MoboReader> Literature > Hour of Enchantment / A Mystery Story for Girls

   Chapter 3 FOOTSTEPS ON THE STAIRS

Hour of Enchantment / A Mystery Story for Girls By Roy J. Snell Characters: 7105

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


All her life Florence had lived in the great and noisy city.

Not so Petite Jeanne. If you have read of her at all you will know that as a child she had been a vagabond with gypsies of France, a very beautiful vagabond, an accomplished dancer, but a vagabond all the same. How this slender, golden-haired child of France came to America and how at last France discovered her once more and carried her back to be the mistress of a grand old chateau is no part of our story.

It was enough for Jeanne that she was here with her good pal Florence, that they lived on the top floor of an ancient rooming house, that they might come and go as they pleased, and that if she chose she might once more turn vagabond for a day, a week, or a month.

For the moment she was interested most of all in this vast and most marvelous of all carnivals, the Century of Progress. For many this was not a carnival at all, but a serious attempt to place before man's eye all the stupendous achievements of mankind. For Jeanne it was a vast carnival, a place to enjoy one's self, a thing of beauty and a joy forever.

Now as she tripped along at Florence's side she whispered: "See! Are not those steel towers mysterious? They are like fingers pointing to the stars we do not see because the clouds hide them. And the little rocket cars waiting there-they seem ready not just to carry you over to the island of enchantment, but on and on through the sky to the moon, to Venus, to Mars.

"But, oo, la la! Here I am dreaming again. We must hurry. Those terrible Orientals may be turning our room upside down this very moment."

More often than not, in this life, it happens that the thing we most expect does not happen at all. With breath coming quick and short Petite Jeanne and Florence climbed the four flights of stairs leading to their room only to find everything as they had left it.

"Oh!" Jeanne breathed. "There is no one!"

"One would think," Florence laughed, "that you were disappointed."

"But no!" Jeanne made a face of horror. "What could one do if she were to find her room filled with queer little yellow men?"

"Throw them down the stairs."

"Ah, yes, you-you who are always tumbling around in a gymnasium. But poor little me? Bah! It is quite im-poss-i-ble. I am glad they are not here.

"But, see!" The little French girl's voice changed. She dragged a curious box-like trunk from beneath the bed. "See what we have here.

"I had the worst time getting it open, this box," she complained. "The locks, they were strong.

"But, look!"

She held up a curious sort of banner on which was pictured a Chinese lady holding out her hand so that a flock of bright colored butterflies might light on it.

"Only a dusty Chinese banner!" Florence was disappointed. "Is there anything else?"

"Many more like this. Always the picture is different. I love them. They are so odd!"

"You may have them." Florence was very weary. She began disrobing for the night.

"See! Here is a jolly little bell!" A mellow tinkle rang out.

Florence laughed. "Bronze. You can buy one just like it at the Chink store on Wabash. It's too bad, little old sister." She put her arms affectionately about her slender companion. "We have lost the best thing-a three-bladed dagger set with rubies and diamonds.

"But cheer up!" She tossed back the bed covers. "To-morrow will come. And after that another to-morrow. I shall never forget that long-eared Chinaman. And if we meet!" She made a gesture of violence.

"Besides," she added as she crept

into bed, "there are many more boxes to be sold in the future. Better luck next time."

Scarcely had her head touched the pillow than she was fast asleep.

Jeanne did not sleep. There was no need. For was she not at heart a gypsy? And did not gypsies sleep when the spirit moved them to do so? Twenty hours in one long sleep and after that, if opportunity presented itself, twenty hours of adventure.

Ah, yes, no rising at seven to gulp down toast and coffee, then to dash for a train. Jeanne was a real vagabond. Curled up among the cushions in the sunshine, she had slept long hours that day.

So now she dragged the mysterious box into their tiny living room and spread its highly colored banners on every available piece of furniture.

"Truly," she whispered, "they are grotesque." She was studying a picture, all done in some form of needlework, the picture of a god with a dozen arms and quite as many legs. "But then, they are beautiful, too. What gorgeous tapestries they would make!"

She was thinking now of the all too bare walls of the great living room in her own castle in France.

She had not found being rich in France a joyous business, this Petite Jeanne.

In France if you are young and you are rich, then you are watched over by a mother or perhaps an aunt (Jeanne had an aunt). You must see certain people. You must not see others. You must not wander away alone. You must not-oh, no, my dear, you must not-speak to strangers! No life was this for a sweet and beautiful vagabond like Petite Jeanne.

So, when Florence had written her a glowing letter telling of the city of many marvels that was spreading itself fairy-like across the waterfront in Chicago, she gave her chateau over to a caretaker, bade him allow all the good children to play on her grounds and in her forest at will, then took a ship for America and her beloved big pal, Florence.

"And now," she sighed happily, "here I am.

"And here-" Her tone changed. "Here you are." She was addressing the box of mysteries. "One would think-"

She broke off short to stand on tiptoe like a bird poised for flight. Had she caught a sound from without, a shuffling of soft-padded feet on the stairs? Ah, yes. There! A board creaked.

Snapping off the light, she stood in the darkness, tense, alert, listening intently.

"That box!" Her thoughts were in a tumult. "Why do they want more? They have the best.

"Shall I throw open the door and thrust the box at them?

"Ah, no, I shall not do that. Mystery, how one yearns for it! And yet how one dreads it! This box, it is ours. We have bought it. We will fight for it. I will call Florence. She will throw them down the stairs.

"But no! She is weary. They may have the knife. The lock is strong. Let them spy upon us if they must."

Jeanne was by nature a child of the night. To sit there in the dark, to think and think, to wait and wait for that which in the end did not come, was no hardship for her.

The first faint gray light of dawn was creeping upon the towers of that magic city on the shores of Lake Michigan when at last she parted the curtains to look away at the land and the black waters that lay beyond.

"Bon jour, sweet world!" she murmured. "Now we have a new day. And to-night I shall go out alone to seek adventure."

At that she shoved her pink toes beneath covers of silk filled with eiderdown and slept the sleep of perfect peace, while out there by the shores of Lake Michigan fifty thousand happy people romped through the sunshine of a bright summer's day.

Free to Download MoboReader
(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top

shares