Hour of Enchantment / A Mystery Story for Girls

Hour of Enchantment / A Mystery Story for Girls

Author:
Roy J. Snell
Author:
Roy J. Snell
Format:
epub
language:
English

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Author: Snell, Roy J. (Roy Judson), 1878-1959
Mystery and detective stories
Motion picture industry — Juvenile fiction
Chinese — Juvenile fiction
Fairs — Juvenile fiction
Hour of Enchantment
A Mystery Story for Girls
A Mystery Story for Girls

HOUR OF
ENCHANTMENT

By
ROY J. SNELL

The Reilly & Lee Co.
Chicago
COPYRIGHT 1933
BY
THE REILLY & LEE CO.
PRINTED IN THE U. S. A.

CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAGE
I The Three-Bladed Knife 11
II The Sky Walk 24
III Footsteps on the Stairs 32
IV The Golden Temple 40
V A Hearse in the Moonlight 50
VI “The Chest Is Empty!” 62
VII The Place of Darkness 70
VIII Jeanne’s Double 82
IX “Haunts” 94
X Entering a New World 104
XI From China’s Ancient Treasure 111
XII The Dodge-Ems 121
XIII Dances and Dreams 136
XIV Two Black Horses and a Coffin 141
XV Transforming a Mountain 147
XVI Magic from the East 156
XVII A Scream Brings Startling Results 164
XVIII The Slim Stranger 175
XIX A Sound in the Night 183
XX Pictures on the Clouds 191
XXI Work and Dreams 200
XXII Beneath the Floodlights 205
XXIII Golden Days 214
XXIV The Battle in the Orange Grove 223
XXV Once Again the Organ Plays at Midnight 230
XXVI Carried Away in the Night 235
XXVII Her Big Night 242

HOUR OF ENCHANTMENT

CHAPTER I
THE THREE-BLADED KNIFE

Florence Huyler took one look at the Chinaman. He was wearing a long yellow coat and carrying a huge yellow umbrella. His back was toward her.
“I can’t be sure,” she whispered. “If—”
She paused, uncertainly. In a moment he would move, and then she would know—by his ears.
Again, for a moment, she gave herself over to a study of the magnificent panorama that lay before her. She was poised, like a pigeon in a belfry, but oh, so high up! Six hundred and twenty feet in the air, she could look down upon every skyscraper in the city.

She had been doing just this until her eyes had fallen by chance upon this Chinaman. She had been looking for a Chinaman, looking hard—for a Chinaman with prodigiously long ears. But she had decided to forget him for a time, to enjoy the Sky Ride and its observation towers. And now here he was, haunting her still.
The Sky Ride! Ah, there was a marvel indeed! Eiffel Tower, not the Ferris wheel, could be compared with this. Two steel towers reared themselves to dizzy heights. Between these there were steel cables. And darting from one tower to the other over these cables, like veritable rockets which they were made to represent, were cars of steel and glass from which one might view the magnificent spectacle of the fairgrounds at night. All aflame with a million lights, truly alive with a hundred thousand merrymakers, the grounds seemed a picture from another world.
With great eagerness she had paid her fee and entered the express elevator to go shooting upward toward the stars.

She had decided not to take her sky ride at once. Truth was, Fate had decreed that she should not take it at all that night. This, of course, she could not know. So, quite joyously, she had shot up and up until she was at the very top of that steel tower.
She had shuddered as she left the elevator. The tower appeared to sway, as indeed it did.
“What if, by some secret power of rhythmic motion, it should be made to sway too far?” she whispered to herself now. “What if it should swing and swing, and at last bend and bend—then go crashing down!
“Nonsense!” She got a grip on herself. “That could not happen. This is one of the marvels created by our American engineers. They figure and figure for days and days. Then they set mill wheels revolving, turning out steel. They send steel workers to their tasks, and here we are. Nothing could go wrong. It’s all been figured out.”
Having settled this problem to her own satisfaction, she walked to the rail and began studying the city she had learned to love.

“It looks so strange!” she told herself. And so it did. Streets were steel-gray ribbons where automobiles, mere bugs all black, blue and yellow, crept along, blinking their fiery eyes.
Her eye was caught by twinkling lights atop a skyscraper.
Drawing forth her binoculars she focussed them upon that spot. Then she laughed. Atop that skyscraper was a home, a pent house, a gorgeous affair that shone like marble. About it, all gay with flowers, was a garden.
“A garden party,” she whispered, as if afraid they might hear. “That’s the reason for the strings of lights.”
She could see graceful women in gorgeous gowns with men all in white and black evening dress swaying to the rhythm of some entrancing music.
“They are rich,” she thought to herself. “Bankers, perhaps, or managers of great corporations. Members of Society spelled with a big S. They don’t know I am looking at them.” She turned away again.

“Ah, well!” she sighed. “Even a mouse may look upon a queen. If—”
Had the tower indeed begun to sway in an ominous manner it could not have startled her more than the vision that met her gaze. The little yellow man in the long yellow coat had turned about. She could see his ears now.
“The—the long-eared Chinaman! I—I’ve got him!” she hissed.
At that instant the wind blew his long yellow coat aside, exposing to view the hilt of the three-bladed knife. And in the hilt of that knife jewels shone.
“I—I’ve—”
She spoke too soon, for without appearing to see her at all the man glided to an elevator and before she could cry: “Stop him!” shot downward.
“Oh!” she breathed, and again, “Oh!”
The next instant she too had leaped to an elevator and went shooting down after him. “I’ll get him yet!” But would she?

Even as her elevator shot downward from those dizzy heights, she had time to think of the circumstances leading up to this, one of the most thrilling moments of her not uneventful life.
* * * * * * * *
It had been night, deep, silent, mysterious night, when first she had seen that three-bladed knife, and the long-eared Chinaman. No stars had shone. No moon had cast its golden gleam across the black and sullen waters of Lake Michigan. From afar, as in a dream, seated with Petite Jeanne, her companion, on the sand before a little fire of sticks, she had caught the ceaseless rumble of the city.
“The hour of enchantment, it is near at hand,” Jeanne, the little French girl, murmured.
“The—the hour of enchantment?” Florence murmured after her. Not understanding, but being too full of dreams to care, she said no more.
“Yes, my good friend, Florence Huyler, the enchanted hour.”
Once more the little French girl lapsed into silence.

Florence moved her lips as if about to speak. But she remained silent. Why break a magic spell with mere talk?
And to her this was indeed a magic moment. For hours, earlier in the day, she had listened to the roar of the greatest carnival the world has ever known. About her had swarmed a thousand children. Brown heads, golden heads, laughing eyes, weeping eyes, dancing feet, all that goes to make up a host of youngsters on a holiday. And every day was a holiday on the grounds of this great show.
Nor did Florence miss a day of it. Indeed she could not, for she was a part of it.
On her ear drums had beat the noisy blare of the merry-go-round and the shrill whistle of the miniature train, the hilarious shouts of the joy-makers.
“And now,” she breathed, “it is night. They are home, tucked in bed, those blessed children. I have only to rest here by the fire with Jeanne.” She threw out her splendid arms in an air of abandon, then curled herself up on the dry sand before the fire.

“Only just look!” Jeanne began all over again a moment later. “See what I found to-day in the chest. That last one we bought; the oh, so mysterious chest with a dragon on its cover.”
In her hand she held an object that cast back the light of the dying fire.
For the moment Florence could not be roused from her dreamy stupor. Never had she worked so hard as on these days of the great Fair. Never had life seemed so full of joy. Jeanne was with her once more; a whole half year the French girl had been in her native land. Now she was back. There was, too, a spirit of glorious madness about this great exhibition, that somehow entered into her very soul. Cars packed with screaming visitors rocketing across the sky, airplanes drumming and dipping, speed boats thundering down the lagoon; speed, light, joy—who could resist it all?

But when day was done, the throngs departed, it was good to pick up a few broken bits of wood, kindle a small fire here on the beach and play the vagabond through one wee hour of the night. To sip black tea, to stare at the fire, to dream—who could ask for more? And yet here was Petite Jeanne insisting that she “only look.” Look at what?
Ah, well, Jeanne had not worked that day. She had no need to work. She was rich. Fortune had overtaken her at last—given her a chateau in France and much else.
“Jeanne,” she grumbled like some good-natured bear, “you have been curled up among the pillows all day, petting the cat. And now you ask me to look, to think—I, who have done nothing all day but lead children in play, march them up the magic mountain and down again, lift them on the little train and off again, follow them on—”
“Stop!” Jeanne stamped her pretty foot. “It is enough. I would not say ‘Look’ but it is yours, yours and mine, this curious dagger. You must tell me what it is. Only see! It has three blades!”
“Dagger! Three blades!” Florence found herself at last.

“Yes, yes! Three blades! A very strange dagger!”
The thing Florence took from Jeanne’s hand was indeed a curious affair. A knife with a hilt of ordinary length, it had not one blade, but three, extending in triangular formation, ten inches from the hilt.
“That,” Florence declared emphatically, “is something!”
“And see the handle!” Jeanne was her old enthusiastic self. “See how it shines in the light! Jewels, some red, some white—”
“Glass, I suppose.” Absent-mindedly Florence drew one of the white spots that glistened in the light across the crystal of her watch. Then she sat up quite abruptly.
“Dumb! Now I’ve scratched my crystal and it will break. Jeanne! Don’t ask me to buy another chest. No need to buy trouble. That, at least, you may get free.”

“But see!” Jeanne snatched the curious dagger from her. “If it indeed scratches glass, then truly it is a diamond. And see! There are one, two, three, four—oh, how is one to count them? There are many jewels, and they go round and round the handle.”
“Diamonds?”
“Yes. Surely! They are diamonds. And the red ones are rubies. Half belong to you and half to me. For see, we bought the box together, the box with the dragon on the cover.
“Truly!” she cried, dancing across the sand, waving the dagger over her head. “Truly this is for me the hour of enchantment!
“Listen!” The little French girl’s voice changed abruptly. She held up a hand.
From somewhere in the distance came the slow D-o-n-g, D-o-n-g, of a clock striking two.
“The enchanted hour!” Her tone was solemn.
Once again she swung her hands high. Next instant a sharp cry escaped her lips. The three-bladed knife with all its jewels was gone. Some one half concealed in the darkness at her back had snatched it from her.
It was the stout Florence who sprang to her feet and, but for Jeanne, would have dashed away in mad pursuit.

But Jeanne prevented this. She leaped forward just in time to seize her friend about the waist.
“No! No! My friend, you must not! You will be killed! He has a knife!” she exclaimed in a hoarse whisper. “He has that dagger with three blades! You—you have nothing!”
“I have my two hands!” Florence continued to struggle. “He is small, only a little Chinaman. I—I saw him. I’d break his back if he did not give me the knife!”
“But think!” Jeanne loosed her hold as Florence ceased to struggle. “It is only a dagger, a dagger I found in a box, and we paid so little for that box.”
“Only a dagger with a hilt encrusted with jewels!” Florence dropped to her place beside the dying fire.
“Rich for a moment,” she sighed, “then poor forever.

“But I’ll know that man if I ever see him again,” she added hopefully. “He had the longest ears of any person I ever saw. He wore an orange-colored cap, and there was a bit of bright glass—oval-shaped it was—shining from his forehead. And those ears!” she exclaimed. “Who could mistake them?”
“We will find him. Truly we must!” Jeanne spoke with confidence. “This is the enchanted hour. My enchanted hour!”
* * * * * * * *
And now, twenty-four hours later, shooting down, down, down, a hundred, two, three, four hundred feet, Florence was in pursuit of that very long-eared Chinaman. From his belt had shone the jeweled hilt of the three-bladed knife.
“It’s ours!” she muttered low to herself. “Jeanne’s and mine. I’ll get him yet!”
But would she?

CHAPTER II
THE SKY WALK

As she boarded the down-going car, the girl’s mind flashed through the incidents leading up to this strange chase, and then came bang up against a problem with no certain answer. Should she leave the car at the two hundred foot level, the spot from which the cars of the Sky Ride went flashing away into the night, or should she ride to the ground level?
Following instinct, when she reached the Sky Ride level she darted from the car. At once she caught her breath. There was the long-eared Chinaman.

The instant she saw him he was on the move. There was no mistaking the look in her eyes. She meant to have that three-bladed knife. He made no mistake about that. Imitating a monkey, a spider and a snake all in one, he managed by curious contortions to make his way past the waiting rocket-car and out upon the cables that carried the cars on their exciting journey.
At once the place was in a panic.
“A car from the other side will come and crush him! He will fall! He’ll be electrocuted!” came from the crowd as men fought for a spot where they might view the impending catastrophe.
But no catastrophe occurred—at least not at once. Standing with the air of a tight rope walker, which indeed this long-eared one must have been, he unfolded his large yellow silk umbrella; then, apparently all unconscious of the shouting throng, he turned and walked the cables as another person might walk the street.
“If another car comes—” Florence came near to wishing she had stuck to her resolve and made it a night of pure pleasure.
No car came from the other side. A quick-witted guard had stopped it in the nick of time, by a phone call.

So the little yellow man in a long yellow jacket with a three-bladed knife in his belt balanced himself with his yellow umbrella and proceeded blithely on his way while an ever increasing sea of faces gazed upward.
Great searchlights began playing upon him. Like fingers they pointed him out. Ten thousand, twenty, fifty, perhaps seventy thousand pairs of eyes were fixed upon him.
Not one of all these people, save Florence, knew what it was all about. “Is this one more feature, a grand surprise in this the grandest of all shows?” This is what the thousands were asking.
Other questions occupied Florence’s mind. What did the man mean to do? Did he know himself? How was it all to end?
The suspense continued. It is well that it did. The first few hundred feet of this curious person’s sky walk was over the solid earth. Beneath him was the gasping multitude. Jammed together in one solid mass, not one of them could have moved had this sky walker come hurtling down from those dizzy heights.

He did not fall. Instead, with all the grace of a fine lady out for a promenade, he moved along the cables that, being all but invisible in the night, made him seem to walk on air.
“If he were only over water!” Florence spoke without meaning to do so. “Then there would be some chance.”
“At two hundred feet?” some one doubted.
All the same, Florence waited and hoped. “Now he’s a third of the way to the place above the lagoon,” she assured herself. “Now half—now two-thirds.
“Now!”
She caught her breath. Something was happening. The man was seen to teeter.
“If he falls—” She set her lips tight. “If he does, if he falls and kills some one, I shall never forgive myself. A knife!” She all but said it aloud. “A knife with a diamond-studded hilt—what’s that to a human life?”
But the man had regained his poise. He was tripping along as before.
“He—he’s almost there,” she sighed, as a low prayer escaped her lips. “He—he must be over the water. Thank—thank God!”

But, after all, what did this astounding person propose to do?
Did he plan it, or was it the work of Fate? Perhaps no one will ever know. Be that as it may, just as he reached a spot above the center of the lagoon the man was seen once more to waver.
This time he did not regain his poise, but with a movement that seemed half a leap, half a fall, launched himself into mid-air.
Florence closed her eyes. She opened them at once to find the Chinaman still going down.
“How—how remarkable!” she breathed.
“It’s the umbrella,” some one at her side volunteered. “It’s made for that purpose, like a parachute.”
She did not give the information that, as far as she could tell, the man had entertained no notion of making that unusual journey.
She continued to watch while the Chinaman plunged downward. With his fall checked by the umbrella, he had, she believed, a fair chance for a safe landing.

“And then?” Some spirit inside her appeared to ask the question. “Why, then,” she answered the spirit, “I’ll be after him!”
The Chinaman disappeared into shadows that lay above the surface of the lagoon.
At once spotlights were playing upon the water. If he came to the surface no one saw him.
“But then,” Florence assured herself, “there are a hundred boats out there on the lagoon. A man with such a trick as that in his bag must have others. He need only come up alongside a boat, cling there until the excitement is over, then go on his way. We shall meet again.
“But not to-night,” she amended, as she surveyed the dense throng below.
“So here’s for a sky ride!”
She gave herself over to the joyous excitement of the hour.
Curiously enough, upon descending from the steel tower after a half hour of shooting through space, she bumped squarely into her roommate and pal of many strange adventures—Petite Jeanne.

“Oh, Jeanne!” she exclaimed. “I have found him, the little Chinaman with long ears.”
“And the knife?”
“He still has it.”
“Tell me about it,” Jeanne begged.
In her own truly dramatic style Florence told the story. “And when he dropped,” she ended breathlessly, “I said ‘that’s the end of him!’”
“But it was not?” Jeanne breathed.
“I am not sure it was not. We shall see him again, perhaps many times.”
“But, Florence, why does he want that three-bladed knife so very, very much?”
“It is set with jewels,” Florence spoke slowly, “but there is something more. I am sure of it. Perhaps something quite terrible. I saw it in his eyes. He’d kill some one to possess that knife, if necessary. I am quite sure of that.”
“Then, oh my Florence, you must be careful!”
“We will be careful. But we shall have the knife. It belongs to us. We bought it.”

“Yes,” Jeanne agreed, “we bought it.”
As Jeanne closed her eyes she could see the place of purchase, a long, low auction house blue with tobacco smoke; a bald-headed auctioneer shouting:
“Three dollars. Who’ll make it three-fifty?”
A Chinaman in an obscure corner was bidding against her for that chest with a blue dragon on the cover.
Sudden confusion. Three men dragging the protesting Chinaman away.
“What did it all mean?” she asked herself.
“Anyway,” she sighed, “we got the chest.”
Then a thought struck her all of a heap.
“Florence,” she cried, “there were other things in that chest. Oh, so many more!”
“Other things?” Florence fairly sprang at her. “Why did you not tell me? Is it still in our room under the bed?”
“Yes. Oh, yes.”
“Then we must hurry home. They may be in our r

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