Chapter 13 A BAG OF TULIPS

AS the two girls watched, the man in gray merely shook the padlock, but did not try to smash it open.

Hanny and Vevi hurried over to the little house.

“Why are you trying to break in?” Hanny demanded severely of the stranger.

“Just checking,” he replied. He smiled at her in a friendly way, not acting in the least as if he had been caught trying to steal or do anything dishonest. “Is your uncle at home, Hanny?”

“No, he isn’t,” Hanny answered. She was astonished that the man knew her first name.

“What are you doing here anyhow?” questioned Vevi alertly. “You’re not a detective, are you?”

Once a long while before, the little girl had been carried away with a circus and during the exciting trip had met a detective. The manner of this quiet stranger reminded her somewhat of the other investigator.

“My name is Frederick Evans,” the man replied. “I’m with the FBI.”

“The FBI!” gasped Vevi, deeply impressed. “Is that the secret service?”

“FBI stands for Federal Bureau of Investigation. I’m doing a little investigating.”

Mr. Evans then began to ask casual questions about Hanny’s uncle and the various customers who came to his farm. He inquired as to recent shipments of tulip bulbs from Holland and whether or not Mr. Van Der Lann had any helpers.

“Only me,” Hanny replied to the last question. “We did have a hired man earlier this spring. But now he is working for Mr. and Mrs. Mattox.”

Mr. Evans next asked if Hanny’s uncle had a customer by the name of Mrs. Gabriel.

“Oh, no!” the little girl returned with emphasis. “She used to come here, but Uncle Peter told her he did not want her business.”

“Did he tell you why?”

Hanny shook her head. She had been made very uneasy by so many questions about her uncle.

“I’ll drop around later when Mr. Van Der Lann is at home,” the FBI man said to reassure her. “He may be able to help me.”

Very shortly the stranger left without explaining why he had come to Windmill Farm or what he was investigating. Hanny, however, was very worried.

“FBI men always arrest people, don’t they?” she remarked nervously to Vevi. “Why would he come here?”

“Maybe he thinks your uncle has done something wrong.”

“Not Uncle Peter,” declared Hanny. “No, it is about Mrs. Gabriel, I think. Oh, dear, I wish my uncle were here. I’m worried.”

By this time it was quite late. Mr. Van Der Lann had been gone much longer than half an hour. Vevi knew she would have to start home at once if she were to be on time for supper.

“I must go right away,” she said. “I will see you tomorrow, Hanny. Thanks a lot for the bag of bulbs.”

“Uncle Peter will take you home if you wait.”

“I had better go now,” Vevi decided. “My Mother will be expecting me.”

Hanny walked with her to the gate. The bus did not run very often, so Vevi set off afoot.

At first the bag of tulip bulbs did not seem very heavy. But as she trudged on over the rolling hills, it seemed to take on added weight. Several times she had to stop and set it down on the pavement a moment to rest her arm.

“My I wish someone would offer me a ride,” she thought wearily.

Two cars sped past. The drivers did not appear to notice the tired little girl.

Presently, another automobile rolled over a hill, coming from the direction of the Mattox Farm. Vevi glanced hopefully over her shoulder.

Noticing that the driver of the car was Mrs. Gabriel she was certain she would not be offered a ride.

She was surprised, therefore, when the big powerfully-built automobile coasted to a standstill beside her.

“Hello, little girl,” said Mrs. Gabriel in a very friendly voice. “May I give you a lift to Rosedale?”

Now Vevi did not like Mrs. Gabriel. She wanted to turn down the ride, but she was dreadfully tired.

“Thank you,” she accepted politely, “This bag is very heavy.”

“Tulip bulbs?” asked Mrs. Gabriel, opening the car door.

“Just some culls that Hanny gave me.”

As Vevi slid into the car, she noticed that canvas bags, very similar to the one she carried, were piled on the floor.

“I see you bought some tulip bulbs yourself,” she remarked. “Or were they given to you?”

“I bought them,” Mrs. Gabriel answered shortly. “They are special stock. The shipment I ordered direct from Holland came today.”

“Are they nicer bulbs than Mr. Van Der Lann’s Golden Beauty?”

“Mr. Van Der Lann!” replied Mrs. Gabriel. “His tulips are greatly over-rated. Even if he did win a blue ribbon, I prefer to do business with Mr. and Mrs. Mattox.”

Now Vevi thought that Mrs. Gabriel could not possibly have bought bulbs that would produce flowers nicer than the Golden Beauty. However, she was too polite to say so.

She dropped her bag of culls down on the floor among the other sacks. Then, curious to see if the Mattox bulbs were larger than the culls Hanny had given her, she started to open one of Mrs. Gabriel’s bags.

“Don’t do that,” the woman reprimanded her sharply.

“I’m sorry,” Vevi apologized, drawing back her hand.

“I can’t have tulip bulbs rolling around loose on the car floor,” Mrs. Gabriel added.

Vevi was careful not to touch the bags after that. Nevertheless, she thought that Mrs. Gabriel was a very disagreeable woman.

For the first few minutes of the ride, the woman scarcely spoke. Then, in a much more friendly manner, she began to question Vevi about where she had been after leaving the flower show.

“Only to Hanny’s place,” the little girl replied.

“I saw a car at the gate when I drove by earlier this afternoon,” Mrs. Gabriel remarked. “It was an automobile I never had noticed there before.”

“It must have belonged to the stranger,” answered Vevi carelessly.


“The same man who was at Mrs. Langley’s flower show. He’s here checking up on folks.”

“Checking up on whom?”

Vevi shrugged and did not answer. She remembered that Hanny had said she thought the FBI man might be investigating Mrs. Gabriel. But what could the woman have done wrong?

Riding along so comfortably in the big, powerful car, Vevi found herself liking Mrs. Gabriel a tiny bit. The next moment, though, the feeling was gone. Mrs. Gabriel spoke very harshly.

“A Federal investigator, I’ll warrant! The snoop!”

At the outskirts of Rosedale, Mrs. Gabriel pulled up at the curb.

“You will have to get out here,” she said shortly. “I can’t take you any farther.”

Vevi was surprised for she had expected that Mrs. Gabriel would carry her at least to within a few blocks of her home. She began to suspect that the woman had picked her up only so that she might ask questions.

“Thank you for bringing me this far,” Vevi nevertheless said politely. “I can walk the rest of the way. It is only six or eight blocks.”

Mrs. Gabriel swung open the car door, impatiently waiting for the little girl to alight.

“Oh, my tulip bulbs!” Vevi exclaimed, nearly forgetting them.

She picked up the bag from the floor, and started to thank Mrs. Gabriel again for the ride.

Before she could do so, the woman drove rapidly away.

Vevi watched the car until it was out of sight. As far as she could see, Mrs. Gabriel did not turn off the main highway.

“She could have taken me farther, but she didn’t want to,” Vevi thought resentfully. “She just wanted to get rid of me.”

Picking up the bag of tulip bulbs, the little girl trudged slowly on toward home. The sack seemed heavier than ever now.

Before she had gone half a block, it seemed to her that her arm would break.

Vevi paused beside a fence to rest. She noticed that the canvas bag had the numerals 67543 stamped on the canvas. Also in black letters were printed the name of a city in Holland.

“That’s funny,” reflected Vevi. “I thought Hanny gave me an old bag without any markings on it. I guess I didn’t notice very well.”

Picking up the bag once more, she started on. Every few yards she had to shift it to the other hand. Even so, she began to wish she never had tried to carry the bulbs home.

“I should have waited for Mr. Van Der Lann,” she thought. “I never knew culls could be so heavy.”

Now the joke actually was on Vevi. Though she did not suspect it, the bag of bulbs Hanny had given her was at this moment being carried away in Mrs. Gabriel’s car.

Unknowingly, the little girl had picked up another bag in exchange. The mistake was certain to cause a great deal of trouble for Mrs. Gabriel, but of this, Vevi was blissfully unaware.

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