Melody Lane #4 The Wild Warning

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Melody Lane Mystery series #4 of 9 by Lilian Garis.

Transcript of Melody Lane #4 The Wild Warning

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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

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Copyright, 1934 by


The Wild Warning

All Rights Reserved

Printed in the United States of America

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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

sister, said:

“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—”

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“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

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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,

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you know.”

“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

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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

accommodating themselves.

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.

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“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.

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What more should these property holders, like Mrs.

Webb, want?

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

good times.

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

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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?

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“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.

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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

silly flip.

“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

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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

capably demonstrated.

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.

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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

come in?”

“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.

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“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

any customers.”

“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.

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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

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“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

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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

was back.

“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

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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!

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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.

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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,

young arms.

“Open that door! Hold it! It springs,” and now,

following Johnie’s orders, Carol was holding the

door open for him.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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 time—”

“Lunch was never like this! We have

discovered—a—robbers’ cave!” Cecy fairly hissed

the words.

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

unmistakably serious.

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“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

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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

that tale.

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.

“That’s where.”

“Where what?”

“Don’t play dumb, Carol,” Cecy said impatiently.

“That’s where we discovered—the cave!”

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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

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bushes and came to the very edge of the high gutter.

Carol, feeling she wanted to speak to her, drew near

the curb.

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

hunted animal.”

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

hurry away.

Never were girls more excited: Betty, especially,

was literally bubbling over.

“Carol, listen!” she exhaled. “You would never

believe it—”

“Maybe I would. Try me.” Carol felt so much

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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

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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

ahead, Cecy.”

“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:

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“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

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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

the water.”

“But you didn’t hear anything around there, did

you?” Carol asked, now believing the girls were

really serious.

“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.”

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“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

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“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

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taking the mail from Dianne. He said Mr. Lund had

an obligation to be there; that the mail was his

personal responsibility.

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

wanted her.

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.

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“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.

Page 44: Melody Lane #4 The Wild Warning




“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

rather cautiously.

“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.

Page 45: Melody Lane #4 The Wild Warning


“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

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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

finished vaguely.

“How is she?” Carol asked. “She was really very

sick this morning.”

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“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.


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“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,”

Carol protested.

“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

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“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?”

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pursued Johnie.

“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.

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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

her folks.”

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.

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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

support her.

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?”

whispered Dianne.

“Mr. Lund said a package was lost.”

“Yes, it was.” The words dropped from the girl’s

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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

the girl.

“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

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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

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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

reassure her.

“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.

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“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

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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

reminded Dianne.

“You mean that the man Johnie said was

prowling around could really have crawled up

behind the counter and grabbed that box?”

demanded Dianne.

“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

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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

insisted bravely.

“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,

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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.

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“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

mystery impending.

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

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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

Carol do?

“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

the place.

“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

flower beds.

“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

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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—

after lunch.”

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

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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

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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.”

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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


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“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

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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

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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.

Page 70: Melody Lane #4 The Wild Warning




“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.”

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“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

easily influenced.”

“Don’t you think they are often too greedy for a

little money?” asked Dianne unexpectedly.

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“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

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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

less serious.

“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

asked thoughtfully.

“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,

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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

all right.”

“You mean—”

“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

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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

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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

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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

know definitely.

“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

admitted frankly.

“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.

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“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.

Page 79: Melody Lane #4 The Wild Warning




“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

said slyly.

“Why, Dianne, you know perfectly well you are

just tickled to death,” Carol told her and believed

that too.

“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

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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

Polly Flinders.”

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“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

renewed determination.

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“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,

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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

some car—”

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

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unhappy state.

“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.

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“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.”

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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

“gone out.”

“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

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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


Page 88: Melody Lane #4 The Wild Warning




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

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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.

Page 90: Melody Lane #4 The Wild Warning


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

to carry.

“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?”

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“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

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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.”

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“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

Johnie warmly.

“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’

Woods yet.”

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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

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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

with Glenn.

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

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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

it on!”

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

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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

funny indeed.

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.

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“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,

came again.

“I’ve got to move the bus, I’m blocking traffic,”

Tex said. “Don’t be scared. We didn’t run over

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anything,” and he hurried to take the wheel again to

move his bus in answer to the horns “blowing him to

move along.”

“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

at all.

“Here, Bob,” Johnie directed, “see if you can hold

this back steady while I pull the bottom up. Every

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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

darling kittens!”

“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.

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“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.”

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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.

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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.

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“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

of understanding.

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

from camp?”

“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,”

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whispered Carol.

“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.

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Two girls and twin beds. Carol and Dianne in

Carol’s room.

“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.

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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’

wild warning.

“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,

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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

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“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—”

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“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

told her.

“But I can walk to the store from there,” Dianne

pointed out.

“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

loves news.”

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.

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“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

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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

baby food.”

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:

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“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

slip out—”

“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

intermittent solos.

Then robbers’ caves and wild warnings were all

one to the two girls in the twin beds.

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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,

wouldn’t it?”

“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—”

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“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

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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

woody sanctuaries.

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.

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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

water cress.”

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.

“Anyone hurt?”

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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,

something white!

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—

like what!

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

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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

fingers move—”

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.

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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.

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“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

paper pack.

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.

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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.

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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

the woods.

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

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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,

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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

drive in?”

“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.

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“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

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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

the clearing.

“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

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and scratched off. Certainly a dog must have been

tied there.

“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

frisky boys.”

“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

soft ground.

“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?”

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“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

germs walking.

“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

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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.

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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

laughingly said.

“He is a detective, I know. Probably working on

the missing, priceless box.”

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“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

her, ever.”

“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

old shoe.”

“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?”

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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

little confidences.

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

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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,

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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

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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

box disappeared.”

“She did? Could she have taken it? Wasn’t it put

away safely?” Poor Flinders! Suspicion was ever

following her.

“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

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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


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“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

swell cars.”

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.

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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

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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

any more.

“I could go over to Cobb’s,” Carol reasoned.

“They must be kind to look after Flinders with all

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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

family lived.

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

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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

seemed young.

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

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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

gone crooked.

“Hello!” Carol called out pleasantly. “Is Mrs.

Cobb in?”

“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

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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

through frankness.

“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

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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

give her.

“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

that mean?”

“Oh, if only people wouldn’t go to the woods!”

sighed the child. “Wouldn’t you stay out if I begged

you to?”

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

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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


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“Is there no one here? Are you alone?” Carol

asked the girl who had suddenly become excited by

Carol’s questions.

“I’m all alone. The boys have gone for some

wood and the girls have gone swimming. Why do

you ask?”

“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

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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

Flinders’ mother.

“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—”

“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.

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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

almost whispering.

“Couldn’t I go and look with you—”

Carol asked.

“Oh, no, please don’t. You know, I begged you

not to go in those parts of the woods where the wild

warning comes.”

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?”

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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

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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?”

“His mother.”

“Whose mother?”

“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.”

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“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,”

Page 154: Melody Lane #4 The Wild Warning


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

said vaguely.

Page 155: Melody Lane #4 The Wild Warning


“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

ever saw.”

“And you happened to be there,” laughed Thally.

“You would!”

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

looked serious.

“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?”

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“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.”

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“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

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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

the curb.

“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

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back home.

“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

was this.

“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

about Dianne.”

“She certainly is a remarkable child,” Dianne

spoke up. “I haven’t told you about seeing her out

Page 160: Melody Lane #4 The Wild Warning


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

questioned everybody.”

“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,

Page 161: Melody Lane #4 The Wild Warning


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

business, Dianne.”

“In business?”

“Yes. If she could get the actress, Nora Grant, to

indorse your Sunrise Creams, what wouldn’t it do

for you!”

“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?”

Page 162: Melody Lane #4 The Wild Warning


“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

Page 163: Melody Lane #4 The Wild Warning


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

Page 164: Melody Lane #4 The Wild Warning


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

mere flivver.”

They were scarcely gone when the phone rang.

Page 165: Melody Lane #4 The Wild Warning




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

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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

outdoor scenes.

“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

Page 167: Melody Lane #4 The Wild Warning


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

detective lately.”

“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

coming over?”

Page 168: Melody Lane #4 The Wild Warning


“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

picture girl.

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

Page 169: Melody Lane #4 The Wild Warning


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,”

joked Thally.

“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

Page 170: Melody Lane #4 The Wild Warning


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.

Page 171: Melody Lane #4 The Wild Warning


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

Page 172: Melody Lane #4 The Wild Warning


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

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“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

said, casually.

“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.

Page 174: Melody Lane #4 The Wild Warning




“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


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“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,”

Carol decided.

“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

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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

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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

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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.

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“What’s your name?” Carol asked the boy who

looked older.

“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

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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

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“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.”

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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.

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“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

waiting outside.”

“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

the question.

“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

cannot tell.”

“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

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quickly asked.

“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

to whisper.

“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

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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

that child—”

“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

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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

word police—”

“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

up there—”

“Oh, gosh—!”

“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

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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

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here today—”

“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.”

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“But it’s so late and I’m hungry.”

“Aggie’ll fetch you stuff. Sit there on the box. Do

you like seed-buns?”

“Oh, yes.”

“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

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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

brought her.

“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—

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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!

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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.

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“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

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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

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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

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click of a door— Yes, he had gone inside!

Aggie might boast of her courage but she needed

it now.

“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

up trees—”

“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

the stairs.”

They did not have to be urged, but hurried to

where he stood.

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“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

girl encouraged.

“Look out for them loose boards. One flew up on

me,” again the boy admonished.

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“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

beamed out.

“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

afraid of.

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

the one—”

“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

toward Nicky.

“I’ll not take it. He shouldn’t have it,” declared

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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!”

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“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.

Lund’s store.

“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.”

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“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

Melody Lane.”

“All right, thank you very much,” Flinders said


“And I’ll be in to see you tomorrow,” Nicky told

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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

was also.

“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

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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

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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

with Pete.

“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

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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

and Thally.

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

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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

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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

wrong too.”

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.”

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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

cheeks flushed.

“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.”

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“Yes,” said Thally, “but they got the box. And the

picture is—”

“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

Dianne, too.”

“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.”

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“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,

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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

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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,”

Thally added.

“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

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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,

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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.

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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.

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“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


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“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

should help—”

“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

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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

very moment.

“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,

stand up!”

“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

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and then that old doctor came, and I never could get

out of the chair or the cart. You was awful good to

me, Flindy.”

“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

hold him.

“And he won’t be taken to the dark woods any

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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

tribe ceremonies.”

“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

out now.

“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.

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“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.”

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“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,

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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

Grant’s plays.”

“Yours for the asking,” declared the ac tress. So

they went to New York the very next day.


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