Chase Josephine.

Patsy Carroll Under Southern Skies





CHAPTER XVII
PUZZLING OVER THE PUZZLE

Now minus a cook, it remained to the Wayfarers to prepare their own luncheon. Not stopping to bewail their cookless state, the four girls, under the direction of Miss Martha, attacked the task with the utmost good humor.

Miss Carroll, however, was not so optimistically inclined. Mammy Luces sudden departure had deprived her of a skilled cook, whom she could not easily replace. She was thankful that the panic had not extended to the maids. Providentially, Celia was absent for the day. According to Mammy Luce, Emily was still in ignorance of the sperrits visitation. She had eaten her noonday meal and gone back to her upstairs work before Mammy Luce had seen the dread apparition.

In the midst of preparations for the belated luncheon, she appeared in the kitchen, broom and duster in hand, her black eyes round with curiosity at the unusual sight which met them.

In as casual a tone as she could muster, Miss Carroll informed the girl that Mammy Luce had left Las Golondrinas. This news appeared not to surprise Emily so much as had the sight of the young ladies an the Missis aworkin in de kitchen.

Huh! was her scornful ejaculation. I guess ole Luce done got skairt bout dat ere ghos. Carlos wuz tellin her bout it tother day. That Spanish fellah in the queer duds up thar in the pitcher gallery done walk aroun this house. He go fer to say hes seen it. He am a liar. They aint no sech things s ghoses, I says, but Luce, she says they is. She wuz fraid shed see it.

Certainly there are no such things as ghosts, Emily, Miss Martha made haste to agree. I am glad to find you so sensible on the subject. Since you have mentioned it, I might as well say that it was this ghost idea which caused Mammy Luce to leave us.

Miss Martha diplomatically avoided making a direct explanation of the affair. Once Emily learned Mammy Luce had insisted that she had actually seen a ghost, she might not remain firm in her conviction that there were no sech things.

I hope Celia has no such foolish ideas about ghosts as Mammy Luce, Miss Carroll continued inquiringly.

Celie, shes bout half an half. She says as thar might be or mightnt. Only she says she aint gwine to git skairt less she sees one. Celien me, we dont take no stock in that good-fer-nuffin Carlos. He am a sorehead, he am. Ef its greeable, Mis Carroll, I reckon I aint sech a bad cook. Leastways, I don mind tryin. Ef yoh likes mah cookin mebbe I can git mah sister t come an do mah work.

This was joyful news indeed. Needless to mention, Miss Carroll was not slow to take good-natured Emily at her word.

I shall be very glad to have you try, Emily, she said. If you can get along with the cooking it will save us the trouble of sending to Miami for another cook. Where does your sister live? Perhaps she wouldnt care to come here for so short a time.

She lives home with mah mudder, Mis Carroll.

Jes a little ways from Miami. She am only fifteen, but she am right smaht. I done gwine t write her tnight, assured Emily, showing her white teeth in a wide grin.

Do so, Emily. To have your sister come here will simplify matters wonderfully.

Miss Martha looked her relief at this unexpected solution of the domestic problem.

With the deft assistance of Emily, the luncheon which the Wayfarers had busied themselves in preparing was soon on the dining-room table. It consisted of bread and butter, bacon, an omelet, and a salad, composed of tomatoes, green sweet peppers and lettuce, with French dressing. The fateful cake which Mammy Luce was removing from the oven when she saw the sperrit now figured as dessert along with oranges which Patsy had painstakingly sliced and sugared.

Previous to Emilys disappearance, the preparation of luncheon had been accompanied by much talk and laughter on the part of the Wayfarers. Presently seated at table, they had considerably less to say. Emilys revelation concerning Carlos had set them all to wondering and speculating.

It strikes me that this Carlos has very little good sense, Miss Martha criticized the moment Emily had left the dining-room. He should have known better than tell such a tale to old Mammy Luce. I shall speak to your father about him, Patsy.

When we asked him about the portrait gallery he said he didnt know a thing, Patsy replied with a puzzled frown. Do you suppose he really told Mammy Luce about the picture and the ghost? If he did, that proves he wasnt telling us the truth. Now why should he lie to us?

Very likely to get rid of answering your questions, responded her aunt. Undoubtedly he knew better than to tell you girls such a silly story. He knew you would refer to it to your father and that Robert would be displeased. I believe Emily, of course. As to Mammy Luce, I dont know. It is exactly the sort of foolish yarn that I warned you we were likely to hear down South. I am sorry that it should have cost us our cook.

The tale of the ghostly cavalier was not disturbing Miss Carroll in the least. The loss of a cook was of far greater importance to her.

The Wayfarers, however, were more impressed by Mammy Luces ghost than they dared allow Miss Carroll to guess. During luncheon four pairs of bright eyes continually exchanged significant glances. They were burning to talk things over among themselves.

Miss Carrolls announcement that she intended to take a nap directly after luncheon gave them the longed-for opportunity. Patsys demure invitation, Come on into Bees and my room, Perry children, held untold meaning.

Girls, began Patsy solemnly, the instant the door of the room closed behind the quartette, theres something queer about this old house. Theres something queer about that picture. Carlos knows more than he pretended to know. I wouldnt feel so well, so funny about it if I hadnt thought I saw that cavalier in the picture move. It gives me the shivers. Do you suppose there is Oh, there simply cant be a ghost in this house!

Of course there isnt, smiled Bee. Brace up, Patsy. Youre just nervous over that picture business this morning. I think perhaps Carlos told Mammy Luce that story just to be malicious and scare her. He looks like that sort of person. Maybe he dislikes us as much as his grandmother appeared to, and just because we live in the house that belonged to his former employer.

If thats the case, he may have told the yarn to Mammy Luce on purpose to get her to leave, and so inconvenience us, suggested Eleanor. He may have thought shed leave in a hurry without telling us why she was going.

Lets begin at the beginning and see what we know, proposed Bee. First, theres crazy old Rosita who called us thieves and said wed never find something or other that Camillo, whoever he is or was, had hidden. Second, theres Carlos, who turned out to be the grandson of Rosita, who said she was not crazy but pretended to know nothing else about anything here. Third, theres Mammy Luce, who went off and left us because she saw, or thought she saw, a ghost. Fourth, theres Emily, who said Carlos told Mammy Luce that the ghost of the cavalier in the picture gallery walked about this house. Fifth, theres Patsy, who heard an odd noise in the gallery and saw, or thought she saw, the cavalier picture move. Put it all together. Does it mean something or nothing?

No one except Carlos can answer that question. The whole thing, except Patsys scare, centers on him, declared Mabel.

Im going to have a private talk with Dad, announced Patsy. Im going to ask him not to speak to Carlos about the ghost story, but to let him alone and see what happens next. If he really has a grudge against us hell be sure to do something else to bother us. Well be on the watch and in that way well catch him at it. Then maybe Dad can make him tell what he wouldnt tell us.

But what about your aunt, Patsy? conscientiously reminded Eleanor. Shes going to ask your father to speak to Carlos, you know.

Ill see Dad first and explain things. Ill ask him to tell Auntie, when she mentions Carlos to him, that he thinks it would be a good idea to let Carlos alone for the present and watch him. It is a good idea, and I know Dad will agree with me. Id say so to Auntie myself if I were sure she wouldnt mind. She would, though, because shes not in sympathy with us when it comes to mysteries.

If any more queer things happen, Miss Martha will have to admit that there is a mystery hanging over Las Golondrinas, Bee predicted. I forgot to add Dolores to the list. Shes another mystery.

She surely is, but she doesnt belong to the Carlos puzzle, returned Patsy. Never mind, give us time and well put all the pieces of all the puzzles together. Were determined to do it. Thats half the battle.

We may even find the secret drawer, supplemented Mabel hopefully.

This remark was received with derisive chuckles. Her companions had come to regard the mythical secret drawer as a huge joke.

Laugh at me if you want to. When I find it, then it will be my turn to laugh at you, Mabel emphasized.

When you do, well stand in line and let you laugh at us, jeered Eleanor.

Ill remember that, retorted her sister. Im going to the sitting-room now to patiently pursue my indefatigable investigations. Ahem! Never despair is my motto.

Sleep, sweetly sleep, is going to be mine, yawned Eleanor. Im going to take a nap.

Id like to go down to the orange groves. Patsy beamed significantly upon Beatrice. Im not supposed to trail around this vast tract of terrestrial territory alone. If some one will kindly volunteer

Ill take pity on you, laughed Bee. Come on. While were about it we might as well lug a basket along and fill it with oranges. Try to be useful as well as ornamental. Thats my motto.

Mine is: Be thankful for small favors, retaliated Patsy with an impish grin. Allow me to escort you to the kitchen for the basket. Good-bye, Perry children. Well see you later.

Patsy offered her arm to Bee with an extravagant flourish and the two girls left the room laughing. Mabel promptly made a bee-line for the sitting-room, while Eleanor went to her own room for her nap.

Bee and Patsy spent an enjoyable but uneventful hour in the orange groves, returning with their basket piled high with luscious fruit. Mindful of her intent to have first audience with her father on his return that afternoon, Patsy posted herself on a balcony overlooking the drive to watch for him.

When, at five oclock, he drove the car up the drive, he was met halfway to the house by his daughter who imperiously demanded a ride to the garage.

Informed of all that had recently occurred and the course of action Patsy had laid out for him, Mr. Carroll looked decidedly grave.

Im sorry to hear this of Carlos, he said. So far as work goes, hes an excellent man. Im going to adopt your suggestion, Patsy, to say nothing to him at present about this ghost business. Ill explain to your Aunt Martha so that shell be satisfied to let matters stand as they are. Of course, if he continues to stir up trouble among the maids or my black boys by frightening them with ridiculous yarns about ghosts, then I shall feel obliged to come down on him for it.

Have you asked him yet about either old Rosita or Dolores?

Having related to her father all she knew of both, Patsy now referred to them by name.

Yes. Mr. Carroll smiled. I described them to him this morning and inquired about them. He had nothing to say beyond that this Rosita was his grandmother and not insane. He swears that he never saw this girl Dolores.

I dont believe him, Patsy said with a vigorous shake of her auburn head. She has lived in this neighborhood several years. She told me so. He was brought up here. He must have seen her often. Hes a Spanish-speaking Mexican and shes Spanish. He must certainly know who she is. Why he should deny knowing her I cant imagine. Just the same, its something I intend to find out, if only for my own satisfaction.

CHAPTER XVIII
SOMETHING!

Theres to be a Venetian f?te on Lake Worth on Thursday evening. Would you like to attend it?

Mr. Carroll made this announcement at the breakfast table one Monday morning to an interested group of listeners. A week had elapsed since the eventful morning on which Patsy had made the acquaintance of Dolores and the Wayfarers had returned from the beach in time to witness the departure of ghost-ridden Mammy Luce.

On the following morning they had gone, accompanied by Miss Carroll, to keep tryst with their wood nymph at the spot she had designated. As Patsy had predicted, her chums immediately succumbed to the charm of the little Spanish girl.

Even Miss Martha had no fault to find with her so far as behavior went. She found the young girl neither ill-bred nor uncouth. Instead, Dolores exhibited toward stately Miss Carroll a shy deference that would have impressed in her favor a far more critical judge.

What Miss Martha did not quite like, however, was Dolores wistful but absolutely firm refusal to reveal where she lived or with whom she lived.

I would to answer and thus please you, she had sadly said, lifting bright, brave eyes to meet squarely those of her dignified questioner. I would to make you the visit to Las Golondrinas and thus be made so happy. I cannot. It is forbidden.

At the conclusion of the interview they had left her standing under the fronded green of the palmettos, hands crossed over her breast, dark eyes eloquent with longing. Before they parted from her, however, Patsy obtained her reluctant promise to come to them on the beach for a few minutes, at least, whenever she chanced to see the Wayfarers bathing there.

Two mornings afterward she had kept her word. With her she had brought the blue book, voicing eager praise of the very sweet story and her thanks for the simpatica letter. Though the Wayfarers had pressed her to stay, she remained with them but a few moments. During that time she had cast frequent timid glances toward the jungle as though in lively fear of something or someone known to herself alone.

Unable to withstand Patsys coaxing plea of: Come again to-morrow morning and Ill have another nice story book here for you, she had paid them a brief call on the next day. Since that time she had not again appeared on the beach at their bathing hour, and the Wayfarers did considerable wondering as to what had become of her.

The past three days having, therefore, been particularly uneventful beyond the healthy pleasures of outdoors, the four girls now hailed Mr. Carrolls proposal with acclamation.

What is a Venetian f?te? inquired Bee. Its held on the water. I know that much. What do we have to do? Do we dress in fancy costumes?

Only the boats dress up in fancy costumes at Venetian f?tes, Bee, informed Patsy, laughing. We wear our best bib and tucker, of course, and sail around in a motor launch or some kind of boat thats all decorated with Chinese lanterns, colored lights, etc. Am I right, Dad?

Right-o, smiled Mr. Carroll. As it happens, your fairy bark awaits you. Ive engaged a power boat for the evening. Had a hard time getting hold of it, too. Well run the car down to the beach during the afternoon of Thursday. Ill have the lanterns and festoonings aboard the launch and you girls can spend the time before dinner decorating it. How will that suit you?

The loud babble of appreciation that arose caused Mr. Carroll playfully to put his hands over his ears.

My, what a noisy crowd! he exclaimed.

Were only trying to express our all-around joyfulness, Patsy defended. You wouldnt have liked it a bit if we had just said primly, How nice! We believe in noise and lots of it.

So Ive noticed, was the pertinent retort. Well, Im glad youre pleased. Youll have to excuse me now. Ive an engagement with a man at ten at the Ponciana. I must be hiking.

Really, Robert, I havent had a chance to utter a sound since you told us about the f?te, came plaintively from Miss Martha, though her eyes twinkled. As a matter of fact she had purposely kept silent, allowing the Wayfarers to bubble forth their jubilation uninterrupted. Do you consider this boat youve engaged perfectly safe? I hope you know how to run it.

Oh, I shant run it. The man from whom I rented it will be on hand to do that. Its absolutely safe, so dont worry, Martha, but make up your mind to enjoy yourself.

With this assurance, Mr. Carroll hastily departed. After he had gone the others lingered at table, further to discuss the prospective pleasure in store for them.

I wish we could take Dolores with us, Patsy said generously. Shed love the f?te. If only we could coax her to go she could wear one of my gowns. Maybe shell be at the beach this morning. If she is, Im going to tease her good and hard to go with us. You wouldnt mind, would you, Auntie?

No. Invite her if you choose. I dont doubt she would behave as well as the rest of you, Miss Carroll placidly opined. If she should accept (I doubt it), you must make her understand, Patsy, that she will have to appear in one of your gowns, not to mention pumps and hose. We shall probably meet a number of persons we know at Palm Beach.

Oh, that part of it will be all right, Patsy answered with the supreme confidence of one who can remove mountains. Its whether shell promise to go thats bothering me.

Greatly to the disappointment of the Wayfarers, Dolores did not appear on the beach that morning. Nor did they see any signs of her on the next day or the next. Thursday morning did not bring her to the sands.

On the way back to the house from the beach the party even went so far as to visit the spot in the jungle which Dolores had claimed as her own special nook. But she was not there. Though the girls called out her name repeatedly in their fresh young voices, only the twitter of the birds and the sighing of the light breeze among the leaves answered them. Dolores had evidently forsaken her forest haunt for a time at least.

Very likely that horrible she is keeping Dolores in and making her work, grumbled Patsy to Bee when the party finally returned to the road and started for the house. You know, Dolores told me that she had had to do very hard work ever since she came here to live after her father died. Its too bad Dad has been so busy lately. We cant go to see those fisher folks until he can find time to go with us. I do wish Auntie would allow us to go there by ourselves. We could walk straight up the beach and never come to a bit of harm.

Well, she wont, so we might as well be resigned, replied Bee ruefully. Shes right, of course. My mother would feel the same about it; so would Mrs. Perry.

I know it. Im not complaining of Aunt Martha. Shes as good as gold. Shes been perfectly angelic about Dolores. Auntie isnt the least tiny bit snobbish. She and Dad are alike in that.

Returned to the house before noon the Wayfarers lunched early. Luncheon over, they dutifully obeyed Miss Carrolls mandate to retire to their rooms for a brief siesta before dressing for the f?te. Mr. Carrolls parting injunction to them that morning had been:

Ill have the car at the door at three-thirty sharp. Be ready to hop into it, girls. The earlier we arrive at Palm Beach, the more time youll have before dinner to decorate the launch.

Three-thirty not only found the car on the drive at the entrance to the patio, it also saw Miss Martha being helped into it by her brother. She was followed by the Wayfarers, all looking their best in their smart summer finery. The four girls were in exuberant spirits as one after another they skipped nimbly into the automobile. The Venetian f?te promised to be an item of pleasant variation on their program of enjoyment.

The drive to Palm Beach was, as always, a delightful one. Coming at last to the famous shell road the car followed it for a short distance. Presently the yachting party arrived at the point on the lagoon where their boat was docked.

Boarding it in a flutter of happy anticipation, the Wayfarers temporarily hid the glory of their dainty frocks under substantial gingham pinafores which they had purposely brought along.

Then the engrossing occupation of dressing-up their boat began. What seemed to the girls an unlimited supply of gay Chinese lanterns and bright-hued bunting had been brought aboard for them to dispose as they fancied. Fore and aft the enthusiastic toilers strung the lanterns, and hung the bunting in graceful festoons, until the trim craft blossomed into a rainbow of color.

I can hardly wait for it to get dark! exclaimed Mabel. With all these lanterns glowing and those strings of little electric lights winking all colors, our boats going to be simply gorgeous.

I hope well have some simply gorgeous eats for dinner, was Patsys unaesthetic but heartfelt yearning. Im terribly hungry. I hope, too, that we shant bump against a lot of people Auntie and I know the minute we walk into the hotel. I want to gobble my dinner in a hurry and get back here before dark so as to see everything that goes on.





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