Monthly Archives: February 2005the_content
Publish date: 1899
Author: Sarah J.Prichard (Sarah Johnson), 1830-1909
LoC Class PS: Language and Literatures: American and Canadian literature
Subject: Short stories
Subject: United States — History — Revolution, 1775-1783 — Fiction
Begin of the book:
The Only Woman in the Town
And Other Tales of the
SARAH J. PRICHARD
Author of the History of Waterbury, 1674-1783
MELICENT PORTER CHAPTER
Daughters of the American Revolution
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1898
By the Melicent Porter Chapter
Daughters of the American Revolution,
In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington
The celebration of the Centennial Anniversary of the United States at the city of Philadelphia in 1876, and the exhibit there made of that nation’s wonderful growth and progress, gave a new and remarkable impulse to the germs of patriotism in American life. The following tales of the American Revolution—with the exception of the last—were written twenty-two years ago, and are the outcome of an interest then awakened. They all appeared in magazines and other publications of that period, from which they have been gathered into this volume, in the hope that thereby patriotism may grow stronger in the children of to-day.
|The Only Woman in the Town||9|
|A Windham Lamb in Boston Town||38|
|How One Boy Helped the British Troops Out of Boston in 1776||47|
|Pussy Dean’s Beacon Fire||67|
|David Bushnell and His American Turtle||75|
|The Birthday of Our Nation||117|
|The Overthrow of the Statue of King George||127|
|Sleet and Snow||135|
|Patty Rutter: The Quaker Doll who slept in Independence Hall||151|
|Becca Blackstone’s Turkeys at Valley Forge||159|
|How Two Little Stockings Saved Fort Safety||169|
|A Day and a Night in the Old Porter House||181|
One hundred years and one ago, in Boston, at ten of the clock one April night, a church steeple had been climbed and a lantern hung out.
At ten, the same night, in mid-river of the Charles, oarsmen two, with passenger silent and grim, had seen the signal light out-swung, and rowed with speed for the Charlestown shore.
At eleven, the moon was risen, and the grim passenger, Paul Revere, had ridden up the Neck, encountered a foe, who opposed his ride into the country, and, after a brief delay, had gone on, leaving a British officer lying in a clay pit.
At midnight, a hundred ears had heard the flying horseman cry, “Up and arm. The Regulars are coming out!”
You know the story well. You have heard how the wild alarm ran from voice to voice and echoed beneath every roof, until the men of Lexington and Concord were stirred and aroused with patriotic fear for the safety of the public stores that had been committed to their keeping.
There is one thing about that day that you have not heard and I will tell you now. It is, how one little woman staid in the town of Concord, whence all the women save her had fled.
All the houses that were standing then, are very old-fashioned now, but there was one dwelling-place on Concord Common that was old-fashioned even then! It was the abode of Martha Moulton and “Uncle John.” Just who “Uncle John” was, is not known to the writer, but he was probably Martha Moulton’s uncle. The uncle, it appears by record, was eighty-five years old; while the niece was only three-score and eleven.
Once and again that morning, a friendly hand had pulled the latch-string at Martha Moulton’s kitchen entrance and offered to convey herself and treasures away, but, to either proffer, she had said: “No, I must stay until Uncle John gets the cricks out of his back, if all the British soldiers in the land march into town.”
At last, came Joe Devins, a lad of fifteen years—Joe’s two astonished eyes peered for a moment into Martha Moulton’s kitchen, and then eyes and owner dashed into the room, to learn what the sight he there saw could mean.
“Whew! Mother Moulton, what are you doing?”
“I’m getting Uncle John his breakfast to be 11sure, Joe,” she answered. “Have you seen so many sights this morning that you don’t know breakfast, when you see it? Have a care there, for hot fat will burn,” as she deftly poured the contents of a pan, fresh from the fire, into a dish.
Hungry Joe had been astir since the first drum had beat to arms at two of the clock. He gave one glance at the boiling cream and the slices of crisp pork swimming in it, as he gasped forth the words, “Getting breakfast in Concord this morning! Mother Moulton, you must be crazy.”
“So they tell me,” she said, serenely. “There comes Uncle John!” she added, as the clatter of a staff on the stone steps of the stairway outrang, for an instant, the cries of hurrying and confusion that filled the air of the street.
“Don’t you know, Mother Moulton,” Joe went on to say, “that every single woman and child have been carried off, where the Britishers won’t find ’em?”
“I don’t believe the king’s troops have stirred out of Boston,” she replied, going to the door leading to the stone staircase, to open it for Uncle John.
“Don’t believe it?” and Joe looked, as he echoed the words, as though only a boy could feel sufficient disgust at such a want of common sense, in full view of the fact, that Reuben Brown had just brought the news that eight men had been killed by the king’s Red Coats in Lexington, which fact he made haste to impart.
“I won’t believe a word of it,” she said, stoutly, “until I see the soldiers coming.”
“Ah! Hear that!” cried Joe, tossing back his hair and swinging his arms triumphantly at an airy foe. “You won’t have to wait long. That signal is for the minute men. They are going to march out to meet the Red Coats. Wish I was a minute man, this minute.”
Meanwhile, poor Uncle John was getting down the steps of the stairway, with many a grimace and groan. As he touched the floor, Joe, his face beaming with excitement and enthusiasm, sprang to place a chair for him at the table, saying, “Good morning,” at the same moment.
“May be,” groaned Uncle John, “youngsters like you may think it is a good morning, but I don’t. Such a din and clatter as the fools have kept up all night long. If I had the power” (and now the poor old man fairly groaned with rage), “I’d make ’em quiet long enough to let an old man get a wink of sleep, when the rheumatism lets go.”
“I’m real sorry for you,” said Joe, “but you don’t know the news. The king’s troops, from camp, in Boston, are marching right down here, to carry off all our arms that they can find.”
“Are they?” was the sarcastic rejoinder. “It’s the best news I’ve heard in a long while. Wish they had my arms, this minute. They wouldn’t carry them a step further than they could help, I know. Run and tell them that mine are ready, Joe.”
“But, Uncle John, wait until after breakfast, you’ll want to use them once more,” said Martha Moulton, trying to help him into a chair that Joe had placed on the white sanded floor.
Meanwhile, Joe Devins had ears for all the sounds that penetrated the kitchen from out of doors, and he had eyes for the slices of well-browned pork and the golden-hued Johnny-cake lying before the glowing coals on the broad hearth.
As the little woman bent to take up the breakfast, Joe, intent on doing some kindness for her in the way of saving treasures, asked, “Sha’n’t I help you, Mother Moulton?”
“I reckon I am not so old that I can’t lift a mite of corn-bread,” she replied with chilling severity.
“Oh, I didn’t mean to lift that thing,” he made haste to explain, “but to carry off things and hide ’em away, as everybody else has been doing half the night. I know a first-rate place up in the woods. Used to be a honey tree, you know, and it’s just as hollow as anything. Silver spoons and things would be just as safe in it—” but Joe’s words were interrupted by unusual tumult on the street and he ran off to learn the news, intending to return and get the breakfast that had been offered to him.
Presently he rushed back to the house with cheeks aflame and eyes ablaze with excitement. “They’re coming!” he cried. “They’re in sight down by the rocks. They see ’em marching, the men on the hill do!”
“You don’t mean that it’s really true that the soldiers are coming here, right into our town!” cried Martha Moulton, rising in haste and bringing together, with rapid flourishes to right and to left, every fragment of silver on it. Divining her intent, Uncle John strove to hold fast his individual spoon, but she twitched it without ceremony out from his rheumatic old fingers, and ran next to the parlor cupboard, wherein lay her movable treasures.
“What in the world shall I do with them?” she cried, returning with her apron well filled, and borne down by the weight thereof.
“Give ’em to me,” cried Joe. “Here’s a basket. Drop ’em in, and I’ll run like a brush-fire through the town and across the old bridge, and hide ’em as safe as a weasel’s nap.”
Joe’s fingers were creamy; his mouth was half filled with Johnny-cake, and his pocket on the right bulged to its utmost capacity with the same, as he held forth the basket; but the little woman was afraid to trust him, as she had been afraid to trust her neighbors.
“No! No!” she replied, to his repeated offers. “I know what I’ll do. You, Joe Devins, stay right where you are until I come back, and, don’t you even look out of the window.”
“Dear, dear me!” she cried, flushed and anxious when she was out of sight of Uncle John and Joe. “I wish I’d given ’em to Colonel Barrett when he was here before daylight, 15only, Iwas afraid I should never get sight of them again.”
She drew off one of her stockings, filled it, tied the opening at the top with a string—plunged stocking and all into a pail full of water and proceeded to pour the contents into the well.
Just as the dark circle had closed over the blue stocking, Joe Devins’ face peered down the depths by her side, and his voice sounded out the words: “O Mother Moulton, the British will search the wells the very first thing. Of course, they expect to find things in wells!”
“Why didn’t you tell me before, Joe? but now it is too late.”
“I would, if I had known what you was going to do; they’d been a sight safer in the honey tree.”
“Yes, and what a fool I’ve been—flung my watch into the well with the spoons!”
“Well, well! Don’t stand there, looking!” as she hovered over the high curb, with her hand on the bucket. “Everybody will know, if you do.”
“Martha! Martha!” shrieked Uncle John’s quavering voice from the house door.
“Bless my heart!” she exclaimed, hurrying back over the stones.
“What’s the matter with your heart?” questioned Joe.
“Nothing. I was thinking of Uncle John’s money,” she answered.
Not one word that Joe uttered did the little woman hear. She was already by Uncle John’s side and asking him for the key to his strong box.
Uncle John’s rheumatism was terribly exasperating. “No, I won’t give it to you!” he cried, “and nobody shall have it as long as I am above ground.”
“Then the soldiers will carry it off,” she said.
“Let ’em!” was his reply, grasping his staff firmly with both hands and gleaming defiance out of his wide, pale eyes. “You won’t get the key, even if they do.”
At this instant, a voice at the doorway shouted the words, “Hide, hide away somewhere, Mother Moulton, for the Red Coats are in sight this minute!”
She heard the warning, and giving one glance at Uncle John, which look was answered by another “No, you won’t have it,” she grasped Joe Devins by the collar of his jacket and thrust him before her up the staircase so quickly that the boy had no chance to speak, until she released her hold, on the second floor, at the entrance to Uncle John’s room.
The idea of being taken a prisoner in such a manner, and by a woman, too, was too much for the lad’s endurance. “Let me go!” he cried, the instant he could recover his breath. “I won’t hide away in your garret, like a woman, I won’t. 17I want to see the militia and the minute men fight the troops, I do.”
“Help me first, Joe. Here, quick now! Let’s get this box out and up garret. We’ll hide it under the corn and it’ll be safe,” she coaxed.
The box was under Uncle John’s bed.
“What’s in the old thing anyhow?” questioned Joe, pulling with all his strength at it.
The box, or chest, was painted red, and was bound about by massive iron bands.
“I’ve never seen the inside of it,” said Mother Moulton. “It holds the poor old soul’s sole treasure, and I do want to save it for him if I can.”
They had drawn it with much hard endeavor as far as the garret stairs, but their united strength failed to lift it. “Heave it, now!” cried Joe, and lo! it was up two steps. So they turned it over and over with many a thudding thump;—every one of which thumps Uncle John heard and believed to be strokes upon the box itself to burst it asunder—until it was fairly shelved on the garret floor.
In the very midst of the overturnings, a voice from below had been heard crying out, “Let my box alone! Don’t you break it open! If you do, I’ll—I’ll—” but, whatever the poor manmeant to threaten as a penalty, he could not think of anything half severe enough to say, so left it uncertain as to the punishment that might be looked for.
“Poor old soul!” ejaculated the little woman, her soft white curls in disorder and the pink color rising from her cheeks to her fair forehead, as she 18bent to help Joe drag the box beneath the rafter’s edge.
“Now, Joe,” she said, “we’ll heap nubbins over it, and if the soldiers want corn they’ll take good ears and never think of touching poor nubbins.” So they fell to work throwing corn over the red chest, until it was completely concealed from view.
Then Joe sprang to the high-up-window ledge in the point of the roof and took one glance out. “Oh, I see them, the Red Coats! ’Strue’s I live, there go our militia up the hill. I thought they was going to stand and defend. Shame on ’em, I say!” Jumping down and crying back to Mother Moulton, “I’m going to stand by the minute men,” he went down, three steps at a leap, and nearly overturned Uncle John on the stairs, who, with many groans, was trying to get to the defense of his strong box.
“What did you help her for, you scamp?” he demanded of Joe, flourishing his staff unpleasantly near the lad’s head.
“’Cause she asked me to, and couldn’t do it alone,” returned Joe, dodging the stick and disappearing from the scene at the very moment Martha Moulton encountered Uncle John.
“Your strong box is safe under nubbins in the garret, unless the house burns down, and now that you are up here, you had better stay,” she added soothingly, as she hastened by him to reach the kitchen below.
Once there, she paused a second or two to take resolution regarding her next act. She knew full well that there was not one second to spare, and yet she stood looking, apparently, into the glowing embers on the hearth. She was flushed and excited, both by the unwonted toil and the coming events. Cobwebs from the rafters had fallen on her hair and homespun dress, and would readily have betrayed her late occupation to any discerning soldier of the king.
A smile broke suddenly over her fair face, displacing for a brief second every trace of care. “It’s my old weapon, and I must use it,” she said, making a stately courtesy to an imaginary guest, and straightway disappeared within an adjoining room. With buttoned door and dropped curtains the little woman made haste to array herself in her finest raiment. In five minutes she reappeared in the kitchen, a picture pleasant to look at. In all New England, there could not be a more beautiful little old lady than Martha Moulton was that day. Her hair was guiltless now of cobwebs, but haloed her face with fluffy little curls of silvery whiteness, above which, like a crown, was a little cap of dotted muslin, pure as snow. Her erect figure, not a particle of the hard-working-day in it now, carried well the folds of a sheeny, black silk gown, over which she had tied an apron as spotless as the cap.
As she fastened back her gown and hurried away the signs of the breakfast she had not eaten, 20the clear pink tints seemed to come out with added beauty of coloring in her cheeks, while her hair seemed fairer and whiter than at any moment in her three-score and eleven years.
Once more, Joe Devins looked in. As he caught a glimpse of the picture she made, he paused to cry out: “All dressed up to meet the robbers! My, how fine you do look! I wouldn’t. I’d go and hide behind the nubbins. They’ll be here in less than five minutes now,” he cried, “and I’m going over the North Bridge to see what’s going on there.”
“O Joe, stay, won’t you?” she urged, but the lad was gone, and she was left alone to meet the foe, comforting herself with the thought, “They’ll treat me with more respect if I lookrespectable, and if I must die, I’ll die good-looking in my best clothes, anyhow.”
She threw a few sticks of hickory-wood on the embers and then drew out the little round stand, on which the family Bible was always lying. Recollecting that the British soldiers probably belonged to the Church of England, she hurried away to fetch Uncle John’s “prayer book.”
“They’ll have respect to me, if they find me reading that, I know,” she thought. Having drawn the round stand within sight of the well, and where she could also command a view of the staircase, she sat and waited for coming events.
Uncle John was keeping watch of the advancing troops from an upper window. “Martha,” he 21called, “you’d better come up. They’re close by, now.” To tell the truth, Uncle John himself was a little afraid; that is to say, he hadn’t quite courage enough to go down and, perhaps, encounter his own rheumatism and the king’s soldiers on the same stairway, and yet, he felt that he must defend Martha as well as he could.
The rap of a musket, quick and ringing, on the front door, startled the little woman from her apparent devotions. She did not move at the call of anything so profane. It was the custom of the time to have the front door divided into two parts, the lower half and the upper half. The former was closed and made fast, the upper could be swung open at will.
The soldier getting no reply, and doubtless thinking that the house was deserted, leaped over the chained lower half of the door.
At the clang of his bayonet against the brass trimmings, Martha Moulton groaned in spirit, for, if there was any one thing that she deemed essential to her comfort in this life, it was to keep spotless, speckless and in every way unharmed, the great knocker on her front door.
“Good, sound English metal, too,” she thought, “that an English soldier ought to know how to respect.”
As she heard the tramp of coming feet she only bent the closer over the Book of Prayer that lay open on her knee. Not one word did she read or see; she was inwardly trembling and outwardly 22watching the well and the staircase. But now, above all other sounds, broke the noise of Uncle John’s staff thrashing the upper step of the staircase, and the shrill, tremulous cry of the old man, defiant, doing his utmost for the defense of his castle.
The fingers that lay beneath the book tingled with desire to box the old man’s ears, for the policy he was pursuing would be fatal to the treasure in garret and in well; but she was forced to silence and inactivity.
As the king’s troops, Major Pitcairn at their head, reached the open door and saw the old lady, they paused. What could they do but look, for a moment, at the unexpected sight that met their view: a placid old lady in black silk and dotted muslin, with all the sweet solemnity of morning devotion hovering about the tidy apartment and seeming to centre at the round stand by which she sat,—this pretty woman, with pink and white face surmounted with fleecy little curls and crinkles and wisps of floating whiteness, who looked up to meet their gaze with such innocent, prayer-suffused eyes.
“Good morning, Mother,” said Major Pitcairn, raising his hat.
“Good morning, gentlemen and soldiers,” returned Martha Moulton. “You will pardon my not meeting you at the door, when you see that I was occupied in rendering service to the Lord of all.” She reverently closed the book, laid it on 23the table, and arose, with a stately bearing, to demand their wishes.
“We’re hungry, good woman,” spoke the commander, “and your hearth is the only hospitable one we’ve seen since we left Boston. With your good leave I’ll take a bit of this,” and he stooped to lift up the Johnny-cake that had been all this while on the hearth.
“I wish I had somet……
Author: James Hanley
Title : A Farmer’s Wife: The Story of Ruth
Subject: Bible stories — Old Testament
Subject: Bible. Old Testament — Biography — Juvenile literature
Subject: Ruth (Biblical figure) — Juvenile literature
Copyright Status: Public domain
Begin of the book:
A FARMER’S WIFE
ALTEMUS’ BEAUTIFUL STORIES SERIES
A FARMER’S WIFE
THE STORY OF RUTH
J. H. WILLARD.
Beautiful Stories Series
THE FIRST CHRISTMAS.
Twenty-five Cents Each
By Henry Altemus
A FARMER’S WIFE
THE STORY OF RUTH.
IN the district called Ephrath, belonging to the tribe of Judah, stood the city of Bethlehem, or “house of bread.” It was a city with walls and gates, and lay between fruitful hills and well-watered valleys. There among pleasant cornfields and pasture lands lived a man named Elimelech, which means “my God is my King.” He was descended from one of the princes of Judah, and was a man of means and consequence.
A FERTILE REGION IN PALESTINE.
Elimelech’s wife was named Naomi, meaning “pleasant,” and they had two sons whose names were Mahlon and Chilion. This old and noble family lived in this fertile region, amid pleasant surroundings, and with happy prospects, until one of the frequent famines that were brought on by want of rain visited their district.
“THE PARCHED AND STERILE FIELDS.”
Leaving the parched and sterile fields around Bethlehem, Elimelech, his family and his flocks, left their home and settled in the rich and well-watered lands of the Moabites, beyond the Jordan. As a wealthy foreigner, he probably was well received by the people of Moab, and secured good pasturage for his sheep and cattle.
SEEKING PASTURAGE FOR HIS SHEEP.
But much trouble was in store for this family, notwithstanding its wealth had enabled them to leave their own famine-stricken lands. First Elimelech died, and the family was without a head.
ON THE WAY TO THE LAND OF MOAB.
Then Mahlon married a beautiful woman of the country in which he was then living, named Ruth, and his brother Chilion married another named Orpah. Such marriages were against the law of Moses, because the Moabites worshipped idols, but as the nation was descended from Lot, the nephew of Abraham, the marriages were not so bad as they would have been with women belonging to other of the different tribes of Canaan.
PLAIN AND MOUNTAINS OF MOAB.
From a Photograph.
After a while both of the sons of Naomi died, and she was left a childless widow in a strange land. By her gracious ways she had won the affection of both Ruth and Orpah, and now sorrow locked their hearts together in sympathy. At length, Naomi turned her longing eyes to her old home in Bethlehem. Ten years had come and gone since she left it, and now the news had reached her that there was plenty of food there.
Naomi and her two daughters-in-law started on their way to the land of Judah. After a while, thinking that they had accompanied her far enough, Naomi bade Ruth and Orpah return to their own mothers’ homes, and spoke very kindly to them. She kissed them and would have taken leave of them, but they insisted that they would go with her to the home of her own people.
“NAOMI BID RUTH AND ORPAH RETURN.”
Then Naomi suggested that they would not be welcome at Bethlehem because they were Moabites. They would be looked upon with reproach, strangers in a strange land, and again she pleaded with them to go home, lest their love for her should prove a sorrow to them.
Orpah was persuaded to return and settle down among her kindred, and probably did so from a sense of duty; but Ruth would not leave Naomi, although her mother-in-law gave her one more opportunity to go back to Moab.
The chief cause for separation, according to Naomi, was, not that they belonged to different races, but that they did not worship the same God. But Ruth, in words at once pathetic and sincere, unselfish in spirit and expression, declared her resolve.
“Intreat me not to leave thee, and to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest I will go; and where thou lodgest I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: where thou diest will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me.”
“‘INTREAT ME NOT TO LEAVE THEE.'”
Ruth gave up father and mother, friends and relatives, religion and country, and chose poverty and a life among strangers because of her love for Naomi, and her trust in Naomi’s God. They reached Bethlehem about the beginning of the barley harvest, and secured some kind of a home.
The city of Bethlehem was stirred by the return of Naomi. She had left them accompanied by husband and sons, and in prosperity. She returned, altered in circumstances, changed in appearance, and accompanied only by a Moabitish woman……
Author: Wirt, Mildred A. (Mildred Augustine), 1905-2002
Title: Whispering Walls
Subject: Adventure and adventurers — Juvenile fiction
Subject: Mystery and detective stories
Subject: Parker, Penny (Fictitious character) — Juvenile fiction
Subject: Women detectives — Juvenile fiction
Copyright: Public domain
Begin of the book:
- 1 THE PLUMED SERPENT1
- 2 AN UNEXPLAINED DISAPPEARANCE11
- 3 A THATCHED ROOF COTTAGE19
- 4 BEHIND THE BUSHES26
- 5 AN EVIL CHARM35
- 6 MATCHES AND STRING44
- 7 WHISPERING WALLS51
- 8 GHOST OF THE DARK CORNERS61
- 9 JERRY ENTERS THE CASE68
- 10 CHEAP LODGING79
- 11 THE WOODEN DOLL90
- 12 SUPERSTITION98
- 13 MISSING FROM THE CHEST106
- 14 STORM WARNINGS114
- 15 MRS. RHETT’S ILLNESS123
- 16 AN OPEN WINDOW133
- 17 THE STOLEN WILL139
- 18 THROUGH THE WINDOW147
- 19 RISING WIND154
- 20 TWELVE STEPS DOWN164
- 21 CEREMONIAL CAVE172
- 22 STRANGER IN THE STORM180
- 23 IN THE PRESSROOM188
- 24 THE GRINNING GARGOYLE196
- 25 ON THE BALCONY206
THE PLUMED SERPENT
Smoothly and with accurate aim, the slim girl in blue sweater and swinging skirt sent the heavy ball crashing down the polished floor of the bowling alley.
“Another strike, Penny!” cried her school companion, Louise Sidell, watching the tenpins topple helter skelter and vanish out of sight. “You’re certainly going like a house afire today!”
“Lucky, that’s all.” Penny Parker’s friendly grin widened as she chalked up the score. Brushing aside a sandy-gold lock of hair which had dropped over one eye, she suddenly squinted at the wall clock. “Ten minutes until four o’clock!” she exclaimed. “Lou, unless we call it a day, I’ll be late for work!”
“You and your work!” scoffed Louise, but she quickly sat down to remove her bowling shoes. “Why spend all your spare time at that old newspaper?”
“The Riverview Star is the best daily in the city!” Penny shot back proudly. “Anyway, I like being a reporter.”
“I’ll give you no argument on that point, my pet. You love it! Especially poking that freckled little nose of yours into every big story or mystery that comes along! Confess now, isn’t it the excitement you like, rather than the work?”
A twitch of Penny’s lips acknowledged the truth of her chum’s observation. Off and on for several years she had served in many capacities on theStar, a daily Riverview newspaper owned by her father, Anthony Parker.
Many of the publication’s best stories had carried her name. Now that school had started again, she was unable to work full time, but on this particular Saturday afternoon she had promised Editor DeWitt she would report at two o’clock. She had no intention of being late.
“Let’s go,” she urged, picking up her coat.
Louise trailed Penny to a desk where the cashier was absently listening to a short wave radio. As they paid their bill, the instrument suddenly blared a police order:
“Patrol 34—First National Bank, Main and Front Streets. Repeating, First National Bank, Main and Front Streets. See complainant. Patrol 34 in service.”
To Louise it was only a meaningless jumble of words but Penny instantly pricked up her ears.
“Front and Main is just around the corner! Maybe there’s been a robbery, Lou!”
“I hope not,” laughed Louise. “The First National’s where I keep my money. All $28.50 of it!”
Sweeping her change from the counter, Penny glanced again at the clock and came to a quick decision. Doubtless, the Star office would send a reporter to check the police call, but considerable time might elapse before anyone reached the bank.
“Let’s jog over there and see what’s doing,” she proposed.
Louise nodded, hastily pulling a tight-fitting hat over her dark curls. Penny was already out of the door, walking so fast that her chum was hard pressed to overtake her.
Rounding the corner at Main and Front Streets, the girls were just in time to see a patrol car park at the curb in front of the bank. A police sergeant was at the wheel, but before Penny could hail him, he and a companion vanished into the building. A third man posted himself at the door of the bank.
Penny walked over to him. “Anything doing?” she inquired in a friendly, off-hand way. “A robbery?”
“I wouldn’t know,” he replied curtly.
Fishing in a cluttered purse, Penny came up with a press card. “I’m from the Star,” she added, waving her credentials before him.
“You’ll have to talk to the sergeant if you want to get any information,” he said, relaxing slightly. “Go on in, if you want to.”
Louise kept close to Penny’s side as they started into the bank. But the policeman brought her up short by saying: “Just a minute, sister. Where’s your card?”
“She’s with me,” said Penny with careless assurance.
“So I see,” observed the patrolman dryly. “She can’t go in without a card.”
Argument was useless. Decidedly crestfallen, Louise retreated to wait, while Penny went on into the darkened building. Curtains had been drawn in the big marble-floored bank, and the place appeared deserted. Teller cages were locked and empty, for the bank had closed to the public at noon.
Pausing, Penny heard the faint and distant hum of voices. She glanced upward to a second story gallery devoted to offices, and saw two policemen talking to a third man who leaned against the iron railing.
“Apparently this is no robbery,” Penny thought, taking the marble steps two at a time. “Wonder what has happened?”
Breathlessly, she reached the top of the stairs. A short, thin man with glasses and a noticeably nervous manner stood talking to the two policemen. The sergeant, his back to Penny, started taking down notes.
“I’m Sergeant Gray,” the policeman said. “What’s your name?”
“Albert Potts,” the man replied.
“A clerk here?”
“Secretary to Mr. Hamilton Rhett, the bank president. I called the police because a situation has developed which worries me. This afternoon I talked to Mrs. Rhett who gave me no satisfaction whatsoever. I said to myself, ‘Albert Potts, this is a case for the police.’ But there must be no publicity.”
“What’s wrong?” Sergeant Gray asked impatiently.
“Mr. Rhett has disappeared. Exactly nine days ago at three o’clock he put on his hat, walked out of the bank and hasn’t been seen since.”
Here indeed was news! Mr. Rhett was socially prominent and a very wealthy banker. His disappearance would be certain to create a sensation in Riverview.
“So Mr. Rhett walked out of here nine days ago,” Sergeant Gray commented. “Why wasn’t it reported earlier to the police?”
“Because at first we thought nothing of it. If you will excuse me for saying so, Mr. Rhett never has taken his bank duties very seriously. He comes and goes very much as he pleases. Some days he fails to show up until afternoon. On several occasions he has been absent for a week at a time.”
“Then why does it seem so unusual now?”
“Yesterday I telephoned Mrs. Rhett. She said she had no idea what has become of her husband. I suggested notifying the police, but she discouraged it. In fact, she hung up the receiver while I was talking to her. Altogether, she acted in a most peculiar manner.”
“That was yesterday, you say?”
“Yes, I told myself, ‘Albert Potts, if Mrs. Rhett isn’t worried about her husband’s absence, it’s none of your business.’ I should have dismissed the matter thereupon, except that today I learned about the missing bonds.”
“Missing bonds?” inquired the sergeant alertly. “Go on.”
“Mr. Rhett handles securities for various trust funds. At the time of his disappearance, $250,000 in negotiable government bonds were in his possession.”
“You’re suggesting robbery?”
“I don’t know what to think. Mr. Rhett should have returned the securities to our vault in the basement. I assumed he had done so, until this morning in making a thorough check, I learned not a single bond had been turned in. I can only conclude that Mr. Rhett had them in his portfolio when he walked out of the bank.”
“So you decided to notify the police?”
“Exactly. It was my duty. Understand I wish to bring no embarrassment to Mrs. Rhett or to cast reflection upon my employer but—”
Albert Potts broke off, his gaze focusing upon Penny who had edged closer.
“Now who are you?” he demanded suspiciously.
Stepping forward, Penny introduced herself as aStar reporter.
“You have no business here!” the secretary snapped. “If you overheard what I just said, you’re not to print a line of it! Mrs. Rhett would never approve.”
“I did hear what you told Sergeant Gray,” replied Penny with dignity. “However, any report to the police is a matter of public record. It is for our editor to decide whether or not to use the story.”
Behind thick glasses, Mr. Potts’ watery eyes glinted angrily. He appeared on the verge of ordering the girl from the bank, but with an obvious effort regained control of his temper, and said curtly:
“If you must write a story, mind you keep the facts straight. Mr. Rhett hasn’t been seen in nine days and that’s all I know. He may return tomorrow. He may never appear.”
“Then you believe he’s been kidnapped?” Penny asked.
“I don’t know. There’s been no ransom demand.”
“Perhaps he absconded with the $250,000 in bonds.”
“Don’t quote me as making such a statement even if it should prove true! Mr. Rhett is a wealthy man—or rather, he acquired a fortune when he married a rich widow who set him up here as bank president. But don’t quote me on that either!” he exclaimed as Penny jotted down a few notes. “Leave my name out of it entirely!”
“Let’s have a look at Mr. Rhett’s office,” proposed Sergeant Gray.
“Follow me, please.”
His poise regained, Albert Potts led the way down the gallery to a large, spacious office room. On the polished mahogany desk rested a picture of an attractive woman in her early forties whom Penny guessed to be Mrs. Rhett. A door opened from the office into a directors’ room, and another onto a narrow outdoor balcony overlooking Front Street.
Sergeant Gray and the patrolman made a thorough inspection of the two rooms and Mr. Rhett’s desk.
“When last I saw the bonds, Mr. Rhett had them in the top drawer,” the secretary volunteered eagerly. “He should have returned them to the vault, but he failed to do so. Now they’re gone.”
“Then you examined the desk?”
“Oh, yes, I considered it my duty.”
While Penny remained in the background, Sergeant Gray asked Mr. Potts a number of questions about the bank president’s habits, and particularly his recent visitors. The secretary, whose fund of information seemed inexhaustible, had ready answers at the tip of his tongue. He even produced a memo pad upon which the names of several persons had been written.
“These were Mr. Rhett’s visitors on his last day here,” he explained. “So far as I know, all were business acquaintances.”
Writing down the names for future checking, Sergeant Gray inquired if Mr. Rhett had disagreed with any of the callers.
“A quarrel, you mean?” Mr. Potts hesitated, then answered with reluctance. “Only with his wife.”
“Mrs. Rhett came to the bank the day your employer last was seen?”
“Yes, they were to have had lunch together. She came late and they quarreled about Mr. Rhett’s work here in the bank. Finally she went away alone.”
“You heard the conversation between them?”
“Well, no,” Albert Potts said quickly. “Naturally I tried not to listen, but I did hear some of it.”
“Mrs. Rhett may be able to explain her husband’s absence,” commented Sergeant Gray.
“She refused me any information when I telephoned. That was one reason I decided to notify the police. The loss of $250,000 could be very embarrassing to the bank.”
“Who owns the bonds?”
“They belong to the Fred Harrington estate, 2756 Brightdale Avenue. If they aren’t produced soon, there will be trouble. I’ve worked here for 15 years. You don’t think anyone could possibly blame me, do you?”
The sergeant gave him a quick glance, but made no reply as he reexamined the mahogany desk. Finding nothing of interest, he slammed the top drawer shut.
From the back of the desk, a piece of paper fluttered to the floor, almost at Penny’s feet. Evidently it had jarred from the rear side of an overflowing drawer, or had been held between desk and plaster wall.
Without thinking, Penny stooped to retrieve the sheet. She glanced at it carelessly, and then with a shock of surprise, really studied it. Drawn across the center of the paper in black and red ink was a crude but sinister-looking winged serpent.
Raising her eyes, Penny saw Albert Potts’ cold gaze upon her. Was it imagination or did his shriveled face mirror fear?
“What have you there?” he demanded.
Penny gave the paper to Sergeant Gray. Mr. Potts moved quickly forward, to peer over the man’s shoulder.
“A plumed serpent!” he exclaimed.
“And read the words beneath it,” directed Penny.
Under the drawing in a cramped hand, had been scribbled: “This shall be the end.”
AN UNEXPLAINED DISAPPEARANCE
Sergeant Gray studied the strange drawing for a moment and then said to Albert Potts: “Can you explain the meaning of this picture? And the words written beneath it?”
For the first time since the start of the interview, the bank secretary seemed at a loss for words. Finally he stammered: “Why, no—I’ve never seen the drawing before. I don’t know how it got into Mr. Rhett’s desk.”
“You seemed to recognize the picture,” interposed Penny. “At least you called it a plumed serpent.”
“It is the symbol of an ancient cult, or at least that is what I take it to be. I’ve seen similar drawings in library books.”
“And the writing beneath it?” probed the sergeant.
“I am not sure,” the secretary murmured, ill at ease. “It slightly resembles Mr. Rhett’s writing.”
“You say you can’t explain how the paper came to be in Mr. Rhett’s desk?”
“My employer’s private life is none of my concern.”
“What do you mean—his private life?”
“Well, I hadn’t intended to tell you this,” Potts said unwillingly. “The truth is, Mr. Rhett was a strange man. He had queer interests and hobbies. I have been told he collects weird trophies of ancient cults.”
“Then this drawing probably has a connection with your employer’s hobby?”
“I wouldn’t know,” shrugged Potts. “If it weren’t for the handwriting, I might think someone had sent a warning to him. As it is, I’m completely in the dark.”
“Mr. Rhett had enemies?”
“He was a ruthless man and many persons disliked him. His friends were queer too. He preferred low class persons to people of culture and refinement. Why, only two days before his disappearance, he deliberately kept one of our largest stockholders waiting an hour while he chatted with a building porter! It was very humiliating! I had to tell Mrs. Biggs he was in conference, but I think she suspected the truth.”
“Do you have a photograph of Mr. Rhett?” the sergeant asked.
“I deeply regret I haven’t. For that matter, I never have seen a picture of him.”
“But you can describe the man?”
“Oh, yes. He is forty-five, though he looks older. His hair is gray at the temples. He wore an expensive tailored suit—brown, I believe. One of the most distinguishing marks I should say, is a scar on his left cheek.”
“I’ll send one of the detectives around,” Sergeant Gray promised. He had completed his investigation and with the other patrolman, started to leave the office.
Albert Potts drew a deep breath and seemed to relax. Only then did it occur to Penny that throughout the greater part of the interview he had stood in front of the outside balcony door, as if to shield it from attention.
Taking the plumed serpent drawing with them, Sergeant Gray and the patrolman left the office. Penny lingered, intending to ask Albert Potts a few questions about Mr. Rhett. But the man gave her no opportunity.
Barely had the others gone when he turned toward her, making no effort to mask his dislike.
“Now will you get out of here?” he demanded.
His tone annoyed Penny, and perversely made her determined to take her time in leaving. Deliberately she sidled over to the balcony door.
“Where does this lead?” she inquired.
Penny opened the door, but Potts immediately barred the way.
“There’s nothing there except a balcony! Just get out of this office so I can lock up and go home! I’ve had a hard day, and you’re making it worse!”
For a reason she could not have explained, Penny felt a deep urge to annoy the nervous little man further. Ignoring his protests, she pushed past him out onto the balcony.
Guarded by a high iron railing and fence, it extended for perhaps fifty feet along several offices. At each end, projecting from the sloping slate roof, was a grotesque decorative gargoyle.
“You see!” rasped Potts. “There’s nothing here. Now are you satisfied?”
The gargoyle near the door had drawn Penny’s attention. Its carved stone body angled out from the building, terminating in a horned animal head with massive open jaws.
“Will it bite?” Grinning impishly at Potts she started to thrust an arm between the stone teeth.
To her astonishmen…..