“How about the other letter?” Marion asked.
“I don’t know,” was the reply. “It doesn’t seem to amount to much. I hardly think it is to be taken as a threat. Have you no idea who sent it?”
“Some of the girls think it was sent by some of the Boy Scouts at Spring Lake. You see they came up in full force to Hiawatha on the night when we held our Grand Council Fire. It was a complete surprise on us, exceedingly well done and about as clever as you could expect from the cleverest boys. Before they left, several of them boasted openly that they were planning another surprise for some of us, and they dared us to find out in advance what it was.”
“No doubt that is what this note means,” Mr. Stanlock declared so positively and such a gleam of interest in his eyes that Marion could not help wondering just a little.
“What makes you so certain about it?” she inquired. “I don’t see any real proof in those words as to what they mean or who wrote them.”
“No, no, of course not,” agreed Mr. Stanlock with seemingly uncalled for glibness; “but then, you see, it is more reasonable to suspect that this note came from the boys than from the strikers. If it is between the two,—the boys and the strikers,—I say forget the strikers and be sure that the boys sent this note.”
“I wish that the boys would spring their surprise tonight and settle the question of that note,” said Marion.
“Why?” inquired her father with the faint light of a smile in his eyes.
“Because I don’t like the uncertainty of the thing. Uncertainty always bothers me, and this is a more than ordinary case.”
“But how could the boys spring their surprise without coming to Hollyhill?” her father asked.
“That’s just it,” she returned with a quick glance of suspicion toward both her father and her mother. “Do you know, I found myself wondering several times if Clifford wouldn’t bring some of those boys down here some time during the holidays.”
Mr. Stanlock laughed, but he would have given a good deal to be able to recall the noise he made. It was really a noise, as he must have admitted himself, and so hollow as to indicate something decidedly unlike spontaneous amusement.
Marion caught herself in a brown study several times over these circumstances and her father’s manner before she went to sleep that night.
* * * * *
A man of big heart and queer notions.
Christmas was a big event at Hollyhill. Hollyhill was well named. Perhaps some old patriarch a century or two back conceived the inspiration of the name while playing Santa Claus with the little tots of the household and pretending to have slid down the chimney without getting a speck of soot on his bulging vestments.