MAROONED AT NIGHTFALL

It was Nancy who now felt guilty–guilty of arousing in Rosa that queer
little spirit of rebellion which seemed to rule her budding life.

“But, Rosa,” she argued, quite helplessly, for Nancy had no illusion
about her own weaknesses, “don’t you think, maybe, you just imagine a
lot of things?”

“Don’t you?” fired back Rosa.

“No, not that way,” replied Nancy. “What’s the use of making worries?
If you had a brother like our Ted–”

“Or a sister like Ted has,” put in Rosa good-humoredly. “I know you
hate silly stuff, Nancy. You wouldn’t let me say that you’ve done me a
lot of good already; but you have.”

“How? Why, Rosa, we hardly know each other, and I really couldn’t do
you good, for I’m rather–rather queer, you know. I just couldn’t–”
Nancy stumbled and paused.

“Pretend,” finished Rosa. “That’s it, Nancy, you’re just being queer,
is the reason. There’s a name for it but don’t let’s bother about that.
Shall we row out?”

“I love to row,” declared Nancy again, taking her place at the oars.

“And I hate to,” admitted Rosa, settling back in the cushions.

“Rowing ought to be good for you,” suggested Nancy. “Isn’t it queer how
we skinnies always do the things that make us thinner?”

“And we fatties–” But Rosa’s remark was cut short by a call; it seemed
to come from the island.

“What’s that!” both girls exclaimed.

They listened.

“It’s coming from No Man’s Land and it’s a woman’s voice,” declared
Rosa.

“Can we row over there?” asked Nancy. “She’s in distress, surely.”

“Maybe _you_ could, but I can’t row worth a cent,” confessed Rosa.
“I’ll answer her.”

She again cupped her hands to her mouth and called the megaphone call.

“Whoo-hoo! Where are–you!”

“Here! Here!” came a shrill reply. “On the island! Come–get–me!”

“Guess we’ll have to try,” sighed Rosa. “I suppose it’s some one
marooned out there and naturally afraid of night coming. It might storm
to-night, too.”

Without further ado Nancy turned the boat and headed for the island.
The dot of land was not more than a dark speck on the sunset-lighted
waters, for although it was late evening, the glow of a parting day
was still gloriously strewn over the great, broad lake and mountains,
flanking every side of the basin and adding to its depths. The usual
craft were rather scarce just now, social dinner-times absorbing the
lure of the great Out Doors.

Valiantly Nancy tugged at her oars, while Rosa directed verbally and
steered at the helm. The distance was much longer than it had appeared
to be, but after safely passing Dead Rock and Eagles’ Lair, the little
boat was now bravely skirting the island.

“Here! Here!” called a woman’s voice shrilly. “Thank the mercies you’ve
come! I thought I was here for the night and I’ve got to–”

“Oh, hello, Mrs. Pixley!” exclaimed Rosa. “So it’s you! However did you
get caught over here?”

“I didn’t–didn’t get caught at all. It was that brazen girl–”

“Orilla?” asked Rosa.

“No one else. Just Orilla. The sassy little thing–”

Nancy was just pulling in to land when it seemed to her that the voice
sounded oddly familiar. Then she caught sight of the excited woman’s
face.

“Oh, hello!” she too exclaimed. “You’re the lady with the grape
juice bottle–the one that exploded in the train!” Nancy declared in
astonishment.

“Of all things! I want to know! And you’re the little girl who tried
to help me! Rosalind Fernell, is this girl visiting you?” demanded she
whom Rosa had called Mrs. Pixley.

“Why, of course. She’s my cousin, Nancy Brandon from out Boston way.
How did _you_ know her?”

A rather sketchy account of the train incident was then furnished in
a dialogue between Nancy and Mrs. Pixley, the latter at the same time
gathering up pails and baskets and preparing to get into the boat.

“I came over here for berries,” she explained. “I’ve a sick lady who
would have blueberries, and I knew I’d get them here. Orilla had the
launch–Mr. Cowan’s, you know, Rosa, and she ran me over here like a
streak. Promised to be back by five but here it is–What time is it,
anyway?”

“Nearly nine,” replied Rosa. “What do you suppose happened to Orilla?”

“Nothing. Nothing _could_ happen to her. I often tell her mother I
don’t see what’s going to become of that girl. Shall I get in the
front? I don’t want to spill them blueberries. There’s hardly any ripe
yet, but Miss Sandford has been pestering me for some. There, now I’m
all right. Want me to row? It’s such a mercy you came. No boats came
past the island–hardly any, and I’m hoarse from shoutin’. Here, young
lady, give me them oars. You’re tuckered out,” and still talking Mrs.
Pixley took Nancy’s place, not against Nancy’s will, either.

“But Orilla,” Rosa said again. “I haven’t seen Cowan’s launch out this
afternoon. And she always comes by our dock when she has that out.”

“Don’t you bother with that girl, Rosalind,” cautioned Mrs. Pixley.
“She’s flighty. Never no telling what she’s going to do next–”

“But she’s awfully smart,” interrupted Rosa.

“In some ways, but that don’t make her wise.” Mrs. Pixley was an
expert at the oars as well as being a fluent talker. Nancy watched and
listened, with admiration and with interest.

“I’ll go in at your place, Rosalind,” continued the woman, “and get a
ride down the road. Lots of cars running down the hill at this time of
night. And if you see Orilla Rigney you can tell her for me, she’ll not
get another drop of milk at my place. To play me such a trick!” Mrs.
Pixley’s indignation almost interfered with her talking, but not quite.

“Just imagine you knowing Mrs. Pixley, Nancy,” Rosalind managed to
remark as they pulled in.

“Yes, just imagine!” repeated the woman before Nancy could speak.
“Well, if you ever saw that grape juice fly, Rosalind, you’d understand
how well _I_ got acquainted on that car!”

“How funny!” persisted Rosa. “Did it hurt anyone?”

“Not exactly anyone, but a lot of things,” laughed the woman. “I’ll
never forget that fat man’s shirt front! Looked like my log-cabin
quilt. And the lady with the yellow hair–remember her, Nancy? How it
turned lavender?”

“Indeed I do; she looked like someone made up for a masquerade–”

“I wish I’d been there!” sighed Rose, interrupting Nancy. “But I never
happen to be around when that sort of lark is on. Well, here we are.
All ashore who’s going ashore!” she chanted. “And Mrs. Pixley, you can
row almost as well as Nancy.”

This compliment was accepted with another flood of words from Mrs.
Pixley. When all were again safely landed at the Fernell dock, the
queer woman took herself off without any unnecessary delay. She had
talked of her experiences on the train when Nancy had witnessed the
grape juice explosion, she had talked of and against Orilla Rigney, she
had talked of the unreasonable “lady customer” who had insisted upon
early blueberries, and Nancy wondered, as she listened to her repeat
her thanks and her goodnights, if Mrs. Pixley really ever stopped
talking.

But this was not the most interesting point in the little adventure.
Nancy’s wonderment centered more about the connection of Orilla with
the affair. Mrs. Pixley seemed one more person who disliked that girl,
and Nancy said so to Rosa.

“Wasn’t it dreadful of Orilla not to go back for her?” she said, when
she and Rosa tied up the boat.

“It wouldn’t have killed old Pixley to stay on the island all night,”
defended Rosa. “Maybe it would have cooled off her gabbing.”

Nancy had no desire to start a fresh argument. So she did not press the
subject further, but she wondered when this person of mystery would
make her appearance in Rosa’s home. That the passage for Europe of
Mr. and Mrs. Fernell, now only a few hours off, would precipitate the
invasion of Orilla, seemed rather too sure a guess for Nancy, for she
dreaded its realization. She didn’t want anything to do with the Rigney
girl, and she hoped Rosa would not now find her companionship desirable.

For in Nancy’s mind was stored the vivid remembrance of Rosa’s accident
in the woods. This she could not help attributing to Orilla’s queer
influence, and she hoped that the painful affair had been a good lesson
to Rosa.

“Afraid of the dark?” Rosa asked, as the last rays of light were caught
up in the receding sky.

“No, not of the dark,” replied Nancy, trying again the knot with which
she fastened the boat. “But it certainly is lonely out here, with all
that water to run into if anyone chases us,” she added, jokingly.

“You bet!” agreed Rosa. “That’s one thing we must never try to do; we
must not try to run across that lake, for it’s awfully wet.”

“Is that a boat I hear? Maybe it’s Orilla,” suggested Nancy, listening
to the distant purr of a motor boat.

“No, I don’t believe it is,” replied Rosa. “You see, she keeps awfully
busy, and I suppose it didn’t worry her any to leave poor Pixley to
swim ashore.”

“What a very odd girl she must be,” continued Nancy, almost against her
will.

“Perhaps she is, but then–oh, well, don’t let’s bother about her. Dad
is sure to be watching the moon rise from the East porch,” said Rosa,
as they started back toward the house. “Let’s go talk to him.”

“But perhaps he and–”

“Oh, Betty will be bossing the packing,” interrupted Rosa, anticipating
the words of Nancy’s objections. “Come on. I’m going to miss dad and I
want to be with him all I can–now.”

“Then _you_ go talk to him, Rosa,” urged Nancy, considerately. “I’ve
got some things to do. You won’t mind. You see, I must write mother at
once, so that she’ll get it almost as soon as she reaches London.”

“Give her my love,” said Rosa, as the cousins parted on the porch.

On the little table in her room Nancy found a gift from Betty, a
beautiful rainbow chiffon scarf, and also a big box of candy from her
Uncle Frederic. She loved the scarf; it was beautiful, and would blend
with any and every costume. The candy, of course, was equally welcome,
for she had no doubt that her uncle himself had thought of it.

Standing before the broad mirror of her dresser she tried on the scarf.
Her simple powder-blue dress was made much more attractive beneath its
colorful folds, and it delighted Nancy to vision its possibilities as
an adjunct to her limited outfit. It would be lovely over her apple
green–the black shadows in it would be wonderful over green, she
reflected, and her gray dress–the one she wanted so much and her
mother objected to because of its somberness–that would be perfect
with the rainbow scarf.

Throwing the filmy ends first over one shoulder and then over the
other, stepping this way and that to suit the pose and get just the
correct lighting on the scarf, Nancy was quite unconscious of a light
step approaching her open door.

Then, as she turned once more to try just one more swing of the silken
tie, she found herself facing the smiling Lady Betty.

Fully expecting Mrs. Frederic Fernell to pour into her ears the story
of Rosa’s rebellious habits, with the intention of soliciting Nancy’s
aid toward their correction, Nancy instantly assumed the defensive.
She did not come out to New Hampshire to reform Rosalind Fernell, and
besides that, she was not ready to admit that Rosa needed reforming.

All of which really marked Nancy’s sincerity, for she was by no means a
“poser.” She knew she had failings herself, so why should not Rosa have
some? Because each differed in her weakness, did that make either less
weak or less troublesome? Not according to Nancy’s reasoning, at any
rate.

The figure floating into her room, as usual sent a dainty fragrance on
ahead.

“I’m so glad you like your scarf, dear,” said Betty, sinking into the
nearest chair, “and I see you do.”

“Oh, I love it,” said Nancy, forgetting everything else but her
gratitude. “Thank you so much for giving it to me–Betty.” She always
paused before using the name without any other distinguishing mark of
respect.

“I knew it would match you–you are so varied in your own tones. Well,
my dear, I do so want you to have a lovely time with Rosa this summer,
that I just stepped in to assure you of that. Your Uncle Frederic and I
are most anxious to have both of you enjoy yourselves. To help you to
do so, we have made some new plans.” The chair with the parrot cushion
suited Betty best, so she sank into that as gracefully as usual.

Nancy caressed the playful scarf she still held about her shoulders and
she, also, sat down. New plans! She hoped they would not be so very
different, for she was only now becoming acquainted at Fernlode, and
rather dreaded the unusual.

“It can be terribly dull here,” pursued the lady, “and for two young
girls especially. So I have coaxed my husband to allow Rosa and you to
attend little affairs at our hotel–properly chaperoned, of course,”
she concluded.

“At the Sunset Hotel?” queried Nancy, a little uneasily. She had no
clothes suitable for such functions, was what she instantly thought.

“Yes, my dear. You see, your Uncle Frederic has implicit faith in
the good judgment of our friends the Durands, and they will go with
you–they always do attend the Sunset,” said Lady Betty.

“That’s lovely, of course,” faltered Nancy, “but mother had no idea–”

“I understand, dear child,” interrupted the little queen in her lace
robes in the big chair. “You shall need pretty things, and I just
_love_ to buy them, so I’ve had a box sent in to you. You see, Rosa,”
as Nancy was attempting to speak, “has an idea no one can buy anything
for _her_. She is stout, but young enough to grow thin,” said the
remote step-mother, “yet, I can’t interfere with Rosa. It just makes
her more furious.”

“It’s lovely of you to bother with me, Betty, and I do like pretty
things. But I hate to give you so much bother.” Nancy felt very stupid
making such commonplace thanks. Ted would have choked to listen to that
foolish speech. Was Betty going to avoid the troublesome subject of
Rosa’s tempers? Was Nancy going to escape the tactful lecture she had
felt sure of receiving?

“If things have to be altered Margot will attend to that,” went on the
Lady Betty, “and you just _wear_ everything. That’s what they’re for.
Have a good time and grow fat! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if some little
fairy took from Rosa what she gave to you?”

“I suppose we both could afford at least some of that sort of change,”
said Nancy, warming up to Betty’s pleasantries. “But if I had just
known what clothes I should have needed, I am sure I would have brought
them along.”

“Then, I’m glad you didn’t know. Otherwise I should have missed all the
fun of my shopping tour. Folks think me very vain, I know,” admitted
the pretty Mrs. Fernell, “but I do _love_ beautiful things. I’d like to
dress a whole army of girls–”

“But not like soldiers,” ventured Nancy.

“Like the prettiest soldiers in all ages–the girls who fight the
battles of wanting things they deserve, yet cannot always have.” In
this rather confused speech, even Nancy could see that Betty was trying
to avoid reference to her own (Nancy’s) possible needs.

“You are very kind, indeed,” said Nancy quietly.

“Not really. Because, you see, my dear, I have given myself so much
pleasure. But I hope things will fit and that you will like–most of
them.”

“I’m sure to,” declared Nancy. Then as Betty stood up she asked:

“Isn’t anything in the box for Rosa? If I see that she likes anything
may I say you would like her to have it?”

“You clever child!” laughed the lady, and Nancy’s admiration for her
charms increased with the flow of silvery sounds. “You are really an
idealist; you must have everything ideally arranged,” she finished.

“But I am not, really,” protested Nancy, now actually sensing the
dreaded lecture.

Nancy felt rather foolish, as any girl would, in spite of the way Betty
complimented her, for back of it all she was sure, quite positive
the real point of the talk lay in the need of Rosa for healthy
companionship. Not that Nancy wasn’t grateful for the confidence and
for the gifts, but because she really wasn’t “an old lady” and hated
anything that made her feel like one.

“Rosa is with her daddy now, so I’m stealing this little chat with
you,” was Mrs. Fernell’s next remark. “I do love Rosa–all our family
always loved her mother,” said Betty, much to Nancy’s surprise. “My
sister was Katherine’s school chum, and that’s how Fred and I became
acquainted.”

“Oh,” replied Nancy, the single syllable embodying her surprise.

“Yes.” A deep sigh from Betty was also significant. “But Rosa has
proved a problem. She resents, it seems, my marrying her father,
although I have tried quietly to show her how little I intend to
interfere with her life.”

She knew it would come; it just had to, and she couldn’t have expected
to escape it, although at the moment Nancy hated her position as
confidante, against her most loyal feelings for Rosa. That was just it;
she couldn’t escape it. Presently her care of Rosa would be thrust at
her, just as if she had been some kind of nurse.

“It will work out all right; I’m sure, however,” went on the pretty
one, “if only we can keep Rosa away from certain influences. You see,
Nancy, this is an unpleasant topic for me, naturally,” and the soft
voice fell into deep blue velvet tones, “but as I am going away, and as
I really do stand very close to Rosalind, I feel you should understand.”

“Yes,” was all Nancy could think of saying.

“There was a girl here–you have probably heard of her, Orilla Rigney,”
began Mrs. Fernell again, although she was still standing, “and she
is responsible for much of Rosa’s aggressiveness. You see, she and her
mother lived here as sort of care-takers, and your Uncle Frederic was
so kind to them they felt the place was and should be their home. The
girl has tried to injure me ever since I came here. As if I could have
anything in common with them.” Here Mrs. Fernell paused, haughtily.
“Unfortunately she has gotten into Rosa’s confidence, with a lot of
silly nonsense,” she continued after a moment. “Well, Nancy, you see I
am piling troubles upon your head, but Rosa is a great baby in spite of
her decided ways. So just have a good time, wear the pretty clothes,
and when you write to your mother tell her we hope to find her in
the big country across the water. Frederic Fernell thinks his sister
is just one woman without equal, and I feel I know her through his
admiration and love–”

This sudden turn in the glimpse of Betty’s character left Nancy simply
gasping with surprise. She wasn’t at all the foolish, pretty doll she
had been pictured, she _did_ love Rosa, and Rosa was simply crazy to
be so opposed to her, thought Nancy.

One thing was certain, however, nobody, just nobody, had a good word
for Orilla. Jealousy is an awful thing, Nancy reflected, for even in
her short life she had heard of its offences and, of course, Orilla was
jealous.

Before Rosa returned from her confab with her father and before Lady
Betty was back in her own room, Nancy had again fallen into speculation
as to when, where and how she would actually meet Orilla.

“When the coast is clear,” she promptly decided. “When the folks
are gone and Rosa is alone. But _I’ll_ be here,” decided Nancy, not
realizing how promptly she was espousing the cause she had been so
determined to ignore.

Then a thumping and pouncing through the hall announced the arrival
of Rosa. She was calling to Nancy, shouting, yelling without even
expecting or even giving Nancy the slightest chance of replying.

“What do you know! What do you know!” she sang out joyously. “We’re
going to the hotel! Down to Sunset! Nancy Brandon, what a lark! In
the dark! Let us park!” she went on foolishly, trying to rhyme words
to suit her caprice. “If you hadn’t come, of course,” she brought her
voice down a few keys but not quite to dead center, “I shouldn’t have
been allowed that. Betty has fallen in love with you–”

“Don’t be silly, Rosa,” said Nancy quite sagely. “It’s all on your
account and you’re a perfect goose not to know that she is in love with
_you_!”

“With me! Fat, furious me! With the bad tempered manners, and badness
cropping out all over me!” scoffed Rosa.

“Like the bad boy in the play who was always scared to death of a pop
gun. Rosa, you are not a very good actress,” laughed Nancy, and in that
little speech she showed Rosa the way that she, at least, regarded her
faults. They were a pose, a manner put on to ward off sympathy. And
Rosa herself could not hate sympathy more than did Nancy.

They talked over the prospects of that summer hotel until it would
seem all the summer’s fun and good times were dependent upon it. Rosa
just couldn’t wait to see what Betty was sending in from Boston in the
box, which Nancy had tactfully said was “for us,” and it was then, just
as Betty had hinted, that Rosa forgot her rebel pose, for she actually
expressed great hopes of what might be in that box for _her_!

“I have to do everything so quietly, so as not to arouse her
suspicion,” Betty had said. And now Nancy was hoping that she too would
be able to follow that policy.

Nancy Brandon might indeed be an idealist, but she was blissfully
ignorant of possessing any such subtle quality.

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