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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMary Louise Solves A Mystery - Chapter 10. Mere Speculation
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Mary Louise Solves A Mystery - Chapter 10. Mere Speculation Post by :simkl Category :Long Stories Author :L. Frank Baum Date :May 2012 Read :1252

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Mary Louise Solves A Mystery - Chapter 10. Mere Speculation

CHAPTER X. MERE SPECULATION

The driver returned with the wheel. It fitted the axle but was some two or three inches larger in diameter than the other rear wheel and, moreover, it was flat on one side, so that when they started to conclude their journey the motion of the carriage was something startling--a "rock-a-bye baby ride" Mary Louise called it.

But the wheels turned and the carriage progressed and when they were well on their way the girl said:

"What do you think of that man, Gran'pa Jim?"

"Do you mean Alora's father, Jason Jones?"

"Yes, of course."

"I am surprised at two things," said the old Colonel. "First, it is curious that Tony Seaver, a rarely cultured woman, should have married such a man, and again it is amazing that she should have confided her daughter and her fortune to his care."

"Do you know," observed Mary Louise, sliding closer to him and dropping her voice, although there was absolutely no chance of being overheard, "I scent a mystery in that family, Gran'pa Jim!"

"That seems to be one of your regular diversions--to scent mysteries," he replied. "And usually, my dear, the suspicion is unwarranted. The most commonplace people frequently impress you with the idea that they are other than what they seem, are leading double lives, or are endeavoring to conceal some irregularity of conduct. You've a faculty of reading the natures and characteristics of strangers by studying their eyes, their facial expressions and their oddities of demeanor, which is interesting psychologically but too often----"

"You are unjust, Gran'pa!" declared Mary Louise indignantly. "Didn't you yourself say there are two curious and surprising things about this man Jones?"

"Not exactly. I said it was curious and astonishing that Antoinette Seaver should have trusted so fully a man who impresses me as a churl. His own child, little Alora, appears to dislike and even to despise him, and----"

"There!" cried Mary Louise. "I'm vindicated. Your observations fully justify my remark that there's a mystery in that family. Did you notice the books he brought home and laid upon the table?"

"No," said Colonel Hathaway, rather bewildered.

"They were novels by Marie Correlli, H. G. Wells and O. Henry. A student? Then a student of modern novels, a man who reads and reads to keep his mind from dwelling on past history. He is a disappointed artist, to begin with."

"That is certainly odd," rejoined the old gentleman, reflectively. "The one picture I ever saw by Jason Jones was certainly good. I remember that once when I was lunching with Bob Seaver--that was Antoinette's father, you know--he told me his daughter was interested in a young artist of exceptional talent, and he took me to a gallery to show me what this man could do. I am not an art critic, as you are aware, my dear, but this landscape of Jason Jones appealed to me as delightful. Captain Bob knew art, and so did Antoinette, so it is evident that Jones _could paint, but for some reason became dissatisfied with his work and abandoned it. Perhaps his ambition was too lofty for human skill to realize, yet nothing less would content him."

Mary Louise sat silent for a while. Then she asked:

"Did Jason Jones impress you as a man capable of a great ambition? Would you guess him an artist who had once accomplished admirable things?"

"Artists are always peculiar," stated her grandfather. "They must be temperamental in order to be artists, and temperaments differ widely. Had I not known something of Jason Jones' history I might have felt, on making his acquaintance to-day, that he is not an ordinary man. For, gruff and churlish though he proved, it is undeniable that he has selected a charming and retired spot in which to live----"

"Or to hide," she interrupted.

"Or that, with considerable wealth at his command, he lives simply and unostentatiously, enjoying nature's choice gifts and content with the simple life he leads, with only the society of his young daughter."

"Whom he neglects and refuses to educate properly," declared the girl. "What makes you think he is wealthy?"

"I know that Antoinette made millions, after her father died, from the mines. By current report she retired and invested her money wisely, in sound securities, which accords with her excellent business reputation. Her daughter not being of age--let me see: she must have been but eleven when her mother passed away--there would be a guardian appointed for the heiress, and Alora told us that it was her mother's wish that her father act as her guardian. So the conclusion is evident that Mr. Jones has a large income at his command."

"All the more reason he should be generous, but he isn't spending much of it," said Mary Louise.

"No; he is probably living simply in order that his daughter's fortune may increase during the years of her minority. That is a point in his favor, you must admit."

"Nevertheless," asserted the young girl, "I think there is something wrong in the Jones family. It isn't due to Alora; she's a dear little thing, wild and untamed but very lovable, I'm sure; so the fault must lie with her boorish father. Allowing that once he was a big man, something has mysteriously soured him and rendered his life hateful not only to himself but to all around him."

"Look, Mary Louise; we're getting into Sorrento," said the Colonel. "Here the road leaves the sea and crosses the plateau to the town. You'll like Sorrento, I'm sure, for it is one of the quaintest places in old Italy--and the hotel is really comfortable."

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CHAPTER IX. MARY LOUISE SCENTS A MYSTERYColonel Hathaway instantly rose."I beg your pardon," said he. "I am Colonel James Hathaway, an American, and this is my granddaughter, Mary Louise Burrows. Our carriage met with an accident on the main road below and we wandered in here while waiting for repairs and chanced to meet your daughter. You are Mr. Jones, I believe?"He nodded, still standing in his place and regarding his visitors with unconcealed suspicion. Under his arm he held several books."Who informed you that I was living here?" he demanded."I was wholly unaware of the fact," said the Colonel, stiffly.
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