Chase Josephine.

Patsy Carroll Under Southern Skies





Se?ora Martha, I have the wish to go to the cottage, requested Dolores timidly. I have there the few things which were my fathers. I desire them. When I have them I will go to that cottage no more.

My dear, you must feel that you are free to go and come as you choose, returned Miss Carroll, except that I would prefer, while you are here with us, that you let me know beforehand where you intend to go. I wish you to feel that I have the same interest in you that I have in Patsys friends, Bee, Mabel and Eleanor. If you were to go away without telling anyone where you were going we would be uneasy until you returned.

I desire to give the obedience to you, Se?ora Martha! It will be most beautiful, Dolores made fervent response.

I wish others felt the same about it, commented Miss Carroll pointedly, yet with a smile, as she rose from the table.

Patsy merely laughed, though she colored slightly at the roundabout rebuke.

Its too late for regrets, Auntie, she declared. I promise to do better in future. May Bee and I go to the cottage with Dolores?

Miss Martha, having demurred a little, finally gave a reluctant consent. Patsy and Bee ran upstairs for their hats. Having gone hatless for years, Dolores had declined Patsys offer of one of her own.

Presently the three girls left the house and took the path to the orange groves through which they must pass in order to reach old Rositas cottage.

Coming at last to the cottage, they saw that the door stood wide open. The two Wayfarers experienced a sense of dread as they followed Dolores across the stone threshold into a big, cheerless room which occupied the greater part of the ground floor. Both had an uncomfortable feeling that Rosita might suddenly appear and pounce upon them. They were surprised to find extreme neatness where they had expected to view disorder. The floor was immaculately clean and the few pieces of old-fashioned furniture stood stiffly in place.

I had an idea wed find everything upside down, Patsy remarked. Rosita was a good housekeeper even if she was crazy.

Ah, but it was I who must do the work, sighed Dolores. All must be clean save the windows. These Rosita purposely kept dark with the cobwebs so that strangers might not see into the room. Of herself she did nothing, yet she made me to do all. She was indeed mad for long. Always she feared strangers, but none ever came. It is past. I am glad. Wait here for me. I must go up the stairs to the place where I slept. There I have the few things I wish to take away.

With this Dolores disappeared up a short staircase which opened into the rear wall of the room and led to a loft. As there was nothing in the ugly bare-walled room to attract their interest, Bee and Patsy presently sat down on a wooden bench outside the house to await Dolores return.

She soon appeared, carrying an antiquated canvas telescope which she proudly assured them had belonged to her father.

When we return to Las Golondrinas I will show you the picture of my father, she promised.

He was the good man and loved me much. Now we shall leave this place. I have the hope never to enter it again.

Dolores raised her hand in a solemn gesture toward the sky.

The God in the Heaven heard me pray, she said, then reverently crossed herself. He has given me the freedom.

The trio were rather silent on the walk back to Las Golondrinas. Dolores thoughts were upon the great change that had come to her. Patsy and Bee had been deeply impressed by her little act of reverence and divine faith toward the Almighty. In consequence, they, too, were absorbed in thought.

Accompanying Dolores to the room which Miss Martha had that day given the little girl for her own, they watched her unpack the satchel and showed kindly interest in the few keepsakes she possessed, which had belonged to her father. Viewing the faded photograph of the latter, they could trace in Dolores beautiful face a distinct likeness to the handsome photographed features.

Old Rosita could teach us a lesson in neatness, Patsy said to Bee as they entered their own room. Emily was so busy, I told her wed fix up our room to-day. We might as well move the table back to the center of the room. The ghost wont walk ever again.

Come on, then. Ill help you.

Tossing her hat on the bed, Bee crossed the room and took hold with both hands of one end of the heavy mahogany center table. As she stood waiting for Patsy to come to her, her hands played absently along the tables edge.

Coming in a minute, called Patsy, who had stopped to retie her white buckskin Oxford.

Oh!

Bee gave a sharp little scream. She had felt the wood move under her straying fingers. Something suddenly shot out from the table end. Sheer surprise caused her to take a stumbling backward step.

Patsy, look here! she cried out shrilly.

Instantly Patsy left off tying her shoelace and obeyed the call in a hurry. What she saw was sufficiently amazing to warrant her haste.

While Mabel had spent long hours of patient search for a secret drawer in the old desk, Bee had come upon one unawares.

CHAPTER XXV
WHAT THE SECRET DRAWER HELD

The secret drawer, which Bees straying fingers had unwittingly released from its hiding place, projected about six inches from the table end. It measured perhaps eight inches across and two in depth. When closed its front formed one of the carved oblong designs which repeated itself at intervals of two inches apart on the overhanging mahogany strips constituting the two ends of the table. The oblong which masked the secret drawer was the last to the left on the end on which Bee had taken hold when about to move the table back to its original place.

These facts relative to the secret drawer were, for the time being, lost on the two girls. Heads together, they were wonderingly examining a square, thin little book, bound in stained sheepskin, which Bee had snatched from the drawer.

The Private and Personal Diary of one Sir John Holden, Passenger on His Majestys Ship Dragon, Bee was reading aloud from the books first page. The words were inscribed in faded ink in a fine running hand.

Why, this is a real diary! she exclaimed. It was kept by an Englishman! It must be awfully old!

Turn over to the next page, eagerly commanded Patsy, and lets see what its all about.

Holding the book in both hands, Bee let go of it with her right and started to turn the first leaf. As she did so a folded paper slid from the back of the book to the floor.

Patsy made a quick dive for it and picked it up with: Its a letter, I guess. Shall we look at it first or go on with the diary?

Lets not look at either, just yet. Lets call the folks in here and read the diary and the letter when were all together, proposed Bee generously. It will be more fun. Theyll be awfully surprised to see the secret drawer; Mab especially.

All right, amiably agreed Patsy. You go for Mab, Eleanor and Dolores. Ill see if Auntie has had her nap and is awake. If shes sleeping I wont disturb her. We may find nothing very interesting, after all, in this old diary. Anyhow we can show it to her afterward.

Carefully laying letter and diary on the table from which both had emanated, the two Wayfarers sped from the room on their respective errands.

Patsy returned first and without her aunt. Finding Miss Martha sleeping peacefully, she had foreborne to disturb her.

When Beatrice presently appeared in company with the three others, they found Patsy busily examining the secret drawer which still stood open.

You were on the wrong trail, Mab, she laughingly greeted. Bee beat you to it after all.

So I hear. Lets see your wonderful find.

The newcomers crowded about the drawer, exclaiming over it, girl fashion. They were also duly impressed by the sheepskin book and the letter which, Patsy informed them, had been tucked away in the drawer. Mabel, however, was more interested in the drawer itself.

It takes up exactly the same amount of space as one of those oblongs, she cried out, as her observing eyes traveled the length of the table end. Having spent so much time on the antiquated desk she was naturally much interested in the mechanics of the secret drawer Bee had discovered.

Never mind the drawer now, Mab. You can play with it later. Well leave it open. If we were to shut it, very likely we couldnt open it again.

This from Patsy, who was impatiently longing to start a reading of the old diary.

Be seated, ladies, she merrily ordered. Miss Patricia Carroll has kindly consented to read you a few interesting excerpts from the diary of one Sir John Holden. Goodness knows who he was. Well know more about him after weve read what hes written about himself.

I thought you told us you two hadnt read the diary, playfully accused Eleanor. You seem to know all about it.

We read only the first page, Bee explained. We didnt go on with it because we wanted you girls to be in on it, too. Theres nothing stingy about us.

So I observe. We are nothing if not appreciative.

This was the room of old Manuel, irrelevantly remarked Dolores. She had been silently listening to the girls lively chatter, her great dark eyes roving curiously about the spacious room.

It was! Bee exclaimed. Thats interesting to know. It explains why Rosita paid us those two midnight visits. She may have thought Manuel de Fereda had found the treasure and tucked it away in his room. Are you sure this was his room, Dolores?

Si. Dolores wagged an emphatic head. Once Eulalie showed it to me. We came only to the door. Still I remember. It was truly his room.

Then Manuel must have put this book in the drawer, declared Patsy. Well, lets find out what an English passenger on His Majestys Ship Dragon had to do with the Feredas.

Her companions having drawn up chairs and seated themselves in a half circle, Patsy picked up the little sheepskin book and eagerly turned to the second page.

August the fifth, she began, then gave a little amazed gasp. Girls, she said in awed tones, this date is sixteen hundred and eighteen!

A murmur of surprise ascended at this announcement.

Go on, Patsy, urged Bee. What happened on August the fifth, sixteen hundred and eighteen?

One hour after sunrise, Patsy resumed, we weighed anchor and blessed by a fair wind we set sail from the port of Southampton, bound for Virginia, His Most Gracious Majestys colony in the New World, which, by the aid and mercy of God, we hope to reach in safety and before many weeks have elapsed. It is now evening and the good wind still continues to fill the Dragons sails. I shall retire at once as the events of the day have been somewhat fatiguing.

Thats all for August the fifth, she said. The next is August the tenth, so its really a journal instead of a diary.

This John Holden probably intended to keep a diary and then didnt, surmised Bee.

How funny! ejaculated Patsy. Thats almost exactly what hes written. Listen:

My original intention consisted in the resolve to chronicle faithfully the events of each day. I am deeply regretful that divers matters have completely engaged my attention which have thus caused it to be impossible for me to perform this duty which I laid upon myself. Thus far the Almighty hath indeed favored us. We were for a day becalmed, but since that time we have encountered exceptionally favoring winds, which have steadily furthered us on our course. If Providence wills a continuation of this remarkably fine weather we shall accomplish the voyage sooner, perhaps, than we had the temerity to hope.

He certainly used a lot of words to express himself, smiled Eleanor.

Long words and lots of them were the fashion in those days, commented Bee. Go on, Patsy.

August the twelfth. The fine weather still prevails. We are inspired to believe that God is with us. Among the hundred and ten males on board our good ship, not one now suffereth the slightest indisposition. During the first three days of the voyage a small number were afflicted with the malady of seasickness, which is grievously unpleasant in that it is attended by extreme nauseation of the stomach. Fortunately this annoying complaint is always of short duration. All those thus distressed have recovered and appear to be in better health than ever. I trust that this felicitous state of affairs may continue.

August the twentieth: This day a sad accident occurred. By some dire mischance one of our crew, a faithful fellow but one whose clumsiness I have frequently noted, fell overboard. Immediately our captain bestirred himself to accomplish his rescue, but in vain. Being a poor swimmer, the unfortunate fellow was unable to sustain himself above the waves until succor came, and thus perished in the sea before our very eyes. I trust that this distressing event is not a forerunner of greater disaster. The crew, who are inclined somewhat toward silly superstition, appear to regard it as an ill omen.

August the twenty-ninth: Our favoring winds have ceased to blow. This day we have made no progress worth recording. As I gazed out over the vast expanse of ocean this evening, during the setting of the sun, I was reminded of the words of the beloved Apostle John: And I saw a sea of glass mingled with fire. We should give thanks devoutly, inasmuch as while we are thus irritatingly becalmed, such a condition is to be preferred to foul weather and heavy seas.

September the fourth: After five days of such feeble progress as maketh the heart sick, we are speeding forward once more under billowing sails. On board ship all are in excellent spirits at this welcome dispensation of divine Providence. We now entertain high hopes of reaching our destination ere the coming of the dreaded equinoctial gales which are well able to send the stoutest ship to the bottom of the sea.

I fear these tempests far more than the possibility that we may be attacked by the Spanish. We are, I believe, well prepared to meet the Spanish villains and worst them, should they appear against us. We have on board the Dragon no mean defense in the way of cannon, powder, some hundred rounds of great artillery and divers small armament. All this, of course, being vitally necessary, inasmuch as among us we are possessed of enough in the way of gold, silver and precious stones to excite the greed of these inhuman cut-throats should they get wind of our coming.

This is getting wildly interesting! exclaimed Bee. At last we have with us a treasure. I believe it must be the treasure of Las Golondrinas, else why would old Manuel have kept this diary hidden away?

But this ship, the Dragon, was bound for Virginia, not Florida, reminded Mabel. I dont see much connection between this John Holdens diary and Las Golondrinas. Besides, there couldnt have been such a place as Las Golondrinas at the time he made this voyage.

Stop interrupting me and maybe well find out something more about things, laughingly rebuked Patsy. The next entry is as follows:

September the fifteenth: Until yesterday all progressed with such remarkable serenity that I had nothing of import to inscribe upon the pages of this book. Last evening at sunset we encountered a small Spanish galleon which villainously opened fire upon us, killing two of our crew and slightly wounding four others. Our master gunner immediately retaliated with a fierceness of fire which presently caused our enemy to abandon the attack and sail away with all speed. When the retreating galleon had become but a distant speck on the wide sea we gathered on deck and offered our profound thanks to God for his mercy in thus preserving us from our enemies. May He continue thus to bestow his favor upon us.

September the sixteenth: This day we committed to the depths of the ocean the bodies of the two poor fellows, slain by the dastardly Spanish. We buried them with such honors and reverence as befitted the brave death which they had suffered. I have hopes that those who received wounds will quickly recover. Our hearts are exceedingly heavy over the loss of two excellent men, both having ever been sober, industrious, God-fearing fellows.

September the twentieth: According to the reckonings, which, for my own satisfaction, I have computed privately with the utmost carefulness, we are still many hundred miles from land. Since morning the wind hath risen to a considerable strength and velocity. The sky to-night presents a lowering aspect, thus causing us to entertain dark misgivings. The sea is becoming tumultuous and the height of the waves is greater than at any time since we embarked upon this voyage. I fear that we shall yet taste the fury of the equinoctial gales. I believe to-days change but heralds the commencement of this trial. We must be of stout heart and ready arm, placing our trust in the Almighty who hath thus far so abundantly safeguarded us.

September the thirtieth: We have fallen upon evil days. I sadly mistrust that it will be long ere our eyes behold the goodly colony of Virginia. On the night of September the twenty-first the storm, which I had rightly predicted, burst fiercely upon us. Against the fury of the blast and the seas which rose mountain-high to engulf us, the Dragon prevailed only by a miracle wrought by Providence.

For three days we labored in the teeth of the tempest, which ripped bare certain of our masts and flung us far off our course. Since then the wind hath continued to blow with exceeding roughness, and the waves yet remain of unpleasant height. Day upon day hath seen our ship tossed about like a cork on the waters.

My private computations lead me to entertain the dismaying apprehension that we must be very far south of Virginia. Ere long I fear we shall see the coast of that debatable land, Florida, which harboreth the inhuman Spaniard. Should this misfortune encompass us we shall find ourselves hard put to escape falling into their clutches, for their pirate ships continually scour the southern waters in quest of rich booty.

October the fourth: This morning we sighted land and were concerned altogether as to what should be our course of action. A fairly stiff breeze drove us steadily toward shore until we could plainly distinguish white sands and a profuseness of tropical vegetation that accordeth well with the faithful description of Florida made public by that gallant knight, Sir Walter Raleigh, whom His Majesty hath so illy recompensed for his great services. The warmth of the atmosphere also tended to confirm our judgment.

Whereas our good ship had suffered hard buffeting by wind and sea, we took counsel together and were of one mind that we should proceed toward shore and drop anchor until we could encompass such labor as was needful to render the ship seaworthy once more. For we were desirous of turning the Dragon about in order to pursue a course due north which would, after many days, bring us to Virginia. And we weighed carefully the peril in which we stood that we might at any hour be attacked by hostile galleons and mayhap find ourselves overwhelmed and delivered into the cruel and merciless hands of the Spaniard. Yet we knew that we had no choice save to incur this hazard. Now it draweth toward sunset. This day we have labored diligently and accomplished much. Neither have we been molested.

The next entry is so dim I can hardly make it out, Patsy announced. It looks as though it might have been written in pencil. I didnt know there were any lead pencils as early as 1618.

There were, though, Bee affirmed. I remember reading in a magazine awhile ago that the first lead pencils were made in fifteen hundred and something. I cant recall the exact date.

Well, Im sure this was written in pencil, returned Patsy. Dont be impatient if I stumble a little in reading the entry for its awfully dim.

Do go on, implored Eleanor. Were keyed up to a high pitch of suspense to hear what happened next.

October the fifth, Patsy obediently resumed. This morning at sunrise we were attacked by a Spanish galleon which inflicted sore injuries to our good ship. Yet we rendered such sturdy account of ourselves as to force our enemy to draw off and speed away, I doubted not in order to bring other galleons against us. All that which we accomplished yesterday hath been undone by the divers volleys of shots which the enemy hurled against us.

The galleon having been put to flight we again took counsel. Rather than permit the passing of such valuables as each of us possessed into the greedy fingers of the Spaniard, we made haste to place all together in a strong chest. Each man attended to the gathering of his gold, silver and jewels into a small bag, his name being written upon paper and placed within the bag on top of his wealth. These bags we placed in the seamans chest together with a fine gold service which His Majesty had entrusted to our captain, to be delivered to a certain knight in Virginia.





: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16