain time. Before any could
prevent her she sprang to the marble door and forced it shut. It closed
with a sharp click as the spring bolt shot into place. The secret of
opening it had been known only to Jonathan Eliot and herself.

Toby gave a little laugh, and the lawyer roused himself and said
sternly:

“I am awaiting your explanation, Miss Halliday.”

“Well, I guess you’ll wait for it awhile,” she retorted, a note of
triumph in her voice. “You’ve no right to detain me here, Judge
Ferguson. Open that gate, and let me go!”

“I fear, madam, you have broken the law, and we must therefore arrest
you,” said the lawyer.

“I’d like to see you do it!” she cried, but she drew in her breath
sharply and pressed one hand to her heart.

“You will be gratified, Miss Halliday. Officer, do your duty.”

As the constable advanced she shrank back against the iron gate.

“No, no!” she said. “Don’t arrest me. I’ve done nothing to be arrested
for. Come to the house in the morning and I’ll explain everything.”

The lawyer hesitated.

“You may go to the house, if you wish; but Mr. Parsons will go with
you, and guard the place until morning,” he said.

Toby Clark was pulling his sleeve.

“One moment, sir, before you decide,” he pleaded.

“What is it, Toby?”

“Come with me, please.”

The boy went to the door of the mausoleum, touched the secret spring,
and the marble block swung out. Elaine gave a cry that was half a sob
and pressed her hands to her heart again.

“Come in, please--all of you, if you will,” said the clerk.

Parsons and Mr. Ferguson followed him into the black interior of the
tomb. The air was close and bore a peculiar, sickening odor.

“One moment,” said Toby.

He struck a match, holding it shielded between his hands until it
flared up and lighted the confined space. On a marble slab in the
center of the tomb lay a dead body.

“Good God!” cried the judge, recoiling; “it’s Jonathan Eliot!”

An echoing cry came from Toby. Dropping the match he made a bound
for the door just as the heavy slab was swinging into place, urged
by Elaine’s most desperate efforts. There was no way to open it from
the inside, and the danger was imminent. In an instant the young man
had thrust his foot into the crack that was now barely large enough
to receive it, while Elaine, crowding the weight of her body against
the marble, crushed and mangled the heroic boy’s flesh in a last vain
effort to entomb her three captors and condemn them to a horrible death.

The next instant the burly form of Sam Parsons thrust back the door.
Then he wrapped his arms around the struggling woman and caught her in
a firm clasp. Judge Ferguson, trembling with horror, raised Toby from
the ground, where he had fallen and lay writhing and moaning with the
pain of his maimed and wounded foot.

Snap--snap! went the handcuffs that encircled Elaine’s wrists, while
she fought, scratching and biting, to resist capture.

“I’ll carry Toby down to the doctor’s, sir,” said the constable. “You
can march ahead with that tigress. There’s no danger, Judge; she can’t
escape us now, and we’ll soon land her in jail.”



CHAPTER XXV

FATHER AND SON


The Darings slept soundly that night, all unaware of the tragic events
taking place in their neighborhood. However, the adventure was not
yet ended for Judge Ferguson, even when the Halliday woman had been
securely locked up and the doctor had dressed Toby’s mangled foot and
he had been put to bed.

“Sam,” said the lawyer, “I have work to do, and you must help me.”

“Count on me, Judge,” was the ready reply. “I don’t mind an all-night
job once in a while, though I wouldn’t care for it as a steady diet.
What’s next?”

They awakened the undertaker, Davis, the next thing, and after the
lawyer had told him the story he at once hitched up a team to drive
to the tomb for Mr. Eliot’s body. As the undertaker was also the
liveryman, Mr. Ferguson obtained a single horse, harnessed to a roomy
box-buggy, in which he and Sam Parsons followed the other rig. Arriving
at the graveyard they held back while Davis took charge of the remains
and loaded the body into the wagon, and not till he had driven away did
the constable and the lawyer venture into the mausoleum, the door of
which they had propped open to avoid the danger of being entombed alive.

The buggy was fairly loaded when all the treasure and the papers had
been placed in it, and then they drove to the lawyer’s office, where
they deposited the precious freight and Parsons watched beside it until
morning.

Mr. Ferguson, meantime, got a couple of hours’ sleep; but he was back
at the office by daybreak, and while waiting for the bank to open
sent Sam to get his breakfast, while he himself began a systematic
examination of the papers he had seized.

It did not take him long to discover that Jonathan Eliot had been
a wealthy, if miserly, man. The government bonds and cash alone
constituted a fortune, but aside from these were many mortgages and
investments that drew a high rate of interest. There was no paper
purporting to be a will; no letters of administration or any indication
that the old man had transferred his holdings to Elaine Halliday, or
to any other person. The deed of gift which Phœbe had seen was
doubtless secreted upon the person of the housekeeper.

While the judge was thus absorbed in the papers the day advanced
and Spaythe’s Bank was opened for business. Phil, arriving at his
usual time, found Mr. Spaythe already in his office and the door
communicating with the countingroom wide open.

Moreover, the banker seemed laboring under unusual excitement. He would
walk the floor of his office with nervous strides, then seat himself in
the chair by his desk, and a few moments later resume his pacing. At
times he glanced into the room where Phil was at work, or toward the
cage where the cashier was busy. Eric had not yet arrived.

Presently in came Judge Ferguson, accompanied by Sam Parsons, and both
were loaded down with gold and bank notes.

“Good morning, Spaythe,” called the judge, nodding genially. “I want
to make an important deposit, to be credited to the Estate of Jonathan
Eliot.”

“Eliot!” exclaimed the banker. “Is the old man dead, then?”

“Very dead, Spaythe; and he’s left a lot of money. Here, Boothe, count
it--and count it carefully, my man--for this is the biggest deposit
your bank has ever received.”

Phil had overheard this, and came forward with a pale and troubled
face.

“Is it true, sir?” he asked, half frightened.

“Yes, Phil; it’s true.”

“When did my grandfather die?”

“Two or three days ago, I think. But we only discovered his body last
night, lying in that tomb he built, where Elaine Halliday had carried
him after propping up a dummy in the window to make us all believe he
was still alive.”

Then they all went into the private office, where Mr. Ferguson related
the night’s occurrences to Mr. Spaythe and Phil Daring, the constable
being present to confirm the story.

“Had it not been for the bravery of Toby Clark,” concluded the judge,
“we might all three have been buried alive in that hideous tomb. No one
could have come to our assistance, for no one knew where we had gone.”

“The woman must be crazy,” asserted the banker.

“Perhaps; but she’s clever enough in some ways,” sighed the lawyer,
“and may cause us a lot of trouble yet. That’s why I have deposited
this money to the credit of the Eliot Estate. No one can touch it now
until the courts decide to whom it belongs. And, by the way, Spaythe,
that three thousand, three hundred and ninety dollars I borrowed from
you is among the lot!”

During this conversation Eric had entered the bank, and seeing the
interested group gathered in his father’s office came to the open door
just as the judge again mentioned the fatal sum that he had stolen
from the safe. His face instantly went white with terror, and he was
creeping away when Mr. Spaythe sprang up, seized his son’s arm and drew
him into the office.

“Gentlemen,” said the banker, turning to the others, “I too have a
story to relate, and I beg you to seat yourselves and listen.”

“May I go, sir?” asked Phil in a troubled tone.

“No, Daring; you must remain; for what I have to say concerns you
closely. Sit down.”

Phil sat down. Judge Ferguson glanced from Phil to Eric, who stood
with hanging head; then to Mr. Spaythe, whose countenance was cold and
severe and bore the marks of a secret sorrow. The constable, accustomed
to strange scenes, remained impassive and silent.

“On Saturday night,” began Mr. Spaythe, in a hard, resolute tone, “this
bank was robbed of three thousand, three hundred and ninety dollars, in
gold and currency.”

Eric staggered and caught at the corner of the desk for support. Phil
grew pale, for he was astonished at the banker’s knowledge. Mr. Ferguson
knew the fact already, having listened to Phœbe’s confession, so he
merely glanced at the father and son in a thoughtful way and refrained
from comment.

[Illustration: “I’VE A STORY TO RELATE,” SAID THE BANKER.]

“My son had warned me,” continued the banker, speaking bitterly, “that
Phil Daring would not be liable to withstand the temptation of stealing
money, once he was alone in the bank and knew the combination of the
safe. At first I scorned the idea; then, for my own satisfaction, I
decided to watch. Here in my door is a sliding panel, through which I
am able to observe, when I so desire, everything that goes on in the
back room. On Saturday night I came here, letting myself in at the
private entrance to this room, and found Phil Daring working on the
books while his twin sister sat beside him. From their conversation
I discovered that they knew the bank was about to be robbed. They
arranged to watch the robbery unobserved, and I decided to do likewise.
At midnight a man entered the bank, opened the safe and took away
three thousand, three hundred and ninety dollars. That man,” he added,
pointing a merciless finger toward the culprit, “was my own son.”

No one spoke. Eric tried to answer, but a sob choked him. He had raised
his head now and was reading his father’s face with a fascinated and
horror-stricken gaze.

“From the conversation of the two Darings,” went on Mr. Spaythe, “I
learned that Eric had so plotted that Phil was to be accused of the
crime--and of other peculations that preceded it. The girl promised to
save her brother, and I was curious to know how she would do it. To my
amazement they brought the money to the bank on Sunday evening, and I
saw them replace it in the safe--every penny that Eric had taken. The
act was so astonishing, so wholly unexpected and inexplicable, that
there seemed but one possible solution: that the Darings had in some
way forced Eric to give up the stolen money. So I kept silent, waiting
for an explanation, or for some further development; for if Eric had
been shown the folly and wickedness of his crime it might be better for
him not to know that I had discovered it. I may have been weak in this;
but, gentlemen, he is my son.”

The banker paused, pressed his lips firmly together, and after a time
resumed his statement.

“Further developments occurred, indeed, but they served to undeceive
me, and to add to my perplexity. Eric restored to the bank several
hundred dollars which he had formerly embezzled; he also paid his debts
around town, amounting to several hundred dollars more; I have a list
of them. Therefore, he could not have returned to the Darings the money
he took from the safe on Saturday night--and he had no other money.”

Eric drew a long and tremulous sigh. Then he sank into a chair and
buried his face in his hands. The tale was all new to him, and he found
the truth vastly different from what he had imagined. Also, despair had
seized him in its pitiless grasp, and as his eye by chance fell upon
the constable he shuddered. His father’s intentions were clear to him
now.

“Another surprising circumstance,” said Mr. Spaythe, ignoring Eric’s
dejected attitude, “was Judge Ferguson’s demand upon me for the exact
sum Eric had stolen--the exact sum Phœbe Daring had restored to
the safe. Therefore, I have asked you to listen to me that you may
understand I am entitled to some explanation. My son’s crime is known
to the Darings and to Mr. Ferguson, as well as to myself; I, only, am
in the dark concerning the events which followed it.”

“Those events I can explain in a few words, sir,” said the judge,
his kindly voice showing how deeply he was grieved for his old
friend. “Phœbe Daring had discovered her grandfather’s hoard,
which Miss Halliday had secreted in her own room. To save her brother
from unjust accusation the girl took the sum required to make good
Eric’s--eh--eh--withdrawal. Miss Halliday claimed this money was given
her by Jonathan Eliot, by a deed of gift, and threatened Phœbe
with jail unless she returned the entire sum. It was my purpose just
then to lull old Elaine’s suspicions; so I borrowed the money from
you, Mr. Spaythe, that Phœbe might return it to her grandfather’s
housekeeper. So you see that after all the various conspiracies,
Spaythe’s Bank is still short that identical sum of three thousand,
three hundred and ninety dollars.”

“Not the bank, sir,” said the other harshly, “but my personal account
is short that sum. You are relieved of all obligation to return it,
Judge Ferguson.”

The lawyer bowed.

“In that case,” said he, somewhat embarrassed, “perhaps you will permit
us now to withdraw.”

The banker sat silent a moment, his stern face pallid and thoughtful.
Then he turned to Phil.

“Mr. Daring,” he said, “I owe to you and to your brave sister my
thanks for your discretion and consideration of me in the conduct of
this unfortunate affair. Eric owes you a still greater debt. You have
behaved as a man, sir; I wish to God you had been my son instead of
that cowering criminal seated before me. Will you add a little to my
obligation--will you do me another favor?”

“If I may, sir,” said Phil, flushed and miserable despite this praise.

“Tell me what punishment to inflict upon this--thief.”

Phil straightened up and looked squarely into the banker’s eyes. He had
longed for this question; the opportunity was now his.

“Sir,” he replied, “I know Eric; I have known him for years. His fault
lay in his extravagant tastes, which forced him into debt because his
father would not give him as much money as he thought he needed. The
debts drove him to crime, and for his crime he has already suffered
such punishment as all your proposed severity could not inflict upon
him. I know Eric--tender-hearted, generous and kind--not bad, sir, in
spite of this offense he was so weak as to commit. If you will forgive
him, Mr. Spaythe, if you will love him and take him to your heart
again, I promise that never in the future will you have cause to regret
it. Eric will be honest and true from this day forward. But if, on the
other hand, you now cast him off, you will ruin his life and your own;
for a boy condemned by his own father can hope for no mercy from the
world. He is your only son, Mr. Spaythe; forgive him.”

During this impassioned speech, which came straight from the young
fellow’s heart, the banker sat staring at him with dull, expressionless
eyes. Eric had raised his head to gaze at Phil wonderingly. Then he
turned to his father a pleading look that might have melted his anger
had he seen it; but Mr. Spaythe still stared at Phil Daring, as if
dazed by the boy’s frankness.

Mr. Ferguson slowly rose and laid an arm across the banker’s shoulder.
The gesture was strangely caressing, as between one man and another.

“Phil is right, Duncan,” he said softly. “The boy is your son, and you
can make a man of him, if you will.”

Slowly the banker’s head drooped until it rested upon his arms,
outstretched upon the flat desk before him. For a time he remained
motionless, while those who watched and waited scarce dared to breathe.

Then Mr. Spaythe looked up, and the sternness had left his face.

“Eric,” he said, “you are forgiven.”



CHAPTER XXVI

THE WATERMARK


Phœbe found the chickens had not been fed, and they were making a
plaintive outcry for attention. She went to the stair and called to
Elaine, but there was no reply.

Slowly ascending to the upper floor she pushed open the door and
called again. Then something about her grandfather’s awkward position
attracted her attention. She crept forward to peer into his face; then
started back with a cry of dismay. Her grandfather was not there. A
pillow and a bolster supported the dressing gown and head-shawl which
had so cleverly deceived her.

Hurrying down she met Phil and Judge Ferguson coming up the walk. They
told her to get Cousin Judith, and when the four were assembled in the
quaint old parlor the girls heard the extraordinary story of Elaine’s
arrest and Eric’s forgiveness.

Miss Halliday made a desperate fight for Jonathan Eliot’s money. Judge
Ferguson was not the only lawyer in Riverdale. Among the others was
a little, fat, bald-headed man named Abner Kellogg, whom the court
allowed to defend the woman.

Kellogg was shrewd, and Elaine promised him a big fee if he won; so he
challenged Mr. Ferguson to prove that the deed of gift was a forgery
and had not been signed by the deceased miser.

This was a difficult thing to do. The signature was very much like Mr.
Eliot’s; so like it that the experts would not state positively that
he had not affixed it to the deed. Moreover, Elaine’s contention that
she had received no regular wages for years; that she had been the only
close friend and confidant of the old man, and that he had promised
her his money and property, when he died, as a return for her faithful
service, was all so plausible that it greatly strengthened her claim.

She testified before the court that Jonathan Eliot had executed this
deed of gift just before he was stricken with paralysis.

“He would not give me the paper then,” she explained in a logical,
composed way, “but kept it in an iron box in his secret cupboard. He
told me that when he died I could take the paper, and it would prove my
claim. So I did take it, and showed it to Phœbe Daring, and she gave
me back the money she had stolen from me.”

When asked why she had concealed the fact of Mr. Eliot’s death for
three days and hidden his body and the money in the tomb, she replied
that she was afraid of the Darings and their lawyer, Judge Ferguson.
The Darings had stolen from her and the judge had threatened her with
the law. She was a simple, inexperienced old woman, she added, unable
to oppose such bitter and powerful enemies, who had always treated
her unjustly. She feared that when they knew of Mr. Eliot’s death
they would take away her money--as indeed they had done--and so she
had tried to keep the matter secret until she could get far away from
Riverdale. She had intended to let the Darings have the house, although
it was clearly her own. The place had grown distasteful to her, and the
money would enable her to live comfortably in some other part of the
country.

She flatly denied her attempt to entomb Mr. Ferguson, the constable and
Toby Clark, which had been frustrated by the boy sacrificing his foot
for their lives, and they refrained from pressing this charge against
her. Toby’s foot was healing, but he would be a cripple as long as he
lived.

Taken all together, Elaine’s position was far more strong than Mr.
Ferguson had anticipated. By permission of the court he examined the
deed of gift closely, afterward complaining that the paper seemed too
new to have been written upon three years ago. It was a heavy, thick
sheet, resembling parchment, and on it the judge discovered a watermark
consisting of the letters “A.R.”

Lawyer Kellogg, who defended Elaine, replied that paper kept away from
light and air, as this had been, would remain white and look new for
years, and therefore Mr. Ferguson’s contention was ridiculous. The
court agreed with Mr. Kellogg in this, and poor Mr. Ferguson was at his
wits’ end to find some reasonable flaw in the document.

The case had been on trial for a week, and had been adjourned over
Sunday. The Darings and Cousin Judith, who had at first been elated
at the prospect of inheriting Gran’pa Eliot’s wealth, had by degrees
fallen into a state of hopeless despondency.

After his Sunday dinner Judge Ferguson came over for a talk with his
clients, and although his intention was to cheer them, his own face was
too serious to be very assuring.

“I am morally certain that woman is deceiving us,” he said; “but I must
confess my fear that we shall be unable to prove the deed a forgery.”

“Never mind, sir,” replied Phil, smiling at Phœbe to give her
courage; “we’ve managed to get along so far without gran’pa’s money,
and I guess we can stand it hereafter.”

“That isn’t the point,” suggested Judith. “The money is rightfully
yours, and you are entitled to it. Why, the fortune left by my uncle is
nearly a hundred thousand dollars, counting the money and securities
alone. Surely Elaine Halliday cannot claim her services to be worth all
that!”

“Not justly, my dear,” answered the judge; “but the law will not
look at it from that point of view, and here is a point of law to be
considered. If the deed is allowed to stand we cannot prevent Elaine
from getting every penny, and the house to boot. If it is a forgery,
and so proved, she is not entitled to a dollar beyond her wages as
housekeeper. Even that would be forfeited by her deception.”

“Suppose,” said Phœbe, “we compromise, and agree to give her all the
money if she will let us have the house. Wouldn’t that be better than
getting nothing at all?”

“I fear it is too late to compromise,” said the judge, shaking his head
regretfully. “At first we might have made such an arrangement, but now
that pettifogger Kellogg will insist on her getting everything. Elaine
has wisely left her defence entirely in Kellogg’s hands.”

“Isn’t he a rascal?” asked Cousin Judith.

“I would not accuse him of rascality,” was the reply. “No; Kellogg is
not a bad man, nor a bad lawyer; he is doing his duty by his client,
that is all.”

Just then Becky came rushing across the lawn, screaming and laughing.
She was closely followed by Don and Allerton Randolph, who tried to
head her off. Becky was clutching and waving a paper, and she ran up to
Cousin Judith, who sat beside the judge, and thrust the paper into her
hand, crying:

“Don’t let ’em have it, Little Mother--promise you won’t!”

“But what is it?” asked Judith, glancing at the paper and then smiling.

“Allerton drew it, just for us,” said Donald, flushed and angry,
“and Becky grabbed it and ran away. Make her give it back, Cousin
Judith--Allerton doesn’t want anyone to see it.”

“But it is quite clever,” replied Judith, still smiling. “I did not
know you were so good an artist, Allerton.”

“I am not very clever, Miss Eliot,” replied Allerton, in his sedate
way. “Mother thinks I am artistic, and encourages me to draw; but
she does not like me to make cartoons, such as this, for she says it
degrades my talent.”

“H-m. Let’s see the cartoon,” said the judge.

“May I show it to Mr. Ferguson, Allerton?”

The boy hesitated.

“If you wish to, Miss Eliot,” he said.

The judge took the paper, put on his glasses, and after a glance
laughed heartily. It was a caricature of old Miss Halliday, executed
with considerable humor and skill, considering the artist’s youth.

Suddenly the judge gave a start and the paper trembled in his hands.

“Bless my soul!” he cried, holding it to the light. “What’s this?”

“That?” said Allerton, leaning forward. “Oh, that is the watermark of
my initials, ‘A.R.’ The drawing paper was especially made for me, as a
Christmas present.”

A silence fell upon the little group. Mr. Ferguson, Phœbe, Phil and
Cousin Judith eyed one another by turns, and in every eye gleamed the
certainty that Jonathan Eliot’s fortune was saved to the Darings.

“When did you receive such a fine present, Allerton?” asked Phil, his
voice trembling in spite of his efforts to control it.

“At the last holiday season,” answered the boy readily.

The old lawyer turned a delighted face to the eager group.

“Your grandfather has been paralyzed three years!” he exclaimed.

“Tell me,” said Phœbe to Allerton, “did you ever give Miss Halliday
any of your paper?”

He took time to think; then his face brightened and he replied:

“Only one sheet. She begged me for it one day when she brought the
eggs.”

“And when was that, my lad?” inquired Mr. Ferguson.

“A month ago, perhaps.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Kellogg threw up Elaine’s case in disgust, and would have nothing
more to do with it. When the deed of gift was proven a forgery and old
Miss Halliday was told she must go to prison unless she confessed, she
finally broke down and admitted the truth. Being aware of the fact that
no one save herself knew of her master’s hoarded treasure, she planned
to get it for herself. After practising his handwriting for months she
became so expert that the deed she finally executed deceived even the
experts. Had it not been for the telltale watermark upon the paper she
would have easily won.

The unscrupulous woman took her defeat with dogged indifference,
still protesting that her wages were in arrears and that she was
entitled to several hundred dollars for back pay. This, by advice of
Judge Ferguson, was given her. The Darings refrained from prosecuting
the poor creature, and she was allowed to take her wages and leave
Riverdale forever.

No one in the little village seemed sorry to see her go.



In Preparation

  “Phœbe Daring: Conspirator”
  by L. Frank Baum



_Good Books for Boys_


The Boy Fortune Hunters Series

By FLOYD AKERS

  The Boy Fortune Hunters in Alaska
  The Boy Fortune Hunters in Panama
  The Boy Fortune Hunters in Egypt
  The Boy Fortune Hunters in China
  The Boy Fortune Hunters in Yucatan
  The Boy Fortune Hunters in the South Seas

Mr. Akers, in these new books, has at a single bound taken front rank
as a writer for boys. The stories are full of adventure, yet clean,
bright and up-to-date. The first volume tells of the exciting scenes
in the early days of the Alaskan gold fields. The next book takes
“The Boy Fortune Hunters” to the “Canal Zone,” and the third story is
filled with stirring incidents in a trip through Egypt. The fourth book
relates exciting adventures in the Flowery Kingdom, and the fifth and
sixth stories detail further adventures in Yucatan and among the South
Sea Islands.

_Illustrated 12mos. Uniform cloth binding, stamped in three colors.
Stunning colored wrapper._

Price 60 cents each


The Aeroplane Boys Series

By ASHTON LAMAR

    I IN THE CLOUDS FOR UNCLE SAM
          Or, Morey Marshall of the Signal Corps.

   II THE STOLEN AEROPLANE
          Or, How Bud Wilson Made Good.

  III THE AEROPLANE EXPRESS
          Or, The Boy Aeronaut’s Grit.

   IV THE BOY AERONAUTS’ CLUB
          Or, Flying For Fun.

    V A CRUISE IN THE SKY
          Or, The Legend of the Great Pink Pearl.

   VI BATTLING THE BIG HORN
          Or, The Aeroplane In the Rockies.

OTHER TITLES TO FOLLOW

These stories are the newest and most up-to-date. All aeroplane details
are correct. Fully illustrated. Colored frontispiece. Cloth, 12mos.

Price, 60 cents each.


The Airship Boys Series

By H. L. SAYLER

    I THE AIRSHIP BOYS
          Or, The Quest of the Aztec Treasure.

   II THE AIRSHIP BOYS ADRIFT
          Or, Saved by an Aeroplane.

  III THE AIRSHIP BOYS DUE NORTH
          Or, By Balloon to the Pole.

   IV THE AIRSHIP BOYS IN THE BARREN LANDS
          Or, The Secret of the White Eskimos.

    V THE AIRSHIP BOYS IN FINANCE
          Or, The Flight of the Flying Cow.

   VI THE AIRSHIP BOYS’ OCEAN FLYER
          Or, New York to London In Twelve Hours.

These thrilling stories deal with the wonderful new science of aerial
navigation. Every boy will be interested and instructed by reading
them. Illustrated. Cloth binding. =Price, $1.00 each.=

The above books are sold everywhere or will be sent postpaid on receipt
of price by the Publishers The Reilly & Britton Co. Chicago

_Complete catalog sent, postpaid on request_



Transcriber’s Note:

Spaced contractions in the original publication have been joined. The
spelling of Phoebe in the List of Illustrations and caption facing
page 244, and on pages 130 and 317, has been changed to Phœbe. Other
changes have been made as follows:

  Page 30
  make it think, logically _changed to_
  make it think logically

  Page 44
    more’n a fly minds sugar. _changed to_
    more’n a fly minds sugar.”

  Page 54
    the buss that carried their ball players _changed to_
    the bus that carried their ball players

  Page 97
    to leave any article where-ever _changed to_
    to leave any article wherever

  Page 191
    final catastrophy he seemed overcome _changed to_
    final catastrophe he seemed overcome





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