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Title: Mary Louise Stands the Test
Author: Sampson, Emma Speed
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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The Bluebird Books

Mary Louise Stands the Test


[Illustration: Josie and Mary Louise.]


MARY LOUISE STANDS THE TEST

by

EDITH VAN DYNE

Author of
“Mary Louise,” “Mary Louise in the Country,” “Mary
Louise Solves a Mystery,” “Mary Louise and the
Liberty Girls,” “Mary Louise Adopts a
Soldier,” “Mary Louise at Dorfield.”


[Illustration]


Frontispiece by Harry W. Armstrong



The Reilly & Lee Co.
Chicago

Copyright 1921
by
The Reilly & Lee Co.
All Rights Reserved

Made in U. S. A.

Mary Louise Stands the Test



CONTENTS


    CHAPTER                                PAGE

        I A SMALL CLOUD                       7

       II AT THE HIGGLEDY PIGGLEDY SHOP      19

      III JOSIE INTERVENES                   31

       IV MARY LOUISE--MILLINER              41

        V DANNY IS DRIVEN FROM HOME          49

       VI THE DOCTOR CALLS                   62

      VII A WIRELESS MESSAGE                 76

     VIII THE PASSING OF THE COLONEL         88

       IX MARY LOUISE TOUCHES BOTTOM        100

        X A CONFERENCE OF FRIENDS           110

       XI PLANS FOR THE FUTURE              119

      XII MARY LOUISE MOVES                 132

     XIII JOSIE VISITS CHIEF CHARLEY        141

      XIV AN UNKNOWN ITALIAN                148

       XV THE TREATING TRYSTERS             158

      XVI A TENANT FROM THE WEST            171

     XVII A MYSTERIOUS MESSAGE              178

    XVIII CLOSED FOR REPAIRS                184

      XIX A MIDNIGHT CALLER                 193

       XX SLATER MAKES AN ARREST            202

      XXI FORTUNE SMILES AND FROWNS         214



Mary Louise Stands the Test

CHAPTER I

A SMALL CLOUD


There were persons in Dorfield who said that Mary Louise’s life was
too easy; that Fortune had smiled on her more than any one mortal had
a right to expect. Why should beauty, charm, intelligence, and riches
all belong to one girl? Why should she have an enormously wealthy
grandfather whose one idea was to gratify her every wish, when any
other girl, if she had any grandfather at all, was, perhaps, forced to
support him or, at any rate, never got even a taste of the breast of
the chicken because of the troublesome old gentleman’s predilection for
that portion of the fowl? Why should Mary Louise marry the best looking
and most promising young man who had settled in Dorfield for many a
year? To be sure, when Danny Dexter first came to Dorfield at the close
of the World War, he was not considered so very desirable by the
mothers of the young women of the town. Not one had cast her nets for
him and Mary Louise was considered quite quixotic to have adopted the
returned soldier with his uncertain fortunes and scarred face. It was
looked upon as another proof of Mary Louise’s unfailing luck that she
should have discerned the true worth of young Dexter through his ragged
uniform and unhealed scars.

Those persons who gave voice to such sentiments concerning Mary Louise
were ignorant of the girl’s past history or they surely would have felt
that she had suffered enough as a child and young girl to deserve some
good fortune from the Fate who is supposed to even up things sooner or
later. What that suffering was and the adventures through which the
young girl had finally come victorious, are well known to the true
friends of Mary Louise. We will not dwell upon them but bring our
history down-to-date.

Colonel Hathaway was palpably failing. Anyone could see it with half
an eye, and poor Mary Louise had to shut both eyes to keep from
acknowledging that her old grandfather had lost not only his physical
vigor, but that his mind was growing feeble. His old friend and
lawyer, Peter Conant, who lived next door, had noticed that there was
something queer about the Colonel. He had mentioned it to his wife
Hannah, and Hannah being very deaf, he had been forced to mention it in
such a loud tone that his niece, Irene Macfarlane, who was in the next
room, could not help overhearing the conversation.

“I heard what you said to Aunt Hannah, Uncle Peter,” Irene said,
wheeling herself into the sitting room where her uncle and aunt had
settled themselves for the evening. Irene, Mary Louise’s best friend,
was a lame girl who went everywhere in a rolling chair. “I heard some
of it and I simply had to come and hear more,” she continued, her sweet
face flushing and her clear steady eyes filling with tears. “I have
noticed too that our dear old neighbor is not quite himself and I’ve
been so worried about it.”

“Does Mary Louise notice it?” asked her uncle.

“I don’t know but she must think he talks strangely,” answered Irene
sadly. “Colonel Hathaway has always been so kindly and genial and now
he seems suspicious and a little bitter. He has taken an unaccountable
dislike to Danny lately. He picks on the poor fellow all the time. You
remember he used to think the world and all of Danny even when he was
so down and out that he hired himself to the Colonel as a chauffeur.
Now he is doing splendidly and being advanced right along at the
automobile factory. Laura Hinton says her father thinks he is the most
promising young man he knows--certainly the best one in the factory.”

“Too bad! Too bad!” sighed Uncle Peter. “We must never forget what
our old friend has been, and we must not deal harshly with him in our
hearts for what he is now. A mind diseased! God grant it is merely a
phase and will pass.”

Aunt Hannah had been listening to the above conversation with two ear
trumpets, a method she employed when anything very interesting was
being discussed.

“It may be a blood clot on the brain and he may be as right as a trivet
again,” suggested Aunt Hannah, who always took a cheerful view of life
and even death when the persons for whom she had prognosticated a
perfect cure finally passed away. “I knew a man once--”

But Irene, who had been busily engaged in the next room on some sewing
for the Higgledy Piggledy Shop, could not wait to hear about the man
Aunt Hannah knew. Aunt Hannah always had known some one who had been
miraculously saved from the calamity that was in question and, as her
stories were long and full of detail, her husband and Irene did not
always have time to listen to them. She had a way of removing her
trumpet from her ear and there was no answering her or holding back the
flood of her discourse. Once started, she talked on until she had freed
her mind.

Irene and her Uncle Peter had a tacit agreement that one of them must
always listen to Aunt Hannah’s long reminiscences beginning with “I
knew a man,” or “I knew a woman,” and, since Irene was busy with her
sewing and Peter was merely reading the paper, it was his duty on this
occasion to give ear to his wife’s exhaustive and exhausting account of
a man who had been seemingly dead from a clot on the brain and was in
his coffin and the funeral under way when he sat up and demanded kidney
hash.

“Well I hope Jim Hathaway will demand kidney hash and stop bedeviling
Mary Louise’s Danny,” sighed Mr. Conant. “Poor old Jim! Poor old Jim!”

Mary Louise was very sad over her grandfather’s feeling against
her beloved Danny. The change had come on gradually, so gradually
that Mary Louise could hardly tell when the old man had adopted the
critical attitude he now held. In days gone by, he had looked at his
grandson-in-law with kindly benevolent eyes and had always seemed glad
to see him. He had taken pride in the young man’s power of attracting
friends and keeping them, in his ability in the automobile factory,
and his rapid advancement. Indeed, he had felt that in Mary Louise’s
marrying Danny Dexter he had not lost a daughter but gained a son. Now
that the old gentleman’s mind was failing, he looked upon the young
man’s every word and action with jealous suspicion. In place of the
kind and benevolent glances were sly, shifting eyes that seemed to
be trying to fathom some unbelievable wickedness the young man was
endeavoring to conceal.

Danny himself was the last to realize that he was heartily disliked
by Colonel Hathaway. He was the least suspicious of mortals and not
at all inclined to think anyone was trying to insult him. He had a
real affection for the grandfather of his darling Mary Louise and was
grateful to the old gentleman for having taken him upon faith. Had the
Colonel not given his consent to his granddaughter’s marrying Danny
before he had proved himself altogether worthy of such an honor? This
confidence in him had added zest to Danny’s determination to make
good and not to betray the trust Colonel Hathaway had imposed in him.
Danny had never wanted to be a financial burden to the Colonel and had
insisted from the beginning that either he and his bride should go to
housekeeping for themselves or he should be allowed to pay board for
both of them. Of course, it was out of the question for Mary Louise to
leave her grandfather in his old age and when the matter of board was
broached the old gentleman had been very much amused.

“My dear Danny,” he had expostulated, “surely you will not take from me
the pleasure and delight of having you young people in my home. As for
board: I should pay you for being willing to live in my big old house
that would be gloomy indeed without you. Say no more about it, my son.
I have money enough and to spare and it is all to be Mary Louise’s
when I die--yours and Mary Louise’s I should say.”

Danny had felt that any further insistence on his part would have
been in bad taste and had let the matter drop, although it had never
been satisfactory to him to feel dependent on anyone, even his wife’s
beloved grandfather. Mary Louise, never having known a father, had
looked upon Grandpa Jim as one and accepted all things from him as
naturally as a child does from father or mother.

What a change had come about in one short year! The first step in the
uncomfortable situation was when Colonel Hathaway became slightly
irritable with Danny. He seemed to begrudge the time Mary Louise spent
with her husband and would say sadly, “I never see my granddaughter
since she married.” This was an exaggeration, since Mary Louise was
ever punctilious in her care for Grandpa Jim and in her anxiety to
entertain him and make him happy.

Then began the gradual growth of this hatred which seemed to be
poisoning the system of the once kindly old gentleman. First he would
not address a remark to Danny, to whom he had hitherto talked freely,
finding much amusement in his long conversations with him. Danny
overlooked this in his old friend and redoubled his efforts to find
topics of interest. From not addressing a remark to Danny, it was an
easy step to not answering him when asked a direct question. At first
Danny thought that Colonel Hathaway was growing deaf and would shout
his questions into an indignant ear.

Then began a kind of sly indirect invective against Danny. Colonel
Hathaway never missed a chance to say something derogatory concerning
his granddaughter’s husband. Loving the old gentleman as they did and
being accustomed to look upon him as well nigh perfect, the young
couple were slow to realize the change in Grandpa Jim. When they did
realize that his feeling for Danny was one of intense hatred, they made
a mistake in not discussing the matter thoroughly with each other. But
Mary Louise was touchy about her grandfather’s peculiar behavior and
Danny’s feelings were hurt, so that the question was the one thing
that they tacitly agreed to hide from sight. The consequence was that
a cloud no bigger than a man’s hand had come in the otherwise perfect
and cloudless firmament of their love.

Once in the early days when Colonel Hathaway had been strangely rude to
Danny and loudly exclaimed, “Pish! Tush! Rot!” when Danny had advanced
some inoffensive theory, the young man had wonderingly remarked to his
wife, “What do you think is eating the Colonel?”

“I don’t know what you mean,” Mary Louise had answered miserably and a
little haughtily.

But Danny persisted:

“Why, what’s the matter with him? Why did he jump on me so hard? I
merely remarked that, when the returned soldiers have once shed their
uniforms, they are not crazy about getting back in them and parading up
and down like nigger minstrels. I guess I ought to know. Anyhow, even
if he disagreed with me, there was no use in jumping on me so hard,
both feet down and chest extended.”

“You are mistaken. Grandpa Jim could not be rude to you. He merely
hated to have you make fun of your country.”

“Fun of my country! Gee, honey, you are all off, you and the Colonel
both. I was talking about parades, not my country.”

“All right, Danny dear, but please don’t say things about Grandpa
Jim,” and Mary Louise slipped her hand in his.

From that day on, Danny never mentioned the uncomfortable moments that
he was forced to spend in the presence of his host. He made those
moments as short as possible, sometimes not even coming home to his
meals, making the plea of stress of business preventing him.

Poor Mary Louise was torn between two loves, two duties. She adored
Grandpa Jim. Had he not been everything to her from the time she was
a baby? Could she forget the supreme sacrifice he had made to her
poor mother, hounded from city to city, country to country, falsely
accused of having been disloyal to the United States when all the time
it had been her father and mother who had been guilty of treason? No!
Never could she forget the scene at Hillcrest Lodge after her mother’s
death when the knowledge of her grandfather’s wonderful courage and
unselfishness had come upon her with full force. Then there was Danny,
her Danny, the same man to whom she had given her first and last and
only love; Danny with his charming disposition and sweet merry eyes;
Danny, the returned and wounded soldier, who had been the most popular
man in the regiment and looked upon as the bravest and best. It hurt
Mary Louise to the quick that her grandfather should treat Danny as he
did, but she could not face the fact that the old gentleman was not
altogether himself. It would have been better had she realized the
truth and talked the matter over with Danny and her friends, but a
mistaken idea of loyalty to her beloved grandfather sealed her lips and
her ears. She would not discuss it with them nor must they broach the
subject to her.

And so the young couple drifted along, as devoted as ever but with the
small cloud, no bigger than a man’s hand, beginning to spread over
their bright sky.



CHAPTER II

AT THE HIGGLEDY PIGGLEDY SHOP


The Higgledy Piggledy Shop had proved even more successful than its
owners had dreamed possible even in their most wildly sanguine moments.
When Josie O’Gorman, the detective’s daughter--herself a budding
detective--had gone into partnership with Elizabeth Wright and they
had opened the Higgledy Piggledy Shop, it had been with the idea of
building up a business gradually. But the first six months, indeed the
first three months, had demonstrated to them and to Dorfield that such
a shop was much needed in the town.

Elizabeth held up the secretarial end, doing all of the typing,
correcting manuscript for would-be authors, writing club papers for
aspiring females, and, occasionally, even love letters for bashful
youths or maidens whose hearts were bigger than their heads or whose
love burned too fiercely to make it safe for them to approach too
closely to such inflammable material as scented note paper. Josie was
the blanchisseuse au fin who laundered the fine laces and linen brought
to the shop by their wealthy clients. And she did most of the research
work in the books of reference from her father’s magnificent technical
library. Another one of her duties was the matching of silks and wools.
It was one that she did not relish much, as clothes and fancy work were
her abomination, but her eye was so sure that she never made a mistake
and Elizabeth found herself constantly making slight errors in shades
when she undertook to do that part of the work.

The clipping bureau, that had been started with some trepidation
because of the outlay necessary to subscribe to so many papers and
magazines to enable them to carry on the work successfully, had
developed into a thriving branch of the business. It was really
astonishing to see how many persons were willing and anxious to pay
so that, if their names appeared in print, they would be sure to know
about it.

Irene Macfarlane still took entire charge of the fine needlework,
orders for which poured in on the girls. She had not been content until
she had learned to put in an invisible patch as well as the nefarious
Hortense Markle whose whereabouts was still a mystery to the detective
force. Certainly Hortense had been as much a party to the frauds
practiced by her husband as Felix Markle himself; but she had seemingly
disappeared from the face of the earth. After Mary Louise’s wedding,
she had tripped away from the festivities gowned in palest diaphanous
grey with stockings, slippers and gloves to match and a picture hat
that could have been identified by everyone at the wedding, since it
had been noted and admired by all the guests as being a work of real
art. She had tripped away, and, for all the police could find out, the
earth might have opened and swallowed her.

Josie always had a feeling that, sooner or later, the Hortense Markle
mystery would be solved. She had the thought constantly in the back of
her busy brain, but, since the men who were implicated in the wholesale
robberies that had been committed throughout the whole of the United
States, had one and all been caught, the police seemed to feel that the
woman was not worth hunting for. Josie knew that it was the genius of
the woman as much as that of her husband that had made the robberies so
successful and she knew also that a character like Hortense Markle’s
could not be downed but would, in the course of time, assert itself in
other channels of wickedness. No doubt she had left America and was
in some foreign country awaiting the release of her husband from the
penitentiary. The love she bore her husband was the one good point in
her character. At least, it was the only good point Josie was ready to
grant her. With all Hortense’s charm, wit and beauty, artistic taste,
and efficiency, she was, according to Josie and Mary Louise’s other
friends, rotten to the core.

What they could not forgive in the fascinating Mrs. Markle was her
treachery in regard to Mary Louise, the beloved of Dorfield. Mary
Louise herself made excuses for the Markles, but then Mary Louise
always made excuses for everybody.

“They were brought up wrong!” or, “They must have been greatly
tempted!” or perhaps, “They inherited some weakness from their
ancestors!” she would say when the exciting topic of the attempted
robbery of all her wedding gifts was under discussion, as it often was
at the Higgledy Piggledy Shop.

“Oh, gracious me, Mary Louise, you can’t see straight for sheer
goodness!” Josie exclaimed at one of these occasions. “If the Markles
weren’t wicked--as wicked as his Satanic Majesty--then their parents
must have been, to bring them up so badly; or, if not their parents, at
least some of their forbears from whom they inherited their traits. The
blame has to go somewhere and it might just as well be put on Felix and
the fair Hortense as on their dead progenitors. No doubt said Satanic
Majesty is able to entertain the whole bunch of them in the lower
regions.”

Mary Louise smiled and, taking from the book shelves a well worn copy
of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, turned the leaves at random and read
bits aloud.

    “With Earth’s first Clay They did the Last Man knead,
    And there of the Last Harvest sow’d the Seed:
      And the first Morning of Creation wrote
    What the Last Dawn of Reckoning shall read.

           * * * * * *

    As under cover of departing Day
    Slunk hunger-stricken Ramazán away,
      Once more within the Potter’s house alone
    I stood, surrounded by the Shapes of Clay.

    Shapes of all Sorts and Sizes, great and small,
    That stood along the floor and by the wall;
      And some loquacious vessels were; and some
    Listen’d perhaps, but never talk’d at all.

    Said one among them--‘Surely not in vain
    My substance of the common Earth was ta’en
      And to this figure, moulded to be broke
    Or trampled back to shapeless Earth again.’

    Then said a Second--‘Ne’er a peevish Boy
    Would break the Bowl from which he drank in joy;
      And He that with his hand the Vessel Made
    Will surely not in after Wrath destroy.’

    After a momentary silence spake
    Some vessel of a more ungainly make:
      ‘They sneer at me for leaning all awry:
    What! Did the hand then of the Potter shake?’

    Whereat some one of the loquacious Lot--
    I think a Sufi pipkin--waking hot--
      ‘All this of Pot and Potter--Tell me then
    Who is the Potter, pray, and who the Pot?’

    ‘Why,’ said another, ‘Some there are who tell
    Of one who threatens he will toss to Hell
      The luckless Pots he marr’d in making--Pish!
    He’s a Good Fellow, and ’twill all be well.’”

“That expresses what I want to say better than I ever could,” said Mary
Louise. “I can’t blame anybody very much because he or she may have
been marred in the making.”

“Right dangerous doctrine for us to practice in regard to ourselves,”
said Josie. “It’s all right to feel that way about the other fellow,
but, if we get to feeling that way about ourselves and excusing our
every fault because we were made that way, we’d be a mighty lopsided
bunch. For my part, I’d rather think of myself as wet clay--never dried
and baked--always wet and pliable, and with it my own job to mould
myself into some kind of useful and even beautiful shape. I don’t want
to blame a soul but myself for my shortcomings.” She put a book back in
place with a vigorous push.

Mary Louise had come to the Higgledy Piggledy Shop to try to throw off
some of the misery and gloom she felt enveloping her. She longed to
tell Josie about her predicament, but Elizabeth Wright was present and
Irene had just come gliding in her wheel chair from the dumb waiter,
an arrangement Danny had perfected so that the lame girl could come to
the shop whenever she wanted to and not be dependent on anyone to be
carried up stairs. Entering from the rear of the building, she merely
wheeled herself into the large dumb waiter and, with a few pulls of
the rope, landed on the second floor.

Mary Louise shrank from discussing her trouble concerning her
grandfather with Irene because of the fact of her living next door
and of Uncle Peter Conant’s being such a friend of Grandpa Jim. The
poor girl had become very sensitive and, because of Colonel Hathaway’s
feeling against Danny, feared perhaps his friends were sharing that
feeling. She was sure her grandfather quite freely expressed his
opinion of Danny to anyone who would listen to him. That in itself was
very unlike Grandpa Jim, who had always been reticent about his affairs
even with an old and tried friend like Mr. Peter Conant.

Josie has such a level head. Perhaps she could suggest something
to do. At least, it would be a relief to talk it over with her. It
seemed strange and wrong for anything to have come into her life
that she could not discuss with Danny, but she felt that it would
be rank disloyalty to poor Grandpa Jim if she mentioned the trouble
to him. It was plain to see that the young man was puzzled and hurt
by the Colonel’s treatment of him and now was becoming irritated
and impatient. It seemed absurd to accuse Colonel Hathaway of
being not quite himself since the stand he had taken in regard to
his grandson-in-law was the only evidence of it. He attended to his
affairs as usual, looking after his investments with punctilious care,
clipping coupons, seeing that his property was kept up with all repairs
necessary, and reinvesting his money as bonds matured. He had even made
quite an extensive sale of real estate, selling at a large profit and
investing the money to great advantage, so he declared, in some mines.
This particular investment had caused Mary Louise more sorrow than she
had known before in all her life. It seemed to the girl that even the
death of her mother had not brought such intense suffering.

The Colonel had come home after selling a large number of bonds,
loudly proclaiming, “I’ll tie it up, too, so that rascal can’t get his
clutches on it. The worthless fellow!”

Mary Louise did not understand that her Danny was the rascal and
worthless fellow and had asked in some astonishment “What rascal,
Grandpa Jim?”

And he had answered sadly, “You poor child, I mean your husband.”

She had burst out crying and Colonel Hathaway had taken her action
as proof that she was being abused by Danny and had continued his
invectives against that innocent and long suffering young man. Vainly
Mary Louise had endeavored to stem the flow of his abuse.

“Women always take up the defense for their worthless husbands,” he had
said, “but it makes no impression on me. He is a rascal and I don’t
care who knows I think so.”

Danny had overheard the remark and it had added fuel to the fires
of his resentment. He had rushed from the house without waiting for
dinner, and Mary Louise regretted the fact that he had given the front
door an ear-splitting slam. This gave Colonel Hathaway a real grievance
which be aired during the miserable meal that followed. As soon as it
was over, Mary Louise had fled to the Higgledy Piggledy Shop.

“How is everybody?” called Irene as her chair rolled smoothly across
the floor. It was the best one of its kind that could be bought and
moved so easily that the girl could wheel herself many city blocks
without the least fatigue. It was a present from Colonel Hathaway,
with whom the lame girl was a great favorite. He was constantly doing
something kind for her.

“We are fine,” answered Josie, “and glad to see you. A job of mending
has come in that must be done immediately. It beats me how rich people
wait until the last minute to attend to their own affairs and then come
with a great rush for poor people to do their part. It is a set of real
lace curtains--exquisite things--but there are many small breaks to be
darned and Mrs. Sears wants it rushed through as fast as possible so
they can be hung in time for the reception she is giving next week. She
might just as well have brought them six weeks ago,” grumbled Josie.

“Well, I guess I can do them in time,” laughed Irene. “Let me see them.
Why, I’ll have to appliqué these corners on net. Just see how shot with
holes they are! Anyhow, it is easier to appliqué than to darn.”

“It all seems terribly hard to me. I can mend only with hammer and
nails and a glue-pot,” declared Josie. “I suppose you want me to go out
and match the net. Let me see the mesh.”

“That would be mighty good of you,” said Irene. “Do you want me to give
you a tiny sample? I could snip it off under the casing at the top.”

“No, I can remember it! That’s the kind of memory I have and so had my
father. He had a photographic mind and I seem to have one too. Come on,
Mary Louise, and go with me.”

Josie’s keen eye had seen from the first that something was worrying
her dear friend and she divined that her advice and sympathy were
wanted and that Mary Louise had been disappointed to find Elizabeth
in the shop. She had also detected a shade of annoyance at Irene’s
entrance. It had taken sharp perception indeed to realize this, for
Mary Louise’s manner had been as courteous as ever with the other girls
and her greeting as affectionate. But little escaped the sharp eyes and
ears of Josie. The warp and woof of the lives of her acquaintances were
as clearly defined in her mind as the net of the curtains she was to
match. Something was wrong with the tapestry Fate was working on the
life of dear Mary Louise. Josie knew it for sure and she determined to
find out if possible and to help her if she could.



CHAPTER III

JOSIE INTERVENES


“What is it, honey?” asked Josie as they left the rickety old building,
the second floor of which was occupied by the Higgledy Piggledy Shop.

“What’s what?” asked Marie Louise.

“What’s the matter?”

“The matter?”

“Yes, honey, you can’t fool your great-aunt Josie! There is something
that is making you pale and thin and sad-eyed--something that keeps
your eyes swimming in tears half the time. There is no use in
pretending you didn’t come down to the shop to see me alone if possible
and talk over something that is worrying you to death. Now is there?”

Mary Louise smiled, “Well--y-e-e-s! But how did you know?”

“By a pricking in my thumb, perhaps! Anyhow--out with it!”

Mary Louise breathed a sigh of relief. It was rather nice to have Josie
be so direct and uncompromising and businesslike. She had come to see
her in hope of getting a word alone with her, but, when the opportunity
arose, she had half determined not to take advantage of it. She had not
known just how to begin and now Josie had taken the bit between her
teeth and there was nothing to do but sit tight and let Josie have her
way.

“I know you hate to start but you’ll feel better when once you begin.
Is it something about Danny?”

“Partly!”

“Anyone else?”

“Grandpa Jim!”

“Aren’t they getting along as well as they used to?”

“Oh, Josie--I am nearly dead about the way Grandpa Jim is treating
Danny. I can’t make it out at all. He used to be crazy about Danny and
wanted me to marry him and seemed to love him like a real son--but
lately he is so strangely unkind to him.”

“How does Danny take it?”

“At first, his feelings were hurt and he didn’t know what to do about
it, but now he is angry and impatient and just sees as little of
Grandpa Jim as possible. He hardly ever comes home to dinner and,
when he does come home, it is awful because Grandpa Jim makes the most
terrible insinuations about money and all kinds of things and Danny
just flings himself out of the house and then Grandpa Jim says he is
neglecting me. Whenever I go anywhere with Danny, Grandpa Jim gets
furious with him and says Danny monopolizes me so that I have no time
to give to my poor old grandfather who has made every sacrifice for me.”

“The Colonel is nutty, just plain nutty, I think,” suggested Josie
without mincing matters in the least.

“Oh don’t say it! Please don’t say it!” cried Mary Louise. “He is as
clear headed as can be and attends to his business just as he always
has and he plays chess with Uncle Peter and can beat him as often as
he gets beaten. A man who was not quite in his right mind couldn’t do
that.”

“Well, honey, I should think you would rather your old grandfather was
off his bean a bit than just plain mean and cantankerous. I fancy you
think I put it pretty baldly,” noticing how her friend winced at her
words, “but I see no other way to put it. Have you talked it over with
Danny?”

“Oh, Josie, I just can’t talk it over with him because it would be so
disloyal to poor Grandpa Jim! Think of all he has done for me! Think of
what he sacrificed for my mother and how he was willing to go on and
sacrifice himself forever for me if it had not been for the wisdom of
your dear father.”

“Yes, honey, I am thinking of that. Don’t you know your grandfather
loves you better than anybody in the world and he would die rather than
hurt you, that is, if he is in his right mind? Don’t you realize that
this poor old man who is deliberately wounding you every moment of
the day--because he would ordinarily know that there can be no wound
deeper than the one he is inflicting when he says hard things about
your husband--don’t you know that this is not your real grandfather but
a sick man, your grandfather with his brain not functioning properly?
Just as my father refused to let your grandfather go on sacrificing
himself uselessly for your poor mother, who had passed beyond his care
and solicitude, so I am trying to make you see that you must not let
your dear Danny be sacrificed just because you refuse to face the
truth.”

“Josie, you are hard on me!”

“So I am, but not as hard on you as you are on yourself. Can’t you
see, Mary Louise, you are being as unfair to Grandpa Jim as you are to
Danny? Can’t you see that the real Colonel Hathaway would die before
he would do what he is doing if he had his senses about him? He really
should see a doctor. Why don’t you get that young Dr. Coles to look in
on him?”

“It would make him furious. He likes Dr. Coles but, if he should come
to see him professionally when he had not sent for him, he might be
rude to him.”

“Well a little rudeness isn’t going to kill a nerve specialist. That’s
what Coles is I believe. Get him to come in a kind of friendly way and
see if he thinks your grandfather is normal.”

“You don’t think it would be underhanded?”

“Sure it would be underhanded! But sometimes being underhanded isn’t
such a bad thing to be.”

So persuaded by the astute Josie, Mary Louise agreed to stop at
Dr. Coles’s office and have a little talk with him concerning her
grandfather.

“Don’t tell him what you think is the matter,” Josie whispered while
they waited their turn to see the young doctor. “Just tell him you are
a little uneasy about the old gentleman and for him to step around in
a friendly way and look him over. Then, when he gives his verdict,
you have a plain talk with Danny and make him realize it is not the
true Colonel Hathaway who is behaving this way. Danny has disposition
enough to carry it off without a murmur if he knows you know that your
grandfather is simply suffering from a slight--er--er--derangement.”

“All right! I’ll do what you say if Dr. Coles thinks he has some brain
trouble that is making him do this way. I do hope Grandpa Jim’s mind is
not really failing.”

“Well, I’d a deal rather his mind would fail than his own kind heart.
I’d hate to think that my dear old friend was just plain mean for
meanness’ sake. I’d much rather think he was a bit batty.”

Mary Louise sighed and smiled in spite of herself. Josie was so simple
and natural and spoke her mind so honestly and directly that there was
no getting hurt with her, although it did seem a little heartless for
her to speak of Colonel Hathaway as “off his bean” and a “bit batty.”

Dr. Coles was as direct as Josie and immediately grasped what Mary
Louise wanted him to do and promised to do it that very evening.

“I’ll make an evening call, coming in quite naturally and asking to see
you and Mr. Dexter as well as the Colonel,” he suggested.

“Exactly!” put in Josie. “Stethoscopes and blood pressure tests can
follow later.”

“Now I feel better,” sighed Mary Louise as they left the doctor’s
office. “Let’s go get an ice cream soda. I haven’t had the heart for
one for weeks.”

“You poor lamb!” laughed Josie. “One does have to feel kind of perky
for ice cream sodas.”

The sodas were enjoyed, the net for the curtains matched, and the two
girls made their way back to the Higgledy Piggledy Shop.

“Sorry to be so long but I fancy you have been busy enough on the other
darns,” said Josie. “Anything happened?”

“Yes,” said Elizabeth, “a lady came in and wanted a mourning bonnet
made in a certain way. You see ladies don’t wear bonnets any more,
not even old, old ladies. Everybody wears hats. This dear old lady
complained that she was too old for hats and the girls in the stores
laughed at her for requesting an old-fashioned bonnet. She had heard
that we did anything and came to us.”

“Too bad you had to turn her down.”

“But Josie, I didn’t. I just took the order on a venture. I felt there
must be somebody we could get to do it. She left an old one to be
copied as to shape, but she wants the new one trimmed a little more.”
Elizabeth dived into a box and produced a little rusty black crêpe
bonnet with a widow’s ruche and a package of fresh new crêpe.

“She was a sweet old lady,” put in Irene. “I wish I had time to do it
for her, not that I am much of a milliner.”

“Do let me do it,” begged Mary Louise. “I just know I can although I
haven’t made a hat for years. I used to get the most gorgeous results
for my doll family. I make outrageous inside stitches, but the outsides
look fine.”

“Oh, would you? That would be scrumptious!” exclaimed Elizabeth. “When
can you do it?”

“Right now! All I want is a thimble and some scissors. I’ll run round
to the five-and-ten-cent store for a bonnet shape. I noticed this
morning that they had a window full of them. I can get one nearly like
this one and then cut it down to be exactly like it. Let me see how
this one fits me so I can judge the size.”

Her hat was off in a moment and the sad little bonnet put on over her
pretty curls.

“It fits exactly!” she cried, making a little moue at her image
reflected in an antique gilt mirror. Antique mirrors were among the
wares the Higgledy Piggledies dealt in.

Mary Louise was off in a jiffy, eager to make the purchase and get to
work. It made her happier to have something definite to occupy her
until she could get the doctor’s verdict concerning her grandfather
and, also, until she could have the heart to heart talk she was
planning to have with her Danny.

Irene shook her head sadly when her dear friend’s eager footsteps died
away as she flew down the stairs to the street.

“Dear, dear child,” she said solemnly. “I do wish she had not tried on
that queer old mourning bonnet.”

“It gave me a turn too,” confessed Josie.

“I wondered if you felt funny about it,” said Elizabeth. “My old nurse
used to tell us that it was the worst luck in the world to try on
mourning unless you were already wearing it. Of course, she was an
ignorant old woman but she used to say it was a sure sign of trouble
coming. Were you thinking of that, Irene?”

“I am ashamed to say I was. Under those wretched widow’s weeds there
was something about her sweet face, that certainly has been pale and
pensive lately, that made me feel strangely superstitious--but I hate
myself for giving it room in my mind.”



CHAPTER IV

MARY LOUISE--MILLINER


With deft fingers Mary Louise fashioned the little bonnet. She had
purchased a piece of fresh white crêpe ruching which she tacked in the
front.

“Now, a lining to keep my huge stitches from showing and there we are!”
she cried.

“Lovely!” gasped Elizabeth. “I don’t see how you did it. I can’t trim a
hat to save me. My mother can’t even trim a hat to look like anything,
although she thinks she can. There is nothing Mother confesses not to
be able to do.”

The girls laughed. Mrs. Wright’s idiosyncrasies were well known to
the group. She was a managing lady who had unbounded faith in her own
prowess and judgment.

“I guess I’ll take the bonnet to the little old lady on my way home,”
suggested Mary Louise. “I’d like to see her try it on.”

“That would be fine,” said Josie, who had been busily engaged all
afternoon with her laundering. “I’d go with you, but this last dozen
napkins must be polished off. Don’t they look lovely and glossy? I just
love to iron. It is such wonderful work to let you think while you are
doing it.”

“Yes, and I’m afraid I’d think scorched places on the fine damask,”
laughed Elizabeth. “What must Mary Louise charge the little old lady?”

“Charge her! Why nothing, goose! Of course, I did it just for the fun
of doing it,” blushed Mary Louise.

“Oh, that would never do,” put in Josie, sternly. “Such a thing would
ruin our trade. In the first place, the little old lady won’t think it
is done right if it is free, and then she would tell other persons that
we do work for nothing but it is not good and, before you know it, we’d
be overrun with charity practice. No indeed, my dear Mary Louise, the
bonnet must be paid for and it must be well paid for. Of course, I have
no idea what it’s worth. What would you have to pay to have such work
done? You know, Irene. Your aunt must have bonnets made.”

“Well, Aunt Hannah did have a bonnet made only last week and it was
not nearly so chic as this one and she furnished all the material and
just the work on it cost four dollars.”

“Heavens! Four dollars! I couldn’t possibly have earned four dollars
in about two hours. Why I could make a living at that rate, even if I
worked only two hours a day. It couldn’t be worth that much!”

“Well, you know perfectly well, Mary Louise, if you were having the
work done, you wouldn’t hesitate to pay twice that much,” scolded
Josie. “You’ve got to put yourself in the other fellow’s place. Just
pretend you need the money and charge what it would be worth to a well
off young person like, say--Mrs. Danny Dexter. You have to pay us a
fifteen per cent commission besides for letting you do the work. That
would only leave you three dollars and forty cents.”

“Oh, what a funny Josie!” laughed Mary Louise. “You know I’m not going
to take any of the money. It would be absurd when I’ve had such a good
time doing the little bonnet.”

“A good workman always has a good time doing his work,” asserted Josie,
who was quite like her father in getting off wise little saws. “You
needn’t keep the money, but you are obliged to take it and give us
sixty cents. Business is business and we want to get other business
from this very same little old lady.”

“I’ll wager she doesn’t have a new bonnet more than every three years,”
said Mary Louise, smiling at Josie’s firm business methods.

“Perhaps not but she has many friends, I am sure, and she will tell
them and they will tell their friends and so forth and so on.”

“How do you know she has a lot of friends?” teased Elizabeth. “You
didn’t see her and Irene and I haven’t told you a thing about her, not
even her name.”

“Why, I could tell by her old bonnet--tell easily enough. Don’t you
know one of the first things a detective studies is the psychology of
clothes? My father thought more of a pair of old shoes found under
the bed of a man who was supposed to have committed a murder than he
did of all the mass of circumstantial evidence the other sleuths were
unearthing. He had the opinion from the beginning that the wearer of
those old shoes had not committed a murder, wasn’t capable of having
committed that particular murder, which was one of these low down,
sneaking murders. He said he might have got angry and knocked a man
down and killed him that way, but a man who walked so straight without
running his heels down at all and who wore out his shoe in a little
round ring under the ball of his foot, evidently not trying to walk
on his tip toes nor yet taking the precaution to have rubber heels to
walk easy, was not a man to deliberately plan a foul, sneaking murder.
He hung on to those shoes and worked up the case with that theory as a
basis and, do you know, he proved the man’s innocence in the face of
all kinds of damning evidence! Link by link he knocked off the chain of
evidence of guilt until the man was free and the proper person indicted
and imprisoned for life.”

“And did the guilty one wear rubber heels and run ’em down and wear off
the toes of his shoes trying to pussyfoot?” asked Mary Louise.

“No! He wore Louis Quinze heels and got so many new shoes there was no
reading character from his shoes. The fact was, he was a she and that
was the reason he is serving a life sentence instead of being hanged.”

“Well all I have to say is you are a very delightful and amusing Josie.
If Elizabeth and Irene will divulge the name and address of the
little old lady who has so many friends, which one can plainly tell by
her old bonnet, then I will take the bonnet there on my way home and
collect the money, sixty cents of which I’ll hand over to the grasping
proprietors of the Higgledy Piggledy Shop.”

Josie smiled to see how much more cheerful her friend was after the
hours spent in making herself useful. She felt too that Mary Louise
was happier in that she had seen Dr. Coles and was to know something
definite concerning her grandfather’s condition. It was also easy
to understand that the determination to make a clean breast of her
troubles to Danny had put new heart into the girl.

“Wait a minute! Let me make out a bill on the Higgledy Piggledy paper,”
suggested Elizabeth. “It takes a hardened shopkeeper to hand in a
parcel and say, ‘Four dollars, please!’ while, if you have a bill with
you, you don’t have to say anything, but just present the bill with an
air of giving an invitation.”

Mary Louise went off carrying the bonnets, old and new, in a neat
parcel.

“It seems real funny,” she said to herself, “actually to have earned
three dollars and forty cents for myself and sixty cents for the
Higgledy Piggledies. I am going to tell Danny about it and he will be
so amused. I believe I’ll take him off tomorrow and treat him to lunch
with my own hard earned funds. I’d tell Grandpa Jim, too, except that
he would be sure to say Danny is not making a living for me and I have
to go out and work my fingers to the bone. Poor Grandpa Jim! Everything
is distorted to him just now in regard to Danny.”

The little old lady turned out to be exactly what Josie had
predicted--a gentle soul who attracted friends. Mary Louise found
her drinking tea with four other old ladies, all of whom examined
the bonnet critically, at all angles, and pronounced favorably upon
its style and workmanship. Mary Louise was devoutly thankful that
none of them could peep beneath the lining and see her huge stitches.
They looked at her curiously. To be sure she did not seem much like a
milliner’s assistant with her handsome duvetyn suit and rich furs, but
her manner was modest and impersonal and, when she produced the bill,
made out in Elizabeth’s best style on the Higgledy Piggledy paper,
the little old lady paid it readily and seemed to think it was very
reasonable and all of the friends seemed to think so too and eagerly
took the address of the Higgledy Piggledy Shop.

“I think I’ll get my year-before-last hat done over,” said one. “It is
so much more suitable than this horrid hat my daughter-in-law insisted
upon my buying.”

“I intend to have a new one made, just like Jane’s,” declared another.
Jane was the name of the little old lady--Mrs. Jane Kellogg.

“But that isn’t fair!” cried another. “Jane doesn’t want a twin.”

“I wouldn’t mind at all,” said Jane gently. “Susan and I used to dress
alike when we were girls. Do you remember, Susan?”

Susan did remember and Mary Louise took her departure with a pleasant
impression of Mrs. Jane Kellogg and her friends drinking tea together,
happily reminiscent of their girlhood.

“There’ll be a lot of bonnets to make for the Higgledy Piggledy Shop
before long,” she said to herself. “I’ll help the girls out some more
and give the money to charity.”



CHAPTER V

DANNY IS DRIVEN FROM HOME


As Mary Louise entered her home after delivering the bonnet she was met
in the hall by Aunt Sally, the fat old negro cook who had been with
the Hathaway family off and on since the Civil war and, before that
time, had been with them only on and never off, for as a small child
she had belonged to the Colonel’s father. She, with the aid of Uncle
Eben, her husband, did most of the work of the great house, not because
Colonel Hathaway was not willing to hire any number of servants, but
because the two old ex-slaves preferred to do the work according to
their own ideas. There was supposed to be a housemaid, but no matter
how efficient and satisfactory this maid might prove to Mary Louise,
she never met the requirements of Aunt Sally and consequently there was
a procession of housemaids coming and going. Aunt Sally and Uncle Eben
couldn’t and wouldn’t leave and so the housemaids must.

Aunt Sally was goodness itself where white people were concerned,
but she was as hard as steel in regard to her own race. Even Uncle
Eben came in for her criticism, though she never let anyone else say
anything derogatory to her faithful mate.

“Eben air as good as nigger men goes,” she would assert. “He ain’t ter
say puffect, but I reckon he air doin’ er his bes’ ’cordin’ ter his
’telligence.”

Aunt Sally met Mary Louise as she opened the front door and it was
plain to see that something had happened. The old woman had been
weeping and, as the young mistress entered she gave a final dab to her
eyes with the corner of her apron.

“Why Aunt Sally, what’s the matter?”

“Lawd, honey chil’, they’s trouble a comin’! Trouble a comin’! I knowed
it when yo’ maw’s pixcher fell off’n the wall las’ month--I knowed it
when I dreamed ’bout nesses full er aigs an’ none er them cracked even,
which air a sho sign trouble air hatchin’ an--”

“But, Aunt Sally, please tell me what the trouble is,” begged Mary
Louise.

“I cyarn’t bear ter tell you, honey baby. Me’n Eben an’ Marse Jim air
been all time tryin’ ter keep trouble ’way from you an’ now I cyarn’t
be the one ter tell it to you. Marse Jim air sho the one what am a
bringin’ it on you an’ I’ll say it to his face right now an’ I’d a said
it to his face befo’ the wah, even if he had a sol’ me down the river
the nex’ minute for my imperence. He mought sen’ me a packin’ now, but,
befo’ Gawd, I’m a gonter tell it to him.”

“Tell him what? Please speak out, Aunt Sally!”

“Tell him he ain’t called on ter do no sich confabbin’ as he done did.”

“Confabulating with whom? Mr. Danny hasn’t been home, has he? It isn’t
quite time for him.”

“Yes, he done a been an’ he gone agin.”

“Gone! Gone where?”

“I ain’t sho wha’ he gone but, arfter sech a bullyraggin’ as Marse Jim
done give him, I reckon there wa’n’t nothin fer him ter do but light
out.”

“Oh, Aunt Sally! Aunt Sally! What am I to do?”

“Lawd love you, honey baby, yo’ ol’ Aunt Sally ain’t got no ’vice ter
han’ yer. I reckon’ you’ll have ter take it to the Lawd in prayer.”

“What did Grandpa Jim say?” asked Mary Louise, trying to keep back the
tears that were forcing their way down her pale cheeks.

Aunt Sally was crying now.

“Oh, honey, I cyarn’t say sech things, even in vain repetition! He done
’lowed that po’ Mr. Danny wa’ a fortune hunter an’ a dead beat comed
from a fambly er law breakers an’ he done come an’ stole yo’ love an’
tromple it in the dus’. Now, he said, he wa’ neglectin’ er you mos’
shameful. He ’cused him er bein’ the cause er yo’ pale face an’ sad
eyes.”

“What did poor Danny say?” sobbed Mary Louise.

“He done arsk with a moughty stiff back bone: ‘Air my wife make
complaint er me?’ an’ I wa’ so ’stonished I couldn’t b’lieve my years
when Marse Jim up’n tol’ as big a lie as the debble hisse’f could er
fabricated. ‘Yes,’ he say, ‘yes, time an’ time ergin.’ I knowed it
wa’n’t the truth an’ I come moughty nigh bustin’ in an’ a sayin’ so but
I wa’ a mixin’ up a sponge cake at the time an’ you know, honey chil’,
how ’ticular I air ’bout keepin’ a stirrin’ when oncet I gits a goin’
on sponge cake?”

“Yes, I know,” Mary Louise nodded, sadly. “But, oh, Aunt Sally, I do
wish you had stopped this one time.”

“Well, p’raps I should er, but habit’s habit. Not only air I got that
there habit ’bout sponge cake but I also boast the habit er not wedgin’
in on other folks’s business, mos’ specially white folks’s. They wa’ in
the dinin’ room at the time where Mr. Danny done come ter try an’ git
you on the phome at that there Humpty Dumpty Shop. He comed back an’
arsked me whar’ you is an’ when I tol’ him, he pick up the phome and,
while he wa’ a tryin’ ter git you, Marse Jim comed in. You had done
gone from the Humpty Dumpty Shop but he got ter chattin’ a piece with
one er yo’ gal friends, Miss Josie, mo’n lakly. I heard him say, ‘Well
don’t let Mary Louise find out about it,’ kinder laughin’ lak, an’ jes
then Marse Jim comed in an’ he yanked the phome out’n his han’. I seed
him do it from the crack in the pantry do’ what Mr. Danny done lef’
open a bit the way men folks has a way er doin’, black an’ white.

“‘Whe’fo’ you use the phome in my house fer sech a vile nufarious
comversation!’ he hollered out an’ Mr. Danny jes’ stepped back an’ said
real quiet lak, ‘Colonel Hathaway, you are mistaken. You must have
misunderstood me. I merely said--’

“‘Never min’ what you said! I heard what you said’ an’ then he started
in tellin’ him mo’ things than you could er believed pos’ble. When
he done tol’ him you’d made complaint er him time an’ time ergin, it
looked lak Mr. Danny jes’ give up. Befo’ then he’d kinder jawed back
but mos’ ’spectful lak cawnsiderin’ the way Marse Jim wa’ a ladlin’ it
out ter him.”

“What did he do then? Did he tell you where he was going and when he’d
be back?” asked Mary Louise breathlessly.

“No, baby, he jes’ bulged through the do’ inter the hall an’ I hearn
him a goin’ licksplittin’ up the step inter you-all’s room an’ then, in
’bout ten minutes, I hearn the front do’ bang an’ that’s all ’cept’n
that ol’ fool Eben said he seed him gittin’ on a down town cyar an’ he
wa’ a carryin’ somethin’.”

Mary Louise closed her eyes for a moment and steadied herself against
a hall chair, then trying to compose her trembling and convulsed
countenance, she made her way slowly up stairs. She wanted to run
but her feet seemed to have leaden weights on them and it was with
difficulty that she advanced step by step clinging to the bannister as
to a life rope.

Slowly she opened the door to her pretty room, the room that Grandpa
Jim had taken such delight in having all freshly done over for her
while she was on her wedding trip and to which she had come home so
happily and joyously. It was a pink room, a soft shell-pink, and Mary
Louise had said that she felt as though she were living in the heart
of a rose. The woodwork and the furniture were old ivory. The pictures
were all the daintiest imaginable water colors and pastels. The
hangings were of cretonne with a design of roses in loose clusters. The
floor was covered with quaint rag rugs woven of pastel shades. It was a
charming room and seemed like a bit of fairy land where one might dream
one’s life away.

The girl stood for a moment on the threshold gazing into the room. It
looked strangely unfamiliar to her, as though it might have been the
room of some other person. Perhaps it was Mary Louise’s room and she
was not Mary Louise. She crossed to the dressing table. Such a lovely
dressing table with dainty appurtenances that might have been fit for
a princess had there been any princesses left to speak of at that
time! She picked up the silver backed brush, Danny’s present to that
person called Mary Louise, the gay, happy girl who used to occupy that
room--used to look in that clear mirror and brush her hair, such pretty
curly hair, every strand of which Danny said he loved.

She glanced at her image in the mirror and started back in terror. It
wasn’t Mary Louise after all--not this person whose tragic red-rimmed
eyes gazed into hers. Those blanched tear-stained cheeks could never
have been the cheeks of Mary Louise. Her cheeks were soft and rosy.
That trembling chin with its sagging, convulsed muscles could not be
the round determined little chin that Danny used to stoop over and kiss
while her hair was being brushed. Whose mouth was that, that pale gash
in a paler face? Mary Louise’s mouth was a cupid’s bow and crimson and
full of smiles with a row of pearly teeth. She widened her mouth in
a piteous grin. The teeth were pearly but they too seemed to have lost
their sparkle.

She picked up the folded piece of paper stuck on the plump pink
pin-cushion with a long hat-pin. The pin had been thrust all the way
through the cushion, the point sticking out on the other side.

“Josie would say that showed his state of mind,” flashed through Mary
Louise’s thoughts. It seemed to her that the point that had so fiercely
penetrated the fat little cushion had pierced her own heart.

She had known all the time she would find a note stuck on her
pin-cushion, had known it from the moment Aunt Sally had told her Uncle
Eben had seen Danny get on a trolley car and that he was carrying
something. She knew that something was a suit-case. Uncle Eben knew it
too and Aunt Sally knew it, but she wouldn’t tell her young mistress
for fear of hurting her more.

The girl smoothed out the note which had been hastily folded. She had
to wipe her eyes many times before she could decipher the penciled
scrawl which gave evidence even more clearly than the hat-pin of
Danny’s state of mind. It was a boyish little letter but with a tragic
note running through it that almost broke Mary Louise’s heart. His
great and abiding love for her was expressed in every word but, at
the same time, his deep humiliation and anger at the treatment to
which he had been forced to submit at the hands of Colonel Hathaway
were evident. He told her he had been driven from the house by her
grandfather and must, of course, leave. He did not know wherein he had
sinned, but he felt sure he must have done something unpardonable,
even if unwittingly, to make his dear wife complain of him as Colonel
Hathaway had assured him had been the case. If any one else had told
him such a thing, he would not have believed him but, in spite of
Colonel Hathaway’s treatment of him, he could not doubt his word,
knowing him to be honorable above everything and truthful--as truthful
as his own Mary Louise to whom a lie was impossible. He was going
away--it was best for all concerned--but it would not be so very long.
Perhaps Colonel Hathaway would get over the rancor he now felt--perhaps
it could be in some way explained to him that he had been mistaken.
At any rate, he felt that Mary Louise’s grandfather had the prior
claim on her and he would let the old gentleman’s declining years
be as happy as possible. He could never enter the house again unless
Colonel Hathaway apologized to him and offered some explanation of
the astounding sins of which he had accused him. If she had not been
so sure of her grandfather’s sanity, he would believe that Colonel
Hathaway was not himself but, when he had suggested this to her, she
had been so grieved, so sure it was not the case, he had felt she
must know and he had given up that idea which might have explained
everything. He only asked his dear little wife to trust him and love
him, if only a little, and to let him know in what way he had sinned
against her to cause her to complain of him. If she had only told
him and not told some one else, even anyone as close and dear as her
grandfather! He did not blame her though. He loved her so supremely and
trusted her so implicitly that he knew she could do no wrong.

At this point in the letter Mary Louise felt she could bear life no
longer.

“It is my own fault! My own fault!” she wailed. “I have not been
truthful. I have done the worst thing a person can do--I have lied to
myself. I have known all the time that Grandpa Jim was not himself
and I have refused to admit it. I have wronged him and I have wronged
Danny. Now I will suffer all my life for having been so blind, so blind
because I would not see.”

She composed herself and went on with the letter. Danny was going
away--going far away, and to be gone for several months. His firm had
been talking to him about going to China to establish an agency there
and he had, up to this time, refused, feeling he could not part from
Mary Louise, nor could he ask her to leave her grandfather and go with
him. Now, it seemed wiser for him to go. There was a big advancement in
it and he would prosper financially by the change. Colonel Hathaway had
spoken of him as being such a dead beat, which was hard in that he had
wanted from the beginning to do what he could in the matter of paying
board for himself and his wife, but the proposition had been laughed
at by Colonel Hathaway as absurd considering his own wealth. Now of
course, he realized his mistake in letting the matter drop, although,
at the time, if he had insisted upon paying board, he would have been
guilty of very bad taste. He was taking the train for Chicago that
very evening where he would see the president of the company and then
would go on to San Francisco, from there to sail for China. He gave her
an address in San Francisco and hoped to find a letter awaiting him
there. That was all.



CHAPTER VI

THE DOCTOR CALLS


Gone! Gone without seeing her! Gone without waiting for an explanation!
But what explanation was there to make? He had tried to talk the matter
over with her and she had refused, refused because she was so afraid of
being disloyal to her grandfather--afraid of having to admit that the
old gentleman was in the wrong--afraid of having to admit that his mind
was failing and he was obsessed by a strange dislike for a man to whom,
in the past, he had been as devoted as though he had been of his own
flesh and blood.

“Well, what now?” she asked herself. “What must I do?” She looked
around the pretty room. There was little in it to remind her of Danny.
It had been designed for a young girl’s room and had remained so.
Those pretty pink hangings and pastel shaded rugs did not look very
mannish. There was the high-boy, in the drawers of which he kept his
belongings; there was the man’s wardrobe, that Grandpa Jim had given
him on his birthday. She opened it and looked at his suits hanging in a
neat row.

“He has taken his tweed and the blue serge,” she said, passing her hand
over the row. “He left his dinner coat. I wonder if he won’t need it.”
She pressed her cheek against the khaki uniform that hung there among
the civilian clothes.

“Oh Danny! Danny! If you were only back!”

She closed the door of the wardrobe and turned, looking at the room
again, the pretty pink room with all of its feminine touches.

“I never did realize how little this was really your home, Danny dear,”
she said to his photograph which stood on her dressing table. “This was
all the time just my room--this was all the time just Grandpa Jim’s
house. It hasn’t been fair--it hasn’t been right! But what must I do
now?” The question kept on dinging at her senses.

“Do!” she exclaimed as though she had received some kind of inspiration
from the smiling boyish countenance on her dressing table. “Do! I must
go on loving Grandpa Jim and I must protect Danny’s name and explain
his sudden departure and never let anyone know what I am suffering. I
must go about my business and keep up so I won’t be a sad, broken old
woman when Danny comes home. I must wash my face and powder my nose and
get ready for Dr. Coles. I must smile and pretend I knew all the time
Danny was going and I wanted him to go because it will be such a good
thing for him. I must write him a wonderful letter to San Francisco to
speed him on his way. I must face the fact that Grandpa Jim is cra--,
no not that awful word--but just a little peculiar. I must even forgive
him for being so horribly cruel to my dear, dear boy. He didn’t know
what he was doing. I must be brave! I must be worthy of Danny! I must
be worthy of poor Grandpa Jim, who has been so wonderful all his life.
Maybe Dr. Coles can cure him.”

The determination to be brave worked wonders for Mary Louise. She
washed her face vigorously, trying to remove all traces of tears, but
she felt like Lady Macbeth in the sleep walking scene when she cried,
“Out damned spot!” and then later decided that all the perfumes of
Arabia would not sweeten that little hand--only it was Mary Louise’s
face that refused to be washed clean of tears. She did her best,
however, and a little powder helped wonderfully to conceal the ravages
of convulsive weeping. She changed her suit for a pretty soft dinner
gown of old rose, one that Danny had especially liked and then she
bravely stepped forth to take up the burden of facing life. She felt
that she had never really faced life before, even when she had gone
through such trials as a child and young girl. As she remembered them,
she was thankful that having gone through with them had given her
strength to bear what was placed on her shoulders now.

“Danny first! Danny first!” she said to herself as she went down the
steps. “Nobody must think for an instant or intimate that he has left
home because there is a cloud between us. I must take the stand that
everything is all right and I approve of his going and it is all for
the best.”

She went to the kitchen first, where Aunt Sally was grumbling and
rumbling over her pots and pans.

She overheard her saying to Eben, “Hi there, nigger! Come here an’ take
this here dinner in befo’ it gits col’!”

“Well you come here an’ make room fer this here piece er ice in yo’
’frigerator befo’ it gits hot,” was Eben’s retaliation. “You’m so
dodblasted ’ticular ’bout yo’ ’frigerator you won’t let me han’le it.”

“No, I won’t let you han’le it! They’s too many li’l temptations
in that there ’frigerator ter be a tu’nin’ you loose in it. They’s
trouble enough in this here dommersile ’thout you a eatin’ up the
li’l lef’-overs what I mought be a considerin’ er puttin’ in a pie or
somethin’ er other.”

“Humph!” was all Eben deigned in reply.

“You mus’ ’scuse me, Eben, if I kinder light you up,” said Aunt Sally.
“I’s turrible upset ’bout our white folks.”

“You needn’t be worried about me, Aunt Sally,” said Mary Louise, coming
into the kitchen. She was trying to smile and it might have passed
muster for a smile with anyone but Aunt Sally, but the old woman knew
her young mistress too well not to realize that the smile was forced.

“Mr. Danny has gone on a trip, just a business trip. It was too bad I
was away from home but it is all right. He is well and he won’t be gone
so very long. He had to catch a train to Chicago. You can just take his
place from the table, Uncle Eben. And, Aunt Sally, I have asked Dr.
Coles to come see Grandpa Jim this evening, but he is supposed just to
be calling on the family so when he comes, whoever answers the bell,
just bring him into the living room as though he were plain company,
not a doctor. You understand, don’t you?”

“Sho’ we understands, honey chil’. Is you ’lowin’ Mr. Danny will be
home fer breakfus?”

“No, not for some time. I’ll let you know in plenty of time to set the
table for him.” Mary Louise then went to find her grandfather.

“Gawd in heaven! She ain’t doin’ nothin’ but play-actin’ but the chil’s
heart air breakin’. Eben, she had a smile on her face lak folks have
what air gazin’ on their daid, that kinder smile what makes you know
they air a tryin’ ter let the one what air jes’ gone know that they’s a
gonter take up the burden er life an’ bear it the bes’ they kin. I tell
you one thing, nigger, I’m a gonter play-act too an’ th’ain’t nobody
gonter git nothin’ out’n me but what Miss Mary Louise wants them ter
git. Mr. Danny’s been called away sudden lak on a business trip an’
we ain’t quite sho jes’ when he’ll be back but Marse Jim ain’t said
nothin’ ter him as we knows about an’ the fambly goose air a hangin’
high. If us Hathaways ain’t a gonter hol’ up our haids an’ keep a
smilin’ I’d lak ter know who air a gonter keep up the fambly name.”

“You done said a plenty!” agreed Uncle Eben. “Us black folks ain’t
gonter be weighed in the balance an’ foun’ wantin’.”

“Ain’t it the truf?”

“Sally, you air a good ooman!”

“An’ you air a good man, Eben--that is as fer as nigger men goes,”
she added, but Eben looked lovingly at his spouse, thankful for her
scanty words of praise and not at all minding the string tied to his
compliment.

Mary Louise found her grandfather hovering over the fire in the living
room. She went up and kissed him affectionately and then seated herself
on a low stool at his feet. The old man put his hand lovingly on the
bowed head.

“I have been reinvesting some funds for you today, my child,” he said
gently. “I sold all of the real estate bonds I have bought in the last
years and am putting the bulk of the money into some gold mines. I am
going to put every cent I can call in on these mines.”

“I know you are doing wisely, Grandpa Jim, because you have such fine
judgment. I am a perfect little goose about business. I don’t see why
you don’t teach me something about investments and things. I simply
don’t understand a thing.”

“You are right, child, I should teach you. I know I can’t live forever
but I want to fix it so that rascally husband of yours can’t find a
cent.”

Mary Louise’s neck stiffened and her head was held high. She turned and
looked at her grandfather, her face flushed and her eyes flashing.

“Grandpa Jim, I love you dearly, but I ask you to realize that Danny is
my husband, the man I love above all others and I cannot sit here and
listen to his being reviled.”

Colonel Hathaway looked a bit dazed and then smiled in the eyes of his
granddaughter.

“All right, honey, I reckon you are right. Of course, I know how you
feel about the wretch. You told me yourself you despised him--but then
women are women.”

“I told you I despised him! Grandpa Jim, what can you mean?”

“I was under the impression you had told me that. Didn’t you come to my
room in the night and sit on my bedside in your pretty pink wrapper and
hold my hand and tell me Danny abused you terribly?”

“Grandpa! Never! You must have had a dream!”

“Well! Well! Too bad! I thought you did. Perhaps I should not have told
him you complained of him then. Of course, I know you would complain of
him if you were not such a lady. He is so ugly and so untidy.”

“Danny ugly and untidy! Why Grandpa Jim, he is the pink of neatness and
everybody thinks he is the best looking young man in Dorfield.”

“Tut! Tut! Let’s say no more about it.”

“Dinner am served!” announced Uncle Eben, sticking his woolly pate in
at the door.

Mary Louise helped her grandfather to his feet and gently led him to
the dining room. He leaned on her heavily. Tenderly she placed him
in his chair. She understood now, without the help of Dr. Coles, that
her grandfather was really failing. What would she not give to have
acknowledged it sooner! Well life must be faced and, because she had
made one big mistake, there was no reason for going on slumping. She
smiled bravely as she explained to Colonel Hathaway that Danny had gone
on a business trip and pretended not to hear him when he muttered,
“Good riddance of bad rubbish!--bad rubbish!”

Dr. Coles came to call soon after dinner. Colonel Hathaway received him
with his usual graciousness. The old gentleman was never more charming
than on that evening. He conversed delightfully with his guest,
recalling anecdote after anecdote of the past. He showed a remarkable
memory for dates and events going into minute detail several times,
remembering the time of day, the day of the week, the day of the month
and the year of some happening. He never seemed saner to Mary Louise
than on that evening. Dr. Coles listened to his stories with interest,
speaking but little himself and encouraging his unknowing patient to do
the talking.

From stories of the past Colonel Hathaway suddenly switched to the
present and then plunged into a confused account of the recent
investments he had made in a gold mine.

“I have to make more and more money to take care of my poor child here.
Her husband is absolutely a dead beat, you know,” he remarked quite
casually.

Mary Louise blushed furiously and was on the point of saying something
to try to set her poor Danny right in the eyes of their visitor, but
Dr. Coles motioned to her to be quiet.

“He is gone now, gone for good I hope, but poor little Mary Louise
pretends it is only a business trip. I can see she is concealing
something from me and, no doubt, he has taken all her jewels with him
or the family silver. He is a wretched person, I can assure you, Dr.
Coles. I was never so fooled by anybody in my life. Mary Louise and I
were both fooled, but, thank God, at last our eyes are opened to his
perfidy!”

Dr. Coles knew and liked Danny immensely, but he said nothing in his
defense, only watched his patient the more keenly.

“I am sorry to hear that. What has he done?”

“Well he--he--I can’t recall now just what it is--it is something very
bad, though, you may be sure.” The old gentleman smiled pleasantly,
totally unconscious of the fact that he was wringing the heart strings
of the creature he loved better than his life.

“I see,” said the doctor thoughtfully. “I must be going now.”

“Well, I’m sorry to have you go. I am going to come to your office soon
to have you look me over, not that I am ill--never better in my life,”
he added hastily, “but I have a funny way of going to sleep in spots
here lately. No doubt it is indigestion, and perhaps I must let up on
Aunt Sally’s good food.”

“No doubt! No doubt! Anyhow, come let me look you over.”

Mary Louise followed Dr. Coles to the front door.

“What do you think?” she asked anxiously.

“There is no doubt that his mind is failing rapidly.”

“But see how sanely he talked about the past!”

“That is often the case. Old persons seem to be able to remember the
most remarkable things that happened in their youth and still the
present is often blurred. You noticed he could not even remember what
fancied grievance he had against your husband. He was sure there was
something, but he could not remember just what it was. It is common in
such cases for the person to take a strange unreasoning dislike to some
one, often the very person of whom he has been most fond. I am glad it
is your husband and not you he has turned against.”

“Oh! Oh!” was all poor Mary Louise could trust herself to say.

“I am also glad your husband has gone on a business trip. His presence
might irritate Colonel Hathaway. This may be only a phase and he may
get over all his feeling against Mr. Dexter. I am sure I hope it will
be so. In the meantime, if I were you, I should see that he is kept
quiet but amused; make him eat simple nourishing food; have plenty of
air but do not let him take too much exercise.”

“Is there--is there danger of--of--his--his dying?” she faltered.

“My dear young lady, no man can say. In a case like this, sometimes the
patient lives for years, getting stronger and stronger in the body as
the mind weakens. Your grandfather may get entirely well and live to
remember this obsession merely as one remembers a bad dream. Have him
come see me at my office soon and call on me at a moment’s notice if
you are the least bit alarmed.”



CHAPTER VII

A WIRELESS MESSAGE


Before Mary Louise went to bed that night, she wrote a long letter
to Danny, a letter full of love and trust, a letter explaining the
whole thing and taking all the blame for the misunderstanding that had
arisen. She told him of her grandfather’s mental condition, but did
not tell him of the possibility of its becoming more and more serious.
She wanted Danny to have no fears concerning her welfare during his
absence. She wished him God-speed and assured him of her undying
devotion. The letter took her hours to write and when it was completed
she slipped on a cloak and quietly letting herself out the front door,
ran to the corner to put it safely in the mail box. It would have gone
just as soon if she had waited to give it to the postman in the morning
but she felt she must let nothing interfere with its safe departure.
Now Danny would be sure to receive it before sailing for China. At
least, he would start with the knowledge that she loved him as much as
ever and the cloud would be between them no longer.

Mary Louise had never been on the street alone at midnight and even to
run the one block to the corner seemed quite an adventure for her.

“What would Danny say?” was in her thoughts as she crept back into the
house and up the stairs to her room.

The weeks that followed were anxious ones for her. The condition of
Colonel Hathaway became more serious. He was determined to accomplish
certain things in regard to his property and that meant many trips to
the business end of the town and more exercise and excitement than
was good for him. Danny’s absence seemed to put him entirely out of
the Colonel’s mind. He rarely mentioned him and then only in the most
casual way. His obsession became that his dear old friend Peter Conant
was trying to make him change his will and leave all of his property to
Irene Macfarlane. He became very indignant at the mention of Peter’s
name and reviled him constantly. This grieved Mary Louise exceedingly,
but she could not but confess that she was glad Grandpa Jim was
picking on some one besides her Danny.

The day of Danny’s sailing came and went. She had received a letter
from him every day since he left Dorfield, sometimes written on the
train, sometimes at a wayside station. On the day of sailing, came a
telegram saying he had received her letter and was happier than he had
been for a long time. She then resigned herself to the fact that she
could not hear from him for weeks and weeks. It takes a long time to
get to China and a long time for letters to come from there.

The girls were lovely to her. All of them knew the trials under which
she was living, but they respected her silence in regard to her
suffering and nobody said a word. All the time she could spare from her
grandfather she spent at the Higgledy Piggledy Shop.

“It is so nice and cheerful and busy here,” she said to Josie one day.
“I used to think my home was beautiful, but now it seems kind of like a
great mausoleum. Any more bonnets for me to trim?”

Josie nodded cheerfully.

“Yes, two more! You seem to have the knack of making mourning bonnets
look cheerful. How’s Colonel Hathaway feeling these days, Mary Louise?”

Josie was the one person to whom Mary Louise could talk concerning
her affairs. She had wanted to take Irene into her confidence too
but, since her grandfather had made the absurd charges against his
old friend Peter Conant, she had hesitated to bring the subject up
with Irene. Irene felt a certain estrangement, but her faith in Mary
Louise was strong and true and she was sure it would all come right in
the end. She could not help seeing the burden her little friend was
bearing and was determined not to add to it one iota with foolish hurt
feelings and small jealousies, although her feelings were a little hurt
and she was a tiny bit jealous that Josie should be the one to share
the troubles of Mary Louise. She knew it was the case because often
she found the two girls whispering together in a corner of the shop
and always, when there was an errand to be done, Mary Louise and Josie
would go together to attend to it. Irene only hoped she could keep her
hurt feelings from the knowledge of Mary Louise and never let anyone
know that the green-eyed monster, Jealousy, had her in his clutch.

At home it was dismal enough.

It was plain to see that Colonel Hathaway was failing, failing not
only in mind but in body. His step had become slow and faltering and
his once steady hand shook with palsy. Still, he made his way to the
business part of town every day and was occupied constantly with his
affairs. Peter Conant had offered repeatedly to help him in any way,
but had been rebuffed so decidedly that he had become offended.

“James Hathaway can’t speak to me as he did and not hurt me,” he had
declared to his wife.

“But, Peter, you and Irene both said he was evidently not quite
himself. You should remember that.”

“That’s all very well to say, but he is smart enough to go down town
every day and sell stocks and bonds. He ought to be smart enough to
know he can’t keep his friends if he is going to abuse them as he
abused me. I didn’t even know what he was talking about.”

“Neither did he, goose!” insisted Aunt Hannah, but Uncle Peter still
refused to allow James Hathaway to revile him without making a protest.

“You thought and freely said that Danny Dexter was too quick to get
angry with the Colonel,” Aunt Hannah continued. “You said he should
have sense enough to see that the old gentleman was not quite himself,
and now here you are raising Cain about a slight rudeness on his part.”

“Rudeness indeed! He said he could attend to his affairs without
interference from me. I call that more than a slight rudeness. I’ll see
myself offering my services to him again. He is presuming on his age to
behave as he is doing.”

“Well! Well! You are behaving as though you were no age at all--not
even six years old,” declared Aunt Hannah, removing her ear trumpet and
laughing at her husband. When Aunt Hannah considered an argument had
gone far enough she simply removed her trumpet from her ear and that
ended the matter as far as she was concerned.

In spite of Mr. Peter Conant’s stern remarks about never offering
his services to Jim Hathaway again, that very night he was not only
offering them but they were being accepted and that most gratefully, if
not by the Colonel, at least by Mary Louise.

The old gentleman had come home from his daily visit to the broker’s
offices and had seemed a little steadier on his legs than of late, a
little more cheerful and less inclined to hunt for trouble than had
been the case for the last few months. He sat down in his big chair and
Mary Louise took her accustomed place on the stool at his feet. She had
brought home from the Higgledy Piggledy a little crêpe bonnet which she
had been unable to finish that afternoon and, since it was promised for
the following day, she determined to work on it a while at home. There
were only a few stitches to be put in and a bit of ruching to be tacked
across the front.

The old man and the young girl sat thus for a long time. Mary Louise
was busily plying her needle and the Colonel dozed and waked and dozed
again.

“Is that a bonnet for yourself, my dear?” he asked, breaking the
silence.

“Oh no, Grandpa Jim! This is a widow’s bonnet.”

“Yes, I know! I remember your mother wore one, although I did not
approve, not at all--but, my dear, you are a widow now.”

“Oh no!” cried Mary Louise hastily. “I’m not a widow, Grandpa Jim. My
husband is just away for a little while, not for all time.”

“You are mistaken. He will never come back.” The old man spoke with
curt precision.

Mary Louise hesitated. She could not decide whether it would be better
to combat her grandfather’s statement or whether, perhaps, it was just
as well to let him have his way in the matter.

Suddenly the bell pealed forth.

“Callers! Do you want to see anyone, Grandpa Jim?”

“Yes! Yes! Let them come in, just so it is not that old reprobate Peter
Conant.”

“Oh, Grandpa Jim. You can’t mean dear Uncle Peter!”

“Of course I do. I was never so fooled by anybody in my life as that
man. He is underhanded and sly, and--”

As Peter Conant was famed far and near for his honesty, this made Mary
Louise smile in spite of herself. As well accuse Irene Macfarlane
herself of dishonesty or even Grandpa Jim.

“A telespatch, missy,” said Eben, limping into the room. “A telespatch
collect fer Mrs. D. Dexter, an’ the boy say sign right thar.”

Mary Louise scrambled to her feet.

“In a minute, Uncle Eben! The boy will have to wait until I read my
telegram. Why it’s a wireless!” she cried excitedly. “A wireless from
Danny! Just think, Uncle Eben, a message from way out in the middle of
the Pacific Ocean. It just says: ‘Love, Danny.’ But that is enough. Oh,
Grandpa Jim, do you know this is a wireless from Danny?”

“You mean your husband? A message from the spirit world! Because he is
dead, you know--as dead as dead----”

The old man stood up, looking wildly in the eyes of his granddaughter.

“I know he is dead--drowned, I think--because, last night while I
slept, I saw him in the water--and if he is not dead why are you making
a widow’s bonnet for yourself?”

Suddenly Colonel Hathaway crumpled up and lay in a pitiful heap on the
floor. Mary Louise, her nerves overwrought by the long strain under
which she had been living, gave a shrill scream, but immediately
controlled herself.

“Run quick for Mr. Conant, Uncle Eben, and get Miss Irene too--tell her
I need her. I’ll telephone the doctor myself. Call Aunt Sally to come
to Grandpa Jim.”

Colonel Hathaway was stretched out on the rug in front of the fire with
Mary Louise doing what she could to restore consciousness to the tired
brain, when Dr. Coles arrived.

The old man was carried to his room and placed in his large old tester
bed.

“I rather thought this might happen but did not think it would be so
soon,” the doctor told Mary Louise. “Was there anything to excite him
especially?” he asked.

Mary Louise told him of the wireless message she had just received from
her husband and of the statement her grandfather had made that it was a
message from the spirit world.

“Of course, it was proof that my husband was well and thinking of me.
That was all--but Grandpa Jim takes such strange notions lately and
there is no turning him from them. He said he had dreamed he saw Danny
in the water but that is no indication of an accident.”

“Certainly not!” assured Dr. Coles. “When did your husband sail?”

“Ten days ago!”

“What was the name of his boat?”

“The Spokane!”

Dr. Coles said nothing but in his kind eyes there was a depth of
concern for the girl. He looked at her a moment and then turned to the
inert form of the old man.

“His pulse is fairly good and I fancy he will be coming around pretty
soon,” he said briskly. “I am going to send you a nurse immediately.”

“Oh, don’t send a nurse! Please let me attend to him. I am as strong as
can be. You don’t know how much I can do.”

“Ah, yes, I do, but we don’t want to have you doing all you can do. I
really think a nurse for a few days will be best.”

“And Irene Macfarlane is here to help me. You don’t know what a help
Irene is although she can’t get out of her chair. She answers the
telephone and she does more little odd jobs and Grandpa Jim has always
liked her more than anybody--until--until--but perhaps she had better
not try to help in his room because he has had a strange obsession of
late about Irene and dear Uncle Peter Conant.”

“Is Miss Macfarlane here now?”

“Yes, Dr. Coles! Uncle Peter Conant and Irene are both in the dining
room waiting to see what I need.”

“The telephone is in the dining room?”

“Yes!”

“Well, Mrs. Dexter, I’ll get you to sit here a moment by your
grandfather while I go telephone. He is coming around soon I think, but
there is nothing for you to do except sit near him. Call me if you need
me.”



CHAPTER VIII

THE PASSING OF THE COLONEL


Irene and her uncle were seated in the dining room in hushed silence.
They had come immediately at Mary Louise’s summons. Mr. Conant was
bowed over, his gray head in his hands. Occasionally, he emitted a deep
groan and muttered to himself:

“I never should have said it, even to Hannah--even to Hannah!”

“Never mind, Uncle Peter--you were always in your heart faithful to the
poor Colonel,” Irene would try to comfort him, and again they would
drop back into the gloomy silence.

As Dr. Coles came into the room, they greeted him eagerly, “Any change?
How is he now?”

“About the same--but his pulse is fairly good. I think he will be
coming around soon, perhaps--of course, there is no predicting for sure
anything in cases like this--cases of any sort in fact. My opinion of
doctors is not very great you know. They do their best but, when all
is told, they are a feeble lot.”

“But their best is very wonderful, sometimes,” said Irene, “and Mary
Louise has great faith in you.”

“Poor child, poor child! Are you sure her husband sailed on the
Spokane, about ten days ago?”

“Yes, I am sure! Isn’t that what she told you?”

“Yes--but I hadn’t the courage to tell her something that she will
have to know. I saw a late bulletin as I passed the newspaper office
on my way up here and it said the Spokane had been signalling for help
by wireless all during yesterday and that it is feared she has been
wrecked. Of course, she may be all right by now, but the latest report
is that there is no trace of her so far.”

“You mean Danny Dexter may be lost?” gasped Irene.

“Yes--lost! It may be a false alarm but I doubt it. Anyhow, we need not
tell the poor little wife yet, not until there is something definite to
tell her,” said the doctor sadly and Uncle Peter groaned aloud.

“Brute! Brute that I am! I haven’t been over here for days and weeks
and all the time my old friend was ill and here I was irritated with
him--I even blamed the poor child a little. I felt somehow she was
lacking backbone in allowing the old man to ride over her so. I’m a
worm! A worm! Nothing but a miserable boneless invertebrate.”

The doctor smiled at the incongruous epithets Mr. Conant was so
ruthlessly applying to himself. Irene patted her uncle on the shoulder.

“Now Uncle Peter, let’s not worry about what we might have done, but
just do what is to be done now. Suppose you go down to the newspaper
office and find out what they know and stop and tell Aunt Hannah that
I shall have to stay over here for the night and get her to send me a
dressing gown and some toilet things.”

“That’s right!” agreed the doctor, looking at Irene with appreciation.
“Now, Miss Macfarlane, you get the nurse’s registrar on the ’phone and
have them send us a good nurse immediately. Mrs. Dexter insists that
she can do the nursing with your help, but I do not intend to have her
break herself down. She may have more to stand than she realizes. Pray
God the report about the Spokane is false!”

A night of anxiety followed. Colonel Hathaway was still unconscious
when gray dawn crept down the quiet city streets. In spite of the
arrival of a comfortably efficient nurse, Mary Louise could not be
persuaded to leave her grandfather’s bedside.

“He might awake and ask for me,” she declared over and over when she
was told she had better take a little rest.

As the first rays of the morning sun found their way into his room,
the old man opened his eyes. In them was the expression of a wondering
child.

“What is the matter?” he whispered faintly.

“Oh, Grandpa Jim, good morning!” said Mary Louise taking his hand in
hers.

“Good morning, child! Aren’t you up early? Where is my boy?”

“Who, Grandpa Jim?”

“My boy! Danny, of course! What other boy have I? I have been having a
horrid nightmare that he and I had been having some misunderstanding. I
am glad morning has come and it is all a dream. I can’t bear to have
trouble between Danny and me even in a dream. Call him, Mary Louise! I
must speak to him.”

“He is not here right now, Grandpa Jim,” said Mary Louise, trying hard
to keep back the sob that was almost mastering her.

“Not here! Where on earth has the rascal gone?”

How different was his manner of speaking of Danny! A short time ago
he would have called him a rascal, meaning it, and with a hard tone
of voice; now his way of calling him a rascal was purely loving and
playful.

“Where has he gone, child? Not far I hope, because I have a queer
feeling about me somehow--a feeling that perhaps I am not going to be
here very long and I must see Danny. Where is he? Don’t hide anything
from me!”

“He is--he is--on the water,” answered Mary Louise slowly.

“Oh, now I seem to remember,” faltered Colonel Hathaway. His voice was
strangely husky and Mary Louise had to put her ear close to catch the
words.

“I seem to remember something about a telegram--a telegram sent
collect. That wasn’t much like Danny to send a telegram collect--”

“It was a wireless, Grandpa Jim, and perhaps he could not prepay on
shipboard.”

“Of course--of course--a wireless--I remember now. Poor Danny, poor
Danny. And did you finish your bonnet in time?”

“In time for what, Grandpa Jim?”

“In time to wear. Well never mind if you didn’t. You can buy plenty
more. I have left you everything, Mary Louise dear, everything--but I
wish I had left Danny something, not that he will want it. He is an
independent lad and wanted to pay me board. Ha! Ha! That was a joke
indeed. But I liked the spirit in him. I am going back to sleep now,
honey. Please tell Peter Conant to come see me a little later in the
day. I shall want his advice.” The old man closed his eyes and, with a
tired sigh, sank into a state of coma.

He passed away a few hours later. His death was quiet and painless.
One moment he was breathing gently and the next moment he was not.
Mary Louise stood bravely by. She was able to thank the Creator that
her poor grandfather was not to live a life of misery, with his once
powerful mind gone. She repeated to herself over and over his last
sweet words and was grateful beyond expression for what he had said
about her dear Danny.

“If Danny only knew!” she kept on repeating. “If he only knew how much
Grandpa Jim really loved him.”

“He did know once,” Irene assured her. Irene had been taken into her
friend’s confidence at last and they had had a heart to heart talk
about the whole wretched matter. “Perhaps he knows now how the Colonel
really felt about him.”

“But he couldn’t know unless some one has tried to reach him by
wireless. Indeed I wish we could.”

“Well, he may just sort of feel it. People do sometimes,” Irene
hastened to mend the break she had made.

There was no doubt in the minds of Danny Dexter’s many friends at
Dorfield that the boat on which he had sailed had gone to the bottom
with all on board unless some of them had taken to lifeboats. Even
then, the storm that raged for days in that latitude from which the
Spokane had sent her agonizing S.O.S. calls had, without doubt, done
for those boats. It was reported that no one could possibly have lived
at sea in an open boat during the terrible hurricane that had swept
the seas. Danny was given up for lost and to Irene fell the sad task of
breaking the news to Mary Louise.

Colonel Hathaway’s funeral was over, the simple impressive rites
suitable for the fine old character. The little peculiarities developed
during the last few months of his life were entirely forgotten by
the many friends who sincerely mourned his loss. He had been a good
citizen, public spirited and generous, a fine staunch friend and a man
to whom the business world looked with interest, as he had a genius
for making good investments. The papers were full of his praises and
appreciation of him was on every tongue.

It was natural for Mary Louise to want to see these newspaper notices
and, in seeing the papers, it was almost inevitable that she should
run across something about the possibility of the Spokane’s being in
distress, perhaps lost. Up to that time there had been nothing said
about Danny Dexter’s being on the ill-starred vessel, as it was not
known generally to the newspaper world. His old friend, Bob Dulaney,
the one who had figured so largely in the capture of Felix Markle on
Danny and Mary Louise’s wedding day, of course, knew all about Danny
but, at the instigation of Irene Macfarlane he had promised not only to
keep his own paper from mentioning Danny’s name in connection with the
Spokane but also to use his influence to keep the news concerning Danny
out of the other papers. All of Mary Louise’s friends agreed that she
should be allowed to recover from the shock of her grandfather’s death
before anything should be told her of the possibility of Danny’s ship
being lost.

“What shall we do about the newspapers when she asks for them?” wailed
Irene, who had come to the Higgledy Piggledy for advice. “While Danny’s
name is not mentioned, we are never sure when the Spokane will appear
in the telegrams from the Pacific coast. She is sure to want to see
everything that is written about Colonel Hathaway.”

“Use the clipping bureau,” suggested Josie. “What are we for but to
save readers the trouble of going over the whole paper to see what is
said about them?”

“Of course!” cried Elizabeth. “I’ll get busy immediately.” She
accordingly grabbed up her long shears and began clipping items
concerning Grandpa Jim and then neatly pasting them on the little
printed slips in which the clipping bureau had seen fit to indulge to
give a prosperous air to the business.

“I don’t believe for an instant that Danny Dexter is dead,” declared
Josie stoutly. “It is simply unbelievable.”

“But don’t you think Mary Louise should know the Spokane is reported
lost?” asked Irene.

“Of course! We have no right to keep it from her much longer. Mary
Louise is no child although somehow she seems one. She is so young and
so gentle and there is a look to her now that makes me feel as though I
should like to take her in my lap and hold her like a little baby.”

Elizabeth and Irene could not help smiling at the picture of Josie
holding Mary Louise in her lap, since Mary Louise was a good half head
taller than Josie but they all agreed that Mary Louise seemed like a
child.

“Matrimony doesn’t seem to have aged her a single bit,” said Elizabeth.

“Her grandfather’s death has hit her terribly hard and she is looking
as pale as a ghost, but somehow like a little child ghost,” sighed
Irene.

“Dr. Coles says not to let her know about Danny until it is a
certainty--that there is no use in harrowing her soul if there is the
slightest chance of his being alive.”

“Who is to tell her?” shuddered Elizabeth.

“I am,” said Irene.

“I don’t see how you can,” said Elizabeth. “It would be a job that I
just wouldn’t know how to go about starting.”

“I am praying for strength and direction,” said Irene, whose religion
was such a vital part of her that she spoke of it with a faith and
simplicity that was often surprising to others.

“Well I’m glad the poor girl has plenty of money,” said Elizabeth. “I
know money isn’t everything but it’s a good deal. Anyhow, it helps a
lot to boost one over the rough places.”

“Maybe it does,” mused Josie, “But for my part, I’d like to see Mary
Louise without a sou to her name. It would be good for the lamb to have
to start in and make her living tomorrow. With her old grandfather gone
and poor Danny reported missing, what pleasure will there be for her
in that great house with not even a bit of dusting to do? Aunt Sally
and Uncle Eben won’t let her do a lick of work about the house and
Mary Louise is very capable. Just see how she pitched in and organized
for war work. I guess she’ll have to go in for charity and then all of
these boards and what not will bleed her to death. That kind of work is
just a time-killer anyhow. What girls need is jobs--good, hard-working,
paying jobs.”

“But what could Mary Louise do if she had to make a living?” laughed
Elizabeth.

“Plenty of things!” declared Josie.



CHAPTER IX

MARY LOUISE TOUCHES BOTTOM


Circumstantial evidence was all against the Spokane. While nobody could
say for certain that she had committed the unpardonable sin of going
to the bottom, she could not prove an alibi. One day she had been
sending out signals of distress by wireless and the next day, when a
philanthropic vessel had endeavored to find her in the vicinity from
which the appeals had come, there was not a trace of her. Others had
joined in the search to no avail. She was finally given up for lost and
the search was abandoned. Then and only then, did Dorfield awake to the
fact that the popular Danny Dexter had been on the Spokane.

“Poor Mary Louise!” was heard on every side, and then often was added,
“Well, thank goodness, she has plenty of money!”

It is strange how many persons seem to feel that plenty of money will
soften any blow. Josie’s voice was the only one raised in complaint
that Mary Louise would have been better off were she not so well off,
but then even Elizabeth had to admit that Josie was a wee bit peculiar
about worldly things. In spite of the fact that the astute Josie was
practical and businesslike, she had an unworldly philosophy worthy of
Diogenes. Like that old gentleman, she would have been perfectly happy
with no habitation but a tub but she would have put the tub to more
practical use than the ancient worthy is reported to have done.

The time had come for Irene to break the sad news to Mary Louise
concerning her dear Danny. It took every bit of character the lame girl
possessed to screw her courage up to the point of breaching the subject.

“It wouldn’t be so hard if I didn’t love her so much,” she said to
herself, and then added, “but it is because I do love her so much that
I am chosen to be the one to do it.”

Like all difficult things it was not so hard to do when once she
had started. Dr. Coles had telephoned her that morning that he felt
it was hardly fair to keep Mary Louise in ignorance any longer; and
the evening before Bob Dulaney had come to tell her that all hope of
the Spokane was given up, and that the storm on the Pacific in that
particular region had raged so fiercely for several days that it was
considered by those experienced in such matters utterly absurd to fancy
for an instant that men in open boats could have escaped drowning.

Bob Dulaney was grief-stricken. He had been hoping against all reason
that Danny had escaped.

“I just can’t believe it! Old Danny Dexter! Why, ‘Irene for all time,’
Danny was the livest person I ever knew--so alive that I simply can’t
think of him as dead.”

“Irene for all time” was a name Bob had for Irene--just a little joke
of their own brought about when he was introduced to her by Danny. He
usually called her by that funny little title.

“Well, let’s not think of him as dead. Lots of dead persons are more
alive than live ones, and lots of live ones are deader than dead ones.
Why shouldn’t we just think and speak of Danny as alive? I think it
will be a beautiful way to remember him.”

“Oh, ‘Irene for all time,’ you are a comfort to a fellow! I wish I
could help you when you have to break it to poor little Mary Louise.
It is hard on you to be the one but then it is a compliment too.
Everybody turns to you when something difficult must be done.”

Irene smiled. It was pleasant to be approved of and liked by this
clean, clever young man. Perhaps his kind approval was one thing that
made the difficult task a little easier than she had dreamed possible.

Mary Louise was going over her grandfather’s clothes and his personal
effects. Irene found her in a small cozy room down stairs, the room
where Grandpa Jim had loved to sit and smoke and see his intimate
friends. It was the same room where Mary Louise’s wedding presents had
been when Felix Markle and his confederate had so cleverly packed them
all off. Mary Louise had had all of her grandfather’s things brought
to this room and she was busily engaged in going over piles of wearing
apparel with a view to giving away the things to persons who might need
them.

“I know Grandpa Jim would hate to see good warm clothes go to waste,
but it is hard to part with some of these things that bring him back so
plainly.” She held up a broadcloth coat that seemed to have retained
the shape of the beloved old gentleman.

“To whom will you give them, Mary Louise?” asked Irene.

“I can’t bear to give them to anyone who would look ridiculous in
them. Uncle Eben, of course, wants everything, but he is so short and
bow-legged and Grandpa Jim was over six feet. I am giving him some of
the things, but I can’t contemplate Uncle Eben in a frock coat that
would almost touch the ground. There is a nice old gentleman who lives
around the corner, old Mr. Curtiss. He hasn’t been here very long and
he doesn’t know many persons, but Grandpa Jim struck up an acquaintance
with him and liked to talk of old times with him. He is from South
Carolina and has seen better days--not that he ever mentions it, but
one just surmises he has. He is as poor as poor can be now.”

“Why I know him! Bob Dulaney introduced me one day when we were sitting
in the park. Bob says he has a small job on his newspaper. They send
him out to interview a certain type of politician and, besides that,
he writes the obituaries and, being well up on who’s who, he keeps a
little ahead on special articles about great persons who are likely to
die soon or suddenly.”

“I think he would be a very suitable person to wear Grandpa Jim’s
things. He is tall and dignified and the poor dear is so very shabby.
Do you think it would hurt his feelings?” asked Mary Louise, tenderly
patting the broadcloth coat.

“I don’t think it could at all. He’d feel honored, I believe, because
giving things like this is not like charity. Let me help you bundle
them up.”

Together the two girls worked, Irene folding and wrapping the things as
Mary Louise sorted them.

“All of this pile goes to the Salvation Army; these things to Uncle
Eben and these to Mr. Curtiss. I want Uncle Peter Conant to have his
silver-headed cane. His fur-lined overcoat I have saved for Danny.”

Finally, the clothes were all neatly wrapped and tied up, each with a
label written in Irene’s clear legible handwriting. It was difficult
for Irene to write evenly with her hand trembling with emotion at the
thought of the ordeal ahead of her. She felt it would be best to wait
for her friend to get the business in hand finished before she had
anything more to bear, and so she waited until the last string was
tied, the last bundle labeled, and Uncle Eben had come and carried them
all off to be delivered at his convenience, before she broached the
subject uppermost in her heart.

“Mary Louise, I have something to tell you,” she began.

“Yes, darling, I know you have.”

“Oh, you do?”

“I have known it all morning, ever since you came in the room. I am
ready to hear now. What is it, Irene?”

For a moment Irene could not speak. She shut her eyes and prayed for
strength. If Mary Louise could be so calm, it was not for her to break
down.

“Has it--has it something to do with--with Danny?” For a moment Mary
Louise grasped a chair for support. Her breath came in gasps. Then she
gathered her forces, stiffened up and smiled wanly. “I’ve felt it all
along. What is it? You can tell me dear--I have touched bottom, as it
were, in misery and unhappiness and I can bear anything.”

“The Spokane is reported missing,” said Irene softly.

“Missing,” Mary Louise half whispered. “Tell me more.”

“She was sending out wireless calls for help--”

“Ah! It was then that Danny sent me the message. He must have known and
tried to get a word to me before--before.”

“Yes, dear!”

“And wasn’t it wonderful that it reached me? And wasn’t it like Danny
to do it? He knows--knew--wireless telegraphy, you remember, Irene? He
learned it in his service overseas.”

“Yes, dear!”

Mary Louise spoke softly:

“What else do they know?” Her eyes were dry and strangely brilliant.

“Nothing but that various vessels went to the assistance of the Spokane
but could find no trace of her and a great storm, a hurricane, had been
raging for some time during and after the Spokane’s wireless messages
were received and it is feared--it is believed--it is known by persons
who have had experience in such things that lifeboats could not have
weathered such a storm. It is thought that all on board were--were
lost.”

“Nobody can tell though, for sure!” there was a ring of hope in the
poor girl’s voice.

“No darling, not for sure, but we are all of us afraid there is
absolutely no chance for Danny to have been saved. Even Bob Dulaney has
given up hope--and you know Bob would keep on hoping against hope. He
came last night to tell me I should tell you. Dr. Coles telephoned this
morning that it was hardly fair to keep you in ignorance any longer.”

“You are all of you very good to me. My words sound cold but I don’t
mean them to. I know how hard this has been for you, my dear. It was
just like you to take such a hard task on yourself. I--I do thank you,
Irene.”

Never a tear, scarcely a falter in the clear voice! It was more tragic
to have Mary Louise take the news that way than it would have been had
she broken down and wept.

“You mustn’t feel too sorry for me, Irene. Tell the girls they mustn’t
either. I can bear this trouble. Somehow I feel that I am not the one
who has to bear it. I have been very happy with both Grandpa Jim and
Danny and, now that they are gone, I can remember the happy times and
be thankful for them. But oh, Irene, the dreary, dreary years to come!”
She leaned back in her chair, for a moment she closed her eyes and her
mouth looked weary and drawn.



CHAPTER X

A CONFERENCE OF FRIENDS


“It sounds just like poor old Job in the Bible,” said Elizabeth Wright.

“Doesn’t it, though?” sighed Irene.

“Yes, and I bet Job didn’t have a thing on our Mary Louise for
patience,” put in Josie, “but, of course, Job had that bunch of hot air
comforters who certainly must have tried his patience. At least, Mary
Louise is spared them.”

“Don’t you think it,” corrected Irene. “There has been a stream of
visitors from morning until night and some of them say the most
terrible things. I don’t see how Mary Louise stands them but she always
says they mean it for the best and she is as polite as can be to them.
I’d send them all packing.”

This made Josie and Elizabeth laugh, as there never was known a more
courteous person than Irene Macfarlane.

“What do you think the Job’s comforters will say when they find out
about Colonel Hathaway’s affairs?” asked Elizabeth. “I haven’t told a
soul, but my family will have to know sooner or later and then I bid to
come stay for a few days down here at the Higgledy Piggledy until they
stop talking it over and pumping me with questions.”

“Uncle says it is the most astounding thing that has ever occurred in
the financial world of Dorfield,” said Irene. “He has not given up
hope yet but is still searching for papers that might indicate in some
way where on earth the money has gone. There is no doubt about it that
Colonel Hathaway was a very rich man as his investments have always
prospered but, now that he is gone, there is absolutely nothing to show
where his money is. The brokers say he has been selling steadily during
the last few months. He seems to have converted a great many of his
securities into cash. Nobody knows why exactly except that he intimated
to several men that he was going to fix his money so Danny could not
get hold of it. Everybody realized the Colonel was not himself and
took what he said about Danny with a grain of salt. Uncle is afraid he
invested a lot of his money in some gold mine schemes that he talked
about several weeks ago. It is supposed to have been a wild-cat mine
with no chance of getting out what money was put in. I don’t see how
Colonel Hathaway could have been bitten even though he was a little out
of his head. Uncle says he was such an astute business man.”

“Can’t Mr. Conant find any money at all?” asked Josie.

“Nothing! Of course, the house is there and all of its furnishings. It
is on a huge lot which may be valuable in time, but, just now, that
part of Dorfield is not so fashionable as it used to be and Uncle Peter
thinks it would be a pity to sell it, as there is a chance of its being
in demand a little later for office buildings. Business is slowly
creeping that way. He is going to hold on to his property until he can
get his price.”

“In the meantime, what will Mary Louise live on?” asked Elizabeth.

“Live on the wits that God gave her!” cried Josie. “I am truly glad for
this part of poor Job’s troubles. It will be everything to dear little
Mary Louise that she must actually begin to think about where her next
meal is coming from.”

“Josie! How can you say such a thing?” demanded Elizabeth, shocked
wonderment in her voice and countenance.

“Easy!” laughed Josie. “Aren’t you a million times happier since you
are taking care of yourself? Why shouldn’t it make Mary Louise happier,
especially now that she has so much sorrow to overcome? I am as glad as
glad can be, and, while I am going to put my wits to work as a friend
first and as a detective second, I am hoping I will take a long time to
find the lost treasure.”

“Well I never!” declared Irene in quite the tone Aunt Hannah might have
used. “I am no worshiper of money, but I must say one can do so much
with money that the having of it must be very pleasant. I shall never
forget the wonderful things Colonel Hathaway and Mary Louise have done
for me and it was because they had money that they could do them. The
things gave them as intense joy as they did me, too, and that is where
the pleasure of having money comes in for persons like the Colonel and
Mary Louise. There is my victrola and all the magnificent records,
representing the very best in music! Here’s my rolling chair, such a
wonder of balance and ease that it moves at the slightest touch and
seems almost a part of me! There’s my lovely long fur coat that makes
it possible for me to go out in winter. Before I got it, I used simply
to freeze because I couldn’t take enough exercise to get up a good
winter circulation. I would stay in the house like some old hibernating
bear and I dreaded winter, but now I love to see the first snow flakes.
Mary Louise is so accustomed to doing lovely things for people that I
don’t see how she is going to get used to not doing them.”

“She is not going to stop,” declared Josie, earnestly. “What she will
do, perhaps will not be so costly from a financial standpoint, but it
will mean sacrifices which will be more costly in other ways. If I
know our Mary Louise, and I think I do, she will rise superior to this
disaster and come out stronger and finer than ever.”

“Maybe you are right, Josie,” sighed Elizabeth, “but all the same,
money is money and there is no substitute for it.”

“That’s just it, money is money and nothing but money. I have been
saying that all along. Money is all right in its place, but it is a
better thing to work for than to have and I, for one, am glad Mary
Louise is going to have to work for it for a while. It will do her
good, poor dear child! I know how good it was for me, after my father
died, to open up this shop and get busy. It didn’t lessen my loss any,
but it gave me strength to bear it.”

Elizabeth and Irene were silent. They agreed with Josie that it might
be good for their friend to have something to take her mind off her
terrible sorrow, but they did not feel that losing all her worldly
goods was necessary. She might have adopted some orphans or endowed a
hospital. There were plenty of occupations in which her money could
have helped that would have done just as well in alleviating sorrow as
this loss of fortune.

“Has Mrs. Burton sent a check yet for that order we filled for candle
shades?” asked Josie as she looked over the firm’s books.

“No!” answered Elizabeth. “She has not. She has been owing us for three
months now.”

“Send another bill and stamp the cheerful little ‘Please remit’ in red
ink,” suggested Josie, sternly. “She must think we are in business for
our health.”

“To hear you run down money one might think we are,” teased Elizabeth.

“Not at all! I don’t run down money at all. I run down money that is
too easy--money one doesn’t have to work for. I have some myself that
my father left me and I don’t think near as much of it as I do of my
share on the commission the Higgledy Piggledy gets for that order for
candle shades Mrs. Burton keeps forgetting to pay. I appreciate my
father’s working as he did to leave me some money, but I appreciate a
lot more his trying to teach me a trade.”

“But Josie, while you have been philosophizing about the most
satisfactory methods of obtaining happiness through lack of wealth,
have you thought of anything Mary Louise can do to earn her living?”
asked Irene. “Uncle Peter and Aunt Hannah want her to come live with
us and Uncle Peter says what he has is as much hers as his. He had a
mighty strong feeling for the Colonel and Aunt Hannah simply adores
Mary Louise--she always has. Of course, it goes without saying what I
think of her.”

“What does Mary Louise say?” asked Josie.

“She doesn’t say anything but just shakes her head and asks to be
allowed to wait. In the meantime, we hate to think of her all alone
in that great old house. Aunt Sally and Uncle Eben go off and shut
themselves up in their room over the kitchen and are dead to the world
when their duties are over for the day. I begged her to let me stay
with her, but she seems to prefer to be alone.”

“I can readily see that she might want solitude in which to adjust
herself to new conditions,” said Josie, thoughtfully, “but it isn’t
quite right. I thought, of course, you were there.”

“I was at first but I had a feeling she didn’t want anybody and, when
I asked her, she very gently told me that perhaps she was better off
alone. I thought at first she was grieving over the loss of the money,
but I believe now it has made no impression whatever on her. In fact,
I don’t believe she realizes she is almost a poor girl. Of course, the
big house and lot are worth a good deal but, in the meantime she has
no cash to go upon. Uncle wanted to put some to her credit and do it
secretly so she might never know, but she was too foxy for him and went
over her grandfather’s bank books and saw his last entry before Uncle
Peter could attend to it.”

“I think I’ll call it a day and lay off,” said Josie, “and go see Mary
Louise. Will you agree to anything I let the Higgledy Piggledies in on,
Elizabeth?”

“Of course! You can do a lot of talking about the uselessness of money,
but I trust you not to lose any in the business. You are entirely too
astute.”



CHAPTER XI

PLANS FOR THE FUTURE


There was one rule the great detective, O’Gorman, had tried to instill
in the mind of his daughter Josie, and that was, if possible, never to
meddle in other folks’ affairs, but if, by any chance, Fate so ordained
it that you must meddle, stick to it until those affairs were settled
and the meddling was no longer necessary. Josie felt that, from the
beginning, she had put her finger in Mary Louise’s pie and she must not
draw it out until she could extract some kind of plum for her little
friend.

She did not ring the bell at the Hathaway house but opened the great
front door with the latch-key Colonel Hathaway had given her on her
first visit to them and which he had insisted upon her keeping and
using as a member of the family. She found Mary Louise hovering over
rather a forlorn fire in the den.

“Why do people always begin to economize in coal as soon as they get
a bit hard up?” Josie asked herself. “It is a strange question in
psychology.”

She greeted Mary Louise cheerfully and seizing the poker gave the
sputtering coal a few masterly punches which sent the flames leaping up
the chimney. Then she vigorously poked out the ashes under the grate
and, in a few moments, the fire was burning as brightly and cheerily as
though the Colonel’s money had been found and no tragic happenings had
recently taken place in that very house which the grate helped to warm.

“That’s better!” laughed Mary Louise. “Uncle Eben is so lugubrious
about the coal’s getting low and so strict lately in regard to fires
that I find myself shivering half the time. Fires have always been
Uncle Eben’s specialty and, now that times are hard, his one idea is to
save coal. Uncle Eben and Aunt Sally are my biggest problem right now,
Josie.”

Josie smiled in what might almost have been termed a self-satisfied
way. Had she not asserted but a few moments before to the girls at the
Higgledy Piggledy that Mary Louise would still always be thinking of
others?

“What are you planning to do with them, Mary Louise?” she asked quite
casually. Josie had an idea that Mary Louise’s friends were handling
her too gingerly. Instead of asking direct questions that called for
direct answers, they were dealing too much in innuendoes, afraid all
the time of intruding. She well knew that Irene’s exquisite sense of
propriety would keep her from going into Mary Louise’s affairs until
she was asked to discuss them by Mary Louise herself. Josie felt that
the girl had brooded long enough and the time had come to talk things
over.

“Now don’t you tell me if you’d rather not, but it seems to me you
might as well talk it out with me. I’m a kind of father confessor
anyhow, you know, honey,” continued Josie.

“Why I want to talk it over, Josie dear. I don’t want to burden anyone
with my complicated affairs but--”

“Burden anyone! Why you little goose! Come on now, let’s decide what
you are going to do and then let’s do it.”

Mary Louise laughed, and her laugh sounded quite merry and like her
old self. “Josie, you certainly do help me with your plain, straight
methods. You know, I fancy, that there is no money to be found--none
at all--and I am penniless?”

“Yes, I know it, and I’m glad of it!”

“So am I! Wouldn’t that astonish Uncle Peter? He is having a fit, poor
man. He has almost determined to begin digging around the place here to
try and unearth the treasure. Of course, that is foolishness because we
always saw Grandpa Jim come in the house and, if he ever left his room
at night, I knew it and was up like a flash for fear he was sick or
something.”

“Of course! Colonel Hathaway was not the kind of man to dig holes and
put money away. He may have concealed his property somewhere and it
will turn up sooner or later. In the meantime, it will be mighty bad
business to let it get out that we don’t know where the stuff is, for
that might bring down on your place a swarm of treasure seekers who
would prove very annoying to you.”

“Uncle Peter thinks he invested most of it in gold mines and he says he
hopes to find papers relating to the transaction somewhere.”

“Well now, go on and tell me what you mean to do. You are going to have
to make your living and I, for one, think it is a good thing. How are
you going to make it?”

“Have you any suggestions?”

“Of course!” answered Josie laconically. “That’s what I’m here for, not
just idle curiosity.”

Mary Louise laughed again and Aunt Sally, in the kitchen, stopped a
minute from her eternal scrubbing--her only solace of late--and dropped
a tear in her bucket of hot suds, but the tear was a kind of happy
tear at hearing once more the sound of laughter from her darling young
mistress.

“Listen ter that, Eben! That there li’l perliceman gal air in the
settin’ room. She sho do cheer up our baby lamb.”

“Yes, an’ she done stirred up the fire too. I ain’t a sayin’ the coal
air a gonter las’ out the month if’n we ain’t pow’ful ’ticular.”

“G’long, nigger! You all time talkin’ ’bout coal. If’n you don’t look
sharp, when yo’ time comes, Peter’ll be a-sayin’ when you knocks on the
pearly gates, ‘Go on down ter perdition, you Eben! You ain’t fit fer
nothin’ but stokin’ nohow.’ You much better be makin’ hot, cheerful
fires fer po’ li’l Miss Mary Louise than countin’ over yo’ lumps er
coal. The Lord air a gonter pervide. He knows as well as anybody an’
better than mos’ that we-alls is quality folk an’ he ain’t a gonter let
us go col’.”

“You’s silly, Sally,” declared Eben, nimbly skipping beyond reach of
the deluge of hot suds with which Sally retaliated. “‘Co’se you is
silly. Ain’t we been a-hearin’ many tales ’bout kings and queens an’
sich what air a beggin’ in the streets since this here war that done
stirred up the worl’ ter such a ixtent? If kings an’ queens air took
ter beggin’, I don’t see why you air so proudified as ter think we-alls
air safe.”

“Humph! Kings an’ queens ain’t nothin’ but furriners--some er them even
low down wops an’ sich. I wan’t a talkin’ ’bout kings an’ queens but
’bout sho’ nuf quality folks whose amcestors comed from Virginny.”

And so the old couple wrangled in the kitchen while Mary Louise and
Josie continued their talk in the den.

“What is your suggestion?” asked Mary Louise.

“Bonnets and hats! A millinery department of the Higgledy Piggledy! It
will pay like preferred stock in the best investment in the country.
At first, people will swarm there just to see you being a milliner.
You’ll have to submit to being a nine days’ wonder and then, when
you do their things so well and put so much style in their hats and
bonnets, they will come back because they like what you do. Why, honey,
you are going to be the successful business woman of Dorfield.”

“Oh Josie!”

“Certainly you are! You have it in you to be a success. Whatever you
have undertaken, you have pushed through with sureness until you have
reached the goal. Of course you have been spoiled in a way by having
money come too easily but that isn’t going to hurt your business career
any. It may help it. It will give you a larger outlook and keep you
from being so all-fired particular about small bits of money. I think
that is the trouble with so many women who go into business. They have
heard so much about ‘taking care of the pennies and the dollars will
take care of themselves’ that they spend too much time and thought over
unimportant sums and forget the other saying ‘Penny wise and pound
foolish.’”

Josie was mounted on one of her hobbies and she rode gaily on, clucking
to her nag and switching his flanks with proverbs and arguments until
Mary Louise was in a gale of merriment.

“Josie, Josie, you are too delicious!”

Aunt Sally stopped scrubbing and arose from her knees.

“Jes’ listen ter that! Lawsamussy, if that ain’t music ter my ol’
years! Git a move on yer, Eben, you ol’ Virginia creeper! I’s
a-thinkin’ ’bout stirring up some waffles fer supper. I ’lows our young
mistress is done sanctified her stomick sufficient with nothin’ but
toast an’ tea, tea an’ toast.”

“Well praise the Lawd! My back an’ front air a stickin’ tergither fer
lack er nourishment,” declared Uncle Eben.

In a short while, the aroma of waffles was wafted through the house.

“If my old nose don’t tell no lies--” quoted Josie.

“I believe Aunt Sally is cooking waffles,” finished Mary Louise. “Now
you must stay to supper, Josie.”

“Of course I will, if you truly want me. In fact, I think I’ll stay
whether you do or not.”

“It’s strange how dependent we are on food,” mused Mary Louise a half
hour later. Aunt Sally had given the girls a cozy little meal by the
fire in the den. The dining room seemed so big and gloomy now that
there were no men in the house.

“I believe I have not been eating enough. Aunt Sally brings me
something, but I am sure that more than half the time I forget to eat
it.”

“Just as I thought! You need a bossy, fussy person more or less like
me to egg you on. Now start in and tell me what you are planning to
do with these expensive, although devoted, retainers and this fine,
extravagant house.” And Josie settled herself comfortably in a big
chair by the fire on which Uncle Eben had deigned to waste much coal.

“I simply don’t know--I plan and plan but can’t fix on anything. Of
course, Aunt Sally and Uncle Eben will be sad at not living on with
me and declare they won’t leave me for the wealth of Greasus as Eben
calls Croesus. There is no money in the bank, at least only a tiny bit.
Grandpa Jim used to have two accounts, a checking account and a special
account, but he seems to have withdrawn the special account and
checked very closely on the other. Thank goodness, there are no bills
to be paid! Grandpa Jim always kept bills paid up to the minute.”

“That’s one reason I feel that you are going to prove a good business
woman. You have his blood in your veins and his ways about you. I see
them cropping out constantly. Now, come on and tell me what plans you
have made, even though you haven’t fixed on anything.”

“First, I think I’ll sell the car.”

“Which car?”

“The big new one, of course! Grandpa Jim’s old car wouldn’t bring in
thirty cents and it is so precious to me somehow, I can’t bear to think
of getting rid of it. I feel more strongly about it even than I did
about his clothes. He changed his clothes and got rid of them as they
wore out, but he hung on to his old car with such pertinacity that I
feel like still hanging on to it. It has not been used for months but
it’s jacked up out there in the garage. Do you think I am foolish?”

“No, my dear Mary Louise, I think you are very sensible. Certainly, the
new car would bring in a tidy sum and give you bank account enough to
look around a bit. Have Eben and Sally any savings?”

“Yes, they have been at no expense to speak of for many years and they
have always had good wages. You know Grandpa Jim was always lavish in
such expenditures. The dear old creatures have come and offered me
their savings and are quite outdone because I refuse to touch them.
In his will, Grandpa Jim mentions them, leaving them a farm he owns
in Virginia and recommending that I see that they are well taken care
of. He left them nothing but the farm but, thank goodness, that is a
tangible something. I want them to go live on it and I believe they are
beginning to look forward to it with some pleasure.”

“Splendid! That is surely a solution as far as the faithful retainers
go. Now proceed! How about the house?” Josie was determined now, since
she had started Mary Louise, she would keep her going until her plans
took some shape and were in working order.

“Oh, the house! I can’t tell what to do about it. It is all I have and
Uncle Peter Conant says a forced sale would be a great mistake, but if
I can just put off selling it for several years, it might bring in a
whole lot. I think I might rent it.”

“Furnished?”

“Y--e--s! But, oh, how I’d hate it! It would be awful to have strangers
living with all of our household goods.”

“Yes, so it would, but because persons are strangers is no sign
they are not pretty nice. I myself would rather have my things used
by persons who could enjoy them than have them stored in heartless
warehouses where, no doubt, the rats would gnaw holes in them and they
would do nobody any good. I’d rent the house furnished for a goodly sum
if possible and be careful about the tenant. Don’t take one who is not
responsible. Storing furniture is like pouring money down rat holes. It
costs and costs and finally, when you take the things out, they seem
of so little value you wonder what on earth you have been paying for
all the months or years. Sell or rent, but don’t store unless it is
for a given, definite period. You have not thought of selling all your
things?”

“I just couldn’t yet. I feel like putting off that evil hour for
awhile. Grandpa Jim collected the pictures and rugs and furniture with
such care. I can’t contemplate getting rid of them even though I may
need the money sorely.”

“Nonsense! You won’t need the money sorely at all, not if you get busy
and ship the dear old darkeys and come stay with me at the Higgledy
Piggledy and begin to earn your salt and plenty of good beefsteaks to
sprinkle it on, to say nothing of butter gravy and bread to sop in it.”

“Oh Josie, you are so funny!”

“Well, settle with the faithful retainers this very night. Call them
now and let them know you are going to break up housekeeping tomorrow
and they must pack up and start for their farm in Virginia. There is no
use in dragging the thing out. Every day that this huge house is kept
running is draining your already depleted bank account just that much
more than it can stand. Let’s begin tomorrow to sort and ‘pick rags’
and get the house ready for a tenant. There is a lot of work connected
with it and we’d best begin immediately.”



CHAPTER XII

MARY LOUISE MOVES


In the language of Bob Dulaney and Billy McGraw, “Little O’Gorman was a
humdinger when she got started.” Elizabeth was left to run the Higgledy
Piggledy Shop with some help from Irene and Josie took up her abode
with Mary Louise to do what she called “pick rags.” The house must be
gone over from attic to cellar, all useless and superfluous articles
disposed of, all of the rarest pictures, rugs, and ornaments packed
and sent to storage. What Mary Louise needed in the way of furnishings
for the simple life she was to lead henceforth in the room that was
to be partitioned off for her in the Higgledy Piggledy Shop, must be
carefully and judiciously selected. There was a mountain of labor
ahead of them but the girls pitched in with a will and, at night Mary
Louise found herself sleeping better than she had for many weeks. Josie
refused to leave her friend alone.

“I am going to stay right here camped on your trail until you are
safely moved,” she asserted and there was no changing her although Mary
Louise assured her she did not mind staying alone.

Irene helped in many ways. It was wonderful what the lame girl could
do. She would wheel her chair from room to room attending to small
matters that the more active ones had overlooked. To her deft fingers
was given the task of packing the contents of the Colonel’s curio
cabinet; tiny carven figures in ivory and jade, Phoenecian glass vases
that had imprisoned the sunlight of centuries gone by, filigreed silver
and gold ornaments set with rough-hewn jewels, bits of priceless
embroidery from ancient Mexican convents, bronze Buddhas placid in
their unearthly homeliness. There was a little of everything in the way
of treasures in the Colonel’s cabinet.

“The owner of such treasures cannot be classed as poverty-stricken,”
Irene said to Josie, who stopped by her for a moment, her arms loaded
with books that were too precious to be entrusted to any possible
tenant no matter how worthy he or she might prove.

“No, but Mary Louise could never sell them. That’s the pleasure of
owning things like that. They are priceless and still worthless because
one could never part with them. A cabinet like that always makes me
think of honest love, something quite intangible when one tries to
count its value in dollars and cents.”

Irene smiled. No matter how occupied Josie was she could always stop
for a bit of homily.

“You have in mind all the time the possibility of coming across some
clue to the Colonel’s papers, haven’t you?” whispered Irene.

“Yes, indeed, but so far no sign of them! I have even been around to
see the dear old gentleman to whom Irene sent some suits, thinking
something might be found in the pockets, but nothing doing! I have also
been over the things sent to the Salvation Army. When this house is
finally turned over to a tenant, there is not going to be an inch that
I have not personally inspected.”

“I know you are as thorough as can be and I’ll wager anything that you
will find some clue before you have finished,” declared Irene, holding
up to the light a wonderful little twisted vase of porphyry. “Just see
these colors, Josie. It seems almost wrong to wrap it away in tissue
paper so nobody can enjoy it. I wonder if dear Mary Louise will ever
have a suitable home again where she can have her things around her.”

“Sure she will! Mary Louise is not the kind to stay down. She has been
in holes before this and always come out and not a bit of dirt sticking
to her either.”

The most difficult thing to do was to get old Aunt Sally and Uncle
Eben off to Virginia. They were loath to go when the time came in
spite of the fact that they confessed that they were quite set up to
be the owners of an excellent farm with a comfortable house and good
outbuildings, situated in the county where both of them had been born.

“We’ll cut some ice ’mongst them niggers at big meetin’ time,” boasted
Uncle Eben. “Me’n Sally’ll go a drivin’ our own mule an’ maybe it’ll be
two mules, not hitched side by each but one a followin’ arfter tother,
tandem, lak circus parades.”

“You know I ain’t a goin’ ter no big meetin’ lookin’ lak no circus,”
objected Aunt Sally.

“Well we ain’t bought the mules yit so I reckon th’ain’t no use in
disputin’ whicher way we’ll hitch ’em up.”

The old couple finally got off. A whole box car was necessary to hold
their belongings, which were freighted to them. Not only did they have
the furnishings of their own room but many were the gifts from the big
house added by Mary Louise.

“The old house is too full anyhow,” she insisted, “and I am sure no
tenant would expect or want so many things.”

Aunt Sally and Uncle Eben were made happy with barrels of china and
cooking utensils, also quantities of canned vegetables and fruits Aunt
Sally had put up the summer before.

“Why doesn’t she keep some of those things?” Irene asked. “She will
have to buy such things when she starts to housekeeping at the Higgledy
Piggledy.”

“No, let them all go! I believe it will be better for Mary Louise to
get down to rock bottom and have to begin to think about the actual
earning of every necessity. If she has a lot of left-overs to begin on,
the bare bones of living will still be an unknown skeleton to her and
she might just as well get down to plain, hard, ossified facts.”

Irene smiled. She could not help thinking that for a person who prided
herself on being practical, Josie certainly did let her theories run
away with her. It seemed to Irene that Mary Louise had had jolt enough
and now she might be let down easily without having to hit this much
vaunted rock bottom with so much force. When she suggested this, Josie
was ready with an answer to her argument.

“A ball can’t bounce back until it hits something but will go on
falling and we are more or less like balls, my dear Irene. We can’t
bounce until we hit--we can’t regain our footing until we have
something to stand on. You wait until our poor little rich girl turns
into a rich little poor girl and you are going to see wonders.”

Josie had her way and Mary Louise finally moved to the Higgledy
Piggledy with nothing but her trunk and enough simple furniture to fit
in the small space partitioned off at the back of the Higgledy Piggledy
Shop for a sleeping compartment similar to the one Josie occupied.

A tenant for the big house had not been found but it was in perfect
order ready to receive one. The new automobile had been sold and the
welcome cash placed to Mary Louise’s credit at the bank to defray all
expenses in getting the faithful Sally and Eben safe in Virginia with
their household goods and also in putting a few necessary repairs on
the big house, repairs the Colonel had been contemplating for some
time, but had delayed in accomplishing.

The Colonel’s old car was left in the garage at the big house.

“It will be safe enough there, poor old thing,” sighed Mary Louise. “It
looks real lonesome with the new car gone. Grandpa Jim surely did love
his old car. He never enjoyed riding in the new one as much as he did
in his old rattle-trap. The first time I realized that Grandpa Jim was
not getting along so well with Danny was when he got irritated because
Danny teased him about his old car. I always teased him about it and he
used to tease himself at times and had never minded when Danny joined
in. He seemed rather to like it. But one day he suddenly flared up over
the car and said--but never mind what he said--it wasn’t Grandpa Jim
saying those things--I realize it all now and I believe Danny knows
too.”

“Certainly he does,” declared Josie with a tone of conviction.

The big house had been securely closed, one key left with the Conants
in case a tenant might want to see it, one with a real estate agent and
another in Mary Louise’s purse.

The old darkeys were gone and Mary Louise entered into her new life as
a business woman.

How strange it was! How different from what her life had been less than
one short year ago.

At night she lay in her little bed and looked up at the high ceiling
dimly lit by the smouldering fire in the front of the shop. How amusing
it was to sleep in a room with partitions reaching only half way to
the ceiling! It was like living in a beauty parlor where one had
one’s hair shampooed. She felt she would not like to stay all alone
in such a place and wondered if it had not been hard on Josie to be
there by herself. She remembered Josie’s tale of how the Markles had
come and entered the shop by means of a skeleton key, stolen what they
had thought to be Detective O’Gorman’s wonderful thieves’ journal,
replacing it with blank pages neatly inserted in the original covers;
and how they had actually come into her bedroom, thinking she was
safely off spending the night at the Hathaways’. Josie, hiding under
the bed, had heard their incriminating talk and had carefully laid her
net and then left them to entangle themselves in its meshes.

What a clever little person Josie was! Mary Louise, as she thought of
her, had a feeling of security as though all would finally be well if
she could remain under Josie’s wing.

“Grandpa Jim liked her and Danny liked her--they trusted her so
absolutely. I am glad I am here with her.” Mary Louise closed her
eyes and, snuggling down in her little bed, was soon lost to the
world. She did not dream of burglars but that Chinese idols, curiously
carved, and hideous bronze Buddhas were perched in rows on the top of
the partitions forming her bedroom and they looked down on her with
benignant expressions on their quizzical countenances and seemed to
be watching over her and guarding her. One great Buddha wagged his
forefinger at her and told her he would watch over Danny too and she
need have no fear, and, in spite of being a very good little Christian
girl, she found that the heathen deity gave her great comfort in her
loneliness.



CHAPTER XIII

JOSIE VISITS CHIEF CHARLEY


Before Mary Louise moved to the Higgledy Piggledy, Josie felt it to be
prudent to go see her old friend, Captain Charley Lonsdale, the chief
of police.

“It isn’t exactly my business, Chief,” she had said as she seated
herself opposite the important man in his sanctum sanctorum. “That is,
nobody has put the case in my hands, but, somehow, I feel that I must
make it my business and I am sure you will think it is your business as
well.”

“Well, I’m listening,” smiled the chief.

The chief usually listened when Josie had anything to say. He was an
old-fashioned man who felt and freely stated that “woman’s place was
in the home” and so forth and so on, but he had to confess that Josie
had proved herself to be as able a detective as any he had even seen
and perhaps an exception should be made in her favor and she should
not be made to remain in a home, especially since she did not have
one that could be rightly called by that name. It would take a blind
reactionary, indeed, not to admit that Josie had managed the affair
with the rascally Markles with a genius worthy of her father’s daughter.

Josie now took up the tale of the mysterious disappearance of Colonel
Hathaway’s fortune. Captain Lonsdale had heard a rumor of there not
being as large an inheritance for Mary Louise as her friends had hoped
but the news of the absolute dissolution of the fortune was a blow to
Colonel Hathaway’s old friend.

“It seems impossible!” he exclaimed. “Why didn’t Peter Conant come to
me with the matter himself?”

“He is leaving no stone unturned and perhaps he felt he would do all he
could do first before he gave the case over to you. I have looked in
every cranny in the house, and even in the garage, but can find no clue
to anything.”

“What does your majesty think I had better do?” laughed the chief.

“First you must see that the house is watched. I am sure such a thing
as this will get out sooner or later, perhaps is already known, and,
in a short while, the treasure seeking will begin. I am anxious to get
Mary Louise out of the house and tonight she will be safely moved to my
quarters. She must not be made more nervous than she is already.”

“Poor child! Poor child!” murmured the chief. “I’ll see that the place
is looked after. Don’t have the telephone taken out. My men may need
it.”

“I’ll see to that, but I think it wisest not to let Mary Louise know
that her home is in danger of marauders. She must rest in security for
a while at least.”

“Good girl! Is there no certainty of how much Jim Hathaway put in those
wild-cat gold mines? He spoke to me of a gold mine, but I know nothing
of it.”

“None at all! There are no papers to be found relating to his
investment and, unless the persons who were floating the stock are much
more honest than we dare hope to find them, there is absolutely nothing
to show that he has ever invested a cent in the crazy scheme. We don’t
even know the name of the mines. He told Mary Louise about them but she
can’t remember the name if she ever knew it.”

“Poor old Jim! He was so astute and keen and to think of his coming
such a cropper just at the end. What is your theory as to his behavior?”

“I haven’t any. My father used to say that there was no use in having
theories about persons who were out of their senses. They never behaved
as you expected them to and, as soon as you made sweeping assertions
about what they were likely to do or say, they went back on you and did
and said exactly the opposite. I certainly would never expect a man
like Colonel Hathaway to go around hiding gold coin--”

“Gold coin! I thought it was papers that were mislaid.”

“Papers as well, but there is no telling how much gold he has put away
somewhere. Mr. Peter Conant says he has gathered from various banks
that Colonel Hathaway had been cashing securities for months and months
and always demanding gold. He did it quietly and without ostentation
and no one suspected him of being a bit off his head. Now, he must have
put that gold somewhere and we can hardly think that all of it was
invested in the mines that everyone fears were spurious. Mr. Conant
is trying to locate the mines, but there seems to be no certainty at
all concerning them. The Colonel talked about them quite freely but
vaguely and Mary Louise says she never questioned him about them. She
had an idea there were some men in Dorfield who were pushing them, but
she never saw the men. Her grandfather would come home every few days
quite jubilant over his wonderful and safe investments. Mary Louise
knows nothing about business beyond being able to cash a check and
keep her stubs written up so that things balance more or less at the
end of the month. Her grandfather kept her well supplied with cash and
put a goodly sum in the bank for her each month. She is going to learn
though.”

She told the chief of her plan for Mary Louise to open a bonnet shop
and he applauded the scheme.

“I don’t wear ’em myself but every female creature belonging to me is
going to have a fling at that bonnet shop before so very long,” he
boasted.

Josie smiled, knowing full well that the said female creatures would
buy their bonnets where they chose regardless of the masculine verdict.

True to his word, the chief put a guard over the old Hathaway home.
Irene, from next door, noticed a man across the street who seemed quite
interested in the big house and later on, when Aunt Hannah went to the
kitchen to see that the back windows were securely fastened for the
night, she spied a man in the alley, “snooping around” as she expressed
it.

“It is nothing, mother,” shouted her husband. “We have nothing he could
want and Irene tells me Mary Louise has sent all of her valuables to
the bank for safe keeping.”

“We have a perfectly new garbage pail and an ash can without a break
in it and, since the war, ash cans are most expensive,” grumbled Aunt
Hannah. “A large one with a close fitting top costs several dollars.”

“Well, I can’t think the man in the alley is after our ash can but,
if he is, he is welcome to it. I have been carrying burglar insurance
for years and years and I must say I’d like to get back a little of my
money.”

So Aunt Hannah was reassured and left the mysterious man in the alley
to his possibly evil devices.

In the morning the ash can and garbage pail were safe and in their
accustomed places, somewhat to Aunt Hannah’s disappointment.

“There is a bent place in the bottom of the ash can,” she confessed.
“The ash men are so rough with one’s things. I’d be very glad if
somebody would steal the old one and we could have a brand new seven
dollar one. I am sure that bent place will soon come into a hole.”



CHAPTER XIV

AN UNKNOWN ITALIAN


Josie’s warning to Captain Lonsdale was given none too soon. The man
Irene and her aunt had seen prowling around the Hathaway house was not
the only one who made a tour of inspection on the very first night
Mary Louise left her home. As the man, who was one of the chief’s most
trusted detectives, went in the alley to get a good look at the rear of
the premises, the figure of a boy flattened itself against the side of
the garage where the ivy grew thick and close and where the shadow was
not penetrated by the electric light at the corner of the alley.

Had the trusted detective seen the boy in the light, he would have
reported him as about fifteen, perhaps an Italian, with curly black
hair that escaped rebelliously from the confines of the shabby cloth
cap; a dirty face, pinched and rather hungry looking, with great eyes
of a beauty almost unearthly but with something in their expression
that gave a lie to the first statement of the lad’s being only fifteen.
Anyhow, the trusted detective did not see him, saw nothing in fact but
a large cat humped up on the roof of the garage, and heard nothing but
the unearthly caterwauling from Tom, who was probably singing a dirge
incident to the cutting off of supplies by the departure of Aunt Sally,
who always saved scraps for all the stray cats of the neighborhood.

“Idiot!” the boy muttered under his breath as the detective gave a
cursory glance in the back yard and then made his way to the front
again. “He might have found me if he had had any sense, but sense is
the last thing to look for in a detective.”

If the detective lacked the sense that the boy had asserted, he had,
at least, the quality of faithfulness and stuck to his job until
daylight when he was relieved by another man. Whatever had been the
purpose of the boy who clung so closely to the shadow of the garage,
he had not been able to accomplish it on that night. His object seemed
to be to gain access to the big house, but, unfortunately for him,
the strong light in the alley was thrown directly on the back of the
house, making it impossible to accomplish his purpose with the tiresome
detective constantly tramping around, appearing when least expected
rather as though he suspected something.

When daylight came the boy hooked a ride on the back of an early
milkcart, leaving the detective none the wiser and unconscious that his
vigil had been shared by an interested person.

During the morning Josie made an excuse for visiting the Hathaway
house, stating she wanted to borrow a book from the Colonel’s library.
Carefully she went over the house to make sure nobody had entered since
she and Mary Louise had left it the day before. Everything was as it
had been, not a sign of meddlers! She then went to the garage. Some
one had been in there, it was plain to see. The old-fashioned lock,
fastened by a large brass key, was easy enough to open with a skeleton
key. Not only had it been picked, but Josie saw that some one had been
in the Colonel’s dilapidated old car which now reigned supreme in the
place where the fine new car had been wont to shine with polished
supremacy. The scuffed cushions had been ripped open and some one in
feverish haste must have searched in the stuffing. The back of the car
was full of the hair torn from the inside of the cushions and springs
and strips of leather thrown on the floor gave evidence of a thorough
search having been made.

“I bet they didn’t find a thing,” grinned Josie. “This doesn’t look
like the leavings of a successful hunt.”

Nevertheless, she made a close examination of the garage, even going
upstairs to the room intended for a chauffeur. She then felt it
necessary to pay a visit to the chief. As usual, he was in his inner
office knitting his brows over an intricate problem of how to catch
wrongdoers.

“Well, General O’Gorman, how goes it?” was his playful greeting.

“Who had the watch last night at the Hathaway house?” Josie didn’t seem
to want to play.

“Will Slater.”

“What kind of a man is he?”

“Honest as the day is long and never goes to sleep when he is supposed
to keep awake!”

“Well, he was asleep on his job last night, although he kept walking
around the block all night.”

“What do you mean?” sternly.

“I mean that whoever watched the Hathaway house was only watching with
his legs and not using his head at all.”

“Well?”

“Some one got in the garage and ripped open the cushions in the
Colonel’s old car. Of course, the lost money was not there but, if it
had been, it would all have been got away with by now.”

“How do you know it wasn’t there?”

“Because I myself had already closely examined the cushions, examined
under the seats and in the pockets, every place where papers might have
been hidden.”

The chief pressed his electric bell.

“Tell Slater to come to me as soon as he comes in,” he told the man who
came at his summons.

“Excuse me, Chief,” Josie said earnestly, after the man had left, “but
please do not get me in bad with Slater. My father used to say that
nothing was so hard to combat as an antagonistic local police force
and I’m sure, if you let Slater know I have found out about the garage
being entered, he will have it in for me. Isn’t he the man who let
Felix Markle escape when we had him for sure? If it hadn’t been for
that wonderful young newspaper chap, Bob Dulaney, Markle would have
been a free man this day.”

“Strange to say he is a free man. I have just got a report that he has
broken jail and is at large.”

Josie whistled, a form of astonishment she occasionally permitted
herself.

“Well what’s the use?” she asked wearily. “What’s the use of nabbing
these persons if you hand them over to a set of boobs who can’t keep
them when once they get them? We can look out for the female of the
species now, Chief. She is as certain to get back to her Felix as a
homing pigeon. There is that one good thing about Hortense Markle.
She is surely crazy about her old man. I wonder if they will begin
operations around these parts. I shouldn’t be surprised if they did.
Dorfield proved an easy mark up to a certain point.”

“No, no! They would hardly come back here.” Chief Lonsdale spoke with
conviction. “They are too well known and they will, of course, be on
to the fact that I am possessed of the knowledge that Markle has got
out.” He spoke with a certain pomposity that very much amused Josie.
However, she concealed her grin and agreed with the chief.

“You won’t put Slater on to the fact that the garage has been entered,
will you?”

The chief pondered.

“Not if you say so, but I can’t have my men slighting their duty.”

“He didn’t slight his duty. I tell you he kept tramping around the
block steadily. Mr. and Mrs. Conant saw him and Mrs. Conant thought
he was after her garbage can. Irene Macfarlane saw him and told me he
walked all night. Of course, walking is not watching, but I am sure
Slater did his duty as he saw it. The thing is, he has mistaken his
calling and ought to be a bill sticker whose object is publicity of his
business. You might caution him a bit if he is to go on with the job
and tell him to keep in the shadows a little more and sometimes turn
and go the other way. My idea is that not only do we want to keep any
treasure hunter from gaining access to the Hathaway home but we also
want to nab anyone who is so inclined.”

“Of course!” said the chief shortly.

“See here, I haven’t offended you, have I?” asked Josie with concern.
“I thought you wanted me to be frank.”

“Of course, of course! I guess I am more mortified than offended,”
confessed Captain Lonsdale, who had a real affection for the daughter
of Detective O’Gorman, but who was naturally a bit put out that this
slip of a girl should have caught one of his prize officers bungling.
He determined to give the man a stiff lecture on detective work in
general and the job of patrolling a house liable to be broken into in
particular. It would be a sad affair if this treasure, that must be
somewhere, should be found and carried off by thieves under the very
nose of the police force.

Josie left the police station, her head bowed in thought. She went by
the Hathaway house again before she returned to the Higgledy Piggledy
Shop. Again she walked around the yard and this time she closely
examined the outside of the garage.

“Umhum! Vine a little crushed where some one pressed close to the
wall,” she muttered.

Stooping she regarded the earth attentively.

“Small footprints! Tennis shoes, I should say--either a boy or a woman.
Fortunate for Slater the light in the alley is so bright that that one
couldn’t enter the house without being seen even by a sleep-walker.
That’s what Slater is--a sleep-walker!”

Josie O’Gorman whistled thoughtfully, stared up at the silent house,
and walked slowly homeward.

A little later in the day, a dark haired boy came down the alley
walking jauntily and with seeming nonchalance. In his hand he carried a
weapon known to boy-land as a “gumbo shooter” or a “sling shot.” It is
not quite like the weapon used by David in the great killing of Goliath
of Gath. That was a sling shot which must be twirled rapidly around and
then let fly. But it is a similar means of offense and even more deadly.

The boy picked up pebbles, shooting at first one object then another,
apparently careless of what he was doing. He stopped a moment, looked
up and down the alley and, selecting a pebble with care as the shepherd
might have done when he prepared to kill the doughty giant, he took
accurate aim at the electric light and the sound of shattered glass
was the result. Then, snuggling close to the high board fence, he was
around the corner before anyone saw him and the light was not known to
be broken until night-fall. Even then nobody took the trouble to report
it and the rear premises of the Hathaway house were in total darkness
soon after sunset.



CHAPTER XV

THE TREATING TRYSTERS


It was astonishing how soon it was rumored abroad that Mary Louise,
who had always been looked upon as an heiress, was almost penniless
and was working for her living. The shock of her grandfather’s death
and then of her young husband’s shipwreck and drowning had hardly been
thoroughly discussed by the know-alls of the town before they had
to begin on the remarkable fact that Colonel Hathaway had, in some
mysterious way, disposed of his fortune. In the eyes of some, this loss
of fortune was even more serious than that of the beloved grandfather
and handsome, charming young husband.

“With plenty of money she could have got another husband, and as
for a grandfather--well it was a good thing he died when he did or
Mary Louise might have had to make a living for him too,” asserted a
worldly, heartless Dorfield gossip.

“Plenty of money certainly softens the blow of bereavement,” sighed
another whose rich trappings of woe proclaimed her as one who knew of
what she spoke.

“They say she is making hats at that funny Higgledy Piggledy Shop,”
proclaimed a third.

“Those girls do a right good business. I could hardly get along without
the Higgledy Piggledies. I laugh about them, but I go to them for all
kinds of things. That amusing little sandy-haired Miss O’Gorman told me
that they never turned down anything they were asked to do. She said
she would conduct a funeral if she got the order for it--and I believe
she would. They do what they undertake very well too. I have never had
anybody launder my best napkins so well. I am certainly going to give
Mary Louise an order for a hat. She wears lovely ones herself and I am
sure she can make them if she tries.”

The speaker was a wealthy young married woman who had the faculty
of setting the fashion simply because she had the courage of her
convictions and cared not at all what others thought. Her taste was
good and her pocketbook long, and where she went her set was sure to
follow.

Mary Louise was flooded with work the very first week of her new
enterprise.

“Don’t think this is a sample of what you are to expect, honey, but
realize that some of these hats you are asked to make are nothing but
fools’ caps,” admonished Josie. “They are for those who are coming to
you out of mere curiosity. A lot of the trade will stick though, I am
sure, because you are going to make the most stylish and the loveliest
hats in all Dorfield. I am glad to see you are laying in the very best
materials too. That’s where your having been rich will serve to your
advantage. You know, it is hard for persons who never have spent money
to begin and, when one has been accustomed to the best, it is an easy
matter to supply others with what you have been used to yourself. I’ll
wager within a month you are going to feel that, to do your customers
credit, you must take a trip to New York to get the latest styles and,
in not such a dim distant future you will be running across to Paris
to get in touch with the last cry in the way of millinery. I tell you,
Mary Louise, you are going to be a fine business woman before we know
it.”

Mary Louise smiled. She tried to do it cheerfully and not let any
sadness creep into her expression. The girls were so good to her and so
encouraging. It seemed to be her duty to respond to their kindness by
trying to be happy. She was happy in a way too, happier than she had
dreamed it possible she could ever be again. She was busy from morning
until night with no time in her schedule to indulge in vain regrets.
First, the Higgledy Piggledy Shop must be cleaned and their bed rooms
made up and the breakfast dishes washed. Elizabeth Wright came to
business in time to help with the cleaning of the shop. There was such
a variety of wares that unless it was kept in very good order there was
danger of its having the appearance of a junk shop, Josie declared, and
so the girls swept and dusted and tidied up the place with meticulous
care every morning. By the time the customers began to arrive, it was
spotless and orderly with a bright fire burning in the grate in the
front of the place and all traces of light housekeeping removed from
sight.

It began to be the fashion in Dorfield to meet one’s friends at the
Higgledy Piggledy Shop. It was centrally located, in spite of the fact
that the building was more or less tumbled down and very shabby, and it
was proving a convenient spot.

“I’ll just meet you at the Higgledy Piggledy,” could often be heard
among the gay set in Dorfield.

“I’ve been thinking,” said Mary Louise one evening late after the last
customer had departed and the girls had drawn up close to the fire for
a cheering cup of tea.

Elizabeth had decided not to go home but to spend the night on a
convenient Chesterfield that had been sent to the shop to be sold on
commission, and Irene was to have tea with her friends and later on Bob
Dulaney was to come by and wheel her home, a task in which he delighted.

“Well, what have you been thinking?” asked Josie. “So have I been
thinking and I still am.”

“I have been thinking we are wasting an opportunity here at the
Higgledy Piggledy.”

“An opportunity for what?” beamed Josie, whose theory that Mary Louise
was by the way of becoming a great financial factor in the business
world was still supreme with her.

“An opportunity for making money and for becoming more--more useful to
the community in which we live,” blushed Mary Louise.

“We are listening?” from Josie.

“We are dying to hear,” smiled Elizabeth, who was pleased with life
anyhow that evening since she had determined to get ahead of her
numerous family and their interminable questions and arguments by
simply staying away from them.

The misfortunes of Mary Louise were the subject uppermost in the minds
of the Wright family at that time and they had threshed the matter
threadbare, evidently talking of nothing else during the day and then
plying Elizabeth with more and more questions when she came home in the
evening. Elizabeth would shut up like a clam and would give them no
satisfaction whatsoever and then they would boldly assert that matters
were much worse even than they had dared hope or Mary Louise’s friends
would not be so secretive. Staying away from them seemed to be the only
way to manage them and stay away from them she determined to do.

Mary Louise stirred her tea thoughtfully and began timidly to explain
her statement that the Higgledy Piggledies were wasting an opportunity.

“Every afternoon, more or less of a crowd gathers here just meeting one
another. Now, my idea is that a crowd should be utilized. After they
meet, what do they do? Go off to various places and treat each other. I
know because I used to do it almost every afternoon of my life. My plan
is that they might treat each other right here.”

“Hurrah!” cried Josie.

“By the time they come, I am about through with my bonnet business and
I could serve tea easily, tea and cakes and sandwiches or cinnamon
toast or something light and easy. We could start in a small way and
then let the supply grow with the demand.”

“Listen to our captain of finance!” and Josie leaned over and patted
Mary Louise’s arm.

“It sounds mighty sensible to me,” declared Elizabeth.

“I could help a lot,” ventured Irene. “Aunt Hannah says nobody can make
such good toast as I can because I sit right by it and watch it.”

“Everything you do, you do better than anybody else,” said Mary
Louise. “What do you think of adding a tea service, girls?”

“We think: go to it!” cried Josie, delighted to know that Mary
Louise was interested enough to plan for the welfare of the Higgledy
Piggledies.

“I have all kinds of electric cooking things that Danny gave me.
Grandpa Jim, for some reason, was opposed to them and I kept them
packed away. I’ll go home and get them out of the attic and we can set
up shop to-morrow afternoon. I’ll bring the necessary china and silver
and table linen.”

“Don’t make it too fine,” cautioned Josie.

“Let’s name it the Higgledy Piggledy Electric Treating Tryst,”
suggested Elizabeth.

A knock on the door and Bob Dulaney and Billy McGraw entered. Fresh tea
was brewed for the two young men and then they were told of the scheme
Mary Louise had evolved concerning the Electric Treating Tryst.

“Nothing astonishes me,” confessed Billy. “You girls take an old barn
of a place and turn it into a thriving business and actually make a
living, make a living as it were on other persons’ laziness and now
you are threatening to feed the multitude. You can do anything!”

The misfortunes of Mary Louise had very much affected Billy McGraw.
He had been devoted to Danny with an intense admiration as well as
affection for him. The news of his death had been as sad a blow to him
as it had been to Bob Dulaney. When it was known that the grandfather’s
fortune had been mysteriously dissipated, he had rushed to the poor
little widow with offers of unlimited financial assistance, but Mary
Louise had explained that she was not in want and, thanking him sweetly
and gratefully, had, of course, refused all offers of financial aid.

The two young men were glad indeed when “Mrs. Danny,” as they called
Mary Louise, was moved from her big and now gloomy house to the more
cheerful and busy surroundings offered by the Higgledy Piggledies.

“Where are you going to feed these hungry swarms?” asked Bob Dulaney,
who, in spite of his poetical propensities, had a very practical mind.

“Right here, I guess!” answered Mary Louise. “Don’t you think there is
room?”

“Perhaps, but it will be kind of higgledy piggledy. I am wondering if
we couldn’t use some of this tremendous waste space that is up above
and swing a kind of balcony for the pink tea place?”

“Sure we could!” declared Billy. “Why not roof over the housekeeping
apartments, or rather, compartments, in the rear and make a nice broad
place above them for this new venture?”

“Splendid!” breathed Mary Louise. “The only thing I don’t like about it
here is having no roof to my room. Last night the little devil from the
Lincoln Cathedral perched himself on the top of my partition and made
faces at me all night. I prefer the bronze Buddhas who usually come and
look down on me.”

“Well, you shall have a roof now,” said Bob Dulaney with the brotherly
tenderness he felt for the little wife of his old friend, “and there
will be no room for Lincoln devils or bronze Buddhas or even Humpty
Dumpties.”

The very next day, late in the afternoon, the same crowd of young men
who had assisted in the carpentry and plumbing of the Higgledy Piggledy
Shop, except that poor Danny, who had been the ringleader and director
in the former enterprise, was missing, now came with lumber and tools
and noisily and quickly laid a floor across the two bed rooms, bath
room and kitchenette. The long narrow windows that had given more than
enough light and air for the bed rooms were now cut in half and served
upper and lower apartments.

Bob Dulaney arrived while the work was in progress, bearing on his
strong broad back a small flight of stairs he had ordered made at a
factory.

“I’ll bring the bannisters to-morrow,” he panted, as he leant the steps
against the wall leading to the balcony above. “I can’t drive a nail
straight myself and I remembered Edward Everett Hale’s advice to a
young man, ‘Never do for yourself what some one else can do better for
you,’ so I just had some one whose business it is to make steps make
these and the same genius is making some bannisters.”

Like magic the balcony was built and furnished, the proper connections
made for the electrical appliances and even a diminutive sink and water
pipes accomplished by the amateur plumbers.

Judicious advertising was done by the clever Elizabeth and in a short
while the girls were kept very busy with their new venture. It had
looked as though the balcony scheme might make it impossible for Irene
to assist, as there seemed no way to get her rolling chair to such an
elevation, but Bob Dulaney, again confessing himself unable to cope
with mechanics, had an expert come and with longer ropes and more
pulleys extend the dumb waiter service to the “mezzanine floor” as he
expressed it.

Irene’s chair was stationed by the table on which the various cooking
appliances were placed and she brewed wonderful, strong, clear coffee
in the electric percolator. Such crisp cinnamon toast was never seen as
that she made fresh for each customer, and the golden brown waffles
tasted like ambrosia, so the enthusiastic treating trysters declared.

To Mary Louise fell the task of serving as well as assisting Irene in
the cooking. Very sweet and demure she looked in her black dress with
white organdie collar and cuffs and little bibbed waitress’ apron. She
had not trained the many waitresses who had fallen out with Aunt Sally
without learning something of the art of waiting herself. Her skill
in serving astonished her as well as her friends. She never slopped
the tea or coffee, never dropped the spoons, never rattled the dishes,
never forgot the napkins or the water. In fact, she was so perfect that
a grand-dame, evidently a stranger in Dorfield, who had come into the
Higgledy Piggledy Shop in search of novelties and had stayed to tea,
was so impressed by the pretty waitress with the sad merry face and the
pretty clever hands that she had then and there offered her a job and
promised to pay her twice as much as she was getting in her present
position no matter what that sum might be.

“Of course, it is amusing,” Mary Louise said when she told her
indignant partners of the occurrence, “but it makes me feel rather
comfy to know that I can always make my living in some way or other.
The grand lady left her card with me in case I should ever change my
mind. You girls had better be very nice to me or I’ll go and take up
with another mistress,” she laughed.



CHAPTER XVI

A TENANT FROM THE WEST


Chief Lonsdale’s talk to Slater had a very salutary effect in that in
watching the Hathaway house he used eyes and ears as well as his heels
and did not confine himself to walking around and around the block
but made occasional trips into the yard examining doors and windows
and, every now and then, standing in the shadow of the building and
listening attentively. Of course, nothing happened to disturb the quiet
of his watch. Night after night the place was under surveillance and
morning after morning it was reported that nothing of importance had
happened. The light in the alley was broken very often and that caused
some anxiety but it seemed difficult to place the blame.

Once, Aunt Hannah Conant saw an Italian-looking youth taking aim at
the light with a gumbo shooter but she knocked on her kitchen window
and scared him away. Irene met this boy several times on her way to
the Higgledy Piggledy Shop. She looked at him a little curiously the
second time, for in some way he was familiar to her, something about
the set of his head or the turn of his pale emaciated cheek. He met her
eye boldly and a little saucily, making an almost imperceptible moue
which made Irene blush and drop her eyes.

“I can’t imagine where I have seen him before. Perhaps he is like some
picture--may even have posed for some artist. So many of the Italians
are models,” she said to herself.

After that, the boy avoided her, never meeting her face to face but,
several times in the dusk as she was on her way home, she saw his
shabby, if jaunty, back disappearing around the corner or sliding
up the alley. She didn’t mention this to anybody, it seeming of no
especial importance. When Aunt Hannah spoke of the boy with the gumbo
shooter, she was inclined to think it was the same one but, when one
mentioned anything to Aunt Hannah, she made so much of it that Irene
had fallen into the habit of keeping minor matters to herself, and so
she made no attempt to identify the saucy boy.

A tenant was not found for the Hathaway house in spite of its being
very desirable from many standpoints. It was large, comfortable, in a
good if not stylish neighborhood convenient to the business section.
There were many boarding house keepers who were anxious to get it, but
Mr. Conant was opposed to Mary Louise’s renting it to any of them.

“The wear and tear would eat up the profits,” he would declare. “Give
it away or burn it up but don’t rent it for a boarding house.”

And so the great house with its luxurious furnishings remained empty,
sad and gloomy in its isolation and desertion while its owner lived in
the Higgledy Piggledy Shop, a good part of the day busily plying her
clever needle fashioning hats and bonnets for the ladies of Dorfield
and, after five o’clock, donning her little white apron and serving tea
and cinnamon toast, waffles and hot chocolate to the hungry treating
trysters.

Months went by. Spring was in the air. Electric fans must be installed
at the Higgledy Piggledy to keep the balcony cool, the menu changed
somewhat to suit the weather. Business was flourishing.

“If we could rent the big house we could afford to put an awning on
that old back porch that is nothing more than a dirt catcher now,”
sighed Mary Louise, whose ideas for improvement in the business made
Josie clap her hands with delight.

Josie was rather glad the big house had not been rented. The loss
of the Colonel’s money was ever on her mind and she spent much time
studying the case and wondering if she could have overlooked any spot
in or about the house where gold might have been concealed. Of one
thing she was sure and that was he could not have buried it in the
yard. Manual labor was never Colonel Hathaway’s strong point and Josie
doubted that he could have handled a pick and shovel any better than
a new born baby. She hoped she could give the place another thorough
going over before a tenant took possession.

Uncle Peter Conant scorned the imputation that his old friend had
concealed actual cash anywhere. He was inclined to think he had bought
heavily in some gold mines he talked about and then had mislaid all
papers connected with the deal. It was rather strange that no clue to
the gold mines could be found. The Colonel seemed to have been the only
purchaser in stock of such mines. At least, Mr. Conant, after diligent
inquiry, could find out nothing about anyone else being involved. The
good old man was sorely puzzled.

“Jim Hathaway always was close-mouthed about his affairs but I was
certainly an unneighborly fool not to have questioned him some about
his business when I felt all the time he was not quite himself. I was
afraid of intruding. Thinking about myself and not about dear little
Mary Louise!” he would reproach himself.

Not many hours after Mary Louise had spoken of the desirability
of putting an awning over the old back porch and enlarging their
possibilities for tea service, the telephone rang with a message from
a real estate agent saying a tenant had been found for the Hathaway
house, a gentleman and his son. The gentleman was blind and wanted
a quiet retreat for a few months. He was not willing to take a long
lease on the house, as he expected to go abroad a little later on. Mr.
Conant advised Mary Louise to accept the proposition. Certainly a blind
gentleman and his young son could not do much damage to a furnished
house and it was better to get some one in for even one month than let
the property lie idle, eating its head off with taxes and insurance.

Mary Louise accepted the tenant joyfully.

“Now we can have an awning and some pretty wicker furniture for the
porch!” she exclaimed. “The agent says he has insisted upon their
paying in advance.”

“When will the new tenants go in?” asked Josie.

“Next week, I believe.”

“Have they seen the place?”

“No, they say they are willing to take it ‘as is’ and are sure it will
suit them. The agent was quite jubilant over such pleasant people
wanting it. They have a Chinaman who cooks for them. It seems they
are western people who are in Dorfield because of its climate. They
know nobody at all and are not anxious for acquaintances because of
the gentleman’s affliction. He has not been blind long and is very
sensitive about it until he can learn to handle himself with less
awkwardness.”

“Poor fellow!” spoke up Irene. “Aunt Hannah and I will try and be
neighborly.”

“I know you will, dear, and then perhaps they won’t want to go
abroad but will just keep the house for a long time. I am sure I’d
rather have you for a neighbor than go abroad,” said Mary Louise
affectionately.

Mary Louise had said all the time she wanted to rent the big house but
now that the thing was accomplished her heart misgave her. It seemed
so final to have strangers in her old home. All day the thought was
buzzing in her head, “My youth is dead and gone! I have no home! I have
no kin! I am alone.”



CHAPTER XVII

A MYSTERIOUS MESSAGE


The day was a busy one. Spring hats were being contemplated by old and
young. There was a rush of orders for Higgledy Piggledies generally.
Elizabeth had piles of typing on hand, Irene must mend some priceless
lace that was to be laundered by Josie, and Josie, on top of all the
other things that must be attended to, had a call from Chief Lonsdale
that caused her to put her hat on hind part before and actually run to
his office.

At five o’clock, work was put aside and there was an inrush of
treaters. For the first time, Mary Louise’s hands shook and she slopped
the tea in the saucers and behaved like the tired nervous little person
she had a right to be.

“How can people eat so much at this time of day when they are all going
home to late dinners or suppers?” she whispered to Irene, who was
sedately baking waffles.

“Don’t put that into their heads,” laughed Irene. “But, honey, you are
tired, aren’t you?”

“No, not tired--just--”

“I know! Run on out doors. You need some air. I can serve these few
persons.”

“No, I’ll wait until after dark. I feel, somehow, as though I could not
face the light.” Mary Louise forced back the tears that had been trying
all day to find the proper outlet.

Irene and Elizabeth had gone home and Mary Louise was left alone in the
shop. Josie telephoned she would be late, not to wait supper for her.
Evidently there was important business on hand with Chief Lonsdale.

“If you are lonesome, run on to Irene’s,” suggested Josie. “I’ll come
and pick you up and we’ll come home together about ten.”

“Oh, no, I’m not the least bit lonesome,” declared Mary Louise,
stoutly. The fact was she was pleased to be alone for a while with her
sad, sad thoughts. She could not bear to burden her kind good friends
with the sorrow that sometimes enveloped her, and it was a relief to
find solitude when she might give way to her grief without feeling that
she was distressing anyone.

“I feel that I must see the old house once more,” she said to herself,
“just once before strangers go in it.”

It was dusk. The key to the big house was safe in her pocketbook. She
put on her little black hat with a widow’s ruche that, although it was
so becoming, gave a pathetic touch to her sweet, pensive face.

The streets were almost deserted in the business section of town. As
Mary Louise walked rapidly towards her old home, she saw two figures
about half a block ahead of her, a man and a boy. They were walking
slowly and the man had one hand on the boy’s shoulder while in the
other he carried a cane with which he made tentative taps on the
sidewalk.

“They must be my tenants,” she thought. “I wonder where I have seen
them before. The man stoops over like an old man but he doesn’t really
look so old. I am mighty sorry for him, but I won’t stop and claim
them as tenants this evening.” She crossed the street and hurried on.
Glancing over her shoulder when she got opposite to them she could
see that the boy had noticed her and said something in a low tone to
his father who straightened up and turned his blue goggles in her
direction.

“They must know I’m their new landlord,” she said to herself. “I wonder
how!”

The old home was very quiet and peaceful. She crept in the front gate
and lingered for a moment on the porch. Then she walked down into the
garden and stood for a moment in the very spot where, less than a
year before, she had stood with Danny while the wedding ceremony was
performed. Grandpa Jim had stood right here; and here was Irene in her
chair, her face all aglow with love; and the bridesmaids had been there
on that spot prettily grouped in their pastel-colored chiffon frocks;
there had stood Hortense, the perfidious Hortense.

“Poor Hortense! How could she have been what she was? I wonder if
she has known of my suffering and if she has been sorry for me,” she
mused. “I have always felt sorry for her. She loved her Felix and must
have suffered agonies untold when he was caught and imprisoned. Josie
tells me he has escaped. I do hope they won’t catch him again and that
somewhere he and his ‘Pet’ are together.” She smiled at the thought of
Markle’s name for his wife.

Slowly she approached the house again and, fitting her key to the
latch, opened the door and walked in. It was as she and Josie had left
it. Everything was in perfect order. A soft sprinkling of dust on the
floors and furniture showed up as she turned her flashlight here and
there. The dusk outside had deepened and the house with its lowered
shades and closed blinds was in oppressive darkness. The electric
light, gas, and water had been turned off when she had vacated. Mary
Louise thought the telephone service had been discontinued as well, for
she was not aware of the fact that Chief Lonsdale and Josie had seen
to it that the connection was still on in case the man watching the
house should need it. Josie paid the bill each month, saying nothing
to Mary Louise about it. She had told Mary Louise she would see to the
telephone and the girl had thought no more about it.

Suddenly the gloom and silence of the house was cut by a sharp and
prolonged ringing of the telephone bell.

“How strange!” Mary Louise darted back to the dining room where the
telephone had always stood and quickly took down the receiver.

“Yes, this is Colonel Hathaway’s residence--Mrs. Dexter is at the
’phone--Long distance wants her--? Where?--What--long distance?”

A strange clicking and buzzing--then: “Here’s your party!”

“Hello!” from Mary Louise. “Yes, I am Mary Louise--Who is it? I can’t
hear very well--Who do you say it is? Oh, I can’t hear! I can’t hear! A
little louder! Maybe central can give better connection.”

All she could hear was a faint whisper that seemed to come from another
world, in fact, she could not believe it was a human voice. So far away
and indistinct, it seemed to be but the pulsing of her own veins, blood
pounding against her ear drums like the “sigh that silence heaves.” The
whisper seemed to say: “Are you well, my beloved?”

“Yes!” she gasped, “I am well--” and then she fell in a little crumpled
heap on the floor.



CHAPTER XVIII

CLOSED FOR REPAIRS


Josie was closeted with Chief Lonsdale for a long time. He had much
interesting news to impart to her. She was all attention as he read a
long communication from New York. She whipped out a little blank book
and began taking notes in the cryptic characters taught her by her
father.

“I want to be sure not to forget a word,” she apologized to the chief.
“I tell you there is going to be something doing before so very long,
here in old Dorfield. It isn’t such a sleepy spot after all, in spite
of its name.”

“No, not with the Higgledy Piggledies to keep things lively,” laughed
the chief. “How about Jim Hathaway’s fortune? Anything turned up there
yet?”

“Nothing! Mary Louise, at last, has a tenant for the big house and I
am going there as soon as you finish divulging things to me and make
another examination of the premises. I might have overlooked some spot.
Even girl detectives make mistakes you know, Chief.”

“Sure they might, but I know one who doesn’t make many,” he said, and
Josie blushed in spite of herself. Praise from the chief was pleasant
to hear.

“I’ll have to confess that I have had the place gone over myself by two
trusted and highly efficient detectives,” he added, “and, after combing
it with a fine-tooth comb, they report there is no sign of treasure
or papers or anything to indicate Hathaway has hidden anything there.
Conant and I decided we had better do it, not that we didn’t trust you,
my dear, but sometimes even the most careful can overlook what is right
under their noses. You know that.”

“Of course, I know it and so you won’t mind if I go after your men and
make another search?”

“Go as far as you like and good luck to you. Who is the tenant?”

“A blind gentleman from the west. I don’t know his name.”

“Well, I hope he will pay his rent and not break up her things. Goodby,
my dear, and keep your eyes open on this subject we have had under
discussion, eyes open and mouth closed.”

“Yes, sir,” she said respectfully, although such remarks did make her a
bit weary.

“Mouth closed, indeed!” she said to herself as she hurried off. “I bet
he doesn’t send out his male detectives with any such admonitions and I
bet they do more talking than the women.”

She stopped for supper at a small, cheap restaurant where she hastily
swallowed a sandwich and a cup of coffee. She then stopped at a drug
store and bought new batteries for the two large flashlights she had
in the pockets of her jacket. Fortified by the sandwich and coffee and
armed with the flashlights as well as the small revolver she carried on
dangerous missions, she made her way to the Hathaway house.

“It is a good thing I kept my latch-key,” she said as she fitted it
into the lock on the front door. “Father used to say it was a good
thing to keep all the keys of all the places one could.”

Once in the building she turned on one of her flashlights.

“Humph! Somebody been in ahead of me,” she said to herself, examining
the floor of the hall. “Somebody and that body with small feet!” She
turned on both flashlights to examine more thoroughly the footprints in
the dust.

“I bet Slater doesn’t know it, but I fancy he has let up lately or will
let up now that there is a tenant coming in tomorrow.” She followed
the foot prints along the hall and into the dining room. They led
straight to where Mary Louise lay in the little heap on the floor, the
telephone, with the receiver out, fallen beside her.

“God bless my soul!” exclaimed Josie. “She was faint and tried to call
some one. Poor child! She shouldn’t have come here alone. The place has
proved too much for her.”

Tenderly she stretched out the slender figure, placing a cushion from
the den under her body, thereby giving the heart a chance to function.
Then she grasped the telephone and, putting back the receiver, she
waited a moment and then called up Dr. Coles, told him of Mary Louise’s
being in a faint, and received his assurance that he would be there in
a moment.

He was as good as his word and, almost before Josie could count ten, he
was at the door in his car.

Mary Louise opened her eyes as he came in and smiled wanly. She tried
to say something.

“Never mind talking just yet, Mrs. Dexter,” he said, his eyes full of
compassion.

“Let’s get her home first,” suggested Josie. “Home to the Higgledy
Piggledy.”

“Can she be quiet enough there?” he asked.

“Yes, indeed, we can shut up shop until she is herself again. She is
better off right there.”

Dr. Coles carried her from his car up the stairs and laid her on her
little bed in her pigeon-hole of a room.

“You are very good to me, Dr. Coles. You remember how Grandpa Jim
called the wireless I got from Danny a message from the spirit
world--well I have had another--it was strange, very strange. You see,
the telephone service had been discontinued at the big house but, just
as I entered the front door, the telephone bell rang. It was strange
that I was there, but something had been driving me all day to go
home--it is rented now, tenants coming in to-morrow. I was glad when
Josie telephoned she was not coming back to the shop for supper. It
gave me a chance to go home and go alone. I felt I must see it once
more. I wanted to be alone--alone with those who have gone. It seemed
to me as though their voices were calling me--”

“Yes.”

“When the telephone rang, I ran to it as fast as I could. The house was
almost dark but I had my flashlight--I could hardly hear what was said,
but knew some one wanted me--I thought it was a long distance message--”

“Was it?”

“Yes, a very long distance! Dr. Coles, it seemed to be Danny. It
wasn’t quite like him because he sounded so far away. I couldn’t
really say for sure that it was a voice at all. It might have been my
imagination--it might have been--I don’t know what--but oh, Dr. Coles,
it said--it said--‘Are you well, my beloved?’ faintly but distinctly,
and I tried to answer but everything got black before me and I didn’t
know anything more until you came into the room. Josie seemed to have
some kind of intuition that I had gone home because she found me,
didn’t she?”

Josie was controlling her sobs with difficulty while Mary Louise was
telling the doctor what had happened. Josie never cried and it was
a novel experience to the girl to be overcome with tears just when
her dear Mary Louise needed her most. But it was so pathetic to see
her little friend more or less out of her mind. She was sure that was
the case. The ghostly old house, so full of memories, had got on her
nerves and the memory of her grandfather’s having thought the wireless
from Danny was from the spirit world had come back to her and she had
fancied a message over the telephone.

Dr. Coles mixed up two doses of aromatic ammonia and made Josie swallow
one and the patient the other. He then called Josie to the front of the
shop and told her Mary Louise must be kept quiet for a day or so even
if it meant closing the shop.

Josie responded promptly:

“That will be all right. We’ll just put up a sign. ‘Closed for
repairs,’ and nobody will be the wiser whether it is repairs on the
place itself or one of the inmates. I fancy we had better not mention
this to anyone, don’t you, Dr. Coles?”

“Perhaps it would be just as well. When Mrs. Dexter gets stronger, she
can talk about it if she chooses. That is her affair. In the meantime,
I’ll be around in the morning. I am giving her a sleeping powder to
insure a good night’s rest. Who are the tenants she says are going in
the old Hathaway house?”

“A blind gentleman and his young son. They have a Chinese cook and hail
from the far west, so I hear.”

“Well, I hope they won’t give our poor little friend any trouble. She
has had enough. Fortunately she is blessed with a robust constitution.
Her pulse is strong and I am not looking for any trouble from
this--this--whatever this supposed telephone call might be called. She
is a very sensible young person and not at all emotional. It was a
thing that might have happened to anyone who had gone through so much
in the last few months. The dark, mysterious looking house and all
the memories that had crowded around her and then the thought of the
wireless message she got from her husband the night her grandfather had
that stroke--all of these things might easily combine so that she might
fancy anything. Keep her quiet and cheerful and let me know if you need
me. I am glad Mrs. Dexter has such a level-headed friend.”

“Even though I gave way and cried?”

“Oh, that was good for you. I was glad to see you do it. Now I can
trust you not to go to pieces after I leave.”

Mary Louise slept through the night, thanks not only to the powder the
doctor gave her but to a kind of peace that had fallen on her. She
felt tired and had a sense of sweet restfulness and protection. She
no longer worried, no longer sorrowed. The color returned to her pale
cheeks and the breath came softly and regularly. Josie watched her
anxiously until she realized that all was well with her dear little
friend and then she went to sleep herself and dreamed wonderful dreams
about catching and jailing evil-doers and finding Colonel Hathaway’s
lost fortune all by herself without the aid of Captain Charley Lonsdale
and his bungling assistants.



CHAPTER XIX

A MIDNIGHT CALLER


The blind gentleman with his son and the Chinese cook moved into the
Hathaway house very quietly, so quietly that nobody saw them when they
came, although Aunt Hannah Conant took particular pains to watch for
them. They must have come in while she was seeing to it that the ice
man didn’t track up her clean kitchen. They had paid a month’s rent in
advance, procured the key from the agent, and taken possession.

Aunt Hannah was very curious about them, but, watch as she might, she
could see no sign of activity in the now occupied house.

“The idea of people calling themselves Christian and having a heathen
Chinese to do their work!” she grumbled to Irene and her husband.

“I haven’t heard that they called themselves Christian,” Peter Conant
shouted in reply.

“Not Christians! Heavens! You don’t suppose Mary Louise would rent to
infidels? I don’t think such a crime should be tolerated in the United
States of America.”

There was no stopping Aunt Hannah when she took the bit of argument
between her teeth and removed her trumpet from her ear.

“I intend to go over and find out for myself,” she insisted. “I fancy
the blind man would be glad of a little company, anyhow, even if he is
an unbeliever.”

“Will you just go and ask what their religious opinions are, Aunt
Hannah?” laughed Irene, placing the trumpet in her aunt’s ear and
holding it there.

“No, but I’ll make a neighborly call and ask them to come sit in my pew
at church.”

“Chinese cook and all?” inquired her husband.

“Why not? I do hope he’ll tuck in his shirt though.”

Aunt Hannah Conant was as good as her word and, after a few days, put
on her bonnet and, taking a pan of fresh rolls, hot from the oven
and wrapped in one of her best napkins, went over to call on the
blind gentleman and his son and incidentally to find out what their
religious beliefs were and if the Chinese cook had been converted to
Christianity or still ate bird’s nest soup and roasted rats.

She had to ring several times before the door was opened.

“The rolls will get cold if they are not taken in out of the air,” she
grumbled.

Finally, the door opened just a wee crack and the Chinaman’s face
appeared. Aunt Hannah, not having heard the approach of the domestic,
jumped as she realized his ugly face was so close to hers.

“Oh!” she said. “I just came over to bring your poor master some fresh
bread and to call on him,” and Mrs. Conant stuck her trumpet in her ear
and handed the snowy napkin of rolls to the man.

“Thank ee, klindly, but mlaster not ploor and not hungly.”

Aunt Hannah found herself alone with the hot rolls clasped to her
indignant bosom.

“Well I never! Of all the impertinence! I have always been taking new
neighbors some little friendly offering. To think of this heathen
Chinese speaking to me in that way!” She stalked home and was so
wrought up and indignant she forgot to take off her bonnet.

As for the Chinaman, he laughed until his queue bounced up and down
like a bell rope. The blind gentleman, who had overheard his reply to
the would-be friendly neighbor, laughed also and the son seemed to be
equally amused.

“The only thing is I wish you had taken in the rolls. I must say I
should have liked a taste of good homemade bread. Yours is atrocious,
Wink Lee.”

The Chinaman laughed and replied in good English that the young master
had better try his hand at breadmaking; perhaps he could do better.

The tenants had been in the Hathaway house for four or five days. They
seemed to be enjoying the peace and quiet of the establishment. The
blind gentleman and his son were together constantly and never ran
out of conversation. Sometimes they called Wink Lee to the library
and would hold long and rather intimate talks with him. The books
interested the son more than anything in the house, but he did not
read much, only looked them over, taking down volume after volume and
running through the pages slowly and laboriously.

Four days and four nights had the new neighbors been in the house and
never a peep had Aunt Hannah Conant had at them except the one glimpse
she had been treated to of the heathen Chinese’s evil countenance
through the crack in the front door. The shades all over the house were
kept down and, on the side next to the Conants’, the blinds remained
closed.

“Anybody would think the whole bunch of them were blind and not just
the old gentleman,” Aunt Hannah declared testily. “If there is anything
I hate it is unneighborly neighbors.”

“What difference does it make?” Mr. Peter Conant would ask. “It is
better to have neighbors who mind their own business than ones who run
in your back door, for instance.”

“I’d like to see that pig-tail coming in my back door. I’d put him
where he belongs. ‘Not hungly!’ when I took a pan of my very best light
rolls to the ungrateful turnupnosed peacocks.”

On the fifth night of their occupancy at about midnight the tenants
were aroused by the sound of a voice in the back yard calling softly,
“Aunt Sally! Uncle Eben! Please let me in!”

Gravel was thrown against the back upstairs window.

There was no response to this pleading and then the call was louder and
more persistent, “Aunt Sally! Uncle Eben! Wake up!”

Then the doorbell was rung, at first gently, and then with more force.

After much delay, Wink Lee crept down the front steps and opened the
door just a tiny crack.

“Uncle Eben, this is I! Don’t you know me?”

“I’m not Luncle Leben.”

“Oh, then they have a new butler. Well, let me in whoever you are.”

The would-be intruder was a tall young man, shabby and travel-stained,
but with an air of breeding and a poise about him that would have
impressed any ordinary butler. But Wink Lee was not an ordinary butler
and was not at all impressed. He merely slammed the door in the young
man’s face.

“Well, you chink, do you think for an instant that I am going to leave?
I’ll ring here all night before I’ll give up.” He accordingly pressed
the electric bell with a determined finger.

The inmates stood this noise for about five minutes and then, from a
second story window, came an indignant voice, “Leave this instant,
sir, or I shall call up the police.”

“Excuse me, madam,--I--I--used to live here and am hunting my--wife--my
wife--Mary Louise--Mrs. Dexter.”

There was an involuntary exclamation from the person above and then
silence.

“Madame! Whoever you are--can’t you tell me where my wife is?” he
entreated.

After some delay the Chinaman appeared again at the door.

“Mly mlaster say he no got no lidea where your life is. He stlanger in
lis town. Just rent this house for one two month.”

“And your mistress--the lady who spoke to me from the window--doesn’t
she know Mrs. Dexter?”

“Me glot no mistless. No lady in lis house.” Again the door was shut,
and Danny Dexter was shut out for the second time from the house he had
called home.

Danny it was, not dead but alive, very much alive and very hungry and
nearly wild to see his Mary Louise. The Spokane had gone down with all
on board, but Danny did not happen to be aboard when she went down.
He had taken to one of the lifeboats with a party of passengers who
preferred braving the fierce sea to the slow waiting for the ill-fated
Spokane to sink with a chance of help coming before she was submerged.
They had been picked up by a schooner bound for the South Seas and it,
in turn, had been wrecked. They had with difficulty reached an island
that as far as they could tell had never been reached before. There
they had been put to their wits to keep alive, but had managed to do it
until relief had come in the shape of the usual trading vessel stopping
for water and also on the chance of doing some business with natives if
there were any.

San Francisco was reached at last by the weary and homesick Danny and
there he had taken advantage of the first opportunity he had had to
communicate with Mary Louise since the wireless he had sent her from
the Spokane. He longed so to hear her voice that he was guilty of the
extravagance of calling her on the long distance telephone. The result
was not very satisfactory except that he had heard her voice and a
whispered “yes” that she was well. He had told her he would be home in
a few days just as fast as the train could carry him and for her to
tell his firm he was all right and sorry to have fallen down on his
contract, but there had been nothing except a buzzing in the receiver
and then he had been disconnected. He had tried again, but the operator
had repeatedly assured him the line was busy and she would call as soon
as she could get the party. His train left in half an hour, so he could
not wait for the telephonic connection.

It seemed a very strange thing for Mary Louise to know he was coming,
at least he thought she must know it, as she had surely been on the
line, and still for her not even to awaken when he rang the bell. She
had certainly been at the Hathaway house when he called up only a few
days before. Now, here were perfect strangers in the home--not all
strangers, however, as the voice of the lady who had spoken from the
window was certainly familiar. Whose could it have been? Where was his
Mary Louise?



CHAPTER XX

SLATER MAKES AN ARREST


Danny’s first thought was that he would go to Mr. Peter Conant’s next
door and find out where his little wife was and what was the matter
with things in general, but he felt it would be an imposition on the
kind neighbors to rouse them at such a late hour. He himself was weary
with a fatigue that was staggering. He had had a long and tiresome
journey from the Pacific coast with but little sleep owing to the
excitement of getting back to the United States and the possibility
of once more seeing his darling Mary Louise. He might go dig out Bob
Dulaney and spend the rest of the night with him. There was Billy
McGraw--always glad to see him! There were many friends who would
surely welcome him back with enthusiasm, but Danny felt he had better
snatch a nap before trying to tackle anything more. He had the terrible
let-down feeling natural after the strain he had been on for months.

He remembered the room in the garage where he had lived when he first
came to work for Colonel Hathaway. Why not go there until daylight? The
door of the garage was locked, but Danny knew of old how easy it was to
draw the hasp without disturbing the padlock. He accordingly did it and
entered the garage from the rear. The arc light in the alley made the
place quite light as the doors swung open.

“Golly Moses! Where’s the big car? Nothing but the Colonel’s old
time-honored rattle-trap left! Jacked up as though they meant to keep
it forever, too!”

He mounted the stairs to the tower room. The place was bereft of
furniture and swept clean. Mary Louise had given Aunt Sally and Uncle
Eben all of the things that had been there.

“Humph! I guess I’ll have to curl up in the ‘old reliable’,” he grinned.

Danny Dexter had a passion for any kind of an automobile. Even Colonel
Hathaway’s old relic had its appeal for him. He gave it an affectionate
pat.

“I wonder if the old fellow has come to his senses,” he said to
himself. “I sure do hope so, but there is something mighty mysterious
going on around here. Who in the dickens was that woman who spoke to
me from the upstairs window? The Colonel’s window at that! Why did
the chink say there was no lady in the house? I wish I wasn’t so dead
tired. I feel as I used to in the trenches when I’d drop asleep under
fire. It would take a big explosion to rouse me now. I wonder why the
cushions have been all busted up. I bet the old gentleman raised some
Cain about that. Are the tires any good yet? They haven’t been used for
an awful long time I fancy. Mary Louise never was much on running this
old car except to please her grandfather.”

He caught hold of the front wheel and gave it a shake. “Gee it rattles!
Flabby on top--and Jumping Jupiter! What’s that?”

There was a strange rattle and then a kind of crash and something began
to pour from the tire over Danny’s feet. He jumped back and, thanks to
the light from the alley, he could see what was happening. From the
tire, which had broken at the bottom, there came a stream of gold,
twenty-dollar gold pieces.

“This is something awful!” he cried. “I’ve the delirium tremens
without ever having a drop to drink. I’ll have to let somebody know
about this, though, because it might be so and maybe I haven’t ’em
after all. If that chink knew, he’d be out here raking it in. I wonder
what the lady with the rich voice would do if she knew! I’ll be bound
she wouldn’t be quite so indifferent about a poor wanderer’s comfort
nor so snappy about calling the police. Jimminy crickets! I know whose
voice it was--Hortense Markle’s! It has just come to me! The plot
thickens and deepens. No more thought of sleep for you, Danny Dexter!
You’ve got to get a move on you.”

He found a gunny sack hanging on a nail behind the door and he
carefully shoveled up the gold pieces into this. He did not stop to
count them nor will I endeavor to say how many there were, but it was
a bag full and so heavy that he could swing the load to his back only
with difficulty.

Gently Danny lowered it to the floor.

“I’m not man enough to carry it,” he groaned, “not until I get some
eats, at least. If I leave it here, the chink and the woman will come
and get it and, if I try to carry it off, I’ll faint by the wayside. I
wonder if the other tires are gold mines too.”

Cautiously he felt of the others, but fortunately the rubber had held
better in those and, although they too were full of something, it did
not come rolling out on the feet of the young man. He found a slot had
been cut in each tire just large enough for a twenty-dollar gold piece
to be slipped in.

“I wish I could get hold of Josie O’Gorman. She’s got sense to burn.
I’ll run there as fast as I can but, before I go, I’ll hide the
treasure.” He carefully lifted the bag into the car and covered it with
the old cushions and horse hair that had been pulled from them.

Closing the door carefully and sticking the hasp back into the holes
from which he had drawn it, he began to run down the alley.

“Stop!” called out a voice from the shadows of the opposite fence.
“Stop or I fire!”

“Well, I’ve stopped, now what do you want? Can’t a gentleman run down
an alley without getting shot?”

The man stepped from the shadow and, turning back the lapel of his
coat, disclosed a star. It was Slater, who still had his eye on the
Hathaway house, for his week was not quite finished. Slater was a
creature of habit and did not like to break in on a week.

“A cop! Bless me if I’m not glad to see you!”

“See here, none of your gaff, young man! What would you be glad to see
me about? Why would a man who was evidently running away from somebody
be after being glad to see a policeman? You come along here and report
to headquarters.”

“Gee, Captain, don’t stop me now, for the love of Mike! There is going
to be something doing at the Hathaway house before so very long and
you stay here and guard the premises. Don’t let anybody get out of the
house back or front and don’t let anybody go in the garage. I tell you
it is mighty important.”

“No doubt, but you come and tell your tale to the chief. He knows
what’s important and what’s not. March!”

Danny had a feeling he had best obey the man when he felt something
poking in his ribs. He was furious at the occurrence, but deemed it
wiser to keep quiet as to his real reason for wanting the garage
watched. The man was so stolid one could not tell whether he was to be
trusted or not.

“Well, hurry up! I’ve got a lot of things to do to-night besides call
on Chief Lonsdale. I’ll be glad to see the old boy, however.”

“You won’t see him until morning. The chief doesn’t spend the night in
his office.”

“Thunderation! Then let me telephone Miss Josie O’Gorman! Morning may
be too late.”

“Well, since Miss O’Gorman is on the case as it were, I’ll take you by
and let you have a look in on her.”

“On what case?”

“The Hathaway case! You don’t know so much after all if you don’t know
about that.”

“No, I don’t know a thing. I just got here about an hour ago.”

“Humph! You seemed to know how to get in and out of a strange garage
pretty well for some one just got to town,” sneered Slater.

“Tell me what the Hathaway case is.”

“Never! What you don’t know won’t hurt you. What do you want with Miss
O’Gorman?”

“What you don’t know won’t hurt you either,” retorted Danny.

“It’s a bit irregular for me to be taking you around to little
O’Gorman’s before reporting at the police station. I’ve changed my
mind. Just turn in here, young man, and you can call on the ladies
tomorrow. I’ve got a sure thing against you. I saw you come out of the
garage and carefully put the hasp back in the door and then turn and
run down the alley.”

“Well, one thing, Mr. Policeman, if you don’t get a move on you and put
me in communication with either Miss O’Gorman or the chief of police, I
bet you lose your job.”

They entered the police station. Contrary to his usual habits, Chief
Lonsdale was in his office, although it was after one o’clock. Danny
was taken in to him immediately, much to the relief of that young man.

“Hello, Chief Charley!” he cried.

“And who are you, young man? By golly if it ain’t a ghost! Danny
Dexter, what in the name of heaven! Why boy, we have been mourning you
for drowned. What’s your charge against this man, Slater!” he asked,
his eye twinkling.

“House breaking, your honor! I found him sneaking out of the Hathaway
garage and then running down the alley like he’d done something he
hadn’t oughter.”

“Umhum! Well, you can leave him with me, Slater. You did quite right
according to your lights. The Hathaway garage happened to belong in
his family, but you didn’t know that. This is Colonel Hathaway’s
grandson-in-law.”

“Well, why didn’t you say so?” Slater asked Danny sullenly.

“Because what you didn’t know wouldn’t hurt you,” retorted Danny. “But
see here, Chief,” he said turning to Lonsdale, “the Hathaway garage
ought to be watched and the house has some very doubtful inmates that
should not be allowed to escape. I’m hunting my wife and I’m so tired
and hungry I’m ready to fall down.”

“Well, well! Slater, get two more men and run back double quick to the
Hathaway house and do what this young man says is necessary. Don’t let
anybody in or anybody out without keeping track of them. Guard the
garage carefully. Go!”

Slater, a bit bewildered, left in a hurry to execute his chief’s
orders.

“And now, Danny, tell me all about it,” asked Lonsdale, his hand
resting affectionately on the young man’s shoulder.

“First, tell me about my wife, about Mary Louise.”

The story was quickly told. Danny was deeply moved at the news of
Colonel Hathaway’s death. He was relieved to hear that Mary Louise was
with Josie, of whose heart and sense he thought highly.

“And she is well?” he asked eagerly.

“She has been until the last few days, but I heard she was a little
under the weather lately,” confessed Mary Louise’s old friend.

Danny then told the chief of the shower of gold that had greeted him
when he shook the automobile tire.

“Well, by golly, all of us missed it!” exclaimed Lonsdale. “Little
O’Gorman made a thorough search and some treasure hunters went through
the garage and I sent two of my best men to go over the whole place
again and here you come hastening back from a watery grave and the
stuff knocks you down. I’ll send immediately and have it gathered up.
You must go along too, Danny.”

“Not until I see my wife!” rebelled Danny.

“Well, you’d hardly wake her up this time of night when she’s been
ailing, besides.”

“Of course not!” Danny agreed ruefully.

“By the way, our old friend Markle has broken jail and is at large
again,” said the chief. “That’s one reason why I am down here to-night.
There is reason to believe he is headed this way. We are on the lookout
for him.”

“Well, I bet you I know where he is,” cried Danny.

“I bet you don’t,” the chief retorted incredulously.

“He is in the Hathaway house, at least his wife is.”

“No! A blind man and his son and a Chinese cook are the only inmates of
the old house.”

“Well, if I didn’t hear Hortense Markle’s voice this night from an
upstairs window, I’m a Dutchman. That is one reason I wanted your
excellent Slater to let me come by myself to report things and have
him stay and watch the premises but he was so pig-headed he would come
along.”

“Slater was doing his duty as he saw it,” rumbled the chief. “But now
we’d best get busy. I tell you it would be a big feather in the cap of
the police force of Dorfield if they got the Markles, man and woman,
and also unearthed the Hathaway fortune the same night.”

Danny laughed. “Well, Chief, you can catch the Markles, but I must
say that the treasure wasn’t buried and it simply gave itself away. I
don’t think we can give anybody credit for it. I certainly don’t want
to claim credit. I simply was going to bunk in the old car for the rest
of the night and the twenty-dollar gold pieces just rolled out over my
feet. We’d better go carry them off, however, or the Markles will do it
for us, since you won’t let me go wake up my wife yet. You haven’t got
a bit of hot dog about you, have you? I’m starving.”



CHAPTER XXI

FORTUNE SMILES AND FROWNS


The rest in bed had done Mary Louise good. She felt quite herself again
and was now able to get up and be about. The shop had remained closed
for several days, days that all of the girls had enjoyed. It seemed the
minute the public found out it was impossible to enter the Higgledy
Piggledy Shop, enter it must.

Mary Louise had said nothing more about her telephone call from the
spirit world. She was sure she had been dreaming and, although the
doctor and Josie gave her every opportunity to bring up the subject if
she felt so inclined, she hesitated to do it.

“They will think I am foolish,” she said to herself. A strange
unreasonable hope began to take possession of her, however. She could
not explain it, but there it was.

Very early in the morning, the same morning that had found Danny
telling his story to Chief Charley Lonsdale, the girls of the
Higgledy Piggledy were stirring. Josie was dressed and starting to
cook breakfast, and Mary Louise was just pinning into place her white
organdie collar and settling her cuffs when there was a double knock on
the door.

“It must be a telegram or something--too early for customers. Go to the
door like a duck, Mary Louise. The bacon is sure to burn if I leave it
a minute.”

Mary Louise tripped across the floor and opened the door. There was
not a sound and Josie kept on frying bacon, turning it carefully and
patting it down to get the twists out of it.

“What is it, Mary Louise?” There was no answer and so she turned around
to see what was the occasion of such silence and there was her little
partner wrapped in the arms of a tall young man in a shabby serge suit.

“Well, of all the--Mary Louise, have you gone nuts? What do you mean by
such behavior, you scamp?” She came to the conclusion that Mary Louise
was being murdered by a tramp, and seizing the rolling pin with which
she had just been rolling out biscuit she rushed to the defense of her
friend. Before she struck, however, she recognized Danny. Then she
dropped the rolling pin and began to hug him herself with almost as
much enthusiasm as Mary Louise.

Explanations could not be made in a moment. Danny must tell over and
over how he wasn’t dead and Mary Louise must tell how she had been
making her living and about Grandpa Jim. Then Danny put in a word
concerning the gold pieces that had come tumbling from the old tire.
The finding of the fortune did not seem to be nearly so important to
those young people as some other things. Danny’s being so hungry was
much more important to Mary Louise. Even Josie seemed to think the fact
that she had just laid in a supply of sliced bacon and had a dozen eggs
in the refrigerator and had cut out enough biscuit for two meals, which
might make enough for one for Danny, was of great import.

“I could kick myself for missing the treasure,” cried Josie. “I
thought I had looked everywhere. Those stupid policemen too! I’m glad
they didn’t get ahead of me. Some one else had been in there too. You
noticed how the cushions were all pulled to pieces didn’t you, Danny?”

“Yes, and I bet I know who had been looking for the money,” said
Danny. “Hortense Markle!”

He then told of hearing the familiar voice and of his trying to place
it and, finally, how it had come to him.

“I am sure it was she,” he declared.

“But it is a blind gentleman and his son,” faltered Mary Louise, who
did not like to have a bad opinion even of persons whom she had never
met. She had seen them once and the helplessness of the poor blind man
had appealed to her.

“Yes, so they said, but I’ll wager anything the poor blind man is
Markle himself--”

“But the Chinaman! Who is he?” asked Mary Louise.

“I’m not prepared to state, but my opinion of him is he is no better
than he should be either.”

“They are guarding the house, aren’t they?” asked Josie excitedly.

“Oh yes, but that Slater is an awful dub,” said Danny.

“I hope they won’t let them get away,” said Josie with an unusual
animosity in her tone. “Those Markles have done enough damage and they
were evidently at the Hathaway house hoping to find the Colonel’s gold
mine. They would have carried off every coin if they could have got
their hooks on it.”

“I shouldn’t have cared,” said Mary Louise dreamily. “Money doesn’t
mean a thing to me.”

Danny felt for her hand under the little cutting out table that served
as a dining table for the Higgledy Piggledy girls.

“I wish they would get away. The poor things!” she continued. “Just
think how long it has been since Hortense has seen her Felix.”

Danny looked at his Mary Louise as though she were plenty good enough
to eat. If she wanted the Markles to get away, he was willing that they
should, although he could but consider them great rascals. As for the
gold mine, they were welcome to it. He could take care of his little
wife himself and wasn’t dependent on anybody’s money. He was almost
sorry he had found it but, of course, since he had, he agreed with
Chief Lonsdale and Mr. Peter Conant that it must be carefully guarded
and taken to the bank and reinvested for his Mary Louise.

       *       *       *       *       *

After Mary Louise’s wedding when Hortense Markle had tripped away
and disappeared off the face of the earth, as far as Dorfield could
ascertain (all of which is told in our last book concerning the
fortunes and misfortunes of Mary Louise), she had donned male attire,
had cut off her pretty hair and changed her appearance by the many
artifices known to the underworld. She had eked out a miserable
existence, picking up a living where she could find it. But she had
been able to keep in touch with her dearly beloved Felix and he knew
all about how his Pet was faring. Finally, when he escaped from the
penitentiary, he had joined her and disguised himself as a blind
gentleman. She, continuing in her role of fifteen-year-old boy, had
posed as his son. Wink Lee, whose real name was George Parker, was a
confederate, old in crime. Having a peculiarly oriental face, he could
disguise himself as a Chinaman and pass muster anywhere as one of that
nation.

Of course, having an ear ever to the ground for chances to acquire
wealth, they had heard of the rumor of Colonel Hathaway’s having
concealed piles of gold or securities somewhere about his home. After
having made repeated unsuccessful attempts to enter the house and
search for the treasure they had finally rented the place.

When Danny clamored for admittance, Hortense had no idea of its being
a person whom she had known. She had heard Danny was dead and thought,
when the persistent person continued to ring the bell after Wink Lee
shut the door in his face, that he was, of course, intoxicated. Her
Felix had not been well since his stay in the penitentiary and she was
anxious not to have his rest broken. Hence her peremptory dismissal of
the intruder. Something told her a moment afterwards that she had made
a mistake. She had suddenly recognized Danny’s voice. Perhaps he had
recognized hers.

The Hathaway house was no longer safe for them. She roused Felix,
called Wink Lee and, even more quietly than they made their entrance,
the tenants made their exit. The poor blind gentleman could see now
and Wink Lee left his Chinaman’s wig hanging behind the kitchen door.
He went off in a perfectly good suit of Danny’s he had found packed
away in the attic and Hortense once more was a woman, but this time
she made herself look quite middle-aged by a judicious use of padding
to her charmingly slender figure. She found a dress that had belonged
to Mary Louise’s mother also packed away in the attic. It was of black
bombazine. A thick black veil helped the disguise wonderfully. Swiftly
and silently the trio dressed and made ready to depart.

While Danny and Slater were interviewing the chief, the tenants of the
Hathaway house were already on their way to the next town. They had
stopped just long enough to borrow an automobile which was to convey
them thither. They borrowed without asking, a detail they must have
overlooked. They regretted exceedingly that the old rattle trap in the
garage was too far gone to take.

All during the early morning the detectives watched the house, back and
front. There was no sign of life in the mansion, but they understood
from the neighbors that the inmates were seldom seen. Finally, word
came from the chief to go in and arrest the occupants. The bell was
rung even harder than Danny had rung it. The back door was beaten on
violently. They decided to force an entrance.

The birds had flown. When the flitting had occurred no man could say.
Josie was sure it was almost immediately after Danny’s talk with Mrs.
Markle.

“Of course that idiot Slater should have stayed when you told him
to, but these male detectives are the limit for stupidity and
pigheadedness,” she declared.

Mary Louise was happy that they had escaped and Danny was glad because
she was glad. If any of the ones interested could have seen a middle
aged couple in rather old fashioned clothes on a train that was headed
for the west on the afternoon following the getaway, he would have been
sorry enough for the woman. She was reading a Chicago paper and came
upon a glaring headline:

    GOLD MINE FOUND IN
      OLD AUTO TIRES
        AT DORFIELD

She burst into tears.

“What is it, Pet?”

She handed him the paper.

“Well, well! We missed it that time. Next time maybe we will have
better luck. Don’t cry, darling. We have each other anyhow. Money isn’t
everything.”

And in that sentiment, Danny and Mary Louise were of one mind with
Felix and Hortense Markle.



      *      *      *      *      *      *



Transcriber’s note:

Spelling, dialect and hyphenation have been retained as published in
the original publication.

Changes have been made as follows:

    Page 30
      Fate was working of the _changed to_
      Fate was working on the

    Page 40
      I wonder if you felt funny _changed to_
      I wondered if you felt funny

    Page 56
      they too seem to have lost _changed to_
      they too seemed to have lost

    Page 60
      grandfather and go with him, _changed to_
      grandfather and go with him.

    Page 91
      down the quiet city strees _changed to_
      down the quiet city streets

    Page 112
      was such as astute business _changed to_
      was such an astute business

    Page 130
      of our household gods _changed to_
      of our household goods

    Page 136
      when she starts to houskeeeping _changed to_
      when she starts to housekeeping

    Page 154
      the garage as been entered _changed to_
      the garage has been entered

    Page 187
      “Somebody and that body with small feet! _changed to_
      “Somebody and that body with small feet!”

      straight to where May Louise _changed to_
      straight to where Mary Louise

    Page 195
      Chinee speaking to me in that _changed to_
      Chinese speaking to me in that

    Page 197
      side next to the Conant’s _changed to_
      side next to the Conants’

    Page 202
      back to the United Stats _changed to_
      back to the United States

    Page 204
      raised some cain _changed to_
      raised some Cain





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