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   Chapter 22 THE WARNING

Whispers at Dawn; Or, The Eye By Roy J. Snell Characters: 6108

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

In the meantime tremendous things were doing in the little house where Captain Burns had spent his childhood.

For a time, it is true, the silence in that little gray home out where the snow lay white and glistening on field and road continued.

Madame LeClare sat by the narrow drop-leaf table knitting. Joyce Mills, with a big black cat on her lap, seemed more than half asleep. Dark-haired Alice had curled herself up on two cushions beside the fire. The others sat in dreamy silence. It did not seem a time for small talk, this Christmas Eve. Were their thoughts busy with other Christmas Eves? Who can say? Were they thinking of the future, of the approaching New Year and what it would bring to them? Did they think at times of the five public enemies still at large and free to follow their evil ways? Perhaps, at times, all these. At any rate, they were silent.

Into that silence there crept a whisper. The effect was electric! Madame dropped her knitting. Joyce started so violently that the cat bounced from her lap. With an involuntary motion Drew Lane reached for his gun. "Lanan-" the whisper began, "Lanan Road, attention! Those in Captain Burns' old home, attention!" The whisper was like a call "To Arms!"

"You are in grave danger. Grave danger! The report is just that. I can tell you no more. Be on your guard!"

The whisper ceased. The clock ticked on. From without came the hoarse scream of the rusty windmill. The black cat, walking across the floor, settled himself beside Alice among the cushions.

As if directed by a common impulse, Drew and Tom removed their automatics, examined them with care, then dropped them with a little chug back into their places.

"Peace on earth, good will toward men!" Drew quoted dryly. "In such a world as ours there can be no peace."

"Grave danger," Johnny thought to himself. He was looking through the window to the white silence outside. "Danger? It does not seems possible! Captain Burns has kept this place a secret. We came here in a very round-about way. Surely no one followed us.

"And yet-" A thought struck him squarely between the eyes. "And yet, the Whisperer, alone in his tower among the stars-he knows!

"The Whisperer-who can he be?" He said the words aloud.

Alice, who sat almost at his feet, shook her head. She did not know. No one did, at least almost no one.

Was he a friend of the law, or its enemy? A friend, Johnny would have said. And yet, as he recalled how Spider had barely escaped death when he attempted to take a picture of that mysterious man of the tower, he could not be sure. Spider had not repeated his hair-raising experiment.

Curiously enough, it did not occur to one of them that they might slip out quietly, pile into their cars and go speeding back to the city. They had come here with a plan. They were to hang up their stockings, each of them, as if he were once more a small child. They were to stay all night, the ladies sleeping upstairs, the men and boys in two tiny downstairs bedrooms. There was to be joy in the m

orning and feasting at noonday; a twenty-five pound turkey awaited Madame's skill at stuffing and baking. Who should interfere with these glorious plans? No one, surely!

* * * * * * * *

In the meantime, Grace Krowl in her parlor in the distant city had received a strange visitor.

Hardly had she returned from her little journey dispensing Christmas cheer, when there came a knock at her door.

"Who can that be?"

Springing up, she threw open the door, and there before her, smiling like some fairy, was a tiny little lady all dressed in furs.

"I received your letter." She stepped inside. "I came to see about the little trunk."

"But you-you're not Emily Anne!" Grace stared with all her eyes.

"Oh, dear, no!" The little lady's laugh was like the jingle of a silver bell. "I am her niece, Miss Baxter. Aunt Emily is dead, I am sorry to say-has been for two years."

"Oh!" There was a note of genuine sadness in Grace's voice. "Ex-excuse me!" she apologized. "But I came almost to know her by the lovely things in her trunk."

"I am sure you did." The little lady beamed. "She was a choice soul, Aunt Emily Anne!

"But tell me-" She dropped into a chair. "Your letter interested me so much. Won't you tell me how you came into possession of this trunk, and how you came to write that wonderful letter?"

"Wonderful letter?" the girl thought. "At last one has returned to give thanks. How gorgeous!"

She did tell Miss Baxter all she wished to know about the trunk and the letters.

"But this Bible?" The little lady's eyes gleamed. "You say it is worth several thousands of dollars?"

"I am sure of it." Grace nodded her head. "I've had the signature verified. It is genuine."

"Then," said Miss Baxter, "let us form a society, you and I-a 'Society for the Return of Lost and Strayed Trunks.' How does that sound? There is a 'Society for the Return of Lost and Strayed Cats.' Trunks are more important than cats, much more!"

"But you are the only one who returned to thank me. Besides," said Grace, "I don't quite understand."

"Oh! The plans," the little lady smiled, "we must work them out little by little. We shall sell the Bible. I will add to that fund. This will give us working capital. You shall be the secretary, and do a great deal of the work."

"Nothing could be more wonderful," Grace murmured, too overcome for speech.

"And now!" Miss Baxter sprang to her feet. "This is Christmas Eve, and I must be on my way. I'll see you again soon!"

With a wave of her hand, as if she might be a feminine Santa Claus, she was gone, leaving the astonished Grace to stare after her.

"Life," she thought, "is strange, so very strange, so much mystery!" She closed the door, but did not stir from her place. She was thinking, and they were long, long thoughts.

These thoughts were broken in upon by a second knock on the door. No light tap of a sparrow's wing, this knock, but one like the thump of a policeman demanding admittance in the name of the law. Her hand trembled as she gripped the knob.

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