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- The Spanish Chest - 10/39 -
some French, Edith."
"It's Italian, Fran. 'Palazzo Grassi, Via Ludovisi, Roma.' Just two addresses and no name!" Edith ended in disappointment.
"Oh, but wait!" exclaimed Frances. The light struck the plate at such an angle as to make visible to her some additional lettering, not engraved but apparently scratched with a knife. Though small, the words were extremely neat and legible and the girls deciphered them eagerly.
"Her name must be Connie!" Edith declared, turning excited eyes upon her companion. "Speak, Tylo! Is your mistress called Constance?"
Tylo vouchsafed no answer, only pricked his ears, hearing something inaudible to the girls. The next instant came a distinct though faint whistle.
The beach dog departed at once, tearing down over the meadow in a graceful curve to leap a hedge into a shady lane beyond.
"Well, we've learned a little," sighed Frances. "His mistress is called Connie and she lives at Laurel Manor. The rest ought to be easy. Let's go down to the shore. I want to explore that point of rocks."
"But Win's asleep," said Edith hesitatingly. "Ought we to leave him?"
"It's all right," said Frances. "He couldn't scramble on the rocks and it's splendid for him to sleep in this fine air. I'll leave a note telling him where to look for us."
Edith supplied a blunt pencil and Fran wrote her message on a bit of paper torn from the luncheon box, pinning it carefully to her brother's coat where he could not fail to see it. Then they ran down to the cove beyond Orgueil.
The water, far on the horizon, showed only as a gleaming line of light, leaving bare heaps and piles of rocks, inextricably turned on end in some prehistoric upheaval. In places the rocks were continuous, in others separated by spaces of wet sand.
Over the rocks grew masses of vari-colored seaweed, brown, yellow, blue-green, even pink. Footing proved both slippery and treacherous, but offered the fascination of exploring an unknown region. As they walked farther out, curious shell-fish were clinging to the stone.
"These are ormers and limpets," said Edith. "I saw them the day Nurse and I went to market. What a huge winkle!"
Fran stared at this new specimen. "Is that a winkle?" she demanded in disgust. "I call it a plain snail. Why, all my life, I've read about winkles and thought I'd like to eat some but I'd die before I'd eat a snail. Oh! Oh! Oh!"
Edith turned so quickly that she almost fell on the slippery weed. Frances was fairly dancing with excitement, wholly however of pleasure.
In the hollowed rock lay a pool of clear sea water, at first sight filled with bright-hued flowers, pink, purple, orange. The next glance showed them to be living organisms.
"Sea-anemones!" breathed Edith softly. "I never saw anything so beautiful."
The anemones were pulpy brown bodies varying in size from a pea to a tomato. From their anchorage on the rock they stretched waving tentacles of soft iridescent hues, transforming the little pool into a marine fairyland. Between the anemones a bright yellow lichen-like growth almost covered the warm red granite, and tiny yellow, rose, and black and white striped snails were set like jewels on this background. Two or three sharp limpet shells waved feathery seaweed fans.
A long time passed and the girls still lingered. They discovered that most of the pools boasted anemones, some not unlike an ordinary land daisy with light-colored tentacles stretching ray- shaped from a yellow centre. When touched with an empty shell, the anemone would close over it, folding both the shell and itself into a tight brown ball, then open slowly and drop the shell. The only food the girls had with them was some sweet chocolate, so they experimented with this, watching the lovely living sea- flowers seize upon fragments held within reach of their feelers.
"I suppose it will give them frightful pains," remarked Frances at last, rising from her cramped position. "Goodness! the tide is coming!"
"Yes, but it's far out," replied Edith, casting a glance at the line of water, still distant a full half-mile. "Look, Frances, here's a tiny pink crab."
For a moment Frances again bent over the aquarium but soon started to her feet.
"Let's go back, Edith. We're a long way from shore and you know how very fast the tide comes in."
"Oh, is that crab gone? I thought you would mind where he went," said Edith as she reluctantly rose. "I wanted to take him to Win."
The two began to retrace their way, at first over piles of red rock covered with seaweed, farther on over stretches of sand surrounding rock islands.
Just as they left the last of the solid rock a big wave came curling lazily along its side. For a second the water clung to it like fingers, then withdrew.
"Fran, we must run," said Edith quietly, but her face had grown pale.
Frances made no reply. Both ran as fast as they could across the stretch of level hard sand. Before they reached the first rock island, long fingers of foam again darted past at one side.
Neither girl spoke. Automatically they seized hands and redoubled their efforts. One island after another was left behind, then Edith, looking over her shoulder, saw that the tide was gaining. Its next incoming heave would overtake them.
"We'll have to climb these rocks!" she gasped.
"_No!_" said Fran, giving her hand a tug. "Keep on. No matter if we do get wet. We _must_ get nearer in. These rocks will be covered."
Edith kept pace. They seemed to have reached a higher ridge of the beach since presently the water, instead of pursuing directly, passed on either side, stretching shorewards.
Too terrified to consider what this would mean when the tongues of water should meet before them, the girls pressed on blindly.
Suddenly there came a shout from shore, now measurably nearer. Down the beach sped a galloping horse, his rider waving to attract their attention.
Fran's quick wits grasped the situation. "He'll come for us!" she exclaimed. "He means us to climb this rock and wait."
This seemed what the rider meant for as they scrambled up the ledge, he ceased to call and merely urged his horse to greater effort. Edith reached the top without accident, but Frances slipped and soaked both feet.
The horse, a beautiful chestnut thoroughbred with tossing mane, came at quick speed. In the distance, his rider looked a mere boy, but as he approached, the girls saw that he was a young man of twenty-three or four, with a fine, clean-cut face, who sat his horse as though a part of it.
Arriving by their rock, the chestnut checked himself in full gallop and turned almost in his stride.
"Give me your hand," said the young man to Edith. "Step on my foot. Swing round behind me and hold on any way you can."
Edith instantly obeyed. "Here," he added to Frances, "scramble up in front. Quick! There's no time to lose. Steady on, Saracen!" he added as the horse jumped and snorted at touch of the water curling about his heels.
They were perhaps a quarter-mile from shore and the return was made at a fast pace, yet as they came up above tide mark, the waves were lapping the shingle and only a rock here and there remained uncovered.
During the hurried trip the young man had spoken only to his horse, words of encouragement uttered in a pleasant voice, and both girls were still too stunned by the sudden peril and their equally sudden rescue to realize their very unconventional situation; Edith with both arms around the stranger, her cheek pressed into his shoulder; Fran sitting on the saddle-bow, held in position by his left arm while his right hand clasped the reins.
Once in safety, Saracen stopped of his own accord, looking around as though, now the hurry was over, he would like to know what sort of unaccustomed load he had been carrying.
"Right we are!" said the young man cheerily. "Now I wonder if you can slide down."
Still speechless, Frances did so. The young man swung himself from the saddle and turned to lift Edith from her perch as though she was a little child. Again on firm ground, she began to utter incoherent thanks.
[Illustration: "HE'LL COME FOR US! HE MEANS US TO CLIMB THIS ROCK AND WAIT"]
"I think you must be strangers to the island," he said rather
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