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   Chapter 6 UNCLE JASPER’S DIARY

The Camp Fire Girls Solve a Mystery; Or, The Christmas Adventure at Carver House By Hildegard G. Frey Characters: 14508

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


After lunch the Winnebagos and the boys gathered around Nyoda in Uncle Jasper's study to hear her read aloud from "The Diery of Jasper M. Carver, Esqwire." She held the book up that all might see the portraits of the fearsome pirates, and then turned over to the next page, where the sprawly, uneven writing began, and started to read.

"October 7, 1870. Confined to the house through bad behavior while father and mother have gone to the fair. I wasn't lonesome though because I had company. A boy ran into the yard chasing a cat and saw me sticking my head out of the upstairs window and blew a bean shooter at me and hit me on the chin and I hit him with an apple core and then he dared me to come out and lick him but I couldn't go out of the house so I dared him to climb up the porch post and come in the window. He came and I licked him. He is a new boy in town and his name is Sydney Phillips, but he wants to be called Tad. He lives up on Harrison Hill. We are going to be pirates when we grow up. I am going to be Jasper the Feend and he is going to be Tad the Terror. We swore eternul frendship and wrote our names in blood on the attic window sill."

"Oh, how delicious!" cried Sahwah at the end of the first entry. "Your uncle must have been lots of fun when he was young. What crazy things boys are, anyway! To start out by fighting each other and end up by swearing eternal friendship! Go on, Nyoda, what did they do next?"

Nyoda proceeded.

"November 10, 1870. Tad and I made a great discovery this afternoon. There is a secret passage in this house. It is--"

The concerted shriek of triumph that went up from the Winnebagos forced Nyoda to pause.

"I told you there was!" shouted Sahwah above the rest. "Please hurry and read where it is, I can't wait another minute!"

Nyoda turned the page and then paused. "The next page is torn out," she said, holding the book up so they could all see the ragged strip of paper left hanging in the binding, where the page had been torn out.

"Oh, what a shame!" The wail rose on every side.

"Maybe it tells later," said Sahwah hopefully. "Go on, Nyoda." The dairy continued on a page numbered six.

"January 4, 1871. Tad and I played pirat to-day. We made a pirat's den in the secret passage. We are going to hide our chests of money there, all pieces of eight. We haven't any pieces of eight yet just some red, white and blue dollars we found in the desk drawer in the library. Tad thinks maybe they are patriotick curency they used in the Revolushun"

Nyoda had to wait a minute until Sherry had got done laughing, and then she proceeded:

"February 19, 1871. I am in durrance vile, being locked in my room for a week with nothing to eat but bread and water because I shut Patricia up in the secret passage and went away and forgot all about her because there was a fire. I remembered and let her out as soon as I got home but she had fainted, being a silly girl and afraid of the dark, and she couldn't scream because we tied a handkerchief over her mouth when we kidnapped her, being pirats. So now I am in durrance vile and cannot see any of my family, not even Tad. But he stands behind the hedge and shoots pieces of candy through my window with the bean shooter and lightens my durrance vile which is what a sworn frend has to do when their names are written in blood on the attic window sill."

Thus the entries in the scrawling, boyish hand covered page after page, recounting the adventurous and ofttimes seamy career of the two youthful pirates, through all of which the two stood up for each other stanchly, and never, never gave each other away, because they were "sworn frends till deth us do part," and their names were "written in blood on the attic window sill."

The entries became farther apart after a while, and the spelling improved until finally there came this announcement:

"Tad and I can't be pirates any longer. We are going to college next week."

There the India ink ceased and also the illustrations. After that came page after page of neat entries in faded but still legible blue ink, telling of the progress through college of the two boys; chronicles of the joys, the troubles, the triumphs and the escapades of the two friends, still so inseparable that their names have become a byword among the students and they go by the nickname of David and Jonathan. When one of them gets into trouble the other one still does "what a sworn friend has to do when their names are written in blood on the attic window sill." The Winnebagos listened with shining eyes while Nyoda read the tale of this remarkable friendship.

The dates of the entries moved forward by months; records of scrapes became fewer and fewer; David and Jonathan had outgrown their colthood and were beginning to win honors with brain and brawn. Then came the record of their graduation and return to Oakwood; of "Tad the Terror" becoming a doctor, of the marriage of Jasper's sister Patricia to a sea captain; the death of his father and the passing of Carver House into his possession.

Later came the account of a delightful year spent abroad with Tad Phillips, of mountain climbing in the Alps; of browsing among rare old art treasures in France and Italy; of gay larks in Paris. It was always he and Tad, he and Tad; still as loyal to each other as in the days when they wrote their names in blood on the attic window sill.

After the entry which chronicled Jasper's return to Oakland and settling down in Carver House with his mother, and his enthusiastic adoption of literature as a profession, came an item which made the Winnebagos sit up and listen. It was:

"June 3, 1885. I have had a new window put into my study on the side which faces toward's Tad's house on Harrisburg Hill. I had the young Italian artist, Pusini, who has lately come to New York, come and set the glass for me. It is a representation of a charming scene I came across in Italy-an arched gateway covered over with climbing roses. The window is arranged so that through the arch of the gateway I can look directly at Tad's house. It gives me inspiration in my work."

"What a beautiful idea!" said Hinpoha, carried away completely by the great love of Jasper Carver for his friend, so simply expressed in his diary.

"So that was Tad's house, that we are living in!" said Sylvia excitedly. "I wonder where he is now."

"Go on reading, Nyoda," said Sahwah, consumed with interest in the tale. "See if he says anything about the shutter." Nyoda passed on to the next entry.

"June 27, 1885. Went to the Academy of Music in Philadelphia to hear Sylvia Warrington sing. She is the new singer from the South that has created such a furore. The Virginia Nightingale, they call her. What a God-gifted woman she is! There never was such a voice as hers. She sang 'Hark, hark, the lark,' and the whole house rose to its feet. She was Spring incarnate. Sylvia Warrington! The name itself is music. I cannot forget her. She is like a lark singing in the desert at dawning."

A vague remembrance leaped up for an instant in Katherine's mind and died as it came.

Nyoda read on through pages that recorded Uncle Jasper's meeting with Sylvia Warrington; his great and growing lo

ve for her; his persistent wooing, her consenting to marry him; his wild happiness, which found vent in page after page of rapturous plans for the future. Then came the announcement of Tad's return from a period of study abroad, and Uncle Jasper's proud presentation of his bride-to-be. After that Tad's name appeared in connection with every occasion, still the faithful David to his beloved Jonathan.

Then, almost without warning, the great friendship ran on the rocks and was shattered. For Tad no sooner saw Sylvia Warrington than he too, fell madly in love with her. A brief and bitter entry told how she finally broke her engagement to Uncle Jasper and married Tad, and how Uncle Jasper, beside himself with grief and disappointment, turned against his friend and hated him with the undying hate that is born of jealousy. With heavy strokes of the pen that cut the paper he wrote down his determination to have no more friends and to live to himself thereafter. Then, in a shaky hand in marked contrast to the fierce strokes just above, he wrote: "But Sylvia-I love her still. I can't help it." That shaky handwriting stood as a mute testimonial to his heart's torment, and Nyoda, reading it after all these years, felt a sympathetic spasm of pain pass through her own heart at the sight of that wavering entry.

"It's just like a story in a book!" exclaimed Hinpoha, furtively drying her eyes, which had overflowed during the reading of the last page. "The beautiful lady, and the rival lovers, and the disappointed one never marrying. Oh, it's too romantic for anything! Oh, please hurry and read what comes next."

Nyoda turned the page and read the brief entry:

"I have taken up the study of ancient history as a serious pursuit. In it I hope to find forgetfulness."

The eyes of the Winnebagos traveled to the bookcase, and now they knew why there was nothing there but dull old books in heavy bindings, and why Uncle Jasper Carver hated love stories.

The next entry had them all sitting up again.

"I have had Hercules fasten an iron shutter over the window in my study-the one through which I can see Tad's house when I sit at my desk. I cannot bear to look at anything that reminds me of him."

"There!" shouted all the Winnebagos at once. "That was the reason for putting up the iron shutter! The mystery is solved!"

"Poor Uncle Jasper!" said Nyoda pityingly. "What a Spartan he was! How thoroughly he set about removing every memory of Tad from his mind! Think of covering up that beautiful pane of glass because he couldn't bear to look through it at the house of his friend!" She finished reading the entry:

"Hercules demurred at covering up the window-he admired it more than anything else in the house-so to give him a satisfactory reason for doing so I told him the devil would come in through that gateway some day and I was putting up the shutter to keep him out. There's one thing sure; Hercules will never take that shutter down as long as he lives-he's scared nearly into a Chinaman."

"So that's why Hercules threw such a fit when we took the shutter off!" said Sherry. "He thought that now the devil would come in and get him. Poor, superstitious old nigger!"

"I wonder if Tad and Sylvia went to live in the house on Harrisburg Hill," said Sahwah curiously. "He doesn't say whether they did or not."

"Oh, I wonder if they did!" cried Sylvia, with eager interest. "To think I've been living in the same house they lived in-if they did live there," she added. "But how strange it seems to hear them call that place Harrisburg Hill. It is called Main Street Hill now."

"I wonder what Tad and Sylvia did after they were married," said Hinpoha, with romantic curiosity. "Did they stay in Oakwood, or did they go away? Is there any more, Nyoda?"

Nyoda was already glancing down the next page, which was written over with lines in blacker ink, and broader and heavier strokes of the pen, which seemed somehow to express grim satisfaction on the part of Uncle Jasper. Grim satisfaction Uncle Jasper must indeed have felt when he wrote those lines, for misfortune had overtaken the one who had caused his own anguish of heart. The entry told how Tad had become staff physician at one of the large army posts in the west. There was an epidemic of typhoid and quite a few of the men were ill at once, all requiring the same kind of medicine. Through carelessness in making up a certain medicine he put in a deadly poison instead of the harmless ingredient he intended to put in, and a dozen men died of the dose. There was a tremendous stir about the matter, and the newspapers all over the country were full of it. He was court-martialed, and though he was acquitted, the mistake being entirely accidental, the matter had gained such publicity that his career as a doctor was ruined. He left the army and fled out of the country, taking Sylvia with him. Some months later the papers brought the announcement of both their deaths from yellow fever in Cuba. Again the handwriting began to waver on the last sentence. "She is dead." In those three little words the Winnebagos seemed to hear the echo of the breaking of a strong man's heart. There were no more entries.

"Isn't it perfectly thrilling!" gulped Hinpoha, with eyes overflowing again. "It's better than any book I ever read! And to think we never suspected there was anything like that connected with your Uncle Jasper! There, now, Katherine Adams, what did I tell you? You said he was a born bachelor, and just look at the romance he had!"

"He certainly did," said Katherine, in a tone of surrender.

"That must be why the house we lived in was shut up so long," said Sylvia musingly. "The man that said we could live in it said that old Mrs. Phillips had moved away many years ago and had never come back, and although people knew she was dead, no one had ever come to live in the house, and nobody in Oakwood knew who owned it. The man said he had heard from older people in the town that Mrs. Phillips had had a son who was away from home all the time after he was grown up and who had gotten into some kind of trouble-he couldn't remember what it was. This must have been it! How queer it is, that I should first come to live in Tad's house, and then stay in the house of his friend! I never dreamed, when I heard that man telling Aunt Aggie about the almost forgotten people that used to live in the old house, that I should ever hear of them again. Things have turned out to be so interesting since I came to stay in the Winter Palace!" she finished up with sparkling eyes.

Darkness had fallen by the time Nyoda had finished reading Uncle Jasper's Diary, and she jumped up with a little exclamation as the clock on the mantel-piece chimed six. The other hours had struck unnoticed. "Mercy!" she cried, "it's time dinner was on the table, and here we haven't even begun to get it! I forgot all about dinner, thinking about poor Uncle Jasper."

All the rest had forgotten about dinner, too, and the Winnebagos could not get their minds off the tale they had just heard read. "Poor Uncle Jasper!" they all said, looking up at his picture, and to their pitying eyes his face was no longer grim and stern, but only pathetic.

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