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

   Chapter 20 PICTURES ON THE CLOUDS

Hour of Enchantment / A Mystery Story for Girls By Roy J. Snell Characters: 8221

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


The sound that came to Florence's listening ears out there on the lake in the stalled Dodge-Em was a welcome one: the low put-put of a motor boat.

"If it only comes close enough we're saved from a night on the water," she said hopefully.

"Chilly business, staying out here," Erik Nord agreed.

The put-put grew louder. A light came swimming across the expanse of black water. Now they saw it and now it was gone.

"She's passing to the right of us," Erik judged. "We'll have to hail her."

Standing up in the boat he cupped his hands to shout:

"Ahoy there!"

Never had Florence heard such a roar.

"Ahoy there!" came floating back faintly.

"Give us a lift. We're stalled."

"Right O! We're coming!" The voice seemed very far away.

Presently across the shimmering waters of night a dark bulk loomed.

It was only a fishing boat headed for the dock. This craft smelled of herring and tar, but she carried, too, a hearty welcome such as one might not find on a handsomer boat.

"Give us yer line!

"Now! There we are! Where y' bound fer in that thing?" the sun-tanned skipper boomed.

"Nowhere in particular. We want to get back to the lagoon."

"Right O! We'll tow y' in."

Next moment the stranded ones found themselves leaning back comfortably in the broad seat, watching the play of moonlight upon the water that rippled and rolled about their prow.

"It would be a grand world to live in," Erik murmured, "if all its people were as simple and obliging as these fishermen."

"They're common folks." There was a world of meaning in the girl's words.

"Uncommon, I'd say, very uncommon indeed."

"All a matter of point of view, I suppose."

The fishermen had demanded no pay for their services, were loath in the end to accept it. They did not, however, depart unrewarded.

When, a half hour later, Florence burst into the apartment, she found Jeanne sitting before the window, looking out into the night. The trunk had been sent to a room where empty trunks were kept. The apartment was in apple pie order. Jeanne did not say, "Oh, my friend, such a terrible thing has happened! We have been searched again." She said nothing at all; she just kept on looking out into the night.

The reason for this is apparent enough. The little French girl harbored a secret. This secret she had hidden even from her bosom pal. The secret had to do with that laundry bag still reposing in a cubicle back there in the small hotel near their own shabby rooms. The check boy was still custodian of her secret.

Why did Jeanne guard this secret so closely? Perhaps for no reason at all. Jeanne was at heart a gypsy. A gypsy has a reason for doing a thing if he chooses. A mere impulse is reason enough for him. Life for him is action, not thought. He dances, he sings, he plays the violin. He travels where he will. If you say to him, "Why?" he shrugs his shoulders. Jeanne was like that.

But to Jeanne, as on other nights long after Florence was asleep, there came, as she sat there before the window, strange fantastic pictures of the past and visions of the future. Of these she wondered as in a dream.

Clouds had come drifting in from the west. They filled the sky. From time to time a powerful radio beacon, swinging in its orbit, appeared to paint pictures on those clouds. In Jeanne's fanciful vision these pictures took on fantastic forms.

Some of the pictures that came to her as she sat there were vivid, as real as life itself, and some were as indistinct as a mirage on the far horizon.

A hearse in the moonlight. "A sign." She shuddered. "A hearse with two black horses and a coffin." Again she shuddered.

But now it was gone. Instead there was a sloping hillside where little streams rushed from beneath dark canopies of mountain ivy. The dark clouds turned white under the powerful light.

"Will it ever be?" She dared to hope now. "Will our moving picture succeed?" Tom Tobin had inspired her. She could see his face on the clouds. Young, slender, eager, full of vitality, he invited hope as sunshine invites a bud to become a flower.

Bu

t now in a cavern of the darkened clouds a great trunk yawned. Out from it, like a jack-in-the-box, leaped a little yellow man with long ears. "He wants that bell, those banners. He risks everything to get them. I wonder why?" She mused for a moment; then the scene in this fairyland of clouds changed once more.

A slender white cloud curled upward. Its tip became a rope that rose higher, higher, higher, toward a dark night sky. Up that rope a figure appeared to glide. "He did go up!" she whispered hoarsely. "I saw him!"

The airplane beacon swung about. The sky went black. It became dark waters, and on those waters were two boats gliding one after the other, moving silently out to sea.

"That long-eared one," she murmured, "he is everywhere at once.

"But Florence-" A smile played about her lips. "Florence and that white man from China. How romantic to be out there with him beneath the moon all alone! Surely one may endure mystery, suspense, anything, if it leads to romance!"

Strangely enough, the night sky took on a tinge of green. In this she saw a frail child of France garbed all in green and gold. Her eyes opened wide. It was her very own self.

Yet even as she looked the picture faded, and in its place was a broad green hill topped by a stately building of brown stone. And after that all visions vanished.

Florence found her there in the morning fast asleep in the great upholstered chair before the window. A shaft of sunshine playing across her face made her seem to smile. A morning breeze from the lake set her golden hair waving a salute.

She did not sleep long after Florence had stolen away to her work, this little French girl. Tom Tobin had wakened hope in her heart. He had set her glorious mind to dreaming. And dreamers seldom sleep too much.

Having wakened, she sprang into action. A shower, ten minutes of wild dancing to set her blood racing, a cup of coffee with crisp squares of hard toast, and she was away.

Gathering up the little mountain girl, Jensie, she hurried her away to the movie lot. There, by great good chance, she came upon Mr. Soloman, who was, after all, only Assistant Production Manager for a great Hollywood producer, and no one to be greatly afraid of.

"Ah, Miss LeMar!" he exclaimed. "How very good it is to see you. Look! Already they have mountain ivy and rhododendrons from the nursery. The dogwood, too, will come, and there are two cabins to come. And now, Miss LeMar, might I ask what more would you suggest?

"This," said Jeanne, pushing Jensie forward, "is my property lady. We will look over the set together."

An hour later when she and Jensie reappeared they carried four pages of notes.

Seated there on the improvised hillside in the sun, they discussed details with the eager Mr. Soloman, who said, "Yes, Miss LeMar. Yes, Miss LeMar, this also can be done," through it all. "A coonskin drying on the outside of the cabin, a well with an oaken bucket, hound dogs, yes, yes, three hound dogs. A long-barreled rifle. Yes, yes, we will have all these.

"And, Miss LeMar, I am wiring Hollywood to-day for approval of my plans. If they say O. K., then we will have a special car and we will go to this Big Black Mountain for long shots and such things that cannot be taken here. What would you say to that?"

"Oh, Mr. Soloman!" Before Jeanne knew what she was doing she had kissed the chubby little man on the cheek.

"Think, Jensie!" she cried. "Think of going right down to your Big Black Mountain! And of course you must come along!"

"But my work!"

"Only for two or three days. We will fix that." The little man smiled broadly.

"That is all for to-day?" said Jeanne.

"That is all, Miss LeMar. You are very beautiful to-day, Miss LeMar. There is color in your cheeks. Ha! This is wonderful!" He gave Jeanne such a sharp look that deep in her soul she trembled. Was he beginning to guess? And if he knew?

She returned to Lorena LeMar's apartment with a very sober face. Life had begun to be quite wonderful. If some one spoiled it all by a sudden discovery or a betrayal, what then?

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