Patsy Carroll Under Southern Skiesñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
“Oh, we can get along beautifully without it,” Patsy assured. “It’s ever so much nicer than I thought it would be. You’ve done wonders to get it ready for us on such short notice.”
The other three girls were quick to concur with Patsy in this opinion.
“Here’s the key.” Mr. Carroll handed it to his daughter. “I now declare you Chief Custodian of the Bath!”
“I accept the high office. May I be ever faithful to my trust,” declaimed Patsy merrily as she took the proffered key, a small brass affair on a ring.
“The first thing we ought to do is to sit down and make a list of the things we will have to bring from the house,” suggested practical Beatrice. “I brought along a little memorandum pad and a pencil.”
Extracting them from the breast pocket of her white middy blouse, Bee offered them to Patsy.
“You may do the writing, Bee.” Patsy declined the proffered pad and pencil. “I’ll tell you what we’ll have to have. Any valuable suggestions from the illustrious Perry sisters will be respectfully received.”
“While this important consultation is in full swing, I believe I’ll take a walk up the beach,” announced Mr. Carroll. “My black boys tell me there’s an old fisherman living not far above here who owns several boats. I’m anxious to get in touch with him and, if possible, arrange a fishing trip for us while we’re here.”
“Go ahead, Dad. You have my permission,” saucily replied Patsy. “After we’ve made our list, we’ll lock up the bath house and play around on the beach until you come back.”
The list having been finally completed, to the Wayfarers’ mutual satisfaction, the quartette left the bath house. Up and down the white stretch of beach they strolled for a little, enjoying the fresh sea breeze. Finally they seated themselves on the warm sands to talk and watch the incoming tide, interestedly trying to calculate how long it would be before they would have to move further back to escape its slow but steady advance.
“It’s coming nearer and nearer,” remarked Bee, as she fascinatedly watched the endless succession of waves break on the sand, each a trifle higher up the beach than the preceding one.
“I move that we move.”
Eleanor rose, shaking the sand from her white linen skirt. Patsy and Beatrice also got to their feet.
“I hate to move. I’m so comfy.”
Stretched at full length in the sand, Mabel made no attempt to follow her companions’ example.
“Stay where you are then and get your feet wet,” laughed Eleanor. “There’s a good-sized wave heading straight for you now.”
This information caused Mabel hastily to draw up her feet. Next moment she was standing erect beside Eleanor.
“Dad ought to be back before long.”
Patsy stood gazing up the beach in the direction Mr. Carroll had taken.
The sudden ringing cry issued from Beatrice’s lips. Her back to the sea, she had been dreamily staring into the green depths of the jungle.
Now she was pointing excitedly toward a tangled thicket of briar bushes and flowering vines.
“Where? I don’t see anything! What is it, Bee?” instantly went up from Mabel.
“She’s gone.” Bee’s arm dropped to her side. “We scared her away. She ducked and ran.”
“Who ducked and ran? What are you talking about, Bee?”
It was Patsy who now impatiently put these questions.
“A wood nymph,” smiled Beatrice. “I was looking at that thicket up there and all of a sudden I saw her. She stood between two bushes watching us. Such a pretty little thing, with big black eyes and long black hair hanging about her face. I had just caught a glimpse of her when I called out to you. The minute she knew I’d seen her she turned and ran off through the green. I saw her black head bobbing in and out among the bushes; then I lost sight of her.”
“You certainly saw more than we did,” Patsy said ruefully. “I didn’t see anyone. Was she – well – a white person, Bee?”
“Oh, yes. As white as you or I, and about as tall as Mab, I think,” replied Beatrice. “She had a beautiful little face. She was wearing a faded brown dress or apron. I couldn’t tell which. It startled me to see her there, all of a sudden. She looked so wild and shy and pretty. Exactly like a wood nymph. I couldn’t help calling out.”
“Too bad we missed seeing her,” deplored Eleanor. “Maybe we’ll run across her some other day. She must live in this vicinity or she wouldn’t have been roaming around in the jungle. She certainly can’t be afraid of snakes. I wouldn’t care to go dashing recklessly through that wilderness.”
“That’s only because you’re not used to the idea,” declared Patsy. “By the time we’ve been here a couple of weeks, we’ll probably go tramping around in that bit of jungle without being in the least afraid of snakes.”
“Never,” was Mabel’s discouraging ultimatum.
The appearance of Mr. Carroll some distance up the beach diverted the minds of the quartette from the shy little apparition Beatrice had seen. With one accord the four set off on the run to meet him.
Nor had the Wayfarers the remotest idea that, from a concealing thicket of living green, a few yards above the spot where they had been standing, a pair of bright, black eyes wistfully and wonderingly watched them as they scampered across the sands toward Mr. Carroll.
GETTING ACQUAINTED WITH OLD OCEAN
“Isn’t there a road to this beach wide enough for the automobile to run on?” Miss Martha inquired of her brother at breakfast the next morning, in a tone of long-suffering patience.
“None that I know of,” was the discouraging reply. “That stretch of jungle above the beach extends for miles along the coast. The only road to the sea in this vicinity is the one cut through the woods by old Fereda. It’s hardly more than a path. Too bad you don’t ride, Martha. You could make it easily on horseback.”
“Never,” was the firm assertion. “I wouldn’t trust myself to the best behaved horse that ever lived. I suppose I shall have to resign myself to walking.”
“You needn’t go with us, if you’d rather not, Auntie,” broke in Patsy. “Dad says it’s perfectly safe for us to go alone. We’re on our own property all the way to the beach, you know.”
“That is not the point,” calmly disagreed Miss Carroll. “I feel it my duty to accompany you whenever your father is unable to do so. I dare say the sea breeze will benefit me. I merely dislike the idea of this tramp through the brush and weeds.”
“Oh, the road’s as smooth as can be,” hastily assured Beatrice. “It’s only narrow, that’s all. It’s really a beautiful walk, Miss Martha. I am sure you will like it.”
“I doubt it,” was the pessimistic response. “Nevertheless I shall go.”
Half an hour after breakfast a luggage-laden procession set off beachwards. Miss Martha brought up the rear with Mabel, eye-glasses firmly astride her nose, a book in one hand, her white parasol held over her head at a dignified angle. Beatrice and Eleanor walked just ahead, while Patsy buoyantly led the van, calling continually back over her shoulder to her companions with every fresh feature of interest her bright eyes picked up along the way.
“I must say the walking is better than I had expected to find it,” was Miss Carroll’s grudging opinion as the party at length emerged from the woods onto the sands. “Walking, as an exercise, has never appealed to me, however.”
“If you walk down to the beach and back with us every day, Auntie, you’ll soon become a champion walker,” Patsy said lightly.
“I have no such ambition,” was her aunt’s dry answer. “Further, I don’t intend to come down here every day. On occasions when Robert is busy, and I do not feel inclined to take this walk, you will have to forego sea-bathing.”
“Come on over and see the bath house, Auntie.”
Patsy slipped an arm through that of her apparently disobliging relative. She was well aware of the fact that her aunt’s bark was worse than her bite.
Escorted by Patsy to the little bath house, Miss Martha critically inspected its interior and set upon it her seal of placid approval. For a half hour the four girls busied themselves with unpacking and arranging the various articles they had brought with them as final furnishing touches. This done to their mutual satisfaction, they gleefully began preparations for their swim. In an incredibly short time they had donned their bathing suits and were ready for their morning dip.
“My first appearance as a deep sea swimmer,” proudly announced Bee, making a low bow to Patsy.
“You look sweet, Bee. That dark red suit is awfully becoming,” praised Eleanor. “Pull your cap down well over your head. Salt water makes one’s hair so horrid and sticky.”
“Come on! The water’s fine! Hurrah for old Ocean!”
Patsy held out an inviting hand to Beatrice. Attired in a sleeveless suit of white flannel, with pale blue trimmings, one auburn curl escaping from under her white rubber cap, her gray eyes dancing, cheeks pink with excitement, Patsy was the embodiment of girlish prettiness and radiant health.
The Wayfarers made a charming picture as they caught hands and ran down the beach and into the water four abreast. There was a pleasant light in Miss Martha’s blue eyes as she stood watching them and heard the concerted shout of glee that arose as they struck the water and Patsy immediately proceeded to administer the ducking she had promised Beatrice.
Being a very sturdy young person, Bee had a will of her own. In consequence a battle royal ensued in the water, punctuated by shouts of laughter. It ended by both combatants losing their footing and sitting down violently in the water, to the great joy of Mabel and Eleanor, who seized the opportunity to fall upon Patsy and Bee and duck them thoroughly on their own account. Whereupon a good-natured, free-for-all combat waged.
Their first exuberance subsiding the bathers settled themselves to enjoy their swim in the buoyant salt water. Accustomed from childhood to sea-bathing, Patsy was an expert swimmer. Bee, who had learned to swim in fresh water, did fairly well, however. Mabel and Eleanor were indifferent swimmers. To quote Mabel: “We can swim and that’s about all.”
Having watched her flock make a noisy acquaintance with old Ocean, Miss Martha retired to a spot on the sands shaded by the overhanging palms where beach and jungle met. Seating herself on the clean, warm sand, she opened the novel she had brought with her and devoted herself to its pages.
Oblivious for the time being to the merry voices of her charges, she was finally startled by a piercing shriek of pain. As a result of going bathing bare-footed, one Wayfarer, at least, had met with disaster. Eleanor had had the misfortune to run afoul of a most ungracious crab, which had promptly shown displeasure of the intrusion by taking hold and pinching.
By the time Miss Martha had dropped parasol and book to rush to the water’s edge, Eleanor had won free of her tormentor and was limping for land.
“What’s the matter, Eleanor?” Miss Carroll cried out concernedly.
“A horrid crab pinched my foot,” was the doleful response. “I thought it would never let go. I was wading near the shore and stepped on it. My, but my foot hurts!”
Emerging from the shallows, Eleanor dropped down on the sand and began tenderly nursing her injured foot.
“You should have worn bathing slippers and stockings,” was the doubtful consolation. “They not only look well but are also a protection.”
“But this is a private beach and it’s ever so much more fun not to wear them, Miss Martha. I’m not really hurt much. My foot feels all right now,” Eleanor hastily assured. “It hardly pains me at all.”
“Oh, I sha’n’t insist on your wearing them,” Miss Martha smiled grimly at Eleanor’s miraculous recovery. “I merely expressed my opinion.”
By this time, Mabel, who had been some distance away from her sister when the latter cried out, now appeared beside her.
“What happened to you, Nellie?” she asked. “I heard you yell and came as fast as I could.”
“Oh, a hateful old crab pinched my foot. It wasn’t anything. I was silly to make a fuss about it. I frightened Miss Martha and I’ve spoiled Bee’s and Patsy’s sport. They’d started to race as far as that upper curve of the beach. Now they’re coming back.”
“It’s just as well.” Miss Martha consulted her wrist watch. “You girls have been in the water over an hour. That is long enough for your first day’s bathing.”
Patsy and Bee presently arriving on the scene with solicitous inquiries, they were promptly informed of Eleanor’s mishap by the sufferer herself.
“Poor ’ittle Nellie! Did a nasty, naughty old crab nip her tootsey-ootsey?” deplored Patsy. “Show Patsy that wicked crabby an’ her’ll kill him wight down dead.”
“Oh, stop, you goose,” giggled Eleanor. “You make me feel as though I were about three years old.”
“That’s the way she appreciates my sympathy,” grinned Patsy. “Never mind, Nellie. I forgive you, even if you did interrupt the grand race. Bee was gaining on me, anyway. She might possibly have beaten me. Want to try it over again, Bee?”
“Not to-day, Patsy,” objected her aunt. “You’ve been in the water long enough. By the time you girls are ready to go back to the house it will be nearly noon. I ordered luncheon at one o’clock, as usual. It will be one before we reach the house.”
“All right, Auntie. We’ll postpone the great race until to-morrow.”
As she spoke, Patsy began energetically to wring the salt water from the skirt of her bathing suit, preparatory to retiring into the bath house.
Her companions following Patsy’s example, Miss Carroll strolled back to the spot where she had left book and parasol. The white parasol lay precisely where she had cast it aside in her hurried dash to Eleanor’s rescue. The book – Miss Martha stared down at the sand in sheer amazement. The red, cloth-bound volume she had been reading had disappeared as utterly as though the earth had suddenly opened and swallowed it.
A TIMID CALLER
“My book! Where is it?”
Miss Martha continued to stare severely at the spot where her book had so lately lain.
“I saw you sitting there reading it,” affirmed Eleanor positively. “I remember looking up toward you just before that cranky old crab nipped my foot.”
“Certainly I was reading it. I laid it down beside my parasol. It never walked away by itself. Someone stole it. This is very unpleasant. I don’t like it at all. It simply goes to show that I was right in not allowing you girls to come down here alone. Some unknown person has evidently been hidden back there in those woods watching us.”
Miss Martha shook a dramatic finger toward the jungle.
“Oh!” Bee gave a quick, startled gasp. “I wonder – ”
“What is it, Beatrice? Tell me instantly,” commanded Miss Carroll.
“Why – nothing – only – ” Bee hesitated. “Yesterday when we were down here,” she continued, “I saw a – a young girl standing back in a thicket watching us. She might be the one – ”
“She might indeed,” grimly concurred Miss Martha. “I haven’t the least doubt but that she appropriated it. I have been told that the negroes down here are a thieving lot. Strange she didn’t take my parasol.”
“But this girl I saw was as white as Patsy or I,” protested Bee. “She was so pretty. I don’t believe – ”
“I would far rather lay the loss of my book to her than to some prowling tramp,” retorted Miss Martha.
“A person who would take an ordinary cloth-bound book and not an expensive white silk parasol can’t be a very desperate character,” surmised Patsy gaily. “I guess there’s really nothing to worry about. Perhaps this wood nymph of Bee’s is fond of reading.”
“I am not inclined to pass over the incident so lightly,” disagreed her aunt. “I shall insist on Robert’s finding out who this girl is and all about her.”
Some further discussion of the affair ensued during which Miss Carroll again repeated her stern injunction: “You must never come down here to bathe unless either my brother or I are with you. It strikes me that this community is entirely too full of thieves and lunatics for comfort.”
“I’m pretty sure that it was our wood nymph who made off with Aunt Martha’s book,” confided Patsy to Bee as they finally started for the bath house. “I have a scheme of my own that I’m going to carry out. If it works – well, just watch me to-morrow and see. I’m not going to tell you about it now, so don’t ask me.”
“All right, keep it to yourself. I’d rather not hear it, anyway,” amiably responded Bee. “It will be more fun just to watch your mysterious movements and – ”
“Bee,” interrupted Patsy, “things are really a little mysterious, aren’t they? First we run across that queer, terrible old woman who talks in riddles about Eulalie and Camillo and our being thieves, etc. Then you see a wood nymph, and next day Auntie’s book vanishes into thin air. We simply must find someone who can tell us something about who’s who at Las Golondrinas. The minute I get back to the house I’m going to hunt up Dad’s new man, Carlos, and quiz him. He must certainly know a little about things around here.”
It being after one o’clock when the party returned to the house, luncheon immediately claimed Patsy’s attention. Inquiry of her father as to where she might find Carlos resulted in the disappointing information that he had ridden out to the stock farm early that morning and would not return until late in the evening.
Mr. Carroll appeared somewhat concerned over his sister’s account of the sudden disappearance of her book. Informed of the young girl Beatrice had spied watching the Wayfarers from the bushes on the previous day, a light of sudden recollection leaped into his eyes.
“Was the girl you saw a black-eyed, elfish-looking youngster with long black hair hanging about her face?” he asked Beatrice.
“Yes,” nodded Beatrice. “You must have seen her, too,” she added with quick interest.
“Where did you see her, Dad?” demanded Patsy excitedly.
“Uncle Jemmy and I surprised her the other day in the orange grove nearest to the lower end of the estate. She was sitting under a palmetto tree, singing to herself. She had a wreath of white flowers on her head and looked for all the world like a mischievous wood sprite.” Mr. Carroll smiled reminiscently. “The moment she caught sight of us she jumped up from the ground and was off like the wind through the grove. I haven’t the least idea where she went. I asked old Jemmy about her, but he’d never seen her before. He’s not familiar with this part of the country, you know.”
“As I remarked this morning to the girls, there seem to be altogether too many queer persons in this vicinity for comfort,” Miss Martha commented in a displeased tone. “Have you made inquiry yet, Robert, of your new man regarding that demented old woman?”
“No; I forgot all about her,” Mr. Carroll admitted rather sheepishly. “I’ll make it a point to do so to-morrow.”
“You might inquire about this girl at the same time,” pursued his sister. “It is very necessary that we should know exactly who these persons are and what we may expect from them.”
“This little girl may be the daughter of one of the fishermen. There are a few families of fisher-folk living in shacks farther up the beach. I noticed half a dozen bare-footed youngsters playing on the sands when I called on old Nathan, the fisherman, yesterday.”
“It is unfortunate that this property of yours happens to be so isolated,” deplored Miss Carroll. “Our only neighbors are, apparently, fisher-folk, one lunatic and a few negroes.”
“Never mind, Auntie. The Wayfarers are sufficient unto themselves,” consoled Patsy. “We can get along beautifully without neighbors.”
“If you feel uneasy about staying here, Martha, then I’ll make arrangements for you and the girls at one of the Beach hotels,” offered Mr. Carroll solicitously.
“I’m not in the least uneasy,” calmly assured Miss Martha. “I rather enjoy the novelty of this old place. Certainly I would not care to leave it now, since you have gone to so much trouble to get it ready for us. I merely wish to be sure that we shall not be annoyed by irresponsible or dangerous characters. The very fact that we have no near neighbors of our own class makes it necessary for us to protect ourselves against unpleasant intruders.”
The Wayfarers had awaited Miss Carroll’s reply to her brother’s offer with bated breath. When it came, each girlish face expressed unmistakable relief. The charm of Las Golondrinas had taken hold of them. Patsy, in particular, felt that to be torn away from it now and returned to the artificiality of hotel life would be a cross indeed. She was anxious to discover if the old house really held a mystery.
“I hardly believe you will be,” responded Mr. Carroll. “A few days and I shall have my affairs arranged so as to be with you on most of your jaunts. Then we shall be able to find out a good deal more about Las Golondrinas and its environments than I’ve had time, thus far, to look into.”
“I hope so, I’m sure,” Miss Martha replied in a tone which implied anything but hope.
“How would you like to drive to Palm Beach this afternoon, stop at the Cocoanut Grove for tea and later take dinner at one of the hotels?” proposed Mr. Carroll, with diplomatic intent to change the subject.ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
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