THE MOTOR GIRLS ON WATERS BLUE
The Strange Cruise of The Tartar
By Margaret Penrose
With a crunching of the small stones in the gravel drive, the big car swung around to the side entrance of the house, and came to a stop, with a whining, screeching and, generally protesting sound of the brake-bands. A girl, bronzed by the summer sun, let her gloved hands fall from the steering wheel, for she had driven fast, and was tired. The motor ceased its humming, and, with a click, the girl locked the ignition switch as she descended.
"Oh, what a run! What a glorious run, and on a most glorious day!" she breathed in a half whisper, as she paused for a moment on the bottom step, and gazed back over the valley, which the high-setting house commanded, in a magnificent view.
The leaves of the forest trees had been touched, gently as yet, by the withering fingers of coming winter, and the browns, reds, golden ambers, purples and flame colors ran riot under the hazy light of an October sun, slowly sinking to rest.
"It was a shame to go alone, on this simply perfect day," murmured the autoist, as she drew off one glove to tuck back under her motoring cap a rebellious lock of hair. "But I couldn't get a single one of the girls on the wire," she continued. "Oh, I just hate to go in, while there's a moment of daylight left!"
She stood on the porch, against a background of white pillars, facing the golden west, that every moment, under the now rapidly appearing tints of the sunset, seemed like some magically growing painting.
"Well, I can't stand here admiring nature!" exclaimed Cora Kimball, with a sudden descent to the commonplace. "Mother will be wanting that worsted, and if we are to play bridge tonight, I must help Nancy get the rooms in some kind of shape."
As Cora entered the vestibule, she heard a voice from the hall inside saying:
"Oh, here she is now!"
"Bess Robinson!" murmured Cora. "And she said she couldn't come motoring with me. I wonder how she found time to run over?"
Cora Hung open the door to confront her chum Bess or, to be more correct, Elizabeth Robinson—the brown-haired, "plump", girl—she who was known as the "big" Robinson twin—the said Bess being rather out of breath from her rapid exit from the parlor to the hall.
As might be surmised, it did not take much to put Bess out of breath, or, to be still more exact, to put the breath out of Bess. It was all due to her exceeding—plumpness—to use a "nice" word.
"Oh, Cora!" exclaimed Bess. "I've been waiting so long for you! I thought you'd never come! I—I—"
"There, my dear, don't excite yourself. Accidents will happen in the best of manicured families, and you simply must do something—take more exercise—eat less—did you every try rolling over and over on the, floor after each meal? One roll for each course, you know," and Cora smiled tantalizingly as she removed her other glove, and proceeded to complete the restoration of her hair to something approaching the modern style—which task she had essayed while on the porch.
"Well, Cora Kimball, I like your—!"
"No slang, Bess dear. Remember those girls we met this summer, and how we promised never, never to use it—at least as commonly as they did! We never realized how it sounded until we heard them."
"Oh, Cora, do stop. I've such a lot to tell you!" and Bess laid a plump and rosy palm over the smiling lips of her hostess.
"So I gathered, Bess, from your manner. But you must not be in such a hurry. This is evidently going to be a mile run, and not a hundred yard dash, as Jack would say. So come in, sit down, get comf'y, wait until you and your breath—are on speaking terms, and I'll listen. But first I want to tell you all that happen to me. Why didn't you come for a spin? It was glorious! Perfectly 'magnificent!"
"Oh, Cora, I wanted so much to come, you know I did. But I was out when you 'phoned, and mamma is so upset, and the house is in such a state—really I was glad to run out, and come over here. We are going—"
"My turn first, Bess dear. You should have been with me. In the first place, I had a puncture, and you'll never in the world guess who helped me take off the shoe—"
"Your shoe, Cora!"
"No, silly! The tire shoe. But you'd never guess, so I'll tell you. It was Sid Wilcox!"
"That fellow who made so much trouble—"
"Yes, and who do you think was with him?"
"Oh, Ida Giles, of course. That's easy."
"No, it was Angelina Mott!"
"What, sentimental Angie?"
"The same. I can't imagine how in the world she ever took up with Sid enough to go motoring."
"Say, rather, how he took up with her. Sid is much nicer than he used to be, and they say his new six-cylinder is a beautiful car."
"So it is, my dear, but I prefer to select my chauffeur—the car doesn't so much matter. Well, anyhow, Sid was very nice. He offered to put in a new inner tube for me, and of course I wasn't going to refuse. So Angelina and I sat in the shade, while poor Sid labored. And the shoe was gummed on, so he had no easy task. But I will say this for him—he didn't even once hint that there was a garage not far off. Wasn't that nice?"
"Brave and noble Sid!"
"Yes, wasn't he, Bess? But I don't want to exhaust all my eloquence and powers of description on a mere puncture."
"Oh, Cora! Did anything else happen?" and Bess, who had followed her chum into the library of the Kimball home, sank down, almost breathless once more, into the depths of a deep, easy chair.
"There you go again!" laughed Cora, laying aside her cap and veil. "I'll have to pull you out of that, Bess, when you want to get up. Why do you always select that particular chair, of all others?"
"It's so nice and soft, Cora. Besides, I can get up myself, thank you," and, with an assumption of dignity that did not at all accord with her plump and merry countenance and figure, Bess Robinson tried to arise.
But, as Cora had said, she needed help. The chair was of such a depth that one's center of gravity was displaced, if you wish the scientific explanation.
"Now don't you dare lean back again!" warned Cora, as her chum sat on the springy edge of the chair, in a listening attitude. "To resume, as the lecturer in chemistry says, after Sid had so obligingly fixed the puncture, I started off again, for mamma wanted some worsted and I had offered to run into town to get it for her. The next thing that happened to me, Bess dear, I saw the nicest young man, and ran right into—"
"Not into him, Cora! Don't tell me you hurt anyone!" cried Bess, covering her face with her hands or at least, trying to, for her hands were hardly large enough for the completion of the task.
"No, I didn't run into him, Bess, though there was a dog—but that's another story."
"Oh, Cora! I do wish you'd finish one thing at a time. And that reminds me—"
"Wait, Bess, dear. I didn't run into the young man, but he bowed to me, and I turned around to make sure who he was, for at first I thought him a perfect stranger, and I was going to cut him. In my excitement, I ran right into a newly oiled place on the road, and, before I knew it, I was skidding something awful! Before I could reach the emergency brake, I had run sideways right against the curbing, and it's a mercy I didn't split a rim. And the young man ran over—"
"Oh, Cora Kimball! I'll never get my news in, if I don't interrupt you right here and now!" cried Bess. "Listen, my dear! I simply must tell, you. It's what I ran over for, and I know you can't have had any serious accident, and look as sweet as you do now—it's impossible!"
"Thanks!" murmured Cora, with a mock bow. "After that, I must yield the floor to you. Go on, Bess. What is it? Has some one stolen your car, or have you discovered a new kind of chocolate candy? I wish I had some now; I'm simply starved! You have no idea how bracing and appetizing the air is. What was I telling you about?"
"Never mind, Cora. It's my turn. You can't guess what has happened."
"And I'm not going to try, for I know you're just dying to tell me. Go on. I'm listening," and Cora sat on a stool at the feet of her chum.
"Well, it would take too long to tell it all, but what would you say, if I went on a long sea voyage this winter?"
"What would I say? Why, my dear, I'd say that it was simply perfectly magnificent! It sounds like—like a wedding tour, almost. A sea voyage. Oh, Bess, do tell me!" and Cora leaned forward eagerly, expectantly. "Are you really going?"
"It seems so, yes. Belle and I shall have to go if papa carries out his plans, and takes mamma to the West Indies. You see it's like this. He has—"
A knock came at the door. Cora turned her head quickly, and called: "Come in!"
A maid entered, bearing on a silver server a note, the manila envelope of which proclaimed it as a telegraph message.
"Oh, a telegram!"' gasped Cora, and her fingers trembled, in spite of her, as she opened it.
She gave a hasty glance at the written words, and then cried:
"Oh, it was for mother, but the envelope had 'Miss Kimball' on it. However, it doesn't matter, and I'm glad I opened it first. Oh, dear!"
"Bad news?" asked Bess, softly.
"It's about my brother Jack," said Cora, and there was a sob in her voice. "He has suffered a nervous breakdown, and will have to leave college at once!"
"Oh, Cora!" murmured Bess, rising from, the chair, and it was with no easy effort that she did so, for she had allowed herself to sink back again into its luxurious depths. "Oh, Cora dear! Isn't that perfectly dreadful!"
Cora Kimball did not answer. She was staring at the fateful telegram, reading it over and over again; the words now meaningless to her. But she had grasped their import with the first swift glance. Jack was ill—in trouble.
Bess put her arms around her chum, and slipped one plump hand up on the tresses tangled by the wind on the motor ride.
"Can I do anything to help—your mother is she—"
"Of course!" exclaimed Cora with a sigh. "I must tell mother at once. Yes, she's at home, Bess. Will you—do you mind coming with me?"
"Of course not, my dear. I wouldn't think of letting you go alone to tell her. Is the telegram from jack himself?"
No, it's from Walter Pennington. Walter says a letter follows—special delivery."
"Oh, then you'll get it soon! Perhaps it isn't so bad as you think. Dear Walter is so good!"
"Isn't he?" agreed Cora, murmuringly. "I sha'n't worry so much about Jack, now that I know Wally is with him. Oh, but if he has to leave college—"
Cora did not finish. Together she and Bess left the library, seeking Mrs. Kimball, to impart to her the sudden and unwelcome news. And so, when there is a moment or two, during which nothing of chronicling interest is taking place, my dear readers may be glad of a little explanation regarding Cora Kimball and her chums, and also a word or two concerning the previous books of this series.
Cora Kimball was the real leader of the motor girls. She was, by nature, destined for such a position, and the fact that she, of all her chums, was the first to possess an automobile, added to her prestige. In the first volume of this series, entitled "The Motor Girls," I had the pleasure of telling how, amid many other adventures, Cora, and her chums, Bess and Belle Robinson, helped to solve the mystery of a twenty thousand dollar loss.
Cora, Bess and Belle were real girl chums, but they never knew all, the delights of chumship until they "went in" for motoring. Living in the New England town of Chelton, on the Chelton River, life had been rather hum-drum, until the advent of the "gasoline gigs" as Jack, Cora's brother, slangily dubbed them. Jack, with whose fortunes we shall concern ourselves at more length presently, had a car of his own—one strictly limited to two—a low-slung red and yellow racing car, "giddy and gaudy," Cora called it.
Later on, the Robinson twins also became possessed of an automobile, and then followed many delightful trips.
"The Motor Girls on a Tour," the second volume of the series, tells in detail of many surprising happenings, which were added to, and augmented, at "Lookout Beach."
Through New England the girls went, after their rather strenuous times at the seaside, and you may be sure Cora Kimball was in the forefront of all the happenings on that rather remarkable run.
Perhaps the most romantic of all the occurrences that befell the girls were the series at Cedar Lake. There, indeed, were Cora and her chums put to a supreme test, and that they emerged, tried and true, will not be surprising news to those of you who really know the motor maids.
As another summer followed the green spring, so adventures followed our friends, and those on the coast were in no whit tamer than previous happenings. Once again did Cora prove that she could "do things," if such proof were needed.
"The Motor Girls on Crystal Bay, Or The Secret of the Red Oar," is the title of the book immediately preceding this one.
It would hardly be fair to tell you, bold-facedly, what the "secret" was. I would not like a book spoiled for me that way, and I am sure you will agree with me.
But when Cora and her friends made the acquaintance of sad little Freda Lewis, and later on of Denny Shane, the picturesque old fisherman, they had the beginnings of the mysterious secret. And in solving it, they bested the land-sharpers, and came upon the real knowledge of the value of the red oar.
Those incidents had taken place during the summer. Autumn had come, with its shorter days, its longer nights, the chill of approaching frosts and winter, and the turning of leaves, and the girls I had bidden farewell to the sad, salty sea waves, and had returned to cheerful Chelton.
Cheerful Chelton—I believe I never thus alliteratively referred to it before, but the sound falls well upon my ear. Cheerful Chelton— indeed it was so, and though Cora and her chums had enjoyed themselves to the utmost at Crystal Bay and in so enjoying had done it noble service still they were glad to get back.
I beg your pardon! I really am forgetting, the boys, and as they always have, and seem always destined to play in important part in the lives of the girls, perhaps I had better introduce them in due form.
To begin with, though not to end with, there was Cora's brother Jack. Like all other girls' brothers was Jack—a tease at times, but of sterling worth in hours of distress and trouble.
Jack was a junior at Exmouth College, but, bless you! that is not nearly as important as it sounds, and none of my new readers need be on their dignity; or assume false society manners with Jack. For I warn them, if they do, the thin veneer will very soon be scratched off. A true boy was Jack!
So was his chum, Walter Pennington—"Wally," the girls often called him, though it was not at all an effeminate term of endearment. Walter gave exactly the opposite impression from that. Besides, he was too athletic (which you could tell the moment you looked at him) to further such associations.
Other young men there were, Ed Foster, in particular, who often went motoring with the girls, to make the third male member which caused the little parties to "come out even."
Occasionally Paul Hastings, and his sister Hazel, would be included, but, of late, Paul had been too busy setting up an automobile business of his own, to ride with his friends.
So much for the boys—though there were more of them, but we need not concern ourselves with them at present.
Bess and Belle Robinson were the daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Perry Robinson—the "rich"' Mr. Robinson, as he was called, to distinguish him from another, and more humble, though none the less worthy, citizen of Chelton. Bess and Belle had nearly everything they wanted—which list was not a small one. But mostly they wanted Cora Kimball, and they looked up to her, deferred to her and loved her, with a devotion that comes only from sweet association since early childhood.
"Cheerful Chelton!" Somehow I cannot seem to forego the temptation of using that expression again. It was a typical New England village, the nearness of it to New York not having spoiled it.
Of late, the invasion of many automobiles had threatened to turn it into a "popular" resort. There was already one garage, and another in building, and to the trained and experienced motorist, no more need be said.
It was to Chelton that Cora Kimball and her chums had returned, following their summer at Crystal Bay. Cora, after trying in vain to get some of her chums, by telephone, to come for a little motor run with her, had gone alone, coming back to find Best at her home, when the events narrated in the initial chapter took place.
Now the two girls were on their way upstairs to impart the news contained in the telegram, to Mrs. Kimball.
"Do you—do you think she'll faint?" asked Bess.
"No—of course not! Mother isn't of the fainting sort," replied Cora, for Mrs. Kimball, a widow since her boy and girl were little children, was used to meeting emergencies bravely and calmly.
"I wonder what could have happened to Jack?" mused Bess, as they reached the upper hall. "Do you suppose he could have been hurt playing football, Cora?"
"I don't see how. The season hasn't really opened yet, and they play only light games at first. Besides, Jack has played before, and knows how to take care of himself. I can't imagine what it is—a nervous breakdown."
"Probably Wally's letter will tell."
"I hope so. Oh, but, Bess, I didn't hear your news. You must tell me all about it, my dear."
"I will—when this excitement is over."
Mrs. Kimball received the news calmly—that is, calmly after a first sharp in-taking of breath and a spasmodic motion toward her heart. For Jack was very dear to her.
"Well, my dears, we must hope for the best," she said, cheerfully, to the girls. "Fortunately, his room is in order, which is more than can be said for it when he went away. Cora, can look up trains, or, better still, ask the station agent when one might get in from Exmouth. Probably Walter will bring Jack home as soon as he can.
"It can't be so very serious, or Walter would have so specified in his telegram. I am anxious to get his letter, however. You might call up the post-office, Cora, and find out when the next mail gets in. Then you could go down in your car and get the special. That will be quicker than waiting for the boy to come up on his bicycle with it. Often he has half a dozen letters to deliver, and he might be delayed coming to us."
"I'll do that, Mother. You seem to think of everything!" and Cora threw her arms about the neck of the gray-haired lady, in whose eyes there was a troubled look, though neither in voice nor manner did she betray it.
"I can't imagine Jack ill," murmured Bess.
"Nor I," said Cora. "He has always been so strong and healthful. If only it isn't some accident—"
"Don't suggest it!" begged Bess. "Shall I come with you to the station, Cora?"
"I'd like to have you, dear, if you can spare the time."
"As if I wouldn't make time for such a thing as this. Come, do your telephoning, and we'll go."
Cora learned that no train which Jack could possibly get would arrive until very late that afternoon, but at the post-office it was said a mail would be in within the hour, and there was a chance that the special delivery letter would be on it.
"We'll go and see," decided Cora, now again a girl of action.
"And on your way, Cora dear," requested her mother, "stop at Dr. Blake's office, and ask him to meet the train Jack comes on. While I anticipate nothing serious, it is best to be on the safe side, and Jack may be in a state of collapse after his trip. You had better explain to Dr. Blake, rather than telephone."
"Yes, mother. Now are you sure you'll be all right?"
"Oh, certainly. I am not alone, with the servants here. Besides, John is just outside, trimming the lawn paths. You won't be long."
"No longer than we can help. Come on, Bess. Oh! and now you'll have a chance to tell me what you started to."'
"Oh! It isn't so much, Cora. In fact, I don't like to mention my pleasure, after hearing of your trouble."
"Then it's pleasure?"
"Yes, Belle seems to think so."
"Did you mention the West Indies?"
"Yes, father has to go to Porto Rico on business, and we are going to make a winter cruise of it. Mamma and we girls are going, and what I came over to ask you—"
The voice of Bess was rather lost in the throb of the motor as Cora thrust over the lever of the self-starter. As the two girls settled themselves in the seat, Bess resumed:
"I came over to ask if you couldn't go with us, Cora? Can't you come on a winter's cruise to where there is no snow or ice, and where the waters are blue—so blue?"
"Come with you?" gasped Cora.
"Yes. Papa and mamma specially asked me to come and invite you. Oh, Cora, do say you'll go! It will be such fun!"
"I'd love to, Bess," said Cora, after a moment's thought. "But there's poor Jack, you know. I shall probably have to stay home and nurse him. I can't leave mother all alone."
"Oh, Cora!" murmured Bess, in disappointed tones.
THE LACE SELLER
Cora, Bess and Belle were sitting on the broad, long porch of the Kimball home. It was the next day. To be exact, the day following the imparting of Cora's news to Bess, of her automobile mishaps, the day of the news which Bess retailed to her friend and chum, concerning the trip to the West Indies, and the still more news, if I may be permitted the expression, of Jack's sudden illness.
Cora and Bess had gone to the post-office to get the expected special delivery letter, stopping on their way to speak to Dr. Blake, who had agreed to meet any train on which the stricken Jack might be expected. But, as it happened, his services were not required that night, for Jack did not arrive.
To go back a little bit, from the point where we have left the three girls sitting on the porch, Cora and Bess did find the special delivery letter awaiting them in the post-office.
"And I'm glad you called for it," said Harry Moss, whose duty it was to deliver the blue stamped epistles, "for I've got a lot of 'em this afternoon, and your place is out of my route, Miss Cora."
"All right, Harry," spoke Cora, half-hearing. She was already tearing open the envelope, as the messenger rode off on his wheel, certainly at a pace to justify the old proverb that he was a rolling stone, even if he had already gathered moss.
"Is it from Walter?" asked Bess.
"Yes, and it isn't as bad as we feared. Jack over-trained, trying for a new position on the football eleven, and that, with some extra studies he undertook, reduced his already tingling nerves to a condition where he was not at all himself."
"A long rest and a change will set him up again in fine style," Walter wrote. "There is no need worrying, Cora," for he had written to her, rather than to Mrs. Kimball, relying on Cora's discretion to explain matters.
"I am bringing Jack home, and we'll come on the early afternoon train, Thursday. There is no great need of haste."
It was now Thursday, just after lunch, and the girls were waiting at Cora's house to go down with her, or, rather one of them (to be decided later) to meet Jack and Walter. There was no need of a physician to help Jack home, though Dr. Blake promised his services when the sufferer should have been safely quartered in his own room.
"Isn't it good of Wally to come home with him?" ventured Belle, thoughtfully gazing at her long, thin hands, that were still tanned by the summer's sun.
"Perfectly fine!" exclaimed Cora. "Oh, you can always depend on Wally," and her eyes lightened up.
"So you can, too, on Jack, for that matter," voiced Bess, warmly. Bess was, of late, generally regarded as having more than a mere chum's sisterly feeling for Jack.
"I suppose he'll lose a term," remarked Belle.
"Too bad, I say."
"Better that than lose your health," declared Cora, as she put back a strand of hair that would persist in straying out from under her cap, for she, as well as the others, were attired for motoring, the Robinson twins, in fact, having come over in their car.
"Oh, Cora! I think you look so different with your hair in that new close formation!" declared Bess. "I wish I could get mine to lie down flat at the sides, and over my ears. How do you do it?"
"Whisper—it's a secret," said Cora, smiling. "I found a new kind of hairpin when I was shopping the other day."
"Oh, do show us!" begged Belle. "I was going to have the permanent wave put in mine, but it costs twenty-five dollars, and it's awfully tiring, Hazel said. Besides, I think it's getting rather—common."
"Do show us, Cora!" begged Bess.
"Come inside. I'm not going to turn the porch into a hair-dressing parlor for demonstrations," laughed Cora. "It won't take a minute to show you how to do I it, and we have plenty of time before Jack's train is due."
Cora obligingly let down her pretty hair, and then, by means of the new hairpins, she put it up again, in the latest "flat" mode, which, with its rather severe lines, is far from becoming to the average face. But, as it happened, Cora's face was not the average, and the different style was distinctly becoming to her.
"Oh, isn't it simple—when you're shown?" cried Bess. "I wonder if I'd have time to do mine that way before—?"
"Before Wally sees you!" interrupted her sister. "No, and don't think it. He's probably seen plenty of that style at college, and—"
"Thank you! I wasn't thinking of Mr. Pennington!" and Bess tried to tilt her chin up in the air with an assumption of dignity that ill sat upon her, the said chin being of the plump variety which lends itself but poorly to the said tilting.
"Cora, are you there?" asked the voice of Mrs. Kimball from the porch.
"Yes, Mother. I was just showing the girls the new hairpins. We are going to the station directly."
Cora's voice floated out of the low French windows, which opened from the library to the porch, and they were swung wide, for the fall tang in the air had vanished with the rising of the orb of day, and it was now warm and balmy.
"It will be even warmer than this when we go to the West Indies," murmured Bess. "Oh, Cora, I do wish you were going!"
"So do I, dear! But I don't see how I can."
"Hark!" said Belle, softly.
A murmur of voices came from the porch through the low, opened windows.
"It's one of those Armenian lace peddlers,"' said Cora, stooping down to look as she finished making the twist at the back of her head. "There's been a perfect swarm of them around lately. Mother is talking to her, though she seldom cares for lace—such as they sell."
"There is some beautiful lace work to be had on some of the West Indian islands, so mamma says," spoke Belle. "I am just crazy to get there!"
"Are you going to spend all your time on Porto Rico?" asked Cora, as she finished her hair.
"Well, most of it, though we shall probably cruise about some," spoke Bess, and as she paused the murmuring of the voices of Mrs. Kimball and the lace peddler could be heard.
"She doesn't talk like an Armenian," ventured Belle. "She has a Spanish accent."
"Yes, so she has," agreed Cora. "Oh, girls! You don't know how I envy you that trip. But duty first, you know," and she sighed.
"We expect to have a perfectly gorgeous time," went on Belle, as she settled her trim jacket more snugly over her slim hips. "One trip papa has promised us is to Sea Horse Island, not far from Porto Rico. He is going there after orchids—you know he is an enthusiastic amateur collector—and he says some very rare ones grow on Sea Horse. I wish I could send you some, Cora."
"It's awfully sweet of you, but—"
The girls were interrupted by the darkening of one of the low windows, by a tall, slim shadow. In surprise they looked up to see staring at them a girl whose swarthy, olive-tinted face proclaimed her for a foreigner from some sunny clime.
In her hand she field a bundle of lace, which she had evidently taken from her valise to show to Mrs. Kimball. Cora's mother had arisen from a porch chair, in some wonder, to follow the girl's movements.
"Pardon Senoritas," began the lace seller, in soft accents, "but did I hear one of you ladies mention Sea Horse Island—in ze West Indies? I am not sure—I—"
She paused, painfully self-conscious.
"I spoke of it," said Belle, gently. "We are going there on a winter cruise, and—"
"Pardon me—but to Sea Horse Island?" and the girl's trembling voice seemed very eager.
"We are going there—among other places," put in Bess, and her voice grew rather colder than her sister's, for the manner of the lace seller was passing strange.
"—Oh, to Sea Horse Island—in ze West Indies—Oh, if I could but go zere—my father—he is—he is, oh, Senoritas, I crave your pardon, but—-but—"
Her voice trailed off in a whisper, and swaying, she fell at the feet of Cora, who sprang forward, but too late, to catch the slim, inanimate burden. The little lace peddler lay in a crumpled up heap on the floor.
"The poor girl!"
Belle and Bess, with clasped hands, bent over the prostrate form of the girl, whose plain, black dress showed the dust and travel stains of the highways about Chelton. From the verandah Mrs. Kimball stepped in, through the long window.
"Get some water, Cora," she directed in a calm and self-possessed voice. "Also the aromatic ammonia on my dressing table. It is merely a faint. Poor girl! She seemed very weak while she was talking to me. I was just going to ask her to sit down, and let me have a cup of tea brought to her, when she suddenly turned away from me and came in where you girls were."
"She heard us talking," ventured Bess, a little awed by the strange happening.
"And she asked the oddest question—about Sea Horse Island—where papa is going—and she spoke of her father—I wonder what she meant?" asked Belle.
"Time enough to find out after we've revived her," suggested Cora, who, like her mother, was not at all alarmed by a mere fainting fit.
Belle, inspired by her chum's coolness, had stooped over and was raising the girl's head.
"Don't do that!" exclaimed Cora. "The trouble is all the blood has gone from her head now. Let it remain low and the circulation will become normal, after the has had a little stimulant. I'll get the ammonia," and she hurried off, stopping long enough to ring for her mother's maid.
The foreign girl opened her dark brown eyes under the reviving stimulus of the aromatic spirits of ammonia, and she tried to speak. She seemed anxious to apologize for the trouble she had caused by fainting.
"That's all right, my dear," said Mrs. Kimball, soothingly. "Don't bother your poor head about it. You may stay here until you feel better."
"But, senora—" she protested, faintly.
"Hush!" begged Cora, touching the girl's hand gently with her own brown fingers. It was a pretty little hand, that of the lace seller—a hand not at all roughened by heavy work. Indeed, if she had made some of the dainty lace she was exhibiting, a piece of which was even now entangled about her, she needs must keep both hands unroughened.
"Oh, but Senorita, I—I am of ze ashamed to be so—to be—" Again her voice trailed off into that mere faintness, which was as weak as a whisper, yet unlike it.
"Now, not another word!" insisted Mrs. Kimball, in the tone of her daughter, and the Robinson twins well knew she meant to have her own good way. "You are in our hands, my dear child, and until you are able to leave them, you must do as we say. A little more of that ammonia, Cora, and then have Janet bring in some warm bouillon—not too hot. I believe the poor child is just weak from hunger," she whispered over the head of the lace seller, whose brown eyes were now veiled with the olive lids.
"Oh!" gasped Bess. "Hungry!"
"Hush! She'll hear you," cautioned Belle, for somehow she sensed the proudness of those who, though they toil hard for their daily bread, yet have even greater pride than those who might, if they wished, eat from golden dishes—the pride of the poor who are ashamed to have it known that they hunger—and there is no more pitiful pride.
The girl did not show signs of sensing anything of that which went on around her. Even when the second spoonful of ammonia had trickled through her trembling lips, she did not again open her eyes.
"Here is the bouillon," said Janet, as she came in with some in a dainty cup, on a servette.
"We must try to get her to take a little," said Mrs. Kimball, who had her arm under the girl's neck. A dusky flush in the olive cheeks told of the returning blood, under the whip of the biting ammonia.
Some few sips of the hot broth the girl was able to take, but she did not show much life, and, after a close look at her immobile countenance, and feeling of the cold and listless hands, Cora's mother said:
"I think we had better put her to bed, and have Dr. Blake look at her when he comes for Jack."
"Oh, Jack! I had almost forgotten about him!" exclaimed Cora. "We must go to the depot. It is almost time for his train."
"You have time enough to help me," said her mother, gently. "I think we must look after her, Cora, at least—"
"Oh, of course, Mother. We can't send her to the hospital, especially when she seems so refined. She is really—clean!" and Cora said the word with a true delight in its meaning. She had seen so many itinerant hawkers of lace who were not and neither were their wares.
"Oh, she has such a sweet, sweet face," murmured Belle, who was fair, and who had always longed to be dark.
"Is there a bed ready," Janet asked Mrs. Kimball.
"Yes, Madam, in the blue room." The Kimball family had a habit of distinguishing chambers by the color of the wall papers.
"That will do. We'll take her there. I think a little rest and food is all she needs. She looks as though she had walked far to-day."
A glance at the worn and dusty shoes confirmed this.
"Can we carry her, or shall I call John?" asked Cora, referring to the one man of all work, who kept the Kimball place in order.
"Oh, I think we can manage," said her mother. "She is not heavy."
It was not until Cora and her mother lifted the girl, that they realized what a frail burden she was in their arms.
"She's only a girl, yet she has the face of a woman, and with traces of a woman's troubles," whispered Belle, as Cora and Mrs. Kimball, preceded by Janet to hold aside the draperies, left the room.
"Yes. And I wonder what she meant by speaking of her father and Sea Horse Island in the way she did?" spoke Bess. "It sounds almost like a mystery!"
"Oh, you and your mysteries!" scoffed Belle. "You'd scent one, if an Italian organ grinder stopped in front of the house, looked up at your window, and played the Miserere."
"I might give him something to eat, anyhow," snapped Bess—that is, as nearly as Bess ever came to snapping, for she was so well "padded," both in mariners and by nature, that she was too much like a mental sofa cushion to hurt even the feelings of any one.
Cora came down presently, announcing:
"She is better now. She took a little of the bouillon, but she is very weak. Mother insists on her staying in bed. She really seems a very decent sort of a person—the girl, I mean," added Cora quickly, with a little laugh. "She was so afraid of giving trouble."
"Did she tell anything of herself?" asked Bess.
"She tried to, but mother would not hear of it until she is stronger. I really think the poor thing was starving. She can't make much of a living selling lace, though some of it is very beautiful," and Cora picked up from the library door the length that had dropped from the girl's hand.
"Wasn't it strange—that she should come in and seem so worked-up over the mention of Sea Horse Island?" spoke Belle.
"It was," admitted Cora. "We shall have to find out about it later—she was on the verge of telling us, when she fainted. But, girls, if I am to go get Jack, it's time I started. Are you coming?"
"Suppose we go in our car," suggested Bess.
"You may want all the room you have to spare in yours, Cora, to bring back some of his luggage. And perhaps some of the boys besides Walter may come on from Exmouth with Jack. In that case—"'
"Exactly!" laughed Cora. "And if they do you want to be in a position to offer them your hospitality. Oh, Bess! And I thought you would be true to Jack; especially when he is so ill!"
"Cora Kimball! I'll—" but Bess, her face flaming scarlet, found no words to express her, at least pretended, indignation. "Come on, Belle," she cried. "We won't let a boy or young man ride in our car, not even if they beg us!"
"Oh, I didn't mean anything!" said Cora, contritely. But Bess simulated indignation.
The throb of motors soon told that the three girls were on their way. Cora in her powerful car, and the twins in their new one, both heading for the railroad station, though the train was not due yet for nearly half an hour, and the run would not take more than ten minutes.
"I wonder if Walter will stay on for a few days?" asked Belle of Bess, who was steering.
"I should think so—yes. He'll probably want to see how Jack stands the trip. Poor Jack!"
"Isn't it too bad?"
"Yes, and that reminds me. I wonder if he couldn't—"
"Look out, for that dog!" fairly screamed Bess, as one rushed barking from a house yard. It was only instinctive screaming on the part of Bess, for it was she herself who "looked-out," to the extent of steering to one side, and so sharply that Belle gasped. And, even at that, the dog was struck a glancing blow by the wheel and with barks changed to yelps of pain, ran, retreating into the yard whence he had come, limping on three feet.
"Serves him right—for trying to bite a hole in our tires," murmured Bess, with a show of indignation.
A slatternly woman, who had come to the door of the tumble-down house at the sound of the dog's yelps, poured out a volume of vituperation at the girls, most of it, fortunately, being lost in the chugging of the motor.
Three or four other curs came out from various hiding places to commiserate with their fellow, and the girls left behind them a weird canine chorus.
"Curious, isn't it?" observed Belle, "that the poorer the people seem, the more dogs they keep."
"What were we talking of?"
"Perhaps misery loves company," quoted Bess.
"Jack?" suggested her sister.
"No, Walter," corrected the other, and they laughed.
"What's the joke?" asked Cora, who had slowed up her car to await the on-coming of her chums. "Did you try to see how near you could miss a dog?"
"Something like that, yes," answered Bess, as she related the occurrence.
There was a period of rather tedious waiting at the station, before a whistle was heard, announcing the approach of some train.
"There it is!" cried Cora, as she jumped from her car to go to the platform.
It was only a freight engine, and the girls were disappointed. But, a few minutes later, the express sounded its blast, and, amid a whirl of dust, and a nerve-racking screech of brakes, drew into the depot.
"There's Jack!" cried Bess, grasping Cora's shoulder, and directing her gaze to a certain Pullman platform.
"And Walter's right behind him!" added Belle. "Why, he isn't carrying Jack!"
"You goose! Jack isn't as ill as all that!" laughed Cora, a bit hysterically. "Oh, Jack!" she called, waving her handkerchief.
"And there's Harry Ward!" murmured Belle.
"I didn't know he was coming, and, instinctively, her hands went to her hair. For Harry, whom Belle had met during the summer, had paid rather marked attention to her—marked even for a summer acquaintance.
"Hello, Sis!" greeted Jack, as he came slowly forward—and in his very slowness Cora read the story of his illness, slight though it was. "It was awfully good of you to come down," he added, as he brushed her cheek in a strictly brotherly kiss.
"My! Look at the welcoming delegation!" scoffed Walter. "I say, fellows, are there any cinders on my necktie?" and he pretended to be very much exercised.
"Oh, it's a sight!" mocked Belle. "Isn't it, girls? How are you, Jack?" she asked, more warmly, as she shook hands. "Oh! Don't you dare—not on this platform!" she cried, as Jack leaned forward, with the evident intention of repeating his oscillatory greeting to Cora.
"All right. Come on around back, I'd just as soon," offered Jack, with something of his old, joking manner. "They can't see us there."
"I guess you know Harry—all of you—don't you?" put in Walter.
"Oh, yes, forgetting my manners, as usual," laughed Jack, but there was little of mirth in the sound. "Harry, the girls—the girls— Harry. Pleased to meet you—and all that. Come on, Cora. I guess I'm—tired."
His eyes showed it. Poor Jack was not at all himself.
"But how did it happen—what's the matter?" asked Cora. "Were you suddenly stricken?"
"About like that—yes," admitted Jack. "Trying to do too much, the doc said. I oughtn't to have made an effort for the double literature. Thought I'd save a term on it. But that, and training too hard, did me up. It's a shame, too, for we have a peach of an eleven!"
"I know, Jack, it is too bad," said Cora, sympathetically.
"Oh, it isn't that I'm actually a non-combatant, Sis, but I've lost my nerve, and what I have left is frayed to a frazzle. I've just got to do nothing but look handsome for the next three months."
"It's a good time to look that way," ventured Bess.
"Look how?" asked Jack.
"Handsome. Tell me about the pretty stranger, Cora."
"What's that?" cried Walter, crowding up. "Handsome stranger? Remember, boys, I saw her first!"
"She means the lace seller," said Belle, languidly.
"Tell you later," Cora promised.
They were at the autos, standing near the edge of the depot platform now. The porter had set down the grips of the boys, and had departed with that touching of the cap, and the expansive smile, which betokens a fifty-cent tip. They do not touch the cap for a quarter any more.
"How'll we piece out?" asked Jack, and his tone was listless. "Who goes with whom?"
His voice was so different from his usual joking, teasing, snapping tones that Cora looked at him again. Yes, her brother was certainly ill, though outwardly it showed only in a thinness of the bronzed cheeks, and a dull, sunken look in the eyes. A desperately tired look, which comes only from mental weariness.
"You'd better ride with me, Jack," his sister said. "The car has more room."
"Walter can come with us," suggested Jack. "I've been sort of leaning on him in the train, and it eases me. So if—"
"Of course!" interrupted Cora quickly, and Walter, hearing his name spoken, came hurrying up, from where he had stood joking and talking with the Robinson twins at their car.
"On the job, Jack, old man!" he exclaimed. "Want me to hold your hand some more?"
"Wrenched my side a little at football," Jack explained to his sister. "It sort of eases it to lean against some one. The porter wanted to get me a pillow, but I'm not an old lady yet—not with Wally around."
"Harry, think you'll be safe with two of them?" asked Walter, as he nodded at Bess and Belle.
"Oh, sure," he answered with a laugh. "If they promise not to rock the boat."
"Perhaps he thinks we can't drive?" suggested Belle, mockingly.
"Far be it from me to so assume!" said Harry, bowing with his hand on his right side, and then quickly transferring it, after the manner of some stage comedian. "I'd go anywhere with you!" he affirmed.
"Don't be rash!" called Jack, who had taken his place in the tonneau of Cora's car. "Come on, Walter. Leave him to his own destruction. But, I say, Cora, what's this about some new girl? Has a pretty arrival struck town? If there has, I'm glad I came home."
"It's just a poor Armenian lace peddler, who fainted from lack of food as she was talking to mother," Cora explained.
"She isn't Armenian—she's Spanish, I'm sure of it," declared Belle, for the cars had not yet started.
"Well, Spanish then," admitted Cora.
"And she's so pretty!" put in Bess.
"Pretty! I suppose you'll be at home this evening, Jack, old chap?" asked Walter, pretending to straighten his tie, and arrange his hair.
"Is her name Carmencita or Marita?" he asked.
"We don't know, yet," Cora informed him. "The poor child wasn't able to tell us much about herself."
"Child!" exclaimed Jack. "Oh, then she's a little girl! The Mater always was great on infant classes."
"Wait until you see," advised Belle, loftily.
"You make me very curious!" mocked the invalided young man. "Drive on, Cora, and let's get the suspense over with."
Walter slipped in beside his chum, and put his arm about Jack's waist, for the wrench given Jack's side in a football scrimmage was far from healed, and often pained him severely. It was this direct cause, as much as anything else, that had pulled him down.
On the way to the Kimball home, Cora driving slowly and with careful regard for Jack's weakness, the sufferer told how he had "keeled over" in a faint, while playing the last half of a hard game, and how the team physician had insisted on his being sent home.
"And the boys very kindly offered to come with me," ended Jack.
"It's very good of them to spare the time," said Cora, with a decidedly grateful look at Walter.
"As if we wouldn't!" he said, half indignantly.
And so the cars rolled on until they turned in at the gateway of the Kimball home.
"Is she any better, Mother?" asked Cora, when Jack's mother had kissed him, and held him off at arms' length to get a better look at him.
"Who, Cora? Oh, Inez Ralcanto? Yes, she is much better. A good meal was her most pressing need."
"Inez!" murmured Jack. "Charming name. Lead me to Inez!"
"Jack!" cried Cora, in shocked accents.
His mother only smiled. It sounded like the Jack of old, and she was hopefully feeling that he was not as ill as she had been led to fear.
"Did she say anything about herself?" asked Bess, who with Belle and Harry had now come in.
"Yes, she told me her story, and I think she is anxious to repeat it to you girls," said Mrs. Kimball, looking at the Robinson twins.
"Us?"' cried Belle. "Why us in particular?"
"I don't know, but she said one of you had mentioned something about a West Indian Island—"
"Sea Horse," explained Bess, in a low voice.
"That's it—such an odd name," went on Mrs. Kimball. "And she is anxious to know more about your plan of going there. I could not tell her—having heard only the vaguest rumors about your trip, my dears."
"Yes, we are going there—or, at least, father expects to get some orchids there when we are in the West Indies," explained Bess. "But we really know nothing about the island."
"There seems to be some sort of mystery," put in Belle. "Just before she fainted, she spoke of her father. Is her name Inez, Mrs. Kimball?"
"Yes, Inez Ralcanto. She is a Spaniard. But I had rather let her tell you herself, as she is anxious to do. As soon as yow are rested—"
"Oh, we're not tired!" interrupted Walter. "That is, unless Jack feels—"
"Oh, never too tired to listen to a pretty girl—especially when she is called Inez," broke in the invalided hero. "Still, perhaps Sis and the twins had better have a first whack at her. I fancy we fellows would look better with some of the car grime removed," and he sank rather wearily into a chair.
"You poor boy! You are tired!" expostulated his mother, as she put her arms about him. "You had better go to your room, and lie down. We'll have a light dinner served soon. You'll stay, of course," and she included the Robinson twins as well as Walter and Harry in her invitation.
"Oh, I don't know," spoke Harry, diffidently. He had not known the "Cheerful Chelton Crowd" as long as had Walter. "Perhaps I'd better put up at the hotel—"
"You'll do nothing of the sort!" broke in Jack. "You and Wally will bunk in here. You forget Inez is due to give a rehearsal of the 'Prisoner of Sea Horse Island,' and you want to be here."
"Don't joke, Jack! This may be serious," said Cora, in a low voice.
"Don't worry, Sis! I feel very far from joking," and Jack put his hand to his head with a weary gesture.
"You must go and lie down," his mother said. "Dr. Blake is coming, and wants to see you. I am also going to have him for Inez. Cora, if you'll show Walter and Mr. Ward—"'
"Please call me Harry!" he pleaded.
"Harry then," and she smiled. "Show them to their rooms—you know, the ones next to Jack's room. Then you girls can come up and see our little stranger."
Cora, with her brother and his guests, went up stairs, but soon came down, her face flaming.
"What's the matter?" asked Belle.
"Oh, Jack! I don't believe he's ill at all!" she stormed. "It's only an excuse to escape college."
"What did he do?" asked Bess, slyly.
"Said Walter and Harry might—kiss me!" and Cora's face flushed.
"And—er—did they?" asked Belle.
"Belle Robinson! If you—well!" and Cora closed her lips in a firm line.
Her mother smiled.
"Perhaps we had better go up and see Inez," suggested Mrs. Kimball.
"Yes, do!" urged Cora, eager to change the subject.
The lace seller was sitting up in bed, and the white lounging gown that had been put on her, in exchange for her simple black dress, made her seem the real Spaniard, with her deep, olive complexion. She smiled at the sight of the girls.
"Pardon, Senoritas!" she murmured, as Cora and her chums entered the room. "I am so sorry that I give you ze trouble. It is too bad—I am confused at my poor weakness. But I—I—"
"You needn't apologize one bit!" burst out Cora, generously. "I'm sure you need the rest."
"Yes, Senorita, I was weary—so very weary. It is good—to rest."
"I think you had better have a little more broth," suggested Mrs. Kimball. "Then Dr. Blake will be here, and can say whether it would be wise to give you something more solid. You must have been quite hungry," she added, gently.
"I—I was, Senora—very hungry," and taking the hand of Mrs. Kimball in her own thin, brown one, the girl imprinted a warm kiss on it.
"Do you feel well enough to talk?" asked Cora. "These are my friends. They expect to go to Sea Horse Island soon. You mentioned that, just before you fainted, and—"
"Yes, Senorita, I did. Oh! if I could find someone to take me zere—I would do anyzing! I would serve zem all, my life—I would work my fingers to ze bare bones—I would—"
A flood of emotion seemed to choke her words.
"We'll help you all we can," interrupted Cora. "Why are you so anxious to go there?"
"Because my father—my dear father—he is prisoner zere, and if I go zere, I can free him!" and the girl clasped her hands in an appealing gesture.
THE MYSTERIOUS MAN
For a moment Cora and the Robinson twins looked alternately at one another, and then at the figure of the frail girl on the bed. She seemed to be weeping, but when she took her hands down from her eyes, there was no trace of tears in them—only a wild, and rather haunting look in her face.
"Is she—do you think she is raving—a little out of her mind?" whispered Belle.
"Hush!" cautioned Cora, but Inez did not seem to have heard.
"I pray your pardon—I should not inflict my emotions on you thus," the lace seller said, with a pretty foreign accent. Only now and then did she mispronounce words—occasionally those with the hard (to her) "th" sound.
"We shall be only too glad to help you," said Cora, gently.
"I do not know zat you can help me, Senorita," the girl murmured, "and yet I need help—so much."
She was silent a moment, as though trying to think of the most simple manner in which to tell her story.
"You said your father was a—a prisoner," hesitated Bess, gently. "Did he—"
"He did nozing, Senorita!" burst out the girl. "He was thrown into a vile prison for what you call 'politics.' Yet in our country politics are not what zey are here—so open, with all ze papairs printing so much about zem. Spanish politics are more in ze dark—what you call under the hand."
She seemed uncertain whether she had used the right word.
"Underhanded—yes," encouraged Cora, with a smile.
"He had enemies," proceeded the girl. "Oh, zose politic—zose intrigues—I know nozzing of zem—but zey are terrible!" She spread her hands before her face with a natural, tragic gesture.
"But I must not tire you, Senoritas," she resumed. "My father, he was arrested on ze political charges. We lived on Sea Horse Island-L, it is a Spanish possession of ze West Indies. We were happy zere (it is one grand, beautiful place). Ze waters of ze bay are so blue—so blue—ah!"
She seemed lost in a flood of happy memories, and then, as swiftly, she apologized for giving away to her feelings.
"I should not tire you," she said.
"Oh, but we just love to hear about it," said Belle, eagerly. "We are going there—to waters blue—"
"That I might go wiz you—but no, it is impossible!" the lace seller sighed.
"Tell us your story—perhaps we can help you," suggested Cora.
"I will make for you as little weariness as I can, Senoritas; and, believe me, I am truly grateful to you," she said. "I do not even dare dream zat I could go to my father," sighed Inez, "but perhaps you will be of so great kindness as to take him a message from me. I cannot mail it—he is not allowed to receive letters zat are not read, and we have no secret cipher we might use."
"If we can get a letter to him, rest assured we shall do so," promised Belle, though her sister rather raised her eyebrows at the rashness of the pledge.
"I cannot go into all ze details of ze politics, for I know zem not," went on the Spaniard. "All I painfully know is zat my father was thrown into prison, and our family and home broken up. My mother and I came to New York—to relatives, but alas! my, poor mother died. I was left alone. I was desolate.
"I had learned to make lace, and my friends thought I could sell it, so I began to make zat my trade. I thought I could save enough to go back to my father, and the beloved island—perhaps to free him."
"How did you hope to do that?" asked Cora.
"Because, in New York, I found one of his political party—himself an exile, who gave me what you call documents—I know not ze term—"
"Evidence?" suggested Belle.
"Zat is it. Evidence! I have evidence, zat would free my father, if I could get it to him. But I fear to send it by mail, for it would be taken—captured by his enemies."
"It's rather complicated—isn't it?" suggested Cora.
"Yes, Senorita—more so even zan I am telling you. Of myself I know but little, save zat if I can get ze certain papairs to my father, he might go free. But how am I to go to Sea Horse Island, when I have not even money to buy me food to keep from starving? I ask you—how can I? And yet I should not trouble you wiz my troubles, Senoritas."
"Oh, but we want to help you!" declared Cora, warmly.
"Surely," added Belle. "Perhaps I had better speak to my father. He may know of someone on Sea Horse Island, where he is going to gather orchids."
"No, no, Senorita! If you please—not to speak yet!" broke in the Spanish girl suddenly. "It must be a secret—yet. I have enemies even here."
"Enemies?" echoed Cora.
"Yes. Zey followed me from New York. Listen, I haf not yet tell you all. I make ze lace in New York, but it so big a city—and so many lace sellers—not of my country. It is hard for me to make even a pittance. Some of my friends, zey say to go out in ze country. So I go. But I weary you—yes?" and with a quick, bird-like glance she asked the question.
"Oh, no, indeed!" answered Cora. Then the girl told of traveling out of New York City, into the surrounding towns, plying her humble calling. She made a bare living, that was all, dwelling in the cheapest places, and subsisting on the coarsest food in order to save her money for her father's cause. Then came a sad day when she was robbed—in one of her, stopping places, of her little horde. She told of it with tears in her eyes.
"The poor girl!" murmured Bess, with an instinctive movement toward her pretty, silver purse.
Inez Ralcanto, for such she said was her name, her father being Senor Rafael Ralcanto, was heartbroken and well nigh discouraged at her loss. But to live she must continue, and so she did. She made barely enough to live on, by selling her laces, and since reaching Chelton the day-before, she had not sold a penny's worth. Her money was exhausted, and she was nearly on the verge of fainting when she applied at the Kimball home. Cora's mother had seemed interested in the lace, which really was beautifully worked, and while showing it on the porch, the girl had overheard the mention of her home island. The rest is known to the reader.
"And so I am so silly as to faint!" said Inez, with a little tinkling laugh. "But I faint in good hands—I am so grateful to you!" she went on, warmly, her olive checks flushing.
"And you want to go to Sea Horse Island?" asked Belle.
"I want—Oh! so much, Senorita. But I know it is a vain hope. But you are good and kind. If you could take zese papairs wiz you—and manage to get zem to my father—he could tell you how to help him. For it is all politics—he had committed no—what you call crime—not a soul has he wronged. Oh, my poor father!"
"And these papers?" asked Cora. "'What are they?"
"I know not, Senorita. I am not versed in such zings. A fellow patriot of my father gave them to me."
"Have you them with you?" asked Bess.
The girl started up in bed, and clutched at her breast. A wild look came over her face.
"I had zem in New York—I bring zem away wiz me. Zat man—he is ze enemy of my father and his party. He know I have zem, and he try to entrap me. But I am too—what you call foxy, for him! I slip through his fingernails. Ze papairs—in my valise—Oh, where is it? I—when I faint—I have it at my feet—"
"It was on the porch!" exclaimed Mrs. Kimball. "I forgot all about it in the excitement. It was full of lace—Oh, if some one has taken it!"
"And my papairs—zat could free my father!" cried the girl.
A shout came from the front of the house.
"That's Walter's voice!" exclaimed Cora, starting up.
"Here, drop that satchel!" came the call.
The girls swept to the window in time to see a small man running down the drive, closely pursued by Walter Pennington. And, as the man fled, he dropped a valise from which trailed a length of lace. The girl, Inez, caught a reflection of the scene in a mirror of the bedroom.
"Zat is him—ze mysterious man!" she cried.
"Oh, if he has taken my papairs!" and she seemed about to leap from the bed.
"You mustn't do that!" cried Cora. "Hold her, girls!"
"But ze man—my papairs!" fairly screamed the Spanish visitor.
"He has nothing—Walter is after him—he doesn't seem to have taken anything," said Belle, soothingly, as Mrs. Kimball pressed back on the pillow the frail form of the eager girl. Inez struggled for a moment, and then lay quiet.
But she murmured, over and over again:
"Oh, if he has—if he has—my father—he may never see ze outside of ze prison again!"
"We will help you," said Cora's mother, softly. "If there has been a robbery, the authorities shall be notified. I will have one of the girls inquire. You say Walter is down there, Belle?"
"Yes, and a man is running off down the road. I'll go see what it all means."
"I wish you would, please."
The eager gaze of Inez followed Belle as she left the room. The little excitement had proved rather good, than otherwise, for the patient, for there was a glow and flush to her dusky cheeks and her eyes had lost that dull, hopeless look of combined hunger and fear.
Quiet now reigned in the little chamber where the lace seller had been given such a haven of rest.
"What's it all about, Wally?" asked Belle, as she encountered the chum of Cora's brother, who was coming up the side steps bearing a black valise, from which streamed lengths of lace.
"Some enterprising beggar tried to make off with this valise," he said. "I had come down from Jack's room, and was sitting in the library, when I saw him sneak up on the porch, and try to get away with it. He dropped it like a hot potato when I sang out to him. But whose is it? Doesn't look like the one Cora uses when she goes off for a week-end, that is, unless you girls have taken to wearing more lace on your dresses than you used to."
"It belongs to the lace seller—Inez—you know, the one we spoke of," said Belle. "She's here—in a sort of collapse from hunger. And she has told the strangest story—all about a political crime—her father in prison—secret papers and a mysterious man after them."
"Good!" cried Waker, with a short laugh. "I seem to have fitted in just right to foil the villain in getting the papers. Say, better not let Jack know about this, or he'll be on the job, too, and what he needs just now is a rest—eh, Harry?"
"That's it," agreed the other college youth, whom Belle had not noticed since coming down stairs in such haste.
"Wally robbed me of the honors," complained Harry. "I was just going to make after the fellow."
"And was he really going to steal the papers?" asked Belle.
"I don't know as to that," Walter answered.
"I don't know anything about any papers. But Harry and I were sitting here, after seeing that Jack was comfortable in his room, waiting for the doctor, when I heard someone come up the steps. At first I thought it was Dr. Blake himself but when the footsteps became softer, and more stealthy, as the novels have it, I took a quiet observation.
"Then I saw this Italian-looking chap reaching for the valise. I let out a yell, went after him and he dropped it. Ahem! Nothing like having a first-class hero in the family!" and Walter swelled out his chest, and looked important.
"Better find out, first, whether you saved the papers, or just the empty valise," suggested Harry, with a smile. "Such things have been known to happen, you know."
"That's right!" admitted Walter. "Guess I had better look," and he was proceeding to open a valise when Belle hastily took it from him.
"You mustn't!" she exclaimed. "It isn't ours, and poor little Inez may not like it. Leave it up to her and she can tell if anything is missing."
"Just tell that I saved it for her—I, Walter Pennington!" begged the owner of that name. "Nothing like making a good impression, from the start, on the pretty stranger," he added. "Eh?"
"Just my luck!" murmured Harry, with a tragic air.
"Oh, you silly boys!" laughed Belle. She hastened up the stairs to the room where Inez as resting, the lace trailing from the half-opened valise.
"Oh, you have it back—my satchel!" gasped a Spanish girl. "Oh, if ze papairs are only safe!"
They were, evidently, for she gave utterance a sigh of relief when she drew a bundle of crackling documents from a side pocket of the valise, under a pile of filmy lace, at the sight of which Cora and the girls uttered exclamations of delight. Inez heard them.
"Take it—take it all!" she begged of them, thrusting into Mrs. Kimball's hands a mass of the beautiful cob-webby stuff. "It is all yours, and too little for what you have done for me!"
"Nonsense!" exclaimed Cora's mother. "This lace is beautiful. I shall be glad to purchase some of it, and pay you well for it—I can't get that kind in the stores. You didn't show me this at first."
"No, Senora, I was too tired. But it is all yours. I care not for it, now zat I have ze papairs safe. Zey are for my father!"
"Do you really think some man was trying to get them?" asked Cora.
"Oh, yes, Senorita," was the serious answer.
"There was a man up on the stoop—he had the valise, Walter said," put in Belle. "He dropped it and ran."
"Who could he be?" asked Cora.
"An enemy!" fairly hissed the Spanish girl, with something of dramatic intensity. "I tried to keep secret ze fact zat I was working for my father's release. I will not tire you wiz telling you all, but some enemies know I have papairs zat prove ze innocence of Senor Ralcanto. Zis man—Pedro Valdez he call himself—has been trying to get zem from me. He tried in New York, and he said he would give me no rest until he had zem. He must have been following me—no hard task since I have traveled a slow and weary way. Zen, when he saw my valise—he must have thought it his chance."
"How dreadful!" murmured Bess. "To think that such things could happen in Chelton!"
"And perhaps we are not at the end of them yet," said Cora, softly. "The man got away, didn't he, Belle?"
"So Walter said. Oh, dear! I'm glad we're going to the West Indies!"
"Oh, zat I were going wiz you!" exclaimed Inez, clasping her thin, brown hands in an appealing gesture. "But if you will take zese papairs, Senorita, and help to free my father—I will never be able to repay your great kindness."
"We shall have to ask papa about it," said Bess, cautiously. "Would you like to have him come and talk to you—he would understand about the political side of it so much better than we would."
"I would gladly welcome ze senor," said Inez, with a graceful dignity. "I shall be honored if he come."
"I think he'll be glad to," spoke Belle. "He loves anything about, politics—he's a reformer, you know."
"And so was my father—he belong to ze reform party—but the others—zey of ze old regime—zey like not reform in Sea Horse Island," chattered Inez. "Zey lose too much money zereby. So my father he is in prison, and I am here!" she finished, softly.
"Well, it's all dreadfully mixed up," sighed Cora, "and I believe it will take your father, Belle, to straighten out some of the tangle. Meanwhile, I suppose I'd better put these papers in the safe," for Inez had thrust them into Cora's rather unwilling hands.
"Keep zern safe, if you can Senora," pleaded the girl. "Zat—zat villain, if I must call him such—zat Valdez may come back for zem."
Mrs. Kimball started.
"Don't worry, mother," said Cora. "Jack is home now, to say nothing of Walter and Harry."
"Oh, my poor boy!" exclaimed his mother. "I must go to him. Dr. Blake ought to be here."
"There comes his car now," volunteered Belle. "I know the sound."
Several events, of no particular importance now followed each other in rapid succession. It was Dr. Blake who had arrived, and he was soon subjecting Jack to a searching medical examination, with the result of which, only, we need concern ourselves. Cora, slipping the bundle of papers the Spanish girl had given her into the house safe, begged Walter to keep a sharp lookout for the possible return of the mysterious man, and then she went back to stay with Inez until Dr. Blake should be able to see the foreign visitor. Harry and Walter talked in the library, and Bess and Belle—after a brief chat with the other boys, went home to tell their folks the news, and consult Mr. Robinson about the Spanish prisoner.
"Rest—rest and a change of scene—a complete change is all he needs," had been Dr. Blake's verdict regarding Jack. "If he could go south for the winter, it would be the making of him. He'll come back in the spring a new lad. But a rest and change he must have. His nerves demand it!"
"And we shall see that he gets it," said Mrs. Kimball. "Now about that girl, Doctor."
"Nothing the matter with her—just starved, that's all. The easiest prescription to write in the world. Feed her. You've already got a good start on it. Keep it up."
"Of course you can't advise us about her father, and the story she tells."
"No. She seems sincere, though. As you say, Mr. Robinson, with his business connections, will be the best one at that end of it."
"Poor girl," murmured Cora. "I do hope we can help her."
"She has been helped already," the physician informed her. "And, if I am any judge by the past activities of the motor girls, she is in for a great deal more of help in the future," and he laughed and pinched Cora's tanned check.
"Will you need to see Jack again?" asked his mother.
"Not until just before he goes away. The less medicine he takes the better, though I'll leave a simple bromide mixture for those shrieking nerves of his—they will cry out once in a while—the ends are all bare—they need padding with new thoughts. Get him away as soon as you can."
It was a new problem for the Kimball family to solve, but they were equal to it. Fortunately, money matters did not stand in the road, and since Jack was not to keep up his studies, and since Cora had "finished," there were no ties of location to hinder.
"I guess we'll all have to go away," sighed Mrs. Kimball. "I had rather counted on a quiet winter in Chelton, but of course now we can't have it."
"Perhaps it will be all for the best," suggested Cora. "If Bess and Belle are going away, I won't have any fun here alone."
A little silence followed this remark. The Robinson twins, who had just come back for an evening call, sat looking at each other. Between them they seemed to hide some secret.
"You tell her, Bess," suggested Belle.
"You, you, dear!"
"Is there anything?" asked Cora, smiling at her chums.
"Oh, dear, it's the best thing in the world—if you'll consent to it!" burst out Bess. "Listen! Papa and mamma want you to come with us, Cora—to the West Indies. They'd love to have you and your mother."
"We couldn't leave Jack!" said Cora, softly.
"Bring him along!" invited Belle. "It would be just the thing for him—wouldn't it, Dr. Blake?"
"The West Indies? Yes, I should say there couldn't be a better place."
"Oh!" gasped Cora.
"Do say yes, Mrs. Kimball!" pleaded Belle.
"What about poor little Inez?" questioned Cora. "Did you tell your father, Bess?"
"Yes, and he seems to think there may be something in it. He is going to make inquiries. Oh, but let's settle this first. Will you come with us, Mrs. Kimball—Cora? And bring Jack! Oh, it would be just perfect to have you with us."
"Could we go, Mother?" Cora pleaded.
"Why, it is all so sudden—and yet there is no good reason why we shouldn't."
"Good!" cried Walter. "I'm coming, too! I never could leave old Jack! Ho, for the West Indies!"
THE DREAM OF INEZ
"Oh, Walter, are you really going?"
"Do you mean it?"
"Are you joking?"
Thus Belle, Bess and Cora questioned Jack's chum, who stood in the center of the library, one hand thrust between two buttons of his coat, and the other raised above his head like some political orator of the old school.
"Mean it? Of course I mean it!" he exclaimed, while Dr. Blake chuckled. "I need a rest and change. Anyone will tell you that—er my appetite is not what it once was."
"No, it's on the increase," murmured Harry.
"And as for nerves—"
"Nerve, you mean," Harry went on. "You have more than your share."
"There, you see!" declaimed Walter, triumphantly. "I simply need some change."
"Better pay back what you borrowed of me to fee the Pullman porter," went on his tormentor.
"Hush!" ordered Walter, imperiously. "I'll pay you—when I come back from the West Indies."
"You seem to think it's all settled," laughed Cora.
"It is, as far as I'm concerned," said Walter, coolly. "If I can't go any other way I'll go as a valet to Mr. Robinson, or courier to the rest of the family. I can speak the language—habe Espanola? Oh, you simply can't get along without me—especially as I'll pay my own fare. And, Jack'll need me, too. It's all settled."
Mrs. Kimball looked at Dr. Blake. There was a serious and questioning look on her face.
"What do you think, Doctor?" she asked.
"Professionally, I should say it was an excellent chance," he replied. "It would do Jack a world of good, and, though neither you nor Cora seems to be in need of recuperation, I have no doubt you would enjoy the trip."
"Then you simply must come!" cried Belle. "I'll 'phone papa at once."
"Not quite so fast, my dear," said Mrs. Kimball, gently. "I must first see if Jack would like it."
"He's sure to," declared Cora, who already had visions of palm-tufted coral islands, and deep blue waters.
"Just tell him he's going," suggested Dr. Blake. "Patients, such as he, don't need much urging one way or the other. The trouble is they are too little inclined to resist."
He took up his, hat, as a signal that he was going, and once more expressing his professional opinion that the change would be the best possible medicine for Jack, took his leave.
"Let's go up and tell Jack now," suggested Cora, who, the more she thought of the new plan, more cordially welcomed it.
"It might disturb his night's rest," objected her mother. "He has had a hard day, traveling and all that—"
"He seemed very bright," put in Walter. "I think it would give him something good to think of. He's been brooding too much over having to quit the football eleven and his favorite studies."
"Then tell him, by all means," assented Mrs. Kimball. "May we count on you, if we make up a party to go to the West Indies?" she asked of Harry.
"I'm afraid not, thank you. I'd give anything to go, but I can't spare the time from college. Some other occasion, perhaps."
As Walter had predicted, Jack took fire at once oh hearing the proposal.
"It'll be great!" he declared. "I've always wanted to go. I wonder what sort of a boat we could get down there, Wally? It would be immense to go on a cruise, among those hundreds of islands."
"Time enough to think of that when we get there, old man. Then you'd like to go?"
"I sure would. Tell Mr. Robinson thanks—a hundred times."
"I'll save some of them for to-morrow; it's getting late. Now turn over, and go to sleep."
"Sleep! As if I could sleep with that news! Let's talk about it!"
And they did—the girls coming up with Mrs. Kimball for a brief chat. Then the invalid was ordered to quiet down for the night.
Walter, with Harry, who was to remain at the Kimball residence for a few days, went home with the Robinson twins in their car, Cora trailing along in her automobile to bring back the boys.
The next day nothing was talked of but the prospective trip. Walter wired his people and received permission to absent himself from college, ostensibly to help look after Jack. As Harry had said, he could not go, but Mrs. Kimball and Cora fully made up their minds to make the journey with Jack, and close up the Chelton home for the winter months.
"But what about Inez and her political problem?" asked Belle, when this much had been settled. "She doesn't want to stay and be, as she says, a burden on you any longer, poor little girl."
"She's far from being a burden," spoke Cora. "Why, mother says the lace she sold us was the most wonderful bargain, even though we did give her more than she asked for it. And as for making pretty things, why she's a positive genius. My pretty lace handkerchief that was so badly torn, she mended beautifully. And she is so skillful with the needle! Mother says she never need go out peddling lace again. There are any number of shops that would be glad to have her as a worker."
"It's so good she fell into your hands," murmured Bess. "But, as you say, what about her? Papa has looked over her papers, and he says there is really enough evidence in them to free Mr. Ralcanto. Papa even cabled to some business friends in San Juan, and they confirmed enough of Inez's story to make him believe it all.
"Of course I don't understand—I never could make head nor tail of politics, but there seems to be a conspiracy to keep Mr. Ralcanto in jail, and treat him shamefully. Inez did accidentally find the evidence to free him, and her father's enemies tried to get it away from her."
"Then that man whom Walter saw," began Cora, "was—"
"He might have been after the papers," interrupted Bess, "and again, he might have been only a tramp, hoping to get a valise full of lace. At any rate, he hasn't been around again."'
"Mother told our man John to be on the watch for him," said Cora. "And now lets consider what we are going to do. What shall I need to take in the way of clothes?"
"Only your very lightest, my dear," suggested Belle. "Of course the trip down on the steamer will be cool—at least the first day or so. Well start in about two weeks. That will bring us to Porto Rica about, the beginning of the dry season—the most delightful time."
"And is your father really going to try to have the Spanish prisoner released?" asked Cora.
"He says he is, my dear. And when papa makes up his mind to do a thing, it is generally done," said Bess. "Besides, he has learned that Mr. Ralcanto did some political favors for friends of papa's. That is before the poor man was put in prison. Which brings us back to Inez—what about her, Cora?"
"I have just thought of something," murmured Jack's sister. "As I said, she has several times suggested going, now she is practically assured that something will be attempted for her father. But I was just wondering why we couldn't take her with us?"
"Of course!" cried Belle.
"Mamma was going to take Janet for a maid," Cora resumed, "but Janet isn't very keen on going. I fancy she thinks the West Indian Islands are inhabited by cannibals."
"The idea!" laughed Bess.
"Well, I found her reading some books on African travel," Cora went on, "and she asked me if the climate wasn't about the same. She seems to think all hot countries are the homes of cannibals. So I imagine Janet will refuse to go—at the last moment."
"Would Inez go, as a maid?" asked Belle.
"I fancy so. She says she has done so before, since the change in her fortunes. And mother and I like her very much. Besides, she speaks Spanish, and that would be a great help."
"Why, Walter said—" began Bess, wonderingly.
"He knows just two words of Spanish, and he speaks them as though he were a German comedian," declared Cora. "Wally is all right otherwise, but as a translator of the Castilian tongue, I wouldn't trust him to ask what time it was," she laughed. But Inez would be such a help."
"Then why don't you take her?" asked Bess. And, when it had been talked over with Mrs. Kimball, it was practically decided upon.
"Lets go tell Inez," proposed Belle, "when the decision had been reached. It will be such a surprise to her."
The Spanish girl, though not fully recovered from the long period of insufficient food and weary toil, had insisted upon taking up some of the duties, of the Kimball home. But Cora's mother required that she rest a portion of each day to recover her strength. And, as the girls sought her in her own little room (for Inez was anything but a servant), they found her just awakening from a sleep.
"Oh, Senoritas!" she exclaimed, her cheeks flushed under their olive tint. "I have had such a beautiful dream. I dreamed I was back in my own dear country—on Sea Horse Island. Oh, but ze palms waved a welcome to me, and ze waters—ze so blue waters—zey sang a song to me. Ze blue waves broke on ze coral—as I have seen it so, often. Oh, but, Senoritas, I was sorry to awaken—so sorry—for it was but a dream."
"No, Inez, it was not all a dream," said Cora, gently. "If you like, you may go back to Sea Horse Island. We will take you to Porto Rico with us, and from there you can easily go to your own island."
"Oh, will you—will you take me, Senoritas?" cried Inez, kneeling at Cora's feet. "Oh, but it is magnificent of you!" and she covered Cora's hands with kisses.
OFF TO WATERS BLUE
"Oh, Jack! Aren't you just wild to go?"
"I don't know, Cora. Anything for a change, I suppose," was the listless answer. "I'd go anywhere—do anything—just to get one good night's sleep again."
"You poor boy! Didn't you rest well?"
"A little better than usual, but I'm so dead tired when I wake up—I don't seem to have closed my eyes."
Jack's nervous trouble had taken the turn of insomnia—-that bugbear of physician and patient alike—and while the others had their night hours filled with dreams, or half-dreams, of pleasant anticipation, poor Jack tumbled and tossed restlessly.
"I'm sure you will be much better when we get to San Juan," affirmed Cora. "The sea voyage will do you good, and then down there it will be such a change for you."
"I suppose it will," assented her brother. "But just now I don't feel energetic enough even to head a rescue party for Senor Ralcanto."
That remark seemed very serious to Cora, for her brother was of a lively and daring disposition, always the leader in any pranks. Now, his very listlessness told how strong a hold, or, rather, lack of hold, his nerves had on him.
"Never mind," said Cora cheerfully. "Once we get started, and with Wally, Bess and Belle to cheer you up, I'm sure you'll be much better."
"Anything for a change," again assented Jack, without enthusiasm.
Arrangements were rapidly being made. The Kimball and Robinson homes in Chelton would be closed for, the winter, for the families planned to stay in the West Indies until spring should have again brought forth the North into its green attire. Walter Pennington had agreed to stay as long as Jack did, and Mrs. Kimball, being of independent means, as were Mr. and Mrs. Robinson, could prolong their cruise indefinitely, if they so desired.
As for the girls, it was like standing on the threshold of a new wonderland. They did not know all the wonders they were about to see, nor did they dream of all the strange experiences and adventures in which they, would play an active part.
Inez had communicated with the few distant friends she had in New York, telling them of her great joy in being able to get back to Sea Horse Island. And her father, too, might find happiness in release from his political prison.
The Spanish girl would go as a maid and companion to Mrs. Kimball, and Inez rejoiced in her new duties. Cora's mother declared Inez was a jewel.
The papers that it was hoped would free Mr. Ralcanto were carefully concealed for taking with the party, for, though Jack and Walter scoffed at the idea of anyone daring to try to get them, Mr. Robinson was not so sanguine.
"Down there conditions are very different from up here," he said. "They haven't the same wholesome regard for law—or, rather, they take it into their own hands, as suits their fancy. And if any one of the political party opposed to Mr. Ralcanto, was to see a chance, even up north here, I don't doubt but that he'd take it, and make off with the papers.
"Of course we might manage to do without them, but there is no use running unnecessary risks. So I'll just put them where they won't find them in a hurry."
A search had been made in Chelton for the mysterious man who had tried to make off with Inez's valise, but all trace of him was lost. He might have been merely a passing tramp.
The girls were in a constant flutter of excitement. There was so much to do, and so many new garments to secure. The two motor cars were kept in constant use, Bess, Belle and Cora darting back and forth in their respective houses, or to the Chelton shops. Occasionally they made a trip to New York for something which simply could not properly be had at the home stores.
As for Jack and Walter, they declared that they we're ready to start on ten minutes notice.
"All we have to do is to chuck a few things in a suit case, and buy our tickets," Walter declared. "I always carry a tooth brush with me."
"Wonderful—marvelous!" mocked Bess.
"Superior creatures—aren't they?" suggested Cora, smiling.
And so the preparations went on. The party was to sail in a fruit steamer from New York, and would land at San Juan, where Mr. Robinson had engaged rooms at the best hotel. He expected to do considerable business there, but future plans were not all settled.
"At any rate, we'll have a most glorious time!" declared Bess, "and I'm sure it will do Jack good."
"I think its done him some good already just thinking about it," replied Cora. "Though he declares that he doesn't care much, one way or the other. It isn't like Jack to be thus indifferent."
"He doesn't seem so very indifferent—just now," commented. Belle, dryly. "He and Walter are trying to explain to Inez how a motor car works and I do believe Jack is holding her hand much longer than he needs, to in showing her how the gears are shifted."
The three girls—Cora and her chums—were in Cora's room, making a pretense at packing. They could look down to the drive at the side of the house—where Jack's car stood after a little run. As Belle had said, Jacks indifference seemed partially to have vanished. For he was enthusiastic in imparting some information to Inez.
As I have explained, the position of the pretty Spanish girl was much different from that of an ordinary servant. She was more like a companion. And, now that a rest and good food had rounded out her hollow cheeks, she was distinctively pretty, with that rather bold and handsome type of beauty for which the southern women are so noted. Jack and Walter both seemed much impressed. The girls were not jealous—at least not yet—of Inez.
Inez was so delighted with the prospect of getting back to her own island, and with the chance of helping free her father, that it is doubtful if she looked upon Jack and Walter with any more seeing eyes than those which she would have directed to small boys at their play. She liked them. She liked them to show her about the automobile, and she laughed frankly with them—but she was totally ingenuous.
"And she could be so—so dangerous—if she chose," murmured Belle.
"What do you mean?" asked Cora.
"I mean—with her languorous," was the murmured reply.
Cora looked sharply at her chum, but said nothing.
The last gown had been delivered, and the trunks needed but the straps around them to close their lids. The Chelton houses had been put in readiness for their lonely winter, and already the tang of frost in the late October air had brought the advance message of Jack Frost.
Some few purchases remained for Mrs. Robinson and Mrs. Kimball to make, but these were deferred until the trip to New York to take the steamer. They would remain a day or so in the metropolis before sailing.
"One last run in our cars, and then well put them away," suggested Cora to her chums.
"We'll come along," Jack invited himself and Walter.
They had a glorious day in the open. Then the gasoline tanks were emptied, the radiators drained, and the cars put away in the garage.
"I do hope we can do some motor boating down there," said Jack, with something like a return of his former interest.
"We shall, I'm sure," said Bess. "'They say it is ideal for the sport there."
Inez had sent word to her father that an attempt would be made to free him. That is, she had sent the message. Whether it would reach him or not was another question, for his political enemies had him pretty well hedged about.
New York was no novelty to our friends, for they often ran in during the winter. The days there were busy ones, and passed quickly.