Mary Louise

Mary Louise

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Mary Louise
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Baum, L. Frank (Lyman Frank) 1856-1919 Bluebird books
Van Dyne, Edith ( Baum, L. Frank )
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Spies -- Juvenile fiction ( lcsh )
Children with disabilities -- Juvenile fiction ( lcsh )
Young women -- Attitudes -- Juvenile fiction ( lcsh )
Detective and mystery stories -- Juvenile fiction ( lcsh )
Teenage girls -- Juvenile fiction ( lcsh )
School stories -- 1916 ( lcsh )

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University Of South Florida
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University Of South Florida
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022328334 ( ALEPH )
01613711 ( OCLC )
C21-00003 ( USF DOI )
c21.3 ( USFLDC Handle )

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The Bluebird Books Mary Louise


MARY LOUISE By Edith Van Dyne Author of "Aunt Jane's Nieces Series" The Daring Twins," etc. Frontispiece by J . Allen St. John The Reilly & Co. Chic age


Copyright, 1916 b The Reilly & Britton Co. Mary Louis8


TO YOUNG READERS You will like Mary Louise becau se she is so much like yourself Mrs Van Dyne has succeeded in / :finding a very human gir 1 for her heroine ; Mary Loui se i s really not a fiction character at all. Perhaps you know the author through her '' Aunt Jane's Nie ces '' stories; then you don't need to be told tha t you will want to read all the volumes that will be written about lovable Mary Louise. Mrs. Van Dyne is recognized as one of the most interesting writers for girls to-day. Her success is largely due to the fact that she does not write down to her young readers; she r eal iz es that the girl o f t o-day does not have to be babied, and that her quick mind is able to appreciate stories that are as well planned and cleverly told as adult fiction. That is the theory behind '' The Bluebird Books." If you are the girl who likes books of individuality-whol es ome without being tire som e and full of action without b eing sensational then you are just the girl for whom the series is bein g writte n. '' Mary Louise '' is more than a worthy successor to the ' Aunt Jane's N i eces Series '' it has merit which you will quickly reco gnize. THE PUBLISHERS.


CONTENTS CHAPTER PAGE I JUST AN ARGUMENT. . . . . ... . . 11 II GRAN'PA JrM............... ... . . . 19 m A SURPRISE ................. ... . . 2s IV SHIFTING SANDS. . . . . . . . . . 35 v OFFICIAL INVESTIGATION . . . . . . 41 VI UNDER A CLOUD....................... 53 VII THE EsoAPE... . . . . . . . . . . 63 VIII A FRIENDLY FoE . . . . . . . . 72 IX 0FFIOER 0 'GORMAN. . . . . . . . 84 x RATHER QUEER INDEED. . . . . . . 98 XI MARY LOUISE MEETS IRENE. . . . . 106 XII A CHEERFUL COMRADE. . . . . . . 121 XIII BUB SuccuMns TO FoRcE ....... ... 1 129 XIV A CALL FROM AGATHA LORD. . . . . 143 XV BUB 's HoBBY. . . . . . . . . . . 156 XVI THE STOLEN BooK .... .__ ............ 167 XVII THE HIRED GIRL ................... 172 XVIII MARY LoUisE GRows SusProrous ..... 179


Contents CHAPTER PAGE XIX AN ARTFUL CONFESSION. . 189 XX DIAMOND CuT DIAMOND. . . . 201 XXI BAD NEWS ... . ..................... 217 XXII THE FoLKS AT BIGBEE 's. 224 XXIII A Krss FROM J osrn. . . . . . .. . . 233 XXIV FACING THE TRUTH. . . . . . . 240 xxv SIMPLE JUSTICE. . . 249 XXVI THE LETTER. . ... 257


MARY LOUISE CHAPTER I JUST AN ARGUMENT "It's pos itively cruel! pouted Jennie Allen, one of a group of girls occupying a garden bench in t he ample grounds of Miss Stearne's School for Girls, at Beverly It's w orse than that; it's insulting, declared Westervelt her big dark eyes fl.ashing indignantly. Doesn't it seem to reflect on our char acters? timidly asked Dorothy Knerr. '' Indeed it does! '' asserted Sue Finley. '' But here c omes Mary Louise; let's ask her opinion.'' '' P hoo Mary Louis e is only a day scholar,' said Jennie. ' The r est riction doesn't apply to her at all.'' '' I'd like to hear what she says, anyhow,'' remarked Dorothy. '' Mary Louise has a way of untangling things, you know.'' She's rather too officious to suit me," Mable 11


12 MARY LOUISE Westervelt retorted, "and she's younger than any of us. One would think, the way she poses as monitor at this second-rate run-down board ing school, that Mary Louise Burrows made the world.'' '' Oh, M ab l e I I've nev e r known her to po se at all,'' said S u e '' But, hush; she mustn't ove rhear us and, besides, if we want her to intercede with Mjss Stearne we must not offend her." The girl they were discussing came leisurely down a path, her books under one arm, the other hand holding a class paper which she examined in a cursory way as she walked. She wore a dark skirt and a simple shirtwaist, both quite modi s h and becoming, and h e r shoes were the admiration and envy of half the girls at the s chool. Dorothy Knerr u sed to say that '' Mary Louise's clothes always look ed as if they grew on her," but that may have been partially accounted for by the grace of her slim form and her unconscious but distinctive poise of bearing. Few people would describe Mary Louise Burrows as beautiful, while all would agree that she possessed charming manners. And she was :fifteen -an age when many girls are both awkward and shy


JUST AN ARG UMEN 'l 13 As she drew near to the group on the ben c h they ceased discussing Mary Loui se but con tinued angrily to canvass their latest grie vance. '' What do you think, Mary Louise,'' d e manded Jennie, as the girl paused before them, of this latest outrage T '' "What outrage, Jen?" with a whimsical smile at their indignant faces. '' This latest decree of the tyrant Stearne. Didn't you see it posted on the blackboard this morning? The young ladies will hereafter refrain from leaving the school grounds after the hour of six P. M., unless written permission is first secured from the Principal. Any infrac tion of this rule will result in suspension or permanent dismissal.' We 're determined not to stand for this rule a single minute. We intend to strike for our liberties.'' Well," said Mary Louise reflectively, I'm not surprised. The wonder is that Miss Stearne hasn't stopped your evening parades before now. This is a small school in a small town, where everyone knows everyone else; otherwise you'd have been guarded as jealously as if you w e re in a convent. Did you ever know or hear of any other private boarding school where the


14 MARY LOUISE girls were allowed to go to town ev e nings, or :whenever they pleased out of school hours 1 '' '' Didn't I tell you? '' snapped Mable, a ddressing the group. '' Mary Louise is alw ays on the wrong side. Other schools are not cri te rions for this ramshackle establishment, anyhow We have twelve boarders and four day sc holars and how Miss Stearne ev e r supports the place and herself on her income i s an occult proble m that the geometries can't solve. She pays little Miss Dandler, her assistant, the wages of an ordinary housemaid; the furniture is old and sha bby and the classrooms gloomy; the food is more nourishing than feastful and the tablecloths are so patched and darned that it's a wonder they hold together.'' Mary Louise quietly seated herself upon the bench beside them '' You 're looking on the seamy side, Mable,'' she said with a smile, '' and you 're not quite jus t to the school. I believe your parents sent you here because Miss Stearne is known to be a very competent teacher and her school has an excellent reputation of long standing. For twenty years this delightful old place, which was once General Barlow's residence, has been a


JUST AN ARGUMENT 15 select school for young ladies of the best families. Gran 'pa Jim says it's an evidence of good breeding and respectability to have attended Miss Stearne's school." well, what's that got to do with this insult ing order to stay in evenings? '' dem anded Sue Finley. "You'd better put all that rot you're talking into a circular and mail it to the mothers of imbecile daughters. Miss Stearne has gone a step too far in her tyranny, as she'll find out. We know well enough what it means. There's no inducem en t for us to wander into that little tucked-up town of Beverly after dinner except to take in the picture show, which is our one inno cent recreation. I'm sure we've always conducted ourselves most properly. This order simply means we must cut out the picture show and, if we permit it to stand, heaven only knows what we shall do to amuse ourselves.'' We '11 do something worse, probably," suggested Jennie. '' What's your idea about it, Mary Louise? '' asked Dorothy. Don't be a prude," warned Mable, glaring at the young girl. '' Try to be honest and sensible -if you can -and give us your advice. Shall we


16 MARY LOUISE disregard the order, and do as we please, or be namby-pambies and submit to the outrage! You 're a day scholar and may visit the picture Ehows as often as you like. Consider our posi tion, cooped up here like a lot of chickens and refused the only harmless amusement the town affords.'' Gran'pa Jim," observed Mary Louise, musingly, '' always advises me to look on both sides of a question before making up my mind, because every question has to have two sides or it couldn't be argued. If Miss Stearne wishes to keep you away from the pictures, she has a reason for it; so let's discover what the rea son is.'' To spoil any little fun we might have," asserted Mable bitterly. "No; I can't believe that," answered Mary Louise. She isn't unkindly, we all know, nor is she too strict with her girls I've heard her remark that all her boarders are young ladies who can be trusted to conduct themselves prop erly on all occasions; and she's right about that. We mu s t look for her reason somewhere else and I think it's in the pictures themselves." '' As for that,'' said Jennie, '' I've seen Miss


JUST AN ARGUMENT 17 Stearne herself at the picture theatre twice within the last week." Then that's it; she doesn't like the character of the pictures sh o wn I think, myself, girls they've been rather rank lately.'' "What's wrong with them1 '' I like pictures as well as you do,'' said Mary Louise, ' and Gran 'pa Jim of ten takes me to see them Tuesday night a man shot another in cold blood and the girl the murderer was in love with helped him. to escape and marri ed him. I felt like giv in g her a good shaking didn't She didn't ac t l ike a raal girl at all. And Thursday night the picture story told of a man with two wives and of divorces and disgraceful doings generally. Gran 'pa Jim took me away before it was over and I was glad to go. Some of the pictures are fine and dandy but as long as the man who runs the theatre mixes the horrid things with the decent ones and we can't know beforehand which is which -it's really the safest plan to keep away from the place altogether. I'm sure that's the posi tion Miss Stearne takes, and we can't blame her for it. If we do, it's an evidence of laxness of morals in ourselves


18 :MARY LOUISE The girl s received this statement sullenly yet they had no logical reply to controvert it. So Mary Louise, feeling that her explanation of the distasteful edict was not popular with her friends quietly rose and sauntered to the gate, on her way home. '' Pah I '' s n eered Mable \V es tervelt, looking after the slim fig11re, '' I'm always suspici ous of those gQody-goody creatures. Mark my words, girls: Mary Louise will fall from her pedestal so me day. She isn't a bit better than the rest of us, in spite of her a n ge l baby ways and I wouldn't be surprised if she turned out to be a regular hypocrite! ''


CHAPTER II GRAN'PA JIM Beverly is an old town and not especially progress ive. It lies nearly two miles from a railway station and has little attractiveness for strangers. Beverly contains several beautiful old residence s however, built generations ago and still surrounded by ex t ens ive grounds where the trees and shrubbery are now generally ov e rgrown and negl e cted. One of these :fine old places Miss Stearne rented for her boarding school; another, quite the most imposing residence in the town, had been leased some two years previous to the time of this story by Colonel J rune s Weatherby, whose family consisted of his widowed daughter, Mrs Burrows, and his grandchild, Mary Louise Burrows Their only servants were an old negro, Uncle Eben, and his wife, Aunt Polly, who were Beverly bred and had been hired when the Colonel :first came to town and took possession of the stately Vandeventer mansion 111


20 MARY LOUISE Colonel Weatherby was a man of exceptiona lly distinguish ed appearance, tall and dignified, with courtly manners and an air of prosperity that impressed the simple villagers with awe. His snow-white hair and piercing dar)r eyes, his immaculate dress upon all occasions, the whis pered comments on his ample deposits in the .local bank, all contributed to render him r e markable among the three or four hundred ordinary inhabitants of Beverly, who, after his two years' resi dence among them, scarcely knew more of him than is above related. For Colonel Weatherby was an extremely reserved man and seldom deigned to exchange conversation with his neighbors. In truth, he had nothin g in common with them and even when he walked out with Mary Louise he merely acknowledged the greeting of those he met by a dignified nod of his stately bead. with Mary Louise, however, he would converse fluently and. with earnestness, whether at home during the long evenings or on their frequent walks through the country, which were indulged in on Saturdays and holidays during the months that school was in session and much more of ten during vacations. The Colonel owned a modest


GRAN'PA JIM 21 automobile which he kept in the stable and only drove on rare occasions, although one of Uncle Eben's duties was to keep the car in apple-pie order. Colonel Weatherby loved best to walk and Mary Louise enjoyed their tramps togeth e r because Gran 'pa Jim always told her so many interesting things and was such a charming com panion. He often developed a s .train of humor in the girl's society and would relate anecdotes that aroused in her spontaneous laughter, for she pos sessed a keen sense of the ludicro us Yes, Gran'pa Jim was really funny, when in the mood, and as jolly a comrade as one would wish He was fond of poetry, too, and the most severe trial Mary Louise was forced to endure was when he carried a book of poems in his pocket and insisted on reading from it while they rested in a shady nook by the roadside or on the bank of the little river that flowed near by the town Mary Louise had no soul for po etry, but she would have endured far greater hard ships rather than forfeit the genial compan ionship of Gran 'pa Jim. It was only during these past two years that she had come to know her grandfather so


22 MARY LOUISE intimately and to b ecome as fond of him as she was proud. H e r earlier life had been one of s o many chan ges that the constant shifting had rath e r bewildered h e r First s h e r emembere d living in a big city house where she was cared for by a nurse who was n ever out of s ight or h e aring. There it was that Mamma Bee" Mrs. Beatric e Burrows -appeared to the child at times as a beautiful vi s ion and o fte n as she bent ov e r her little dau ghte r for a good-night ki ss the popular society woman, arrayed in even ing or b a ll costum e would seem to Mary Louise like a radiant ange l descended straight from heave n. She knew little of her mother in those days, which were quite hazy in memory bec a u se she was so young. The first change she remembered was an abrupt flitting from the splend i d city hou se to a humbl e c ottage in a r etired village. The r e was no maid now nor other servant what ever. Marnma Bee did the cookin g and sweep ing, her face worn and anxiou s while Gran 'pa Jim walked th e floor of the little &itting roo m day by day, only pausing at times to read to Mary Louis e stories f 1 om her nursery books. This life did not la s t very lon g -perhaps a


GRAN'PA JIM 23 year or so -and then they were m a big hotel in another city, reached after a long and tiresome railway journey. Here the girl saw little of her grandfather, for a governess came daily to teach Mary Louise to read and write and to do sums on a pretty slate framed in silver. Then, suddenly, in dead of night, away they whisked again, traveling by train until long after the sun was up, when they came to a pretty town where they kept house again. There were servants, thi s time, and horses and carriages and pretty clothes for Mary Louise and Mamma Bee The little girl was sent to a school just a block away from her home. She remembered Miss Jenkins well, for this teacher made much of her and was so kind and gentle that Mary Loui se progressed rapidly in her studies. But the abrupt changes did no t end here. Mary Louise came home from school one afternoon and found her dear mother sobbing bitterly as she clun g around the neck of Gran'pa Jim, who stood in the middle of the room as still as if he had been a marble statue. Mary Louise promptly mingled her tears with those of her mother, without knowing why, and then there was a quick


24 LOUISE '' packin g -up '' and a rush to the railway again. Ne x t the y were in the hou se o f Mr. and Mrs Peter Conant, very pleasant peopl e who seemed to be old friends of Mamma Bee and Gran 'pa Jim. It was a cosy house, not big and pretentious, and Mary Louise liked it. Peter Conant and Gran 'pa Jim had many lon g talks together, and it was here that the child first heard her grandfather called Colonel." Others might have call ed him that before, but she had not heard them Mrs. Conant was very deaf and wore big spectac l es but she alwa ys had a s mil e on her face and her voice was s oft and pleas ing. Afte r a few days Mamma B ee told her daugh ter she was going to leave her in the care o f the Conant s for a time, while she traveled to a foreign country with Gran 'pa .Jim. The girl was surprised at being abandoned but accepted her fate quietly when it was explained that she was to go to school while living with the Conants, wl1ich she could not do if she was traveling with ber mother and grandfather, who were making this arrangement for the girl' s best goo d. Three years Mary Louise lived with the Conant s and had li t tl e to complain of. Mr. Conant was a lawye r and was at his office all


GRAN'PA JIM 25 day, while Mrs. Conant was very kind to the girl and looked after her welfare with motherly care. At last, quite unexpectedly, Mary Louise's trunk was packed and she was taken to the sta tion to meet a train on which were her mother and grandfather. They did not leave the cars except to shake hands with the Conants and thank them for their care of Mary Louise A moment later the train bore away the reunited family to their new home in Beverly. Mary Louise now found she must get acquainted'' with Mamma Bee and Gran'pa Jim all over again, for during these last three years she had developed so fast in mind and body that her previous knowledge of her relatives seemed like a hazy dream. The Colone l also discovered a new granddaughter, to whom he became passionately attached. For two years now they had grown together until they were great friends and cronies. As for Mrs. Burrows, she seemed to have devoted her whole life to her father, the Colonel. She had lost much of her former beauty and had become a thin, pale woman with anxious eyes and an expectant and deprecating air, as if always prepared to ward off a sudden blow.


MARY LOUISE Her s olicitude for the old Colonel was almost patheti c and while he wa s in her presence she constantly hovered around him, doing little things for his comfort w hich h e invariably acknowledg e d with his courtly bow and a gracious word of thanks. It was through h e r a ssocia tion with thi s cul tured old g entleman that Mary Louise had imbib ed a certain degree of lo gi c and philosophy lmknown to many girls of fifteen. He taught her consideration for others as the k eynote of hap piness, yet he him se l f declin e d to min g l e with his feilow men. He abhorred sulking and was always cheerful and pleasant in his home circl e yet when 9thers approached him familiarly he resented it with a frown. H e taught his granddaughter t o be gen e rous to the poor and supplied her freely with money for charity, yet h e p e r sonally refused all demands upon him by churche s o r charitable societies. In their long talks togethe r he di splaye d an jntimate acquaintanc e with men and affairs, but 12cver referred in any way to his former life '' Are you really a colon e l ? '' Mary Louise once asked him. '' Men call m e so, ' he replied, but there was


GRAN'PA JIM 27 a tone in his voice that warned the girl not to pursue the subject further. She knew his moods almost as well as her mother did. The Colonel was very particular as to dress. H e obtained his own clotbing from a New York tailor and took a keen interest in the gowns of his daughter and of Mary Louise, his taste in female apparel being so remarkable that they were justly considered the b est dressed women in Beverl y The house they were living in contained an excellent library and was furnished in a quaint, old-fashioned manner that was very appe alin g to them all. Mary Louise sincerely hop e d there would be no more changes in their lives and that they might continue to liv e in Beverly for many years to come.


CHAPTER III A SURPRISE On the afternoon when our story begins Mary Louise walked home from school and found Colonel Weatherby waiting for her in the garden, leggings strapped to his gaunt legs, the checked walking-cap on his head, a gold-headed crop in his hand. ' Let us go for a walk, my dear,'' he proposed. '' It is Friday, so you will have all day to-morrow in which to get your lessons.'' "Oh, it won't take all day for that," she replied with a laugh. '' I'll be glad of the walk. Where shall we go, Gran 'pa Jim 7 '' "Perhaps to the mill race. vVe haven't visited it for a long time." She ran to the house to put away her books and get her stout shoes, and presently rejoined him, when together they strolled up the street and circled round the little town until they came to the river bank. Then they follow e d the stream toward the old mill. 28


. A SURPRISE 29 Mary Louise told her grandfather of the recent edict of Miss Stearne and the indignation it had aroused in her girl boarders. "And what do you think of it, Gran'pa JimT" she asked in conclusion '' What do you think of it, Mary Louise 1 '' "It is rather hard on the girls, who have enjoyed their liberty for so long; but I think it is Miss Stearne's plan to keep them away from the picture theatre.'' "And so1 '' And so,''. she said, '' it may do the girls more good than harm. He smiled approvingly. It was his custom t o draw out her ideas on all questions, rather than to assert his own in advance. If he found her wrong or misinformed he would then correct her and set her right. '' So you do not approve of the pictures, Mary Louise1 '' Not all of the m, Gran 'pa Jim, although they all seem to have been passed by the Board of Censors '-perhaps when their eyes were shut I love the good pictures, and I know that. you do but some we have seen lately gave me the shivers So, perhaps Miss Stearne i s right.''


30 Jl.fARY LOUISE '' I am confident she is,'' he agreed. ' Som e makers of pictures may conside r it b e n e ficial to emphasize good by exhib iting evil, by way of contrast, but they are do ubtl ess wrong. I've an old-fashioned notion that young girls s ho u ld b e shi elded, as much as possible, from knowl e dge of the world's sins and worries, which i s sure to be impressed upon them in l a ter years. We cannot igno r e evil, unfortunate ly, but w e can often avoid it." But why if thes e picture s are really harmful, does Mr. W elland exhibit them at his theatre 1 a s k e d the girl. '' Mr. Welland is running his theatre to make money,'' explaine d the Colon e l, '' and the surest way to make money is to cater to the tastes o f his patrons, the majority of whom demand picture plays of the more vivid sort, such as you and I complain of. So the fault li es not with the exhibitor but with the sensation lovin g public If Mr. Welland s how e d only such pictures as have good morals he would gain the patronage of Miss Stearne's twelve young ladies and a few others but the masses would refuse to support him.'' '' Then,'' said Mary Loui se, '' the masses


A SUR PRISE 31 ought t o be ed ucated to desire better things." '' Many philanthropists have tried to do that, and s i gnally fail ed I bel i eve the world i s gradually growing better, my d ear, but ages will pass before mankind attains a really wholesome mental atmosphere However, we should each do our humble part toward the moral uplift of our fe l lows and one way is not to condone what we know to be wrong." He spoke earnestly, in a conversational tone that robbed his words of preachment. Mary Louis e thought Gran'pa Jim must be an exc ep tionally good man and hoped she would grow, in time, to be like him. The only thing that puzzl e d her was vyhy he r efused to associate with his fell ow men wh ile at heart he so w a .. e spo u sed their upli f t and advancement They had now r eached the mill-race and had seated themse lves on the high e mbankm ent where they could watch the water swirl swiftly beneath them. T he mill was not grindin g to-day and its neighbo rho od seemed quite deserted. H ere the old C olone l and his granddaughte r sat dreamily for a long time conversing ca s ually on various subjects or allowin g them se lv es to drift int0 thought. It wa s a happy hour for the m both and


32 MARY LOUISE was only interrupted when Jackson the miller passed by on his way home from the village. The man gave the Colonel a surly nod, but he smiled on Mary Louise, the girl being as popular in the district as her grandfather was unpopular. After Jackson had passed them by Gran 'pa Jim rose slowly and proposed they return home. '' I we go through the village,'' said he, '' we shall reach home, without hurrying ourselves, in time to dress for dinner. I object to being hurried, don't you Mary Louise? '' '' Yes, indeed, if it can be avoided .'' Going through the village saved them half a mile in distance, but Mary Louise would no t have proposed it herself, on account of the Colonel's well-known aversion to meeting people. This afternoon, however, he made the proposal himself, so they strolled away to the main road that led through the one business street of the little town. At this hour there was little li fe in Beverly's main street. The farmers who drove in to trade had now returned home; the town women were busy getting supper and most of their men were at home feeding the stock or doing the evening chores. However they passed an occasional


A SURPRISE group of two or three and around the general store stood a few other natives li stlessly awaiting the eall to the evening m eal These cast curiou s glances at the well-known forms of the old man and the young girl, fot bis two years' residen ce had not made the testy old Colonel any les s strange to them. They knew all about him ther0 was to know -which was nothing at all -and understood they must not venture to him as they would have done any other citizen. Cooper's Hotel, a modest and not very inviting frame building, stood near the center of the villag e and as Mary Louise and her grandfather pas sed it the door opened and a man stepped out and only avoided bumping into them by coming to a full stop. They stopped also, of nece ssity, and Mary Louise was astonished to find the stranger staring into the Colonel's face with an expression of mingled amazement and incredulity on his own. J ames Hathaway, by all the g od s he ex claim ed, adding in wondering tones: '' .And after all these years '' Mary Louise, clinging to her grandfather's arm, cast an upward glance at his face. It was


34 M..ARY LOUISE tensely drawn; the eyelids were half closed and through their slits the Colonel's eyes glinted iercely. You are mistaken, fellow Out of my way! he said, and seizing the girl's arm, which she had withdrawn in affright, he marched straight ahead. The man fell back, but stared after them with his former e:A.'Pression of bewildered surprise. Mary Louise noted this in a glance over her shoulder and something in the stranger's attitude was, it a half veiled threat? caused her to shudder involuntarily. The Colonel strode on, looking neither to right nor left, saying never a word. They reached their home grounds, passed up the path in silence and entered the house. The Colonel went straight to the stairs and cried in a loud voice : '' Beatrice '' The tone thrilled Mary Louise with a premoni tion of evil. A door was hastily opened and her mother appeared at. the head of the stairs, looking down on them with the customary anxiety on her worn features doubly accent uated. Again, father? she asked in a voice that slightly trembled. '' Yes. Come with me to the library, Beatrice.''


CHAPTER IV SHIFTING SANDS Mary Louise hid herself in the drawing-room,. where she could watch the closed door of the library opposite. At times she trembled with an unknown dread; again, she told herself that no harm could possibly befall her dear, good Gran 'pa Jim or her faithful, loving mother. Yet why were they closeted in the library so long, and how could the meeting with that insolent stranger affect Colonel Weatherby so stronglyT After a long time her mother came out, looking more pallid and harassed than ever but strangely composed. kissed Mary Louise, who came to meet her, and said: Get ready for dinner, dear. We are late." The girl went to her room, dazed and uneasy. At dinner her mother appeared at the table, eating little or nothing, but Gran'pa Jim was not present. Afterward she learned that he had gone over to Miss Stearne's School for Girls, 35


36 MARY LOUISE where he completed important arrangements con cerning his granddaughter. When dinner was over Mary Louise went into the library and, drawing a chair to where the light of the student lamp flooded her book, tried to read. But the words were blurred and her mind was in a sort of chaos. Mamma Bee had summoned Aunt Polly and Uncle Eben to her room, where she was now holding a conferenee with the faithful colored s ervants A strange and subtle atmosphere of unrest pervaded the house; Mary Louise scented radical changes in their heretofore pleasant home life, but what these changes were to be or what necessitated them she could not imagine. After a while she heard Gran 'pa Jim enter the hall and hang up his hat and coat and plaoe his cane in the rack. Then he oame to the door of the library and stood a moment look ing hard at Mary Louise. Her own eyes regarded her grandfather earnestly, questioning him as positiv ely as if she had spoken. He drew a ehair before her and leaning over took both her hands in his and held them fast. My dear," he said I regret to say that another change has overtaken us. Have you


SHIFTING SANDS 37 ever heard of 'harlequin fate 'f 'Tis a very buffoon of mischief and irony that is often permitted to dog our earthly footsteps and prevent us from becoming too content with our lot. For a time you and I, little maid, good comrades though we have boon, must tread different paths. Your mother and I are going away, presently, and we sha ll leave you here in Beverly, where you may continue your studies under the super vision of Miss Stearne, as a boarder at her school. This, although the rental is paid for six weeks longer, we shall at once vacate, l e aving Uncle Eben and Aunt Sallie to put it in shape and close it properly. Do you understand all this, Mary Louise f '' I understand what you have told me, Gran'pa Jim. But why" "Miss Stearne will be supplied with ample funds to cover your tuition and to purchase any supplies you may need. You will have nothing to worry about and so may devote all your energies to your studies.'' ''But how long-'' '' Trust me and your mother to watch over your welfare, for you are very dear to us, believe me,'' he continued, disregarding her interrup-


1l8 MARY LOUISE tions. '' Do you remember the address of the Conan ts, at Dorfield 1 '' '' Of course.'' "Well, you may write to me, or to your mother, once a week, addressing the letter in care of Peter Conant. But if you are questioned by anyone," he added, gravely, do not mention the address of the Conants or hint that I have gone to Dor:fi.eld. Write your letters privately and unobserved, in your own room, and post them secretly, by your own hand, so that no one will be aware of the correspondence. Your caution in this regard will be of great service to your mother and me. Do you think you can follow these instructions j '' To be sure I can, Gran 'pa Jim. But why must I-" '' Some day,'' said he, '' you will understand this seeming mystery and be able to smile at your present perplexities. There is nothing to fear, my dear child, and nothing that need cause you undue anxiety. Keep a brave heart and, whatever happens have faith in Gran 'pa Jim. Your mother -as good a woman as God ever made believes in me, and she knows all. Can you accept her judgment, Mary Louise? Can you


SHIF'l'ING SANDS 39 steadfastly ignore any aspersions that may be cast upon my good name 1 '' '' Yes, Gran 'pa Jim.'' She had not the faintest idea what he referred to. Not until afterward was she able to piece these strange remarks together and make sense of them. Just now the girl was most impressed by the fact that her mother and grandfather were going away and would leave her as a boarder with Miss Stearne. The delightful home life, wherein she had passed the happiest two years of her existence, was to be broken up for good and all. "Now I must go to your mother. Kiss me, my dear!'' As he rose to his feet Mary Louise also sprang from chair and the Colonel folded his arms around her and for a moment held her tight in his embrace. Then he slowly released her, hold ing the girl at arms' length while he studied her troubled face with grave intensity. One kiss upon her upturned forehead and the old man swung around and left the room without another word. Mary Louise in her throat. sank into her chair, a little sob She felt very miserable, indeed,


40 MARY LOUISE at that moment. '' Harlequin fate! '' s he sighed. I wonder why it has chosen us for i ts victims 7 After an hour passed in the deserted library she stole away to her own room and prepared for bed. In the night, 1during her fit ful periods of sleep, she dreamed that her mother ben t ove r her and kis sed her lips once, twice, a third t ime. The girl woke with a start. A dim light :flooded her chamber, for outs ide w a s a full moon. But the room was habited only by shadows, save for her own feverish, restless body. She turned over to :find a cooler place and pres. ently fell asleep again.


CHAPTER V OFFICIAL INVESTIGATION "And you say they are gone! oried M:a.ry Louise in surprise, as she crune down to breakfast the next morning and found the table for one and old Eben waiting to s.erve her. "In de night, chile. I don' know 'zac'ly wha' der time, by de clock, bnt de Kun 'l an' Missy Burrows did 'n' slee p h eah a-tall." '' There is no night train,'' said the girl, seat ing herself thoughtfully at the table. '' How could they go, Uncl e? "Jus' took deh anto'bile, chile, an' de Kun'l d9ne druv it heself bag an' baggage. But-see heah, Ma 'y 'Ouise we-all ain' s 'pose to know nu th 'n' bout dat git-away. Ef some imper 'nent puss 'n' ask us, we' gwine t' know how d ey go, nohow. De Knn 'l say t ell Ma 'y 'Ouise she ain' gwine know noth'n' a-tall, 'bout nuth'n', 'cause 'tain 't nobody's business.'' I understand, Unele Eben." She reflected upon this seemingly unnecessary 41


42 1\1:.ARY LOUISE seerecy as she ate her breakfast. After a time she asked : '' What are you and Aunt Polly going to do, Uncle1 '' Fus' thing,'' replied the old negro, '' Polly gwine git yo' traps all pack up an' I gwine take 'em ovah to Missy Stearne's place in de wheelbarrer. Den I gwine red up de house an' take de keys to Mass' Gimble, de agent. Den Polly an' me we go back to our own li 'l' house in de lane yondeh De Kun 'l done 'range ev 'thin g propeh, an' we gwine do jus' like he say." Mary Loui se felt lonely and uncomfortabl e in the big hou se now that her mother and grandfather had gone away. Since the move was inevitable, she would be glad to go to Miss Stearne as soon as possible. She helped Aunt Polly pack her trunk and suit case, afterwards gathering into a bundle the things she had forgotten or overlooked, all of which personal belongings Uncle Eben wheeled over to the school. Then she bade the faithful ;;ervitors good-bye, promising to call upon them at their humble home, and walked slowly over the well-known path to Miss Stearne's establishment, where she presented herself to the principal.


OFFICIAL INVESTIGATION 43 It being Saturday, Mi ss Stearne was seated at a desk in her own private room, where she recei ved Mary Louise and bade her sit down. Miss Stearne was a woman fifty years of age, tall and lean, with a deeply lined face and a tend ency to nervousness that was increasing with her years. She was a very clever teacher and a ver y incompetent bu siness woman, so that her small school of exc ellen t standing and repute, proved difficult to finance. In character Miss Stearne was temperamental eno ugh to have been a geniu s. She was kindly natured, fond of young girls and cared for h e r pupils with motherly instincts seldom possessed by those in similar position s She was lax in many respects, severely strict in others. Not always were her rules and regulations dictated by good judgment. There fore her girls usually found as much fault as other boarding school girls are prone to do, and with somewhat more reason. On the other hand, no one could question the principal's erudition or her skill in imparting her knowledge to others. '' Sit down, Mary Louise,'' she said to the girl. '' This is an astonishing ehang e in your life, is it not? Colonel Weatherby came to me last evening and said he had been suddenly


44 MARY LOUISE called away on important matters that would brook no delay, and that your mother was to accompany him on the journey. He begged me to take you in as a regular boarder and of course I consented. You have been on e of my most tractable and consci entio us pupils and I have baen proud of your progress. But the school is quite full, as you know; so at first I was uncertain that I could accommodate you here; but Miss Dandler, my assistant, has given up her room to you and I shall put a bed for her in my own sleeping chamber, so that difficulty is now happily arranged. I s uppo se your f arnily left Beverly this morning, by the early train 1 '' '' They have gone,'' replied Mary Louise non committally. '' You will be lonely for a time, of course, but presently you will feel quite at home in the school because you know all of my girls s o well. It i s not like a strange girl coming into a new s

OFFICIAL INVESTIGATION 45 pain, that her mot]ler had never been very near to her and that Miss Stearne might well per form such perfunctory duties as the girl had been accustomed to expect. But no one could ever take the place of Gran 'pa Jim. Thank you, Miss Stearne," she said. "I am sure I shall be quite contented here Is my room ready?" '' Yes ; and your trunk has already been placed in it. Let me know, my dear, if there is anything you need.'' Mary Louise went to her room and was promp tly pounce d upon by Dorothy Knerr and Sue Finley, who roomed just across the hall from her and were delighted to find she was to becom e a regular boarder. They asked numerou s questio ns as they helped her to unpack and settle her room, but accepted her conservative answers without comment. At the noon luncheon Mary Louise was accord ed a warm reception by the assembled board ers and this cordial welcome by her school mates did much to restore the girl to her normal conditi on of cheerfulness. She even joined a group in a game of tennis after luncheon and it was while she was playing that little Miss Dandler


46 MARY LOUISE came with a message that Mary Louise was wanted in Miss Stearne's room at once. '' Take my racquet,'' she said to Jennie Allen ; I'll be back in a minute." When she entered Miss Stearne's room she was surprised to find herself confronted by the same man whom she and her grandfather had encountered in front of Cooper's Hotel the previous afternoon the man whom she secretly held responsible for this abrupt change in her life. The principal sat crouched over her desk as if overawed by her visitor, who stopped his nervous pacing up and down the room as the girl appeared. This is Mary Louise Burrows," said Miss Stearne, in a weak voice. Huh! He glared at her with a scowl for a moment and then demanded : '' Where's Hathaway? Mary Louise reddened '' I do not know to whom you refer,'' she answered quietly. '' Aren't you his granddaughter? '' '' I am the granddaughter of Colonel James Weather by, sir." It's all the same; Hathaway or Weatherby,


OFFICIAL INVESTIGATION 47 the scoundre l can't di s gui se his personality. Where is he?'' She did not r ep ly. Her eyes had narrowed a little, as the Colonel's were sometimes prone to do, and h e r lips were pressed firmly together. ''Answer me I'' he shouted, waving his arms threa tenin gly '' Miss Stearne,'' Mary Loui se said, turning to the principal, '' unless you r e quest your guest to be more r es p e ctful I shall l eave the room.'' '' Not ye t you won't,'' said the man in a less boi s terous tone. '' Don't annoy m e with your airs, for I'm in a hurry. Where is Hathawayor Weatherby-or whatever he calls hims elf' " I do not know." '' You don't, eh 1 Didn't he leave an address! '' No." '' I don't. b elieve you. Where did he go' '' If I knew," said Mary Louise with dignity, '' I would not inform you.'' H e uttered a growl and then threw back his coat, displaying a b adge attached to hi s v es t. '' I'm a fed eral officer,'' he asserted with egotistic pride, '' a member of the Governm ent's Secret S e rvice D epartmen t. I've been searching for James J. Hathaway for nine years, and so


48 MARY LOU I S E has every man in the service. Last night I stumbled upon him by aooident, and on inquiring found he has been living qui e tly in this little jumping-off place. I wired the Department for instructions and an hour ago received orders to arrest him, but found my bird had flown. He l eft you behind, though, and I'm wise to the fact that you 're a clew that will lead me straight to him. You 're going to do that very thing, and. the sooner you make up your mind to it the better for all of us. No nonsense, girl! The Federal Government's not to be trifled with. Tell m e where to find your grandfather." ' If you have finished your insolent remarks,'' s he answered with spirit, I will go away. You have interrupted my game of tennis.'' He gave a bark of anger that made her smile, but as she turned away he sprang forward and seized her arm, swinging her around so that she again faced him. Great Caesar, girl! Don't you realize what you 're up '' he demanded '' I do,'' said she. '' I seem to be in the power of a brute. If a law exists that permits you to insult a girl, there must also be a law to punish you. I shall see a lawyer and try to have you


OFFICIAL INVESTIGATION 49 properly punished for this absolute He regarded her keenly, still frowning, but when he spoke again he had moderated both his tone and words. I do not intend to be insolent, Miss Burrows, but I have been greatly aggravated by your grandfather's unfortunate escape and in this e mergency every moment is precious if I am to capture him before he gets out of America, as he ha.s done once or twice before. Also, having wired the Department that I have found Hathaway, I shall be discredited if I let him sli p through my fingers, so I am in a desperate fix. If I have see med a bit gruff and nervous, forgive me. It is your duty, as a loyal subject of the United States, to assist an officer of the law by every means in your power, especially when he is engaged in running down a criminal. Therefore, whether you dislike to or not, you must tell me where to find your grandfather.'' My grandfather is not a criminal, sir." The jury will decide that when his case comes to trial. At present he is accused of crime and a warrant is out for his arrest. Where is he 1 '' "I do not know," she persisted. '' He -he left by the morning ,train, which


50 MARY LOUISE goes west,'' stammered Miss Stearne, anxious to placate the officer and fearful of the girl's stubborn resistance. '' So the nigger servant told me,'' sneered the man; "but he didn1t I was at the station myself two miles from this forsaken place to make sure that -Hathaway didn't skip while I was waiting for orders. Therefore, he is either hidden somewhere in Beverly or he has sneaked away to an adjoining town. The old serpent is slippery as an eel; but I'm going to catch him, this time, as sure as fate, and this girl must give me all the information she can.'' Oh, that will be quite easy," retorted Mary Louise, somewhat triumphantly, '' for I have no information to divulge .'' He began to pace the room again, casting at shrewd and uncertain glances "He didn't say where he was going? " No." Or leave any address 1 "No. " What did he say 1 " That he was going away and would arrange with Miss Stearne for me to board at the school.'' '' Huh l I see. Foxy old guy. Knew I would


OFFICIAL INVESTIGATION 51 question you and wouldn't take chanees. If he writes you, or you learn what has become of him, will you tell me? ' No." '' I thought not.'' He turned toward the prin cipal. How about this girl's board money ? he asked. When did he say he'd send it? '' He paid me in advance, to the end of the present term,'' answered the agitated Mi s s Stearne. '' Foxy old boy I Seemed to think of everything. I'm going, now; but take this warning both of you. Don't gabble about what I've said. Keep the secret. If nothing gets out, Hathaway may think the coast is clear and it's safe for him to come back. In that case I -or someone appointed by the Department--:-will get a chance to nab him. That's all. Good day." He made his exit from the room without c e re mony, leaving Mary Louise and Miss Stearne staring fearfully at on e another. It -it's -dreadful I stammered the teacher, shrinking back with a moan. '' It would be, if it were true,'' said the girl. But Gran'pa Jim is no criminal, we all know. He's the best man that ever lived, and the whole


52 MARY LOUISE trouble is that this foolish officer has mistaken him for someone else. I heard him, with my own ears, tell the man he was mistaken.'' Miss Stearne reflected. "Then why did your granafather run away?" she asked. It was now Mary Louise's turn to reflect, seeking an answer. Presently she realized that a logical explanation of her grandfather's action was impossible with her present knowledge '' I cannot answer that question, Miss Stearne," she admitted, candidly1 "but Gran'pa Jim must have had some good reason.'' There was unbelief in the woman's eyes unbelief and a horror of the whole disgraceful affair that somehow included Mary Louise in its scope. The girl read this look and it confused her. She mumbled an excuse and fled to her room to indulge in a good cry.


CHAPTER VI UNDER A CLOUD officer's injunction not to talk of the case of Colonel Weatherby was of little avail in insuring secrecy. Oscar Dowd, who owned and edited the one weekly newspaper in town, which appeared under the title of The Beverly Beacon,'' was a very ferret for news He had to be; otherwise there never would have been enough happenings in the vicinity to fill the sGant columns of his little paper, which was printed in big type to make the items and editor ials fill as much space as possible Uncle Eben met the editor and told him the Colonel had gone away suddenly and had vacated the Vandeventer mansion and put Mary Louise with Miss Stearne to board. Thereat, Oscar Dowd scented news and called on Miss Stearne for further information. The good lady was almost as much afraid of an editor as of an officer of the law, so under Oscar's rapid:fire questioning she disclosed m,ore of the dread-53


54 1\fARY LOUISE ful charge against Colonel Weatherby than she intended to She even admitted the visit of the secret service agent, but declined to give detail of it. Oscar found the agent had departed for parts unknown perhaps to trail the escaped Colonel :_but the hotel keeper furnished him with othe r wisps of information and, bunching all the rumors together and sifting the wheat from the chaff, the editor evolved a most thrilling tale to print in the Wednesday paper. Some of the his own imagination supplied; much else was obtained from irresponsible gossips who had no foundation for their assertions. Miss Stearne was horrified to find, on receiving her copy of the Wednesday Beacon that big headlines across the front page announced: '' Beverly Harbors a Criminal in Disguise! Flight of Colonel James Weatherby when a Federal Officer Seeks to Arrest him for a Terrible Crime '' Then followed a mangled report of the officer's visit to Beverly on government business, his recognition of Colonel Weatherby who was none other than the noted criminal, James J. Hathaway-on the street in front of Cooper's


UNDER A CL O UD 55 Hotel, how the officer wired Washing-ton for instructions and how Hathaway, alias Weatherby, escaped in the dead of night and had so far suc cessfully eluded all pursuit. -what crime Hathaway, alias -Weatherby, was accused of, the officer would not divulge, and the statements of others disagreed. One report declared the Colonel had wrecked a New York bank and absconded with enormous sums he had embezzled; another stated he had been president of a swindling stock corporation which had used the mails illegally to further its nefarious schemes. A third account asserted he had insured his life for a million dollars in favor of his daughter, Mrs. Burrows, and then established a false death and reappeared after Mrs. Burrows had collected the insurance money. Having printed all this prominently in big type, the editor appended a brief note in small type saying he would not vouch for the truth of any statement made in the foregoing article. Never theless, it was a terrible arraignment and greatly shocked the good citizens of Beverly Miss Stearne, realizing how humiliated Mary Louise would be if the newspaper fell into her hands, carefully hid her copy away where none


56 MARY LOUISE of the girls could see it; but on e of the day scholars brought a copy t o the school Thursday morning and passed it around among the girls, so that all were soon in possession of the whole sca ndalous screed Mable Westervelt, after feasting upon the awful accusations, cruelly handed the paper to Mary Loui se The girl's face blanched and then grew red, her mouth fell open as if gasping for breath and her eyes stared with a pained, hope l ess expression at the printed page that branded her dearly lov ed Gran 'pa Jim a swindler and a thief. She rose quickly and left the room, to the great r el i e f of the oth e r girls, who wanted to talk the matter over. The idea," cried Mabl e indignantl y, of that old villain's foisting his grandchild on thi r es pectable school while he ran away to es cap e the p enalty of his crimes '' Mary Louise i s all right," asserted Jennie Allen stoutly. She isn't to blame, at all." '' I warned you that her goody-goody airs wer e a cloak to hidden wickedness,'' said Mable, to sing her head. '' Blood will very fat girl. tell," drawled Lina Darrow, a '' Mary Louise has bad blood


, UNDER A CLOUD 57 in het veins and it's bound to crop out, sooner or later. I advise you girls to k ee p your tru:pk s locked and to look afte r your j ewelry." '' Shame shame! '' crie d Dorothy Knerr, and the others echo e d the reproach. Even M a bl e looked at fat Lina disappr ovin g ly. However, in spite of staunch support on the part of her few real friends, Mary Louise felt from that hour a changed atmosphere when in the presence of her schoolfellows. W ee k s rolled by without further public attacks upon Gran'p a Jim, but among the girls at the school s u s p icio n had crept in to ostracize Mary Louise from t he general confidence. She lo s t her brigh t, c heery air of self-assurance and grew shy and fearful of reproach, avoiding her schoolmates more than they avoided her. Instead of being content in her new home, as she had hoped to be, the girl found herself more miserable and discontented than at any other period of her life. She longed continually to be comforted by Gran 'pa Jim and Mamma Bee, and even lost interest in her studies, moping dismally in her room when she s hould have been taking an interest in the life at the school. Even good Miss Stearne had unconsciously


5S MA.RY LOUISE changed in her attitude toward the forlorn girl. Deciding one day that she needed some new shoes, Mary Louise went to the principal to ask for the money with which to buy them. Miss Stearne considered the matter seriously Then she -said with warning emphasis: '' My dear, I do not think it advisable for you to waste your funds on shoes, especially as those you have are in fairly good condition. Of course, your grandfather left some money with me, to be expended as I saw fit, but now that he has abseon -eh-eh-secreted himself, so to speak, we can expect no further remittances. When this term is ended any extra money should be applied toward your further board and tuition. Other wise you would become an outcast, with no place to go and no shelter for your head. That, in common decency, must be avoided. No; I do not approve of any useless expenditures. I shall hoard this money for future emergencies.'' In happier times Mary Louise would have been indignant at the thought that her grandfather would ever l eave her unprovided for, but she had been so humbled of late that this aspect of her affairs, so candidly presented by Miss Stearne, troubled her exceedingly. She had


U IDER A CLOUD 59 written a letter every week to her grandfather, addressing it, as he had instructed her to do, in care of Mr. Peter Conant at Dorfield: And always she had stolen out, unobserved, and mailed the letter at the village postoffice. Of course she had nev e r by a single word r e f erred to the s candal r egarding the Colon e l or her mother, or to her own unhappy lot at school because of that s cand a l, k nowing how such a report would grieve them; but the curious thing about this corre spondence was that it was distinctly one-sided. In the three months since the y had gone away, Mary Louise h a d never received an answer to any of h e r lette r s either from her grandfather or her mo ther. This might be explained, she reflected, by the fact that they suspected the mails would be watched; but this supposition attributed some truth to the accu sation that Gran'pa Jim was a fugitive from justice, which she would not allow for an instant. Had he not told her to have faith in him, whatever happene d Y Should she prove disloyal jus t because a brutal officer and an irresponsible new spape r editor had branded her d ear grandfather a No I Whate v e r h appe n e d s he would cling to


60 MARY LOUISE her faith in the goodness of dear Gran 'pa Jim. There was very little money in her purse; a few pennies that she must hoard to buy postage stamps with. Two parties for young people were given in Beverly and at both of them Mary Louise was the only girl boarding at the school who was uninvited. She kriew that some of the girls even resented her presence at the school and often when she joined a group of schoolmates their hushed conversation warned her they had been discussing her. Altogether, she felt that her presence at the school was fast becoming unbearable and when one of the boarders openly accused her of stealing a diamond ring-which was later discovered on a shelf above a washstand-the patient humility of Mary Louise turned to righteous anger and she resolved to leave the shelter of Miss Stearne's roof without delay. There was only one possible place for her to go -to the Conant house at Dor:field, where ber mother and grandfather were staying and where she had already passed three of the most pleasant years of her short life. Gran 'pa Jim had not told her she could come to him, even in an emergency, but when she explained all the suf-


UNDER A CLOUD 61 f ering she had endured at the school she knew quite well that he would forgive her for coming. But she needed money for the long journey, and this must be secured in some way from her own resources So she got together all the jewelry she possess ed and placing it in her handbag started for the town. She had an idea that a jewelry shop was the proper place to sell her jewelry, but Mr. Trum bull the jeweler shook his head and said that Watson, at the bank, of ten loaned money on such sec u r ity. He advised the girl to see Watson. So Mary Louise went to the '' bank,'' which was a one-man affair situated in the rear of the hardware store, where a grating had been placed in one corner: There she found Mr. Watson, wh o was more a country broker than a banker, and throve by lending money to farmers. \ Gran 'pa Jim was almost as fond of pretty jewels as he was of good clothes and he had always been generous in presenting his granddaughter with trinkets on her birthdays and at Christmas time The jewelry she laid before Mr. Watson was really valuable and the banker's eye was especially attracted by a brooch of pearls that must have cost several hundred dollars


62 MARY LOUISE '' How much do you want to borrow on this lot 1 '' he asked. '' As much as I can get, sir,'' she replied '' Have you any ide ) a of redeeming it 7 '' '' I hope to do so, of course.'' The banker knew perfectly well who Mary Louise was and suspected she needed money. This is no pawnbroker's shop," he asserted. I'll give you a hundred dollars, outright, for this pearl brooch as a purchase, understand -but the rest of the junk I don't want.'' A little man who had entered the hardware store to purchase a tin dipper was g etting so close to the '' bank '' that Mary Louise feared being overheard; so she did not argue with Mr. Watson. Deciding that a hundred dollars ought to take her to Dorfield, she promptly accepted the offer, signed a bill of sale and received her money. Then she walked two miles to the railway station and discovered that a ticket to Dorfield could be bought for ninety-two dollars. That would g ive her eight dollars leeway, which seemed quite sufficient. Elated at the prospect of freedom she returned to the school to make her preparation for departure and arrived just in time to join the other girls at dinner.


CHAPTER VII THE ESCAPE As she packed her trunk behind the locked door of her room -an unnecessary precaution, since the girls generally avoided her society -Mary Louise considered whether to confide the fact of her going to Miss Stearne or to depart without a word of adieu In the latter case she would forfeit her trunk and her pretty clothes, which she did not wish to do unless it proved absolutely necessary; and, after all, she decided, frankness was best. Gran 'pa Jim had of ten said that what one could not do openly should not be done at all. There was nothing to be ashamed of in her resolve to leave the scheol where she was so unhappy. The girls did not want her there and she did not want to stay; the school would be relieved of a disturbing element and Mary Louise would be relieved of unjust persecution; no blame attached to any but those who had made public this vile slander against her grandfather. From all viewpoints 63


64 MARY LOUISE she considered she was doing the right thing; so, when her preparations wer e com plete she went to Miss Stearne's room, although it w as now after eight o'clock in the evening, and requested an interview. '' I am going away,'' she quietly announced to the principal. Going away! But wh ere 1 a s ked the astonished teacher. I cannot tell you that, Mi ss Stearne." ''Do you not know?'' Yes, I know, but I prefe r not to t e ll you. Miss Stearne was greatly annoyed. She was also perplexed. The fact that Mary Louise was deserting her school did not seem so important, at the moment, as the danger involved by a young girl's going out int o the world unpro tected. The good woman had already been r endered very nervous by the dreadful accusation of Colonel Weatherby and the consequent stigma that attached to his granddaughter, a pupil at her eminently respectable s chool. She realized perfectly that the girl was blameless, whatever her grandsire might have done, and she deepl y deplored the scornful attitude assumed by the other pupils toward poor Mary Lo uise; ueverthe-


THE ESCAPE 65 less a certain bitter resentment of the unwhole some scandal that had smirched her dignified establishment had taken posses s ion of the woman, perhaps unconsciously, and while she might be a little ashamed of the ungenerous feeling Miss Stearne fervently wished she had never accepted the girl as a pupil. She had accepted her, however. She had received the money for Mary Louise's tuition and expenses and had promptly applied the entire sum to reducing her grocery bills and other pre&sing obligations; therefore she felt it her duty to give value received If Mary Louise was to be driven from the school by the jeers and sneers of the other girls, Miss Stearne would feel like a thief. Moreover, it would be a dis tinct reproach to her should she allow a :fifteen year-old girl to wander into a cruel world because her school -her sole home and refuge -had been r endered so unbearable that she could not remain there. The principal was really unable to repay the money that had been advanced to her, even if that would relieve her of obligat ion to shelter the girl, and therefore she decided that Mary Louise must not be permitted, under any circumstances, to leave her establishment


66 MARY LO UISE without the authority of her natural guardians. This argument ran hurri e dly through her mind as the girl stood calmly waiting. '' Is this action approved by your mother, or -or by your grandfather 7 she asked, somewhat more harshly than was her won t in addressing her pupil s No, Miss Stearne." Then how dare yo u even suggest iU " I am not wanted h ere," returned the girl with calm a ssurance '' My presence i s annoying to the other girl s as well as to yourse lf, and so disturbs the routine of the school. For my part, I -I am very unhappy here, as you must realize, because everyone seems to think my dear Gran 'pa Jim is a wicked man which I know he i s not. I have no heart to study, and and so -it is better for us all that I go away.'' This statement was so absolutely true and the implied reproach was so justifi ed that Miss Stearne allowed herself to b ec om e angry as the best m eans of opposing the girl's design. '' This is absurd! '' she exclaimed. '' You imagine these grievances, Mary Louis e and I cannot permit you to attack the school and your fell ow boarders in so reckless a manner. You


THE ESCAPE 61 shall not stir one step from this school! I forbid you, positively, to leave the grounds hereafter without my express permission. You have been placed in my charge and I insist that you obey me. Go to your room and study your lessons, which you have been shamefully neglecting lately. If I hear any more of this rebellious wish to l eave the sch9ol, I shall be obliged to punish you by confining you to your room.'' The girl listened to this speech with evident surprise; yet the tirade did not seem to impress her. '' You refuse then, to let me '' she returned. '' I positively refuse.'' But I cannot stay here, Miss Stearne," she protested. You must. I have always treated you kindly I treat all my girls well if they deserve itbut you are developing a bad disposition, Mary Louise-a most reprehensible disposition, I regret to say -and the tendency must be corrected at once. Not another word Go to your room.''. Mary Louise went to her room, greatly depressed by the interview. She looked at her


68 MARY LOUISE trunk, made a mental inventory of its highly prized contents, and sighed. But as soon as she rejoined Gran 'pa Jim, she reflect e d, he wonld send an order to have the trunk forwarded and Miss Stearne would not dare refuse. For a time she must do without her pretty gowns. Instead of studying her text books she studied the railway time-card. She had intended asking Miss Stearne to permit her to take the :fivethirty train from Beverly Junction the next morning and since the recent intervie w she had firmly decided to board that very t r ain. This was not entirely due to stubbornness for she reflected that if she stayed at the s chool h e r unhappy condition would becom e aggravated, instead of improving, especially s ince Miss Stearne had developed unexpected sharpness of temper. She would endure no longer the mali cious taunts of her schoolfellows or the scoldings of the principal, and these could be avoided in. no othe r way than by escaping as s h e h a d planned. At t e n o'clock she lay down upon h e r bed, fully dressed, and put out h e r light; but s h e d ared not fall a s leep lest she miss h e r train. A t t i mes she lighted a match and look e d at her watch and


THE ESCAPE 69 it surprised her to realize how lon g a night can be when one is watching for daybreak. At four o'clock she softly rose, put on her hat, took her suit case i n hand and stealthily crept from the room. It was very dark in the hallway but the house was so fami liar to her that s he easily felt her way along the passage, dow n the front stairs and so to the front door. Miss Stearne always l ocked this door at night but left the key in the lock. To -night the k e y had b ee n withdrawn. When Mary Louise had satisfied herself of this fact she stole along the lower hallway toward the rear. The door that conn ected with the dining room and farther on with the servants' quarters had also been locked and the key withd rawn. This was so unusual that it plainly told the girl that Miss Stearne was -suspicious that she might try to escape and so had taken precautions to prevent her leaving the house. Mary Louise cautiously set down her suit and tried to think what to do. The house had not been built for a school but was an old r es id ence converted to school purposes. On one side of the hall was a big drawing-room; on the other side were the principal 's apartments.


. 70 MARY LOUISE Mary Louise entered the drawingroom and ran against a chair that stood in her way. Until now she had not made the slightest noise, but the suit case banged against the chair and the con cussion reverberated dully throughout the house. The opposite door opened and a light flooded the hall. From where the girl stood in the dark drawingroom she could see Miss Stearne standing in her doorway and listening. Mary Louise held herself motionless She scarcely dared breathe. The principal glanced up and down the h a ll, noted the locked doors and presently retired into her room, after a little while extinguishing the light. Then Mary Loui se felt her way to a window, drew aside the heavy draperies and carefully released the catch of the sash, which she the n succeeded in raising. The wooden blinds were easily unfaste ned but swung back with a slight creak that made her heart l ea p with apprehension She did not wait, now, to learn if the sound had been heard, for already she had wasted too much time if she intended to catch her train. She leaned through the window, let her suit case down as far as she could reach and dropped it to the ground. Then she elimbecl


THE ESCAPE 71 through the opening and let herself dow n by clingin g to the sill. It was a hig h window but she was a tall girl for her age and her feet touched the ground. Now s he was free to go her way. She lost no tim e in getting away from the grounds, being guided by a dim starlight and a glow in the eas t that was a promise of morn ing. With rapid steps she made her way to the s t ation, reaching it ov e r the rough country road just as the train pull e d in. She h a d been pos sessed w ith the idea that someone was stealthily following her and under the li ght of the d epot lamps h e r first act was to swin g around and stare into t he darkness from which she had emerged She almos t expe ct e d to see }\1:iss Stearne appear, but i t was only a little man with a fat no se and a shabby suit of clothes, who had probably come from the villa ge to catch the same train s h e wan ted He paid no attention to the g i r l but entered the same car she did and quietly took hi s seat in the rear.


CHAPTER VIII A FRIENDLY FOE It r equired two days and a night to g o by rail from Beverly to Dorfield and as Mary Loui se had passed a sleepless night at the sch ool she decided to purchase a berth on the sleeper. That made a big hole in her surplus of eigh t dollars and she also found her meals in the di ning car quite expen s ive, so that by the time she lef t the train at Dor::field her ::finances would be r educed to the sum of a dollar and twenty cents. That would not have disturbed her, knowing that thereafter she would be with Gran 'pa Jim, except for one circumstance. The little man with the fat no se who had take n the train at Beverly, was still on board. All the other passengers who had be e n on the train at that time had one by on e left it and been replaced by others, for the route lay through several large cities where many alight e d and others came aboard. Only the little man from Beverly r e mained, quiet and unobtru -72


A FRIENDLY FOE 73 sive but somehow haunting the girl's presence in an embarrassing manner. He seldom looked at her but was found staring from the window whenever she turned her eyes toward him. At first she scarcely noticed the man, but the longer he remained aboard the train the more she speculated as to where he might be going. Whenever she entered the dining car he took a notion to eat at that time, but found a seat as far removed from her as possible. She imagined she had escaped him when she went to the sleeper, but next morning as she passed out he was standing in the vestibule and a few moments later he was in the diner where she was breakfasting. It was now that the girl first conceived the idea that he might be following her for a purpose, dogging her footstep s to discover at what station she left the train. And, when she asked herself why the stranger should b e so greatly concerned with her movements, she remembered that she was going to Gran'pa Jim and tha t at one time an officer had endeavored to discover, through hM, her grandfather's whereabouts. If this little man," she mused, glancing at his blank, inexpressive features, '' happens to be


74 MARY LOUISE a detective, and knows who I am, he may think I will lead him directly to Colon e l Weatherby, whom he may then arrest. Gran'pa Jim is innocent, of course, but I know he doesn't wish to be arrested, because he left Beverly suddenly to avoid it. And,'' she added with a sudden sinking of the heart, '' if this suspicion is true I am actually fall ing into the trap and leading an officer to my grandfather's retreat.'' This reflection rendered the girl very uneasy and caused her to watch the fat-nosed man guardedly all through that tedious day. She constantly hoped he would l eave the train at some station and thus prove her fears to be groundless, but a lways he remained in his seat, patiently eyeing the landscape throu6h his window. Late in the afternoon another suspicious cir cumstance aroused her alarm. The conductor of the train, as he passed through the car, paused at the rear end and gazed thoughtfully at the little man huddled in the rear seat, who seemed uncon scious of his regard. After watching him a while the conductor suddenly turned his head and lo oked directly at Mary Louise with a curious expression as if connecting his two passengers. Then he went on through the train, but the girl' s


A FRIENDLY FOE 75 heart was beating high and the little man, while seeming to eye the fleeting landscape through the window, wriggled somewhat uneas ily in his seat. Mary Louise now d e cided he was a d e tective. She suspected that h e had b ee n sent to Beverly, after the other man l eft, to watch her movem ents, 'vith the idea that sooner or later s he woul d rejoin her grandfathe r. Perhaps, had any lette r come for her from her mothe r or Gran 'pa Jim, this officer would have se iz e d it and obtained from it the address of the man he wa s see kin g That v:ould account for their failure to w rite her; perhaps they w ere aware of the plo t and the re fo r e dared not send her a letter. And now she began wondering what she should do when she got to Dorfi e ld, if the little man also left the train at that station Suc h an act on hi s part would prove that her suspicions were cor r e ct, i n which case she would l ea d him straight to her grandfather, whom she would thus d e liv e r into the powe r of his m erc ile ss enemies. No; that would not do, at all. If the man fol lowed her from t he train at Dorfi eld she dared not go to P ete r Conan t's hou se Where then, could she go 1 Had she possessed sufficient money it might be best to ride past Dorfield and pay her


76 MARY LOUISE fare to another station; but her funds were prac tically exhausted. Dor:field was a much bigger town than Beverly; it was quite a large city, indeed; perhaps she could escape the supervision of the detective, in some way, and by outwitting him find herself free to seek the Conant's home. She would try this and circumstances must decide her plan of action Always there was the chance that she misjudged the little man. As the conductor called the station the train halted and the girl passed the rear seat, where the man had his bare head half out the open window, and descended from the car to the platform. A few others also alighted, to hurry a.way to the omnibuses or street car or walk to their destinations. Mary Louise stood quite still upon the platform until the train drew out after its brief stop. It was nearly six o'clock in the evening and fast growing dark, yet she dis tinctly observed the fat nosed man, who had ali ghted on the opposite side of the track and was now sauntering diagonally across the rails to the d epo t, his hands thrust deep in his pockets and his eyes turned away from Mary Louise as if the girl occupied no part of his thoughts


.A. FRIENDLY FOE 77 But s h e knew better than that. H e r suspicions were now fully confirmed and she sought to evade the detective in just the way any inexperie nced girl might have done. Turning in the oppo site direction she hastily cross e d the street, putting a big building between h e r self and the depot, and the n hurried along a crossstreet. She look e d back now and then and found she had not been followed; so, to insure escape she turned another corner, giving a fearful glance ov e r her shoulder as she did so. This street was not so well lighted as the others had b ee n and she had no idea where it led to. She lm ew Dorfi eld pretty w e ll, havin g onc e reside d there for three years, but in her agitated haste she had no w lo s t all sense of direc tj on. F eel in g however, that she was now safe from pursuit, she walk ed on more slowly, trying to discover her whereabout s, and presen tly passed a dimly-lighted bakery b efo r e which a man sto od l ooking abstractedly i nto the window at the cakes and pies, his back toward her. Instantly Mary Loui se felt her heart sink. She did not need to see the man's face to recognize the detective. Nor did he stir as she passed him by and proceeded up the street. But how d i d


78 MARY LOUISE he happen to be there 1 Had she accidentally stumbled upon him, or had he purposely placed himself in her path to assure her that escape from him was impo ss ible 1 As she reached the next corner a street car came rushing along, halted a brief moment and proceeded on its way. In that moment Mary Louise had stepped aboard and as she entered the closed section and sank into a seat she breathed a sigh of reli ef. The man at the bakery window had not followed h e r The car made one or two more stops, turned a corner and stopped again. This time the little man with the fat nose deliberately swung liimself to the rear platform, paid his fare and remained there He didn't look at Mary Louise at all, but she looked at him and her expression was one of mingled horror and fear. A mile farther on the car reached the end of its line and the conductor reversed the trolley pole and prepared for the return journey. Mary Louise kept her seat. The detective watched the motorman and conductor with an assumption of stupid interest and retained his place on the platform. On the way back to the bu iness section of Dor-


A FRIENDLY FOE 79 field, Mary Loui se con sidered what to do next. She was very young and inexperienced; she was also, at this moment, very weary a n d despondent It was clearly evident that she could not escape this man, whos e persistence impressed her with the imm inent dange r that threate n ed h e r gran dfathe r if she w ent to the home o f the Conants the one thing she p os i t i ve ly must no t do Since her arriva l was wholly unexpected by her friends, with whom she could not communicate, she now found h erself a forlorn wanderer, without mon e y or shelter. When the car stopped at Main Street she got off and walked s lo wly along the brilliantly lighted thoroughfare feeling more safe among the moving throngs of p eop l e Presently she came to a we ll-r emembered corner where the principal hote l stood on one s i de and the First Nati onal Bank on the o the r. She now knew where s he was and could find the direct route to the Conants, had she dared go there. To gain time for thought the girl stepped into the doorway of the bank, which was closed for the day, thus avoidin g being jostled by pedestri ans She set down her suit c ase, l eaned agains t the door-frame and tried to determine h e r wisest cours e of action.


80 MARY LOUISE She was hungry, tired, frightened, and the com bination of sensations made her turn faint. With a white face and despair in her heart she leaned heavily back and closed her eyes. '' Pardon me,'' said a soft voice, and with a nervous start she opened her eyes to find the little fat-nosed man confronting her. He had removed his hat and was looking straight into her face -for the first time, she imagined -and now she noticed that his gray eyes were not at all unkindly. What do you want? she asked sharply, with an involuntary shudder. I wish to advise you, Miss Burrows," he replied. '' I believe you know who I am and it is folly for us to pursue this game of hide-and-seek any longer. You are tired and worn out with your long ride and the anxiety I have caused you.'' '' You are dogging me! '' she exclaimed indignantly. '' I am keeping you in sight, according to orders.'' "You are a detective? she asked, a little dis armed by his frankness. '' John 0 'Gorman by name, Miss. At home I


A FRIENDLY FOE 81 have a little girl much like you, but I doubt i f my Josie even though I have trained her would prove more shrewd than you have done under such trying circumstances. Even in the train you recognized my profession -and I am thought to be rather clever at disguising my motives." "Yes!" "And you know quite well that because you have come to Dorfield to join your grandfather, whom you call Colonel Weatherby, I have fol lowed you in an attempt to discover, through you, the man for whom our government has searched many years. '' Oh, indeed! '' Therefore yo u are determined not to go to your destination and you are at your .wits' end to know what to do. Let me advise you, for the sake of my own little Josie." The abrupt proposal bewildered her. ''You are my enemy!'' Don't think that, Miss," he said gently. I am an officer of the law, engaged in doing my duty. I am not your enemy and bear you no illwill. " You are trying to arrest my grandfather."


82 MARY LOUISE ' In the cour se o f duty. But h e i s quite safe from m e for to-night, while you are almost e xh a u s t e d throug h your efforts to protect him. Go into the hote l acro s s the way and r egiste r and ge t s om e supper and a room. To-morrow you will be able to think more clearly and may the n m a k e up your mind what to do." h esitate d The voice se e med earnes t and sinc e re, the e y es con s id erate and pitying and the advice appealed to her as good; but "Jus t for to-night, put yourself in my care," he said. I'm ashamed to have anno ye d you to such an ext ent and to have interfe r e d with your plans; but I could not help it. You have succeed e d in balking the det e ctiv e but the ma11i admires you for it. I noticed, the last tim e you took out your purse in the dinin g -car, that your money is nearly gone. If you will p ermit me to lend you enough for your hotel expen ses -'' No " Well it may not be neces s ary. Your friends :will supply you with money whenever our little comedy, shall we say?-is played to the e nd. In the meantime I'll sp e ak to the landlord. Now, Miss Burrows, run across to the hote l and register.''


A FRIENDLY FOE 83 She gazed at him uncertainly a moment and the little man smiled reassuringly. Somehow, she felt inclined to trust him. Thank you," she said and took her suit case into the hotel office. The clerk looked at her rather curiously as she registered, but assigned her a room and told her that dinner was still being served. She followed the bellboy to her room, where she brushed her gown, bathed her hands and face and rearranged her hair. Then she went to the dining room and, although the journey and worry had left her sick and nervous, she ate some dinner and felt stronger and better after it.


CHAPTER IX OFFICER 0 'GORMAN Mary Louis e returned to her room and sat down to consider the best way out of her dilemma. The detective's friendliness, so frankly expressed, pleased her, in a way, yet she realized his vigilance would not be relaxed and that he was still determined, through her, to discover where Gran 'pa Jim was hidd en An uncomfortable d egree o f dange r had already been incurred by her unconsciou sly l eading the officer to Dorfield. He knew now that the man he was seeking was either in this city or its immediate neighborhood. But unle s s she led him to the exact spot to the dwelling of the Conan ts -it would take even this clever detective some time to locate the refugee. Before then Mary Louise hoped to be able to warn Gran 'pa Jim of his danger. That would prevent her from rejoining him and her mother, but it would also save him from arrest. Glancing around her comfortable room she 84


OFFICER 0 'GORlVIAN 85 saw a telephone on the wall. Beside it, on a hook, hung the book containing the addresses of the s ub scribers. She opened the book and glancing down its columns found: Conant, Peter; r. 1216 Oak st. Blue 147." Why hadn't she thought of this simple method of comm unication It would be quite easy to call Mr. Conant and tell him where she was and have him warn Gran 'pa Jim that a detective was s earching for him. She went to the telephone and took down the rece iver. '' Office '' crie d a sharp voice. '' What number do you want7 Mary Loui se hesitated; the n she hung up the r ece iver without reply. It occurred to her that the hotel office was a public place and that the tel ephone girl would be likely to yell out the number for all to overhear. To satisfy herself on this point she went down stairs in the el evator and purchased a magazine at the n e ws stand. The telephone desk was near by and Mary Louise could hear the girl calling the numbers and responding to calls, whi l e not six feet from her desk sat a man whose person was nearly covered by a spread newspaper which


86 MARY LOUISE he appeared to be reading. But Mary Louise knew him by his striped trousers and straightway congratulated herself on her caution. Undoubtedly the detective had figured on her telephoning and she had nearly fallen into the trap. Back to her room she went, resolved to make no further move till morning. The day had been a hard one for the girl, mentally and physically, and at this moment she felt herself hopelessly involved in a snare from which she could see no means of escape. She read a little in her magazine, to quiet her nerves, and then went to bed and fell asleep. At daybreak Mary Louise wakened to wonder if she had done right in running away from Miss Stearne's school. Gran 'pa Jim bad plaeed her there because he did not wish to take her w ith him when he left Beverly, and now she had come to him without his consent and in doing so had perhaps delivered him into the hands of his enemies. Poor Gran 'pa Jim! She would never cease to reproach herself if she became respon sib l e for his ruin. As she lay in bed, thinking in this vein, she all o wed herself to wonder for the first time why


OFFICER 0 'GORMAN 87 her dear grandfather was being persecuted by the officers of the law by the Government of the United States, indeed, which should be just and merciful to all its people. Of course he was innocent of any wrong-doing; Gran 'pa Jim would never do anything to injure a human being, for he was good n es s itself and had taught her to honor truth and righte ousness ever si nce she could remember Never for a moment would she doubt him But it was curious, wh en she came to reflect upon it, that he would run away from his en e mies instead of facing the m bravely For many years he had hidde n himself :first in one place and then in another and at the :first warning of discovery or pursuit would disappear and seek a new hiding-plac e For she now realized, in the light of her recent knowledge, that for many years Gran'pa Jim had been a fugitive from the law, and that for some unknown reason he dared not face his accusers. Some p e ople might consider this an evidence of guilt, but Mary Louise and Gran 'pa Jim had been close comrades for two years and deep in her heart was the unalterable conviction that his very nature would r evolt against crime of any s ort. Moreover always a strong argument in


88 :MA.RY LOUISE her mind -her mother had steadfastly believed in her grandfather and had devoted h erself to him to the exclusion of all else in her life, even neglecting her own daughter to serve her father. Bee loved her, she well knew, yet Mary Louise had never enjoyed the same affe ctionat e intercourse with her mother that she had with h e r grandfather, for Mamma Bee's whole life seemed to center around the old Col o n e l. This unusual devotion was proof enough to Mary Louise that h e r grandfather was inno c en t, but it did not untangle the maze. Looking back over her past life, she c oul d recall the many sudden changes of reside n ce due to Colonel Weatherby's desire to esc a p e apprehen sion by the authorities. The y s ee m ed t o date from the time they had left that big cit-y house, where the child had an especial nurse a n d there were lots of servants, and wh ere her beautiful mother used to bend over her wi t h a goodnight kiss while arrayed in dainty b all costumes sparkling with jew e ls. Mary Louis{} tried to remember her father, but could no t, although she had been told that he died in tha t very house. She r e membered Gran 'pa Jim in those days, however, only he was too busy t o pay much


OFFICER 0 'GORMAN 89 attention to her. Let's see; was he called '' Colonel Weatherby '' in those days? She could not recollect That name did not become fami li a r to her until long afterward. Always he had b ee n just Gran'pa Jim" to her. Yet that dreadful officer of the law who had questi o ned her in Beverly had called him '' HathawayJ ames J. Hathaway." How absurd! But where had she heard the name of Hathaway before 1 She puzzled her brain to remember. Did it belong t o any of her schoolgirl friends? Or was it-With a sudden thought she sprang from her bed and took her watch from the dresser. It was an old watch, given he r by Mamma Bee on the girl's twelfth birthday, while she was living with the Conants, and her mother had bidden her to treasure it because i t h a d b e lon g ed to her when she was a girl of Mary Louise's age The watch was stem-winding a n d had a closed case, the back lid of which had sel dom be e n opened because it fit t e d very tightly But now Mary Louise prie d it op e n wit h a hatpin and c a r r ied it to the light. On the ins i de of the gold ca se the following words were e ngrav ed : '' Beatrice Hathaway, fro m her loving Fathe r .''


90 M:ARY LOUISE Mary Louise stared at this inscription for a 1ong while For. the first time, ugly doubts began to creep into her heart. The officer was right when he said that James Hathaway was mas querading under the false name of Colonel Weatherby. Gran'pa Jim had never told even Mary Louise that his real name was Hathaway; Mamma Bee h101.d never told h e r, either. With a de e p sigh she snapped the case of the watch in place and then began to dress .. It was still too early for breakfas t when she had finish ed her toilet, so she sat by the open window of her room, looking down into the street, and. tried to solve the mystery of Gran'pa Jim. Better thoughts came to her, inspiring her with n e w courage Her grandfather had changed his name to enable him the more easily to escape observation, for it was James Hathaway who was accused, not Colonel James Weatherby. It was difficult, however, for the girl to familiarize her self with the idea that Gran 'pa Jim was really James Hathaway; still, i f her mother's name before her marriage was indeed Beatrice Hathaway, as the watch proved, then there was no question but her grandfather's name was also Hathaway. He had changed it for a purpose and


OFFICER 0 'GORMAi'J 91 s he must not question the honesty of that purpose, however black the case look ed against her beloved Gran 'pa Jim. This discovery, nevertheless, only added to the mystery of the whole affair, which she realized he r inability to cope with. Groupin g the facts with which she was familiar into regular orde r, her information was limit ed as follows: Once Gran 'pa Jim was rich and prosperous and was named Hathaway. He had many friends and lived in a handsome city house. Suddenly he left everything and ran away, changing his name to that of Weatherby. He was afraid, for some unknown reason, of being anested, and whenever discovery threatened his retreat he would run away again. In this manner he had maintained his liberty for nine years, yet to-day the officers of the law seemed as anxious to find him as at first. To sum up, Gran 'pa Jim was accuse d of a crime so important that it could not be condoned and only his clevern ess in evading arrest had saved him from prison. That would look pretty black to a stranger, and it made even Mary Louise feel very uncomfort ab le and oppressed, but against the accusation the girl placed these facts, b etter known to her than /


92 MARY LOUISE the others : Gran 'pa Jim was a good man, kind and honest. Since she had known him his life had b een blameless. Mamma Bee, who knew him best of all, never faltered in her devotion to him. He was incapable of doing an evil deed he abhorred falsehood, he insisted on def ending the rights of his fellow men. Therefore, in spite of any evidence against him Mary Louise believed in his innoc ence Having settled this belief :firmly in mind and heart, the girl felt a distinct sense of relief. She would doubt no more. She would not try, in the future, to solve a mystery that was beyond her compr ehensio n. Her one duty was to l!lain tain an unfaltering faith. At seven o'clo ck she went to the breakfast room, to which but two or three other guests of the hotel had preceded her, and in a few minutes Detectiv e 0 'Gorman entered and seated himself at a tabl e near her. He bowed very respe ctfully as he caught her eye and she returned the saluta tion, uneasy at the man's presenc e but feeling no especial antagonism toward him. As he had said, he was but doing his duty. 0 'Gorman :finished his breakfast before Mary Louise did, after which, rising from his chair, he


OFFICER 0 'GO RM.AN 93 came toward her table and asked quietly: "May I sit at your table a moment, Miss Burrows?'' She neith e r consented nor refus ed, being taken by surprise, but O'Gorman sat down without r eqmrmg a n answer. '' I wish to tell Y?U,'' he began, '' that my unpleasant espionage of you is ended. It will b e needless for me to embarrass or annoy you longer." ''Indeed?'' "Yes Aren't you glad 7 "with a smile at her astoni s h ed exp r ess ion. '' You see I've been busy investigating while you s l e pt. I've visited the local pol ice station and various other places. I am satisfied that Mr. Hathaway-or Mr. Weatherby, as he calls hims elf is n o t in Dor:field and has never lo cated h e re. Once again the man has baffled the entire force of our departm e nt. I am now con fiden t that your coming to this town was not to m eet you r grandfather but to seek refuge with other fri ends, and so I have been causing you all this bother and vexation for nothing .'' She look ed at him in amaz eme n t I'm going to ask you to forgive me," he


94 LOUISE went on, '' and unless I misjudge your nature you 're not going to bear any grudge a gainst me. They sent me to Beverly to watch you, and for a time that was a l a zy man's job. When you sold some of your jewelry for a hundred dollars, how ever, I knew there woul.d be something doing. You were not very happy at your school, I knew, and my fir s t thought was that you m e r ely intended to run away-anywhere to escape the p e r secution of those h eartless girls. But you bought a ticket for Dorfield, a faraway town so I at once decided-wrongly, I admit-that you knew where Hathaway was and intended going to him. So I came vrith you, to find he is not here. He has never been here. Hathaway is too distinguished a personage, in appearance, to escape the eye of the local police. So I am about to set you free, my girl, and to return immediately to my headquarters in Washington.'' She had followed his speech eagerly and with a feeling of keen disappointment at his report that her grandfather and her mother were not in Dorfield. Could it be true? Officer 0 'Gorman took a card from his pocket book and laid it beside her plate. '' My dear child,'' said he in a gentle tone, '' I


OFFICER 0 'G ORMAN 95 fear your li fe is destined to be one of trials and perplexities if not of dreary heartaches. I have wa tched over you and studied your character for lon g e r than you know and I have found much in your make -u p that is interestin g and admirable. You r emind me a good deal of my o wn Jos ie as good and clever a girl as ever li ved So I am go ing to a sk you to consider m e your frie nd. Keep this card and if eve r you get i nto serious difficulty I want you to wire me to come and help you. If I should happ e n, at the time, to have duties to p revent my comin g I will send some other r e liable pers on to your assistance. Will you promise to do this ? '' ''Thank you, Mr. O'Gorman,'' she said. ''I-: I -your kindnes s embarrasses me.'' "Don't allow it to do that. A detectiv e is a man, you know, much lik e other m e n, and I have always h eld that the bette r man he is the better detective he i s sure to prove I'm oblig e d to do disagreeable things at times, in the fulfillment of my duty, but I try to spare even the most hardened criminal as much as po s sib l e So why shouldn't I be kind to a h e lpl ess unfortunate girU" "Am I she ask ed


96 MARY L OUIS E Perhaps n o t But I fear your grandfather's fate i s destined to c ause you unha ppiness. You, s ee m fon d o f him.'' He is the b est man i n all the world! O'Go rman loo ked a t the tabl e clo t h rathe r than to meet her eye s. ' So I will n ow say good-b ye Miss Burrows, and-I wish yo u the happines s you deserve. You're just as goo d a girl as my Josie i s." With this h e rose to his feet and bow e d again. He was a little man and he had a fat no se but Ma r y Louise coul d not help likin g him. She was still a f r a i d of the d e t e cti ve however, and wh e n h e had l eft the dinin g room s h e a s ked hersel f i f his story c o uld b e true i f Gra n 'pa Jim was not in Dor.fie l d -i f h e had n e ver eve n com e to the town, as O'G orman had s tated. T h e Conants w o u l d know t h at, of course, a n d if the d e tective w ent away she w o ul d be free to go t o the Conan t s for informati o n She w ould find s h e lter, at l e as t with these o l d friends. As she p ass e d fro m t h e d ining room into the h otel l obby M r. O Gorman was paying his b ill a n d bidding the clerk far e we ll. H e had no baggage excep t s uch as h e might carry in his pocke t, but h e e n te r e d a bus that s tood ou t s i d e a n d wa s I


OFFICER 0 9 7 dr.iven away with a :final doff of h i s h a t t o the watching girl. Mary Louise decided in the instant what to do. Mr. Peter Conant was a lawyer and had an office in one of the big bui l dings down town S he remembered that he always made a po i n t of b e in g in his office at eight o'clock in the morning, and it was nearly eight now. She wou ld visit Mr. Conant in his office, fo:r this could not poss ibly endanger the safety of Gran 'pa Jim in case the detective's story pro ved false, or if a n attempt had been made to deceive her. The man had seemed sincere and for the time being he h a d actually gone away; but she was suspic iou s o f detectives. ran upstairs for her coat and hat and at once left the hotel. She knew the w a y to P e t e r Conant's office and walked rapidly t o wa r d i t.


CHAPTER X RATHER QUEEH INDEED Mary Louise found the door of the office, which was located on the third floor of the Chambers Building, lock ed. However, the sign: '' Peter Conant, Attorney at Law," was painted on the glass panel in big, distinct letters, so she was sure she had made no mistake. She slowly paced the hall, waiting, until the elevator stopped and Mr. Conant stepped out and approache d the door, his morning paper in one hand, a k e y in the other. Running to him, the girl exclaimed: Oh, Mr. Conant! He stopped sho r t and turne d to face her. Then he stepped a pace backward and said: Great heavens, it's Mary Louise! '' Didn't you recognize '' she asked. '' Not at first,'' he answered slowly. '' You have grown tall and -andolder, in two years.'' ''Where is Gran'pa J '' Hush! with a startled glance up and down !l8


RATHER QUEER INDEED 99 the hall. Then he unlocked the door and added: ''Come in.'' Mary Louise followed him through the outer office and into a smal ler room b e yond, the door of which Mr. Conant carefully closed afte r them. Then he turne d to look steadily at the girl, who thought be did not see m es pecially delighted at her appea rance in Dorfield. Indeed, his first words proved this, for he asked sternly: ''Why are you here?'' I left the school at Beverly because the girls m a de it so uncomfortabl e for me there that I could not bear it longer," she explained In what way did the y make it uncomfortabl e for you 1 " They jeered at me beca u se becau se -Gran 'pa Jim is being hunte d by the officers of the law, who accuse him of doing something wicked.'' Mr. Conant frowned. Perhaps their attitude was only natural," he remarked; '' but there was no accusation against you, my child Why didn't you stic k it ouU The scandal woul d soon have di e d away and left you in peace." '' I was unhappy there,'' s he s aid simply, '' and

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100 1\1ARY LOUISE s o I thought I would come here to mother and Gran 'pa Jim.'' '' Here 1 '' as if surprised. '' Ye s Aren't the y here, with you? '' "No." '' The n where are they? '' ''I've no idea.'' She sat still and stared at him, while he regarded her with a thoughtful and perplexed look on his face. Mr. Conant i s difficult to d es crib e b eca use he was like dozens of m e n one me ets every day, at least in outward appearance. He was n either tall nor short, l ea n nor fat, handsome nor ugly, attractive nor repulsive Yet Pete r Conant m u s t not be considered a nonentity because he was commonplac e in p e rson, for h e possessed manner isms that were peculiar. He would open his eyes v ery wide and stare at one steadily until the person became confused and turned away. The gaze was not especially shrewd, but it was dis concerting because steadfast. Whe n he talked he would chop off his words one by one, with a distinct pause between each, and that often made it hard to t e ll w hether he had ended his speech or s till had more to say. Whe n very earnest or

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RATHER QUEER INDEED 101 interested he w oul d play with a locke t that dangled from his watch chain ; oth erw i se he usu ally stood with his hands cla sped behind his ba ck. Mary Louise well knew these peculiariti es h aving previou sly lived in his house, and als o she kne w he was a kind-heart ed man, devotedly attached t o his deaf wife and thoroughly truste d by Gran 'pa Jim. I was told," said the girl presently to direct all my l etters to my grandfather in your care." ' I am aware that you have done so,'' he r ep lied '' So I thought, of course, that h e and my mother were with you." '' No; they did not com e here. Colonel W eatherby arranged for me to forward your lette rs, which I did as soon as they arrived." '' Oh; then y ou know his address? '' ' I do not. There are six different points to whic h I .forward letters, in rotation, both those from you and from others on various matters of bu s iness, and these points are widely scat t ered My impressi on is that Colon e l W eatherby i s in non e of these places and that the l etters are again

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102 MARY LOUISE forwarded to him to wherever he may be.'' Mary Louise f elt quite discouraged. With hesi-tation she ask ed : '' Do you s uppo se you could find him for me '' It is impossibl e." "What am I to do, Mr. Conant? '' I advise you to go back to your school.'' Can't I stay h e re, with you? He stared at h e r with his round eyes, playing with his locket '' I haven't the mon ey for the return trip,'' she w en t on falte ringly. I had to sell s ome of my j e welry to get here I won't be much trouble, if you will let m e liv e with you until I can find Gran 'pa Jim.'' Mr. Conant still stared. '' I'm sure,'' said Mary Louise, '' that my grandfather will g ladly repay you any money it costs you to keep m e .'' '' You don't un-d er-stand,'' he retorted, chopping off his words rather viciously. '' More over, you can't understand. Go to the house and talk to Hannah. Have you any '' I've a suit case at the hotel," she said, and went on to tell h i m the experiences of her journey and of h e r encounter with D etective 0 'Gorman

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RATHER QUEER INDEED 103 this relation, which he did not interrupt, Mr. Conant toyed persistently with his watch charm. His features were noncommittal but be was thoroughly interested. '' You see,'' he remarked when she had :fin ished," Colonel vVeatherby's elaborate system of evading discovery i s quite necessary.'' '' But why should he w i sh to bide 7 '' asked the girl. ''Don't you know 1 '' No, sir." '' Then your grandfather doesn't wish you to know. I am his lawyer -at least I am one of his lawyers -and a lawyer must respect the con fidences of his clients.'' Mary Louis e looked at him wonderingly, for here was someone who evidently knew the entire truth. '' Do you beli e ve my grandfather is a bad man 7 '' she asked. No. I have the highest respect for Colon el Weatherby." '' Do you know his name to be Weatherby -or is it Hathaway1 '' I am bis lawyer,'' reiterated Mr. Conant. '' Is it possible that an innocent man would

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104 MARY LOUISE change his name and hide, rather than face an unjust accusation 1 " Yes Mary Louise sighed '' I will go with you to the ho tel and pay your bill," said the lawyer. Then you may go to the house and talk to Hannah. when I have talked w ith h e r myse lf, we will determine what to do with you." So they w ent to the hotel and the girl packe d her suit case and brought it downstairs Queer! said Mr. Conant to her, :fingering his locket. '' Your bill has been paid by that man 0 'Gorman.'' '' How impertinent! '' s he exclaimed '' There is also a note for you in your box.'' The clerk handed her an envelope, which she opened. '' I hop e to be able to send you your grandfather's address very soon, wrote O'Gor man. '' You will probably stay in Dor:field; perhaps with the Conants, with whom you lived before. You might try sending Colonel W eatherby a letter in care of Oscar Lawler, at Los Angeles, Californi a In any event, don't. forge t my card or neglect to wire me in case of emergency.''

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RATHER QUEER INDEED 105 Having read this with considerable surprise the girl handed the note to Mr. Conant, who slowly read it and gave a bark like that of an angry dog when he came to the name of the California attorney. Without remark he put the detective's l etter in his pock e t and picking up Mary Louise's suit case led the girl outside to the street corn e r. This car will take you to within two blocks of my house,'' he said. '' Can you manage your grip alone 1 '' "Easily," she assured him. You have carfare T " Yes, thank you." Then good-bye. I'll see you this evening." He turned away and she boarded the street car.

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CHAPTER XI MARY LOUISE MEETS IRENE As Mary Loui se approached the home of the Conaut s which was a p r etty little hous e set far back in a garden filled with tree s and shrubs, she was surprised to hear a joyous ragtime tune being drumme d upon the p iano-an instrument she remembered Mrs. Conant k ept in the hou se exclusively as an ornament, b eing unable to play it. Then, as the girl r eached the porch, the m e lody suddenly stoppe d, a m erry laugh rang out and a fresh sweet voice was heard through the op e n window talking rapidly and with eager infl e ction "I w ond e r who that can be1 thou ght Mary Louise Everyone h a d to s p ea k loudly to poor Mrs Conant, who might b e entertaining a visitor. She rang the bell and s oon her old friend appeared i n the doorway. '' My dear, dear child '' crie d the g ood lady, r e cogniz ing the girl instantly and embrac ing h e r ]()(l

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MARY LOUISE MEETS IRENE 107 after a welcoming kiss. Where on earth have you come '' From Beverly," said Mary Louise with a smile, for in her depressed state of mind this warm greeting cheered her wonderfully. Come right in," said Mrs. Conant, seizing the case H ave you had breakfasU '' Yes, indeed; hours ago. And I've se e n Mr. Conant at his office. H e he wante d me to talk to you.'' She spoke loudly, as she had been accu s tomed to do, but now Mrs. Conant wore on her ear an instrument similar in appearance to a small telephone receiver, and she seemed to hear quite distinctly through its mechanism. Indeed, she pointed to it with an air of pride and said: I can hear a whisper, my dear! As Mary Louise was u shered into the cosy sitting room she look ed for the piano-player and the owner of the merry laugh and cheery voice. Near the center of the room was a wheeled chai r in which sat a young girl of about her own age a rather pretty girl in spite of her thin frame and palli d countenance. She was neatly dressed in :figured dimity, with a bright ribbon at her throat. A pair of express ive brown eyes

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108 l\'I ARY LOUISE r egarded Mary Loui se with q ue s tionin g earnestn e ss. Over her lap l a y a cov erlet; h e r sl ender white :fingers r es t e d upon t h e bro a d arms o f h e r c hair. '' This,'' said Mrs. Conant, '' is my ni ece Irene Macfarlane, who is livin g with u s j u s t now and is the life and joy of our form erly dull house hold. You '11 have to lov e h e r, Mary Loui se because no one can h elp doing so.'' Mary Louise advanc e d to the chair and took one of the wan h a nds in h e r own. A thrill o f pity flooded h e r heart for the unfortunate girl, who instantly noted her expre s s ion and met it with a charmingly s pontaneous smil e '' Don't you dare think of me as a c r ippl e '' she said warningly. I am not at all helpless and my really-truly quickly forge t this ugly wheel e d chair. W e 're to b e friends, are we noU And you 're going to stay, because I se e your baggage. Also I know all about you, Mary Louise Burrows, for Aunt Hannah never tires of singing your praises.'' This was said so naturally and wi t h s uch absence of affectation that Mary Loui se could not fail to respond to the words and s mile. '' I'm glad to find you here, Ire ne,'' s h e said

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MARY LOUISE MEETS IRENE 109 '' and I don't know yet whether I'm to stay or not. That will depend on Mrs. Conant 's decision. ' Then you're to stay," promptly decided the hospitable lady, who by turning her mechanical ear toward the speaker seemed able to hear her words clearly. "But you don't know all the complications yet,'' confe s sed the girl. '' I've run away from school and -and there are other things you must know b e fore you decide. Mr. Conant wasn't at all enthu s i as tic over my coming h e re, I assure you, so I must tell you frankly the whole story of my a dventures.'' '' V ery good,'' returned Mrs Conant. '' I think I c a n guess at most of the story, but you shall tell it in your own way. Presently Irene is going ou t to insp e ct the ros es ; she does that every morning; so when she is out of the way have a nice talk together.'' I'm g oing now," said Irene, with a bright laugh at he r dismissal. '' Mary Loui s e won't be happy till everything is properly settled; nor will I, for I'm anxious to g e t acquaint e d with my n e w frie nd. So h e r e I go a nd wh e n you've had you r t a lk out jus t whi s tle for m e Mary Louise.''

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110 MARY LOUISE She could propel the chair by means of rims attached to the wheels and, even as she spoke, began to roll herself out of the room. Mary Louise sprang to assist her, but the girl waved her away with a little laugh. I'm an expert traveler," she s aid, and everyone lets me go and come as I please. Indeed, I'm very independent Mary Louise, as you will presently discover.'' Away she went, through the hall, out at th e front door and along the broad porch, and when she had gone Mary Louise whispered softly into Mrs. Conant's mechanical eardrum: "What is wrong with hed " A good many things," was the reply, '' although the brave child makes light of them all. One leg is badly withered and the foot of the other is twisted out of shape. She can stand on that foot to dress herself which she insists on doing unaided -but she cannot walk a step. Irene has suffered a great deal, I think, and she's a frail little body; b .ut she has the sweetest temperament in the world and seems happy and content from morn tiU night." It's wonderful exclaimed Mary Louise. '' What caused her affliction' ''

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MARY LOUISE MEETS IRENE 111 It i s the r esult of an illness she had when a baby. Ire ne is sixteen and has never known what it i s to be well and strong, yet she n ev e r resents her fate, but says she is gratefu l for the blessings she enjoys Her father died long ago and her mother about a year since; so the child being an orphan, Peter and I have taken her to liv e with us. '' That is very kind of you,'' asserted Mary Louise with conviction. No; I fear it i s pure selfishness," returnecl the good woman, '' for until she came to us the old home had been dreadf ully dull the r es ult, my dear, of your going away. And now tell me your story, and all about yo u rself, for I'm anxious to hear what brought you to Dorfield .'' Mary Louise drew a chair clo se to that of Aunt Hannah Conant and confided to her all the worries and tribulations that had induced her to quit Miss Stearne's schooi and seek shelter with her old friends the Conants Als o, she r elated the epi s ode of Detective 0 'Gorman and how she had first l earned throug h him that h e r grandfather and her mother were not living in Dorfield '' I'm dreadfully worried over Gran 'pa Jim,'' said she, '' for those terribl e agents of the Secret

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112 MARY LOUISE Service seem bent on catching him. And he doesn't wish to be caught. If they arrested him, do you think they would put him m jail, Aunt Hannah1 '' '' I fear so,'' was the reply. '' What do the y imagine he has done that is wrongf '' '' I do not know,'' said Mrs. Conant. '' Peter never tells me anything about the p:r;ivate affairs of his clients, and I never ask him. But of one thing I am sure, my dear, and that is that Peter Conant would not act as Colon e l Weatherby's lawy er, and try to shield him, unl ess he believed him innocent of any crime. Peter is a little odd, in some ways, but he's honest to the backbone.'' '' I know it,'' declared Mary Louise. '' Also I know that Gran 'pa Jim is a good man. Cannot the law make a mistake, Aunt Hannah 1 '' '' It surely can, or there would be no use for lawyers. But do not worry over your grandfather, my child, for he seems quite able to take care of himself. It is nine or ten years since he became a fugitive also making a fugitive of your poor mother, who would not desert him -and to this day the officers of the law have been unable to apprehend him. Be patie nt, dear girl,

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MA.RY LOUISE MEETS IRENE 113 and accep.t the situati on as yo u find it. You shal l live wit.Ji us until your people again send for you. We have exeellent schools in Dor:field, where you w ill not be taunted with your grandfather's misfortunes because no one h ere knows anything about them.'' '' Doesn't Irene know 1 '' a s k e d Mary Louise. She only knows that your p e o ple are great travelers and frequently leave you behind the m as they flit from place to place She knows that you liv ed with u s for three years and that we lov e -you.'' The girl oocame thoughtful for a time. I can't understand," she finally sai d, why Gran 'pa Jim a cts the way he does. Often he has told me, when I d eserve d c e n sure, to face the music' and have it over with. Once he said that those wh o sin must suffer the pena lty, b e caus e it is the law of both God and man, and he who seeks to escape a just p enalty i s a coward. Gran'pa knows he i s innoc e nt, but the government thinks h e i s guilty; s9 w h y doesn't he face the music and prove his innoc ence, instead of running away as a coward might do and so allow his good n ame to suffer reproach' Mrs. Conant shook her h ead as i f p e rple xed

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114 MARY LOUISE '' That very question has often puzzled me, a s it has you," she confessed. Once I asked Peter about it and he scowled and said it might be just as well to allow Colon e l Weatherby to mind his own business. The Colonel seems to have a good deal of money, and perhaps h e fears that if he surrendered to the law it would be taken away from him, l eaving you and your mother destitute." '' We wouldn't mind that,'' said the girl, '' if Gran 'pa's name could be cleared.'' '' After all,'' continued Mrs. Conant reflect ively, '' I don't believe the Colonel i s accused of stealing money, for Peter says his family is one of the oldest and richest in New York. Your gTandfather inherited a vast fortune and added largely to it. Peter says he was an important man of affairs before this misfortune -whatever it was overtook him." '' I can jus t remember our home in New York,'' said Mary Louise, also musingly, for I was very young at the time. lt was a beautiful big place, with a good many servants. I wonder what drove u s from iU " Do you remember your asked Mrs Conant.

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MARY LOUISE MEETS IRENE 115 Not at all." '' Peter once told me he was a foreigner who fell desperately in love with your mother and married her without your grandfather's full approval. I believe Mr. Burrows was a man of much political influence, for he served in the Department of State and had a good many admirers. Peter never knew why your grandfather opposed the marriage, for afterward he took Mr. and Mrs. Burrows to live with him and they were all good friends up to the day of your father's death. But this is ancient history and speculation on subjects we do not understand is sure to prove unsatisfactory. I wouldn't worry over your grandfather's troubles, my dear. Try to forget them.'' "Grandfather's real name isn't Weatherby," said tbe girl. It is Hathaway." Mrs. Conant gave a start of surprise. "How did you learn that? "she asked sharply. The girl took out h e r watch, pried open the back case with a penknife and allowed Mrs Conant to read the inscription. Al s o she curi ously watched the woman's face and noted its quick :flush and its uneasy expression. Did the lawyer's wife know more than she had

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116 MARY LOUISE If so, why was everyone trying to keep her in the dark1 '' I cannot see that this helps to solve the mystery,'' said Mrs. Conant in a brisk tone as she recovered from her surprise. '' Let us put the whole thing out of mind, Mary Louise, or it will ke ep us all stirred up and in a muddle of doubt. I shall tell Peter you are to live with us, and your old little room at the back of the hall is all ready for you. Irene has the next room, so you will be quite n eighborl y Go and put away your things and then we '11 whistle for Irene.'' Mary Louise went to the well-remembered room and slowly and thoughtfully unpacked her suit case. She was glad to find a home again among congenial people, but she was growing more and more perplexed over the astonishing case of / Gran 'pa Jim. It worried her to find that an oooasional doubt would cross her mind in spite of her intense loyalty to her dearly loved grandparent. She would promptly drive out the doubt, but it would insist on intruding again. Something is wrong somewhere," she sighed. '' There must be some snarl that even Gran 'pa Jim can't untangle; and, if he oan 't, I'm sure no one else can. I wish I could find him and

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MARY LOUISE MEETS IRENE 117 that he would tell me all about it. I suppos e he thinks I'm too young to confide in, but I'm almost sixteen now and surely that's old enough to understand thing s There were girls at school t wenty years old that I'm sure couldn't reason as well as I can.'' After a while she went down st.airs and joined Irene in the garden, where the chair-girl was trimming rose bushes with a pair o f stout scis sors. She greeted Mary Louise with her bright smile, saying: "I suppos. e everything is fixed up, now and we can begin to get acquainted. '' Why, we are acquainted," declared Mary Louise. '' Until to-day I had never heard of you, yet it seems as if I had known you always.'' Thank you," laughed Irene; that is a very pretty compliment, I well realize. You have decided to stay, then? '' Aunt Hannah has d ecided so, but Mr. Conant may object." He won't do that," was the quick reply. '' Uncle Peter may be an autocrat in his office, but I've noticed that Aunt Hannah is the ruler of this household.'' Mr. Conant may have noticed that, also, for

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118 MARY LOUISE he seemed not at all surprised when his wife said she had decided to keep Mary Louise with them. But after the girls had gone to bed that night the lawyer had a long talk with his better half, and thereafter Mary Loui se s prese nce was accep t ed as a matter of course. But Mr. Conant sai d to her the next morning: "I have notified your grandfather, at his six
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MARY LOUISE MEETS IRENE 119 '' In the note he left for me at the hotel he said I might :find my grandfather by writing to Oscar Lawler at Los Angeles, California. This telegram is from Los Angeles and it is signed 0. L.,' which mu s t mean Oscar Lawler.' "How clever! said Mr. Conant sarcastically. '' That proves, of course, that Gran 'pa Jim and mother are in California. But how di d the detective know that? '' she asked wonderingly. He didn't know it," answered Peter Conant. '' On the contrary, this message proves to me that they are not there at all.'' But the telt::gram says " Otherwise/' continu e d the lawyer, the t e l e gram would not have come from that far-away point on the Pacific coast. There now remain :five othe r places wher e Colonel vVeatherby might be located. The chanc es are, however, that he is not in any of them. ' Mary Louise wa s puzzl ed. It was altogether too bewildering for her comp r ehension. '' Here are two strange words,'' said she, eyeing the tele gram s he still held. ' What does hot mean, Mr. Conant? " It m eans," he replied, that the gov e rnment pies are again see kin g Colon e l W e atherby. The

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1 2 0 MARY L O UIS E w o r d caution m ea n s that we must all take care not to l et any informati on escape us t h a t m ight lead to his arrest. Don't talk to strangers Mary Lou i se; don't talk to anyone outside our family of your grandfather's affair s, or even of your own affairs. The safety of Colone l Weath erby d e p e nds, to a great extent, on our all b eing s i len t and d is c r e et.''

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CHAPTER XII A CHEERFUL COMRADE The more Mary Louise saw of Irene Macfar ... lane the more she learned to love her. No one could be miserable or de pondent for long in the chair-girl's s o ciety because she was always so bright and cheery herself. One forgot to pity her or even to deplor e her misfortunes whi e listening to h e r merry chatter and frank laughter, for she seemed to find genuine joy and merr ent in the simplest in cidents of the life about h0r. '' God has been so good to me, Mary Louise! '' she once exclaimed as they were sitting together in the garden. '' He has given me sight, that I may reve l in bookland and in the beauties of flowers and trees and shifting skies the faces of my friends. H e has given me the blessing of hearing, that I may enjoy th strains of sweet music and the s on gs of the birds and the voices of those I love. And I can scent the fragrance of the morning air, the perfume of the roses and yes even the beef steak Aunt Hannah is frying 121

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122 MARY LOUISE for supper. The beefsteak tastes as good to me as it does to you. I can feel the softness o f your cheek; I can sing melodies, in my own way, whenever my heart swells with joy. I can move about, by means of this wonderful chair, without the bother of walking. You don't envy me, Mary Louise, because you enjoy almost equal blessings; but you must admit I have reason for being happy.'' Irene read a good many books and magazines and through the daily p apers kept well posted on the world's affairs. Indeed, she was much better posted than Mary Loui se, who, being more active, had less leisure to think and thus absorb the full meaning of all that came to her notice. Irene would play the piano for hours at a time, though obliged to lean forward in her chair to reach the keys, and her moods ran the gamut from severely classical themes to ragtime, seeming to enjoy all eq uall y. She also sewed and mended with such consummate skill that Mary Louise, who was rather awkward with her needle, marveled at her talent. Nor was this the end of the chair-girl's accom plishments, for Irene had a fancy for sket ching and made numerous caricatures of those per-

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A CHEERFUL COMRADE 123 sons with whom she cam e in contact. These con tained so much humor that Mary Louise wa s delighted with them-e s p e cially one of Uncl e Peter toying with hi s w atch fob and staring straight ahead of him with round, expre s s ionl e s s ey es. ' Reall y I re n e I be li eve you could paint,'' slie once said. ' No,'' a nsw e r e d h e r frie nd, '' I would not be so wick e d as to do that. All imitations o f Nature se e m to m e a mock of God's handiwork, w hich no mortal brush can hop e to equal. I shall n ever be s o audacious, I hope. But a photograph is a pure reflex of Nature and my caricatures which are m e r ely bits of harmles s fun, furnish u s now and then a spark of humor to make u s laugh, and laughter is good for the soul I often laugh at my own sk e tche s as you know. Som e t imes I l augh at their whim s ical conception, before ever I put p e ncil to paper. Lots of caricatures I make s ecre tly, laughing over and the n destroying them for fear they might be seen and hurt the f e elings of their innoc ent subjects. Why, Mary Louise, I drew your dol e ful face only yesterday, and it was so funny I shriek e d with g l ee. You heard m e and l o ok e d ov e r at m e with

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124 MARY LOUISE a smile that made the caricature lie, so I promptly tore it up. It had served its purpose, you see." So many of these quaint notions filled the head of the crippled girl that Mary Louise's wondering interest in her never flagged It was eas y to understand why Mrs. Conant had declared that Irene was the joy and life of the household, for it was impossible to remain morbid or blue in her presence. For this reason, as well as through the warm and sincere affecti on i nspired by Irene, Mary Loui se came by degrees to c onfide to her the entire story of the mystery that surrounded her grandfather and influenc ed the lives of her mother and herself. Of her personal anxieties and fears she told her new friend far n;i.ore than she had ever confessed to anyone else and her disclosures were met by ready sympathy. '' Phoo '' cried Irene. '' This isn't a real trouble; it will pass away. Everything passes away in time, Mary Louise, for l ife i s a success ion of changes one thing after aJ;lother. Reme mber the quotation: Whate'er may be thy fate to-day, remember t:is will pass away.' I love that little saying and has comforted me and given me courage many a time.''

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A CHEERFUL COMRADE 125 Life will also pass away," observed Mary Louise pessimistically. '' To be sure. Isn't that a glad prospect? To pass to a new life, to new adventures, planned for u s by the wisdom of God, is the most glorious promise we mortals possess. In good time that joy will b e ours but now we must make the most of our present blessings. I take it, Mary Louise, that there is a purpose in everything a Divine Purpose, you know -and that those who most patiently accept their trials will have the better future r e compense. What's a twisted ankle or a shriveled leg to do with happiness? Or even a persecut ed grandfather? We're made of better stuff, you and I, than to cry at such babyish bumps. My! what a lot of things we both have to be thankful for." Somehow these conversations cheered Mary Louise considerably and her face soon lost its drawn, worried look and became almost as placid as in the days when she had Gran 'pa Jim beside her and suspe cted no approaching calamity. Gran 'pa Jim would surely have loved had he known her, because their ideas of Iif e and duty were so similar. As it was now l ess than a month to the lon g

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126 MARY LOUISE summer vacation, Mary Louise did not enter the Dor.field High School but studied a little at hom e so as not to get '' rusty,'' and passed most o f her days in the society of Irene Macfarlane. It was a week or so after her arrival that Peter Conant said to her one evening: '' I have now receive d ample funds for all your needs, Mary Louise, s o I have sent to Mi s Stearne to have your trunk and book::; forwarded.'' "Oh; then you have heard from Gran'pa Jim 1 she aske d eagerly. "Yes. ''Where is he? '' I do not know," chopping the words apart with emphasis. '' The Colon el has been very lib eral. I am to put twenty dollars in cash in you r pocketbook and you are b come to me for any further sums you may require, which I am ordered to supply without qu est ion. I would have favored making you an allowance, had I be en consulted, but the Colon e l is eh eh the Colonel is the Colon el.'' '' Didn't Gran 'pa J im send me any letter, or -any information at all? '' she asked wistful ly. Not a word

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A CHEERFUL COMRADE 127 '' In my last letter, which you promised me to forward, I begged him to write me,'' she said, with disappointment. Peter Conant made no reply. He merely stared at her. But afterward, when the two girls were alone, Irene said to her : "I do not think you s hould beg your grandfather to write you. A letter might be traced by his enemies, you know and that would m ean his undoing. He surely loves you and bears you in mind, for he has provided for your comfort in every possible way. Even your letters to him may be dangerous, although they reach him in such roundabout ways. If I were you, Mary Louise, I'd accept the situation as I found it and not demand more than your grandfather and your mother are able to give you.'' This frank advice Mary Louise accepted in good part and through the influence of the chairgirl she gradually developed a more contented frame of mind. Irene was a persistent reader of books and one of Mary Louise's self-imposed duties was to go to the public library and select such volumes as her friend was likely to be interested in. These covered a wide range of subjects, although

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128 MARY LOUISE historical works and tales of the age of chivalry seemed to appeal to Irene more than any o thers. Sometimes she would read aloud, in her sweet, sympatheti c voice, to Mary Louis e and Mrs Conant, and under thes e cond itions they fre quently fou n d themselves interest e d in book s wbich, if read by themsel v es the y would be sure to find intol e r ably dry ,and uninter e sting. The crippled girl had a way of giving more than she received and, instead of demand ing attention, would often entertain the soundlimb e d ones of her immediate c ircle.

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CHAPTER XIII BUB SUCCUMBS TO FORCE One day Peter Conant abruptly left his office, came home and packed his grip and then hurried down town and caught the five o'clock train for New Yo rk. He was glum and uncommunicative, as u sual, merely telling Aunt Hannah that busi ness called him away and he did not know when he would be back. A week later Peter appeared at the family breakfast table, having arrived on the early morning express, and he seemed in a more gracious mood than usual. Indeed, he was really talkative. '' I met Will Morrison in New York, Hannah,'' be said to his wife. '' He was just sailing for London with his family and will remain abroad all summer. He wante d u s to occupy his mountain place Hillcrest Lodge, during July and August, and although I told him we couldn't u se the place he insisted on my taking an order on his man to turn the shack over to us.'' '' The shack! '' cried Aunt Hanna h indignantly. 1 29

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130 MARY LOUISE '' Why, Peter, Hillcrest Lodge is a little palace. It is the cosiest, most delightful plaee I have ever visited. Why shouldn't we accept Will Morrison's proposition to occupy it? '' I can't leave my business.'' '' You could run up every Friday afternoon, taking the train to Millbank and the stage to Hillcrest, and stay with us till Monday morning.'' He stared at her reflectively. '' Would you be safe in that out-of-the-way place? '' he asked. '' Of course. Didn't you say Will had a man for caretaker? And only a few scattered cottages are located near by, so we shall be quite by our selves and wholly unmolested. I mean to go, and take the girls. The change will do us all good, so you may as well begin to make arrangements for the trip.'' Peter Conant stared awhile and then resumed his breakfast without comment. Mary Louise thought she saw a smile flicker over his stolid features for a moment, but could not be positive. Aunt Hannah had spoken in a practical, matterof-fact way that did not admit of argument.

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B U B SUCCUMBS TO FORCE 131 '' Let me see,' she resumed; '' we will plan to leave on Thursday morning, over the branch road, which will get us to Millbank by noon. If you telegraph the stage-driver to m eet us we can reach Hillcrest Lodge by three o'clock -perhaps earlier-and that will enable us to get settl ed before dark. That is far better than taking the afternoon train. Will you make the proper arrangements, Peter 1 '' '' Yes,'' he briefly replied. As he was l.:iaving the house after breakfast he fixed his stare on Irene and said to her: "In New York I ran across a lot of secondhand books at an auction sale old novels and romances which you will probably like. I bought the lot and shipped them home. If they arrive in time you can take them to Hillcrest and they will keep you reading all summer." Oh, thank yon, Uncle Peter! exclaimed the chair-girl gratefully. '' Have you any -any news of Gran 'pa Jim T '' asked Mary Louise diffidently. "No," he said and walked away. During the few days that remained before their exodus they were busy preparing for the antici -

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132 MARY LOUISE pated vacatio n. Summer gowns had to be look ed over and such things gathered together as might be useful during their two months' stay at Hillcrest. Of course no one will see u s," remarked Aunt Hannah; '' it's really the jumping-off place of the world; but Will Morrison has made it as cosy as possible and we three with just Peter at the week-ends, can amuse on e another without getting lonely. Peter will fis h in the mountain streams, of course and that's the reas on he i s allowing us to go We' ve visite d the Morris ons two or three times at the Lodge and Peter has nshed for trout every minute h e was the r e.'' ' Who are the Morrisons '' a s ked Mary Louise I '' Will Morrison i s a rich banker and his wife Salli e was an old scho o lmate of mine The Lodge i s only a little resort o f theirs, yo u know, for in the city they liv e in grand style. I know you girls will enjoy the place, for the scenery is d e lightful and the clear mountain air mighty invigorating.'' All girls delight in chan ge of location and althoug h Irene was a little worried over the
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BUB SUCCUMBS TO FORCE 133 crippled condition, she was as eager to go as was Mary Louise. And she made the trip more comfortably than she had feared. At Millbank the stage-driver fixed a comfort able seat for her in his carryall and loaded the boxes and' baggage and the wheeled ch.air and the box of books which had arrived from New York on the railed top of his bus, and then they drove away through a rough but picturesque country that drew from the girls many exclama tions of delight. Presently they came to a small group of dwell ings called the '' Huddle,'' which lay at the foot of the mountain. Then up a winding path the four horses labored patie ntly, halting often to rest and get their breaths. At such times the passengers gloried in the superb views of the valley and its farms and were never impatient to proceed. They passed one or two modest villas, for this splendid location had long ago been discovered by a few others besides Will Morrison who loved to come here for their vacations and so escape the maddening crowds of the cities Aunt Hannah had planned the trip with remarkable accuracy, for at about three o'clock

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134 MARY LOUISE the lumbering stage stopped at a pretty chalet half hidden among the tall pines and overlooking a steep bluff Here the baggage and boxes were speedily unloaded. I gotta git back ter meet the aft'noon train," said Bill Coombs their driver. '' They won't b e any more passingers in this direction, tain 't likely, 'cause the houses 'roun' here is mighty scattered an' no on e s expectin' nobody, as I know of. But in the other dire ction from Millbank Sodd Corners way -I may catch a load, if I'm lucky.'' So back he drove, leaving the Conan.ts' traps by the roadside, and Peter began looking around for Morrison's man. The doors of the house were fast lock ed front and rear. There was no one in the barn or the shed-like garage where a rusty looking automobile stood. Peter looked around the grounds in vain. Then he whistled. Afterward he began bawling out '' Hi, there! '' in a voice that echo e d lonesomely throughout the mountain side. And, at last, when they were all beginni n g to despair, a boy came slouching around a corner of the hou se, from whence no one could guess He was whittling a stick and he continued to whittle

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BUB SUCCUMBS TO FORCE 135 while he stared at the unexp ect e d arrivals and slowly advanced. When about :fiftee n paces a way he halted, with feet plantl;ld w e ll apart, and bent his gaze sturdily on his stick and knife. H e wa s barefoot ed dressed in faded blue-jeans ov e r a ll s and a rusty gingham shirt the two unite d by a strap over one shoulder and his head was covered by a broad Scotch golf cap much too big for him and considerably too warm for the season. '' Come h ere '' commanded Mr. Conant The boy did not mov e therefore the lawy e r advanced angrily toward him. "Why didn't you obey me? he asked '' They 's gals there. I hates gals,'' said the boy in a confid ential tone "Any sort o' men critters I kin stand, but gals gits my goat.'' Who are you? i nquired Mr. Conant. Me? I'm jus' Bub." "Where is Mr. Morrison's man?" "Meanin' Talbot? Gone up to Mark's Peak, to guide a gang o' hunters f'm the city '' When did he go 7 '' asked the lawyer. '' I gue ss a: Tuesday No a Wednesday .'' "And wh e n will he b e back? The boy whittled, abstractedly.

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136 MARY LOUISE Answe r me " How kin H D 'ye know where Mark's Peak is? '' No " It takes a week ter git thar; they'll lik ely hunt two er three weeks; mebbe more; ye kin tell that as well as I kin. Mister Will's gone t e r You-rupp with Miss' Morrison, so Talbot he won't be in no hurry t e r come back.'' '' Great Caesar! Here's a pretty mess. Are you Talbot's boy 1 '' Nope. I'm a Grigger, an' live over in the holler, yonder.'' What are you doing here1 " Earnin' two bits a week." "How7 '' Lookin' after the place.'' "Very well. Mr. Morrison has given us permission to u se the Lo dge while he is away, s o unlock the doors and help get the baggage in.'' The boy notched the stick with his knife, using great care. "Talbot didn't say nuth'n' 'bout that," he remarked composedly Mr. Conant uttered an impatient ejac ulation It was one of bis peculiarities to give a bark

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BUB SUCCUMBS TO FORCE 137 similar to that of a dog when greatly annoyed. After staring at the boy a while he took out \\Till Morrison's letter to Talbot, opened it and held it before Bub's face '' Read that ' he cried Bub grinned and shook his head '' I kain 't r ead ' h e said. Mr. Conant, in a loud and severe voice, read Mr. Morrison's instruction to his man Talbot to do everything in his power to make the Conants comfortable and to serve them as faithfully as he did his own master. The boy li ste n ed, whittling slowly. Then he said: "Mebbe that's all right; an' ag'in, mebbe tain 't. Seein' as I kain 't read I ain't goin' ter take no one's word fer it.'' You insolent brat! exclaimed Peter h f ghly inc ensed. Then he turned and called: '' Come here, Mary Louise .'' Mary Louise promptly advanced and with every step she made the boy r etreated a like distance, until the lawyer seized his arm and held it in a firm grip. "What do you mean by running he demanded. I hates gals," retorted Bub sullenly.

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138 MARY LOUISE ' Don't be a fool. Come here, Mary Louise, and read this letter to the boy, word for word.'' Mary Louise, marking the boy's bashfulness and trying to restrain a smile, read Mr. Morrison's letter. '' You see,, said the lawyer sharply, g1vrng Bub a little shake, those are the exact words of the letter. We're going to enter the Lodge and take possession of it, as Mr. Morrison has told us to do, and if you don't obey my orders I shall give you a good flogging. Do you understand tha U Bub nodded, more cheerfully. '' If ye do it by force,'' said he, '' that lets me out Nobody kin blame me if I'm forced." Mary Louise laughed so heartily that the boy cast an upward, half-approving glance at her face Even Mr. Conant's stern visage relaxed. See here, Bub," he said, obey my orders and no harm can come to you. This letter is genuine and if you serve us faithfully while we are here I'll-I'll give you four bits a week." Four bits! " Exactly. Four bits every week." Gee, that'll make six bits a week, with the two Talbot's goin' ter give me. I'm hanged ef

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BUB SUCCUMBS TO FORCE 139 I don't buy a sweater fer next winter, afore the cold weather comes! '' '' V ery good,'' said Mr. Conant. '' Now get busy and let us in." Bub deliberat e ly closed the kni fe and put it in his pocket, tossing away the stick. Gals," he remarked, with another half glance at Mary Louise, ain't ter my likin'; but four bits-!" H e turned and walked away to whP,re a wild roseb u s h clamb ered over on e corn e r of the Lodge. Pushing away the thick, thorny branches with care, he thrust in his hand and drew out a bunch of k eys. "If it's jus' the same t' yo u, sir, I'd ruther .Ye 'd snatch 'em from my hand," h e s uggested. '' Then, if I'm blam ed I kin prove a alibi.'' Mr. Conant was s o irritated that he literally ob eyed the boy's request and snatched the keys. Then he led the way to the front door. '' It's that thin, brass on e," Bub hinted. Mr. Conant opened the front door. .The place was apparently in perfect order. Go and get Hannah and Ire ne, please," said Peter to Mary Louise, and soon they had all take n possess ion of the cosy Lodge, had opened

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140 MARY LOUISE the windows and aire d it and s elec t ed their various bedrooms. '' It i s simply delightful '' exclaimed Irene, who was again seatecl in her wheeled c hair, and, if Uncle Peter will build a little runway from the porch to the ground, a s he did at home, I shall be able to go and come as I ple a se.'' Meantime Aunt Hannah -as even Mary Louise now called Mrs. Conant ransacked the kitchen and cupboards to discov e r wh a t suppli e s were in the house. There was a huge stock of canned goods, which Will Morrison had begg e d them to use freely, and the Conants had brough t a big box of other groceri es with them, which was speedily unpacked While the others were thus engaged in settling and arranging the house, Irene wh ee l e d her chair to the porch, on the steps of which sat Bub, again whittling He had shown much interest in the crippled girl, whose misfortune s e emed instantly to dispel his aversion for h e r sex, at least so far as she was concerned. He was not reluctant even to look at her face and he watched with astonishment the ease with which she managed her chair. Having ov erheard, a lthough at a distance, mo s t of the b oy s former c onversation

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BUB SUCCU MBS TO FORCE 141 with Uncle P ete r, Ire n e now b egan qu es tioning him. "Have yo u been eating and sleeping here? '' O f course,'' answered Bub. '' In the L o dge? '' No; over in Talbot' s house. That's ov e r the ridge, yond er; it's on ly a step, but ye kain 't see i t f'm here. My home's in the South Holl e r, four mile away.'' '' Do you cook your own m e als '' No budy else ter do it." '' And don't you ge t dreadfully lon esome at night? "Who? Me? Gue ss not. What the Sam Hill i s they to be lonesome over? '' '' There are no n ea r n e ighbors, are there? '' '' Plenty. The Barker hou se is two mile on e way an' t he Bigbee house i s jus' half a mile down the s lope; g u ess ye passed it, comin' up; but they ain't no o ne in the Bigb ee house jus' now, 'caus e Bigb ee got shot on the mount'n las' y ear, a deer hunt'n', an' Bigbee's wife's married another man what says he's d e licate lik e an' can't l e ave the city. But neighbors i s plenty. Six mil e alon g the canyon lives Doolittl e.'' Ire n e was delighted with Bub's quaint language

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142 MARY LOUISE and ways and before Mrs. Conant call e d h e r family to the simple improvised dinn e r the c hairgirl bad won the boy's heart and a lready they :were firm friends.

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CHAPTER XIV A CALL FROM AGATHA LORD Hillcrest Lodge was perched upon a broad shelf of the wooded mountain, considerably nearer to the bottom than to the top, yet a stiff climb from the plain below. Behind it was a steep cliff; in front there was a gradual descent covered with scrub but affording a splendid view of the lowlands. At one side was the rocky canyon with its brook struggling among the boul ders, and on the other side the roadway that wound up the mountain in zigzag fashion, selecting the course of least resistance. Will Morrison was doubtless a mighty hunter and an expert fisherman, for the '' den '' at the rear of the Lodge was a regular museum of tro phies of the chase. Stag and doe heads, enormou s trout mounted on boards, antlers of wild mountain sheep, rods, guns, revolvers and hunting knives fairly lined the walls, while a cabinet contained reels, books of flies, cartridge belts, creels 143

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144 MARY LOUISE and many similar articles On the floor were rugs of bear, deer and beaver. A shelf was filled with books on sporting subjects. There was a glass door that l ed onto a little porch at the rear of the Lodge and a big window that faced the cliff. This sanctum o f the own e r rathe r a wed the girls when first they examined it, but they found it the mos t fascinatin g place in all the house and Irene was delighted to b e awarde d the bedroom that adjoined it. The othe r b ed rooms w ere on the upper floor. However," said Mr. Conant to Ire ne, I s hall reserve the privilege of smoking my evening pipe in this den, for here i s a student l amp, a low table and the easiest chairs in all the place. If you keep your b edroom door shut you won't mind the fum es of tobacco. ' I don't mind the m anyhow, Uncle P eter," she replied. Bub Grigger helped get in the trunks and boxe s He also :filled the woodbox in the bi g living room and carri ed water from the brook for Aunt Hannah, but o therwise he was of little u se to them. His favo rite occupation was whittling and he would sit for hours on on e of the broad benches ov e rlookin g t he vall ey a iml essly cutti n g

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A CALL FROM AGATHA LORD 145 chips from a stick without forming it into any object whatsoever. '' I suppose all this time he i s deeply think i ng, ' said Mary Louise as the girls sat on the porch watching him, the day after their arrival, '' but it would be inte resting to know what direction Bub's thoughts take." '' He mus t be :figurin g up his earnin gs and dec iding how long it will take to buy that winter sweater," laug h ed Irene. I've had a bit o f conversation with the boy already a nd his idea s struck me as rather crude and undeveloped.'' '' One idea, how ever is firmly fixed in his mind,'' declared Mary Louise. '' H e hates gals.' '' We mus t try to dispel that notion. Perhaps he has a big s i ste r at hom e who pounds him, and ther efore he believes all girls are alike.'' '' Then l e t u s g o to him and make friends,'' suggested Mary Loui s e "If we ,are gentle with the boy we may win him over.'' Mr. Conant had already made a runway for the chair, so th ey left the porch and approached Bub, wh o saw them coming and sl ipp ed into the scrub, where he speedily disappeared from view At other times, also, he shyly avoided the girls, until

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146 MARY LOUISE they began to fear it would be more difficult to '' make friends '' than they had supposed Monday morning Mr. Conant went down the mountain road, valise in hand, and met Bill Coombs the stage-driver at the foot of the descent, having made this arrangement to save time and expense P eter had passed most of his two days' vacation in fishing and had been so successful that he promised Aunt Hannah he would surely return the following Friday. He had instructed Bub to '' take good care of the womenfolks '' dming his a'Qsence, but no thought of danger occurred to ally .of them. The Morri sons had occupied the Lodge for years and had never been molested in any way. It was a somewhat isolated place but the country people in the neighborhood were thoroughly honest and trustworthy. '' There isn it much for u s to do here,'' said Mary Louise when the three were left alone, '' ex cept to read, to eat and to sleep lazy occupations all. I climbed the mountain a little way yesterday, but the view from the Lodge is the best of all and if you leave the road you tear your dress to shreds in the scrub.'' '' Well, to read, to eat and to sleep is the very

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A CALL FROM AGATHA LORD 147 best way to enjoy a vaeation,'' asserted Aunt Hannah. '' Let us all take it easy and have a g ood time.'' Irene's bo x of books which Mr. Conant had pur chased for her in New York had been placed in the den, where she could select the vol u mes as she chose, and the chair-girl found the titles so alluring that she promised herself many hours of" enjoyment while delving among them They were all old and secondhand -perhaps fourth-hand or fifth-hand -as the lawyer had stated, and the covers were many of them worn to tatters ; but books is books, said Irene ch ee rily, and she they would not prove the le ss interesting in cont ents because of their condition. Mostly they were old romances, historical essays and novels, with a sprinkling of fairy tales and books of verse -just the subjects Irene most loved. '' Being exiles, if not r egular hermits,'' observed the crippled girl, sunning herself on the small porch outside the den, boo k in hand, '' we may loaf and dream to our hearts' content, and without danger of r eproach.'' But not for long were they to remain wh olly secluded. On Thursday afternoon they were surprise d by a visitor, who suddenly appeared from

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148 MARY LO UISE among the trees that lined the roadway and approached the two girls who were occupying a b e nch at the edge of the bluff. The new arrival was a lady of singularly striking appearance, beautiful and in the full flush of womanhood being perhaps thirty years of age. She wore a smart walking-suit that fitted her rounded form p e rfectly, and a small hat with a s ingle feather was jauntily p e rched upon her well s e t head. Hair and eyes a lmost black, contrasted finely with the bloom on her ch eeks In her ungloved hand she held a small walking-stick. Advancing with grace and perfect s e lf-pos ses sio n, she smiled and nodded to the two young girls and then, as Mary Loui se rose to greet her, she said: '' I am your nearest neighbor, and so I have climbed up here to get acqua in ted. I am Agatha Lord, but of course you do not know me, because I came from Boston whereas you came from from-'' '' Dor:field,'' said Mary Louise. '' Pray be seated Let me present Irene Macfarlane; and I am Mary Louise Burrows. You are welcome, Miss Lord or should I say Mrs. Lord? '' '' Miss is correct,'' replied their visitor with a

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A CALL FROM AGATHA LORD 149 pleasant laugh, which brought an answering smile to the other faces; '' but you must not address me except as Agatha.' For here in the wilder ness formalities seem ridiculous. Now let us have a cosy chat together." '' Won't you come into the Lodge and meet Mrs. Conant 1 '' "Not just yet. You may imagine how that climb winded me, although they say it is only half a mile. I've taken the Bigbee house, just below you, you know, and I arrived there last night to get a good rest after a rather strenuous social career at home. Ever since Easter I've been O:Q. the go every minute and I'm really worn to a frazzle.'' She did not look it, thought Mary Louise .. Indeed she seemed the very picture of health. '' Ah,'' said she fixing her eyes on Irene's book, '' you are very fortunate. The one thing I forgot to bring with me was a supply of books, and there is not a volume -not even a prayer boo:K -in the Bigbee house. I shall go mad in thes e solitudes if I cannot read.'' You may use my library," promised Irene, sympathizing with Miss Lord's desire. Uncle Peter brought a great box of books for m e to

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150 MARY LOUISE read and you are welcome to share their delights with me. I believe there are :fifty of them, at the least; but many were published ages ago and p erhaps, with a glance at the dainty hands, '' you w o n't care to handle s econdhand books.'' '' This ozonic air will fumigate them,'' said Agatha Lord carelessly "We don't absorb bindings Irene, but merely the thoughts of the authors. Books are the one banquet-table whereat we may feast without destroying the delicacy or flavor of the dishes As long as the pages hold together and the type is legible a book is as good as when new." '' I lik e pretty bindings, though,'' declared I rene, '' for they dress pretty thoughts in fitting attire. An ill-lookin g book, whatever its contents resemb les the ugly girl whose o nly redeeming feature is her good heart. To be beautiful without and within must have be e n the desire of God in all things." Agatha gave her a quick look of comprehen si on. There was an uncon sc iou sly wistful tone in the girl's voice Her face though pallid, was lovely to view; her dress was dainty and arranged with care ; she earnestly sought to be as beautiful without and within as was possible, yet t he

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A CALL FROM AGATHA LORD 151 twisted limbs forbade her attaining the perfection she craved. They sat to gether for an hour in desultory conversation and Agatha Lord certainly interested the two younger girls very much. She was decid edly worldly in much of her gossip but quick to perceive when she infringed the susceptibilities of her less sophisticated companions and was able to turn the subject cleverly to more agreeable channels. I've .brought my automobile with me," she said, '' and, unless you have a car of your own, we will take some rides through the valley together. I mean to drive to Millbank every day for mail." '' There's a car here, which belongs to Mr. Morrison,'' replied Mary Louise, '' but as none of us understands driving it we will gladly accept your invitations to ride. Do you drive your own car?" Ye s, indeed ; that is the joy of motoring; and I care for my car, too, because the hired chauf feurs are so stupid. I didn't wish the bother of 8rvants while taking my rest cure,' and s o my maid and I are all alone at the Bigbee place.'' After a time they went into the house, where

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152 .M:ARY LOUISE Miss Lord was presented to Aunt Hannah, who w e lcomed their n e i ghbo r with h e r accu stome d cor diality. In the den Agatha pounced upon the books and quickly sel ec ted two which she b egged p ermission to take home with her. '' This is r ea lly a well selected coll ect ion ,'' she r emarked eyeing the title s critically '' did Mr. Conant find '' "At an auction o f second-hand junk in N ew York," explained Ire ne. Uncle Peter knows that I love the old-fashion ed books best but I'm sure he didn't realiz e what a good collection this i s.'' As she spoke Irene was listl essly running through the l eaves of two or three volumes she had not before examined wh e n i n one of them h e r eye was c aught by a yellowed sheet of corre spondence paper, tucked amon g the pages at about midway b etween the covers Without r emoving the sheet she l eaned over to examine the fine characters written upon it and presently exclaimed in wondering tones : '' Why, Mary Louise Here i s an old letter about your mother-yes and here's something about your grandfather, too How strange that it should be

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X CALL FROM AGATHA LORD 153 Let me see it1 cried Mary Louise, eagerly stretching out her hands. But over her friend's shoulder Irene caught the expression of Agatha Lord tense, startled, with a gleam of triumph in the dark eyes It her, that loo k on the face o f one she had deemed a stranger, and it warned her. She closed the book w ith a little slam of decision and tucked it b es i de her in h e r chair. '' No,'' she said positively, '' no one s hall see the letter until I've had time to read i t myself." "But what was it asked Mary Loui se '' I don't know, yet; and yo u 're not to ask questions until I do know,'' retorted Irene, calmly returning Miss Lord's curious gaze wh il e addressing Mary Loui s e '' These are i:ny books you must admit, and s o whateve r I find in them belong s to me.'' '' Quite right, my dear,'' approved Agatha Lord, wi t h her lig ht, easy l augh. She knew that Irene had surprised her unguarded expres s ion and wished to counteract the impression it had caused. Irene returne d the laugh with on e equally i ns in cere, saying to h e r guest: '' Help yourself to whatever books you like,

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154 MARY LOUISE neighbor. Carry them home, read them and return them at your convenience." '' You are exceedingly kind,'' answered Agatha and resumed her examination of the titles Mary Louise had not observed the tell tale expression on Miss Lord's but she was shrewd eno ugh to detect an undercurrent of ice in the polit e phrases p assing between her com panions. She was con s umed with curiosity to know more of the l ette r which Irene had found in the book but did not again refer to it in the presence of their visitor. It was not long before Agatha rose to go, a couple of books tucked beneath her arm. "Will you ride .with me to Millbank to-mo r row? she asked, glancing from one face to another. Mary Louise looked at Irene and Irene hesitat ed. '' I am not very comfortable without my chair," she said. You shall have the rear seat all to yourself, and it is big and broad and comfortable Mary Louise will ride with me in front. I can easily drive the car up here and load you in at this Vry porch. Please come! ''

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A CALL FROM AGATHA LORD 155 '' Very well, since you are so kind,'' Irene decided, and after a few more kindly remarks the beautiful Miss Lord left them and walked with graceful, swinging stride down the path to the road and down the road toward the Bigbee house.

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. CHAPTER XV BUB'S HOBBY When their visitor had departed Mary Louise turned to her friend. "Now, Irene tell me about that queer letter," she begged. Not yet, dear. I'm sure it isn't important, though it's curious to find such an old l etter tucked away in a book Uncle Peter bought at an auction in New York a letter that refers to your own people, in days long gone by. In fact, Mary Louise, it was written so l ong ago that it cannot possibly interest u s except as proof of the saying that the world's a mighty small place. When I have nothing else to do I mean to read that old epistle from start to finish; the n, if it contains anything you'd care to see, I'll let you have a look at it." With this promise Mary Louise was forced to be content, for she did not wish to annoy Irene by further pleadings It really seemed, 156

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BUB'S HOBBY 157 on reflection, that the letter could be of little consequence to anyone. So she put it out of mind, especially as just now they spied Bub sitting on the bench and whittling as industriously as ever. '' Let me go 'to him :first,'' suggested Irene, with a mischievous smile. He doesn't seem at all afraid of me, for some reason, and after I've led him into conversation you can join us.'' So she wheeled her chair over to where the boy sat. He glanced toward her as she approached the bench but m a de no movement to flee "We've had a visitor," said the girl, con fidentially; '' a lady who has taken the Bigbee house for the summer.'' Bub nodded, still whittling. '' I know; I seen her drive her car up the grade on high,'' he remarked, feeling the edge of his knife-blade reflectively. '' Seems lik e a real sport-fer a gal -don't she? '' "She isn't a girl; she's a grown woman." '' To me,'' said Bub, '' ev 'rything in skirts is gals. The older they gits, the more ornery, to my mind. Never seen a gal yit what's wuth havin' 'round.''

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158 MARY LOUISE Some day," said Irene with a smile, "you may change your mind about girls.'' "An' ag'in," said Bub, "I mayn't. Dad says he were soft in the head when he took up with marm, an' Talbot own ed a wife once what tried ter pizen him; s o he giv 'er the shake an' com e here to live in peace; but Dad's so used scoldin's thet h e can't sleep sound in the open any more onl ess he l ays down beside the brook where it's noi s iest. Then it reminds him o' marm an' he feel s like h e s to home. Gals think they got the men scared, an' sometimes the y guess right. Eve n Miss' Morrison makes Will toe the mark, an' Miss' Morris on ain't no slouch, fer a gal.'' This somewhat voluble screed was delivered slowly, interspersed with periods of a iml ess whittling, and when Irene had patiently heard i t through she decid ed it wise to change the subject. '' To-morrow we are going to ride in Miss Lord's automobil e," she remarked. Bub grunted. '' She says she can easily run it up to our door. Do y ou b e li eve that? '' ' Why not? '' he inquired. '' Don't Will Morri-

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BUB'S HOBBY 159 son have a car? It's over there in the shed now." '' Could it be used 7 '' quietly asked Mary Louise, who had now strolled up behind the be nch unperceived. Bub turned a scowling face to her, but she was looking out across the bluff. And she had broached a subject in which the boy was intensely interested. Thet thar car in there is a reg'lar hummer,'' he asserted, waving the knife in one hand and the stick in the other by way of emphasis. Tain't much fer looks, ye know, but looks cuts no figger with machinery, s'long's it's well greased. On a hill, thet car's a cat; on a level stretch, she's a jack-rabbit. I've seen Will Morrison take 'er ter Mill bank an' back in a hour -jus' one lOnesome hour! '' ',.That must have been in its good days,'' observed Mary Louise. The thing hasn't any tires on it now.'' "Will takes the tires off ev'ry year, when he goes away, an' puts 'em in the cellar," explained Bub. They's seven g ood tires down cellar now; I counted 'em the day afore ye come here.'' '' In that case,'' said Mary Louise, '' if any' of us knew how to drive we could use the car.''

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160 MARY LOUISE "Drive? said Bub scornfully. That's nuth'n'." "Oh. Do you know "Me? I kin drive any car thet's on wheels. Two years ago, afore Talbot come, I used ter drive Will Morrison overt' Millbank ev'ry week t' catch the train; an' brung the car home ag'in; an' went fer Will when he come back." '' You must have been very young, two year ago,'' said Irene. '' Shucks. I'm goin' on :fifteen this very minnit. When I were 'leven I druv the Higgins car fer 'em an' never hit the ditch once. Young! Wha 'd 'ye think I am -a kid? So indignant had he become that he suddenly rose and slouched away, nor could they persuade him to return. '' We 're going to have a lot of fun with that boy, once we learn how to handle him,'' predicted Irene, when the two girls had enjoyed a good laugh at Bub's expense. '' He seems a queer mixture of simplicity and shrewdness.'' The next day Agatha Lord appeared in her big touring car and after lifting Irene in and making her quite comfortable on the back seat they rolled gayly away to Millbank, where they had lunch

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BUB'S HOBBY 161 at the primitive restaurant, visited the postoffice in the grocery store and amused themselves until the train came in and brought Peter Conant, who was loaded down with various parcels of m erchandise Aunt Hannah had ordered. The l awye r was greatly pleased to find a car waiting to carry him to the Lodge and after being introduced to Miss Lord, whose lovelines s he could not fail to admire, he rode back with her in the front sea t and left Mary Loui se to sit inside with Irene and the packages Bill Coombs didn't approve of this method of ruinin g hi s stage business and scowled at the glittering auto as it sped away across the plain to the mountain. On this day Miss Lord proved an exceedingly agreeable compan ion to th e m all, even Irene forgetting for the time the strange expression she had surprised on Agatha's face at the time she found the letter. Mary Louise seemed to have quite forgotten that lette r, for she did not again icfer to it; but I rene, who had studied it closely in the se clus ion of her own room that very night, had it rather persistently in mind and her eyes took on an added expression of grave and gentl e commiseration whenever she looked at Mary }_,oui se s unconsc i ous face.

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162 MARY LOUISE "It is much more fun," observ ed Peter Conant at breakfast the next morning, '' to ride to and from the station in a motor car than to patronize Bill Coombs' rickety, slow-going omnibus. But I can't expect our fair neighbor to run a stage line for my express accommodation.'' '' Will Morrison's motor car is here in the shed,'' said Mary Louise, and then she told of their conversation with Bub concerning it. He says he has driven a car ever s inc e he was eleven years old,'' she added '' I wondered what that boy was good for,'' asserted the lawyer, yet the very last thing I would have accused him of i s being a chauff eur.'' '' Why don't you put on the tires and use the car 1 '' asked Aunt Hannah. "H-m. Morrison didn't mention the car to me. I suppose he forgot it. But I'm sure he'd be glad to have us u se it. I'll talk with the boy." Bub was found near the Talbot cottage in the gully. When Mr. Conant and Mary Louise approached him, soon after finishing their breakfast, he was as u s u al diligently whittling '' They tell me you understand running M r Morrison's car,'' began the lawyer.

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B U B S HOBBY 163 Bub raised his eyes a moment to the speak er's. face but de e m e d an answer unnecessary. Is that true 7 with an impatient infl e cti o n Kin run any car," said Bub. '' Very w e ll. Show me wh ere the tires are and we will put them on I want you to drive me to and from Millbank, he r eafter.'' Bub r etained his seat and whi ttled. '' Rev ye go t a orde r from W ill Morris on in writin'7 he demanded "No; but h e wi ll be glad to h ave m e u se the machin e He sai d everything a t the Lodge was at m y disposal. ' '' C a r s,'' said Bub, ' ain' t lik e other things. A feller'll l end his huntin dog, e r his knife, e r hi s o ve r coat ; but he s a ll-fir ed shy o' l e n din' his car. Ef I runned i t fo r ye W ill mi ght blam e me." Mr. Conant :fixed his dull stare o n the boy's face b u t Bub went on whittling. Ho wever in the boy's inmost heart was a keen desi r e t o run that motor car, as had b ee n proposed So h e c asually remarked : "Ef ye forced me ye know, I'd j u s he v to do it. Even W ill couldn't blame me ef I w e r e f orced.''

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164 :riURY LOUISE M r. Conant was so exasperated that the hint was en ough. He seized the boy's collar, lifted hi m off the stump and kicked him repeatedly as he propelled his victim toward the house. Oh, Unc l e Peter! cried Mary Louise, d istressed; bu t Peter was abdurate and Bub never whimpered. He even managed to close his knife, between kicks, and slip it into his trousers p o c ket. When they came to the garage the lawyer halted more winded than Bub, and demanded sharply: ' What is ne eded to put the car in shape to run7 " Tires, gas line, oil 'n' water. " The tires are in the cellar, you Get them ou t o r I'll skin you alive." B u d nodded, grinning. ' Forcin' of me, afore a witn e s s l ets me out,'' he remarked, cheerfully, and straightway went for the tires. Irene wheeled herself out and joined Uncle Pet e r a n d Mary Louise in watching the boy att ach the tires, which were on demountab l e rims and soon put in place All were surprised at B u b s s u dden exhibition of energy and his deft

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BUB'S HOBBY 165 movements, for he worked with the assurance o f a skilled mechanic "Now, we n eed gasoli n e," said Mr. Conant. '' I must order that from Millbank, I suppose.'' "Onless ye want to rob \Vill Morrison s tank, agreed B ub. '' Oh; has h e a tank of gasol in e here 7 '' Bub nodded. '' A undergroun' steel tank. I dunno how much gas i s in it, but ef ye forced me I'd h e v to measure it. Peter pick e d up a stic k and shook it threaten ingly, w h e reat Bub smi l ed and walke d to the r ea r of the garage where an iron plug appeared just above the surf ace o f the ground. This h e unscrewed with a wre nch, thrust in a rod and drew it out again. '' 'Bout forty gallon, ' he announc e d ' Thet s 'nough fer a start er, I guess.'' T h e n put s ome o f it in to the mach in e I s there any oil 7 '' '' Plenty oil.'' Half an hour later Bub started the e n g in e and roll e d the car sl owly out of its shed to the g raveled drive in the back yard. All right, mister," h e a nnou nced with satis-

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166 MARY LOUISE faction. '' I dunno what Will '11 say to this, but I kin prov e I were forced. Want to take a ride now ? " No," r e pli e d Mr. Conant, I merely wanted to get the car in sha p e You are to take me to the station on Monda y morning. Under the cir cum s tances we will no t use Morrison's car for p l easure. rides, but only for convenience in getting from h ere to the trains and back. He surely cannot obj ect to that.'' Bub se e med disappoint e d b y this d e cision. He ran the car around the yard two or three times, te sting its condition, and then r eturned it to its shed. Mr. Conant got hi s rod and reel and departed on a fishing excur s ion.

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CHAPTER XVI THE STOLEN BOOK Miss Lord came up to the Lodge that Satur day forenoon and proved so agreeable to Aunt Hannah and the girls that she was invited to stay to lunch. M r. Conant was not pres ent, for he had put a couple of sandwiches in his pocket and would not return home until dinner-t im e After luncheo n they were all seated together on the benches at the edge of the bluff, which had become their favorite resort because the vi e w was so wonderful. Mary Louis e was doing a bit of fancy work Irene was reading and Aunt Hannah, as she mended stockings, conversed in a desultory way with her guest. '' If you don't mind,'' said Agatha, after a time, '' I '11 run in and get me a book. This seems the place and the hour for dreaming, rather than gossip, and as we are all in a dreamy mood a good old-fashioned romance seems to me quite :fittin g for the occasion.'' Talring permission for granted, she rose and 167

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168 MARY LOUISE sauntere d toward the house. There was a serio u s and questioning look in Irene's eyes as they fol lowed the grace ful form of Mi ss Lord, but Mary Lo ui se and Aunt Hannah paid n o h eed to their visitor's going in to s e lect a b o ok, it s e em e d so natural a thing for her to do. It was fully fifteen minutes before A gatha returned, book in hand. Irene glanced at th e title and gave a s igh of relief. Without comm ent their guest r esumed her seat and soon appeared to be immersed in her volume Gradually the su n crossed the mountain and cas t a black shadow over the plain belo w a shadow which lengthened and advanc e d in ch by inch until it shroud ed the landscap e spread b eneath the m '' That is my su n-dial,'' remarked M ary Loui s e, dropping her needlework to watch the shiftin g sce ne. '' Whe n the shadow passes the Huddle, it's four o'clock; by the time it reach e s that group of oak s it is four-thirty; at five o'clock it touches the cre e k, and the n I know it's time to help Aunt Hannah with the dinner." Agatha laugh e d. I s it really so she asked I see the shadow has nearly reac h ed the brook.'' Oh! I didn't mean-"

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THE STOLEN BOOK 169 '' Of course not; but it's time I ran home, just the same. My maid Susan is a perfect tyrant and scolds me dreadfully if I'm late. May I take this book home, Irene f I '11 return the others I have borrowed to-morrow .'' '' To be sure,'' answered Irene. '' I'm rich in books, you know.'' When Miss Lord went away the party broke up, for Aunt Hannah was already thinking of dinner and Mary Loui s e wanted to make one of Uncle Peter's favorite desserts. So Irene wheeled her chair into the house and entering the den began a sharp inspection of the place, having in mind exactly the way it had looked when last she left it. But presently she breathed a sigh of i-elief and went into her own room, for the den had not been disturbed. She wheeled herself to a small table in a corner of her chamber and one glance confirmed her s u spicions For half an hour she sat quietly thinking, con s idering many things that might prove very important in the near future. The chair-girl knew little of life save what she had gleaned from books, but in some ways equal to personal experiences. asked : that was quite At dinner she

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170 :M:ARY LOUISE '' Did you take a book from my room to-day, Mary Louise 1 '' ''No,'' was the r eply; ''I have your room since yesterday." .._ "Nor you, Aunt Hannah?" not been in "No, my d ea r. What book is missing? " It was entitled The Siberian Exile.' "' Good gracious I '' exclaimed Mary Louise. '' Wasn't that the book you found the letter in T '' "Yes." And you say it is missing? '' It has mysteriously disappeared.'' Nonsenie," said Uncle Peter, who had returned with a fine string of trout. No one would care to steal an old book, and the thing hasn't legs, you know.'' '' Nevertheless,'' said Ire ne gravely, '' it is gone.'' And the letter with it! added Mary Louise regretfully. You ought to have let me read it while I could, Irene." "What letter are you talking about? asked the lawyer. "It is nothing important, Uncle Peter," Irene assured him '' The loss of the book does not worry me at all."

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THE STOLEN BOOK 171 Nor did it, for she knew the letter was not in it. And, to avoid further questioning on the part of Mr. Conant, she managed to turn the conversation to less dangerous subjects.

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CHAPTER XVII THE HIRED GIRL Mr. Conant had just put on a cornf ortable smoking-jacket and s lippers and seated h i mse l f in the den, pipe in mouth, when the old-fashioned knocker on the front door o f the Lodge began to bang. It banged three times, s o Mr. Conant rose and made for the door. Mrs. Conant and Mary Louise w e r e in the kitchen and Irene was in her own room The lawyer re.fleeted, with a d eprecating glance at his unconven t ional cos tume, that their evening caller could be none other than their n e ighbor, the be autiful Miss Lord, s o as he op ened the door he regretted that bis app ea r ance was not more presentable. But it was not Miss Lord who stood upon the porch awaiting admittance It was a strange girl, who aske d in a m ee k voice: '' Is this Hillcrest Lodge 1 '' '' It is,'' replied the lawyer. The girl came in without an invitation, bringing 172

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THE HIRED GIRL 173 a carpet-b a g in one hand and a bundle tied in a newspaper tucked under the other arm. As she stood in the lighted room she looked around inquiringly and said : '' I am Sarah Judd. \Vh ere i s Mrs Morris on, ple as e ? Mr. Conant stood and stared at her, his hands clas p ed behind his back in characteristic attitude. He not r emember ever having heard of Sarah Judd. '' Mrs Morrison,'' h said in his choppy voice, '' i s in Europe.'' The girl stared at him in r eturn, as i f stupified. Tllen s he sat down in the chair and continued to stare. Finding h e r determined on silence, M:r. Conant sp oke again. '' The l\f orrison s are spending the summer abroad. I and my family are occupying the Lodge in their absence I -eheh I am Mr. Conant, of Dorfield. '' The gi r l sighed dreaiily. She was quite small, about s eve nteen y ears of a ge and dressed in a faded gi ngham over which she wore a black cloth coat that was rusty and frayed. A black straw hat, fearfully decorated with red velvet and mus s ed artificial flowers, was tipped over her

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174 MARY LOUISE foreh ead. H e r features were not bad, but her nose was blo t ched, her face strongly freckled and her r ed hair very untidy. Only the mild blue eyes redeemed the unattractive face-eyes very like those of Mary Louise in expression, mused Mr. Conant, as he critically eyed the girl. ' I have come here to work,'' she said after a long pau se, during which she seemed trying to coll ec t her thoughts "I am Sarah Judd. Mrs. Morrison said I must com e here on Satur. day, the tenth day o f July, to go to work. This is the tenth day of July." "H-m-h-m; I see When did Mrs. Morrison tell you that 1 '' It was last September." ' Oh; so she hired you a year in advance and didn't tell you, afterward, that she was going abroad? '' I didn't see her since, sir.'' Mr. Conant was perplexed. He went into the kitchen and told Aunt Hannah about it and the good woman came at once to intervi ew Sarah Judd, followed by Mary Louise, who had just :finished wiping the dishes. '' This seems very unfortunate for you,'' began Mrs. Conant, regarding the strange girl with mild

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THE HIRED GIRL 17-5 interest. '' I suppo se, whe n Mrs. Morrison engaged you, she expected to pass the summer at the Lodge, and afterward she forgot to notify you.'' Sarah Jud d con sidered this soberly ; then nodded her head. '' I've walked all the way from Millbank,'' s h e said with anothe r sigh. '' Then you've had nothing to eat! '' exclaimed Mar y Louise with ready sympathy. '' May I get h e r something, Aunt Hannah? '' '' Of cours e my dear.'' Both Mr. and Mrs Conant felt rather embarrassed. '' I regret,'' said the latter, '' that we do not need a maid at present. We do our own house work, you see.'' '' I h ave left a good place in Albany to come here,'' said Sarah, plaintively '' You should have written to Mrs. Morrison,'' declar e d the lawyer, '' asking i f she still required your services. Many u nforeseen things may happen during a period of t e n months '' Mrs Morrison, she have paid me a month in advance,'' asserted the girl, in justification. '' And s he paid me my expenses to come here,

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176 MARY LOUISE too. She said I mus t not fail h er; I should come t o the Lodge on the t enth of July and do the w o r k at the Lod ge She did not say she would b e h e r e She di d no t say you wou l d be h ere. She told me to come and work, and she paid m e a m on t h in advance, s o I c ould giv e the mon e y to my s i s t e r, w ho n eeded it the n. And I mu s t do as Mrs Morris on s ays I a m p aid to w ork a t the Lod ge a n d s o I mus t work a t the L odge. I cannot h e lp that ca n H The lawy e r w as a m a n o f experi e nce, b u t this q ueer complic a tion astoni s h e d him He ex chang e d a que stionin g g l a nce w ith hi s wi fe In any e v e n t," said Mrs Con a nt, the girl m u s t stay h e r e to-ni g ht, for it would be crue l t o ask h e r to :find h e r way down the mo untain i n the dark. W e will put h e r in the maid's r oom, P eter, and to-m orrow w e can d e ci d e what to do with h er.'' Very w ell," a g Te e d Mr. C o na n t and r etreate d to the d e n to have hi s smol : e Mary Loui se arrange d s o m e food on th e kitch e n tabl e for Sara h Judd and after t he girl had eate n Mrs Conant to o k h e r to t he maid's roo m which was a very ple a sant and we ll fur ni s h e d apartment quite in keeping with a ll the

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THE HIRED GIRL 177 comfortable appointments at Hillcrest Lodge, although it was built b ehind the kitchen and formed a little wing of its own Sarah Judd accepted these favors with me e k resignation. Since her one long speech of explanation she had maintained silence Leaving her in h e r room, the family congregated in the den, where Mr. Conant was telling Irene about the quee r arrival and the unfortunate misunderstanding that had occasioned it. The girl is not to blame," said Mary Louise. '' She se ems an honest little thing, r esolved to do her duty. It is all Mrs. Morrison's fault." '' Doesn't look like a very competent servant, either," observed Mr. Conant, comfortably puffing his pipe. ,'You can't t ell that from appearances, Peter," replied Mrs. Conant. She can at least wash di shes and swee p and do the drudgery. Why not keep h er7 ''Oh, m y dear!'' '' Mrs. Morri s on has paiL l her a month's wages, and Moll y Morrison wouldn't have done that had not the giTl been compet e nt. It won't cost us anything to ke ep h e r except her food and it see ms a shame to cast h e r adrift just b e cause

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178 J\URY LOUISE the Morrisons forgot to notify her they had changed their plans.'' "Also," added Mary Louise, Sarah Judd w ill be useful to u s This is Aunt Hannah's vacation, as we ll as a vacation for the rest of u s, and a res t from cooking and housework w ould do her a heap o f good." Looking at it from that viewpoint," said Peter, after puffing his pipe reflectively, I approve of our k eeping Sarah Judd. I believe it will please the MorTisons better than for us to send her away, and-it s urely won't hurt Hannah to be a lady o f l eisure for a month o r so.''

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CHAPTER XVIII MARY LOUISE GROWS SUSPIOIOUS And so Sarah Judd's fate was decided She prepared their Sunday morning breakfas t and cooked it quite skillfu lly. Her appearance was now more tidy and she di s played greater energy than on .the previous evening, when doubtle ss she was weary from her long walk Mrs. Conant was well pleased with the girl and found the relie f from clearing the table and '' doing '' the dishes very grateful. Their Sunday dinner, which Sarah prepared unaided and served promptly at one o'clock, their usual hour, was a pleasant surprise to them all. '' The girl is a treasure,'' commented Mrs Conant, cont e ntedly. Sarah Judd was not talkative. When told she might stay she merely nodded her red head, displaying n e ither surpri se nor satisfactio n. Her eyes had a habit of roving continually from face to face and from obj ect to object, yet they seemed to o bserve nothing clearly, so sto lid was 179

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180 J'.11ARY LOUISE their express ion Mary Loui se trie d to r e mem ber where she had noted a similar express ion before, but could not locate it. Miss Lord c ame over that afternoon and when told about the new maid and the manner of her appearance seemed a little startled and uneasy '' I must see what she lo o k s like,'' said s he, '' for she may prove a cong en i al companion for my own maid, who i s already sulking because the plac e is so lon e ly.'' And presently Sarah Judd came out upon the lawn to ask Mrs. Conant's furthe r instructio ns and this gaYe Agatha the desired opportunity to examine her clo se l y The i nspection must have been satisfactory, for an express ion of distinct reli ef cro sse d the l ov ely fac e That Sunday evening they all went down to the Bigbee place in Miss Lord's motor car, where the lady entertained her guests at a charm ing lunche on. The Bigbee place was more exten sive than Hillcr es t Lodge as it con sisted of a big, rambling residence and num erous outbuild ings ; but it was not nearly so cosy o r homelike, nor s o pleasantly situated. Miss Lord's maid, Susan, was som ewhat a mys tery to the Hillcrest p eop l e She dressed

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MARY LOUISE GRO WS SUSPICIOU S 181 almost as elaborately as her mistress and per formed her duties grudgingly and with a scowl that seemed to resent Miss Lord's entertaining company. Stranger still, when they went hom e that night it was the maid wh o brought out the big touring car and drove them all back to Hillcrest Lodge in it, handling the machine as expertly as Agatha could do. Miss Lord pleaded a headache as an excuse for not driving them herself. Sarah .Judd op ened the door for them As she stood under the full light of the hall lamp Mary Louise noticed that the maid Susan leaned from her seat in the car and fixed a shrewd glance on Sarah's unconscious face. Then s h e gave a little shake of her head and drove away. '' There's something queer about the folks at Bigbee 's,'' Mary Louise confided to Irene, as she went to her friend's room to assist her in preparing for bed '' Agatha Lord kept lookin g at that velvet ribbon around your neck, to-night, as if she couldn't keep her eyes off it, and this after noon she seemed scared by the news of Sarah Judd's arrival and wasn't happy until she had see n her. Then, again, that queer maid of Agatha's, Susan, drove us home so she could

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182 MARY LOUISE see Sarah Judd for herself. How do you account for all that, Irene 7 " I don't account for it, my dear. You've been mixed up with so many mysteries that you attach suspicion to the most commonplace event s What should there be about Sarah Judd to frighten anyone 7 '' '' She's a stranger here, that's all, and our neighbors seem suspicious of strangers. I'm not questioning poor, innocent Sarahi understand; but if Agatha and her maid are uneasy about strangers coming here it seems likely there's a reason for it." ''You're getting morbid, Mary Louise. I think I must forbid you to read any more of my romances," said Irene lightly, but at heart she questioned the folks at Bigbee's as seriously as her friend did. '' Don't you think Agatha Lord stole that missing book? asked Mary Louise, after a little reflection. '' Why should she? '' Irene was disturbed by the question but was resolved not to show it. To get the letter that was in it-the lette r you would not let me read.'' What are ,your affairs to Agatha Lord?

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MARY LOUISE GROWS SUSPICIOUS 183 I wi s h I knew," said Mary Louise, musingly. '' Irene, I've an idea she came to Bigbee 's just to be near u s There's something stealthy and underhanded about our neighbors, I'm po sitive Miss Lord i s a very delightful woman, on the surface but Irene laughe d softly as if amused '' The r e can be no reason in the world, Mary Louise,'' she averred, '' why your private affairs are of any interest to outsiders, except -'' ''We ll, Irene?'' '' E xcept that you are connected, m a way, with your grandfather.'' Exactly That i s my ide a, Ire n e Ever since that affair with 0 'Gorman, I've had a feeling that I wa s being spi ed upon.'' But that would be use less. You never hear from Colon e l Weatherby, except in the most roundabout ways.'' '' They do n't know that; they think I might hear, and there's no other way to :find wh ere he is. Do you think,'' she added '' that the S e cret Service employs f e male detectiv es 1 '' '' Perhaps so. There must be occasion s when a woman can discover more than a man.'' '' Then I believe Miss Lord is working for

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184 MARY LOUISE the Secret Servic e -the e n em i es o f Gran 'pa Jim.'' '' I can't believe it. ' "What i s on that black ribbon around your neck 1 ' '' A miniature of my mother.'' Oh. To-ni ght it got above your dress -t he ribbon, I mean -and Agatha k ept l ooking at i t .'' '' A good detective woul dn't be caught doing s uch a clumsy thing, Mary Louise. And, eve n i f detectiv es were placed here to watch your actions, they wouldn't be inte r ested in s pying upon me, would they1 '' I suppose not.'' '' I've n e ver even seen your grandfather and so I must be exempt from s uspicion. I advi se you, my dear, to forget these apprehensions, which must be purely imaginary. If a thousand spies surrounded you, they could do you no harm, nor even trap you i nto betraying your grandfathe r, w hose present location i s a complete mys tery to you ' Mary Loui se could not h elp admitting this was true, so s he kiss ed her friend good night and went to her own room Left alone, Irene put her hand to the ribbon

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MARY LOUIS E GROWS SUSPICIOUS 185 around her neck and d rew from her bosom an old-fashioned oval gold loc ket, as big as any ordinary watch but thinner. She opened the frout of the case and kissed her mother's picture, as was her ni ghtly custom. T he n s he op ened the back and drew out a tightly fold e d wad of paper. This she care full y spread out before her, when it proved to be the oltl l et t e r she had fo un d in the book. Once again she read the letter carefully, poring over the words in deep tho ught. '' This letter,'' s h e murmured, '' might ind eed be of use to the Gov ernme nt, but it is of far more value to Mary Louis e and-to h e r grandfathe r. I ought not to lose it; nor ought I to allow anyone to read it, at prese nt. P erhaps, if Agatha Lord has notic e d the ribbon I wear, it will be b es t to find a new hiding place for the letter.'' She was in b ed now, and lay looking around the room with spe culativ e gaze Beside her stood her wheeled chair, with its cushion of dark Spanish leather. The girl smiled and, reachin g for her work-basket, which was on a stand at the h ead of the bed, she drew out a pair o f scissors and cut some of the stitches of the leathern cu s hion. The n she tuc ked the l etter

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186 MARY LOUISE carefully inside and with a n eed l e and some bl ack linen thread sewed up the place she had ripped open. She had just complete d this tas k when she glanc ed up and saw a face at her window i ndistinctLy, for even as she raise d her head it drew back and faded into the outer gloom. F'or a moment Irene sat motionless, lookin g at the window. Then she turned to the stand, where the lamp was, and extingui s hed the light. An hour, perhaps, she sat upright in bed, considering what she sh ould do. Then again s h e reached out in the darkness and felt for her sciss9rs. Securing them she drew the chair cushion upon the bed and f elt a long its edge for the place she had sew n. She could not determine for some time wh ich was the right edge but a t last she found where the stitches seemed a little tighter drawn than e l sewhe r e and this p l ace she managed to rip op en To her joy she found the let ter and drew it out with a sigh of relief: But now what to do with it was a question of vi tal importance. She dared not relight her lamp and she was helpl ess whe n out of her chair. So she put back the cushion, slid from the bed into

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MARY LOUISE GROWS SUSPICIOUS 187 the chair and wheeled herself in the dark to her dresser, which had a chenille cover. Underneath this cover she spread the letter, deeming that so simple a hiding-place was likely to be overlooked in a hasty search and feeling that the letter would be safe there for the night, at least. She now r eturned to her bed There was no use trying to resew the cushion in the dark. She lay awake for a long time, feeling a certain thrill of delight in the belief that she was a conspirator. despite h e r crippled condition and that she was conspirin g for the benefit of h e r d ear friend Mary Louise. Finally sh e sank into a deep slumber and did not wak e n till the sun was streaming in at the window and Mary Louise knocked upon her door to call her. You 're lazy this morning," laughed Mary Louise, entering. '' Let me help you dress for breakfast.'' Irene tha nk e d her. No one but this girl friend was ever p ermitted to assist her in dressing, as she felt proud of her ability to serve h e r se lf. Her toilet was almost complete when Mary Loui se suddenl y ex cl aimed: "Why, wh a t has become of your chair cu s hion?''

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188 MARY LOUISE Irene looked toward the chair. The cushion was gone Never mind," she said, althou g h her face wore a troubled expression. '' I mus t have left it somewhere H e r e ; I '11 put a pillow in its place until I find it."

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CHAPTER XIX AN ARTFUL OONFESSION This Monday morning Bub appeared at the Lodge and had the car ready before Mr.-Conant l rnd :finished h i s breakfast. Mary Louise decided t o dri ve to Millbank with them, just for the pleasure of the trip, and although the boy evidently regarded her presence with distinct di approval he made no verbal objection. As Irene whee l ed herself out upon the porch to see them start, Mary Louise call e d to her: '' Here's your chair cushion, Ire ne, lying on the s t eps and quite wet with dew. I nev e r supposed you could be so careless And you'd better sew up that rip before i t gets bigger," she added handing the cushion to her friend. '' I will,'' Ire n e quietly returne d Bub prove d him self a good driver b efo r e they had gone a mile and it ple ased Mr. Conant to observe that the boy made the trip down th e treacherous mountain road with admirable cau tion. Onc e on the l eve l, however, h e stepped 189

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190 MARY LOUISE on it," as h e expressed it, and dashed pas t the Huddle and ov e r the plain as if training for the Grand Prix It amused Mary Louise to watch their quaint little barefooted and in blu e -jeans and hickory shirt, with the h eavy Scotch golf cap pulled over his eyes, taking his task of handling the car as seriously as might any city chauffeur and executing it fully as well. During the trip the girl conv ersed with Mr. Conant '' Do yo u remember our referring to an ol d letter, the o ther day ''. she asked. ''Yes,'' sai d he. Iren e found it in one of tho se secondhand book s you bought in New York, and she said it s pok e of both my mother and my grandfather.'' The deuce it did I he ex claim ed, ev id ently startled by the informat ion. It must have b ee n quite an old lett er," continued Mary Loui se, musingly. "What did it say? he demanded rathe r eagerly for the unemotional lawyer. "I don't know. Irene wouldn't let me r ead it." '' Wouldn't, eh? That's odd. Why didn't y ou t e ll m e o f this b efore I l eft the Lod ge1

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AN ARTFUL CONFE8SION 191 '' I didn't think to tell you until now. And, Uncle Peter, wha ; do you think of Miss Lord? '' A very charming lady. What did Irene do with the letter 7 ' '' I think she left it in the book; and -the book was stolen the very next day.'' '' Great Caesar! Who knew about that lette r 1 '' '' Miss Lord was p resent when Irene found the letter, and she heard Irene exclaim that it was all about my mother, as well a.s about my gra:p.dfa ther." ''Miss Lord?'' "Yes." '' And the book was taken by som eone? '' The next d ay We missed it after -after Miss Lord had visited t he den alone." "Huh!" He rode for awhile in silence. Really," h e muttered, as if to himself, I ought to go back. I ought not to take for granted the fact that this ol d letter i unimportant. How ever Ire n e has rea d it, and if it happened to be of valu e I'm sure the girl would have told me about it.'' '' Y es she certainly would have told you,'' agree d Mary Louise. '' But she declared that

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192 MARY LOUISE even I would not be interested in reading it.'' '' That's the only point that perplexes m e,'' said the lawyer. Just-that-one point." ' Why 1 ' asked the girl. But Mr. Conant dill not explain. He sat bolt upright on his seat, staring at the back of Bub's head for the rest of the journey. Mary Loui se noticed that his fingers constantly fumbled with the locket on his watch chain As the lawyer l ef t the car at the station h e whisper e d to Mary Loui se : T e ll Iren e that I now know about the l etter; and just say to her that I consider h e r a very cautious girl. Don't say anything more And don't, for h eaven's sake, suspect poor Miss L o r d I'll talk with Ire n e wh e n I r e t urn o n Friday." On their way back Bub maintained an absolute silence until after they had passe d the Huddle Before the y started to c l imb the hill road, how eve r, the boy suddenly s low ed up, h alted the car a nd turned de l ib erately in his s ea t to face Mary Louise. '' Bein' as how you 're a gal,'' said he, '' I ain't got m u ch u se fer ye, an' that's a fact. I d o n t say it' s your fault, nor that ye wo uldn't 'a' made a pass 'ble boy ef ye 'd be 'n horned the t

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AN ARTFUL CONFESSION 193 way. But you're right on one thing, an' don't fergit I told ye so: thet woman at Bigbee's ain't on the square.'' '' How do you '' asked Mary Louise, delighted to be taken into Bub's confidence b eing a girl. '' The critter's too slick,'' he explained, raisi ng one b:...ce foot to the cushion beside him and picking a sliver out of his to e Her eyes ain't got their shu ;ters raised Eyes 're lik e winders, but hers ye kam 't see through. I don't know nuth'n' 'bout that slick gal at Bigbee's an' I don't want to know nuth'n'. But I heer'd what ye said to the boss, an' what he said to you, an' I guess you're right in sizin' the critter up, an' the bo ss is wrong.'' With tlli s he swung round again and started the car, nor did he utte r another word until he l'an the machine into the garage. During Mary Louise's absence Ire ne had had a strange and startling experience with their beautiful neighbor The girl had wheeled her chair out upon the bluff to sun herself and read, Mrs. Conant being busy in the hou se Agatha Lord strolled up to her with a smile and a pleasant '' good morning.''

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194 MARY LOUISE ' I'm glad to find yo u alone,'' said she, seating h erself beside the w he e led chair. '' I saw Mr. Conant and Mary Louise pass the Bigb ee place and decided this would be a good opportunity for yo u and me to have a nice, quiet t alk together. So I came over.'' Ire n e 's face was a bit disdainful as she r emarked : I found the cush ion this morning." Wbat cush ion do y ou refer to1 asked Agatha with a puzzled expressio n. Irene frowned '' W e cannot talk frankly together when we are at cro ss purposes,'' she comp1ained. '' Very true, my dear; but you seem inclin ed to speak in riddles.'' '' Do you deny any knowl edge o f my chair cushion?'' I do." ' I must accept your statem ent, of course What do you wi h to say to me, Miss Lord 1 '' '' I would like to es tablish a more friendly understanding b etwee n us. You are an intelligent girl and cannot fail to realize that I have taken a warm interest in your friend Mary Louise Burrows. I want to know more about her, a nd

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AN ARTFUL CONFESS IO N 195 about her people, seem to have cast her off. You are able to give me this information, I am sure, and by doing so yo u may be instrumental in assisting your friend materially.'' It was an odd speech; odd and ins incere. Irene studied the woman's face curiously. '' Who are you, Miss Lord 7 '' she inquired. Your n e i ghbor." "Why are you our neighbor 7 '' I am glad to be able to expJain that -to you, in confidence. I am trying to clear the name of Colon e l Weatherby from a grave charge the charge of hig h treason.'' '' In other words, you are trying to discover where he is,'' r etorted Irene impatiently. "No, my d ear; you mistake me. It is not important to my mission, at present, to know where Colonel Weatherby is staying. I am merely seeking relevant information, such information as you are in a position to give me." ''I, Miss Lord 1 '' "Yes. To be perfectly frank, I want to see the letter which you found in that book.'' '' Why hould you attach any importance to thaU" "I was present, yo u w ill r e m e mb er, when you

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196 MARY LOUISE discovered it. I marked your surprise and p er plexity -your fear and uncertainty-as you glanced :first at the writing and then at Mary Louise. You determined not to show your friend that letter because it would disturb h er, yet you inadvertently admitted, in my hearing, that it referred to the girl's mothe r and-which i s vastly more important-to her grandfather.'' -Well; what then, Miss Lord. '' Colonel Weatherby is a man of mystery. H e has been hunte d by Government agents for nearly ten years, during which time he has suc cessfully eluded them. If you know anything of the Government service you know it has a thousand eyes, t e n thousand ears and a myriad of long arms to seize its malefactors. It has not ye t captured Colon e l W eatherby.'' '' Why has he be e n hunted all these years T '' He is charged, as I said, with high treason By persistently evading capture he has tacitly admitted his guilt. '' But he is i nnocent! '' cried Irene indignantly. Miss Lord seemed surpri1oed, yet not altogether ill pleased, at the involuntary exclamation. '' Indeed! '' s h e said softly. '' Could you prove that ''

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AN ARTFUL CONFESSION 197 '' I I think so,'' stammered the girl, regr etting her hasty avowal. '' Then why not do so and by restoring Mary Louise to her grandfather make them both Irene sat s il ent trapped. This i s why I have come to you," continued Agatha, very serio u sly '' I am employed by those whose identity I must not disclose to sift this mystery of Colonel Weatherby to the bottom, if possible, and then to fix the guilt where it belongs. By accident you have com e into po s ses s ion of certain facts that wou ld be important in unrave lling the t angle, bnt through your unfortunate aflliction yo u are he lpl ess to act in your own capacity. You need an ally with more strength and experience than yourself, and I propose yo u accept me as that aJly Together we niay be able to clear the name of James J. Hathawaywho now calls himself Colon e l James Weatherby-from all reproach and s o restore him to the e s teem of his fellow men.'' But we must not do that, even i f we could ,, cried I rene, quite distressed by the suggestion. ''Why not, my d ear7 '' 'Ihe tone was so soft and cat-like thR t it ,;

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198 MARY LOUISE alarmed Irene instantly. Before answ ering sh e took time to reflect. To h e r di smay she found this woman was gradually dra w ing from h e r the very informa tion s h e had d eclare d sh e would preserve secret. She kne w w e ll t hat she was no match for Agatha Lord in a trial of wits. Her only recourse must be a stubborn refusal to explain anything more. Colonel Weatherby," she said slowly, "has better information than I of the charge against him and his reasons for keeping hidden, yet h e steadfastly refuses to proclaim his innocence or to prove he is unjustly accus e d, which he might very well do if he chose. You say you are working in his interests, and, allowing that, I am satisfied h e would bitterly reproach anyone who succeeded in clearing his name. by disclosing the truth.'' This argument positively amaz e d Agatha Lord, as it might well amaze anyone who bad not read the letter. In spite of h e r supreme confidenc e o f the moment before, the woman now suddenly realized tha t this p romis ing intervie w was destined to end disastrous l y t o h e r plans. I am so obtu se that yo u w ill have to explain that state m ent,'' s h e said with assumed care l e ss-

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AN ARTFUL CONFESSION 199 nes s ; but Irene was now on guard and replied: '' Then our alliance is dissolved. I do not intend, Miss Lord, to betray such information as I may have stumbled upon unwittingly. Yon express interest in Mary Loui s e and h e r grandfather and say you are anxious to serve them So am I. The r efore I b eg you, in their interests to abandon any furt h e r attempt to p enetrate the secret.'' Agatha wa s Show me the letter," s h e urged, as a last r esort. '' If, on reading it, I find your position is justifiable you must admit it is now bewildering-I will agree to abandon the investigation altogether." '' I will not show you the letter,'' declared the girl positively. The woman studied her face. '' But you will consid e r thi s conv ersation con fidential, will you not 1 '' '' Since you request it, yes.'' '' I do not wi s h our very pleasant relations, a s neighbors, di s turbed. I would rather the Conant s and Mary Louise did not suspect I am here on any es p ec ial mi ss i o n.'' ' Ve r y well. '

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200 1\IARY LOUISE In truth," contin u ed Agatha, I am gro wing fond of yo u all and this is a real vacation to after a period of hard wor k in the city which racked my nerves Before long I must return to the old strenuous life, so I wish to make the most of my present opportunities.'' I understand." No further reference was made to the letter or to Colonel Weatherby. They talked of other things for a while and when Miss Lord went away there seem e d to exist -at least upo n the surface -the same friendly r e latio ns that had formerly prevailed between them Irene, refl ecting upon the interview decided that while she had admitted more than was wise she had stopped short of exposing the truth about Colonel Weatherby. The letter wa s safel y bid den, now She defied even M i ss Lord to find it. If she could manage to control her tongu e here dter, the secret was safe in her po ssess ion. Thoughtfully she wheeled herself back to tlie den and finding the room deserted she ventured to peep into h e r novel hiding-place. Yes ; the precious letter was still safe But this time in her abstraction, she failed to see the face at the window.

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CHAPTER XX DIAMOND CUT DIAMOND Tuesday afternoon M i ss Lord's big touring car stood at the door of Hillcrest Lodge, for Agatha had invited the Conant party to ride wi t h her to Millbank Irene was tucked into the back seat in a comfortable position and b e sid e her sat Mrs. Conant, who was going to mak e a few purchas es at the village store. Mary Loui s e rode o n the front seat with Agatha, who l oved to drive her car and understood it perfectly Whe n they drove away there was no one le f t in the hou s e but Sarah Judd, the servant girl, who was washi n g the l unch dishes Bub was in the shed-like garage, however, wa s hing and polishing Will Morrison's old car, on which the paint was so crack e d and faded that the boy's attempt to improve its appe arance was a desperate o n e Sar ah, through the kitchen window, watched B u b for a time rather sharply. Then she went out on t h e bluff and look e d down in the valley. 2 0 1

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202 MARY LOUISE Miss Lord's big car was just passing the Huddle on its way up valley. Sarah turned and reentered the house. Her meek and diffident expression of countenance had quite disappeared. Her face now wore a look of stern determination and the blue eyes deepened and grew shrewd. She walked straight to the den and without hesitation approached the farther wall and took from its pegs Will Morrison's fine hunting rifle In the stock was a hollow chamber for cartridges for the rifle was of the type known as a repeater. Sliding back the stee l plate that hid thi s cavity, Sarah drew from it a folded paper of a yellow tint and calmly spread it on the tabl e before her. Then she laid down the rifle, placed a chair at the table and with absorbed attention read the letter from b eginn ing to end the letter that Irene had found in the book It was closely written on both sides the thin sheet evidently of foreign make and although the writing was faded it was still clearly legible. After the first perusal Sarah Judd leaned her elbows o n the table and her head. on her hands

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DIAMOND CUT DIAMOND 203 and proceeded to study the epistle still more closely. Then she drew from her pocket a note book and pencil and with infinite care made a copy of the entire letter, writing it iri. her book in shorthand. This accomplished, she replaced the letter in the rifl e stock and hung the weapon on its p e gs again . Both the window and the glass door of the den faced the back yard. Sarah opened the door and stood there in deep thought, watching Bub at his work. Then she returned to the table and opening a drawer drew out a sheet of blank paper. On this she wrote the following words: John Folger, 1601 F. Street, Washington, D. C. Nothing under sterling over letter bob bing every k ernel sad mother making frolic better quick. If England rumples paper Russia admires money. Sarah Judd.'' Each word of this preposterous phrasing she wrote after consulting another book hidden cleverly among the coils of her red hair a tiny book it was, filled with curious characters. When the writing was :finished the girl seemed well satisfied with her wor k. After tucking away the

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204 J'.fARY LOUISE book in its former place she w en t to her roo m, got her purse and the n proceeded to tlie shed and confronted Bub. '' I want you to driv e thi s car to .Millban k, to the te legraph office at the railway station,'' said Sarah. Bub gave h e r a scornful lo o k. ' Ye 're c r azy,'' he said and went on with his po l ishin g '' That ne edn't worry you,'' retorted the girl. It don't," declared Bub You can drive and you 're going to," she continued ' I've got to send this tel egram quick and you've got to take it.'' She opened her purse and placed two coin s on the fender o f the car. There's a dollar to pay for the message, and the r e 's a five do llar gold-piece to pay you for your trouble Bub gave a gasp. He came u p beside her and stared at the mon ey. The n he turned to look at Sarah Judd. "What's he demanded. Private business Don't ask que stions; yo u'd only get lies for answers Go and earn yo u r m o ney. " Mi ss Conant, s h e s gone to Mill bank herself.

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DIAMOND CUT DIAMO N D 205 Ef she see s me there, I '11 git fired The boss '11 fire me himself, anyhow, f e r usin' the car when he tol' m e not to .'' "How much do you get a week? "asked Sarah. '' Four bits.'' '' That's about two dollars a month In two months the Conants will move back to the city, and by then yo u '11 have earned four dollars Why, Bub, it's cheap e r for you to take this five-doll a r gold-p i ece and get fir e d, than to work for two months for four dollars.'' Bub scratched his head in p e rple x ity. "Ye ain't count'n' on the fun o' workin'," he suggested. '' I'm count ing on that five dollars eight bits to a dollar, forty bits altogether. Why, it's a fortu ne, Bub. He took out his knife, looked around for a stick to whittle and, :finding non e put the knife in h i s pocket w ith a sigh. I gue s s Will Morrison wouldn't like it," h e decided. ' Put up yer money, Sairy. '' Sarah withdrew the gold-piece and put a larger one in its place '' There,'' she said; '' let's make it ten dollars, and save time."

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206 MAR Y LOUISE Bub s h esitat ion vani shed but h e aske d a nxiou sly: '' Tain 't go 'n' to do no harm t o the m g al s the t 's stoppin' h e r e i s i t ? '' It i s to do the m a g ood tur n tha t I'm sending this t e l egram.'' '' Honor bright 1 '' Hope to di e Bub." All right; I'm off." He folded the l ette r, place d it ins ide hi s Scotch cap and stow e d the m on e y carefully i n his pocket. '' Don't let any of the folk s s ee you if you can help it,'' warne d Sarah; '' and, whatever happens, don't say anything about that telegram to a living soul. Onlys e e that it's sent.'' '' I'm wise,'' ans w ered Bub and a mom e n t later he started the car and roll ed away down the road. Sarah Judd looked afte r him with a que e r s mile on her face The n s h e went back to her kitchen and resume d h e r dis hw a sh ing. Pres ently a scarcely audible s ound arre sted her atte ntion. It seemed to come from the inte r ior of the Lodge Sarah avoided making a p a r t icle of noi se h er self as she stole s oftly through the d ining room

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DIAM O ND CUT D IAMON D 207 and entered the mai n hallway. On e g l ance showed her that the front door was ajar a n d the door o f the den closed exactly the r eve r se of w h a t they sh o ul d be. S he crept fo rwa r d and with a s u dde n movement threw ope n the d o or of the d en. A w oman sto od in the c enter of the room. A s t he d oor op e n e d s h e swung around and poi n t e d a r ev ol ve r at Sar a h. The n for a moment they s il e n t ly faced on e ano t h e r Ah," said the woma n, with an acc ent of reli e f, '' you tre the servant. Go back to your work. Mrs Conant told me to make myself at home here.'' Yes, I know,'' repli e d Sarah sarcastically. '' She said she was expecting you and told m e it wouldn't do any harm to keep a.n eye on you w hile you're here. She said Miss Lord was g oing to get all the family away, so you could make a careful search of the house, you being Mi s s Lord's maid, Susan otherwise known as Nan Shelley, from the W ashington Bureau." Susan's hand shook so ridiculou sly that s h e low e red the r evolver to prevent its droppin g from h e r gras p. H e r count e nanc e expresse d cha grin, surpnse anger

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208 MARY LOUISE I don't know you," she said harshly. Who are '' New at the game," replied Sarah Judd, with a shrug. "You don't know me, Nan, but I know you; and I know your record, too. You 're as slick as they make 'em, and the one who call herself Agatha Lord is just an infantile amateur beside you But go ahead, Nan; don't let me interrupt your work.'' The woman sank into a chair. '' You can't be from the home office,'' she mut tered, staring hard at the girl. They wou ldn't .dare interfere with my work here." '' No; I'm not from the home office.'' '' I said Susan, '' as soon as I heard the story of your coming, that it was faked. I'd gamb le that you never saw Mrs. Morrison in your life.'' You'd win," said Sarah, also taking a chair. '' Then who could have sent you here? '' '' Figure it out yourself,'' suggested Sarah. '' I'm trying to. Do you know what we 're after?" A clew to Hathaway. Incidentally, any othe r information concerning him that comes your way That includes the letter.''

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DIAMOND CUT DIAMOND 209 Oh. So you know about the letter, do you? asked Susan. "To be sure. And I kn0w that's what you're here for now. Don't let me interrupt you. It's a mighty hard job, finding that l etter, and the folks 'll be back by and by." "You're right/' exclaimed the woman, rising ab ruptly. '' Go back to your work in the kitchen." This is my occupation, just now," reto rted Sarah, lolling in her chair. '' Go ahead with your search, Nan, and I'll tell you when you are hot or cold '' "You're an impudent little chit," said Nan tartly. See here,'' with a sudden change of voice, let's pool issues. If we can discover anything important in thi s place, th ere 's reward enough for us all.'' I am not opposing you," prote sted Sarah Judd. "I'm not a particle intere sted in whether yo u trace Hathaway or not. I don't believe you can do it, though, and that letter you 're so eage r for won't help you a bit. It was written ten years ago." That makes it more important," declared th e other. '' We've two things to accomplish; one is

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21{) MARY LOUISE to locat e Hat haw ay, and the other to secure abso lute proof of his guilt." '' I thought he was caught doing the job.'' ' So he was in a way. But the Department needs more proof.'' Sarah Judd s mil ed unb el i e vin gly. Then sh e ch uckled. Presently she laughed outright, in genuine merrime nt, a s the thought that amused her grew and expanded. What fools she s aid, what perfect fools we mortals be i All this annoyed Nan exceedingly. The s uccessful woman dete ctive did not relish being jeered at by a mere girl. You've read the letter, I suppose, and are now making fun of me for trying to get it T Perhaps you've hidden it yourself although ibat isn't likely. Why can't you giv e me an honest tipT We're both in the same line, it see ms, and both trying to earn an honest living How about that letter? I s it necessary for me to find it! " I've read it," admitted Sarah, and I know where it is. You might perhaps find it, if you hunted long e nough, but it isn't worth you r while. It wouldn't h elp i n the least to convi ct

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DIAMOND CUT DIAMOND 211 Hathaway and of course it couldn't tell you where he is now hiding." Is this straight? '' True as gospel.'' Then why don't you prove it by showing me the letter? '' Because I don't belong on your side of the fence. You're working for one organiz ation and I for another. Any little tip I l e t slip is just for your personal use. Don't bother about that letter.'' Susan -or Nan Shelley -sat for a time in thought. Once in a while she would cast a furtive glance around the room and its wall cov e r ed with trophies, and then she would turn to Sarah Judd's placid face. '' Where did the boy go T '' she asked abn:ptly. What boyT " Bub; in the automobile." To Millbank." "What fort '' To send a telegram. '' ''Your report!'' "Yes." '' Important T '' I think it'll bring things to a climax."

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212 MARY LOUISE '' The Hathaway '' ' You can guess anything, Nan, if you guess long enough.'' Nan rose and put the revolver in her pocket. T h e n she held out her hand frankly to Sarah Judd. "If you've beaten me in this affair," she said, with no apparent resentment, "you're clever e nough to become famous some day. I'm going to take your advice about the letter and if that climax you 're predicting arrives on schedule time I '11 not be sorry to quit this dreary, dragging case and pick up a more interesting o ne.'' The tone was friendly and frank. Sarah stretched out her hand to meet that of Nan and in a flash a handcuff snapped over her wrist. With a cry she drew back, but a dextrous twist of her opponent's free hand prisoned her other wrist and she at once realized that she was fairly caught. Fine! she crie d admiringly, as she looked at her bonds. what next, But Nan was too busy to talk. She deftly searched the girl's pocket and found the notebook. The shorthand writing caught her eye at once but the characters were unknown to her.

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DIAl\10 1 D CUT DIAMOND 213 Cipher, e h 7 she muttered. A little code of my own inve ntion," said Sarah. Sometimes I can't make i t out myself." Nan restored the book and examined Sarah Judd's purse. '' They k eep you w ell supplied with funds, it seems.'' '' Comes handy in em erge nci es,'' was the reply. '' Now let's go to your room.'' Sarah, handcuffed, l ed the way. Nan Shelley made a wonderfully rapid search through every article in the maid's room. The lining of her cloth es was inspected her hair-brush tested for a sliding back the pictures on the wall, the r u g and the bed-clothing examined minute ly. Yet all this con sumed but a brief period of time and resulted in no important discovery Feel betted asked Sarah cheerfully. ' You know I do. I'm going to remov e these handcu ffs, now, and the n I'm going home. Come and see me, some time when you feel l onesome. I've only that fool Agatha to talk to and I've an idea you and I might interest each other.'' As she spoke she unlo cked the manacl es and dropped them with a slight c li ck into a conc ealed pocket of her dark skirt.

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214 MARY LOUISE I imagine Agatha isn't real brilliant," returned Sarah; '' but neither am L When I'm your age, Nan, I hope to be half as clever. Just now you can twist me around your finger.'' Nan regarded her seriously. '' I wish I knew what you are up to,'' she r e marked suspiciously. '' You can scarcely con. ceal your joy, my girl, and that proves I've over looked something. You've puzzled me, youngster as you are, but you must remember that I'm working in the dark while some mysterious gleam of knowledge lights your way. Put us side by side on the same track, and I wouldn't be afraid of you, Sarah Judd." "Don't apologize, Nan; it makes me feel ashamed.'' Nan's frown, as she looked into the blue eyes, .turned to a smile of appreciation. Sarah also smiled, and then she said : '' Let me make you a cup of tea before you go.'' '' A good idea. We 're friends, then T '' '' Why not T One friend is worth a thou s an d enemies and it's absurd to quarrel with on e for doing her duty." '' That's what 0 'Gorman is always saying. Ever hear of 0 'Gorman T '' I

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DIAMOND CUT DIAMO ND 215 Yes; he's one of the old stand-bys in the secret service department; but they say he's getting old. Slipped a good many cog s lately, I hear. "He's the Clef's right hand man. O'Gorman used to have this ca se the branch of it I'm now working-but h e gave it up and recom mended the Chi ef to put me on the job. Said a woman could trail Mary Louise better than any man and with less chance of discovery; and he was right, for I've lived half a block from her in Dorfield and she never saw my face once. But 0 'Gorman didn't suspect you were coming into the case and the thing's getting altogether too complicated to suit me.'' Sarah was brewing the tea and considered an a n swer unnecessary. The conversation drifted away from the Hathaway case and into l ess per sonal channels. When Nan Shelley finally rose to go there was sincere friendliness in Sarah's good-bye ;nd the elder woman said in parting: '' You 're the right sort, Sarah. If ever y ou drift into Washi ngton and need work, come to me and I '11 get the Chief to take you on. I know: he'd b e glad to get you."

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216 MARY LOUISE "Thank you, Nan," said Sarah meekly. But there was a smile on her freckled face as she watched her recent acquaintance walk down the road, and it lingered there while she returned to her kitchen and :finally washed and put away the long neglected lunch dishes. Bub dashed into the yard and tooted his horn. Sarah went out to him. '' Ye kin call me lucky, ef ye don't mind,'' he said with a grin. Sent yer tel 'gram, found out the tenner ye guv me were good, an' got back without the folks gett 'n' a single blink at me " You 're some driver, Bub, and you've got a wise head on your shoulders. If you don't talk about this trip, and I don't, no one will ever know, except we two, that the car has been out of the garage. '

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BAD NEWS Peter Conant had told his wife that he wouldn't be at the Lodge this week until Saturday, as busi ness would prevent his coming earlier, yet the Thursday afternoon train brought him to Mill bank and Bill Coombs' stage took him to Hillcrest Why, Peter! exclaimed Aunt Hannah, when she saw him, what on earth brought you Then she stopped short, for Peter's eyes were staring more roundly than usual and the hand that fumbled at his locket trembled visibly He stared at Aunt Hannah, he stared at Irene; but most of all he stared at Mary Louise, who seemed to sense from his manner some impending misfortune H-m," said the lawyer, growing red and then paling; '' I've bad news.'' He chopped the words off abruptly, as if he resented the necessity of uttering them. His eyes, which had been fixed upon the face of Mary 217

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218 MARY LOUISE Louise, suddenly wavered and sought the floor. His manner said more than his words. Mary Louise grew white and pressed her hands to her heart, regarding the lawyer with eyes questioning and full of fear. Irene turned a sympathetic gaze upon her friend and Aunt Hannah cam e closer to the girl and slipped a.n arm around her waist, as if to help her to endure this unknown trial. And Mary Loui se feeling she could not bear the suspense, asked falteringly : '' Has-Gran'pa Jim-been-'' No," said Mr. Conant. No, my dear, no." '' Then -has anything happened to -to mother?" '' Well, well,'' muttered the lawyer, with a sort of growl, '' Mrs. Burrows has not been in good health for some months, it seems. She -ehwas under a eh -under a nervous strain; a severe nervous strain, you know, and -'' Is she dead T asked the girl in a low, hard voice. The end, it seems, came unexpectedly, several days ago She did not suffer, your grandfather writes, but-" Again he left his sentence unfinished, for Mary Louise had buried her face in Aunt Hannah's

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BAD NEWS 219 bosom and was sobbing in a miserable, heart breaking way that made Peter jerk a handker chief from his pocket and blo w his no se lustily. Then he turned and marched from the room, while his wife led the hapless girl to a sofa and cuddled her in her lap as if she had been a little child. '' She's best with the women,'' muttered Peter to himself. It's a sorrowful thing -a dreadful thing, in a way -but it can't be helped and -she's best with the women." He had wandered into the dining room, where Sarah Judd was laying the tabl e for dinner. She must have overheard the con vers ation in the living room, for she came be side the lawyer and asked: '' When did Mrs. Burrows '' '' On Monday.'' ''Where?'' '' That's none of your business, my girl.'' '' Has the funeral been held 1 '' He regarded her curiously. The idea of a servant asking such questions But there was a look in Sarah's blue eyes that meant more than curi osity; somehow, it drew from him an answer. '' Mrs. Burrows was cremated on Wednesday. It seems s he preferred it to burial." Having said

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220 MARY LOUISE this, he turned to stare from the window again. Sarah Judd stood silent a moment. Then she said with a sigh of relief: '' It's a queer world, isn't it, Mr. Conant 1 And this death isn't altogether a calamity." "'Why noU whirling round to face her. "Because, said Sarah, it will enable Mr. Hathaway to face the world again-a free man." Peter Conant was so startled that he stood motionless, forgetting his locket but not forgetting to stare. Sarah, with her hands full of forks and spoons, began placing the silver in orderly array upon the table She paid no heed to the lawyer, who gradually recovered his poise and watched her with newly awakened interest. Once or twice he opened his mouth to speak, and then decided not to. He was bewildered, perplexed, susp1c1ous In thought he began to r ev iew the manner of Sarah's coming to them, and her sub sequent actions. She seemed a capable servant. Mrs. Conant had never complained of her. Yet -what did she know of Hathaway? Mary Louise did not appear at dinner. She begged to be left alone in her room. Sarah took her some toast and tea, with honest sympathy in her eyes, but the sorrowing girl shouk her bead

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BAD NEWS 221 and would not taste the food Later, however, in the evening, she entered the living room where the others sat in depressed silence and said: '' Please, Mr. Conant, tell me all you know about -mother.'' It is very little, my dear," replied the lawyer in a kindly tone. '' This morning I received a message from your grandfather which said: 'Poor Beatrice passed away pn Monday and at her request her body was cremated to-day. Be very gentle in breaking the sad news to Mary Louise.' That was all, my child, and I came here as quickly as I could. In a day or so we shall have further details, I feel sure. I am going back to town in the morning and will send you any information I receive.'' '' Thank you,'' said the girl, and was quietly leaving the room when Irene called to her. '' Mary Louise I '' '' Yes ? '' half turning. 1 '' Will you come with me to my room? '' Now? '' Yes. You know I cannot go up the stairs. And I lost my own dear mother not long ago, you will remember." Tears started to the girl's eyes, but she waited

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222 MARY LOUISE until Irene wheeled her chair beside her and the n the two went through the den to Irene's room. Mrs. Conant nodded to Peter approvingly. Irene will comfort her," s h e said, and in a way far better than I might do. It is all very dreadful and very sad, P e t er, but the poor child has never enjoyed much of her moth er's s oci e t y and w h e n the first bitter grief is passed I think she will recover something of her usual cheerfulness. '' "H-m," returned the lawyer; "it seems a hard thing to say, Hannah, but this demise may prove a blessing in disguise and be best for the child's future happiness. In any event, I'm sure it will relieve the strain many of us have been under for the past ten years.'' '' You talk in riddles, Peter.'' '' The whol e thing is a riddle, Hannah. And, by the way, have you noticed anything suspiciou s about our hired girl? '' "About Sarah? No," regarding him with s urprise. '' Does she -eh snoop around much T '' "No; she's a very good girl." Too good to be true, perhaps," observ e d Peter, and lapsed into thought. Really, it

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BAD NEWS 223 wouldn't matter now how much Sarah Judd-or anyone else knew of the Hathaway case. The mystery would solve itself, presently.

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CHAPTER XXII THE FOLKS AT BIGBEE 's Mr. Conant decided to take the Friday morning train back to Dor:field, saying it would not be pos sible for him to remain at the Lodge over Sunday, because important business might require his presence in town. '' This demise of Mrs. Burrows,'' he said confi dentially to his wife in the privacy of their room, ''may have far-reaching and turn the whole current of Colonel Wea th er by 's life." I don't see why," said Aunt Hannah. '' You 're not expect e d to see why,'' he replied. '' As the Colonel is my most important client, I must be at the office in case of developments or a s udden demand for my services. I will tell you one thing, however, and that is that this vacation at Hillcrest Lodge was plann e d by the Colonel while I was in New York, with the idea that he and Mrs. Burrows would come here secretly and enjoy a nice visit with Mary Louise." '' You planned all that, Peter! '' 224

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THE FOLKS AT BIGBEE' S 225 '' Yes. That is, Weatherby planned it. He knows Will Morrison well, and Will was only too glad to assist him ; so they wired me to come to New York, where all was quickly arranged. This place is so retired that we conEtdered it quite safe fo r the fugitives to come here.'' '' Why didn't they come, then '' '' Two reasons prevented them. One was the sudden breaking of Mrs. Burrows' health; the other reaso n was the Colonel's discovery that in some way our carefully laid plans had become known to the detectives who are seeking him.'' ' Good gracious Are you sure of that, Peter?" '' The Colonel seemed sure. He maintains a detective force on his own account and his spies discover ed that Hillcr es t is being watched by agents of the Secret Service." Dear me; what a maze of deceit I wailed the good woma.n. '' I wish you were well out of the whole affair, Peter; and I wish Mary Louise was out of it, too.'' So do I, with all my heart. Bu_t it's coming to a focus soon, Hannah. Be patient and it may end better than we now fear.'' So Bub drove Mr. Conant to Millbank and then

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226 MARY LOUISE the boy took the car to the blacksnilth shop to have a small part repaired. The blacksnilth made a bungle of it and wasted all the forenoon before he :finally took Bub's advice about shaping it and the new rod was attached and found to work successfully. It was after one o'clock when the boy at last started for home and on the way was hailed by a stranger -a little man who was trudging along the road with both hands thrust in his pockets. Going far! he asked. '' Up th' mount 'n to Hillcrest,'' said Bub. Oh. May I have a lifU " How fer? " Well, I can't say how far I'll go. I'm unde cided. Just came out here for a little fresh air,, you know, with no definite plans," explained the stranger. Hop in," said BuQ and for a time they rode together in silence. This 'ere 's the Huddle, as we're coniln' to," announced the boy. '' 01' Miss' Parsons she sometimes takes boarders.'' That's kind of her," r e marked the stranger. '' But the air i sn't so good a s further up the hill.''

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THE FOLKS AT BIGBEE'S 227 Ef ye go up," said Bub with a grin, guess ye'll hev to camp out an' eat scrub. Nobody don't take boarders, up th' mount 'n.'' '' I suppose not. '' He made no demand to be let out at the Huddle, so Bub drove on. "By the way," said the little man, "isn't there a place called Bigbee 's, near here? '' Comin' to it pretty soon. They's some gals livin' there now, so ye won't care tC> stop.'' What sort of girls are they! '' Sort o' queer.'' "Yes? '' Ye bet ye. Come from the city a while ago an' livin' by theyselves. Someth 'n' wrong 'bout them gals,'' added Bub reflectively. "In what way? "asked the little man in a tone of interest. They ain't here fer-nuth'n' special 'cept watchin' the folks at Hillcrest. Them's the folks I belongs to. For four bits a week. They 's someth 'n' queer 'bout them, too; but I guess all the folks is queer thet comes here from the city.'' Quite likely," agreed the little man, nodding. Let me out at Bigbee's, please, and I'll look over those women and form my own opinion of

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228 MARY LOUISE them. They may perhaps be friends of mine.'' '' In thet case,'' asserted Bub, '' I pity ye, stranger. F 'r my part, I ain't got no use fer anything thet. wears skirts-'cept one er two, mebbe," he added reflectively. Mo t men I kin git 'long with fust-rate; but ef a man ever gits in trouble, er begins cussin' an' acts ugly, it's 'cause some gal's rubbed him crossways the grain er stuck a knife in him an' twisted the blade-so's ter speak. '' You 're an observant lad, I see. " When I'm awake I kain 't help seein' things." '' And you 're a pastoral philosopher.'' Bub and gave him a surly glance. "What's the use :firin' thet high-brow stuff at me 7 '' he asked indignantly. '' I s 'pose ye think I'm a kid, jes' 'cause I don't do no fancy talkin'." "I suspect you of nothing but generosity in giving me this ride," said the stranger pleasantly. "' Is that Bigbee 's, over yonder? "Yes." The little man got out at tlie point where the Bigbee drive met the road, and walked up the drive toward the house. Agatha Lord was standing at the gateway, as he approached it, and seemed rather startled at his appearance. But

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THE FOLKS AT BIGBEE'S 229 she quickly controlled her surprise and asked in a calm voice, as she faced him : What's up, 0 'Gorman Y "Hathaway's coming here," he said. ''Are you sure Y '' He's in Dor:field to-day, waiting to see yer Conant, who went in on the morning train. ;where's Nan ? '' Here, my lord '' said Nan She lley, stepping from behind a tall shrub. '' How are you, part ner? I recognized you. as you passed the Huddle with the boy.'' '' Field gl asse s, eh Y There isn't much escapes you, Nan.'' '' Why didn't you t e ll me Y '' a s ked Agatha reproachfully. '' Why don't you make your own discoveries 1 '' retorted, h e r confederate. Then, turning to O'Gorman, she continued: So Hathaway's coming, is h e? At last." '' A little late, but according to program. How have you been getting alon g? '' Bored to death,'' asserted Nan. '' Agatha has pla ye d the l ad y and I've done the dirty work. But t e ll me, why didn't you nab Hathaway a.t. Dor:fie ld Y ''

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230 MARY LOUISE 0 'Gorman smiled a little grimly as he ans wered: '' I'm not sure, Nan, that we shall nab Hathaway at all." Isn't he being shadowed? with some surprise. No. But he'll come here, right enough; and then-'' '' And then,'' she added, as he paused, '' the chase of years will come to an end.'' '' Exactly. We may decide to take him to Washington, and we may not.'' She gazed at him inquiringly. '' There are some new developments, then, O'GormanT '' I'm inclined to suspect there are.'' '' Known to the department? '' '' Yes. I'm to investigate and use my judgment.'' ''I see. Then Agatha and I are out of itT '' "Not yet; I'm still depending on your shrewd ness to assist me. The office has only had a hint, so far, of the prospective break in the case, but-" '' Oh, yes; I remember now,'' exclaimed Nan. That girl up at Conant's sent a telegram, in

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THE FOLKS AT BIGBEE'S 231 a desperate hurry. I suspected it meant something important. Who is she, 0 'Gorman, and why did the Chief cut under us by planting Sarah Judd in the Conan ts' household 1 '' "He didn't. The girl has nothing to do with the Department.'' '' Then some of you intercepted the tele gram!'' We know what it said," he admitted. '' Come, let's go to the house. I've had no lunch. Can you feed me 7 '' '' Certainly.'' They turne d and walked slowly up the path. Said Nan, musingly: '' That Sarah Judd is rather clever, O'Gorman. Is she in Hathaway's pay! '' I think not,'' he replied, with an amused chuckle. Nan tossed her head indignantly. '' Very well; play me for a ninny, if you like,'' she said resentfully. "You'll get a heap more out of me, in that way! '' "Now, now," said Agatha warningly, "keep your temp ers and don't quarrel. You two are like cats and dogs when you get together; yet you 're the two clever est people in the service. According to your story, M r O'Gorman, there's

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232 MARY LOUISE an important crisis approaching, and we'd all like to be able to render a good account of ourselves.'' Agatha Lord may have lacked som ethi ng of Nan's experience, but this speech proved-. her a fair diplomat. It dispersed the gathering storm and during the rest of that afternoon the three counseled together in perfect harmony, 0 'Gorman confiding to his associates such information as would enable them to act with him intelligently. Hathaway and Peter Conant could not arrive till the next day at noon; they rriight even come by the afternoon train. Nan's field gl asses would warn them of the arrival and meanwhil e there was ample time to consider how they shoul d act.

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CHAPTER XXIII A KISS FROM JOSIE That evening, as Sarah Judd was sitting in her room reading a book, her work for the day being over, she heard a succession of little taps against her window-pane. She sat still, listening, until the taps were repeated, when she walked straight to the window, drew the shade and threw up the sash. 0 'Gorman 's face appeared in the opening and the girl put a hand on each of his cheeks and leaning over kissed him full upon his lips. The man's face, lighted by the lamp from within the room, was radiant. Even the fat nose was beatified by the love that shone in his small gray eyes. He took one of her hands in both of his own and held it close a moment, while they regarded one another silently. Then he gave a little beckoning signal and the girl turned to slip on a light coat, for the nights were chill on the mountain. Afterward she unf as tened her outside door and joined thedetective, 233

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234 Wl.ARY LOUISE who passed an arm around her and led her to one of the benches on the bluff. The new moon was dim, but a sprinkling of stars lit the sky. The man and girl were far enough from the Lodge not to be overheard. It's good tQ see you again, Josie," said 0 'Gorman, as they seated themselves on the bench. "How do you like being a sleuth! " Really, Daddy," she replied, it has been no end of a lark. I'm dead sick of washing other folks' dishes, I confess, but the fun I've had has more than made up for the hard work. Do you know, Dad, I had a session with Nan Shelley one day, and she didn't have much the best of it, either, although she's quick as a cat and had me backed off the map in every way exc ept for the matter of wits. My thoughts didn't crumble much and Nan was good enough to congratulate me. She knew, as soon as I did, about the letter the crippled girl found in a book, but I managed to make a copy of it, while Nan is still wondering where it is hid. I'm patting myself on the back, Dad, becau s e you trained me and I want to prove myself a credit to your training. It's no wonder, with such a master, that I could hold m y o wn with Nan Shelley!"

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A KISS FROM JOSIE He gave a little amused laugh. 235 "You're all right, Josie dear," he replied. '' My training wouldn't have amounted to shucks if you hadn't possessed the proper gray matter to work with. l3ut about that letter,'' m:ore seriously; '' your telegram told me a lot, because our code is so concise, but it also left a good deal to be guessed at. Who wrote the letter T I must know all the details in order to understand it properly." '' It's all down in my private shorthand book,'' said Josie 0 'Gorman, '' but I've never dared make a clear copy while Nan was so near me. You can't read it, Dad, and I can't read it to you in the dark; so you '11 have to wait.'' '' Have you your notebook here T '' '' Always carry it.'' He drew an electric storage-lamp from his pocket and shielded the tiny circle of light with his coat. '' Now then,'' said he, '' read the letter to me, Josie. It's impossible for anyone to see the light from the house.'' The girl held her notebook behind the flap of his coat, where the lamp shed its white rays upon it, and slowly read the tex t of the letter.

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236 MARY LOUISE 0 'Gorman sat silent for some time after slie had :finished reading. '' In all my speculations concerning the Hathaway case," he said to his daughter, "I never guessed this as the solution of the man's extraordinary actions. But now, realizing that Hathaway is a gentleman to the core, I understand he could not have acted in any other way.'' '' Mrs. Burrows is dead,'' remarked Josie. I know. It's a pity she didn't die long ago." This thing killed her, Dad." "I'm sure of it. She was a weak, though kind-hearted, woman and this trouble wore her out with fear and anxiety. How did the girl -Mary Louise take her mother's death 1 " Rather hard, at first. She's quieter now. But see here, Dad -are you still working for the Department? '' Of course.'' '' Then I'm sorry I've told you so much. I'm on the other side. I'm here to protect Mary Louise Burrows and her interests.'' To be sure. I sent you here myself, at my own expense, both to test your training before I let you into the regular game and for the sake of the little Burrows girl, whom I fell in love with

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A KISS FROM JOSIE 237 when she was so friendless. I believed things would reach a cli.inax in the Hathaway case, in this very spot, but I couldn't foresee that your r,leverness would ferret out that letter, which the girl Irene intended to keep silent about, nor did I know that the Chief would send me here in person to supervise Hathaway's capture. Mighty queer things happen in this profession of ours, and circumstances lead the best of us by the nose.'' Do you intend to arrest Mr. Hathaway? '' After hearing that letter read and in view of the fact that Mrs. Burrows is dead, I think not. The letter, if authentic, clears up the mystery to our complete satisfaction. But I must get the story from Hathaway's own lips, and then compare his statement with that in the letter. If they agree, we won't prosecute the man at all, and the famous case that has caused us so much trouble for years will be filed in the office pigeon holes and pass into ancient history.'' Josie 0 'Gorman sat silent for a long time. Then she asked: "Do you think Mr. Hathaway will come here, :now that now that -'' I'm quite sure he will come."

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238 MARY LOUISE ''When?'' ''To-morrow.'' '' Then I must warn them and try to head him off. I'm on his side, Dad; don't forget that.'' '' I won't; and because you 're on his side, Josie, you must let him come and be vindicated, and so clear up this matter for good and all." "Poor Mary Louise! I was thinking of her, not of her grandfather. Have you considered how a knowledge of the truth will affect herT" '' Yes. She will be the chief sufferer when her grandfather's innocence is :finally proved.'' "It will break her heart," said Josie, with a sigh. Perhaps not. She's mighty fond of her grandfather. She '11 be glad to nave him freed from suspicion and she '11 ba sorry about the other thing.'' Sarah Judd otherwise Josie 0 'Gorman sighed again; but presently she gave a little chuckle of glee. '' Won't Nan be wild, though, when she finds I've beaten her and won the case for Hatha way?" '' Nan won't mind. She's an old hand at the game and has learned to take things as they

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A KISS FROM JOSIE 239 come. She '11 be at work upon some other case within a week and will have forgotten that this one ever bothered her." '' Who is Agatha Lord, and why did they send her here as principal, with Nan as her maid?" '' Agatha is an educated woman who has moved in good society. The Chief thought she would be more likely to gain the friendship of the Conants than Nan, for poor Nan hasn't much breeding to boast of. But she was really the principal, for all that, and Agatha was instructed to report to her and to take her orders.'' '' They were both suspicious of me,'' said the girl, '' but as neither of them had ever set eyes on me before I was able to puzzle them. On the other hand, I knew who Nan was because I'd seen her with you, which gave me an advantage. Now, tell me, how's mother? '' Pretty chirky, but anxious about you because this is your first case and she feared your judg. ment wasn't sufficiently matured. I told her you'd pull through all right." For an hour they sat talking together. Then Officer 0 'Gorman kissed his daughter good night and walked back to the Bigbee house.

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CHAPTER XXIV FAOING THE TRUTH Irene was a great comfort to Mary Louise in this hour of trial. The chair-girl, beneath her gayety of demeanor and lightness of speech, was deeply religious. Her absolute faith sounded so cheering that death was robbed of much of its horror and her bereaved friend found'"-\ solace. Mary Louise was able to talk freely of '' Mamma Bee to Irene, while with Aunt Hannah she rather avoided reference to her mother. I've always longed to be more with Mamma Bee and to learn to know her better,'' she said to her friend; '' for, though she was very loving and gentle to me while I was with her, she spent most of her life caring for Gran 'pa Jim, and they were away from me so much that I really didn't get to know Mamma very well. I think she wor ried a good deal over Gran 'pa's troubles. She couldn't help that, of course, but I always hoped that some day the troubles would be over and 240

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FACING THE TRUTH 241 we could all live happily together. And now -that can n ever be '' Irene, knowing more of the Hathaway family history than Mary Louise did, through the letter she had found and read, was often perplexed how to consol e her friend and still regard honesty and truth. Any deception, even when practiced through the best of motives, was abhorrent to her nature, so she avoided speaking of the present affliction and led Mary Louise to look to a future life for the motherly companionship she had missed on earth. '' That,'' said she, '' is the thought that has always given me the most comfort. We are both orphans, dear, and I'm sure your nature is as brave as my own and that you can bear equally well the loss of your parents.'' And Mary Louise was really brave and tried hard to b ear her grief with patient resignation. One thing she presently decided in her mind, although she did not mention it to Irene. She must find Gran 'pa Jim and go to him, wherever he might be. Gran 'pa Jim and her mother had been inseparable companions; Mary Louise knew that her own present sorrow could be nothing when compared with that of her grandfather.

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, 242 MARY LOUISE And so it was her duty to find him and comfort him, to devote her whole life, as her mother had done, to caring for his wants and cheering his loneliness so far, indeed, as she was able to do. Of course, no one could quite take the place of Mamma Bee. She was thinking in this vein as she sat in the den with Irene that Saturday afternoon. The Ohair-girl, who sewed beautifully, was :fixing over one of Mary Louise's black dresses while Mary Louise sat oppo site listlessly wa,tching her. The door into the hall was closed, but the glass door the rear porch was wide open to let in the sun and air. And this simple scene was the setting for the drama about to be enacted Mary Louise had her back half turned to the hall door, which Irene partially faced, and so it was that when the door opened softly and the chair-girl raised her head to gaze with startled surprise at someone who stood in the doorway, Mary Louise first curiously eyed h e r friend's expressive face and then, rather languidly, turned her head to glance over her shoulder. The next moment she sprang to her feet and rushed forward. '' Gran 'pa Jim Oh, Gran 'pa Jim! '' she

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FACING THE TRUTH 24-3 cried, and threw herself into the arms of a tall man who folded her to his breast in a close embrace. For a while they stood there silent, while Irene dropped her eyes to her lap, deeming the reunion too sacred to be observed by another. And then a little stir at open porch door attracted her attention and with a shock of repulsion she saw Agatha Lord standing there with a cynical smile on her lovely face. Softly the sash of the window was raised, and the maid Susan stood on the ground outside, leaned her elbows on the sill and quietly regarded the scene within the den. The opening of the window arrested Colonel Weatherby's attention. He lifted his head and with a quick glance took in the situation. Then, still holdin g his granddaughter in his arms, he advanced to the center of the room and said sternly, add r e s sing Agatha: '' Is this a deliberate intrusion, because I am here, or is it pure insolence T '' Forgive us if we intrude, Mr. Hathaway," replied A g atha. "It was not our desire to interrupt your meeting with your granddaughter, butit has been so difficult, in the past, to secure

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244 :MARY LO UISE an inte rview with you, sir, that we dared not ris k missing you at this time." He regarded her with an expression of astonishment. That's it, exactly, Mr. Weatherby-Hath away," remarked Susan mockingly, from her window "Don't pay any attention to them, Gran'pa Jim,'' begged Mary Louise, clinging to him. '' They're just two dreadful women who live down below here, and-and -'' '' I realize who they are,'' said the old gentleman in a calm voice, and addressing Agatha again he continued: '' Since you are determined to interview me, pray step inside and be seated.'' Agatha shook her head with a smile; Nan Shelley laughed outright and retorted: '' Not yet, Hathaway. We can't afford to taka -chances with one who has dodged the whole D epartment for ten years.'' Then you are Governmellt agents 1 he a s ked. That's it, sir." He turned his h ead toward the door by which he had entered, for there was an altercation going on in the hallway and Mr. Conant's voice -0ould be heard angrily protesting.

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FACING THE TRUTH 241> A moment later the lawyer came in, followed by the little man with the fat nose, who bowed to Colonel Weatherby very respectfully yet remained planted in the doorway This is -er -er -_very unfortunate, sir; ve-ry un-for-tu-nate exclaimed Peter Conant, chopping off eac4 word with a sort of snarl. '' These con-found-ed secret service people have trailed us here.'' "It doesn't matter, Mr. Conant," replied the Colonel, in a voice composed but very weary. He seated himself in a chair, as he spoke, and Mary Louise sat on the arm of it, still embracing him. No," said 0 'Gorman, it really doesn't matter, sir. In fact, I'm sure you will feel relieved to have this affair off your mind and be spared all further annoyance concerning it." The old gentleman looked at him steadily but made no answer. It was Peter Conant who faced the speaker and demanded: "What do you mean by that statement?" '' Mr. Hathaway knows what I mean. He can, in a few words, explain why he has for years borne the accusation of a crime of which he is innocent.''

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246 MARY LOUISE Peter Conant was so astounded he could do nothing but stare at the detective. Staring was the very best thing that Peter did and he never stared harder in his life. The tears had been coursing down Mary Louise's cheeks, but now a glad look crossed her face. "Do you hear that, Gran'pa Jim! she cried. '' Of course you are innocent I've always known that; but now even your enemies do.'' Mr. Hathaway looked long into the girl's eyes, which met his own hopefully, almost joyfully. Then he turned to 0 'Gorman. '' I cannot prove my innocence,'' he said. '' Do you mean that you will not T '' "I will go with you and stand my trial. I will accept whatever punishment the law decrees.'' 0 'Gorman nodded his head. I know exactly how you feel about it, Mr. Hathaway," he said, and I sympathize with you most earnestly. Will you allow me to sit down awhile 1 Thank you.'' He took a chair facing that of the hunted man. '.Agatha, seeing this, seated herself on the door step. Nan maintained her position, leaning through the open window.

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FACING THE TRUTH 247 '' This,'' said 0 'Gorman, '' is a strange case. It has always been a strange case, sir, from the very beginning. Important government secrets of the United States were stolen and turned over to the agent of a foreign government which is none too friendly to our own. It was con s idered, in its day, one of the most traitorous crimes in our history. And you, sir, a citizen of high standing and repute, were detected in the a ct of transferring many of these important papers to a spy, thus periling the safety of the nation. You were caught red-handed, so to p eak, but made your escape and in a manner remarkable and even wonderful for its adroitness have for years evaded every effort on the part of our Secret Service Department to effect your ca pture. And yet, despite the absolute truth of this statement, you are innocent.'' None cared to reply for a time. Some who had listened to 0 'Gorman were too startled to speak; others refrained. Mary Louise stared at the detective with almost Peter Conant's expression -her eyes big and round. Irene thrilled with joyous anticipation, for in the presence of this s orrowin g, hunted, white-haired old man, whose y ears had bee n d e vot e d to patient s e lfs acrific e

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248 MARY LOUISB the humiliation the coming disclo s u r e would thrust upo.n Mary Louise seemed now insignifi cant. Until this moment Irene had b ee n deter mined to suppress the knowledge gained through the old letter in order to protect the feelings of her friend, but now a crying n eed for the truth to prevail was borne in upon he r She had thought that she alone knew this truth. To her astonishment, as well as satisfaction, the chair-girl now discovered that 0 'G orman was equally well informed.

PAGE 249

CHAPTER XXV SIMPLE JUSTICE All eyes were turned upon Mr. Hathaway, who had laid a hand upon the head of his grandchild and was softly stroking her hair. At last he said brokenly, repeating his former assertion: '' I cannot prove my innocence.'' "But I can," declared O'Gorman positively, and I'm going to do it." No -no! said Hathaway, startled at his tone. "It's this way, sir," explained the little man in a matter-of-fact voice, '' this chase after you has cost the government a heavy sum already, and your prosecution is likely to make public an affair which, under. the circumstances, we consider it more diplomatic to hush up. Any danger to our country has passed, for information obtained ten years ago regarding our defenses, codes, and the like, is to-day worthless because all conditions are completely changed. Only the crime of treason remains; a crime that deserves 249

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250 MARY LOUISE the severest punishment; but the guilty persons have escaped punishment and are now facing a higher tribunal both the principal in the crime and his weak and foolish tooL So it is best for all concerned, Mr. Hathaway, that we get at the truth of this matter and, when it is clearly on record in the government files, declare the case closed for all time. The State Department has more important matters that demand its attention .'' The old man's head was bowed, his chin resting on his breast. It was now the turn of Mary Louise to smooth his thin gray locks. If you will make a statement, sir," continued 0 'Gorman, '' we shall be able to verify it.'' Slowly Hathaway raised his head. "I have no statement to make," he persisted. "This is rank folly,n exclaimed O'Gorman, '' but if you refuse to make I shall make it myself." '' I beg you -I implore you! '' said Hathaway pleadingly. The detective rose and stood before him, looking not at the old man but at the young girl -Mary Louise. Tell me, my child," he said gently, would

PAGE 251

SIMPLE JUSTICE 251 you not rather see your grandfather -an honor able, high-minded gentleman acquitted of an unjust accusation, even at the expense of some abasement and perhaps heart-aches on your part, rather than allow him to continue to suffer disgrace in order to shield you from so slight an affiiction T '' Sir! cried Hathaway indignantly, starting to his feet; '' how dare you throw the burden on this poor child T Have you no mercy no compassion f '' Plenty," was the quiet reply. Sit down, sir. This girl is stronger than you think. She will not be made permanently unhappy by know ing the truth, I assure you.'' Hathaway regarded him with a look of anguish akin to fear. Then he turned and seated himself, again putting an arm around Mary Louise as if to shield her. Said Ire ne, speaking very slowly: '' I am quite sure Mr. 0 'Gorman is right. Mary Louise i s a brave girl, and she loves her grandfather." Then Mary Louise spoke hesitatingly, at first, for she could not yet comprehend the full import of the officer's words.

PAGE 252

252 UARY LOUISE If you mean," said she, that it will cause me sorrow and humiliation to free my g rand' father from suspicion, and that he refuses to speak because he fears the truth will .hurt me, then I a s k you to speak out, Mr. 0 'Gorman.'' O f c ourse," returned the little man, sm iling at her approvingly; that is just what I intend to do. All these years, my girl, your grandfather has accepted reproach and dis grace in orde r to shield the go od name of a woman and to save her from a prison cell. And that woman was your mother." Oh I cried Mary Louise and covered her face with her hands You brute I exclaimed Hathaway, highly incensed. '' But this is not all,'' continued. 0 'Gor man, "your mother, Mary Louis e, would have been condemned and imp risoned -and deservedly so in the eyes of the law -had the truth been known; and yet I assure you sh e was only guilty of folly and of igno rance of the terrible consequences that might have res ulted from her act. She was weak enou gh to be loyal to a promise w.rung from her in extremity, and therein lay her only fault. Your grandfather

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SIMPLE J USTICE 253 knew all this and she was his daughter hi s only child. When the accu sation for your mother's crime foll on him, h e ran away and so tacitly admitted his guilt, thus drawing s uspicion from he r. His reason for r .;imaining hidden was that, had he bee n caught and brought to trial, he could not have lied or perjured himself under oath ev en t o save his dearly loved daughter from punishment. Now you understand why he could not submit t o arrest; why, assisted by a small but powerful band of faithful friends, he has been able to eade capture during all the se years. I admire him for that; but he has sacrificed himself long enough. Your mother's recent death renders her prosecut ion impossible. It is time the truth prevailed. In simple justice I will not allow this old man to embitter further his life, j us t to protect his grandchild from a knowledge of her mother's sin.'' Again a deathly silence pervaded the room. '' You yo u are speaking at random,'' said Hathaway, in a voice choked with emotion. '' You have no proof of these dreadfu l statements.'' But I have said Irene bravely, believing it her duty to support 0 'Gorman.

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254 MARY LOUISE '' And so have l,'' asserted the quiet voice of Sarah Judd, had entered the room unperceived. Hathaway regarded both the girls in surprise, but said nothing. I think," said Officer 0 'Gorman, it will be best for us to read to Mr. Hathaway that letter.'' The letter which I found in the book? "asked Irene eagerly. Yes. But do not disturb yourself," as she started to wheel her chair close to the wall. Josie will get it." To Irene's astonishment Sarah Judd walked straight to the repeating rifle, op ened the sliding plate in its stock and took out the clo sely folded letter. Perhaps Nan Shelley and Agatha Lord were no less surprised than Irene ; also they were deeply chagrined. But O'Gorman's slip in calling Sarah Judd '' Josie '' had conveyed to his associates inf ormatton that somewhat modified their astonishment at the girl's cleverness, for everyone who knew 0 'Gorman had often heard of his daughter Josie, of whom he was accustomed to speak with infinite pride. He always said he was training her to follow his own profession and that when the education was complete Josie

PAGE 255

SIMPLE JUSTICE 255 0 'Gorman would make a name for herself in the detective service. So Nan and Agatha exchanged meaning glances and regarded the freckled-faced girl with new interest. I'm not much of a reader," said Josie, care fully unfolding the paper. '' Suppose we let Miss Irene read iU" Her father nodded assent and Josie handed the sheet to Irene. Mr. Hathaway had been growing uneasy and now addressed Officer 0 'Gorman in a prot.esting voice: Is this reading necessary, sir? " Very necessary, Mr. Hathaway." '' What letter is this that you have ref erred to? " A bit of information dating nearly ten years ago and written by one who perhaps knew more of the political intrigues of John and Beatrice Burrows than has ever come to your own knowledge." '' The letter is authentic, then T '' Quite so." '' And your Department knows of its existence? '' '' I am acting under the Department's instruc-

PAGE 256

256 MARY LOUISE tions, sir. Oblige us, Macfarlane,'' he added, turning to Irene, '' by reading the letter in full.'!

PAGE 257

CHAPTER XXVI THE LETTER '' This sheet,'' explained Irene, '' is, in fact, but a part of a letter. The first sheets are missing, so we don't know who it was addressed to; but it is signed, at the end, by the initials 'E. de V.'" The ambassador! cried Hathaway, caught off his guard by surprise. '' The same,'' said 0 'Gorman triumphantly; '' and it is all in his well-known handwriting. Read the letter, my girl." The first sentence," said Irene is a continuation of something on a previous page, but I will read it just as it appears here." And then, in a clear, distinct voice that was audible to all present, she read as follows: '' which forces me to abandon at once my post and your delightful country in order to avoid further complications. My greatest regret. is in leaving Mrs. 257

PAGE 258

258 MARY LOUISE Burrows in so unfortunate a predica ment. The lady was absolutely loyal to us and the calamity that has over taken her is through no fault of her own. '' That you may understand this thor oughly I will remind you that John Burrows was in our employ. It was through our secret influence that he obtained his first government position, where he inspired confidence and became trusted implicitly. He did not acquire full control, however, until five years later, and during that time he met and married Beatrice Hathaway, the charming daughter of James J. Hathaway, a wealthy broker. That gave Burrows added importance and he was promoted to the high government position he occupied at the time of his death. '' Burrows made for us secret copies of the fortifications on both the east and west coasts, including the number and caliber of guns, amounts of munitions stored and other details. Also he obtained copies of the secret telegraph and naval codes and the complete arma-

PAGE 259

THE LETTER ments of all war vessels, both in service and in process of construction. A part of this information and some of the plans he delivered to me before he died, as you know, and he had the balance practically ready for delivery when he was taken with pneumonia and unfortunately expired very suddenly. '' It was characteristic of the man's faithfulness that on his death bed he made his wife promise to deliver the balance of the plans and an important book of codes to us as early as she could find an opportunity to do so. Mrs. Burrows had previously been in her husband's confidence and knew he was employed by us while holding his position with the governm e nt, so she readily promised to carry out his wishes, perhaps never dreaming of th' e difficulties that would confront her ?r the personal danger she assumed. But she was faithful to her promise and afterward tried to fulfill it. Her father, the James J. Hathaway above mentioned, in who s e mansion Mrs. 259

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260 MARY LOUISE Burrows lived with her only child, is a staunch patriot. Had he known of our plot he would have promptly denounced it, e v e n sacrificing his son-in-law. I have no quarrel with him for that, you may we ll believe, as I value patriotism above all other personal qualities. But after the death of John Burrows it b e came very difficult for hi s wife to find a way to d eliver to me the packet of plans without being detect e d. Through some over sigh t at the gov ernment office, which aroused suspicion imm edia t ely after his death Burrows was di s cover e d to have made duplicates of many documents intrusted to him and with a suspicion of the truth government agents were sent to interview Mrs. Burrows and :find out if the duplicates were still among her husband's papers. Being a clever woman, she succeeded in secreting the precious package and so foiled the detectives. Even her own father, who was very indignant that a member of his house hold should be accused of treason, had no suspicion that hi s daughter was in any

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THE LETTER way involved. But the house was watched, after that, and Mrs. Burrows was constantly under surveillance a fact of which she was fully aware. I also became aware of the difficulties that surrounded her and although impatient to receive the package I dared not press its delivery. Fortunately no suspicion attached to me and a year or so after her husband's death I met Mrs. Burrows at the house of a mutual friend, on the occasion of a crowded reception, and secured an interview with her where we could not be overheard. We both believed that by this time the police espionage had been greatly relaxed so I suggested that she boldly send the parcel to me, under an assumed name, at Carver's Drug Store, where I had a confederate. An ordinary messenger would not do for this errand, but Mr. Hathaway drove past the drug store every morning on his way to his office, and Mrs. Burrows thought it would be quite safe to send the parcel by his hand, the man being wholly above suspicion. 261

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262 MARY LOUISE '' On the morning we had agreed upon for the attempt, the woman brought the innocent looking package t o her father, as he was leaving the house, and asked him to deliver it at the drug store on hi s way down. Thinking it was returned goods he consented, but at the moment he delivered the parcel a couple of d e tec t iv es appeared and arrested him, opening the package before him to prove its important contents. I witnessed this disaster to our plot with my own eyes, but managed to escape without being arrested as a partne r in the conspiracy, and thus I succee d ed in protecting the good name of my beloved country, wh ich mus t never be known in this conne ction. Hathaway was absolutely stupefied at the charge against him. Becoming v iol ently indignant, he knocked down the officers and es cap ed with the contents of the package He then returne d home and dem anded an explanation from his daughter, who conf esse d all. It was then that Hathaway showed

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THE LETTER the stuff he was made of, to use an Americanism. He insisted on shielding his daughter, to whom he was devotedly attached, and in taking all the responsibility on his own shoulders The penalty of this crime is imprisonment for life and he would not allow Mrs. Burrows to endure it. Being again arrested he did not deny his guilt but cheerfully suffered imprisonment. Before the day set for his trial, however, he managed to es cap e and since then he has so cleverly hidden himself that the authorities remain ignorant of his whereabouts His wife and his grandchild also disappeared and it was found that his vast business interests had been legally transferred to some of his most intimate friends doubtless for his future benefit. The government secret service was helpless. No one save I knew that Hathaway was shielding his daughter, whose promise to her dead husband had led her to betray her country to the representative of a foreign power such 263

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264 :MARY LOUISE as our own. Yet Hathaway, even in sacrificing his name and reputation, revolt e d at suffering life-long imprison ment, nor dared he stand trial through danger of being forced to confess the truth. So he remains in hiding and I have hopes that he will be able -through his many influential friends to save himself from capture for many months to come. '' This is the truth of the matter, dear friend, and as this explanation must never get b e yond your own knowledge I charge you to d estroy this letter as soon as it is read. When you are abroad next year we will meet and con sider this and other matters in which w e are mutu ally i nte r es ted. I would not have ventured to put this on paper were it not for my d e sire to l eave someone in this country posted on the Hathaway case. You will understand from the foregoing that the situation has become too delicate for me to remain h e re. If you can, give aid to Hathaway, whom I greatly admire, for we are in a way responsible for his

PAGE 265

THE LEl'I'TER troubles. As for Mrs. Burrows, I c ,0111sider her a woman of character and honor. That sh might keep a pledge made to her dead husband she sinned against the law without realizing the enormity of her offe nse. If anyon e is to blame it is poor John Burrows, who was not justified in demanding s o dan gerous a pledge from his wi fe ; but he was dying at the time and his judgment was impaired. Let us be just to all and so remain just o ourselves "Write me at the old address and believe m e to be yours most faithfully E de V The 16th o f September, 1905." 265 During Iren e's r eading t h e others maintained an intense silence. Even. when she had end ed, the silence continued for a time, while all con sidered with variou feelings the remarka l statement they had ju&t heard It was 0 'Gorman who firs t spoke. '' If you will asser t Mr. Hathaway, that the ambassador's statement is c orrect, to tile b :st pf your knowled g e a n d belief, I h ave the author-

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266 MARY .LOUISE ity of our. department to promise that the charge against you will promptly be dropped and withdrawn and that you will be adjudged innocent of any offense against the law. It is true that you assisted a guilty person to escape punish ment, and are therefore liable for what is called misprision of treason,' but we shall not press that, for, as I said before, we pref er, s inc e no 1 eal harm has resulted, to allow the case to be :filed without further publicity. Do you admit truth of the statements contained in this letter? '' I believe them to be true," said Mr. Hathaway,. in a low voice. 'Mary Louise was nestling close in his arms and now she raised her head tenderly to kiss his cheek She was not sobbing; she did not even appear to b e humbled or heartbroken. Perhaps she did not realize at the moment how gravely her and mother had sinned against the laws of their country. That realizat ion might come to her later, but just now she was happy in the vindication of Gran 'pa Jim -a triumph that overshadowed all else. '' I'll take this letter for our :files," said Officer O'Gorman, folding it carefully before placing it in his pocketbook. "And now, sir, I hope you

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THE LETTER 267 will permit me to congratulate you and to wish you many years of happiness with your granddaughter, who :first won my admiration by her steadfast faith in your innocence. She's a good girl, is Mary Louise, and almost as clever as my Josie here. Come, Nan; come, Agatha; let's go back to Bigbee 's. .Our business here is finished.''


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