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   Chapter 6 “THE CHEST IS EMPTY!”

Hour of Enchantment / A Mystery Story for Girls By Roy J. Snell Characters: 7196

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


"Jeanne, you left the door open!"

Standing on the stair landing before the door to their apartment, Florence gave her companion a reproving glance.

"I? Leave the door open?" The little French girl was vigorous in her denial. "To be sure I did not leave it open. I closed it tight!"

"Then," said Florence, catching her breath, "some one has been here, may be here yet."

"If they are here still, you may throw them out of the window. See, you have my permission." Crowding past her, Jeanne entered their living room and snapped on the light.

What she saw caused her to hold up her hands in horror. The place was in the wildest state of confusion. Cushions had been dragged from sofas and chairs, beds tumbled about, dresser drawers emptied on the floor.

"Anyway," Jeanne sighed, "they are gone."

"And the chest!" Florence exclaimed. "That Oriental chest?"

"The chest is empty, to be sure." Jeanne threw back the lid. "What would you have? They came for that which was in the chest; nothing more. Why then would they not take it if they found it here?"

"Gone!" Florence sat down to stare at the chest. "And I don't feel so sorry about that. After all, what use could we have for some dusty old Chinese banners and a silly little bell?"

"What indeed?" There was a curious light in Jeanne's eye that Florence did not quite understand.

"But Jeanne!" Florence sprang to her feet. "If those people found what they wanted in the chest, why did they take the trouble to tear this place up so terribly?"

"Who knows?" Jeanne's eyes were veiled, dreamy now.

When order had been restored, Florence retired for the night.

Jeanne sat up for a long time studying. She was reading the book she had purchased in the Golden Temple of Jehol.

As she read her wonder grew. From her reading she learned for certain that the embroidered panels that had but yesterday reposed in the now empty chest had indeed come from the temples of China-not one, but many temples; that they had been made of gold and silver thread. When she recalled them one by one and attempted to compute their value, it made her a little dizzy.

"But then," she sighed at last, "it is not so much what one possesses that counts; it is what he is able to sell it for.

"And how did you come to Chicago?" She addressed the chest. "You have no address on you. No, not one! I scoured you clean. You have only a dragon on your cover. Did some one steal all those priceless things? And were they afraid at last to claim them in America?"

Once again she recalled the circumstances under which she had bought the box. Both she and Florence had long haunted auction houses. Once she had bought an ancient gypsy god.

"And did that cause me trouble!" she exclaimed in a whisper. "Oo, la, la! But it was great fun, and very mysterious, too.

"And now there is this box." She kicked the thing with her toe. "It was lost in the express with no label on it, the auctioneer said.

"I made a bid. A Chinaman raised me. I bid again. Once more he raised. There was murder in his eye. And then-" She paused for breath. "Then some officers in plain clothes came and carried him away.

"Poor fellow! It is hard when you wish very much to buy a package so mysterious, and you cannot.

"But then," she added after a moment, "perhaps it was to him not so mysterious after all. Possibly he knew what was in the chest.

"Ah, well, we will keep an eye out for that one with the long ears. And if we find him? What then?"

Unable to answer this question, she crept into her bed and fell asleep.

Next day she s

pent three hours alternately laughing and crying over Sandburg's life of Lincoln called The Prairie Years.

"Ah, now I understand it all," she sighed, as she wiped her eyes after reading the chapter telling of the love of young Abe for Ann Rutledge. "Who would not gladly scrub the floors of those buildings where our little Jensie Crider labors? And yet, how I love her for it!"

On this day Florence was given the surprise of her life. And to Jeanne a bright new dream was born.

Florence was on her way to work on the Enchanted Island. She was about to start across the bridge over the lagoon when she saw some one leaning on the rail looking away at the water.

"Why, it's Jeanne!" she exclaimed in a whisper. "What in the world?"

Tiptoeing up to the girl who was looking away from her, she seized her by the shoulders as she fairly shouted in her ear:

"Jeanne! How did you get here? And where did you get that jacket? It's a peach!"

Taken by surprise, as she undoubtedly had been, the girl did not so much as start.

"My name's not Jeanne!" Her voice was icy cold. "What's got you?"

"Oh, come on, Jeanne," Florence laughed, looking her full in the face, "you can't fool me! But, honest, where did you get that jacket?"

A sudden and quite surprising light overspread the other girl's face.

"Say!" There was a ring in her voice now. "I told you the truth the first time. My name's not Jeanne. But say! Do you mean to tell me there's a girl in this city that looks so much like me that you really can't tell I'm not that girl even when you look me square in the face?"

Florence stared at her in blank amazement. "If you're not Petite Jeanne, the little French girl, who are you?"

"I'm Lorena LeMar, the movie star. Surely you must recognize me from the screen!"

"I-I'm sorry. I seldom go to the movies." Florence looked her apology. "I'm convinced now, and I-I apologise."

She was about to pass on when the other girl seized her arm eagerly. "Who is this girl? Has she been in the movies? No, of course not. Could she act a part, do you think?"

The girl seemed so much in earnest that for a moment Florence could only stare.

When at last she found her tongue she assured the young movie star that while Jeanne had never appeared in the movies she was quite capable of acting a part, that she had once starred for an entire season in light opera and that for one glorious night she had sung a stellar part in grand opera.

"Do you believe in luck?" the girl demanded.

"Mostly in the luck that comes after a lot of hard work," Florence smiled.

"Sometimes you get the breaks. You can't deny that," the girl insisted. "Might as well call it luck. Who is this friend of yours? Does she like acting? Does she need money? Is she a kindly person? Would she throw a rope to a drowning soul?"

"Mostly yes," Florence smiled.

"Lead me to her."

"Can't now. Going to work."

"What work?"

"Over on the Enchanted Island."

"When can I see her then?"

"At eleven to-night, at the Rutledge Tavern in the Lincoln Group." Florence was thinking fast. She must be on her way.

"That-that will be swell. Here, shake on it!" The girl gripped Florence's hand. "You won't fail me?"

"We'll be there."

Florence went dashing across the bridge. All the way over she was saying: "What does it all mean? What can she want of Petite Jeanne?"

No answers came to her, but deep in her soul was the conviction that Jeanne was in for one more novel adventure, and the sort of adventure she loved, at that.

Still, she had not guessed the half of it.

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