The Girl Scout's Triumph - novelonlinefree.info
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As Rosanna spoke, looking full at Claire, she trembled to see the horror leap from the depths of those jade green eyes and blaze out.
"Why, what is it? What can it be?" she stammered, clasping Claire in her warm arms. "Oh, dear Claire, there _is_ something that frightens you!
Tell me what it is. Does your father know? Oh, Claire, we are both Scouts; let me help you!"
For a long moment Claire seemed not to breathe. She did not move. Then with a gasping sigh, she gently unclasped Rosanna's arms and stood up.
She commenced slowly to unbraid her red hair. She did not speak, and in silence Rosanna watched the gleaming, shining masses, released from their prim daytime fashion, fall like a royal garment around Claire's shoulders. Far below her waist hung the rippling locks. Claire inclined her head as though she wished to hide herself and her troubles beneath that veil. Then suddenly, proudly she flung up her head and looked straight at Rosanna with cold, level eyes.
"No one can help me," she said quietly. "I will not deny that there _is_ something that troubles me, but that is all that I can tell you. I am sorry I have let you see this much. I could tell you if I were any other girl, but I cannot."
"I only want to help you, dear Claire," said Rosanna. "I hope that you feel as though you can trust me."
"Indeed I do," protested Claire, her eyes filling with tears. "I never have trusted _any_ girl so much."
"Then that is all right," said Rosanna, with her sweet smile. "I just want you to promise me one thing and that is that if ever you feel as though you wanted to tell anyone, or if you feel as though anyone could help you, I want you to come to me."
"I will indeed promise that," said Claire, "but I do not think that that time will ever come. I _want_ to tell you, but I cannot. And no one on earth can help me."
"I don't believe I would say that, Claire," said Rosanna musingly. "You never _can_ tell just who can help you until the time comes when you need help, and then there it is, just as though you had called for it."
"I shall not call," smiled Claire stubbornly. "And please, Rosanna, let us talk of other things."
Rosanna brightly changed the conversation.
"What I am crazy to talk about is, whatever is it you are putting on?"
"This?" asked Claire, holding out a fold of the gorgeous embroidered garment she had slipped on. "It is a Mandarin coat; a real one. A real Mandarin gave it to me. I was quite a little girl. It was while daddy was stationed in China, and he and mother had a great many friends among the really high-class Chinese.
"When we came away, the Mandarin sent a box by a half-dozen bearers. It was a sort of chest with trays. There was a wonderful robe for mother made of silk as shimmery and delicate as a cobweb. It is crusted with gold embroidery and there are tiny shoes to match. Then there was a set of real jade--hair ornaments, a necklace, pins, and this ring."
"I have noticed it," said Rosanna. "It is too lovely! And it is lovely of your mother to let you wear it until she gets well."
Claire was silent for a moment, then went on: "In a lower tray there was this robe for me, and dozens of the most wonderful toys and playthings such as the royal children in China have, and which we over here never see. Everything but this coat is packed away. Dad says the toys are most of them really museum pieces, they are so beautiful and so rare."
"You ought to save them for your children," said Rosanna.
"When I grow up I shall give them to the Institute in Washington,"
Claire said with a frown. "That is the place for them."
Rosanna shook her head. "You are more generous than I could be," she laughed. "What else was there in the chest?"
"Something queer; as queer as China itself," said Claire. "All wrapped up in my Mandarin coat was a package with my name written on it. We opened the wrapper and found a little case or casket sealed up tight with wax and bearing the impression of the Mandarin's signet ring. There is an inscription on the box. Chinese, of course, but daddy could read it. It said, 'Some far day, one will give you a gift beyond all price.
Give them, in return, this casket as a token of your gratitude and mine.'"
"What was in it?" asked Rosanna breathlessly.
"Why, we don't know," said Claire. "It was sealed, as I said, and I must not break it, of course. I suppose the curious thing will go to the museum, too, because no one will give me a gift 'beyond price.'"
"Oh, Claire, _don't_ be so unbelieving! You don't know what might happen," cried Rosanna. "I never heard anything so exciting and so mysterious! What do you suppose is in the box?"
"I can't guess," said Claire. "I shook it, but nothing rattled. It is in a safe deposit vault. Perhaps it is just the box, because that is gold and perfectly beautiful."
"How large is it?" asked Rosanna.
"About like that," said Claire, measuring off a space the size of a commercial envelope.
"Well, I think I never heard anything so mysterious and exciting. I should think you would just go around waiting to have someone give you some wonderful present just so you could have the fun of giving them the box so you could see what is inside."
"Dad says there is a catch about it somewhere, that people like ourselves do not go around giving presents beyond price and that it is exactly like a Chinaman to do something like that. The box, I mean. All sorts of queer things happen in China."
"Tell me some more about what you did over there," begged Rosanna. "I suppose we ought to go to bed, but I am so excited that I don't feel as though I could ever sleep again."
So, curling up in a big chair, Claire told Rosanna stories of the strange, mysterious East. Rosanna, thinking how very, very soon she too would see that strange side of the world, sat shivering with delight.
Claire talked on and on. She was a good story-teller and everything was as clear and real as though they were wandering hand and hand down those strange and ancient ways.
Then Claire skipped lightly out of China into Honolulu, and thrilled Rosanna with pictures of that fairy island of Hawaii. Rosanna forgot China, forgot the mysterious box as though they had been wiped quite neatly out of her mind.
"Oh, I'm CRAZY to go there!" she cried finally. "It must be _too_ lovely!"
"It is," declared Claire, and started off on a description of the wonderful bathing at Wakiki, when:
"Well, well, what's this?" rumbled in the door.
Both girls shrieked and jumped and stared wildly at Colonel Maslin, standing in the doorway.
"And I told the little Captain that I would take good care of her girl if she could come over here to visit Claire," he said, shaking his head.
"I don't see how I am going to explain this. Of course, I will have to 'fess up and what she won't do to me--"
"She won't mind for once," said Rosanna. "It will be grandmother who will mind. She always minds dreadfully when I stay up late."
"And I am awfully afraid of your grandmother," declared Colonel Maslin.
"I will protect you," Rosanna promised, laughing.
"You will both protect me by hopping into bed this minute," said the Colonel. "In exactly two minutes I will return and put out the light, and I want to see both girls with their eyes tight shut and fast asleep." He turned and left the room and when he entered again the red head and the black were snuggled down, each in her soft pillow, and two pairs of eyes were tight shut, nor did they open when he dropped a light kiss on each round cheek and tiptoed out.
Rosanna fell into a restless sleep, filled with fantastic visions and presently she awoke. For a little she could not place herself. The feeling of a strange bed confused her. Then she heard a queer muffled sound, and sat up quietly. It did not come from the twin bed beside her own. She reached cautiously over and touched the spread. Claire was not lying there. The muffled sobs were farther away. Rosanna's eyes grew accustomed to the darkness and she could make out a blur of white lying near the window on the dark rug. Claire was lying there on the rug, and Claire was crying; crying as though her heart was broken. Rosanna's firm little jaw set itself still more firmly. She slid from her bed and ran across the room. As she approached the sorrowing girl she breathed softly:
"Claire, dear, dear Claire, I cannot stand it! You need not tell me why you are so sad if you do not want to, but you must, _must_ let me love you and comfort you."
The touch of Rosanna's tender arms, the loving kiss, and her heartfelt words seemed to break down Claire's icy reserve. To Rosanna's surprise and relief, she turned, wound her arms around Rosanna's neck, and whispered brokenly:
"Oh, Rosanna, I _will_ tell you! I _must_ tell someone or I will die!"
"Of course, you must tell me," soothed Rosanna. "Come away from this cold place first."
"No, no! I want to lie right here!" cried Claire.
"Why, of course you don't, dear," said Rosanna. "Please! Make believe I am your really truly sister tonight, as well as your Scout sister, and let's get into my bed and you can cuddle close and tell me all about it."