Our hunt for Sahwah had to be given up because without lights we dared not venture forth on the road for fear of running into the swamp.
"Sit up in front, Migwan, and be the headlight; you're bright enough," said Nyoda, cheerfully.
"I'm having an eclipse to-night," I replied.
So we sat still in the Glow-worm not far from the gate which had been the fountain and origin of all the trouble and wished fervently, not for Blucher or night, but for Sahwah or morning. And the reader knows which one of them came.
The rain stopped about dawn and the east began to redden and then we knew there was going to be a sunrise. I have been glad to see many things in my life; but I never was so glad to see anything, as I was, when the sun began to rise that morning after the night of water. Viewed in the magic light of morning, the road was not so bad, while the lake, rippling in the wind, was a thing of beauty, and the swamp was merely a swamp. The gate was right at the corner of a fence which enclosed a very large farm. We could just barely see the house and barn in the distance, set up on a sort of hill. The property ended on this end at the gate, and just beyond it began the descent to the lake. How we had gotten inside that fence the night before we never found out. We must have crossed that entire farm in the darkness on a private road which we mistook for the main road.
In the broad light of day we descended the steep way down to the lake and examined every foot of ground around it. It was all soft mud and if Sahwah had been down there she must have left traces of some kind. But the surface was unbroken save for a few tracks of birds. Clearly, she had not fallen over the edge. Where, then, had she gone. The mud around the gate was such soup that no footprints could be seen. Oh, if the gate could only speak!
"Could she have possibly found her way up to that farmhouse?" I asked. "I don't see how she ever did it in the dark, but still it's a possibility."
So we dragged the gate open again and drove up to the farmhouse. The men were just starting to work in the fields. It must be nice to work where you can see the earth wake up every morning. There are times when I simply long to be a milkmaid. A lean, sun-burned woman was washing clothes out under the trees and she looked up in surprise when we appeared. No, Sahwah had not been there. The mystery was still a mystery. But from the height of the farmhouse we saw what we had not seen from the level of the road, and that was that there was another road running parallel to the one we had been on, skirting the swamp on the other side and bordered by thick trees. From the gate we had thought that those trees grew in the swamp, as we could not see the road beyond it. Sahwah must have blundered into that road in the darkness, we concluded, and thought she was going after us.
We found a narrow lane leading to it, covered with water for most of its length, and there, sure enough, we saw deep footprints in the new road. We followed these, expecting to come upon her sitting in the wayside every minute. But the footprints went on. There were no houses along here; the only building we passed was an empty red barn covered over with tobacco advertisements. A little farther on the road ran into a highway and so did the footprints. A little beyond the turn Nyoda spied something lying in the road. How she managed to see it is beyond me, but Nyoda has eyes like a hawk. It was a button from Sahwah's coat. Sahwah's button-shedding habit is very useful as a clue.
"Here is a button; Sahwah can't be very far now," said Nyoda, cheerfully. A sign post we passed said "Lafayette 20 miles." At last we knew where we were. Deep ruts in the road showed where a car had passed just ahead of us. Then all of a sudden the footprints came to a stop; ended abruptly in the road, as if Sahwah had suddenly soared up into the air. There was a low stone where the footprints came to a stop and around it the mud was all trampled down.
At first we were frightened to death, thinking that Sahwah had been attacked and carried off. But the footprints did not lead anywhere. "Of course, they don't," said Nyoda. "Whoever made them got into that car and Sahwah did too. It's the car that's traveling ahead of us. It stopped and picked Sahwah up." (Just how literally Sahwah had been "picked up" we did not guess.)
"What will we do now?" asked Nakwisi.
"Follow the car," replied Nyoda.
"It sounds like Cadmus and 'follow the cow'," said I.
So we followed the ruts. The sun was up fair and warm by this time and we were beginning to dry off beautifully. I took off my soaked shoes and tied them out on the mud guard where they could bake. Nakwisi went me one better in the scheme of decoration and hung hers on the lamp bracket. Then we hung up our wet coats where they could fly in the wind. Margery was cold all the time and we let her have the exclusive use of the one robe, and the rest of us took turns being wrapped in the Winnebago banner. It was blanket shaped and made of heavy felt and served the purpose admirably. In a moment of forethought Sahwah had taken it down from the back of the car just before we were caught in the storm, and so it had escaped being soaked also.
"This is traveling de luxe" said I, stretching out my stockinged feet on the foot rail, and wiggling my cramped toes.
"I don't know about de looks," said Nyoda with a twinkle, "but as long as no one sees you it doesn't matter."
"Who's making puns now?" inquired Nakwisi, severely.
"What's this in the road?" asked Nyoda presently, as we came upon a bundle of bright green.
We stopped and picked it up. "It's a veil just like ours, and a hat," said Nyoda. "It's Sahwah's veil and hat!" she exclaimed, looking in the hatband where Sahwah's name was written. Then she discovered something tied in the veil. It was Sahwah's address book and on the first page was scrawled a message:
"To those interested:
Picked up by tourists. On way to Carrie Wentworth Inn, Chicago.
SARAH ANN BREWSTER."
Beside the signature was the familiar Sunfish which is Sahwah's symbol. There was no doubt about the note being genuine. Besides, it could only be quick-witted Sahwah who would think of leaving a blaze in the road on the slender chance that we would be coming along that way. How it smoothed everything out! Not knowing that we were so close behind her, Sahwah had had a chance to go on to Chicago, and would simply go to our hotel and wait until we came! What a long headed one Sahwah was, to be sure! We could have played hide and seek with each other around those roads for days and never found each other, the way the children did around the voting booth, but by clearing out altogether and going to our place of rendezvous she knew the chances of our meeting were much greater. How she had managed to find tourists who were on the way to Chicago was a piece of luck which could only have befallen Sahwah.
"I think the best thing for us to do is to hunt some breakfast and then make for Chicago as fast as we can," said Nyoda. "I've been thinking that that would be the best way to find the others. We don't seem to have been very successful in running around the country after them, and if they managed to get the wire we sent to Chicago the other day they will probably find us if we go there too."
"Did Gladys start out with us, or didn't she?" asked Nakwisi, thoughtfully. "I think sometimes it was all a delusion, and there were no more than four of us at the start."
"Sometimes I think so too," I agreed. Was the Striped Beetle a myth? We had almost forgotten our original quest in the chase after Sahwah.
We still debated uncertainly whether we had better go back to Indianapolis and hunt for Gladys, now that we were reasonably certain where Sahwah was, or go on to Chicago and make sure of her, at least. There were so many arguments on both sides that we could come to no decision and so we flipped a coin for it. Chicago won and the die was cast. The next move was breakfast and a place to clean up. We looked as though we had been fished out of the lake. Breakfast we would find in the town of Lafayette, which we were approaching. But we faltered by the wayside as usual. Whether or not that had any bearing on what happened later I don't know, but Nyoda says it would have been the same anyway, only different. Which is rather a neat little phrase, after all, in spite of being impure English. To me our stop over was simply another move in the game of checkers Fate was playing with us as counters.
The thing which caused us to falter by the wayside before we reached Lafayette was a sign on a big, old-fashioned farmhouse near the road which read:
TOURISTS TOOK IN Meals 35 cents
Nyoda couldn't resist the delicious humor of it. She stopped before the door. "You aren't going to stop here, are you?" I inquired.
"I want to be 'took in'," declared Nyoda. "Just as if all the other places don't do the same thing; only they aren't quite so frank about it. I want to see the creator of that sign. So we drove into the big, shady yard and parked the panting Glow-worm at the end of the long drive under arching trees. Then we went up on the side porch and knocked at the screen door while a black cat inspected us drowsily from the cushioned depths of a porch chair. A bustling, red-faced woman came to the door.
"We're tourists," said Nyoda, "and we want to be took in. We want breakfast."
"Come in an' set on the table," said the woman, and we knew we had found the author of the "Tourists Took In" sign.
Upon our asking for water and soap we were directed to a room on the second floor where a bowl and pitcher stood on a wash-stand and a towel hung over a chair.
"After having had such a dose of water last night I didn't think I'd ever care to wash again," said Nakwisi, "but that wash bowl's the best thing I've seen yet this morning. Hurry up and give me my turn."
I got through as quickly as possible to stop her clamoring, and while she scrubbed and primped I strolled over to the window, which overlooked the road in front of the house. The high spots were already drying in the warm wind. As I stood there I saw a speck coming down the road which gradually grew to the proportions of a man on a motorcycle exceeding the speed limit by about ten miles. He came to a stop in front of the house with such a jerk that I thought he would pitch off onto his head. He leaned the motorcycle against the porch and came up the steps, and as he did so I recognized the light-haired young man that had been in Rochester when we were. I must say it gave me a little thrill of pleasure to see him again.
The woman had evidently gone to the door in answer to his knock, for we heard her voice the next instant. Every word came up distinctly through the open window.
"Are there five young ladies in tan suits here?" he demanded. The woman was evidently offended at his curt manner. "What business is it of yours?" she asked, in a harsh voice.
"See here," he said sternly, "if you're in league with them and are trying to hide them you'll get into trouble. They're wanted by the police, and I'm here to arrest them."
We looked at each other thunderstruck. Wanted by the police! It was all a part of the strange mystery that had been surrounding us for the last few days. Could they be after us on account of the necklace?
"Tell me at once," persisted the man, "are they here, or did they go by?"
The woman evidently saw visions of her four breakfasts remaining uneaten and consequently un-paid for if she delivered us up, and tried to parley. "There's no such people here," she said brazenly, "they went by over an hour ago."
"They did nothing of the kind," said the young man, "they turned in here. I saw them across the field where the road turns."
"You can come in an' set in the parlor," said the woman firmly, "an' don't you set a foot in the rest of the house, an' I'll bring them to you."
We heard the front door open and close; then a movement in the room below us and the squeak of a chair as somebody sat down. Then we heard the door shut and the footsteps of the woman toward the back part of the house.
"I believe she locked him in," said Nyoda, laughing in the midst of her bewilderment, "and she doesn't mean to produce us until we've paid for that breakfast. It's too bad to disappoint her, but necessity comes before choice."
"What do you mean to do?" I asked.
Margery was as pale as a ghost. "It's my uncle after me," she gasped. "Oh, don't let them get me!"
I was too stupefied to say another word. That the nice young man with the light hair should turn out to be a police agent after us was too much for my comprehension.
Nyoda held up her hand for us to be silent and led us on tiptoe into a room which opened off at one side of the hall. She led us to the window, and we could see that it overlooked the yard on the other side from the dining-room and, that it opened out on a porch roof. A little way off we saw the Glow-worm standing under the trees. Nyoda crept out of the window and swung herself down to the ground by means of a flower trellis and we followed, helping Margery. Then we raced across the yard to the Glow-worm and started it just as a car drove by tooting its horn for dear life so that the sound of our engine was drowned in the noise.
We reached the road without going past the house and Nyoda opened the throttle wide. The last glimpse we had of the house where the tourists were "took in" was of a motorcycle leaning up against the porch. Our one thought was to get Margery safely to Chicago before the detective got her and took her back to her uncle. Nyoda had friends in Chicago who would take Margery in until she could go safely to Louisville in the event we could not take her with us. We knew that it would not be long before the man on the motorcycle would find out that we had escaped and would take the road after us, and we must not lose a minute. Lafayette flew by our eyes a mere line of stores and houses; we hardly slackened our speed going through, and then we began the long run northward to Chicago. We saw people turn to look at us as we rushed along, and then their faces blurred and vanished from sight. Now and then a chicken flew up right under the very wheels and once we ran over one. But we went on, on, unheeding. Then we struck a stretch of soft road and thought for a minute we were going to get stuck.
"Would you get through any better if you threw me overboard?" asked Nakwisi. "I'm pretty heavy." Nyoda only smiled and put on more speed and we went through. Margery's face was chalk white and her eyes were wide with fear; but excited as I was, I was enjoying the flight immensely. This was life. I thought of all the famous rides in history that I used to thrill over; Paul Revere's Ride, How they Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix, Tam o' Shanter's Famous Ride, and all the others. Sahwah will regret to her dying day that she missed it.
Halfway to Chicago, Nakwisi, who was keeping a sharp lookout with her spy-glass, reported that there was a motorcycle chasing us about half a mile behind. The Glow-worm leapt forward a trifle faster under Nyoda's steady hand, but she never flicked an eyelash. Nyoda is simply a marvel of self-control in an emergency.
Soon we could all see the pursuer without the aid of the glass. He was gaining on us rapidly. We were approaching a railroad crossing and there was a train coming. If we had to wait until it went by we would be overtaken surely. Nyoda measured the distance between the train and the crossing with a swift eye and put on the last bit of speed of which the Glow-worm was capable. We bumped across the tracks just as the gates were beginning to go down. A minute later the way behind us was cut off by one of those interminably long, slow moving freight trains, and one the other side of the barrier was the impotent pursuer.
But the time gained by this lucky incident merely postponed the inevitable end of the chase. When did a loaded car ever outrun a motorcycle? We watched him approaching, helpless to ward off the thing which was coming, yet running on at the top of our speed, hoping against hope that his gas would give out or he would run into something. But none of these things happened and he drew alongside of us and caught hold of the fender.
Nyoda slowed down and came to a stop. "What do you want?" she asked, haughtily.
"Your little game is up," said the man, quietly.
Nyoda faced him bravely, determined not to give Margery up without a struggle. "Will you kindly tell me what you mean?" she asked.
The motorcyclist grinned. "Don't try to play off innocent," he said, severely. "You know as well as I do what I mean. But it isn't you I'm after most," he continued. "It's this one," and he pointed to Margery. Margery buried her face in Nyoda's arm. Nyoda saw it was no use. "Are you looking for Margery Anderson?" she asked.
"Margery Anderson!" said the man, with another grin. "That's a new one on me. But she changes so often there's no keeping track of her. She may be Margery Anderson now, but the one I'm after is Sal Jordan, better known as 'Light Fingered Sal', the slickest pickpocket and shoplifter between New York and San Francisco."
We all stared at him open-mouthed. "Oh, you may have forgotten about it," he said sarcastically, "but I'll refresh your memory." He was speaking to Margery now. "After you robbed that jewelry store in Toledo you got away with such a narrow squeak that the doors of the police station almost closed on you. Your friends didn't dare show themselves in town, so they went riding around in an automobile, pretending they were tourists, and you joined them out in the country somewhere. I've had my eye on you ever since you left Ft. Wayne. But we had word you were going to Indianapolis to carry on another little piece of business and I thought I'd let you go free awhile and catch you with the goods on. But you gave me the slip and didn't go, and I must say you've led me a fine chase. But it's all over now and you'll go along with me to Chicago like a little lamb with all your pretty friends."
He looked us over carefully. "Where's the other one?" he asked, suddenly. "There were five of you before. Great Scott!" he exclaimed. "You've sent her back to Indianapolis. Pretty cute, Sal, but it won't do any good. They're watching for her."
We sat petrified, looking at Margery. She had collapsed on the seat with her face in her hands—the very picture of Admission of Guilt. "Margery!" cried Nyoda, "is it true?"
But Margery shook her head. "I don't know anything about it," she said.
"You're mistaken," said Nyoda cooly to the man, "we know nothing whatever about this Sal person." Just then she drew her hand from her pocket with a convulsive movement, and out flew the scarab at the man's feet. He picked it up with a triumphant movement.
"Oh, no, you don't know anything about it," he said. "But you are carrying Sal's scarab, which is the countersign between the members of her gang. As I mentioned before, your little game is up."
"Margery!" said Nyoda the second time, "is it true?" But Margery buried her face in her hands and said nothing.
Our thoughts went whirling in somersaults. The girl we had picked up was not Margery, but "Light Fingered Sal", a pickpocket!
The appearance of the scarab and the scene at the ball when Nyoda had found the necklace in her pocket came over us like a flash. What dupes we had been never to suspect the truth before!
The procession moved on again with the motorcyclist keeping hold of the fender. Thus it was that we came into Chicago, under police escort, and were chaperoned up the steps of the police station.
Once inside, we blinked around with greater wonder than we had at anything which had happened so far.
Against the wall were standing in a row: Gladys, Chapa, Medmangi, Hinpoha, Sahwah between a strange man and woman, four young women we had never seen before but who wore suits and veils exactly like ours, and a girl in a blue suit.
Before we had finished staring at each other in stupefied surprise the door opened again, and a woman ran in, at the sight of whom "Sal" darted forward and threw herself into her arms.
"Margery!" cried the newcomer.
"Mother!" cried the girl.
A few steps behind the woman came a man and he looked coldly at the two. "You have forestalled us, I see, Mrs. Anderson," he said, coldly. The girl was Margery Anderson after all! I shall never forget the expression on the light-haired detective's face when he saw Margery rush into that woman's arms. He turned all shades of red and purple and looked ready to burst.
"Confound that Sal!" we heard him mutter under his breath. "She's given us the slip again."
Then we happened to look at Sahwah and the two people with whom she was standing. Sahwah was doubled up with laughter and the man and woman were as surprised looking as the detective. The man reminded me of nothing so much as a collapsed balloon.
It was the queerest police station scene anyone could imagine. Instead of making charges against us the various policemen and detectives all looked bewildered and uncertain how to proceed. Everybody looked at everybody else; and everybody waited to see what would happen next. And things kept right on happening. The door opened a second time and an officer came in leading a young woman in a stylish blue suit. Her appearance seemed to create a profound sensation with Gladys and Hinpoha and Chapa and Medmangi; they all uttered an exclamation at once and started forward. The one in blue looked at them and then burst into a mocking laugh. The four unknown girls dressed like us and the other one in blue seemed to be good friends of hers for they hailed each other familiarly.
"The game's up, dearies," said the newcomer, gaily. "My, but I did have the good time, though, playing the abused little maiden. Took you in beautifully, didn't I?" she said over her shoulder to Gladys. "Maybe Sal can't act like an angel when she wants to!"
"Light Fingered Sal!" exclaimed the detective who had brought us in, staring at her fascinated. "And all the rest of your company! Can't really blame me for getting on the wrong scent," he remarked, looking from them to us. "The only description I had was the suits and they are identical. Well, you're safe home, Sal, safe home at last," he added, with a grin. Sal and her companions were taken out then and we saw them no more.
Then we heard the officer who had brought her in tell his tale to the detective. A man in an automobile had come to him that morning and said he had been robbed of his pocketbook and watch by a young woman he had picked up on the road. He had run into her and knocked her down and was taking her to her home. After he had put her down at the address she gave him he discovered that his property was missing and returned to the house, but could get no answer to his ring. The officer took note of the address and promised to keep an eye on the place. Later on he saw a young woman come out of the house and enter a near-by pawn shop. He followed her and saw that she was pawning the watch whose description had been given him. He arrested her and discovered she was the famous Light Fingered Sal, whom the police of a dozen cities were looking for. The house was searched, but the other inmates had fled. But it seems that they were fleeing in an automobile and went several miles beyond the speed limit with the result that they were brought into the station, where their real identity was established. They were the four tourists in tan and the one in blue, whom we had blindly followed out of Toledo, thinking they were Gladys and the other girls in the Striped Beetle. Sal still had the man's purse in her pocket when she was brought into the station and the owner was notified of that fact while we stood there.
Again, it was these friends of Sal's who had been ahead of us at the hotel in Ft. Wayne, whom the check man had told us about and who had left for Chicago by way of Ligonier. Together with Sal, they had committed some daring thefts in Toledo stores, and when the police had almost caught them they had escaped in an automobile. There had been no time to wait for Sal; they trusted her to join them somewhere along the road. The police were so hot on her trail that she had to spend the night in the empty storeroom where Hinpoha had found her, waiting until after dark that night to venture out. Then Mr. Bob had blundered in on her hiding-place, followed by Hinpoha. Sal saw her chance of working on Hinpoha's sympathies and so getting out of Toledo, and how she accomplished it we already know. She told her a well fabricated tale of being accused wrongfully of taking a paper from the office safe, and played the role of the helpless country girl in the city, with the result that the girls took her in tow and set out to find Nyoda. She assumed airs of helplessness until they did not think her capable of lacing her own shoes. All the while she was keeping a sharp lookout for the police along the road. At the same time she found out that the girls were carrying all their money in their handbags.
At first, she had intended staying with them until she got to Chicago, as that was her destination, but the losing of the trunk made them go to Indianapolis, where the automobile races had drawn great crowds from everywhere. She was sorely tempted to break away from the girls there and slip into the crowd, where she could gather a rich harvest; but she had been afraid that the police would be watching for her and decided that the prudent thing would be to go to Chicago. But after they had actually left Indianapolis and she began to think of what she had missed, she wished she had stayed there. She blinded the girls to her real character by pretending to know nothing about any kind of worldly pleasure and amusement, and acted as though she disapproved of everything gay, and Gladys had remarked somewhat loftily that when she had seen a little more of life she would not be so narrow in her views!
Then the girls had seen the flowers growing beside the river and had gotten out of the car to walk among them, leaving her to sit in the car and hold their purses. It was as if opportunity had fallen directly into her lap. The lure of the crowd at Indianapolis was too strong and she started to drive back, leaving the girls minus their money and their car. But some distance down the road the car had come to a stop and she could not make it go on. She did not know that the gasoline had given out. She abandoned it in the road and walked across country until she came to the electric line, which she had taken into Indianapolis. She had a narrow escape from the police there and took the train for Chicago. There she had been run into by the man in the automobile and her fertile brain had whispered to her to feign injury and have him take her home. While she was in the car she had managed to get the watch and purse. Later she tried to pawn the watch and was caught.
The detective, who had started out from Toledo after her had never seen her or her companions and had somehow gotten onto our trail and believed we were the ones. He had made no attempt to arrest us when he first came up with us, because he believed there were still others in her crowd and he wanted to wait until she joined them in Chicago and so get a bigger catch in his net, when he finally drew it in. He had waited around Rochester simply on our account; there had been nothing the matter with his motorcycle at all. We had told him ourselves we were going to Chicago, and then he had heard Nyoda telegraphing to friends at the Carrie Wentworth Inn there. He had told Mrs. Moffat to keep a close watch on us because we were dangerous characters, and she had promptly put us out of the house. The news spread through the town like wild-fire that there was a gang of pickpockets there and wherever we went we were watched. That accounted for the queer actions of the various storekeepers. But then, who had given us the address of 22 Spring Street when Mrs. Moffat had turned us out? That point still remained to be cleared up.
When we abruptly left town in the direction of Indianapolis the detective had followed us, but the storm had thrown him off our track. He had come across us the next day near Lafayette and had made up his mind to hold on to us that time. Our headlong flight when we became aware of his presence drove all doubt away as to our being the ones, and then when he had seen the scarab the last link was forged in the chain which held us.
The timely arrest of Sal and her companions and the arrival of Margery's mother had naturally wrought sad havoc with the charges upon which we had all been brought into the station, and instead of feeling like criminals we all sat around and talked as if we were perfectly at home in a police station. The facts I am telling you somewhat in order all came out bit by bit and sometimes everybody talked at once, so it would be useless to try to put it down just the way it was said.
When Nyoda finally got the floor, she told about the finding of the scarab and about our being taken into the McClure home and sent down to the ballroom where she later found the diamond necklace in her pocket. This tale created a profound sensation and now it was the turn of the detective who had brought in Gladys and those girls to look foolish. The police asked us the minutest details about the appearance of the servants who had admitted us. We told about the maid Carrie with the black eyes which were not the same height and one of the detectives nodded his head eagerly. "Black-Eyed Susan," he said. "She's one of the crowd we're after." He also recognized the footman with the blue vein in his nose and the chauffeur with the crooked fingers. We were praised highly for having observed those little things.
Then it was that we found the solution of the mystery which had been tantalizing us since the night of the ball, and which we thought we had found when we believed Margery to be Sal. That diamond robbery had been skilfully planned as soon as the invitations for the ball were sent. Three of the crowd were in the employ of Mrs. McClure. It happened that these three did not know Sal and her intimates personally. They had been instructed that on the evening of the ball five young women would arrive in an automobile. They were to be admitted into the house and gotten into the ballroom. Carrie was to do the actual robbery, slipping the necklace into the pocket of one of the five. They would then leave the ballroom and ride away. Their automobile was to be kept in readiness at the door and the way made clear when the time came. The mark of identification of these five was to be a certain scarab which one would carry in her pocket. Naturally, when Nyoda had dropped the scarab out of her pocket that day the chauffeur had taken us for the five. The rest you know.
The only hitch in their plans had been the maid Agnes. Carrie had an idea that she suspected her for some reason or other and was afraid she would think there was something strange in our being admitted into the house and made ready for the ball. She had therefore taken advantage of our drenched condition to pretend that we were merely seeking shelter from the storm. Then, in Agnes's hearing, she had come in and said that Mrs. McClure wanted us to attend the ball. That made everything regular in Agnes's eyes and apparently cleared Carrie of connivance.
The person who had put the scarab into Nyoda's pocket had been still another member of the crowd who had gotten on the trail of the wrong ones. He was to drop it into the pocket of one of the five girls in motor costumes who would be at the Ft. Wayne hotel at a certain time. The real ones found themselves too closely watched by the police to attempt the diamond robbery, and abandoned it, heading straight for Chicago. Thus they went through Ft. Wayne a day before they were expected and did not stop. We came on the day they were expected and got away before he could give it to us. He, therefore, trailed us to Rochester and dropped it into Nyoda's pocket when she sat in the restaurant eating lunch.
Of course, we did not find out everyone of these facts in the police station that day, although I am telling them as if we did. One of Sal's companions later turned state's evidence and it was from her statement that we got the whole story. When the scarab was produced everybody crowded around it curiously. It was one which was stolen from a private collection in Boston some time before, and occasional rumors had leaked out about it's being used as a sign of identification between members of the gang who were so scattered that they did not all know each other.
The light-haired detective left in a great hurry to get the three servants in the McClure home. I might say right here, however, that he never got them, for they had fled on the finding of the necklace in the jardinier, fearing an investigation.
There was so much that happened that afternoon in the police station that I really don't know what to tell first. I suppose the reader has been wondering all the time what has become of Margery Anderson and how it happened that her mother appeared on the scene just at that time. It seems that she was in Chicago on business and had gone to the office of her brother-in-law, Margery's uncle. He was out and she was waiting for him. While she was there she heard the stenographer take a message over the telephone to the effect that Margery was in the police station, and leaving the office hurriedly she had gone right down, determined to get there before Margery's uncle did. She found Margery as we already know, not in the company of the man and woman, as she had expected, but with us three. When Margery's uncle finally received the message he also hastened to the station, but it was too late. Margery was with her mother and he could not take her away again.
Sahwah came over and stood by us, breaking into giggles every few minutes at the discomfiture of Mr. and Mrs. Watterson, in spite of her heroic efforts to keep a straight face. Her captors left the station very red and uncomfortable after their little business with the police was over.
By the time all our stories were told we were good friends with the police lieutenant and all the officers standing around, who were inclined to be pleased with us because we had helped bring Sal and her crowd into their hands. This would be a feather in their cap, although, of course, we would get no official credit.
Finally, there were only Nyoda and the seven Winnebagos left in the station, and when one of the officers offered to show us around Nyoda accepted the invitation gladly. She is always anxious that we should see as much as possible. Nyoda stood and talked to the matron a long time while we went on through, and when we came back she was invisible. We waited awhile, but she did not appear.
"She's probably waiting for us out in the room where the fat one is," said Sahwah. "The fat one" was her disrespectful way of referring to the police chief. (Sahwah saw me writing this down and corrected me, saying that he wasn't the chief; he was a lieutenant, because we were in a branch station, but I have always thought of him as chief.) So we moved back toward the "main reception-room".
"What's in there?" asked Sahwah, pointing to a closed door. Sahwah, like the Elephant's Child, was filled with 'satiable' curiosity.
"It's the matron's room," answered the row of brass buttons, who was guiding us.
"May we look in?" asked Sahwah.
"May if you like," answered the row of buttons.
Sahwah quietly opened the door and we looked in. We looked in and we kept on looking. In fact, we couldn't have taken our eyes away if we had wanted to. For there in that matron's office—the matron was not there—stood Nyoda, and there stood the Frog, and he had his arms around her and he was kissing her!
By the time we had gotten our breath back again they were miles apart, nearly the whole width of the carpet runner, and the Frog had his goggles off and explanations were in full swing. The Frog was Sherry, Nyoda's camp serenader of the summer before. They had been corresponding ever since and he had been to see her several times, although we did not know it. They had been almost engaged at the beginning of the summer and then they quarreled and Nyoda sent him away.
He was touring the country all by himself in a mood of great dejection and happened to see us in the dining-room at Toledo. He followed so he could be near her. His big goggles and the mustache he had grown during the summer were an effectual disguise. He had kept a respectful distance, afraid to make himself known, for fear Nyoda would order him off. So he had followed us and it was a merry chase we had led him, I must say. When the impudent young man had spoken to us in the hotel parlor at Wellsville he had promptly called him down for it and that had caused the uproar we had heard when we ran out to the garage. Later, he had led us out of the burning hotel to the back window where we made our escape. Then, while we were in the house dressing, he had gone to get the Glow-worm out of the threatened garage. He was driving it across the park to a place of safety when we had seen him and thought he was stealing the car. He wouldn't even take advantage of the great service he had rendered us in piloting us through the burning building to present himself to Nyoda. When we thought he was making off with Margery he was taking a girl to her home in the next town. It seemed that everything conspired to make the poor man appear the villain when he was in reality the hero.
He thought he had lost us that night in the fog, but the next morning he turned around and there we were behind him. When Nyoda tried to overtake him, he fled. But he had followed us to Rochester and it had been he who had given us the address of the woman on Spring Street after Mrs. Moffat had turned us out. He had heard Nyoda arguing with Mrs. Moffat at the front door and thought it was about the price of the rooms; he did not know that we were in any such predicament as we were.
He had found out that we intended going to Chicago and when we disappeared so suddenly from the town he thought we had gone there and had followed, but did not overtake us. Inside the city he had run into Light Fingered Sal and while charitably taking her to her home, as he supposed, she had relieved him of his watch and his money. He had notified the police and some time later had been summoned to the —th precinct station to recover his property. There he had seen Nyoda in the matrons' office. What happened between that time and the moment when Sahwah opened the door was never made public, but it was evidently highly satisfactory to him.
There remains but one more tangled thread to straighten out. That concerns the trunks. We did not find out the truth until long after. Gladys's trunk had actually been put onto Mr. Hansen's car in Ft. Wayne, but he had lost it on the way and it was picked up by a man who went through Wellsville the night of the fire. In the excitement it was left in the garage, where it was found by the proprietor and sent us in answer to our description. The one which we had left in Wellsville was taken by the salesman of the Curline stuff and returned to Gladys's address several weeks later, rather battered on the outside, but still intact as to contents. Gladys was aghast when she thought of the trunk she had forcibly wrested from the man on the road. She left it there in the police station in the hope that the real owner would get it some day. That was the last we ever heard of it. Whether the man had actually stolen it, and who the initials GME of Cleveland referred to we never found out.
The reason Gladys's second wire to us in Rochester was not received was that she had absent-mindedly written Rochester, N. Y., instead of Rochester, Ind.
Well, as far as adventures are concerned, the tale of our trip is told. The rest was uneventful and the telling of it would be uninteresting, as it would consist mainly of descriptions of scenery and places, which the reader already knows by heart from other books. Sherry hinted strongly that a red car would be a great addition to our color scheme, but Nyoda firmly refused to let him come with us. She had enough to look after when she had us, she insisted, without trying to keep him out of mischief. Besides, ours was a strictly family party and he was not one of the family—yet. So he meekly continued his journey to Denver as originally planned, while we went south to Louisville.
Then once more we followed "along the road that leads the way," the yellow road unwinding like a ribbon under our wheels, but this time we didn't build any Rain Jinx before we started.