The Dragon's Secret
by Augusta Huiell Seaman
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"He waited where he was a few minutes, thinking possibly the man might come back, and he was just about to come out, when along came an automobile with two men in it, which stopped directly in front of Curlew's Nest. He could not see their faces, for they had slouch hats pulled far down on their heads. They got out and walked about a bit, evidently to see if any one was around. Then, thinking themselves alone, they hurried up to the bungalow, worked at the side door, and finally got in. Shortly after, they came out again and walked down to the beach, where he could not see them. Then they came back, got into the car, and drove off.

"By that time it was growing so late that he concluded he would stay where he was and wait for me to come back, which he did. Before he left me, we had a slight breakdown, and in helping me fix it, he hurt his hand. But that same night, long after midnight, he got into Curlew's Nest again to see if he could find out what had happened, and he found a very strange message left on the table—a type-written warning to the one who had taken the article (as it was called!) from its hiding-place to return it, and underneath, a printed note in pencil, saying it would be returned. He thought probably the first man had left the type-written part, and the other two had printed the answer underneath. That was all he could make of it.

"It was all very mysterious, but while we couldn't make much out of it, at least it showed that something concerning the affair was going on and that the place must be closely watched. Ted volunteered to keep this watch. Meanwhile, Grandfather had had a very bad turn and I was with him constantly. He was terribly depressed over the whole affair. Even his doctor, who knows nothing about this, said he was evidently worrying about something, and if the cause of worry were not removed, he doubted the possibility of recovery. Tonight I stayed with him later than usual, and in returning, actually did lose my way in the storm. But when I at last discovered where I was, I knew that it was not far from here and could not resist the temptation to come over and see if anything was happening. I found Ted also scouting around, and suddenly we realized that some one else was on the ground too, though we could not tell who, in the darkness and rain. But Ted thought it very dangerous for me to be out there, so he made me come in here, as I did. And I need not tell you what happened after that!"

Eileen ceased speaking, and Phyllis had just opened her lips to say something when there was a knock at the door. All four jumped nervously, but Ted got up and went to open it.

To their immense alarm, the opened door revealed the figure of—"the man with the limp!"



THE man also started back at the sight of all four of them together. And Rags, who had been drying himself quietly by the fire, rose with a snarl and leaped toward his enemy of the earlier part of the evening.

"Heavens! don't let that animal loose on me again!" cried the man, backing off. "I've just been down to the village doctor and had my arm cauterized, as it is. I stopped in to tell you something you'd better know. Probably you haven't noticed it, if you haven't looked out recently. The water is rising rapidly and will soon be very nearly up to your bungalow. You may want to get out before it sweeps under it!"

With a cry of alarm, they all leaped toward the door, Ted grasping Rags firmly by the collar. It was even as the man had said. Peering through the darkness, they could see the water spreading inward from a recent breaker, only about twenty-five feet from the veranda. And the next breaker spread in even a few inches further.

"What shall we do?" cried Leslie. "Aunt Marcia will be frightened to death if she knows it, and how I'm to get her out of here in this howling storm, or where I can take her, I can't imagine!"

But Ted had been critically examining the weather. "Don't worry, Leslie!" he soothed her. "The wind is shifting. I noticed just now that it seemed to be around to the north and is getting farther west also. That means the storm is almost over. And the tide ought to turn in ten minutes or so. It's practically at its highest now. Ten chances to one it won't rise more than a foot or two further. But we'll keep watch, and if it does, we'll get your aunt out of here in Eileen's car, which is just down the road, and take her either to our place or to the village. Our bungalow isn't likely to be damaged, as it's farther up the dune than these. Don't worry!"

Thus encouraged, Leslie turned indoors again, and the man, who was still lingering on the porch, remarked:

"If it isn't too much trouble, friends, I'd like to come in for a minute or two and ask you folks a few questions about that little fracas this evening and how you came to be mixed up in it. It's all right and perfectly proper!" he hastened to add, seeing their startled glances. "I can show you my credentials." He opened his coat and exhibited a shield on his vest—the shield of a detective of the New York police force!

So amazed were they that they could scarcely reply, but the man took matters in his own hands and walked into the house. And Leslie never even thought to warn him to speak softly because of Aunt Marcia!

Unconsciously they grouped themselves about him at the open fire. And Rags, now that the obnoxious stranger had been admitted to the house on a hospitable footing, made no further demonstrations of enmity.

"My name is Barnes—Detective Barnes of the New York force," he began, "and I'd like to clear up one or two little puzzles here before I go on with this business. It's a rather peculiar one. I heard this young gentleman refer to a car that was standing in the road near here and say it belonged to one of you young ladies named Eileen. I'd like to inform Miss Eileen that the party who got that little article we were all scrapping for to-night, jumped into her car when he got to the road, tore like mad in it to the station, left it there, and caught the express for New York. I was just in time to see him disappearing in it, but of course I had to walk to the village. I suspected what he was going to do, though, and I went straight to the station and found the car standing there. So I took the liberty of getting in it, driving myself to the village doctor, and then back out here. You will find your car, Miss Eileen, standing just where you left it, but I thought you'd like to know it had had the little adventure!"

Eileen opened her mouth to reply, but the man gave her no chance, turning immediately to Ted. "And as for you, young man, I suppose you thought you were doing a wonderful stunt when you landed into me to-night, just as I'd unearthed the thing I've been on the trail of for a week; but I'll have to tell you that you've spoiled one of the prettiest little pieces of detective work I've undertaken for several years, and may have helped to precipitate a bit of international trouble, beside. I don't know what your motive was,—I suppose you thought me a burglar,—but—

"Just a moment!" cried Eileen, springing forward. "Tell me, why are you concerned in this? My name is Ramsay and I have a right to ask!"

Detective Barnes was visibly startled. "Are you a relative of the Honorable Arthur Ramsay?" he demanded; and when she had told him, he exclaimed: "Then you must know all about Geoffrey Gaines and how he disappeared!"

"I've known him since I was a baby," she answered; "but how he disappeared is still an awful mystery to us. My grandfather is very ill in the Branchville hospital, you know."

"But didn't he receive my letter?" cried Mr. Barnes. "I sent it two days ago!"

"He has been too ill to read any mail for the last two days," replied Eileen, "and, of course, I have not opened it."

"Well, that explains why I haven't heard from him!" the man exclaimed, with a sigh of relief. "Then I guess you will be interested to hear that Gaines is alive and well, but kept a close prisoner by some heathen Chinese in a house on a west side street in New York."

"But how?—Why?—Did it happen the—the night he—came down here?" she ventured.

"I see you're pretty well informed about the matter," he remarked cautiously. "And if these others are equally so, I guess it's safe for me to go on and give you a history of the thing."

Eileen nodded, and he went on:

"Gaines and I used to know each other in England, years before he entered your grandfather's service. In fact, we had been schoolmates together. Then I came over to this country and entered the detective service, and he went into another walk of life. But we kept in touch with each other by writing occasionally. A week or so ago I was astonished to receive a letter from him, written on all sorts of odds and ends of paper and in an envelope plainly manufactured by himself. It contained some very singular news.

"It gave me first the history of those letters and how anxious your grandfather was to keep hold of them. Then it told how he (Gaines) had taken the box down here that night and tried first to conceal it in the bungalow. But no place in the house seemed safe enough to him. He tried to dig up a brick in the fireplace and bury it there, but gave it up after he had broken his knife in the attempt. Then he had the inspiration to bury it in the sand somewhere outside, and he described where he did locate it, right by that log. If Gaines had known much about the tides here, he wouldn't have thought that a very good scheme. He didn't, though, and thought he'd found an excellent place. He then turned to walk back to the hotel, but hadn't gone more than a mile (it was storming hard, if you remember) when a terrific blow on the back of the head knocked him senseless. He never knew another thing until he came to, after what must have been a number of days, to find himself a prisoner in a house he judged to be somewhere in New York. And from his description I've located it about west Sixty-first street.

"He appeared to be in the keeping of a Chinaman who dressed American fashion and spoke good English. He was told that he was a prisoner and that it was hopeless to try to communicate with any one until he had reported exactly where and how those letters had been concealed. He begged for a day or two to consider the matter and was granted it, but told that if he did not comply with their wishes he would disappear for good and no one would ever be the wiser.

"In the meantime, he managed to get together a few scraps of paper, and with the stub of a pencil he happened to have about him, he wrote this letter to me, describing the location of the letters and how he had hidden them in a bronze box wrapped in a burlap bag. He urged me to go and get them at once, and then, later, he could safely describe to his captors where he had hidden them. Perhaps you wonder how he expected to get this letter to me, since he was so carefully guarded. He said that he was on the third floor, front, of the house, near a corner where he could see a post-box. He happened to have a solitary stamp in his pocket, which he put on the letter. Then, at some hour when he thought his captors were busy elsewhere, he expected to attract the attention of some children playing in the street and offer to throw them some money if they would mail the letter in the nearby box. As I received the letter, no doubt his plan worked successfully. At any rate, I got it a week ago and started on the trail immediately.

"I landed out here one morning while it was still dark, and dug all around the spot mentioned, but couldn't find a trace of the bag or box."

"Oh, I saw you that morning!" cried Leslie. "But when you walked away you seemed to stoop and had a bad limp! I don't understand!"

"I know you saw me," he smiled, "or, at least, that some one did, for as I happened to glance back at this house, it was growing just light enough for me to realize there was some one watching at the window. So I adopted that stoop and limp as I walked away, just so you would not be likely to recognize me if you saw me again. It is a ruse I've often practised."

"But it didn't work that time," laughed Leslie, "for I recognized you again this afternoon by the way you dusted the sand off your hands and threw away the stick!"

"Well, you are certainly a more observing person than most people!" he answered gravely. "But to go on. Of course, I was very much disappointed, but I remained here, staying at the village hotel, and kept as close a watch on the place as was possible, pretending all the time that I was here on a fishing excursion. I tried very hard to keep out of sight of these bungalows, in the daytime, anyway. The day you all went off on the auto ride the coast seemed clear, and I went through the place. But I hadn't been out of it long and walked down to the beach, when I saw the two men drive up in a car and enter the bungalow also, and later come out to dig by that old log. Of course, they didn't see me about! I took care of that. And I knew, beyond a doubt, that they were Gaines's Chinamen, come to find the booty.

"Of course they didn't find it, any more than I had, and I felt sure they would go back and make it hot for Gaines, and I judged that he would probably try to gain time in some way. I went back to my hotel that night to think it all over and make further plans, and didn't visit the bungalow again till next evening, when I found to my astonishment a queer note, type-written, on the table there—a warning that the article stolen from its hiding-place had better be returned. And under it, a reply, printed in lead-pencil, saying it would be returned."

"I couldn't make head or tail of the business. I judged the type-written part to have been left by the Chinese. But who had scribbled the other was a dark-brown mystery. At any rate, I concluded that to-night would probably be the crucial time, and determined to get in ahead of every one else. The storm was a piece of good fortune to me, as it concealed things so well, and about nine o'clock I was on the spot, proceeding to dig down by the old log. Pretty soon I realized, though, that there was some one else around. And just as I'd unearthed the bag, which had been mysteriously returned to its hiding-place, you appeared out of somewhere, young man, fell on me like a thousand of bricks, and we had a grand old tussle. I'll give you credit for being some wrestler, but I was getting the best of it, when along came you others with that terrible beast and did the business for me!

"I thought all along, though, that you, Mr. Ted, were one of the Chinamen. But that person must have been on the scene also, probably lurking in the shelter of the bungalow and watching the fracas. And when your electric light blazed on the scene, Miss," he turned to Phyllis, "he no doubt saw the bag in my hand. Then, when the light went out for a moment, he rushed in and grabbed the prize and was off while we two were so busy with one another!

"It was a losing game all around. While I was in the village, I 'phoned my department in New York to meet his train when it got in and arrest him, if they could find him, and search him at once. But after I'd been to the doctor's (I had a long session there) I 'phoned them again and heard that the train had been met, but no one answering such description as I could give had got off. No doubt he was canny enough to get off at some station short of New York and so was lost to sight.

"Well, the prize is lost for this time, but perhaps we can pick up the trail again. At any rate, Gaines is probably free, for they promised to release him as soon as the letters were obtained."

When he had ceased speaking, Leslie got up from her chair and disappeared into the kitchen. When she returned, she laid a dark bundle in the lap of Eileen.

"I guess the prize was found some time ago!" she remarked quietly. "Suppose you open that bag and see, Eileen!"

And amid an astounded silence, Eileen's fingers managed to unloose the fastening of the bag and insert themselves in its depths. Then with a little cry of joy, she drew out and held up, for all to view, the bronze box that had caused all the disturbance—the Dragon's Secret!

* * * * *

The complicated explanations were all over at last, and the curious, fragmentary story was pieced together. Detective Barnes took up the little bronze box and examined it carefully, experimenting, as they all had done, to find a way of opening it—and, of course, unsuccessfully.

"There's one thing that puzzles me, though," remarked Ted, "about that queer type-written note. How and why and by whom was it left originally?"

"It was written on thin, foreign-looking paper," replied the detective, "and I can only guess that the foreigners left it there, though probably not on their first trip that afternoon. No doubt they either went to the village, or, more likely, returned to the city to talk it over, perhaps with Gaines. And he, supposing I had long since captured the prize, and to put them off the scent, suggested that some one nearby may have been meddling with the matter and that they leave a warning for them. I feel rather certain he must have done this to gain time, for he knew that if I had found the thing, I would immediately set about having him released, and he must have wondered why I hadn't done so. Perhaps he thought I was having difficulty locating the house where they had him hidden. But, Great Scott!—that makes me think!—They must by this time have discovered the trick you played, Miss Phyllis, and be jumping mad over having been so fooled. Perhaps they think Gaines is responsible for it, and they'll certainly be making it hot for him! I must get to the city immediately and get him out of that hole. Oughtn't to waste another minute. If you can spare your car, Miss Eileen, I'd like to run up to the city with it, as I know there are no more trains to-night. I'll guarantee to fetch it and Gaines both back in the morning!"

"You certainly may have it," replied Eileen, "and you may take me with you and leave me at the hospital, on the way. Grandfather must know of this at once. I'm positive he'll recover now, since the worry is all over. But first, wouldn't you all like to see something? I happen to know the secret of opening this box. Grandfather showed it to me when I was a little girl, and he used to let me play with it."

She took a pin from her dress, inserted it into the carved eye of the dragon and pressed it in a certain fashion—and the lid of the bronze box flew up! They all pressed forward eagerly and gazed in. There lay the packet of foreign letters, safe and sound. Eileen lifted them and looked curiously underneath. Nothing else was in the box except some strange, thin bits of yellow, foreign paper covered with vague pictures and curious Chinese characters. They seemed to be so thin and old as to be almost falling to pieces.

"I don't know what these things are," she remarked, "but they probably have nothing to do with this affair, anyway. Grandfather was always picking up queer old things on his travels. But he must have thought them interesting, or he never would have kept them in here. But we must go now," she ended, closing the box. "And I'll see you dear people all to-morrow. This has surely been a wonderful night!"

But just as she was ready to go, she said: "Do show me the dusty shelf where this was hidden, please!" And then, as she stood gazing up at it, she exclaimed, "To think that it lay here behind those worn-out old kitchen things all the time we were so madly hunting for it! But perhaps it was the safest place, after all!"

The two girls escorted Eileen and Mr. Barnes to the door, Ted offering to see them to the car. As they came out on the porch, Leslie uttered a little cry of delight. The storm, which all had momentarily forgotten in the later excitement, was over. The ragged clouds were driving by in a strong northwest wind, and a few stars could be seen peeping through the rifts, while, best of all, the water had already retreated several feet, though the crash of the breakers was still tremendous.

As Leslie and Phyllis returned to the room, they were startled to see Aunt Marcia, in a dressing-gown, peering out of the door of her room and blinking sleepily.

"What on earth are you two girls doing up at this unearthly hour?" she inquired. "I woke and thought I heard voices and came out to see!"

"Oh, we've been talking and watching the storm!" laughed Leslie. "It's all over now, and the stars are shining. You'd better go back to bed, Aunt Marcia. The fire's out and it's very chilly!"

And as the good lady turned back into her room Leslie whispered to Phyllis, "And she slept through all that—and never knew! How can I be thankful enough!"



"PHYLLIS! I've got a nibble, Phyllis! I believe I can land him, too. And it will be the first I've really managed to catch!" Leslie began to play her line, her hands fairly trembling with excitement.

The two girls and Ted stood at the ocean's edge, almost directly in front of the bungalows, whiling away a glorious, crisp afternoon in striving to induce the reluctant fish to bite. For some reason or other, they seemed remarkably shy that day. Leslie's nibble had been the first suggestion of possible luck. Just as she was cautiously beginning to reel in her line a pair of hands was clasped over her eyes, and a gay voice laughed "Guess who!"

"Eileen!" cried Leslie, joyfully, forgetting all about her nibble. "Oh, but it's good to see you! We've missed you so since you left. Where did you come from?"

"Grandfather and I motored down to-day," replied Eileen, as they all crowded round her, "to stay over night at Aunt Sally's in the village. He's going to drive out here a little later, with Geoffrey at the wheel, because he wants to see you people. You know, we sail for England on Saturday, and he says he doesn't intend to leave before he has a chance to greet the friends who did so much for him! You've no idea how much better he is! He began to pick up the moment I told him the news that night; and in the two weeks since, he's been like another person. But he hates it in New York and it doesn't agree with him, and he just wanted to come down here once more before we left."

"But how did you get here, if he's coming later in the car?" demanded Phyllis.

"Oh, I walked, of course! It was a glorious day for it. Aunt Sally wondered so, to see me taking the air in anything but that car! What a dear she is! And how scandalously I had to treat her when I stayed there before. But the dear lady never suspected that I was in an agony of worry and suspense all the time, and didn't dare to be nice to her for fear I'd just be tempted to give way and tell the whole secret. I used to long to throw myself in her lap and boo-hoo on her shoulder! I've made it all up with her since, though! There's Grandfather now! Come up to the veranda, all of you, because he's not strong enough yet to walk on the sand."

They hurried up to the house and got there in time for Eileen to make the introductions. They were all deeply attracted to the tall, stooping, gray-haired, pleasant-mannered gentleman who greeted them so cordially—as if they were old and valued friends instead of such recent acquaintances.

"I'm going to ask you to let me sit awhile on your front veranda," he said. "I want to get a last impression of this lovely spot to carry away with me to England. Also, I would like to have a chat with you young folks and tell you how much I appreciate what you all did for us."

Rather embarrassed by his suggestion that there was anything to thank them for, Leslie led him through the house to the veranda facing the ocean. Here Aunt Marcia sat, wrapped to the eyes, enjoying the late October sunshine, the invigorating salt air, and the indescribable beauty of the changeful ocean. Leslie had long since, very cautiously and gradually, revealed to her the story of their adventure at Curlew's Nest. So carefully had she done so that any possible alarm Miss Marcia might have experienced was swallowed up in wonder at the marvelous way in which it had all turned out.

Leslie now introduced Mr. Ramsay, and they all gathered around him as he settled himself to enjoy the view. He chatted a while with Miss Marcia, compared notes with her on the effect of the climate on her health and his own, then turned to the young folks.

"It is quite useless for me," he began, "to try to express my appreciation of all you people have done for Eileen and myself in the little matter of the bronze box."

"But we must tell you," interrupted Phyllis, eagerly, "that we aren't going to sail under any false colors! We found that little box,—or rather, Rags here found it—and we didn't have a notion, of course, to whom it could belong and we were just wild to get it open and see what was in it. When we couldn't manage that, we hid it away in the safest place we could think of, to wait for what would happen. I'm afraid we didn't make any very desperate hunt for the owner, and when we suspected that Eileen might have something to do with it, I'm ashamed to say that we wouldn't give it up to her—at first—because we were annoyed at the way she acted. We didn't understand, of course, but that doesn't excuse it!"

"All that you say may be true," smiled Mr. Ramsay, "but that does not alter the fact that you delivered it up the moment you discovered the rightful owner. And Miss Phyllis's clever little ruse of burying the false box probably saved Geoffrey a bad time. For if those fellows hadn't found something there that night, they would certainly have made it hot for him. As it was, it gained us so much time that Detective Barnes had a chance to get my man out of their clutches before they had done him any damage, though they were furious at being duped. They're all safely in jail now, and there is nothing more to fear from them. Of course, the principal who hired them is safe, over in China, but he didn't gain his point,—and that's the main thing! As for the letters, I concluded that, after all, my ideas as to how to keep them safely were out of date, and they have long since been forwarded to Washington, in care of Barnes, and are now in the hands of my country's representative there. I shall not concern myself any further about their security."

He put his hands in his pocket and drew out the little bronze casket. Then he went on,—

"This little box has had some strange adventures in its day, but nothing stranger than the one it has just passed through. It has, however, something else in it, that I thought might be of interest to you, and so I have brought it along and will explain about it." He opened the box in the same way as Eileen had done and revealed to their curious gaze the fragile old bits of paper they had seen on that eventful night. He took them out, fingered them thoughtfully, and handed one to each of the four young folks.

"There is a strange little adventure connected with these that perhaps you may be interested to hear," he continued. "It happened when I was passing through the city of Peking, some years ago, during their revolution. There was a good deal of lawlessness rife at the time, and bands of natives were running about, pillaging and looting anything they thought it safe to tamper with. One day, in one of the open places of the city, I happened along just in time to see ten or a dozen lawless natives pulling from its pedestal a great bronze idol, hideous as they make 'em, that had stood there probably for uncounted centuries. When they got it to the ground, they found it to be hollow inside, as most of the really ancient ones are, and filled with all manner of articles representing the sacrifices that had been made to it, through the ages, and placed inside it by their priests. These articles included everything from real jewels of undoubted value to papier-mache imitations of food—a device the Chinese often use in sacrificing to the idols.

"Of course, the mob made an immediate grab for the jewels, but it had begun to make my blood boil to see them making off with so much unlawful booty. So, almost without thinking, I snatched out my revolver, placed myself in front of the pile, and shouted to them that I would shoot the first one who laid a finger on the stuff. And in the same breath I sent Geoffrey hurrying to find some of the city authorities to come and rescue what would probably be some thousands of dollars' worth of gems.

"Fortunately, I was armed with an effective weapon and they were not. So I managed to hold the fort till Geoffrey returned with the authorities, and on seeing them, the mob promptly melted away. The mandarin wanted to present me with some of the jewels, in gratitude for my services, but I had no wish for them and only asked permission to take with me a few of these little scraps of paper, which had been among the medley of articles in the idol's interior. Of course they assented, deeming me, no doubt, a very stupid 'foreign devil' to be so easily satisfied! I have carried them about with me for several years, and now I am going to give them to you young folks—one to each of you, as a little token of my gratitude for your invaluable help!"

He sat back in his chair, smiling benignly, while he watched the bewilderment on all their faces. Ted, Phyllis, and Leslie were striving to hide this, under a polite assumption of intense gratitude, though they were a bit puzzled as to why he should choose them, of all people, who had no very great interest in such things, as recipients of this special gift. But his own granddaughter was under less compulsion to assume what she did not feel.

"This is awfully good of you, Granddaddy!" she cried, "but I don't honestly see what the big idea is! I think that story of yours was ripping, but I don't exactly know what to do with this little bit of paper. It seems so old and frail, too, that I'm almost afraid a breath will blow it to pieces. I really think it will be safer in your care."

He was still smiling indulgently. "I suspected that the outspoken Eileen would voice the general opinion of this gift! I don't mind it in the least, and I don't blame you a bit for feeling a trifle bewildered about the matter. But I haven't told you the whole story yet. To continue! As I said before, I carried these bits of paper around with me for a number of years, simply because they reminded me of my little adventure. Then, one day early this past summer, on the steamer coming across the Pacific, I chanced to meet a man connected with the British Museum whom I soon discovered to be one of the principal experts on Chinese antiquities. And it occurred to me to show him these bits of paper and ask if he could imagine what they were. He examined them carefully and then came to me in great delight, declaring that they certainly were, beyond a shadow of doubt, the oldest existing specimens of Chinese paper money!

"And he added, moreover, that the British Museum had no specimens in its possession as old as these, and declared that he believed the Museum would be delighted to buy them, probably for three or four hundred pounds apiece!"

The listening four gasped and stared at him incredulously, but he went on undisturbed. "I said I would think the matter over and decide when I reached England. But meantime, for reasons which I have already enlarged upon, I have decided instead to give them to you, as a little testimonial of my deep gratitude. If, by any chance, you should decide that you would prefer to have the money, I will attempt to negotiate the sale for you when I reach London and—"

He got no further for, with a whoop of joy, Ted sprang forward and laid his bit in Mr. Ramsay's lap and the others followed his example, striving very inadequately to express their wonder and delight.

But he interrupted them, smilingly. "I should like to inquire, just as a matter of curiosity, what form of investment each one of you expects to make with the sum you receive? Don't think me too inquisitive please. It's just an old man's curiosity!"

"I've decided already!" cried Eileen. "I'm going to spend mine on another trip over here in the spring to visit you girls, and I'm going to bring mother with me. I wouldn't have got here this time if it hadn't been for Grandfather, for Daddy simply put his foot down and said he couldn't afford it. And next year Grandfather may be in Timbuctoo or somewhere like it, and I wouldn't have a chance. But I've just got to see you all again soon, for you're the best friends I ever made."

"And I'm going to save mine for some extra expensive courses in chemical engineering in college that I never supposed I could afford to take," declared Ted. "I expected I'd have to go into business after I graduated, for a year or two, till I scraped up enough, but now I can go right on."

"Of course, I'll get my music now," cried Phyllis, "and I'm the happiest girl alive!"

"Well, it's hardly necessary for me to say that now little Ralph will have his chance to be strong and well, like other boys," murmured Leslie, tears of joy standing in her eyes.

Then, to ease the tension of the almost too happy strain, Mr. Ramsay continued:

"But there is another member of this party that it would not do to forget!" He drew from his pocket a handsome leather and silver dog-collar, called Rags over to him, and, as the dog ambled up, gravely addressed him:

"Kindly accept this token of my immense gratitude and allow me to clasp it about your neck!" Rags submitted gravely while his old collar was removed and the new one put in place, and immediately after began to make frantic efforts to get it off over his head! But Mr. Ramsay only laughed and held up a five dollar bill, adding:

"I realize that you do not entirely appreciate this gift at present. In fact, I sympathize with you in thinking it a decided nuisance! But here is something else that may soothe your sorrow—a five-dollar bill, to be devoted exclusively to the purchase of luscious steaks, tender chops, and juicy bones—for your solitary delectation!"

Amid the general laughter that followed, he added: "And now, may I ask that you escort me over to the veranda of Curlew's Nest? I have a great desire to walk up and down on that porch for a few moments and think of all the strange adventures of which that delightful little bungalow has been the scene!"

And accompanied by Rags, still striving madly to scrape off his new collar by rubbing it in the sand, they escorted their guest to Curlew's Nest!


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