Patsy Carroll Under Southern Skiesñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
Soon, above the growing hum of voices, came a crashing, splintering sound, accompanied by the most ear-piercing shrieks they had yet heard. A babble of shouts arose, above which that high, piercing wail held its own. Again the tramping of feet began. The frenzied wailing grew even higher. The footsteps began to die out; the cries grew fainter and yet fainter. An almost painful silence suddenly settled down over the house.
THE RETURN OF DOLORES
It was shattered by a gentle knock at Miss Carroll’s door. Light as was the rapping, it caused the occupants of the room to start nervously.
Patsy ran to the door, turned the key and opened it.
It was not Mr. Carroll, however, who had rapped. Instead a shy little figure stood in the corridor. Patsy promptly reached out and hauled the newcomer into the room with two affectionate arms.
“Dolores, you brave little thing!” she cried out admiringly. “You went all the way in the dark alone for help. Come over here, dear, and sit down by Auntie. You must be all tired out.”
Patsy led Dolores to a deep chair beside Miss Martha and pushed her gently into it. The girl leaned wearily back in it. For a moment she sat thus, eyes closed, her long black lashes sweeping her tanned cheeks. Then she opened her eyes, looked straight up at Miss Martha and smiled.
“It is the heaven,” she said solemnly.
“You poor, dear child.”
Miss Martha reached over and took one of the girl’s small, brown hands in both her own. The Wayfarers had gathered about Dolores looking down at her with loving, friendly faces. She was, to use her own expression, so “simpatica.” Their girlish affections went out to her.
“There is much to tell,” she said, straightening up in her chair, her soft eyes roving from face to face.
“We’d love to hear it if you aren’t too tired to tell us,” assured Patsy eagerly. “Where is my father, Dolores? Did he go with the men who took Rosita away?”
“Yes. First the se?or showed me the way here. He gave me the message. He will take Rosita away in the automobile. So it may be long before he returns. With him went three black men and Carlos.”
“Carlos!” went up the astonished cry.
“Yes. You must know it was for Carlos I went as well as the others. I had said to him many times that Rosita was mad. He would not believe. It was Carlos who brought me to the house of Rosita when my father had the death. Rosita had always for me the hate and abused me much. Carlos cared not. Perhaps he had for me the hate, too. I believe it.
“I have not come to the beach to have the talk with you because of Rosita. She watched me too much of late,” Dolores went on. “She had the hate for you because you came to Las Golondrinas. She was afraid I would see you and tell you she had the hate. She was mad, but yet most cunning.”
“But why did she hate us, Dolores?” questioned Bee.
The Wayfarers had now drawn up chairs and seated themselves in a half circle, facing the little Spanish girl.
“Soon I will tell you.
First I must tell you that two days ago Carlos went away. Then Rosita shut me in the cellar. Ah, I knew she had the wickedness planned! All the day I heard her above me, speaking, speaking to herself. Sometimes she laughed and shouted most loud. Then I could hear her words. She cried out often of Las Golondrinas and Eulalie and old Manuel. So I knew what was in her mind.”
“Then perhaps you can tell us who Camillo is or was!” exclaimed Patsy. “You seem to know a good deal about the Feredas.”
“How knew you his name?” Dolores turned startled eyes on Patsy.
Briefly Patsy related the Wayfarers’ one conversation with Rosita.
“I never knew.” Dolores shook her black head. “Comprendo mucho.”
Unconsciously she had dropped into Spanish.
“We don’t understand,” smiled Mabel.
“Ah, but you shall soon know. Now I must speak again of myself. In the cellar I remained until this night. But on the night before this, Rosita went away. She came not back. This night late came Carlos home. I cried out to him and so he released me. He was very tired and would sleep. So he slept and I came here, because I had the fear that Rosita was hiding in the secret place to do you the harm. She had known of it long. Yet she knew not that I knew it, too. It was Eulalie who showed me, once when I came here to see her. We were friends. Rosita was the nurse of Eulalie in her childhood. Eulalie was simpatica, but she was most unhappy. Her grandfather was the cross, terrible old one. He, too, had the madness. He was loco.”
Dolores nodded emphatic conviction of her belief that Manuel de Fereda had been insane.
“It was the midnight when I came here,” she resumed. “I lay in the long grass to listen, but heard nothing. So my thought was that Rosita might be far away and not in the house. I wished it to be thus, for I had the shame to knock on the doors late and say, ‘Beware of Rosita who is mad.’ I knew that in the daylight I should do that and tell you all before harm came. So I lay still and watched the house where all was dark and quiet. Then I heard the voice of Rosita as I have heard it never before. I knew not what had come to her, but I wished to see and give you the help such as I could give.”
“But how did you get into the house, Dolores?” questioned Patsy. “All the doors were locked.”
“I climbed the vines, which grow upward to the small balcony on the western side,” Dolores said simply. “The window stood open and thus I came in the time to help.”
“You certainly did, little wood nymph,” declared Patsy affectionately. “What happened when you came back with the men? We’re crazy to know.”
“The se?or asked Carlos of the secret door. Was it the true door, or but the canvas? Carlos knew not. Of the door he knew from Rosita, but not the secret. Never had he passed through it. But I knew that it was the true door with strong wood behind the canvas. So the picture door must be shattered by blows. Thus was loosed the rope which had shut in the door and held Rosita fast so that she could move but a little. It was the surprise when I saw her wrapped in the white sheets. On the floor I saw her long black cloak. I understood all.”
Dolores’ sweeping gesture indicated her complete comprehension of a situation which still baffled her audience not a little.
“How did they get her out of this cubby-hole?” inquired Miss Carroll interestedly.
Fortunately for Patsy, the arrival of Dolores had turned her aunt’s attention temporarily from her reckless niece’s transgressions. Practical Miss Martha was of the private opinion that she had been living through a night of adventure far stranger than fiction. The thought gave her an undeniable thrill.
“She herself leaped out like the wild beast,” Dolores answered. “She sprang at Carlos, but he was ready. The wise se?or had said she would do this, because the mad turn fiercest against those they love. The se?or and the black men caught her and the se?or wound the rope round and round her body. Then they carried her down the stairs and held her fast, while the se?or went for the automobile. The se?or said she must go to the police station at Miami. Carlos was sad for Rosita had loved him much. He had not believed she was mad.”
“I don’t see how he could help knowing it!” cried Patsy. “Why, we thought her crazy the first time we ever saw her! Mabel asked Carlos about her. It made him angry. I guess he knew it then, but wouldn’t admit it. I’m sure he must have told Rosita about us. That must have been one reason why she forbade you to come near us. Please tell us, Dolores, why she hated us. You promised you would.”
“It was because of the treasure of Las Golondrinas.” Dolores lifted solemn eyes to Patsy.
“The treasure!” rose in an incredulous chorus.
“Do you mean that there’s a treasure hidden somewhere about Las Golondrinas?” almost shouted Patsy.
“It is truth,” the girl affirmed. “All his life old Manuel sought but never found. He had the despair, so he was most cruel to Eulalie, pobrecita. How she hated that treasure!”
“Now we know what Rosita meant that day,” put in Bee. “When she said old Camillo had hidden it well. Was Camillo a Fereda?”
“Si; el caballero Camillo de Fereda,” nodded Dolores, then laughed. “Always I think of Camillo in Spanish,” she apologized. “I would say in English: ‘Yes, the gentleman, Camillo de Fereda.’ He lived long long ago. He was el caballero of the painting this night destroyed. I am glad he is gone. He had the wicked face. He was wicked; the pirate and the murderer. Eulalie has told me of him.”
“Then he must have been one of those Spanish buccaneers who sailed the seas and attacked English ships about the time when Ponce de Leon landed here in Florida,” declared Beatrice.
“But that was away back in fifteen something or other,” objected Eleanor. “Las Golondrinas hasn’t been the home of the Feredas nearly so long as that. In those days there was nothing here but swamps and wilderness. Do you happen to know just how old this house is, Dolores?”
“Eulalie has said that many, many Feredas have lived here,” Dolores replied. “All knew of the treasure but could not find. It was the secret which passed from the father to the son. Manuel knew it, but he would never tell Eulalie because she was not the son. She knew only from him that there was the treasure for which old Manuel always searched. She had not the belief in it.”
“Then how did Rosita come to learn of it?” interrupted Bee quickly.
“I heard her tell Carlos that long ago she spied upon Manuel. Once, while he wandered in the woods looking for the treasure, she followed him all the day. He lay down under the trees to sleep. While he slept she crept to him and took from his pocket the letter and the small paper. What was written on the small paper she could not understand, for it was not the Spanish. The letter was the Spanish. For the many long words she could not read it well. So she put them again in Manuel’s pocket. But she swore to Carlos that old Camillo wrote the letter and that he wrote of the treasure which he had hidden.”
“Did you tell Eulalie what Rosita said?” pursued Bee with lawyer-like persistence.
“I dared not. I had the fear she might question Manuel. Then he would have had the great anger against Rosita. Then Rosita would have killed me. When Eulalie was the small child, Rosita was the nurse and lived in Las Golondrinas. It was then that she followed Manuel and read the letter. When Eulalie had the age of fourteen years, Manuel sent Rosita away to the cottage to live. Soon after I came here.”
“Rosita couldn’t have liked Eulalie very well. When we asked her about Eulalie that day she raved and shrieked ‘ingrata’ and goodness knows what else,” related Mabel. “I can understand enough Spanish to know that she was down on Eulalie.”
“She had the anger because Eulalie wished Las Golondrinas to be sold. While Manuel lived Rosita dared not look here for the treasure. When he died she was glad. She wished Eulalie to let her come here again to live. Eulalie was weary of this place of sorrow. She cared not that she was the Fereda. So she sold Las Golondrinas to the se?or, your father.”
Dolores inclined her head toward Patsy.
“Now I begin to see why Rosita had no use for us,” smiled Patsy. “She must have had a fine time hunting the treasure before we came down here and spoiled sport.”
“It is truth,” concurred Dolores. “All the day and often in the night she searched everywhere. She had the keys to this house. She came here much while it was empty. It was then, I believe, that the greatest madness fell upon her. She knew nothing that Eulalie had sold Las Golondrinas to the se?or until he came here to live. I remember how angry she was. Still she watched and went to the house when the se?or was not there.”
“I have no doubt she was tucked away somewhere in the grounds watching when we arrived,” frowned Miss Martha. “We have had a narrow escape.”
“She saw you,” instantly affirmed Dolores. “It was the surprise. She thought the se?or would live here alone. Then fell the rain and for two days she went not out of the cottage. I, also, went not out until the sunshine returned. Then I ran away into the woods. So you came to the cottage and I never knew.”
“It’s strange she never said a word to you about it,” mused Beatrice.
“Ah, no! She spoke to me but little; only the harsh words. It was to Carlos she would talk, but not before me. Now I understand why she was in the great rage when I returned to the cottage on that morning when you had been there. You had spoken of these Feredas and Eulalie. She was afraid you had come here to hunt for the treasure. She wished to frighten you away.”
“Our theory was not as wild as it might have been, Patsy,” smiled Bee.
“I suppose Carlos was hunting for the treasure, too, and so helped along this lunatic’s plans to play ghost. She could never have thought out the idea herself. I shall have Carlos arrested and locked up as a dangerous character,” announced Miss Carroll with stern determination.
“Carlos has no belief in the treasure.” Dolores paused uncertainly. “I will tell you the truth. Carlos will not return. He will slip away from the se?or at Miami. So he called out to me in Spanish when he went away with Rosita. He had no plans with Rosita to play the ghost. She only had that thought.”
“Then why did he allow her to do so?” asked Miss Carroll severely. “He knew it. He warned our cook to beware of a ghost that walked here.”
“Carlos hates the Americanos. Once he was to marry the Mexican se?orita. She left him and married the Americano. Now he hates them all. Thus he was glad to have Rosita make the trouble. He believed it was for the sake of him more than the treasure. She told him this. She was mad, but cunning. She deceived him. He is most stupid and easy to deceive. He did not believe she would harm anyone. He thought she had the malice; not the madness. Now he knows, because she sprang at him.”
“Well, I must say it’s the most preposterous affair all around that I’ve ever heard of,” sharply opined Miss Carroll. “To come to Florida for a vacation and be picked out as victims by a vengeful Mexican and a lunatic! It’s simply appalling.”
Patsy had risen and was pointing toward a window.
“What is it?” burst simultaneously from Bee, Mabel and Eleanor. Miss Martha was sitting bolt upright in her chair as though preparing to face the worst.
Dolores, alone, did not stir. She lay back in her chair, eyes closed. Her strenuous watch on the house, her brave run for help through the darkness and the fact that she had never before in her life talked so much at one time, had combined to reduce her to a state of utter exhaustion. All in a minute she had dropped fast asleep. She had not even heard Patsy cry out.
“Why – did you ever! See! It’s daylight!”
Patsy’s voice had risen to a little wondering squeal on the last word.
Daylight it surely was. Through the windows the soft rays of dawn were stealing, heralding the fact that day was breaking upon a company of persons who had been too much occupied to notice the flight of time.
“Look at that child!” Miss Martha dramatically indicated the slumbering wood nymph. “I should have put her to bed the instant she stepped into this room, instead of allowing her to tell that long story. I am ashamed of my lack of judgment.”
“She wanted to tell it, and we wanted to hear it,” Patsy said. “It’s been a weird night, hasn’t it?”
“Weird, yes; altogether too weird. Go to bed every one of you, and lock your doors!”
“Where will Dolores sleep, Auntie? She can’t go home. She hasn’t any home now. She’ll have to stay with us. Won’t that be fine?” exulted Patsy.
“Dolores will remain here with me. We’ll discuss her future later. This is certainly not the time to discuss it. Good night, or, rather, good morning. Off to bed, all of you.”
Miss Martha fairly shooed her flock out of the room. They departed with laughter, their cheerful voices echoing through a corridor lately filled with sounds of an entirely different nature.
“Enter without fear, my dear Miss Forbes,” salaamed Patsy, bowing Bee into the room in which had been staged the first act of the night’s drama. “The ghost is forever laid.”
Laughing, Bee stepped over the threshold. The laugh suddenly trailed into a gasp. At the precise spot where Patsy had lassoed Rosita lay a sinister memento of the mad “ghost.” It was a long, sharp, two-edged knife.
THE SECRET DRAWER
Instead of a one o’clock luncheon that day the Wayfarers sat down to a one o’clock breakfast. It was noon before they awoke from the sound sleep they were so much in need of after their all-night vigil.
That day there was a new face at the breakfast table. It was a vividly beautiful face lighted by a pair of soulful, dark eyes. Dolores, the wood nymph, had been transformed over night into Dolores, the young woman. Dressed in one of Patsy’s white morning frocks, her heavy black hair rolled into a graceful knot at the nape of her neck, Dolores bore small resemblance to the ragged, bare-footed waif of the night before.
Now those small bare feet which had sped so swiftly through the darkness for help were for the first time in years covered by slippers and stockings. Though Dolores was too shy to say it this one particular feature of the transformation seemed to her the most wonderful of all. “To go always with the feet bare” had been her greatest cross.
Seated between Bee and Patsy at table her gaze wandered questioningly from one to another of the Wayfarers, as though unable to credit the evidence of her own eyes. She could hardly believe that she was in the midst of reality. It all seemed like a dear dream from which she would soon awaken, only to find again the old life of poverty, harsh words and blows.
Naturally, the Wayfarers had a good deal to say. They were still brimming over with the excitement of the night’s events, the final touch of melodrama having been furnished by the finding of the knife on the floor of Patsy’s and Bee’s room.
Recovered from the momentary shock sight of the murderous weapon had given them, the finders had agreed that there was no use in exhibiting it to the others just then and stirring up fresh excitement.
Patsy reserved it as a breakfast surprise. She created not a little commotion when she produced it at the table for her companions’ inspection, coolly announcing that Rosita had left her a keepsake. The weapon went the round of the table to the tune of much horrified exclamation, as its formidable, razor-like double edge was shudderingly noted.
“I can’t imagine why your father hasn’t returned, Patsy,” remarked Miss Carroll for the fifth time since they had sat down to breakfast. “I am beginning to feel very uneasy over his continued absence.”
“I don’t believe we’ll see him until evening,” returned Patsy. “It must have been daylight before he got through with Rosita’s case. He had two business engagements in Miami to-day. Don’t you remember? He mentioned them to us at dinner last night?”
“I had forgotten that,” admitted Miss Carroll. “It’s hardly to be wondered at. I wish he would come home. I am all at sea about what we ought to do. Now that this horrible lunatic has been removed from here and her villainous grandson has decamped, it is just possible we may have a little peace and quiet. Do you think this rascal Carlos meant what he said to you, Dolores?”
“Yes, Se?ora Martha. He will never return,” Dolores assured. “He will sell the cottage which old Manuel gave to Rosita and never come here more. I am glad. Now I shall go myself soon to Miami and find the work to do. I am strong and not afraid of the work.”
“My dear child, you will do nothing of the sort,” contradicted Miss Carroll. “You will stay with us for the present.”
“And when we go north, Dolores, you’re going too,” broke in Patsy. “You haven’t any folks now, except us, so you’ve just got to be good and hang around with the crowd.”
“It is too much,” Dolores protested. “I will stay for a little because you wish it. I wish it, also,” she added with shy honesty. “Soon I must go away. I am not the burden.”
“Of course you aren’t. You don’t look a bit like a burden,” gaily retorted Patsy. “Let’s not talk about your going away. Let’s talk about the treasure of Las Golondrinas. Do you suppose there really is a treasure?”
“Quien sabe?” shrugged Dolores.
“That means literally, ‘Who knows?’” translated Mabel, smiling at Dolores. “But you really mean, ‘I doubt it.’”
“I have little belief,” confessed Dolores. “Many Feredas have searched but never found. Perhaps, then, there is none to find.”
“I wish we knew something of its history,” sighed Bee. “What do you suppose old Manuel did with the letter and the paper that Rosita took from him while he was asleep?”
“Very likely he put them in the secret drawer,” chuckled Eleanor, casting a teasing glance at Mabel.
“Well, he might have,” stoutly defended Mabel. “I guess I’ll have another try at the old desk this afternoon. If there’s a treasure in this house we must do our best to find it.”
“You girls had best stay quietly indoors to-day.” admonished Miss Carroll. “None of you are half rested from last night.”ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
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