Chapter 18 MAGIC WAYS

NOW Miss Mohr and Miss Gordon had not known that tulip bulbs were planted in the Brownie Scout flower bed. Vevi, Connie and Jane had been so busy with the show that they had neglected to mention the planting.

Therefore, everyone was surprised to hear that the bulbs were being dug up.

“What do you mean?” demanded Jane in great excitement. “Who is wrecking our flower bed?”

“A woman,” Vevi informed the group. “I can’t see her too plainly from the window. Come quick!”

The Brownie Scouts needed no further urging. With the librarian and their leader, they followed Vevi into the darkened room overlooking the lawn.

“See, down there!” the little girl declared, pointing out the window.

The Brownies jostled each other in their eagerness to learn what was going on in the yard.

A shadowy figure could be seen on hands and knees, industriously digging up the tulip bulbs. Already many of them were scattered helter-skelter over the grass.

“Well, of all the nerve!” cried Vevi indignantly.

“It looks like Mrs. Gabriel,” declared Connie. “At least she has a tall feather on her hat, just like one Mrs. Gabriel has.”

“Let’s stop her!” exclaimed Vevi, starting for the door.

Miss Gordon grasped her hand, holding her back.

“Wait, Vevi.”

“Wait? But Miss Gordon, our tulip bed is nearly ruined now! She’s wrecking everything!”

“And we worked so hard planting those bulbs,” Jane wailed. “It’s the meanest trick yet.”

Miss Gordon spoke quietly.

“Mrs. Gabriel, I think, is after something more vital than tulip bulbs.”

“I think so too,” agreed Miss Mohr quickly. “Peter has told me of his suspicions that a ring may be operating—”

Now the Brownies were quite bewildered by the talk, not understanding what the two young women meant.

“Must we let that dreadful Mrs. Gabriel ruin our flower bed?” demanded Jane.

“No, indeed,” replied Miss Mohr. “I intend to call Peter Van Der Lann and the police.”

“The police?” gasped Vevi. She had not thought of having Mrs. Gabriel arrested.

“We must hurry,” urged Miss Gordon, peering out the window again.

While the teacher and the Brownie Scouts kept watch, Miss Mohr telephoned the police station. Then she called Hanny’s uncle at Windmill Farm.

“Peter is coming as quickly as he can drive here!” the librarian told the group tensely. “He says we must hold Mrs. Gabriel whatever happens. He is certain—”

“Mrs. Gabriel has her flashlight turned on now!” Connie reported from the window. “She’s examining something she has dug up!”

“It’s not a tulip bulb either,” added Rosemary.

“Let’s go down there right now!” Vevi urged, again starting for the door.

“No, Vevi!” Miss Gordon checked her once more. “It would only frighten her away. We must wait for the police.”

“They’ll never come,” complained Sunny. “It’s been ages now.”

“Only a minute or two,” corrected Miss Mohr. “Patience.”

“The police will come,” added the Brownie Scout leader.

She was right too. In less than ten minutes, the girls heard the high pitched, whining whistle of a siren.

“There they come!” cried Vevi. “I’m going down there now!”

Without even stopping to put on her cap or jacket she darted out the door. The other Brownies followed after her, in their excitement stumbling on the stairs.

Just as the group reached the street, the police car halted at the curb.

Mrs. Gabriel straightened up and then started hastily away. But the police did not let her escape.

Quickly they overtook her, grasping her firmly by the arm.

While one officer held Mrs. Gabriel, another questioned Miss Mohr and Miss Gordon as to the nature of their complaint.

“This woman has been destroying library property,” declared Miss Mohr.

“We saw her digging up the Brownie Scout tulip bed,” added Vevi. “I think she has some of our bulbs in her pocket now.”

“Ridiculous!” snapped Mrs. Gabriel. “I suppose it does seem unusual for me to be found here digging up tulip bulbs. Nevertheless, I can explain.”

“Please do,” invited Miss Mohr.

“I bought a large order of tulips, especially valuable stock, from Mr. Mattox. Unfortunately, in driving home, I offered one of these children a ride.”

“Me,” interposed Vevi.

“She had a bag of worthless bulbs with her—”

“Not worthless,” corrected Vevi. “They may have been culls but they were Golden Beauties. Those are the best and most valuable kind on the market now that Mr. Van Der Lann has won the blue ribbon!”

“If you’ll keep quiet for a moment, I’ll explain,” said Mrs. Gabriel, glaring at Vevi. “The child either deliberately or possibly by mistake, exchanged a bag of my good bulbs for her trash. So tonight I thought to recover my stock.”

The two police officers seemed half inclined to believe the woman’s story.

“If it were only tulip bulbs you wanted, why didn’t you come to Miss Mohr or me?” questioned the Brownie Scout leader.

“I realize I should have asked permission to dig up the bed,” replied Mrs. Gabriel glibly. “I hesitated to do so because I didn’t want to cause trouble.”

“You set great store by those tulip bulbs,” remarked Miss Mohr.

As she spoke, she glanced about the ground. The bulbs had been scattered everywhere. In her haste to dig them up. Mrs. Gabriel had broken many and chopped others in two with her sharp tool.

“If you valued your tulips so much, why did you dump all the other bags of bulbs along the roadside?” Vevi demanded.

Mrs. Gabriel ignored the pointed question, so the little girl asked it again.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” the woman finally replied. “If you found any bulbs along the road, they must have belonged to someone else.”

The police officers had been listening to the talk. Now one of the men had a question of his own.

“Lady,” he said, “are you sure it was tulip bulbs you were after?”

“Of course! What else?”

“Sorry,” said the policeman, “but I’m afraid we’ll have to take you to the station for a complete search.”

“The idea!” Mrs. Gabriel snapped. “You may look in my purse now if you like. You’ll find nothing.”

She offered her pocketbook, which the policeman thoroughly examined. Inside were toilet articles, a billfold containing nearly two hundred dollars, a handkerchief and a set of car keys.

“I saw her put something in her outside coat pocket while she was digging,” Connie reported.

One of the officers reached into Mrs. Gabriel’s pocket. He brought out nothing but an old theater program.

In the other coat pocket was an old handkerchief. One corner had been tied into a knot to hold several small objects.

“What’s this?” commented the policeman, untying the handkerchief.

The cloth contained four dark-colored pellets.

“Our fertilizer!” exclaimed Vevi. “Well, what do you know! She was after our fertilizer, not the tulip bulbs!”

Carefully the policeman examined the pellets. He rolled them between his fingers.

“You see, they are nothing!” said Mrs. Gabriel. “Now will you let me go? I’ve had quite enough of Rosedale and Brownie Scouts. I assure you I’ll leave town promptly and not come back.”

Before the officers could decide what to do, a car pulled up at the curb.

“There’s Peter!” exclaimed Miss Mohr in relief.

The nurseryman leaped out of his car and came over to the flower bed. Miss Mohr told him what had happened before his arrival. The policeman showed him the pellets taken from Mrs. Gabriel.

“Just as I thought!” Mr. Van Der Lann exclaimed. “These pellets are uncut commercial diamonds. They were smuggled to this country from Holland in a shipment of imported tulip bulbs.”

“Then we planted diamonds, thinking it was fertilizer!” gasped Jane.

Mr. Van Der Lann’s disclosure amazed everyone except Miss Mohr. She was not surprised because the nurseryman earlier had told her of his suspicion that Mrs. Gabriel was not an honest person.

Now that Mr. Van Der Lann had revealed that the pellets were uncut diamonds, the Brownie Scouts became highly excited. Vevi was especially so, for she knew that Mrs. Gabriel had not had time to dig up all of the stones.

“Almost every tulip bulb has a pellet with it,” she revealed. “Why, this old flower bed is full of diamonds!”

“I’m going to dig them up!” cried Jane, reaching for Mrs. Gabriel’s trowel.

The police, however, would not permit any of the children or the adults to touch the flower bed. They said they would assign men to sift the earth and make certain that every uncut stone was recovered.

Mrs. Gabriel realized by this time that it was useless to deny her guilt.

“All right, I did smuggle the diamonds in with a shipment of bulbs,” she acknowledged. “I wasn’t alone in the deal though. If you arrest me, how about the Mattox couple?”

“We’ll take care of them, never fear,” the policeman assured her.

Mrs. Gabriel was taken away to the police station and other men came to sift the flower bed soil. All the Brownies, Mr. Van Der Lann, the librarian and Miss Gordon stood by, watching the work. Soon a fairly large crowd gathered.

“So Mr. and Mrs. Mattox are mixed up in this smuggling affair,” remarked a businessman who paused to observe. “Well, that will finish the flower show.”

“How do you mean?” inquired Miss Gordon.

“The Mattox couple contributed heavily for the affair. If they are arrested, they will not pay their assessment. Mr. Piff may as well call it quits.”

As the digging went on, police talked at length with Mr. Van Der Lann. He was asked to relate everything he knew about Mrs. Gabriel and her smuggling activities.

“I met the woman for the first time a few weeks ago,” the nurseryman revealed. “She came to Windmill Farm and proposed that I go in with her on her crooked scheme. At the time I needed money badly, but I refused.”

“Uncle Peter ordered her to stay away from our place,” added Hanny, who stood beside the nurseryman, watching the digging work.

“That is true,” agreed Mr. Van Der Lann. “When she learned she could not do business with me, she took up with Mr. and Mrs. Mattox. As to their part in the affair, I can only guess. My suspicion is that they cooperated with Mrs. Gabriel fully in importing bulbs which they knew were only a cover for a shipment of priceless commercial stones.”

“You and Mr. Mattox have never been good friends,” commented one of the policemen.

“That is so,” agreed the nurseryman. “Always Mr. and Mrs. Mattox have considered me as a business rival. They sought to add my farm to their own. Of late they have been especially eager to get me out of the community, fearing no doubt that I would expose their association with Mrs. Gabriel.”

“They will make you no more trouble,” the policeman promised. “The sheriff has been asked to arrest the couple for questioning. Very shortly they will be taken to jail.”

The digging work went on. Within an hour every diamond had been recovered.

However, the flower bed was completely ruined. Dirt had been scattered everywhere and only a few of the tulip bulbs were worth saving.

“Vevi, whatever possessed you girls to plant tulip bulbs at this time of year?” Miss Gordon questioned. “They should be planted in the fall, you know, for spring blooms.”

“We didn’t want spring flowers though,” Vevi explained. “We wanted tulips right now.”

“While the flower show is on,” declared Jane.

Miss Gordon regretfully told the Brownies that seeds or plants would have to be used if the troop were to have a flower bed that year. Even if they went to work at once, the bed would not be in bloom for several weeks.

The information made all the Brownies unhappy, especially Vevi.

“I did so want tulips,” she said. “They are the most beautiful flower in the world. Now I’ve even lost my Golden Beauty culls.”

“Don’t worry about that,” said Mr. Van Der Lann. “Next Spring I will give you some choice stock.”

Vevi thanked the nurseryman, but continued to look unhappy. “I wanted a tulip bed so badly,” she murmured.

“So did I,” said Jane. “It was fun catching Mrs. Gabriel and saving the diamonds, but I’d rather have had a beautiful bed of flowers.”

“Do all the Brownies feel the same way about tulips?” inquired Mr. Van Der Lann. “Would they rather have them than any other flower?”

“Oh, yes!” cried Vevi. “But it is impossible. We will have to wait until next year.”

“And that is a million years away,” sighed Sunny.

“Perhaps not,” said Mr. Van Der Lann. He smiled in a most mysterious sort of way.

“What do you mean?” questioned Vevi alertly.

“Just you wait!” he advised. “Not a year either.”

Now the Brownie Scouts sensed immediately that their friend had something special in mind. They teased him to tell what it was.

Mr. Van Der Lann only smiled and shook his head.

“I can guess!” laughed Hanny.

“Tell us,” pleaded the other Brownies.

Hanny grinned and would not answer. “It’s a secret,” she chuckled. “Nurserymen sometimes have magic ways. Just you wait!”

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook