Chase Josephine.

Patsy Carroll Under Southern Skies





I want you distinctly to understand that we are not thieves, even though we happen to be trespassers. When we saw this cottage we thought it might belong to some one who had lived here a long time and had been well acquainted with Manuel Fereda and his granddaughter, Eulalie

Eulalie! Ah-h! Ingrata! May she never rest! May the spirit of old Camillo give her no peace!

Here the strange, fierce old creature broke into a torrent of Spanish, her voice gathering shrillness with every word. She appeared to have forgotten the presence of the Wayfarers and directed her tirade at the absent Eulalie, who was evidently very much in her bad graces.

Come on. Let her rave. She surely is crazy. She may try to hurt us, murmured Eleanor in Patsys ear.

All right. Come on, girls.

Tucking her arm in Eleanors, Patsy turned abruptly away from the ancient belligerent who was still waving her arms and sputtering unintelligibly.

Without a word the quartette hurried out of the palm grove, across the grassy space and made safe port on their own territory, through the gap in the fence. This accomplished, curiosity impelled each girl to peer through the palings for a last glimpse at the tempestuous cottager.

She had not been too busy anathematizing the unlucky Eulalie to be unaware of the hasty retreat of her unwelcome visitors. She had now stopped flapping her arms and was bending far forward, her fierce old eyes directed to where the Wayfarers had taken prudent refuge. Noting that they were watching her, she shook a fist savagely at them, threw up both arms menacingly as though imploring some unseen force to visit vengeance upon them, and bolted for the cottage.

CHAPTER VIII
PATSY SCENTS A MYSTERY

Now who do you suppose she is? broke from Bee, as the old woman disappeared.

Ask me something easier, shrugged Patsy. Shes a regular old witch, isnt she? Dad must know who she is. Funny he never said anything about her to us. Suppose we trot back to the house and watch for him. He promised, you know, at breakfast, to be back from Palm Beach in time for luncheon so as to take us down to the boathouse this afternoon. He had a business appointment with a man at the Beach. Thats why he hurried away so fast this morning.

Suiting the action to the word, the Wayfarers started back through the orange groves, discussing with animation the little adventure with which they had recently met.

That woman was Spanish, of course, declared Beatrice. Could you understand her, Mab, when she trailed off into Spanish, all of a sudden? She said ingrata. I caught that much. What does it mean?

It means the ungrateful one, Mabel answered. I couldnt understand much of what she said. I caught the words, Camillo, Manuel, Eulalie, and something about a spirit torturing somebody Eulalie, I suppose she meant. Madre de Dios means Mother of God, or Holy Mother. Its a very common form of expression among the Mexicans.

I believe this woman is a Mexican.

We know who Eulalie is. By Manuel she must have meant the Manuel Fereda who died just a little while ago, said Bee reflectively. But who in the world is or was old Camillo? And what did he hide? What made her call us white-faced thieves? What is it that well never find? Will somebody please answer these simple questions?

Answer them yourself, challenged Patsy gaily. Well be delighted to have you do it. You know you are fond of puzzling things out.

It sounds well Bee laughed, hesitated, then added: Mysterious.

Exactly, warmly concurred Patsy. Weve actually stumbled upon something mysterious the very first thing. I knew, all the time, that we were going to find something queer about this old place.

I dont think theres anything very mysterious about a tousle-headed old crazy woman, sniffed Mabel. She certainly didnt act like a sane person. Maybe she had delusions or something of the sort.

Perhaps her name is Camillo, suggested Bee, her mind still occupied with trying to figure out to whom the name belonged.

No. Mabel shook her head. Camillo is a mans name, not a womans. She might have meant her husband or her brother. Goodness knows whom she meant. I tell you, shes a lunatic and thats all there is to it. If we hadnt been armed with four big sticks she might have laid hands on us.

Well, Uncle Jemmys snake sticks were some protection, anyhow, laughed Eleanor. Im going to keep mine and lug it around with me wherever I go. I may

A wild shriek from Mabel left the sentence unfinished. Walking a pace or two ahead of the others, Mabel had almost stumbled upon a huge black snake, coiled in a sunny spot between the trees. Quite as much startled as she, the big, harmless reptile uncoiled his shining black folds in a hurry and slid for cover.

Oh! she gasped. Did you see him? He was a whopper! And I almost stepped on him! He might have bitten me.

Black snakes dont bite, you goose, reassured intrepid Patsy. He was probably more scared at the yell you gave than you were to see him. He must be the same one Uncle Jemmy saw this morning.

Maybe hes been raised a pet, giggled Eleanor. We may get to know him well enough to speak to when we fall over him coiled up on various parts of the estate. If you ever get really well acquainted with him, Mab, you can apologize to him for yelling in his ears.

First find his ears, jeered Mabel, who had sufficiently recovered from the scare to retaliate.

Our second adventure, commented Beatrice. Wonder what the next will be.

Nothing more weird or exciting than luncheon, I guess, said Patsy. There! We forgot to pick those oranges we were going to take to Auntie.

Lets go back and get them, proposed Eleanor.

Oh, never mind. I dare say there are plenty of oranges at the house, returned Patsy. Auntie wont mind. Well go down to the grove to-morrow and pick a whole basketful for her.

By this time the Wayfarers were nearing the house. Rounding a corner of the building they spied Mr. Carroll some distance down the drive. He was sitting in his car engaged in conversation with a white man who stood beside it. Both men were too far away from the girls for them to be able to make out plainly the strangers features. They could tell little about him save that he was tall, slim, dark and roughly dressed.

That must be the new man, instantly surmised Patsy.

Pausing, she shaded her eyes with one hand, to shut out the glaring sunlight, and stared curiously at the stranger.

Cant tell much about him, she remarked. There; hes started down the drive. Now well find out from Dad who he is.

The stranger, having turned away, Mr. Carroll had started the car and was coming slowly up the drive. Sighting the group of white-clad girls he waved to them.

Hello, children! he saluted, as he stopped the car within a few feet of them. Where have you been spending the morning? Want to ride up to the house?

No, thank you, was the answering chorus, as the girls gathered about the automobile.

Weve been exploring, Dad, informed Patsy. Is that the new man? I mean the one you were just talking to.

Yes. I met him at the gate. He had been up to the house looking for me. His name is Crespo; Carlos Crespo. Hes a Mexican. He tells me he used to work for old Fereda. That he was practically brought up on the estate.

Then hes the very man we want! exclaimed Beatrice eagerly. Hell be able to tell us about the Feredas.

I doubt your getting much information from him, returned Mr. Carroll. He seems to be a taciturn fellow. To tell you the truth, I wasnt very favorably impressed by him. He acted sulky, it seemed to me. Im going to give him a trial, because its so hard to get a white man for the job. I cant afford to let this one slip without giving him a chance. If I find him balky, and ungracious to your aunt and you girls, Ill let him go. He says he knows nothing about automobiles, but a great deal about horses.

Oh, well, we dont want him as chauffeur, anyway, declared Patsy. You and I can do all the driving. Hell be handy when we go on our trip into the jungle. He can attend to the horses. Very likely, when he gets used to us, hell be fairly amiable. He cant be any more snippy and disobliging than John was last summer while we were at Wilderness Lodge. He was positively hateful to us. Of course, that was all on account of his loyalty to that horrid Rupert Grandin. If this Carlos man proves honest and dependable, we shant mind if he sulks at first. Hell probably get over it as he comes to know us better. We had an adventure this morning, Dad.

Patsy straightway left the subject of the new man and plunged into a colorful account of their meeting with the strange old woman.

Do you know who she is, Mr. Carroll? Did you ever see her? questioned Mabel eagerly.

No. Mr. Carroll shook his head. She must be the woman one of my colored boys was trying to tell me about the other day. He described the cottage youve just mentioned and said a voodoo woman lived there who was a heap sight crazy. He claimed he saw her out in her yard late one night making spells. I didnt pay much attention to him, for these darkies are full of superstitions and weird yarns.

Well ask Carlos about her, decided Patsy. That makes two things were going to quiz him about; the voodoo lady and the Feredas. When is he to begin working for you, Dad?

Hell be back this afternoon. Im going to set him to work at clearing up the stable. Its a regular rubbish shack. Ill give him a gang of black boys to help him. Im anxious to have it put in trim as soon as possible. To-morrow I must go over to the stock farm and see about getting some horses for our use while here. Ill take Carlos with me and then well see how much he knows about horses.

Wed better be moving along. We promised Miss Martha to be back in plenty of time for luncheon, reminded Mabel.

Ill see you girls at the house, Mr. Carroll said. Im going to take the car to the garage. Well hardly need it this afternoon. The Wayfarers are such famous hikers, theyll scorn riding to the beach, he slyly added.

Of course we are famous hikers. Certainly we intend to walk to the beach, sturdily concurred Patsy.

Scatter then, and give me the road, playfully ordered her father.

Moving briskly out of the way of the big machine, the chums followed it up the drive at a leisurely pace.

Well have to change our gowns before luncheon.

Eleanor ruefully inspected her crumpled white linen skirt, plentifully stained with orange juice.

The others agreeing, they quickened their pace and reaching the house hurriedly ascended to their rooms to make the desired change. As usual Mabel and Eleanor were rooming together. Patsy and Bee shared a large airy room next to that occupied by the two Perry girls. Miss Martha roomed in lonely state in a huge, high-ceilinged chamber across the corridor from the rooms of her flock.

I dont care whether or not this Carlos man acts sulky, confided Patsy to Bee when the two girls were by themselves in their own room. Im going to beam on him like a real Cheshire cat. Hell be so impressed by my vast amiability that hell be telling me all about the Feredas before you can say Jack Robinson. Im awfully interested in this queer family and I simply must satisfy my curiosity. Do you really believe, Bee, that there is a mystery about them?

I dont know whether theres any mystery about the Feredas themselves, Bee said slowly. That old woman may or may not be crazy. I was watching her closely all the time we stood there. At first she was just suspicious of us as being strangers. It was your saying that we were living at Las Golondrinas and that your father owned the property that made her so furious. She had some strong reason of her own for being so upset at hearing that.

Maybe she used to be a servant in the Fereda family and on that account cant bear to see strangers living here in their place, Patsy hazarded.

I thought of that, too. It would account for her tirade against Eulalie. I believe theres more to it than that, though, else why should she call us thieves and go on as she did?

Bee reflectively repeated the question she had earlier propounded.

Thats precisely what we are going to find out, Patsy said with determination.

But you know what your aunt said, Bee dubiously reminded.

Dont you worry about Auntie, smiled Patsy. When we tell her at luncheon about our adventure shell probably say we had no business to trespass. You let me do the talking. I shant mention the word mystery. Ill just innocently ask her what she thinks the old witch woman could have meant. Shell be interested, even if she pretends that she isnt. Last summer, at Wilderness Lodge, she was as anxious as we for the missing will to be found. If there is truly a mystery about Las Golondrinas, Aunt Martha will soon be on the trail of it with the Wayfarers. Take my word for it.

CHAPTER IX
THE WOOD NYMPH

Invited by guileful Patsy at luncheon that day to advance an opinion regarding the witch woman of the mornings adventure, Miss Martha said precisely what her niece had prophesied she would say. She added something, however, which Patsy had not anticipated.

You girls should have known better than trespass on private property, she rebuked. As for that woman, I should say she was mentally unbalanced. Dont any of you go near that cottage again. I will not have you risking your lives in the vicinity of a lunatic. You had best make inquiry about her, Robert, she continued, turning to her brother.

I intend to, was the reply. This new man, Crespo, may know her history. Very likely she is one of those queer but harmless characters that one happens on occasionally down here. I hardly think there is any cause for alarm, Martha. Still, it will be just as well for the girls to steer clear of her.

I know I dont want to go near her again, Mabel said with a slight shudder. She was positively savage.

One call is enough for me, thank you, smiled Eleanor.

Patsy and Beatrice exchanged significant glances but said nothing. Each knew the others thought. Both had a valiant hankering to try their luck at a second interview with the witch woman. Unfortunately for them, Miss Marthas stern mandate forbade further venturesome investigation.

Patsys carefully prepared question concerning the strange old woman Miss Martha replied to with a touch of impatience:

My dear child, you can hardly expect me to be able to find meaning in the ravings of a lunatic. I have only one thing to say on the subject. I have said it before and I repeat it. You are all to keep away from that cottage.

This emphatic repetition put a quietus to Patsys hopes of awakening her aunts interest in what she and Bee had already decided was a real mystery. Miss Marthas one thought on the subject seemed to be that the society of an insane woman should be shunned rather than courted.

My little scheme turned out all wrong, Patsy admitted ruefully to Beatrice, as the two strolled into the patio after luncheon and seated themselves on the edge of the fountains time-worn stone basin. I wanted to go to that cottage again, too.

So did I, confessed Bee. I was sure your aunt would say we mustnt.

Im going to make Dad take us there some day, planned resourceful Patsy. Hell be willing to, I know. Then Auntie cant say a word.

Hey, there! suddenly called a gay voice from the balcony.

Both Bee and Patsy cast a quick glance upward to see Mabel leaning over the balcony rail.

Are we going to the beach, or not? she inquired. If we are, youd better leave off languishing beside the fountain and hurry up. We ought to start before sunset, you know, she added satirically.

Its only one-thirty by my little watch, calmly informed Patsy. Its a long time yet until sunset, Mabsie. Didnt you know that?

What about taking our bathing suits? demanded Mabel, ignoring Patsys playful thrust.

Just as you like. If you and Nellie want to go bathing, then so do we.

Id rather not, returned Mabel. Id rather just poke around down on the beach and in the boat house. I think it would be more fun to get up early to-morrow morning and go bathing.

Those are golden words, my child, grinned Patsy. I was of the same mind, but too polite to say so. We can prowl around the boat house this afternoon and find out what we need to take down there in the way of bathing comforts. Dad says well have to add the final touches ourselves. Well be up in a minute, Mabsie.

All right.

Mabel promptly disappeared from the balcony. Patsy and Bee rose. Leaving the patio they went upstairs to their room.

A few minutes later the Wayfarers and Mr. Carroll were swinging down the oleander drive toward the highway. Miss Martha had declined to join the expedition. Following the highway north for about an eighth of a mile, they turned at last into a narrow white road hedged in by vermilion hibiscus growing rank and wild for lack of care. The road was shaded for some distance by double rows of palms, which had been planted on each side. Presently it entered the stretch of jungle lying above the beach and continued almost straight ahead through the bit of wilderness.

Some of the Feredas must have liked to go bathing or they never would have had this dandy road cut through to the beach, was Beatrices opinion, as the party came at last to the end of the tropical road and out onto the warm white sands.

The beach itself curved inward like a new moon to meet the jungle which surrounded it on three sides. At the left, near the waters edge, stood the once dilapidated boat house. It now looked very trim in its new coat of white paint.

The jungle road ended almost at the middle of the new moon. Emerging from it and walking a few steps across the sands, the Wayfarers paused, by common consent, to gaze admiringly out on the glorious expanse of dazzlingly blue sea that lay only the breadth of the curving beach beyond them.

This is the nicest bathing beach I ever saw! exclaimed Patsy. The beauty of it is that its our very own. Were sole proprietors of this bit of sand and sea.

Its the first one I ever saw, laughed Bee. You must remember that I never saw the Atlantic Ocean until I came down here. It seems thrilling to be so near to it.

Wait until to-morrow morning and Ill give you a good salt-water ducking, promised Patsy. Wont that be nice and thrilling?

Try it if you dare, challenged Bee, and see who gets the ducking.

Im sorry now that we didnt bring our bathing suits along, lamented Eleanor. Id love to have a swim in that nice blue water. It looks fairly shallow, too.

At most of these lonely beaches along the coast, I imagine the water must be too deep for safety. This place looks safe enough, agreed Mabel enthusiastically.

We cant tell much about it until we try it out for ourselves, returned Patsy. Sometimes shallows stop all of a sudden and you get into very deep water before you know it. I found that out once when we were spending the summer at Wildwood. Our cottage was quite a way up the beach. I started to wade into the surf one morning, and all at once I felt myself going down, down, down. I had sense enough to strike out and swim, or I wouldnt be here now.

I dont believe the water is very deep here.

Mr. Carroll now broke into the conversation. He had been silently listening to his charges, an amused smile touching his firm lips.

You mustnt venture too far out, though, he cautioned. Remember, there are no guards about to keep tabs on you. Besides, the mists down here often creep up very suddenly over the sea. If you happened to venture too far out and were caught in one, your chance of regaining the shore would be slim. I cant always be depended upon to be on hand to look out for you, so youll have to be good children and not run any needless risks.

Well be as good as gold and as careful as can be, lightly promised Patsy. Now take us over to the boat house. Wed like to see how it looks inside.

Conducted by Mr. Carroll to the trim little house, the Wayfarers found it as completely renovated inside as out. Mr. Carroll had gone to considerable pains to transform the former boat house into a comfortable bath house. Wooden benches had been built along two sides of it. Plenty of towel racks and hooks on which to hang clothing were in evidence. A good-sized mirror had been hung on one of the end walls. There was also a tall rack designed to hold wet bathing suits and numerous other minor details had been added in the way of conveniences for bathers.

Why, its all ready for us! exulted Patsy. Youve thought of almost everything wed need, Dad. Youre a dear.

I had it fixed up as nearly like the one we had at Wildwood as I could recall, returned her father. You girls will have to add the finishing touches. Sorry there isnt a shower bath. I intend to put one in later when I have time to see to the piping for it.





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