Part 3 out of 3
"I know I have. And I ought to be ashamed of myself for ever distrusting
Purt," said the invalid vigorously.
"Then why won't Purt tell where he was?" demanded Lance doubtfully.
"I don't care where he was," said Billy. "If he says he didn't hit the man,
he didn't. That's all. And we've got to prove it, boys."
"Some job you suggest," said Chet slowly. "It looks to me as though Pretty
Sweet was in a bad hole, and no mistake."
Even the most charitable of his schoolmates took this view of Purt Sweet's
trouble. His denial of guilt did not establish the fact of his innocence.
His inability, or refusal, to explain where he was at the time of the
accident on Market Street in front of Mr. Belding's jewelry store made the
situation very difficult indeed.
"If he could only put forward an alibi," Lance Darby said, when the Hill
crowd of Central High boys and girls discussed the matter.
"But he won't say a word!" cried Nellie. "I believe he is innocent."
"Then why doesn't he tell where he was at the time?" demanded Laura
"Is he scared to tell the truth?" asked Jess.
"I don't think he is," Chet observed thoughtfully. "Somehow he acts
differently from usual."
"You're right," Bobby declared, with frank approval of one of whom she had
never approved before. "I believe there's a big change in old Purt."
"Well, it's strange," Laura remarked. "He never showed such obstinacy
"He's never shown any particular courage before, either," said her brother.
"That's what gets me!"
"Where does the courage come in?" demanded Lance.
"I believe Chet is right," Jess said. "Purt is trying to shield somebody."
"From what?" and "Who?" were the chorused demands.
"I don't know," Jess told them. "There is somebody else mixed up in this
trouble. It stands to reason Purt would not be so obstinate if he had
nothing to hide. And we are pretty much of the opinion--all of us--that he
really did not run that man down. Therefore, if he is not shielding some
other person, what is he about?"
"I've asked him frankly," Chet said, "and all I could get out of him was
that he 'couldn't tell.' No sense to that," growled the big fellow.
It seemed that Purt Sweet had pretty well succeeded in puzzling his friends
as well as the police. The latter were evidently waiting to get something
provable on poor Purt. Then a warrant would be issued for his arrest.
By this time the stranger who had been the start of all the trouble and
mystery--the man from Alaska, as the hospital force called him--was able to
be up and wheeled in a chair, although his leg was not yet out of plaster.
Billy Long heard of this, and he grew very anxious to see the man whose
accident was the beginning of Purt's trouble. Billy had quickly become a
favorite with both the nurses and doctors of the Centerport Hospital. He
was brave in bearing pain, and he was as generous as he could be with the
goodies and fruit and flowers that were brought to him. He divided these
with the other patients in his ward, and cheered his mates with his lively
At first, however, there had been an hour or so every other day when a
screen was placed about Billy's bed and the doctor and nurse had a very bad
time, indeed, dressing the dreadful burns the boy had sustained.
Short and Long could not help screaming at times, and when he did not
really scream the others in the ward could hear his half-stifled moans and
sobs. These experiences were hard to bear.
When the dressings were over and his courage was restored the screen was
removed from about Billy's cot and he would grin ruefully enough at his
"I'm an awful baby. Too tender-hearted--that's me all over," he said once.
"I never could stand seeing anybody hurt--and I can see just what they are
doing to me all the time!"
Billy knew that the man from Alaska was being wheeled up and down the
corridor, and he begged so hard to speak with him that the nurse went out
and asked the orderly to wheel the chair in to Billy's cot.
"So you are the brave boy I've heard about, are you?" said the stranger,
smiling at the bandaged boy from Central High.
"I know how brave you've heard me," said Billy soberly. "I do a lot of
hollering when they are plastering me up."
The man laughed and said: "Just the same I am glad to know you. My name
seems to have got away from me for the time being. My mind's slipped a cog,
as you might say. What do they call you, son?"
Billy told him his name. "And," he added, "I was right there in front of
Chet Belding's father's jewelry store when that automobile knocked you
"You don't mean it?"
"Yes, sir. I saw the machine. It was a Perriton car all right. It might
even have been Pretty Sweet's car. But it wasn't Pretty Sweet driving it, I
The boy's earnestness caught the man's full attention. "I guess this Sweet
boy they tell about is a friend of yours, son?" he said.
"He is a friend all right, all right," said Billy Long. "And I never knew
it till right here when I got hurt. Purt--that's what we call him--is a
good fellow. And I am sure he wouldn't do such a thing as to knock you down
and then run away without finding out if he had hurt you."
"I don't know how that may be," said the man seriously. "But whoever it was
that ran me down did me a bad turn. I can't find my name--or who I am--or
where I belong. I tell you what it is, Billy Long, that is a serious
condition for anybody to be in."
"I guess that's so," admitted the boy. "And you got your leg broken, too,
in two places."
"I don't mind much about the broken leg," said the man who had lost his
name. "What I am sore about, Billy Long, is not having any name to use.
It--it is awfully embarrassing."
"Yes, sir, I guess it is."
"So, you see, I don't feel very kindly toward this Sweet boy, if he was the
one who knocked me down."
"Oh, but I'm sure he isn't the one."
"Why are you so sure?"
"Because he wouldn't be so mean about it, and lie, and all, if he had done
it. You see, a boy who has been so nice to me as he has, couldn't really be
so mean as all that to anybody else."
"Not conclusive," said the man. "You only make a statement. You don't offer
"But I--Well!" ejaculated Billy, "I'd do most anything to make you see that
Purt _couldn't_ be guilty of knocking you down."
"I'll tell you," said the man without a name, smiling again, "I haven't any
particular hard feelings against your friend. Or I wouldn't have if I could
get my name and memory back. So you find out some way of helping me recover
my memory--you and your young friends, Billy Long--and I'll forgive the
Sweet boy, whether he hurt me or not"
"Suppose the cops arrest him?" asked Billy worriedly.
"I'll do all I can to keep them from annoying Sweet if you boys and girls
can find out who I am and where I belong," declared the man, laughing
And Billy shook hands on that To his mind the task was not impossible.
Laura Belding had evolved an idea regarding "Mr. Nemo of Nowhere," as Bobby
dubbed the stranger at the hospital. In fact, she had two ideas which were
entwined in her thought. But up to this point she had found no time to work
She had taken nobody into her confidence; for Mother Wit was not one to
"tell all she knew in a minute." On both points Laura desired to consider
her way with caution.
She went shopping with her mother to several stores on Market Street one
afternoon, skipping the rehearsal of "The Rose Garden" for this purpose.
The Christmas crowds were greater than she had ever seen them before. But
the enthusiasm for the Red Cross drive had by no means faltered in spite of
Ember Night had gathered nearly five thousand dollars for the cause. Laura
treasured a very nicely worded letter of appreciation from the mayor's
secretary, thanking the Central High girl for her suggestion, which had
proved so efficacious in money-raising. Laura was not exhibiting this
letter to very many people, but she was secretly proud of it.
In every store she entered Laura saw a Red Cross booth, while collectors
with padlocked boxes were weaving in and out among the shoppers.
"Give Again! Warranted Not to Hurt You!" was the slogan. Wearing a Red
Cross button did not absolve one from being solicited.
And she saw that the people were giving with a smile. Centerport was still
enthusiastic over the drive. Laura seriously considered what she and her
Central High girl friends were trying to do for the fund. Would the play be
a success? If they only gave one performance and the audience was not
enthusiastic enough to warrant a second, and then a third, she would
consider that they had failed.
All of a sudden, while she was thinking of this very serious fact, Laura
came face to face with Janet Steele.
"You are just the girl I wished most to see, Janet!" cried the Central High
"I always want to see you, Laura Belding," declared the Red Cross girl, who
was evidently off duty and homeward bound.
"Thank you, dear," Laura said. "You must prove that. I want you to do me a
"What can I possibly do for you?" laughed Janet. "Hurry and tell me."
"You may not be so willing after you hear what it is."
"You doubt my willingness to prove my friendship?" demanded Janet soberly.
"Not a bit of it! But, listen here." She told Janet swiftly what she
desired, and from the sparkle in her eyes and the rising flush in her face
it was easily seen that Laura had not asked a favor that Janet would not
"Oh, but my dear!" she cried, "I shall have to ask mother."
"I presume you will," said Laura, smiling. "Shall I go along with you and
see what she says?"
"I have done all my mother's errands--look at these bundles," said Laura.
"We might as well have this matter settled at once. Your mother won't mind
my coming in this way, will she?"
"You may come in any way you wish, and any time you wish, my dear," said
Janet warmly. "Mother very much approves of you."
"It is sweet of you to say so," returned the girl of Central High. "I shall
be quite sure she approves of me if she lets you do what I want in this
case, Janet," and she laughed again as they turned off the busy main street
into a quieter one.
The invalid was at the long window, and beckoned to Laura to come in before
she saw that that was the visitor's intention.
"I cannot begin to tell you how delighted we are to have you girls call,"
Mrs. Steele said, when she had greeted both her daughter and Laura with a
kiss. "It would be so nice if Janet could go to school; then she might
bring home a crowd of young folks every afternoon," and the invalid
"But, you see, Miss Belding, I am so trying in the morning. It does seem
that it is all Aunt Jinny and Janet can do to get me out of my bed, and
dressed, and fed, and seated here on my throne for the day."
"It seems too bad that the weather is not so you can go out," Laura said.
"Oh, I almost never go out," Mrs. Steele replied. "Though I tell Janet that
when spring comes, if we can only get the agent to repair that porch, she
can wheel me back and forth on it in my chair."
"Better than that, dear Mrs. Steele," Laura promised, "we will come with
our car and take you for a ride all over Centerport, and along the Lakeside
Drive. It is beautiful in the spring."
"How nice of you!" cried the invalid. "But that, of course, depends upon
whether we are in Centerport when the pleasant weather comes," said Mrs.
"Oh, my dear!" exclaimed Laura, "do you mean that you think of going away?"
"Now, Mother!" murmured Janet, as though the thought was repugnant to her,
"How can we tell?" cried the invalid, just a little excitedly. "You know,
Janet, if we should hear of your uncle----"
"Oh, Mother!" sighed the girl, "I do wish you would give up hope of Uncle
Jack's ever turning up again."
"Don't talk that way," said her mother sharply. "You do not know Jack as I
do. He was only my half brother, but the very nicest boy who ever lived.
Why, he gave up all his share of the income from my father's estate to me,
and went off to the wilds to seek his own fortune.
"How was he to know that some of the investments poor father made would
turn out badly, and that our income would be reduced to a mere pittance?
For I tell you, Miss Belding," added the invalid less vehemently, "that we
have almost nothing, divided by three, to live on. That is, an income for
one must support us three. Aunt Jinny is one of us, you know."
"Now, Mother!" begged Janet "Sha'n't I get tea for us?"
"Of course! What am I thinking of?" returned her mother. "Tell Aunt Jinny
to make it in the flowered teapot I fancy the flowered teapot to-day--and
the blue-striped cups and saucers.
"Do you know, Miss Belding, what the complete delight of wealth is? It is
an ability to see variety about one in the home. You need not use the same
old cups and saucers every day! If I were rich I would have the furniture
changed in my room every few days. Sameness is my _bete noire_."
"It must be very hard for you, shut in so much," said Laura quietly.
"And poor Janet is shut in a good deal of the time with me, and suffers
because of my crotchets. Ah, if we could only find Jack Weld--my half
brother, you know, Miss Belding. He went away to make his fortune, and I
believe he made it. He has probably settled down somewhere, in good health
and with plenty, and without an idea as to our situation. He never was a
letter writer. And he had every reason to suppose that we were well fixed
for life. Then, we have moved about so much----"
Janet came back with the tea things. Mrs. Steele left the subject of her
brother, and Laura found opportunity of broaching the matter on which she
had come. What she wished Janet to do pleased the latter's mother
immensely. She was, in fact, delighted.
"How nice of you to suggest it, Miss Belding," said Mrs. Steele. "I know
Janet will be glad to do it. Will you not, Janet?"
"I--I'll try," said her daughter, flushed and excited at the prospect
Laura's suggestion opened before her.
TWO THINGS ABOUT HESTER
Scarcely was Bobby Hargrew of a happier disposition and of more volatile
temperament than the Lockwood twins. Dora and Dorothy, while still chubby
denizens of the nursery, saw that the world was bound to be full of fun for
them if they attacked it in the right spirit.
Dora and Dorothy's mother had died when they were very small, and the twins
had been left to the mercy of relatives and servants, some of whom did not
understand the needs of the growing girls as their mother would have done.
Much of this is told in "The Girls of Central High on Lake Luna."
Almost as soon as the twins could stagger about in infant explorations of
the house and grounds, they were wont to exchange the red and blue ribbons
tied on their dimpled wrists by their nurse to tell them apart. For never
were two creatures so entirely alike as Dora and Dorothy Lockwood.
And they had grown to maidenhood with, seemingly, the same features, the
same voices, the same tastes, and with an unbounded love for and confidence
in each other. As they always dressed alike nobody could be sure which was
Dora and which Dorothy.
Now that they were well along in high school, the twins had been put on
their honor not to recite for each other or to help each other in any
unfair way. There really was a very close tie between them--almost an
uncanny chord of harmony. Indeed, if one was punished the other wept!
The teachers of Central High were fond of the twins--all save Miss
Carrington. Her attitude of considering the pupils her deadly enemies
extended to the happy-go-lucky sisters. She did not believe there was such
a thing as "school-girl honor." That is why she had such a hard time with
In the play the girls of Central High were rehearsing, Dora and Dorothy
played two distinct characters. Makeup and costume made this possible. But
at the first dress rehearsal the twins pretty nearly broke up the scene in
which they both appeared on the stage, by reciting each other's parts.
Dora was an old, old woman--a village witch with a cane--while Dorothy was
a frisky young matron from the city. When they met by the rustic well in
the rose garden, haunted by that "dark lady" who was giving Mr. Mann so
much trouble, Dora uttered the sprightly lines of her blooming sister,
while the latter mouthed the old hag's prophecies.
It was ridiculous, of course, and the girls could not go on with the
rehearsal for some minutes because of their laughter. But Mr. Mann was not
so well pleased. Dora and Dorothy promised not to do it again.
"If I'd done anything like that, you'd all have jumped on me," Hester
Grimes declared with a sniff. "It wouldn't have been considered funny at
"And it wouldn't have been," murmured Jess to Laura.
"There is one thing about you, Hessie," said Bobby, in her most honeyed
tone, "that 'precludes,' as Gee Gee would say, your doing such a thing."
"What's that, Miss Smarty?"
"You are not twins," declared Bobby, with gravity. "So you could not very
well play that trick."
"Oh, my!" murmured Nellie, "what would we do if Hester were twins?"
"Don't mention it!" begged Jess. "The thought is terrifying."
But there proved to be a second thing about Hester which came out
prominently within the week. This was something that not many of the girls
of Central High had suspected before the moment of revelation.
The first performance of "The Rose Garden" was set for Friday night. There
would follow a matinee and evening performance on Saturday--provided, of
course, the first performance encouraged the managers to go on with the
"It all depends," sighed Jess, bearing a deal of the responsibility for the
success of the piece on her young shoulders. "If we are punk, then nobody
will come back to see the show a second time, or advise other folks to see
it. And if we don't make a heap of money for the Red Cross, after all the
advertising we've had, what will folks think of us?"
They were really all worried by the fear of failure. All but Hester. She
did not appear to care. And it did seem as though every time she rehearsed
she made the "dark lady" of the rose garden more wooden and impossible than
At length Mr. Mann had given her up as hopeless. It seemed impossible to
make Hester act like a human being even, let alone like a graceful lady.
"So you see, now that he lets me alone, I do very well," asserted Hester,
with vast assurance and a characteristic toss of her head. "I knew I was
right all the time. Now, finally, Mr. Mann admits it."
When she said this to Lily, even Lily had her doubts. When Bobby heard her
say it, she fairly hooted her scorn.
Of course, Hester instantly flew into a rage with Bobby. This was only two
days before the fateful Friday and before recitations in the morning. The
girls had gathered in the main lower corridor of Central High. The bell for
classes had not yet rung.
"I'll show you how smart you are, Clara Hargrew!" Hester almost screamed.
"I've a good mind to slap you!"
"That might make me smart, Hess," drawled the smaller girl coolly. "But it
would not change the facts in the case at all. You are spoiling the whole
play--the most effective scenes in it, too--by your obstinacy. Mr. Mann has
given you up as a bad egg, that's all. If the play is a failure, it will be
And for once Laura Belding did not interfere to stop Bobby's tart tongue.
Perhaps the bell for assembly rang too quickly for Mother Wit to interfere.
At any rate, before Hester could make any rejoinder, they were hurrying in
to their seats.
But the big girl was in a towering rage. She was fairly pale, she was so
angry. Her teeth were clenched. Her eyes sparkled wrathfully. She was in no
mood to face Miss Grace G. Harrington, who chanced to have the juniors
before her for mediaeval history during the first period on this Wednesday
Naturally, with the first performance of the play but two days away, those
girls who were to act in it could not give their undivided attention to
recitations. But Miss Carrington had determined to make no concessions.
She was firmly convinced that Central High should support no such farcical
production as "The Rose Garden." Anything classical--especially if it were
beyond the acting ability of the girls--would have pleased the obstinate
"Something," as Nellie said, "in which we would all be draped in Greek
style, in sheets, and wear sandals and flesh colored hose, covered from
neck to instep, and with long speeches in blank verse to mouth. That is the
sort of a performance to satisfy Miss Carrington."
"Amen!" agreed Bobby.
"Wait till she sees Bobby's knickers," chuckled Dora Lockwood. "You know
Gee Gee always looks as though she wanted to put on blinders when she comes
into the girls' gym."
Of course, these remarks were not passed in history class. But Dora was
somehow inattentive just the same on this morning. She sat on one side of
Hester Grimes and Dorothy on the other. The angry girl between the twins
looked like a vengeful high priestess of Trouble--and Trouble appeared.
Miss Carrington asked Dora a direct question, speaking her name as she
always did, and glaring at the twin in question near-sightedly, in an
endeavor to see the girl's lips move when she answered. She was sure of
Dora's seat; but, of course, she could not be sure whether Dora or Dorothy
was sitting in it. Her refusal to accept the fact that the twins were on
their honor kept Miss Carrington in doubt.
"Relate some incident, with date, in the life of Saladin, Dora," the
Dora hesitated. This was a "jump question," as the pupils called it. Miss
Carrington, as she frequently did, had gone back several lessons for this
query, and Dora was hazy about Saladin.
"Come, Dora!" ejaculated the teacher harshly. "Have you no answer?"
Dorothy leaned forward to look across Hester's desk at her sister. She was
anxious that Dora should not fail. She would have imparted, could she have
done so, her knowledge of Saladin to her twin. But there was only nervous
anxiety in her look and manner.
The moment Dora's lips opened and she began her reply, Hester turned
sharply and stared at Dorothy. It was a despicable trick--a mean and
contemptible attempt to get the twins into trouble. And Hester did it
She knew that Miss Carrington was much more near-sighted than she was
willing to acknowledge. Seeing Hester look at Dorothy caused the teacher to
believe that Dorothy was answering for her sister.
"Stop!" commanded Miss Carrington, rising quickly from her seat on the
Dora, who had begun very well at last, halted in her answer and looked
surprised. Miss Carrington was glaring now at Dorothy.
"How dare you, Dorothy Lockwood?" she demanded, her face quite red with
anger. "There is no trusting any of you girls. Cheat!"
There was a sudden intake of breath all over the room. Some of the girls
looked positively horror-stricken. For the teacher to use such an
expression shocked Laura, and Jess, and Nellie for an instant, as though
the word had been addressed to them personally.
"Oh!" gasped Jess.
The. teacher flashed her a glance. "Silence, Miss Morse!"
Dorothy had risen slowly to her feet. "What--what do you mean, Miss
Carrington?" she whispered. "Do you say I--I have _cheated?"_
"Cheat!" repeated the teacher, with an index finger pointing Dorothy down.
"I saw you. I heard you. You started to answer for your sister."
"I did not!" cried the accused girl.
"She certainly did not, Miss Carrington!" repeated Dora, rising likewise.
"Silence!" exclaimed Miss Carrington. "I would not believe either of you.
You are both disgracing your classmates and Central High."
A sibilant hiss rose in the back of the room. The girls were more angry at
this outburst of the teacher than all of them dared show.
Dorothy burst into a fit of weeping. She covered her face with her hands
and ran out of the room. Dora, defying Miss Carrington, muttered:
"Ugly, mean thing!"
Then she ran after her sister. The room was in tense excitement. Miss
Carrington saw suddenly that she positively had nobody on her side. She
began to question the girls immediately surrounding the twins' seats.
"You saw her answer for her sister, Miss Morse?"
"I did not," declared Jess icily.
"Were you not looking at Dorothy, Laura?" asked the teacher.
"No, Miss Carrington. I was looking at Dora."
"And Dora answered!" cried the usually gentle and retiring Nellie Agnew.
"Why----Miss Grimes!" exclaimed the disturbed teacher. "You know that
Dorothy was answering for her sister?"
"Oh, no, Miss Carrington," denied Hester.
"But you looked at her?"
"What for?" snapped the teacher.
"Why," drawled Hester, "that pin Dorothy wears in her blouse was on crooked
and it attracted my attention."
That was the second thing about Hester Grimes. She was not alone a dunce
when it came to acting, she was a prevaricator as well.
AND A THIRD THING
What might have happened following this explosion of bad temper and
ill-feeling, had Mr. Sharp himself not entered the room, nobody will ever
know. Miss Carrington had been led into a most unjust and unkind criticism
of the Lockwood twins. She had been deliberately led into it by Hester
Grimes. She knew Hester had done this.
The other girls knew it, too; and they all, the young folks, believed that
the teacher had been most cruel and unfair.
Mr. Sharp could not have failed to appreciate the fact that there was a
tense feeling in the room that never arose from an ordinary recitation in
mediaeval history. But he smilingly overlooked anything of the kind.
"Pardon me, Miss Carrington--and you, young ladies," he said, bowing and
smiling. "I have been in the senior classes, and now I am here to make the
same statement I made there, and that I shall make to the sophomores later.
May I speak to your class, Miss Carrington?"
Miss Carrington could not find her voice, but she bowed her permission for
the principal to go on.
"Several of you young ladies," said Mr. Sharp, "are to take part in the
play on Friday evening. Your work, in school, I fear, is being scamped a
bit. Do the best you can; give your interest and attention as well as you
may to the recitations.
"But I wish to announce that, until after this week, we teachers will
excuse such failures as you may make in your work; only, of course, all
faults will have to be made up after the holidays. We want you to give the
play in a way to bring honor upon the school as a whole.
"I have enjoyed your last two rehearsals, and feel confident that, with a
few raw spots smoothed over, you will produce 'The Rose Garden' in a way to
please your friends and satisfy your critics. The faculty as a whole feel
as I do about it. Go in and win!"
The little speech cleared the atmosphere of the class-room immediately. It
did not please Miss Carrington, of course; but the girls felt that they
could even forgive her after what Mr. Sharp had said.
Dora and Dorothy Lockwood had been insulted and maligned. They did not
appear again at that recitation.
"But do you think old Gee Gee would say that she was wrong, and beg their
pardon?" demanded Bobby, at recess. "Not on your life!"
"I don't know that a teacher in her situation could publicly acknowledge
she was utterly in the wrong," Laura observed thoughtfully.
"I would like to know why not?" demanded Jess Morse.
"Why, you see, the fault really lies upon the conscience of one of us
girls," said Laura, looking significantly at Hester.
The latter turned furiously, as though she had been waiting for and
expecting just this criticism. But surely she had not expected it from this
source. All the girls were amazed to hear Laura speak so harshly.
"Oh, Laura!" murmured Jess. "Now you have done it! She's going to blow up!"
"And she'll leave us flat on the play business," groaned Bobby.
Hester came across the reception room to Laura with flashing eyes and her
face mottled with rage.
"What is that you say, Laura Belding?" she demanded.
"I will repeat it," said Laura firmly. "The whole trouble is on your
conscience. You deliberately led Miss Carrington astray."
"Oh! I did, did I?"
"You most certainly did. Miss Carrington was both cruel to Dora and Dorothy
and unfair. But you knew her failing, and you led her to believe that
Dorothy was answering the question she put to Dora. No wonder Miss
Carrington was angered."
"Is that so?" sneered Hester. "And who are you, to tell me when I'm wrong?"
"Somebody has to tell you, Hester," said Jess sweetly, for she was bound to
take up cudgels for her chum.
"And you can mind your business, too, Jess Morse!" snarled Hester.
"Dear, dear!" Nellie begged. "Let us not quarrel."
Yet for once Mother Wit seemed determined upon making trouble. Usually
acting as peacemaker, the girls around her were amazed to hear her say:
"You are quite in the wrong, Hester. And you know it. You should beg Miss
Carrington's pardon; and you should ask pardon of all of us, as well as of
Dora and Dorothy, for disgracing the class."
"What do you mean?" screamed Hester Grimes. "Do you suppose I would tell
old Gee Gee that it was my fault?"
"You deliberately prevaricated--to her and to us," said Laura calmly.
"Call me a story-teller, do you?" cried the butcher's daughter. "How dare
you! I'll get even with you, Laura Belding!"
"It is the truth," Laura said, slowly and firmly.
"I'll fix you for this, Laura Belding!" pursued Hester, trembling with
rage. She turned to sweep them all with her angry glance. "I'll fix you
all! I won't have anything to do with any of you out of school--so there!
And I won't act in your hateful old play!"
She ran out of the room as she said this and left the girls--at least, most
of them--in a state of blank despair. The bell rang for the next session
before anybody could speak.
Laura seemed quite calm and unruffled. The others got through their
recitations as best they could until lunch hour. Jess and Bobby caught up
with Laura on the street when the latter went out for her customary walk.
"Oh, Laura! What shall we do?" almost wept Jess. "Only two days! Nobody can
learn that part--not even as good as Hester knew it--before Friday night."
At that moment Chet Belding appeared from around the corner. He was red and
almost breathless--in a high state of excitement, and no mistake.
"What do you think, girls?" he cried, "We got a line on Purt Sweet's
automobile and why he has been hiding about where it was that Saturday
night the man from Alaska was hurt."
"What is it? Tell us?" asked Laura.
"I met Dan Smith. He goes to the East High, you know, and he lives across
the street from the Grimes' place. You know?"
"Hester Grimes?" cried Jess.
"Yes. Your dear friend. Well, Dan was up all night that night with a raging
toothache. He said the Grimes' had a party. Purt was there with his car.
Dan knows the car was taken away from the house and was gone more than an
hour that evening, and that Purt did not go with the car.
"See? He's shielding somebody--the poor fish!" added Chet. "That is what
Short and Long has been saying. Now, what do you know about that?"
THE CASE FOR AND AGAINST PURT
The news Chet had divulged was so exciting that the girls quite forgot for
the time being the wreck that Hester Grimes seemed to have made of the
forthcoming performance of "The Rose Garden."
Their chattering tongues mentioned Hester more than once, however, as they
discussed Chet's news. Whether Purt Sweet's car had run down the man from
Alaska or not, what did Hester know about it?
"Can it be possible that Purt is shielding Hester in this matter?" Laura
"Oh, it couldn't be! She wasn't in that car that knocked down Mr. Nemo of
Nowhere," Bobby declared emphatically;
"He has always favored Hester and Lil," Jess
"Pooh!" again put in the irrepressible. "That's only because Pretty Sweet
thinks there is nothing in this world so good or great as money; and both
the Grimes and the Pendleton families have got oodles of it."
"I don't know about that," Chet said quite as thoughtfully as his sister.
"It may not be their folks' money that attracts Purt to those two girls."
"What then?" demanded Bobby.
"They flatter him. He can lap that up like our cat laps cream."
"That is true," agreed Jess Morse.
"Certainly we don't flatter, him," Bobby said bluntly.
"It may be that we have never given Purt a fair deal," Laura observed.
"Hester and Lil do not make fun of him."
"And is he paying Hester back by shouldering something for her?" Jess
"Oh, she never was in that car when it was taken away from where Purt had
it parked before the Grimes' house," Chet hastened to declare with
assurance. "I got all the facts from Dan Smith. He'd swear to them."
"Let us hear the particulars," begged Laura.
"Why, Dan says he was up at his window on the third floor of their house
watching the lights in the Grimes' house. It was a big party. Dancing on
the lower floor, and a crowd of folks. He saw two men--or maybe boys--run
out of the side door and down to the gate, as though they were sneaking
away from some of the others, you know."
"Well?" his sister responded. "Go on."
"Dan didn't know the fellows. Fact was, he couldn't see their faces very
well, and so he could not be sure of their identity in any case."
"The street is pretty wide there, it's a fact," murmured Bobby.
"Those two fellows looked back as though they expected to be spied upon.
But they went to the car, found it was all right (Purt had the radiator
blanketed) and got in. The starter worked, and she got into action as slick
as a whistle, Dan said. He thought it was all right or he would have raised
the window and halloaed at 'em. There were no girls with them. The two
fellows went off alone in the car."
"There were two men in the car that struck Mr. Nemo of Nowhere," murmured
"Purt appeared, Dan says, after a little while and looked for the car. He
got quite excited. Asked everybody that came along if they had seen it. He
was in a stew for fair. And while he was running up and down, popping off
like an engine exhaust, back came the car with only one of the fellows in
"Ha! The mystery deepens," said Jess, in mock tragic tones. "What became of
the other villain?"
"You answer that question," grinned Chet. "You asked it!"
"But what happened then?" asked Laura interestedly.
"There was a row between Purt and the fellow who brought back the car. Purt
pointed to the mudguard on the off side, as though it had been bent, or
scraped in some way----"
"That's what struck the man as he fell on Market Street," interrupted Bobby
with confidence. "I saw it hit him."
"It was blood on the guard," said Laura.
"Oh, my!" gasped Jess. "Do you suppose so?"
"Like enough," Chet agreed. "But it was too far away for Dan to see. And
finally Purt drove off without returning to the house with the other
"But who was he?" Jess asked.
"The fellow Purt quarreled with for taking the car."
"Give it up," said Chet, shaking his head.
"And what became of the other man?" Laura queried.
"There were two in the car when it hit the man from Alaska," Jess declared.
"Gee!" ejaculated Bobby. "There's the nine-ten express west"
"Who----What do you mean, young one?" demanded Chet.
"'Young one' yourself!" snapped Clara Hargrew, immediately on her dignity.
"There are no medals on you for age, Chet Belding."
"Or whiskers, either," laughed Laura, slyly eyeing her brother, for she was
aware that he had a safety razor hidden away in his bureau drawer.
"Come, come!" said Jess, "What about this nine-ten express Bobby spoke of?"
"Why," said the younger girl, "I noticed Mr. Belding's clock--the big
chronometer in the show window--as we came out of the store that Saturday
evening. It was just nine o'clock when we stood there and saw Mr. Nemo of
Nowhere run down by the car. Anybody driving that car could have made the
railroad station just about in time for the ten minutes' past nine
express--the Cannon Ball, don't they call it?"
"That is the train," admitted Laura. "But why----"
"Just wait a minute. Give me time," advised Bobby. "That car that did the
damage was headed for the station."
"True," murmured Jess. "At least, it was going in that direction."
"And when Purt's car came back to the Grimes' house after those two fellows
Dan Smith saw run away with it, there was only one person in the car. The
second individual had been dropped."
"At the station!" exclaimed Chet, catching the idea. "That is why they
stole Purt's car."
"I declare," Laura said. "Your idea sounds very reasonable, Bobby."
"Bobby is right there with the brainworks," said Chet, with admiration.
"Oh," said Bobby, "I'm not altogether 'non compos mend-us,' as the fellow
Chet was very serious, after all. "I tell you what," he blurted out, "if
Purt won't help himself with the police, maybe we can get him out of the
muss in spite of all."
"Why does he want to act the donkey?" demanded Jess.
"Are you sure he is?" asked Laura thoughtfully.
"I tell you," said the excited Chet, "we can find out who had to leave
Hester Grimes' party to catch that express. It ought to be a good lead.
What do you think, Laura?"
"I am wondering," said Mother Wit, "if we have always been fair to
Prettyman Sweet? Of course, he is silly in some ways, and dresses
ridiculously, and is not much of a sport. But if he is keeping still about
this matter so as not to make trouble for Hester, or any of her folks,
there is something fine in his action, don't you think?"
"Well--yes," admitted Jess. "It would seem so."
"I never thought of poor Purt as a chivalrous knight," said Bobby.
"Maybe Laura is right," remarked Chet, rather grudgingly.
"He is much more of a gentleman, perhaps, than we have given him credit for
being," Laura concluded. "I hope it is proved so in the end."
THE LAST REHEARSAL
That afternoon, when the girls gathered for rehearsal, Hester, nor anybody
else, appeared to play "the dark lady of the roses." Mr. Mann made no
comment upon this fact, but he looked very serious, indeed.
The play was acted from the first entrance to the final curtain. The other
characters had to speak of, and even to, the important and missing
character, and it was plain to all as the play progressed that the absence
of "the dark lady" was going to be a fatal hindrance to the success of the
Even Lily Pendleton, Hester's last lingering friend, showed a good deal of
spleen at Hester's action.
"I never will forgive Hessie," Lily said, almost in tears. And the other
girls had to urge her over and over again to be sure and come herself on
Thursday for the last dress rehearsal.
"If the piece is wrecked, let us be castaways together," begged Jess.
"Don't anybody else fail. Promise, girls!"
They promised sadly. Mr. Mann had hurried away as soon as the last words
"Too disgusted to even speak to us," Nellie said sadly. "I am real sorry
for him, girls. He has tried so hard."
"He deserves a leather medal," said Bobby emphatically.
"And what do we deserve?" demanded one of the twins.
"I know what Hester Grimes deserves," said Bobby darkly.
It was not likely, however, that Hester Grimes would get her deserts. They
were all agreed on that point, if on no other.
That Wednesday afternoon when the girls separated it was with drooping
spirits--all but Laura Belding, at least. Perhaps it was because she always
had so many irons in the fire that trouble seemed to roll off her young
shoulders like rainwater off a duck's feathers.
At least, when she started for the street car that took her to the hospital
before she went home, she was cheerful of countenance and smiling. She
carried that same cheerfulness into the hospital itself and to Billy Long's
The active Billy was, as he himself expressed it, "fed up" on the hospital
by now. He was grateful for what they had done for him there and the way in
which they treated him in every way, but confinement was beginning to wear
on his spirits.
"Gee, Laura Belding!" ejaculated the young patient, seizing her hand with
both his own when she appeared, "a sight of you is just a stop-station this
side of eternity. Have they changed the hours? Aren't they twice as long as
they used to be?"
"No, indeed, my poor boy," Laura said. "There are only sixty minutes in
each. I wish I could shorten the time for you."
"Take it from me," growled Short and Long, having hard work to keep back
the tears, "this being in bed is the bunk. Don't let anybody tell you
But Laura caught his attention the next moment with Purt Sweet's trouble.
What Chet had found out from Dan Smith, Hester Grimes' neighbor, interested
the quick mind of Billy Long immensely.
"Gee! I knew it must be something like that. Sure! Purt is shielding
somebody for Hester. That's it!"
"Have you no idea who it can be? The man who drove the car, I mean, or the
one who possibly took the nine-ten express out of town that night? Hester
has no brothers----"
"Say!" exclaimed Billy, "there is somebody who will know. If Purt was there
at the party, so was Lil Pendleton."
"Lily!" exclaimed Laura. "I never thought of her."
"And if she is likely to be sore on Hester now, as you say you all are,"
Billy continued, "she won't be for shielding Hester or any of her friends
or relatives. Let me tell you that!"
"I believe she must have been at the party. Hester invites her to
everything of the kind she has; although she seldom invites any of the
other girls of Central High."
"Go to it!" urged the patient "Ask Lil Pendleton. I'd like to have Purt
cleared of this. I told that man from Alaska so. But, gee, Laura! I wish we
could find some way of giving him the right steer."
"You mean you would like to help him find his name and identity?"
"Yep. He says sometimes he feels that he is just going to remember--then it
all dissipates in his mind like a cloud. He's bad off, he is!"
"I am going to see him now. I have an idea, Billy."
"You're always full of ideas, Laura," the boy said admiringly. "I've been
raking my poor nut back and forth and crossways, without getting a glimmer
of an idea how to help him. He says if we can show him how to find his
memory, he'll do all he can for Purt," Billy added wistfully.
"You are very anxious to help Prettyman Sweet, aren't you, Billy?"
suggested the girl of Central High as she rose to go.
"You bet I am."
"Why? You boys never thought much of him before, you know."
Billy flushed, but he stuck to his guns. "I tell you," he said, "we never
gave Purt a fair deal, I guess. He's all right. He isn't like Chet, or
Lance, or Reddy Butts, or the rest of the fellows, but there's good parts
"You think he has proved himself a better fellow than you thought before?"
"You bet!" said Billy vigorously. "He's been mighty nice to me; and I
always was playing jokes on him, and--Aw! when a fellow lies like I do in
bed and has so much time to think, he gets on to himself," added the boy
gruffly. "Sending dead fish to other fellows isn't such a smart joke after
"I am going to see your friend, the Alaskan miner, now," the girl said,
squeezing the boy's hand understandingly.
"If you find out some way of jogging his memory, I'd like to be in on it,"
"You shall," promised Laura, as she tripped away.
By this time Laura was so well known at the hospital that nobody stopped
her from going to the unknown man's private room where he was now
established with his particular nurse. He hailed the girl's appearance
almost as gladly as Billy Long had done.
"Your bright young faces make you high-school girls--and the boys, of
course--as welcome as can be," he said. "I'd like to do something when I
get out of this hospital in return for all your kindness to me. But if I
can't get a grip on what and who I am----"
"I have thought of a way by which we may help you to that," interjected
Laura. "You know, you must have been doing something all these years since
you won your fortune in Alaska."
"Surely! But what became of my wealth? That is a hard question."
"Perhaps we can help you find out what you have been doing. Then you will
gradually remember it all. Have you those bank-notes they say you carried
in your pocket when you were brought in?"
"Why, they are in the hospital safe. I haven't had to use much of my money
yet," he said, puzzled.
"I want to look at that money--all of it," said Laura. "It is too late
to-night, but to-morrow afternoon I will come with my brother, and I wish
you would have those bank-notes here. I have an idea."
"I'll do just as you say, Miss Laura," said the man. "But I don't
"You will," she told him, laughing, as she hurried away.
There was, therefore, much puzzlement of mind in several quarters that
night--and Laura Belding was partly at fault. She retained all her usual
placidity, and even on the morrow, when she went to school and found the
other girls so very despondent about the play, she refused to join in their
prophecies of ill.
This was the day of the last rehearsal. Mr. Mann had told them that he
wished the actors to rest between this dress rehearsal and the first public
performance of "The Rose Garden" on the following evening.
"I just know it will be a dreadful fizzle," wailed Jess, before Mr. Mann
called the rise of the curtain.
Everything was in readiness, however, for a perfect rehearsal. The curtain
was properly manipulated and the scene shifters, the light man, and all the
other helpers were at their stations, as well as the orchestra in the pit.
The girls had been excused from studies at one o'clock--of course, greatly
to Miss Carrington's disapproval. Since her "run-in" with the Lockwood
twins, as Bobby inelegantly called it, the teacher had been less exacting,
although quite as stern-looking as ever.
Dora and Dorothy, being cheerful souls, had recovered from their excitement
over the incident in history class, and were so much interested in their
parts in the play now that they forgot all about Gee Gee's ill treatment.
Indeed, when the curtain was rung up every girl in the piece was in a state
of excitement. Although they felt that the failure of the part of "the dark
lady of the roses" would utterly ruin some of the best lines and most
telling points in the play, they were all ready to act their own parts with
vigor and a real appreciation of what those parts meant.
Bobby, as the sailor lad, came on with a rolling gait that would have done
credit to any "garby" in the Navy. Jess, as the swashbuckling hero,
swaggered about the stage in a delightful burlesque of such a character, as
the author intended the part to be played.
Then the lights were lowered for the evening glow and "Adrian" turned to
point out the "dark lady"--that mysterious figure supposed to haunt the
rose garden and for weal or woe influence the hero's house and his affairs.
Jess recited her lines roundly, pointing the while to the garden along the
shadowy paths of which the dark lady of the roses was supposed to wander.
With incredible amazement--a shock that was more real than Jess could
possibly have expressed in any feigned surprise--she beheld the dark lady
as the book read, moving quietly across the garden, gracefully swaying as
she lightly trod the fictitious sod, stooping to pluck and then kissing the
rose, and finally disappearing into the wings with a flash of brilliant
eyes and the revelation of a charming countenance for the audience.
It was lucky that this signaled the curtain's fall on the first act, or
Jess Morse would have spoiled her own good work by the expression of her
MR. NEMO, OF NOWHERE
"Who is it?"
"Can it be Margit Salgo?"
"How very, very wonderful!"
These were some of the ejaculations of the girls behind the scenes.
At just the right moment the figure of the dark lady had glided from the
dressing-rooms to the wings and gone on at the cue. Her acting gave just
the needed touch to the pretty scene. Her appearance had been most
charming. And, above all, the surprise had been "such a relief!"
"I'm so glad Hester got mad with us and refused to act," sighed Bessie
Yeager. "Whoever this girl is, she is fine."
"Is it a professional Mr. Mann has engaged?" somebody wanted to know.
"Laura Belding! Laura Belding!" cried Dora. "What do you know about it?"
"I warrant Laura knows all about it," said Jess, recovered from her
amazement. "It is just like Mother Wit to have saved us. And I believe I
recognize that very charming Lady Mystery--do I not?"
"Isn't she splendid?" cried Laura, enthusiastically, "I knew she could do
it. And Mr. Mann has been giving her an hour's training every day for a
"Goodness!" drawled Lily Pendleton, "how did you know Hester would cut up
"Doesn't she always do something to queer us if she can?" snapped Bobby.
"Laura, you are a wonder!"
"It is Janet Steele," declared Jess. "Of course! I should have thought of
her myself. She is all right--just the one we needed."
And it took some courage on Jess' part for her to say this, for she knew
that Chet Belding had expressed very warm admiration indeed of Janet
The rehearsal went off splendidly after that. Everybody was encouraged. The
rotund little Mr. Mann beamed--"more than ever like a cherub," Bobby
declared. They came to the final curtain with tremendous applause from the
back benches where some of the faculty sat in the dark.
"And I do believe," said Nellie Agnew, in almost a scared voice, "that Gee
Gee applauded! Can it be possible, girls? Do you suppose that for once she
gives us credit for knowing a little something?"
"If she applauded, her hands slipped by mistake!" grumbled Bobby. "You know
very well that nothing would change Gee Gee's opinion. Not even an
It was late when the rehearsal was over, and Laura knew that Chet would be
waiting outside with their car. She hurried Jess and Bobby, and even Janet,
into their outer wraps as quickly as possible.
"For you might as well go along with us, Janet," Laura said to the new girl
"We're going to the hospital first, but we'll drop you at your home coming
Just what they were to do at the hospital nobody knew save Laura and Chet,
and they refused to explain. When they arrived at the institution they went
directly to the private room now occupied by Mr. Nemo of Nowhere.
Billy Long, up in a chair for the first time, was present to greet the
girls of Central High. And the man from Alaska seemed particularly glad to
"Here is the money, Miss Laura," he said, producing a packet of crisp
bank-notes. "I'd give it all to know just who I am. I seem to be right on
the verge of discovering it to-day; yet something balks me."
"Oh, look at all that money!" crowed Billy, as Laura accepted the bills,
while Chet, with the help of the interested nurse, arranged the bed-table
and gave the man a pad and a fountain pen.
The head surgeon, who had taken a great interest in the case and with whom
Laura had already conferred, tiptoed into the room and stood to look on.
"You bankers," said Laura, laughing, and speaking to the patient, "are
always so much better off than ordinary folks. You pass out any old kind of
money to your customers; but you never see a banker with anything but new
bank-notes in his pocket."
The man listened to her sharply. A sudden quickened interest appeared in
his countenance. The others heard Mother Wit's speech with growing
"See," said the girl of Central High, extracting one of the bank-notes from
the packet "Here is another bill on the Drovers' Levee Bank, of Osage,
Ohio. Did you notice that? Doesn't it sound familiar to you?"
She repeated the name of the bank and its locality slowly. "You have more
bills of that same bank. But none like the one you gave Chet when you
bought that lavalliere for 'the nice little girl' you told him you expected
to give it to."
The man stared at her. He seemed enthralled by what she said. Laura
proceeded in her quiet way:
"Just write this name, please: 'Bedford Knox.' Thanks. Now write it again.
He is cashier of your bank in Osage, Ohio."
Jess barely stifled a cry with her handkerchief. But everybody else was
silent, watching the man laboriously writing the name as requested by
It was a disappointment. No doubt of that The man did not write the name as
though he were familiar with it at all. But Laura was still smiling when he
looked up at her, almost childishly, for further directions.
"Now try this other, please," said the girl firmly. "Two men always sign
bank-notes to make them legal tender. The cashier and the president The
president of the Drovers' Levee Bank, of Osage, Ohio, is----"
She hesitated. The man poised his pen over the paper expectantly. Said
"Write 'Peyton J. Weld.'"
At her words Janet Steele uttered a startled exclamation. The man did not
notice this. He wrote the name as Laura requested. Chet, looking over his
shoulder and with one of the Osage bank-notes in his hand for comparison,
watched the signature dashed off in almost perfect imitation of that upon
"You guessed it, Mother Wit!" the big boy cried. "Write it again, Mr. Weld.
That is your name as sure as you live!"
The surgeon stepped quickly to the bedside and his sharp eyes darted from
the bank-note in the boy's hand to the signature his patient had written.
The man looked wonderingly about the room, his puzzled gaze drifting from
one to another of his visitors until it finally fastened upon the pale
countenance of Janet Steele.
Catching his eye, the girl stepped forward impulsively, her hands clasped.
"Uncle Jack!" she breathed.
"You--you look quite like your mother used to, my dear," the man in bed
said in rather a strange voice.
The surgeon eased him back upon the pillows, and at a nod the nurse sent
the visitors out of the room. In the corridor they all stood amazed,
staring at Janet.
IT IS ALL ROUNDED UP
"Of course," Lily Pendleton confessed, "I was at Hester's party,"
"And Purt Sweet was there?" queried Laura earnestly.
"Mr. Sweet certainly was present, too," said the other girl. "You girls
need not be so jealous if we are the only two from Central High that got
"You can have my share and welcome," said Bobby.
"And mine, too," confessed Jess.
"These interrogations are not inspired by jealousy," laughed Mother Wit.
It was on Friday as the girls gathered for recitations that this
conversation occurred. Lily Pendleton was inclined to object to having her
intimacy with Hester Grimes inquired into.
"Do you remember what night that party was held, Lily?" asked Laura.
"Why, no. On a Saturday night, I believe."
"Quite so. And on a particular Saturday night," said Laura.
"You said it!" murmured Bobby.
"I don't know what you mean!" cried Lily Pendleton.
"But you will before I get through with you," said Laura. "Now, listen! You
know about that man who had his leg broken on Market Street?"
"The one the police say Purt ran down with his car?"
"Of course I do," Lily cried. "And Purt is as innocent as you are!"
"Granted," said Laura. "Therefore you will help us explain the mystery, and
so relieve Purt Sweet of suspicion. For he refuses to say anything himself
to the police."
"Why--why----What do I know about it?" demanded Lily.
"Do you know that the party was held the very Saturday night the man was
"No! Was it?"
"It was. And Purt had his car up there at the Grimes' house."
"Did he? I didn't know. He went away early, I believe."
"And earlier still a couple of boys, or men, borrowed Purt's car without
his knowing it--until afterward," Laura declared earnestly. "One of those
fellows had to catch a train."
"Why, that was Hester's cousin, Jeff Rounds! He lives at Norridge. Don't
"Who was the other fellow?" asked Laura sharply.
"Why--I----Oh! it must have been Tom Langley. He lives next door to
Hester. Do you know," said Lily, preening a little, "I think Tom is kind of
sweet on Hessie."
"Good night!" moaned Bobby. "What is the matter with him? Is he blind?"
"He must have had very bad eyesight or he would not have run down that poor
Mr. Weld on Market Street!" exclaimed Jess tartly.
"What do you mean?" gasped Lily. "Tom Langley has gone away for the winter
anyway. He went suddenly----"
"Right after that party, I bet a cooky," cried Bobby.
"Well--ye-es," admitted Lily.
"Scared!" exclaimed Jess.
"The coward!" cried Laura.
"And left poor Purt to face the music," Bobby observed. "Well, old Purt is
better than we ever gave him credit for. Now we'll make him square himself
with the police."
It was Mr. Nemo of Nowhere, now Mr. Peyton J. Weld, who had the most to do
with settling the police end of Purt Sweet's trouble. It was some weeks
before he could do this, for the shock of his mental recovery racked the
man greatly. For some days the surgeon would not let the young folk see
their friend whose mind had been so twisted.
"I don't know but we did more harm than good, Laura," Chet Belding said
anxiously, when they discussed Mr. Weld's condition.
"I don't believe so," his sister said. "At any rate, we revealed him as
Janet's Uncle Jack, and the discovery has done Mrs. Steele a world of good
That the man who, for a time, had forgotten who he was and had forgotten a
number of years of his life, finally recovered completely, can safely be
stated. His very first outing from the hospital was in Purt Sweet's car,
and the boy drove him first of all to the office of the Chief of Police.
Purt had refused utterly to make trouble for either Hester Grimes' cousin
Jeff or for Tom Langley. Mr. Weld assured the Chief of Police that,
although it was Purt's car that had struck him down on the icy street, Purt
had not been in the car at the time.
Nor did the boy of Central High have anything to do with the accident. His
car had been borrowed without permission by "parties unknown," as far as
Mr. Weld was concerned, and to this day the police of Centerport are rather
hazy as to just who it was that stole Purt Sweet's car and committed the
"And I feel sort of hazy myself," Jess Morse said, when they were all
talking it over at one time. "Mostly hazy about this Man from Nowhere. How
did he so suddenly become Janet Steele's Uncle Jack?"
"And his name 'Peyton'?" added Nellie Agnew.
"Why, his middle name was John--they always called him by it at home,"
explained Laura Belding. "And, of course, Janet and her mother knew nothing
about the name written on those Osage bank bills. I didn't suspect the
"But I began to be quite sure that he must have had something to do with
the bank for which those bills were issued. And it seemed probable that, as
he had so much money with him when he landed in Centerport, that he must be
somebody in Osage of wealth and prominence. I wrote secretly to the
postmaster at Osage and learned that the president of the Drovers' Levee
Bank had gone East on a vacation--presumably to hunt up some relatives that
he had not seen for some time."
"Sly Mother Wit!" cried Jess.
"Not such a wonderful thing to do," laughed Laura.
"Not half so wonderful," put in the irrepressible Bobby Hargrew, "as it
seemed to the countryman who came to town and stood gazing up at the tall
steeple of the cathedral. As he gazed the bell began to toll The hick
stopped a passer-by and said:
"'Tell me, why does the bell ring at this time of day?'
"The other man studied the hick for a moment and then said: 'That's easy.
There's somebody pulling on the rope.'"
"Well," said Nellie, when the laugh had subsided, "I guess Janet and her
mother are glad our Laura had such a bright idea."
"Of course! They are going back to Osage with Mr. Weld when he has fully
recovered. And so we shall lose an awfully nice girl friend," Laura
"Gee!" sighed Chet. "And such a pretty girl!"
Jess said not a word.
* * * * *
Of course, all twisted threads must be straightened out at the end of the
story; but our tale really ends with the performance of "The Rose Garden."
That on Friday night was most enthusiastically received by the friends and
parents of the girls of Central High.
It was a worthy production, and the girls deserved all the applause they
received. It encouraged them to give two further performances, and
altogether the three netted a large sum for the Red Cross. The play, in
fact, was the means of raising more money for the fund than any other
single method used for that object in Centerport.
The city "went over the top" in its quota of both memberships and funds,
and that before Christmas. The girls of Central High could rest on their
laurels over the holidays, knowing that they had done well.
"But wait till Gee Gee gets after us after New Year's," prophesied Bobby.
"Don't be so pessimistic," said Jess. "Maybe she won't."
"Why won't she?" demanded Dora Lockwood.
"Nothing will change her," sighed Dora's twin.
"Say!" gasped Bobby, stricken with a sudden thought, "maybe she'll get the
pip, or something, and not be able to teach. That is our only hope!"
"Suppose we turn over a new leaf, as Miss Carrington won't," suggested
Laura in her placid way.
"What's that?" demanded Bobby suspiciously.
"Suppose we agree not to annoy her any more than we can help for the rest
of the school year?"
"There! Isn't that just like you, Laura Belding?" demanded Jess.
"Suggesting the impossible."
This was said in the wings of the school stage during the last performance
of "The Rose Garden." The curtain went up on the last act and the girls
became quiet They watched Janet Steele, as the dark lady of the roses, move
again across the stage. She was very graceful and very pretty. The boys out
front applauded her enthusiastically.
Laura pinched Jess's arm. "Janet certainly has made a hit," she whispered.
"Well," admitted Jess, "she deserves their applause. And she just about
saved our play, Laura. There is no getting around that."