cover image: The Quest for the Rose of Sharon / Burton E. Stevenson

With that she dismissed us, and we went our several ways—Dick and I to the nursery, where we selected a little white-haired doll, dressed it in black, and solemnly hanged it on a gallows of Dick’s improvising.

At one time I thought I was the only person in the world who didn’t know what the “Rose of Sharon” is, barring some vague Biblical association. Happily it turns out that the name itself is part of the mystery, so the readers will become enlightened along with the narrator.

Burton Egbert Stevenson (1872–1962) was born in Chillicothe, Ohio, and returned to his home town after graduating from Princeton. Alongside his day job as a librarian, he turned out a number of books that sit on the cusp between children’s fiction and today’s Young Adult. The narrator and protagonist of Rose of Sharon, for example, is a fourteen-year-old girl.

In the course of his long life, Stevenson must have made some money from his writing. He endowed a scholarship “to the service of the under-privileged children of Ross County, Ohio . . . without discrimination as to race, sex, or religion, with the purpose of removing, or at least lessening, such handicaps as they may have started in life with, and to fit them, as far as it is possible to do so, to lead successful and happy lives”. Thanks, Burton!

The Delineator and The Delineator

The Rose of Sharon, by that title, was first published in Butterick’s The Delineator, Vol. 67 No. 6 through Vol. 68 No. 3 (June-September 1906): Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV. To make up for the abbreviated title, the chapters were significantly longer. Each installment is one and a half chapters, breaking in the middle of Chapter II (the book’s Chapter IV) and Chapter V (XI in the book).

Thomas Fogarty signature

The (Quest for the) Rose of Sharon—both forms—was illustrated by Thomas Fogarty (1873–1938). On this site we have previously met him in the Saturday Evening Post serialization of Jerome K. Jerome’s Tommy & Co.

In fact the serial version had about twice as many illustrations as you will see here. But thanks to marginally better image quality, I’ve used only the ones that made it into the book.


This ebook is based on the 1909 L. C. Page (Boston) edition. Typographical errors—there were not many—are marked with mouse-hover popups and are listed again at the end of each chapter, along with such observations as I found necessary.

The original version of this ebook included eight pages of publisher’s advertising. I have since come across another novel with the identical eight pages plus two, so I have moved the whole advertising section to that book.

The Quest for the Rose of Sharon

The Works of
Burton E. Stevenson


The Quest for the Rose of Sharon $1.25


The Young Section Hand 1.50

The Young Train Dispatcher 1.50

The Young Train Master 1.50


L. C. Page & Company, Publishers
New England Building - - Boston, Mass.

casually dressed man talking to girl sitting on garden bench

(See page 128.)


Author of “The Marathon Mystery,” “The Halliday Case,” “The Young Section Hand,” etc.


publisher’s device


Copyright, 1906
By The Butterick Publishing Co.

Copyright, 1909
By L. C. Page & Company

All rights reserved


First Impression, April, 1909


Electrotyped and Printed at
C. H. Simonds & Co., Boston, U.S.A.

Copyright Page

C. H. Simonds & Co., Boston, U.S.A.
[The printer’s name is obscured by a library stamp, so I took a guess based on another book from the same publisher, printed in the same year.]

text image


I. Grandaunt Nelson 1
II. The Messenger from Plumfield 18
III. The Problem 33
IV. Our New Home 43
V. I Begin the Search 53
VI. I Find an Ally 67
VII. Varieties of the Rose of Sharon 80
VIII. The House Beautiful 101
IX. An Interview with the Enemy 119
X. Retribution 137
XI. The Shadow in the Orchard 149
XII. Bearding the Lion 168
XIII. Surrender 183
XIV. The Rose of Sharon 191

List of Illustrations

“‘Been diggin’, hev ye? Lookin’ fer the treasure, mebbe!’” (See page 128) Frontispiece
“She sailed out of the room” 16
“‘Oh, I suppose I can get ready,’ faltered mother, a little dazed” 29
“I saw from their flushed faces that they had, indeed, made some discovery” 99
“‘Jane!’ I gasped . . . ‘Jane, oh, Jane, I’ve found it!’” 194
“He stretched out a lean hand to take it, but Mr. Chester snatched it hastily away” 199

List of Illustrations

In spite of the page numbers, all illustrations except the Frontispiece were printed on right-hand (recto) pages, facing an even-numbered page.

“‘Jane!’ I gasped . . . ‘Jane, oh, Jane, I’ve found it!’”   194
single (inner) close quote after “found it!” missing


Quest for the Rose of Sharon

Chapter I
Grandaunt Nelson

Grandaunt always was eccentric. Indeed, I was sometimes tempted to call her a much harsher name in the dark days when the clouds hung so heavy above us that I often doubted if there really was a sun behind them. But, as Mr. Whittier says, “Death softens all resentments, and the consciousness of a common inheritance of frailty and weakness modifies the severity of judgment;” and, looking back through the mist of years which blurs the sharp outlines of those days of trial, I can judge grandaunt more leniently than it was then possible for me to do. So I will let the adjective stand as I have written it.

I remember our first meeting as distinctly as though it had happened yesterday.

I had wandered down the shining path of slate to our front gate, one morning. It had rained the night before, which accounted for the path shining so in the sun’s rays; and the air was soft and warm, 2 and the world altogether beautiful—but not to me, for I was oppressed by a great sorrow which I could not in the least understand. So I stood for a long time, clutching the slats of the gate, and gazing disconsolately out at the great, unknown world beyond.

Solitary pilgrimages into that world had always been forbidden me, and I had never questioned the wisdom or justice of the edict; being well content, indeed, with the place God had given me to live in, and desiring nothing better than to stay in my own little Paradise behind the shelter of the gate, with the Angel of Peace and Contentment guarding it, and watch the world sweep by. But that morning a hot rebellion shook me. Things were not as they had been in my Paradise,—all the joy had gone out of it; the sun seemed to shine no longer in the garden; the Angel had flown away. Why I scarcely knew, but with sudden resolution I reached for the latch.

And just then a tall figure loomed over me, and I found myself staring up into a pair of terrifically-glittering spectacles.

“What’s your name, little girl?” asked the stranger.

“Cecil Truman, ma’am,” I stammered, awed 3 by the severity of her face and a certain magisterial manner which reminded me of the Queen of Hearts—as though she might at any moment cry, “Off with her head!”—and far more effectively than the foolish Queen of Hearts ever did.

“Cecil Truman, ma’am,” I repeated, for she said nothing for a moment, only stood looking down at me in the queerest manner, and I thought she had not understood.

“Cecil!” she said, at last, with a derisive sniff. “Why, that’s a boy’s name! Yet it’s like him, too; yes, I recognize him in that! Nothing sensible about him!”

I hadn’t the least idea what she meant, but dug desperately at the path with my toe, certain that I had committed some hideous offence.

“Is that the only name you’ve got?” she demanded, suddenly.

“Dick calls me ‘Biffkins,’ ma’am,” I said, hesitatingly. “Perhaps you’ll like that better.”

But she only sniffed again, as she leaned over the gate and raised the latch.

“I’m your Grandaunt Nelson,” she announced, and started up the path to the house. Then she stopped, looking back. “Aren’t you coming?” she demanded.


“No, ma’am,” I answered, for it did not seem probable to me that Grandaunt Nelson was calculated to bring the sunlight back into my Paradise. “I’m going away.”

“Going away!” she repeated sharply. “What’s the child thinking of? Going away where?”

For answer, I made a sort of wide gesture toward the world outside the gate, and reached again for the latch.

But she had me by the arm in an instant, and with no gentle grasp.

“You’ll come with me,” she said grimly, and hustled me beside her up the path, so rapidly that my feet touched it only occasionally.

I do not remember the details of my mother’s reception of grandaunt; but I do remember that I was handed over to her by my formidable relative with the warning that I needed a spanking. And presently mother took me up to her room to find out what it was all about; and when I had told her, as well as I could, she kissed me and cried over me, murmuring that she, also, would love to run away, if she only could; for the beautiful Prince had vanished from her fairy kingdom, too, and was never, never coming back. But, after all, she said, it was only cowards who ran away; 5 brave people did not run away, but faced their trials and made the best of them.

“And oh, Cecil,” she added, smiling at me, though the smile was a little tremulous, “We will be brave, won’t we, and never, never run away?”

I promised, with my head against her shoulder, but I must confess that, at the moment, I felt anything but brave.

There was soon, no doubt, another reason why she should wish to run away, and why she needed all her courage and forbearance to keep from doing so; for not only was her Prince vanished, but she was a queen dethroned.

From the moment of her arrival, grandaunt assumed charge of things; the house and everything therein contained were completely under her iron sway, and we bowed to her as humbly as did the serfs of the Middle Ages to their feudal lord, who held the right of justice high and low.

Dick and I were both too young, of course, to understand fully the great blow which had befallen us in father’s death. Dick was eight and I was six, and we had both grown up from babyhood with that blind reliance upon a benevolent and protecting Providence, characteristic of birds 6 and children. We had no thought of danger—no knowledge of it. Now that the bolt had fallen, we were absorbed in a sense of personal loss; we knew that we should no longer find father in that long room under the eaves, with its great north light, and its queer costumes hanging against the walls, and its tall easel and its pleasant, pungent smell of paint. Once or twice we had tiptoed up the stairs in the hope that, after all, he might be there—but he never was—only mother, sitting in the old, armless chair before the easel, the tears streaming down her cheeks, as she gazed at the half-finished painting upon it. I shall never forget how she caught us up and strained us to her—but there. The Prince had left his Kingdom, and the place was fairyland no longer—only a bleak and lonely attic which gave one the shivers to enter. Its dear spirit had fled, and its sweetness.

I have only to close my eyes to see Grandaunt Nelson sitting at the table-head, with mother at the foot, and Dick and me opposite each other midway on either side. Mother had been crushed by the suddenness of her loss, and drooped for a time like a blighted flower; but grandaunt was erect and virile—uncrushable, I verily believe, 7 by any bolt which Fate could hurl against her. Her face was dark and very wrinkled, crowned by an aureole of white hair—a sort of three-arched aureole, one arch over each ear, and one above her forehead. Her lips were thin and firmly set in a straight line, moving no more than was absolutely necessary to give form to her words, so that sometimes her speech had an uncanny ventriloquial effect very startling. Her eyes were ambushed behind her glasses, which I never saw her without, and was sure she wore to bed with her. Her figure was tall and angular, and was clothed habitually in black, cut in the most uncompromising fashion. I must concede grandaunt the virtue—if it be a virtue in woman—that she never made the slightest effort to disguise her angles or to soften them.

These external characteristics were evident enough, even to my childish eyes; of her internal ones, a few made an indelible impression upon me. I saw that she pursued a policy of stern repression toward herself, and toward all who came in contact with her. If she had emotions, she never betrayed them, and she was intolerant of those who did. She thought it weakness. If she had affections, she mercilessly stifled them. Duty 8 was her watchword. Again, one of the great aims of her existence seemed to be to keep the sunlight and fresh air out of the house—I believe she thought them vulgar—just as her mother and grandmother and greatgrandmother, I suppose, had done before her.

She converted our bright and sunny parlour into a gloomy, penitential place, that sent a chill down my back every time I peeped into it, which was not often. The only thing in the world she seemed afraid of was night air, and this she dreaded with a mighty dread, believing it laden with some insidious and deadly poison. To breathe night air was to commit suicide—though I have never been quite clear as to what other kind of air one can breathe at night.

Yes—one other fear she had. I remembered it afterwards, and understood, though at the time I simply thought it queer. Mother tucked me in bed one evening, and kissed me and bade me good-night. I heard her step die away down the hall and then I suppose I fell asleep. But I soon awakened, possessed by a burning thirst, a cruel and insistent thirst which was not to be denied. The moon was shining brightly, and I looked across at mother’s bed, but saw she was not there. 9 There was nothing for it but to go after a drink myself, so I clambered out of my cot and started along the hall. Just about midway, I heard someone coming up the stairs and saw grandaunt’s gray head and gaunt figure rising before me. I shrank back into the shadow of a door, for I did not wish her to see me; but she did see me, and gave a shriek so shrill and piercing that it seemed to stab me.

“What is it?” cried mother’s voice, and she came running up the stair.

Grandaunt, who was clutching the stair-rail convulsively, did not answer, only pointed a shaking finger in my direction.

Mother hurried forward, and an instant later was bending over me—a little white crouching figure in the semi-darkness.

“Why, it’s Cecil!” she said. “What are you doing out of bed?”

“I—I wanted a drink,” I sobbed, my face hidden in mother’s bosom. “I was so thirsty.”

“There, there,” and she patted me gently. “Don’t cry. You haven’t done anything wrong. I’m sure Aunt Nelson will say so too.”

But grandaunt had stalked stiffly away to her room.


The incident did not serve to raise me in her esteem; and no doubt I quite unconsciously did many other things to annoy her—which is, in itself, an annoyance. It was not her fault, of course; she had never been used to children and did not understand them. I think she regarded them much as she did dogs and cats—nuisances, to be permitted in the house as little as possible, and then only in the kitchen. Her pet abhorrence, the annoyance which she could endure least of all, seemed to be the clatter of Dick’s shoes and mine over the floor and up the stairs. More than once I thought of the front gate and liberty; but I no longer dared make a dash for freedom, for I knew that I could never succeed in hiding from the piercing gaze of those glittering glasses. She would have me back in a trice and then, “Off with her head!”

Grandaunt devoted a day or two to studying us, much as she might have studied a rare and curious species of insect; turning us this way and that, with no thought that we could object, or caring if we did. Then, having made up her mind, she called a family council, and formally announced her intentions with regard to us.

“Now, Clara,” she said to mother, “you know 11 I never did approve of your marriage, though I did give you half a dozen hem-stitched tablecloths. I hate gossip, and so I had to give you something. For you’re my niece—sister Jennie’s only child. Though Jennie and I never did get along together, and I must say you’re like her. But after all, blood’s thicker ’n water, and I’m goin’ to do what’s right by you. It’s my duty.”

Mother shivered a little. She never liked that word, duty—neither did I. If people did only their duty, what a dreary, dreary world this would be!

“But first,” continued grandaunt, inexorably, “we’ve got to talk things over, and find out what we’ve got t’ go on. What did your husband leave you?”

Mother raised a protesting hand, but grandaunt waved it aside impatiently.

“Now, see here, Clara,” she cried, “you’ve got t’ look things in the face, and the sooner you begin, the sooner you’ll get used to it. Did he leave any money?”

“No,” answered mother, faintly, her face very white. “That is, not much—about a hundred dollars.”

“I always said a man couldn’t earn a livin’ by 12 paintin’ picters,” observed grandaunt. “Who wants to pay out good money for foolishness like that? Did he have his life insured?”

“Yes,” answered mother, her face whiter still; “but I—I—think he allowed the policy to lapse—”

“Of course,” nodded grandaunt fiercely. “Jest like him. But this house is yours, ain’t it?”

“Oh, yes; the house is mine.”

“It’s worth about three thousand—not more’n that,” said grandaunt, judicially. “And it’ll be hard to sell, for it’s built the craziest I ever saw—all twisted around from the way a sensible house ought to be.”

“We thought it very beautiful,” said mother meekly.

“Everyone to his taste. Mebbe we’ll find some fool ready to buy it. But even three thousand ain’t a great deal to raise two children on,” she added grimly, as she surveyed us through her glasses. “And mighty hearty children, too—big eaters and awful hard on their clothes.”

“Food is cheaper than medicine,” retorted mother, with some faint revival of her old self; but she collapsed again under grandaunt’s severe gaze.


“Some food is,” snapped grandaunt, “and some food ain’t,” and she directed her gaze toward a plate of oranges which stood on the sideboard. “And clothes,” she added, surveying our garments with disapproval. “But we’ll change all that. As I said, I’ll look out for you. But I’ve got to work out a plan. It’s a good thing you’re my only relatives, and there ain’t nobody else to think about.”

With that she dismissed us, and we went our several ways—Dick and I to the nursery, where we selected a little white-haired doll, dressed it in black, and solemnly hanged it on a gallows of Dick’s improvising. Mother came in and caught us at it; and laughed a little and cried a little, and then sat down with us on the floor and drew us to her and told us gently that we must not mind grandaunt’s abrupt ways; that she was sure she had a kind heart beating under all her roughness, and that we should grow to love her when we came to know her better. But I, at least, was not convinced.

Just at first, I think, mother was rather glad to have someone to cling to, someone to tyrannize over her and order her steps for her. She was like a ship without a rudder—grateful for any 14 means of guidance. But as the days passed, the yoke began to gall. Grandaunt, accustomed practically all her life to having her own way, exacted an instant and complete obedience. She disdained to draw any glove over the mailed fist—that would have seemed to her an unworthy subterfuge. And at last, she announced the plan which she had formulated, whereby to work out our salvation.

“Of course you can’t stay here,” she began, when she had us assembled before her. “I’ll try to sell the house.”

“Yes,” agreed mother, with a sigh, “I suppose that is best.”

“Best!” echoed grandaunt. “There ain’t no best about it. It’s the only thing you can do. Besides, I can’t stay idlin’ around here any longer. I want to get back to my own house at Plumfield, where I expect to pass the rest of my days; I hope in peace,” she added, though by the way she looked at us, it was evident she had grave doubts as to whether the hope would be realized. “I’ve been away too long already,” she continued. “I dare say, Abner and Jane are lettin’ the place run to rack and ruin—I’ve never been away from it for this long in forty year. You, Clara, and the 15 girl—we’ll try to find a sensible name for her—I’ve been thinkin’ about Martha or Susan—”

“Oh, no,” I broke out passionately; “I won’t be—” But grandaunt silenced me with one flash of her glasses.

“You two,” she continued, “will go home with me. But I can’t have any boy rampagin’ around my house—the girl’s bad enough!” and she stopped to glare at Dick, to whom she had taken an unaccountable dislike. “So I’ll place him at a school I know of—a place where he’ll be given the right kind of trainin’, and get some of the foolishness took out of him—”

“But we can’t be separated, Aunt Nelson!” cried mother. “It would break my heart and—look at him!—I know it would break his.”

Indeed Dick was turning a very white and frightened face from one to the other, with his hands clutching at his chair; but he choked back the sob that rose in his throat and pressed his lips tight together with that pluck I always admired in him. Old Dick!

“Tut-tut!” cried grandaunt. “Break, indeed! who ever heard of a heart breaking outside of silly novels? Nonsense!”

“Indeed it isn’t nonsense!” and mother looked 16 at grandaunt with such a fire in her eye as I had never seen there. “I tell you plainly, Aunt Nelson, that I will never consent to any such plan.”

There was a tone in her voice which could not be mistaken. Grandaunt glared at her a moment in astonishment, as at a sheep turned lion; then she hopped from her chair as though it had suddenly become red-hot.

“You’ve made up your mind?” she demanded. “Is that your last word?”

“Yes,” said mother, resolutely. “If you will help us on no other terms, then we must get along as best we can without your help.”

Grandaunt’s lips tightened until her mouth was the merest line across her face.

“Very well, Clara,” she said, in a voice like thin ice. “You’ll go your road, then, and I’ll go mine! I’ll always have the comfort of knowin’ that I offered to do my duty by you. I hope your children ’ll thank you for this day.”

“They will!” cried mother, her head erect, her eyes blazing. “They will!”

“The more fools they!” snapped grandaunt, in return, and with that she sailed out of the room, leaving a somewhat awed and frightened family behind her.

elderly woman turns her back on woman sitting between two children



We sat there in tears—which were not in the least tears of sorrow—hugging each other, listening fearfully, as she tramped around in her room up-stairs. Then she came down again; and I think a swift fear that she was, after all, not choosing wisely fell upon mother, for she half rose and made as though she would go to her.

But Dick and I held her fast, and she looked down at us, and sank back again and strained us to her.

A moment later the front door opened and closed again with a bang. From the window I caught a glimpse of a tall, black figure hurrying down the street, and that was the last I saw of Grandaunt Nelson.

Notes and Corrections: Chapter I

skip to next chapter

Why, that’s a boy’s name!
[I would have said the same myself, if I had not just recently finished a book of similar vintage, also featuring a female character named Cecil.]

“Aren’t you coming?” she demanded.
final . missing

I never did approve of your marriage, though I did give you half a dozen hem-stitched tablecloths
[Shades of Aunt March, who started out declaring unequivocally that Meg would never have a penny of her money. Three years later, when her heart had softened slightly, she gave a lavish supply of linens as a wedding present.]

I want to get back to my own house at Plumfield
[At this point I had to look up the author to confirm that “Burton Egbert Stevenson” was in fact a man, and not a woman writing under a male pseudonym. For those who have forgotten, Aunt March’s home in Little Women was called Plumfield.]

“But we can’t be separated. Aunt Nelson!” cried mother.
[This seems an odd way to address your own aunt, your mother’s sister.]


Chapter II
The Messenger from Plumfield

The history of the eight years that followed forms no portion of this story, and need be touched upon here only in the most casual way. After grandaunt had washed her hands of us, as it were, and definitely abandoned us to our fate, mother threw off her despondency by a mighty effort of will, and went seriously to work to plan for our future. I like to believe that Grandaunt Nelson really expected to hear from us, really expected mother to appeal to her for help, and stood ready to answer that appeal, once her terms were accepted, just as a besieging army will kill and maim and starve the enemy, but rush in with food and comfort once the white flag is run up. But I suppose there was a strain of the same blood in both of them, for mother, having chosen her path, nerved herself to walk in it, unassisted, to the end.

She found it steep and stony, and difficult enough. Rigid economy was necessary and we children, of course, felt the pinch of it, though mother guarded us all she could; but we had each other, and I am certain none of us ever regretted the decision which had cut us off from grandaunt’s 19 bounty. Yet even the most rigid economy would not have availed, but for a fortunate chance—or, perhaps I would better say, a meting out of tardy justice.

One morning—it was a Saturday, and so I chanced to be at home—there came a knock at the door, and when I answered it, I saw standing there a man with a close-bearded face and long, shaggy hair. He inquired for Mrs. Truman, and I asked him in and ran for mother.

“You are the widow of George Truman, I believe, madam?” he said, rising as she entered the room.

“Yes,” mother answered. “Did you know him?”

“Not personally, I am sorry to say,” replied the stranger; “but I know him intimately through his work. It was never appraised at its true value during his lifetime—”

“No,” agreed mother, quickly, “it was not.”

“But he is coming to his own at last, madam. The world treated him just as it has treated so many others—stones while he lived, laurels when he died.”

A quick flush had come to mother’s face and an eager light to her eyes.


“Are you speaking seriously, sir?” she asked, her hands against her breast.

“Most seriously,” he assured her. “Did you see the report of that sale of paintings at the Fifth Avenue Art Galleries last week? No? Well, one of your husband’s was among them—‘Breath on the Oat’—no doubt you remember it. Do you happen to know what your husband got for it?”

“Yes,” said mother, “I remember very well. It was one of his first triumphs. He sold it for one hundred dollars.”

Our visitor laughed a little cynically, and his face clouded for a moment.

“Well, Senator Bloom paid four thousand for it last week,” he said. “Of course, the senator is not much of a judge of pictures, but a representative from the Metropolitan went to three thousand, which shows the way the wind’s blowing. Your husband’s lot was one common to artists. It’s the dealers who get rich—not all of them,” he added, with a wry little smile. “For I’m a dealer. That’s what brings me here. I thought you might perhaps have a few of his pictures still in your possession. I’ll promise to treat you fairly.”

“There are only some studies, I fear,” answered 21 mother, her hands trembling slightly. “Would you care to see them?”

“I certainly should,” he cried, and they went away up-stairs together.

I know what it cost mother to let them go—the contents of those portfolios, or such of them as were marketable—the sketches, the studies, the ideas which had developed into finished pictures. They were a part of him, the most vital part of him she had left; but her duty was to her children, and she never hesitated. And one morning, nearly a month later, came a letter. The sketches had been sold at auction, they had awakened a very satisfactory interest, and the net result, after deducting the dealer’s commission, was the check for two thousand, one hundred and fifty dollars, which was enclosed.

It came at a good hour, as I learned long afterwards; at an hour when mother found herself quite at the end of her resources, and failure staring her in the face—at an hour when she was thinking that she must swallow her pride and appeal for help to Plumfield; hoist the white flag, as it were, and admit defeat.

As to grandaunt, we never heard from her nor of her. When she slammed our front door behind 22 her that morning, she passed from our lives completely. Mother wrote to her once, but received no answer, and would not write again; and gradually we children came to forget, almost, that she existed, or remembered her only as a kind of myth—a phantom which had crossed our path years before and then disappeared for ever. Yet I now know that she sometimes thought of us, and that, as the years went by, the anger she felt toward us passed away, and left, at worst, only a settled belief in our foolishness and incapacity. Perhaps we were foolish and incapable, but we were happy, too!

So eight years rolled around, and again we faced a crisis. For one must eat and be clothed, and even the sum we had got for father’s sketches would not last for ever. Both Dick and I were old enough now to be taken into the family council, and mother wisely thought it best to confide in us wholly, and we were very proud to be taken into her confidence. Briefly, our home was mortgaged to its full value, and would have to be sold, since there was no way of paying off the indebtedness, nor even of meeting the interest on it.

“We will move into a smaller house,” said mother. “We really don’t need so large a one as 23 this,” but her eyes filled with tears, despite herself, as she looked around at the familiar room. “Our expenses are not great, and with the little we will realize from the sale of the house, I hope—”

Her chin was quivering a little, and her voice not wholly steady. I understood now why she had worn her last gown so long; I understood many things—and sprang into her arms sobbing, for suddenly I saw how thoughtless and selfish I had been; I had not helped her as I might have done, and the thought wrung me. The hat I could have done without, the ribbon I did not need, the ticket for the matinee—

“I’ll go to work, dear mother!” cried Dick, jumping out of his chair, his face aglow. “Here am I, a big, hulking fellow of sixteen! It’s time I was doing something!”

Mother looked up at him with a proud light in her eyes, and I went over to give him a hug. I never knew but one other boy who was anything like as nice as Dick.

“And so will I,” I said. “I’m sure there’s lots of ways even a girl can make money—though of course not so easily as a boy,” and I looked at Dick a little enviously.


“Never you worry,” he said, confidently. “I’ll take care of you, mother, and of you, too, Biffkins. I’ll start right away.”

“There’s no such hurry,” said mother, smiling a little at our enthusiasm. “The mortgage isn’t due for two months yet, and I’d like you to finish this term at school, dear Dick. I had hoped that you could graduate, but I fear—”

“We won’t fear anything!” cried Dick, throwing his arms around us both. “We’ll show this old world a thing or two before we’re done with it!”

“That we will!” I echoed, with never a doubt of our ability to set the world whirling any way we chose.

But in the days that followed, we both of us began to realize that the world was very big and indifferent, and our position in it exceedingly unimportant. Dick managed to pick up some odd jobs, which he could do out of school hours, but the actual returns in money were very small; and as for me, I soon acquired a deep distrust of those writers who described, in the columns of the magazines, the countless easy ways in which a girl could make a living. I tried some of them disastrously!


And then, one bright April morning, came the great message! My heart leaps, even yet, when I think of it.

Just as I was starting for school, a handsome, well-dressed man of middle age turned in at our gate.

“This is where Mrs. Truman lives, isn’t it?” he asked, seeing me standing in the door.

“Yes, sir,” I said, and wondered with some misgiving whether mother could have been mistaken in the date of the mortgage.

“I should like to see her for a few minutes, if she is at home,” he added.

“Come in, sir,” I said, “and I will call her.”

But we met mother coming down the front stair as we entered the hall.

“This is my mother, sir,” I said.

“My name is Chester, Mrs. Truman,” began our caller. “I come from Plumfield.”

“From Plumfield!” cried mother. “Oh, then—Aunt Nelson—”

“Is dead—yes,” said Mr. Chester, gently.

“Sit down, sir,” said mother, a little tremulously, leading the way into the sitting-room. “I—I fear,” she added, as she sat down opposite him, 26 “that I have been neglectful of her. Oh, I am so sorry! I had always hoped to see her again and tell her— If she had only sent me word that she was ill!”

“She wasn’t ill,” broke in Mr. Chester. “Not ill, at least, in the sense of being bed-fast. She was in her usual health, so far as any of her neighbours knew. She was not very intimate with any of them, and lived a rather secluded life. She owned a great, old-fashioned house, you know, with large grounds surrounding it, and she lived there with two old servants, a man who attended to the outdoor work, and his wife, who acted as cook and house-servant. Three days ago, the latter found her mistress dead in bed. She was smiling, and had evidently passed away peacefully in her sleep.”

“But three days ago!” cried mother. “Why was I not told at once?”

“I was simply carrying out her commands, Mrs. Truman. She was a very peculiar woman, as you doubtless know.”

“Yes,” mother agreed. “But she had no other relatives, and I should have been there.”

“I know you should,” assented Mr. Chester, visibly ill at ease. “But I really had no option 27 in the matter. Let me explain. My place happens to adjoin Mrs. Nelson’s, and so we got to know each other, though not nearly so well as neighbours usually do. I am a lawyer by profession, and she entrusted a few of her business affairs to my hands—among other things, the making of her will. She enjoined me strictly that under no circumstances were you to be informed of her death until after the funeral—”

“After the funeral!” repeated mother, mechanically.

“Which took place yesterday.”

“Oh, this is worse than I thought!” said mother, miserably. “I should have been there, Mr. Chester! She was still angry with me, then. We—we had a disagreement many years ago; but I had hoped she had long since forgotten it.”

“My dear Mrs. Truman,” protested Mr. Chester quickly, “please put that thought out of your mind. Mrs. Nelson was not in the least angry with you—as you will see. Her not desiring you at her funeral was simply another of her peculiarities. She was very old, you know,” he went on, hesitatingly, as though uncertain how much he should say, “and in her last years took up some queer beliefs. I don’t know just what they were, but I do know that 28 she belonged to no church, and that she also forbade that any minister should be present at her funeral.”

Mother gasped, and sank back in her chair staring at him with eyes dark with dismay.

“However,” he hastened to add, “there were some lengths to which I did not feel justified in going—and there was a minister present.”

Mother drew a breath of relief.

“I am glad of that,” she said. “But why have you come to tell me all this, Mr. Chester?”

“I came to take you back with me for the reading of the will.”

“The will? Am I interested in that?”

“As her only living relative, you are deeply interested. Mrs. Nelson, you know, inherited a considerable property from her husband. I wanted to make certain you would be present when the will was opened.”

A vivid flush had crept into mother’s cheeks, and I confess that my own heart was beating wildly.


“When is it to be?” asked mother, after a moment.

“To-day, if we can get there in time. There is 29 a train at ten-thirty—it’s not quite nine, now. Can you be ready by then? If not, of course we can put it off till to-morrow.”

man and woman facing each other across a small table, with young girl leaning over woman’s chair


“Oh, I suppose I can get ready,” faltered mother, a little dazed by the suddenness of it all. “That is, if you advise it.”

“I do advise it most strongly,” said Mr. Chester, emphatically. “Mrs. Nelson’s will is a most peculiar one—by far the most peculiar I ever had anything to do with—and it is only fair to you that it should be opened as soon as possible.”

“Very well, we will go!” said mother, rising. “You will excuse us?”

“Certainly. Permit me to suggest,” he added, “that you take things enough with you for a short stay—for two or three days, anyway.”

“Oh,” said mother, looking at him in surprise, “we can’t come back to-night, then?”

“No; there are some details you will have to look after,” explained Mr. Chester, hesitatingly, “You will, of course, use your own judgment, but I believe you will decide to stay.”

“We might as well go prepared,” mother agreed, and hurried away to get our things together.

The school bell had rung long since, quite unheeded 30 by me, who had been hanging breathless over the back of mother’s chair, and now, while mother got ready for the journey, I raced away to summon Dick. He had started for school earlier than I, having some errands to do on the way, so to the school-house I had to go after him. He turned quite white when he came out in answer to the message I sent in for him and saw me standing there, fairly gasping with excitement.

“What is it, Biffkins?” he demanded, hoarsely. “Not—”

“Grandaunt Nelson’s dead,” I began; “and, oh, Dick! we’re to go down to hear the will—by the ten-thirty—we must hurry!”

“All right,” he said, his colour coming back. “Wait till I get excused,” and he hurried away to tell the principal of the sudden summons.

He was back in a moment, cap in hand.

“All right,” he said. “Come along,” and we hastened from the building.

“You’re not angry with me, Dick?” I asked, for he still seemed a little white and shaken.

“Angry?” he repeated, looking down at me with a quick smile. “Why, no, Biffkins. But you needn’t have frightened a fellow half to death. I thought—I thought—no matter what I thought.”


“Oh, I didn’t mean to frighten you, Dick. But I haven’t told you all about it yet,” I went on, trotting along by his side. “There’s a mystery—you know how I adore mysteries!”

“What sort of mystery?” he asked, with provoking coolness.

“I don’t just know, but Mr. Chester—he’s the lawyer—says it’s a most peculiar will. Oh, Dick, am I really awake?” and I pinched him on the arm.

“You can’t tell whether you’re awake by pinching me,” he protested. “But I guess you are, all right. You seem a little delirious though—got any fever?”

“Only the fever of excitement, Dick,” I said. “How can you keep so cool about it? I think it’s wonderful!”

“What’s wonderful?”

“Why, the legacy—of course it’s a legacy, Dick. We’re her only living relatives! And she lived in a big, old-fashioned house, which she inherited from her husband. I never thought of grandaunt as having a husband,” I added, reflectively. “I wonder what sort of man he was.”

“I’m sure I don’t know,” retorted Dick. “What does it matter?”


“It doesn’t matter. Only, if grandaunt—” But I didn’t finish the uncharitable sentence. “And, oh, Dick, if it comes true, you can go on and graduate—you won’t have to go to work.”

“But I want to go to work,” said Dick, and his face was quite gloomy, as we turned in at the gate together.

Notes and Corrections: Chapter II

“Well, Senator Bloom paid four thousand for it last week,” he said.
[Pity they aren’t under modern European copyright law, or the artist and his heirs would get a share in the proceeds every time a painting is re-sold.]

“We will move into a smaller house,” said mother. “We really don’t need so large a one as this,”
[It is a further pity that it never occurred to the widow Truman to take in boarders. It could have eased a great many financial troubles over the years.]


Chapter III
The Problem

It was only an hour’s run to the little station of Fanwood, which is as near as one can get to Plumfield by rail; and there Mr. Chester had a carriage waiting for us, and we drove over to the little village a mile away, where Grandaunt Nelson had lived nearly all her life. The road was a pleasant one, winding between well-kept hedges, and just rolling enough to give one occasional views of the country round about. In the distance, to the west, we could see a range of hills, and Mr. Chester told us that from their summit, on a clear day, one could see the ocean, forty or fifty miles away to the eastward.

Plumfield struck me as a very fragmentary and straggling sort of village—so straggling, in fact, that it was scarcely recognizable as a village at all, and seemed to have no beginning and no end. There were two or three little stores, a church and a few houses—

“Though,” Mr. Chester explained, “the village isn’t so small as it looks. It is spread out a good deal, and you can’t see it all at one glance.”

We had lunch at the old inn, which had been 34 built before the Revolution, so they said, and where our arrival created quite a commotion. Mr. Chester had hurried away to make the arrangements for opening the will, and came back in about an hour to tell us that everything was ready. We walked down the street and around the corner to a tiny frame building, with “Notary Public” on a swinging sign over the door, and Mr. Chester ushered us into the stuffy little office.

The notary was already there, a little, wrinkled man, with very white hair and beard which stood out in a halo all around his face. He held his head on one side as he talked, and reminded me of a funny little bird. He was introduced to us as Mr. Jones, and was evidently very nervous. I judged that it had been a long time since his office had been the scene of a ceremony so important as that which was about to take place there.

Scarcely were the introductions over, when the door opened and another man came in,—a tall, thin man, with a red face framed in a ragged beard. He wore an old slouch hat, and a black bow tie, and an ill-fitting black frock coat and white trousers which bagged at the knees—the whole effect being peculiarly rural and unkempt, almost studiously so. Indeed, as I glanced at his face 35 again, I fancied that, with the fantastic beard shaved off, it would be a very clever and capable one. His eyes were very small and very bright, and as they rested upon me for an instant, I felt a little shiver shoot along my spine. The notary did not even look at him, but busied himself with some papers on his desk. Mr. Chester, however, nodded to him curtly, and informed us in an aside that his name was Silas Tunstall, and that he also was interested in the will. The newcomer, without seeming in the least abashed by his chilly reception, sat down calmly, balanced his hat against the wall, leaned back in his chair, crossed his legs, and after helping himself to a chew of tobacco from a package he took from his pocket, folded his arms and awaited events.

“I think we are all here?” queried the notary, looking inquiringly at Mr. Chester.

“Yes,” nodded the latter. “We may as well go ahead.”

The notary cleared his throat and carefully polished and adjusted his spectacles. Then he picked up from the desk before him an impressive-looking envelope, sealed with a great splurge of red wax.

“I have here,” he began with great solemnity, 36 “the last will and testament of the late Eliza Nelson, which has been delivered to me by Mr. Chester, properly sealed and attested. You have been summoned here to listen to the reading of this document, which will then be filed for probate, in the usual way. I will ask Mr. Chester to read it,” and he opened the envelope and drew forth a paper covered with writing.

“It is not a very long will,” remarked Mr. Chester, as he took the paper, “but it is, in some respects, a most peculiar one, as you can judge for yourselves;” and he proceeded to read slowly:

“I, Eliza Nelson, being in full possession of health and mental faculties, hereby declare this to be my last will and testament.

“I bequeath to my niece, Clara Truman, and to her heirs for ever, the whole of my property, real and personal, provided that within one month from the date of my death, she or her heirs will have discovered, by means of the key furnished them herewith, the place in which I have deposited my stocks, bonds, and other securities. If they have not brains enough to accomplish this, as I fear may be the case, it is evident that 37 they are not fit and competent persons to administer my property.

“Consequently, in the event of their failure to discover the depository of said stocks, bonds, etc., within the space of one month from the date of my death, the whole of my property, real and personal, shall revert to the trusteeship of my friend and instructor, Silas Tunstall, who shall have absolute and undisturbed possession thereof for use in propagating the philosophy of which he is so earnest and useful a disciple, under such conditions as I have set forth in a document to be delivered to the said Silas Tunstall, should the property pass to him.

“Therefore, one month from the date of my death, in the event of the failure of my niece, Clara Truman, or her heirs, to fulfil the above conditions, the keys to my residence shall be delivered to the said Silas Tunstall, and he shall be given absolute and undivided possession thereof; until which time, Clara Truman and her heirs shall have undisturbed possession of said property, in order that they may, if possible, fulfil the conditions upon which their inheritance of it is dependent.

“Provided further, that whoever inherits the property shall be bound to pay to Abner Smith and 38 his wife, Jane, during life, an annuity of $300, and to permit them to retain their present positions as long as they care to do so.

“I hereby appoint Mr. Thomas J. Chester as my executor, without bond, to see that the provisions of this my last will and testament are duly complied with.

“In witness whereof, I have hereunto affixed my hand this eighteenth day of January, A. D., 1899.

“Eliza Nelson.”

“It is witnessed by Jane and Abner Smith,” added Mr. Chester, “the two servants mentioned in the will. It is regular in every way.”

We sat in a dazed silence, trying to understand. After a moment, Silas Tunstall leaned forward.

“Kin I see it?” he asked, and held out his hand, his little eyes gleaming more brightly than ever.

“Certainly,” said Mr. Chester, and passed the paper over to him.

He examined the signatures and the date, and then, settling back again in his chair, proceeded to read the document through for himself. While 39 he was so engaged, I had a chance to look at him more closely, and I was struck by the profound meanness of his appearance. What sort of philosophy could it be, I wondered, of which he was an earnest and useful disciple? Not one, certainly, which made for largeness of character, if Mr. Tunstall himself was to be taken as an example, and if I read his countenance aright. I saw that my aversion was shared by the other two men present, who no doubt knew Mr. Tunstall well. Both of them sat watching him gloomily, as he read the will, but neither spoke or showed the impatience which they probably felt.

When he had finished, he handed the paper back to Mr. Chester, without a word, but his face was positively glowing with a satisfaction he made no effort to conceal.

“Yes,” he said, “thet’s all reg’lar. Anything else?”

Then, suddenly, a thought occurred to me.

“Doesn’t it say that there is a key to be furnished us, Mr. Chester?” I asked.

“Oh, yes,” he said quickly. “I had forgotten. Here it is,” and he handed mother a little sealed envelope. “You will see it is addressed to you, Mrs. Truman,” he added.


“It doesn’t feel like a key,” she murmured, holding it between her fingers. Then she read what was written on the outside of the envelope:

Key to be given my niece, Clara Truman, or her heirs, on the day on which my will is opened.

“I have no idea what the envelope contains,” said Mr. Chester. “It was brought to me sealed as you see it.”

“Oh, don’t you see!” I cried, fairly jumping in my chair with excitement. “It’s not that kind of a key—not a for-sure key—it’s a key to the puzzle—a key to where the bonds and things are.”

“Well, we’ll soon see,” said mother, and tore open the envelope with trembling fingers. Mr. Chester, I think, had half a mind to stop her, but thought better of it and leaned back in his chair again.

I couldn’t wait—I was dying with impatience—and I skipped over to her side.

The only contents of the envelope was a little slip of paper.

“Why, it’s poetry!” I cried, as mother drew it 41 out and unfolded it. And, indeed, there were four rhymed lines written upon it:

“The Rose of Sharon guards the place

Where the Treasure lies; so you must trace

Four to the right, diagonally three,

And you have solved the Mystery.”

Not good verse, perhaps; but sufficiently tantalizing!

I don’t know precisely how it happened, but as I stooped to take the slip of paper from mother’s fingers, it somehow fluttered away from us, and after a little gyration or two, settled to the floor exactly at Silas Tunstall’s feet. He picked it up, before any one could interfere, and calmly proceeded to read the lines written upon it, before he handed it back to us. I saw the quick flush which sprang to Mr. Chester’s face, but the whole thing was over in a minute, almost before anyone could say a word.

Mr. Tunstall’s face was positively beaming, and he chuckled audibly as he picked up his hat and rose to his feet.

“Thet’s all fer the present, ain’t it, Mr. Chester?” he asked.

“Yes, that’s all, I think.”


“Let’s see—when did Mis’ Nelson die?”

“Three days ago—the seventeenth.”

“One month from thet’ll be May seventeenth, won’t it?”


“All right; don’t ferget the date. May seventeenth—I’ll see ye all ag’in then. Good day, madam,” he added, with a deep bow to mother.

He smiled around upon us with malicious meaning, and I fancied his eye lingered upon me for an instant longer than the rest. Then he went out and shut the door behind him.

I could have sworn that I heard him chuckling to himself as he went down the steps to the street.

Notes and Corrections: Chapter III

sat down calmly, balanced his hat against the wall, leaned back in his chair
[There is no need to read further. A man who keeps his hat on indoors is clearly the villain of the piece.]

“One month from thet’ll be May seventeenth, won’t it?”
[Aunt Nelson rigged things against her niece with the “not until after my funeral” stipulation, which has already taken three days off the month. What a good thing she didn’t die in February.]


Chapter IV
Our New Home

I think we were all a little dazed by the scene we had just gone through. Indeed, the problem grandaunt had set us was enough to confuse anyone. For myself, I know that I have only the most confused recollection of Mr. Chester bundling us into the carriage, of a long drive over a smooth country road, past stately old houses and pretty modern cottages half-hidden among the trees, and finally of rolling through a massive stone gateway, and of getting out, at last, before a great, square red-brick house with a beautiful columned doorway, where two old people, a man and a woman, stood bobbing their heads to us and gazing at us with a curiosity not unmixed with apprehension.

“This is to be your home for the next month, at least,” said Mr. Chester, “and, I hope, for always. This is Abner Smith,” he continued, beckoning the old people forward, “and this is his wife, Jane. They were good and faithful servants to Mrs. Nelson, as she has said.”

They were a plump and comfortable-looking couple, with faces like ruddy apples and hair like driven snow, and eyes which still retained some 44 of the fire of youth. They were good to look at, striking examples of a well-spent life and beautiful old age. One saw instantly that they were trustworthy and lovable, and as I looked at them, I knew that they would be good and faithful servants to us also. I felt, somehow, that the possession of these two old retainers gave an added dignity to the family—a sort of feudal antiquity, very pleasant and impressive, and quite in keeping with the place.

But I had only a moment for such reflections, for Mr. Chester bade us good-bye, adding that he was coming back to take us home with him to dinner.

“I’ve got a little something a-waitin’ fer ye,” observed Mrs. Abner, hesitating between a natural shyness and a desire to please. “I know how travellin’ tires a person out.”

“Indeed it does,” agreed mother cordially, and we followed our guide into the house, along a wide hall, and through an open door into a pleasant room, where a table stood spread with snowy linen, and looking most inviting.

“Why, this is scrumptious!” cried Dick. “Mrs. Smith, I think you’re—you’re a jewel!”

“It’s jest a little lunch,” she said, apologetically. 45 “Jest t’ take the edge off;” but her cheeks flushed with pleasure at his words.

“And I’m used t’ bein’ called Jane, sir,” she added.

“And I’m not in the least used to being called sir,” retorted Dick, “and I don’t like it. My name is Dick, and this young lady’s name is Cecil, but she prefers to be called Biffkins. Don’t you think Biffkins suits her?”

Jane looked me over with a critical countenance, while Dick watched her, his eyes twinkling.

“Yes,” she answered, gravely, at last, “I think it does.”

“I knew you’d say so,” laughed Dick. “Everybody does. Now, I gave her that name, and I’m proud of it.”

Mother had been taking off her hat and listening with an amused countenance.

“You mustn’t take these two children too seriously, Jane,” she said, warningly. “And if they don’t behave themselves properly, just let me know!”

Jane smiled at both of us, but she was evidently thinking of something else, for she stood pulling a corner of her apron nervously between her fingers.


“I—I hope you’ve come t’ stay, ma’am,” she said, at last, looking at mother with an apprehension she could not conceal. Plainly, she did not believe in the philosophy of which Mr. Tunstall was so vigorous and enlightened a disciple—or, perhaps, it was the disciple she objected to. I felt my heart warm to Jane.

“I don’t know,” said mother. “We hope to stay, too; but there’s a condition—”

“Yes’m,” nodded Jane, “I know—me an’ Abner was the witnesses, y’know,” she went on, apologetically. “I’m free to confess, we never quite understood it.”

“We none of us quite understand it, yet,” answered mother. “We’ll see what we can make of it to-morrow.”

Jane took the words for a dismissal, and left us to ourselves. We were all weary and hungry, more, I think, from excitement than fatigue, but ten minutes with the appetizing luncheon Jane had spread for us worked wonders. I remember especially a bowl of curds, or smear-case, seasoned to a marvel and with a dash of cream on top, which seemed to me the most perfect food I had ever eaten. I came afterwards to know better the perfections of Jane’s cookery, but nothing she ever 47 made could eclipse the memory of that bowl of white-and-yellow toothsomeness.

Ten minutes after sitting down, I was myself again; I felt that my brain had returned to its normal condition, and I was fairly aching to begin working on the problem which confronted us, and which I, at least, was determined to solve with the least possible delay.

“You have that slip of paper with the verse, haven’t you, mother?” I asked.

“Yes, dear,” and she drew it from her purse, where she had placed it carefully, and handed it to me.

Dick got up and came to my side, to read the lines over my shoulder.

“The Rose of Sharon guards the place

Where the Treasure lies; so you must trace

Four to the right, diagonally three,

And you have solved the Mystery.”

“What nonsense!” he said, in disgust. “You don’t expect to solve any such riddle as that, do you, Biffkins?”

“Yes, I do,” I cried, and read the lines over again.

“Well, if you do, you’ll surprise me,” said Dick.


“I know one thing,” I flashed out, “it won’t be solved without trying.”

“Do you really think there’s an answer to it?” queried Dick.

“Of course there is,” I asserted confidently. “Grandaunt wouldn’t have written this unless it meant something.”

“I don’t know,” said Dick, doubtfully. “The reasoning doesn’t quite hold water. Lots of people write things that don’t mean anything.”

“Well, the meaning of this is obvious enough,” I retorted. “Mother, what is a rose of Sharon? Isn’t it a flower?”

“Why, bless the child!” exclaimed mother, setting down her cup with a little bang, “of course it is! It’s a shrub—a hardy shrub that grows quite tall, sometimes. Many people call it the althea.”

“Well, that’s the first step,” I cried triumphantly. “And now the second—”

“The second,” echoed Dick, as I hesitated. “Well, go ahead, Biffkins; what’s the second?”

“The second is to find the bush,” I said.

“And the third?”

“To find the treasure, goose!”

“It sounds easy, doesn’t it?” Dick commented, 49 his head on one side. “We find the bush and then we find the treasure, and then we live happy ever afterwards.”

“I think it more important to find first where we’re going to sleep,” said mother. “Then, our bags are still at the station, and we’ll have to have them.”

“I’ll go after them,” said Dick, picking up his hat. “I dare say there’s a horse and buggy attached to this place.”

“And I’ll ask Jane about the beds,” said mother, rising.

“And I’ll go treasure-hunting,” said I, pausing only long enough to snatch up my hat.

“Well, good luck, Biffkins,” Dick called after me, and started back toward the barn, leaving me alone at the front door, intent on the problem.

The first thing to do, I felt, was to make a survey of the house and grounds, and this I found to be no little task. Indeed, I soon became so absorbed in their beauty that I nearly forgot the puzzle I had set myself to solve. Let me describe the place as well as I can, and you will not wonder that, as the days went on, the prospect of losing it should become more and more dreadful to me.

The house was of red brick, square, in a style 50 which I have since been told is Georgian. In the middle front was a portico, stone-floored, with four white columns supporting its roof, and with an iron railing curving along either side of its wide stone steps, five in number. The front door was heavily panelled, and bore a great brass knocker. A wide hall ran through the centre of the house, with the rooms opening from it on either side—large, square rooms, with lofty ceilings, and heated either by means of wide fire-places or Franklin stoves. But of the interior of the house I shall speak again—it was the exterior which first claimed my attention.

It stood well back from the road, in a grove of stately elms, which must have been planted at the time the house was built, nearly three quarters of a century before. A beautiful lawn, flanked by hedges of hardy shrubs, sloped down to the road, and to the right of the house, surrounded by a close-clipped hedge of box, was a flower garden laid out in a queer, formal fashion which I had never seen before. It looked desolate and neglected, but here and there the compelling sun of spring had brought out a tinge of green. Beyond the garden was a high brick wall, covered with vines, shutting us off from the view of our neighbours.


Back of the house was the kitchen garden, nearly an acre in extent, and surrounded by rows of raspberry and currant bushes. Along one side of it was a double grape-arbour, separating it from the orchard. Cherries and peaches were putting on their bridal robes of white and pink, and as I passed beneath their branches, drinking deep draughts of the fragrant air, I could hear the bees, just awakened from their winter sleep, busy among the petals. Near a sheltering wind-break, I caught the outline of a group of stables and other out-buildings, behind which stretched rolling fields, some green with winter wheat, some stubbly from last year’s corn, some brown and fallow, ready for the plow. A respect for grandaunt, which I had never had before, began to rise within me. Surely the owner of such a place as this could not be without her good qualities. To administer it must have taken thought and care, and simply to live in it must be, in a way, softening and uplifting. If Fate would only will that I might always live in it——

I heard the rattle of wheels on the road from the stables, and there was Dick, setting forth proudly on his trip to the station. He waved his cap to me, chirruped to the horse, with whom he 52 seemed to be already on the friendliest of terms, and passed from sight around the house, while I turned again to the inspection of the premises. At the end of half an hour, I was fairly breathless with excitement; to be mistress of this splendid estate, this wide domain! what a thought! How could life ever lose its interest here, or days pass slowly!

“It isn’t ours,” I said aloud, suddenly chilled by the thought. “It isn’t ours. But I will make it ours!” And I shut my teeth tight together, and turned towards the flower-garden. No more idling or day-dreaming! Every minute must be spent in the search for the treasure—the “stocks, bonds, and other securities,” as the will described them, which grandaunt had concealed somewhere about the place—a hiding-place to which the only clue was the rose of Sharon!

Notes and Corrections: Chapter IV

a bowl of curds, or smear-case
[Schmierkäse, I suppose.]

It’s a shrub—a hardy shrub that grows quite tall, sometimes. Many people call it the althea.
[Hibiscus syriacus, a binomial unchanged since Linnaeus. People familiar with this site will understand that I had to look it up.]


Chapter V
I Begin the Search

The sun was nearly down, and the long shadows from the trees cut the lawn into alternate aisles of light and shade. The afternoon was almost gone, and I saw that I had no time to lose. Since the first object of my search was a rose of Sharon, it was evident that it must begin in the garden and I made my way into it through an opening in the hedge. The hedge was very close and thick, though spraggly and badly kept, and must have been planted many years before. The garden, as I have said, was a desolate place enough, but not without evidences of ancient beauty. Just inside the hedge was a perfect tangle of dead flower-stocks of hollyhocks with the fresh new plants springing at their base, of phlox and pinks and candytuft. Inside this, and around the whole garden ran a broad path, grass-grown and sadly in need of repair, while two narrower paths extended at right angles across the garden, meeting at a large depressed circle in the centre, which had once evidently been the basin of a fountain. But no fountain had played there for many years, and the basin was overgrown with weeds. At the corners 54 against the hedge were masses of shrubbery, and the wall at the farther side was overgrown with ivy.

I realized that I needed a guide in this wilderness, and set out in search of Abner, whom I finally found in the kitchen garden, busily engaged in digging up some horse-radish. He heard me coming, and stood up, leaning on his spade, as I drew near.

“Oh, Mr. Smith,” I began, “is there a rose of Sharon anywhere about the place?”

“A rose o’ Sharon? Why, yes, miss; bless your heart, they’s a dozen o’ them, I reckon.”

“A dozen!” Here was a complication, indeed! “But isn’t there some particular one,” I persisted, “which is larger than all the rest, or which is peculiarly situated, or which grandaunt was particularly fond of, or something of that sort?”

He scratched his head in perplexity, while I watched him in a very agony of excitement and suspense.

“Well, miss,” he answered slowly, at last, “they is one th’ missus used t’ think a good deal of, though lately she didn’t take much interest in anything about th’ place—just let it run along anyhow. It’s about the biggest one we’ve got, 55 an’ it’s set in a kind o’ rockery over there in the garding near the wall. Mebbe that’s the one you mean.”

“Maybe it is,” I said, controlling myself as well as I could, for my heart leaped at his words. “Will you show it to me, Mr. Smith?”

“Why, of course,” he said good-naturedly. “An’, miss, my name’s Abner, an’ I like t’ be called by it,” and shouldering his spade, he hobbled away toward the garden. I could have flown, but I managed somehow to accommodate my pace to his.

Near the wall which bounded the garden on that side, a somewhat elaborate rockery had been laid out years before, with stones of different colours carefully arranged in rows, after a fashion once thought beautiful. Vines were running over them, myrtle principally, and shrubs of various kinds were growing among them; some had been misplaced and others buried in the ground; the whole forming a kind of tangle which proved that however much grandaunt had once thought of the spot, Abner was right in saying that she had completely neglected it in recent years.

“Y’ see,” explained Abner, apologetically, reading my thought, perhaps, “we was both a gittin’ 56 old, miss; an’ they’s a mighty lot o’ work t’ do around a place like this. They was a lot thet had t’ be done—thet th’ missus allers made it a point t’ see was done—so this here rockery—an’ the hull garding fer thet matter—had t’ look out fer itself. We hadn’t no time fer flub-dubs.”

“Yes,” I interrupted, “but which is the rose of Sharon?”

“This here is th’ rose o’ Sharon, miss,” and he pointed with his spade to a tall shrub in the middle of the rockery, upon which the spring had not yet succeeded in coaxing forth any hint of green. The old, brown seed-pods of the year before still clung to it, and, on the whole, it did not look very promising of beauty.

“Now I must go, miss,” added my companion. “Jane’s waitin’ fer thet horse-radish, an’ I’ve got t’ help with th’ milkin’.”

“Very well,” I said; “only leave me your spade, please. Perhaps I can straighten things out here a little.”

“I doubt it, miss,” he said; “them vines need a good, sharp pair of clippers more’n anything, an’ a man behind ’em thet ain’t afeard t’ use ’em.” But he leaned his spade against the wall and shuffled away.


Close against the wall, a rustic seat had been built in some bygone year, and although it had crumbled somewhat and come apart in places under wind and weather, it would still bear my weight, as I found upon cautiously testing it. So I sat down to think out my plan of action. The lengthening shadows warned me that I had no time to lose; but I believed that I had my finger on the key of the puzzle, and I was determined to test my theory at once.

The spot had evidently at one time been a favourite resort of somebody; and grandaunt had lived here so long that it must have been she who had the rustic seat built and arranged the rockery. I could fancy her sitting here in the cool afternoons, when she was younger, knitting placidly, perhaps, or working some piece of embroidery. Perhaps it was here, where she was first married—but my imagination was not equal to the flight. Grandaunt a bride! The idea seemed to me preposterous—which only shows how young and thoughtless I was, for grandaunt, of course, had, once upon a time, been a girl like any other, with a girl’s heart and a girl’s hopes.

I know now more of her life than I knew then. She was married when quite young to a man much 58 older than herself, who brought her to this house, and shut himself up with her there; a crabbed and high-tempered man, who set his stamp upon her and moulded her to his fashion. He had died many years before, but grandaunt had gone on living as she had lived, so compelling is the force of habit! And if she came to regard all the world with suspicion, and to fall into queer prejudices and beliefs, why, she was not so much to blame, after all!

But, for whatever cause, it was evident that grandaunt had at one time been fond of the garden, with its fountain and rockery and rustic seat. They offered her a distraction and relief from the sordidness of her life—a distraction which she came to need less and less, as she grew accustomed to it. Just at first, no doubt, she had often come here; the spot had once held a prominent place in her affections; and it was to it that her thoughts turned when she had been seeking a hiding-place for the treasure. But just where had she chosen to conceal it?

As I have said, a large number of stones were arranged symmetrically about the foot of the rose of Sharon. According to the doggerel grandaunt had left us, I must count four to the right and 59 three diagonally, and the treasure would be ours. What could she have meant, unless she was referring to these very stones? Flushed with excitement at the thought, I looked at them more carefully. Four to the right, diagonally three—but from which direction must I face the shrub in determining which was right and which left?

I decided at last that the most sensible solution of this question was to face the shrub from the main path, which led to it across the garden, just as anyone would face it who approached it from the direction of the house. I did so, and then, dropping to my knees, tore away the tangle of vines, cleared away the accumulated refuse, and counted four stones to the right.

Here, again, there was a choice of diagonals—the correct one might be any one of several. I chose one at random and raised the third stone with hands not wholly steady. Then I leaned forward and peered into the hole. The earth from which I had lifted the stone seemed hard and undisturbed. I counted three diagonally in another direction, and lifted another stone, with the same result. Again I counted three diagonally, raised the stone, and found myself peering into a shallow hole with hard dirt at the bottom.


I brought the spade and dug down, as well as I could, in the places from which I had removed the stones; but after a few moments, it was evident, even to me, that the earth had not been disturbed for many years, and that there could not by any possibility be a treasure of any kind buried beneath it.

But I did not even yet despair. It might very well be that grandaunt had approached the rockery from the kitchen garden, in which case I must count in the other direction. I did so, and at the second venture my heart bounded into my throat, for the stone I hit upon was loose in its place, and the dirt beneath it soft and yielding. With hands trembling so that I could scarcely hold the spade, I began to throw the loose dirt out from the hole. I found it was not large enough to work in to advantage, and removed the adjoining stones. The earth under all of them seemed loose, and I worked feverishly, expecting every instant that the spade would strike a metal box or receptacle of some sort, in which the securities had been placed. For a few inches, it was easy digging; then the earth became hard again. But suddenly the spade did hit something that rang sharply against it. I cleared away the earth quickly, and found that I 61 had struck—a rock! It was a large one, as I soon discovered by trying to get around it. And then I saw what I had not perceived before—little tunnels running away under the stones on either side, and I knew that the earth had been loosened, not by Grandaunt Nelson, but by a mole!

It was a heavy blow. I had been so confident that I had solved the mystery; it had seemed so certain from the very situation of the rose of Sharon that it marked the treasure’s hiding-place; I had even fancied myself running to the house with the precious package in my hands, bursting in upon mother with the great news, lying in wait for Dick—and now—now—

Despite myself, the tears would come. I let the spade fall and sat down again upon the seat, and sobbed for very disappointment. Ah, what a triumph it would have been to be able, the very first day, to discomfit that horrid Silas Tunstall by finding the treasure and setting at rest, at once and for all time, the question of the ownership of this beautiful place!

“Oh, I say,” exclaimed a low voice just over my head, “you mustn’t do that, you know! Can’t I help you?”


I jumped up with a little cry, for the voice was so near it frightened me. There, sitting on the wall just above me, was a boy. He had his cap in his hand, and I saw that his hair was brown and very curly.

“I’d like to help you,” he repeated earnestly; “that is, if you’ll let me.”

He waved his cap to me with a half-timid, friendly, reassuring gesture.

“Oh!” I said, turning red with shame at the thought that I had been caught crying. “Oh, I must go!”

“No, don’t go,” he protested. “If you’re going because I’m here, I’ll go myself.”

“Oh, no; it’s not at all on your account,” I explained politely. “But it must be very nearly dinner-time,” and I glanced at the brilliant afterglow which transfigured the western heavens.

Then I glanced at him. He was distinctly a nice-looking boy, and after the surprise of the first moment, I felt no very great desire to go away.

“It isn’t late,” he reassured me. “It can’t be dinner-time, yet. May I come down?”

I eyed him doubtfully. He seemed rather a self-assured boy, and I wondered what Dick would 63 think of him. I wondered if he thought me a molly-coddle because he had seen me crying. I shared all Dick’s horror of girls or boys who cry. Then I wondered if my eyes were very red, and wiped them with my handkerchief.

“The wall,” I ventured, “was probably put there to keep people out.”

“Not to keep one’s friends out,” he protested. “One ought to be glad if one’s friends are willing to climb over such a high wall to see one.”

He was smiling in the pleasantest way, and I really couldn’t help smiling back.

“But one’s friends can come in at the gate,” I pointed out, quickly suppressing the smile, “so there is no reason why they should climb the wall. No one likes one’s friends to do unnecessary things.”

“How about the lady who dropped her glove over the barrier among the lions?” he inquired.

“She was a minx,” I answered warmly.

“And the fellow who jumped after it?”

“He was a fool!”

“Thank you,” he said, with bright eyes.

“Oh, you know I didn’t mean that,” I cried. “I should be very glad to have you come down, but I really must go.”


“But it isn’t dinner-time yet.”

“I know it isn’t,” I hastened to explain, anxious not to hurt his feelings again. “But you see we’re going out to dinner this evening, and it will take a little time to get ready, and of course I don’t want to be late. Mother wouldn’t like it.”

“But what were you digging there for?” he persisted, looking at the little piles of dirt I had thrown up. “It seems a queer place to be digging. Looking for fishing-worms?”

“No,” I said. “I—I was just digging.”

“Are you going to dig any more?”


“Then you must let me help you,” he said. “I’m first-rate at digging.”

“Are you? Well, perhaps I shall. But, you see, I’ll have to know you a little better first.”

“May I introduce myself?”

“Oh, no; I’ll ask Mr. Chester about you—”

“Mr. Chester?” he interrupted quickly.


“Is that where you’re going to dinner?”


He burst into a sudden shout of laughter and 65 waved his cap around his head. I thought for an instant, with a sudden leap of the heart, that he was going to lose his balance and fall; but he caught a branch above his head and saved himself.

“I think I’ll come down,” he said, when he had regained his breath; and he calmly jumped down on our side of the wall. Then he looked at me, grinning broadly. “Please don’t believe all Mr. Chester tells you about me,” he said. “He’s prejudiced.”

“I certainly shall believe what he tells me,” I retorted.

“All the same, I’m glad you’re going to dinner there to-night,” he added, grinning still more broadly.

“Why?” I demanded.

“No matter,” he said. “No matter,” and he looked at me, still laughing.

I felt my cheeks burning, for I could never bear to be laughed at, especially by a boy. Boys are so dense.

“Very well,” I said, and turning on my heel, I marched away, head in air.

But I could hear him laughing till I got clear across the garden to the opposite hedge. I thought 66 it very rude. Perhaps if he had not kept on laughing, I might have stopped before I got so far away. At last, when I stole a glance over my shoulder toward the wall, he was gone.


Chapter VI
I Find an Ally

As I ran around the corner of the house, I saw mother standing at the front door.

“Why, Cecil,” she said, reproachfully, as I sprang up the steps, “where have you been all this time?”

“It isn’t so late, is it, mother?”

“It’s very late, and I’ve been looking for you everywhere. Why, look at your hands!” she cried, as she saw me more clearly. “And your frock! Where have you been, Cecil?”

“I was out in the garden, mother,” I answered, suddenly conscious that my hands were very dirty, and that great green splotches on my skirt showed where I had been kneeling on the moss which covered the rockery.

“In the garden?” she repeated. “What on earth—”

“Looking for the treasure, weren’t you, Biffkins?” called Dick’s voice mockingly from the darkness of the hall.

“Yes, I was,” I snapped. Really it was provoking that Dick should take the matter so lightly.

“Well, better luck next time, Biffkins,” he 68 went on, coming to the door, and looking me up and down with a broad grin. “Why, she’s been digging!” he cried. “I’ll bet anything she’s got a blister!”

Tears of mortification sprang into my eyes; for I did have a blister and it hurt, though I wouldn’t have acknowledged it for the world! Why can’t girls work as boys can?

“But never mind, Biffkins,” added Dick. “Don’t get discouraged. Just wait till I set my massive brain to work at it—”

“Oh, that’s all that’s necessary!” I retorted, with cutting irony. Really this puzzle was beginning to get on my nerves a little; I wondered that Dick could jest about it when it meant so much to all of us. It showed a heartlessness that I had never suspected in him—an indifference to his family which was really shocking.

I started to say so, but mother cut short the discussion by chasing me before her into the house and up-stairs to her bed-room—a high-ceilinged, deliciously-roomy one, with a great four-poster in one corner, to which one mounted by a little flight of carpet-covered steps. I would have stopped to admire it—for if there is one thing more than any other for which I have a passion, it is old 69 furniture—but mother, lighting a lamp which stood on the dresser—another old-fashioned piece, the golden glow of whose mahogany warmed my heart—bade me sternly to set to work upon my toilet.

“But, oh, mother, what a delightful room!” I cried, struggling with my buttons. “Was it grandaunt’s?”

“No,” said mother, “Aunt Nelson’s bedroom was at the front of the house overlooking the drive. I think it better to leave it undisturbed for the present.”

“Oh, yes,” I agreed, for I knew what mother meant. “But whose room was this?”

“This, Jane says, was the spare room. It hadn’t been opened for months apparently, and smelt dreadfully close; but I dare say we shall do very well. There’s another for Dick just like it across the hall.”

I remembered grandaunt’s aversion to sunlight and fresh air, and did not wonder that the rooms had seemed stuffy. However, the sweet, cool air, blowing through the trees had already banished all that.

“Is Dick’s room furnished like this?” I asked.

“Yes, very much the same.”


“I must see it the first thing in the morning. And, mother,” I went on, in growing excitement, “did you ever see such a lovely old grandfather’s clock as the one in the lower hall—and just look at that old wardrobe, with its—”

“Now, Cecil,” interrupted mother, sternly, “I want you to get that hair of yours in order—and here’s your clean frock. I do hope you’re not going to be so thoughtless and impolite as to make us late for Mr. Chester’s dinner!”

“No, mother,” I promised obediently, “I’ll hurry;” but it was just as well she stayed with me to hold me to this duty, for there were so many delightful things in the room that, with the best intentions in the world, I should inevitably have been late without her. It is very difficult to comb one’s hair and at the same time admire the carving on the mirror before which you are doing it—and such carving it was, so graceful and expressive and right! As it was, we had just reached the lower hall again, and mother was dragging me past the grandfather’s clock, when the knocker sounded against the door and reverberated through the hall in a quite startling manner; and there on the step was Mr. Chester, shaking hands with Dick, who had no passion for old furniture, and whose 71 toilet, besides, was much simpler than mine—one of a boy’s great advantages which I have often envied.

“It’s such a delightful night that I didn’t bring the carriage,” said Mr. Chester, shaking hands with each of us in turn. “And it is really only a step.”

“It would have been sacrilege to ride,” agreed mother, as we went down the steps together, and indeed the evening was deliciously soft and warm, with the fragrance of spring in the air.

“Do you know,” he added, “I never thought of your baggage until—”

“We sent Dick after it,” interrupted mother, quickly. “We certainly didn’t expect you to bother with it—you’ve been so kind already. He was only too eager to go—it was quite an adventure for him to drive over to the station.”

“Though Susan seems to be a horse with a past rather than a future,” supplemented Dick; whereat we all laughed.

“Yes,” said Mr. Chester, “I’ve seen her trotting meditatively along many a time. I dare say her past is a blameless and useful one—well worth meditating upon.”

The night seemed to grow more beautiful every 72 minute, and just as we turned out of the grounds into the road, the big yellow moon sailed slowly up over the eastern horizon, sending long streamers of golden light through the naked branches of the elms. I turned for a last look at the house, where it loomed soft and dim through the vista of trees leading up to it: I could see the white door, the grey steps, flanked by graceful pillars. What a home it was! And I sighed again as I realized that it was not really ours, and perhaps might never be.

I have wondered since at my instant affection for it, which grew and grew in warmth until it amounted to positive adoration. I have entered many houses before and since, many of them more beautiful than this, but not one of them so moved and won my soul’s soul as did that square old mansion. And I have often thought that perhaps for some of us there is on earth a predestined dwelling-place, which we somehow recognize and long for, and apart from which we are unhappy. Unhappy—it is worse than that—the ceaseless, miserable yearning! How well I know!

As I looked back that evening, something of this feeling came to me, as though I were leaving something infinitely dear and precious. It was only by 73 a positive effort that I kept on with the others, down the path and through the gate and along the road. We had not far to go, for a short walk soon brought us to another gate, through which we turned along a broad path, which led to an open doorway beaming with cheerful welcome. At the sound of our footsteps, a woman and a boy appeared against the light in the hall, and came down the steps to meet us.

“My dear,” said Mr. Chester, “this is Mrs. Truman—my wife, Mrs. Truman—and these are Cecil and Dick. Come here, Tom, and meet your new neighbours,” he added to the boy.

As the boy turned so that the light fell on his face, I gave a little gasp of astonishment, and he tried in vain to suppress the snigger that burst from him.

“This is my son,” went on Mr. Chester, and then stopped as he saw my suffused face and his son’s distorted countenance. “Tom, you rascal,” he cried, “what mischief have you been up to now?”

“It wasn’t any mischief, sir,” I hastened to explain. “Only—only—I was in the garden, and he was on the wall, and he wanted to come down on our side.”


“And she said I shouldn’t till she’d found out more about me!” cried Tom. “She said she’d ask you, sir.”

“And very wise of her,” nodded his father. “I’m afraid I can’t give a very good account of you, sir.”

“I warned her that you were prejudiced, sir,” cried Tom.

“But he came down on our side without waiting for permission,” I added.

“Of course,” said Mr. Chester, laughing. “That was quite in character. You must put him on probation, Cecil. He’s the biggest mischief in three counties. He seems to possess an inborn facility for getting into scrapes.”

“And for getting out of them,” added Mrs. Chester. “Let us do him that justice.”

Laughing together, we went into the house, and a few moments later were at the table. Such a pretty room it was, and such pleasant people! My heart warmed to them instantly, for it was plain to see that they were wholesome and genuine. For a time, the talk drifted from topic to topic, but it was inevitable that it should at last turn toward the will.

“Oh, I do hope that you will be able to keep the 75 place!” burst out Mrs. Chester, impulsively. “It would be such a relief to have companionable neighbours after—after—”

She did not finish the sentence, but we could all guess what she meant.

“Besides,” she added, “it would be too terrible to have it fall into the hands of that horrible Tunstall. Why, I should be afraid to go out of the house after dark!”

“What is the ‘philosophy of which he is such a distinguished disciple?’” I asked, quoting the will.

Mr. Chester laughed shortly, and then grew suddenly grave.

“Spiritualism,” he answered. “Not the real thing, of course, in which there may be some basis of truth, for all I know; but a kind of insincere hocus-pocus designed to catch the ignorant. I beg your pardon,” he added quickly. “I must not forget that Mrs. Nelson was a relative of yours.”

“She was my mother’s sister,” answered mother, quietly, “but I knew her very slightly. I saw her only three or four times in my life. I know she had queer ideas—that is, indeed, about all I do know about her. Pray speak as frankly as you like.”


“Of course,” went on Mr. Chester, “I have no personal knowledge of what went on over there, but I’ve heard weird tales of his doings in other quarters. He came here over a year ago—nobody knows from where. He lives in a little cottage some distance down the road, and is said to have many visitors, especially at night, though that may be mere gossip. The only other occupant of the place is an old woman who acts as housekeeper and general factotum. The house stands so far back from the road and is so surrounded by shrubbery that no one can see what goes on there. It belonged to an eccentric old bachelor, who lived alone there and who surrounded it with a grove of evergreens to keep the world away, I suppose. There are all sorts of stories told about it, but most of them are pure fictions.”

“Mr. Tunstall seems to be quite a character,” commented mother.

“He is,” agreed Mr. Chester; “but aside from his disagreeable personality, there is really nothing against him, except that he seems to have no adequate means of support. I believe that the stories about his nocturnal visitors are largely myths, and as far as his other practise is concerned, it can’t be very lucrative. I’ve never heard that 77 he ever attempted to obtain money illegally, and I think it’s as much because he has no visible means of livelihood as from any other cause that people distrust him. Mrs. Nelson’s case is the first in which I’ve had reason to suspect he used undue influence—and that’s only a suspicion. In fact,” he added, reflectively, “now that I try to formulate some charge against him, I find there isn’t anything to get hold of.”

“There’s such a thing as circumstantial evidence,” remarked Mrs. Chester; “and one’s instincts go for something.”

“I don’t know,” rejoined her husband, thoughtfully; “I don’t altogether trust what you call instinct. I’ve seen it go wrong too often. I’ve always fancied that Tunstall is a much cleverer man than he appears to be—too clever by half to be wasting his time the way he seems to be doing. He’s absent a good deal—drives away in his buggy—yes, he keeps a horse—and doesn’t come back for days and days. Where he goes nobody knows.”

“I declare, dear,” said Mrs. Chester, laughing, “you’re growing quite poetic over Mr. Tunstall. But for all that, I still contend it would be a real affliction to have him for a neighbour.”


“Oh, yes,” agreed Mr. Chester; “he’s not an engaging person, I grant you that; and I should be very sorry indeed to have him move in next door; more especially,” he added, looking at us, “since that would mean that our present neighbours must move out. We want you to keep the place.”

“We should like to keep it, too, of course,” said mother, smiling a little wistfully, “but I’m afraid that Aunt Nelson has set us a problem we shall never be able to solve.”

“Biffkins has already had one try at it, though,” put in Dick, slyly.

“Biffkins?” repeated Tom, quickly. “Who’s that?”

Dick indicated me with a little gesture.

“Cecil didn’t seem quite to describe her,” he explained, smiling broadly.

“I think Biffkins a bully name,” said Tom. “Ho!” he added, suddenly, looking at me with quick interest, “was that what you were digging in the garden for?”

“Of course it was,” laughed Dick. “I told her I’d bet she had a blister.”

“Well, maybe she has,” retorted Tom, quickly. “I dare say I’d have one too, if I’d dug up as much 79 dirt as she did. Why, when I looked over the wall—”

A sudden wave of crimson swept over my face and I glanced at Tom appealingly. Only too distinctly did I remember what I was doing when he looked over the wall!

“She was digging away like mad,” he went on calmly; “you should have seen her!”

I shot him a grateful glance. How many boys would have been so generous?

“And he offered to help,” I said. “If it hadn’t been so late—”

“But you’ll let me help next time?” he questioned eagerly. “You must, you know. I’m a good digger, anyway; and I’ve got a pretty good head for puzzles.”

“Tom!” cried his mother.

“Oh, I should love to have him help!” I burst out. “I’m sure he would be a very great help!”

“Done!” cried Tom. “Shake hands on it!” and he danced around the table and caught my hand in his.

And as I looked into his honest brown eyes I knew that I had found an ally.


Chapter VII
Varieties of the Rose of Sharon

I think we should all like to say just what Tom has said,” remarked Mr. Chester, after a moment. “We should all like to help, if we could.”

“Oh, you all can!” I cried, impulsively. “I’m sure you can help a great deal.”

“How?” asked Mr. Chester, quietly, but with an earnestness there was no mistaking.

“I’m sure you could help us to work out that riddle that grandaunt left us,” I said. “You know that is the only clue we have.”

“You forget that I haven’t seen the riddle,” he remarked. “What was it?”

“It’s just a verse,” I said, “and rather a silly verse, too. Here it is,” and I repeated the lines slowly, while the Chesters listened in astonishment. Tom’s eyes were gleaming with interest and excitement.

“Let’s see; how is it?” he asked. “Say it again, won’t you?”

“‘The Rose of Sharon guards the place

Where the Treasure lies; so you must trace

Four to the right, diagonally three,

And you have solved the Mystery.’”


I repeated the lines slowly, and he soon had them. They were easy to remember, and, once learned, ran in one’s head like Mark Twain’s famous,

“Punch, brothers, punch; punch with care;

Punch in the presence of the passenjaire.”

There was a little pause, and I could see that they were repeating the lines over to themselves, and trying to get some meaning out of them.

“Well,” said Mrs. Chester, at last, “that is a problem!”

“I dare say this man Tunstall had a hand in devising it,” observed her husband. “He affects a kind of cryptic utterance, sometimes—it’s one of the tricks of the business. He had acquired considerable influence over your aunt, Mrs. Truman—not enough, evidently, to persuade her to cut you off entirely, but still enough to make your inheritance hang upon this slender thread—and it is a slender one.”

“Can you tell us anything more about him?” asked mother. “I scarcely looked at him to-day—I didn’t realize at the time how deeply he was concerned in all this.”

I did,” I said; “or, rather, he looked at me, 82 and it sent a creepy feeling all up and down my back. He has the sharpest eyes!”

“Yes,” agreed Mr. Chester, “they’re part of his stock in trade. I’ve imagined, sometimes, that they were a kind of hypnotic eye, which might affect a nervous or weak-minded person very deeply.”

“They evidently affected Aunt Nelson,” said mother. “Please tell us all you can, Mr. Chester. The more we know of the facts in the case, the better chance we shall have of solving this perplexing puzzle.”

“That’s true,” assented Mr. Chester, slowly. “It is only right that you should know; and yet I can tell you very little more than I’ve already told. I’ve said that Tunstall pretended to be a sort of disciple of the occult. I’ve been told that he calls himself a swami, whatever that may be, and pretends to believe in the transmigration of souls, in his power to recall the spirits of the dead, and I don’t know what tomfoolery besides. No doubt he’s a clever operator—he must be, or he couldn’t stay in one locality as long as he has in this. And he’s never been exposed, as most mediums are, sooner or later. I doubt if he’d have remained here as long as he has, but for the hold he got on 83 Mrs. Nelson, and his hope of inheriting her property.”

“Did he have such a hold on her?” inquired mother.

“Oh, yes; I wouldn’t have believed he’d dare go to the lengths he did if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. I happened upon him one night—” he paused hesitatingly, and looked at his wife, “I don’t know whether I’d better tell the story,” he added.

“Yes, tell it,” said Mrs. Chester. “They have the right to know.”

“Well, then,” went on Mr. Chester, “I was detained in the city very late one night some four or five months ago, and it was after midnight when I reached Fanwood. Mrs. Chester was not expecting me, and there was no carriage at the station. I knew she was in bed, and rather than disturb her, I decided to walk over. It took me about an hour—it was a bright moonlight night, I remember, a good deal like this one, and I took my time. When I turned in at our gate, I fancied I saw a light in our stable, and I walked back to investigate, but found it was only the reflection of the moonlight on a window. I was coming back to the house, by the path which runs along the wall, 84 when I fancied I heard voices on the other side. I stopped to listen, and sure enough, there were two persons talking together on your aunt’s side. I could not make out either voice clearly, one was so low and broken, and the other so high and whining. You can imagine how puzzled I was, and a little frightened, too, I confess, for my first thought was naturally of burglars. But I knew I couldn’t go to bed and to sleep until I had found out what was happening over there, so I went softly back to the stable, got a short ladder, and placed it noiselessly against the wall. Then I climbed up and looked over.”

We were all listening breathlessly; I, at least, with a delicious creepy sensation at the roots of my hair.

“Well,” continued Mr. Chester, “I confess that I was startled for a moment by what I saw—a white and diaphanous-looking figure standing before an old bench, on which there was a dark, huddled shape, which I couldn’t make out clearly. Indeed, I couldn’t make out anything very clearly, for both figures were in the shadow of the wall, and besides I had only a moment to look at them, for I suppose I must have made some sound—an exclamation of surprise, perhaps—for suddenly 85 the white figure vanished among the trees, and the figure on the bench sprang to its feet and I saw it was Mrs. Nelson.

“‘What is it?’ she cried, and then she looked up and saw my white face peering down at her.

“I felt rather foolish, as one will when he is caught eavesdropping, no matter how good his motives may have been.

“‘I beg your pardon,’ I said, ‘if I’m intruding; but I happened to hear voices—’

“She didn’t seem to understand very clearly, but stared about her in a dazed way, and just then who should come forward from among the trees but Silas Tunstall. Then I understood. He had been up to some of his mummeries, imposing upon that old woman. He glared up at me for a moment; but without saying a word, laid his hand upon Mrs. Nelson’s arm and led her off toward the house. I confess that it was with no very pleasant feeling I looked after them. I thought it all over next day, but I didn’t see how I could interfere. After all, it was none of my business, and so I decided to do nothing, and told no one of the incident except my wife.”

Then I recalled that half-forgotten adventure, which I have already recorded—my starting to 86 get a drink one night, and meeting grandaunt in the hall. And for the first time, I understood her terror. She believed in ghosts—and the little white figure she had seen disappear into the gloomy doorway had looked ghostly enough! Poor grandaunt! How she had screamed! Mr. Tunstall had no doubt found it easy enough to make a disciple of her, since she was ready to come more than half-way to meet him.

“Horrible!” breathed mother at last “Did he—did he have any other victims?”

“Oh, yes. He is said to have a number of followers, though I haven’t any idea who they are. He gives seances, from time to time, I understand, but only a very few are admitted to them, and then only people of whom he is absolutely sure. You understand this is mere rumour, Mrs. Truman; I don’t know personally that it is true. But where there’s so much smoke, there must surely be a little fire.”

“And he was with Aunt Nelson after that?” asked mother.

“Oh, a great deal. He was almost constantly at her house, toward the last. We often saw him coming or going. I think her mind failed a little, though, of course, there would be no way of 87 absolutely proving it. But I noticed many little changes in her. It might be,” he added, “that the will could be set aside.”

But mother shook her head decidedly.

“No,” she said; “if we can’t get the property in the way she provided, we won’t get it at all. She had a right to do as she pleased with it—we had no claim upon her. We will never carry the matter into the courts.”

“That is right, Mrs. Truman,” cried Mrs. Chester warmly. “I don’t believe in washing one’s family linen in public. Besides, I’ve always had a horror of the courts.”

“And you a lawyer’s wife!” laughed her husband, as we rose from table.

“I don’t care,” retorted Mrs. Chester; “the courts are incomprehensible to me. They’re supposed to be established for the administration of justice, and yet I’ve known them to be very unjust; and even when it is justice they administer, they seem to choose the very longest and most tortuous way of doing it.”

“I’ve always understood,” said mother, “that it was the lawyers who led justice around by the nose and made her appear such a sorry figure,” and laughing, we passed on into the drawing-room.


“I say,” whispered Tom, his eyes bright, to Dick and me, “let’s go up to the library and see if we can’t find out something more about the rose of Sharon.”

“Splendid!” I cried, and excusing ourselves, we scampered away up the stairs.

Tom went to work at once among the dictionaries and encyclopedias in a business-like way which impressed me immensely. The great volumes seemed to possess no terrors nor mysteries for him, but stood ready to yield up their secrets to his touch. It reminded me of the cave of the Forty Thieves—it was no trouble at all to get in, if one just knew how.

“Of course,” he pointed out, “the first thing is to find out everything we can about the rose of Sharon. That’s the keystone of the arch, as it were. So we’ll begin there.”

At the end of half an hour we had achieved the following result:

1.—Rose of Sharon—an ornamental malvaceous shrub. In the Bible the name is used for some flower not yet identified; perhaps a narcissus, or possibly the great lotus flower.—Webster’s Dictionary.

2.—Rose of Sharon—(a) in Scrip. Cant. II. 1, 89 the autumn crocus; (b) a St. John’s wort; (c) same as althea.—The Century Dictionary.

3.—The Rose of Sharon—(a) a variety of apple; (b) a variety of plum; (c) a kind of early potato.

“Well,” observed Dick, disgustedly, when we had got this far, “the farther we go, the more we seem to get tangled up! Even these dictionary fellows don’t agree with each other.”

“They seldom do,” said Tom, with a wisdom born of experience. “All you can do, usually, is to average up what they say and reach your own conclusion. But wait a minute. Suppose we look up the Bible verse ourselves.”

“What is ‘Cant.’?” queried Dick. “I don’t know any book of the Bible called that, or anything like it.”

“Neither do I,” agreed Tom, as he took down his father’s Bible. “Let’s see,” and he ran rapidly through the list of books at the front. “I have it—‘Cant.’ is short for ‘Canto,’ which is Latin for song.”

“The Song of Solomon,” I ventured.

“Of course,” said Tom, and he turned to it.

I have since learned that our reasoning upon this occasion was not so brilliant as I then thought 90 it, and that “Cant.” is an abbreviation of “Canticles,” the scholarly name for the Song of Songs. However, we had guessed rightly, although our logic was at fault, and we found the verse we were looking for at the beginning of the second chapter: “I am the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valleys.”

Tom pored over it for a moment, then looked up.

“I believe I’ve found it!” he cried. “See, four words to the right gives us ‘and the lily,’ then over here in the next column, ‘by.’ Then three diagonally, ‘my trees among.’ ‘And the lily by my trees among’—that isn’t very good English, but it means something, anyway. If there is a lily among the trees—”

“But,” I objected, “the words may not be arranged the same way in grandaunt’s Bible.”

“That’s so,” he assented, plunged into despondency again. “We’ll have to look at her Bible and see. In the meantime, there’s the apple-tree and the plum. Perhaps the treasure is in a cavity in one of them.”

“Don’t forget the early potato,” laughed Dick. “I see clearly that we’ll have to dig up the whole place, chop down the orchard, and perhaps tear 91 down the house, if we expect to follow up all these clues. We’ve got a large job on hand.”

There was nothing more to be discovered in the library, so we put the books we had been consulting back in their places and went down-stairs to join our elders. We found them still talking over the various aspects of the problem, and sat down to listen.

“The thing that puzzles me,” Mr. Chester was saying, “is that Mrs. Nelson made no stipulation in the will about Tunstall finding this treasure. If you fail to find it, the property goes to him; but there is no penalty if he fails to find it. And suppose both of you fail to find it? What then?”

“It’s a sort of game of ’we lose,’ whatever happens,” broke in Tom.

“The only explanation is,” added Mr. Chester, “that Mrs. Nelson took it for granted that Tunstall would have no difficulty in finding the treasure.”

“With the aid of his Hindu gods, perhaps,” Mrs. Chester suggested.

“What is the ‘treasure,’ anyway, Mr. Chester?” mother queried in a kind of desperation. “The word makes one think of chests of gold and that 92 sort of thing, but, I take it, that’s not what we’re to look for.”

“Oh, no. The will says the ‘treasure’—I use the word because it is used in the key—consists of ‘stocks, bonds, and other securities.’ Mrs. Nelson never took me into her confidence, so I can’t even guess at the amount.”

“And what shape will they be in? What must we look for?”

“I think you will find them in a small steel box such as is usually used for holding securities of that kind. Tom, run up and bring down that box off my desk. Of course I may be mistaken,” he added, as Tom reappeared carrying a little black metal box, “but I believe that some such box as this is the object of your search.”

We all stared at it for a moment, as though this were the veritable box.

“Then if we don’t find it,” asked mother, at last, “and this Mr. Tunstall doesn’t find it, as you suggested might possibly happen, the ‘treasure’ will be lost?”

“Oh, probably most of the securities could be replaced upon proper proof of loss. But I don’t believe there’s any danger of their being lost. I believe Tunstall knows where they are, and that 93 he devised the puzzle, or, at least, suggested it. The verse sounds very much like him.”

For a moment, no one spoke; but I know I grew pale at the thought of how completely we were in that man’s power. I could see Tom grow pale, too, and he stared across at me with eyes almost starting from his head.

“But,” faltered mother, at last, “if he knows where they are, he may have removed them.”

“Yes, that’s possible,” assented Mr. Chester. “But perhaps he’s so confident you’ll never find them that’s he’s content to wait till the end of the month, so that everything will be quite straight and regular.”

I felt as though my brain would burst in the effort I made to look at this new possibility from all sides.

“Besides,” added Mr. Chester, “it wouldn’t do him any good to steal them. Stocks and bonds aren’t of much use to anyone unless they are legally come by.”

“But he might remove them,” said Dick, “to prevent our finding them, and then put them back.”

“Oh, be sure of one thing,” cried Mrs. Chester. “If he had any hand in hiding them he did it so 94 well that they won’t be found till he finds them himself!”

“I don’t believe he knows,” I burst out, at last. “If he knew, he wouldn’t have read the key when he picked it up after I let it fall. If he knew what it was, he’d have handed it back to us without looking at it.”

Mr. Chester nodded.

“You may be right,” he said. “That’s a good point.”

“But whether he knows or not,” I went on, “the thing for us to do is to solve the puzzle. He certainly hasn’t had a chance to remove the ‘treasure’ yet, and we must see that he doesn’t get a chance. Where do you suppose grandaunt would conceal her property, Mr. Chester?”

“It seems to me,” answered Mr. Chester, slowly, “that Mrs. Nelson would not bury the papers, or conceal them anywhere outside the house. Moisture works havoc with securities of that kind, and to bury them would be the very worst thing which could be done with them, even in a box like this. Besides, she would naturally want them where she could keep her eye on them, and have ready access to them. Bonds usually have coupons attached to them which have to be 95 detached and sent in for payment of interest. Most people keep securities of that kind in a safe-deposit box at a bank. I believe that you will find them somewhere in the house—in a place that was under Mrs. Nelson’s eyes constantly.”

“But the rose of Sharon, sir,” I objected. “That could scarcely be in the house.”

“No,” he agreed slowly, “no; I confess that puzzles me. Yet it seems most improbable that Mrs. Nelson would do anything so foolish as to bury her securities. She would be too anxious, I imagine, to have them within reach, like a miser with his gold. I am tempted to believe that the ‘rose of Sharon’ does not refer to a bush or a tree, but to something else which we have not discovered as yet. It might be a piece of furniture, or a picture, or a plant—almost anything, in fact. I would scrutinize everything in the house carefully to see if the appellation, ‘rose of Sharon,’ cannot be made to fit.”

Dick groaned.

“There’s no end to it,” he said, mournfully. “It seems to me that ‘rose of Sharon’ can mean about everything under the sun.”

“Well,” said Mr. Chester, smiling, “I would 96 certainly look for it very carefully in the house; though, of course, it will do no harm to continue your search outdoors, too.”

“I told Biffkins, a while ago,” observed Dick, “that we should probably have to dig up the whole place and tear down the house before we were through. It seems to me the easiest way would be to scare it—”

But he stopped suddenly without completing the sentence, and we were all too preoccupied to notice.

We fell silent pondering the problem, which seemed to grow more perplexing the more we tried to unravel it. I have had a clothes-line act in just that way! But I saw what a help a trained mind like Mr. Chester’s would be to us. And we should need help—all we could get. Yet I had always delighted in solving puzzles—the more difficult the better—and I was determined to solve this one, upon which so much depended. The very fact that so much depended upon it, seemed to make it more difficult. It was impossible to approach it light-heartedly, not caring much whether one succeeded or not; and the very anxiety to succeed somehow beclouded the intellect.


Mr. Chester smiled as he looked at my serious, intent face.

“Come, my dear,” he said, “don’t take it so much to heart. Remember you have nearly a month in which to work out the answer. A great many things may happen in that time. Besides, as you grow better acquainted with the place, some natural solution of the puzzle may suggest itself to you. You mustn’t be discouraged over a first failure—that won’t do at all.”

“I’m not discouraged, sir,” I answered stoutly. “I don’t intend to permit myself to become discouraged.”

“That’s right,” he said heartily. “That’s the spirit that overcomes obstacles and wins out in the end. Do you remember the last lines that Browning ever wrote, where he described himself as

“‘One who never turned his back but marched breast forward,

Never doubted clouds would break,

Never dreamed, though right were worsted, wrong would triumph,

Held we fall to rise, are baffled to fight better,

Sleep to wake’?”

“Did Browning write that?” I asked, my eyes a little blurred with the quick tears which 98 had sprung to them. “But I thought he was a stuffy old poet whom nobody could understand?”

“Many people think so,” answered Mr. Chester, with his kind smile; “but it is mostly because they have taken somebody else’s word for it and have never tried to understand, themselves. Suppose you try for yourself, sometime. You’ll find him a tonic—just such a tonic as you need.”

“I will,” I said, gratefully; and then, for the first time, I noticed that the two boys were no longer in the room. Mother noticed their absence, too, at the same moment.

“Why, where is Dick?” she asked.

“They’ve probably gone back to the library,” I suggested, leaping at once to the conclusion that they had found a new clue. “Shall I go after them?”

“Yes, dear—we must be going. Tell Dick it’s getting late.”

I ran up the stairs to the library door, eager to find out what it was they had discovered. But in the first moment, as I entered, I thought the room was empty. Then I heard the low murmur of excited voices from the deep window-seat. But at the sound of my footsteps, the murmur ceased abruptly.

girl entering a doorway to see two boys with books



“Have you found out something, Dick?” I cried, bursting in upon them, “Oh, tell me!”

I saw from their flushed faces that they had, indeed, made some discovery; but instead of confiding in me at once, as I naturally expected them to do, they glanced guiltily at each other like two conspirators.

“Aren’t you going to tell me?” I demanded. “I don’t think that’s fair!”

“Well, you see, Biffkins,” began Dick, stammeringly, “this isn’t anything for—for a girl to know.”

“It isn’t?” I cried, my temper rising at such duplicity. “I should just like to know why? Perhaps you think I couldn’t help?”

“No,” replied Dick, grinning fiendishly, as he always did whenever I grew angry; “I don’t believe you could!”

I gasped with astonishment at the absurdity of such a thing, and glared at Tom Chester, whose face was as crimson as my own. And to think that only a short while before he had danced around the table to shake hands with me in an alliance offensive and defensive! His treason fairly took my breath away. And I had thought him a nice boy, upon whom one could rely! I 100 felt the hot tears rushing into my eyes; then my pride asserted itself; and crushing them back, I tossed up my head and scorched them both with a single fiery glance.

“Oh, very well!” I said, and marched from the room.

Notes and Corrections: Chapter VII

skip to next chapter

ran in one’s head like Mark Twain’s famous “Punch, brothers, punch; punch with care;”
[I hope it ran in the head a little more accurately; Twain’s line is “Punch, brothers, punch with care”.]

but there is no penalty if he fails to find it
[He doesn’t need to find anything. The will speaks of “a document to be delivered to the said Silas Tunstall, should the property pass to him”; the document could easily tell him, without any riddles, exactly where to find the property.]

“It seems to me that ‘rose of Sharon’ can mean about everything under the sun.”
[In one of the Lord Peter Wimsey books, he sends a middle-aged female operative to spy out a case involving—fittingly enough, considering what we have now learned about Mr. Tunstall—bogus spiritualism. She rigs the Ouija board to say “In the B—” so she can search as much of the house as possible: bed, bureau, basket, bathroom, box . . .]

I thought [Browning] was a stuffy old poet whom nobody could understand
[For heaven’s sake, Cecil. He died in 1889, less than 20 years ago.]


Chapter VIII
The House Beautiful

The dawn, streaming in through the window, awakened me, and, incapable of lying still a moment longer, I climbed down softly from the four-poster, without awakening mother. I hurried into my clothes, and down the stairs to the lower hall, which seemed alarmingly grim and gloomy in the dim light. I paused an instant to give the big grandfather’s clock a little friendly pat—it seemed so kind and fatherly ticking leisurely away there in the gloom, a sober survival of that stately period when time walked instead of ran.

I had a hard struggle with the big wrought-iron bolt of the front door, but finally it yielded, and I swung the door open and stepped out upon the porch.

How fresh and bright and green everything appeared! Every blade of grass was spangled with dew, which the sun, just rising gloriously over the far eastern treetops, was eagerly drinking for his morning draught. It reminded me of Cleopatra—only the sun was drinking diamonds instead of pearls! And how sweet the air was, 102 breathing gently over the orchard, as though loth to leave the scent of the apple-blossoms!

I crossed the lawn and made a little tour of the garden and orchard, discovering a hundred beauties which had escaped me the afternoon before. I found a hedge of lilacs which was just putting forth its first green leaves, and a moment’s inspection showed me that nearly every one of the pretty clusters sheltered a bud. What a gorgeous thing that hedge would be in a few weeks—but perhaps I should never see it! The thought sobered me for an instant; but nothing could long cast a shadow over a morning so glorious, and the cloud soon passed.

Then a bustle of life near the bam attracted me, and I found Abner and Jane busily engaged in milking two cows before turning them out to pasture. They gave me a pleasant good-morning, and I stood for a time watching the milk foaming into the pails.

“Would you like a drink, miss?” asked Jane, and when I nodded a delighted assent, handed me up a foaming tin cup full. How good it tasted, and how sweet it smelled! One would fancy it the nectar of the gods!

“Thank you,” I said, as I handed it back to 103 her. “Some day you must teach me how to milk,” I added. “It must be very difficult.”

“Oh, no, miss,” said Jane, smiling; “there’s jest a knack about it—a kind o’ turn o’ the wrist. I’ll be glad t’ show you whenever you like.”

But I didn’t want to be shown then—there were too many other things to do. I started away on a little tour of discovery, and was surprised to find how large and well-kept the barn, stable, and other out-buildings were. It was here, evidently, that Abner had concentrated such energy as advancing age had left him. I didn’t know then, but I found out afterwards, that the especial pride of every true farmer is his barn and stable, just as the especial pride of every good housewife is her kitchen. And Jane and Abner certainly had reason to be proud of theirs.

Two horses were standing sedately in the stable-yard, their heads over the gate. Behind this was a hen-house, with a large yard surrounded by wire-fencing, and already the cackling from the house indicated that the day’s work had begun. I decided that I would make the chickens my especial care if—

There was always that “if,” everywhere I turned; and I am afraid it did finally succeed in 104 taking some of the brightness out of the sky for me, as I turned back toward the house. Of course, as mother had pointed out, we had no claim on grandaunt; and yet she herself had said that blood is thicker than water and that we were her only relatives. Perhaps we hadn’t treated her as nicely as we might have done; perhaps we had been a little thoughtless, a little too self-centred; but how is one to live with a dragon? And, surely, whatever our faults, we seemed by way of paying dearly enough for them! Was I getting mercenary, I asked myself; was I getting covetous? Was I going to regret that decision that mother had made eight years before? Was the legacy going to prove a curse, instead of a blessing?

The question troubled me for a moment; but I did not have time to find an answer to it, for, as I turned the corner of the house, I saw Dick strolling along one of the paths of the garden.

“Oh, there you are, Biffkins!” he cried. “Come here a minute, will you?”

“Oh, Dick, isn’t it a beautiful old place?” I asked, as I came panting up.

“Scrumptious!” he answered, and stood with his hands in his pockets looking all around.

I may say here that I have never been able to 105 discover the derivation of this word; but it was Dick’s superlative, and I was satisfied.

“By the way,” he went on, after a moment, “where was it you were digging yesterday afternoon, Biffkins?”

“Over here by the wall,” I said, and led him to the rockery, and explained to him my method of procedure. He listened closely and seemingly with considerable interest.

“You’ve got a great head, Biffkins,” he said, approvingly, when I had finished. “I don’t believe that I should ever have figured all that out.”

“Of course it didn’t come to anything,” I said, apologetically.

“That’s got nothing to do with it. Besides, maybe you’ll have better luck next time. If at first you don’t succeed, you know.”

“What was it you and Tom were talking about in the library last night, Dick?” I asked, seeing his benevolent mood and judging it a favorable moment to return to the attack.

“Now, don’t you worry your head about that,” he answered, sharply. “We were planning an expedition. But there’s a bell, and I know it means breakfast. Come on,” and he was off 106 toward the house before I could say another word. I thought it cowardly in him to run away—I know I should have had his secret out of him, if he had only given me a fair show. Dick never was any hand at keeping secrets, especially from his sister.

“Dick,” said mother, when we were seated at the table, “there are a few more things we’ll need from home, if we’re going to stay here a month. If I gave you a list of them, and told you where to find them, do you suppose you could pack them in a trunk and bring them back with you?”

“Yes’m,” said Dick, promptly, for he never really doubted his ability to do things.

“There’s only one thing that worries me,” added mother, “that’s about your studies. Neither you nor Cecil ought to lose a whole month—you, especially, when you have so little—”

I couldn’t bear to hear her talk so, just as though it were certain that we should have to take up the old life again, with its manifold perplexities and narrow outlook.

“Oh, mother,” I cried, “we’re going to find the treasure, you know, and then Dick shall go to college!”


Mother smiled a wistful little smile.

“That would be fine, wouldn’t it?” she said. “I hope it may come true, for both your sakes; but we mustn’t be too sure—we mustn’t set our hearts on it too much. Besides, whatever happens, I don’t think you ought to lose a whole month.”

“Well, I’ll tell you what we’ll do, mother,” said Dick. “I’ll bring our school-books over, and Cecil and I can put in a couple of hours every morning, so we won’t fall so very far behind. Tom Chester’s got a tutor,” he added, with some irrelevance, “who’s coaching him for the June exams. He comes over from Fanwood every morning.”

“What college is he going to, Dick?” I asked.

“Oh, to Princeton,” said Dick, as though there wasn’t any other.

I knew that it was to Princeton Dick had dreamed of going. He had never confided that dream to anyone but me. And a bold project leaped into my head, which I determined to carry out that very day.

“Well,” said mother, “you’ll never get to college, or anywhere else, if you don’t study, no matter how lucky you are in other ways. So it’s 108 agreed that you and Cecil will put in two hours at your books every morning.”

“Yes, mother,” promised Dick; “that’s agreed.”

“Then I’ll make out a list of what we need,” mother added.

“Will to-morrow do to go after them?” asked Dick, with a note of anxiety in his voice, “because to-day Tom and I were going to—to—”

“Oh, yes; to-morrow will do very well,” said mother, as he stopped in some confusion.

“What is it you’re going to do, Dick?” I questioned, putting my pride in my pocket.

“Never you mind,” he retorted, and fell distractedly silent, only smiling to himself from time to time in a most tantalizing way.

As soon as the meal was finished, having assured himself that mother did not need him for anything, he disappeared as entirely as though the earth had opened and swallowed him; but I suspected that he was somewhere on the other side of that high wall which separated our garden from the Chester place.

Yet, after all, I did not miss him greatly, for mother and I spent the morning in a tour of the house—and such a house! I have already 109 spoken of its exterior; of its interior I know I can give only the most inadequate idea. As I have already said, a wide hall divided the lower floor into two halves. The hall itself reminded me of the pictures I have seen of the great halls in feudal castles, with its beamed ceiling, its waxed floor, its great fireplace and its impressive furniture. On one side were the state apartments, the parlours, connected by a double door. They had apparently been hermetically closed for years, and were very musty and dusty. They were furnished in hideous horsehair, and we closed the door behind us after the merest glance into them. On the other side of the hall were the living rooms, of heroic proportions and furnished with lovely old mahogany of a style which I have since learned is called Hepplewhite. The chairs, the tables, the sideboard, were all things of beauty; graceful, substantial and right in every way. How those old cabinet-makers must have loved their work, and what pains they took with it!

Up-stairs were the bed-rooms, sewing-rooms, servants’ rooms, what not. We went on and on, through room after room, peering into innumerable closets, opening windows and shutters; stopping here and there to exclaim over some 110 beautiful piece of walnut or mahogany, and standing fairly speechless at last among the chaotic heap of treasures in the attic. It was evident enough that the parlours had not always been furnished in horsehair! There was a pair of slender-legged card-tables, inlaid in satin-wood, with entrancing curves—but there; if I stopped to describe one-half the treasures in that attic there would never be an end!

“The Nelson family has lived here for five or six generations, so Mr. Chester told me last night,” said mother, at last. “They’ve always been well-to-do, and that accounts for all this beautiful old furniture. Besides, in those days as in these, the best was always the cheapest. Just see how strong and well-made it all is, built honestly to last many lifetimes. Aunt Nelson seems to have taken fairly good care of it; all it needs is a little upholstering and refinishing. However, it’s no use to talk of that!” and she turned sharply to go down again.

“But, mother, wait a minute,” I protested. “You remember what Mr. Chester said—that he believed the treasure was concealed somewhere in the house? Isn’t this the most likely place of all?”


“No more likely than any one of those scores of chests and drawers and clothes-presses downstairs,” and she started resolutely to descend.

I followed her despondently. What she said was true, of course; the treasure might be in any one of the closets, or in any one of the innumerable drawers of dressers, cupboards, and bureaus, all of which seemed crammed to overflowing with the accumulations of those six generations. In the beginning, I had had some wild notion of ransacking the house from top to bottom, but I saw now what a physical impossibility that would be in the month allotted us. Alas, six days of that month were already gone!

I went out and sat down on one of the front steps to think it over. After all, I told myself, it would be foolish to go blindly about the search, hoping to look everywhere, and consequently looking nowhere thoroughly. The wise way would be to begin with the more likely places, search them carefully, and so proceed gradually to the less likely ones. And what was the most likely of all? Mr. Chester had said that grandaunt would naturally wish to keep her securities where they would be constantly under her eye and easy of access. The next instant, I sprang 112 to my feet, fairly burning with excitement—to keep them under her eye—to keep them where she could look them over without fear of interruption—it was obvious enough! They must be concealed somewhere in her own room! How stupid I had been!

I fairly flew up the stair and to the room which had been grandaunt’s. It was situated at the front end of the upper hall, right over the front entrance, and overlooking the drive. I hesitated a moment with my hand on the knob, and a little shiver of my old fear of grandaunt swept over me; but I shook it away, opened the door and closed it resolutely behind me. This was no time for foolish sentiment. Besides, I didn’t believe in ghosts.

It was very dark in the room, but I opened one of the shutters and let in a stream of sunlight. Then I sat down to take a careful survey of my surroundings.

The room was not a very large one and was furnished in the simplest fashion. One corner was occupied by a four-poster of moderate size—a mere baby beside the huge one in the guest-chamber. The hangings were rather old and faded, but the bed had on it a quilt, intricately 113 embroidered, which, at another time, would have awakened my enthusiasm. Preoccupied as I was, I paused for an instant to look at it and to wonder at the patience of its maker, for it evidently represented long weeks of labour.

Opposite the bed was a small dressing-table, a very gem of a thing, and in a kind of alcove between the two front windows was a desk, which riveted my attention. It was a very large one, of black walnut, and when I let down the top, innumerable drawers and pigeon-holes were disclosed. There was also a row of drawers down either side to the floor, and in the sides, opening outward behind the drawers, were partitioned receptacles for account books. All this I took in at a glance, as it were, and my heart was beating wildly, for I knew that this desk was the natural hiding-place of grandaunt’s papers. It was just here that she would keep them!

But the rose of Sharon!

I confess that baffled me for a moment; and yet, I told myself, what was more natural than that the whole hocus-pocus about the rose of Sharon should have been devised merely to throw us off the track. At any rate, I would examine the desk as closely as I could.


There were loose papers and a number of account-books in the pigeon-holes, but a glance at them was sufficient to show me that none of them could be the documents I sought, even had it been probable that grandaunt would have kept such valuable papers so carelessly. The drawers, too, were filled with a litter of papers of various kinds and in the compartments at the sides of the desk, old account-books had been crowded until they would hold no more; but there was nothing which, by any stretch of the imagination, could be made to resemble “stocks, bonds and other securities.” How that phrase mocked me!

The search completed, I sat down again in the chair before the desk and regarded it despondently. The desk itself had been open and not one of the drawers had been locked. The keys, strung upon a wire ring, hung from a tack inside the desk. If grandaunt had kept her securities there, it would, most certainly, have been under lock and key.

There was a wardrobe in the room, but a glance into it had shown me that it contained nothing but an array of grandaunt’s old clothes, hung against the wall. If the papers were not in this desk, where could they be? The room seemed to offer no other reasonable hiding-place—


A dash of colour at the back of the desk caught my eye, and I leaned forward to descry hanging there a little calendar, bearing a picture of a dark girl in a picturesque red costume, standing beside an old well, evidently intended to be Arabian or Egyptian or something Oriental. There was a little line of print under the picture, and my heart leaped with a sudden suffocating rapture as I deciphered it—“The Rose of Sharon!”

I was so a-tremble for a moment that I clutched the arms of the chair to steady myself—to keep myself from falling forward; but the weakness passed, and left behind it a kind of high excitement. My brain seemed somehow wonderfully clear. Without an instant’s hesitation, I counted four pigeon-holes to the right and then three diagonally. The last one was stuffed with papers, which I had already examined. I did not so much as glance at them, as I took them out, but laying them on the desk, I put my hand into the hole and pressed steadily against the back. I half-expected to see the front of the desk swing outward toward me, but apparently nothing happened, though I was certain that I had felt the back of the pigeon-hole move a little. Examining it more carefully with my fingers, I felt a slight projection, 116 and almost at the instant I touched it, a little door at the side of the desk flew open.

I sprang from my seat and peered into the opening. It was a kind of cubby-hole between the pigeon-holes at the front and the back of the desk, its door cunningly concealed by a strip of molding—a secret compartment, if there ever was one—and in it lay a black tin box, the very counterpart of the one Mr. Chester had shown us the night before!

I took but a glance at it, and then, snapping the little door shut, ran frantically for mother. I wanted her to share the joy of the discovery—to be present when the lid was raised.

I found her in the dining-room downstairs, putting the final touches to the dinner-table.

“Why, Cecil!” she cried, as I burst in upon her. “What has happened? You look—”

“Never mind, mother,” I said, in a kind of hoarse whisper. “Come along. And oh, hurry! I’ve found it!”

Her face whitened suddenly, and she put one hand on the table to steady herself.

“You’ve found it?” she repeated.

I nodded. I was past words. Then I turned to the door, and she followed me—out into the hall, 117 up the stair, into grandaunt’s room. I stopped before the desk.

“See,” I said, my composure partially regained, “this is grandaunt’s desk—the natural place for her to keep her papers—and here is the rose of Sharon,” I went on, showing her the calendar with its Oriental picture and the line beneath. “Here are four pigeon-holes to the right and three diagonally; I press this little spring at the back, and that little door flies open. What do you see inside, mother?”

“A tin box,” answered mother, almost in a whisper.

“And in the box,” I said, “are the papers.” And I drew it forth.

As I did so, a sickening fear fell upon me, for the box was very light. In an agony of terror, I threw up the lid. The box was empty, except for a single sheet of paper. I snatched it out and read it:

My dear Niece:—You will, of course, find this box. Any fool could do that. I kept my papers in it for many years, and they seemed safe enough; but such a hiding-place was too obvious for such a test as I proposed to set you. I therefore 118 removed them to another hiding-place, to which the key which you have been given also applies. Since you have come thus far on the journey, I may say that I hope you will be successful; but I doubt it. I fear neither you nor your children have the industry and patience and perseverance necessary to achieve success in any difficult thing. I may be mistaken—I hope I am.

“Your Aunt,

“Eliza Nelson.”

Notes and Corrections: Chapter VIII

skip to next chapter

I have never been able to discover the derivation of this word
[“Oh, Marilla, I’ve had a perfectly scrumptious time. Scrumptious is a new word I learned to-day.” —Anne of Green Gables. Come to think of it, the books are of nearly identical age; Anne came out just last year, in 1908.]

“Oh, to Princeton,” said Dick, as though there wasn’t any other.
[The author was, needless to say, a Princeton man.]

a quilt, intricately embroidered . . . . evidently represented long weeks of labour
[Months, I should think, unless it was made by a full-time professional quiltmaker. If I hadn’t already looked up the author, this would confirm that it isn’t a woman using a male name.]


Chapter IX
An Interview with the Enemy

I opened my eyes to find mother bathing my face and chafing my hands. The reaction—the plunge from certainty to disappointment—had been too much for me. I felt strangely weak and flabby. I could scarcely raise my shaking hand to my face.

But the feeling passed in a moment, and I sat up and pushed my hair away from my forehead. I confess I was ashamed of myself.

“Really, Cecil,” said mother, when she saw that I was all right again, “if you’re going to take it this way, I think the sooner we get away from here the better. You mustn’t yield to your feelings so.”

“But oh, mother,” I cried, with a little sob in my voice that I couldn’t repress, “it was cruel of her! Cruel! Cruel!”

“I’ve often heard your father say,” continued mother, “that the greatest test of character is defeat—that every manly man is a good loser. Have you already forgotten those lines of Browning which Mr. Chester repeated last night?”

“No, mother, I haven’t,” I replied, and I 120 flung my arms around her neck and hugged her tight. “Only, just at first, it was more than I could bear. But I’m going to remember them, mother dear—I’m going to be a good loser.”

“If you learn only that,” said mother, smoothing back my hair and kissing me, “this search will be worth something to you, whether you find the treasure or not. It will be a test of character, as well as of patience and ingenuity.”

“Yes, mother; but—but please don’t tell Dick about the desk—not just yet.”

“Very well,” mother promised, understanding. “And now straighten up your hair, for it must be nearly time for lunch,” and kissing me again, she hurried away downstairs.

Dear mother!

I went over to the old dresser, and resting my arms on top of it, stared steadily into the glass.

“Cecil Truman,” I said, sternly, to my reflected self, “you’re not going to be a coward any more, nor a whiney baby. You’re going to be a good loser. But you’re going to fight!” I added. “You’re going to fight for all you’re worth!” And somewhat comforted, I proceeded to do my hair.

Lunch was ready when I got downstairs again, 121 and a moment later, Dick appeared around a corner of the house, looking so important and mysterious that, but for my chastened mood, I should have been tempted to box his ears. He ate his food with disgraceful haste, scarcely speaking a word, and snatched up his cap again the moment he had finished.

“You won’t need me this afternoon, will you, mother?” he asked, pausing in the doorway.

“No, I think not,” said mother, who never needed him when he didn’t wish to be needed. “Jane and I are going to drive down to the village to get a few groceries and other things. Would you care to go along?”

“Not to-day, thank you, ma’am,” and he was off.

I peeped out the window and saw that he was making for the Chester place as fast as his legs would carry him. Really, it was too bad of Dick to treat me so!

“You’d like to go, wouldn’t you, Cecil?” asked mother. “I think it will do you good to get away from this place for a while.”

But I had a sort of deadly fear that if I left the place, it would somehow get beyond my grasp entirely. I might wake up and find it all a dream. 122 So I declined, too, and in the course of half an hour, Abner and I saw mother and Jane drive away down the road. Then, with the whole afternoon before me, I resolutely put away from me the thought of Dick’s treachery, and turned anew to the solution of the mystery.

“Abner,” I asked, as we turned back together to the house, “did you ever hear of an apple-tree called the rose of Sharon?”

“The rose o’ Sharon? Why, certainly, miss. It’s a big, red winter apple, but it don’t bear as well as it might, an’ it ain’t so very tasty. The Baldwin beats it.”

“But is there one in the orchard?”

“Yes—jest one—away over yonder in the corner near the fence. You can’t miss it. It’s the last tree as you cross the orchard. It’s an old feller, an’ a tough one—all the other trees that was near it has rotted or blowed down.”

“Very well,” I said; “and thank you.”

“Air ye goin’ out there, miss? Ef ye air, we’d best bolt the front door, fer I’m goin’ out to the barn myself.”

I agreed that it would be wise to bolt the door, which we did, and proceeded on through the hall to the back door. My tour of the morning had not 123 included the kitchen, and there had been so many other things to do and places to visit that I had never even been in it. As I entered it now, I paused for a delighted look at the rows of shining pans, at the big range and all its paraphernalia. In years agone, the cooking had been done in a great open fireplace, fully eight feet broad, and the range had been placed right in it, with its pipe extending up the chimney. The old crane had not been taken down, but still remained in place, folded back against the wall out of the way. What feasts had been prepared in that old fireplace! My mouth fairly watered at thought of them. It was in some such place as this that the people of Dickens loved to sit and watch the spits turning and sniff the savoury odours. Dickens always makes me hungry.

Everything was spotlessly clean, and bore witness to Jane’s sterling housewifely qualities. Through an open door beyond I caught a glimpse of the milk-house and heard the tinkle of running water. I stepped to it for a glance around. Rows of crocks, covered with plates, stood in a trough through which the water ran, clear as crystal and cold as ice, brought through an iron pipe, as I afterwards learned, from a never-failing spring 124 some distance back of the house. The whole place had a delicious aroma of milk and butter, suggesting cleanliness and health. I should have liked to linger, but I had work to do.

“It’s all perfectly delightful!” I cried, returning to Abner, who had lingered by the kitchen hearth.

“It is a nice place,” he agreed, looking about at it affectionately. “Cosy an’ homelike. A mighty nice place t’ set in winter, when the wind’s howlin’ around outside, a‑bankin’ the snow ag’inst the house. I’ve set there by the fire many a winter night an’ listened to it, an’ thanked my stars thet I had a tight roof over my head an’ a good fire t’ set by.”

“I hope you’ll sit there many winters more,” I said heartily.

“Thank ’ee, miss; so do I. I don’t ask no better place; but I’m afeerd we’ll hev t’ leave it.”

“Oh, no,” I protested. “Grandaunt provided that both of you should remain as long as you care to.”

“But mebbe we won’t keer,” answered Abner, his face setting into obstinate lines. “Mebbe we won’t keer when thet there ghost-raiser comes t’ live here. It ain’t hardly decent, thet business he’s in. He ort t’ be tarred an’ feathered.”


“Perhaps things will come out all right,” I said, but the words were from the lips rather than from the heart.

“Oh, I hope so, miss!” he cried. “I do hope so! We’d hate t’ leave the old place; an’ you’ll excuse me, miss, fer sayin’ so, but we like you all; we like you more’n I kin say. If they was only somethin’ we could do t’ help!”

His face was touching in its simple earnestness.

“Thank you, Abner,” I said, my eyes a little misty. “I’m so glad you like us, and perhaps you can help. You may be sure I’ll call upon you if I need you.”

“Do, miss,” he answered. “An’ upon Jane, too. Now I must be gittin’ t’ my work. Is they anything else?”

“Yes, one thing. May I have the spade I had yesterday?”

“What ’d ye do with it, miss?”

“I—I—oh, yes!” I cried, overcome with contrition. “I left it where I was digging. I’ll get it!” and I ran away toward the garden, feeling the reproachful glance he cast after me, and vowing to myself never again to be so careless.

I found the spade lying among the tangle of vines 126 where I had left it, and I sat down on the bench to review the scene of my previous day’s work. Mr. Chester had said that, in his opinion, the treasure was not in the yard at all, but somewhere in the house. So it had been; and my hands trembled a little at the memory of the morning’s disappointment. But it was there no longer—grandaunt had removed it to another and less easily found hiding-place—a hiding-place which the rose of Sharon still guarded. The picture on the calendar had proved that there might be roses of Sharon of many and unexpected kinds. I must look for them; I must get everyone around the place to help me; and I must exhaust the possibilities of each one before passing on to the next. My search must be thorough and systematic. That was my one chance of success.

Plainly, then, it would be wise to begin at once with the rose of Sharon before me; and so, discarding the rule of four to the right and three diagonally—for the four and three might mean inches or feet or even yards—I proceeded to pick up carefully all the stones arranged around the shrub. They made a circle perhaps two yards in diameter, and the task of getting them out of the way was no light one; but I kept steadily at 127 work, not minding bruised fingers, and finally I had all the stones heaped on one side out of the way.

Then, after a short rest, I went to work with the spade and began to dig up the dirt which the stones had covered; but my back was aching and my hands smarting long before the task was accomplished, and more than once I glanced at the top of the wall, hoping to see a boy’s figure there. But none appeared, and I laboured on, reflecting bitterly upon perfidious human nature. He had said he was a good digger; he had offered to help; and we had clasped hands upon it! Oh, how one may be mistaken in a boy! Nerved by such reflections, I did not stop until the whole circle of ground had been well spaded up. Evidently there was no treasure concealed about the roots of this rose of Sharon!

Half dead with fatigue, I sank down again, with a sigh, upon the bench. The fatigue I should not have minded so much, but for the sore heart in my bosom. That one’s comrade should desert one! That was the last straw! I almost wished that we had never seen the place!

I buried my face in my hands in the effort to keep back the tears, for, as I have said already, I 128 don’t like girls who cry. I resolved anew that I would not permit myself to grow discouraged, that I would keep right on trying. And as for Tom Chester—

“What’s the matter, little girl?” asked a voice, so near that it fairly made me jump. But it was not the voice—oh, no, quite a different voice from the one which had made me jump the day before. “Not cryin’?”

I looked up, and there was Silas Tunstall! He was dressed exactly as he had been the day before, only his white trousers were a little more soiled than they had been then, and his face wore the self-same smirk, and his whiskers were raggeder than ever and his little black eyes brighter and creepier. The rest of his face didn’t seem to fit his eyes, somehow; one had an impression of the same sort of contradiction which a wolf’s eyes in a sheep’s face would occasion.

“Not cryin’!” he repeated, eyeing me narrowly, while I sat fairly gasping with astonishment, not unmixed with fear. And then he looked about him at the signs of my afternoon’s labour. “Been diggin’, hev ye? Lookin’ fer the treasure, mebbe! Oh, yes, the rose of Sharon!” and he glanced at the shrub which stood tall and brown in the centre 129 of the circle of upturned earth. Then he threw back his head and laughed.

But the moment had given me time to collect my scattered wits. My fear of him had passed, and in its place came a hot resolve to make the most of this encounter—to draw some advantage from it, if I could. If he really knew where the treasure was—well, surely my wits were as good as his!

“Yes, it’s a rose of Sharon, Mr. Tunstall,” I said, as calmly as I could. “You remember what the key said—‘The rose of Sharon guards the place,’ and so on. Of course I’m trying to find the treasure. You don’t blame me for that, do you?”

“Oh, no,” he answered, slowly, evidently surprised at my loquacity—which, indeed, rather surprised myself. “Oh, no; can’t say thet I do.”

“It’s such a beautiful old place—we have all fallen in love with it,” I continued earnestly, in my best society manner.

“O’ course; o’ course,” he agreed. “Most anybody would. Go ahead an’ enj’y it.”

“We are—and I’m doing my best to solve the puzzle,” I added.

“All right, go ahead if it amuses ye,” he said, 130 with an assurance that made my heart sink. “But ef I was you, I’d jest take things easy.”

“Oh, I think it’s worth trying,” I retorted. “I’m going to investigate every rose of Sharon about the place—you know there are apples and plums and early potatoes, and I don’t know what besides, which are called roses of Sharon.”

“Air they?” he asked, laughing. “No, I didn’t know it. It strikes me you’ve got a purty big job on hand. Did ye ever hear the story of the man what left his sons a ten acre field in which he said they was a treasure hid, and they dug fer it an’ dug fer it, till they finally caught on that what he meant was the craps they raised arter diggin’ the field up?”

“Yes,” I said; “I’ve heard that story.”

“Only thet couldn’t apply here, o’ course,” he added, maliciously, “fer ye won’t hev time t’ reap any craps. Howsomever, I ain’t got no objections t’ you’re diggin’ the place up—mebbe I’ll do some reapin’ myself. Only it’s purty hard work—an’ mighty poor prospect of any pay. But I ain’t got nothin’ t’ say till the seventeenth o’ May; I’m givin’ ye a clear field. I’m playin’ fair. I’m a white man, I am.”

It was my turn to be surprised at his flow of 131 words. The emphasis he placed upon them seemed to me a little forced, but I murmured that I was sure he was very generous and fair-minded, and that we all appreciated his kindness in playing fair.

“All right,” he said shortly. “I’m glad t’ hear it. Is thet what your maw wanted t’ tell me? Hardly wuth while fer me t’ come clear out here fer thet.”

“My mother?” I repeated, in astonishment. “But she’s not here. She drove in to the village this afternoon.”

“In to the village?” he repeated, his face flushing a little. “How long ago?”

“Oh, quite a while ago,” I answered. “She had some shopping to do.”

“Mebbe she ’lowed she’d be hum by this time,” he suggested, looking at his watch; and for the first time I noticed the deepening shadows and saw that I had consumed the whole afternoon in my work. “Now I wonder what it could ’a’ been she wanted t’ tell me?” He put his watch back into his pocket, and took a restless step or two up and down. “Ye haven’t heard her say anything about a lawsuit, hev ye?” he demanded, stopping before me suddenly.


“A law-suit?” I echoed, perplexed. “What sort of a law-suit?”

“Well,” he proceeded cautiously, watching me closely, “I thought mebbe she’d got some fool notion in her head thet the courts could upset the will, ’r somethin’ o’ thet sort. These lawyer fellers air allers lookin’ out fer jobs.”

“Oh, she won’t do that!” I cried. “If we can’t get the place the way grandaunt wanted us to, we won’t get it at all—mother told Mr. Chester that only last night.”

“She did, hey?” and my visitor drew a sudden deep breath. “Well, thet’s wise of her—no use spendin’ your money on lawyers—though they’d like it well enough, I reckon.”

“I don’t believe mother thought of it that way at all,” I corrected. “She said we really hadn’t any claim on grandaunt, and that she had a perfect right to dispose of her property in any way she wished.”

My companion said nothing for a moment, only stood looking down at me with a queer light in his eyes.

“’Tain’t many people who are so sensible,” he remarked at last. “Well, I must be goin’,” he added. “Sorry I missed yer mother. The 133 next time she sends fer me, tell her t’ be at home.”

“Sends for you?” I repeated again, more and more astonished. “Did she send for you?”

“Thet’s what she did—a boy brought me word. At least, I guess it was from her. Nobody else here’d be sendin’ me any messages, would they, an’ invitin’ me out here t’ see them?”

“No,” I answered; “no, sir; I don’t think they would.”

“Well, I come, anyway; an’ I knocked at the front door, but didn’t git no answer. Then I jest naterally wandered around a little, thinkin’ she might be out here some’rs, an’ I see you a‑settin’ here—an’ quite an interestin’ conversation we’ve had, to be sure. You tell her—”

“I don’t believe she sent for you, sir,” I interrupted. “She wouldn’t have gone away, if she was expecting you, and I’m sure she hasn’t come back yet. Besides, if she wanted to see you, she could have done so when she drove to town, instead of getting you to come away out here.” I might have added that I was perfectly certain mother did not want to see him, but to have said so would have been scarcely polite.

“Thet’s so,” he agreed, and stood for a moment 134 in deep study. “Well, I dunno,” he added, at last, slowly. “Looks kind o’ funny, don’t it? Mebbe I made a mistake in thinkin’ the message was from her. I ort t’ have asked the boy. But if anybody’s been playin’ me a trick,” and his face darkened, and he looked at me threateningly, “they’d better watch out.”

“Oh, nobody has been playing you a trick!” I hastened to exclaim. “Who would play you a trick?”

“I dunno,” he repeated. “I dunno. But I’m glad I come, anyway. It’s allers a pleasure t’ meet sech a bright little girl as you air. I know people run me down an’ lie about me; but I jest want t’ tell you thet Silas Tunstall’s heart ’s in the right place an’ thet he plays square. I suppose they’ve been tellin’ you all sorts o’ things about me?”

“Oh, no,” I answered politely; “not at all.”

“Said I was a spiritualist, hey?”

“Yes, they said that,” I admitted.

“Well, ain’t I got a right t’ be a spiritualist?” he demanded hotly. “Thet don’t hurt nobody, does it? Did they say I cheated?”

“No, sir.”

“Or stole?”


“No, sir.”

“Or lied?”

“No, sir.”

“But jest because I mind my own business an’ ask other people t’ mind theirs, they’re all arter me. They can’t understand why I don’t spend my evenin’s down to the village store, chewin’ terbaccer an’ spittin’ on the stove. They can’t figger out how I make a livin’, an’ it worries ’em! Oh, I know! I’ve heerd ’em talk! Pah!” Then his anger seemed suddenly to cool. “All I want is t’ be let alone,” he went on, in another tone. “I’m a peaceful man; I don’t harm nobody; an’ I don’t want nobody t’ harm me. But I can’t bear these here busy-bodies what’s allers pokin’ their noses in other people’s business. Say,” he added, suddenly, wheeling around upon me, “s’pose we keep this here meetin’ to our two selves?”

He was smiling down at me cunningly, and I disliked him more than ever.

“Oh, I can’t do that,” I said. “I’ll have to tell mother, you know.”

“Oh, all right,” he answered, carelessly. “It don’t make no difference t’ me. I’ve got t’ go, anyway—it’s gittin’ dark.”


He turned to go, but at that instant, two figures, robed in white, dropped suddenly, as it seemed, from the very heavens, and I saw Mr. Tunstall, his face purple, struggling wildly in the coils of an almost invisible net. With a shriek, I turned to run; when our enemy, with a scream a hundred times more shrill than mine, collapsed and tumbled in a heap to the ground.

Notes and Corrections: Chapter IX

He ort t’ be tarred an’ feathered. . . . I ort t’ have asked the boy.
[Oddly, I have only heard the “ort” pronunciation—with clearly sounded “r”—in Southern dialects, while this book seems to be set in the Northeast.]


Chapter X

The sound of that piercing scream, and the sight of Silas Tunstall dropping lifeless to the ground, gave me such a shock that I stopped dead where I was, unable to stir hand or foot. For a moment longer, I saw, with starting eyes, the two ghostly figures circling uncertainly around the prostrate form, in the increasing gloom; then they stopped, drew together, and I heard a hasty consultation in muffled tones, which I seemed to recognize.

“Biffkins!” called Dick’s frightened voice, at last; “come here, will you, and get these things off us!”

He was tearing frantically at his white mufflings, and the other—Tom, of course—was dancing a kind of furious war-dance in the effort to get free. And both of them were so excited that they were getting more entangled every instant. I don’t believe I had ever really thought them ghosts; still, it was a relief to know that they were familiar flesh and blood. I ran to them with a glad cry, in a moment their ghostly cerements lay about their feet, and they stood disclosed 138 as two very tousled and very frightened boys.

“Do you suppose he’s dead?” asked Tom, in a husky whisper, as they bent over the fallen man, who lay in a limp heap, enveloped in a finely-meshed fishing-net.

“I don’t know,” answered Dick, paler than I had ever seen him. “But I shouldn’t think people’d die that easy. It’s not natural!”

Tom had whipped out his knife and was cutting away the net, quite forgetful of the fact that it was one of his most precious treasures.

“See if you can feel his pulse,” he said; and Dick gingerly applied his fingers to Mr. Tunstall’s wrist.

“No,” he gasped, after a moment; “not a sign! Oh! oh!” and he stared down at his victim with eyes fairly starting from his head.

“So this was the great secret!” I began. I know it was ungenerous; but they had been very unkind, and revenge was my due. Besides, the memory of my profitless afternoon’s work was hot upon me—and of how I had watched and hoped— “So this—”

“Oh, cut it out, Biffkins!” broke in Dick, huskily. “Don’t rub it in! We—we can’t 139 stand it. You’d better go and call someone—call mother—while we get him out of this thing,” and he began to tear savagely at the net.

“Mother hasn’t come home yet,” I said.

“My father’s at home,” suggested Tom, and without waiting to hear more, I was off along the path to the gate, and then out along the road toward the Chester house, the whole horror of the affair suddenly upon me. I burst up to the door, panting, breathless, and pulled the bell with a fury I was far from realizing. Mr. Chester himself flung the door open.

“Why, what’s the matter?” he cried, seeing my blanched face. “What has happened?”

“The boys,” I gasped incoherently, growing more frightened every minute, “tried to—scare—Silas Tunstall—and he—dropped dead!”

“Dropped dead!” he echoed, and I saw his face go white with sudden horror.

“And they want you to come at once, sir,” I concluded, getting my breath.

“Very well; lead the way,” he said, and he followed me down the path, his lips compressed.

My legs were beginning to tremble under me with fatigue and excitement, but I managed to keep on my feet until we reached the althea bush, 140 and then, pointing mutely to the boys, I tumbled down upon the bench, utterly unable to take another step.

Mr. Chester bent over the prostrate man silently, and looked at him for an instant. Then he dropped to his knees, loosened the victim’s waistcoat and listened at his breast. The boys stood watching him with bated breath.

“One of you go and get some cold water,” he said, abruptly, looking up.

Dick was off like a flash, thankful, doubtless, for the chance to do something—and glad, too, perhaps, to escape from Mr. Chester’s accusing eyes.

“Now, help me straighten him out here, sir,” he said to his son, and in a moment they had Mr. Tunstall extended flat on his back. I shuddered as I looked at him, he seemed so limp and cold and lifeless.

Then Mr. Chester bent over him again and began to compress his ribs and allow them to expand, as I had read of doing for drowned persons. He chafed his hands and slapped them smartly and seemed to be pummelling him generally, but the gathering darkness prevented me from seeing very clearly. Dick soon came back with 141 the water, with which Mr. Chester bathed the unconscious man’s face and neck. I had forgotten my fatigue in the stress of the moment’s emotion, and instinctively had joined the two boys, who were kneeling beside their victim, peering down at his flaccid, bloodless countenance, in a very agony of apprehension.

The chafing and rubbing and bathing seemingly produced no effect, and as minute followed minute and no sign of life appeared, the fear that it had altogether fled deepened to certainty. The boys looked already like convicted murderers, and I could not help pitying them, in spite of the way they had treated me. Somehow my hand stole into Tom’s, and I was shocked to feel how cold and clammy it was. He felt the pressure of my fingers, and smiled at me wanly, and leaned over and whispered, “I’m sorry, Biffkins;” and thereupon all the anger I had felt against him melted quite away.

At last, Mr. Chester, despairing of gentler methods, caught up a double handful of water and dashed it violently into the unconscious face. For an instant, there was no response, then the eyelids slowly lifted and a deep sigh proceeded from the half-open mouth. A moment 142 more, and, rubbing his eyes confusedly, he sat up and looked about him.

“What’s the matter?” he demanded, anxiously. “Where am I?”

The difference of tone and accent from those he had used with me only a few minutes before fairly startled me. He had dropped his drawl, his nasal tone, his slip-shod enunciation. And his face had changed, too. It was thinner and more alert; and the ragged whiskers seemed absurdly out of place upon it.

“You’ve had a fainting-spell,” answered Mr. Chester, gently. “You will soon be all right again, I hope.”

A dark flush suffused Mr. Tunstall’s face, and he rose awkwardly to his feet.

“Oh, yes; I’ll soon be all right ag’in,” he said, with a weak attempt at a laugh. The drawl was back again—the nasal twang; but none of the others seemed to have noticed that he had used another tone a moment before. I began to fear him—to have a different conception of him—he was an enemy far more formidable than I had thought. Which was his natural tone, I wondered—and yet, on second thought, there could be no question as to that. His natural tone was the one 143 he had used when he first came to himself, before he fully realized where he was, before he had quite got his senses back.

“Have you had such attacks before?” asked Mr. Chester.

“Oh, yes; they ain’t nothin’. I has ’em every onct in a while. Didn’t say nothin’ foolish, I hope?” he added, and shot a quick, suspicious, threatening glance at us.

“No,” said Mr. Chester, “you didn’t say a word—you didn’t even breathe, so far as I could see.”

“Only a scream at the first,” I said.

“A scream?” repeated Mr. Tunstall. “What’d I scream fer?”

Then his eyes fell upon the tumbled white robes on the ground. He gazed at them an instant, then lifted his eyes and fixed them on the two boys, with a malevolence which made me shudder.

“Oh, yes,” he said, at last, in a low, hoarse voice. “I remember, now. I remember, now!”

“I’m sure, sir,” began Dick, but Mr. Tunstall silenced him with a fierce gesture.

“All right; all right,” he interrupted. “I don’t want to listen. Much obleeged fer your 144 trouble,” he added to Mr. Chester. “I reckon I’ll be goin’ along home.”

“Do you think you’re strong enough?” asked Mr. Chester. “If you’re not, I can have my carriage—”

“No, no,” broke in the other, impatiently. “I’m all right, I tell ye,” and he slouched off across the garden.

We stood and watched him as he walked away, until the dusk hid him; then Mr. Chester turned to the boys with a stern light in his eyes.

“Now,” he said, “perhaps you two young gentlemen will be good enough to explain what you hoped to accomplish by this trick.”

“We were going to make him confess, sir,” answered Dick, in a subdued voice.

“Confess? Confess what?”

“Where the treasure is, sir. You know you said you thought he knew where it was, and then you told about coming on him that time dressed as a ghost; and we thought maybe if we dropped on him sudden in the dark in the same place, he might think we were for-sure ghosts—”

“One of us was going to pretend to be Mrs. Nelson,” supplemented Tom. “We thought we might frighten it out of him.”


“But, of course,” said Dick, miserably, “we hadn’t any idea it would turn out like that.”

For a moment, Mr. Chester continued to stare at them in astonishment; then a peculiar inward convulsion seized him, as though he wanted to sneeze and couldn’t. As I looked at their downcast faces, I felt very much like laughing, but I didn’t dare with Mr. Chester standing there.

“A brilliant scheme!” he commented, at last, in a voice which trembled a little. “May I ask which of you devised it?”

“It was I, sir,” answered Tom, guiltily.

“How did you know that Mr. Tunstall would be here this evening?” queried his father.

“We—we sent him a message by our boy, Jimmy.”

“A message?”

“Yes, sir—that he’d learn something to his advantage if he came out here this afternoon. We knew Mrs. Truman had gone to town.”

“He thought it was mother sent the message,” I remarked.

“And the message was a falsehood,” said Mr. Chester, sternly. “It was, of course, inevitable that they should tell a lie. Go on.”

“Well, Mr. Tunstall came,” said Tom, flushing 146 deeply at his father’s words. “We watched him come up the road and go up to the house and knock and try the front door. Then he wandered around a bit, and finally saw Cecil sitting on the bench there. She’d been digging some more.”

“Yes, and he frightened me nearly to death for a minute,” I said.

“It couldn’t have happened better,” said Dick. “He talked quite a while, and we had time to get all our trappings ready; and just as he turned to go, we threw Tom’s big seine over him and dropped off the wall. Before we had time to do any more, he had fainted—we thought he was dead.”

“And suppose he had been dead,” said Mr. Chester, “as he might easily have been, since his heart is probably diseased, do you know that at this moment both of you would be guilty of manslaughter? You hadn’t thought about that, of course?”

“No, sir,” answered both boys, together.

“Do you think your mother, Dick, would have been willing to pay such a price as that for this place?”

“No, sir,” burst out Dick; “nor I wouldn’t either. I—I don’t like the place any more—mother won’t either, when I tell her.”


“Oh, Dick!” I cried reproachfully.

Mr. Chester said nothing for a moment, but stood in deep thought.

“I will tell your mother myself,” he said, finally. “We mustn’t have her prejudiced against the place. But I hope this afternoon’s experience will teach both of you a lesson—I hope that neither of you will ever again try to startle anyone as you tried to startle Mr. Tunstall this afternoon. There is no kind of joke so dangerous. And, by the way, Cecil,” he went on, turning to me, “what was it you and Mr. Tunstall were talking about so long?”

“Why, I don’t just remember, sir,” I answered. “He told me about getting the message, and I told him I was sure it wasn’t from mother; and then we talked about the treasure, and he said to go ahead and hunt for it, that it wasn’t any of his business until the seventeenth of May, and that he was going to play fair.”

“Was that all?” he asked, looking at me keenly. “Try to think. Mr. Tunstall is a very clever man. A silly note like the one sent him wouldn’t have got him out here unless he had some very definite object in coming, and was hoping for an excuse to do so.”


“I don’t remember anything else, sir,” I said, making a desperate effort at recollection. “Oh, yes; he asked if I’d heard mother say anything about trying to break the will, and I told him that I had heard her tell you that she wouldn’t think of doing so—that if she couldn’t get the place the way grandaunt provided, she didn’t want it at all.”

Mr. Chester’s lips tightened, and he looked grimly at the boys.

“The note wasn’t such a lie, after all,” he said, in a voice very stern. “Mr. Tunstall has learned something very decidedly to his advantage.”

Notes and Corrections: Chapter X

I would have been very disappointed, had it turned out that Tom and Dick did not have anything to do with Silas Tunstall’s mysterious summons. In fact I assumed the plan was to get him out of his house so they could search it—but one can’t have everything.


Chapter XI
The Shadow in the Orchard

So I had aided the enemy! I had thought myself clever enough to match my wits against his, and I had lost! It was a bitter reflection!

I had underestimated his strength, had dared to face him when I should have run away, and he had defeated me ignominiously. He had learned from me exactly what he wished to learn, and now he could rest secure until the month was up. I could guess how the thought that we might, after all, carry the matter to the courts had worried him—his very anxiety went far to prove that we might really be able to set aside the will.

One thing was clear enough. Silas Tunstall was not at all the ignorant boor that I had thought him. His ungainliness, his drawl, his slip-shod utterance were all assumed—for what? The answer seemed evident enough. They had been assumed to aid him in practising the deceptions of his business as a spiritualistic medium. What a belief-compelling thing it was for him to be able to cast aside, whenever he wished, the uncouth husk in which he was usually enveloped. In the gloom of the seance, what sitter would 150 suspect that that clear voice could be Silas Tunstall’s, or that crisp and perfect enunciation his? Oh, it was evident enough; and I had walked straight into the trap he had set for me!

These were the pleasing reflections with which I had to comfort myself as we walked back toward the house together. I had played the fool—the boys were not to blame; it was I alone! If I had only had sense enough to hold my tongue!

The sound of wheels on the drive brought me out of my thoughts, and we reached the front door just as a buggy drew up before it.

“Good gracious! I hadn’t any idea we should be so late!” cried mother, as Mr. Chester helped her to alight. “But there were so many things to do, and on the way back we had a little accident—our horse slipped and broke one of the traces, and it took us half an hour to mend it. Won’t you come in, Mr. Chester?”

“Just for a moment,” he answered. “Tom, you go on home and tell your mother I’ll be there in ten minutes,” and he followed mother into the house.

Tom paused only long enough for a swift whisper in my ear.

“You’ve forgiven me?”


“Yes,” I answered.

“I felt awfully bad when I looked over the wall and saw you digging. I knew what you’d think of me. But it’ll never happen again!”

“It did hurt,” I said.

“And don’t you give up, Biffkins,” he added; “and don’t you go to blaming yourself. We’ll win out yet,” and he gripped my hand for an instant and was gone. And my heart was at peace again, for I knew that my ally was true to me.

What Mr. Chester said to mother we never knew, but he must have put the adventure in a decidedly milder light than he had used with the boys, for he and mother were laughing as they came out into the hall a few minutes later. And a great load was lifted from me, for I had feared that mother might really take a dislike to the place, if Dick got into serious trouble about it.

The episode was not entirely ended, however, for next morning a note came from Mr. Chester for Dick, and the two boys were sent off together to apologize to Mr. Tunstall, who, they reported, had received their apology as gracefully as could be expected.

“Only he looked at us out of those little black eyes of his,” Dick confided to me privately, 152 afterwards, “as though he would like to kill us on the spot. I’m afraid the whole thing was a mistake, Biffkins. If he hadn’t had that attack of heart disease, I believe we’d have got the whole story out of him—if he knows it; but we really only succeeded in converting an adversary into a bitter enemy. Whatever he may pretend, I’m sure he’s our bitter enemy now.”

These were large words for Dick to use in conversation, and they showed how serious he thought the matter was. But I made light of it.

“I don’t suppose he was any too friendly before,” I said, “in spite of all his protests about playing fair. Certainly we didn’t expect any help from him. And I don’t see how he can do us any harm.”

“Well, maybe not,” agreed Dick, slowly. “But just the same, it was a mighty foolish thing to do.”

Indeed, as I thought it over afterwards, Mr. Tunstall had considerable cause to congratulate himself on the outcome of the adventure, and on his opportune fainting-fit. But for that, his secret, if he possessed one, might really have been frightened out of him; though now I think of it, it seems improbable that even the most ghostly 153 of apparitions would have impressed him as supernatural. He had played that game too often himself.

“And oh, Biffkins,” added Dick, “you should have seen the place where he lives. It’s a little gray house, so shut in by trees and shrubbery that you can’t see it from the road at all, even in winter. In fact, a good many of the trees are evergreens, so that winter doesn’t make any difference. A funny little old woman let us in, and we had to sit in a little stuffy hall for ever so long before Mr. Tunstall came out to us. And he didn’t ask us in—just stood and listened and glowered, with his hands under his coat-tails, and then sent us about our business. I tell you, I felt mighty small.”

“Well, I felt pretty small last night,” I said, “when I found out how he’d fooled me.”

“He’s a slick one,” was Dick’s final comment, and I echoed the verdict.

Dick started for Riverdale, right after lunch, with the list of things which we would need before the month was up, and I took advantage of his absence to put into effect the plan which had flashed into my head the day before, when mother 154 was talking about our studies. I went over to Mrs. Chester’s and told her all about it, and the result was that Mr. Chester called upon mother that very evening, and suggested that Dick and Tom study together under the same tutor.

I saw how mother’s face flushed with pleasure at the suggestion, but she hesitated.

“Perhaps Dick may be in the way,” she said. “Cecil tells me that Tom is preparing to enter Princeton, and much as I would like my boy to study with him—”

“My dear Mrs. Truman,” broke in our visitor, “it will have quite the opposite effect. Tom will study all the better for having a companion. Please say yes. It’s for my boy’s good, as well as yours.”

So it was settled; and when Mr. Chester left, he gave my hand a little extra pressure, and whispered a word in my ear which made me very happy. And how pleased Dick was! Every day, from ten o’clock till one, the boys were closeted with the tutor, while I got my lessons by myself. I can’t pretend that I enjoyed it, or that I always spent all that time in study. I’m afraid that a good part of it was spent in trying to puzzle out the mystery of the rose of Sharon, and that the 155 rule of four to the right and three diagonally interested me more than did any relating to planes and lines and angles. But, at least, the time was not wholly wasted.

How the days flew by! I was afraid to count them; afraid to consult the calendar. The disaster which was set to happen on the seventeenth of May loomed steadily larger and larger as the march of time brought it inexorably nearer. The stately ticking of the old clock in the hall became a thing to lie awake at night and listen to with dread.

Not that we were idle, for the two boys and I spent every afternoon and almost every evening striving to solve the mystery. Dick was thoroughly in earnest, now, and Tom proved himself the most delightful and helpful of comrades. Dear mother did not actively aid us much—indeed, I think she had never permitted herself to believe that this beautiful place could be hers permanently; but we three young people kept at work with the energy of desperation.

We rooted up a good portion of the orchard, taking all sorts of measurements from the old apple tree which leaned, ragged and solitary, above the pasture fence. We sounded the trees for possible 156 hollows, but found most of them dishearteningly sound. We dug up the earth for many yards around the tall althea bush, and around as many others as seemed in any way distinctive. As the spring advanced, a clump of lilies sprang up among the trees near the house, and formed the centre of another extensive circle of operations—all of which were absolutely fruitless of result, except the enlargement of already healthy appetites.

“I tell you what,” remarked Dick wearily, one evening, “I’m beginning to believe that grandaunt is playing a joke on us. You remember the story of the old fellow who left a big field to his heirs, saying in his will that a great treasure was concealed there—”

“Yes,” I interrupted; “Mr. Tunstall spoke of it, too; only he added that grandaunt could scarcely have meant that, since we wouldn’t be here to reap the harvest.”

Dick winced at the words.

“Confound old Tunstall,” he said. “What’s become of him?”

“I don’t know,” Tom answered. “I haven’t seen him for quite a while.”

“Maybe he’s gone away,” I suggested. “Don’t let’s think of him. Well, what shall we do next?”


We had just completed the exploration of the vicinity of the clump of lilies, and Tom was standing with his eyes fixed upon them.

“But see here,” he cried, “we’ve just been wasting our time grubbing around here.”

“That’s evident enough,” growled Dick, with a glance at the piles of earth we had thrown up. “You’d suppose this was the Panama canal.”

“But why didn’t we think? Don’t you remember, Biffkins, we were going to look in your grandaunt’s Bible—it wasn’t really any use to look in father’s.”

“Why, of course!” I cried. “How silly of us! Come on, let’s look at it now.”

“You run on,” said Dick, “and find it. I’m dead tired—I’m also somewhat discouraged,” and he threw himself down on the grass.

“Shame!” I cried; but he only wiggled a little, and turned over on his face. Tom sat down beside him, and I saw that he was discouraged, too, though he wouldn’t admit it. “Very well,” I said. “I’ll get it. You two stay here.”

I remembered having seen a shabby little leather-bound book lying on the stand at the head of grandaunt’s bed, and I did not doubt that this was the Bible which she habitually used. So I flew 158 away toward the house, and up the stair to grandaunt’s room. It was evident enough that I had guessed correctly, as soon as I opened the volume, it was so marked and underlined. With a little tremor, I turned to the Song of Solomon, and ran down the narrow column until I came to the first verse of the second chapter.

The words, “I am the rose of Sharon,” formed the first line. Just to the right of it, across the line dividing the columns, was the second line of the fourteenth verse, “in the clefts of,” then, diagonally three to the left were the words, “the rock,” “stairs!”

With a shriek of victory, and hugging the little volume to me, I flew down the stairs and out upon the lawn.

The boys looked up as they heard me coming, and when they saw my face, both of them sprang to their feet.

“I’ve found it!” I cried. “I really believe I’ve found it this time,” and I showed them the mystic words.

“Well,” said Tom, at last, “it does seem that that’s too big a coincidence not to mean something. ‘In the clefts of the rock stairs.’ What do you think of it, Dick?”


“The cry of ‘wolf!’ doesn’t awaken any especial interest, any more,” answered Dick languidly. “I’ve become too used to it. But I suppose we might as well look up the rock stairs, wherever they are—”

“But perhaps there aren’t any,” I objected.

“Oh, yes,” said Dick, wearily, “you’ll find there’s some rock steps around the place somewhere, and we might as well proceed to tear them down, I suppose.”

But I would not permit him to discourage me, I hunted up Abner and asked him if there were any rock steps or a rock stairway about the place anywhere. Dick’s prediction came true.

“Why, yes, miss,” he answered, slowly, “they’s a short flight leads down into the milk-house, an’ another flight into the cellar. Then there’s the flight up to the front porch, an’ the other up to the side porch.”

“And is that all, Abner?” I questioned. “Be sure, now, that you tell me all of them.”

He stood for a minute with his eyes all squinted up, and I suppose he made a sort of mental review of the whole place, for he nodded his head at last and assured me that these were all.

Armed with this information, I rejoined the boys 160 and—but why should I give the details of the search? It was the same old story, infinite labour and nothing at the end. Really it was disheartening.

“Well,” remarked Tom, philosophically, when we had finished putting the last step back into place, “they needed straightening, anyway. And the garden would have had to be dug up about this time, too; and I’ve always heard that it’s a good thing to loosen up the ground around trees.”

“I’m getting tired of improving the place for Tunstall’s benefit,” objected Dick. “I move we give it up.”

“Oh, no!” I cried. “We can’t give it up! That would be cowardly. Do you remember Commodore Perry, when he fought the British on Lake Erie? He had a banner painted with the words, ‘Don’t Give up the Ship,’ and he nailed it to his mast; and when his ship was sinking, he took the banner down, and carried it to another ship, and nailed it up there. Let’s nail our banner up, too.”

“But we’ve done everything we could think of doing,” objected Dick. “What can we do now, Biffkins?”


“We haven’t gone in pursuit of the early potato,” suggested Tom, demurely.

“We can begin in the house,” I said; “begin at the farthest corner of the garret, and work right down to the cellar.”

“That’s a big job,” said Dick, and sighed.

“I know it is; but I’m beginning to believe more and more that Mr. Chester was right, and that the treasure is somewhere in the house. We’ll begin to-morrow.”

“Oh, we can’t begin to-morrow,” said Tom.

“Why not?” I questioned, sharply, impatient of the least delay.

“Why, to-morrow’s May-Day,” he explained, “and the children at the Fanwood school are going to have a big time. We’ll all have to go—as distinguished guests, you know. Father and mother are going, and so is your mother. It’s to be a kind of picnic—a May-pole and all that sort of thing.”

“Very well,” I said, seeing that their hearts were set upon it; “we’ll go, then;” but I must confess that I did not enjoy the day, which, under other circumstances, would have been delightful. But in the midst of the gayety, clouding it, rising above the laughter, the thought kept repeating itself 162 over and over in my brain that only fifteen days of grace remained. “Only fifteen days, only fifteen days,” over and over and over. It was with absolute joy that I climbed, at last, into the buggy to start homewards, and I could scarcely repress a shout of happiness as we turned in at the gate and rolled up to the dear old house.

As soon as lessons were over next day, the search of the house began. The refrain had changed a little: “Only fourteen days—only fourteen days!” it ran now. Fourteen days! Thirteen days! Twelve days! How I tried to lengthen every one of them; to make every minute count! And how useless it seemed. For we made no progress; we were apparently not one step nearer the solution of the puzzle than we had been at first. We opened boxes, ransacked cupboards, explored dim crannies under the eaves, turned drawers upside down—disclosing treasures, indeed, which at another time would have filled me with delight, but, alas! they were not the treasures we were seeking! From the garret to the second floor, then to the first floor, then to the cellar—we turned the house inside out, did everything we could think of doing, short of tearing it down, 163 and utterly without result! At last, mother interfered.

“You children must sit down and rest,” she said. “You will make yourselves ill. Cecil is getting nervous and positively haggard.”

“Oh, I don’t mind,” I said; “I wouldn’t mind anything, if we could only find the treasure.”

“You don’t sleep well at night,” pursued mother remorselessly. “You twitch about—”

“Yes,” I admitted; “and lie awake listening to the old clock in the hall, and thinking that every second it ticks off is one second less.”

“Well,” said mother, more sternly, “it must stop. It isn’t worth it. Why not be satisfied with thinking that we’re merely on a visit here—a month’s vacation—and plan to make the last days of the visit as pleasant as you can? Then, when we go away, we can at least look back upon having had a nice time.”

“But we don’t want you to go away, Mrs. Truman,” spoke up Tom. “Mother was saying again last night how dreadfully she would feel if you would have to go. As for me, I—I don’t know what I’d do.”

I looked up and met his eyes, and there was 164 something in them that made me feel like laughing and crying too.

“You’ve all been very kind to us,” said mother, flushing with pleasure, “and you must come over to Riverdale and see us often. I want you all to be sure to come over and spend the last evening with us here—a kind of farewell, you know.”

She tried to smile, though it ended a little miserably, and I could see that she was deeply disappointed, too, but was being brave for our sake. I never knew until long afterward how she herself had worked to solve the mystery.

We obeyed her by abandoning the search—indeed, we must soon have stopped from sheer inability to find anything more to do. We had exhausted our ingenuity and our resources—we were at the end. But all that could not prevent me worrying—it had rather the opposite effect; and night after night I lay awake, wondering where the treasure could be. And though I was careful to lie still and breathe regularly, so that mother might not suspect my wakefulness, it was often all I could do to keep myself from crying out under the torture.

In the afternoons, we rambled about the place, or visited each other; but there was a shadow over 165 us which nothing could lift. One day we even made a little excursion to the range of hills which shut us in upon the west. It was from them, so Mr. Chester said, that we might see the sea over the wide plain which sloped away eastward to it; but we didn’t see it. Perhaps the day was not clear enough, or perhaps the sun was too far west to throw back to us the glint of the water; but I fancy I should not have seen it, however favourable the conditions, for I had eyes for little else than the old house nestling among the trees, two miles away. About it, the broad fields looked like the squares of a great chess-board, dark with new-turned earth, or green with the growing wheat.

Dusk was falling as we started toward home. We were all a little tired and very hungry, and we cut across lots, instead of going around by the road. We skirted a field of wheat, and finally came to the back of the orchard, and silently climbed the fence.

“That’s the rose of Sharon,” I said, pausing for a look at the old gnarled apple-tree. “I wonder if it really could have anything to do with the treasure?”

“Oh, come on, Biffkins,” said Dick, a little crossly. “Don’t you ever get that off your mind?”


“No, I don’t,” I retorted, sharply. “And I don’t see—”

I stopped abruptly, for I fancied I saw a shadow skulking away from us under the trees.

“What is it?” asked Tom, following the direction of my startled gaze.

“I thought I saw somebody,” I said; and in that instant, a terrible conviction flashed through my mind. “It was Silas Tunstall. Quick—this way.”

I was off under the trees, without stopping to think what we should do if it really proved to be that worthy, and I heard the boys pattering after me. We raced on, and in a moment, sure enough, there was the figure, just swinging itself over the orchard fence.

“There; there!” I cried, and the boys saw it, too. In a moment more we were at the fence, and tumbled over it.

But the figure had disappeared. We raced this way and that, but could find no trace of it; and at last we gave it up in disgust, and started back through the orchard.

But the memory of the figure I had seen for an instant silhouetted against the sky, as it mounted the fence, burnt and burnt in my brain—for I 167 was sure that it carried under its arm a square parcel of some sort—and I told myself frantically that it could be only one thing—the treasure.


Chapter XII
Bearding the Lion

Little sleep did I get that night. Minute by minute, I heard the old clock ticking away, while I lay there and thought and thought. I had told nothing of my suspicion to anyone—I hadn’t the heart; but I was absolutely sure that Silas Tunstall had stolen into the grounds the evening before, knowing that we were away, and had secured the treasure.

But where had it been hid? We had searched everywhere so thoroughly. Evidently not in the house, for the thief would scarcely have dared enter it while mother was there, nor would he have chosen the early evening for such a venture. He could not have approached the barn or stable yard unseen, for Abner and Jane were milking there. Indeed, it was difficult to see how he could have come undetected any farther than the orchard. Perhaps the treasure had been concealed there somewhere—and I remembered the old rose of Sharon apple-tree leaning over the pasture fence. Yet we had made it the starting-point of a very careful search. I resolved that I would go over the ground once again the first thing in the morning.


I was out of bed with the first peep of dawn.

“Why, Cecil,” said mother, waking up and looking at me in surprise, “what are you getting up for?”

“I don’t feel at all sleepy, mother,” I said, “and I thought I’d like to walk around over the place just at dawn.”

Mother made no objection, so I slipped down the stairs, and out the front door. Without pausing an instant, I hastened toward the orchard. I could soon tell whether Silas Tunstall had disturbed anything there.

I made straight for the old tree, and then walked slowly toward the spot whence I had first descried that shadowy figure slinking through the gloom. I went over the ground in the vicinity carefully, but could not see that it had been disturbed, except where we ourselves had disturbed it. I was not woodsman enough to follow footprints, even had any been distinctly visible on the soft turf of the orchard, and I began to realize with despair what a hopeless task it was that I had undertaken. And I began to realize, too, how absurd it was that I should have supposed for a moment that the treasure was concealed anywhere underground. I had allowed myself to be influenced by a sort of 170 convention that treasure was always concealed there—the word “treasure” itself, which grandaunt had used, was largely responsible for it; but Mr. Chester had unquestionably been right. No one would think of burying such treasure as stocks and bonds; no woman, especially, would place any of her belongings in such a position that she would have to use a pick and shovel to get at them.

I had been walking aimlessly back and forth through the orchard, and my eye, at that instant, was caught by a bright spot of light some distance off among the trees. I could see that the rays of the rising sun were reflected upon some white object, but what it was I could not guess, and I instinctively turned toward it to find out. As I drew near, I saw that it appeared to be a round white stone, lying at the foot of one of the trees, but it was not until I stooped over it that I saw just what it was. It seemed to be a round piece of cement stone, about ten inches in diameter, and about an inch thick. It looked as though it had been cast in a mould. For a moment, I was at a loss to understand where it came from or how it got there—then, suddenly, I remembered!

More than once, as I had passed through the 171 orchard, I had seen this tree. A hollow had begun to form about five feet above the ground, probably where a limb had been ripped off years before in a wind-storm. The decay had evidently made considerable progress, but at last it had been detected, and the hollow cleaned out and filled up with cement. Now, as I stood hastily upright and looked at the hole, I saw that it had not been filled at all, but that this cement lid had been carefully fitted over the hollow. I looked into it, but could not determine its depth. I plunged my arm into it, and found that it extended about two feet down into the tree, that it had evidently been carefully hollowed out, and that the cement cap had kept it dry and clean. One movement of my arm was enough to tell me that the hollow was quite empty.

I sat down against the tree a little dazedly, for I understood the whole story. Here was where the treasure had been concealed, and Silas Tunstall, unable any longer to run the risk of our finding it, had stolen into the orchard the night before, removed the cement cap and abstracted the box containing the papers. He had heard us coming; we had startled him so that he had forgotten to replace the cap, but had hurried away, the 172 box under his arm. This beautiful old place would never be ours!

And sitting there, watching the sun sail up over the tree-tops, I made a great resolution. I would beard the lion in his den; I would see Silas Tunstall, and at least let him know that we knew he had not played fairly.

I carefully replaced the cap, noting how nicely it fitted into the groove made by the bark, as it had grown around it; then I went slowly back to the house. I thought it best to say nothing to anyone concerning the resolution I had made; I doubted myself whether any good could come of it, but I was determined to make the trial.

Help came from an unexpected quarter.

“Cecil,” said mother, at the breakfast table, “I wish you would walk over to the village for me and get me a spool of number eighty black thread. I thought I had another spool, but I can’t find it anywhere.”

“Very well, mother,” I said, in as natural a tone as I could muster. And as soon as I had finished breakfast, I put on my hat and started for the village.

Though Dick had described the house in which Mr. Tunstall lived, he had given me no idea of its 173 exact location, except that it was somewhere along the road between our place and the town, so there was nothing for it but to ask at the little store where I bought the thread. I asked the question as indifferently as I could, but I saw the quick glance which the boy who waited on me shot at me.

“Tunstall?” he repeated; “oh, yes, miss; I know where he lives. Everybody around here does. It’s about half a mile back up the road—a little gray house, standin’ a good ways back among the trees. You can’t miss it. It’s got two iron gate-posts painted white.”

“Oh, yes,” I said; “I remember the place now.”

“An’ there’s another way you can tell it, miss,” he added, mysteriously. “It’s got green shutters, an’ they’re always closed.”

“Thank you,” I said, and having secured the spool of thread, left the store. But I could feel him staring after me, and I had an uncomfortable consciousness that I had provided him with a choice tid-bit of gossip.

However, it was too late to help it, now; so I hurried back up the road and soon came to the gateway guarded by the two white posts. I turned 174 resolutely in between them, and walked on along the drive, which curved abruptly to the right, and was soon quite screened from the highway. Then I saw the house—a modest little gray cottage, with closed shutters. But for what I had been told about them, I should have concluded that Mr. Tunstall was away from home. I went on to the door and knocked, noticing, as I did so, how it was screened by a row of broad-branched arbour vitæ bushes. Evidently Mr. Tunstall was fond of privacy—and for an instant I regretted my haste in coming alone to pay him this visit.

As I was trying to decide whether, after all, I would not better make my escape before it was too late, I heard a slight sound, and had a sense of being scrutinized through the curtain which covered the lights at the side of the door. An instant later, the door opened noiselessly, and I saw Silas Tunstall standing there looking down at me.

“Why, it’s Miss Truman!” he cried, in affected surprise. “Won’t you come in, miss?”

Without answering, and summoning all the bravery I possessed, I stepped across the threshold and into the hall beyond. The door was at once closed, and I found myself in semi-darkness.


“This way,” said Mr. Tunstall’s voice, and his hand on my arm guided me to the right. Then my eyes became accustomed to the gloom, and I saw that I was in the front room—a room rather larger than one would have expected from the tiny exterior of the house, and furnished in a most impressive manner, which the semi-darkness appreciably increased. Curtains of some thin stuff which stirred in every breath of air hung against the walls, and I fancied that a draft was introduced from somewhere just for the purpose of keeping them in motion. There was a little table near the centre of the room, upon which were various queer-looking instruments. A book-case, filled with big volumes, stood in one corner. By the table were two chairs. There was no other furniture. I noticed that the curtains extended entirely around the room, and that when the door was closed, there was no sign of any aperture. I judged that the two front windows had been padded with some black cloth, to keep any glimmer of light from penetrating to the interior, and I reflected that it would be equally effective in preventing any glimmer from within being seen outside. The only light in the room proceeded from two candles which flickered on the mantel over the fireplace, 176 and which seemed to burn with a queer perfume. At least, I could think of no other place from which the perfume could come. Indeed, some people might not have called it a perfume at all. It reminded me, somehow, of the odour of a freshly-printed newspaper—the odour which, I suppose, comes from the ink.

Of course, I didn’t see all this at once, but gradually during my visit.

“Set down,” said Mr. Tunstall, and motioned me to one of the chairs, while he himself took the other, “What kin I do fer you?”

I determined to hazard a bold stroke at once.

“Mr. Tunstall,” I said, “I hope you won’t keep up that drawl with me. It really isn’t worth while. And I think your natural tone so much pleasanter.”

He stared at me for an instant in undisguised amazement; then he leaned back in his chair and chuckled.

“Well, you are a bold one!” he said. “But all right. I can’t say that I’ve ever enjoyed the masquerade.”

“Why did you adopt it?” I asked.

“It’s a great advantage,” he explained, “for an apparently uneducated man to be able to assume 177 the guise of an educated one, when working at a trade like mine. It’s convincing.”

I nodded. That had been my own explanation of it.

“But why did you adopt the trade?” I persisted.

He shrugged his shoulders and laughed slightly.

“Really, I don’t know,” he said. “Why not?”

It reminded me of the March Hare and the Mad Hatter. True enough, why not?

“And now,” he added, “tit for tat. Have you found the treasure?”

“No,” I answered; “but you have.”

He stared at me again for an instant.

“I don’t know what you mean,” he said slowly, at last.

“Oh, yes, you do. We saw you in the orchard last night; and I found the hole in the tree this morning. You didn’t put the cement lid back into place.”

“Didn’t I? That was careless of me. But now I remember. I heard you coming, and tried to get out of the way.”

“How did you get out of the way?” I asked. “You just seemed to—to vanish.”


He laid one finger against the side of his nose and smiled a little. I noticed that the finger was stained a curious light green, as though with ink or acid.

“That’s one of my secrets,” he answered. “I never go into a place until I’m sure of getting away from it, if I want to.”

I paid little heed to the words at the time, but I had occasion to remember them afterwards.

“So you admit it was you and that you got the treasure?” I cried.

“My dear Miss Truman,” said Mr. Tunstall, “I admit nothing. In fact, I deny most emphatically and unequivocally that I got the treasure, or that I went to the orchard to get it. I can wait for the treasure until it comes to me in a legal manner. I’m no such fool as to give you people a case against me.”

“Then what was it you got?” I persisted. “I saw you had a package of some sort under your arm.”

He hesitated a moment, looking at me closely.

“Promise me one thing. If I tell you, you will keep the secret.”

“I—I can’t promise that,” I stammered.

“All right,” he retorted easily; “then I won’t 179 tell,” and he thrust his hands deep into his pockets and leaned back in his chair.

“I won’t tell,” I said, at last, “if it wasn’t the treasure.”

He sat still for a moment, looking at me, as though still undecided.

“I believe I can trust you,” he said, and arose and brushed aside a curtain at the side of the room. I saw that it concealed a little alcove in which was a small table. He picked up something from the table, and came back to me.

“This is what I got out of the tree last night,” he said, and placed a little metal case on the table before me.

“And what was in it?” I asked.

“Open it and see.”

With some little trepidation, I undid the hasp and threw back the lid. I could see nothing inside but a jumble of white stuff, and I looked up to my companion for explanation.

“It’s merely some of my paraphernalia,” he said, smiling grimly. “I often needed it when I was over at the Nelson place, and I designed that hiding-place for it. I found I would need it again to-day, so I went after it last night. That’s the whole story.”


I looked at him for an instant, and then slowly closed the box.

“I see you believe me,” he remarked.

“Yes,” I said; “I do.”

“And you’ll say nothing about it?”

“No,” I promised.

“Let me see,” he went on, “you have still—let me see—three days of grace. Do you think you’ll find the treasure?”

“No,” I said again, “I don’t.”

“Neither do I. I’m almost tempted to give you a hint, just for the sporting chance; but I can’t afford it. I’ve got to have that property,” and his face suddenly hardened and his eyes grew cold. “I’ve worked hard for it and taken chances for it. It’s mine, and I’m going to have it. You haven’t a chance on earth.”

“No,” I agreed drearily, “we haven’t.”

And for the first time, I really gave up hope. Up to that moment, I had never really despaired; I had been certain that something would happen—some fortunate chance—to disclose the treasure, and assure us possession of the property. But in that instant hope died. I had somehow trusted in our star; and now, suddenly, I perceived that our star had ceased 181 to shine. As Mr. Tunstall said, we had no chance at all.

“And now,” he added, rising, “I must ask you to excuse me. I have an engagement for this afternoon; the stage is set,” he added, with a little gesture round the room. “Really, I don’t know why I’m so candid with you. Miss Truman; only one has to be candid with somebody occasionally, or one would burst. And then, I believe I can trust you not to repeat what I’m saying.”

“Oh, yes,” I assented, drearily; “what would be the use?”

“What, indeed,” he echoed, and bowed me out.

As I turned away from the door, an elegant carriage rolled up along the drive and stopped before the house. The driver swung himself down and opened the door. I would have liked to see the occupant of the carriage, but it would have been rude to linger, so I walked on. I could not resist glancing over my shoulder, however, and I saw the driver assisting from the carriage a woman, evidently old, from her feebleness, and heavily veiled. Plainly all of Mr. Tunstall’s patronage might not be so unremunerative as Mr. Chester imagined.


As I turned away, I saw something else that startled me—a figure disappearing behind one of the evergreens. I caught only a glimpse of it—just enough to tell me that it was a man’s figure. I waited a moment, watching, but it did not reappear, and, suddenly ill at ease, I hastened out of the grounds.

I went slowly homewards, meditating upon Mr. Tunstall’s curious profession, his candor, and above all on his evident confidence that we had no chance.

And I could not but confess that he was right. We had no chance.

Notes and Corrections: Chapter XII

I plunged my arm into it
[Better you than me. Suppose the hole had turned out to be the den of some small carnivore—or a mid-sized rodent with long teeth?]


Chapter XIII

And so we came to the last evening. I had said nothing about my interview with Silas Tunstall. I did not see that it would do any good, and besides I knew that mother would not approve of it. More than that, I had virtually promised him that it should remain between ourselves. I realized that it was useless to struggle against fate, and resigned myself to the inevitable. I cannot say that it was a cheerful resignation, but I bore up as well as I could. It was a kind of dreadful nightmare—those last two days. Mother was the bravest of us all; Dick, gallant fellow that he was, managed to assume a cheerful countenance; but Tom went about like a ghost, so white and forlorn that even I, sore at heart as I was, could not help smiling at him. Jane and Abner, too, showed their sorrow in a way that touched me. I came upon Jane one evening, sitting on the kitchen steps, her apron over her head, rocking back and forth, shaken with sobs. I tried to comfort her—but what could I say—who was myself in such need of comfort!

On that last evening, Mr. and Mrs. Chester and 184 Tom sat down with us to dinner, as mother had all along insisted they should do; but in spite of our persistent efforts at cheerfulness, or perhaps because of them, it reminded me most forcibly of a funeral feast. I could fancy our dearest friend lying dead in the next room.

No one referred to the morrow, but it was none the less in the thoughts of all of us, and was not to be suppressed. Mr. Chester, at last, could stand the strain no longer.

“It’s pretty evident what we’re all thinking about,” he said, “but we mustn’t permit ourselves to take too gloomy a view of the future. Remember that old, wise saying that ‘it’s always darkest just before the dawn.’ Deep down in my heart, I believe that something will happen to-morrow to set things right.”

“But what?” blurted out Tom. “What can happen, father?”

“I don’t know,” answered Mr. Chester. “I can’t imagine—but, after all, things usually turn out all right in this world, if we just have patience; and I’m sure that this muddle is going to turn out all right too—I feel it in my bones. There’s one thing, Mrs. Truman. Have you quite made up your mind not to try to break the 185 will? I tell you frankly that I believe it can be broken.”

“Oh, no,” answered mother, quickly; “there must be nothing of that sort. I have quite made up my mind.”

Mr. Chester nodded.

“Then we must trust in providence,” he said.

“I always have,” said mother, simply. “And if it chooses that this place shall not belong to us, I, at least, will not complain. After all, we have no real right to it—relationship doesn’t give a right, except in the eyes of the law. We never did anything to deserve it, and I’ve sometimes thought that we would be stronger, and in the end happier, if we didn’t get it. Gifts make paupers, sometimes.”

“I’m not afraid,” said Dick; “we can fight our own battles;” and he looked around at us with such a light in his eyes that I could have hugged him.

“Well,” said Mr. Chester, “I’m not one of those who think that everything that happens is for the best; but I do believe that our lives are what we make them, and that we can make them pretty much what we please. I certainly don’t believe that your future depends upon this legacy; 186 and you’ve won half the battle already by learning to take disappointment bravely. I had quite a shock to-day myself,” he added, half laughing. “Look at that,” and he drew a bill from his pocket and handed it to me. “What do you make of it?”

I unfolded it and looked at it.

“Why, it’s a five-dollar bill,” I said.

“So I thought,” he said, smiling ruefully. “But it’s not.”

“Do you mean it’s counterfeit?”

“I certainly do. Pass it around.”

It went from hand to hand around the table.

“Well,” commented mother, “I don’t blame you for being taken in. Anyone would be.”

“It is a good imitation. The cashier at my bank had to look twice at it before he was sure. And he was on the lookout, too. He said there’d been a lot of them passed in New York and Philadelphia recently.”

“It certainly seems a quick way to get rich,” remarked Mrs. Chester.

“But not a very sure one,” said her husband. “In fact, it’s about the riskiest way there is. Counterfeiters are always caught; Uncle Sam keeps his whole secret service at work until he gets them,” 187 and he proceeded to tell us some stories of exploits which the secret service had performed.

They distracted our thoughts for a while, but it was still far from being a merry evening, and I am sure there were tears in the eyes of all the others, as well as in mine, when our neighbours finally said good-night.

The seventeenth of May dawned clear and warm—a very jewel of a day—and as I sprang from bed and threw back the shutters, I forgot for a moment, in contemplation of the beauty of the morning, that this was the day of our banishment—that this was the last time I should ever sleep in this room and look out upon this landscape. But only for a moment, and then the thought of our approaching exile surged back over me, and I looked out on garden and orchard with a melancholy all the more acute because of their fresh, dewy loveliness.

I met Dick at the foot of the stairs, and together we left the house and made a last tour of the place, saying good-bye to this spot and that which we had learned to love. We looked at the chickens and at the cows; at the old trees in the orchard, at the garden——


We made the tour silently, hand in hand; there was no need that we should speak; but at last I could bear it no longer.

“Dick,” I said, chokingly, “let’s go back to the house; I don’t want to see any more.”

“All right, Biffkins,” he assented. “I feel pretty much the same way myself.”

So back to the house we went, where we found mother busily engaged in packing up our belongings, assisted by Jane. That worthy woman was plainly on the verge of despair, and restrained her tears only with the greatest difficulty.

Mr. Chester was to come for us at nine o’clock, and the whole matter would probably be settled before noon, so that we could take the afternoon train back to the little house at Riverdale which had been our home for fifteen years, but which, so it seemed to me, was home no longer, and which, in any case, we were so soon to lose. The mortgage would fall due in a very few days, now; and, of course, we had no means to meet it. After that—well, I did not trust myself to think upon what would happen after that.

We had two hours to wait, and those two hours live in my memory as a kind of terrible nightmare. I moved about the house mechanically, helping 189 mother, black misery in my heart. I had thought that I had given up hope two days before; but I realized that never until this moment had I really despaired. Now I knew that hope was over, that this was to be the end.

At last, there came the sound of wheels on the drive before the house, and a moment later Mr. Chester came in for us. For an instant, I had the wild hope that perhaps there was some provision of the will with which we were not acquainted and which would yet save us—that the past month had been merely a period of probation to test us, or perhaps a punishment for our mutiny of eight years before; but a single glance at Mr. Chester’s face crushed that hope in the bud. He was plainly as miserable as any of us. He had given up hope, too.

“Mother,” I cried desperately, “I don’t need to go, do I? Please let me wait for you here.”

“Why, my dear,” said mother, hesitatingly, “of course you may stay if you wish; but—”

“I don’t want to see that hateful Silas Tunstall again,” I burst out. “I just can’t stand it!” and then, in an instant, my self-control gave way, the tears came despite me, and deep, rending sobs.


I was ashamed, too, for I saw Dick looking at me reproachfully; but after all a girl isn’t a boy.

“You’d better go upstairs, dear,” said mother kindly, “and lie down till we come back. We’ll have to come back after our things. Have your cry out—it will help you.”

I was glad to obey; so I kissed her and Dick good-bye and mounted the stairs slowly. I felt as though my heart would break. I wanted to hide myself, to shut out the world, and be alone with my misery. Blindly, I opened the first door I came to, and entered the darkened bedchamber at the front of the house, which had been grandaunt’s.

I heard them talking on the steps below, and I crept to the front window, and peering out through the closed shutters, watched them till they drove away. It seemed to me that my very heart went with them—this, then, was the end—the end—the end—! In a very ecstasy of despair, I threw myself upon the bed and buried my burning face in the pillow! Oh, it was more than I could bear!

Notes and Corrections: Chapter XIII

Remember that old, wise saying that ‘it’s always darkest just before the dawn.’
[Except, er, it isn’t. Coldest, yes; darkest, no.]


Chapter XIV
The Rose of Sharon

I don’t know how long I lay there, but after a while, I felt a gentle hand laid on my shoulder.

“Good gracious, Miss Cecil!” said a kind voice at the bedside. “Don’t take on so, dear. You’ll make yourself sick!”

“I—I don’t care,” I sobbed desperately. “I wish I was dead. You—you would cry, too.” And I looked up at Jane’s dear old face.

“I know I would,” assented that good creature, and, indeed, at that very moment, she was compelled hastily to use the corner of her apron to check a tear that was wandering down her cheek “But,” she added, “I’d try t’ bear up ag’in it. Lord knows, me an’ Abner’ll miss you!”

“Thank you, Jane,” I said; “I know you will.”

“An’ anyways, miss,” she went on, her housewifely instinct asserting itself, “I wouldn’t spile this here rose o’ Sharing quilt, the old missus set so much store by.”

“This what, Jane!” I cried, sitting up suddenly, and sliding to the floor, my heart leaping to my throat.


Jane fairly jumped.

“Gracious, miss!” she screamed, “but you give me a start, takin’ me up that quick!” and she pressed her hand against her ample bosom and caught her breath convulsively.

“But what was it you said I was spoiling?” I persisted, for I could scarcely believe that I had heard aright.

“Why, this quilt, to be sure,” she answered. “You was cryin’ on it, and here’s a mark from one o’ your—”

“Yes, yes!” I cried. “But what kind of a quilt did you say it was, Jane?”

Jane pressed her cool hand anxiously to my forehead.

“You’ve got a fever, child,” she said soothingly. “I might ’a’ knowed you would have arter all that worry. I was wrong t’ get ye up. You’d better lay down ag’in. Never mind the quilt—it’s an old thing, anyway.”

“Jane,” I exclaimed, with the calmness of desperation, “will you kindly tell me again what kind of a quilt you said this was?”

“It’s a rose o’ Sharing quilt, miss,” answered Jane. “Don’t y’ see these little flowers in every other square an’ this here big one in the middle? 193 Missus allers kept it on her bed, an’ would never let any of us touch it; though I could never guess why she thought so much of it, fer it ain’t purty, to my mind.”

While she was speaking, I had rushed to the windows and thrown back the shutters; and as the bright morning sun streamed into the room, I bent over and looked at the quilt with eyes so throbbing with excitement that I could scarcely see it. Sure enough, on each alternate patch was a little rude conventional representation of the althea blossom, and on the centre patch was a much larger one of the tall, upright bush, worked with considerable care. Around the border of the quilt ran a design of leaves.

With hands that trembled so I could scarcely hold it, I snatched the quilt off the bed, and starting at the central figure, counted four squares to the right and three diagonally. But the square that I arrived at felt precisely like all the others. There was nothing under it save the thick soft stuffing of the quilt.

“You’ve got it upside down, miss,” observed Jane, who had been watching me uncomprehendingly, puzzled, but much cooler than I.

“Upside down?”


“Yes,” and she pointed to the central square.

I turned it around and tried the same formula—four to the right, diagonally three. What was this, rustling beneath my fingers? Not cotton nor wool, but something stiff, crinkling in my grasp like paper—like stocks—like bonds!

“Jane!” I gasped, falling to my knees in sudden weakness; “Jane, oh, Jane, I’ve found it!”

“Found it, miss?” repeated Jane, in bewilderment.

“Yes—the treasure! Oh, Jane!” and I was on my feet again galvanized into action at the thought. “We must get to Plumfield! We must get to Plumfield, or it will be too late!”

The meaning of it all burst in upon Jane’s understanding like a lightning-flash, and she staggered and grew faint under the shock.

girl kneeling over crumpled quilt


“Jane,” I cried, seeing from her staring eyes that heroic measures were necessary, “if you faint now I’ll never speak to you again!” and I actually pinched her earnestly, viciously, on the arm. “Go tell Abner to hitch up the horse,” I added, “just as quick as he can. A minute or two may mean—”

“He’s out in the hill-paster,” said Jane, reviving. 195 “He said he couldn’t stand it t’ stay around the house.”

My heart sank as I followed her down the stairs. The hill pasture was a good mile away.

“Perhaps we can hitch up ourselves,” I suggested, hugging the precious quilt to me—feeling the papers crinkle in my grasp.

“I kin hitch up,” said Jane, “but I can’t ketch old Susan, an’ never could. She jest naterally runs when she sees me a‑comin’.”

“Well, we’ll try,” I said, desperately, for I hadn’t much confidence in my horse-catching abilities. “Come on,” and laying the quilt on the table in the hall, I opened the front door and ran down the steps—and right into a boy who was standing there and staring disconsolately up at the house.

“Oh, Tom!” I cried, a great load lifted from my heart. “Oh, but I’m glad to see you! Tom, I’ve found the treasure!”

For an instant, I thought he didn’t understand, he stood staring at me so queerly, with all the colour fading out of his cheeks. Then it rushed back again in a flood, and he sprang at me and caught me by the hands in a way that quite frightened me.


“Say it again, Biffkins!” he cried. “Say it again!”

“I’ve found the treasure,” I repeated, as calmly as I could. “And, oh, Tom, don’t squeeze my hands so—we must drive to town right away—to the notary’s office—maybe we’ll be too late—and will you catch the horse?”

“Will I?” he cried. “Ask me if I’ll jump over the moon, Biffkins, and I’ll say yes. Get ready,” and he was off toward the pasture, where old Susan was placidly grazing, quite unconscious of the great mission that awaited her.

I folded up the quilt and got on my hat and went down to the door; and here in a moment came Tom, driving like mad. And Jane was standing there rocking her arms—

“Hop in, Biffkins!” cried Tom, drawing up with a great scattering of gravel. And I hopped in.

“God bless you!” cried Jane, from the steps. “God bless you!” and as we turned out into the road, I looked back and saw her still standing there waving her apron after us.

“Is that the treasure?” asked Tom, when we were fairly in the road and headed for town, looking at the quilt in my arms. “It doesn’t 197 look much like a treasure, I must say. Is that it?”

“Yes—that is, I think it is, Tom.”

“Don’t you know?” he asked.

“I—I believe it is, Tom,” I stammered, my heart sinking a little. “I didn’t want to stop to look. Feel right here.”

He took one hand from the reins and felt carefully.

“Doesn’t that feel like stocks and bonds?” I asked.

“It certainly feels like something,” he admitted. “Well, we’ll soon find out,” and he turned his whole attention to encouraging the astonished Susan.

I dare say that that old horse, in all her eighteen years, had never covered that road so swiftly; but the two miles seemed like ten to me, and I think the most welcome sight I ever saw in my life was the scattered group of houses which marks the centre of the little village. We dashed down the street with a clatter that brought the people to their windows, and stopped at last at the little frame building which served the notary for an office.

I jumped out, and without waiting for Tom, 198 ran up the little flight of steps to the door, with the quilt flapping wildly about me. And just as I laid my hand upon the knob, the door opened from within, and Silas Tunstall stood looking down at me, his face lighted by a smile of triumph.

“Well, what’s the matter, young one?” he asked.

“I want to see Mr. Chester,” I gasped; “right away.”

“Mr. Chester? Well, he’s in there; go on in.”

He went on down the steps, but looked at the quilt in my arms with a little start as I passed him, hesitated a moment, and then came back and stood in the doorway.

But I had burst into the room as though hurled from a catapult. I saw a group about the table.

“Oh, Mr. Chester!” I cried. “I’ve found it—the treasure!”

I was thrusting the old quilt into his arms—laughing, crying—while he stared down at me with puzzled face. Then he stared at the quilt and seemed still more astonished.

“The treasure?” he repeated, mechanically. “The treasure?”

“Yes; yes!” I cried. “Four to the right, 199 diagonally three. See!” and I guided his hand to the proper square.

group of men around a table, half-rising


“Why, bless my soul!” he exclaimed, as he felt of it. “There is something here. Let us see,” and he got out his pen-knife.

“No, you don’t!” cried Silas Tunstall’s voice from the door. “It’s too late—it’s all settled, ain’t it? You’ve give up, ain’t you? That there quilt’s mine, an’ I’d thank you to return it!”

He stretched out a lean hand to take it, but Mr. Chester snatched it hastily away.

“It’s mine, I tell you!” he repeated hotly. “Give it back, ’r I’ll hev you arrested, you thief!”

I could not but admire the man. Even in a moment such as this, he had presence of mind to retain the drawl.

Mr. Chester looked at him, frowning thoughtfully, and my heart grew cold within me. To be too late now! But in a moment, his brows relaxed.

“Mr. Jones,” he said, turning to the notary, “the will specifically states that the heirs are to be allowed one month to find this treasure, doesn’t it?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And nothing that we or anyone else can do in the meantime can alter that?”


“I should think not; no, sir, certainly not.”

“Very well. Mrs. Nelson did not die until twelve minutes after twelve o’clock; so we have still,” added Mr. Chester, glancing at his watch, “twenty minutes in which to find this treasure. If we do find it within that time, the property belongs to Mrs. Truman and her children.”

“No, you don’t!” snarled Silas, again. “Don’t try any of your lawyer tricks on me. I won’t stand it! You’ve give it up, I tell you; you can’t go back on your word!”

The room was still as death; everyone seemed to hold his breath with the suspense of the moment.

Only Mr. Chester was apparently unmoved. With a sharp snip, which cut the silence like a knife, he ripped open the square of the quilt and drew forth a flat package of papers. He opened it, and looked them over with a quick movement. I could see that his hands were trembling a little despite himself. I was watching him intent, with bated breath, but I was still conscious, somehow, of Tom’s white, strained face beside me. What a dear fellow he was!

Mr. Chester passed the papers to the notary, and the two held a moment’s whispered conference 201 as they looked them over. Then Mr. Chester turned back to us, and his face was beaming.

“Miss Truman,” he said, “I congratulate you. You have indeed found the treasure, and the Court rules that the property is yours.”

Mother was laughing convulsively, with the tears streaming down her face; Dick’s arms were about my neck; Tom had both my hands and was shaking them wildly. There was such a mist before my eyes that I could scarcely see.

“Oh, Biffkins!” cried my brother. “Oh, Biffkins, what a trump you are!”

I can’t tell clearly what happened just then, we were all so moved and so excited. I remember hearing what seemed to be a scuffle at the door, followed by a muttered oath and a sharp command, and I looked around to see two strangers standing in the doorway, and one of them had a pistol pointed straight at Silas Tunstall, who was staring at it, his hands above his head.

We all of us stood, for an instant, gaping in amazement at this strange spectacle.

“What’s all this?” demanded Mr. Tunstall, angrily. “Turn that there gun another way, young feller.”


The “young feller,” a well-built, clean-shaven man of middle age, laughed derisively.

“Oh, come, Jim,” he said; “it won’t do,” and reaching forward with his disengaged hand, he deliberately plucked out by the roots a tuft of Mr. Tunstall’s beard. At least, I thought for a moment it was by the roots—then I saw that there weren’t any roots, but that the beard was a false one, cunningly glued on. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he added, glancing around at us, “permit me to introduce to you Mr. James Bright, the cleverest confidence man in the United States.”

The prisoner’s face relaxed; in fact he was actually smiling.

“All right, Briggs,” he said, and I saw how the others stared in astonishment at a tone which I knew to be his natural one. “What’s it for, this time?”

“This,” answered the detective, and drew a roll of new greenbacks from his pocket. “The best you’ve done yet,” he added. “And a fine plant you’ve got out there at that little place of yours. We’ve been all through it.”

“Is this one of them?” asked Mr. Chester, and produced the counterfeit which had been passed on him the day before.


“Yes, that’s a sample,” answered Briggs, glancing at it. “They worried us for a while, I tell you. Of course we knew right away it was Jim’s work.”

“You’ll have to prove it’s mine,” pointed out the prisoner.

“Oh, we can do that easily enough. Your fingers give you away.”

And, looking at them, I saw again the curious stains I had noticed a few days before. And I also suddenly understood the odour which filled Mr. Tunstall’s parlour.

“But we’ve lost track of you,” went on the detective. “It’s nearly a year since we heard of you—you’d buried yourself so well down here—and we hadn’t the least idea where to look for you. One of my men has been shadowing your house off and on for some time, because we had heard some rather curious stories about one Silas Tunstall, and we wanted to find out something more about him. But we never suspected it was you. That spiritualistic dodge was an inspiration and that disguise is a work of art.”

“Yes,” agreed the captive complacently, “I’m rather proud of it, myself. There was just one person it did not deceive.”


“Who was that?” asked the detective.

“That sharp-eyed and quick-witted young lady yonder,” said the prisoner, and bowed in my direction.

They all stared at me, and I felt that my cheeks were very crimson.

“Why, Cecil,” began mother, but the prisoner interrupted her.

“Understand, madam,” he said, “she didn’t know I was engaged in anything crooked; I don’t suppose she even suspected that these whiskers were false; but she had caught my dialect tripping in an unguarded moment, and she saw through me right away. I congratulate her,” he added. “She’s the cleverest I ever met.”

I had never liked Mr. Tunstall, but, I confess that, in this new incarnation, there was something fascinating about the man. He seemed so superior to circumstances and so indifferent to them. There he stood now, more unconcerned and self-possessed than anyone else in the room.

“I know we were dense,” said the detective, grimly; “but, anyway, we got you.”

“Who put you next?” asked the prisoner, curiously.

“Shorty,” replied the detective, smiling broadly. 205 “We got him yesterday in New York, with the goods on, gave him the third degree and he peached last night.”

“The cur!” muttered the prisoner between his teeth, his face hard as iron. “I stayed here too long,” he added. “I’d have been away from here a month ago, but for this fool business,” and he nodded toward the packet of papers. “I was like a good many others—I thought maybe I could make enough to be honest!”

“Well, you’ll be honest for some years to come, Jim,” laughed the detective, “whether you want to or not; so perhaps it’s just as well—and Uncle Sam’ll breathe a lot easier! Put the cuffs on him, Bob,” he added, to his companion.

I saw the other man draw from his pocket something of shining steel, and take a step forward. The prisoner held out his hands—and suddenly the handcuffs were hurled full into the detective’s face. He staggered back against his companion, the blood spurting from his lips, and in that instant, the prisoner had ducked past, was out the door and away. They were after him in a moment, but by the time we got outside, the fugitive had disappeared as completely as though the 206 earth had opened and swallowed him. Two or three excited people were leading the detectives toward a strip of woodland which stretched back from the road, and which formed a perfect covert; others were running out from their houses, and were soon in full pursuit; but that was the last that I, or, as far as I know, any of those then present, ever saw of the famous Jim Bright.

And that’s the story. For why need I tell of the drive home—home—yes, home! Of Abner and Jane—of the dinner that evening—oh, quite a different meal from the one of the night before. You can imagine it all much better than I can tell it. And though it was all three years ago, there is a little mist before my eyes whenever I think of it. It is sweet to think of it, and it has been sweet to tell about it.

And how we have grown to love the old place! The old furniture has been brought down out of the attic, and the horsehair hidden from view under the eaves. For my own room, I have taken grandaunt’s, and my little desk is between the two front windows, and I can look out over the walk and down to the road. And on my bed there is a quilt, rather a faded and ugly quilt—but the 207 quilt—and it shall always stay there. And Dick is a junior at Princeton, and so is—

I hear a quick step on the walk below my window, and a clear voice, “Oh, Biffkins!”

“Yes, Tom,” I answer; “in a minute.”

Old Tom! For grandaunt’s legacy has brought me more than a beautiful home—more than stocks and bonds—I can’t write it—but you can guess! Oh, I know, dear reader, you can guess!


Notes and Corrections: Chapter XIV

I wish I was dead.
[Props to the author for letting her say “I wish I was” like a human being, rather than “I wish I were” like a character in a book.]

and the Court rules that the property is yours
[Er, Mr. Chester isn’t the court. He’s an attorney in private practice.]

“Oh, Biffkins, what a trump you are!”
[In the original serial publication, these are the last words of the last installment.]

Dick is a junior at Princeton
[It’s summer, so this must mean that Dick has just finished his sophomore year, and will be a junior in the fall.]

The original of this text is in the public domain—at least in the U.S.
My notes are copyright, as are all under-the-hood elements.
If in doubt, ask.