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The Camp Fire Girls Solve a Mystery; Or, The Christmas Adventure at Carver House By Hildegard G. Frey Characters: 4247

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

All wrought up over the idea of the strange midnight visitor still lurking down in the passage, Nyoda made Sherry and the boys arm themselves and search the tunnel and the cave thoroughly, but they found no sign of anyone hidden down there.

"It must have been a ghost that unlatched the door, after all," said Justice. "Most likely the ghost of the fellow that put the latch on. He's probably detailed to look after all the latches he put on doors!-goes around with the ghost of an oil can and keeps them from squeaking. Yesterday must have been the date on his monthly tour of inspection. No, it couldn't have been a spook anyhow," he contradicted himself. "There's the can of paint and the footprint on the stairs. Ghosts don't leave footprints. That was real paint. He's a live spook, all right."

"But where is he now?" asked Nyoda nervously. "I'm afraid to open a table drawer, for fear he'll step out. Does he fold up like an accordion, I wonder, or turn into smoke like the Imp in the Bottle? I declare, I'm getting curious to see him. I'm sorry now I made you barricade the door down there beside the ladder; I've half a notion to sit on the stairs all night and see if he won't appear."

"I know an easier way than that," said Justice gravely. "Just grease the stairs and then come when you hear him fall. It'll save you the trouble of sitting up."

"You might recommend that method to the cat, instead of her watching beside the mousehole," replied Nyoda, laughing.

Then she heard a familiar fumbling at the back door. "Here comes Hercules," she said hastily. "Quick, close up the landing. Don't anybody mention finding the secret passage to him, or he'll make life miserable for me from now on, worrying for fear his old friend, the devil, will come in and carry us all off. Come, get away from the stairway, and don't act as if anything unusual had happened.

"What is it, Hercules?" she asked, as the old man shuffled into the kitchen. "Is your cold worse?"

"I was jest goin' to ask yer could I have some coffee," said the old man in a plaintive voice. "I got the mizry so bad it's jest tearin'

me ter pieces, an' when it gits like dat it don' seem like anything'll help it 'xcept drinkin' hot coffee."

Nyoda smiled at this novel cure for rheumatism, but she replied heartily, "Why, certainly you may have some coffee, Hercules. Just sit down there at the kitchen table and I'll get you a cup. There's some left in the pot; it'll only take a minute to warm it up."

She heated the coffee and motioned Hercules to a seat at the kitchen table, but he took the steaming cup and edged toward the door.

"I'll jest take it out an' drink it gradual," he said. "Never seems ter help de mizry none 'less I drink it gradual an' keep my feet in hot water de while. Tanks, Mist' Sher'dan, I don' need no help. I kin git along by myself."

Hercules shuffled out to the barn with his cup of hot coffee and Nyoda waited until he was out of earshot before she laughed aloud.

"That man certainly is a character!" she exclaimed. "Whoever heard of curing rheumatism by drinking coffee 'gradual' and holding your feet in water? I never know what queer notion he's going to have next. I put a pot of bright red geraniums in his room once to brighten it up and he promptly brought it back, because, 'Jewraniums am powerful unlucky, Mis' 'Lizbeth. I was plantin' jewraniums dat day de goat got killed.' Poor old Hercules, he does miss that goat so! He was simply inconsolable at first, and finally I resigned myself to a life of misery and told him to go and get himself another goat, but he wouldn't do it. Nothing could take the place of that fiendish old animal in his affections. I believe he'll mourn for him all the rest of his life."

"Let's invite him in for Sylvia's birthday party to-morrow night," suggested Migwan. "That'll cheer him up and make him forget all about his 'mizry' for a while. Let's find a masquerade costume for him, too, so he can be one of us."

Nyoda smiled brightly at Migwan. "Thoughtful child!" she said fondly. "Always thinking of someone else's pleasure. Certainly we'll ask Hercules to the party.

"Now, all you menfolk clear out of this kitchen, or we won't get any dinner to-night!"

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