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   Chapter 10 No.10

The Poor Little Rich Girl By Eleanor Gates Characters: 12067

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


What she first saw was a face!-straight ahead, at the top of a steep rise, where the wide road narrowed to a point. The face was a man's, and upon it the footlights beat so strongly that each feature was startlingly vivid. But it was not the fact that she saw only a face that set her knees to trembling weakly-nor the fact that the face was fearfully distorted; but because it was upside down!

She stared, feeling herself grow cold, her flesh creep. "Oh, I want to go home!" she gasped.

The face began to move nearer, slowly, inch by inch. And there sounded a hoarse outcry: "Hoo! hoo! Hoo! hoo!"

It was the little old gentleman who reassured her somewhat-by his even voice. "Ah!" said he with something of pride, yet as if to himself. "He realizes that the black eye is a beauty. And I shouldn't wonder if he isn't coming to match it!"

But what temporary confidence she gained, fled when Jane, tettering from side to side, began to threaten in a most terrifying way. "Now, young Miss!" she cried. "Now, you're goin' to be sorry you didn't mind Jane! Oh, I told you he'd git you some fine day!"

The Man-Who-Makes-Faces retorted-what, Gwendolyn did not hear. She was sick with apprehension. "I guess I won't find my father and moth-er now," she whispered miserably.

Then, all at once, she could see more than a face! Silhouetted against the lighted sky was a figure-broad shouldered and belted, with swinging cudgel, and visored cap. It was like those dreaded figures that patroled the Drive-yet how different! For as the Policeman came on, his wild face peered between his coat-tails!-peered between his coat-tails for the reason that he was upside down, and walking on his hands!

"Hoo! hoo! Hoo! hoo!" he clamored again. His coat flopped about his ears. His natural merino socks showed where his trousers fell away from his shoes. His club bumped the side of his head at every stride of his long blue-clad arms.

His identification was complete. For precisely as Thomas had declared, he was heels over head.

"My!" breathed Gwendolyn, so astonished that she almost forgot to be anxious for her own safety. (What a marvelous Land was this-where everything was really as it ought to be!)

The Man-Who-Makes-Faces addressed her, smiling down. "You won't mind if we don't start for a minute or two, will you?" he inquired. "This Officer will probably want to discuss the prices of eyes. You see, I gave him his black one. If he wants another, though, I shall be obliged to ask the Piper to collect."

"Aren't-aren't you afraid of him?" stammered Gwendolyn, in a whisper.

"Afraid?" he echoed, surprised. "Why, no! Are you?"

Somehow, she felt ashamed. "N-n-not very," she faltered.

No sooner did she partly deny her fear than she experienced a most delicious feeling of security! And this feeling grew as she watched the nearing Policeman. For she saw that he was in a mournful state.

It was worry and grief that distorted his face. The dark eyes above the visor (both the black eye and the other one) were streaming with tears, tears which, naturally enough, ran from the four corners of his eyes, down across his forehead, and on into his hair. And it was evident that he had been weeping for a long time, for his cap was full!

And now she realized that the hoarse cries which had filled her with terror were the saddest of complaints!-were not "Hoo! hoo!" but "Boo! hoo!"

"Poor man!" sympathized the little old gentleman, wagging his beard.

Jane, however, with characteristic lack of compassion, hopped about, tee-heeing loudly-and straightening out any number of wrinkles. "Oh, ain't he a sight!" she chortled. She had entirely given over her threatening.

Gwendolyn now felt secure enough. But she did not feel like laughing. She was sober to the point of pitying. For though he looked ridiculous, he was so absolutely helpless, so utterly unhappy.

"Oh, dear! Oh, dear!" he exclaimed as he came on-hand over hand, legs held together, and swaying from side to side rhythmically, like the pendulum of the metronome. "What shall I do! What shall I do!"

"Need any sharpening?" called out the Man-Who-Makes-Faces, brandishing the curved knife. "Is there something wrong?"

"Wrong!" echoed the Policeman dolefully. "I should say so! Oh, dear! Oh, dear!" And still weeping copiously, so that his forehead glistened with his tears, he plodded across the border of the Face-Shop.

It was then that Gwendolyn recalled under what circumstances she had seen him last. Only two or three days before, when bound homeward in the limousine, she had spied him loitering beside the walled walk. "What makes his club shine so?" she had asked Jane, whispering. "Eh?" whispered Jane in return; "what else than blood?" The wind was blowing as the automobile swept past him: The breeze lifted the tail of his belted coat. And for one terrifying instant Gwendolyn caught a glimpse of steel!

"And if he don't mean harm to anybody," Jane had added when Gwendolyn turned scared eyes to her, "why does he carry a pistol?"

But there was no need to fear a weapon now. The falling away of his coat-tails had uncovered his trouser-pockets. And as he halted, Gwendolyn saw that his revolver was gone, his pistol-pocket empty.

She took a timid step toward him. "How do you do, Mr. Officer," she said. "Can't you let your feet come down? Then you'd be on your back, and you could get up the right way."

Up came his face between his coat-tails. He stared at her with his new black eye-with the other one, too. (She noted that it was blue.) "But I am up the right way," he answered, "Oh, no! It isn't that! It isn't that!" His hands were encased in white cotton gloves. He rocked himself from one to the other.

"No, it isn't that," agreed the little old gentleman; "but I firmly believe that, you'd feel better if you'd order another eye."

"Another eye!" said the Policeman, bitterly. "Would another eye help me to find him?"

"Oh, I see." The Man-Who-Makes-Faces spoke with some concern.

"Then he's flown?"

Gwendolyn, puzzled, glanced from one to the other. "Who is 'he'?" she asked.

The Policeman bumped his head against his night-stick. "The Bird!" he mourned.

At that, Jane hopped up and down in evident delight.

But Gwendolyn fell back, taking up a position beside the little old gentleman. That Bird again! And it was evident that the Policeman thought well of him!

Pity swiftly merged into suspicion.

"I s'pose you mean the Bird that tells people things," she ventured-to be sure that she was not misjudging him.

He wiped his black eye on a coat-tail. "Aye," he answered. "That's the one. And, oh, but he could tell you things!"

Gwendolyn considered the statement. At last, "He's a tattletale!" she charged, and felt her cheeks crimson with sudden anger.

He nodded-so vigorously that some of his tears splashed over the rim of his cap. "That's why the Police can't get along without him," he declared. "And, oh, here I've gone and lost him! And They'll put me off the Force!" (Bump! bump! bump!)

"They?" she questioned. "Do you mean the soda-water They?"

"And They know so much," explained the little old gentleman, "because the Bird tells 'em."

"He tells 'em everything," grumbled the Officer. "They send him around the whole country hunting gossip-when he ought to be working exclusively in the interest of Law and Order."

Law and Order-Gwendolyn wondered who these two were.

"He knows everything I do," asserted the Policeman, "and everything she does-" Here he jerked his head sidewise at Jane.

She retreated, an expression of guilt on that front face.

"And everything you do," he went on, indicating Gwendolyn.

"I know that," she said in an injured tone. "He told Jane I was here."

At that, the Policeman gave himself a quick half-turn. "You've seen him?" he demanded of the nurse.

She shifted from side to side nervously. "It ain't the same one," she protested. "It-"

He interrupted. "You couldn't be mistaken," he declared. "Did he have a bumpy forehead? and a lumpy tail?"

"You don't mean a lump of salt," said Gwendolyn, astonished.

"He does," said the little old gentleman. "And the bumpy forehead is from having to remember so many things."

She heaved a sigh of relief. "Well, I think I'd like that Bird," she said. "And I don't believe he's far. 'Cause when you whistled I heard flying."

"Running and flying," corrected the Policeman; "-running and flying to me." (He said it proudly.) "The squirrels and the robin-redbreasts, and the sparrows, all follow me here from the Park of a night, knowing I protect 'em."

"Oh?" murmured Gwendolyn. "You protect 'em?" She looked sidewise at Jane, reflecting that the nurse had given him quite another character.

"Yes; and I protect old, old people."

"Huh!" snorted the Man-Who-Makes-Faces. "You protect old people, eh? Well, how about old organ-grinders?"

"You ought to know," answered the Officer promptly. "I guess you didn't give me that black eye for nothing."

Whereat the little old gentleman suddenly subsided into silence.

"Yes, I protect old people," reiterated the other, "and the blind, of course, and the trees and the flowers and the fountains. Also, the statues. There's the General, for instance. If I didn't watch out, folks would scribble on him with chalk."

Gwendolyn assented. Once more she was beginning to have belief in him.

"Then," he resumed, "I look after the children, so that-"

She started. The children!-he? "But," she interrupted, "Jane's always told me that you grab little boys and girls and carry 'em off." Then, fairly shook at her own boldness.

"I never!" denied Jane, sullenly.

He laughed. "I do carry 'em off. But where?"

"I don't know,"-in a flutter.

"Tell her," urged the little old gentleman.

The Policeman leaned his feet against the bill-board. "I'm the man," said he, "that takes lost little kids to their fathers and mothers."

To their fathers and mothers! Gwendolyn came round upon Jane, lifting accusing eyes, pointing an accusing finger, "So!" she breathed. "You told me he stole 'em! It isn't true!" And she wiggled the finger.

Jane edged away, head on one side "Oh, I was jokin' you," she declared lightly. But-accidentally-- she turned aside her grinning front face and gave the others a glimpse of the back one. And each noted how the square mouth was trembling with anxiety.

"Ah-ha!" exclaimed Gwendolyn, triumphantly. "I'm finding you out!"

The Policeman crossed his feet against the bill-board, taking care not to injure any of the articles there displayed. "Yes, I've taken a lot of lost little kids to their fathers and mothers," he repeated. "And I was just wondering if you-"

She gave him no chance to finish his sentence. In her joy at finding that here was another friend, she ran to him and leaned to smile into his face.

"You'll help me to find my fath-er and moth-er, won't you?" she cried.

"Cer-tainly!"

"We were starting just as you came," said the Man-Who-Makes-Faces.

"Well, let's be off!" His whistle hung by a thin chain from a button-hole of his coat. He swung it to his lips, Toot! Toot! It was a cheery blast.

The next moment, coming, as it were, on the heels of her sudden good fortune, Gwendolyn closed her right hand and found herself possessed of a bag of candy!-red-and-white stick-candy of the variety that she had often seen selling at street corners (out of show-cases that went on wheels). More than once she had longed, and in vain, to stop at one of these show-cases and purchase. Now she suddenly remembered having done so with a high hand. The sticks were striped spirally. Boldly she produced one and fell to sucking it, making more noise with her sucking than ever the strict proprieties of the nursery permitted.

Then, candy in hand, and with the little old gentleman on her right, the Policeman on her left, and Jane trailing behind, doing a one-two-three-and-point, she set forward gayly along the wide, curving road.

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