Chase Josephine.

Patsy Carroll Under Southern Skies





Completely wrapped up in the adventure, impetuous Patsy had entirely forgotten the passing of time. The effect her disappearance would have on her friends had not yet occurred to her. Her mind was centered on her new acquaintance, who was now busily engaged in digging a hole in the soft earth with a sharp stone she had picked up.

It is done, she announced, when the crushed, ugly head of the reptile was hidden from view and the earth pounded down over it. Come now. I will show you. Follow me and fear not. We shall not see another such snake, I believe.

Following her lively companion for a few yards of comparatively easy going, the two came to a wide-spreading palmetto under which was a space clear of vines and bushes. Only the short green grass grew luxuriantly there.

This place I love. I have myself made it free of the vines and weeds. Here I love to lie and look up through the trees at the sky. Sit you down and we will talk.

Only too willing to talk, Patsy obeyed with alacrity. The wood nymph seated herself beside Patsy, endeavoring to cover her bare feet and limbs with her faded brown cotton skirt. Slim hands clasped about her knees, she stared solemnly at the white-clad girl beside her.

I am Dolores, she began. That means the sadness. I have lived here long, but before that I lived with my father in Miami. My mother I never knew. I was the little baby when she died. So I went to a school and learned English. Now I have seventeen years, but in Miami, when I was of an age of twelve years, my father, who did the work every day of the carpintero, became very sick. So he died, but before he died he wrote the letter to his friend who came for me and brought me here. So never more I went to school but had always the hard work to do.

You poor little thing! exclaimed Patsy, her ready sympathies touched by the wistfulness of the girls tones as she related her sad little story. Where do you live now, and why do you have to work so hard?

These things I cannot tell you. It is forbidden. The girl mournfully shook her head. So it is true also that I cannot be your friend. But if you will come here sometimes, I will see you, she added, her lovely, somber features brightening.

Of course I will, and bring my friends with me. They are dandy girls, ever so much nicer than I. My name is Patricia Carroll, but everyone calls me Patsy. Why cant you come to Las Golondrinas to see us?

It is forbidden. Never I can go there again. I am sorry.

The brightness faded from the strangers beautiful face, leaving it more melancholy than before.

Patsy looked briefly baffled, then tried again with:

Come down to the beach with me now and meet them and my aunt. Sudden remembrance of Miss Martha caused her to exclaim: Good gracious! I wonder what time it is! None of my friends knows where I went. Theyll be terribly worried.

Patsy sprang to her feet in dismay.

She wondered if she had really been away from the beach so very long. She was of the rueful conviction that she had.

I would go, but I am afraid. If she saw me she would be angry and shut me up for many days. So she has said.

This was even more amazing to Patsy. She longed to ask this strange girl all sorts of questions. Courtesy forbade her to do so. She also had a vague idea that it would be of no use. Fear of the person she had referred to as she had evidently tied the wood nymphs tongue.

Id love to have you come with me, Patsy said warmly. But I wouldnt want you to do anything that might bring trouble upon yourself. Is it right that you should obey this this person?

No; never it is right! The answer came in bitter, resentful tones. Often I think to run away from here, never to return. Only I have the no place to go. I am truly the poor one. Dolores! She made a little despairing gesture. Si, it is the true name for me.

Then if you feel that it is not right to obey a person who is treating you unjustly, dont do it, was Patsys bold counsel. I wish you would tell me your trouble. Perhaps I could help you. Wont you trust me and tell me about it?

I am afraid, was the mournful repetition. Not afraid of you. Oh, never that! Already I have for you the amor. You are simpatica. I would to go to the sands with you now and meet your friends. I cannot. I will show you the way to the road. So you can walk more quickly to the sands. I will try to come to this place to-morrow at this time and wait for you.

May I bring the girls with me? petitioned Patsy. My chum, Beatrice, saw you in the thicket the first time we came to the beach. She is longing to know you.

Beatrice; it is the pretty name. She is perhaps that one with the true face and the brown curls. I saw her look at me that day. She is not so pretty as you; yet she is pretty. So, also, are those other two girls who look alike and still not alike.

They are sisters; Mabel and Eleanor, informed Patsy. At home, away up North, they live next door to me. When I come here to-morrow I will tell you more about myself. I must go now. You havent said yet whether I might bring my chums with me to-morrow.

I wish it, was the brief consent. Now I will show you the way.

It was not as far as Patsy had thought to the sandy road. Guided by Dolores, who knew her ground thoroughly, Patsy found jungle travel easy, even in her bare feet. The two girls finally came out on the road about an eighth of a mile above the beach.

Thank you ever so much for showing me the way.

Patsy paused in the middle of the road, her hand extended. Impulsively she leaned forward and lightly kissed Dolores.

The vivid color in the girls cheeks deepened at the unexpected caress. A mist sprang to her glorious dark eyes. She caught Patsys hand in both her own. Bending, she touched her lips to it. Oh, you are most simpatica! she murmured, then turned and darted away, leaving Patsy standing in the middle of the white, sandy road, looking tenderly after the lithe, fleeing form until a tangle of green hid it entirely from her view.

CHAPTER XVI
NOTHING OR SOMETHING?

Meanwhile, down on the sands, three anxious-eyed girls were holding counsel with an equally disturbed matron.

When did you see Patsy last? Miss Martha was inquiring in lively alarm.

She was lying in the sand when I started to swim out to Mab and Nellie, replied Bee. When I got to them, Mab began splashing water on me and we had a busy time for a few minutes just teasing each other. Then I looked toward the beach. I was going to call out to Patsy to come on in, but she wasnt there. I supposed, of course, shed gone up to the bath house to take off her bathing suit and dress again. She had said she was tired.

How long ago was that? Miss Martha asked huskily.

An hour, Im afraid; perhaps longer, faltered Bee. Weve looked all along the beach and called to her. We looked in the bath house first before we told you, Miss Martha. We hated to frighten you. We kept expecting shed come back. We thought maybe she was hiding from us just for fun and would pounce out on us all of a sudden.

You should have told me at once, Beatrice.

Worry over her nieces strange disappearance lent undue sternness to Miss Carrolls voice.

I I am sorry.

Bee was now on the verge of tears.

So am I, was the grim concurrence. At all events, Patsy must be found and immediately. I shall not wait for you girls to change your bathing suits. I shall walk back to the house at once. You are to go into the bath house and stay there until my brother comes for you. He will bring men with him who will search the woods behind the beach.

Wont you let me try again along the edge of jungle, Miss Martha, pleaded Bee. I wont go far into it. Ill just skirt it and keep calling out

Who-oo! suddenly supplemented a clear, high voice.

It had an electrical effect upon the dismayed group. Out from the jungle and onto the beach darted a small, bare-footed, white-clad figure and straight into the midst of a most relieved company.

Patricia Carroll, where have you been? demanded Miss Martha sternly. No; dont try to smooth things over by hugging me. I am very angry with you for disobeying me.

Nevertheless, Miss Martha made only a feeble attempt to disengage herself from Patsys coaxing arms.

Now, Auntie, dont be cross. A Patsy in hand is worth two in the jungle, saucily paraphrased the unabashed culprit. Ive been as safe as safe could be. Ive really had a wonderful time. I was so interested I forgot that very likely you might miss me and be a little worried.

A little worried!

Miss Martha raised two plump hands in a despairing gesture.

Why, yes. I

Do you know how long youve been gone? was the severe question. Long enough to set us all nearly distracted wondering what had become of you. Really, Patsy, I think youve behaved very inconsiderately.

Im sorry, dearest Auntie; truly I am. I didnt mean to be gone so long. I saw her and before I knew it I was following her as fast as I could run. She came out of the jungle after the book.

Saw her? Do you mean our Mabel began excitedly.

Wood nymph, Patsy finished triumphantly. I surely do. I not only saw her. I talked with her.

I might have known it, came disapprovingly from Miss Carroll. I should have set my foot down firmly in the first place about this girl. I thought you too sensible by far to race off into a snake-infested jungle, bare-footed, at that, after this young savage. I see I was mistaken.

Shes not a savage, Aunt Martha. Patsy rallied to defense of her new friend. Shes a perfect darling. Shes Spanish, but she speaks really good English in such a quaint, pretty way. She likes me and I like her, and were friends. Weve shaken hands on that.

What is her name, Patsy, and where does she live? eagerly asked Eleanor.

Her name is Dolores. I dont know where she lives, confessed Patsy. I asked her but she wouldnt tell me. She said it was forbidden. I asked her to come to Las Golondrinas to see us, but she said that was forbidden, too. She read your book, Auntie. I told you she wasnt ignorant.

What did she say about the Oriole? interposed Bee, before Miss Carroll could frame an adequate reply to Patsys astounding announcement.

I Why, the idea! I forgot to ask her, stammered Patsy. I saw her pick up the book and run away with it. I started after her. Then I fell almost on that horrible snake and

Snake! went up in shocked unison from four throats.

Why, yes. Patsy colored, then grinned boyishly. I was going to tell you about it in a minute. I caught my foot in some vines and pitched into the bushes. I stirred up a rattler. It began to sing and Dolores ran to me and dragged me away from the place before it had time to bite me. Then she killed it. It was as thick as my wrist and eight feet long. She said it was a diamond

I must say you have very peculiar ideas of safety, interrupted her aunt.

Despite the dry satire of her tones, Miss Martha was feeling rather sick over Patsys near disaster. In consequence, she was inclined toward tardy appreciation of the young savage.

This girl, she continued in a dignified but decidedly mollified voice. I feel that we ought to do something for her. You say she insists that it is forbidden her to come to Las Golondrinas. Did she explain why?

No. I wanted awfully to ask her, but I felt sure that she wouldnt tell me a thing. Theres a mystery connected with her. I know there is.

Nonsense! Miss Martha showed instant annoyance at this theory. I dare say her parents have merely forbidden her to trespass upon the property of strangers. I have been told that these persons known down South as poor whites still feel very resentful toward Northerners on account of the Civil War. The old folks have handed down this hatred to the younger generations. This girls parents have no doubt learned that we are from the North.

But such people as these poor whites are Americans with American ancestors. Dolores is Spanish. Besides, her father and mother are dead. She said so.

Patsy went on to repeat the meager account Dolores had given of herself, ending with the girls allusion to the mysterious she of whom she appeared to stand in such lively dread.

Very unsatisfactory, commented her aunt when Patsy had finished her narration. Understand, Patsy, I am grateful to this girl for the service she did you. As for the girl herself

Miss Marthas pause was eloquent of doubt.

Shes perfectly sweet, insisted Patsy with some warmth.

Nevertheless, you know nothing of her beyond what she has chosen to tell you, firmly maintained Miss Carroll. I dont approve of her dodging about in the woods like a wild young animal. For all you know this she may have been put to a great deal of uneasiness by the girls will-o-the-wisp behavior. She may be so headstrong and disobedient as to require the adoption of strong measures.

Shes not that sort of girl, Patsy again defended. Shes gentle and dear and lovable. When she smiles her face lights up just beautifully. Mostly, though, shes terribly sober. Her voice is so soft and sweet. Only it makes one feel like crying.

Hmm! The ejaculation was slightly skeptical. She seems to have completely turned your head, Patricia. I suppose you will give me no peace until I have seen her for myself. I am a fairly good judge of character, however. It will not take me long to decide whether she is a proper person for you to cultivate.

Then come with me into the woods to-morrow, eagerly challenged Patsy. I promised to meet her there, at a certain place, and bring the girls. Im not the least bit afraid you wont like Dolores. I know that you will.

What! flounder through that jungle and risk snake bite? No, indeed! Furthermore, I forbid you girls to do so.

Then we cant see her! Patsy cried out disappointedly. I told you she said she was afraid to meet us on the beach. Listen, dearest and bestest Auntie. As we go back over the road to the house, Ill show you the place where Dolores wants us to meet her. Its only a little way off the road and easy to reach. There isnt the least bit of danger from snakes. Theres a kind of natural aisle between the trees that leads to it. Dolores brought me back over it, so I know what Im talking about.

You may point it out to me as we go back to the house, was the nearest approach to consent which Miss Carroll would give. Now all of you must hurry to the bath house and make up for lost time. It will be at least two oclock before we reach home. I will wait for you here. Dont stop to talk, but hurry.

Once in the bath house, however, the Wayfarers tongues wagged incessantly as they speedily prepared for the homeward hike.

Very naturally the conversation centered on Dolores, of whom Patsy continued to hold forth in glowing terms.

Wait until Aunt Martha sees her, she confidently predicted. She cant help liking our wood nymph. She was a tiny bit peeved when I said that I knew there was a mystery about Dolores. There is, too. Im sure of it. Shes not headstrong or disobedient, but she is terribly unhappy. The person she lives with, that horrible she, I suppose, must be awfully hateful to her.

Do you think we could find out for ourselves where she lives? Bee asked earnestly. Then we might be able to help her. She may need help very badly. Your father said that she might be the daughter of a fisherman.

Well try to find out. Patsy spoke with quick decision. Day after to-morrow well make Dad take us to where those fisher folks live. Maybe well find her there. Dont say a word about it when you meet her to-morrow. Well just keep it dark and do a little sleuthing of our own.

Her companions agreeing with Patsy that this would be an excellent plan, the quartette rapidly finished dressing, locked the door of the bath house behind them and joined Miss Carroll on the beach.

Theres the place where we are to meet Dolores, Auntie, informed Patsy when the party reached the point on the road where she had left her new friend. Its right beyond those oaks. You can see for yourself that the walking is good.

It isnt quite so bad as I had expected, Miss Martha grudgingly admitted. Since you are so determined to introduce this girl to me, I may as well resign myself to taking this walk with you to-morrow.

This being as good as a promise, wily Patsy accepted it as such and said no more on the subject. Added discussion of it might result in a change of mind on her aunts part.

Reaching the house, however, a most unpleasant surprise lay in wait for the party. To see Mammy Luce standing in the entrance to the patio was not an unusual sight. To see her stationed there, however, her bulky form swathed in an ancient linen duster, a shapeless black hat, decorated with a depressed-looking ostrich plume jammed down upon her gray wool, was another matter. More, in one hand was a section of a turkey red tablecloth, tied together at the four corners and bulging with her personal belongings. In the other hand she held a green cotton umbrella which she raised in a kind of fantastic salute as the Wayfarers approached the entrance.

Ise gwine away fum here, I is, she rumbled. I aint gwine stay in no house where sperrits come sneakin aroun. I done seen one this mawnin.

What does this mean, Mammy Luce? Miss Martha took majestic command of the situation. You have no right to leave me like this without giving notice. Now tell me exactly what the trouble is.

I done tell yoh aready, Missis. I done seen a sperrit. I wuz bakin a cake, I wuz, in de kitchen. I done looks up from de oben an I seen a long, tall, ole white sperrit a-sneakin for de back stairs. I near fell daid, I did. When I come to, I wuz shakin like a leaf. So I jes put mah traps togedder quick an now Ise gwine. Ise been awaitin to tell yoh an ax yoh fer mah wages.

There are no such things as spirits, Mammy Luce, Miss Carroll informed the frightened servant. You only thought you saw one.

Alarmed at the prospect of losing an excellent cook, Miss Martha proceeded to do her utmost to convince the old woman that her visitant, provided she really had seen an apparition, was not supernatural.

I seen it. I aint blind. I seen it, Mammy Luce doggedly reiterated. Yoh caint tell this niggah it wuznt no sperrit, cause it wuz.

Much more likely it was one of the maids who dressed up in a sheet on purpose to frighten you, was Miss Marthas practical view of the matter. Where are Celia and Emily?

Emly she am upstaihs somewhar. She dont know nuffin bout it, an this am Celias day off. Dey am good girls an dont go for to skair ole Mammy Luce. Sides, this yeah sperrit wuz bout seben foot high. It wuznt no pusson. It aint no use talkin, Mis Carroll, cause Ise gwine ter git out fore dat sperrit gits after this niggah. It aint no fun to be daid an I aint gwine to be it.

Further argument on the part of not only Miss Martha but the girls as well proved futile. Mammy Luce had but one thought. That thought was to put distance between herself and Las Golondrinas. The substantial increase of wages Miss Carroll felt impelled to offer her did not interest the superstitious old woman.

I jes want whats acomin to muh an git out, she declared with finality. Ise gwine ober yander bout three mile toh see mah brudder. Hell hitch up his ole yaller mule an tote ole Luce toh the station.

Go upstairs, Patsy, to my room and bring me my handbag. It is in the tray of my trunk. Here is the key.

From the white crocheted bag swinging from one arm, Miss Carroll took a small brass key which she handed to Patsy.

As she passed through the patio and thence on upstairs, recollection of the curious impression she had received that morning in walking through the portrait gallery came back to Patsy.

She had been absolutely sure at the moment that the pictured cavalier had moved. Mammy Luce, it seemed, was equally sure that she had seen a sperrit. The question that now obtruded itself in Patsys mind was, had she and Mammy Luce seen nothing, or had both of them really seen something?





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