Melody Lane #4 The Wild Warning
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MELODY LANE MYSTERY STORIES
The Ghost of Melody Lane
The Forbidden Trail
The Tower Secret
The Wild Warning
Terror at Moaning Cliff
The Dragon of the Hills
The Mystery of Stingyman’s Alley
The Secret of the Kashmir Shawl
The Hermit of Proud Hill
MELODY LANE MYSTERY STORIES
GROSSET & DUNLAP PUBLISHERS NEW YORK
Copyright, 1934 by
GROSSET & DUNLAP, INC.
The Wild Warning
All Rights Reserved
Printed in the United States of America
I BOUNCING BETT 1
II DIANNE THE BEAUTIFUL 10
III A ROBBER’S CAVE 18
IV A MYSTERY LOOMS 27
V ABOUT A GIRL 37
VI WHAT REALLY HAPPENED 44
VII TOO, TOO DIVINE 54
VIII A SUDDEN LET-DOWN 63
IX ON THE GUTTER’S EDGE 72
X JOHNIE’S BUS RIDE 81
XI YOWLING AND HOWLING 91
XII TWO GIRLS IN TWIN BEDS 99
XIII WEIRD AND MYSTERIOUS 107
XIV HUNTERS AND CLUES 115
XV THE REAL QUESTION 125
XVI A SECRET PROMISE 133
XVII STILL MORE BAFFLING 141
XVIII THALLY ON THE CASE 150
XIX A GLEAM OF TRUTH 158
XX GONE WITH TEN DOLLARS 167
XXI LOST FLINDERS 175
XXII GOING UP 185
XXIII THE LOST BOX 194
XXIV MIDNIGHT BRIGHT EYES 202
XXV THE WILD WARNING 209
THE WILD WARNING
She burst in upon them with all the explosiveness
of a bouncing balloon. Just like her name, Betty
Blair was blaring in joyous glee.
She was Carol Duncan’s first cousin, the very
first, no stop-overs in between, and as Cecy, Carol’s
“Betty Blair couldn’t be second at anything, not
even at second ‘counsining.’ ” She was, of course,
Cecy’s cousin as well as Carol’s.
“Oh, boy! Am I glad to get here! Who said trains
make good time? Why don’t they give us tickets for
air trips when we eat our spinach like good little
girls? I hate spinach since I saw a barrel cook itself
one warm day. You know spinach does do that; get
hot enough to cook itself. Say, Carol,” Betty
suddenly diverted from the cooking lesson, “you
look swell! I adore your bob—”
“Sit down, do sit down. That cat is alive,”
warned Carol pushing a chair out in front of the
animated girl who endangered a couple of Inky’s
nine lives. “You look swell yourself, although your
hair-cut must have been an accident. Looks exactly
like Bill Holmes, and the same color, too.”
“It was; an accident, I mean.” Betty was in the
chair, or on the chair, for quite a lot of her dangled
over the edges and still kept moving. “You know, I
went in the barber shop, flopped in a chair and
grabbed a paper. The man with the scissors just
started in to snip and when I came to, from my story,
and he unbuttoned the bib I looked in the glass! This
is what I saw.”
“It’s slick,” Cecy giggled. She was a little like
Betty and loved anything funny.
“It’s swell,” echoed Carol, who was always the
“And that shade,” went on Cecy as Betty gave her
neck a lot of exercise in twisting to show it off. “I
love true brown hair. Yours is tobacco brown.”
“As old-fashioned as that? Not even cigarette—”
“No! See here, youngsters,” began Carol, “we are
all beauties and each head is perfect. Let it go at
that. We have got to get busy.”
“All right, old lady,” chirped Cecy. Carol was
only a couple of years older than either and they
were all in their youngish teens, “but we might some
day have to run a beauty show,” continued Cecy.
“Carol, you have black hair and violet eyes, Betty
has brown hair and brown eyes and I have—mouse
hair and cat’s eyes, so what more do we want?”
“Well, when you leave off the bright sayings of
children,” Carol mocked them, “perhaps we will be
able to ask Betty a few sensible questions, like how
her folks are, and why she couldn’t come last month
when we expected her.”
“Didn’t I write? I didn’t.” Betty almost tipped the
chair over with another of her famous bounces.
Carol frowned. She was going to have her hands full
with those two girls. But secretly she was smiling.
Of course, they were dears and no one knew that
better than Carol.
“But why didn’t you come last month?” pressed
“Shish! Close the windows, bar the doors. It’s
disgraceful. I flunked! Yep. I couldn’t pass and I
didn’t know it in time,” moaned Betty, “so there
wasn’t any Spring vacation.”
“You flunked!” exclaimed Carol.
“Yessir; that’s just what Betty did,” chirped the
girl accused, as if “flunking” was a lot of fun.
“And you stayed to make up?” queried Cecy
“Not exactly. I couldn’t make up. But I stayed to
save the family honor. So they wouldn’t put me out,
“Betty Blair, you are shameless,” charged Carol
who was smiling quite shamelessly herself. “At any
rate, suppose you two fight it out. I’ve got to go to
the village. Cecy, remember you promised to help
Rachel with the berries—”
“Just look at my hands from the old berries,”
whined Cecy, pointing to a few, faint, pink stains on
her small, well-kept hands. “Why bother with old
blackberry jam anyhow? Who wants it?”
“Dad,” answered her sister, flopping a big white
hat on her black head. “At any rate, that’s something
else you can fight out. See you—later,” and off went
Carol to get the small family car from the garage. It
was an afternoon in early summer, vacation time, to
be exact, and every day counted to Carol as well as
to Cecy and Betty.
Swinging out of the handsomely-hedged drive
that surrounded the Oak Lodge estate, Carol stopped
at the smaller entrance to the little house on that
same estate, the little stone house near the big
gateway where lived the Duncan family; her father,
Felix Duncan, she, herself, and her sister Cecy with
their loyal friend and housekeeper, Rachel.
Oak Lodge had been the scene of many
interesting happenings, related in the other volumes
of this series, The Ghost of Melody Lane, The
Forbidden Trail, and The Tower Secret, and Carol
was even now wondering what this new summer
would bring in the way of adventure.
Mrs. Becket, Cousin Kitty, who owned the great
estate and lived in the big house with the great
organ, was preparing to go abroad this summer and
the Duncans had been invited to occupy the big
house for that period and close up the smaller place.
They were all like one family, although not really
related at all, for Mrs. Becket had needed someone
to care for the great place, and it was during the wild
excitement of ghost stories and ghostly happenings
that Carol had induced her father and her sister Cecy
to move into the smaller house, thus accepting Mrs.
Becket’s urgent invitation, as well as very nicely
And now here was another summer, with Cecy
home from boarding school and Carol home from
the local high school. Besides there was also Betty.
Just now Carol was calling a message up to the
girls at their window; something about that
blackberry jam and some extra jars they would find
in the pantry.
Cecy and Betty both shouted back, but Carol
could easily guess they would beg off and the good-
natured Rachel would only smile at their excuses.
Starting down the beautiful drive that was still
called Melody Lane, Carol was stopped by the
urgent hand-waving of Mrs. Roland Webb.
“Wait a minute, Carol! Wait—a—minute!” and
she laughed that perpetual laugh of hers, “I was just
Carol had to pull up to the curb and she had to
“We want you folks to get Mrs. Becket to sign the
petition for apartment houses in— Melody Lane,”
began Mrs. Webb almost breathlessly. “We just
have to move property—”
“I know, Mrs. Webb,” Carol interrupted, “but
father doesn’t believe we should spoil this part of
Melody Lane with apartments; neither does Mrs.
The flow of argument which followed that
statement could only be compared with a soapbox
speech, that long-winded oratory so often forced
upon idlers on street corners by over enthusiastic
reformers. But Carol was starting her car. Mrs.
Webb might talk to the oak tree if she had to have an
audience, for Carol couldn’t or wouldn’t wait.
Between the rush of words and the explosive breaks
of foolish laughter, Carol moved away, merely
She was thinking: “They have made enough
changes in Melody Lane.” What was once only a
long highway of romance was now the name of an
entire town, with a new Melody Lane post office
and a new village center out in the annexed district.
What more should these property holders, like Mrs.
And it was this very situation that unfolded a new
and startling adventure in the extended development
of Melody Lane, although just then Carol could not
even guess that such a thing might happen. The new
territory was to bring new adventures.
Carol was now going to town to see her friend
Thally Bond off “on a jaunt.” The jaunt was to be
quite a trip and Carol was sure to miss Thally, for
the two girls had shared many adventures as well as
Mrs. Webb’s encounter made Carol a little late,
so she went right on to the station and there was
Thally with all her baggage. Her Aunt Louise was
also there and going with Thally—or Thally was
going with her—but it was the big, black hat box
and the big wardrobe trunk that seemed most
“Thally Bond! Why—the wardrobe?” demanded
Carol by way of greeting her chum.
“Aunt Louise thinks I ought to—dress up, I mean
with all these freckles and red hair, Carol dear, don’t
you agree with Auntie?” Thally had ever been
indifferent to clothes except in the practical
utilitarian sense, and the hat box was especially
Aunt Louise smiled at Thally, but the demure
little woman standing by the wardrobe trunk seemed
about as important as the label on it. She was going
along, of course, and Thally loved Aunt Louise; in
fact, she was the only member of her family Thally
would consent to travel with, and everyone knew
why. She never crossed or interfered with her
spirited, fun-loving niece.
“What will I do without you?” moaned Carol as
the whistling train plunged toward them.
“What shall, dearie. Future shall—Hey! Carol!
Heard about the beauty at Lund’s?” shouted Thally
as she dashed for the hat box.
“Just going there!” called back Carol.
“Let me know,” sang out Thally, as she followed
orders to: “All aboard!”
And in that vague way, vague to others but clear
to themselves, Thally and Carol parted, Thally
urging Carol to write her the news about the “new
beauty at Lund’s new drug store,” and Carol
realizing there must be news or Thally would not
have asked for it.
Then, as the train rumbled off, Carol turned her
car toward that part of Melody Lane known as the
village, where new stores and a brand-new post
office offered special attractions.
“Now, what could Thally have meant?” Carol
asked herself. “I’ve heard about the pretty girl at
Lund’s, but what’s so wonderful about a pretty girl?
“Still, Thally did mean something by asking me
to be sure to write that news. If I only could have
reached her before she went to the station she would
have told me. But those youngsters, Cecy and Betty,
delayed me too long.
“Well, we’ll see,” she finished her own private
reasoning just as she pulled up to Lund’s where this
new beauty was sure to be “on exhibition.”
Having an up-to-date beauty department was a
decided innovation for Melody Lane, and having the
prettiest girl available behind the glistening counter,
with the dazzling array of jars and bottles, was a
feature not to be overlooked.
Carol locked her car and entered the drug store.
DIANNE THE BEAUTIFUL
SHE certainly was pretty! Carol almost held her
breath while Johnie Drake from the soda counter,
whisked his towel over the speckless table and took
her order for a soda.
Johnie had red hair; he couldn’t help it, and never
was a boy so perfectly suited for a job as was Johnie
for that “soda jerking.” He reminded Carol of the
usual relief in a musical comedy; the boy who would
take the blame for everything just because he was
too good-natured to care.
He was now making eyes at Carol, eyes that were
intended to direct her attention to the pretty girl at
the glittering show case in the background.
“Yes, I see,” smiled Carol, just to keep him quiet.
“Swell?” he whispered, giving the table another
“Simply,” replied Carol. “But Johnie, I’m just
dying of thirst—” and he went off to “jerk” the soda
and smile at the other girl.
He was soon back to Carol with his tall glass of
lusciousness, and as he placed it before her he
“Name’s Dianne.” It was a pretty name but the
way he said it sounded like something quite
“Johnie!” came the fluted voice of the pretty girl,
“draw me a lime and lemon, please. Isn’t it getting
awfully warm?” she smiled over at Carol.
That began it. The two girls were soon talking
about more than the weather and when Dianne
Forbes introduced herself, Carol was instantly
Here was a girl able to make money by being
pretty and acting agreeable. She would easily sell
the creams, the lip-sticks, the mascaras, the
perfumes and all the other beauty accessories she so
But she wasn’t trying to sell anything to Carol.
Instead, she had brought her drink to Carol’s table
and was asking the usual questions about the strange
town she had lately been sent to work in.
“I hope it won’t be too lonely,” she remarked
dropping her really beautiful golden eyes to the table
as if the thought were seriously unpleasant.
“Oh, it isn’t, at all,” Carol assured her. “You’ll
soon get acquainted. Most of the girls are going
away now, of course, but a few of us always stick
around,” she finished easily.
Then Carol noticed the girl look nervously toward
the door. Carol’s gaze followed hers, but she saw
nothing unusual there.
“Waiting for somebody?” Carol asked just to be
“Oh, no,” flushed Dianne. “But sometimes—oh, I
don’t know. I get sort of nervous alone here, and
Johnie runs in and out all the time.”
“You needn’t be afraid around here,” Carol
assured the stranger. “Besides, doesn’t Mr. Lund
“Mr. Lund? Oh, yes, of course. I suppose it is
silly. Excuse me just a moment. You see, I have to
attend to the postal substation too, the stamp
window, you know,” and at that Dianne went over to
the little cage behind the gate that locked as she
clicked it. Carol noticed that Dianne tried the gate to
be sure it was securely fastened, then she saw her go
to the drawer and take out a big book.
“The registered-mail book,” Carol guessed
correctly. Then Carol turned to her unfinished soda
and tried to forget the look of anxiety that had so
suddenly crept over Dianne’s pretty face.
A strange hush seemed to settle down upon the
whole store. Only Johnie’s chopping of ice in the
cellar, for the moment at least, broke the peculiar,
unreal stillness. Carol purposely made a noise by
dropping her spoon on the table.
“Oh! What was that!” Dianne exclaimed
“Just my spoon,” Carol answered across the
room. “Why are you so nervous?”
“Please, don’t think me too silly,” came the voice
through that little substation window, “but you
see—” Dianne stopped. Carol heard her slam the
book into the drawer again, and then saw her hurry
to the telephone; the one back of the counter, not the
public one in the booth.
Dianne jiggled the hook, called Central, but
apparently got no answer.
“This phone is out of order again!” she
exclaimed, “and I have been expecting an important
call. Johnie! Johnie!” But the ice chopping had
stopped and there was no answer from Johnie.
“Oh, I must report this phone out of order. Could
you—would you just keep an eye around here while
I run next door? I won’t be a minute?”
“If I can,” faltered Carol, “but I couldn’t wait on
“Oh, I’ll be right back.” Dianne was already at
the door. “We just can’t have the phone out of
Then, as the pretty girl darted in the direction of
the newspaper store to report her phone out of order,
another girl, very, very different in appearance, slid
in the door.
For a moment Carol just sat quietly, intending, of
course, to tell the girl she would have to wait a few
minutes, when she suddenly recognized the
newcomer. She was Flinders, a girl known by that
meaningless name, a girl who lived “over on the
hill” with a family known as the Cobbs.
“You will have to wait a few minutes,” Carol
began, but the girl interrupted.
“No one here? Well, I only want a can of sugar of
milk. I know where it is,” she was already up to the
counter by the mail wicket.
“It costs twenty-five cents; here’s the money,”
and she clapped a silver piece on the glass case. It
slipped to the floor but she quickly picked it up and
put it in place again.
Carol was watching for Dianne. Even this small
purchase might not be correctly made, she realized,
but neither Dianne nor Johnie appeared on the scene.
Flinders, however, was waiting for no one. She
pulled her old sweater around her, gave Carol a
sharp, saucy look and darted out of the door with the
can of milk sugar under her arm. “Why do some
girls always wear sweaters on hot days?” Carol was
Then the trapdoor from the cellar slammed down
and there stood the returned Johnie just cutting short
his merry whistle.
“Where’s—where is she?” he asked Carol in
“Just gone next door—”
“Mail-man been here?”
“Not that I know of. Dianne found the telephone
out of order, and—”
“Humph,” sniffed Johnie striding up to the little
post-office department and obviously poking around
among material laid out there.
“Where—you say the phone is out?” he again
spoke to Carol.
“Yes.” Just then Carol felt like getting up and
going out herself. Why should she bother with all
this? But Dianne had looked worried, had gone out
excited, and Carol had promised to wait. Well,
surely she would be back in a few minutes and there
was the little post office to be thought of. The
United States government is very particular about its
mail, Carol understood.
“Well,” Johnie half whistled, “she’d better look
after this mail. I wouldn’t want to see her get into
“Into trouble? Why should she?” pressed Carol,
thinking Johnie himself was acting rather queerly—
poking around there.
“Well, you see, this is Mr. Lund’s job, this post-
office business, and he had a big fight to get it. If
there’s any trouble—” and Johnie seemed suddenly
to remember that he had forgotten something down
cellar, for, without finishing his remark, he went to
the trapdoor, pulled it up and ducked down the
Again Carol was alone. She jumped to her feet
and, sensing some unknown trouble, the sort Johnie
had suspected, perhaps, she walked slowly over to
the little post-office window.
A quick step at the street door told her Dianne
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” she began breathlessly, “but
someone was using the phone and I had to wait. I
was afraid the mail-man would have been here and I
have some registered mail for him.”
“No, he hasn’t,” Carol told her, much relieved
herself to see Dianne back but not knowing exactly
“Thank you so much for keeping store,” smiled
Dianne again inside the little gate that clicked in its
spring bolt. “Hasn’t Johnie come up yet?”
“Came up and went down. Well, I must run
“Thank you again, so much. Maybe you would
like a few of our samples. They are really very
nice—” Dianne moved over to the beauty display.
“Why, yes,” Carol answered. “I should be glad to
try them. The winds are sharp enough for creams
yet,” she said pleasantly.
Another slam of the screen door and the girls saw
the mail collector come in.
“Just a minute—if you can wait?” Dianne said,
again going over to the caged-in window of the
The mail-man dropped his bag, looked around,
then asked sharply: “Where’s Lund?”
“He had to go to the city,” Dianne answered
briskly, “but I can attend to the mail.”
“I suppose you can,” replied Uncle Sam’s
servant, “but it isn’t your—job.”
Carol then remembered Johnie’s remark about
Mr. Lund having such a fight to get the post-office
substation appointment. She was wishing now she
could get away from this confusion, but, of course,
she just had to wait for those beauty samples.
Meanwhile the mail collector, whom Dianne was
calling Mr. Wiggin, was grumbling it seemed, as he
picked up the parcel-post packages and other pieces
of special mail— letters and cards were deposited in
the box outside and would be taken up by the
regular carrier at another collection.
“No registered mail?” Carol heard Mr. Wiggin
“No, none—this morning,” replied Dianne
And she had told Carol she had some registered
mail to go!
A ROBBERS’ CAVE
For a moment Carol was completely mystified.
She glanced sharply at Dianne and noticed the girl
had suddenly gripped the edge of the little desk. But
she was still smiling at Mr. Wiggin and he was
“I’ll drop in again for the samples,” Carol spoke
suddenly. “Don’t bother about them now,” and she
started toward the door which had just been
slammed by the collector.
But no sooner had she put her hand to the little
iron knob than she heard Dianne’s voice.
“Johnie! Johnie!” she was shrieking. “Come—
Turning, Carol saw the girl’s face; it had
changed. Something awful was happening to her,
“Dianne!” she called, hurrying forward, just in
time to see the girl’s hands slip from that grasp on
the counter, while the seemingly helpless figure slid
to the floor.
Johnie was there instantly.
“There! I told you! I knew—”
“Stop that, Johnie,” Carol interrupted the excited
boy. “You’ve got to help.”
“Sure. What’ll we give her?” He was literally
dancing around. “What’s good for a faint? It’s all
“Ammonia; both kinds! One to smell and the
other aromatic, you know.” Carol had freed
Dianne’s arm from the strained position and was
trying to lay the inert figure down flat. The window
directly back of the post-office desk was already
How awful the girl looked! That beautiful face
was death-like in spite of the well-applied color that
now seemed to stand out like a thing apart, above
that dreadful pallor.
“Here it is,” whispered Johnie. “Gosh! Don’t she
look terrible? I told her—”
“Listen, Johnie, we must move her—”
“Sure. There’s a little sofa in the back room. I can
lift her—she’s like a feather—”
“Wait! All right,” for now Johnie actually had the
beautiful, but death-like, Dianne in his willing,
“Open that door! Hold it! It springs,” and now,
following Johnie’s orders, Carol was holding the
door open for him.
She snatched the cretonne pillow off the small
sofa. Dianne’s head must be flat.
“Gosh! Gosh!” Johnie kept saying. “Good thing
she didn’t hit her head.”
“Johnie, take a new wash cloth from the case and
soak it with cold water—”
“Sure, sure, I know. Gosh! One of her own
Carol stopped talking then and she also
discouraged Johnie in his excited comments. She
rubbed Dianne’s hands—they were so lovely, so
white, so well cared for. She held the pungent
ammonia under the girl’s nostrils; what a perfectly
shaped nose! And she even rubbed a little of the
strong fluid on those perfectly outlined lips—that
lip-stick must be good.
“She’s awake! Lookit her eyes! They’re jerking!”
That was Johnie, of course, but now Carol put to
Dianne’s lips the aromatic stimulant, and as the
golden eyes at last flickered alive, awake, the little
dose of ammonia was breathed in and the fainting
girl looked at Carol.
“Oh! Oh!” she whispered. “Thank—you. Yes,
I’m all right.”
“Sure you are,” sang out the irrepressible Johnie.
“Want anything? Maybe a lime—”
“Johnie!” cautioned Carol. “Don’t.”
The first flush of returning consciousness
apparently had brought with it an unhappy memory
of what had happened, for Dianne’s eyes were
questioning Carol’s, and the way she looked toward
the store, toward the little substation window,
showed plainly that she knew why she had fainted,
although neither Carol nor Johnie had shared her
Carol wondered: “Was it really a good thing to be
so pretty? Would not that sort of flawless beauty
always mean—well, responsibility?”
Dianne’s hair was more golden than brown and
her skin carried the blush of rose petals—that soft,
velvety skin that goes with the red-blond tints. Her
eyes were topaz and her lashes dark—perhaps the
beauty treatments had attended to that. And as if all
those marks of perfection were not plenty for one
girl to possess, she had dimples!
Helping her now to get back her poise, to pick up
the loose ends of her store work, Carol was
understanding why Thally had expected “news from
the drug store beauty.” Surely all the boys would
soon simply worship at the shrine of Dianne, just as,
willy-nilly, Johnie was now doing.
At the moment he was wielding a palm leaf fan
rather uncertainly, his linen coat was buttoned
crookedly and his red hair all but talked, it looked so
Dianne smiled at him. “Thanks, Johnie, but I’m
all right. I won’t need the fan.”
“If you’re sure you are all right, I’ll run along,”
Carol said with undisguised relief. This had been
exciting but she couldn’t stay all day.
“I’m so ashamed of myself,” said Dianne,
automatically brushing her hair with one of those
lovely hands, meanwhile moving toward the mail
Carol saw how furtively she did this, as if she still
feared something there. She also saw Johnie
standing still and watching Dianne. Then, as if the
girl were conscious of this scrutiny, she turned
quickly to the soda-counter boy.
“What is it, Johnie?” she asked.
“Oh, nothing. I was just thinking,” stammered
Johnie without stating about what.
“Good-bye, Dianne,” Carol hurried to say. “I
hope you’ll be all right.”
“Oh, I’m sure I shall. You have been awfully
“It is a pretty hot day and you hurried in and out
so fast,” Carol interrupted, this time actually
managing to leave the store.
Realizing it had been lucky for everyone, except,
perhaps, for Mr. Lund, that no customers had
interfered with Dianne’s faint, Carol noticed, as she
stepped into her car, that Mrs. Webb, the woman
who was out with that petition for apartments, was
just going into the drug store.
“Lucky she missed it,” thought Carol. “Certainly
that little comedy would have been just fine for Mrs.
Webb’s business. News helps a lot in getting
petition signers, I imagine.”
The morning’s strange happenings had descended
upon Carol out of a clear sky. And because she
knew nothing about Dianne, who had come to
Melody Lane as a stranger employed by some
cosmetic concern, it was natural Carol should be
suspicious as well as sympathetic.
One thing was too plain to be accidental. There
was something wrong about the business of the
substation. Even when Dianne had recovered and
had started back to pick up the loose ends of her
work there, she could not, and did not, hide that
strange fear her beautiful eyes betrayed.
While these considerations were holding Carol’s
attention, she sped from this new end of the
extended town of Melody Lane into the older and
more peaceful section.
Under this big beech tree at the turn in the road a
familiar small car was parked. It was Ruth Stanley’s
and in the little roadster, besides the colorful Ruth,
were Cecy and Betty.
“Waiting for me,” mused Carol just as a shout of
recognition came from the girls in the auto.
“Hi, there!” called back Cecy. “Thought you went
North with Thally—”
“What happened?” demanded Betty, as if she
“Saw your car in front of Lund’s ages ago,”
confirmed Ruth, as Carol pulled up to her impatient
“Was I long?” she asked innocently.
“Was—you—long!” mocked Cecy. “Oh, no!
Only a couple of years. But you missed the
“Shall we tell her?”
“Not all at once,” warned Betty. “It’s rather a
warm day and we wouldn’t want to see her—flop.”
“Oh, yes. And where may you have been?” It was
Carol’s turn to question now.
“Say, listen, Sis. Draw up closer. There. Don’t
scratch Ruth’s pretty car. Do you really want to
“Suit yourselves,” retorted Carol. “But it’s almost
“Lunch was never like this! We have
discovered—a—robbers’ cave!” Cecy fairly hissed
Carol didn’t laugh; she didn’t feel like laughing.
This sounded pretty silly, but all three girls seemed
serious, their faces were eager and their manner
“A robbers’ cave!” Carol repeated, incredulously.
“Either that—or—well, maybe something even
worse,” declared Cecy tragically.
“What could be worse?” pressed Carol.
“No fooling,” Ruth interposed. Ruth was that tall,
willowy girl who always made Carol think of a
fashion show. “We certainly did make a strange
discovery, Carol,” she said, her light blue eyes
widening until they glinted silver flashes.
“Suppose we go home, then, and hear all about
it,” suggested Carol, who wanted very much indeed
to go home. Her morning had been exciting, and,
while she had not discovered any robbers’ cave, she
had come upon one of those human interest
mysteries which promised nothing less, in interest,
than a real detective story.
Even now she could see that beautiful face of
Dianne’s. How different from the faces of these
laughing youngsters who were giggling and even
gurgling about a “robbers’ ” cave!
Ruth was starting her car when Cecy again called
“Hey! Listen! Let’s drive Carol over and show
her where we saw it—”
“Oh, no, it’s too late—” Ruth interrupted.
“I mean just show her the quarry path. I didn’t
mean to go in,” Cecy explained.
“Oh, all right,” Ruth reluctantly agreed. “We can
drive that way and go down Raleigh Avenue.”
Carol followed the blue car. Although it was
almost noon, there were few cars out— summer
time makes for light lunches.
They turned off the main street down a bend
beautifully outlined with old trees and everlasting
cedars. This road dipped down to the old, old part of
Melody Lane where the highway neared the long-
deserted quarry. It was in just this location that the
story of The Forbidden Trail was unfolded, where
the quarry-pit had been the scene of the mystery of
Carol was thinking of that now—would this silly
robbers’ cave the girls were talking about unfold
some new mystery?
Ruth stopped in line with a little lane. Cecy
leaned over the side of the car to speak very
cautiously to her sister, whose auto was near.
“We’d better be careful,” Cecy said. “Can’t tell
who might hear us. But, Sis, see where those bushes
bend down in there under the white birch?”
“Yes, what about them?” Carol asked.
“Don’t play dumb, Carol,” Cecy said impatiently.
“That’s where we discovered—the cave!”
A MYSTERY LOOMS
This didn’t seem so marvelous to Carol. After all,
couldn’t small boys dig a cave? They often had done
so, according to reports, and it was just the time of
year for that sort of thing.
Carol was ready to tease the girls for being so
unsophisticated when her attention was turned
toward a figure weaving in and out of the thick
brush that edged the sidewalk.
“Look! Look!” warned Ruth. “Out there!”
Carol had been looking and now she saw that the
figure was not what the girls suspected; not anyone
who might belong to the robbers’ cave. But it was
Flinders, the girl she had seen in the drug store.
Slowing her car, Carol watched the queer little
thing. That sweater on this warm day seemed like a
sign of real distress, as if the girl couldn’t give
herself enough thought to know that the garment
really was too warm.
But she was noticing Carol’s car now. The girl
Flinders suddenly darted out of the green screen of
bushes and came to the very edge of the high gutter.
Carol, feeling she wanted to speak to her, drew near
For a moment the girl stood there, staring at
Carol. Her hair looked as if it were cut short on one
side, for it hung that way. In the drug store she had
worn an old cap, a béret, but now she was
bareheaded, and certainly her hair was short on one
side and long on the other!
Carol was just going to speak to Flinders when
she turned and ran, not down the lonely path that led
to the woods, but toward the railroad.
The scene was so absurd, yet so strange, that
Carol was glad the other car had gone on. She
looked back to see if the girl was still running, but
now she was nowhere to be seen.
“I suppose she ducked in somewhere,” Carol
decided. “Poor thing! She acts like—well, like a
The other girls were calling, and presently Carol
overtook them. After that it was just a matter of a
few minutes until they reached home. Ruth had to
Never were girls more excited: Betty, especially,
was literally bubbling over.
“Carol, listen!” she exhaled. “You would never
“Maybe I would. Try me.” Carol felt so much
older than these “youngsters,” as she called them,
but she wasn’t, really, at all.
“Well, we did find a robbers’ cave,” Betty blurted
out, “believe it or not!” She had tossed her new
straw hat clear across the porch and weirdly it
landed on the very chair she had aimed at.
“Being straw—” warned Cecy.
“Yes, I know. But I won’t need it here, after all.
Mother insisted I would. I hate straw; it’s so
“Cecy, please tell this mystery story,” Carol
urged. “You know we have to eat lunch sometime.”
“Certainly, Sis. Well, you know the old gully that
runs back of Splatter Castle?”
“Yes, of course. And it keeps on running all
through the town,” Carol helped out, smiling.
“That’s the runner,” resumed Cecy. “Well, it
seems Betty can scent a bed of watercress a mile off
and she loves it. So we scented it and we went the
‘mile off’ right along the gully track from the road
The last of the recitation was effectively hissed,
to give the impression of robbers and caves.
“And before we got to the little spring where I
smelled the watercress,” Betty cut in, “I—”
“Where you smelled it; you mean from whence
you smelled it—”
“Shut up, Cecy! I’ve had enough school troubles
to last a long time. Anyhow, I stumbled into the
“Yes, I can imagine. Springs are like that,” Carol
said kindly. “You can’t see the edge because of the
“And aren’t they pretty—”
“Hey there!” sang out Cecy. “This is the Robbers’
Cave drama, not a Flower Show! Go ahead.”
Realizing that the interruptions were really
spoiling the value of the story, Cecy was right in
protesting. Being funny was something entirely
different from being dramatic.
“And after I dragged Betty from the mud puddle,”
Cecy went on, “we looked for a spot to sit down and
dry out. And we found it. Yep! A lovely, little
corner under such big, dark cedar trees—”
“They were hemlock trees,” corrected Betty.
“What’s the difference?” fired back Cecy
“A lot. Hemlock trees have flat branches and they
look like big screens.”
“Yes, that’s right,” Carol intervened. “But go
“And under those trees—we found things.”
“What?” asked Carol.
“A brand new pair of boy’s pants—”
Carol burst out laughing. After waiting to hear
something wildly sensational, Cecy was saying:
“What’s funny?” demanded Betty.
“Pants!” drawled Carol.
“Trousers, then, if you’re that funny. But there
was a lot more than that,” Cecy continued. “There
were bits of strings and white rags tied on bushes—”
“Listen, darlings,” Carol interrupted, “can’t you
see that it is nothing more than a boys’ hideout?”
“It is so, more. There was a note. Here!” From a
candy-box that Cecy had been holding, she now
very gingerly took out, with fingers like tweezers, a
bit of dirty paper. “There,” she said, “read that!”
Still acting as if the paper might carry the sort of
poison called germs, Cecy, somehow, managed to
spread it out.
“A dirty little thing,” remarked Carol
disdainfully, who, nevertheless, was peering at the
words on it.
“You would say that when we risked our very
lives to bring it to you,” growled Cecy. “Well, see
what it says?”
“Yes; not much. Just ‘Can’t come. Big day,’ and
it’s supposed to be printed,” Carol said, reading a
few words that were roughly printed on the soiled
“And big day must mean something big,” Betty
“Children, can’t you see that’s all exactly like the
work of small boys?” Carol pointed out.
“No, we can’t, Carol, honestly,” Cecy answered,
her face as serious as her words. “Somehow, it
looked, well, very suspicious around there. In the
first place, we would never and could never have
found the place if Betty hadn’t stumbled into the
“You see, Carol,” Betty joined in, “it was so
hidden in thick brush and those black trees, one
would actually have had to crawl in to get there
except from the spring. There was a regular barrier
of tangled bushes running right down to the edge of
“But you didn’t hear anything around there, did
you?” Carol asked, now believing the girls were
“No, we didn’t hear anything,” Cecy answered.
“But there was a brand-new box with a nice new
pair of knickers and a pair of boy’s socks in it. Then,
there were bits of strings tied in the queerest way to
the low bushes. And up in the tree we thought we
saw something, but Betty got frightened and we ran
out before we had a good chance to look.”
“We had hard work to find our way out to the
road, too,” Betty declared. “I like fun and adventure
and all that but, honestly, Carol, that place felt
terribly spooky. Ruth rushed out pell-mell, and she
hasn’t a stocking left.”
“Those bushes were surely wicked,” Cecy agreed.
“But, Carol, you know we have had mysteries in
Melody Lane one after another, and don’t you
honestly think this is the next?”
Perhaps Carol had taken the feeling of excitement
from the other girls, or perhaps she was still feeling
her own secret anxiety about the strange experience
of the morning, at any rate, she now took the trouble
to warn the girls not to spread the news, and she
agreed they would all have to go together and make
a thorough search of the robbers’ cave.
“Let’s ask Ruth not to say anything about it,”
Cecy decided, starting for the phone.
“But, Cecy, Rachel has called us to lunch,” Betty
remarked. She didn’t want to keep the good-natured
housekeeper waiting this first day of her visit. So
then they went to the dining room.
Thinking it over, Carol saw vividly that dark,
lonely patch of woods that surrounded the old
quarry gully. Gypsies had camped there before the
town authorities prevented them from stopping in
Melody Lane, and while Carol and her chums,
Thally Bond and the other girls, had not gone
blackberrying or nut-hunting in a long time, she still
remembered how lonely the particular spot,
described by Cecy and Betty, could be.
“Listen, children,” Carol began as they left the
lunch table, “promise me you will keep out of the
“Oh, why?” Cecy groaned.
“Why not?” retorted Carol. “You know dad
expects us to use common sense and he trusts us.
Now, I’m putting you two on your honor to keep out
of those lonely woods.”
So they had to promise, but the very seriousness
of it seemed further to arouse their curiosity.
That evening Betty and Cecy went off to the
movies, and Mr. Duncan took his usual stroll, so that
Carol decided to stay home alone, except for Rachel.
The day had given her plenty to think over and there
were some things she hoped to think out.
There had been the soda-water boy, Johnie. His
keen admiration for the beautiful Dianne and his
spontaneous response to Dianne’s needs, when a
fainting spell had so strangely overtaken her, made
Carol think of Johnie as a true knight, one who
would stand by Dianne through thick and thin.
“She is certainly in some sort of trouble,” Carol
was deciding, “and it did seem to me that Johnie
suspected what it might be.”
This thought brought her back to consider the
drug store excitement, to recall how Johnie had
stayed so long in the cellar, and how Dianne had
rushed out all excited about the phone suddenly
going out of order.
Then, the collector had acted so suspicious about
taking the mail from Dianne. He said Mr. Lund had
an obligation to be there; that the mail was his
And it had been directly after this that Dianne had
The queer little creature, called Flinders, who had
rushed into the drug store, grabbed a tin box of some
baby food, dropped her coin on the counter and
dashed out again, had added a certain
picturesqueness to the whole scene. Flinders had
been so different.
Thinking of her now, Carol recalled seeing
Flinders again on the back road, and she couldn’t
help wondering what that girl’s life could be like.
She knew she lived with the Cobbs; those people
over the railroad who had so many children of their
own and yet had taken Flinders in when no one else
They called her Flinders because her name was
Polly, and because she did so many rough tasks like
sifting the Cobbs’ cinders right out in the little side
yard where everyone could see her. Carol
remembered, too, how Flinders used to take care of
everybody’s babies and get some small change for
it, until one day, in a big blowy storm, the cart she
was pushing home tipped over and the little boy in it
was thrown out, and said to have been badly hurt.
After that no one trusted Flinders with their babies.
“But she was buying baby food this morning,”
Carol recalled, “so maybe someone has forgotten
about little Paul Stonelli.”
It was a lovely, early, summer evening and Carol
was out on the porch. Rachel had gone upstairs early
so Carol was practically alone.
“A car! Someone coming here! I wonder who it
can be?” she asked herself, for a small coupé was
coming up the long, hedged-in driveway.
ABOUT A GIRL
“Is this Miss Carol Duncan?”
“Yes,” answered Carol, recognizing the caller as
the owner of the drug store.
“I’m Mr. Lund, of the Cloverleaf Drug Store,” the
soft and pleasant business voice announced.
“Yes, I know. I’ve seen you at the store, Mr.
Lund. Won’t you come up? Father is out—”
“Thank you.” He stepped up to the porch chair.
“But I came to see you.”
“Yes?” Carol instantly guessed it was to be about
the morning’s excitement.
“First, I must thank you for what you did this
morning when—well, when Dianne Forbes became
ill. Johnie Drake, the boy, told me,” Mr. Lund said
“I didn’t do anything, really,” Carol protested.
“You see, it had been quite a warm morning—”
“Yes. But, Miss Duncan, I’ll not beat around the
bush. A very serious thing has happened—it
happened at my store this morning,” said Mr. Lund.
“Something really serious?”
“Yes. A valuable registered package is missing.”
“Oh, a package!” exclaimed Carol, a rush of
thoughts concerning the mail at Lund’s possessing
her. “Was it lost, then, in your store?”
“Yes,” again Mr. Lund was trying to be casual, as
he could not help noticing Carol’s sudden
suppressed excitement. “It was entered on the books.
I had taken it in myself the night before, too late for
that day’s registry. I had told Miss Forbes to be
especially careful about the mail this morning as I
had to go out of town.”
“Did she know about the package?” Carol asked.
“Not about its importance or its value, but she
had the drawer key and should not have taken out
the small, valuable parcels until the collector was
nearly due,” Mr. Lund explained.
“Oh, I see,” said Carol, feeling she should be
more careful in pressing questions that might throw
suspicion on Dianne. But she remembered, at the
same moment, Dianne’s remark about there being
some registered mail, and then, when the collector
asked was there any, she had told him “no.” So it
must have been lost in that interval, Carol was
“Miss Forbes says you were in there all the time,”
the druggist went on. “And, of course, I have come
to ask you if any one else came in while you were
Carol had to think quickly. This was becoming a
very serious matter. Very likely Mr. Lund did not
know that Dianne had left the store to report the
telephone out of order.
“Did any one come in the store while you were
there?” he asked suddenly.
“Mr. Lund, I merely went in for a soda,” Carol
answered a little sharply, “and when Dianne
suddenly called to Johnie I saw that she was ill and I
went to help her.” There, she had given him no
positive information, she hadn’t even mentioned the
poor girl, Flinders. No use dragging her into this.
“I’m sorry, Miss Duncan,” Mr. Lund said
politely. “I really should not be cross-questioning
you this way. I realize that; especially since your
father is not here.” He had risen from the big,
hickory chair. “But you can hardly understand what
this will mean to me if the package cannot be
“I wish I could help you,” Carol assured him
sincerely, “but, of course, I never saw it—”
“Oh, I know that.” He would not have her think
she could possibly be in any way to blame. “Miss
Forbes, too, is in a pretty bad predicament,” he
“How is she?” Carol asked. “She was really very
sick this morning.”
“She’s better, but frightfully nervous, in fact,
hysterical,” Mr. Lund replied. “And I so hate to send
her back to her folks. She lives in Drayton, out
toward the city, you know.”
“Yes,” vaguely murmured Carol.
With a few more polite words Mr. Lund was
“Something certainly is going to happen to poor
Dianne,” was Carol’s first thought, “and I can’t do a
thing to help her. If Thally were home—but perhaps
it’s just as well she isn’t. This is so different from all
our other mysteries. This is about a girl.”
It also seemed a good thing that Cecy had Betty
to take up her time. This gave Carol a chance to do
just what she thought she should do; say nothing to
anybody; just wait and see what would happen next.
It happened the next morning. She was out
looking at the violet bed, when she heard a rustling
in the hedge. The next moment Johnie Drake was on
the gravel path.
“Why, hello, Johnie,” Carol greeted him,
surprised to see the boy, who always, when on duty,
wore a white linen coat, now wearing a sweater.
“What’s the matter?”
“Plenty! Can I talk to you—where no one will
come up suddenly?” Johnie asked anxiously.
“No one will come up here suddenly, Johnie.
“It’s about that lost package.”
“Yes, I heard about it. Mr. Lund came last night
to ask me—”
“He did! What did you tell him?”
“Practically nothing. Let’s sit over in the little
summer house,” Carol proposed. “It’s quiet there.”
Under an arch of high cedar trees, the little
summer house offered convenient retreat.
“It’s just awful,” Johnie began.
“Better tell me all you know, Johnie, then I won’t
be apt to make mistakes.”
“That’s what I thought.” Johnie flicked his cap
off and his very blue eyes looked much too serious
for a boy like Johnie. “You see, that telephone was
put out of order.”
“You mean someone—”
“Yes, I know it! That’s why I was so long down
cellar. When I went down there I found an old
geezer who said he was looking for junk. Well, he
wasn’t. He just did something to those wires—”
“But they were all right again in a few minutes,”
“I know. But he did that too. I know he did. I saw
the pliers. And he was disguised too. When he went
away he was driving a car. I saw him go. And he
pretended he had a bad limp.”
“But, Johnie, you should tell Mr. Lund this,”
Carol insisted. “He will have to get detectives right
“I did tell him and he has a private detective
working. But, you bet, the government will have
detectives out here as soon as that package is
missed,” Johnie declared.
“It’s the strangest thing—”
“Isn’t it? And poor Dianne is scared to death.
She’s lost other jobs twice, and now this—”
“Why did she lose the other places?”
“Well, of course, I don’t exactly know, but she’s
so blamed pretty. I guess folks just get jealous of
her.” Certainly Johnie was a true champion of
“It doesn’t seem possible it could be blamed on
her,” Carol reasoned.
“Either on her or on me!” Johnie exploded.
“On you? Why?”
“No one else there—except—you.” He seemed to
hate to say that.
“Yes, I was there and all alone, too,” admitted
Carol. “Why couldn’t they blame me for it?”
“Oh, they couldn’t.” Johnie seemed very much
discouraged as the suspicion narrowed down to
Dianne. “If only the old geezer had come in the store
we might suspect him; but he didn’t.”
“No, he didn’t,” Carol confirmed that statement.
“I was right there every minute and—he didn’t.”
“But why was he tinkering with the phone?”
“You may have imagined that, Johnie. There are
lots of junkmen around, and I imagine they would
go into a cellar like that of the drug store. It opens
right on a street corner and in daytime the outside
door is never closed.”
“That’s right, it isn’t. That’s the way they bring
the ice cream in,” he said.
“But what can I do, Johnie?” Carol asked the boy
who was now on his feet and looking anxiously
about as if ready to hurry away.
“Would you—would you go to see Dianne?” he
“Go to see her? Certainly. Where does she live?”
“Oh, I’d take you. She lives quite a ways out in
the new district. I’ve been there already this
morning. When could you go?”
“Any time, now, I can drive out.”
“That’s fine. I haven’t any car. This is my day
off; lucky, isn’t it?”
“It seems so,” Carol smiled. “But who is at
“His sister is attending to Dianne’s work and Mr.
Lund is hashing the soda,” scoffed Johnie. “I had a
chum helping, but Mr. Lund won’t have any
strangers around now. I guess that’s best until this
gets cleared up,” the boy decided.
“I’ll get my car,” said Carol.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED
Johnie left Carol at the door of the house where
Dianne boarded, and he himself walked back to
town. He insisted it was only a short way and he
said he would go in Lund’s and “help around.” His
day off didn’t seem any good, anyhow, he seemed to
Carol was met at the door by a woman who was
none too pleasant. She appeared annoyed that “the
girl upstairs” should be having so many callers.
“But you, being a girl—” the woman conceded,
“is different. Last night I had to answer the door
three times and I certainly wasn’t takin’ any
gentleman callers upstairs. She’s sick, poor thing,
and it seems to me she’d be a lot better home with
During this declaration the big woman, in the big,
rose-colored house-dress, was leading the way
upstairs. Carol noticed the house was modern, neat
and the sort where an extra roomer helps to pay the
interest on the mortgage.
Tapping on the door and opening it without
waiting for an answer, the woman greeted Dianne.
“Here’s a caller,” she said crisply.
“Thank you, Mrs. Black,” answered Dianne from
the bed. But one couldn’t say, “from among her
pillows,” for Carol saw at once there was only one
on the bed, and Dianne had it all bunched up to
The door was closed on Mrs. Black before either
girl spoke. Then Dianne said quickly:
“It was so good of you to come, Carol.”
“I was glad to, of course. How are you feeling?”
Carol drew the one chair, with its prim towel cover,
closer to the bed.
“I’m all right. I could get up, but what’s the use?”
Even Dianne’s wan smile seemed to add to her
charm, Carol thought. And here, in this plain bed,
with no make-up, nothing else soft around her, the
beauty for which she seemed fated to suffer was as
vivid as ever.
“You are not going to be that way, I hope,” Carol
scolded a little. “You’ll see. Everything will come
out all right.” That, at least, seemed safe enough to
“But do you know what really happened?”
“Mr. Lund said a package was lost.”
“Yes, it was.” The words dropped from the girl’s
lips like something she hated to release. “And it was
all my fault.”
“Why? How was it?” Carol asked kindly.
“Because Mr. Lund had warned me of its value.
And the night before, when the woman brought it in
to be registered, I saw, I’m sure I did, an old man
watching in the window back of the store.”
“An old man? Watching the woman who had
brought the package?” questioned Carol.
“Yes; and such awful glaring eyes,” shuddered
“Well, you know any eyes look glaring through a
window in the dark,” Carol explained, “and that
window, being on a corner, I imagine would attract
“Yes, I suppose so,” said Dianne. “We have to
open the window every morning; those newly-built
places always seem so warm, but I close it early in
the evening. If there’s a bit of breeze it blows things
around. There’s really no need for me to be in bed—
—” she began.
“But you need the rest,” Carol interrupted.
Dianne seemed embarrassed to be lying there.
But, as she explained to Carol, it was better for her
to keep quiet. She couldn’t go over to the store and
there seemed no place else for her to go. Besides,
her head was still dizzy from that fainting spell, she
admitted, and if she were to retain her position at the
beauty counter she would have to keep looking her
best, that was certain.
“You are sure this valuable package was there
when you looked over the mail yesterday?” Carol
asked, anxious to get at the mystery.
“That’s the strange part of it,” Dianne answered.
“There were so many little things to think of
yesterday morning, I got sort of confused. Mr. Lund
was giving such definite orders about the stamp
window, and I had to take a list of the beauty stuffs
for the agent who was coming in to see how much
we had sold. Then, when I hurried to unlock the
drawer, I remembered a phone call I simply had to
make. As I started to call there was no signal. Well,
you know what happened after that,” finished the
girl, sitting up straight and running her fingers
through her pretty hair, ruefully.
“But can’t you remember about the package?
Was it a box and how was it addressed?” pressed
“There were two flat boxes; one was to go parcel
post and the other registered. I certainly saw both of
them when I opened the drawer and started to get
the mail ready. Mr. Lund had taken the one out of
the safe; the one I saw a woman bring in the evening
before,” Dianne finished, cautiously.
“Did you know the woman?” Carol asked.
“No. You see, I’ve only been here a week. But
I’ve seen her before and I thought she was a nurse.”
“We haven’t many nurses around here,” mused
Carol. “If we could find out who mailed it we might
try to—well, to make them wait until a more
thorough search can be made before doing anything
“Do you think—they’ll arrest me?” murmured
Dianne, her big golden eyes wide with fear.
“Why, no. You haven’t done anything as wrong
as all that. The package is merely lost and I suppose
they will hold Mr. Lund accountable to the
government, as its value was insured,” Carol tried to
“He was here last night; Johnie brought him. And
such questions! I thought my head would burst. You
see, Carol, this place means so much to me. I’ve lost
two jobs lately, but neither was my fault. Folks are
so queer when a girl is, well, when she’s not
homely. As if I made my own face,” she grumbled
with strange sincerity.
“Do you live at home?” asked Carol kindly.
“I did with an older sister, but she had to take a
place where she could have her room. Mother died
two years ago and father travels. He’s good; he did
all he could for us and still does,” went on Dianne,
“but he has a sister, Aunt Pete—Petronilla is her
name, and she’s awful.” Dianne seemed to have
many unhappy memories concerning Aunt Pete.
“Well, I wouldn’t worry too much,” Carol began.
“But if I lose this place Aunt Pete says I’ll have to
go away to relatives in the West, away out in some
horrible, lonesome ranch place where I’d die trying
to like farm life,” she finished with a sigh.
“Why can’t you give me some idea of what could
have happened to the package?” Carol began again.
“There were only you and Johnie and me,”
Dianne hurried to answer. “Not another single
“Oh, yes there was another,” Carol interrupted.
“A girl they call Flinders came in for baby food, you
“Flinders! That trampish girl who’s always
ducking in and out for baby food?” exclaimed
Dianne, excitedly. “Did she come in?”
“Yes; you know I mentioned about her. But she
just took the sugar of milk box off the shelf, dropped
a coin on the floor, picked it up and slammed it
down on the counter. I couldn’t help noticing her old
sweater on a day like yesterday,” Carol remarked.
“But you saw her every second, didn’t you?”
Dianne asked without conviction.
“I certainly saw her all the time she was in the
store, but I was back of her. It would be awful to get
that poor creature involved in this,” finished Carol.
“Because she’s so friendless, and so wild. If it
were found she had taken that package, I just
imagine they would send her away for years.”
“But wouldn’t she deserve it if she did a thing
like that? Look what it will mean to me if they can’t
find it,” rebelled Dianne.
“I haven’t the least idea that girl took it. Johnie
said there was an old junkman tinkering with the
telephone wires in the cellar. Couldn’t he have
crawled up, got back of the counter and taken the
package? They do crawl, you know,” Carol
“You mean that the man Johnie said was
prowling around could really have crawled up
behind the counter and grabbed that box?”
“Well, could he? I don’t know. But surely
someone grabbed it, didn’t they?”
“Unless it dropped, and—but no. No trash was
picked up. The collector counts every piece he takes
and either someone crawled up the stairs, or—oh, I
just can’t think any more!” sighed poor Dianne.
“You can’t know what it means to a girl, what it
means to me to—be—suspected!”
At the threatened outburst, Carol was quick to
insist that Dianne get up and dress, telling her she
would then feel better. Even the possible new links
in the mystery, those of the junkman and Flinders,
were promptly left without further discussion, as
Carol bent all efforts to calm the excited girl.
“You will feel so much better,” Carol repeated.
“Lying down is the very worst possible position for
thinking; it always makes you think down,” Carol
said, attempting to be casual.
So Dianne left her bed and was again soon alive
and vivid in her little, severely plain blue suit with
the demure cape and the old-fashioned blue bonnet.
There was a cluster of white flowers under the rim
of the dark blue straw hat and Carol thought nothing
could have been more becoming.
“You see, Carol, I’m determined now,” Dianne
said, pulling the tie of her suit into a straight line.
“I’ve just got to be determined.” But even as she
spoke she grasped the bedside table until the lamp
shook its cheap, little shade into a rakish angle.
Carol noticed how unsteady she was and asked
her if she had been sick recently.
“Yes; I had an operation two months ago,”
Dianne answered. “But I’m all right now,” she
“Come on out in my car for some air,” Carol
invited. “It’s a lovely morning—”
“Oh, you don’t know,” Dianne suddenly
exclaimed again, “I mean, I couldn’t stand it if
they—they should—arrest me! Do you think they
“I’m sure they wouldn’t. You’re just nervous,
being all alone. Why can’t you come over to our
house? There’s just my sister and a friend, and dad
is always glad if we girls have company. Come
along,” Carol urged, seeing the look of uncertainty
on Dianne’s face. “We know everybody in Melody
“And I’m—I’m such a stranger,” murmured
Dianne, in that woe-begone tone which usually
means a girl needs a friend.
TOO, TOO DIVINE
“Here I am again,” Carol thought, “going right in
head, neck, and heels. But what could I do? That
mean boarding-house woman might have let Dianne
She was thinking this as her car neared the
beautiful grounds of Oak Lodge where her own
smaller cottage nestled amid the trees and
shrubbery. Dianne was obviously feeling her own
strange position keenly, for, while she showed her
appreciation, she talked little as Carol drove along.
Each summer something startling had happened
in Melody Lane for three years past, but Thally had
always shared honors with Carol in solving the
mysteries. Now, however, Thally was away, Carol
was home, and here was a new and tantalizing
What had happened to the valuable registered
package and why had it happened?
There were several persons involved already, the
chief being Dianne Forbes. Around her the coils of
circumstances were slowly tightening and only the
girl’s pitiful loneliness and need for a girl friend had
induced Carol to go to her rescue. But what could
“Here we are!” Carol announced as she turned
into the drive.
“Here! In this gorgeous place! Carol, but I really
can’t visit you if this is where you live,” exclaimed
Dianne, completely overwhelmed by the beauty of
“Why not? We don’t own this place. A good
friend allows us to live here, for a very small rental,”
Carol spoke up. “Don’t worry; you won’t find us
high airified—we’re just plain folks. Oh, there’s
Cecy, my sister. Hey, Sis!” she called out, as Cecy
and Betty tossed their tennis balls recklessly about
the side lawn with small regard for Carol’s best
“Oh, hello!” greeted Cecy, running forward,
Betty close at her heels.
In a few moments everyone was acquainted and,
just as Carol had expected, the two younger girls
were instantly fascinated with Dianne. They just
couldn’t hide their admiration. So plainly did they
show it, Dianne became embarrassed. She did not
regard it as flattery at all, but the way those two
youngsters stared at her as Carol told them later
“with their tongues actually hanging out,” she felt
they were curious about her; that perhaps they even
knew of her trouble.
“I thought I’d give you a real treat,” Carol told
Cecy and Betty. “You see, Dianne knows all about
“Oh, yes. You’re the girl from the drug store,”
burst out Cecy. “I’ve been just dying to know about
those Sunrise Creams. You look—” she stopped.
There was no make-up on Dianne’s face this
morning and certainly she did not depend upon the
products she was selling, the Sunrise Beauty
“But there’s Rachel wig-wagging us for lunch,”
Carol interrupted, “and Dianne is going to spend the
afternoon, so perhaps you’ll both be raving beauties
by evening. Come along, Dianne. I have to give
music lessons and I can’t afford the beauty stuff,”
laughed Carol, “and there’s a lesson due early—
No movie queen could have expected more
attention than was given Dianne after that. Only
Carol suspected how hard it was for the anxious girl
to answer the cyclonic questions of Cecy and Betty.
But their sincerity was unmistakable and it was
Cecy who hailed Ruth Stanley, as she only tooted
the auto horn once, trying to get past without
stopping. But Cecy hopped into Ruth’s car, went
down to Dianne’s drug store, spent more of her
allowance than she should have spent on the beauty
perquisites, and was back to have Dianne try them
on her and on Betty, even before Carol could get
away to give little Mabel Berg her new piano piece.
“Get Dianne a cool, comfortable dress,” Carol
had told the girls, “and please don’t overwork her.
She had a headache this morning, and stayed away
from the drug store. It wouldn’t be fair to give her a
bigger job; would it?”
“Oh, I love to give treatments,” insisted Dianne,
her own natural color returning now and the
brilliancy of her golden eyes glinting happily.
“It takes so little to make a girl happy,” Carol
thought, “why should anything so cruel as actual
suspicion spoil it all?”
Bouncing Bett was all of that now. Like Cecy,
she, too, had always longed to know exactly what
made very pretty girls look that way, and here was
the great, grand chance. And Di, as the younger girls
were already calling her, was “such a peach.” So
good-natured, so smart and above all so adorable!
Cecy got out for her one of her own pretty dimity
dresses, the one with the tangled, blue, ragged-
sailors peeking through green sprigs. It was a pretty
dress, really a bit of imported dimity, and in it Di
looked as Betty insisted:
“Too, too divine!”
Her hair was just curly enough to like the
Summer day, and just long enough to make a little,
golden-brown ruching from ear to ear. Pretty
ringlets scalloped her forehead, too, and not even
Cecy could have wondered why the Sunrise Beauty
Company had hired and trained little Dianne Forbes.
Betty insisted upon putting the old, washed
shower-curtain on the bathroom floor, and in the
center was placed the high stool for the magical
operation. Betty called the stool, the shrine.
Cecy was taken first. Her hair was bound up in a
strip of lint Betty had cut from the roll, her arms and
neck were bare, and she just blinked and blinked as
Di rubbed in cream number one, then patted with
her quick little finger tips, then rubbed it off with
dabs of cotton.
“We’re supposed to use hot and cold packs, of
course,” Di told the enthralled girls, “but I’ll use the
liquid astringent. Too bad, Cecy, you had to buy all
this stuff,” she said, taking up the bottle, “I had
samples I could have brought over if I had known
we were going to do this.”
“Don’t worry; I’ll make Bett pay for half.
Besides, the treatment is free and that’s a lot. How
do I look?” Cecy preened her head up and tried to
look even better. Although she did look pretty good.
“Simply swell!” chirped Betty. “But don’t forget
me, Di. I’m right here handing out the tools, and I
feel like a nurse in the operating room.”
Di was working away quite seriously, and Cecy
was showing the result of her skill. Creams, rubs,
astringents. Then pats, and coaxing strokes to even
“Now for the eyebrows,” said Di. “What color?”
“Oh, we haven’t anything for eyes except what
Betty brought. Go get it, Bett. No matter what color
it is, it will match me,” Cecy was naturally humble
about her looks.
“I have a few little pats of eye shade in my hand
bag,” Di said. “I promised to send some home to a
girl. She uses green, but I think you should use
blue,” she told Cecy critically.
“Mix them, one eye of each. See how that looks. I
wouldn’t mind if you gave me purple. I have always
wanted those shadowy eyes. Oh, boy! Wait till the
crowd sees me. But, how long will you take? Betty,
you’re pretty good looking—”
“No, you don’t. I’m going to have the whole
works. That is,” Betty thought, and said suddenly,
“if Di can stand it. We mustn’t be piggish. Di had a
headache when she came. What have you got now,
Di?” Betty finished.
Declaring she was having a fine time and felt all
right, Dianne briskly worked on, and the way she
turned those two girls out surely was enough to
cheer the heart of even one so depressed as she had
“Now, you lie down and pretend you haven’t
worked hard at all, or Carol will kill us,” said Cecy,
when at last the bathroom was all tidied up and the
girls were back into their own clothes. “I’m just
dying to see what she’ll say—”
“Well, the looking-glass will still be here, I
hope,” said Betty as Cecy continued to admire her
own reflection therein. “And you can’t see a
“Nor my eye wrinkles. I got them from reading
too much, you know,” Cecy said. “And I even had to
wear glasses for a while.”
Dianne listened and watched and smiled. Perhaps
she had never known a home like this or even girls
as carefree and happy as these two.
“Let’s have that eye-brow pencil a sec,” asked
Betty. “Not that I’m going to spoil your fine work,
Di,” she carefully explained, “but I just want to
make a little Chinese end on my classic—”
“Oh, hey!” interrupted Cecy. “Come along! Carol
will soon be here and we want to dash out on her
like a musical comedy chorus. What color did you
use on my eye shadow, Di? I want it the least bit
And so the girls continued to try this and that, so
intrigued were they in the marvels and magic of
what Cecy called “beauty on the hoof.”
Betty, with her fine brown eyes and brown hair
that fairly glowed from brushing (perhaps that
accounted for her “flunking” in exams), was
certainly pretty with her skin, her eyes and all the
details drawn out and accentuated by Dianne’s skill.
Cecy was quite the platinum blonde, instead of
being “mouse color” and even what she called “cat’s
eyes” looked really dashing as outlined by Dianne’s
shadow tints and the best of Sunrise Creams.
“I must run along—” Dianne started to say.
“Run along! You must not,” shrilled Cecy. “Do
you know where you are? Miles from home. By the
way, where do you live?”
Before Dianne could attempt to answer they
heard Carol’s car, and there was a mad rush
downstairs. Cecy and Betty went quickly to the
alcove that separated the living room from the
cottage hall, took a poise like a pair of bisque
figurines, and when Carol came in they bowed
ridiculously, fingers on lips (but not quite touching
that precious Cupid’s bow), and in pulling up from
the foolish courtesy Cecy’s foot got out of bounds
and all but sent Betty sprawling. It caused one of
those staggering spills that catapulted Betty clear
across the room until she came to a welcome stop on
the dear old love-seat.
“If you’ve spoiled me—” threatened Betty.
“Nothing could,” declared Carol. “Perfection
can’t be spoiled. Kiddies, where have you been
before Dianne came? Your future is assured—”
So they poked fun at one another, the
“youngsters,” as Cecy and Betty were termed,
declaring Carol would look exactly like Lupi Valez
if she would let Di do it to her, while Carol herself
made no secret of her surprise at what Di had done
to the others.
“You are so good at it, Dianne,” she said, “if I
were you I’d try for a place in a real beauty shop.
It’s a shame to waste all that in a store like Lund’s.”
And the very mention of the name brought a
cloud over Dianne’s pretty face.
A SUDDEN LET-DOWN
“Do stop here a few minutes, Carol, please,”
Dianne begged Carol as they drove back from the
cheerful home to the prospect of that lonely,
unfriendly boarding house. “We must talk about that
girl who came into the store, and we can’t do it with
Mrs. Black around. I believe she would listen.”
“All right,” said Carol, pulling up in a quiet spot
on Waterfall Way. It was nearly six o’clock, and the
sunset shot through the trees in golden streamers of
“We must tell Mr. Lund about the girl. It is so
important,” Dianne urged. “I didn’t know—”
“I realize that, too,” Carol interrupted, “and I had
no intention of deceiving Mr. Lund. When he spoke
to me I was merely trying to be wise in answering.
All I said was I had neither seen nor heard anything
unusual until you called out for Johnie and then
fainted. Of course, I was thinking of you,” Carol
went on, “and I felt I could not safely answer all his
questions just then.”
“Why?” asked Dianne rather sharply.
“Oh, not for any special reason,” Carol hurried to
assure her, being determined to hide the fact that at
first she had considered Dianne’s actions suspicious,
and that she had even wondered at Johnie’s remarks.
(He had said he knew something would happen to
Dianne.) “As a matter of fact,” Carol went on after a
moment’s pause, “who could think anything of that
funny, little, wild creature running in and out with a
can of baby food? She couldn’t have been three
minutes inside the store.”
“I know,” said Dianne thoughtfully. “But, you
see, we have got to be so careful. Would you have
time to go up to Mr. Lund’s now? He will be sure to
be in the store?”
“Yes, I have time,” Carol answered, “but what
can we say? Anything we say about Flinders will
send them right out after her.”
“Oh, I know. But don’t you see?” Dianne’s voice
was quavering, “I must do everything I can to have
that suspicion removed from myself.”
“But not to put it on another girl,” Carol warned.
“She is so friendless, so likely to be suspected
without any special reasons. Girls like that often tell
stories and do things to save others. They are so
“Don’t you think they are often too greedy for a
little money?” asked Dianne unexpectedly.
“Why—no. How do you mean, greedy?”
“Well, I mean they have such awfully hard times
they just can’t reason as others do. Of course, I don’t
know this girl at all. I’ve seen her a few times but I
scarcely noticed her. She may be perfectly honest,
and I hope she is, but someone took that package.”
They sat there silent for a few moments after that.
Carol saw that Dianne might be right, realized that
she, herself, might have made a mistake which she
had had no intention of making and, with her usual
straightforwardness, she quickly decided to go to
Mr. Lund, as Dianne proposed, and tell him the
whole story over again.
“By doing that,” she told Dianne, “I won’t make
him think too much about Flinders. I can just say I
felt I ought now to tell him just what had happened
as perhaps then he could see something important
where we could not. You don’t suppose he would
blame Johnie for being so long down cellar, do
you?” Carol asked. “It’s so hard to weigh every
word we say, but I’m sure we shall have to this
“Was Johnie a very long time down cellar?”
Dianne asked quickly.
“As long as you were out. You see, you were
quite a while away, too,” Carol remarked carefully.
“Yes, that’s so. I didn’t think of that.” The
anxious note in Dianne’s voice had cropped out
again. This new thought plainly brought new worry.
“And I couldn’t prove where I was because no one
saw me go in the store,” she finished.
“You said that phone was busy—”
“Yes; I could hear a woman’s voice on the inside
phone so I had to wait out in the store. Dear me,
Carol, I thought this was going to be so splendid,
and now see—”
“It may turn out splendidly,” Carol interrupted.
“After all, what actually has happened is that a box
is lost. Come along and cheer up. We’ve gone over
it all pretty thoroughly now and I guess we can tell
Mr. Lund a convincing story. Why doesn’t someone
suspect me?” she finished to make the matter seem
“Oh, no one could suspect you,” answered
Dianne decidedly. “That’s what comes of being
known. I’m always a stranger everywhere I go.”
“Were you worried about the phone being out of
order because you feared the face at the window
might have had something to do with it?” Carol
“Yes, I suppose I was,” Dianne answered. “You
know how we depend upon the phone. And I am so
nervous in these strange, country places. I felt I
would just have to have the phone working, and I
rushed out while you were there.”
“A natural thing to do,” Carol assured her. “Well,
here we are. See, what happens this time.”
Fortunately they found the drug store free from
strangers; Mr. Lund and his sister Hattie were there
and, much to the girls’ surprise, they were greeted
quite cordially. Miss Lund was a nice, rosy blonde,
pleasant and apparently capable. As Dianne noticed
her, she wondered why Mr. Lund did not employ her
regularly, and as Carol observed the fine skin,
natural blonde hair and very decorative eyes, she
“That’s the type of woman to run a beauty shop.
She could smile away the skin troubles.”
“Have a nice cool drink,” Mr. Lund invited the
girls. “How are you, Dianne? I guess you were
pretty badly scared.”
“I still am,” Dianne confessed, surprised at the
sudden change of the druggist’s attitude.
“Well, don’t worry,” he said in a low voice. “It’s
“No, we haven’t found it, but—” (he actually
whispered this to the girls who sat at a corner table)
“there will be no trouble. The sender of that package
does not want anything said about it.”
“You mean,” Carol said cautiously, “they don’t
want even the government to know it is lost?”
“Exactly.” There was immeasurable relief in Mr.
Lund’s manner. “Of course, we will go on looking
and watching. And in a small place like this—” He
stopped, but both girls understood. He meant that in
a small place like Melody Lane the truth was bound
to spring out some place, sooner or later.
It was quite cool this evening which gave Mr.
Lund an excuse for closing the wooden door inside
the screen door to insure privacy. No one could then
come in on them unannounced and overhear any
part of their remarks. Miss Lund locked the stamp
window and snapped the cash drawer shut so that
she, too, joined them at the table, her brother
promptly bringing her a drink of lime and lemon—
suitable for one “getting a little too stout.”
This was all so encouraging that Carol was soon
telling her story of the occurrences in the drug store
when the valuable, little box disappeared, naturally
and without any restraint.
“I didn’t even think it worth while to speak of
that poor, little girl Flinders,” she told Mr. Lund
frankly. “She was scarcely in until she was out
“Oh, I understand. Besides, I was not questioning
seriously when I saw your father was not there and I
understood you might be a bit nervous about it all.”
“But we’ve got to see this girl,” Dianne spoke up.
“Until we know what happened to the package, I
can’t expect to feel absolutely free from suspicion.”
“Yes,” said Mr. Lund very slowly, very
thoughtfully. “But, you see, we can’t make inquiries
without spreading the alarm and I’ve promised not
to do that.”
Carol and Dianne exchanged quick glances. They
could not oppose Mr. Lund. In fact, they were most
grateful for his friendly attitude, but Dianne seemed
determined to find out about Flinders. This was
natural, as Dianne only knew the girl as sort of
vagabond, one rebelling against restrictions and
apparently doing as she pleased.
“Perhaps we will run across Flinders sometime
and be able to talk to her without actually telling her
what happened,” Carol suggested. “Then, Dianne,
you would be satisfied, wouldn’t you?”
“Yes, oh, yes. I just would like to see her face
when we ask her—well, about helping herself to the
can of baby food,” Dianne suggested.
“And you just take a few days’ rest,” Miss Lund
said kindly to Dianne. “I love to be in the store, but
Herbert never would let me, until he gets in a jam,”
she laughed good-naturedly. “Then I’m all right, and
much wanted,” she finished slyly.
Mr. Lund had beckoned to Dianne to come over
to speak to him privately at the desk.
“Here is your money,” he said, “I’m sure you
need it this week. The Sunrise people were in and
are very much pleased with our progress. The agent
mentioned giving you a place in one of their city
branches but I said I was sure you liked it here. I
hope you do,” the druggist finished without waiting
for her reply.
“Oh, yes, I do now. Of course, I was pretty blue
until Miss Duncan came. She’s been wonderful,”
Dianne declared warmly.
“Yes, they’re fine people, the Duncans, all of
them. You couldn’t have better friends. I’ve known
her father ever since I came here. Everyone respects
Felix Duncan. Then you are satisfied to stay? You
won’t consider the city place?” Mr. Lund wanted to
“Since you trust me after my blunder, I am sure I
should be satisfied,” Dianne replied. “It seems too
good to be true. I just can’t imagine why you do
trust me now.”
“Well, Johnie is for you, Miss Duncan is for you,
my sister Hattie wouldn’t listen to any question
about you and the loss of the package. So when the
owners came in and cleared me, why should I blame
anyone? After all, it was my fault, I should
personally attend to all registered mail,” Mr. Lund
“Do you suppose there could have been a reason
why the sender wanted it kept quiet?” Dianne asked.
She was thinking of that sinister face at the window
when the woman was mailing the little box.
“Yes, there was a reason,” Mr. Lund answered.
“Families often have queer reasons for sending
registered stuff; they want to make sure the other
party gets it but there is often more spite than
generosity in the sending. Like sending back an
engagement ring or some such sentimental gift.
Then, when they have time to think it over and patch
up the fuss—”
“Do you think it was an engagement ring?”
Dianne asked eagerly.
“No, it wasn’t,” answered Mr. Lund.
ON THE GUTTER’S EDGE
“That seemed a little too easy,” Dianne remarked
as the two girls left the drug store, “didn’t it?”
“Well, Mr. Lund was, as his sister Hattie said, ‘in
a jam,’ and when he got out of that the relief would
naturally make him happy and good-natured,” Carol
“But I don’t feel altogether that way,” Dianne
said. “Perhaps I was in a fighting mood and didn’t
like being disappointed. I can fight sometimes,” she
“Why, Dianne, you know perfectly well you are
just tickled to death,” Carol told her and believed
“Did you ever suddenly come upon a mystery
you just had to clear up?” asked Dianne
“Lots of times. In fact, we have one every
Summer out here. Why?” asked Carol.
“Well, this is my mystery and I’m going to clear
it up,” declared the pretty girl, taking her hat off to
make sure it wouldn’t blow away as Carol swung
her car around a curve.
“You’re funny, Dianne,” Carol told her
companion. “I find you all ready to—die, and,
suddenly, you are all ready to—fight.”
“Yes, that’s so, isn’t it? My confidence has
returned, as some people would say. But my worry
was the danger of losing my job and facing Aunt
Pete; that’s definitely over. And am I glad!”
“Certainly Mr. Lund seemed very friendly. Johnie
told me he had had so much trouble and opposition
in getting the substation put in his store that this loss
might bring it all up again. But now that the owners
of the box don’t want anything said about it, there
probably won’t be any more trouble,” Carol
predicted as they approached Mrs. Black’s little
home, where Dianne had her room.
“But I’m not going to drop it,” Dianne declared.
“After all, it was left in my charge and I should
recover it, if I can,” she said, with even more
“What are you going to do?” Carol wanted to
“First, I’m going to find your Flinders.”
“Be careful about that, Dianne, please,” pleaded
Carol. “I know this town, and I can easily guess
what will happen if suspicion rests upon poor little
“Oh, I’ll be careful. But I must talk to her. There
was no one else but Johnie and he’s out of it. By the
way, he asked me to go to the pictures tonight. Did
you see him pop up back of the counter when Mr.
Lund was speaking to me?”
“I saw his shadow,” joked Carol. “Why don’t you
“Not tonight. I’ve got letters to write. I’m going
to send Aunt Pete a dollar to buy a handkerchief for
her birthday. That ought to help,” laughed Dianne.
“Why wouldn’t you stay to our house to supper?
The girls were crazy to have you,” Carol remarked.
“I had to get my wages and pay Mrs. Black. She
probably thinks I’ve run away. There she is now.
Catch her missing a car in this alley.”
“Dianne, you gave the girls a lovely time this
afternoon,” Carol started to say.
“And they gave me a—life saver,” Dianne
interrupted. “I’ve heard of people crocheting and
knitting when they’re in the dumps, but give me a
couple of faces to fix up and I’m all right. But I
almost forgot to tell you. Mr. Lund said the Sunrise
people want me to take a city store. That’s
“Are you going to?”
“Not until I find out what happened to that box,”
declared Dianne, and Carol again wondered at her
“Well, good luck. Sorry you wouldn’t spend this
evening with us, but maybe some other time.”
“Thanks, more than thanks,” said Dianne, her
face lighting up with all the hopes that so easily
bounce back with girls—renewed confidence. “I
think Betty and Cecy are too sweet for anything.
Tell them to save their pretty faces for me,” finished
Dianne as she tripped off, up the new stone walk
that Mrs. Black had so painfully outlined with
gladioli—maybe they would bloom in August but
they looked pretty sick just now.
It was getting dark when Dianne put aside her
writing things—she was sending Aunt Pete that
dollar—and was going out to the letter box to mail
it. Along the new sidewalk on this new highway
were new street lights, and the one important letter
box was near the corner. From there, after dropping
her letter, Dianne walked along toward the dead end
of the street. Here the woods began. It was pleasant
enough in the quiet place; a little lonely but not
exactly dark yet.
She was thinking of her new friends; how kind
they had been, especially Carol. What might have
happened if Carol had not been in the drug store—
but she had been there and now she was Dianne’s
Dianne went over the scene again. “Running out
to the phone that way must have seemed suspicious,
but she did not suspect me,” Dianne was thinking.
“Well, I’m going to prove that she was right. I’m
going to find out what happened to that box; it just
couldn’t have flown away.”
The newly-settled district ended as abruptly as it
began, and presently Dianne found herself at the last
lamp-post. The light was flickering only faintly, but
being near the street end it was lighted while some
others were not.
“I’ll just cover the block,” Dianne was thinking,
when she saw a figure on the edge of the curb.
“It’s—a—girl,” she could now see. “Waiting for
She stepped along farther, then recognized—!
Yes, that queerly-cut hair looked peculiar even
under the flickering light and it was unmistakably on
the head of Flinders.
“Oh, hello!” called out Dianne pleasantly. “Are
you waiting for someone?”
“Yes! No! Why?” Flinders brought her face
toward Dianne, and what a sad face! Tears could
even be seen on her stained cheeks and she rubbed
her eyes defensively with smudgy hands.
“What’s the matter? You’re crying.”
“No! Yes! Oh!” This was in surprise. “You’re the
girl from the drug store?”
“Yes, and I’ve been wanting to see you.” Dianne
was indeed glad to see little Flinders, even in this
“See me? Why? What for?” Flinders instantly
stood up and seemed ready to defend herself.
“Oh, I just wanted to ask you about that day—
Dianne stopped. Flinders had grabbed her arm.
“See! See that?” she whispered, pointing to the
woods. “See that—red—eye—!”
“Yes,” said Dianne breathlessly, “I do see
something red. What—is—it?”
“The warning! The wild warning! Oh, what
“You do?” exclaimed Dianne. “What should you
do? That’s something in the woods!”
“Yes, I know. It’s the warning.” The girl still held
Dianne’s bare arm and she could feel the fingers of
Flinders twitch nervously. “Look! Look! It’s giving
At the end of the newly-made street, where a
somber blanket of woods fell in monstrous folds
under the fading glow of the evening sky, they
saw—the sign. It was some sort of light in motion,
marking out fantastic shapes; now a jagged cross,
now a broken star, and again what might be deemed
a fiery dagger!
“Flinders,” breathed Dianne, fascinated by this
strange manifestation, “what—is—it?”
“Don’t shake so; it won’t hurt you, it never does,”
replied Flinders, her own voice far from courageous.
“But what is it—oh, come, let’s go! It might be
something dreadful and it isn’t far away,” Dianne
gasped. “Come with me—”
“Oh, no, I can’t,” sighed the strange girl, pulling
“I promised, and I couldn’t keep my promise.
“Promised what?” Dianne had released her arm
and was starting away.
“I promised—money,” said Flinders with such
hesitation that Dianne stopped short again.
“You promised—money! What for?” she asked
“Oh, that is my secret,” sighed Flinders, dropping
again into that abject, helpless, shapeless thing that
she had been on the gutter’s edge when Dianne
discovered her. She was crying. This was not acting;
but what was it?
Terrified, for that sinister light was still outlining
the wild warning, Dianne quickly decided.
“How much?” she asked breathlessly. “Oh, why
should I tell you?” sobbed the girl.
“Because I might help you.”
Startled by that, Flinders jumped up.
“Would you? Honest?”
“Yes. Why not? Of course—”
“And not want to know? Because I can’t tell.”
This was a breathless gasp.
“That’s all right. I believe you. You are in
trouble. Quick, tell me. If I have it—”
“One dollar,” said Flinders in a voice like the
thud of a stone.
Dianne had her purse in her hand. She opened it
and held out one of her few precious dollars.
“Here it is,” she said. “But be careful—”
“You would give me that whole dollar!”
exclaimed the amazed girl.
“Yes, of course. I’m sure you are not fooling
“Oh, no. I’m not. But when can I pay you?”
Flinders was holding the dollar, too surprised to be
sure she had it.
“Maybe you can help me. But don’t wait now. I
must go. Can’t you come, Flinders?”
“No, not now.” Flinders had started to move
toward the dark woods where the light had suddenly
“Oh, don’t go down there!” begged Dianne, still
moving toward the open road and safety.
“Don’t worry. You go. I’ll see you—”
“And if you can, will you help me?” pressed
“Help you? I can’t tell the secret,” declared
Flinders, “even if you want this dollar back.”
“I don’t. I’m going. But should I leave you all
alone?” Poor Dianne was torn between her own
fears and fears for Flinders.
“Oh, I’m all right. When I go past your house I’ll
whistle, so as you’ll know. I must hurry—” And
away from the lamp-lighted gutter Dianne saw the
strange form move stealthily toward the road’s dark
JOHNIE’S BUS RIDE
Dianne dropped on the step as she reached the
porch. Never had she expected to be so glad to get
there, to reach the old boarding house where her
hours of agony and worry had all but broken her
“Whew!” she breathed, almost aloud. “Was that
Instinctively she looked toward the woods. There
was no sound, and even had the light been there she
could not have seen it at that distance.
She had given the girl a dollar. And later, very
soon, in fact, she would need it herself. The dollar
for Aunt Pete’s birthday handkerchief left but a
small margin for the week’s actual demands.
“But I had to,” she was sure. “That child needed
that dollar terribly. And I promised not to make her
tell me why.”
She thought of Carol. If only she could have been
there. But, after all, it was she, Dianne, who had
determined to find out what had become of the
registered box, so she would have to see Flinders
again, to ask her if she knew anything about it.
“Surely she will trust me now,” thought Dianne,
“and perhaps she knows; for she was in the drug
“The phone’s been ringin’ and ringin’,” came that
unpleasant voice Dianne had ceased to jump at, “and
I can’t even read the paper,” declared Mrs. Black
from the screen door. “I couldn’t find you in the
“I’ve just been to the letter box,” Dianne said
truthfully. “Was the call for me?”
“Yes, a boy. Sounded like that soda clerk boy.
There it is again—”
“I’ll answer—” Dianne was up the steps.
“Wait, I’ll see. It might be for Mr. Black,” and
the complaining woman made an unnecessary run to
the telephone in the corner of the hall. Dianne was
thinking: “She might miss something.”
After a shrill shout: “Hello!” and a couple of
unpleasant groans she turned to the waiting Dianne.
“Yes, it’s for you. I thought it was.”
But when Dianne took up the receiver Mrs. Black
was in no hurry to leave the hall.
It was Johnie’s voice but Dianne was smart
enough not to answer him in the pleasant, earnest,
gushing tones he was using toward her. Mrs. Black
might merely think it was a message from the drug
store, but it wasn’t.
Johnie was saying:
“Please, Dianne, come along. We’ll have a swell
time and your friends, Carol and her sister and the
other girls, are coming. Come along. I’ll call for
Dianne was thinking fast. Johnie wanted her to go
on a bus ride and the other girls were going.
“All right,” she said simply, and Johnie must
have wondered why so simply, but he couldn’t see
Mrs. Black. “In fifteen minutes,” and she hung up.
“Have to go back to work?” asked Mrs. Black
with a too-marked indifference.
“No,” said Dianne quite as casually.
“Oh!” Mrs. Black was picking specks off the side
curtain and pulling it straighter, if possible.
Dianne relented. After all, why shouldn’t she be
friendly? And she had the precious house key that
Mrs. Black had made such a fuss about allowing her
“I’m going out with friends,” said Dianne
pleasantly, “and I won’t be back tonight. Here’s the
key. I’d better leave it,” and she handed the key
from her purse to the surprised Mrs. Black.
“You won’t be back all night?” As if she cared.
“No; I’m stopping with Carol Dun—”
“Do you know the Duncan girls?” Mrs. Black
stopped everything at that.
“Yes; do you?”
“Why, of course. Felix Duncan is on the town
committees, their father, that is, and everybody
knows him. The girls are nice, I suppose,” she said
grudgingly, “but they do seem to get into the worst
mixups. I wouldn’t go too far with them if I was
you,” warned the gossipy lady.
“They get into mixups? What kind?” asked
Dianne, but she knew she should be hurrying.
“Oh, there-was a lot of ghost stories, and I don’t
know what not else, out there by the big places, and
those girls always—well, I suppose you would call
it, run them down,” finished Mrs. Black rather
“Smart girls,” said Dianne just as she heard a
short, shrill whistle.
“That someone for you—”
“I’ll see,” interrupted Dianne, brushing the
woman aside unceremoniously, as she hurried to the
The gray figure of Flinders was racing by,
whistling as she went. As Dianne stepped out onto
the porch she could see something waving; it might
have been a big handkerchief.
“Some boys?” Mrs. Black guessed as she, too,
reached the porch.
But then Dianne really had to hurry to her room,
to get ready for the bus ride.
“I’m so glad to get away tonight,” she was telling
herself. “I just couldn’t stand it here, with that thing
down in the woods. Wasn’t it lovely of Carol to ask
me to stay with them?”
One nice thing about a girl in Dianne’s position
was the ease with which she could get ready for
anything. She was always almost ready. Wearing the
same little blue suit and hat, she had merely to pat
her hair, touch a puff to her face, wash her hands
and apply her own Sunrise lotion. She was all ready
and downstairs before the promised fifteen minutes
and before Johnie came along.
How nice he looked! As he came to the door in
his spic-span white linen suit with the coat flying
open (his coat at the drug store was always primly
buttoned), and his brand-new straw hat, which rather
flattered his nice red hair, Dianne wondered why she
hadn’t really noticed his good looks before.
“Oh, hello, Johnie!” called Mrs. Black as the two
were leaving her porch and hurrying to the little car.
“Have a nice time! Goodnight, Dianne!”
“Good-night,” answered Dianne, and you
couldn’t blame Johnie for pinching her arm a little
as he helped her in.
“Swell of you to come,” he murmured.
“Swell of you to ask me,” said Dianne.
“You see, the boys are home from Summer camp
for a few days—and nights,” he chuckled, “so they
made up a bus ride.”
“I won’t know the boys—”
“Oh, won’t you! That’s my worry. They know
how to get acquainted all right. Nice fellows,
though. We’re in the same class at school. Glenn
Garrison, he’s Carol’s friend, he’s a prince,” said
“Nice name,” mused Dianne.
“Well, you’re my girl tonight; don’t forget,”
warned Johnie with a surprising show of grown-
Dianne laughed happily. It was so great a relief
from all her queer worries that she just felt like
But as the trim little car, which the resourceful
Johnie had borrowed for this important occasion,
swerved around the corner, Dianne looked sharply
toward Crows’ Woods. In fact, she turned her head
to keep looking and Johnie wanted to know why.
“It isn’t time for the moon yet,” he said boyishly,
“and, anyhow, those old woods are full of—crows.
That’s why it got the name.”
“Crows?” questioned Dianne. “Are they sort of
haunted woods, do you suppose?” she asked
“Haunted? Everything around Melody Lane has
its turn at being haunted,” Johnie told her, laughing.
“But I haven’t heard any wild talks of Crows’
And Dianne was thinking she could tell a wild
tale if she wanted to.
But there was something singing in her heart. It
was, of course, the echo of the generous dollar she
had given Flinders. That could sing a song of real
joy. For the child had seemed so wretched, so
miserable, yet not really afraid. Dianne thought she
had appeared even reverent toward the mysterious
“Strange,” thought Dianne, as Johnie brought her
back to reality and again started to tell her how swell
a bus ride could be. “Very strange.”
“You see,” Johnie went on, “we got an old bus
Tex Richards used to run for a big boarding house.
It’s an all right bus, and just holds our crowd. And
Tex will drive, too.”
“That ought to be good,” agreed Dianne. “I hope
he takes enough gas along.”
“Oh, he will. He’s careful of the old boat. Keeps
it in his barn because he won’t leave it out in the
rain,” laughed Johnie.
“I feel as if I were going on one of the old straw-
rides mother used to tell us about,” Dianne said, as
Johnie turned his car into another street.
“There they are!” he sang out. “Hear the gang?
We’ve rounded up the whole class, parts of two
classes,” he amended.
And Dianne was suddenly thrust into the arms of
the waiting bus-riders, literally into their arms, for
the bus started as soon as she and Johnie could get
in. Johnie had had to call Pete Tiger to take over his
borrowed car, and that had consumed a few extra
“Hey, Di! Hey!” Cecy was calling out. “Come
over here! Here we are!”
But Carol had first chance, and Dianne took her
place beside Carol while Johnie sat directly opposite
They finally started off, and to call it singing
would have been an exaggeration, but the crowd
made that sort of noise, and the bus man couldn’t do
anything about it.
Glenn, Bob, Billy Button and “Mouse,” the boys
down from camp where they were engaged for the
summer to help other boys, seemed each trying to
outdo the other in not only having a good time but
seeing that everyone else had the same.
Perhaps the back woods in the deep lakeside
mountains where their boys’ camp was situated, and
perhaps their endless routine of teaching youngsters
to swim, to row, to paddle a canoe and even to salute
Old Glory, becomes monotonous when there is no
change in the schedule. At any rate, the boys liked
this bus ride and they wanted the world to know it.
Dianne said to Carol: “Isn’t this glorious?”
“I’m so glad you came,” Carol told her, pressing
the soft, white hand that lay so gracefully on
Dianne’s blue skirt. “Johnie said he’d bring you.”
“He didn’t have to, I came,” laughed Dianne,
while Johnie, on the opposite seat, was not
successfully hiding his pride in having the “prettiest
girl in the bunch.”
But Drew Bradley had seen Dianne and Drew
was “that conceited fellow who didn’t belong.” He
was only visiting in Melody Lane, but did he “throw
Making eyes that nobody bothered about, and
impolitely neglecting Marion Wallace, as nice a girl
as any boy would want to escort to a bus party or to
the dance at Grand End, which would follow the
ride, Drew now swaggered down the aisle of the
rolling vehicle until he reached the seat where were
the girls, with Johnie and Glenn opposite. There he
stopped, held on to the upper rail and started in to be
smart with Johnie.
“How are sodas today, Johnie?” he asked
ridiculously, looking straight at Dianne, of course.
“Oh, didn’t you know?” spoke up Dianne
innocently. “I’m at the soda fountain now. Johnie is
in charge of the whole store.”
“Imagine that!” drawled Drew. “And do I love
Carol was pinching Dianne’s arm. Johnie was
saying something under his breath, and Dianne
knew instantly she had made a mistake. She
shouldn’t have spoken to Drew and she should not
have said anything so ridiculous.
Carol stood up. “There are those youngsters
calling us again, Dianne,” she said. “Come along.
They won’t be happy until we see what their fun is.
Take this seat, Drew, you’ll be nearer the boys,” she
said smiling, as she and a very much flushed
Dianne, attempted to make their way to Cecy and
“Oh, I’m so sorry!” Dianne whispered in her ear.
“But I just couldn’t help it. The idea of his making
fun of Johnie!”
“I know, you meant to be kind, Di, but boys
always like to fight their own battles. I’ve found that
out. But don’t think of it again. It isn’t worth a
second thought,” and Carol was already laughing at
Betty and Cecy and the rest of that crowd who were
trying so hard to be funny they were being very
After a general interchange of seats and so much
moving around that no one knew where the start was
made from, or where the finish was likely to be,
Tex, the bus driver, shouted “to stop that noise so he
could listen for trains.”
They stopped a little, but Tex couldn’t listen for
trains. He thought he was hearing something else
and for once Tex was thinking right.
YOWLING AND HOWLING
“You know, girls,” Billy Button had just been
saying, “this old bus is haunted. Don’t be
“Oh! oh! oh!” came a chorus of screams from the
center of the car, at that very instant.
“What is it? What was that?”
“Oh, mercy! Someone must be killed under the
“It’s a groan—”
“It’s a moan—”
“It’s someone crying—”
“Hey, there!” screamed Tex, stopping the big car,
yanking on the brakes, leaving his driver’s seat and
coming back into the car. “What’s the matter here?”
Everybody seemed to. But only for a moment.
That sound, that moan, groan, or whatever it was,
“I’ve got to move the bus, I’m blocking traffic,”
Tex said. “Don’t be scared. We didn’t run over
anything,” and he hurried to take the wheel again to
move his bus in answer to the horns “blowing him to
“Look at Belle Johnson; she’s going to faint,”
Cecy told Carol, for several boys and girls were
fluttering about Belle, who moaned and sighed at
least as if trying to faint. Boys were fanning her with
straw hats while girls didn’t seem quite so excited.
“How silly!” Carol answered. “Why, that noise
isn’t anything to be alarmed about.”
“But listen!” begged Dianne. “There it is again!
What a weird place this is—” She stopped suddenly.
She was again remembering little Flinders and the
wild warning from the woods. And no one here in
this bus knew anything about that.
“Say, look here!” called out Glenn Garrison,
Carol’s school friend, “if you folks will just move
away and let us see what’s under this seat nobody
need do any fainting.”
Which sounded reasonable. In fact the girls and
boys had become a little tired yelling about nothing
but a noise, and the prospect of finding something
else, even under a seat, was interesting.
The boys were tugging at the old leather seat that
seemed to open so many ways that it wouldn’t open
“Here, Bob,” Johnie directed, “see if you can hold
this back steady while I pull the bottom up. Every
time the bottom moves the old back slips down
Of course Tex heard the new racket. With a
grumble of remarks not intended for the ears of lady
passengers, he dexterously steered his bus up
alongside a big tree—it was really dark now—and
then, knowing he was not blocking any swift cars
that might resent interference, he again went inside
to see what was going on.
“Be—careful! Be—careful!” he warned, just as
Bob and Billy gave the old rusty seat such a tug that
it did actually come off, sending the boys sprawling.
While Tex waved them all away and went to the
opened-up seat himself to do the inspecting, Carol,
leaning over the top from the other side, shouted:
“Oh, look! Cats! Kittens!”
“Where? Oh, let’s see!” and the rush to look at
them was perilous indeed for the surprised cat and
“As I live! Our Miranda! She’s been away— And
there she was all the while in the barn under my bus
seat—” But Tex and the pedigree were of no
importance, compared to the girls and the “perfectly
“Oh, can I have one! I adore the youngest
kittens!” That was fainting Belle, but the boys were
not straw-hat-fanning her now. She was merely one
of the crowd.
“The big cat must be hungry,” said Carol, looking
down at the gray-fur mother with her crawling
brood. “When we get to the End we must find some
“Certainly,” agreed Glenn. “That sounds sensible.
Milk for the cats. Who’ll volunteer on this
“And could that cat make all that noise?” asked
Dianne in wonderment.
“That and more. She was shut in there and scared
to death with all our racket, I suppose,” remarked
Carol, while Mary Ballard was so genuinely
fascinated with Tex’s Miranda and her kittens that
she was actually down on her knees in the narrow
place peering in at the now contented family.
“Cats certainly do howl,” said Bob.
“And yowl,” said Glenn.
“And scratch. Wonder she didn’t tear the old seat
apart when we started all that racket,” said Johnie.
“My wife Annie will certainly be glad to find
Miranda,” declared Tex, now going back to his
wheel. “I’ve been fixing the floor of the bus and
there’s one small board out. That’s how she crawled
in. But we can’t use any more kittens,” he said aside,
“so take your pick.”
“Well, I suppose something had to happen on a
bus ride,” Carol was saying. “Something always
does, so I’m glad it was Miranda.”
When a few minutes later Tex pulled into Grand
End, where the little country pavilion band could
already be heard droning out its inviting music, only
Glenn and Carol remembered the committee on milk
for cats. Everyone else seemed in too much of a
hurry to dance to remember anything so trifling, but
she and Glenn went to the wayside stand, Glenn
grabbed up a saucer and a bottle of milk, flung down
the change and it didn’t take long at all to give the
bottle to Tex and catch up with the dancers.
On their way over Carol asked: “What do you
think of Dianne?”
“She’s pretty,” said Glenn briefly.
“Is that all? I thought you would be crazy about
her. Everybody is.”
“Well, that’s all right then, she won’t miss me,”
said Glenn as he helped Carol over the broken
boardwalk toward the open-air dance pavilion.
“She certainly is lovely,” Carol insisted, “and I’ll
bet there will be some jealous girls around after
these little hours of fun,” she finished.
“You won’t be one of them if you mean me,” said
Glenn cryptically. “I like pretty girls but not too
pretty. There she is now, dancing with Johnie, and
Johnie looks okey, if you ask me.”
“Doesn’t he? Wait, I want to take this jacket off.
I’ll leave it at the window.” Then Glenn and Carol
took their place on the dance floor.
The hours of fun were all too short, for Tex
warned them he would not wait for anyone, but
when they were ready to start Dianne was not there.
“She was dancing with Bob. Where’s Bob?”
called out Johnie, not even trying to hide his
“Take it easy, Johnie, they’ll be here. I heard
Dianne say she had to have some pretty post cards.
There they come. Now, Johnie boy—”
“Oh, shut up, Ted!” snapped Johnie as he ran to
hurry Dianne. But he made time to say something
unpleasant to Bob for being late.
“Johnie, please!” Dianne checked him, “don’t be
like that,” and his smile came back as he led her
triumphantly into the waiting crowd.
“Miranda is in a basket; Tex has her all fixed up
fine,” chirped Betty. “And we’re going down to get
our kittens as soon as their eyes are open.”
“You can have mine,” said Mabel Rand. “I hate
cats.” And that started an argument.
Going back, as Cecy said, they sang their heads
off, and it was during that less formal interval that
all the other girls expressed freely their opinions of
the beauty make-up of Cecy and Betty. The two had
decided not to tell who was responsible for the
improvement, and since the actual cost of such a
transformation would have been considerable, great
was the wonder thereat.
“I knew we would make a hit,” Cecy whispered
to Dianne. “Margaret is too proud of her complexion
for words, and she just begged us to tell.”
“Why didn’t you?” Dianne whispered back.
But even Cecy didn’t think it nice to talk shop as
openly as all that, so she just smiled at Dianne’s lack
On the very last lap of the bus ride things quieted
down. Girls finally got back to the seats they had
had when starting off, and to the company of the
special boys who had brought them.
Dianne was with Johnie and Carol was with
“I’ve got a lot of work piled up for you, Glenn,”
Carol told her friend. “How long can you stay away
“Three whole days. But tomorrow I’m busy. Got
to fill a requisition for equipment, like buying
‘sneaks,’ overalls and even towels. Imagine me
picking them out,” Glenn laughed. “But what’s your
job? No more mysteries.”
“Don’t be silly, Glenn. How could we exist
without mysteries? The current number, however, is
rather different. I haven’t seen or heard any ghosties
yet, but things are bound to happen,” Carol said,
“Like what?” Glenn asked.
“I can’t even mention anything just now,”
“Oh, I see. There’s a beauty in it,” he guessed
correctly, turning well around to Carol, thus
avoiding a possible voice drift in Dianne’s or
Johnie’s direction across the way.
Up in Betty’s and Cecy’s corner of the bus they
were again singing, or something like that, but not
exactly. Betty had at once become very popular with
Cecy’s younger set, and there was no doubt about it
that the crowd knew how to have a good time.
“I’ve never been on a ride like this,” Dianne
remarked to Johnie.
“What kind is yours?”
“Oh, I’m not criticizing, Johnie, but this crowd
can get such a lot of fun out of little things it seems
to me. Those cats, for instance,” said Dianne quite
“I guess that’s right, isn’t it?” answered Johnie as
if surprised himself at the bit of information. “But
they were cute little cats, weren’t they?” he reflected
“Johnie, you are a dear,” said Dianne, and she
really shouldn’t have said that. She was thinking of
his simplicity, but he was thinking of her prettiness.
And everyone knows there is a big difference in
this and that.
TWO GIRLS IN TWIN BEDS
Two girls and twin beds. Carol and Dianne in
“Whatever would I have done if you hadn’t been
so kind to me, Carol?” Dianne said sincerely, as they
prepared for bed after the kitten bus ride, as the
youngsters had called it. “It was worth all my
trouble, I mean the loss of the box and everything,
just to have had a chance to become acquainted with
you girls,” she said very slowly.
“Don’t be too sure, Dianne,” warned Carol, “we
have our faults, plenty of them. Here are the pink
pajamas. Let’s see how you look in them.”
“Thanks. Aren’t they lovely?”
“My chum Thally Bond gave them to me for
Christmas,” answered Carol. “I miss Thal; she’s
“I hope she stays,” said Dianne jokingly. “I might
be crowded out if she came back.”
“Don’t be silly! Thally’s wonderful and she will
give you a lot more fun when she comes back.
Listen to those children! They’ll wake Dad; I’ll have
to get after them.”
Alone for a few moments, the visitor for the night
looked about her with mingled feelings of
admiration for the dainty room, and loneliness at the
thought of her own room at Mrs. Black’s, so bleak
in its severe pattern of the spare room in a new
Carol’s room was simple enough but how
different! No sharp corners, no new shiny floors nor
window shades with pieces of cretonne clipped on
the spot where fingers might soil. No linens on
chairs nor scatter rugs to trip folks.
Dianne noticed the two pictures, one on each side
of the high chest. One was of Cecy, a good picture
with that childish smile—the other, she guessed
rightly, was Thally’s, Carol’s chum. That strong,
determined look coming out of those wide-set eyes
gave Dianne the true expression of Thally Bond’s
strong will and good-natured disposition.
But Dianne would have to go back tomorrow to
Mrs. Black’s home, and tomorrow night she would
be watching for that light in the woods; Flinders’
“Shall I tell Carol?” Dianne was now asking
herself. “But that might spoil my chances with
Flinders— What a wild thing she is? But I can’t help
feeling she may know something about the box. No,
I must not be tempted to tell Carol yet. I must try to
see Flinders again soon.”
Her thoughts were racing wildly when she heard
a very light step at the door and Carol was back
“They always find something to laugh at,” Carol
said, starting in where she had left off in getting to
bed. “I thought Cecy was bad enough but Betty—
they call her Bouncing Bett, you know—is simply
“They are both dears,” said Dianne warmly.
“Have you heard anything more about the lost
box?” Carol asked casually, as she slithered out of
her dress and kicked off her slip, picking it up with
one foot, expertly.
“Not a thing,” answered Dianne. “Even Johnie
seemed to have forgotten all about that tonight. He
never mentioned it.”
“Just as well; he looked so happy it would have
been a shame to spoil it. Did you like the ride?”
“Oh, yes, it was an experience for me. The girls I
have gone with always rush into the city to shows
and dash around as if they just couldn’t have a good
time except breathlessly. Your bus ride and little
dance—well, I felt as if I were back in the eighth
grade again,” said Dianne.
“There is a big difference in places,” Carol
remarked. “Turn the comforter down if it’s too
“I like it; it’s so downy,” and Dianne pulled up
the soft, yellow coverlet instead of turning it down.
“But, Carol, I made sort of a break interfering that
time when that boy Drew tried to cheapen Johnie
about his soda work. I’m sorry. I saw at once I
shouldn’t have noticed, but you see, I am quick and
I ought to know better,” admitted Dianne humbly.
“Don’t worry about that. You squelched Drew
and that was a good thing. How did you like the
“Carol, I liked them all too well. I wish I didn’t
have to work in Lund’s or live at Mrs. Black’s.”
“Why, Dianne! What difference does that make?
We all work, if we know how to do anything, and
you will find the girls will just rush you more, when
they get going to Lund’s now for their beauty stuff.
Really, there’s no need to feel that way.” Carol was
surprised. After all, Dianne was a stranger and
perhaps not like the girls of Melody Lane who
would be apt to boast about working.
“You would say that, of course,” Dianne smiled
“But I mean it.” Carol could see Dianne’s face
under the bedside lamp and its expression was not
that of happiness. “But why do you stay at Black’s?
There are lots of other places.”
“Where? I have so little money—”
“Well, the people out that way are all stinting to
pay for those new homes, and I’m sure you can get a
place just as cheap that you would like better,” Carol
“But I can walk to the store from there,” Dianne
“We’ll get the girls to inquire; they’ll love to,
Cecy and Betty I mean. Those youngsters know how
to find out almost anything. Of course, I’ll inquire,
too. But Cecy is a great little circulator, and she
As the intimacy of darkness, with the light out,
drew the girls closer in friendliness again, Dianne
was asking herself should she tell Carol. She knew
instinctively she could trust her not to betray
Flinders. In fact, all along it was Carol who had
begged Dianne to be most careful not to draw
suspicion toward Flinders. But in spite of that, and
in spite of her confidence in Carol’s judgment,
because she would be sure to know Melody Lane
better than a stranger could know it, Dianne held
She seemed fascinated with the very terror of that
queer thing in the woods; she seemed jealous of her
chance to use influence on little Flinders, and she
was experiencing the natural thrill of her first
mystery. This, she was deciding, she could not share
with anyone, not even with Carol.
“I think I had better stay out at Mrs. Black’s for a
while,” she murmured finally. “After all, I was there
when I needed a place, and I know she’s awfully
‘nosey,’ but then, I understand her now, and that’s
“Oh, just as you think best,” Carol was
answering, when Dianne interrupted:
“Don’t think I’m not appreciative, Carol. I do
thank you a lot. And, perhaps, after this week, I’ll be
glad to look the whole town over.”
“All right, Di. Is your window right? The curtain
wouldn’t dare flap; it’s against the rules.”
“Everything is perfect. Good-night.”
Carol turned toward her own window and her
eyes were searching the darkness. What for? Cecy
and Betty had told her they were soon going back to
see if “anything else was happening in the robbers’
nest.” But she had made them promise they would
do no such thing. That sort of adventuring for girls
was not smart at all, but very foolish and very
dangerous. Carol knew that, and in the motherlike
role she had played for years with her younger
sister, she felt now a double responsibility with the
impetuous Bouncing Bett.
“No telling how far she might go,” Carol was
thinking now. “At least I can guess what Cecy might
do but not if Betty said ‘be a sport’ or something
silly like that. Cecy might dive into those woods and
who knows what danger might be there? That sort of
thing can’t be on this summer’s program—” and so
she looked into the darkness of her room and
wondered what would be the summer’s outcome.
Two girls in twin beds! Each thinking of the
woods, each thinking of strange happenings there. In
different woods, or different parts of the same
winding groves, thick and dense; where Cecy and
Betty had seen their “robbers’ nest,” not so heavily
wooded; out where the new development had played
havoc with the fine young forest; where Dianne in
the night had seen Flinders’ wild warning.
Yet neither Dianne nor Carol knew of the other’s
thoughts, nor that the other was, even then,
determining to find out “what it was all about.”
Sleepily Dianne was deciding: “I must see that
girl soon, but I have to go into the store tomorrow
morning. Maybe she’ll come in the store for more
And Carol was thinking: “I promised the girls I
would get Glenn to go to that place and find out for
them, but Glenn can’t go tomorrow. Well, I must do
something to satisfy them to wait, but I don’t know
exactly what. They seem to think there’s a mystery
hidden there, and a mystery—”
Dianne coughed a little. As if she could possibly
guess what Carol was thinking Carol asked quickly:
“What time do you want to go to the store in the
morning, Dianne? I’ll run you up.”
“Oh, thanks, but I must walk. I just have to keep
to schedule in exercise and I’ve been lazy for a few
days. Don’t you hurry in the morning, Carol. I can
“Wouldn’t that be fine?” Carol simulated a groan.
“We’ll let the youngsters sleep if they want to, but
I’m a working girl. I have a practice pupil here at
“Do you like to give music lessons?”
“I suppose I do since I don’t hate it,” Carol
answered drowsily. “But some parents crowd
youngsters so during vacation that it isn’t— well,
you know; they expect too much and get too little.
Let’s try for some sleep now, Di—”
“Yes, we had better.”
There were now no noises from the girls down
the hall, for it was late, indeed, and even the frog
chorus from Slater’s Pond had died down to
Then robbers’ caves and wild warnings were all
one to the two girls in the twin beds.
WEIRD AND MYSTERIOUS
There really was no reason for Carol to drive past
the old quarry, but she did exactly that. Perhaps
being disappointed because Glenn could not go out
to explore the “robbers’ cave,” impelled her to go by
the lonely spot to just have a look around and see if
she could find anything to account for their absurd
suspicion. The other and better reason for her haste
in doing this was to get Cecy and Betty “off their
mystery.” Her arguments and “grandmother advice,”
as they called it, had done little to satisfy them, and
their latest plan was announced at breakfast, after
Dianne had left.
“Why can’t we organize a crowd and all go out
there?” Cecy had begged. “It would be fun,
“Cecy,” implored Carol for an uncounted time,
“Dad wants you to keep out of the woods. You
should know all the reasons why you should.”
“And our cave?” sighed Betty.
“I promise to solve that mystery for you—”
“Oh, all right,” Cecy had grudgingly assented. “I
suppose you have to solve all the Melody Lane
mysteries, so we’ll be generous and give you ours.
Come on, Bett! Let’s go see about swimming or
boating. If it’s too hot for one and too cold for the
“It is,” Carol had answered. “How would you like
to go to the city and do a little shopping?”
They jumped at the chance, so that was why
Carol had a little time to herself and was now
driving leisurely around the shady ways that led
from Katy James’ music lesson back to Oak Lodge.
There may be a hidden fascination in unknown
dangers. Carol wished sincerely that Thally were
home to be with her now; she wished even more
sincerely that Glenn had not been obliged to do that
shopping for his camp boys; for Glenn was a fine
scout, and had helped Carol over many danger spots
in previous adventures.
But neither Thally nor Glenn was with her. Her’s
was the only car on the unfrequented back road, but
it was a beautiful morning; the sort of day that
would give any girl courage.
Where brooks, springs and streams mingle in
deep woods, that lush atmosphere penetrates even
the more open spaces and sends forth more songs
from birds, more queer noises from insects, more
croaking from frogs and a damp fragrance unlike
any other natural symphony. It can be heard a little
way off, it can be scented a little closer and it can be
felt in the meadows and fields surrounding these
To Carol Duncan, with her keen musical ear, this
was ever a cause for wonderment. On the small,
stone culvert that arched the creek just outside the
dark, quarry road, she stopped her car to listen.
“How could there be any danger there?” she
Then something like the faintest strain of music
reached her; artificial music.
Before completing her thought as to what that
might be, there came a whine, a moan or some other
sound entirely different.
“What can that be—”
But after one wild, queer cry, that seemed not
human, yet might have been, there was nothing
more to be heard. Only the birds and little things
continued their swamp songs.
“How queer!” thought Carol. “What was that?”
She started her car and drove down the bend
slowly. Again she was sure she heard a whimper—
“But I must not go into the woods,” she warned
herself. “I must practice what I preach.”
Her car was scarcely moving as she drove under
the sweet honey locust trees that hung low with their
imitation white lilac blossoms and fern-like leaves.
Then she stopped, listened, waited.
“If only a car would come along, or even
someone walking, I would ask them to go in there
with me,” thought Carol.
But no car came, nor was anyone walking that
“Suppose some child is hurt in there,” she
pondered. “That’s where children gather mint and
Then a sound, that was certainly stifled before it
finished, reached her.
“Oh, I must see if that might be a child, hurt or
something,” she then decided.
Leaving her car by the roadside, Carol walked
very cautiously into the lane that surrounded the
spring, along the very path that Cecy and Betty had
gone to look for water cress.
Realizing it might be dangerous to go far into the
wood, Carol left the path, cut into a low growth of
underbrush around which there were no high trees,
and, forcing her way toward a little patch of
meadow, she could look down the glen and yet keep
out almost in the open.
Bracing herself where the underbrush left a place
clear enough in which to stand, she waited and
listened. There it was again; a stifled whimper—
“What’s the matter?” Carol called out, bravely.
She could hear the brush crackle, hear something
scurrying about in the wood, and now could locate
the direction the sound was coming from.
“By the black cedars,” she was saying to herself,
as she very cautiously moved a little closer and
peered into the thick mass of black trees.
“Oh! Mercy!” she suddenly exclaimed aloud.
There was something flashing in those trees,
An arm! A hand! But it could not be human. It
was white, a ghastly white, and it was moving,
making menacing moves at her.
“Oh, I must get out—of here!” she gasped. “What
can that be?” and even Carol Duncan, brave but not
reckless, could not stand there and see that uncanny
thing stretch out at her from those dark trees like—
Over the little stone bridge now Carol drove fast
without waiting or listening. There was something in
that wood, something at least threatening.
Should she call the police?
Her father did not like that sort of publicity, and
in a place like Melody Lane the police affairs were
sure to be well advertised. No, she would wait to see
what Glenn thought about it. He would be back this
evening and was, of course, coming over to Oak
Just beyond the culvert, Carol drew on to the
edge of the road and stopped.
“I’m all in a lather,” she was thinking, with a
foolish sense of relief. “Whew! I didn’t think I could
get so excited. But the thing was so weird and
uncanny. And the way it stretched out that arm, or
whatever it was, made me—creep! I know I saw
She rubbed her handkerchief over her damp
forehead and glanced back at the woods now not
more than tall trees pointing at the sky.
“Cecy said I had to solve all the mysteries here,”
Carol was remembering a little unhappily. “Well,
I’m not going to dash into any silly trap or trick this
time. The old mysteries may go unsolved so far as
I’m concerned. Woods are only woods after all, and
why should I bother about foolish stuff—”
Still glancing back, she now saw a small figure
moving along the very way she had just come over.
“That girl—Flinders! She must have been in
there! And we saw her there the day we drove
Without a moment’s delay Carol turned her car
and started back. As she did so the girl stopped,
seemed to wait a minute or two, and then she, too,
turned and disappeared in the bushes.
“She can’t be far in. I’ll call to her—”
It took but a few minutes to drive back to the
former spot and reaching it Carol again stopped.
There was not a stir, not a sound.
“Flinders!” she called cautiously. Then: “Polly!
Polly! Are you there? It’s Carol—”
Before she could finish, a man stepped into the
“Did I hear you call?” he asked politely.
“Yes,” faltered Carol. “I was looking for a little
“You mean the one they call Polly Flinders?”
“Yes. Where is she? Do you know?”
“Flying away like a little wild thing, she is,” he
answered quite frankly, and Carol saw no reason to
suspect this man of any wrongdoing. “She always
seems in danger yet always comes out safe enough,”
he added. He was holding his soft hat in his hand
and smiling. His hair was fair, his appearance like
that of any other business man, in no way unusual.
He was dressed in a gray suit. There was nothing
Carol could see to mark him as a stranger or
different from other men.
“I guess she’s gone,” Carol said urgently, feeling
she must move on. “Children around here are used
to the woods in summer.”
“Yes, I suppose the mint and the berries attract
them,” and he smiled as Carol started away.
“He might have been walking along and just
stepped in for a sprig of mint himself,” Carol
reasoned. It grew all along the road.
“But he knew Flinders!” Yet, many people did
know the girl who would sell papers or deliver them
for the boys if they would pay her price, and she
would run errands for anyone. Yes, perhaps many
people did know the child whom no one seemed to
care for, and perhaps this business man had even
seen her down at the station with Nickle Nick’s
Carol had plenty to ponder upon. She could not
now refuse to dive into the mystery of the “robbers’
cave.” If Flinders was in any way to blame for the
queer happenings in the woods, Carol knew
something should be done about it.
“But perhaps she should be pitied instead of
blamed,” Carol reasoned further. “Somehow that
child looks too sad, too pathetic, to be blamed for
anything very serious,” she concluded.
Another angle to the mystery. First, Dianne had
seen the child out in the woods when the warning
signal was being flashed.
And now Carol had seen her in an entirely
different part of town, and a white menacing thing
had been moving high in the dark cedars, too high to
have been merely an arm outstretched.
But Dianne had not told Carol, and certainly
Carol was not going to tell Dianne.
HUNTERS AND CLUES
Glenn came over directly after tea. Carol had
been impatient to see him, to tell him about the
woods and to have him go with her to investigate.
He knew Carol too well to laugh at her story, and he
couldn’t see why Cecy should be sarcastic about
Carol’s previous activities, since, as he said,
someone had to get after such things.
“But this time, Glenn, I didn’t care whether it was
Gypsies who might burn our pretty woods down, or
foolish boys who might be practicing Wild West
habits. I was fully determined to let them all slide,”
Carol was telling Glenn. “But there’s that poor little
wild Flinders. No one could say ‘let her slide,’ could
“We couldn’t go out to the woods tonight,” Glenn
was answering in perfect agreement with Carol,
“and I must be at camp by nine-thirty in the
morning. That’s what comes of having a job; I must
be on time.”
“I don’t care how early we go out in the morning.
I would go any time after daylight, say seven
o’clock, if that would be all right for you,” Carol
“All right. I’m used to wet grass in early
mornings, but you had better wear boots,” Glenn
told Carol, jokingly.
It was a pleasant evening and they were walking
along the lanes and drives. Carol Duncan and Glenn
Garrison had been friends through grammar school
into high, and now Carol was especially glad of his
help in this newest hunt for whatever was hidden in
Glenn joked her about it, of course, declaring
Melody Lane had more yarns and mysteries than
any old pirate ship ever afloat or sunk. But since it
was his home town as well as hers, he couldn’t
exactly blame Carol.
“How’s your friend Dianne getting on?” Glenn
asked when more urgent subjects had been disposed
of. “Any more fainting fits or stolen jewels?”
“Glenn, you’re mean,” Carol charged. “Dianne
couldn’t help fainting nor prevent the box being
stolen. But, at least, Mr. Lund wants to keep her in
his store, wouldn’t let her consider another offer she
had, so that’s something,” Carol insisted.
“Yes, quite a lot. But any good druggist would
know that a pretty girl draws trade. However,” he
broke off as Carol gave him a playful but decided
push toward the curb, “she’s likely to be so popular
that we won’t have to worry. I just couldn’t add one
more girl to my list for movies or sodas.”
“You won’t have to add Dianne,” Carol told him.
And then a shout from the other end of the drive
proclaimed the oncoming of those incorrigibles,
Betty and Cecy, so confidences were off for the time
being, at least.
Next morning dawned clear, fortunately, for the
proposed hunt in the woods. Rachel, the Duncan
housekeeper, was not surprised to find Carol
downstairs shortly after six o’clock, for Rachel
believed in Carol and took it for granted the early
rising was not a matter to be questioned. Carol’s
father was not down yet when she hurried out to the
gateway to keep her appointment with Glenn, and
she was rather glad to escape her father’s
questioning, at least.
“Good morning, early worm,” Glenn greeted her.
“Feel like slipping down a big birdie’s throat?”
“Early worm yourself,” Carol retorted. “Hope
you have your rubbers on. Did you ever see such
“I see it every morning. Nothing like camping for
dewfalls. They pick out the camps especially. Well,
how far out?”
Over the little stone bridge and down into a valley
that led to the quarry way Glenn’s car sped along,
Carol trying to make him understand why she felt
she must explore the woods where the white thing
had threatened her the day before.
“Yes, I believe you, Carol. I know it’s Flinders.
But I can’t help believing, also, that you are a little
bit curious. But that’s all right, too. Shall we try to
“No, let’s walk. It wasn’t far, just over at that
clump of cedars, but there’s no path,” Carol
“I’ll make one. I’m a regular path-making
expert,” and he started on ahead, tramping heavily,
and swishing the side bushes with a stout stick.
Carol did not feel like joking but she was glad
Glenn took it all so lightly.
“There!” he exclaimed, poking something with
his stick. “First clue!”
It was an old shoe, battered and queerly shaped.
“There are plenty of old shoes in all the woods, I
suppose,” Carol said, but she was remembering that
Betty and Cecy had found here new clothing, in a
new box, as they described it.
“Discard the shoe then,” announced Glenn,
giving the old leather thing a far fling with his trusty
stick. “Nothing less than skeletons picked up after
“Glenn! Don’t joke like that!” begged Carol,
catching up with him and taking hold of his arm.
“Why not? Isn’t it funny?” Then, as he looked at
the girl beside him, who was thinking of the white
arm that had shot out at her from those dark trees
only a short distance away now, and as he noticed
how serious she looked, Glenn realized she might
really be frightened.
“It was just over there,” she began.
“All right, Carol,” he reassured her. “Hold on to
Uncle Glenn. He won’t let anything hurt his little
“Glenn! There’s something—”
“Yes, looks like part of a tent,” Glenn said. “But
however do you get in there?”
“Betty and Cecy said there was no way of getting
into the place they found except around by the
spring,” Carol told him.
“Well, we’ll beat our way. Get behind me and I’ll
be the pathfinder. There! This brush isn’t heavy, but
the trees are. They’re black,” he finished after a
quick survey of the wild surroundings.
In the very early morning, with the sun only
striking through small spaces, the woods were black,
indeed. But the hunters were now successfully
beating their way toward that spot where the bit of
striped bunting had attracted them.
“Suppose there is someone there?” whispered
“They wouldn’t even be awake this early and we
wouldn’t need to wake them—maybe,” replied
Glenn, still determined to have a little fun out of the
They trudged along. At one point Glenn lifted
Carol over a big, fallen tree and now they were in
“This must be the place,” she began. Then they
saw definitely that it was.
“Looks as if campers had been here,” Glenn said.
“That certainly is an old tent that was once fastened
to the tree.”
“Yes,” Carol agreed. They were now beside the
torn canvas and could easily see it had been
stretched from the tree to some lower brush, thus
forming a crude covering.
“Here are wagon tracks, too. Looks like a small,
toy wagon,” Glenn said.
“Or a baby carriage,” Carol suggested. “Yes,
that’s just about the size track a baby carriage would
make. But, Glenn, honestly, I’m sort of scarey—”
“Not you, Carol. Why, listen to the trucks out on
the road. Everything is stirring now and we are near
enough to shout for the fire whistle if we need help.”
Nevertheless, she kept close to him. She had seen
that menacing thing yesterday, and how could she
know it was not actually hidden near them now?
“A dog has been tied here,” said Glenn next, for
beside him was a young tree with its bark both bitten
and scratched off. Certainly a dog must have been
“Just boy campers, I suppose. The kind I told the
girls about,” Carol was saying. “Small boys always
do things like this in vacation time.”
“Yes; it looks that way. But what about the
ghostly arm? Let’s see if we can find any trace of
“It was high up,” Carol told him, “it might have
come from a tree.”
“Yes; here’s where the climbing was done, too,”
Glenn found out. “This tree has been climbed lately.
See how the small branches are knocked off and the
bark is all scratched.”
“But the clues don’t lead to anything,” Carol said
in disappointment. “It all looks like the work of
“Not much traffic, and not many boys. Looks to
me more like a woman’s footprints,” Glenn was
figuring out, as he closely observed the marks in the
“I can’t believe it was Flinders,” Carol reasoned.
“She could never have put up that canvas, made that
white thing wave from a tree, wheel a wagon around
and get out of here when I saw her on the road.
Besides, I heard that awful moaning or stifled cries.”
“No, this is no girl’s rendezvous,” Glenn agreed.
“Any Gypsies around?”
“They are not allowed near town, you know.”
“Oh, yes, that’s so. Well, I can’t see any more
clues and what we have found don’t seem to mean
anything,” Glenn concluded.
Carol was kicking at something. “What’s this?”
she asked. “Oh, it’s a mouth organ, a little one—”
“Let’s see,” Glenn picked up the very small shiny
article. “It has letters scratched on it. See? ‘P. S.’
Maybe Peter Smith,” he concluded quickly.
“Oh, drop it, Glenn. It might have germs,” Carol
protested, and Glenn dropped it as if he had seen the
“I can’t seem to suit you with my discoveries,
girlie, and I haven’t much more time,” he said.
“All right; let’s go,” proposed Carol. “I suppose it
was sort of silly for me to make so much of this, but
I haven’t forgotten the disappearance of the priceless
box from the substation, you know.”
“Was it priceless?”
“Mr. Lund inferred as much. But the owners
wouldn’t allow any investigation,” Carol said as
they both started toward the road.
“I’ll bet they’re investigating, all right,” Glenn
declared, “but not so as anyone would notice it.
There will be a big story about it some day, you see
if there isn’t.”
“Perhaps. Let’s see, we must not forget about
these diggings after all our trouble. There was a
child’s shoe, a climbed tree, part of a tent, small cart
“And the P. S. mouth organ,” Glenn interrupted.
“Come to think of it, I did hear a few notes of
“That thing couldn’t make music, Carol; just
squeaks, I’d say.”
“All right, squeaks, then,” agreed Carol.
THE REAL QUESTION
Reaching the road, they waited for a car to pass
before starting their own. The other car was driven
by a young man, and as he passed, both he and
Glenn raised their hats.
“Know him?” Carol asked in surprise.
“Yes, do you?” replied Glenn.
“I met him yesterday.”
“So did I.”
“At the post office. Where did you meet him?”
“Right here. It was after the scare in the woods,
and as I saw Flinders run I called to her,” Carol said.
“He heard me.”
“Oh, that was how. Well, I wasn’t calling at all.
He walked up to me in the post office and asked
about places. When he left, Postmaster Ellis said he
was a United States government detective,” Glenn
“He is a detective, I know. Probably working on
the missing, priceless box.”
“Oh, Glenn!” breathed Carol in alarm, as the
other car, with the young business man at the wheel,
went slowly along the way they were leaving, “he
knows Flinders. He said so, and he saw her out here.
Do you suppose he is after her?”
“No,” drawled Glenn, in complete contradiction
of such an idea. “If anyone wanted to get hold of
that poor kid there would be no need for high-priced
detectives. She’s so much around you can’t miss
“I wondered yesterday who that strange young
man could be,” mused Carol, recalling her
accidental meeting of the day before.
“You would,” teased Glenn. “Well, don’t worry.
If he is looking for clues we didn’t disturb anything,
like an autopsy, you know. And I wish him luck in
locating the body.”
Carol said things to show how much she hated
that sort of joking, but Glenn laughed just as
merrily. He insisted “it was no fun to get out of bed
in the middle of the night and go scouring old moth-
eaten woods without finding anything worse than an
“But there must be a reason for the detective
hanging around there yesterday and today again,”
Carol insisted, ignoring the frivolity.
“Maybe he is going to camp out—”
“When will you come in town again, Glenn?”
Carol asked seriously.
“Can’t say. Depends upon a lot of things; like my
boys making a good showing in the canoe race or
Clippity Burke learning to swim. He’s been at it two
seasons but I guaranteed. And, Carol, you see there
are no girls at our camp so that makes you—well,
fascinating when I do come into town.”
“Very pretty, Glenn, and I honestly do—”
“Oh, yeah, I know. Appreciate my devotion—”
So, being the wholesome happy girl and boy that
they were, the sinister threats of black cedars and
marshy swamps were for the moment forgotten in
But down at Lund’s drug store, at precisely this
same time, Dianne was in a much more serious
Johnie had just opened up shop, everything was
dusted and in spic-span order. Dianne was wearing a
new pale blue smock and it was most becoming,
when a customer came in.
Seeing her, Dianne’s heart actually thumped. It
was the nurse who had posted the missing box!
“Good morning!” she said brightly. “You get in
to work early, don’t you?”
“Yes, I’m supposed to,” answered Dianne,
meanwhile waiting for an order. “It’s a lovely
“Yes.” The nurse glanced around, noticed that
Johnie had disappeared then smiled at Dianne.
“I’m glad to have a chance to talk to you,” she
began. “Ever since the little box was lost I have been
wondering about you.” She seemed kind, pleasant
and in earnest. Dianne was at once interested.
“I’m glad to see you, too,” she answered. “You
must know I felt dreadfully about it—”
“Yes, Mr. Lund told us. But I was sure someone
followed me here that night,” the woman said
“And I was sure I saw someone peering in at the
window,” Dianne told her, also in a low voice.
“Exactly. Because the family I am with cannot
possibly have any publicity, I have not been allowed
to do anything. But, at least, I am glad to have a
chance to tell you that you have never been
suspected,” finished the young woman, who, Dianne
saw, was a professional nurse for she was wearing
the small distinguishing pin on the wide lapel that
showed inside her long, blue coat.
“I’m glad of that.” Dianne flushed, felt excited
and again determined to find out about that box.
“But this is a small place and whoever took it will
surely betray themselves in some way,” she said,
expressing the thought that constantly whirred
through her mind.
“So my folks think, and I hope so,” said the
stranger. “I have been with this family a long time,
yet no one can feel quite the same when such
disturbances occur. But, don’t you worry,” she
smiled, “you are too young and too pretty to be
bothered about such things.” The remark was merely
a kindness, not a criticism.
“Indeed I have had many worries even when I
was much younger,” Dianne spoke up. “You are
probably secure; people are more apt to believe
older folks,” she complained. “Being young and
even being pretty isn’t always a good thing, as I see
“But you don’t have such heavy responsibilities,”
the nurse insisted. “I must watch my little charge
every hour that I am on duty. She is very precious.
That is why the family could not allow any
publicity. If it were merely said that a valuable
article had been lost or stolen, those who are always
watching for such items would know where we are.”
“Oh, I see. You must keep a child safe—safe
“Yes. Her mother is a famous actress—” The
woman stopped suddenly. “But you must not repeat
what I am saying. I merely tried to make you feel
better and wanted you to understand why we cannot
press the search for the box.”
“I do understand, and I thank you for telling me,”
Dianne said. Then, as if wishing to impart a
confidence herself, she asked: “I wonder if you have
noticed that queer little girl they call Flinders? She’s
around all over town.”
“Flinders? I wouldn’t know the name, perhaps.
Why do you ask?”
“Because she ran in and out of here just when the
“She did? Could she have taken it? Wasn’t it put
away safely?” Poor Flinders! Suspicion was ever
“It was time for the collector and I was getting
the mail ready,” Dianne replied, with a little secret
pang at the memory of her own negligence.
“What is the child like?” the nurse asked next.
“Queer looking, her hair cut ridiculously crooked
and she usually wears a sweater even on hot days,”
Dianne described. “I imagine she is about twelve or
thirteen years old.”
“Oh, I do know that youngster,” the nurse said
quickly. “She has an old boat on the lake and always
wants to row me over for ten cents. I couldn’t go in
the old tub even to please her,” she laughed at the
“Yes, she’s always after money,” Dianne put in
remembering the loss of her own precious dollar.
“Children usually are, but most are not willing to
work for it. I’ve seen her in the street too, on the
back road very early in the morning. She has a child
in a queer old cart. I wanted to speak to them the
other day but she deliberately turned around and
went the other way,” said the woman.
“On the back road? Where is that?” Dianne
“On the other side of the little lake—”
“Where the cedar grove starts?”
“Yes, somewhere in that direction,” the nurse
replied, perhaps wondering why Dianne asked. But
Dianne wanted to know. She was even then
determining to go out early in the morning herself,
and see if she could meet Flinders. Ever since the
night the woods were lighted up with the weird, red
warning sign and since giving Flinders the dollar,
Dianne was hoping to see her again.
“I must go,” the nurse remarked as Dianne tied up
her small packages. “I am really glad to know you.
If ever you should need to know me, I mean, if I can
do anything for you, I am Miss Owen, and I live at
the Inglenook. The family name is Steiner.”
“Oh, yes, thank you,” Dianne answered,
determining to write those names down. “I am much
relieved to feel the Steiner family does not blame
me. Good morning!” and as Dianne took leave of
Miss Owen, Johnie was there beside her again, with
the friendly smile and his eagerness to do anything
she might ask of him.
She asked him about the Inglenook and the
“Sure, they’re swells! Over by the lake in that big
place with the high iron fence,” Johnie told her.
“They say the actress, Nora Grant, goes to visit
there. She sent telegrams from the station.”
“Nora Grant?” Dianne repeated. “Oh, yes, she has
a beautiful little girl, hasn’t she?”
“Maybe. But no beautiful little girl ever peeps
outside that high fence,” Johnie said laughingly.
“Unless she is in a car, of course. They have two
That was it, Dianne concluded. The lost box
probably contained something owned by the well-
known actress, Nora Grant, and if it were ever
advertised, the criminals who thrive on that sort of
thing would know where to come to frighten the
grandparents of little Sylvia, Nora Grant’s daughter.
And Flinders was still trying to get money from
everybody. Why? Dianne wondered.
But could that question have been answered, she
would have known why Flinders was Flinders.
A SECRET PROMISE
It was some days later before Carol could again
turn to Flinders and her troubles. Meanwhile Dianne
had vainly tried to see the child, but in spite of very
early morning walks around the lake, as well as
evening watchings from the letter box near Mrs.
Black’s toward that dent in the woods where the
new street ended, she had not had even a glimpse of
the strange creature.
In justice to Dianne it should be said she would
have told Carol about Miss Owen and the baby
Sylvia, but Carol had been giving all her time to
trips out of town with Cecy and Betty, so Dianne
had not seen Carol to talk to. Cecy had rushed into
Lund’s for more Sunrise Cream and Betty had
bought some new puffs, but Carol only drove them
up and they had to hurry back to her car.
Carol had called pleasantly to Dianne and Johnie,
but knew better than to go into the store on a busy
day, busy for herself, that is.
But now Cecy and Betty had gone to Lake View
to visit with Rosilind Wells, sometimes called Rosie
and sometimes called Lindy, depending upon who
To Carol and Cecy she was always Rosie, Cecy’s
jolly little friend who had helped out considerably in
adventures of previous summers. To have the
younger girls go to visit on the pretty, lake resort left
Carol with time to make plans for her own vacation.
This would have to be after the little musical
festival should be over. There was always music to
keep Carol and her pupils busy late into summer.
For Melody Lane, with the famous, great organ in
Cousin Kitty’s (Mrs. Becket’s) home at Oak Lodge,
had really built up its reputation on community
Carol was thinking: “It’s all very well to say that
Flinders is always every place and no one can miss
her, but I haven’t been able to get a glimpse of her in
days. And I want to talk to her. Why should anyone
worry about something they know nothing about?
But I do and that’s a new kind of mystery.”
This would be a good day to again see Flinders in
her familiar haunts. Several times Carol had driven
out on the quarry road but not even the detective, in
his unobtrusive gray suit, seemed to come that way
“I could go over to Cobb’s,” Carol reasoned.
“They must be kind to look after Flinders with all
they have to do for themselves.”
So she would go over to Cobb’s; to the place
where Flinders slept, if she ever did sleep.
Driving along the long country road that was
Melody Lane, out across the railroad tracks and
thence through the sort of village bound to be found
on the outskirts of the better towns, for poor hard
working folks must live somewhere, must buy their
food in cheaper stores and must have their own little
movie house for reasonable recreation, Carol
stopped to ask a crowd of children where the Cobb
They all wanted to answer at once. They all
seemed to shout directions which surely could never
lead one to the same place, and it was a little colored
boy, smart enough to spring up on the running board
of Carol’s car, who finally lisped:
“De Cobb’s is de highest place on de—de—hill
and it ain’t got no front do!”
“It’s a gray house in front of the red barn,”
shouted another boy, who all but pushed a little girl
down in his wild attempt to get that news to Carol.
And the little girl had her hair up in papers and wore
a dress so short it looked like a boy’s blouse with
panties hanging down.
“Thanks!” called out Carol, starting her car and
warning the little colored boy to clear the track.
They were happy youngsters, all these little
urchins, Carol thought, and their very hardships,
their fight for their own, might make of them strong
self-reliant characters. She hoped so. Surely they
should get something out of a childhood that never
Farther along a street that went crookedly up
High Hill, Carol finally found she would soon be at
Cobb’s. There was the small gray house, and there
was the big red barn.
And swinging from a tree that bent over the hill,
swinging on a home-made swing that defied every
law of gravity was, yes, there was Flinders! Going
up and down, over the hill and back upon it again.
And she was actually singing!
Carol had stopped her car and the sight of the
child so happily swinging and singing in the tree
gripped her with the feeling that poets call the power
of sheer beauty. She had seen older people cry when
children sang, the feeling, she was thinking, must be
something like this. Gripping. Fascinating.
“She seems perfectly happy here,” Carol
reasoned. “Why should I disturb her?”
But there was, there must be, something wrong.
She would have to talk to Mrs. Cobb if she were at
home, and if not, she must talk to Flinders.
No sooner had Carol’s car crunched over the
rough stones of the crooked lane, than Flinders,
hearing the sound, jumped from her swing! Jumped
from such a height that she almost rolled down the
hill, only her determined grip on a bush holding her
On her feet in a second, the girl was again up on
the plot of ground around the gray house, running to
the side where the roadway accommodated traffic,
and there she stood waiting for Carol.
What a slim little thing she was! No sweater now
to make her look bigger; bare legs, bare feet, her
really pretty, brown hair curled up on the side she
couldn’t reach to cut close, and even curly around
that other ear, where the left-handed cutting had
“Hello!” Carol called out pleasantly. “Is Mrs.
“Nope,” answered Flinders, “she’s out washing.”
“Oh! We have some extra housecleaning to do
and I thought I might get her to help.” This was an
inspiration, Carol decided.
“Oh—I could do it,” Flinders eagerly offered. “I
can scrub, wash windows and dust. I can work good.
Aunt Kate, that’s Mrs. Cobb, says so herself.”
“That’s fine,” Carol answered, wondering how in
the world she was ever going to ask this child about
those weird happenings in the quarry woods. But she
had to make a start, and Carol Duncan was no
“Say, Flinders,” she began. “You know that day
you were in the drug store?”
“Yes, I know. And I know what happened,” the
little girl interrupted. “And I promised her I’d find
out where that box went.”
“Promised who?” Carol asked in surprise.
“The pretty girl, Dinah—”
“You mean Dianne?”
“Yes. She gave me a dollar and I don’t beg, I
work for the cash, so I’m going to pay her back,”
declared this little creature who was always ready to
work for money.
“You get quite a lot of cash, don’t you?” Carol
said, as indifferently as she could.
“Yes, but it isn’t enough yet. It soon will be,
though. Couldn’t you give me a little work—to help
me get it all?” In saying this the girl stood strangely
still, her voice was eager, and her hands had gripped
the sides of her old dress. Her eyes were fairly
begging that Carol would let her earn more money!
“Can’t you tell me about it all, Flinders?” Carol
asked, believing the only way to reach her would be
“I can never tell anyone all about it,” came the
answer. “That’s in the promise.”
“You mean you have to guard, that is keep, a
“Yes, that’s it; I have to keep a great secret.”
“Oh,” faltered Carol. “All right. I wouldn’t want
you to break a promise.” She had failed utterly in
reaching the heart of this child. Yet she felt this was
all the more reason why she should make sure the
child did not need any help that she could possibly
“Nothing could make me break that promise,”
declared Flinders, and the way her eyes stared
straight ahead made Carol think Flinders was seeing
something no one else could ever see.
“But what were you doing in the quarry woods
the other day?” Carol asked very carelessly so as not
to excite suspicion.
“In the woods! Oh, did you go there?” exclaimed
Flinders. “Was that why—why she had to— Did
you hear the wild warning?”
“The wild warning!” repeated Carol. “What does
“Oh, if only people wouldn’t go to the woods!”
sighed the child. “Wouldn’t you stay out if I begged
Completely mystified, Carol felt she must be very
cautious or this chance would quickly slip away.
“If there was a good reason, Flinders, certainly I
would do what you ask me. But wouldn’t I have to
know why?” she asked gently.
All this time Carol was seated in her car, and the
girl was either sitting on an old bench under the
apple tree or standing nearer the car to be able to
speak in closer confidence. Now she got up on the
car runboard and grasped Carol’s hand.
“Listen!” she breathed. “I would tell you the very
first one, because I like you. And maybe in a very
little while it will be—all done and then I can. But
no one must know now. I told the other girl that
when she asked me.”
“When did she ask you?” Carol naturally
“The night she gave me the dollar,” Flinders
STILL MORE BAFFLING
“Is there no one here? Are you alone?” Carol
asked the girl who had suddenly become excited by
“I’m all alone. The boys have gone for some
wood and the girls have gone swimming. Why do
“Well, if you are not busy just get in the car with
me and we can talk more comfortably. Or maybe
you could take a ride?”
“I couldn’t. Miss Smith might come for her wash.
It’s all ready. We did it yesterday for her.”
“Then just sit in the car. Your dog doesn’t like
me. See how he is trying to get loose.”
“Oh, he’s always like that. He just wants to run.”
Carol had opened the car door and, very
hesitantly, Flinders climbed in.
“Is Mrs. Cobb your Aunt Kate?” Carol asked,
looking at the little home and its humble
“Not really, she isn’t. But Mr. Cobb died of the
flu and my father did, too. So she took me and we
all stick together.”
“That’s the right way to do,” Carol said cheerily,
and she couldn’t, just then, ask anything about
“We get along fine,” Flinders added, as if to ward
off any questions along that line.
“I’m sure you do,” Carol agreed. “But you were
telling me about Dianne. You said she asked you
something about the woods,” she prompted.
“Yes. But she knows I can’t tell. I told her that.
But I think I am finding out something for her,”
Flinders said eagerly. “You know, about the lost
“Do you think you can really find out about
that?” pressed Carol.
“Yes. I do. But I’m not sure. I only found a piece
of green cord—”
“Yes. The box was tied with green cord because I
saw it and I remembered there was a little end
sticking up right on top.”
Carol did not want to show her surprise but she
could hardly hide it. That in the few moments
Flinders was in the drug store that morning she
should have noticed all this seemed remarkable. But,
after all, a green string sticking up on top of a box
might easily attract attention, Carol thought quickly.
Especially when the box would also have been
sealed as required by registered rules.
“Where did you find the string?” Carol asked
very gently. She realized one wrong question might
frighten Flinders off.
“In a little place in the woods—but I’m going to
look again. Maybe I’ll find the box,” Flinders was
“Couldn’t I go and look with you—”
“Oh, no, please don’t. You know, I begged you
not to go in those parts of the woods where the wild
Like a little kitten that would scurry off at the
slightest unexpected move, or even like a bird that
would fly away at the least quickened action, Carol
was regarding the attitude of her young listener. Yet
she must know more about all this.
“You see, Flinders,” she began, taking her hat off
and smiling kindly, “you are only a little girl, and
someone might trick you.”
“Oh, no, not about this, they wouldn’t. They
couldn’t because I can see it,” Flinders declared
“Does Mrs. Cobb know about it?”
“Some. But Aunt Kate is so kind. She is letting
me do it because she knows—how—I feel.”
“About what, Flinders?”
The child dropped her head as if in
discouragement. She worked her thin little fingers in
and out of the torn dress, and her bare feet could not
find rest, but moved up and down against the front
of Carol’s car.
Carol waited. She had already found that the way
to keep Flinders’ confidence was to go very slowly,
just to coax her along.
“When anyone does something wrong don’t you
believe they have to make up for it?” Flinders finally
“If they can, perhaps. But you haven’t done
anything very wrong; you couldn’t have,” Carol
“Why couldn’t I?”
“Because you are too young.”
“Am I? Honest?”
“Yes, I think so. Besides, I don’t believe you
would do anything very wrong. You are not that
kind of a girl.”
“Oh!” Slowly the soft brown eyes were raised in
a sly look of gratitude. “But maybe I did,” she
“I’ll tell you what I think. Do you mind if I
guess?” After a nod Carol continued. “I think you
imagine a lot of things. That you may have made
some mistake or perhaps someone older is making
you think it was very terrible, but it couldn’t have
been. And I think, also, we would get along a lot
better if you would just trust me enough to tell me
something about it all.” Carol was taking quite a
chance in that long speech but she had to for she was
afraid Mrs. Smith might come along for her wash
and spoil everything.
“I’ll ask Marietta,” Flinders said. “She knows.
And if she says I can I’ll tell you.”
“And who is Marietta?”
“A—boy’s.” And Flinders was out of the car with
a spring and presently kicking her toes in the dry
dust around the roadway.
The dog made a wild lurch at his chain and
started to yelp as Flinders left the car.
“What’s the matter with him?” Carol asked.
“Nothing. He’s trained; he thinks I’m going.”
“Oh, of course. He wants to get loose and go with
“Watcher is a fine dog. He can do—a lot of
things,” Flinders said, tossing a stone playfully
toward the animal that had quite a run on a chain
with heavy rope extension.
Another car was coming up the hill.
“There comes Smith’s car,” Flinders said. “But
they can turn ‘round up by the barn and there’s room
for you to pass them.”
“All right. Good-bye, and tell Mrs. Cobb I’ll
come up again to see about the work,” Carol called,
starting her car.
“Couldn’t I do it? I’m awful strong.”
“Perhaps you could do a little,” Carol, smiling,
answered. It was not possible entirely to deny the
look in those brown eyes.
“What a child! I had all I could do to keep from
throwing my arms around her and telling her not to
believe any of that stuff about wild warnings,” Carol
was thinking as she started for home. “Perhaps some
superstitious person is influencing her; she is a
sensitive little thing, and might easily believe silly
stories. Little girls should not be left so much alone
and poor Flinders has to swing and sing and be
alone when other girls are playing together.”
Then came the thought that perhaps other girls
would not associate with Flinders, she was such a
queer little thing and the Cobb family was too poor
to attract folks.
At home Carol found Rachel happy with good
“Thally Bond is home; she telephoned a while
ago. Shall I prepare supper for her, Carol-love?”
Rachel liked Thally Bond and she disliked having
Carol alone while “the youngsters” were away.
“Oh, is she home! I’m so glad! I’ll phone, Rachel.
If ever I missed a chum I’ve been missing Thally,”
and Carol didn’t wait to take her hat off before
getting to the phone.
Even Rachel laughed to hear Carol laugh and
exclaim, and even squeal a little as Cecy would
when she was too happy for words. And after a lot
of that sort of telephone reunion, Carol told Rachel
that Thally couldn’t come to supper but would be
over very soon afterwards.
And she was. A sunburned and freckle-
bespeckled Thally, jolly as ever and so glad to see
Carol—that she chattered like a magpie.
“But I did get a little bit fat, didn’t I?” she sighed,
when Carol told her how fine she looked.
“I’ll soon wear that little bit off, dear,” Carol
threatened. “I’m just bursting with news.”
The two girls were alone and Carol could hardly
wait to hear the most important items from Thally’s
trip, before telling her of the lost box.
“I knew something would happen at Lund’s,”
Thally said when Carol gave her a chance. “Don’t
you remember I told you to watch out for news?”
“So you did. But what did you mean?” Carol
wanted to know.
“Well, that family in the big Inglenook place has
a baby there and they go to Lund’s for all its special
food. And the nurse, a Miss Owen, watches the baby
as if someone was likely to be looking for it,” Thally
“Then she is the one who was posting the box,”
Carol guessed. Of course she had not seen Dianne to
hear that part of the story.
“And that’s probably why they wouldn’t have any
publicity,” added Thally. “For I know they had a
child’s stroller left at the station until they called for
it, because they wouldn’t have it delivered at the
house. Didn’t want even Melody Lane folks to know
there was a baby there,” she finished.
“People are awfully worried about babies lately,
of course,” said Carol, “especially rich babies. But
we haven’t heard of any clues that might lead to
finding the box. It was the most mysterious thing I
“And you happened to be there,” laughed Thally.
But when Carol had gone into Flinders’ story, had
told Thally about that white arm in the woods and
the weird, strange call that Flinders had termed the
wild warning, even Thally with all her joking now
“That poor kid!” she said. “Is she crazy, or
“Indeed she isn’t, she can think faster than I can.
Every time I tried to ask her a question she had the
answer ready before I finished,” Carol said. “But
what in the world can she think she has done that
could possibly be so terribly wrong?”
“Making up for something, do you suppose?”
Thally asked. “Would the people she lives with
impose upon her?”
“No, she insisted Mrs. Cobb didn’t know all
about it, whatever it is. We’ll have to see Mrs. Cobb,
you and I. If that child is not soon rescued from that
delusion, her whole life may be spoiled,” Carol
“There you go! Something else for you to do!”
“But wouldn’t you do it? I just happened to
stumble over all this, you might have if you were
here with Cecy and Betty. They really started the
whole thing when they found what they love to call
the robbers’ cave. They saw a box with some boy’s
clothing in it. I insisted some boys were camping out
there, but no boys could put on the show I saw,”
Carol admitted, “without giving themselves away.
And then there’s the detective to account for. What
is he after?”
“We will see, dear,” Thally promised. “You
surely have needed me. But here I am,” and she
threw two loving, vigorous arms around Carol, “and
I’m all set to make up for lost time.”
THALLY ON THE CASE
“Funny about Dianne,” Carol was telling Thally,
“she said she hoped you would stay away so that she
and I could be more chummy. Silly, of course, but
lately I haven’t had a chance to speak to her. Looks
almost as if she were avoiding me.”
“Which makes it all the more interesting,” said
Thally. “Where do we turn?”
“Next. She didn’t like it out here at all, first. Said
Mrs. Black would watch her too closely. But when I
offered to find her a better place she didn’t want it,”
Carol went on. It was the evening after Thally’s
arrival home, and the girls were on their way to call
on Dianne, to take her for a ride, if she cared to go.
But Dianne was not in, Mrs. Black insisted, with
her usual vehemence.
“She walks around every night, like as if she was
looking for somebody,” said the lady who had a fine
time, apparently, studying the ways of young
“Thank you; we’ll just drive around for a few
minutes and see if she comes back,” said Carol, in
spite of Mrs. Black’s invitation to wait on the porch.
As a matter of fact, Dianne was walking around
and she was looking for somebody—for Flinders.
Ever since the night she had appeared there on the
gutter’s edge, Dianne had been looking, not only at
night out around the woods, but early mornings
around the lake where Miss Owen had met her. But
no Flinders had come.
“Oh, there she is!” Carol exclaimed as the
unmistakable figure of Dianne loomed into the dim
shadows of the street lamp. “Now, remember, she’s
a stranger and doesn’t exactly understand our ways.
We must go easy.”
“Easy it is,” whispered Thally as she pulled up to
“Come on for a ride,” called Carol. “This is
Thally, that great girl you have heard so much
After the usual chatter and some objections from
Dianne because she “had a lot of things to do,” she
did get in finally and off they went for a ride. The
wind blew briskly and the air was bracing, while the
three girls each avoided mentioning the serious
questions so near their lips. Who could successfully
impart or share confidence while flying along at that
“Stop at our house,” Thally invited as they turned
“If you don’t mind, Thal, I must take a look in at
our house,” Carol declared. “With Cecy away and
dad alone I like to report at certain intervals.”
So they stopped at Carol’s. After the “report” she
had to make to her father, whom she found in the
little screened-in porch off his own room, “where
the mosquitos couldn’t find him,” Carol came back
to Dianne and Thally who were on the front porch, if
there was a front to a house so artistically planned as
“Dianne,” Carol began bravely, “I’ve told Thally
some things I haven’t had a chance to tell you, about
She then gave a brief account of her talk with the
girl, stressing the new angles of that queer mystery.
“Any one might guess that Flinders was doing
something she believed she had to do,” Carol
pointed out, “but what could be back of it all? She
changes her expression from one of panic to a look
of almost sublime expectancy from no apparent
cause,” she said, reflectively.
“Oh, hey there, Carol! Don’t go over our heads
like that,” Thally put in. “I just can’t see that kind of
a look on Flinders’ face. Of course, I don’t know
“She certainly is a remarkable child,” Dianne
spoke up. “I haven’t told you about seeing her out
by Mrs. Black’s, Carol,” she added. And then
followed a very sketchy account of that meeting,
with the wild warning in deep-wood lights, and the
gift of Dianne’s dollar most carefully left out.
Dianne had no idea of sharing that secret even with
Should Carol say Flinders had told her about the
dollar? Or what she had said about being determined
to find out about the box mystery for Dianne?
Thally’s next sentence answered that.
“Now, I’m all new on this case,” she said, “but it
seems to me we ought to go slow. As Carol says, we
certainly ought to keep an eye on the child and not
let anything too terrible happen to her. But, after all,
why should anything happen to her? She knows
Melody Lane almost as well as we do, and she’s
been running around here since she was a tiny tot.”
“Well, that’s no protection,” objected Carol. “The
fact that someone is influencing her proves that.
Even the detective knew her,” she finished.
“He talked to me, too,” Dianne said. She seemed
a little strange with Thally, still. “He seems to have
“Could you guess what he was after? I mean did
he give any hint as to what progress he was making
in the case?” Carol asked.
“He did say the box belonged to the Steiners, and
that the actress, Nora Grant, the baby’s mother there,
wanted absolutely nothing said about it. The nurse,
Miss Owen, talked to me also, one day in the store
and she said the same thing, of course, but I couldn’t
guess who the detective thought stole it; that is
whom he suspected,” Dianne finished, haltingly.
“Did you say you knew Miss Owen?” Carol
“Yes, why?” Dianne in turn asked.
“Because that might mean a lot to you in
“Yes. If she could get the actress, Nora Grant, to
indorse your Sunrise Creams, what wouldn’t it do
“Oh, Carol! Do you believe I ever could!”
Dianne’s voice trilled at such prospects.
“Why not? We could try at any rate—”
“Carol, you’re a wiz!” Thally exclaimed. “And
let’s try it out right now. We can phone to Miss
“Oh, no we can’t,” Dianne interrupted, “they
have a private number. We tried to get them from
the store the other day.”
“But dad knows their superintendent. He would
give us the number,” Carol suggested. “I’ll ask
As Carol left them, Thally remarked dryly:
“She thinks of things, doesn’t she?”
“She has thought of a lot of things for me,”
Dianne returned. “But if ever I could get such an
indorsement as that! With Nora Grant’s picture!”
“I wouldn’t wonder but what you could,” Thally
said, “especially if it had nothing to do with Melody
Lane. She wouldn’t want to be located around here.
That would give away the baby’s whereabouts.”
“Oh, the Sunrise folks wouldn’t mention this
small place. Ours is a big New York firm and our
products are really very fine,” Dianne said proudly.
“Here we are!” called Carol, returning. “This is
the garage number, and Mr. Taylor, there, will
phone the house. Then, if Miss Owen wants to, she
will speak to us.”
“Whew!” whistled Thally. “Am I only home one
night? And is all this happening?”
And much more happened a short time later,
when Miss Owen said over the phone she would see
Dianne the next morning at the store. No mention
was made over the phone of Nora Grant’s name, but
the girls were easily able to make Miss Owen
understand their request by saying “an influential
friend,” and a “person whose name would count,”
etc. So that much at least was arranged for Dianne.
In the dining room of Carol’s home, Dianne was
standing, as if dazed, near the phone lamp, and she
looked, as always, pretty, even beautiful. Thally was
ready to say more than that but she didn’t; Carol’s
eyes were warning her.
“She might give you a chance on the stage,”
Thally suggested, “I mean this famous Nora Grant.
All good actresses like to be kind to youngsters, you
know, like being kind to animals!” laughed the
irrepressible Thally, while Dianne and Carol gave
way to such rollicking laughter themselves, that
Rachel poked her head in the door from the kitchen
just to make it unanimous.
“And I can see the finish,” Thally called out in
mock drama. “ ‘Little Dianne Forbes, the beautiful
protégée of the famous Nora Grant, will make her
début at the Highhat Theatre in New York City next
week. She will star in that stirring new drama,
“Three Girls of Melody Lane!” ’ ”
After that it was easy to guess that they all had a
fine time putting on parts of the suddenly inspired
drama, “Three Girls of Melody Lane.” Thally
insisted upon being carried off by a brigand so she
hid back of the couch, Carol “played the orchestra”
with the andirons, while Dianne struck such exciting
poses that she fell in a heap when she tried to
balance on one foot with the other pointing to “a
quarter of six.”
“Just the same,” said Carol, when again they had
collected themselves and had found the normal
mode of expression, “stranger things have
happened.” This sounded quite prophetic, and
Dianne declared whatever came from the meeting
she was going to have with Miss Owen next day, she
would never, never forget what these two girls had
done for her.
“And a lovely time was had by all,” finished
Thally. “Come on, Di, if you want to ride home in
my car. That is, if you are not too high-hat for a
They were scarcely gone when the phone rang.
A GLEAM OF TRUTH
Even in the life of a girl like Carol Duncan there
must be personal obligations; that is, she could not
give all her time to outside affairs. There was her
music, the little spring musical festival which
Melody Lane always celebrated and in which, now,
Carol’s pupils had a very definite part.
The telephone call was from Mrs. Garrison Van
Wye, the local chairman, and she told Carol that her
little pupil, Molly Andrews, had won first prize in
the private test.
“You have given the child more than music,”
Mrs. Van Wye said to Carol; “you have given her an
appreciation of music. I want to be the first to
congratulate you, Carol.”
“Oh, little Molly Andrews! And they will send
her to the conservatory!” Carol was breathless with
the intensity of her delight. “Music can do so much
for girls; I know it. It may sound old-fashioned, but
if I had not my music to air my soul in, it would
And that was perfectly true. However deeply
interested Carol and her friends were in the
sensational affairs of Melody Lane, there was one
channel in which the waters of ambition and talent
always ran crystal clear; the stream of inspirational
“And Mrs. Andrews will be so happy!” Carol
knew as she left the phone still echoing with the
chairman’s message, “because she had music herself
and she wanted Molly to have it. But Cousin Kitty’s
big heart made that possible. I must tell Cousin
A few days later the musical festival was over,
and Carol and her pupils were happy. Cousin Kitty
who lived in the big house, Oak Lodge, had given
the usual gold medal for best advancement, and as
usual, too, she had given Carol a lovely present for
herself; a new large camera with a special lens for
“And now for your own vacation,” Thally was
urging her. “What about it?”
Carol looked lovely in soft green summer silk
with her dark hair and deep violet eyes. Thally never
gave up browns because she was so brown herself
and she always insisted on having something
browner than her freckles. The two chums were
walking briskly in the early morning, back from the
village to Carol’s home.
“When we straighten out little Flinders—”
“Oh, yes, I know.” Thally did know that Carol
couldn’t leave a piece of work like that undone.
“Well, what then?” pressed Thally.
“Now that the festival is over I am going after
that little business conspiracy. I haven’t seen the
“No, neither have I. We’ll call him Mr. Gray on
account of his gray suit, so we can tell who we are
talking about,” Thally suggested. “And, of course,
Dianne is going away. Isn’t it fine that Miss Owen
did all that for her? I feel sure when Nora Grant, the
actress, sees Dianne, she will want her for movies or
acting. Dianne is the prettiest thing I ever saw,”
Thally said seriously.
“Isn’t she? When she phoned me, after she met
Miss Owen to talk over the Sunrise Cream
testimonial, she said she had something very
important to tell me and would see me soon. I am
sure it is about Flinders. You remember I told you
Flinders had told me that Dianne gave her a dollar?”
“Yes; that was a real gift, wasn’t it?”
“And Flinders had promised to get the lost box
for her,” went on Carol.
“And be smarter even than Mr. Gray,” said
Thally dryly. “Well, we’ll see. What time is Dianne
“As soon as she settles up her affairs at Mr.
Lund’s: I imagine this morning.”
So it was not surprising to find Dianne waiting
for them when they reached Carol’s.
She was simply radiant with enthusiasm. The
usual little blue business suit over which she wore
bright smocks at Lund’s was now replaced by a
pretty printed silk, and a single-toned silk coat
completed the ensemble. Then a new, brimmed
sailor hat made her look quite like the modern
Thally did not try to express her admiration this
time for Carol was in a hurry, and so was Dianne.
“I want to tell you about that girl Flinders,”
Dianne began. “There isn’t much to tell but it
seemed terribly exciting to me,” and she told them
about the wild warning in the woods.
“And I saw and heard a warning at the other end
of the woods!” Carol exclaimed when Dianne had
finished. “Of course, it’s all some trick, but what
puzzles me is what Flinders has to do with it. What
is she trying to hide in the woods?”
“And why does she get so panicky about her
promise?” Dianne asked. “Nothing but the big
chance I am getting with Miss Grant would ever tear
me loose from this place until that mystery is
solved,” she declared. “In fact, I have refused the
company’s offer for a better position just to stay
here, but now I must go. And, girls, I’m so excited—
“You should be,” Thally interrupted. “My
prophecy of the electric lights for you, Di, dear, is
coming true so promptly I think I ought to advertise
for a job as a tea-cup reader in the Shady Tree Inn,”
“Girls, you have simply been great to me,”
Dianne began, but Carol stopped her.
“No bouquets, dearie, we’ll see you in the
movies. And when I find out what Flinders is trying
to hide in the woods, who makes the wild warnings
and what they mean, who stole the little box from
Lund’s, and what our detective, Mr. Gray, is looking
for around here, I’ll let you know.”
“Do,” said Dianne, brightly, “that will be nice.”
“But what about Johnie?” put in Thally. “Don’t
you want us to let you know anything about him?
Isn’t he perfectly heart-broken at your leaving him
high and dry like this, Dianne?”
“Oh, I didn’t tell you. Johnie is going to study
pharmacy and he’s just crazy about it. Mr. Lund is
going to help him out, let him work, go to school
and study certain hours in the week. I’m glad he is
getting that chance,” Di said reflectively, “he’s such
a nice boy.”
Again Thally made remarks that were anything
but serious about Johnie and Dianne, of course, but
Dianne had to get a train and Carol was going to
drive her to the station.
The last thing Carol called to her as she waved
from the train window was:
“We’ll be seeing you in the movies!”
“And I’ll bet we will, too,” Thally agreed, as the
train puffed off.
“Now for Cobb’s,” said Carol briskly, as she
turned her car.
“Cobb’s? Whatever for?”
“I’m going on my vacation, you know,” Carol
answered, “and there’s the little matter of Flinders to
be attended to.”
“Carol, I love you when you stick your chin out
like that,” Thally told her. “Only don’t get too bold;
I am still suffering from Aunt Louise’s timidity.
While we were away I looked under two beds every
night. Not that I minded about under my bed—”
“And Aunt Louise failed at reforming you. All
right, Thal; now for the Cobb family.”
And when they got there they actually found Mrs.
Cobb at home. She was a nice, practical sort of little
woman; her bobbed head with its truant curls proved
that. She showed some years of hard work, but Carol
thought she could also see a remarkable tenderness
toward the children—including Flinders, of course.
“When there is nothing else lovely or beautiful
there is always affection,” thought Carol.
Mrs. Cobb began at once to praise Flinders or
“Flindy” as she called her.
“The best little thing, I can always depend upon
her! You wouldn’t believe how that child can work,”
Mrs. Cobb said after Carol and Thally had told her
they came to see about having some summer
curtains “done up,” and casually remarked that they
knew Flinders. As a matter of fact, Carol did want
some curtains done, so felt her call at Cobb’s could
best be explained in that way.
“She does seem awfully anxious to work,” Carol
answered Mrs. Cobb’s assertion. “Why do you
suppose she cares so much for work when little girls
of her age usually want to play? Has she always
been like that?”
“No, not always. But she was always a good child
to give me a hand at anything. My Ellen is two years
older and she can’t hold a candle to Flindy. Flindy
can iron a shirt—”
“Maybe she wants to leave school early and go to
work,” Thally suggested, just to suggest something.
“Oh, no indeed! She loves school and the teachers
say she is smart as a whip. No, it isn’t that,” and
Mrs. Cobb’s tone implied she thought Flinder’s
peculiar urge to work did come from some unusual
“Mrs. Cobb,” Carol said kindly, “we girls like
Flinders, you know she is always so anxious to earn
money that she gets acquainted with a lot of
“And I don’t want her to,” protested the woman.
“We don’t take her money, but she has begged me
just to let her alone for this one month and I hadn’t
the heart to stop her. She’s never given me a mite of
trouble; so kind to the boys and loves the girls and
we all love her,” Mrs. Cobb declared. “And I said to
myself, she might have some little girl’s plan of
buying some surprise; you know how children are.
So I have been letting her do pretty much as she
pleased just lately. But I take good care of the child
and what we have she has.”
“Oh, I’m sure of that,” Carol said quickly, for a
glance at the brave little woman and at the neat
surroundings in the crowded quarters, were too
reassuring to be overlooked.
“But I don’t think Flindy has been herself lately,”
Mrs. Cobb continued. “She seemed to be so upset
because they said she spilled that little boy, Paul, out
of his cart when she was wheeling him, that I know
it worried her. But my children said it was all talk,
that he wasn’t much hurt at all. That they even saw
the little fellow standing by the door one day. But
other folks scared Flindy so, and no one would let
her help mind babies after that, she just took it too
hard. That was really why I let her earn her pennies
in other ways; I felt so sorry for her,” the woman
“Who is that little boy Paul?” Thally asked. She
had been letting Carol do the interviewing.
“Just the child of a young Eyetalian woman,
Marietta, they call her. I guess she’s all right, but she
wouldn’t hardly understand American ways. My
name was Perkins and I’m from Connecticut and my
husband’s family lived in Boston so we are real
Americans,” Mrs. Cobb said with pardonable pride.
“Yes,” smiled Carol. “But where would Marietta
live? I’d like to see the little boy; we might be able
to help. You see, we girls do a lot of little things in
vacation time; just to keep out of mischief,” Carol
“Yes, I know. Girls in Connecticut used to help
others when I was young. Well, I couldn’t rightly
tell you where those Eyetalians live, they move
around so much, but, of course, Flindy will know.
She can tell you. She’ll be back at one o’clock,
because I’m going out for half a day. She never
fails. Here comes my crowd now, for their dinners,”
and the race along the little path that led to the
kitchen door proved this guess correct.
But Flindy didn’t come back.
GONE WITH TEN DOLLARS
“And now, of course, you are going pell-mell to
find this here Marietta!” Thally said that to Carol in
her happy-go-lucky way as they left Mrs. Cobb’s
“No, I can’t. I have got something more definitely
important to do,” Carol answered. “I’ve got to get
Molly Andrews’ medal from the jeweler’s and bring
it out to her. I’m sure they are watching for me this
very minute. The engraving could not be finished
until everything was over, so it is not to be ready
until this morning.”
“Carol, did you ever think of being a
missionary?” Thally asked, still joking. “Because if
ever you do, I have a job for you. I need to be
This little sally merely served to give both girls
cause for a merry titter, but even Thally, with her
incurable hilarity, knew there was “something
serious in this Flindy business.” She said so to
“And that poor woman believes Flinders just has
some foolish childish notion about a surprise or a
present for somebody,” Carol commented,
answering Thally’s remark. “Well, children are not
all babies, especially children forced to grow up too
soon. I didn’t want to frighten Mrs. Cobb, but I feel
she has made a great mistake in too much gentle
kindness. It has blinded her to facts. Flinders is
doing something with that money, that she feels she
has to do. Not just because she wants to do it,”
“That’s exactly what I thought. Of course, we are
going to hunt up this Marietta person,” Thally said,
“she is the one who will know what’s what.”
“Yes, that’s our next job. Can you go tomorrow
“I wouldn’t miss it. And you have been running
this down without me for weeks? Why didn’t you
tell me when you wrote?”
“Now, darling! Did you expect me to write a
book? But seriously; you see it was Dianne who was
so determined to find out what happened to the
precious little registered box, and Flinders had
promised to help her. These queer promises of
Flinders must keep her pretty busy,” Carol finished.
“Worse than the old tower stuff and the cave
story and even our one and only real ghost,”
commented Thally, referring to the first three stories
of this series. “And she’s such a little tot to hold a
promise as sacred as all this. Are you going to drop
the box secret now that Dianne has ‘lit out’ on us?”
“I think we will find it all tied up to the same
mystery,” Carol reasoned. “Remember there had
been a face at the window the night before the box
disappeared. Then there were these woods affairs
that Flinders called the wild warnings. You know,
when Glenn and I searched the quarry woods there
was no mistaking the evidence of some persons
having been there doing such things as climbing
trees and also making wagon tracks.”
“I know; and the dog. Don’t forget a dog had
been there,” Thally reminded her.
“And the little mouth organ. Naturally it all looks
like a boy’s camping outfit. Well, I think we will
soon know. I hope nothing happens to little Flinders
in the meantime,” mused Carol.
“Happen to her! Why, what could?”
“What couldn’t? You can’t believe, now, that all
this stuff has been done by jolly youngsters.”
“No, I don’t think it has.”
“Then, somebody must have Flinders in their
power, completely dominating her. It certainly isn’t
nice little Mrs. Cobb, therefore, until we find the
right party that child is in danger.”
“You are right, old Carol, always right,” and
Thally laid an affectionate hand over Carol’s. “And I
have come to believe in your doctrine. You know,
you told us long ago that when a human need comes
right up to your door—I should say to your lane, of
course—then, it’s your job to attend to it.”
“Yes, dad always preached that to us, and it
comes natural to us now. Even Cecy couldn’t rest
after she found those things in the woods. I suppose
she imagined all sorts of things too silly to
mention,” Carol said kindly.
“Like kidnaped kids and children hidden in
dugouts,” suggested Thally jokingly.
“Well, such things have happened. But I guess we
won’t find anything as bad as that in Melody Lane,”
Carol concluded. “I may see you this afternoon,” she
added, leaving Thally at her drive, “but it will be
late. I’m going to clean up everything I have to do
with this season’s music, this very day. Goodbye,
and thanks for your wise advice and everything.”
“If you would take my advice, dearie, you would
wire your friend Glenn to come home running.
When this thing opens up you are sure to need a man
“Not with you, Thal. You and I always make a
light brigade. Good-bye again,” and the trusty little
car rolled off.
The next big thing happened quite late that same
night. Cecy and Betty had telephoned, begging
Carol to come out to the lake for a few days. Glenn
had called to say he would be in town in a few days.
Thally had phoned that her folks all insisted upon
going away in a few days, and finally Carol had
declared to Thally that this mystery would have to
be cleared up in a few days, for she was going away
Then, after a quiet hour, she heard a pounding at
the back door. Rachel was in bed so Carol went to
answer. Opening the big door she saw, through the
screen, two boys with a lantern.
“Is Flindy here?” one asked. “We’re the Cobb
boys and we were sent to find her.”
“Why, no,” Carol answered in surprise. “Why did
you think so?”
“Oh, we didn’t exactly think so,” said the other
boy a little shyly, “but we had to look.”
“Yep, because she’s gone and so is Ma’s ten
“She’s gone! And your mother’s money!”
“Yeah! But Flindy never stole anything, she
wouldn’t do that,” the first boy asserted.
Actual fear clutched at Carol’s throat. Something
had happened to little Flinders! And she, Carol
Duncan, had felt that something would happen!
“Come in, boys.” She opened the screen door.
“There; we’ll just sit here in the kitchen.”
“I’ll leave the lantern outside,” the taller boy said,
opening the door again for that purpose.
“What’s your name?” Carol asked the boy who
“I’m Tom and this is Ben,” he replied. “You see,
Flindy really is our sister, Ma says, although she
wasn’t just born in our family.”
“Yes, I know,” Carol assured them,
understanding exactly what they meant. “And you
say she hasn’t come home? What has happened?”
“We don’t know,” said Tom, “and we’ve looked
about everywhere for her. Of course, we’ve got to
find her so we can’t stay long here.” He was on his
feet again and his brother also jumped up from his
“She never came home this afternoon and Ma
expected her,” said Ben. He was a chubby little
fellow with curls like his mother’s, only shorter.
“I’ll go help you look for her,” Carol volunteered.
“It isn’t so late and we can go in my car. But
“Well, we got to go to Marietta’s; that’s out by
the paint factory. She goes there a lot,” Tom said.
“All right. You just wait here while I tell my folks
and make a phone call and I’ll be right with you.”
The phone call was for Thally. Excitedly Carol
told her all she knew, and after saying a word to
Rachel, she was soon out at the garage getting her
car. She kept asking questions but the plucky boys
said not a word that would reflect on Flindy, in spite
of the fact that the long-saved ten dollars, which
they had all chipped in for, was gone with her.
“Who is Marietta?” Carol asked, as she made sure
both boys were safe in the rumble seat of the car.
“She’s Paul’s mother,” Ben said.
“And who is Paul?”
“The little fellow that Flindy tipped out of his
carriage,” Tom answered. “She didn’t mean to, and
we didn’t think he was much hurt. But his mother
was in the hospital and everybody made an awful
fuss about it.
“When was that?” Carol continued to ask.
“Just after Christmas. I remember because we
sent him some of our things. Flindy begged so for us
to do it.”
They stopped at Thally’s and picked her up. She
climbed in beside Carol, showing no more surprise
than might have been expected of a nurse who had
been called to an ambulance.
Just a few words of explanation to make it more
simple for the boys, and on they sped, to look for
The night was dark enough in the narrow streets
they were now going through, so Carol gave all her
attention to the wheel. All, that is, except for her
feeling of anxiety for Flinders, her worry about
where the child could possibly be, and that stifling
fear that something awful might have happened to
“You got to turn under the railroad trestle,” Ben
ordered. “The house is on the corner. It has a sign
about washing but you can’t see that now.”
Ben and Tom agreed to wait outside of Marietta’s
place as Carol had suggested. For all four of them to
enter at once did not seem wise. “Too much of a
crowd,” Thally explained.
They went up a narrow stairs lighted with a single
unprotected gas jet at the top. On a door in the
corner the number 9 could be discerned.
“That’s it,” whispered Thally. “Let me knock.
I’m bigger than you.”
So she knocked. A moment later a low voice
“Who is there?”
“A friend of Polly Cobb’s,” Carol answered.
“May we speak to you?” “One moment.”
They waited several minutes. Then the door was
opened by a young, dark-eyed woman, pretty in a
foreign way and wearing a bright yellow kimono.
“What is it, please?” she asked.
“We are looking for Polly Cobb, little Flinders,
you know. Have you seen her?” Carol asked.
“Little Polly? She was here before noon, not
since.” The woman spoke with but the slightest trace
of accent, and seemed quite Americanized.
“She hasn’t been home and they are all excited
about her,” Thally ventured. “The Cobb boys are
“The Cobb people are good people and Polly is—
like a wild angel,” said the woman. “I would ask
you in, but he is sleeping.”
“Little Paul?” pressed Carol.
“Yes. Do you know him?” There was surprise in
“No; only that he has been sick. Is he better?”
“Yes, I am sure he is. But yet we must wait.”
“What for?” Carol bravely asked.
The young woman rolled her eyes in a gesture of
silent resignation. “He promised us in one month
“You mean—a doctor promised?”
“Yes, a secret doctor. We promised too. We
“I wish you could tell us,” Carol said gently.
“You see, we have lived here all our lives and we
know all the good doctors, or at least who they are,”
she said pointedly.
“Yes? That should be so. His name is Professor
Sandry. Do you know him?”
“A professor? From some college?” Thally
“He don’t say. But an old woman, a nurse I had
when my boy was born, she told me he cured her
Thally and Carol exchanged knowing glances.
This was the old story of superstition of believing
that men who talked “big” could perform miracles.
“And he took Polly’s money?” Carol asked. She
had no time for caution; those boys were downstairs
“Did she say that?” the woman asked, forgetting
“Oh, no, no indeed. Polly said nothing like that,”
Carol answered. “She said she had to keep a
“Yes, so must I. Polly is a good girl. She will get
all her money back, every cent. My folks will send
for me and Paul to go back to Italy, just as soon as
little Paul can go.”
Carol and Thally were beginning to understand.
But they must hurry.
“Mrs. Stonelli,” Carol said very earnestly, “we
cannot waste any time. Something may happen to
little Flinders. Please tell us what you know, where
you think she might be. You see, no promise should
keep us from helping that poor child.”
“But I don’t know.” The woman surely was in
earnest; her dark eyes darker with sympathy for
Flinders. “I would ask you in, but—”
“We couldn’t wait, thank you,” Thally said.
“Perhaps the boys will know where else to look. It is
getting very late.”
“I would go with you, I would do anything for
“We will have to notify the police,” ventured
Carol, about to leave.
“The police!” The woman’s face went white in
the uncertain shadow. “No, no! Please not that! He
would kill my Paul! Please! Please! Don’t do that!”
The woman had seized Carol’s hand and her breast
was heaving in this sudden burst of excitement.
“Oh, all right, Mrs. Stonelli,” Carol assured her.
“Perhaps we’ll find her without any more trouble.
She may even be at home now. But we must hurry.
Could we come again? Tomorrow, perhaps, we
would all be—less excited,” Carol said, trying to
leave the woman without causing her any more
excitement, and at the same time trying to make it
possible to come again.
“Yes, yes, tomorrow. I am going to make sure
now, anyhow. I have done all, everything he asked.
Now, I will wait no longer. And never fear, little
Polly will get her money back, every penny! She has
worked like a slave because I had to stay with the
boy. Oh, you do not know all the things I have had
to do—” The girls were moving down the stairs but
the woman was talking quietly as they left.
“That’s just as clear as—mud,” said Thally when
Mrs. Stonelli could no longer hear. “Can’t stand the
“Never mind, dear. Where are the boys?”
“Carol, you haven’t a breath left. You can’t go
under just because—”
“But, Thally, don’t you see what has been going
on? Some man, who says he’s a professor, has been
making them get money to have some foolish cure
for the boy. That’s what Flinders has been slaving
for. And if she didn’t have enough to meet his
demands, of course, she thought she had to take that
ten dollars from Mrs. Cobb. Ben! Tom!” Carol
called, poking her head out of the doorway. “Oh,
here you are—”
“Did you get her? Was she there?” both boys
seemed to ask at once.
“No, but maybe she’s at home now. We’ll drive
“Don’t worry, Ben,” Thally tried to soothe.
“We’ll find her. Very likely she is at home.”
But before they turned into the hill road they were
met by Mrs. Cobb and the girls, Ellen and Alice.
“Oh, it is too dreadful!” Thally finally admitted.
“Wherever can the child be?”
“Ben, does Flinders go swimming?” Carol asked
before they could speak to the rest of the Cobb
family who were waiting at the corner.
“No, she wouldn’t go swimming. She likes to but
not until Ellen and Alice go with her. No, she ain’t
drowned, we know that. She’s just lost.”
“Lost around here! Where she knows everybody
and everybody knows her!” Carol said, sadly.
Then there were the others to whom the matter
must be explained. Mrs. Cobb had heard all sorts of
rumors from children and neighbors to whom she
had appealed, and perhaps some of the absurd
rumors held more than a grain of truth, for had not
Polly Flinders been taking part in some very strange
Certainly both Thally and Carol could guess
much from some of Mrs. Stonelli’s guarded
remarks. At least they knew where the precious
money had been going, for the “professor” was
getting that to “cure” little Paul, and Flinders was
gathering it everywhere she could earn it so as to
pay for Paul’s cure because she had been pulling the
cart when it tipped over and injured him.
All this had flashed through the minds of the girls
in the few moments they stood at the woman’s door.
But now, here was Mrs. Cobb and yet no trace of
“I let her run too much,” bewailed the woman,
“but I never dreamed of trouble. A detective was
“A detective!” the boys interrupted together.
“Oh, that’s all right,” Carol put in. “We know
what he is after. It really hasn’t anything to do with
Polly except that she was in the drug store one
morning when a box was lost. I was there myself
and I saw Polly. She just dashed in and out, but they
have to question everybody, you know.”
“Oh, is that it?” sighed Mrs. Cobb. “I’m so glad.
Not that I think the child would touch a pin, for I
know she wouldn’t. The ten dollars from the pitcher
is gone; but you’ll see, she’ll bring it back.”
But while the hunt for Flinders went on so
unsuccessfully, where was she? What was she
All afternoon she had waited and watched from
behind the big broken fence out where the Italians
lived, because Nickle Nick, the little paper boy, and
his sister Agnes had told her to.
“Watch the back door and watch the alley,” Nick
had warned. “He’s got to come that way and when
he does, run and tell me. Then we’ll get it.”
“Are you sure, Nick? This is Aunt Kate’s ten
dollars and it’s all we’ve got,” pleaded Flinders.
“Sure I’m sure. Did I ever fool you? You see, I
have to tend the paper stand out front, but I’ll come
a-running when you tip me off. He’s slick and we’ve
got to work fast.”
“But it’s so late and I’m hungry.”
“Aggie’ll fetch you stuff. Sit there on the box. Do
you like seed-buns?”
“And bananas and maybe a little bottle of milk.
Don’t worry. We’ll be right here. I’ll go get Aggie
to fetch your supper.”
Flinders could trust Nick. He had always paid her
right for minding or selling his papers and his sister
Agnes had given Flinders the brown sweater,
besides stockings and two pretty rose dresses. They
were worn out now because Alice Cobb had one, but
they were the best things they had had for a long
But Flinders was frightened now. It was dark
behind the fence. Suppose the man she was
watching for should rush out and make a dash for
that hole in the fence? If he did, he would surely run
right over her.
But Nick told how he heard Policeman Tim Clark
talking to another man when he bought his paper,
and he said they had run down “Old Gazooks” and
had him now sure. And judging from further
remarks, Nick was sure Gazooks was in Granny
Brick’s attic. Then Nick breathlessly exclaimed to
“And he’s got it. I know for he tried to sell it! So
all we have to do is to get into Granny’s quick as he
runs out. See Cap Clark there on the corner? He’s
just waiting for a signal—”
“Oh, Nick, I want to do it, I’d rather do it than
anything else in the world,” Flinders told the boy.
“But I’m so afraid it won’t work.”
“It will! Didn’t you ever see this here Gazooks?
He sneaks around and pretends he can do magic.
Says he can cure folks—”
“Cure folks! You don’t mean Professor Sandry?”
Flinders exclaimed, breathlessly.
“Professor nothing; not this guy! But just wait a
little longer. Then Pete will take the stand and I’ll
come over, too. Aggie will bring your stuff right
So Flinders waited and Aggie came. Aggie was a
little older but she was kind to Flinders, and huddled
together they whispered there on the broken box
while Flinders ate the good things Aggie had
“If only I can get it!” Flinders breathed again and
“Sure you can. You know our Nicky could be a
detective if he wanted to. He’s awful smart. He has
helped catch more than one thief around here,”
declared the loyal sister Aggie. “You see, everybody
comes to a paper stand and everybody talks around
there. That’s how he found out all those tips he gave
the police. And he never talks to anybody else—
Nicky knows better.”
So the girls waited, Flinders growing more and
more anxious as the hours passed, for she knew
what must be happening at home.
“I can’t wait much longer,” she protested to
Aggie. “I gotta go.”
“Nick will be here any minute. The nine o’clock
bell has rung, so he’s closing up now,” Aggie tried
to assure her finally.
“But he hasn’t come out!” Flinders sighed.
“Then maybe we’ll go in,” whispered Aggie.
But a shuddering Flinders clung closer to the girl
who could say anything as terrible as that.
To go into Granny Brick’s attic!
That would be awful!
Nicky came, as Aggie said he would, a little later.
“Did you see anyone go out of Granny Brick’s
back door?” he asked the waiting girls.
“No, no one went out, and our eyes are stiff
looking,” Aggie answered.
“And I just can’t stay a bit longer,” Flinders
“All right, okey, let’s go!”
“Where?” exclaimed Flinders anxiously.
“To Granny Brick’s—”
“Oh, I couldn’t! I wouldn’t dare!”
“What ails you, Flindy? Are you making jig-saw
puzzles? Come ahead. I’m not afraid of Gazooks nor
of Granny Brick either. Didn’t I used to fetch her a
half pound of cheese and three eggs—”
“Come on, Flindy,” Aggie urged. “It’s all right.”
Clutching that precious ten dollars in the corner
of the tied-up handkerchief, poor little Flinders
followed the lead of these fearless, sturdy
youngsters. Certainly Nick knew his way around.
“Come on, come on,” he urged. “It’s so dark
“But we are not going in?” Flinders protested.
“All right, I’ll go first.”
Aggie and Flindy hung back against the broken
porch-rail while Nick tried the door.
“Nope, locked,” he announced, “and all lights
They looked over the dark, forbidding windows
of the old, ramshackled place. Not a light broke the
“Nobody lives downstairs,” Aggie said. “You
know, Nicky, those Polacks moved away.”
“Yes, and Granny’s deafer than a post. Well,
come on out back. We’ll try that.”
Scuttling around through the cluttered alley, they
reached the rear door. Nicky tried that.
“And that’s locked!” he promptly announced.
“All our time wasted for nothing!” groaned
“Not by a long shot it ain’t,” Nick answered. “I
have a couple of tries to try. Here, Aggie, hold my
flash-light,” he ordered, “but don’t shine it.
Someone might be watching.”
That last remark was another reason why Flinders
wanted to run away. She was afraid someone might
be watching for her.
“Don’t be silly!” whispered Aggie, at the same
time holding Flinders’ hand tighter. “We won’t let
anything happen to you. We know everybody around
“But suppose that old Gazooks—”
“Think he’s hiding here some place?” Nick
stopped to ask. He was trying windows and had
looked at the slanting, old cellar door. “Well, don’t
you worry. I’ll bet the cops came right in here today
and got him. I know they have been watching him
for a couple of days.”
“But if they got him how could we get what we
want?” Flinders asked timidly, still afraid to even
mention what “it” was.
“Now, just you wait. This ain’t no time to tell
stories. We gotta get up to that there attic. See,
there’s a light up there. Granny Brick reads a lot.”
“The wash-line pole goes up to the back porch,”
Flinders said desperately. “See, they put the things
on from the—”
“You’re right, kid. Why didn’t I think of that?”
Nick remarked, still talking in a low tone and very
quickly. “But I would have, in another minute. Give
me the flash, Aggie. I’m going up!”
With a nimble spring he grasped the lower
climbing-irons on the big pulley pole, and, before
they could entirely realize it, the girls were
breathlessly watching him move up, step by step,
only a dim, distant, street light casting the faintest
gleam past the old house and into this dark spot that
was a back yard.
“Careful, Nicky,” Aggie warned, and Flinders
could feel the sister’s fingers twitch as the two girls
still held hands.
“He’s up! He’s up!” murmured Flinders. “Oh,
Aggie! Suppose someone—grabs him up in that old
“Say, listen, Flin,” Aggie said, just a trifle
sharply. “You know what it is we’re after, don’t
“Yes, of course.”
“Then it’s worth a lot of trying for, isn’t it?”
“Not enough to get Nicky hurt or anything.”
“Don’t worry about that. Listen!”
The boy was now actually standing on the old
porch near that attic door, and he was excitedly
hissing down at the girls standing below.
“Hey! Listen! Stay there! Don’t worry. Wait!”
“Oh, he’s going in—” began Flinders.
“Cer—tain—ly. Did you think he was going to
stay out?” Aggie’s nerves made her tongue sharp.
Flinders stopped her wailing, at that rebuke. She
felt like crying, like running away, like hiding, oh!
like doing anything in the world except waiting
there in the dark.
They listened to Nicky knock loudly, but Granny
Brick was deaf and she wouldn’t hear. Then the
click of a door— Yes, he had gone inside!
Aggie might boast of her courage but she needed
“Granny is all right,” she whispered. “She used to
have a nice little dog. I often took it out for her. She
won’t let anything happen to Nicky.”
“No,” answered Flinders vaguely.
They waited. How long it seemed! And they
couldn’t hear a sound. Finally Flinders got so
nervous she declared she was going up the pole
herself to see.
“You can’t!” Aggie objected. “Climb that pole?
“Sure! That has easy climbers on it and if I can go
“Well, you’re not going up that pole—”
Someone was opening the front door! They could
not see the door but they heard the knob rattle and
heard the door yanked open.
“Oh, where can we hide?” begged Flinders.
“I’m not going to hide,” protested Aggie. “I’m
going to—” but before she could finish they saw
Nick running around the house.
“Come on! Come on!” he called. “I came down
They did not have to be urged, but hurried to
where he stood.
“It’s all right. Granny says to come up,” he
“Come up? I won’t!” protested Flinders.
“You’ve got to. She won’t give it to anyone else,”
the boy snapped.
“But here’s the price, the ten dollars,” and
Flinders was untying the grimy handkerchief.
“No, sir. I won’t have nothin’ to do with the
money, nor with it either. I told you I’d show you
how to get it, but you’ve got to do the rest. Are you
coming up?” demanded Nick.
“Come on,” commanded Aggie, giving Flinders a
“Oh, all right. But here, Nick, please take the
money. I might lose it,” Flinders argued.
He took the bill. “Here, this way. Look out for
that sill; it’s broke,” Nick told the girls as they
followed him into the old house.
Up the stairs, now, they walked lightly, in the
path of the light Nick was flashing for them.
“Are your feet sore?” whispered Aggie, for she
saw the old “sneaks” scarcely sticking on Flinders’
“Not very; I’m all right.”
“Sure! I knew you’d be a good sport,” the other
“Look out for them loose boards. One flew up on
me,” again the boy admonished.
“Sure no one—is in any of these rooms?”
whispered Flinders as they passed along upward.
“No, not a one. The place is too old; they just let
Granny live here free.”
They were at the top; a door was open; a light
“Here, right in here. She can’t hear, you know,
unless you shout.” Again that was Nick.
And there was Granny Brick. She was sitting in
an old rocker, a lamp on a table beside her, a paper
in her lap. And surely there was nothing there to be
Flinders breathed a deep sigh of relief. She had
been so terribly frightened because she was away
from home and it was so late and everything.
“Come in, children. Come in,” invited Granny,
and even her voice was soft. “Nicky, I know this is
your sister Agnes,” pointing to Aggie, “and this is
“We call her Flinders, but her name is Polly
Cobb. You know the Cobbs, out by the paint
factory,” Nick announced, loudly.
Of course she didn’t know, but she nodded
“Yes,” Flinders found her breath now. “I’ve got
to hurry. I brought the ten dollars,” she was looking
“I’ll not take it. He shouldn’t have it,” declared
the old woman. “I didn’t know when I told Nicky
that this man was a thief.”
“But have you got—the box?” faltered Flinders,
shouting as loud as she dared.
“I have, and you can have it. He tried to sell the
pin secretly but he didn’t dare show it around here.
That’s why I’ve got it. He said I could sell it for ten
dollars because he owes me the money for letting
him stay here. I didn’t know, when I took him in,
that he wanted to hide here,” the old lady explained.
She was feeling in her breast for the hidden
treasure. Flinders watched as the others did, but they
could not guess how she, Flinders, felt—what all
this meant to her.
“There!” Granny took out a small box. “There it
“Take it, Flin,” urged Aggie. “Go ahead!”
THE LOST BOX
“The box! The lost box!”
Flinders took it in her hand. The paper was gone,
she had found the green string, but this surely was
the same box she had seen on the mail desk in Mr.
“What’s in it?” asked Aggie, and Nicky repeated
the question so Granny could hear.
“A baby’s picture. I don’t know whose it is,” the
old woman replied, shaking her head.
“Open it and look, Flinders,” Nick urged.
Very carefully Flinders opened the box which
was very tightly closed with metal clips running
through the card board. Her hands shook a little, and
she was sorry they were so dirty, but at last she
could see inside.
“A—baby’s—picture!” she exclaimed. “In a
beautiful frame, all gold and—and—”
“Whose baby?” both Aggie and Nicky asked.
“I don’t know,” Flinders answered. “I never saw
this baby, that I know of.”
“Those little stones around it are real pearls,”
Granny was telling them. “He told me that—”
“And can I take it? I gotta go!” Flinders was
putting the cover on the box and plainly was
impatient to leave.
“We gotta go, Granny!” yelled Nicky.
“Yes, run along. You are good little children to
stick together,” she commented kindly.
“Tell her I wish she’d take the money,” pleaded
“She wants you to take the money, Granny,” the
boy called out.
“No, indeed, I won’t. I think I can guess what that
scamp has been up to,” she went on, “and him just
laughing at poor folks. Well, the detectives got him
today. I didn’t know who they was when they came
first, but today they told me. You needn’t be scared;
they won’t be back,” she declared positively.
“Why didn’t they get the box?” Flinders shouted.
“They said nothing about anything but getting
him,” the woman answered, “and I knew he’d got
that box around here from the way he’s been acting
about it. I know it is valuable, too, and that’s why I
told Nicky about it. It belongs to someone in
“All right, thank you very much,” Flinders said
“And I’ll be in to see you tomorrow,” Nicky told
the old lady. “How about some fresh eggs—and a
strip of bacon?”
“Fine! Fine!” answered Granny Brick. “Nicky, if
I was rich I’d know who to remember in my will,”
she said merrily. And she really had a pleasant
“I’ll slam the door and it will catch,” Nick said in
“Good-bye!” called Aggie.
“Thanks, and good-bye!” echoed Flindy.
Then, with the precious box and even Mrs.
Cobb’s ten dollars intact, they trotted down the
rickety stairs, this time afraid of no one.
“Now what? Didn’t I tell you? Was I right?” Nick
was so happy he wanted to make sure that Flinders
“It’s wonderful! I can’t believe it. But, Nicky,
what will Aunt Kate think? Look where I am!”
“You’ll be home soon. This is my treat.” Was
Nicky playing the big boy part? “I’m getting a cab.”
“A cab?” That was Flinders and Aggie in one
“Sure. Why not? Look where we got to go. I’ll
keep your ten for you, Flinders, if you like.”
“Please do.” He already had the money. “But we
don’t need to take a cab home,” she protested.
“Leave it to Nicholas!” sang out the merry boy.
Then he put his fingers in his mouth and blew. The
shrill whistle worked like magic, for before the girls
had time to straighten their little skirts and run
fingers through unruly hair, there was Pete’s cab,
standing waiting for them.
Aggie and Flinders slipped into the back seat as
Nicky eased himself agilely up beside Pete in front.
Whatever directions Nicky gave, Pete seemed to
understand perfectly, although possibly no one else
could have known what the clipt sentence meant.
Flinders put her hand over on Aggie’s knee. If
she had known much about laughing surely this was
the time and place for it. Instead of that, however,
she said to Aggie:
“It must be wonderful to have a brother like
“Oh, yes, Nicholas is okey,” replied the girl,
assuming some importance in this sensational
situation. “But don’t fool yourself. Brothers are
always nicer to other girls.”
Flinders tittered a little. This was wonderful. A
cab taking her home, flying along like those Nugent
girls go every morning hurrying for the city train.
She was feeling for the first time that inexpressible
joy of protection, coming from someone outside of
How they swung into the hill road! The sudden
motion threw Flinders into Aggie’s arms and Aggie
gave her a good pinch. Nick turned around, big
boylike, and shot them a withering look.
“Kids,” he murmured to Pete, and Pete said:
“Oh, look at the lights in our house,” Flinders
exclaimed as they turned into the rocky road.
“They’re all waiting for me!”
The door opened at the sound of the cab. Mrs.
Cobb was calling: “Flindy! Flindy! You ain’t hurt?”
“Nope,” called back Nicky. “Perfectly okey. Here
we are!” and out climbed the girls while Nick settled
“My darling! My darling!” Mrs. Cobb was
murmuring as she clasped Flinders in her arms. “Oh,
where have you been? We have been so worried.”
Then she noticed Aggie and Nick while Flinders
noticed Carol and Thally. There was such
unrestrained joy then that it was pretty hard to find
out what really happened. They told, in a sketchy
way, about getting the box, the tale made up of
exclamations and interruptions, and Flinders insisted
upon Carol taking the treasure.
“I promised to get it for Dinah; you know, the
pretty girl,” she said wearily.
“Oh, you mean Dianne,” Carol corrected. “Won’t
she be just delighted to get this back!”
“But we don’t know whose baby it is,” Aggie
faltered. “None of us ever saw it.”
Carol and Thally, gazing in amazement at the
handsome miniature, now exchanged glances.
Apparently they knew whose baby it was, but made
no explanation just then.
The Cobb children had, like a little army, fallen
back in sheer amazement. Flinders was home and
they were all happy again, and their mother had the
precious ten dollars. Flinders gave it to her first
thing. That little family knew nothing about the lost
and found box, but Flinders knew, and so did Carol
Only a half hour before the arrival of the
wanderers in Pete’s cab, both Thally and Carol had
telephoned their homes to say they would have to be
out a while longer and advised no one to worry.
Now it seemed they might make a dash to get away
from all this excitement, and also to give the various
factions a chance to quiet down, since Flinders’ safe
“We gotta go,” Nick declared, manfully. “Hope
everything is okey.”
“Nick, you’re grand!” Thally declared, giving
him a little pat to make the statement clearer. “And
I’m going to ask a lot of folks to buy their papers
from you down at the station.”
“Thanks, that’ll be swell! I got a pretty good trade
but I could stand more,” he answered, businesslike.
“And we have a good trade out at the Point,”
Aggie put in. “That’s where we live, out near
Granny Brick’s place.”
“A place we must see soon,” Carol said. “We’ve
got to thank Granny Brick for her part. Well, we
must be getting along.” Nick and Aggie had left in
Pete’s commodious cab.
Mrs. Cobb was still agitated; but she was trying
to get some of the children to consent to go to bed.
“But I don’t see what I can do about tomorrow,”
she said aside to Carol. “I’ve got to go out to work
or I’ll lose my place, and there’s that detective
coming, and I don’t know what to do about Flindy
here alone. What she might say to them might get us
all in trouble about that stolen pin.”
It was then decided, but not without argument,
that Carol and Thally should take Flinders home in
their car, and that she should stay the remainder of
the night at Carol’s.
“We’ve got a nice little bed, and she’ll be all right
and in the morning we can go out to see Mrs.
Stonelli. There’s something there to be settled up,”
Carol was whispering to Mrs. Cobb, while Thally
was giving Flinders a gentle little shake to wake her
from the funny little “hunk” of sleep she had just
fallen into in the old rocker.
She didn’t want to go, begged to stay with Alice
and Ellen who had gone upstairs, but a few
persuasive words from Aunt Kate made her see how
much better it would be to “stay a night at the nice
young lady’s house,” with the promise that they
would surely bring her back home in the morning.
Flinders finally agreed to that.
“And we’ll get the pretty girl, Dianne, to come
get the box, if we can,” Carol assured her. “Won’t
that be great?”
“Besides that I’ve got to go out to Mrs.
Stonelli’s,” Flinders said sleepily. “Maybe that’s all
And the girls thought it likely was all wrong, but
they let Flinders sleep a little, braced between them
as they rode back to Oak Lodge.
“We haven’t yet settled the wild warning
business,” Carol said to Thally. “But as you said,
that is as clear as mud now.”
MIDNIGHT BRIGHT EYES
Flinders was tucked in bed in the little room near
Rachel’s, at the end of the hall. Too sleepy to stand
up, too tired to talk, the little girl, nevertheless,
looked in wonderment around the tiled bathroom as
Carol gave her cloth, towel and even a fresh cake of
soap to wash with before going to bed.
“I forgot my tooth brush,” she apologized. “We
all wash in basins every night; we’ve got big ones
for our feet,” and Carol marveled at poor Mrs.
Cobb’s good management.
Thally was waiting a few minutes downstairs and
presently Carol joined her, with eyes bright and her
“Little midnight-bright-eyes,” teased Thally.
“And you got her, finally.”
“Yes,” sighed Carol, “got her safe and sound, but
she has had a narrow escape. Think of those
youngsters actually going into that dark, old place of
Granny Brick’s, where any sort of person might
have been in hiding.”
“Yes,” said Thally, “but they got the box. And the
“Of course that’s Nora Grant’s baby’s picture;
taken, perhaps, a year ago, but it’s the same
beautiful child,” Carol declared.
“Yes, and the thief knew what it would be worth
to them to get it back, but they fooled him,” Thally
said. “There should be a reward in it for Flinders.”
“I’m going to talk to Miss Owen, the nurse, first
thing in the morning—if I live that long;” sighed
Carol. “She may tell us how to get in touch with
“Yeah,” yawned Thally. “Sure it’s all right for me
to take your car? You may have another emergency
call any minute.” She was still teasing, as usual.
“Do take it and go, dear. Your family will blame
me for these unseemly hours.”
“Who else should they blame? Night, dar-link,”
and Thally gave her chum a little kiss. “If you don’t
call me before, I’ll be here early.”
“Go out and collect some clothes for Flindy
before you come. Perhaps Benedicts will have a
heap ready; they always are giving things away.”
“Yes, I’ll do that. But, Carol, honestly, you still
seem excited. Don’t you ever wear yourself out?”
“I am excited. I’ll never forget looking and
waiting for that child. I was blaming myself for not
making her safe before.”
“She’s safe enough now and you should be
happy. I suppose our Mr. Gray, the de - tec -i - tive,
will be around early, too. He must have taken in the
affair they call Old Gazooks.”
“Yes, I imagine so. And the wild warning is still
to be explained,” groaned Carol.
“And what are you going to do about Cecy and
Betty missing all this?”
“That is something else, isn’t it? Well, their canoe
race at the lake, fortunately, is tomorrow morning,
and they have both qualified ; so that will help. They
couldn’t come if I called them.”
“There’s Glenn, too. Or have you forgotten
Glenn? Because I haven’t.”
“No; neither can Glenn get away from his camp.
But you can, sweetness. So run along. I’ll be seeing
you early.” And that “good-night” was final.
There was a wild time telephoning at Carol’s next
morning. After making Flinders promise that she
wouldn’t go outside the door unless Carol said so,
and after Carol had agreed to let Flinders stay in the
kitchen with Rachel, where she was allowed to help
get vegetables ready for lunch, Carol settled down to
Miss Owen, the nurse for Nora Grant’s little girl,
fairly slammed the receiver back on the hook and
was “coming right over.” Carol had discretely told
her the little box was found, but that was enough,
plenty. The nurse gasped a few times and said :
“Hold it! Hide it! Don’t let anyone, not even the
detective, Mr. Grayson, get it. And don’t say
anything to Mr. Lund yet. I’ll be right over.”
Carol chuckled when she learned the detective’s
name was Mr. Grayson, when she and Thally had
been calling him Mr. Gray because of his gray suit.
Betty and Cecy had been on the phone, but while
Carol tried to be fair to them, she did not urge them
to give up that Venetian canoe race to come back to
Melody Lane for the grand finale of the Wild
Warning. It would be just as well to be able to say a
few words, when the time came, without
“smothering Betty and Cecy,” Carol was deciding,
There was Thally now coming back in Carol’s
car. And yes, she had got clothes for Flinders, a big
armful of them.
“She’s in the kitchen,” Carol told Thally.
“Suppose we let her and Rachel try things on.
There’s such a lot to do. Miss Owen will be here—”
“She is here. There she comes.”
Miss Owen made more fuss over the finding of
that box than even the children had done the night
“You don’t know how I have worried about it,”
she was now saying to Thally and Carol. “You see,
Miss Grant never had another picture of the baby
taken. She is so afraid of someone stealing the child,
and when that miniature was gone she almost went
frantic. It was being sent to the baby’s grandmother
out West, and, you see, I was registering it. I had
noticed an old man following me that night—”
“And Dianne saw someone at the window,”
“It seems there was a little loose loop of cord
standing up on top of the box, and likely the man
thrust a wire hook on the end of a long cane in the
open window and just lifted it out,” Carol said. “It
was so light he could easily have done that. From
where I sat at the table I couldn’t see that opened
window, and Johnie said there was an old man
hanging around pretending to want junk out of the
cellar. But come in,” they were still on the porch,
“and I’ll get you the precious box, to make sure.”
Carol went upstairs but was down almost instantly,
the little box in her hand.
“Oh, yes, indeed that is the picture of our
precious baby,” Miss Owen said almost reverently.
“I held her while her grandfather snapped the
camera that made the original. You see, Miss Grant
never let a regular photographer take her, and this
miniature was painted by a French Countess, a
friend of the baby’s mother. Isn’t it beautiful? Set in
a platinum and gold rim that is set with real pearls.”
With this explanation, Carol and Thally joined in
the chorus of admiration. Certainly finding the box
containing that unique miniature had been well
worth the heroic efforts of Flinders, Nick and Aggie.
“I phoned Miss Grant; they’re driving down from
the city. She’s bringing your friend, the pretty
Dianne,” Miss Owen said next.
That announcement brought more rejoicing. Then
Carol, as Thally might say, “stopped the show” with
a demand that they give some attention at once to
“I just can’t hold her back,” Carol said. “She
insists on going over to Stonelli’s. Miss Owen, if
you have time I’m sure you can help up there. I have
been suspecting that the man they thought a doctor
is a fraud. Little Flinders has been saving and
earning pennies and dollars to pay to that man
because he promised to cure the little boy she spilled
out of his carriage one day.”
“Of course I’ll go. I like to run down fake
doctors. It is the real business of a nurse to do that,
among other things,” Miss Owen said meaningly.
“There’s Flindy,” said Thally. “Shall I let her in?”
“Yes, do. We’ll have time to go to Stonelli’s and
be back before the car gets here from New York,
won’t we, Miss Owen?”
And there indeed was Flindy! All dressed up in
Camille Benedict’s blue dress, with blue socks,
white shoes, and in her nervous little hand she was
dangling a blue polka dot hat.
“Why, Flinders! You look lovely,” Carol began.
“Yes. Can I go now? I got to go to Marietta’s,”
Flinders said, smiling at Miss Owen, whom she
seemed to remember from some meeting around the
lake on one of those early summer mornings.
“Yes, we are going, right away. And, Flinders,
you know this is the lady, Miss Owen, who lost the
box,” Carol prompted.
“Yes, I know. Did she get it? I want to give it to
the pretty girl. I promised her, and I have to keep my
promise,” Flinders said a little timidly.
That word “promise” had a ring unhappily
familiar, the rest of those present must have thought;
for it was Flinders’ idea of keeping another, a forced
promise, that had been the cause of the child’s
anxiety and unhappiness.
“All aboard,” called out Miss Owen. “This car is
big enough for all of us and I’m a pretty good
At that they were off for Marietta’s.
THE WILD WARNING
They found Mrs. Stonelli all excited. In fact she
only smiled sadly at Flinders in her pretty new
“Oh, it has been terrible,” she wailed. “He was no
doctor. He might have killed my little Paul.”
“Oh, no, don’t worry,” Miss Owen spoke up with
fortunate authority, “he wouldn’t do anything like
that. Just let me have a look at this little boy.”
She had gone over to Paul who was sitting up in a
steamer chair. (Flinders’ money had bought that
chair, too.) A fine little chap, black-eyed like his
mother, and with one loyal dimple that paid respect
to two of hers just like it.
“Why, he’s fine,” Miss Owen began, while the
others looked on. “Why are his legs bandaged, Mrs.
“The doctor said—I must keep them that way,”
the anxious mother answered, solemnly.
Flinders was watching so intently that Carol said
something to her, just to divert her.
“Have you a scissors? Yes, all right, Paul. We’ll
take the old bandages off.”
“Oh, but are you sure?” the mother interrupted,
attempting to stop Miss Owen from snipping the
“Yes. Mrs. Stonelli, you really ought to know that
the man who has pretended to be a doctor was a
fraud, a wicked impostor,” Carol flared up. “He
made you believe Paul was injured when perhaps he
wasn’t at all. And he made you tell poor little Polly
that she would have to give him money, money,
money, all the time, and the child almost killed
herself doing it.”
“Carol, take it easy,” pleaded Thally, for Carol
was excited and indignant. “Miss Owen will do all
that is necessary. Don’t go on like that.”
“All right,” Carol calmed down. “But when I
think of the tricks that fellow put these poor things
through I just can’t help it.”
“He did! He did!” cried Flinders. “He made me
give a solemn promise not to tell anybody about his
cure, or Paul would surely die. And I was afraid. He
made Marietta put out all those wild warnings—”
“I had to take the boy to the woods every day and
so no one should see us there, I had to climb a tree
and put out my arm all covered with a white cloth
and make wild signs. It was terrible!” sighed Paul’s
“Then, on little Paul’s birthday, we planned a
party in the woods; just the three of us. Polly
brought Paul some new clothes. Then we found a
note; the doctor could not come, a big day, he said.
We were so disappointed we didn’t know just what
to do. So we hurried away and I suppose we forgot
the clothes and even the doctor’s note, as you say
they were found, and—”
“And Watcher, our dog, would howl,” interrupted
the now thoroughly excited Flinders. “We had a
little mouth organ and we would give it one blow.
Watcher hated the sound. Then, when he started to
howl, we had to stop him with our hands over his
“And that was the wild warning,” Carol said. “He
had you do all those foolish things to scare people
away, and make you think he was working some
wonderful cure for the child, didn’t he?”
“Yes, he did,” said Mrs. Stonelli. She was sitting
dejectedly beside her son while the nurse smilingly
undid his bandages and carefully gave the poor,
bound-up little muscles a chance to move. “Maybe it
was my fault,” moaned the mother; “maybe I ought
to know better. Poor Flindy! You are the one we
“Don’t worry about Flindy,” Carol interrupted.
“At least, she has made a lot of friends through all
this. I imagine she could go away to school if she
wanted to, after Nora Grant hears that she found the
“Oh, no, I don’t want to. I want to go back home
with Alice and Ellen,” and only Thally’s restraining
arm held the little girl from darting for home at that
“She will surely get all her money back from
me,” insisted Mrs. Stonelli. “I have a book with
every penny marked down. And when the detective
came in here last night—”
“Were the detectives here?” exclaimed Carol.
“Oh, yes. That was how I found out. They had
caught this man who said he was a professor, and
they said soon I should have to go to—to—”
“To identify him,” suggested Miss Owen. She
was smiling happily at her success with Paul.
“Yes, that’s it. He asked about Polly, but he knew
her, this Mr. Grayson, so he said she was too young
and I would be enough. Oh, I feel as if I am very
“There!” exclaimed Miss Owen. “Now, Paul,
“Oh, be careful!” protested the mother nervously.
“I told you I could walk, Mummy!” Paul cried.
“It was them old rags—”
“And your legs, Paul?” Flinders asked in
“You didn’t hurt me, Flindy. I was sick before
and then that old doctor came, and I never could get
out of the chair or the cart. You was awful good to
“How old is he?” the nurse asked.
“Six years,” said his mother, simply.
“That’s fine. You won’t ride around in a baby
carriage any more, Paul. But go easy, now, until you
get used to your legs.”
They watched in amazement before the delighted
mother grabbed up her boy and sobbed in sheer
“What about the lights in the woods?” Thally
asked Flinders. “That was part of the wild warning
too, wasn’t it?”
“Yes, a bad part, because it was at night,” said
Flinders. “When I couldn’t get the money in time he
said that warning was for me and—I would have to
get it,” she said meekly. “He made the lights,
How pretty the child was! Carol and Thally were
saying that to each other with their knowing glances.
And in those dainty, blue summer clothes she looked
really sweet. That might have been another reason
why Flinders wanted to get back to Alice and Ellen.
The mother was still holding Paul. She couldn’t
seem to get used to the idea that she didn’t need to
“And he won’t be taken to the dark woods any
more, Mrs. Stonelli,” Carol said. “It was dreadful for
you two, you and Polly, to have to go through those
awful scenes, they were like some weird, barbaric
“Yes; he said the great Indian doctors do things
that way and I had read about such things in
magazines,” the woman admitted. “He said he was
They laughed a little at that, and Thally said she
imagined he would be “worse than that before Mr.
Gray or Grayson got through with him.”
“We can go now, can’t we?” Carol suggested.
“They might be down from New York.”
“Yes, I told them to go to your house,” Miss
Owen said. “Dianne knows where you live.”
Flinders was running right out without even
answering little Paul’s shout of goodbye and to
come over and play with him because he could go
“Don’t worry about his legs,” Miss Owen
instructed the mother, “they need exercise.”
“Polly,” Mrs. Stonelli called, “why don’t you
thank the people?”
“Oh, I do. The girls helped me. I’d never know
only for them,” Polly managed to say in her crisp,
childlike way. And then Thally had to actually hold
on to her, or she would have run home without
waiting for a ride.
“Don’t you want to see the pretty girl, to give her
back the beautiful picture?” Carol coaxed.
“No; you give it to her.”
“You just want to go home?”
“I want to—walk home.”
Then they understood. Perhaps Flinders wanted to
show off those new, blue clothes.
“All right. Run along. Tell Mrs. Cobb we will be
over soon,” Carol called out after the little blue
figure which was already racing away.
“There’s the car! They’re here,” Thally
needlessly exclaimed, for nearing Oak Lodge drive
they could see a handsome limousine standing in the
driveway. And Dianne rushed out to meet them as
they drove up.
“Oh, girls!” she called. “We’ve been waiting.
Miss Grant is here!”
She was so happy, so radiant, so excited, that no
matter what she had said it would have all been the
same. She was trying to tell them that the great Nora
Grant, the mysterious, elusive actress, whom no one
was privileged to see except on the screen, was
actually there, in the flesh!
“Oh, Dianne!” murmured Carol, grasping both
Dianne’s hands, and giving her that look that all
Carol’s friends loved. “We have your—box!”
“Carol!” Dianne kissed her impulsively. “I knew
you would get whatever you started out for.”
“I would! It was little Flinders—”
“Miss Grant, this is my dear friend, Carol
“And my dear friend, Miss Grant, Thally Bond.”
So the simple introduction began and ended. Miss
Grant was indeed all and more than her publicity
agents had claimed for her. She was lovely as a
pansy with her incredibly deep, dark eyes, and sweet
as a rose with that natural, velvety pink flush.
“Well, I thought I had seen it all, everything,”
Miss Grant said jovially, “but this is new,
unbelievably new. More than one girl, somewhat
like Dianne, I can’t imagine it.”
“But I’ve got freckles,” giggled Thally, which
only made her more attractive.
“Here’s your—miniature, Miss Grant,” said Miss
Owen. “Our only picture is finally safe—at last.”
“Theodosia,” the actress said to Miss Owen, “I
always knew you would find it.” Which was really
Miss Grant’s way of being nice to everybody. “We
have to guard our little Sylvia, even in her pictures,
so you can imagine our anxiety.”
“But you really must see our little Flinders. She is
too precious,” Miss Owen declared, smilingly, when
the joy of finding the miniature had subsided.
“Just now, girls,” Dianne spoke up, “we are here
with an invitation. I’m not really in pictures yet, but
would you come up to the city, Carol and Thally,
and let us do something for what you have done?
Not that we could.”
“Oh, couldn’t you!” exclaimed Thally. “I fully
believe, Di, the only thing that might save Carol
from blowing up after all this would be two seats on
the aisle—one for me, of course—at one of Miss
“Yours for the asking,” declared the ac tress. So
they went to New York the very next day.