VEVI’S first thought was that Mr. Piff was joking about Mrs. Gabriel.

“She didn’t really say that about me!” the little girl protested.

“Oh, yes, she did,” Mr. Piff corrected.

“But I don’t have any of her property.”

“Then you should see her and tell her so,” the promoter declared. “If you don’t, she may turn you over to the police.”

“She couldn’t do that,” Vevi gasped. “She must have me mixed up with some other person.”

The Brownies now had lost all interest in the flower show. Vevi wanted to find Mrs. Gabriel at once to try to clear up the misunderstanding.

From one booth to another the girls went, asking if anyone had seen Mrs. Gabriel. Finally they learned that she had left the building more than a half hour earlier. It seemed useless to try to seek her further.

“I am not going to worry about her,” Vevi decided. “I will let her find me. I am going home to get my tulip bulbs. Let’s plant them right away.”

“Why not wait until the next Brownie Scout meeting?” proposed Connie. “Then all the girls can help.”

Vevi opposed any delay. “No, we must plant them right away,” she insisted. “Every day counts if they are to bloom this summer.”

Leaving the auditorium, the girls started for Jane’s home to collect digging tools and fertilizer.

They were only three blocks from the Tuttle home when they spied a group of children coming toward them.

“What are they carrying?” Connie speculated.

Each child in the group of six held a double handful of plump, round objects.

“Onions,” declared Jane.

“Tulip bulbs,” corrected Vevi. By this time the children were quite close.

The youngsters would have dashed on past with their plunder, had not Jane stopped them.

“Say, where’d you get those?” she demanded.

The children halted, proudly showing the bulbs.

“We found ’em,” one of the older boys said.

“Why, those look just like the Golden Beauty culls that Hanny gave me,” Vevi commented as she gazed at the fistful of bulbs.

“I’ve got some bigger ones,” announced another child in the group. He opened his hands to show the girls several large, plump bulbs.

“They do look like onions,” declared Connie. “In Holland when times were hard, the people ate bulbs for food. Miss Mohr told me so.”

Vevi thought that the bulbs, except for a few, looked like extremely good ones.

“Where did you find them?” she asked.

One of the boys indicated the direction from which he and the others had come. “Down the street a ways,” he said. “They were lying in a culvert.”

“Thrown away?” Vevi asked in amazement.

“Sure. Someone dumped a lot of ’em there.”

“Are there any more?” Jane asked eagerly.

“Scads of ’em.”

“Let’s get some,” Jane proposed to her friends. “Come on, before they’re all gone.”

Forgetting their plan to plant Vevi’s tulips, the three girls raced down the street.

A block away, at the street corner, they saw the open culvert. Just as the boys had said, there lay hundreds of tulips, dumped on the street.

“Well, did you ever!” exclaimed Jane, amazed by the sight. “Who would throw away valuable tulips?”

“And so many of them!” gasped Connie. “Tulip bulbs are expensive. Why, there must be twenty or thirty dollars worth here at least!”

“Let’s pick them all up,” proposed Jane excitedly. “The ones we don’t want for our own gardens, we can sell!”

A few of the bulbs had broken open or had been crushed. Many were in perfect condition. The girls filled their skirts, not stopping until they had gathered every bulb.

“We can take them to my house,” Jane said. “My, but we have a lot of ’em. Enough for a wonderful garden.”

Vevi noticed a piece of canvas lying in the gutter.

Putting down her skirtful of bulbs for a moment, she picked it up.

“Why, this is a bag,” she said in astonishment. “It must have held some of the tulips.”

“Someone dumped them here,” Jane agreed. “I can’t understand why, either. They look like perfectly good bulbs to me.”

Vevi examined the canvas bag carefully. She noticed that it bore numbers and was stamped “Holland.”

“That means these are imported bulbs,” she declared. “This empty bag looks just like the one I have at home. The number is different though.”

“You don’t think Hanny or her uncle dumped these tulips here?” Connie asked.

“I’m sure they didn’t,” Vevi replied. “Maybe it was Mrs. Gabriel.”

“Why should she do such a thing?” demanded Jane.

“It seems silly,” Vevi agreed soberly. “All the same, this bag looks like some she had in her car. She told me her big Holland order had just been delivered.”

“It couldn’t have been Mrs. Gabriel,” Jane argued. “If she had just bought the bulbs, she certainly wouldn’t throw them away.”

“Maybe they weren’t good enough for her garden,” Vevi speculated. “She’s real fussy, I guess.”

The girls stuffed as many bulbs as they could into the empty bag. The remainder they carried in their hands to Jane’s home.

“What will we do with so many tulips?” Connie asked. “Shall we use them for the Brownie Scout garden at the library?”

“Oh, no,” Vevi said in quick protest. “I want to plant my Golden Beauties there.”

“But those bulbs are only culls,” Jane argued. “Most of these are nice big fat ones.”

“Maybe size doesn’t count,” Vevi replied. “They couldn’t have been much good, or they wouldn’t have been thrown away.”

“That’s so,” agreed Connie, siding with her friend. “Maybe the bulbs are dead and won’t grow. Besides, Hanny might not like it if we don’t use her bulbs.”

“Okay,” Jane consented. “I’ll get the digging tools. We can leave these bulbs in our garage until we decide where to plant them.”

An empty shelf along one side of the garage provided a place for the bulbs. The girls lined them up in neat rows.

“They do look just like onions!” Jane laughed. “I hope Mother doesn’t use them for a stew.”

“All of the bulbs are the same size, large and plump,” Connie noticed. “That is, all but about twenty or so. Vevi, you don’t suppose—”

She was intending to ask Vevi if by any chance she might have mixed up one of the bags with Hanny’s culls. Before she could do so, however, Jane interrupted:

“If we’re going to plant tulips, let’s get at it!” she urged. “It’s nearly lunch time now.”

Jane asked permission of her mother to go to Vevi’s house. Carrying the digging tools, the girls reached the McGuire home exactly at noon.

Mrs. McGuire was preparing lunch as the three Brownies stomped into the kitchen.

“Oh, here you are, Vevi,” her mother said. “I’ve telephoned everywhere, trying to find you.”

“For lunch?” the little girl asked. “I’m terribly hungry. And so are Connie and Jane. Please, may they stay?”

“Of course,” agreed Mrs. McGuire. “But it wasn’t because of lunch that I called you. While you were gone we had a visitor.”

“Not the minister?” asked Vevi.

“No, dear, it was a woman named Mrs. Gabriel.”

Hearing the name again, Vevi had a queer feeling in the pit of her stomach. She couldn’t imagine what she had done wrong. It must have been something very dreadful, though, or the woman wouldn’t keep trying to find her.

“What did she want, Mother?” Vevi asked in a faint voice.

“She said you had taken something from her car. A bag of valuable tulip bulbs.”

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