ENTANGLEMENTS

A week passed and still Nancy guarded the bag, but in that time had
neither seen Orilla nor heard from her. The girl’s promise to meet
her at the lakeside, on the evening following that upon which she had
imposed the trust upon Nancy, had not been kept. Nancy waited until
dark, and even a little later than she felt comfortable, out there
alone away from everyone, and at a considerable distance from the
house; but Orilla did not come.

Nancy imagined many reasons for her failure to appear. Perhaps she
had feared detection, as she had the person she suspected of being
after her money. Or perhaps her mother was keeping watch. Mrs. Rigney
had been around Fernlode almost daily in the past week, and more than
once Nancy heard her talking to Margot, as if she were in distress.
Orilla’s name was mentioned often, but Nancy knew nothing more than
that.

Finally, it was Rosa who broke the spell. She burst in upon Nancy one
morning before breakfast.

“Nancy!” she exclaimed, “I’m just worried to death about Orilla.
There’s a reason why, but I just can’t explain, if you don’t mind.
You’ve been such a dear, I perfectly hate to go at things this way
again,” and Rosa’s face bore out that statement. “But if you’ll only
trust me this once more–”

“Of course I trust you, Rosa–”

“I knew you would. Then don’t worry about me this morning. I’ve just
got to go off and find her–”

“I’ll go with you.”

“If you don’t mind, dear, I’d rather go alone.”

“But I want to go, Rosa. I’m interested in finding her. In fact, I’ve
got a reason–”

“Really! Are we both having secrets about Orilla? That would be
funny if we weren’t so worried, wouldn’t it? But, Nancy, please let
_me_ find her and then I’ll tell _you_ where she is. I hate to seem
secretive but–well, I just have to this time.”

Nancy was baffled. Rosa was so positive in wanting to go off alone.
And she, Nancy, was just as anxious to get in touch with Orilla. Why
shouldn’t they both go together?

“Rosa,” she began again, “I’d love to tell you my secret, but you see I
promised Orilla–”

“So did I,” interrupted Rosa, smiling in spite of herself. “And, _you_
see, if we both went she would believe we both told.”

This sounded reasonable and Nancy hesitated. Rosa saw her chance and
pressed it further.

“I’ll come back as quickly as I can,” she promised, “and then you can
go talk to her.”

“But you haven’t had breakfast–”

“Yes, I have. I couldn’t rest. I got to fussing and I went downstairs
before even Margot was around. Don’t worry about me, Nancy love,”
begged Rosa, pressing her cousin’s hand impulsively. “I’ll take good
care of myself this time, and I promise not to cut down a single tree.”

“But you are not going on the lake alone?”

“No; a friend is going to take me in her motor boat.”

“Not Dell, nor Gar?”

“No. But someone just as trustworthy. You know Katherine Walters you
met last week at Durand’s? She’s a regular old sea captain on the lake,
and runs a boat like one.”

“I saw her out the other day, in a big green launch–”

“The Cucumber. That’s her boat and that’s the one we’re going in.”

“Who else is going?” asked Nancy. “Why couldn’t I sit in the boat with
Katherine–”

“If Orilla saw _you_ along she would never believe me,” persisted Rosa,
a little disconsolately.

“Don’t you think we are humoring her an awful lot, Rosa?” Nancy asked
in a strained voice; she too was bothered.

“Well, I suppose _I_ am; not you. But just this once. You see, Nancy,
Orilla hasn’t much in life and she expected such a lot.”

“You’re good to her, Rosa, perhaps too good. But I hope you’re not
making another mistake; you know how she influences you.”

“She couldn’t now, Coz. I’m not in need of her services. You see, my
doctor is a resident. I have her with me all the time,” and again she
flung her arms affectionately around Nancy.

There seemed nothing to do but agree, so after many admonitions from
Nancy and promises from Rosa, the latter started off. She had arranged
things with Margot so as to allay her suspicions, and when Rosa waved
to Nancy from the green launch, called the Cucumber, Nancy sighed in
spite of the beautiful morning and all other favorable circumstances.

Hours dragged by slowly. First Nancy wrote letters–it would soon be
time for homecomings–then she drew a pen and ink sketch for Ted. She
even finished the little handkerchief she was hemstitching for Manny,
but yet there remained a full half hour before lunch time. And no sign
of Rosa!

It might have been that Nancy had not yet gotten over that anxious
search for Rosa, when she and the Durands finally found her on Mushroom
Island, at any rate, all that morning Nancy worried.

Lunch time came but Rosa did not. One, two, three o’clock! Nancy could
stand it no longer. She made some excuse to Margot and hurried over to
Durand’s.

It happened that Paul was there, and, of course, Gar was with him; but
Dell had gone out.

“Look for Rosa!” shouted Gar, just as she knew he would when she told
why she had come. “Say, Nance, what is this, anyway? A bureau of
missing persons?”

She explained without fully explaining, and the boys gladly enough set
sail in the Whitecap, once more to search for the illusive Rosa.

“But no wood carving, wood chopping, nor wood lugging,” declared Gar,
gayly. Then he told Paul about his previous experience in that line,
embellishing the story with extravagant little touches peculiar to the
style of Garfield Durand.

Paul and Nancy, as usual, found many things to talk about, to discuss
and even to disagree over, for Paul proclaimed the beauties of New
Hampshire while Nancy held with unswerving loyalty to the glories of
Massachusetts.

But her anxiety over the delay of Rosa’s return was not even thinly
covered by these assumed interests, and only Gar’s continual threats to
do something dreadful to the runaway “this time sure” and his repeated
avowals that he positively, absolutely and unquestionably would not
“dig up the woods nor chop down trees in this search,” kept Nancy’s
real worry from being mentioned.

“We don’t have to go on the islands to look for the Cucumber,” Gar
insisted. “The girls couldn’t hide that boat if they tried. It’s so
green you can hear it, to say nothing of the noise that engine makes.”

“Oh, no, we don’t have to go inland at all,” Nancy agreed with
elaborate indifference. “I just wanted to look around and hurry Rosa
along. She has a way of staying over, if it’s only to gather weeds.
Rosa doesn’t seem to worry, ever, about keeping her appointments, but
I didn’t want Margot to spoil any of our fun, just because Rosa stayed
out all day, you see,” finished Nancy, quite confused from the length
of her speech and its utter improbability.

“Let’s skirt around these islands,” proposed Paul, “and if we
don’t spy the Cuke we better try over at the Point. They may be
picnicking. Katherine loves the lollypops they sell at the
Point–I know.”

“All right,” agreed, Gar, “but after that I’ve got to get back.
Promised to drive down for Dell, you know, and _she_ isn’t walking off
fat.”

They skirted the islands but did not discover the long green boat at
any landing or out upon the lake. Then they proceeded to navigate
in the direction of the Point. Here they encountered many boats of
many descriptions, for the Point was not only a pretty point of land
extending out into the water, but it was also a point of recreation
and general interest for summer folk for miles around.

“Not here,” reported Paul, for there was no sign of the girls, and the
boat was nowhere to be seen. “Better go back home. They could have gone
in through the cove, you know.”

“Of course they could, and I’ll bet they have,” declared Gar. “Well,
we had a fine sail, anyway. Hope _you_ enjoyed it, Miss Brandon?” he
finished in assumed formality.

“Very much,” simpered Nancy imitating Gar’s affectation. “I had been
rather dull all day, but _this_–” she swept the lake with a broad
gesture–“this is glorious.”

“Joking aside,” said Paul, “are you having any fun, Nancy? That cousin
of yours is as hard to manage as a young colt, I’d say.”

“Oh, no, she isn’t, really,” replied Nancy. “We have wonderful times
now, much better than we did at first when we didn’t understand each
other.”

“And you claim to understand Rosa now?” asked Gar, swerving his boat
into the small cove that lay beside his own summer home and Fernlode.

“Well, yes, I think I do,” spoke up Nancy. “But then, Rosa’s my own
cousin and that makes it easier.”

“Maybe that’s it,” retorted Gar, “because I’m not so dreadfully stupid,
I hope, yet I can’t understand her a-tall.”

“Now look!” cried Paul suddenly, standing up and pointing to Fernlode.
“There they are! What did I tell you!”

“That,” replied Gar, crisply, slowing down his engine.

“Oh, I’m so glad,” breathed Nancy, in her joy betraying how anxious she
had been. “But the boat is going off!”

“Yes, but your dear little Rosalind is all right, standing there all by
her little self. See her?” said Gar, as usual teasing about Rosa.

It took but a few moments to pull up to the long landing, but the
Cucumber had already steamed off and, as Gar had said, Rosa stood
there, waiting alone.

One look at her cousin’s face and Nancy knew she had been disappointed.
She had not found Orilla.

Nancy found Rosa, as she suspected, disappointed and even worried.

“It was the strangest thing,” Rosa explained, “every time we thought we
had found Orilla she just seemed to disappear. Of course she didn’t,
but on the lake there are so many turns, and ins and outs and, being in
the boat, we stayed on the water. I suppose Orilla was on land,” she
finished sullenly.

“Why was it so important for you to see her to-day?” Nancy asked,
innocently enough.

“I had a message for her, and that should have reached her to-day,”
replied Rosa. But she did not go into details and Nancy felt that she
could not question further. However, she did try to reassure Nancy that
Orilla would probably be around before nightfall.

“I hope so,” Rosa said, “if not, I simply don’t know what I shall do.
I went to all her woodland haunts that _I_ know of, and land knows
she’s got enough of them, but there wasn’t even a trace to show that
human footprints had been over the ground lately. Oh, dear, isn’t it
awful to be a crank? Orilla is just a crank, and I tell you I’m about
sick of her ways,” Rosa pouted. “But I have to get some of the loose
ends tied up before I can wash my hands of it, as Margot would say.”

“And there she is,” Nancy reminded Rosa, for at that moment Margot was
coming down the path at a brisk rate.

“On the war path,” Rosa remarked. “I’ve got to surprise her with some
news. Let me see! Oh, I’ll tell her about a big sale of linens down
at Daws,” and forthwith Rosa rushed up the path to proclaim the glad
tidings to the unsuspecting Margot–or the Margot who was pretending to
be unsuspecting.

From that moment until after dinner and until almost nightfall, the
cousins had not a moment to themselves, for company came, and Rosa
had to entertain. Nancy also helped out, the visitors being most
interested in her simple reports from the neighboring state. When they
were leaving (they were the Drydens from the Weirs and were staying at
a hotel in Craggy Bluff) Rosa drove in town with them to bring some
mail to the post office, but Nancy declined to go. Rosa was to meet
Dell Durand and drive back with her, and as Dell had talked to Nancy on
the phone and assured her she would be back before dark (all this in
coaxing Nancy to go), there seemed no danger of delay for Rosa.

When they had all gone Nancy felt herself free at last to take her
favorite stroll along the lake front. The sunset was glorious; golds,
purples, greens and ashes of roses, in hues too brilliant to be so
tersely described. Is there anything which can beggar description as
can a sunset on that great, majestic lake! Words cannot tell of it, no
more than the mist can veil it.

“It looks as if heaven were leaking joy,” thought Nancy, as she watched
the descending beauty.

Thinking of her mother, of Ted and of dear Manny, as she did every
evening, this being a part of her filial love and devotion, Nancy gazed
and wondered, until suddenly a step near her startled her from her
reverie.

It was Orilla!

“Oh!” exclaimed Nancy. “I didn’t see you coming–”

“No, one can’t. I have so many secret little paths around here,” spoke
Orilla, and Nancy noticed that her voice was very low, subdued, and her
words rather well chosen.

“But I’m so glad you came,” Nancy hurried to add. “We’ve been looking
everywhere for you, all day.”

“I’ve been away, to the city, and I’m so tired!” With a sigh she sank
down upon the lake-side bench. “I believe I would die if I had to live
in a city,” she murmured.

“It is dreadfully stuffy after air like this,” agreed Nancy. “But you
are not sick, are you, Orilla?” she asked anxiously, for Orilla did
seem very unlike herself.

“No, I guess not. I have an awful headache but–don’t let us talk
about sickness,” Orilla broke off suddenly. “I have something more
important to talk of to-night.”

“First, Orilla,” interrupted Nancy, “won’t you please let me give you
your little bag? It has worried me–”

“If you’ll only keep it a few more days, Nancy–”

“But why? Shouldn’t your mother take care of it for you?” questioned
Nancy. She had been determined to get rid of the treasure and this was
her chance.

“Mother?” Orilla’s voice showed disapproval of that idea, most
emphatically. “No, mother is good and has given me much freedom, but
she doesn’t quite understand me, you see, Nancy,” finished the girl
with one more of those weary, heavy sighs.

Before Nancy could speak again Orilla had risen and was leading the way
to the other end of the spacious grounds.

“Come this way,” she said. “We won’t meet anybody and I must not delay
too long.”

“But Rosa may be along–”

“Let me tell you alone, Nancy, please,” pleaded Orilla. “Then you may
tell Rosa if you want to. I’m tired of secrets, tired of being hated
and tired of fighting. Until you showed some friendliness for me, I
haven’t ever remembered kindness except from mother, and, well, just a
few others,” finished Orilla, evasively.

She was hurrying toward the rear of the big house and Nancy was
following. The path she picked out was quite new to Nancy, who thought
she had discovered every little nook and corner of the big summer
place, but this was a mere strip of clearance, tunneled in under heavy
wild grape vines that grew clamorously over high and low shrubbery, and
even climbed into the biggest wild cherry tree.

Neither girl spoke for some minutes. Then Orilla asked Nancy if she
liked Fernlode.

“Why, yes,” Nancy replied, “I love it.”

“So do I,” declared Orilla sharply, “and you know they–put me out!”

“Oh, no, Orilla, they didn’t do that,” Nancy hurried to correct her.
“When Uncle Frederic married–”

“I know all that, Nancy, but don’t let’s talk of it. It makes me
furious, even now. Don’t talk any more–some one might hear us. Just
come quietly after me,” she whispered.

Where could she be leading her, Nancy wondered? Surely this was the end
of the house just back of the servant’s dining room–

Orilla stepped up to the corner of the building, and then Nancy saw
that they faced a small door. It was situated at the extreme end of the
first floor and almost hidden in heavy shrubbery. While Nancy waited,
Orilla surprised her still further by taking a key from her dress and
turning it in the lock.

The door opened!

“Orilla!”

“Hush! Just keep close,” whispered the girl. “It is only dark at the
entrance.”

By keeping close Nancy soon found herself in a quarter of Fernlode she
had never before explored. She knew that it must be the servants’
quarters, and before she could speculate further, Orilla had unlocked
another door and they both found themselves in a pleasant little room!

“This is–my–room!”

Nancy could scarcely breathe, she was so frightened at the tone in
which Orilla said that.

Her room!

“You see, these are all my things, and I come here whenever I get a
chance,” Orilla confessed. “No one ever thinks of looking in here, and
I never take anything away. I wouldn’t do that, you know,” she said
very positively, as if fearing Nancy’s opinion.

“Your–room!” Nancy was too surprised to get past that unbelievable
statement.

“Yes; and no one else cares for it or needs it.” Orilla was
straightening around the brown reed chairs and patting the small table
cover, and as she touched a thing, her affectionate interest in it was
plain even to Nancy’s excited gaze.

“Doesn’t Rosa know?” Nancy asked finally.

“No. Rosa has been away a lot, you know, and besides, the Fernells
only come here in summer. I was born in these mountains, and as a
child mother brought me here. She’s a nurse, you know, and a wonderful
mother.” Orilla sat down and pointed out a chair to Nancy, which the
latter gratefully accepted.

Nancy knew little about Mrs. Rigney, but she guessed now that probably
her love for Orilla had led her into the mistake of allowing her
daughter to grow up believing Fernlode to be her own home.

As if divining Nancy’s thoughts, Orilla said almost that very thing.

“Mother was devoted to the real Mrs. Fernell,” she said, thereby
disputing Lady Betty’s later claim, “and Mrs. Fernell was lovely to me.
While Rosa was away at school I played around here as–well–you can
imagine how I felt to be put out of _this_ room!” she again challenged.

In vain did Nancy try to explain the situation, defending Lady Betty’s
purpose in keeping no one but servants on Fernlode, but Orilla would
not be convinced of its justice. Suddenly she threw herself upon the
bed with such secret enjoyment, that Nancy knew the girl’s mind had
become morbid on the subject of ownership.

As so often happens with those who are physically delicate, her
reasoning also was at fault. She imagined she had been unjustly
treated, whereas nothing of the sort had happened. Mr. Fernell had been
generous to the point of bounty in educating Orilla and in giving a sum
of money to the mother. This had all been done because of Mrs. Rigney’s
devotion to Nancy’s Aunt Katherine, the first Mrs. Fernell, and Nancy
knew the story well.

“Yes,” Orilla began again, “it was not mother’s fault. And she has
tried to make me see things her way; but I can’t. I’ve always been a
wild mountain girl and all that I’ve loved has been here. You don’t
think I did wrong to come back here once in a while, do you?” she asked
plaintively.

Nancy gazed silently at the girl upon the bed. Her hair, always so
fiery red, did not look quite so peculiar on that pillow–Orilla’s
own pillow, that she had so long loved. The room was musty and needed
a thorough airing, but Nancy noticed a small casement window opened
slightly–this was, she reasoned, Orilla’s way of secretly ventilating
the room.

“I don’t see what could be very wrong about your coming here,” Nancy
finally answered Orilla’s question. “But why didn’t you ask?”

“Ask? After being turned away?”

“You were not turned away, Orilla, and that’s a foolish thing to say.
Uncle Frederic simply changed his plans and there was no need of a
nurse here,” stoutly and emphatically proclaimed Nancy.

“And they didn’t like me to be with Rosa–”

“Now, Orilla, you can’t deny you were not a suitable companion for
Rosa, because you could make her do anything. You are older, and you
worked on her sympathies,” Nancy felt obliged to point out.

“I’ll admit that now, Nancy, to you, but it didn’t seem that way
before. I never told anyone, not even mother, how I felt, and it just
all piled up inside of me until I imagined myself like a volcano,
always ready to–erupt.”

This was the first time that Nancy had noticed any depth to Orilla’s
character, and she had continually wondered where the educational
influences, said to have been provided by her uncle, had been hidden in
the girl’s personality. But the confession of her morbid, morose state
of mind was plainly the answer. She had fought down culture, choosing
to be simply a wild girl of the mountains.

“My mother always insists upon us talking things out,” said Nancy
quietly. “It’s so much better to share our worries–”

“I know that now. I feel like a different girl, just from talking to
you, and you’re only a kid,” said Orilla, again betraying her disregard
of polite English. “I’m through with secrets, Nancy,” she continued,
jumping up suddenly from the bed, with evident nervousness. “One secret
leads to another until I am fairly smothered in them. Now, this one is
not so heavy, but there–are–more.”

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