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   Chapter 20 A TELEPHONE CALL

Aunt Jane's Nieces in Society By L. Frank Baum Characters: 4638

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:03

Still another laggard awoke to action on this eventful Tuesday morning.

Madame Cerise had been growing more and more morose and dissatisfied day by day. Her grievance was very tangible. A young girl had been brought forcibly to the house and placed in her care to be treated as a prisoner. From that time the perpetrators of the deed had left the woman to her own resources, never communicating with her in any way.

During a long life of servitude Madame Cerise had acquiesced in many things that her own conscience did not approve of, for she considered herself a mere instrument to be used at will by the people who employed and paid her. But her enforced solitude as caretaker of the lonely house at East Orange had given her ample time to think, and her views had lately undergone a decided change.

To become the jailer of a young, pretty and innocent girl was the most severe trial her faithfulness to her employers had ever compelled her to undergo, and the woman deeply resented the doubtful position in which she had been placed.

However, the chances were that Madame Cerise might have obeyed her orders to the letter had not so long a period of waiting ensued. During these days she was constantly thrown in the society of Louise, which had a tendency to make her still more rebellious. The girl clung to Cerise in her helplessness and despair, and constantly implored her to set her free. This, indeed, the Frenchwoman might have done long ago had she not suspected such an act might cause great embarrassment to Diana Von Taer, whom she had held on her knee as an infant and sought to protect with loyal affection.

It was hard, though, to hear the pitiful appeals of the imprisoned girl, and to realize how great was the wrong that was being done her. The old woman was forced to set her jaws firmly and turn deaf ears to the pleadings in order not to succumb to them straightway. Meantime she did her duty conscientiously. She never left Louise's room without turning the key in the lock, and she steadfastly refused the girl permission to wander in the other rooms of the house. The prison was a real prison, indeed, but the turnkey sought to alleviate the prisoner's misery by every means in her power. She was indefatigable in her service, keeping the room warm and neat, attending to the

girl's every want and cooking her delicious meals.

While this all tended to Louise's comfort it had little affect in soothing her misery. Between periods of weeping she sought to cajole the old woman to release her, and at times she succumbed to blank despair. Arthur was always in her mind, and she wondered why he did not come to rescue her. Every night she stole softly from her bed to try the door, hoping Cerise had forgotten to lock it. She examined her prison by stealth to discover any possible way of escape.

There were two small windows and one large one. The latter opened upon the roof of a small porch, but, there were no way to descend from it unless one used a frail lattice at one end, which in summer probably supported a rose or other vine. Louise shrank intuitively from such a desperate undertaking. Unless some dreadful crisis occurred she would never dare trust herself to that frail support. Yet it seemed the only possible way of escape.

Time finally wore out the patience of Madame Cerise, who was unable longer to withstand Louise's pleadings. She did not indicate by word or look that her attitude had changed, but she made a secret resolve to have done with the affair altogether.

Often in their conversations the girl had mentioned Arthur Weldon. She had given Cerise his address and telephone number, and implored her at least to communicate with him and tell him his sweetheart was safe, although unhappy. This had given the old woman the clever idea on which she finally acted.

By telephoning Mr. Weldon she could give him the information that would lead to his coming for Louise, without anyone knowing who it was that had betrayed the secret. This method commended itself strongly to her, as it would save her from any trouble or reproach.

Leaving Louise at breakfast on this Tuesday morning Madame Cerise went down to the telephone and was soon in communication with Arthur. She told him, in a quiet tone, that Miss Louise Merrick was being secluded in a suburban house near East Orange, and described the place so he could easily find it. The young man questioned her eagerly, but aside from the information that the girl was well and uninjured she vouchsafed no further comment.

It was enough, however. Arthur, in wild excitement, rushed to the rescue.

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