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首页 » 英文短篇小说 » Girls of the Morning-Glory Camp Fire » CHAPTER XVII A MONOGRAM ON A COIN
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But no Camp Fire Girl or Boy Scout, either, who assembled at the invitation of the Twin-Light Tribe at an hotel upon the mainland of the Massachusetts North Shore, indulged in any wild or random guesses about the large, silver disc, curiously stamped with a sunburst, which rose and fell with the excited breathing of one happy girl of the Morning-Glory Tribe when she put in an appearance at the long-expected party.

The Twin-Light Tribe was an enthusiastic band of Camp Fire Girls who had taken their name from the twin lights, the two golden, saving eyes of a lighthouse guarding their shore.

Being eager for the obtaining of new honor-beads to string upon the leather thongs about their girlish necks, they had arranged to give a large party at which the girls and boys would be equal in number, where all the youthful guests should take part in at least two old-fashioned dances—the boys being instructed on the spur of the moment by the girls if they could not skilfully foot it already in the old-time figures of “Pop Goes the Weasel,” “Chorus Jig,” or any two more stately American dances popular long ago.

For this achievement every participating member of the Twin-Light Tribe was to receive a red, white, and blue honor for patriotism, a distinction which might have been extended to the father of one of them who put the ballroom of the seaside hotel of which he was manager at the service of the Camp Fire Girls for a certain evening and who lent generous aid, too, along the lines of refreshments.

The large room was radiant with electric bulbs disguised as Chinese and Japanese lanterns which pointed many a rainbowed finger of light at the silver sun-dollar gleaming upon Jessica’s breast when she entered the hall. But nobody, neither the benevolent manager nor the guests, all—with the exception of Scoutmasters and Camp Fire Guardians—under twenty, was ignorant by this time of the details of its strange discovery.

Two of the Boy Scouts, going for milk to a farmhouse beyond the dunes where their camp was situated, upon the evening of the most terrible and exciting day in the life of one Camp Fire Girl, Jessica Dee Holley, had told about the finding of the old coin in the wet side of a sand-hill.

The farmer from whom they procured their milk reported the news at the nearest post-office when he drove round with his full cans next morning. The postmaster telephoned it to a newspaper reporter. Inside of thirty-six hours practically the whole of Wessex County, Massachusetts, knew that another of the old sun-stamped Peruvian pesos, lost from the South American brig wrecked off the coast nearly three-quarters of a century before, had been found by two Boy Scouts and by a girl who had been swept down the tidal river in a squall in an opposite direction to that taken by the drifting brig which the furious gale of long ago had driven in from the bay, over the bar, to break to pieces in the river.

Even the few resident guests still staying on at the hotel, now that September had set in, had heard or read the story, too, touched up by a reporter’s imagination, and were anxious to meet the heroine of the drifting dory accident who to-night wore the beautiful old peso, or dollar, on a silver chain around her neck.

“There’s a man out there in the hotel corridor who says he’s interested in old coins. I was talking to him just now; he’s like all the rest; he wants to see the sun-dollar,” remarked Miles Stackpole, Eagle Scout, to the coin’s possessor, looking down at the silver sunburst dangling upon the breast of her white dress.

At this patriotic party the Scouts, by request, wore their uniform. Miles was resplendent with all his merit badges below the service stripes upon his right sleeve; the American Eagle in silver swooped from the red, white and blue ribbon hanging from the silver bar upon his left breast. On his collar was embroidered in dull gold B. S. A.: Boy Scouts of America; together with the number of the troop to which he belonged.

Other lads from his camp numbering over twenty, including Kenjo and the fat Astronomer, looked debonair and smart in their khaki uniforms, too.

But the Camp Fire Girls had, for to-night, abandoned their leather-fringed khaki; they were not in ceremonial dress; each wore a conventional party-frock or the fairest apology for one which she happened to have brought with her to camp, the girlish costumes ranging widely from Olive Deering’s frilled yellow silk in which she looked like a chrysanthemum, the first of the season, to Sally’s white skirt and orange smock, minus the saucy Tam—wherein she was again the little Baltimore oriole of the city playground—and to Penelope’s white duck skirt and “fancy” waist which the girls had between them fashioned for her, having ruled out her old “black and white warbler” attire with the faded girdle.

“There! the piano is just striking up ‘Pop Goes the Weasel’ now,” went on Miles after an interval during which Jessica had expressed a happy willingness that the hotel guest who was interested in venerable coins should have his desire gratified and examine the sun-dollar. “You and I are to dance this together in the leading set. After it’s over, we’ll put the sunburst coin on exhibition.”

“Pop Goes the Weasel! Dear me! the last time I danced it was on a public playground with that poor little deaf-and-dumb foreign child whom, between us, we rescued from drowning in the shallow bathing-pool,” murmured Morning-Glory, in fancy seeing little Rebecca’s big-eyed face under the Chinese lantern above her. “Ha! there’s Captain Andy looking in at us, with the hotel guests; he paid me the ‘dandiest’ compliment that day, so the girls told me”—laughing merrily—“he said I was so light on my feet that I danced like a Mother Carey chicken on a foam hill; what d’you think of that?”

“Well, I bet you do! I can tell better, though, after the Weasel has popped,” laughed Stack, as this leading couple in the leading set stood with arms arched for a gay little dancer (it happened to be orchard Kitty who had been duly instructed beforehand in the popping figures) to pass beneath.

Never did a weasel pop to a finish more triumphantly; never did the large handsomely decorated room where fashionable seashore visitors held revel during the summer echo and re?cho to happier laughter, more joyous dance-cries; never certainly did its decorative panels smile upon a company so fraught with promise for the future of their native land as this assemblage of Scouts in khaki and their Camp Fire Sisters.

“Now, when you’ve rested, we’ll exhibit the peso, the Peruvian sun-dollar, to all who want to see it!” suggested Miles when the dance was over and he was fanning his partner with his broad hat, to be worn later when the Boy Scouts were to give an exhibition, go through some drilling and signaling “stunts” for the entertainment of their hostesses.

“I’m rested now, but don’t show it off to too many people at once,” pleaded the girl shyly. “If they’re hotel guests bring them one by one or two at a time—I hate facing a crowd!”

Stack divined that she did not want to run the gauntlet of many questions about her experiences on the day when she had been a castaway on the Neck and espied the coin-waif, from the wreck of long ago, flashing from its wet niche in a sand-hill.

“All right!” he agreed. “We’ll hold a reception for the sun’s face on the sun-dollar, though if I was the sun I’d boycott Peru forever—never shine on ’em again—for caricaturing me like that! I’ll usher guests in one by one; ladies first, then that lawyer-chap to whom I was speaking a while ago who’s interested in coins.” Miles nodded toward a tall, thin man lounging just inside the doorway of the room.

“Did he tell you he was a lawyer?”

“Not in so many words, but he said that he was only resting at this hotel for a day or two and that, then, he was going on to old Newburyport on the Merrimac River, thirty or forty roundabout miles from here, on a quest that was not exactly legal business; he did not say what sort of search it was, but why should he mention that it wasn’t a legal matter if he wasn’t side-stepping his own line, eh?” beamed Miles, fanning more vehemently with his Scout’s hat.

“Newburyport! Old Newburyport—the only Newburyport in the United States!” sighed the girl. “I have been wanting all summer long to go there; my great-gran’father lived there once; at least, he used to sail out of Newburyport on his long voyages to the West Indies; he went all round the world sometimes.”

This was the gayest evening of her life, the most utterly happy one since she had lost her parents, yet as young Stackpole went off to summon the lawyer who was “side-stepping his own legal line” by taking up with some matter outside it, she felt as if her heart shrank until it was the size of a peanut, squeezed by poverty’s iron hand; she had not been able even to afford the train fare to Newburyport, a town in the same State, without imposing on Cousin Anne.

“Never mind, it won’t always be so; I’ll soon be independent, earning money in some way, even among a storm of typewriters! And I’ll always have the silver sunburst to remind me of this happy summer and that, as a Camp Fire Girl, I’m a daughter of the Sun,” she murmured to herself even as her hand went up to the back of her neck to unfasten Arline’s silver chain, in order that the stranger might examine her coin-pendant closely.

“It certainly is a most beautiful specimen of Peruvian coinage,” that stranger was exclaiming presently after Miles had duly introduced him to its owner. “Do you mind if I take it over there to the farther end of the room where there are some electric lights that aren’t dressed up like Chinese mandarins, so’s to see it better?”

“Not at all!” they agreed and followed him like happy children, Miles and Jessica.

Several of Jessica’s Camp Fire Sisters of the Morning-Glory Tribe, hovering around their sweet-faced Guardian, also migrated to that far end of the long room where there were no swinging, red-and-yellow, mandarin lights; so did two or three of the Scouts, with Captain Andy, looming massive in this hall of revelry, at their heels.

“Yes, I don’t think these South Peruvian pesos were issued after 1838,” remarked the lawyer, his words dropping clearly into the heart of the lull between the music and dances. “I can make out the inscription above the sun-stamp fairly well: ‘Repub Sud Peruana,’ and that grotesque little sun-face—like a microscopic All-hallowe’en face—at the heart of the sunburst. But—but what is this fresh engraving, if you can call it so, beneath it?”

“My initials in a tiny monogram,” laughed Jessica. “He put them there”—glancing up at Miles—“in honor of my seeing it first.”

“What Philistinism! What youthful arrogance!” gasped the lawyer half under his breath. “Why, it spoils the ancient stamp!” angrily.

“Not so! I made too slick a job of it for that!” maintained the eighteen-year-old Scout, with a chuckle, not caring in the least that an elderly lawyer who was “side-stepping his own job” should denounce his act as that of a spoiling Philistine; nobody else of the group or throng, now augmented by almost every young person in the room, exactly caught the stranger’s words and meaning, with the exception of the Camp Fire Guardian.

“I’ll wager no silversmith could have done it better with the tool I had, the fine blade of my penknife,” boasted Stack, peering down at the minute, intertwined letters under the sunburst; “you see they were easy letters to weave into a monogram: J. D. H.: Jessica Dee Holley!”

“Dee! Dee! Is your middle name Dee?” The irate lawyer’s expression changed as if a flash of lightning from the electric bulbs overhead struck him. “Dee!” he reiterated. “It’s not a common surname; I have, as yet, only got upon the track of a few families of that name. And I can’t—I can’t go about asking every one I meet what his or her middle name is, if it happens to begin with D.” He looked appealingly at Jessica, shifting the old coin upon his wrinkled palm.

“No, of course not.” Morning-Glory did not know whether to laugh or hide; she thought he was slightly deranged and edged a little closer to Miles.

“I’m going on to Newburyport on the Merrimac River in a day or two, to see whether I can, in person, get upon the trail of any Dees whose ancestors lived there,” went on the man who was on a “side-stepping” quest.

“Well! you needn’t go any farther,” proclaimed Stack excitedly, his Boy Scout’s trained detective-instinct leading him to believe that there was “something in the wind.” “Do some pumping—I mean questioning—here first! Miss Holley’s middle name is Dee and she has just told me that her great-grandfather—on her mother’s side, I suppose—came from Newburyport. He was a sea-captain.”

“A sea-captain!” More lightning struck the lawyer, so it seemed; he made a few prancing, forward steps. “Was he drowned?”

“Yes, in the year 1840, so Mother told me.” There was the germ of a sob in Jessica’s answer; she did not take kindly to abrupt questioning about this heroic, handsome ancestor whose memory she idolized.

“What was his name, his full name—may I ask?”

“Captain Josiah Flint Dee, sir.” The great-grandchild spoke the name proudly, although she was beginning to tremble and shiver, she didn’t know why; was it possible that the ancestor whose dimpled chin, blue eyes and live smile—preserved on ivory all these years—had been the living companion of her loneliest, sorrowfulest hours, was really—really—coming alive, at last, in some deed of his, to bless her?

Not for an instant was she so disloyal to the gallant shoulders and the fine head in the old miniature as to imagine that any deed of his could shame her.

So she threw back her own brown head and looked the queer questioner, who was still holding her sun-dollar upon his palm, straight in the eye as she added:

“Yes, my great-grandfather’s name is written in a small Bible that I have, which was printed very long ago, in which an s is formed like an f,” with a catch of the breath. “My grandfather’s name is written on the fly-leaf, too, and my grandmother’s and my mother’s.”

“All named Dee! Well! Well! And I might never have found that out, might never have thought of questioning you—for, of course, I can’t go about asking people what their middle names are—if it hadn’t been for your monogram scratched on this old coin.”

“‘Youthful arrogance,’ eh?” quoted Miles with a wink, flinging the words back in the lawyer’s teeth. “I call it a heaven-sent inspiration if there’s anything back of your questions, sir!” The Eagle Scout darted an eagle look, but a respectful one at the same time, at the elderly legal stranger.

“If there is any purpose back of ’em, I say go ahead an’ drive it—no more bushwhacking—you’re upsetting the little girl and holding up the dancing—spoiling the party!” threw in Captain Andy with a paternal look at Jessica who was now leaning against her Camp Fire Guardian.

“Why! of course there’s a purpose back of them,” replied the lawyer with dignity. “I am in possession of knowledge that may be of benefit to this young lady to whom I was so accidentally introduced through looking at the coin she found. But in order to determine beyond doubt whether—or not—she really is heir to a trifling old legacy, I must ask a few more questions.”

“Heir! Legacy! Gee!” Tenderfoot Tommy Orr licked his lips as he hovered upon the skirts of the ring which had formed around Jessica, his short, fat neck thrust forward, his gaze slanted inquiringly upward at one and another of the now thoroughly excited group. “Legacy! Gee whiz! That sounds slick,” puffed the Astronomer.

“I’m sure I’m on the right track at last,” murmured the lawyer, mentally squinting backward at certain letters of inquiry he had written during the past few weeks to people whose surname was Dee in various parts of the country, which had brought no satisfactory results. “But there may be other heirs or heiresses beside this young lady—other descendants of Captain Josiah Dee. Are you an only child?” he inquired of Jessica.

“Yes. I had a little brother who died when he was a baby.”

“And your mother—she was an only child, too?”

“Yes. And my grandfather was an only son; at least he was the only one to grow up; he ran away from home, that is, went away soon after he was twenty on hearing a rumor of gold being found in California; that was while my great-grandfather was away on the voyage from which he never came back; he was lost in a storm with his ship The Wave Queen.”

“The Wave Queen! Ha! We’re getting on.” The lawyer rubbed his palms together upon the old sunburst coin as if he were petting it.

“Your grandfather was a gold-hunter, eh? Did he own the little old Bible you speak of with the names on the fly-leaf? That would come in handy as evidence.”

“Yes; my mother said that was the only thing he took away with him, beside his outfit, when he started for California, that and a little miniature painted on ivory of his father; both had belonged to his mother—my great-gran’mother.” Jessica’s voice faltered a little as she leaned against the Guardian of the Camp Fire, Miss Dewey; lawyers did seem to do no end of bushwhacking, beating about the bush; at the next leveled question, however, she straightened up; her eyes shone.

“Did you ever hear of your great-grandfather’s saving the life of a Boston merchant or petty trader, named Orlando Norton, at sea?”

“No, but I know he saved a whole lot—of—lives,” with a proud quiver in the voice.

“Well! I may come to the point at last and tell you that on one of his voyages he did save the life of Orlando Norton whom he found clinging to a spar in mid-ocean, after the passenger ship on which he was aboard was wrecked. And this Orlando Norton was grateful; he wasn’t a rich man, but he left Captain Josiah Dee a small legacy at the time of his death which occurred while your great-grandfather was away on his last voyage from which he never came back. So the legacy went unclaimed. The Judge of Probate ordered it to be deposited in a Boston savings bank until some claimant turned up. None has ever done so—efforts were made at the time to reach your grandfather, but they failed—so the sum has lain there for nearly seventy-five years, swelling and multiplying at compound interest, doubling itself every twenty-five years or so.”

Dead silence as the legal tones ceased; among the girls not a hair ribbon stirred! As for the Boy Scouts, only the Astronomer’s padded gasps, sounding as if they emanated from a throat lined with cotton-wool, made themselves heard; others were holding their breath.

“Great guns! I’d like to ask how this matter of a legacy came to be hauled forward again after such a long time had elapsed?” Captain Andy suddenly thrust a massive shoulder into the midst of the group.

“Simply because of late years there has been a law obliging all banks to publish, at intervals, a list of their unclaimed deposits in leading newspapers. Probably if Miss Jessica Dee Holley and her parents weren’t living in New England, they never saw that list, but I did, and not having much legal business on hand, I thought I’d manufacture a little by trying to look up heirs for two or three of the oldest legacies still unclaimed.” Thus the lawyer explained his “side-stepping quest.” He was silent for a moment, gathering breath for a dramatic climax; then he stretched out his right arm and put the old sunburst coin, with its dangling chain, back in Jessica’s hand.

“Here is your sun-dollar, my dear,” he said in fatherly tones; “it has brought you a very strange piece of good fortune; through your initials on the coin—which irritated me at first—I was led to question you; and, now, I haven’t the slightest hesitation in saying that I am sure you are the heiress to that old legacy—a debt of gratitude to your great-grandfather for saving a life—and that, with my assistance, you can claim it at any time.”

“Oh! Oh! Oh-h!” These bomb-like exclamations, fired off into the stillness of the great room with its decorated panels and portly, gaudy lanterns, were for a minute the only sound to be heard. “Don’t faint—Jessica!” pleaded the Astronomer then.

“How much is the legacy?” Miles spoke huskily.

The lawyer cleared his throat. “Well! money looked bigger in those days, I suppose, and the merchant was a comparatively poor man,” he prefaced; “the original legacy was only three hundred dollars.”

“Three hundred! He didn’t put a big price on his life.” Miles kicked vehemently at a chair.

Every one’s elated countenance fell—with the exception of the new-found heiress who was thinking proudly of that deed of her great-grandfather—three hundred dollars: it was better than nothing! But it was a very small windfall which had fallen among them with a very big thud and they resented the noise it made.

“Ah! but you forget”—a smile crept over the lawyer’s face—“you forget that the legacy has lain in that savings bank at compound interest, compounding and compounding for nearly seventy-five years; I can’t compute exactly its present amount at a moment’s notice, but I know that it is in the neighborhood of twenty-five hundred dollars; that isn’t such a bad little nest-egg for pin-money, eh,” smiling at Jessica’s white face, “even when my small fee is deducted?”

Silence again.

“Twenty-five hundred!” The shriek came from Sesooā. With a spring Sally flung herself upon the “modest heiress,” flung her arms about her. “Oh! Jessica,” she cried. “Jessica, darling! you can go to a school of art—to a dozen schools of art, if you want to, now!” wildly. “She thought she must earn her living as a stenographer in a business office!” Sally flashed round upon the company, a smocked flame. “And—and she didn’t want to—though I’d like it well enough—because she loves color and she has the makings in her of being an artist, a designer like her father, painting beautiful windows with saints’ heads—and things! She says girls do that, sometimes, now. An’ she wants to—but she must have an education—and to design a Camp Fire Girls’ colored window, some day, if ever we girls get a grand National Building!”

Sally had soared to a hill of imagination from which she crowed upon the listeners like a veritable flame-bird, mocking coherency.

“Oh! Jessica, why didn’t you tell me that?” whispered Olive Deering.

“I couldn’t—Olive lovey!”

The heiress in a modest way looked very white and trembling. “I always felt—I always felt that my great-grandfather lived in some way!” she breathed. Tears oozed out between her eyelids.

It was a crucial moment. Then Tenderfoot Tommy Orr grew splendid. With the rolling gait of a very fat boy, chin thrust out, he ploughed through the circle and seized Morning-Glory’s hand in both of his.

“I say! you just come an’ have some fruit punch,” he commanded, waving his Scout’s hat toward a far-away table. “Waiter has just brought it in! Legacies an’ stuff are all right, but I’m—parched!” in the same tone that he had proclaimed how he was poisoned.... “I’m too short for you to take my arm, but you can hang on tight to my hand!” he added in Jessica’s ear, as he steered her for the distant table.

“You’re a good Scout, Tommy,” applauded Miles huskily. “Goodness! to think that one of us, in a way, did dig up a fortune from the sands after all—or something like it!”

“Miles!” The Guardian of the Morning-Glory Camp Fire seized young Stackpole’s arm as if he were her son or as if she had known him all her life. “Miles—that’s your name, isn’t it—for pity’s sake! get hold of the hotel pianist who has been playing for the dances; ask her—ask her”—breathlessly—“to strike up Portland Fancy or the Virginia Reel, something, anything lively, and set the girls to dancing.”

“Yes, let them work it off through their feet; if not we’ll have a scene!... Jiminy twisters! I want to make a scene myself!” added Miles Stackpole, Eagle Scout, stopping to whoop in the act of obediently crossing the room. “I want to wrestle somebody: I want to get out-of-doors and yell and yell—and yell—and kick over the Man in the Moon!”


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