Author: Snell, Roy J. (Roy Judson), 1878-1959
Mystery and detective stories
Artists — Juvenile fiction
Romanies — Juvenile fiction
Chicago (Ill.) — Description and travel — Juvenile fiction
Crystal gazing — Juvenile fiction
The Crystal Ball
A Mystery Story for Girls
A Mystery Story for Girls
ROY J. SNELL
The Reilly & Lee Co.
Printed in the United States of America
THE REILLY & LEE CO.
PRINTED IN THE U. S. A.
- CHAPTER PAGE
- I Midnight Blue Velvet 11
- II “Just Nothing at All” 28
- III Danger Tomorrow 36
- IV The “Tiger Woman” 45
- V Florence Gazes into the Crystal 51
- VI Gypsies That Are Not Gypsies 62
- VII The Bright Shawl 75
- VIII A Vision for Another 86
- IX Jeanne Plans an Adventure 104
- X A Voodoo Priestess 113
- XI Fireside Reflections 128
- XII Jeanne’s Fortune 134
- XIII A Startling Revelation 148
- XIV Fire Destroys All 157
- XV The Interpreter of Dreams 169
- XVI The Secret of Lost Lake 177
- XVII From Out the Past 189
- XVIII D.X.123 195
- XIX One Wild Dream 199
- XX Some Considerable Treasure 213
- XXI Battle Royal 228
- XXII Little Lady in Gray 238
- XXIII Strange Treasure 252
- XXIV Through the Picture 266
- XXV A Visit in the Night 274
- XXVI In Which Some Things Are Well Finished 279
THE CRYSTAL BALL
MIDNIGHT BLUE VELVET
Florence Huyler read the number on the door. She wondered at the lack of light from within; the glass of the door was like a slab of ebony.
“No one here,” she murmured. “Just my luck.”
For all that, she put out a hand to grasp the knob. In a city office building, ten stories up, one does not knock. Florence did not so much as allow the yielding door to make a sound. She turned the knob as one imagines a robber might turn the dial of a safe—slowly, silently.
Why did she do this? Could she have answered this question? Probably not! Certainly she was not spying on the occupants of that room—at least, not yet. Perhaps that was the way she always opened a door. We all have our ways of doing things. Some of us seize a door knob, give it a quick turn, a yank, and there we are. And some, like Florence, move with the slyness and softness of a cat. It is their nature.
One thing is sure; once the door had yielded to her touch and she had ushered herself into the semi-darkness that was beyond, she was glad of that sly silence, for something quite mysterious was going on beyond that door.
She found herself in a place of all but complete darkness. Only before her, where a pair of heavy drapes parted, was there a narrow slit of eery blue light.
There was no need of tiptoeing as she moved toward that long line of light. Her sturdy street shoes sank deep in something she knew must be a rich Oriental rug.
“In such a building!” she thought with increasing surprise. The building was old, might at any time be wrecked to make parking space for cars. The elevator, as she came up, had swayed and teetered like a canary bird’s cage on a coiled spring.
“And now this!” she whispered. “Oriental rugs and—yes, a heavy velvet curtain of midnight blue. What a setting for—”
Well, for what? She did not finish. That was the reason for her visit, to find out what. She was engaged, these days, in finding out all manner of curious and fantastic goings on. Was this to be one of the strangest, weirdest, most fantastic, or was it, like many another, to turn out as a simple, flat, uninteresting corner of a sad little world?
Moving silently to that narrow streak that could barely be called light, she peered boldly within.
What she saw gave her a start. It was, she thought, like entering the “Holy of Holies” of Bible times or the “Forbidden City” of Mongol kings. For there, resting in a low receptacle at the exact center of a large room, was a faintly gleaming crystal ball. This ball, which might have been six inches in diameter with its holder, rested on a cloth of midnight blue. Before it sat a silent figure.
This person was all but hidden in shadows. A head crowned by a circle of fluffy hair, a pair of youthful, drooping shoulders; this for the moment was all she could see. The eyes, fixed upon the crystal ball, were turned away from her.
Even as she wondered and shuddered a little at what she saw, a voice, seeming to come from nowhere, but everywhere at once, said:
“It is given to some to see. Observe that which thou seest and record it well upon the walls of thy memories, for thou mayest never look upon it again.”
That voice sent a shudder through Florence’s being. Was it the voice of a woman or a man? A woman, she believed, yet the tone was low and husky like a man’s. As Florence looked she wondered, for the girl sitting there before the crystal ball did not shudder. She sat gazing at the ball with all the stillness of one entranced.
Nor was the strange girl’s perfect attention without purpose. Even as Florence stood there all ears and eyes, she was ready to fly on the instant, but just as determined to stay.
The whole affair, the midnight blue of the curtains, the spot of light that was a crystal ball, the girl sitting there like a statue, all seemed so unreal that Florence found herself pinching her arm. “No,” she whispered, “it is not a dream.”
At that instant her attention was caught and held by that crystal ball. Things were happening within that ball, or at least appeared to be happening.
The gleaming ball itself changed. It was grayer, less brilliant. Then, to Florence’s vast astonishment, she saw a tiny figure moving within the ball. A child it was, she saw at a glance. A fair-haired, animated child was moving within that ball. She came dancing into the center of what appeared to be a large room. There she paused as if expecting someone. The room the child had entered was beautiful. Real oil paintings hung on the wall. There was a gorgeous bit of tapestry above the large open fireplace. A great golden collie lay asleep before the fire. All this was within the ball. And the animated child too was within the ball.
Florence thought she had been bewitched. Surely nothing like this could be seen within a solid glass ball.
Just then the voice began again to speak. This time the voice was low. Words were said in a distinct tone and all just alike. This is what it said:
“Sit quite still. Let your mood be one of tranquillity. Look with dreamy eyes upon the crystal. Do not stare. It is not given to all to have magic vision. Some see only in symbols. Some see those whom they seek—face to face. You—”
The voice broke off. The girl, seated in that mahogany chair, surrounded by midnight blue velvet, had been gazing at the crystal all this time; yet at this instant she appeared suddenly to become conscious of the change within the crystal ball. Perhaps, since she looked at it from a different angle, her vision had been obscured.
The effect on the girl was strange. She shook like one with a chill. She gripped the arms of the black chair until, in that strange light, her hands appeared glistening white. Then, seeming to gain control of herself, she settled back in her place and, at the command of that slow, monotonous voice, “Keep your eyes on the crystal,” fell into an attitude of repose. Not, however, before Florence had noted a strange fact. “That girl in the glass ball,” she told herself, “is the one sitting in that black chair.
“But no! How could she be? Besides, the one in the ball is younger, much younger. This is impossible. And yet, there are the same eyes, the same hair, the same profile. It is strange.”
Then of a sudden she recalled that she was within the room of a crystal-gazer, that the crystal ball had been credited with magic properties, that one who gazed into it was supposed to see visions. Was she seeing a vision?
“How could I see that girl as a child when I have never before seen her at any age?” she asked herself. It was unbelievable. Yet, there it was.
Could the crystal ball bring back to the girl memories of her childhood? That did not appear so impossible. But—
Now again there was a change coming over the crystal ball. A sudden lighting up of its gray interior announced the opening of a door in that fanciful house, the letting in of bright sunshine. The door closed. Gray shadows reappeared. Into those shadows walked a distinguished appearing, tall, gray-haired man. At once, into his arms sprang the fair-haired child. All this appeared to go forward in that astonishing crystal ball.
At this instant Florence’s attention was distracted by a low cry that was all but a sob. It came from the lips of that girl sitting close to the crystal ball. As Florence looked she saw her staring with surprising intensity at the ball. At the same time Florence, who read lips almost as well as she could hear with her ears, made out her words:
“Father—that must be my father! My long lost father! It must be! It—”
At that instant something touched Florence’s shoulder. As she looked back she saw only the hand and half an arm. It was a woman’s hand. From the third finger, gleaming like an evil eye, shone a large ruby. The hand was long, hard and claw-like. It grasped Florence’s shoulder and pulled her back. She did not resist, though she might very successfully have done so. She was strong, was Florence—strong as a man. But about that hand there was something terrifying and altogether sinister. Florence had studied hands. She had come to know their meanings. They tell as much of character as do faces. And this, a left hand, seemed to say, “My mate, the right hand, is hidden. In it is a dagger. So beware!”
Florence did not resist. Before she knew what had happened she was out in the dark and dusty hallway. The door she had entered was closed and locked against her.
“So that’s that!” she said with a forced smile. But was that that? Was there to be much more? Very much more? Only time would tell. When one discovers an enthralling mystery, one does not soon forget. Such a mystery was contained in that crystal ball.
“That’s one of them!” Florence declared emphatically to herself. “It surely must be!
“That girl,” she thought with a sigh, “can’t be more than sixteen—perhaps not that. And her appearance speaks of money. Clothes all fit perfectly and in exquisite taste. Didn’t come from a department store, that’s sure.
“But the look on her face—sad, eager, hopeful, all in one. How easy it is to lead such a person on and on and on.
“On to what?” she asked herself with a start.
“This,” she concluded, “is a case that calls for action. I’ll see Frances Ward first thing in the morning.
“And then,” she laughed a low laugh, “perhaps I’ll take a few lessons in crystal gazing. Just perhaps. And again, perhaps not.” She recalled that claw-like hand and the ruby that appeared to burn like fire. “Anyway, I’ll try.”
Florence, as you may have guessed by this time, was back in Chicago. It had been late autumn when she arrived. So often these days she had been in need of friends. She had found friends, two of them. And such wonderful friends as they were! One, Frances Ward, had given her work of a sort, a very strange sort. The other, Marie Mabee, had given her a home, and a marvelous home it was. Florence had not dreamed of such good fortune. And best of all, Petite Jeanne, the little French girl, was with her.
Jeanne’s airplane, the Dragonfly, was stored away. For the time at least, her flow of gold from France had ceased. Her chateau in her native land lay among the hills where grapes were grown. It was surrounded by grape arbors, miles of them. Some strange blight had fallen upon the vines. Grapes failed to ripen. There was no more money.
“And why should there be?” Jeanne had exclaimed when the letter came. “Who wants money? One is happier without it. I have my friends, the gypsies. They seldom have money, yet they never starve. I shall go to them. Perhaps I may find a bear who will dance with me. Then how the coins shall jingle!”
To her surprise and great unhappiness, she found that her gypsy friends were now living in a tumbled-down tenement house, that they had parted with their vans and brightly colored cars and were living like the sparrows on what they might pick up on the unfriendly city streets.
Disheartened, the little French girl had gone to the park by the lake for a breath of God’s pure air. And there, in a strange manner, she had found glorious happiness.
Jeanne never forgot her friends. She hunted up Florence and made for her a place in that path of happiness quite as broad as her own.
Just now, as Florence hurried down the wind-driven, wintry streets, as she dodged a skidding cab, rounded a corner where the wind took her breath away, then went coursing on toward the south, she thought of all this and smiled.
Two hours later, just as a distant clock tolled out the hour of nine, she found herself seated in the very midst of all this glorious happiness.
She was seated in a room above the city’s most beautiful boulevard. The room was beneath the very roof of a great skyscraper. It was a large room, a studio. Not a place where some very rich person played at being an artist, but a real studio where beautiful and costly works of art were produced by a slim and masterly hand.
Had Florence turned artist? She would have laughed had you asked her. “I, an artist!” she would have exclaimed. She would have held out two shapely, quite powerful hands and have said, “Paint pictures with these? Well, perhaps. But I was born for action. How could I stand for hours, touching a canvas here and there with a tiny brush?”
No, Florence had not turned artist, nor had Petite Jeanne. For all this, the most wonderful thing had happened to them. Often and often they had dreamed of it. In days of adversity when they sat upon stools and washed down hamburger sandwiches with very black coffee, Jeanne had said, “Florence, my very good friend, would it not be wonderful if someone very good and very successful would take us under her wing?”
“Yes.” Florence had fallen in with the dream. “A great opera singer, or perhaps one who writes wonderful books.”
“Or an artist, one who paints those so marvelous pictures one sees in the galleries!” Jeanne dreamed on.
Even in days of their greatest prosperity, when Jeanne had gone flitting across the country, a “flying gypsy,” and Florence was happy in her work, they had not given up this dream. For, after all, what in all this world can compare with the companionship of one older than ourselves, who is at one and the same time kind, beautiful, talented, and successful?
And then, out of the clear October sky that shone over the park by the lake there in Chicago, their good angel had appeared.
It was not she who had appeared at once. Far from it. Instead, when Jeanne went to the park that day she had found at first only a group of tired and rather ragged gypsies, who, having parked their rusty cars, had gathered on the grass to eat a meager lunch.
Jeanne had spied them. She had hurried away without a word, to return fifteen minutes later with a bundle all too heavy for her slender arms. Inside that bundle were, wonderful to relate, three large meat pies, four apple pies, a small Swiss cheese such as gypsies love, and all manner of curious French pastry. There were a dozen gypsy children in the group gathered there in the park. How their dark eyes shone as Jeanne spread out this rich repast!
These strange people stared at her doubtfully. When, however, she laughed and exclaimed in their own strange tongue, “I too am a gypsy!” and when, seizing the oldest girl of the group, she dragged her whirling and laughing over the grass in her own wild gypsy dance, they all cried, “Bravo! Bravo! She is one of us indeed!”
Then how meat pies, apple pies, cheese and pastry vanished!
When the feast was over, having borrowed a bright skirt, a broad sash and kerchief, Jeanne led them all in a dance that was wilder, more furious than any they had known for many a day.
“Come!” they shouted when the dance was over. “We were sad. You have brought us happiness. See!” They pointed to a dark cloud that was a flock of blackbirds flying south. “You must come with us. We will follow these birds in their flight. When winter comes we shall camp where roses bloom all the winter through, where oranges hang like balls of gold among the leaves and the song of spring is ever in the air.”
Jeanne listened and dreamed. But her good friend Florence? She was not faring so well. Winter was at hand. How could Jeanne leave her in this great dark city alone?
Just then a strange thing happened. A tall woman of striking appearance came up to the group. She wore a green smock all marked up with red and blue paint. There was a smudge of orange on her cheek, and in her hand a dozen small brushes.
“See!” She held up an unfinished sketch. It was a picture of Petite Jeanne, Jeanne in her bright costume dancing with the raggedest gypsy of them all. On the face of Jeanne and the ragged child was a look of inspired joy.
“You are a genius!” Jeanne cried in surprise, “You have painted my picture!” She was overjoyed.
“I am a painter,” the lady, who was neither young nor old, said. “Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail. But you?” She turned to Jeanne. “Do you know many of these people?”
“I—” Jeanne laughed. “I am related to them all. Is it not so?” She appealed to her new-found friends.
“Yes! Yes! To us all,” they cried in a chorus.
When, a half hour later, Jeanne bade a reluctant farewell to the gypsy clan, it was in the company of the artist. The leader of the gypsies had been presented with a bright new twenty-dollar bill, and Jeanne had made a friend she would not soon forget. What a day! What a happy adventure!
“JUST NOTHING AT ALL”
The artist’s name was Marie Mabee. It was in her studio that Florence, on the evening after her strange experience with the crystal ball, found herself seated. It was a marvelous place, that studio. It was a large room. Its polished floor was strewn with all manner of strange Indian rugs. Marie Mabee was American to the tips of her toes. Save for one picture, everything in that room was distinctly American. The spinet desk with chair that matched, the drapes and tapestries, the andirons before the broad open fireplace, the great comfortable upholstered chair, all these were made in America.
The one cherished bit from the Old World that adorned the room was a picture. It was a masterpiece of the nineteenth century. In that picture the sun shone bright upon a flock of sheep hurrying for shelter from a storm that lay black as night against the rugged hills behind. Trees were bending before a gale, the shepherd’s cloak was flying, every touch told of the approaching storm.
“It’s all so very real!” Florence thought to herself as she looked at the picture now. “It is like Marie Mabee herself. She too is real. And the things she creates are real. That is why she is such a great success.”
As if to verify her own conclusion, she looked at a canvas reposing on an easel in the corner. The picture was almost done. It showed Petite Jeanne garbed in a bright gypsy costume, flinging arms wide in a wild gypsy dance. In the background, indistinct but quite real, were wild eager faces, a fiddler, two singing gypsy children, and behind them the night.
Marie Mabee had determined that by her pictures there should be preserved the memory of much that was passing in American life. The gypsies were passing. One by one they were being swallowed up by great cities. Soon the country would know them no more. She had taken Jeanne into her heart and home because in Jeanne’s heart there lived like a flame the spirit of the gypsies at their best, because Jeanne knew all the gypsies and could bring them to the studio to be posed and painted. She had taken in Florence as well; first, because she was Jeanne’s friend, and second, because, with all others, the moment she came to know her she loved her.
“It is all very wonde