“He needn’t have been so careful. He might have walked right next to me all the way into town, and I’d never have suspected him. As it happened, I wasn’t going anywhere this morning—anywhere in particular, I mean. It wouldn’t have made any difference if Brack had known just what I was doing. But I’m mighty glad to know that he is trying to spy on me, Bessie. In the next few days I’m apt to do some things I wouldn’t want him to know about at all, and now that I’m warned I’ll be able to keep my eyes and my ears open, and I guess Brack and his spies will have some trouble in getting on to anything I choose to keep hidden from them.”
“That’s the stuff!” approved Tom. “I told Miss Bessie here she’d done all right. She meant well, even if she did run a foolish risk. And there’s no harm done.”
“Well, we’d better hurry home,” said Jamieson. “I don’t want them to be worried about you, Bessie, so I’ll take you home in a taxicab.”
The cab took them swiftly toward the Mercer house. When they were still two or three blocks away Jamieson started and pointed out a man on the sidewalk to Bessie.
“There’s Brack now!” he exclaimed. “See, Bessie? That little man, with the eyeglasses. He’s up to some mischief. I wonder what he’s doing out this way?”
When they arrived, Eleanor Mercer, her eyes showing that she was worried, was waiting for them on the porch.
“Oh, I’m so glad you’re here!” she exclaimed.
“I’m so sorry if you were worried about me, Miss Eleanor,” said Bessie, remorsefully.
“I wasn’t, though,” said Eleanor. “It’s Zara! She’s upstairs, crying her eyes out and she won’t answer me when I try to get her to tell me what’s wrong. You’d better see her, Bessie.”
A NEW DANGER
Alarmed at this news of Zara, Bessie hurried upstairs at once to the room the two girls shared. She found her chum on the bed, crying as if her heart would break.
“Why, Zara, what’s the matter? Why are you crying?” she asked.
But try as she might, Bessie could get no answer at all from Zara for a long time.
“Have I done anything to make you feel bad? Has anything gone wrong here?” urged Bessie. “If you’ll only tell us what’s the matter, dear, we’ll straighten it out. Can’t you trust me?”
“N—nothing’s happened—you haven’t done anything,” Zara managed to say at last.
“Surely nothing Miss Eleanor has said has hurt you, Zara? I’m certain she’d feel terrible if she thought you were crying because of anything she had done!”
Zara shook her head vehemently at that, but her sobs only seemed to come harder than before.
Bessie was thoroughly puzzled. She knew that Zara, brought up in a foreign country, did not always understand American ways. Sometimes, when Bessie had first known her, little jesting remarks, which couldn’t have been taken amiss by any American girl, had reduced her to tears. And Bessie thought it entirely possible that someone, either Miss Eleanor, or her mother, or one of the Mercer servants, might have offended Zara without in the least meaning to do so.