Read CHAPTER XIX of The Motor Maids at Sunrise Camp , free online book, by Katherine Stokes, on ReadCentral.com.

The mills of god

It was not often that Billie lost a night’s rest from anxiety, but that night her eyes refused to close and she lay staring into the darkness, straining her ears for sounds in the forest. Even Richard’s sister, Maggie, was not so abjectly miserable as Billie. She tried to explain to herself that it was all because she had been the one to shoot the young man in the arm.

“I’d much rather have shot that horrid Lupo,” she sobbed under her breath. “Suppose I’ve killed Richard? The wound may be much worse than we thought it was.” She wiped her eyes on the sheet and lay very still listening. Away off on the mountain somewhere a dog began to howl. The weird sound made her shiver and hide her face in the pillow.

“Oh, God protect him,” she whispered, and then blushed furiously. “I suppose I have a perfect right to pray for a friend?” she thought in reply to some unspoken thought.

Besides the anxiety she felt, all sorts of new and unusual sensations were disturbing her peace of mind that wakeful night. She experienced a kind of irritation against Phoebe, which she could not explain to herself.

“He’ll think she’s lots braver than I am,” she thought, naming no names, “because I wouldn’t dare go out in the woods alone at night to hunt for him. She is braver and better than I am. She is wonderful and and so beautiful. I I wish my hair wasn’t so straight,” she added to the pillow into which she had poured these girlish secrets.

At last when the first gray streaks of dawn appeared, Billie rose and, quietly dressing, crept downstairs.

“How silly I have been,” she was admonishing herself, irritably, when she saw Phoebe run around the side of the house and stand looking up at the sleeping porch.

Billie dashed across the clearing.

“Phoebe, have you found him? Is he all right?” she demanded, grasping the girl’s shoulders and shaking her in her impatience.

“Yes. I found him and took him to my home,” answered Phoebe proudly. “He was lost in the marsh just as you were. His arm was bleeding and he was very weak.”

“He is very ill?”

“No, no. It was from losing so much blood, they said.”

“They?”

“Old Granny and Dr. Hume. My father is there, too.” Phoebe clasped her hands. “Oh, God is good to me,” she cried. “That I should find my father and Mr. Hook on the same day.”

Billie felt strangely irritated, and then reproachful of herself.

“And your father, Phoebe,” she asked kindly. “What happened to him?”

“On the day he came to the camp, he said, the language of the German girl stirred up something in his mind. After he went away he must have been very confused and he only remembers walking for a long time and then falling. You would not guess who found and has cared for him all this time? Old Granny and Mrs. Lupo. They brought him to Granny’s cabin, where Mrs. Lupo has been hiding. Then the doctor came, and they got a wagon and moved him down the mountain to our home. That was yesterday.”

“I am so glad,” said Billie, endeavoring to be sympathetic, but feeling really much more relieved over the safety of Richard Hook.

“The doctor has sent you some written messages,” went on Phoebe, giving Billie a little note book. “They are inside.”

“My dear Miss Billie,” the note read, “not long ago you asked me to restore the sleeping memory of our friend and I told you it was sometimes best to let sleeping memories lie. Since that time I have become deeply interested in the personality of Phoebe’s father. He is a gentleman, undoubtedly, in birth and breeding. He is perfectly aware that he has lost his memory and has discussed the mystery of his identity with me so intelligently that I may say I feel it my duty to do what I can. Even his illusion regarding the physician is more in the nature of a deep and lasting impression evidently made just before he took the plunge into forgetfulness. I have mentioned that to him, too. He has never talked to people before on these subjects because there has never been anyone to talk to, but I have suggested the operation and he is keen to have it done. I must confess I am filled with curiosity about him. Who knows what distinguished niche he may have occupied once somewhere? I may be restoring well, never mind. There is no use making guesses now. In spite of his broken leg, he is in good physical condition and I am going to have the thing over with. I am therefore asking you to send the telegrams you will find further over, to two young surgeons I know who will be interested enough in the case to put up with the inconvenience of the place. I would not risk exciting this mysterious person by moving him to a hospital. Mrs. Lupo appears anxious to make amends and will remain to cook and help generally. I think you had better bring over the ‘Comet’ to take back your friend, Mr. R. Hook, who seems strangely eager to return, although I have done my best to entertain him. I wonder if it could be a princess disguised as a beggar girl or a princess undisguised, who has so stirred young Richard’s soul. I need not say which princess has stirred mine.

“Faithfully, William Hume.”

Now, what did the doctor mean by all this nonsense, Billie asked herself. It was true that Phoebe, when she had gone in search of Richard had put on her old faded gingham, and certainly Richard owed a great deal to the beggar maid in disguise, but she Billie did wish the doctor wouldn’t tease.

Billie blessed the “Comet” that morning from the bottom of her heart. It was a busy time and the swift, faithful machine enabled them to accomplish in a few hours what with a horse and wagon might have taken them at least a day to do. After breakfast he carried them down to the village, where Dr. Hume’s telegrams were sent, and where something happened that set Billie wondering about the identity of Phoebe and her father.

While Ben sent the telegrams and Maggie Hook and Mary looked over the souvenir post cards in the general store, Billie sat on the steps outside reading a letter from her father. Only Phoebe, once more attired in the white blouse and duck skirt, remained in the car. A big touring car containing two men and a chauffeur drew up alongside the “Comet,” and while one of the men went into the store, the other paced up and down outside. He was a man about Mr. Campbell’s age, tall and foreign looking with a soldierly bearing. Billie glanced at him only once and went on reading her letter. Presently she noticed that he was standing in front of her, his hat in his hand.

“Will you pardon me if I interrupt you?” he asked in good English with an accent. “May I take the liberty of asking you a question?”

“Oh, certainly,” answered Billie politely.

“May I inquire the name of the young lady in the motor car, if it is not too great an impertinence? I ask not from curiosity, but because I perceive a strong likeness.”

“Her name is ‘Phoebe,’” Billie answered.

“And her surname?”

Billie hesitated. After all it was absurd to assert that Phoebe’s last name was “French.”

“You do not know her last name?”

“Well, you see she hasn’t any,” Billie stammered. “She her father has forgotten who he was.”

“So?” ejaculated the stranger. “And they live?”

“They live on Indian Head Mountain in a little cabin.”

“Will you pardon me if again I seem inquisitive? The young lady you say she lives in what you call a cabeen and yet she seems not to be poor that is, in appearance, I mean.”

Billie flushed again. It did seem very much like gossiping to answer all these questions, but this stranger was commanding, rather elegant in his manner.

“The young lady has friends, perhaps? People who have helped her?”

“Yes, that is it,” said Billie.

“Another question and I shall not trouble you further. Where is this er cabeen?”

“It is on a ledge over ‘Table Top’ on ‘Indian Head Mountain,’” answered Billie promptly, having good reason to remember that location. “Take the road to the right at the end of this street and it takes you straight there. It’s called ‘Indian Head Road.’”

The stranger took a notebook and pencil from his pocket and wrote down the names. When he closed the book, Billie saw that it was of Russian leather with a coat of arms in dull gilt embossed on the back. The pencil fitted into a flat gold case on which also was the coat of arms. She glanced quickly at Phoebe and her heart gave a leap. It was not difficult to connect coats of arms and grand things with Phoebe. Billie could easily picture her in the midst of fine surroundings.

“She is a princess,” she thought wistfully. “And beautiful and good.”

The stranger also was watching Phoebe. His face worked with emotion and he said something in German in a low voice.

“And her father?” he asked suddenly. “Where is he?”

“At the cabin,” answered Billie.

“You are indeed very kind,” and the stranger, making a low foreign bow, joined his companion in the touring car and in two minutes the great machine was lost in the distance.

Billie’s mind was filled with conjectures on the journey to Phoebe’s home a little later. When they left the car to climb the path to the cabin, she lingered behind the others, thinking deeply, although she had seen Richard from below standing on the very edge of a rocky shelf scanning the road with the doctor’s telescope.

With a shy obstinacy new to her candid nature she pretended not to notice him or to mind that Phoebe with ingenuous joy had run ahead to speak to him first.

“I’ve been waiting for you a long time, Miss Billie,” he exclaimed, having left the others and run down the path to meet her.

“We had to go to the village first,” answered Billie.

“No, no. I mean it has seemed an infernal long time since the ‘Comet’ pulled up down there in the road and you lagged behind.”

“Not ten minutes.”

“I guess it would have seemed long to you if you had been sitting here since eight A. M. watching every vehicle that passed. Not long ago a big black car stopped down there and I was pretty sure it had come to fetch me.”

He gave her one of his ingratiating smiles.

“Who was it?” asked Billie.

“I don’t know. They saw the doctor for a minute and then went on. But I don’t want to talk about them. Why didn’t you hurry?”

“I always heard that sick men were children,” laughed Billie, “and I can see that you are quite ill because you are such a child. We shall take you home now and feed you up on cream and eggs, providing we can get any.”

Billie was glad to see Dr. Hume again. They clasped hands like old comrades. There was a peculiar radiance in his brown eyes as he looked at her.

“You’ve had a great honor paid you, Miss Billie,” he said.

“What in the world?”

“The gods have chosen you to turn their mills a while and you are turning them pretty fast, I can tell you.”