Mary Louise Solves a Mystery eBook: Page1

L. Frank Baum (2008)

  E-text prepared by Michael Gray ([email protected])

  Transcriber's note:

  The original book contained two chapters numbered XI, each with a different title. Both appeared in the table of contents, listed as Chapters X and XI. The real Chapter X, entitled "Mere Speculation," was not included in the table of contents. In this e-text the Table of Contents has been corrected to include the real Chapter X and to reflect the fact that the book has two Chapters numbered XI.


  byEdith Van DyneAuthor of"Aunt Jane's Nieces Series"

  Frontispiece by Anna B. Mueller


  The Reilly & Lee Co.Chicago

  Copyright, 1917byThe Reilly & Britton Co.

  _Mary Louise Solves a Mystery_



  Mary Louise Solves a Mystery


  A little girl sat shivering in a corner of a reception room in thefashionable Hotel Voltaire. It was one of a suite of rooms occupied byMrs. Antoinette Seaver Jones, widely known for her wealth and beauty,and this girl--a little thing of eleven--was the only child of Mrs.Antoinette Seaver Jones, and was named Alora.

  It was not cold that made her shiver, for across the handsomelyfurnished room an open window gratefully admitted the summer sunshineand the summer breeze. Near the window, where the draught came coolest,a middle-aged woman in a sober dress sat reading. Alora did not look atthis person but kept her gaze fixed anxiously upon the doorway that ledto the corridor, and the spasmodic shudders that at times shook herlittle body seemed due to nervous fear.

  The room was so still that every tick of the Dresden clock could bedistinctly heard. When Miss Gorham, Alora's governess, turned a page ofher book, the rustle was appallingly audible. And the clock ticked on,and Miss Gorham turned page after page, and still the child sat bowedupon her chair and eagerly eyed the passageway.

  It seemed ages before the outer door of the suite finally opened and aman moved softly down the passage and paused at the entrance of thereception room. The man was white-haired, dignified and distinguishedin appearance. Hat in hand, he stood as if undecided while Alorabounded from her seat and came to him, her eyes, big and pleading,reading his face with dramatic intentness.

  "Well, well, my dear; what is it?" he said in a kindly voice.

  "May I see my mamma now, Doctor?" she asked.

  He shook his head, turning to the table to place his hat and glovesupon it.

  "Not just yet, little one," he gently replied, and noting herquick-drawn breath of disappointment he added: "Why, I haven't seenher myself, this morning."

  "Why do you keep me from her, Doctor Anstruther? Don't you know it's--it's wicked, and cruel?"--a sob in her voice.

  The old physician looked down upon the child pityingly.

  "Mamma is ill--very ill, you know--and to disturb her might--it might--well, it might make her worse," he explained lamely.

  "I won't disturb her. There's a nurse in there, all the time. Whyshould I disturb my mamma more than a nurse?" asked Alora pleadingly.

  He evaded the question. The big eyes disconcerted him.

  "When I have seen your mother," said he, "I may let you go to her for afew minutes. But you must be very quiet, so as not to excite her. Wemust avoid anything of an exciting nature. You understand that, don'tyou, Lory?"

  She studied his face gravely. When he held out a hand to her she clungto it desperately and a shudder again shook her from head to foot.

  "Tell me, Doctor Anstruther," in low, passionate tones, "is my motherdying?"

  He gave an involuntary start.

  "Who put that notion into your head, Lory?"

  "Miss Gorham."

  He frowned and glanced reprovingly at the governess, who had loweredher book to her lap and was regarding the scene with stolid unconcern.

  "You mustn't mind such idle gossip, my dear. I am the doctor, you know,and I am doing all that can be done to save your mother's life. Don'tworry until I tell you to, Lory; and now let me go to see my patient."

  He withdrew his hand from her clasp and turned into the passage again.The girl listened to his footsteps as he approached her mother'sbedchamber, paused a moment, and then softly opened the door andentered. Silence again pervaded the reception room. The clock resumedits loud ticking. Miss Gorham raised her book. Alora went back to herchair, trembling.

  The front bedchamber was bright and cheery, a big room fitted withevery modern luxury. The doctor blinked his eyes as he entered from thedim passage, for here was sunlight and fresh air in plenty. Beside thebed stood a huge vase of roses, their delicate fragrance scenting theatmosphere. Upon the bed, beneath a costly lace coverlid, lay a womanthirty-five years of age, her beautiful face still fresh and unlined,the deep blue eyes turned calmly upon the physician.

  "Welcome, Doctor Anstruther," she said. "Do you realize you have keptme waiting?"

  "I am sorry, Mrs. Jones," he replied, approaching her. "There are somany demands upon my time that----"

  "I know," a little impatiently; "but now that you are here please tellme how I am this morning."

  "How do you feel?"

  "I do not suffer, but it takes more morphine to quiet the pain. Janethas used the hypodermic four times since midnight," with a glance atthe gray-robed nurse who stood silently by the table.

  The doctor nodded, thoughtfully looking down her. There was smallevidence of illness in her appearance, but he knew that her hours werenumbered and that the dread disease that had fastened upon her wascreeping on with ever increasing activity. She knew it, too, and smileda grim little smile as she added: "How long can I last, at this rate?"

  "Do not anticipate, my dear," he answered gravely. "Let us do all thatmay be done, and----"

  "I must know!" she retorted. "I have certain important arrangements tomake that must not be needlessly delayed."

  "I can understand that, Mrs. Jones."

  "Then tell me frankly, how long have I to live?"

  "Perhaps a month; possibly less; but----"

  "You are not honest with me, Doctor Anstruther! What I wish to know--what I _must_ know--is how soon this disease will be able to kill me.If we manage to defer the end somewhat, all the better; but the fiendmust not take me unaware, before I am ready to resign my life."

  He seated himself beside the bed and reflected. This was his mostinteresting patient; he had attended her constantly for more than ayear and in this time had learned to admire not only her beauty ofperson but her "gameness" and wholesome mentality. He knew something ofher past life and history, too, as well from her own lips as fromcommon gossip, for this was no ordinary woman and her achievements werefamiliar to many.

  She was the daughter of Captain Bob Seaver, whose remarkable career wasknown to every man in the West. Captain Bob was one "forty-niners" andhad made fortunes and lost them with marvelous regularity. He had afaculty for finding gold, but his speculations were invariably unwise,so his constant transitions from affluence to
poverty, and vice versa,were the subject of many amusing tales, many no doubt grosslyexaggerated. And the last venture of Captain Bob Seaver, before hedied, was to buy the discredited "Ten-Spot" mine and start to developit.

  At that time he was a widower with one motherless child--Antoinette--agirl of eighteen who had been reared partly in mining camps and partlyat exclusive girls' schools in the East, according to her father'svarying fortunes. "Tony" Seaver, as she was generally called in thosedays, combined culture and refinement with a thorough knowledge ofmining, and when her father passed away and left her absolute mistressof the tantalizing "Ten-Spot," she set to work to make the mine asuccess, directing her men in person and displaying such shrewdjudgment and intelligence, coupled with kindly consideration for herassistants, that she became the idol of the miners, all of whom wereproud to be known as employees of Tony Seaver's "Ten-Spot" would havedied for their beautiful employer if need be.

  And the "Ten-Spot" made good. In five years Tony had garnered a millionor two of well-earned dollars, and then she sold out and retired frombusiness. Also, to the chagrin of an army of suitors, she married anartist named Jason Jones, whose talent, it was said, was not so greatas his luck. So far, his fame rested on his being "Tony Seaver'shusband." But Tony's hobby was art, and she had recognized real worth,she claimed, in Jason Jones' creations. On her honeymoon she carriedher artist husband to Europe and with him studied the works of themasters in all the art centers of the Continent. Then, enthusiastic andeager for Jason's advancement, she returned with him to New York andset him up in a splendid studio where he had every convenience andincentive to work.

  So much the world at large knew. It also knew that within three yearsMrs. Antoinette Seaver Jones separated from her husband and, with herbaby girl, returned West to live. The elaborate Jones studio wasabandoned and broken up and the "promising young artist" disappearedfrom the public eye. Mrs. Jones, a thorough business woman, hadretained her fortune in her own control and personally attended to herinvestments. She became noted as a liberal patron of the arts and agenerous donor to worthy charities. In spite of her youth, wealth, andbeauty, she had no desire to shine in society and lived a somewhatsecluded life in luxurious family hotels, attending with muchsolicitude to the training and education of her daughter Alora.

  At first she had made Denver her home, but afterward migrated from onemiddle-west city to another until she came to Chicago, where she hadnow lived for nearly three years, occupying the most expensive suite ofrooms at the very exclusive Hotel Voltaire.

  Alora fairly worshipped her beautiful mother and although Mrs.Antoinette Seaver Jones was considered essentially cold and unemotionalby those who knew her casually, there was no doubt she prized her childas her dearest possession and lavished all the tenderness and love ofwhich she was capable upon her.

  Retrospectively, Doctor Anstruther considered this historical revue ofhis fair patient as he sat facing her. It seemed a most unhappy fatethat she should be cut off in the flower of her womanhood, but her casewas positively hopeless, and she knew it and had accepted the harshverdict without a murmur. Bravery had always been Tony Seaver's primecharacteristic. To Doctor Anstruther it seemed that she might as wellknow the truth which she had demanded from his lips.

  "This disease is one that accelerates toward the end," he said. "Withinthe past few days we have noted its more virulent tendency. All we cando now is to keep you from suffering until--the end."

  "And that will be--when?" she demanded.

  "I think I can safely give you a week but----"

  "Then I must act at once," she said, as he hesitated. "I must, first ofall, make provision for Alora's future, and in this I require yourhelp."

  "You know you may depend upon me," he said simply.

  "Please telegraph at once to my husband Jason Jones, in New York."

  The request startled him, for never before had she mentioned herhusband's name in his presence. But he asked, calmly enough:

  "What is his address?"

  "Hand me that small memorandum-book," pointing to the stand beside him.He obeyed, and as she turned the leaves slowly she said:

  "Doctor Anstruther, you have been my good and faithful friend, and youought to know and to understand why I am now sending for my husband,from whom I have been estranged for many years. When I first met JasonJones he was a true artist and I fell in love with his art rather thanwith the man. I was ambitious that he should become a great painter,world-famous. He was very poor until he married me, and he had workedindustriously to succeed, but as soon as I introduced him to a life ofcomfort--I might even add, of luxury--his ambition to work graduallydeserted him. With his future provided for, as he thought, he failed tounderstand the necessity of devoting himself to his brush and palette,but preferred a life of ease--of laziness, if you will. So wequarreled. I tried to force him back to his work, but it was no use; mymoney had ruined his career. I therefore lost patience and decided toabandon him, hoping that when he was again thrown upon his ownresources he would earnestly resume his profession and become a master,as I believed him competent to be. We were not divorced: we merelyseparated. Finding I had withdrawn his allowance he was glad to see mego, for my unmerciful scoldings had killed any love he may have had forme. But he loved Lory, and her loss was his hardest trial. I may havebeen as much to blame as he for our lack of harmony, but I have alwaysacted on my impulses.

  "I'll give Jason Jones the credit for not whimpering," she resumedthoughtfully, after a brief pause, "nor has he ever since appealed tome for money. I don't know how well he has succeeded, for we do notcorrespond, but I have never heard his name mentioned in the artcircles I have frequented. He remained in New York, I believe, and so Ichose to keep away from New York. A year or two ago, however, I met aman who had known Jason Jones and who gave me his address. Here it is:1744 East Sixty-seventh street. Will you make a copy of it, Doctor?"

  He nodded.

  "What shall I say in the telegram?" he asked, writing the address inhis notebook.

  "Tell him I am dying and seek a reconciliation before I pass away. Beghim to come to me at once."

  Dr. Anstruther jotted down the instructions underneath the address.

  "You must understand," she continued, "that Jason Jones is an honorableman and in many ways a high-minded gentleman. I have lived with him ashis wife and I know that he is well fitted to care for our child and torear her properly. I have left my entire fortune to Alora, but I havemade Jason my sole executor, and he is to have control, under certainrestrictions, of all the income until Alora is eighteen. I think hewill be glad to accept the responsibility, both on Alora's account andfor the money."

  "Doubtless, if he has not been a success as an artist since yourseparation," remarked the doctor, drily.

  "The man I spoke of said Jason was living in quite modestcircumstances. He said that although he had succeeded in selling a fewpaintings they had brought rather insignificant sums--which surprisedme, as I know they must have possessed a degree of merit. However, Imay be mistaken in thinking his talent exceptional. Anyhow, myexperiment in leaving him to his own devices seems not to have resultedas I had hoped, and I now am willing he should handle Alora's incomeand live comfortably while he is educating her. She will probablyprovide for her father when she comes of age, but I have not includedsuch a request in my will and I have endeavored, in case he provesinclined to neglect her, to require the court to appoint anotherguardian. That is, of course, merely a precaution, for I know hisnature is gentle and kind, and he adores--or at least he used to adorechildren."

  The doctor sat, notebook in hand, musing. The matter-of-fact,businesslike way in which she referred to her marital relations and herassumed unconcern over her own dreadful fate impressed the good man asextraordinary. But he was relieved to know that little Alora, of whomhe had grown quite fond, was to have the guardianship of a parent, andglad that the character of Jason Jones was above reproach. The man'sfailure to succeed as an artist, while it might have been a source ofchagr
in to his art-loving wife, did not lower him to any extent in Dr.Anstruther's opinion.

  "I suppose Alora does not remember her father?" he presently remarked.

  "She was about two years old when we separated."

  "And you say your will is already drawn?"

  "Judge Bernsted, my lawyer, has attended to it. It is now in hispossession, properly signed and witnessed."

  "If Bernsted drew the will, it is doubtless legal and in accordancewith your wishes. But who witnessed it?"

  "My nurse, Janet."

  He glanced at the motionless figure of the attendant, who had remainedso inert at her post by the window that he had quite forgotten herpresence. She was a young woman, perhaps thirty years of age, and notunprepossessing in appearance, in spite of her modest uniform.

  Janet's one peculiarity was her downcast eyes. They were good eyes,bright and intelligent, but she kept them veiled by their long lashesand drooping lids. Dr. Anstruther attached no significance to thistrait, doubtless a habit of modest reserve acquired in her profession.He had himself recommended the woman to Mrs. Jones, having frequentlyemployed her on other cases and found her deft, skillful and thoroughlyreliable. Janet Orme's signature to the will he regarded assatisfactory, since Judge Bernsted had accepted it.

  A moan from his patient suddenly aroused the doctor. Her face wasbeginning to twitch spasmodically with pain. In an instant Janet was ather side, hypodermic needle in hand, and the opiate was soonadministered.

  "Send the telegram," muttered Mrs. Jones, still breathing hard; "and,as you go out, Doctor, send Alora to me. I shall have relief in a fewmoments."

  "To be sure," he said, rising. "Lory has been begging to see you, andI'll attend to the telegram at once."