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Chapter 5

  • He awoke at seven, and looked in upon Hood, who lay sprawled upon his be_eading one of the battered volumes of Borrow he carried in his bag.
  • “Get your tub, son; I’ve had mine and came back to bed to let you have you_leep out. Marvellous man—Borrow. Spring’s the time to read him. We’ll hav_ome breakfast and go out and see what the merry old world has to offer.”
  • With nice calculation he tossed the book into the open bag on the further sid_f the room, rose, and stretched himself. Deering stifled an impulse to scof_t his silk pajamas as hardly an appropriate sleeping garb for one wh_rofessed to have taken vows of poverty. Hood noted his glance.
  • “Found these in some nabob’s house at Bar Harbor last fall. Went up i_ovember, after all the folks had gone, to have a look at the steely blu_cean; camped in a big cottage for a few days. Found a drawer full of thes_hings and took the pink ones. Wrote my thanks on the villa’s stationery an_inned ’em to the fireplace. I hate to admit it, son, but I verily believe _ould stand a little breakfast.”
  • “We’re going out for breakfast,” Deering remarked with affected carelessness.
  • “I accepted an invitation for you last night. A girl up there at the bungalo_sked me; I told her about you, and she seemed willing to stand for it.”
  • “The thought pleases me! You are certainly doing well, my boy!” Hood replied, dancing about on one foot as he drew a sock on the other.
  • He explained that a man should never sit down while dressing; that th_xercise he got in balancing himself was of the greatest value as a stimulu_o the circulation.
  • “She’s a very nice girl, I think,” Deering continued, showing his lathere_ace at the bathroom door.
  • He hadn’t expected Hood to betray surprise, and he was not disappointed in th_atter-of-course fashion in which his companion received the invitation.
  • “Breakfast is the one important meal of the day,” Hood averred as he execute_ series of hops in his efforts to land inside his trousers. “All grea_dventures should be planned across breakfast tables; centrepiece of coo_ruits; coffee of teasing fragrance, the toast crisp; an egg perhaps, if th_orning labors are to be severe. I know a chap in Boston who cuts ou_reakfast altogether. Most melancholy person I ever knew; peevish till on_’clock, then throws in a heavy lunch that ruins him for the rest of the day.
  • What did you say the adorable’s name was?”
  • “Pierrette,” Deering spluttered from the tub.
  • “Delightful!” cried Hood, flourishing his hair-brushes. “Then you met th_ancing-girl! I must say——”
  • “She had hung a moon in a tree! I followed the moon and found the girl!”
  • “Always the way; it never fails,” Hood commented, as though the finding of th_irl had fully justified his philosophy of life. “But we can’t fool away muc_ime at the bungalow; we’ve got a lot to do to-day.”
  • “Time!” cried Deering, “I’m going to stay forever! You can’t expect me to fin_ girl whose post-office address is the Little Dipper, and then go coolly of_nd forget about her!”
  • “That’s the right spirit, son,” Hood remarked cautiously; “but we’ll see. I’l_ave a look at her and decide what’s best for you. My business right now is t_eep you out of trouble. You can’t tell about these moon girls; she may have _art on her nose when you see her in daylight.”
  • Deering hooted.
  • “And she probably has parents who may not relish the idea of having tw_trange men prowling about the premises looking for breakfast. There are stil_ few of those old-fashioned people left in the world. It may be only _ackdoor hand-out for us, but I’ve sawed wood for breakfast before now. I’l_ait for you below; I want to see how old Cassowary’s standing the racket. Th_oy seemed a little cheerfuller last night.”
  • They walked to the bungalow which, to Deering’s relief, was still perched o_he ridge as he had left it. He was beset with misgivings as they entered th_ate and followed a hedge-lined path that rose gradually to the house; i_ight be a joke after all; but Hood’s manner was reassuring. He swung hi_tick and praised the landscape, and when they reached the veranda banged th_nocker noisily. A capped and aproned maid opened the door immediately.
  • Deering, struck with cowardice, found his legs quaking and stepped back t_llow Hood to declare their purpose.
  • “We have come for breakfast, lass,” Hood announced, “and have brought ou_ppetites with us if that fact interests you.”
  • “You are expected,” said the maid; “breakfast will be served immediately.”
  • She led the way across a long living-room to the dining-room beyond, where _able was set for three. The tangible presence of the third plate cause_eering’s heart to thump.
  • “The host or hostess—?” Hood inquired as the girl waited for them to b_eated.
  • “The lady of the house wished me to say that she would be here—in spirit!
  • Pressing duties called her elsewhere.”
  • Deering’s spirits sank. Pierrette, then, was only a dream of the night, an_ad never had the slightest intention of meeting him at breakfast! The mai_urtsied and vanished through a swing door.
  • Hood, accepting the situation as he found it, expressed his satisfaction as _owl of strawberries was placed on the table, and as the door ceased swingin_ehind the maid, laid his hand on Deering’s arm. “Don’t worry; mere shynes_as driven our divinity away: you can see for yourself that even a girl wh_angs moons in trees might shrink from the shock of a daylight meeting with _entleman she had found amusing by starlight. Let it suffice that she provide_he breakfast according to schedule—that’s highly encouraging. Wit_trawberries at present prices she has been generous. This littl_isappointment merely adds zest to the adventure.”
  • The hand of the maid as she changed his plate at once interested Deering. I_as a slender, supple, well-kept hand, browned by the sun. Her maid’s dres_as becoming; her cap merely served to invite attention to her golden-brow_air. Her coloring left nothing for the heart to desire, and her brown eye_alled immediately for a second glance. She was deft and quick; her gracefu_alk in itself compelled admiration. As the door closed upon her, Hood bent _ook of inquiry upon his brooding companion.
  • “Perhaps she’s the adorable—the true, authentic Pierrette,” he suggested.
  • Deering shook his head.
  • “No; the other girl was not so tall and her voice was different; it wa_onderfully sweet and full of laughter. I couldn’t be fooled about it.”
  • “There’s mystery here—a game of some kind. Mark the swish of silken skirts; unless my eyes fail me, I caught a glimpse of silken hose as she flitted int_he pantry.”
  • When an omelet had been served and the coffee poured (she poured coffe_harmingly!) Hood called her back as she was about to leave them.
  • “Two men should never be allowed to eat alone. If your mistress is no_eturning at once, will you not do us the honor to sit down with us?”
  • “Thank you, sir,” she said, biting her lip to conceal a smile.
  • Deering was on his feet at once and drew out the third chair, which sh_ccepted without debate. She composedly folded her arms on the edge of th_able as though she were in nowise violating the rules set down for th_uidance of waitresses. Hood, finding the situation to his taste, blithel_ssumed the lead in the conversation.
  • “It is perfectly proper for you to join us at table,” he remarked, “but forma_ntroductions would not be in keeping. Still, your employer doubtless has som_amiliar name for you, and you might with propriety tell us what it is, so w_on’t need to attract your attention by employing the vulgar ‘Say’ or ‘Listen’!”
  • “My mistress calls me Babette,” she answered, her lashes drooping becomingly.
  • “Perfect!” cried Hood ecstatically. “And we are two outlaws whose names it i_ore discreet for us to withhold, even if it were proper to exchange name_ith a mere housemaid.”
  • Deering winced; it was indecent in Hood to treat her as though she were _ousemaid when so obviously she was not.
  • “My friend doesn’t mean to be rude,” he explained; “the morning air alway_akes him a little delirious.”
  • “I hope I know my place,” the girl replied, “and I’m sure you gentlemen mea_o be kind.”
  • “You needn’t count the spoons after we leave,” said Hood; “I assure you w_ave no professional designs on the house.”
  • “Thank you, sir. Of course, if you stole anything, it would be taken out of m_ages.”
  • Deering’s interest in her increased.
  • She rested her chin on her hand just as his sister often did when the_ingered together at table. He was a good brother and Constance was hi_tandard. He was sure that Constance would like Pierrette’s maid. He resente_ood’s patronizing attitude toward the girl, but Hood’s spirits were soarin_nd there was no checking him.
  • “Babette,” he began, “I’m going to trouble you with a question, not doubtin_ou will understand that my motives are those of a philosopher whose whol_ife has been devoted to the study of the human race. May I ask you to stat_n all sincerity whether you consider apple sauce the essential accompanimen_f roast duck?”
  • “I do not; nor do I care for jelly with venison,” she answered readily.
  • “Admirable! You are clearly no child of convention but an independent thinker!
  • May I smoke? Thanks!”
  • He drew out his pipe and turned beaming to the glowering Deering.
  • “There, my boy! Babette is one of us—one of the great company of the stars!
  • Wonderful, how you find them at every turn! Babette, my sister, I salute you!”
  • She smiled and turned toward Deering.
  • “Are you, too, one of the Comrades of Perpetual Youth?” she inquired gravely.
  • “I am,” Deering declared heartily, and they smiled at each other; “but I’_nly a novice—a brother of the second class.”
  • She shook her head.
  • “There can be no question of classes in the great comradeship—either we are o_e are not.”
  • “Well spoken!” Hood assented, pushing back his chair and crossing his leg_omfortably.
  • “And you—do you and Pierrette think about things the same way?” Deering asked.
  • “We do—by not thinking,” Babette replied. “Thinking among the comrades i_orbidden, is it not?”
  • “Absolutely,” Hood affirmed. “Our young brother here is still a little weak i_he faith, but he’s taking to it splendidly.”
  • “I’m new myself,” Babette confessed.
  • “You’re letter-perfect in the part,” said Hood. “Perhaps you were driven t_t? Don’t answer if you would be embarrassed by a confession.”
  • The girl pondered a moment; her face grew grave, and she played nervously wit_he sugar-tongs.
  • “A man loved me and I sent him away, and was sorry!” The last words fell fro_er lips falteringly.
  • “He will come back—if he is worthy of one of the comradeship,” said Hoo_onsolingly. “Even now he may be searching for you.”
  • “I was unkind to him; I was very hard on him! And I’ve bee_fraid—sometimes—that I should never see him again.”
  • Deering thought he saw a glint of tears in her eyes. She rose hastily an_sked with a wavering smile:
  • “If there’s nothing further——”
  • “Not food—if you mean that,” said Hood.
  • “But about Pierrette!” Deering exclaimed despairingly. “If she’s likely t_ome, we must wait for her.”
  • “I rather advise you against it,” the girl answered. “I have no idea when sh_ill come back.”
  • They rose instinctively as she passed out. The door fanned a moment and wa_till.
  • “Well?” demanded Deering ironically.
  • “Please don’t speak to me in that tone,” responded Hood. “This was you_reakfast, not mine; you needn’t scold me if it didn’t go to suit you! Ah, what have we here!”
  • He had drawn back a curtain at one end of the dining-room, disclosing a studi_eyond. It was evidently a practical workshop and bore traces of recent use.
  • Deering passed him and strode toward an easel that supported a canvas on whic_he paint was still wet. He cried out in astonishment:
  • “That’s the moon girl—that’s the girl I talked to last night—clown clothes an_ll! She’s sitting on the wall there just as I found her.”
  • “A sophisticated brush; no amateur’s job,” Hood muttered, squinting at th_anvas. “Seems to me I’ve seen that sort of thing somewhere lately—Pantaloon, Harlequin, Columbine, and Clown—latest fad in magazine covers. We’re in th_tudio of a popular illustrator—there’s a bunch of proofs on the table, an_hose things on the floor are from the same hand. Signature in the corner _rifle obscure—Mary B. Taylor.”
  • “She may be Babette,” Deering suggested. “Suppose I call her and ask?”
  • Hood, having become absorbed in a portfolio of pen-and-ink sketches of clowns, harlequins, and columbines, subjects in which the owner of the studi_pparently specialized, paid no heed to the suggestion. When Deering returne_e was gazing critically at a sketch showing a dozen clowns executing _pirited dance on a garden-wall.
  • “She’s skipped! There isn’t a soul on the place,” Deering announce_ejectedly.
  • “Not at all surprising; probably gone to join her model, Pierrette. And we’_etter clear out before we learn too much; life ceases to be interesting whe_ou begin to find the answers to riddles. Pierrette is probably a friend o_he artist, and plays model for the fun of it. The same girl is repeated ove_nd over again in these drawings—from which I argue that Pierrette likes t_ose and Babette enjoys painting her. We mustn’t let this affect the genera_llusion. The next turn of the road will doubtless bring us to something tha_an’t be explained so easily.”
  • “If it doesn’t bring us to Pierrette—” began Deering.
  • “Tut! None of that! For all you know it may bring us to something infinitel_etter. Remember that this is mid-May, and anything may happen before Jun_indles the crimson ramblers. Let us be off.”
  • Half-way across the living-room Deering stopped suddenly.
  • “My bag—my suitcase!” he shouted.
  • A suitcase it was beyond question, placed near the door as though to arres_heir attention. Deering pounced upon it eagerly and flung it open.
  • “It’s all right—the stuff’s here!” he cried huskily.
  • He began throwing out the packets that filled the case, glancing hurriedly a_he seals. Hood lounged near, watching him languidly.
  • “Most unfortunate,” he remarked, noting the growing satisfaction on Deering’_ace as he continued his examination. “Now that you’ve found that rubbish, _uppose there’ll be no holding you; you’ll go back to listen to the ticke_ust when I had begun to have some hope of you!”
  • “It was Pierrette that took it; it couldn’t have been this artist girl,” sai_eering, excitedly whipping out his penknife and slitting one of the packages.
  • A sheaf of blank wrapping-paper fluttered to the floor. His face whitened an_e gave a cry of dismay. “Robbed! Tricked!” he groaned, staring at Hood.
  • Hood picked up the paper and scrutinized the seal.
  • “S. J. Deering, personal,” he read in the wax. “You don’t suppose that gir_as taken the trouble to forge your father’s private seal, do you?”
  • Deering feverishly tore open the other packages.
  • “All alike; the stuff’s gone!”
  • Perspiration beaded his forehead. He stared stupidly at the worthless paper.
  • “You ought to be grateful, son,” said Hood; “yesterday you thought yourself _hief—now that load’s off your mind, and you know yourself for an honest man.
  • General rejoicing seems to be in order. Looks as though your parent had robbe_imself—rather a piquant situation, I must say.”
  • He carried the wrappers to the window-seat and examined them more closely.
  • “Seals were all intact. ‘The Tyringham estate,’” he read musingly. “What d_ou make of that?” he asked Deering, who remained crumpled on the floor besid_he suitcase.
  • “That’s an estate father was executor of—it’s a long story. Old man Tyringha_ad been a customer of his, and left a will that made it impossible to clos_he estate till his son had reached a certain age. The final settlement was t_e made this summer. But my God, Hood, do you suppose father—my father coul_e——”
  • “A defaulter?” Hood supplied blandly.
  • “It’s impossible!” roared Deering. “Father’s the very soul of honor.”
  • “I dare say he is,” remarked Hood carelessly. “So were you till greed led yo_o pilfer your governor’s strong box. Let us be tolerant and withhol_udgment. It’s enough that your own skirts are clear. Put that stuff out o_ight; we must flit.”
  • Hood set off for the Barton Arms at a brisk pace, talking incessantly.
  • “This whole business is bully beyond my highest expectations. By George, it’_lmost too good to be true! Critics of the drama complain that the averag_mateur’s play ends with every act; but so far in our adventures ever_ncident leads on to something else. Perfectly immense that somebody ha_eaten you to the bonds!”
  • Deering’s emotions were beyond utterance. It was a warm morning, and he di_ot relish carrying the suitcase, whose recovery had plunged him into _espair darker than that caused by its loss.
  • At a turn in the road Hood paused, struck his stick heavily upon the ground, and drew out the slipper. He whirled it in the air three times and twice i_ointed east. He thrust it back into his pocket with a sigh of satisfactio_nd brushed the dust from his hands.
  • “Once more we shall follow the pointing slipper. Yesterday it led us to th_oon girl, the bungalow, and the suitcase; now it points toward the mysteriou_ast, and no telling what new delights!”