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


Hour of Enchantment / A Mystery Story for Girls By Roy J. Snell Characters: 9160

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

Why did Petite Jeanne sleep all day to haunt strange places in the night? Who can say? Why do certain birds deep in the forest sing only at night? Why do all manner of wild things choose the night for their joyous frolics? Jeanne was as wild by nature as any of these, for had she not lived the very early years of her life with the gypsies? And is it not at night that the gypsies dance, sing and tell fortunes round the camp fire?

She did not leave her room, this little French girl, until night shadows had fallen and automobile lights like twin stars were blinking their way down the boulevard.

When she did leave she carried a well filled laundry bag. Yet, strange to say, she did not carry this bag to a laundry depository, but to a hotel two blocks away. Here she entrusted its care to a smiling check boy. The boy's smile broadened when she slipped him a bright new dollar bill with a whispered,

"I may not call for it for oh, so long. You keep it till I come. Yes?"

The boy grinned and nodded. Such occurrences were not new to him. Many young ladies entrusted their secrets to him. "But this girl," he told himself, "is different. I wonder-"

He had little time to wonder. He thrust Jeanne's bag far back in a deep recess and straightway forgot it; which is, after all, just the proper thing for a check boy to do.

Jeanne did not leave the hotel at once; instead, she took the elevator to the top floor, then walking to a window, looked away toward the lake front.

Though she had looked upon the scene before, she could not suppress a low exclamation of awe: "Magnificent!"

"The city of a million lights!" she murmured.

It was all of that and more, this great Century of Progress. And night was its time of entrancing beauty. Tall towers glowing like shafts of white hot metal, great structures changing color like giant chameleons, now pink, now yellow, now pale blue, fountains of fire leaping up from the gleaming surface of the lagoon.

"It is like the end of the world," she murmured. "All is on fire."

To her ears, like the roar of a distant cataract, came the sound of it all. She seemed to catch the whistle of rocket cars as, gliding over steel cables, they carried screaming joy riders through space to the distant island.

"How marvelous it all is!" she murmured again. "To think that only a short time ago there was no island, that ships came to anchor where now ten thousand children play!"

But Jeanne's eyes did not linger on the Sky Way where rocket cars glided nor the waters where fiery fountains played. Her eyes had come to rest at a spot close to Soldiers' Field where a low roof cast back a gleam of gold.

"The Golden Temple of Jehol from that enchanting land of mystery, China!" she whispered. "I shall go there to-night. It may be that there I shall learn much regarding that very curious chest, those banners and that ancient three-bladed dagger with all those jewels in the handle.

"It may be!" She shuddered in spite of herself. "It just may happen that there I shall find the little Chinaman with those so very long ears. And if I find him? Ah, then what shall I do?"

She was not one to worry much about what should be done under certain circumstances, this little French girl. Inspiration of the moment should guide her. Tripping lightly to the elevator door, she went speeding downward and was soon on her way to the Golden Temple of Jehol.

On entering the Golden Temple Jeanne found it all but deserted.

"Ah!" she breathed. A spell seemed to take possession of her. She wished to turn about and go away from this place of mellow lights and silence; yet some mysterious power held her.

Before her, seeming alive in that uncertain light, a fat Buddha sat and smiled. Beyond were all manner of curious objects, trumpets three yards long, miniature pagodas, images of gold and bronze, a great bell suspended from a frame.

"This," she whispered, "is a Chinese Temple. Every part of it, twenty-eight thousand bits of wood, was made in China."

As if taking up the story, the low melodious voice of a mandarin talking to three ladies in black said:

"Everything you see here came from the temples of China. Everything. They are all very old and quite priceless."

Jeanne moved toward him. "This," he went on, appearing to see her out of the corner of his eye, "is a prayer wheel. Inside this wheel, which is, you might say, like a brass drum, are bits of paper. On these are written one hundred million prayers. See!" He spoke to Jeanne. "Turn the handle."

The girl obeyed.


" he smiled, "you have said one hundred million prayers. Is it not very easy?"

Jeanne favored him with one of her rare smiles. This chubby mandarin in his long robe could help her. "He is not that one who stole my dagger," she assured herself. "His ears are quite short. He-"

Her thoughts broke short off. Her eyes opened wide.

"Where-where did that come from?" She was pointing to a three-bladed knife lying on a low bench.

"This," the mandarin went on in his slow, melodious voice, "like all the rest, came from a temple. It is very old."

"May-may I see it?" Jeanne's heart throbbed painfully.

"Oh, yes, you may see."

He held it out to her.

She did not take it. "That," she said more to herself than to him, "is not the one. There are no jewels in the hilt, only gold."

"No jewels?" The small eyes narrowed.

"You have seen one set with jewels, diamonds and rubies?"

"Only yesterday."

"And where is it now?" The mandarin strove in vain to maintain his Oriental calm.

"Who knows?" Jeanne shrugged her shoulders. She had said too much. "A-a Chinaman had it. He is gone. I know not where."

The mandarin went on telling in his slow way of the treasures in that golden temple; yet it was plain that his mind was not upon the ancient bell, the miniature pagoda nor the smiling Buddha. He was thinking of that knife with a jeweled handle, Jeanne was sure of that.

"I wonder how much he knows," she thought to herself. "Could he help us find that long-eared one? I am sure of it. And if he did? Ah, well, what then?"

In the end she decided that she dared not trust him, at least not yet.

For some time she lingered in that place of soft lights and silent footsteps.

When at last with a sigh she prepared to drag herself out where humanity flowed like a great river, she dropped a coin in the mandarin's hand and whispered:

"I will return again, and yet again."

"Y-e-s." The mandarin's tone was barely audible. "Those who reveal dark secrets are often richly rewarded. It is written in a book. You have said one hundred million prayers. You will not forget."

"I will not forget."

She was about to leave the place when again her mind received a shock. Because the light was dim, she had not observed until now that the walls were hung with banners.

"They are like those in the chest!" she told herself with a sudden shock. "They belong to some temple. Were they stolen from a temple, all those, the knife, the bell, the banners? And did the thief, after bringing them to America, fear to claim them? Is that why we were able to buy them at that auction house where unclaimed goods are sold?

"Ah, yes, it must be so! There was an Oriental bidding against us. Some strange persons came and dragged him away, the secret police, I am sure."

She was trembling from head to foot. What strange Oriental mystery had caught her in its web? What intrigue had she but half unearthed?

"Bah!" She took a strong grip on herself. "It is nothing. This place, it gives me strange ideas."

"These banners on the wall?" She spoke in the casual tone of an inquisitive visitor. "Are they also very old?"

"Many are very old." The mandarin was smiling again. "These were made by rich Chinese ladies who wish to have the gods be very good to them. They are all made by hand, embroidered with gold and silver thread. Worth many dollars, very, very many dollars, each one of these."

Jeanne asked not another question. She had had enough for one night. Never before had she so wished herself in the outer air.

She was nearing the door when a voice she had not heard before said:

"Would you like a book telling of the Golden Temple?"

She turned quickly to find herself looking into the face of a man, and at once she knew that here was a person well worth knowing. He was large, well built, muscular. His face was brown, the brown of one who lives in the out-of-doors. His hat was drawn low over his eyes, yet he did not inspire her with fear.

"Y-yes, I would like a book." She held out a quarter. "Do you know China?"

"I was born there." The man spoke in the steady, even tone of the white man who has lived long in strange lands. "Until six weeks ago I lived in China."

"Then-then perhaps you can help me."

"Gladly. How?"

"An-another time." Once more Jeanne felt she had spoken too soon.

Without a backward look, she left the place to lose herself in the merry-mad throng that, whirling and swirling like autumn leaves caught in a gust of wind, revolved about the entrance to the million dollar Skyway.

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