These questions brought out nothing of tangible advantage, and No. 1 rested apparently well satisfied with the keenness of his record thus far made. No. 2 now took up the inquiry. He was the squarely built angular fellow with deep-set eyes, quiet demeanor and few words. His first question was:
“Has Miss Nash any other friends living in Hollyhill?”
“No, I think not,” Marion replied; “no particular friends.”
“None that she ever corresponds with?” persisted the man with the deep-set eyes.
Marion started visibly. Sudden recollection of the letter received by Helen the day before came to her.
“She got a letter postmarked Hollyhill yesterday,” the young hostess replied.
“Who was it from?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t know that she was corresponding with anybody in the town. But the address on the envelope looked as if it was written by a man.”
“Do you suppose you could find that letter?”
“I’ll go upstairs and look,” Marion said, suiting the action to the word.
In a few minutes she returned with a waste paper basket in her hands.
“Helen was sharing my room with me,” she said. “A letter has been torn up and thrown in the basket. As I didn’t do it, it must be Helen’s.”
“This begins to look like something,” the tall man said with a nod of approval, picking up several bits of paper from the basket. “She’s torn it up in pretty small pieces, but if we all get busy we ought to be able to put them together in a short time.”
“Let’s go out to the dining room table,” Mrs. Stanlock proposed, leading the way as she spoke.
In a few moments all were seated around the large fumed oak table from which the spread had been removed as the hard wood surface was much better for the task of piecing the letter together.
It was, indeed, a tedious task, but with so many working together progress was fairly rapid. Within fifteen minutes half a dozen sentence sections of several words each had been joined in their phrase order. These were soon followed by three or four more and presently one of the girls found a connecting link between two sections thus forming a complete sentence. Imagine the thrill that went through everyone as Mr. Stanlock read the following:
“Get your friends out of Hollyhill as soon as possible.”
“I bet this letter was written by the same person who wrote the skull-and-cross-bones letter to me,” Marion ventured confidently.
“That’s the very idea that just occurred to me,” Miss Ladd declared as she fitted “no” and “difference” together and then tried to find a connecting edge on the pieces held by her neighbor to the left.
Fortunately the letter had been written on only one side of a large sheet of paper, so that they could be pasted in correlative positions on another sheet provided for the purpose.
Finally the patchwork was completed, in so far as the material at hand made completeness possible. A few of the bits of torn paper were missing, so that a word was wanting here and there in the text, but apparently the idea and purpose of the writer did not suffer from these vacancies. The letter as read at last by Mr. Stanlock was as follows: